The Benefits of Subtitles

I’ve been slowly rewatching all the episodes of Game of Thrones these past few weeks, which has been a blast. In the past I’ve used subtitles only for non-English dialogue scenes. By chance this time the subtitles I used were for all the dialogue - English, Dothraki, and Valerian! At first I wasn’t too thrilled - I only really use subtitles when I need to, and I don’t need English subtitles, thank you very much. But after a while, I actually started to enjoy the English subtitles.

When subtitles are shown my eyes are naturally drawn to them. This means that my default focal point is the text, which I read while taking in the underlying content in the periphery. As I read the dialogue, I’ve been able to commit to memory the names of minor characters like Ilyn Payne and less important locations such as Asshai. I’ve also been able to soak in small details, such as the different aspects of the Faith of the Seven, that had I had previously glossed over. I’ve even been able to connect Jamie Lanister’s brief telling of his first kill over two different seasons - something that I somehow missed before.

Reading the subtitles is like a third form of learning constantly reinforcing the visuals that I see and the dialogue that I hear. Game of Thrones is a massive and entertaining work of art, with many characters, plot lines, themes, and intricate details. Watching it once isn’t enough to fully appreciate it, which is why I occasionally rewatch all the episodes. As a result of watching the show with subtitles this time, I’ve been able to really think about the plot, about the characters, and the overarching story line. This level of intellectual engagement with the show is deeply satisfying, and makes the large time investment worth it.

Going forward for any content that is complex and worth watching repeatedly, I’m going to use subtitles, even for the English parts when I rewatch it.