Analysis & Comment

Opinion | Struggling to Understand TV Dialogue? Join the Club.

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To the Editor:

Re “Huh? What? There Are Ways to Improve the Sound on Your TV?” (Business, Aug. 18):

As an American expat, I got a good chuckle out of Brian X. Chen’s article about poor dialogue sound quality in streaming. The premise, that using subtitles is a terrible inconvenience that diminishes one’s enjoyment of video entertainment, is one of those peculiarly American complaints that seem bizarre to many people overseas.

In Chinese-speaking areas and other parts of East Asia, the wide variety of languages, accents and usages can make it tough to comprehend dialogue regardless of sound quality, so video nearly always comes with subtitles, whether it’s on TV, in a movie theater or online. Nobody here seems to mind.

Indeed, the people in Malaysia who build the Sonos equipment that Mr. Chen praised must be thrilled that Americans will spend $900 on soundbars to avoid those irritating subtitles.

Michael P. Clarke
Taoyuan City, Taiwan

To the Editor:

We do not have to bring speakers to a movie theater to watch a movie and we should not have to put speakers on our TV sets to enjoy a television show. Modern television sets should come with high-resolution pictures and high-quality, audible sound. The quality of the sound is as important as the quality of the picture. We should not have to buy soundbars.

Bill Chastain
New York

To the Editor:

I’ve used closed captioning for a while now, not only because the sound quality on streaming services is far from as good as it should be but also because programs produced in England — many of the shows on PBS, which I like — use a lot of slang and hard-to-understand dialects.

But a major problem is that some of the streaming services, like Netflix, have closed captions that are far from helpful. They come on well before or well after the spoken words, and too often they flash on so fast that it is impossible to read the entire line of dialogue.

Michael Spielman
Wellfleet, Mass.

To the Editor:

Brian X. Chen suggests that we can hear the dialogue in movies and television shows better by installing new equipment. Along with the attempts at improvements made by directors and sound mixers, producers might insist upon better diction from the actors.

I’ve noticed this slurring and breathy quality in stage performers, too. Perhaps Broadway shows need closed captioning?

Lawrence Raiken

Airbrushing Older Models

To the Editor:

Re “Do Supermodels Age, or Get Airbrushed Instead?” (Sunday Styles, Aug. 20):

The timing couldn’t be more prescient. Just as Greta Gerwig’s irreverent blockbuster “Barbie” is sweeping theaters around the world, Vogue has released its iconic September issue featuring the likes of America’s supermodels — Linda Evangelista, 58, Cindy Crawford, 57, Christy Turlington, 54, and Naomi Campbell, 53 — on its cover.

As Vanessa Friedman aptly remarks, they are “paragons of mature beauty whose years have seemingly been smoothed from their faces,” which “look so retouched that they seem more like A.I.-generated bots than actual people.” A Vogue spokeswoman claimed there was only “minimal retouching.” We know better.

Although we can surely applaud Vogue’s decision to feature 50-something models on its cover, “retouching” them is perpetuating a big lie. It is, in effect, “Barbiefying” them. Barbie was the icon that fed upon young girls’ feelings of inadequacy. Now older women can gaze at Vogue’s cover and feel inadequate too. Thank you, Vogue.

If Vogue, “the fashion Bible,” had elected not to retouch these mature beauties, it would have been a truly groundbreaking event. Certainly a missed opportunity.

Thank you, Vanessa Friedman, for speaking truth to Vogue. As Ms. Gerwig’s Barbie comes to realize, “It’s time to change the Constitution.”

Elizabeth Langer
New York
The writer is a co-founder of the Women’s Rights Law Reporter, the first U.S. journal devoted to women and the law.

To the Editor:

I laughed this morning reading Vanessa Friedman’s column at the silliness of an article criticizing the airbrushing of aging models. The fashion industry runs on unrealistic representations of beauty. Why should those standards be different for older models?

I’ve attended fashion shoots where young models had terrible acne that was ultimately airbrushed out. It seems that, no matter how young or beautiful a model is, there’s almost always flattering lighting and image manipulation. The industry runs on fantasy.

So, whether or not older models have their wrinkles airbrushed seems irrelevant if everything is unrealistic. This is commerce. They aren’t profiling women curing cancer. At least now they’re democratizing fashion to allow older women to put their best selves forward, too.

I hope they can continue to do that without being criticized for tricks of the trade. I think focusing on airbrushing undermines how great it is that Vogue is keeping women over 50 relevant.

Jenifer Vogt
Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.

Haley’s Raised Hand

To the Editor:

Re “Nikki Haley Is the Best Alternative to Trump,” by David Brooks (column, Aug. 25):

Wednesday night’s Republican debate persuaded Mr. Brooks that Nikki Haley is the best alternative to Donald Trump. Yet while Mr. Brooks makes a convincing case that Ms. Haley is a preferable candidate to Mike Pence, Ron DeSantis and especially Vivek Ramaswamy, he fails to address the fact that Ms. Haley, along with every other candidate on the stage except Chris Christie and Asa Hutchinson, raised her hand when asked if she would support Mr. Trump if he is convicted of one or more felonies and is the Republican nominee.

I would ask Mr. Brooks how Ms. Haley’s raised hand shows that she is “one of the few candidates who understands that to run against Trump you have to run against Trump”? And should that not, by itself, render her unfit to become the next president of the United States?

David A. Barry
Cambridge, Mass.

Sea Life in Captivity

To the Editor:

Re “Lolita the Orca, Mainstay of Miami Seaquarium for 50 Years, Dies,” by Jesus Jiménez (news article,, Aug. 18):

I know I am not alone in grieving the tragedy of the kidnapping of this orca, also known as Tokitae, her decades spent in captivity, and her untimely death just when freedom and the possibility of being reunited with her family in the Salish Sea were close enough to touch. Her sorrowful life story hurts all the more because our human collective doesn’t seem to have learned a thing from it.

Orcas remain endangered and continue to struggle to hear each other and catch dwindling salmon in polluted waters that are choking with boat noise from unceasing human commercial and recreational activity. Worse, the captive industry carries on, including in Seattle, which is intent upon building a shiny new shark tank to imprison even more animals.

My hope is that Tokitae’s death will galvanize support against the captivity industry locally and beyond, and serve as a beacon of hope for other beings languishing in tanks simply so that they can be ogled by humans. Let’s honor Tokitae and her bereaved family by ensuring that nobody else has to suffer similarly.

Stephanie C. Bell
SeaTac, Wash.

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