If you watched any of “Stranger Things 4” with closed captioning on, you may have noticed some particularly interesting subtitles. Whether they were describing background music as “epic” or detailing the “moistly” motions of tentacles, the show’s subtitles attracted plenty of attention for taking creative license. And if you found yourself wondering who is in charge of writing them, you’re not alone.
In a new interview with Vulture, the minds behind the show’s subtitles explained their thought processes behind the much-memed descriptions. The show’s subtitle author, who chose only to be identified as “Jeff,” and subtitle QA editor Karli Witkowska spoke about the creativity that goes into crafting delightfully disgusting captions, and why they’re an essential part of making the show accessible.
When asked about his use of “[tentacles undulating moistly],” Jeff admitted that he “was trolling a little bit with that.” He said the disgust was intentional, adding that “in the past year or two, I’ve been watching ASMR streams to figure out which words elicit that kind of response in people, so I’ll grab them and put them in my word bank. ‘Moistly’ pops up a lot.”
Witkowska argued that viewers’ confusion about the creative subtitles stems from a lack of understanding about the purpose that subtitles are meant to serve.
“It is supposed to be an uncomfortable situation, and that’s why it was used in the show,” she said. “What I’ve noticed quite a lot online are people who don’t really understand the subtitles are for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. I’ve seen a lot of, ‘Why are the subtitles so overly descriptive? We don’t need these.’ And I know you don’t, but you weren’t the main audience for subtitles from the start.”
Both Jeff and Witkowska were adamant that the goal of good subtitling isn’t simply to transcribe dialogue. Their job is to ensure that deaf people can experience the show in the same way that everyone else can, and that includes a lot more than just the lines that characters say.
“When it comes to a show like ‘ST’ where you have something so fun and upbeat like when they’re riding along in the pizza van, and then all of a sudden, something completely different happens, it’s our job that the deaf community can still understand that complete switch of atmosphere and tone,” she said. “If we aren’t doing that, we aren’t doing our jobs correctly.”
All episodes of “Stranger Things 4” are now streaming on Netflix.