Did Netflix Screw Up the Squid Game English Subtitles and Dubbing?

Jason Weiland

Lee Jung-jae from Squid Game (Elle Taiwan, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

I just finished Squid Game season one last week. I am behind compared to most people living in the Philippines because even my daughter watched it before me.

While you are trying to decide if I am a terrible father for allowing my 9-year-old to watch such a violent show just know that I am unconventional, and I felt the watching a great story by a great writer was more important than a little fake blood.

I knew I was right about it because the story totally drew my daughter in, to the point she was sobbing at the end of the marble games episode (no spoilers people!)

I actually saw the end before I saw the rest and it kind of ruined the twist for me, but I watched anyway after I heard the story of how Squid Game even became to be made.

According to The Mirror:

“…fans are lucky the show saw the light of day as creator Hwang Dong-hyuk says it took him a whopping 10 years just to get the thing made. Speaking to The Korea Times, Hwang revealed that he actually came up with the idea for the series in 2008.”

As a writer, I admire that kind of patience and stubbornness to see your story be made into something you knew would be a sensation.

I knew I needed to spend a few nights watching the first season from start to finish, and surprisingly it only took me one long night to finish it when I was supposed to be working.

The show is mesmerizing, from the very first episode, once you get past the disconnect that three different pieces of dialogue are taking place. I always watch with subtitles on, it's a quirk of mine so I don’t miss any of the story as the writer had intended it.

But, on Squid Game, you have the Korean, the English dubbing, and the English subtitles. I knew something was off when the dubbing and subtitles never matched and the story on the screen seemed to indicate that something else entirely was going on.

Enter Youngmi Mayer

I noticed @ymmayer’s first viral video on Facebook since the algorithm has been feeding me a steady diet of Squid Game content for some time now. I can’t say I’m mad, I like the show, do it’s cool to see all the behind-the-scenes stuff.

Screenshot courtesy of Instagram

Youngmi Mayer is the host of the Feeling Asian podcast along with Brian Park, but also has a few viral videos to her name on Instagram. The first one I saw was her take on the Korean version of the dialogue and episode naming and how it was so much different than the English translation. Well, you watch the video for yourself. I didn’t detect any spoilers, but if you haven’t watched the show yet, maybe be careful, I don’t want to ruin anything for you.

The video angered me for a few reasons. No, I’m not upset at Youngmi. She did us all a favor by letting the cat out of the bag that Netflix dropped the ball on this one. So I shared it on blast to Netflix.

“Hey @Netflix, can we get a new version of this show that is true to what the writer wrote? As a writer, this is important! Could you pay a couple extra dollars for the correct translations since you are making a buttload of money off of it?”

I thought my work was done.

But, I wanted to see if Youngmi had made any more videos, so I opened Instagram, which I hadn’t done in a while, and found a second video on her profile.

Screenshot courtesy of Instagram

Of course, she is going to have trolls and mansplaining going on because people cannot allow a smart and genuine woman to have an opinion of her own without ripping her to shreds in the DM’s and the comments. It also seems as if someone may have pointed of that the subtitles she was using were the CC (Closed Captioning) version.

But, it brings up more questions…

No matter where we are in the world, or what kind of disabilities we may have that cause us to use subtitles, shouldn’t we be getting the same version of the show as the original, Korean version? Shouldn’t I be able to see the show as the writer, Hwang Dong-hyuk , has intended everyone see it? Shouldn’t we see every plot twist and nuance in dialogue as the writer wrote it so we could be part of the original vision of the work, no matter if we can hear the dialogue in Korean or not?

It makes me angry that Netflix, who is poised to make millions of dollars off the franchise, couldn’t be bothered to make sure we had proper English dubbing, subtitles, and (CC) closed captioning?

Wouldn’t it have been a better experience for all if Netflix had gone the extra step and done the right thing? There is a reason this show blew up in Asia and it has to do with every little tiny detail of the story that Hwang Dong-hyuk wrote, and as part of the money that I pay Netflix every month, I want to make sure I am getting the best, not an afterthought.

Because I live in the Philippines, I watch a lot of Asian content on Netflix, and it makes me wonder how many more stories, series, and movies have been brutalized by Netflix over the years?

So what I am is asking Netflix first is if can we get another version of the show where at least a little time and effort has been put into making sure the dialogue is true to Hwang Dong-hyuk’s vision?

And from now on, can we make sure we do a better job with all the content you produce or shows on your service?

We will all be waiting for an answer, Netflix

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Writer and advocate interested in mental health, health, family, culture, creativity, and success.

Los Angeles, CA

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