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Netflix is helping break the subtitle barrier for American audiences

Back in January of 2020, the movie “Parasite” made history at the 77th Golden Globe awards. It became the first-ever Korean movie to be named best foreign-language film. 

Bong Joon-ho, the director of “Parasite”, gave his acceptance speech in Korean. In his speech, he tells the audience “Once you get over that 1-inch barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.” 

“Parasite” would go on to win many more awards including the highest award at The Academy Awards, Best Picture. This win made it the first non-English film to win Best Picture in Academy Award history. 

Since “Parasite’s” success, American audiences have proved Bong Joon-ho right. More streaming platforms are releasing non-English films and shows.

Netflix’s newest hit show “Squid Game” is a perfect example of the popularity of foreign films and shows. “Squid Game” is a South Korean survival K-drama created and directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk.  If you haven’t caved and watched it yet the premise of the show is simple. A large group of adults in financial despair joins in a competition to win a cash prize. They have to survive all 6 rounds with challenges based on children’s games, if you lose you get eliminated. Whoever survives every game and is the last one standing wins the cash prize. 

Although it’s a simple story plot, the response to the show was explosive. According to Netflix’s Twitter account, the show broke Netflix’s record for the biggest series launch by reaching more than 111 million viewers. From its release date up until the third week of October, Squid Game was number 1 in Netflix’s top 10 list. 

This should come as no surprise to viewers. Both Parasite and Squid Game are obvious, hard-hitting critiques on inequality in capitalism. This theme is something American audiences are drawn to. They can build a closer connection to the show’s overall message because they not only relate to but root for the working-class characters. 

While the show has been very successful, there have been some issues when it came to translating the Korean drama into English. Korean-American Twitter user and host of the podcast Feeling Asian Youngmi Mayer sent out a set of viral tweets explaining how the show is written well but because of the botched translation, the audience misses important points the show is trying to make. 

Even with this issue, the show still managed to successfully catch people’s attention, especially English-speaking viewers who probably don’t watch foreign media often or at all.  Viewers who enjoyed Squid Games can go back to their homepage and see shows similar to it, such as Alice in Borderland which allows them to explore a new world of non-English media. 

After all, as Bong Joon-ho said, “I think we use only one language: the cinema.”

Tell us what you think about non-English media by tagging us @HerCampusSJSU! 

Hey, my name is Joanna but I go by Joe. I’m a Journalism major at SJSU. I love music, plants, photography, and writing.
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