To Ignorant American Audiences
Dear American audiences who insist that they just don’t have the energy or care to read subtitles,
Welcome to reality. You can wake up now. It is the year 2021; the pandemic is still raging on and the world doesn’t revolve around you. A little side-note here: not everything revolves around the United States! I know that may be shocking — you know, when I discovered in middle school that I wasn’t living in my own real-life version of The Truman Show, it was a wake up call. It was life-altering, I was humbled way before the world could truly do it in grander gestures. That’s some of the power of the movies, I suppose. And I’m here today, writing this article now and paying thousands and thousands of dollars to get a degree at film school that may only get me an entry-level job bringing weirdly specific coffee orders to higher-ups who are secretly (or not-so-secretly) miserable. So obviously I’m not qualified on a lot.
Despite what the Oscars, Golden Globes and other various award shows may reinforce through their picks, here’s a shocker — even though the U.S. is the only country in the world who knows how to make art like the Sia musical, Music, movies aren’t only made in the U.S.! And those movies not made in the U.S. — the holy center of not only the world, but the universe — aren’t just relegated to one category of five films elsewhere. There are worlds around us outside of our obviously amazing capitalist one. Those worlds can be so easily accessed by just reading subtitles, but that just feels like too much work, right?
I know, America is just so blessed.
However, every once in a while, an international film or show will blow up. Most recently, the popularity of Squid Game has become inescapable, which prompted me to write this piece in the first place. Just two years ago, Parasite swept the Oscars, not only winning Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best International Feature, but also Best Picture, making it the first international film to win the award in the Academy’s history.
Almost a year before its Oscar victory, Parasite managed to win the Palme d’Or, the most prestigious award given out by the Cannes Film Festival. The film almost instantly became a modern classic — a rare film where both critics and audiences were onboard. So naturally, while the film was still in theaters, Hollywood wanted to capitalize on its success by turning it into a TV show. International sensations can’t just be limited to success for the country the film came from; the western film market has to get their hands in the money too.
Sound familiar? This should. Remember Train to Busan, that awesome and surprisingly emotional South Korean zombie flick? Earlier this year, it was announced that the film is getting a U.S. remake. Look at the Ghost in the Shell remake, where Scarlett Johansson was totally cast in the right role. A Tale of Two Sisters, an excellent and completely underrated South Korean film, was remade into the (terrible) American-produced The Uninvited. There are countless examples of this, because Hollywood studios will go to extreme lengths to make sure their audiences don’t have to read subtitles. How kind of them! Ask any Hollywood executive, and they might just tell you that sharing is caring, which clearly justifies their greed masked as kindness.
Ignorance is bliss, and watching international films dubbed must be the absolute best. I can totally understand the appeal of watching films from different countries showcasing different cultures, only to hear a white American actor’s voice over that is just slightly off. I can’t think of a better way to watch a film! Obviously there is just no other way to watch these films because even though reading books is a common practice, reading subtitles during a movie clearly crosses the line! So, to all of the people who have just recently discovered through Parasite and Squid Game that “capitalism bad, international films good,” please wholeheartedly know that there is so much more to see. You can be like that genuinely cool middle schooler who watches anime, Studio Ghibli movies and Kurosawa films with no hesitation. There is so much out there waiting to be discovered. But damn, those subtitles. I know. Something as small as that must be a total dealbreaker, right?
Matt Minton is a first-year writing for film, television, and emerging media major who watches everything dubbed in a foreign language just to make a point. You can reach them at email@example.com.