How should gasps, groans, sighs, grunts, scoffs, moans, pants and other assorted “breathy” sounds be captioned? When should they be captioned? What’s the difference between them? Why does it matter?
Gasping sounds in Twilight
Of the 190 non-speech descriptions in Twilight, thirteen involve gasping, and twelve of these are associated with Bella. Gasping is used in the caption track as an all-purpose placeholder for the audible intake of air when Bella is scared (during the attempted sexual assault in Port Angeles), startled (when she wakes to find Edward [Robert Pattinson] watching her sleep), aroused (when she and Edward are kissing), excited (when she is lifted by Edward high into the trees), and dying (when Bella gasps three times within a span of thirty-five seconds following the nearly fatal vampire attack at the end of the film). In fact, when we analyze Bella’s character through the non-speech descriptions associated with her, we have to conclude that gasping is one of her key personality traits, at least as far as the captioner was concerned. Bella gasps.
Source: Twilight, 2008. DVD. Featured captions: (SIGHS SOFTLY), (ANXIOUS LAUGH), (BREATH TREMBLING), (GASPS), (LAUGHS SOFTLY), (SIGHS), (BELLA GASPS QUIETLY), (BELLA PANTING), (CHUCKLES SOFTLY), (GRUNTS SOFTLY), (GRUNTS LOUDLY), (BOTH PANTING), (PANTS), (GROANS), (GRUNTING), (RAPID GASPING).
We could continue this line of analysis, identifying the non-speech sounds associated with Edward, Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), the evil vampires, etc. We could also analyze any non-speech descriptors that are associated with and bond together multiple characters. At one point, for example, when Edward and Bella are kissing for the first time, Bella (GASPS SOFTLY), but Edward breathes heavily too during this scene. In fact, it’s possible that the caption was meant for him. It’s hard to tell because the DVD captions for Twilight do not use placement to indicate who is speaking. In this moment, they are bound together around a single caption spanning multiple breathy sounds between them as they embrace.
Source: Twilight, 2008. DVD. Featured captions: (GASPS SOFTLY), (GRUNTS SOFTLY), (BOTH PANTING).