screen of Netflix original movies and shows

The Harm in Some Netflix Originals

By Brittany Anderson
Web Content Contributor

You’re scrolling through Netflix. The latest Netflix original movie catches your eye— mainly because it’s the first suggestion and the trailer begins to autoplay. Maybe you remember seeing someone talk badly about it on Twitter. You decide to give it a shot, anyway— and then that’s two hours of your life you can never get back. 

Netflix has already commissioned some controversial shows like “13 Reasons Why” and “Insatiable”, but a couple of films specifically come to mind: “Tall Girl” (with a quote that speaks for itself: “You think your life is hard? I’m a high school junior wearing size 13 Nikes. Men’s size 13 Nikes. Beat that.”) and “Sierra Burgess Is A Loser” (a film with a non-consensual kiss, a slew of problematic jokes and issues like catfishing and bullying that never get properly addressed). 

You might argue in defense of films like this, saying that at their core they’re just for fun. And you’re right: like cheesy Disney Channel originals or Hallmark Christmas specials, there’s no inherent harm in them, even with poor acting, writing and directing. Art is art. It’s subjective. It’s not meant for everyone, and it isn’t meant to be appreciated by everyone. But when does the reality of it all set in? When do their creative flaws begin to harbor a real, negative impact on people?

Of course, these casts and crews aren’t made up of bad, malicious people. They aren’t on a mission to outright hurt, misrepresent or single out any one community. But through their vapidness and total lack of awareness, they’ve managed to do just that. Laziness is hard to excuse in this day and age. 

A screenshot of Tweets from deaf model Nyle DiMarco’s Twitter. They read: “It is extremely easy to make jokes about marginalized/disenfranchised groups...but that makes you a lazy writer. And honestly you shouldn’t make these jokes AT ALL because our lives are on the line.”
Deaf model Nyle DiMarco is outspoken on many issues, especially about the importance of minority representation in films. He called out “Sierra Burgess Is A Loser” on Twitter for how they handled deafness in a scene. Screenshot by Brittany Anderson via Twitter.

At the end of the day, even if unintentional, these films tend to send the wrong message. It might come across as being nitpicky, but consider every angle. Topics that had the potential to be healthy conversation starters are clumsy and rushed through. Attempts at diversity can come off as forced, inauthentic and insensitive. Unhealthy behaviors are romanticized. More and more, “coming of age” tropes no longer feel relatable (although really, did they ever?). 

So, what can you do? For starters, take this kind of entertainment with a grain of salt. Many of these Netflix originals aren’t pieces made for winning Oscars and Emmys; they’re a hodge-podge of relatively unknown actors placed in colorful mood lighting and happy pop music to accompany. They’re meant to saturate the airwaves with passably unoriginal but easy to produce content, even at times paid for with excessive product placements. 

There’s nothing wrong with pointing out something that’s problematic, no matter how small. Seeking out better stories and listening to the communities that might feel adversely affected by ignorant storytelling encourages ingenuity and forward-thinking within the entertainment industry. Plus, if you weren’t aware, there are tons of other really amazing Netflix originals. We can make do without the cringey one-liners and montages. 

Maybe the next idea that gets picked up by Netflix will have taken these kinds of criticisms into consideration. Alternatively, do it yourself. Make the next Netflix original— and make us proud, okay?

Featured image screenshot via by Brittany Anderson.

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