Have you ever been watching a show or movie, and then a character delivers a line so unintelligible you have to scramble to find the remote and rewind? For me, this moment came during the climax of the Pete Davidson film The King of Staten Island, where his most important line was impossible to understand.
I had to rewind three times — and eventually put subtitles on — to finally pick up what he was saying.
This experience isn’t unique. Gather enough people together and you can generally separate them into two categories: People who use subtitles, and people who don’t. And according to a not-so-scientific YouTube poll we ran on our Community tab, the latter category is an endangered species — of respondents who are not deaf or hard of hearing, 57 percent said they use subtitles, while just 12 percent said they generally don’t.
But why do so many of us feel that we need subtitles to understand the dialogue in the things we watch?
The answer to that question is complex — and we get straight to the bottom of it in this explainer, with the help of dialogue editor Austin Olivia Kendrick.
You can find this video and all of Vox’s videos on YouTube.