Both Captain America films, X-Men, Selma, Skyfall, House Of Cards, and The Godfather are among the movies and series accused of discriminating against the deaf and hearing impaired. They are at the center of a multi-claim and civil rights violating potential class action lawsuit filed today against Disney, Fox, Warner Bros, Paramount, Universal, Sony and Netflix over the lack of captioning or subtitling for the films and shows in their home entertainment versions – or, to be more specific, the songs performed or featured within in them.
“While the dialogue of some movies or shows are indeed fully subtitled, the practice of not subtitling song/music lyrics is frustratingly widespread,” said the nine-plaintiff complaint filed in L.A. Superior Court. Seeking unspecified damages and injunctive relief, the complaint seeks to have certification to include all Americans “with any hearing loss and/or impairment” in the proposed class. Recent census data estimates that more 1 million people in the United States are deaf, with many more suffering various stages of hearing loss.
Citing feelings of “frustration and anger” and ranging from California to Virginia to the commonwealth of Massachusetts and Maryland, the plaintiffs allege that such actions by the studios and Netflix are a violation of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act. “Defendants’ acts and omissions as specified herein have proximately caused Plaintiffs and class members; to suffer a loss of their civil rights — and their rights as a person with physical disabilities to receive full and equal access to the public facilities and accommodations produced and distributed by Defendants,” their attorney John A. Girardi of L.A.’s Girardi Keese says in the class action complaint (read it here). “Such movie or show products were of lesser value to Plaintiffs and class members, than to persons without hearing loss.”
Adds the six-claim jury-seeking complaintL “Defendant produced and distributed several DVDs enclosed in packaging with language advertising the DVDs were subtitled, movies that were advertised as captioned, and movies or shows with language, such as captioned, English subtitles, or subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing, indicating that the movie or show is fully captioned or subtitled. Captions and subtitles allow Plaintiffs and class members, to follow the content of a film or show visually if they are not able to do so aurally. The DVD packaging does not indicate that the subtitles are limited in any way.” And yet, often on the aforementioned projects plus many more from Guardians Of The Galaxy — which had a highly promoted classic soundtrack — to Minions and Interstellar to Orange Is The New Black and the four-decade-old Rocky, the songs are left untitled, like commercials on closed captioning on many TVs.
None of the studios or Netflix responded to requests for comment on the matter.
Christine Anthony, Susan Boswell, Evan Brunell, Darby Leigh, Ken Levinson, Catharine McNally, Pauline Newton, Jay Wyant And Kristin Zlogar are the plaintiffs in the case