5 Non-English Series That's Been Done Dirty By Title Translation
Netflix seems to be a champion of dull translations.
We rarely think about it, but for an entertainment project (TV series or movie), marketing is as important as writing, casting and production. Sometimes even more so.
For example, the title can make or break the future success of a series, attracting viewers or turning them off. Especially when it's a title designed specifically for a global audience, in translation. A few examples prove the point.
Here are five TV shows and movies that could have had bigger viewership numbers had they kept their original titles.
Call My Agent! (2015-2020)
French: Dix pour cent (Ten Percent)
The original name of the French dramedy, which follows the chaotic life of a Paris talent agency run by four protagonists, alludes to the agents and A-list talent they manage.
In translation, however, the title was changed to Call My Agent! which felt overly literal and one-dimensional to many original French fans.
The Bonfire of Destiny (2019)
French: Le Bazar de la Charité (The Charity Bazaar)
The excellent French miniseries on Netflix takes its name from the real-life tragedy that inspired it: The 1897 fire at a charity bazaar in Paris that killed over a hundred people (mostly women and children) trapped inside.
It's a well-known historical event in France, but Netflix's decision-makers probably figured no one in the U.S. would make the connection. So the show ended up with the title The Bonfire of Destiny, which is cheesy and, according to fan discussions, turns off a lot of potential viewers.
Money Heist (2017-2021)
Spanish: La casa de papel (The House of Paper)
Without a doubt, the worst case of title translation gone wrong is when Netflix acquired the worldwide streaming rights to the Spanish crime drama, which tells the story of eight people who team up to steal €984 million, and called it Money Heist, a title so generic that it could just as easily apply to any other heist-related media.
Translations like The House of Paper or The Castle of Paper would work much better, bringing a pun on multiple levels. However, the marketing team probably thought that people would confuse it with House of Cards and steered clear of the literal translation, which turned out to be a mistake. Many viewers refuse to watch the show because of its boring title.
Locked Up (2015-2019)
Spanish: Vis a Vis (Vis-à-vis)
Another Spanish show by Álex Pina (creator of Money Heist) that got the most boring name when it was acquired by Netflix for the global audience is Locked Up. The original name Vis-à-vis didn't even need to be translated, since it comes from French and has the same meaning in all languages.
The show is about a woman who commits embezzlement and ends up in a maximum security women's prison, where she struggles to cope with the violence and hardship surrounding her. While Locked Up works okay for this plot, Vis-à-vis gives it a deeper meaning, not to mention being much more memorable.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Swedish: Män som hatar kvinnor (Men Who Hate Women)
David Fincher's 2011 film was named after Stieg Larsson's book on which it is based. For some reason, the translator of the novel decided to change the original title, which didn't sit well with many people who took to social media over the years to express their disappointment.
Men Who Hate Women not only conveys the themes of the book and movie better, but also sounds much more chilling than The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which is reminiscent of a sexy noir and has driven viewers away from the excellent story.