When Ariana Grande's music video "thank u, next" came out, it was big news—it was gay rights, even. Ari confirmed Pete Davidson's big dick energy, recruited the real Aaron Samuels and channelled all of our favorite early aughts films in one go. But, Ariana (and Vevo) unintentionally left out a large community and countless fans in the process.
— Nyle DiMarco (@NyleDiMarco) November 30, 2018
"Could you ask Vevo to add captions for 466 million people with hearing loss," model and activist Nyle DiMarco tweeted to the star, signal boosting another tweet of his that called the company to task for not including the captions in the initial release. "There ARE closed caption services that will cost you ONLY $6 (or less) to INSTANTLY appeal to a wider audience," he wrote in the original post.
Here we talk to DiMarco about just how easy it would be to add captions, how pervasive this issue is and whether or not he ever got to enjoy Grande's "thank u, next" in full.
First, can you explain where you were and what you were doing when the “thank u, next” video came out?
I was driving home from a meeting when Ariana Grande’s music video finally launched.
In the days prior, Ariana had been releasing promos building up the hype, teasing her impatient fans—including myself. We all knew the video would be colossal and that it would certainly break records. I sped home the second I learned the video was out on YouTube.
How did you feel when the video came out?
I rushed into my home and grabbed my laptop. I went on Ariana Grande’s Twitter account and slammed my finger on the “thank u, next” video link, taking me to YouTube. An advertisement popped up and I had to wait for five seconds before skipping (the longest five seconds of my life).
Ah, finally! Wait — I forgot to turn on captions. My eyes shifted to the bottom-right corner only to see an empty toolbar.
Wait. Wait, what? There’s no captions. Nothing. Not even auto-captions that YouTube offers. This can’t be. Impossible.
I tried refreshing. Nope. Refreshed again. No luck.
They didn’t bother to add captions. I won’t lie, it was hard not to feel left out those first 24 hours as the sensation of the music video unfolded on the internet.
Can you put into perspective why VEVO needs to caption the videos they release?
Closed captioning is beneficial to different kinds of people. For starters, there are 466 million people with hearing loss in the world that benefit from it. Captions also help the viewing experience for people with learning disabilities, ADHD, autism, and new language learners trying to understand the dialogue.
It also can be relatively inexpensive. There are closed captioning services that cost only one dollar per video minute. Ariana Grande’s “thank u, next” music video is 5:31 minutes long, which means it costs approximately six dollars to add captioning to instantly appeal to an even wider audience.
Side note: I’ve seen several fans helping translate “thank u, next” and there were some errors here and there because they thought they heard otherwise. The effort is much appreciated, but it's also another reason professional closed captioning is necessary.
When has this been an issue for you with Vevo before?
Since forever. Childish Gambino’s “This is America” was released without captions, and it went on for days. Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” does not have proper captions. There are more videos without captions than there are with.
Captioning is inconsistent across all platforms and it’s frustrating to those that need it.
Where else does captioning become an issue for you?
Movie theaters. In-flight movies. TV shows. A ton of televisions in public spaces (especially in loud atmospheres) do not have the captioning turned on. The internet brings a huge amount of filmed content to our screens, but so little of it is captioned. Even breaking news and live streams on platforms do not have captions.
Have you been able to watch the new Ariana video yet?
Luckily for me, a fan took the video from YouTube, added captions, and posted on Twitter for those who need it. Unfortunately, that meant losing views on the actual video.
Editor’s Note: Vevo did not return a request for comment on this matter from OUT editors.
What kind of messages have you received from Ariana, your followers, et cetera since you published your first tweet on the matter?
I admit I was worried that Ariana fans would attack me, only because I wanted to enjoy as much as the others but Ariana and her fans were supportive. Ariana tagged VEVO encouraging them to add captions. A lot of my fans, mostly hearing, felt they needed captioning too.
@Vevo this is such a dope idea! please see this!
— Ariana Grande (@ArianaGrande) December 2, 2018
What do you think is the solution to avoid this issue in the future?
Captioning enhances the viewing experience. It should be a standard part of any filmed media, and not as an afterthought, but as a part of the ultimate golden standard of universal design.