Where I Watched It: Paramount Plus (with Showtime)
English Audio Description?: No
I’ve been back and forth with the non-responsive customer support at Paramount Plus about audio description and what happens when they add Showtime, but none of the available audio description. Even for Showtime shows that have audio description, like Yellowjackets, they will not import the audio description. So, when i saw X, an A24 slasher from director Ti West, I figured now would be a great time to have yet another conversation about why we matter.
The reality is that this film is hard to follow as it is. It’s a small cast, a group of young aspiring filmmakers set up a production (porn) on a farm, and are subsequently hunted and stalked by someone. That’s the general plot. Mia Goth pulls double duty here, and does fine work from what I could tell. The rest of the cast, from Jenna Ortega, Brittany Snow, and Kid Cudi, all just ended up in positions where I wasn’t sure when or if they died. I have no idea who survives this film, except it seemed like someone did.
Horror films are next to impossible to follow for one reason or another. Usually, there’s a visual cue that’s supposed to either scare us or gross us out. Without the audio description, that gets lost. People lurking in the background, people stumbling over bodies, or finding clues about who the killer might be, all of these are typically non-verbal clues. So, with X, it was a lot of heavy panting, screaming, and sounds that gore usually makes. Someone just got cut open. But where? How? Are they dead, or injured?
There seems to be a problem in Hollywood with not wanting to or bothering to release audio description for a title and keep that audio description with that title no matter where it goes. paramount Plus as a streaming service has the capabilities to support audio description, so running this wouldn’t be a problem. Ti West and A24 should be concerned always about how their film is presented. These films have audio description when they hit theatres, so why not in every successive release? What exactly is the downside to making sure you have a commitment to accessibility at a 100% level. How is 100% accessibility a bad thing?
Yet, we are frequently asked to just be happy with what we get. And if we want to watch something without audio description, we can try and muddle our way through it. It’s true that each project is different, and some are easier to follow than others. but it is also true that even with the most accessible film, audio description will still benefit a blind and visually impaired audience by giving us details about the settings, the costumes, the descriptions of the characters, who enters and exits a room, and a ton of non verbal cues that visual audiences take for granted. I know. I was one of them just a few years ago.
So, sadly, my grade for X is pretty low. I had a hard time following it, even if I could admit that this seemed like something i would have scored higher if it was accessible.
I know Paramount Plus doesn’t care about the visually impaired community, and that’s actually true of many Hollywood companies. They probably all just wish we’d shut up and die. Entire companies don’t even bother with it. Full streaming services want your money, but have no accessibility at all. Even something like AMC Plus seems perfectly content with offering only 4-5 titles on their entire service with audio description.
But, we pay the same as everyone else, we jsut get a fraction of the accessibility. Paramount Plus will tout its ever growing library, especially with the addition of Showtime, and continued connections to Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, and MTV. The truth is, less than 10% of that content is audio described. That number should be a lot higher.
I am a person too. My ability and needs, as well as those of the community I share my disability with matter. Audio description isn’t a perk, it is a right. Until legislation mandates audio description across the board, and forces these companies to make everything accessible, it just won’t be.
Final Grade: D+