One Small, Easy Way to Make the Oscars More Inclusive

Not everyone can overcome the “one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles.” The Academy can help.


JUNE 21, 20205:44 AM

Parasite screenwriters Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin-won accept their Oscars with interpreter Sharon Choi.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced last week that it will create a new set of “representation and inclusion standards” for potential Oscar nominees. Starting next year, movies will have to meet certain criteria—to be determined by a task force assembled by Academy President David Rubin—if they want to be eligible for Hollywood’s most prestigious prize.

This is just the latest attempt of many by the Academy over the years to fix the Oscars’ reputation for being #SoWhite, and the results have been mixed. When Parasite became the first non-English-language film ever to win Best Picture, its victory was a sign of progress, an indication that American audiences are ready to overcome what director Bong Joon-ho called the “one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles.” But somehow that phrase, a symbol of Hollywood’s unwillingness to recognize cinema from other cultures, has morphed into a much more literal “subs vs. dubs” debate. When Trump complained that a movie from South Korea had won the Oscar, Parasite’s North American distributor, Neon, responded to the president’s xenophobia by calling him illiterate: “Understandable, he can’t read.” Hulu had a similarly snarky remark for a Twitter user who complained. “If you don’t want to read subtitles, you can always learn Korean!” the company wrote.

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