Quarantine Consumption: Foreign television

So, this year has been weird. In the last seven months many of us have spent more time alone than ever before, and as much as arts and entertainment can be a great way to bond in person, they are just as important when we’re stuck in our rooms. This term, I’m going to be asking Lawrentians what piece of art or media has gotten them through quarantine, what captured their imagination or made them feel less alone during these hard times. From the silly reasons to the serious ones, what is it and why is it important to them?

Lots of people have found comfort watching various Netflix, Hulu and Disney Plus shows during their respective coronavirus self-isolation. This has given people the opportunity to explore media that they may not have had time to fit into their typical schedules. Students are branching out into new genres, shows and movies from before their time. For junior Macy Veto, foreign television has become her obsession.

As soon as quarantine began, Veto began to host weekly Netflix parties with a friend. Netflix Party is a Google chrome browser extension which allows users to watch Netflix videos at the exact same time, giving them a chat box to discuss the video with the others who are watching. She explains, “My friends and I would watch a series every week, and the one I think I enjoyed the most was a Russian series called, ‘The Road to Calvary.’ It’s based on a trilogy of novels by Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy […] It’s about the intertwining lives of different people during the 1917 revolution.” 

A fan of a good historical drama, Veto gushed about the gorgeous period costumes and how she loved the way an old story was told in a new way. “It was nice to like, escape into the history every week for an hour.”

This was especially relevant and interesting to Veto as she was taking a Russian history course at Lawrence while watching the series. Learning the real historical context of a period show helped her enjoy it even more and allowed her to “get all the little references” that a layman might miss.

The history was fun, but what really drew Veto in were the characters and how their lives cross paths during a time of such turmoil in their country. “I was on the edge of my seat every episode. The way the characters’ stories intertwined with each other was WHACK! There are about six to eight main characters and to watch their stories collide was so cool.” Veto continued, “My friend and I would be in the chat saying, like, ‘oh my gosh,’ because there were super shocking episodes, and we just had to take a minute every so often and say, ‘Okay, this is what I think is gonna happen!’” Veto praises the whole production as well from the cinematography to the production design. “It was just beautiful.”

“It was in Russian, so we read the subtitles,” states Veto, who is not a stranger to new forms of film and media, but she understands that others may be averse to watching foreign language media. Here’s what she says to those who may be hesitant about diving into TV or movies that are in a different language: “There is so much out there that is amazing cinema that’s not in English or the language that a viewer may speak, and I think that, like, it’s important to understand that there’s still so much to appreciate in it. You may be exposed to another style of filmmaking that you’ve never experienced before.” She emphasized how going into a foreign TV show or movie with a closed mind will prime you to dislike it. “If you go into something with, like, a negative mindset or you think you’re already not going to like it or it’s going to be challenging, then you’re not going to get the same thing out of it than if you were to go in saying, ‘This may be different from what I’m used to, but that doesn’t mean that it’s any less valuable.’”

“Going into something with an open mind is really important,” she says, and it seems like with “The Road to Calvary” Veto did just that. So, check out that one show that looks cool even if it has the intimidation factor of a foreign language. You might find something as beautiful, engaging and dramatic as the show that Veto watched.

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