Don’t Let 1-inch-Tall Subtitles Stop You From Experiencing World Cinema


By Zainab Husain

Hollywood movies continue to dominate every box office opening around the world. But after 92 years the Oscars gave the Best Picture Winner to a foreign language film for the first time. The Korean film “Parasite” is a deep dive into the class divide in South Korea. South Korea is definitely in a better position than its well-known neighbor North Korea but it does not mean the ills of a hyper-capitalist society do not plague the country. Despite the many controversial political and social themes in the movie that is not what movie goers are angry about, it is subtitles.

The majority of the complaints are from American audiences, who are not exposed to foreign cinema. Narrowing audiences to only watching English movies, gives them a very close minded view of the world. Watching global cinema allows a much more diverse view of the world and it might even vanish stereotypes and ignorance. 

This is slowly changing because streaming services, especially Netflix because it has a wider international audience. The most popular TV shows on the streaming platform are Spanish shows “Narcos” and “Money Heist.” 

For the people who dislike subtitles, the common complaint is that reading them is complicated. A Washington University professor, Jeffery Zacks, in a “New York Times” article said reading subtitles do not involve extra cognitive work. 

Cinema shouldn’t have a language and neither should it be dominated by one industry. For a long time, Hollywood has perpetuated stereotypes of ethnic and religious minorities but people of color are finally taking back their stories and creating their own truth. 

Hopefully, there will be more foreign Best Pictures in the future. As long as viewers appreciate foreign films, the barriers will automatically be removed.