Subtitles: Americans' Lame Excuse to Avoid Foreign Films?

Contributor I

Parasite director and cinematic visionary, Bong Joon-ho, recently stated, "once you overcome the 1-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films."


This simple and effective statement coming from a well-known South Korean director in the wake of winning a Golden Globe--a movie awards program notorious for snubbing foreign films--resonated with me, and I am sure many others existing in an English language-centric world of consuming media. As an avid movie lover, subtitles don't scare me any more; however, in my past naiveté, I felt that subtitles would detract from the experience.


With the recent unprecedented success of Netflix's Squid Game, a Korean series, I believe that people may be opening up to the art of foreign films and slowly ridding their brain of the excuse of subtitles being "too hard to read while watching." There are whole universes waiting to be discovered in the talent of foreign directors, cinematographers, and writers. I think it is time we understand our aversion to these movies that fall outside of the privileged comfort of America--and I would bet that it may be more dark and deeply rooted than just "annoyance" of subtitles.


Do you feel like you subconsciously (or consciously) avoid watching foreign films? What's a movie or TV series with subtitles that you recently watched and enjoyed?

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Contributor III

@maggie great question! I've definitely become more welcoming of subtitles in the past few years and enjoy them. I also think this phenomenon shows how audiences are craving new, different stories outside of the Hollywood archetype. For so long, Hollywood gatekept the stories we could access, and now the streaming revolution has opened a new door for international storytelling. I'm happy the door is open; I think this helps us develop a more inclusive worldview. 

I agree. I am so glad that Hollywood and mainstream media is more inclusive I just wish that more viewers would have an open mind and engage with different cultures more. 

Visionary I

What we all know is that many American's, not all, but many do not engage with foreign culture whether it be through food, travel, or entertainment. American's are more focused on North American culture than anything abroad and even when there is another cultural experience available to them they americanize it e.g. Italian Pizza vs American Pizza, Fries from Belgium vs fries from America. I wish people were more open to engaging with more cultures and stepping out of their comfort zones.