“In the World of Audio Description, Pronoun Pandemonium Reigns Supreme”

Text to speech

Ah, the ever-evolving landscape of inclusivity: where even the realm of audio description finds itself in a tangle so chaotic, it could well be the setting of a suspense thriller. Sadly, for our protagonist – someone genuinely reliant on these services – it seems more like a horror story.

Let’s begin with a brief explanation of audio description for those blessedly unaware. It’s a narrated description of the visual elements of content, particularly beneficial for those visually impaired folks. Think of it as someone verbally illustrating what’s on screen so that individuals like our narrator here can keep up with visual content. Think you can paint a picture with words? Audio description artists aim to do just that. Or, at least, they used to.

Case in point, we’re regaled with an almost poetic narration of the inexplicably confusing phrase “they grabbed the cat.” Oh, the suspense! Who could “they” possibly be? As our exasperated protagonist discovered, “Sandy” would’ve sufficed. Yet, alas, the simple joy of specificity eluded them.

But the cat conundrum is but a mere appetizer in this banquet of befuddlement. Let’s feast upon another morsel. Picture a scene: two guys and a lady in a church, doing… churchy things, I guess.

Original narration:

“Fontaine shifts his weight. Slick fidgets with his fingers. Yoyo marches into the elevator. Fontaine follows her. Slick lingers in the church aisle. He crosses himself, then joins the other two.”

Now, with the upgraded “everything’s vague, nothing matters” edition:

“They shifts their weight. They fidgets with their fingers. They march into the elevator. They follow them. They linger in the church aisle. They cross themselves, then join the other thems.”

Let’s dissect this:

  1. “They shifts their weight.” Linguistically, this is a murder scene. ‘Shifts’ (singular) contrasts awkwardly with ‘they’ (plural). Who shifted? No idea.
  2. “They fidgets with their fingers.” Again, ‘fidgets’ with ‘they’ is grammatically erroneous. And we’re left wondering which ‘they’ is the jittery culprit.
  3. “They march into the elevator.” A processional into an elevator? How spacious! Who’s leading this parade? Yoyo? Fontaine? A marching band?
  4. “They follow them.” A circle of following? It’s like an Escher painting in words.
  5. “They linger in the church aisle.” So, are they just playing a drawn-out game of ‘Red Light, Green Light’ here?
  6. “They cross themselves, then join the other thems.” Ah yes, the classic crossing of the ‘thems’ in church. Standard practice.

From a linguistic POV, it’s messy, making it hard to discern who’s doing what. Grammatically? A dumpster fire. Logically? It’s like solving a puzzle where all pieces are the same shape.

Now, let’s get one thing straight (or crooked, or zig-zagged, or however you’d like it). While many of you may be engrossed by the intriguing narratives of what takes place, or doesn’t take place, or might take place between one’s thighs, I can assure you, I’m not in the least bit interested. Yes, whatever magical, mysterious, or mundane proceedings you believe occur in your netherworld truly holds as much fascination for me as watching paint dry on a wall. No, not even if it’s glow-in-the-dark paint.

In this wild jungle of audio descriptions, where our protagonist, presumably draped in a cape of righteousness, is trying to navigate, the message is as clear as a bell that has undergone extensive polishing by the royal bell cleaners for the queen’s exclusive bell-ringing ceremony. If ‘they’ (you know, the grand overseers of the Audio Kingdom, who, when not being ambiguous, probably sit on gilded thrones of obscurity) genuinely aim to present a more inclusive kingdom for all, then these monarchs better ensure that their domain remains one of clarity and specificity. Otherwise, they risk turning their empire into an enigmatic labyrinth where words go to get lost and probably never find their way home.

Now, speaking of declarations, let me enlighten you. Despite my visual impairment, I’d like the world to acknowledge that I identify as a top-notch, sighted pilot. Yes, indeed! And I’ve got all the imaginary qualifications to prove it. I can practically feel the wind ruffling my hair as I commandeer a massive passenger jet, soaring from the bustling Johannesburg International to the iconic London skies. So, for those of you tempted to cast aspersions on my aerial prowess or hint at my minor, insignificant inability to, you know, see, I’d ask you to hold your horses. Or jets. Or whatever mode of transportation gets your gears grinding.

To wrap this up in a tidy bow (or a messy knot, depending on how you like your bows), let’s allow this to be a heartfelt, desperate cry for just a smidgen of reason in the untamed wilderness of audio descriptions. Because ‘they,’ the omnipotent beings that they are, or are not, or might think they are, need to bear in mind that the essence of any tale, whether whispered by the fireside or shouted from mountain tops, should, at its core, remain a story. Not an Olympic-level routine of linguistic contortions where words do backflips, somersaults, and possibly end up pulling a muscle or two.

Leave a Comment