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Let’s Face It, We Never Truly Watch Netflix

Movies may tickle your interest, but do they capture your attention?

M.G. Siegler recently published a short and enlightening article about Netflix, discussing the quality of the movie it produces and promotes.

Titled The Great Okay — Netflix’s ability to get us watching mediocrity, it leaves little doubt as to the author’s position regarding said quality.

The post goes on to discuss how the average ratings of Netflix best-performing movies are all well…average… at best.

Siegler wonders whether it is Netflix who produces mediocre movies or the critics who are too snobbish and elitist to rate them properly.

Having seen the many Netflix original productions myself, I would gravitate towards the former, but we cannot deny there is truth to the latter.

Perhaps, the answer to Netflix’s ability to “get us watching mediocrity” lies not with the medium, nor with the critics, but with the audience itself.

Maybe we tolerate more mediocre content on Netflix.

If this is the case, why?

Let’s face it, we never truly watch Netflix. Whether we “chill”, swipe, do some chores, cook dinner, or browse our phones idly, Netflix is a background noise that enlivens the house and makes for the occasional startle.

Once in a while, the “Are you still watching” dialogue box appears, prompting us to interact with the black mirror to ensure the continuity of our ASMR Narcos gun-fight scene audio backdrop.

We’d never act like this in a theatre. What is it about Netflix that doesn’t capture our attention?

Perhaps it’s because, on Netflix, we don’t pay per movie. When you rent a movie on a pay-per-movie service, you committed a specific amount to watch something. Whatever the amount, you’d feel guilty not watching a movie you specifically paid for.

The subscription model disconnects the payment from the consumption. You don’t purchase movies, you purchase access to a library.

Perhaps it’s because our attention spans are shrinking. Phones, smartwatches, a constant stream of notifications that have you switching from one app to another at a frenzied pace.

We’re so used to not giving our full attention that we don’t care as much about the content we’re being fed. If it’s not good enough, we’ll just be one our phones anyways.

Whatever the reason, this issue is not limited to Netflix.

Have you ever launched a podcast just to start thinking about something else and, suddenly, after 10 minutes, you realise you have a voice in your ear detailing the intersection between true-crime, gender studies, and Asian food?

The same goes for books we half-read, travels we half-enjoy, meals we half-taste, conversations we half-listen too.

No wonder we consume and pay for mediocrity.

Thanks to the many distractions technology offers us, we only ever half-live.

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