by The Cowl Editor on October 10, 2019
by Savannah Plaisted ’21
As Netflix continues to take over the entertainment industry and constantly make headlines, one cannot help but notice that the series produced as “Netflix Originals” are increasingly being used as political platforms.
Examples of this phenomenon include (but are not limited to): 13 Reasons Why, which delves into suicide, social pressures, sexual assault, and many more political issues; When They See Us, which is a short series on the wrongfully accused and racially profiled “Central Park Five;” and House of Cards, which is a show surrounding all things White House and Washington, D.C.
Now, some may say that these Netflix shows are becoming too political in nature and that entertainment should be an entity completely separate from politics.
However, what are these shows doing? They are not taking away from the Netflix-watching experience. Rather, they are helping greater numbers of people that may not usually be aware of the political climate come to understand very important issues within politics. They offer people the chance to understand politics through a more popular medium than the nightly news.
When They See Us made national headlines when it was released and has been greatly discussed in reference to racism, police brutality, and wrongful convictions. People had long since forgotten about the Central Park Five, yet here they are decades later making headlines and having Emmy Awards won in their honor, evidence that TV shows with political content can be educational and still appeal to wider audiences.
What people are watching on TV matters greatly and shapes the way people are socialized into a given society.
The messages that are transmitted to people through their choice in television can be very impactful, and for that reason there needs to be greater consideration involved in what goes on air and what does not.
Thus, if the general population of the United States is frustrated with the state of politics and no longer wishes to turn on the news, the next best thing is to broadcast politics through whatever means of entertainment necessary—including television and online streaming services.
It is immensely important for people to be aware of the political climate of the U.S. today; therefore, sending political messages through TV shows is a necessary component of the modern day society.
by Margaret Scales ’23
As today’s political climate grows dramatically polarized in our everyday lives, finding outlets from the riff-raff feels increasingly necessary. Nonetheless, this seems impossible as politics become more apparent in common entertainment outlets like Netflix.
Politically-driven TV shows or documentaries are engaging in their own right, but sometimes viewers just want to get away from that world. However, changes in recent seasons of shows like 13 Reasons Why and Shameless, a Showtime show popular on Netflix, for example, are making that escape increasingly difficult to find.
What was originally a show that created a voice for suicide prevention, the third season of 13 Reasons Why touched on topics of sexual violence, mental illness, gun control, homophobia, and more. In conjunction, the writers seemed to have written the season as a murder-mystery—rather insensitive to the political themes touched upon in the show. Finding the line between entertainment and voicing political opinions can be too touchy to intermingle. Is it inappropriate to make a murder-mystery season out of a show originally made to bring awareness?
Similarly, the latest season of Shameless, what used to be a popular drama, is a platform for more political outrage, including topics of women’s rights, the wage gap, gender inequality, religious controversies, immigration, and even paralleling the 2016 election in the fourth episode of season nine entitled “Do Right, Vote White!”
Shameless now seems to be an outlet for political animosity. So, they are making money off of exploiting these touchy subjects—is this appropriate? While utilizing popular platforms like Netflix to fight for what you believe in is an understandable tactic, there is a time and a place for political activism. As TV grows to be more political and political programs become entertainment, it is increasingly difficult to find a show to kick back and relax to. With so much of our world driven by political division and the negative energy behind it, there should be a place where people can escape, specifically in enternainment.
Watching political shows should be a choice, not something viewers are subjected to. In the pursuit of escaping from our realities for a 40-minute show, we should be able to decide between watching a light-hearted sitcom or an earth-shattering political documentary.