What is your favorite story? I don’t mean a book necessarily – it can be a movie, a TV show, a comic book, whatever you like. What is it about that story that you love so much?

Now let me ask you some different questions. How does that story end? Is the world saved? Is everyone (or at least the important characters) happy at the end? Did anyone learn anything? Did you learn anything?

For a long time, I thought that books, TV and movies were alright, but nothing was ever really life-changing. Generally, stories ended happily, the villain was defeated and the hero/heroine got the girl/guy. I had been around that block before. Granted, I was like 10 years old and pretty arrogant, but that’s beside the point for now.

This started to change when I wanted to watch a show I hadn’t seen, Yu-Gi-Oh 5D’s, and it was right at the advent of all the streaming services that now dominate our screens – Netflix, Hulu, that sort of thing. My parents had just signed up for Hulu, and I wanted to take advantage.

When I logged in and looked for my show, I was suddenly faced with a decision that I never had before. I could choose between the English version or the original Japanese version. I knew that 4Kids (the company that dubbed all of the Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon I had watched up till this point into English) made a lot of changes to make shows more kid-friendly, but I was now in the double digits of years and thought I could stomach whatever it was that 4Kids didn’t want me to see.

Now I know what you’re thinking: Yu-Gi-Oh? A show about playing a card game? Can that really be what this is about? Yes. The original cut of Yu-Gi-Oh 5D’s blew all of my expectations away. It was about such mature subjects as people being betrayed by their friends (inadvertently), seeking vengeance and making a deal with the devil to make it happen, learning the truth of what really happened, and then becoming consumed with grief over what they had tried to do to their friends – to the point of wandering out into the wasteland on a journey to die.

The show was filled with things like this, and it was a whole new world for me. Other cartoons and 4Kids shows were silly and never had anything like this – at least that I had seen. As time passed, I explored more and more foreign media and ended up studying media in my communications program in college. I learned that what I liked about media from other parts of the world is that they strayed from “western storytelling conventions” – that thing that I said I had seen a million times before. It was OK in these stories for people to be sad, for the day to not be saved, or really for just any story to be told.

If not for foreign media, I never would have had the interest to have the most life-changing experience I’ve ever had – where I went to South Korea for a year to teach – which was the ultimate result of a Korean song I heard (and loved) in middle school.

As the recent Oscar-winning director of the film Parasite Bong Joon-ho put it in his acceptance speech, “Once you overcome the 1-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”

This doesn’t just apply to films, but any storytelling medium that you can imagine. Allow yourself to broaden your horizon, and don’t think of things as silly or not worth your time just because they’re foreign to you. Our library carries many stories written (or directed, or illustrated, or dictated…) by people from all manner of cultures. Maybe the story itself won’t change your life, but you’ll almost certainly learn something new.