I love movies and television. If I hadn’t been a writer, I would be a director. It’s just another form of storytelling in my eyes. One of my favorite things to do is watch a movie and then watch it again with the director’s commentary. I’m fascinated at the creative decisions that make each scene: location choices, adaptations from written material, the significance of the heroine’s red scarf. Sometimes when I write, I let a director’s commentary of some of my favorite movies play in the background. I believe that creativity is contagious. (That’s also why I sometimes write better in the presence of other people writing or with interesting art in the room.) So Netflix was a no-brainer for me as soon as I discovered its existence.
One of my favorite things about Netflix is how it got to know me. After I’d watch something I liked, it would recommend something similar to me to watch. It was like we had some deep connection. The same connection you have with a good friend who has been through so much with you that she knows your type of guy. Whether you want to go to a Lil Wayne concert or a Jay Z concert. Whether you are saving up for a pair of super expensive low rise skinnies or your next trip to Krispy Kreme.
Essentially Netflix and I were BFFs.
Netflix introduced me to 30 Rock and Tina Fey after I watched a few episodes of The Office. (I don’t watch SNL. It’s not funny maybe 75% of the time and the other 25% of the time, I can watch it on Youtube.) Netflix is the reason I developed a slight obsession with Daniel Sunjata. Otherwise I would have never watched Rescue Me, which put him on my radar. It led me down the rabbit hole of Step Up and Step Up 2 after I searched for Channing Tatum one late night when Hubs was out of town. It also gave me The L Word, something I’d never heard of until I watched it for four straight days a few years ago.
And then one day, I watched Boyz N Da Hood. It’s a childhood classic for me. I remember watching it when my cousins on VHS in our pajamas at sleepovers. We would shout in unison when one of the boys asks if they want to see a dead body or Ice Cube tells his girlfriend to take her ass to the store with her empty 40 ounce beer. That same month, I also watched Poetic Justice, when I was missing Tupac and Janet in her box braid days. And I may or may not have watched a few Tyler Perry movies when my sister in law was over and looking for something to watch. And finally, I spent an afternoon watching (and bawling at) For Colored Girls.
The next day I logged into Netflix to check out what I could watch and the options read Friday, Next Friday, and Friday After Next.
Ok. Those are popular movies. Not popular with me, but popular nonetheless. There must be a lot of people out there having Ice Cube nostalgia marathons. I ignored it and watched Lucky Number Slevin, which is one of my favorite movies to this day. After that, I watched Wicker Park to continue on my Josh Harnett kick.
The next morning, Netflix told me it had this really great movie I would love. It was called The Secret Lives of Bees.
No, Netflix, I thought. I fucking hate Magical Negro Movies.
For those of you unfamiliar, a Magical Negro is a black character in a film who helps a white person figure out all of their problems. Normally, the black person is an oppressed member of society, such as a slave or a maid during the Civil Rights era. And even though the black person is being continually oppressed, they are very wise and seem to be able to give the white person all the answers she needs to get over whatever hurdle she seems to have. And then the white person returns the favor by doing something like holding the black person’s hand in a store or letting the black person help her write a book. The Help is a Magical Negro Movie. So is The Butler. So is Power of One.
Shit, I thought. Netflix finally figured out I’m black.
I’m certainly not ashamed of being black. It’s just that I didn’t feel the need to share it with Netflix. You see, I have an eclectic taste in movies and TV so sometimes it’s hard to tell what kind of ethnicity I might be if you can’t see me face to face. And I had not chosen to link my Facebook page to my Netflix account so it didn’t have the option to Facebook stalk me. So when I watching If These Walls Could Talk, Archer, and Monk, Netflix may have gotten the wrong impression of me. Then when I had a very black month, it finally realized who it was dealing with.
I press the “Not Interested” button in disgust and closed Netflix for the day.
The next time I logged into Netflix, it gleefully offered me the choice of Soul Plane or Pootie Tang.
And that’s when I knew Netflix was a racist.
And not just casually racist, either. Like a white-robe-wearing-shaved-head-having-burning-crosses-on-peoples-lawns-we-don’t-want-your-kind-here racist.
Because why else would it offer Soul Plane to me unless it hated black people? That’s the only people who should watch Soul Plane: people who hate black people.
If I had any self-respect for myself, I would have canceled my subscription then. I mean, Netflix has just almost called me the N word.
But I didn’t. Instead I tried to win Netflix back. I was determined to make it understand that while I may be black, I wasn’t ready to watch Pootie Tang and give up on life. I wanted my BFF back.
So I watched Monster’s Ball. Halle won an Oscar for that, right? Certainly that will give you an idea of what I’m looking for.
Netflix offered me Baps.
Then I watched Training Day and Time Out. Maybe a little Denzel would loosen them up.
Netflix threw Shazam in my face.
Men in Black?
Netflix told me I seemed like I needed to see Wild Wild West.
I wasn’t giving up, though. Time to get serious about this shit.
I went on vicious marathon to show Netflix who I am. I watched The Cosby Show, Grey’s Anatomy, and Private Practice. I watched Living Single, Psych, and The Facts of Life. I freebased Law & Order, Law & Order: SVU, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. I peppered in a little of The IT Crowd, Dr. Who, and Luther. I bathed in School Daze, Arrested Development, and Chasing Amy.
And in a fit of desperation for something, anything, I watched Gigli.
I wanted Netflix to know that yes, I’m black but I’m so many other things, too. I love to laugh. I have 80’s and 90’s nostalgia. I think Shonda Rimes is amazeballs. I will watch anything that has Law and Order in the title. And yes, I am so deeply flawed that I will watch the most hated movie of all time so I can relive when and where Bennifer officially died.
The marathon took all my strength. It went on so long that I fell asleep into fitful dreams about a slave master Netflix trying to lynch for me not wanting to watch Catwoman.
When I woke, I lifted my head from the pillows, grabbed my Xbox controller, and navigated to Netflix. On the home page, Netflix asked me if I would like to watch Community.
Why yes, Netflix. Yes, I would.