Reading while you watch 

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For the past several months, it seems as though South Korean director Bong Joon Ho can speak no wrong.

In accepting the Golden Globe for his masterpiece Parasite, Bong encouraged the audience to check out more foreign films, saying through a translator: Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films."

It's a worthwhile point to ponder, especially considering Parasite went on to win Best Picture and belatedly gaining the Western fame he was on track to receive with Snowpiercer before friction with none other than Harvey Weinstein led to that flick's marketing being sabotaged from the inside.

HBO recently announced that it plans to make a Parasite English-language mini-series, which seems entirely unnecessary, and perhaps even detrimental to the source material.

I'll admit I haven't seen tons of international films, but with much of Bong's catalogue present and accounted for on Netflix, I'll get around to it before too long. The ones I've seen have been fantastic. There was Good Bye, Lenin! in 2003, a German comedy about an East German man (a young Daniel Brühl) whose mother, a socialist loyalist, falls into coma right before the fall of the Berlin Wall. When she wakes, he's warned that any shock could be fatal, so he attempts to keep the societal changes from her. It's worth a watch.

There's also the Spanish supernatural horror Verónica, which retained its creepy factor even while reading at the bottom of the screen.

But subtitles are useful even when watching something in English.

I can't remember exactly when or how I started, whether it was because the dishwasher was running or because a British show was on and I needed some help with the accents or simply because I wasn't confident in my own ears that day, but I've kept them on ever since and haven't looked back.

Certainly, every viewer is different, but my wife and I haven't found subtitles to be invasive or cumbersome in any way.

They're even a bit of a cheat code for Easter eggs that you might otherwise miss, if characters are perhaps inaudibly muttering under their breath, or you receive clarity on what an off-screen sound is, or you learn the lyrics to a new song on the soundtrack and you receive some clues as to why it's used at that point in the movie or show.

Perhaps purists will view it as cheating or laziness, that if you're watching something, it's up to you to have all your relevant senses on high alert, that the filmmakers crafted their art to be taken in without those prompts, which are there for those who require them, not necessarily as an optional add-on.

Certainly, non-English movies such as Parasite only have subtitles for dialogue, not other action, and perhaps it's best to have them turned off for the first viewing of truly epic flicks. However, most of the time if you're flipping on Netflix, it's just to watch a dumb sitcom or a thriller that's probably not meticulously crafted. And if you're like me, you're heading straight to the IMDb trivia section immediately afterwards anyway, so why not feel like a genius because you already knew a few of the items in there?

If you're already shutting your brain down, adding subtitles can go one of two ways: your mind is sinking even deeper into low-power mode after being spoon-fed the information you might otherwise be looking for, or, hey, actively reading could do more to further engage with the media you're consuming, which is never a bad thing, especially in this day and age.

At any rate, why not give subtitles a try for a re-run of The Office or Friends or something you've already seen a dozen times before? It could be an added benefit to your experience and, ultimately, could open the door and enhance your life with some truly exceptional content.

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