Under the right conditions and with the right readers, closed captions can manipulate time, transporting readers into the future, or, in more general terms, providing them with advance or additional information. In this chapter, I coin the term captioned irony to account for this significant difference between captioned and uncaptioned texts. Just as dramatic irony accounts for situations in which the audience knows more than the characters, captioned irony accounts for situations in which caption viewers know more, sooner, or differently than non-caption viewers. This different experience is not dependent solely on poorly timed captions (although sometimes it is) but on the different affordances of reading and listening, and, in some case, the inflexible application of style guidelines to situations that require a more subtle approach. This chapter will explore the time-traveling potential of punctuation at the end of a line (when coupled with fast reading and/or slow speaking), speaker identifications (when they give away the identity of characters too soon), and ironic juxtapositions (when captions cross boundaries they shouldn’t).
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