The least Netflix can do is grant binge watchers the illusion of privacy
Mocking users on social media for binge watching a film that the company produced itself makes Netflix the TV peddling equivalent of the drug pusher who shames the junkie that buys his product, writes Emma Teitel.
|Report an Error|
Share via Email
The health risks associated with binge watching TV include chronic neck pain, obesity, fatigue, and oh yeah: death. According to a Japanese study from last year, watching five or more hours of TV a day can increase your chance of dying from a blood clot in the lungs. But that’s not all. It never is. As of this month, binge watchers can add a new risk to the above list — a threat many of us fear even more than death: the threat of public humiliation.
On Sunday Netflix tweeted the following to its more than four million followers: “To the 53 people who’ve watched A Christmas Prince every day for the past 18 days: Who hurt you?”
A Christmas Prince (for those of you who haven’t been hurt) is a romantic comedy currently streaming on Netflix about a journalist named Amber who goes on an undercover assignment around Christmas time, in the vaguely European, made up nation of “Aldovia” (not to be confused with the vaguely European made up nation of “Genovia” in the popular 2001 Disney film, The Princess Diaries). As is customary for any female journalist in a romantic comedy, Amber fails miserably to complete her reporting assignment, and instead falls in love with a handsome, misunderstood rich guy — in this case, Prince Richard, the heir to the Aldovian throne.
Needless to say, A Christmas Prince is not a very good film, nor for that matter, a good one, but it’s precisely the kind of heartwarming dreck that serves as an excellent pick me up for any woman — or man (it’s 2017 after all) who is down in the dumps. I would know. The b-list tale of love in the Aldovian Alps lifted my spirits from a very dark place when I streamed it last month. So did another critically panned Netflix offering: Pup Star, a live action movie about dogs who miraculously develop the ability to speak and as such, decide to enter an American Idol style singing competition for canines called, you guessed it, Pup Star.
It never occurred to me as I watched these movies with a box of Kleenex on hand that Netflix would, perhaps in an attempt to appear cool and clever, shame those of us who binge on its less sophisticated fare.
I suppose I assumed naively that the company was aware we are a delicate bunch, and that we rely on titles such as A Dog Walker’s Christmas Tale, Mother’s Day, and It’s Complicated to make it through the holidays without suffering a nervous breakdown. As for the 53 souls who streamed A Christmas Prince for more than a fortnight, I think it’s safe to say that they too belong in a delicate camp. Did these emotionally fragile men and women really need to be reminded by the service they pay for that their viewing habits are a disturbing reflection of their deteriorating mental state? Probably not. (Netflix has since defended its original tweet; in a statement to the BBC the company said, “This information represents overall viewing trends, not the personal viewing information of specific, identified individuals.”)
Of course like any modern internet company, Netflix is going to collect as much information about its customer base as it can. But collecting information and parting with that information publicly at the expense of its users are two very different things. Especially when those users being mocked on social media are being mocked for binge watching a film that the company produced itself.
It’s worth noting that A Christmas Prince, like House of Cards and Stranger Things, is a Netflix Original, meaning that the company’s little dig at the film’s faithful viewers was also a message promoting the film. This makes Netflix the TV peddling equivalent of the drug pusher who shames the junkie that buys his product.
It also makes you wonder if Netflix’s decision to reveal user data will usher in a new era of TV-themed political scandal. Can you imagine? “Breaking: according to Intel from a popular streaming service, the Prime Minister recently watched Air Bud: Golden Receiver forty five times in a row.”
As the company that presents us with hundreds of terrible choices everyday, the least Netflix can do is grant us the illusion of privacy while we make them.