“Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”
Sound familiar? That’s what Parasite director Bong Joon-ho said during his acceptance speech for the Golden Globe in the Best Foreign Language film category. The film’s dialogue is almost entirely Korean, so it was surprising to many when it won several prestigious awards, including an Oscar. Having an Asian film in any international feature category is a major success, much less becoming the first non-English language film in Academy Awards history to win Best Picture.
Subtitles have always been a personal preference for watching TV shows and movies. Some people need them, and some people like them. Some people despise them and some people just like to share their opinions about them online. Sure, engaging in media in your familiar language is comforting and doesn’t require you to pay any extra attention to the screen, but whether you hate or love subtitles, there is a whole world of media in foreign languages that you’re missing out on by choosing to not read subtitles.
Thankfully, many streaming platforms such as Netflix offer subtitles for additional languages. Personally, I love reading subtitles regardless of the language. After watching almost everything with subtitles for so long, I hardly notice them at the bottom of my screen. Some of my favourite shows and films wouldn’t be accessible if I didn’t read subtitles. Even within the English language, subtitles help me understand heavy accents, slang, unclear speech and catch small details that are easily missed.
Not only will you be exposed to various genres of media, but you are also exposing yourself to other cultural perspectives and global issues. Film directors and writers from various countries and regions have different perspectives to share. Watching only Western films limits your knowledge and probably makes you (on some level) unaware and ignorant. For example, Parasite showcases the wealth inequality prevalent in South Korea and several other countries – something that many individuals experience and can relate to around the world.
Although many Western casting directors have been adding more diversity to film casts, there is still a noticeable lack of racial diversity on screen. Watching films produced in other countries will expose you to different cultures and traditions. Most importantly, you’re not viewing these cultures through a Western lens but straight from an authentic perspective. In addition, some foreign films can help you learn other languages. A member of BTS, a South Korean boy band, has previously shared that they learned English from watching the classic sitcom Friends.
Watching Money Heist probably won’t help you learn Spanish, but many shows can help you learn conversational language.
Be open and willing to other genres. There are Korean dramas, anime, Bollywood films, Spanish crime shows and many more! You never know what you might learn!