Step aside, Eleven, because the real star of Stranger Things 4 was the closed captioning. Viewers who watched the season with the subtitles turned on faced a disgusting onslaught of moist, undulating tentacles and wet, squelching footsteps. The hyper-descriptive captions were so verbosely gross, they took over social media and inspired tons of memes. Although the team who actually wrote those subtitles took their jobs very seriously, they *did* admit to trolling fans a bit when it came to concocting some of the most truly revolting descriptors.
Vulture managed to speak with the duo who came up with all the Stranger Things 4 subtitles in a July 8 interview, in which they revealed the caption that was actually a bit of an attempt to gross out viewers. The author Jeff T. (who preferred to not disclose his last name) said he was having some fun trying to disgust people when he wrote the season’s breakout subtitle: “[tentacles undulating moistly].”
“I will admit I was trolling a little bit with that,” Jeff said. “In the past year or two, I’ve been watching ASMR streams to figure out which words elicit that kind of response in people, so I’ll grab them and put them in my word bank. ‘Moistly’ pops up a lot in those ASMR streams.”
Jeff may have chosen that vomit-inducing description to make viewers squirm, but his subtitle QA editor Karli Witkowska shared that it was this over-the-top grossness that made it perfect for describing Vecna’s creepy tentacles. “It is supposed to be an uncomfortable situation, and that’s why it was used in the show,” Witkowska said, adding that the subtitles need to be hyper-descriptive for the audiences who actually need them. “What I’ve noticed quite a lot online are people who don’t really understand the subtitles are for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. I’ve seen a lot of, ‘Why are the subtitles so overly descriptive? We don’t need these.’ And I know you don’t, but you weren’t the main audience for subtitles from the start.”
Not all of the melodramatic subtitles were trolls, though — in fact, some of them were specifically crafted to be Dungeons & Dragons easter eggs. Jeff, a longtime D&D player, said he specifically chose the word “eldritch” to describe many of Vecna’s sounds as a reference to the warlock class in the tabletop game: “Their signature spell is ‘Eldritch blast,’ and they are a class that has made a deal with an alien in power, whether it’s a demon or an Archfey, or whatever it is,” Jeff explained.
The D&D easter egg Jeff is most proud of came at the end of the season, when Vecna created the Mind Flayer as dissonant, alien noises emitted from the dark particles. “I used the tag ‘[dissonant gibbering],’ which is a reference to two Dungeons & Dragons spells,” Jeff said. “The first is ‘dissonant whispers,’ which is a bard spell ... ‘Dissonant whispers’ is a bard sliding into your mind to break down your defenses. Then there is ‘gibbering.’ There’s a monster called the Gibbering Mouther, which is basically a pile of goo with mouths and teeth meant to drive people crazy, so I thought, ‘Let me put this here,’ because that’s exactly what this giant swirling particle monster is.”
Turns out there’s a lot more going on in the subtitles than you may have realized. It might be time for a Stranger Things 4 rewatch to really pay attention to all the super-specific words chosen to describe each scene.