Earlier this week, I walked into my dorm’s living room to the sight of two large, male hockey players diligently watching a Korean show with English subtitles. I recognized the show immediately.
“Oh, are y’all watching Squid Game?” I asked.
They looked up from their very focused positions and nodded. “Yeah, have you seen it? We’ve heard it’s really good!”
“It is! I hope you guys enjoy it. You’re in for a trip!” I said before walking away with my dinner. Huh, I reflected. Who would have thought: two white boys watching a Korean drama? Must be a sign of the times.
Streaming services, such as Netflix, have changed our lives in many ways that we have taken for granted. Being able to watch movies and TV shows anywhere at any time? Check. Being able to pause a show and pick up exactly where you left off? Check. Having access to new as well as old shows and movies that have been off cable television for a while now? Check. We’ve truly moved into the new age of movies and television, but something I don’t see many people talk about is how Netflix has also allowed for the success of foreign dramas and films.
Back in the day, Korean dramas were a medium that only a few were interested in and only a few would bother to stream. Typically, that streaming occurred illegally on various websites that could very likely give your computer a tremendous, software-destroying virus. The people who enjoyed Korean dramas often overlapped with people who enjoyed K-Pop, back before groups like BTS and Blackpink fully brought K-pop to the global stage. All in all, watching Korean dramas, specifically as a non-Korean person, used to be a very niche hobby. Some have even called it weird, in the same way they had called watching anime weird, because of how neither Korean dramas nor anime adhere to Western norms for television and film.
However, because of the ease of access to foreign movies and TV that streaming services like Netflix and Hulu have provided, Americans have finally fully realized: TV shows from outside of the U.S., like Korean dramas, are pretty freakin’ good! We have seen this happen for other foreign dramas as well. Elite and Money Heist are examples of Spanish dramas that have also received international attention because of Netflix. The wide reach that streaming services have has allowed for a process of cultural exchange through the mediums that people enjoy the most, and it’s something that I think we should all be really grateful for. Gone are the times of having to sneakily (and illegally) watch foreign dramas. Watching foreign dramas with your family in your living room (and forcing them to read subtitles) is in.