Netflix's Blurbs Are Becoming Sentient and Sarcastic
Remember the good old days, when good family values still meant something and there was no such thing as streaming? If you wanted to flip channels, you goddamned flipped channels, one by one through all the different numbers. Reality television destroyed that. Even a decade ago, you could sit and flip and come across all sorts of random bits of interest on the various cable networks. Then the History Channel became nothing but pawn shops and the Discovery Channel nothing but storage locker auctions. I might be mixing those up, but I really don’t care enough to look up the accuracy of things I already hate.
Know what’s taken its place? Netflix flipping. Especially after I’ve just finished watching a series, I find myself laying and scrolling endlessly through all of the options, I might start one, maybe two, rarely get more than a couple of minutes into anything. It’s sort of its own entertainment just seeing what’s on there.
But then you start to notice patterns.
For example, Netflix is hilariously sarcastic in the descriptions of low rated movies, just staying barely on the side of not making explicit fun of the film in question. My favorite though? The little blurb at the bottom underneath the plot summary. The one that says “Because of your interest in: Reign” because you hit the button accidentally that one time and now it shows you recommendations from that show. And sometimes, even if it doesn’t hook the recommendation to something you’ve watched it defaults to some IMDB info about who starred in it, or how it did at the box office.
Well, a lot of the low-rated stuff is so disliked by so many people, and has no information to relay to you, that their algorithm can’t recommend it on the basis of anything you’ve watched, so instead it gives an almost mocking reason for recommending it to you, written very colloquially. And if you weren’t just flipping through dozens of entries, you’d never notice that they repeat word-for-word over and over again between different entries, so it’s clearly not customized in the least, despite being written like it is. Here are my favorite sarcastic Netflix reasons for recommendation that appear repeatedly:
1. “What goes best with quirky tales? Subplots that are scary. This one delivers.”
2. “You can stop searching now: this one’s dark and suspensful.”
3. “Ready to get your dark fix? Try this one.”
4. “Ready to get your emotional fix? Try this one.”
5. “If it’s scary and dark stories you’re hunting for, look no further.”
6. “Looking for exciting stories? You just found one. Lucky.”
7. “For when you’re in the mood for exciting entertainment.”
8. “Craving a story that’s exciting? Look no further.”
9. “Seeking something suspenseful with hints of exciting? Your search is over.”
10. “Looking for exciting stories? You just found one. Lucky.”
Honestly, through one string of twenty or so entries while writing this, a solid 50% of the reasons for recommendation concluded with either “Lucky” or “Your search is over”. I’m scared that the system is catching on to me.
Of course there’s not even a computer generated reason given for 1998’s Godzilla. Yes, it’s so bad that not even a computer designed to give you a fictional reason to watch it off of a list can manage to tell that lie to you.
Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at www.burningviolin.com. You can email him here.
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