Let me begin this post by saying that I am totally sympathetic to the challenges faced by physically disadvantaged people. I believe that society should do as much as is feasible to help these folks go about their days, whether that means handicapped parking spaces, wheelchair ramps, or those annoying voices in elevators that announce what floor you’re on.
But as it is wont to do, sometimes society goes overboard.
I bring this up because recently I became aware of something called “described (or descriptive) video.” What closed captioning does for the hearing-impaired, descriptive video attempts to do for the seeing-impaired. It recognizes that, while blind people have always been able to listen to TV and movies, they’ve never known what was happening onscreen unless someone was there to tell them. So descriptive video provides somebody to tell them.
Specifically, a voice-over is added to the sound track to describe the action. For example, at the opening of the descriptive video version of The Lion King, a calming female voice tells us that….
“Hundreds of animals gather at the bottom of pride rock, a tall, flat ledge that towers over the rest of the savannah. Zasu, a small blue bird with a large beak, flaps to the ledge. He bows to Mufasa, a powerful, dignified lion with a thick red mane…”
It goes on and on like that. Meanwhile, of course, the actual soundtrack has to be somewhat muted to make the description audible, so you end up hearing Elton John singing “Circle of Life” in the background as if it’s over the sound system in a noisy restaurant. The problem is that the song is really the whole point of the scene. So, in an effort convey the action of what’s going on, it has forced the “viewer” to miss the idea of what’s going on.
And how would you even do something like this for an action film? The other night, I was watching Jason Bourne, which is essentially one movie-length chase scene, and I imagined a descriptive video narrator saying “And the motorcycle…wait, now the assassin is…while on the roof…oh, nevermind.”
I was going to end this post by saying that we should, perhaps, surrender to the idea that video is a visual medium, possibly not appropriate for the visually-impaired. By the same token, “radio for the deaf” is pretty much a non-starter.*
But then I came across something really interesting (at least to me). One of the links returned during my Google search for “descriptive video” was this: “Pornhub’s newest offering is audio porn for the blind”
Being a dedicated journalist, I obviously had to continue my research, so I went to Pornhub, which was not bookmarked on my computer. Pornhub has its porn grouped by genre, and there are apparently many more genres of porn than I had thought possible. I didn’t even know what some of the genres were. But that may be a subject for another day.**
Anyway, there it was, between “Czech” and “Double Penetration”: “Described video.” I clicked on one of the less disgusting-sounding entries, the classic “Sexy Threesome in the Office.“ Here’s what I heard over a black screen with nothing but a logo for something called Brazzers:
“This is Pornhub’s descriptive audio of the video ‘Sexy Threesome in the Office’ by Brazzers. It stars Ava Adams and Riley Gena and it is seven minutes and 32 seconds long.”
Other than informing the visually-impaired horndog exactly how much time he has to do whatever he’s going to do, I would say this introduction does nothing but give him about 12 seconds less in which to do it.
“The video opens with a white man in a dark suit in an office setting staring excitedly at a laptop computer…Two white women enter: a short brunette with giant tits and a tall, thin blonde.” (After some totally unnecessary dialogue)…”The blonde rips her shirt open and starts stroking her own silhouette, and at the same time, the brunette begins to caress her…”
I stopped the video there, certain that the plot held no surprises, especially since there were only about six and a half minutes remaining. I had a few questions about all this:
- If I was blind, how would I know how large the blonde’s breasts were?
- If I was blind, how would I have known to click on this video in the first place? I mean, it was right next to “Da Underground: A Gay XXX Parody.” That might have been quite a shock.
- How is “Czech” a category of porn? Do they do things differently over there?
- Since one of Pornhub’s categories is “Interracial,” I guess black lives do matter. But if you’re blind and listening to porn, would it really be more (or less) of a turn-on if it was a black man in an office setting. Or a black woman with giant breasts?
- In the scheme of things, is it really necessary to inform the viewer what color the guy’s suit is? He’ll be out of it soon enough. And the audio didn’t say anything about what the women were wearing.
In conclusion, isn’t this why there’s phone sex?
*Although that hasn’t stopped NPR from trying it. Hopefully, though, deaf people won’t listen to this radio programming while driving.
**Then again, maybe not.