How Netflix Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the F-Bomb
Without a doubt every time I pick a show to watch on Netflix and it’s some kind of Netflix original, I can count on the f-bomb being in their multiple times and usually many, many times. It doesn’t matter what the topic is, even their docu-series about children’s toys carries the f-bomb. Because Netflix isn’t regulated by the MPAA they don’t worry too much about ratings, but does that really mean everyone, everywhere just wants the foul language to flow in every show? Does Netflix think this is the secret to success and are they right?
R rated movies make about half as much as PG or PG-13 rated movies. But is this because R rated movies simply won’t let in younger viewers or is it because there is less interest? Maybe some of both, so you have to wonder, is Netflix targeting kids with what would normally be R rated content? Consider that one of Netflix’s newest shows is called “The End of the F****** World” and is about a couple of teenage psychopaths. And just a couple of year back Netflix released “F is for Family” a raunchy cartoon that used the F-word for more than just family.
G rated movies make only half as much as PG or PG 13 movies. But is that because people don’t want clean films or is it because most G films are cartoons? The rating system has changed over the years, not just adding and altering ratings but what qualifies a film for a rating has also changed as our culture changes. I still believe that a good story that carries the same message can be told without throwing in a lot of language. I think for now the numbers bear it out to some extent but I have yet to hear anyone who has watched a good story in a movie complain that it just needed more foul language, sex or violence.
Andrew Breitbart the conservative political pundit used to have a saying that “Politics is downstream from culture.” Meaning that we get the politicians we deserve because they come from our culture. I don’t know if entertainment is upstream for culture or the other way around. There wouldn’t be a constant churning out of low-grade entertainment if there wasn’t an audience for it. However, I have to think that those who are in charge of entertainment industries also do their part to push their view of culture on the rest of us. Humanity is sinful and depraved because of the fall, but we can obviously still be influenced for better or worse or by our better angels as Abraham Lincoln once said.
Christians in the Culture
I also put part of the blame for this phenomenon squarely on Christian’s shoulders. I’m not a big believer in boycotting everything or in trying to force the world to act less worldly by complaining to them about how worldly they are. But I do believe we can be salt and light. And for me, that means personally not watching, encouraging or directly paying for such garbage and it also means sometimes encouraging others to do the same. Of course, I do indirectly pay for such things because it’s almost impossible to live in a worldly world and not give money to a company that is eventually going to use money in a way I don’t approve. But everyone should look at what they can do to influence the culture and divest their resources from such activity.
So when Christians watch, laugh at and otherwise enjoy depraved worldly culture not only are they often directly subsidizing it, they’re sending the message that it doesn’t matter to us anyway. Everyone complains about the divisive nature of our political climate and no one says those are just words that don’t mean anything. The words we use and how we use them have meaning and has an effect on our culture. There’s a reason the Bible says. let no unwholesome words come out of your mouth. God knows that our words can make a great deal of difference in building up or tearing down people, and I don’t think that just means to simply not be negative. Here are some verses to consider.
“The soothing tongue is a tree of life but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” Proverbs 15:4
“What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” Mathew 15:11
“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” James 1:26
The Streaming Wars
As our way of media consumption has changed there may be hope. As a consumer, we can make better choices in seeking out that hope. I believe the push to streaming and SVOD is at least somewhat unnatural and not completely driven by consumer demand as much as it is a way to manipulate who gets more money in the entertainment industry. However, this is where we are nonetheless. Netflix has put all of their eggs in the streaming basket and is putting more into exclusive content. It looks like Disney will soon enter the streaming market with a big library that people will want to watch and this will hurt Netflix undoubtedly. People still want to watch older movies and content from more than just one provider. As dozens of companies come into streaming, consumers can’t pay $12 or $15 for every channel. They’ll need to find the networks that give them the most for their money. This is an opportunity for everyone to have influence, as they not only choose which networks they subscribe to but what shows they watch. Streaming companies know exactly what we watch and for how long we watch something.
So why does Netflix do it? Quite often it’s because it’s what we tell them we want. If we really want something different than we need to ask for it, with our wallet, with our choices and even sometimes with our mouths.