Tuesday 16 October 2018

Subtitled Cinema: Daydreaming of a better deaf world

Sometimes, just sometimes, I allow myself the chance to daydream about all the things on my deaf wishlist coming true...

It's a bit like when you daydream about what you'd do if you won the lottery, only better but sadly less likely.

Top of my list is getting accessible cinema for all D/deaf people. That means something that ticks boxes for as many deaf people as possible. Not just the boxes of 'reasonable adjustments'.

So yesterday, I sat there daydreaming about what it would be like to be able to go and see any movie I liked, whenever I liked. I imagined impulsive evenings with friends, last minute dates with FJM, being up-to-date on the office chit chat when they talked about the latest film or awards nominations. I imagined all the snacks I would buy - coz let's face it, for me, it's all about the snacks.

And then, I remembered that it was Monday evening, the day before Tuesday, which is, in Vue's own words, 'One of the preferred days for deaf people to go to the cinema' so there might be movie on that following evening that London Aunt and I could spontaneously go to as we already had a date in the diary.

Imagine my joy when I discovered that the chosen subtitled movie at Vue Westfield White City was First Man - the movie about Neil Armstrong and his journey to the Moon. As a massive space geek - I am one of those people with the ISS app who stands outside hopefully in orange-skied London trying to spot it whizzing over - I was SO excited! It was on at 20:45 too, which would give us enough time to grab a drink and bite to eat first.

I texted London Aunt excitedly and then hit 'book tickets'. And guess what?There were no tickets available. Why? Well, that Vue only puts its subtitled showings on in the smallest 40-person cinemas... so naturally, when it's a film's opening week, these are going to sell out.

As one of my Twitter peeps said, half the seats were probably booked by hearing peeps who didn't notice the 'ST' by the listing and would probably wonder what the heck was going on when they realised they were at a read-along screening. I really hope that those people don't walk out.

What's more, there are 99 non subtitled showings of First Man at Vue Westfield White City this week... that's 99 that hearing poeple can go to. In the bigger screens.

The sad thing is that this Vue is renowned for only putting on one subtitled showing of each movie it has. So that was my chance to see First Man... and because it's sold out, my chance has gone.

When I tweeted about this last night, the support was incredible. Not just from my fellow D/deaf peeps, who totally get my frustration, but from hearing peeps, too:

Hearing peeps who would like subtitles because they can't hear mumbling actors (Do actors mumble? I can't hear even the ones who don't!).

Hearing peeps who have hard-of-hearing friends and would like to go to the cinema with them.

Hearing peeps who don't mind either way if every single film at the cinema was subtitled.

Hearing peeps who have partners whose first languages are not English and could do with subtitles to help them understand.

Hearing peeps who didn't even know that subtitled cinema existed because guess what? Cinema's hide it away like it's some dirty secret.

Hearing peeps who hear our cause and support it wholeheartedly.

Deafie Blogger and I had a great meeting with the UK Cinema Association during which they promised to open up the conversations between us and the cinema chains who insist that there is no market, that subtitled showings are not financially viable, that deaf people prefer going to the cinema on Sunday and Tuesdays, which is why there are only showings then, who insist that there's nothing wrong with putting the only subtitled showings on in the middle of the day during the working week.

And I welcome those conversations. Because right now, we have no choice, and it feels a bit like we have no voice. We are stating our case to people who are already converted and then it's falling on the deaf ears of those who really need to listen - except guess what? They're not deaf.

If you want to know what it's like to be deaf - at least my deaf - then remove choice from your life. Remove choice. Remove security. Remove access. And then spend every day fighting to get that choice back.

Remove it all and that's what it's like.

Sure, there are ways around it. And sure it's not the worst thing that can happen to someone. But it's happening. And it's exhausting.

I am exhausted of trying to explain why I am fighting for simple choices and changes that would enhance not just my deaf life but everyone else's, too.

UK cinemas please listen to us. Stop hiding subtitled screenings away like they're some dirty secret. Like you're ashamed. And support a community of people who really need you.

And if you'd like to help, then please sign Deafie Blogger's petition, here.

Big thanks and Happy Tuesday peeps


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