One of my favorite parts in Singing in the Rain is when there are technical difficulties during the film they’re watching and the actor’s voices are switched. This comical moment helps to illustrate an important point—voices matter. And while I find this scene highly amusing, in general, a dubbed movie or TV show makes me cringe (internally as well as externally). I find it beyond distracting that the lips don’t match the words coming from them, but most of all it brings down the quality of any movie or TV show because it loses an essential part of itself.
A good movie can be made bad with bad dubbing. Actors were cast (hopefully) for their acting ability—and part of acting is speaking. The tone of voice, the inflections and the pauses are all important in capturing the feelings of a scene. Yet bad dubbing can overshadow everything else until all you can pay attention to are the terrible fake accents, poor pronunciation, a lack of emotion, an annoying tone of voice or just the wrong voice casting. Good dubbing at least tries to match the original voices in tone and feeling and is pleasant sounding enough that doesn’t distract you from the story. But even “good” dubbing will never compare to the original, as the original is the standard and the dubbed version is just a shadow of the original.
Perhaps I’m biased because I grew up watching a lot of subtitled movies and TV shows. I’m used to reading subtitles, but I realize there are many people who do not like to do so because they find it distracting or the subtitles are too fast for them. I suppose that’s why dubbing still tends to be more mainstream than subtitles. Yet, I think most people would be able to feel the difference in quality if they watched the same movie dubbed as well as subtitled, whether they would care about the difference or not, I guess that’s a separate issue. [Sigh.] But I care. Given a choice, I’ll always choose to watch something in its original language than dubbed.