The other day someone in the Netflix PR department thought it would be a good idea to mock some of their own customers as part of the promotion for the streaming services’ latest production, “A Christmas Prince”. “To the 53 people who’ve watched A Christmas Prince every day for the past 18 days: Who hurt you?” How Netflix PR would know this information should probably concern you – the equivalent shaming for me would be “You fell asleep watching Batman: The Animated Series again. When are you going to grow up?”
The movie has already been pronounced a “so bad it’s good” effort in the Hallmark movie category, with a plucky girl next door journalist who takes terrible notes melting the heart of a cookie cutter playboy prince with a heart of gold. It’s the kind of film where there are Christmas trees in every scene, and it’s obviously designed to appeal to an audience of the decidedly unhip.
Now, we all consume Netflix and other streaming services in different ways. Sometimes it’s a movie you’re really going to focus on – other times, it’s background noise to something else, where you won’t really pay attention. The point of Netflix is that you can binge watch these things easily, without being interrupted to search for something else. It just offers you what’s next in a seamless flow, no different than someone who chooses to watch CNN for hours in the background, just with much better and funnier programming.
Netflix might think you’re into things you actually aren’t for that reason. A friend admitted she recently watched Logan five times in the same day and a Selena Gomez movie, without really paying attention to what was going on in either one. And of course there are the elderly, the infirm, and those who have Alzheimer’s, who (as anyone with family like this likes to know) like to rewatch things because they forgot they saw it, or they forget the ending. I don’t know how many times my grandfather rewatched the same episodes of Star Trek. They forget, so they watch it again.
So, yes, the data here can be skewed. But there’s also something truly sad about the number of people Netflix just criticized for whom movies like this or a guilty pleasure, and particularly during the holiday season, turn to the Hallmark channel or content like it to find some semblance of holiday cheer.
Imagine: You are like many people today a deep introvert who did not have the good fortune in life to find someone who you love and who loves you back. Unfortunate in that department, burdened by a college education that cost you too much and taught you too little, you work in a career that does not fulfill you. Most nights you are alone, consuming the soma of things like Netflix and Amazon Prime and video games. When the holidays approach and the weather turns cold, you spend your nights watching and rewatching saccharine movies until you fall asleep, hoping for some gleam of happiness or catharsis that never comes, a version of life that looks like a Hallmark movie or where your idealized prince finally shows up.
And all the while, smart, hip, with-it Millennials at the shiny ephemeral overvalued Internet companies are sitting in their open-concept offices of current and future millionaires making fun of you and all the other people who use their services, and order tacky ugly Christmas decorations, and wear unironic not-hip Christmas sweaters, and watch and rewatch movies like The Christmas Prince.
This is the country we have: judgmental and tribal, and it is unlikely to change. But when Silicon Valley starts judging you as pathetic for consuming the products they produce, when media lectures you every day about politics, when Hollywood lectures you on morality, you might just stop watching, start ignoring, and think about turning things off.
Would that be the worst thing?