HBO Max Subtitles Need To Get With the Program
I, like many others, have been watching The Last of Us on HBO Max. I have also been watching it with subtitles, and I’m shocked at how garbage they are. You would think that such a huge, expensive, and widely-anticipated show would cater better to its subtitle-using audience, but you’d be severely disappointed.
What do I mean by “bad” subtitles, though? How can subtitles be bad, and what would good ones look like? I’m glad you asked! I was frustrated by the subtitles for The Last of Us, because they left out entire words on several occasions, they don’t indicate who is speaking, or in what tone anyone says anything, they don’t include things like sighing, gasping, exclaiming, or include any background conversation. They also include no SFX, which means no “monster screeching”, “zombie clicking”, “guns shooting”, “explosions”! How are you going to leave out the zombie noises entirely, in a zombie show?!
Aside from all this, I’m also upset about the lack of choices when it comes to the subtitles themselves. Unlike Amazon Prime, on HBO Max you can’t choose the size or transparency of the subtitles. Amazon Prime gives you four choices of font size, as well as the choice to make the background of the subtitles opaque or solid. These are important aspects of subtitles! And there’s zero choice of this on HBO Max.
So, I started to wonder if other shows/movies on HBO Max were just as bad, or if it was just their newest, most popular, biggest budget show that had shitty subtitles.
I turned on Teen Titans to see how they compared. For Teen Titans, I was surprised by the fact that the subtitles were all in caps lock. Why would you ever put subtitles in nothing but caps?! It also did not indicate tone, who was speaking, etc.
Next, I tried The Book of Life. This one was actually a little better. It indicated when someone was singing rather than speaking by putting a music note before the line, included background conversation, and showed when a character sighed, grunted, etc. The subtitles on The Book of Life were weirdly delayed though, not by much, but enough that I noticed it.
Following that, I tried South Park. Again, no indication of which character was speaking, or in what tone. How are you going to watch South Park without knowing who is speaking sarcastically?! It’s important stuff!
Finally, I tried HBO Max’s big seller, Game of Thrones. At first, I was happy that it would specify who was speaking, but it was short lived, as it was completely inconsistent. Sometimes it would say who was speaking, then for the next five times someone spoke it wouldn’t. It was occasional at best. Plus, there was a huge mix of caps lock VS not caps lock. It was very strange.
All this is to say, HBO Max needs better options for their subtitles, and better ACTUAL SUBTITLES. STOP LEAVING WORDS OUT ENTIRELY.
The fact that a 100-million-dollar show has fucking garbage ass subtitles says a lot about how much they care about accessibility. People who use subtitles deserve just as good of a viewing experience as non-users, and deserve the same amount of information that non-users get. whether it be background conversation, SFX, or indication of tone.
Do fucking better, HBO.