Created By: KZN02 on November 21, 2010 Last Edited By: KZN02 on November 25, 2010
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Reading Lips

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Do We Have This One??

Milhouse: What are they saying?
Bart: I'm not sure.
Milhouse: I thought you said you could read lips.
Bart: I assumed that I could.
--The Simpsons, "Lemon of Troy"

Characters being able to understand what others are saying by reading their lips. Usually an ability of deaf people, though anybody with good eyesight at least can have it.

Can be used when two characters want to communicate silently. Alice wants to give Bob a message, so she mouths it to him. If Played for Laughs, then Bob will reveal that he can't read lips, making the whole thing pointless.

Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: in one episode, a Tachikoma reads the lips of the Major and Batou as a Shout-Out to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Subverted because they know they're being watched and have their conversation via wireless communication with their cyberbrains and have a fake conversation for the Tachikoma to lip read leaving them falsely reassured that The Major was merely chewing Bateau out for being too much of a Drill Seargent Nasty and the Tachikoma weren't being decommissioned.
  • Soul Eater: Justin Law can read lips, which is good considering he has ear phones on most of the time.

Comic Books
  • In Avengers Academy #1, Finesse reads Speedball's lips and learns that the students are there because they are the most likely to become supervillains.

Film
  • In 2001:A Space Odyssey, Dave and Frank lock themselves in a soundproof pod so they can safely talk about the project computer, HAL, who seems to be acting strange. It doesn't occur to them that HAL can read lips...

Literature
  • Encyclopedia Brown realizes that the thief who "overheard" the owners of a barber shop could do so while sitting under a hair dryer because she could read lips.
  • In the classic Sci-Fi novella E for Effort a couple of guys invent a machine that films historical events (like Napoleon at Waterloo); they hire expeert lipreaders to figure out what exactly the people they film are saying - it comes without audio.
  • In Judge Dee, Tao Gan mentions that among his many skills of questionaable legality, he can read lips (it's easier on children and women than on bearded men).

Live-Action TV
  • One episode of Monk involved a murderer who could read lips, which is how he managed to "eavesdrop" on a conversation in a building from afar.
  • There was a Seinfeld episode that centered around this. Jerry was dating a deaf woman who misread his saying "six" as "sex."
  • Kensi from NCIS: Los Angeles
  • There's an episode of The Pretender where the hero takes lip-reading lessons from a deaf woman in order, IIRC, to be able to figure out a conversation on a piece of surveillance footage.
  • The Wire has a few scenes with a lip-reader -- Herc manages to plant a camera overlooking Marlo's preferred meeting-spot but not a microphone, so he brings one in to tell him what Marlo is saying.
  • Scrubs: JD zones out and tries to recreate the lip motions so that they can be read.

Rolling Updates
Community Feedback Replies: 18
  • November 21, 2010
    SmashingMelons42
    There was a Seinfeld episode that centered around this. Jerry was dating a deaf woman who misread his saying "six" as "sex."
  • November 21, 2010
    thegrenekni3t
    • In 2001:A Space Odyssey, Dave and Frank lock themselves in a soundproof pod so they can safely talk about the project computer, HAL, who seems to be acting strange. It doesn't occur to them that HAL can read lips...
  • November 22, 2010
    ShadowAI
    I feel like the title should be changed to specifically point out that it's people who are deaf, or amend the description. Kensi from NCIS Los Angeles can read lips but she's not deaf.
  • November 22, 2010
    PaulA
    Or we could expand it to plot-relevant cases of lip-reading, regardless of whether the character is actually deaf. (HAL isn't deaf either.)

    There's an episode of The Pretender where the hero takes lip-reading lessons from a deaf woman in order, IIRC, to be able to figure out a conversation on a piece of surveillance footage.
  • November 22, 2010
    Arivne
    Anime And Manga
  • November 22, 2010
    Bisected8
    Note that in the Ghost In The Shell example it's a subversion; They know they're being watched and have their conversation via wireless communication with their cyberbrains and have a fake conversation for the Tachikoma to lip read leaving them falsely reassured that The Major was merely chewing Bateau out for being too much of a Drill Seargent Nasty and the Tachikoma weren't being decommissioned.
  • November 22, 2010
    Ribusprissin
    chairs?
  • November 22, 2010
    Bisected8
    Chairs can't read lips...or can they!...Thanks a lot.
  • November 22, 2010
    Micah
    • The Wire has a few scenes with a lip-reader -- Herc manages to plant a camera overlooking Marlo's preferred meeting-spot but not a microphone, so he brings one in to tell him what Marlo is saying.
  • November 22, 2010
    dotchan
    Encyclopedia Brown realizes that the thief who "overheard" the owners of a barber shop could do so while sitting under a hair dryer because she could read lips.
  • November 22, 2010
    LeeM
    Documentary: there was a show about WWI on British TV a couple of years ago where an expert lip-reader analysed some silent footage from the British trenches. Her interpretation was some pretty mundane chat.
  • November 22, 2010
    Prophet
    Can be used when two characters want to communicate silently. Alice wants to give Bob a message, so she mouths it to him. If Played For Laughs, then Bob will reveal that he can't read lips, making the whole thing pointless.
  • November 23, 2010
    henke37
    Scrubs: JD zones out and tries to recreate the lip motions so that they can be read.
  • November 23, 2010
    JoeG
    In Avengers Academy #1, Finesse reads Speedball's lips and learns that the students are there because they are the most likely to become supervillains.
  • November 23, 2010
    randomsurfer
    ^That pothole should be Comicbook/TheAvengers.

    In the classic Sci Fi novella E for Effort a couple of guys invent a machine that films historical events (like Napoleon at Waterloo); they hire expeert lipreaders to figure out what exactly the people they film are saying - it comes without audio.

    Possible page quote:
    Milhouse: What are they saying?
    Bart: I'm not sure.
    Milhouse: I thought you said you could read lips.
    Bart: I assumed that I could.
    --The Simpsons, "Lemon of Troy"
  • November 24, 2010
    KZN02
    Looks good, any ideas where to index this?
  • November 25, 2010
    Chabal2
    In Judge Dee, Tao Gan mentions that among his many skills of questionaable legality, he can read lips (it's easier on children and women than on bearded men).
  • November 25, 2010
    highcastle
    Regarding the Seinfeld example, I know the woman misread "Let's sweep together" as "Let's sleep together," but I don't remember the "six" for "sex" one.
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