Babel: English Lit Syndrome meets Economics 101

My wife and I just finished watching Babel, a movie about people lost in foreign cultures struggling to communicate.

It turns out that when you pop in the DVD and hit play, by default there are no subtitles, despite the fact that the majority of dialog takes place in Moroccan, Japanese, sign language, and Spanish.

I suffered from English Lit Syndrome, thinking how cool it was how the filmmakers made you feel like you were lost along with the characters, recalling the spot-on memoryless feel of Memento.

My wife insisted that there must be something wrong. Perhaps we missed a setting or choice among the menu options for subtitles? As the Japanese storyline reached its close, with lengthy and intricate back and forth dialog between characters whose relationships I hadn’t the least clue about, I realized that maybe, just maybe, she was right.

When the movie ended, I dug back into the menu. Low and behold, there in a “settings” submenu was a choice for subtitles: English, Spanish, or none. Default on “none”.

My artistic elitism crumbled into simple annoyance.

Poking around online, it turns out I’m not the only one duped by the DVD bug or struck by ELS.

Just think of all the time wasted by people watching the movie in incomprehension, investigating the problem, getting irked, and most especially complaining about it online.

A classic Econ 101 lesson in efficiency lost.

But wait! The DVD spurred the disorganized masses to work together to produce a tower of criticism. How clever!

4 thoughts on “Babel: English Lit Syndrome meets Economics 101”

  1. Welcome to Global Business “thinking”.

    Products have symbols rather than switches adorned with text. It is considered better to confuse customers in all nations rather than to make things clear in any one particular language.

    Instruction booklets are annoying in six languages.

    And just as computers default to ‘no security settings’ DVDs default to ‘no cultural preferences imposed by the manufacturer’.

  2. True enough, except of course they are certain not to forget the proper region coding to make sure the DVD can’t be watched in the wrong country. 🙂

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