Just to show how massive of a pop culture hit Stranger Things 4 has become, even the subtitles have an entire genre of memes dedicated just to them. On top of smashing streaming records, the supernatural series has shone a light on the typically thankless job of nailing just the right audio descriptors. Thanks to the inclusion of Vecna, who brought the show back to its ’80s roots by going with a fully practical creature instead of CGI, the subtitle team had to bring their A-game when it came to describing his horror movie movements.
In a fascinating new interview, subtitle author Jeff T. and his QA editor Karli Witkowska walked through the process of picking just the right words for the sprawling fourth season. While Jeff admits that some of the choices were a little bit of “trolling,” like the subtitle “[tentacles undulating moistly]” and the heavy use of “squelching,” the two worked closely to find the right descriptors. They had to capture the Dungeons & Dragons/horror elements of the series, but also make them accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing community. For example, the team came up with “[unearthly susurration]” for when Vecna created the Mind Flayer. That’s some damn fine wordsmith-ing.
Jeff: I try to stick to genre-appropriate language as well. People brought up the squelching, but that palpable pressing sound is meant to evoke disgust and horror. If I was doing a Regency-era picture or a stoner comedy, I’d change my language and shift accordingly, but I tried to be respectful of the genre [in Stranger Things season four].
Karli: Working with Jeff on this, I had to think about whether every sound and every descriptor provides the necessary required emotions or feelings that the deaf community would require. In this case, I could rely on Jeff that the language would be there. There will be descriptors in there that I think would be perfect for the hearing audience but not as great for the deaf community; as long as it’s portraying the correct sound, I think we’re doing our best to create something for everyone.
And if you think we’re joking about “squelching,” just check out the screenshots below. Stranger Things loves it some squelch.
Stranger Things 4 Volume 1 and 2 are squelchi-… er, streaming on Netflix.