Critics came out in force against the Grammy Awards, complaining that the closed captioning didn’t switch seamlessly between English and Spanish while artist Bad Bunny was performing.
But many viewers saw this as an overreaction, especially since 78% of the nation speaks English at home compared to 13% who report speaking Spanish at home, per census data in 2021.
It all started when the massively popular Puerto Rican performing artist took to the stage singing “El Apagón” and “Después de la Playa.” The captions for the East Coast broadcast said, “[SPEAKING NON-ENGLISH]” and “[SINGING IN NON-ENGLISH]” during Bad Bunny’s mashup performance, leading some to accuse the program of “racist” behavior.
“As a Puerto Rican, Latina and Spanish speaker, putting “[SINGING IN NON-ENGLISH]” while Bad Bunny (one of the most popular artists in the world) sings in Spanish in a country with millions of Spanish speakers, is IGNORANT and INSULTING. Do better CBS,” one tweet said.
“Bad Bunny wins a Grammy, and when he speaks some Spanish during his acceptance speech the best you can do in the close [sic] captioning is to type “NON-ENGLISH” ?!?!? Just a little racist,” another account agreed. “Do better. Be prepared with a multilingual captionist.”
For every comment slamming CBS and the Grammys for failing to translate the captions into Spanish, there was someone saying it was ridiculous to get so worked up over it.
“Oh Jesus grow up. Stop grasping,” one Twitter post said. “That’s what it says on literally all closed captioning. English is the main language in the USA. The fact he was on the show is amazing. I’ve lived between the USA and Mexico [sic] my entire life. This offends no one I know.”
Others pointed out how captions can be changed to any language, and expecting the English subtitles to switch to other languages wasn’t practical.
“Go into your televisions [sic] settings, when you do that, change the language to Spanish when you set it up. Just like you do when you get a new iPhone and set the language. Then the captions will be in Spanish or whatever language you want. But I’m sure complaints are just easier,” one Twitter user observed.
“As a Puerto Rican, you spend too much energy on issues that have no impact on your life,” another said.
Due to the backlash, CBS quickly rectified the situation by the time the Grammys were rebroadcast in primetime on the West Coast. That show included updated Spanish closed captioning for Bad Bunny’s opening performance, and the on-demand version also includes closed captioning in Spanish, per Variety.