Volume 35, Issue 3
  • ISSN 0924-1884
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9986
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes



The Netflix-branded film glaringly illustrates China’s and the United States’s contrasting views on capitalism, propaganda, and labour rights. The film directors have argued that the entangling of clashing civilisations that permeates numerous layers of the documentary is delivered in a subtle and nuanced manner. However, the English and Chinese subtitles of the multilingual film’s bilingual dialogue are found to frequently, and usually implicitly, show varying levels of translator intervention that may alter the degree of cultural difference and opposition. By investigating the inherent translator interventions in the presentation of cultural allusions in Netflix’s English- and Chinese-translated subtitles of the bilingual dialogue in the film, this study focuses on the extent to which these interventions are discursively juxtaposed with Netflix’s media logic. Special attention is paid to how intercultural positions are perceived by heterogeneous viewers in China and the United States. This article argues that streaming media giants, such as Netflix, exert an influence on the representation of cultural nuances in multilingual films. Hence, the study calls for a reflexive view of streaming media translation research that acknowledges the complex power dynamics resulting from audio-visual intercultural communication and its corresponding implications for intercultural relations.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Alexander, Neta
    2016 “Catered to Your Future Self: Netflix’s ‘Predictive Personalization’ and the Mathematization of Taste.” InMcDonald and Smith-Rowsey (2016a, 81–97). 10.5040/9781501309410.ch‑006
    https://doi.org/10.5040/9781501309410.ch-006 [Google Scholar]
  2. Arab American Institute Foundation
  3. Arnold, Sarah
    2016 “Netflix and the Myth of Choice/Participation/Autonomy.” InMcDonald and Smith-Rowsey (2016a, 49–62). 10.5040/9781501309410.ch‑004
    https://doi.org/10.5040/9781501309410.ch-004 [Google Scholar]
  4. Ayyad, Ahmad, and Anthony Pym
    2012 “Translator Interventions in Middle-East Peace Initiatives: Detours in the Roadmap?” InDiscourses of Translation: Festschrift in Honour of Christina Schäffner, edited byBeverly Adab, Peter A. Schmitt, and Gregory M. Shreve, 83–100. Frankfurt: Peter Lang.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Baker, Mona
    2006Translation and Conflict: A Narrative Account. Abingdon: Routledge. 10.4324/9780203099919
    https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203099919 [Google Scholar]
  6. Bognar, Steven, and Julia Reichert
    2019aAmerican Factory. United States: Netflix.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. 2019bAmerican Factory: A Conversation with the Obamas. United States: Netflix.
    [Google Scholar]
  8. Bradshaw, Peter
    2019 “American Factory Review – A Sobering Documentary by the Obamas.” The Guardian, August 15, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2019/aug/15/american-factory-review-a-sobering-documentary-by-the-obamas
    [Google Scholar]
  9. Cheney-Lippold, John
    2011 “A New Algorithmic Identity: Soft Biopolitics and the Modulation of Control.” InCodes and Codings in Crisis, edited byMarieke de Goede and Stephanie Simon, special issue ofTheory, Culture & Society28 (6): 164–181. 10.1177/0263276411424420
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0263276411424420 [Google Scholar]
  10. Choi, Jinsil, Kyung Hye Kim, and Jonathan Evans
    2022 “Translating Code-Switching in the Colonial Context: Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden.” Translation and Interpreting Studies17 (2): 243–263. 10.1075/tis.19075.cho
    https://doi.org/10.1075/tis.19075.cho [Google Scholar]
  11. Collins, Austin
    2019 “American Factory Paints a Bleak Picture, But Not an Angry One.” Vanity Fair, August 23, 2019. https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2019/08/american-factory-netflix-review
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Conway, Kyle
    2012 “Cultural Translation, Global Television Studies, and the Circulation of Telenovelas in the United States.” International Journal of Cultural Studies15 (6): 583–598. 10.1177/1367877911422291
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1367877911422291 [Google Scholar]
  13. Crisp, Virginia
    2015Film Distribution in the Digital Age: Pirates and Practitioners. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 10.1057/9781137406613
    https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137406613 [Google Scholar]
  14. Cunningham, Stuart, and Alexa Scarlata
    2020 “New Forms of Internationalisation? The Impact of Netflix in Australia.” InCoronavirus, Crisis and Communication, edited byAdrian Athique, special issue ofMedia International Australia177 (1): 149–164. 10.1177/1329878X20941173
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1329878X20941173 [Google Scholar]
  15. Cunningham, Stuart, and Jon Silver
    2013Screen Distribution and the New King Kongs of the Online World. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. 10.1057/9781137326454
    https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137326454 [Google Scholar]
  16. Davies, Lyell
    2016 “Netflix and the Coalition for an Open Internet.” InMcDonald and Smith-Rowsey (2016a, 15–33).
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Díaz-Cintas, Jorge
    2010 “Subtitling.” InHandbook of Translation Studies, vol.11, edited byYves Gambier and Luc van Doorslaer, 344–349. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/hts.1.sub1
    https://doi.org/10.1075/hts.1.sub1 [Google Scholar]
  18. Di Giovanni, Elena, and Yves Gambier
    eds. 2018Reception Studies and Audiovisual Translation. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/btl.141
    https://doi.org/10.1075/btl.141 [Google Scholar]
  19. Dilley, Whitney Crothers
    2009 “Globalization and Cultural Identity in the Films of Ang Lee.” Style43 (1): 45–64.
    [Google Scholar]
  20. Douban.com
    Douban.com 2022 “American Factory.” July 29, 2022. https://movie.douban.com/subject/30390700/
  21. Dwyer, Tim, Yongwoon Shim, Heejin Lee, and Jonathon Hutchinson
    2018 “Comparing Digital Media Industries in South Korea and Australia: The Case of Netflix Take-Up.” International Journal of Communication121: 4553–4572.
    [Google Scholar]
  22. Epstein, Adam
    2020 “The Obama Effect is Already Paying off for Netflix.” Quartz, February 11, 2020. https://qz.com/1800826/the-obamas-american-factory-was-a-big-win-for-netflix/
    [Google Scholar]
  23. Evans, Jonathan
    2014 “Film Remakes, the Black Sheep of Translation.” Translation Studies7 (3): 300–314. 10.1080/14781700.2013.877208
    https://doi.org/10.1080/14781700.2013.877208 [Google Scholar]
  24. Fear, David
    2019 “‘American Factory’ Review: How an East-West Labor Experiment Went South.” Rolling Stone, August 20, 2019. https://www.rollingstone.com/tv-movies/tv-movie-reviews/american-factory-movie-review-netflix-872623/
    [Google Scholar]
  25. Fernández-Costales, Alberto
    2018 “On the Reception of Mobile Content: New Challenges in Audiovisual Translation Research.” InDi Giovanni and Gambier (2018, 297–319). 10.1075/btl.141.15fer
    https://doi.org/10.1075/btl.141.15fer [Google Scholar]
  26. Gambier, Yves
    2018 “Translation Studies, Audiovisual Translation and Reception.” InDi Giovanni and Gambier (2018, 43–66). 10.1075/btl.141.04gam
    https://doi.org/10.1075/btl.141.04gam [Google Scholar]
  27. Gambier, Yves, and Haina Jin
    2019 “A Connected History of Audiovisual Translation: Elements for Consideration.” Translation Spaces8 (2): 193–230. 10.1075/ts.19011.gam
    https://doi.org/10.1075/ts.19011.gam [Google Scholar]
  28. Giddens, Anthony
    1974New Rules of Sociological Method. London: Hutchinson.
    [Google Scholar]
  29. Gomez-Uribe, Carlos, and Neil Hunt
    2016 “The Netflix Recommender System: Algorithms, Business Value, and Innovation.” ACM Transactions on Management Information Systems6 (4): 1–19. 10.1145/2843948
    https://doi.org/10.1145/2843948 [Google Scholar]
  30. Gnau, Thomas
    2019 “‘American Factory’: Fuyao CEO Disputes Translation in Netflix Film.” Dayton Daily News, August 12, 2019. https://www.daytondailynews.com/business/american-factory-fuyao-ceo-disputes-translation-netflix-film/CIReFEVP1cPjkSgGgGMz3I/
    [Google Scholar]
  31. Goldsberry, Clare
    2020 “This ‘American Factory’ Run by Chinese is No Workers’ Paradise.” Plastics Today, February 18, 2020. https://www.plasticstoday.com/automotive-and-mobility/updated-american-factory-run-chinese-no-workers-paradise
    [Google Scholar]
  32. Hitchcock, Peter
    2021 “‘American Factory’ and the Difficulties of Documenting Neoliberalism.” Global Storytelling: Journal of Digital and Moving Images1 (1). https://journals.publishing.umich.edu/gs/article/id/857/10.3998/gs.857
    https://doi.org/10.3998/gs.857 [Google Scholar]
  33. Horeck, Tanya
    2021 “‘Netflix and Heal’: The Shifting Meanings of Binge-Watching During the COVID-19 Crisis.” Film Quarterly75 (1): 35–40. 10.1525/fq.2021.75.1.35
    https://doi.org/10.1525/fq.2021.75.1.35 [Google Scholar]
  34. Hutcheon, Linda
    2006A Theory of Adaptation. Abingdon: Routledge. 10.4324/9780203957721
    https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203957721 [Google Scholar]
  35. Jordan, Shirley Ann
    2002 “Ethnographic Encounters: The Processes of Cultural Translation.” Language and Intercultural Communication2 (2): 96–110. 10.1080/14708470208668079
    https://doi.org/10.1080/14708470208668079 [Google Scholar]
  36. Joyner, April
    2016 “Blackflix: How Netflix’s Algorithm Exposes Technology’s Racial Bias.” Marie Claire, February 29, 2016. https://www.marieclaire.com/culture/a18817/netflix-algorithms-black-movies/
    [Google Scholar]
  37. Katz, Elihu, and George Wedell
    1977Broadcasting in the Third World: Promise and Performance. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 10.4159/harvard.9780674494152
    https://doi.org/10.4159/harvard.9780674494152 [Google Scholar]
  38. Kelly, Jack
    2019 “The Future Is Bleak for American Workers in the Obamas’ New Netflix Film ‘American Factory’.” Forbes, August 22, 2019. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jackkelly/2019/08/22/the-future-is-dark-and-bleak-for-american-workers-in-the-obamas-new-netflix-film-american-factory/?sh=6bb0ee457e65
    [Google Scholar]
  39. King, Geoff
    2022 “Game-Changer or a New Shape to Familiar Dynamics? Netflix and the American Indie Film Sector.” InThe Routledge Companion to Media Industries, edited byPaul McDonald, 255–266. Abingdon: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  40. Kolhatkar, Sheelah
    2019 “‘American Factory’, a New Netflix Film from the Obamas, Explores the Challenges of a Globalized Economy.” The New Yorker, August 19, 2019. https://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/american-factory-a-new-film-from-the-obamas-explores-the-challenges-of-a-globalized-economy
    [Google Scholar]
  41. Kotze, Haidee, and Anna Strowe
    2021 “Response by Kotze and Strowe to ‘Representing experiential knowledge’.” Translation Studies14 (3): 35–40. 10.1080/14781700.2021.1972039
    https://doi.org/10.1080/14781700.2021.1972039 [Google Scholar]
  42. Lee, Edmund
    2019 “Netflix Looks Abroad as Growth Slows in the U.S.” The New York Times, December 16, 2019. www.nytimes.com/2019/12/16/business/media/netflix-us-subs-slowing-downinternational-subs-growing.html
    [Google Scholar]
  43. Liebes, Tamar, and Elihu Katz
    1990The Export of Meaning: Cross-Cultural Readings of Dallas. New York: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  44. Limov, Brad
    2020 “Click It, Binge It, Get Hooked: Netflix and the Growing U.S. Audience for Foreign Content.” International Journal of Communication141: 6304–6323.
    [Google Scholar]
  45. Lindsey, Cameron
    2016 “Questioning Netflix’s Revolutionary Impact: Changes in the Business and Consumption of Television.” InMcDonald and Smith-Rowsey (2016a, 173–184). 10.5040/9781501309410.ch‑012
    https://doi.org/10.5040/9781501309410.ch-012 [Google Scholar]
  46. Livingstone, Sonia, and Claire Local
    2017 “Measurement Matters: Difficulties in Defining and Measuring Children’s Television Viewing in a Changing Media Landscape.” Media International Australia163 (1): 67–76. 10.1177/1329878X17693932
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1329878X17693932 [Google Scholar]
  47. Lobato, Ramon
    2018 “Rethinking International TV Flows Research in the Age of Netflix.” Television & New Media19 (3): 1–16. 10.1177/1527476417708245
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1527476417708245 [Google Scholar]
  48. 2019Netflix Nations: The Geography of Digital Distribution. New York: New York University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  49. Lobato, Ramon, and Amanda D. Lotz
    2020 “Imagining Global Video: The Challenge of Netflix.” Journal of Cinema and Media Studies59 (3): 132–136. 10.1353/cj.2020.0034
    https://doi.org/10.1353/cj.2020.0034 [Google Scholar]
  50. Longinović, Tomislav Z.
    2002 “Fearful Asymmetries: A Manifesto of Cultural Translation.” InTranslating in and across Cultures, edited byDianna Niebylski, special issue ofThe Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association35 (2): 5–12. 10.2307/1315162
    https://doi.org/10.2307/1315162 [Google Scholar]
  51. Lotz, Amanda D.
    2014The Television Will Be Revolutionized. 2nd ed.New York: New York University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  52. 2017Portals: A Treatise on Internet-Distributed Television. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. 10.3998/mpub.9699689
    https://doi.org/10.3998/mpub.9699689 [Google Scholar]
  53. Marleau, Lucien
    1982 “Les sous-titres… un mal nécessaire [Subtitles… A necessary evil].” Meta27 (3): 271–285. 10.7202/003577ar
    https://doi.org/10.7202/003577ar [Google Scholar]
  54. McDonald, Kevin
    2016 “From Online Video Store to Global Internet TV Network: Netflix and the Future of Home Entertainment.” InMcDonald and Smith-Rowsey (2016a, 203–218). 10.5040/9781501309410.ch‑014
    https://doi.org/10.5040/9781501309410.ch-014 [Google Scholar]
  55. McDonald, Kevin, and Daniel Smith-Rowsey
    eds. 2016aThe Netflix Effect: Technology and Entertainment in the 21st Century. New York: Bloomsbury.
    [Google Scholar]
  56. 2016b “Introduction.” InMcDonald and Smith-Rowsey (2016a, 1–11).
    [Google Scholar]
  57. Monti, Silvia
    2014 “Code-Switching and Screen Translation in British and American Films and Their Italian Dubbed Version: A Socio-Linguistic and Pragmatic Perspective.” InMultilingualism at the Cinema and On Stage: A Translation Perspective, edited byAdriana Şerban and Reine Meylaerts, special issue ofLinguistica Antverpiensia131: 135–168.
    [Google Scholar]
  58. Murdock, Graham
    2018 “Media Materialties: For a Moral Economy of Machines.” Journal of Communication68 (2): 359–368. 10.1093/joc/jqx023
    https://doi.org/10.1093/joc/jqx023 [Google Scholar]
  59. Netflix
    Netflix 2022a “Why Subtitles or Audio Isn’t Available in a Specific Language.” https://help.netflix.com/en/node/101798#:~:text=If%20subtitles%20aren’t%20available,you’re%20trying%20to%20watch
  60. Netflix
  61. Netflix
  62. Nordenstreng, Kaarle, and Tapio Varis
    1974 “Television Traffic: A One-Way Street? A Survey and Analysis of the International Flow of Television Programme Material.” Reports and Papers on Mass Communication. Paris: UNESCO.
    [Google Scholar]
  63. Orrego-Carmona, David
    2018 “New Audiences, International Distribution, and Translation.” InDi Giovanni and Gambier (2018, 321–342). 10.1075/btl.141.16orr
    https://doi.org/10.1075/btl.141.16orr [Google Scholar]
  64. Pariser, Eli
    2011The Filter Bubble: How the New Personalized Web Is Changing What We Read and How We Think. New York: Penguin Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  65. Parsons, Talcott
    1951The Social System. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
    [Google Scholar]
  66. Pedersen, Jan
    2018 “From Old Tricks to Netflix: How Local Are Interlingual Subtitling Norms for Streamed Television?” Journal of Audiovisual Translation1 (1): 81–100. 10.47476/jat.v1i1.46
    https://doi.org/10.47476/jat.v1i1.46 [Google Scholar]
  67. Potter, Anna
    2020Producing Children’s Television in the On Demand Age. Bristol: Intellect. 10.2307/j.ctv36xw2f2
    https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv36xw2f2 [Google Scholar]
  68. Powers, John
    2019 “Work Cultures Clash When a Chinese Company Reopens an ‘American Factory’.” NPR, August 23, 2019. https://www.npr.org/2019/08/23/753109643/work-cultures-clash-when-a-chinese-company-reopens-an-american-factory
    [Google Scholar]
  69. Sharma, Sudeep
    2016 “Netflix and the Documentary Boom.” InMcDonald and Smith-Rowsey (2016a, 143–154). 10.5040/9781501309410.ch‑010
    https://doi.org/10.5040/9781501309410.ch-010 [Google Scholar]
  70. Sims, David
    2019 “American Factory Grapples With the Notion of Freedom.” The Atlantic, August 30, 2019. https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2019/08/american-factory-review-julia-reichert-steven-bognar/597067/
    [Google Scholar]
  71. Smith-Rowsey, Daniel
    2016 “Imaginative Indices and Deceptive Domains: How Netflix’s Categories and Genres Redefine the Long Tail.” InMcDonald and Smith-Rowsey (2016a, 63–79). 10.5040/9781501309410.ch‑005
    https://doi.org/10.5040/9781501309410.ch-005 [Google Scholar]
  72. Statista
    Statista 2022 “Revenue Generated by Netflix Worldwide in 1st quarter of 2022, by Region.” https://www.statista.com/statistics/1090004/netflix-global-quarterly-revenue-by-region/
  73. Thussu, Daya Kishan
    2006 “Contra-Flow in Global Media: An Asian Perspective.” Media Asia33 (3–4): 123–129. 10.1080/01296612.2006.11726823
    https://doi.org/10.1080/01296612.2006.11726823 [Google Scholar]
  74. Titford, Christopher
    1982 “Sub-titling: Constrained Translation.” Lebende Sprachen27 (3): 113–116.
    [Google Scholar]
  75. Tryon, Chuck
    2013On-Demand Culture: Digital Delivery and the Future of Movies. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  76. Urstadt, Bryant
    2019 “Why We Should All Watch ‘American Factory’.” NPR, September 10, 2019. https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2019/09/10/759152615/why-we-should-all-watch-american-factory
    [Google Scholar]
  77. Veed Analytics
    Veed Analytics 2016 “Old Wine in New Bottles: Originals.” Veed Snapshot Research Report. München: Veed Video Services Intelligence.
    [Google Scholar]
  78. Wang, Yiman
    2008 “The ‘Transnational’ as Methodology: Transnationalizing Chinese Film Studies Through the Example of The Love Parade and its Chinese Remakes.” Journal of Chinese Cinemas2 (1): 9–21. 10.1386/jcc.2.1.9_1
    https://doi.org/10.1386/jcc.2.1.9_1 [Google Scholar]
  79. Werner, Michael, and Bénédicte Zimmermann
    2006 “Beyond Comparison: Histoire Croisée and the Challenge of Reflexivity.” History and Theory45 (1): 30–50. 10.1111/j.1468‑2303.2006.00347.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2303.2006.00347.x [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error