What is "offensive"?

For example here’s one: How Wheatus re-recorded Teenage Dirtbag from scratch after losing the masters | CBC Radio

I’m not sure about “evil”, but I’m sure about “detrimental” when (as many other things) it is taken to the extreme.

In my country, dubbing of any movie was introduced in the thirties because people were largely illiterate and it was a necessary… hmm… “evil” (well, you are right). The dubbing industry received two major pushes. The first one was direct: Benito Mussolini prohibited the circulation of movies that weren’t in Italian language, not just for practical reasons but also to support his nationalistic agenda (and you can spot ripples of that splash even today). The second one was indirect: the Marshall Plan included funds to import and distribute in Italy many US movies.

The dubbing industry in Italy flourished, both artistically and economically, and that has been the only (easy) way to watch a movie for decades. Being exposed to English was theoretically possible, but only as a consequence of personal initiative. Most people just accepted the convenience of getting movies in their language and to them it became normal to consume media only in that way.

Did decades of rejecting non-Italian languages leave a mark on our understanding of English or on our proficiency? Yes, a lot. And the linguistic issue isn’t the only downside.

From a personal perspective, I can see it in my line of work, where it’s not easy to find and hire competent people. It turns out that the lack of an habit to consume news at the source and to study documents in their original language (which in my industry is mostly English) unfortunately impacts negatively the knowledge of the candidates.

Translations and second-hand reports always risk to distort original information and the habit of studying only secondary sources can badly affect their understanding of the discipline. Searching by default a surrogate of the original media is second nature to most people and they have no idea how much this habit may impair their professional skills.

In more general terms, researches aren’t sure how much the lack of movies in original language has contributed to get every year the lowest ranks in Europe for English proficiency. It’s for sure the effect of a mix of factors, including how English language is taught in school, but it’s difficult to reject the hypothesis that not being exposed to any other language than your own for 80/90 years didn’t help our culture to improve that aspect.

Another aspect I’m worried about, but that I don’t have studied accurately, is that extending language skills may also improve cognitive skills. In the age of the Internet, where accessing content in every language is easy, any one-language paradigm seems to me a lost occasion to improve those skills as well.

Finally, and this is a sad part, the last negative effect is that our love and dependence on the dubbing industry leads many people to take offense when I advocate for avoiding the one-language approach to media or art. To me it’s incomprehensible why extending our knowledge or skills should imply a diminishment of what we already know or are, but some people treat my suggestion as if it was a threat to the local culture.

So, beside the artistic perspective I think that, on the long term, dubbing everything (“everything” being the key word, here) can also cause some damage.


I liked you post because I agree pretty much with everything, with just some distinguo, since I still have mixed feelings about dubbing.
I keep on posting here since I think that even if we are off the “offensive” topic we’re still in “cultural crossovers” topic.

I must sadly admit my english proficiency is enough to watch a movie in english (maybe with an english subtitle aid to help me with some words I would otherwise miss just by listening), but I confess it isn’t enough to enjoy it. Sometimes I do that, but seldom for more than half of the movie, because it is quite an intellectual effort for me. When the dubbing is high quality, it is a pleasure to just relax and enjoy the movie, especially if you’re tired after a long business day (maybe in english!).
And, as you mentioned, in Italy we have a strong dubbing culture, so we are lucky (and unlucky, too) we can find good products.
I must say that sometimes when I do the opposite, I mean when I start watching the italian voiceover and then I shift to the original I get disappointed by the original acting.
I like to remember with emotion what Woody Allen said about Oreste Lionello when he died:

“he did an incredible job making me a better actor than I am”.

Dubbing has its pros and its cons. I think multiple languages are a powerful resource if used wisely (I even watched some american movies dubbed in spanish just for learning some of the language).

I remember when I watched Keep Cool. I loved that movie. And I think the good italian voiceover played a major role. You know, albeit fascinating, the sound of chinese language makes no sense to me. Even with chinese subtitles. So the only alternative to voiceover would have been original language with italian subs. Which means reading instead of watching, that I find awful.
I think this might be another reason why the american audience is scared by stranger movies, the lack of a good american dub.

I guess we Germans are spoiled just as much when it comes to dubbing movies :slight_smile:.

But I think it has some practical value: it would be presumptuous to expect everyone’s language skill to be good enough to understand, let alone enjoy, a foreign film. While I’m fine with English (mostly, unless they use heavy accents), I’d be pretty much lost in any other language. So I’m grateful if I can watch those films in German.

And no, I do not want to concentrate on reading subtitles, I’d rather sit back and focus on the action.

But if someone wants to argue that dubbing is a poor man’s remake, then I’m probably fine with that :smiley:.

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We wrote simultaneously the same thing. You just managed to be more concise.

Anyway, to me a dub is NOT a poor man’s remake. It is a compromise to save the original making it enjoyable for a wider audience without distorting it too much.

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You have no idea how mine are.

For a long time I’ve been some sort of a dub fanatic, to the point of documenting myself in what is considered “the” encyclopedia for Italian dubbing (incredibly, even many professional voice actors prefer to use that website instead of the databases available exclusively to them), learning to recognize not just single voices but also the generations of actors from the same family and generally enjoying the quality of the dubbing.

That was before I started paying attention to what I felt were the full cultural consequences, not of the dubbing itself, but of how pervasively it was used. And it was also before my understanding of English reached a point when I was able to watch most movies in that language…

… and then an additional reason to avoid dubbed movies/shows emerged: a drop in quality.

In the first decades of the dubbing industry, voice actors were recruited from both the movie industry and theaters. And it shows! If you take older movies you can clearly see a mastery of the voice that derives from a more classical style of acting. Then TV and TV commercials happened and this (r)evolution pawed the way for the formation of new generations of voice actors, people who didn’t necessarily get a classical or methodical acting training. They had the right voices for TV, though.

Fast forward today, after a few decades of TV and the explosion of series produced every year (thanks also to streaming services) and what you get is “not enough good actors to dub everything in a decent way”. :stuck_out_tongue:

Now, the concept of “decent” may vary from person to person, but to me most modern dubbing is unbearable, cacophonic, even in Hollywood blockbusters. Every single line is pronounced as if it needs to be sold as the most important statement of the movie, overacted and emphasized to the extreme. The emotions conveyed by subtle and whispered words spoken by the original actors are lost, often distorted into a crystal-clear cold fist to the stomach that sometimes even changes the tone and the meaning of the phrase. People acting in that way in a theater (or in a serious Italian movie) would sound ridiculous.

The only meaningful way to reply to you mentioning this sacred name is “e grazziarcazzo” (“No shit!”).

Lionello was a pillar of voice acting that put in his works all the experience gained in years of theaters (including Avanspettacolo) and movies. He wasn’t representative of the overall quality of voice acting back then, let alone the current acting quality, built from trying to convince you to buy probiotics to improve your intestinal health.

But why everyone’s? No extreme is good, we shouldn’t expect nor demand for everyone to do anything.

The first time I traveled to Czech Republic I was impressed by how many theaters showed original movies with subtitles and my impression was that people were more accustomed to English also because they didn’t have enough resources to translate everything. :stuck_out_tongue:

I know this place. I’ve hired some very good actors for Thimbleweed Park over there, including the awsome Chuck.

True. Especially in redubbing of remastered old films.

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Completely unrelated: the Italian national anthem is my favorite to sing.

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“And now for something completely different”: they taught the lyrics to the players of the national football team in order not to disfigure in front of the US audience at the 1994 World Cup.

Nobody knew the words*, and the italian team typically remained mute during the anthems until then.


Except for that parapaparapapappà part.

EDIT: darn. I checked, it was in 2006 in France they started to sing. Not in 1994 in USA. My anecdote is slightly less funny, then.