Netflix likes to brand itself as a less evil alternative to Hollywood, which is probably true -- although that's less to do with Netflix and more to do with Hollywood's proclivity for evil. That said, it has become abundantly clear that the streaming giant isn't living an entirely blameless life itself. For example ...
In 2018, Netflix inked a deal with New Age bullshit peddler Gwenyth Paltrow to take her lifestyle website Goop and turn it into a show that aims to, quote, "guide the deeply curious in an exploration of boundary-pushing wellness topics." We don't know exactly what she means by "boundary-pushing," although we suspect it's code for "none of this is peer-reviewed."
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Netflix has also been criticized for hosting What The Health. This vegan documentary alleges (among other things) that eating one egg is the equivalent of smoking five cigarettes, drinking milk causes cancer, fish are loaded with toxins, and prominent health organizations like the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association are covering up these inconvenient truths on behalf of Big Animal Products. (We were going to say "Big Meat," but that's the name of our stripping troupe.)
There's also Root Cause, a documentary about how root canals supposedly cause cancer -- a claim which is so extremely not true that anyone spouting this nonsense should automatically be suspected of Cavity Creeping. The movie caused such a panic among paranoid tooth-owners that the American Dental Association lobbied Netflix to take it down, which they eventually did.
Then there was Heal, a two-hour opus "investigating" the idea that it's possible to cure any illness, including cancer, with positive thinking. One of the subjects is a woman whose bowel and liver cancer disappeared after she underwent therapy to deal with being bullied in kindergarten ... after a course of chemotherapy and radiography.
We choose to think of it as a historical documentary, detailing a time when people still listened to Deepak Chopra's foaming shit.
In 2018, The Wall Street Journal interviewed over 70 current and former Netflix employees to find out what it's like to work there. They horrified everyone, revealing that the company is less a fun, quirky, progressive place and more a billion-dollar dogfighting ring where everyone spends their time dishing out verbal beatings, fending off backstabbers, and piling on their fellows.
Like the so-called "keeper test," wherein managers were asked (constantly) to consider which, if any, of their employees they would defend to the death, and which ones they were mostly ambivalent about. They were then expected to fire anyone in the latter category, or risk being fired by their managers for being weak -- which, as you can probably guess, incentivized managers to occasionally fire people for no reason other than to save themselves. Victims weren't merely engineers and customer-facing staff, but also high-level executives, chief officers, and oh yeah, the guy who came up with the recommendations algorithm that makes the site such a time sink.
There was also "360," a software tool employees used to give anonymous feedback to anyone they liked within the company, from their boss to their boss' boss to (more likely) their friends and fellows. This was related to another practice within the company, known as "sunshining," in which people who messed something up were "invited" to sit in a public forum and take every ounce of venom their colleagues threw at them, which was exactly as humiliating as you'd expect.
If someone got fired, it was also common practice to broadcast this fact, as well as the specific circumstances of why they were fired, to everyone in the company via email. These emails are described as "painfully specific, calling out an employee's flaws, while inviting more questions and gossip." If someone really screwed the pooch, this could even take the form of a company-wide public forum, which some employees described as "awkward and theatrical," especially when audiences ranged into the hundreds.
You might be wondering, "Isn't this against the law?" Yeah, kinda. Although our employment standards might be lax, as the company has gone more global in the last several years, this kind of workplace environment has found itself butting up against laws in places like the Netherlands, which say that you can't fire people without providing good cause. And while we're not employment lawyers, we suspect "because their managers didn't want to get fired" doesn't qualify as "good cause."
The world of network television is a cruel place where the survival of your favorite show hinges less on quality or ratings and more on whether execs spent all the budget on prequel spinoffs for every character from The Big Bang Theory. That is supposed to be why Netflix is so good. They base their decisions on hard data about what's attracting viewers, what's generating buzz, and what's due for a trip to the woodshed.
Or so you might think. While they might be more willing to green-light second seasons than a network, getting them to do a third season (and beyond) is notoriously difficult, because that means paying out a shedload of bonuses (sometimes to the tune of millions of dollars) to the showrunners. If a show lags at all in its second season, it's probably worth canceling that sucker.
This is further complicated by the fact that Netflix weighs each new season against that show's ability to generate "buzz." It's not enough for a show to do well; it also has to be flashy enough to attract new subscribers. This is why shows like One Day At A Time, Tuca And Bertie, and Santa Clarita Diet were canceled. They were critically praised series with dedicated audiences, but since those viewers were already subscribers, they effectively didn't count.
You might also have noticed that when a show gets canceled by Netflix, it never gets picked up by network television (One Day At A Time being the sole exception so far). That's because while Netflix is happy to throw its toys in the trash at a moment's notice, it sure doesn't want other networks pulling them out, washing off the garbage crust, and playing with them. When Netflix cancels a show that it co-produces with an outside force -- like when they teamed up with Marvel to make its Defenders shows -- they stipulate that it can't be bought out by another network for anywhere between two and three years after it finishes.
Say what you will about network television, but when Brooklyn Nine-Nine was canceled by Fox, it was immediately snapped up by NBC. But American Vandal can't move to CBS because Netflix skipped Sharing Day in kindergarten.
In 2018, Netflix premiered Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj, a weekly topical news show whose second episode covered the United States' relationship with Saudi Arabia. Specifically how we still support them despite all their war crimes in Yemen, as well as the way we did nothing but feign some vague disapproval when they murdered and dismembered a journalist for The Washington Post. The episode also heaped criticism on Mohammad bin Salman for presenting himself as a progressive while clamping down on all dissent and protests.
The House of Saud responded by asking Netflix to take down the episode, on the grounds that it violated a law against fake news. Or rather, it violated a law so loosely worded that "fake news" basically means "anything that the government doesn't like." Netflix happily complied with the request. More recently, CEO Reed Hastings defended this move by asserting, "We're not in the truth to power business, we're in the entertainment business." Yeah, we're not trying to do the whole "ethics" thing either. It's hard.
For more, check out Why Netflix Needs To Stop Listening To The Internet:
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