Friday, February 16, 2007

H is for Hawk

Do you like foreign films? If yes, do you like subtitles or dubbing?

I’m a subtitles gal. I don’t mind reading. I like hearing other languages. For me, it helps the texture of the film to hear the characters speaking their own language in their own setting. I like when lips and words synch up.

I was surprised, when visiting Italy, to be told that most American films are dubbed. Everyone seemed to prefer this. Maybe English isn’t as pretty to listen to. Maybe it’s audience laziness. I know North Americans who cringe at the thought of subtitles, certainly.

For the nonbirders among you, I’m about to let you in on one of my dubbing pet peeves. On TV, whenever any bird of prey flies across the screen, no matter the species, the scream you hear will be a red-tailed hawk. That eagle at the intro to the Colbert Report? Red-tailed hawk. Tropical birds of a certain look soaring on Survivor? Red-tailed hawk. Any time anyone wants to spook you a little in daylight hours? Red-tailed hawk. (For night spookiness, see great-horned owl. The good news? Too dark for you to see the wrong bird.)

Okay. I haven’t spent much time in the tropics. Maybe all those birds really do sound like red-tailed hawks. They sure sound suspiciously like each other. And sometimes—maybe 0.05% of the time—footage will actually reflect the proper non–red-tailed call of the bird. When that happens, Tim and I have to physically lift our jaws off the floor.

Seriously, listen to the call of the bald eagle. If you’re going to dub it, at least use a seagull. Or use a real eagle call, with a subtitle that reads [scream of a red-tailed hawk]. I’d start laughing with you.

12 comments:

Bridgett said...

Crossed the Mississippi on foot in January and saw bald eagles. You're right. They don't sound anything like redtails.

mm said...

I think pterodactyls sound the same, too.

JHK said...

Subtitles. Dubbing is ridiculous. Nothing synchs up right, and I want the actor's voices. I love foreign films.

Indigo Bunting said...

Bridgett: Cross the Mississippi on foot? That's totally cool (in more ways than one).

MM: You're right! I wonder if redtails know that their call is so badass, even the dinosaurs had to have it?

JHK: Yay, an ally. And I want the birds' voices!

Sewa Yoleme said...

Interesting factoid: Not only are all onscreen birds dubbed with the keer of the Red-tailed Hawk, it's always the same Red-tailed Hawk. Name of Sammy, from the San Diego Zoo. He died in 1999, but his "voice artistry" lives on.

(All right, that's a lie, but it could be true, and that's all that matters, right?)

Indigo Bunting said...

Damn. I actually believed you. I am without question one of the most gullible people on the planet.

mm said...

I'm glad you corrected that, Sewa Yoleme. I would have been brining up that fascinating little bit of trivia on a regular basis.

I wonder how long it would take for something said in a blogger comment thread to become a full-fledged urban myth.

Mali said...

I love the way you moved from subtitles to bird calls. And yes, I started to believe the Sammy from San Diego Zoo story too.

For the record, subtitles are so much better. Dubbing would give me a headache. And what better way to learn a language, or brush up on one, or test your knowledge ... or just listen to the ebbs and flows of a new one. (I love languages can you tell?)

Helen said...

Normally I like subtitles. However, I wish they'd put them at the top of the screen (maybe they should be surtitles instead?). I watched Life is Beautiful in a little theatre with hardly any slope to the floor, and missed most of the dialogue.

Bridgett said...

The Chain of Rocks Bridge--used to be Route 66 across the river. Now it's a pedestrian/bicycle bridge. Also where the last scenes of Escape from New York were filmed.

Wilder said...

Gosh. I've been a huge fan of Sammy's for years. I even have a few of his "European imports."

Indigo Bunting said...

W: Dude. I definitely have to look those up.