Friday, September 14, 2012

Open Letter to Netflix

Dear Netflix:

I got onboard with your service later than most my peers. About two weeks ago, actually. I moved into a house with roommates, and wanted to be able to watch tv in my own bedroom instead of the shared living room, because most roommates are probably not okay with sitting in your underwear, dipping pizza into ranch sauce.

Your online selection is limited, of course. This is a complaint already voiced by my generation vocally. My immediate problem is what you do have available: all 4 seasons of Felicity.

I never watched Felicity when it was on. I was just out of high school and living in several places where TV was not an option. The dawn of internet television was not yet upon us. I remember the cultural furor when Keri Russell cut her hair, because I had a friend who looked just like her (oh man, did I hate her for that. Also because she introduced me to Indigo Girls). Every time we went out in public, some stranger would tell her that she should cut her hair like that. So of course, she hated the show, and I suppose I avoided it out of solidarity, or at least that’s what I would tell her if she ever read this.

The first week I had Netflix, I tried watching all sorts of things. Supernatural. Weeds. Several inadvisable soft core movies. I had just moved out of state, away from my friends and family, so I had a lot of free time hiding in my room, missing people. And then, like a maroon and sienna tinted dream, you suggest Felicity. On the cover, Keri looked like a photoshopped snake angel. I had a strong desire to look at Ben and Noel and decide which one was cuter (Ben, obviously). I watched the first episode. Felicity was young and stupid. Ben had hair like an IM Pei  skyscraper. I was hooked.

Now every time I log on, you ask me first “Felicity: What Did You Think?” and I cringe with guilt and shame. Okay, let me tell you what I think, Netflix.

First of all, there’s no way a group of college students are physically able to all have breakfast and dinner together in the cafeteria, every day. All Felicity’s sweaters in the first season give me Structure flashbacks. It is totally highly inappropriate for Noel to date a freshman, he is abusing his position as RA. When Julie got raped, I thought the show actually treated the issue of date rape really well, but then she got this morning after pill, and there were four pills she had to take, and I got distracted by the fact that every time I’ve ever taken it, it was only two pills. Moments of time travel like that in this show are, I think, going in and rebuilding my memories of the 90s, like little carpenter ants.  I find Megan to be the most relatable character, but the J J Abrams conceit of that stupid mystery box is as ridiculous as all that eye stuff in Lost. I refuse to believe Dean and Deluca's is the sort of place where everyone just hangs out. And why are they always stacking pastries?

Felicity definitely wears too many ribbed henley t-shirts, but hey, that seems fairly accurate. The problem is not her clothes, but the new facial expressions Keri added to her repertoire* once she cut her hair, now that her character is a wise old sophomore. Felicity starts doing this weird all knowing smug smile, which she then uses on all her friends whenever they say something sincere about her various crisis situations, a combination of the sort of smile the nuns used to give me when I asked about God, and the look that one ex-boyfriend gave me when he was explaining he had to go hang out with that 19 yr old ceramics student because he had to “be himself”. Is there anything more insulting than someone justifying their rude inconsiderate attitude by claiming they have to be true to themselves? The worst part about the Felicity universe is that every single character does this constantly, and then apologizes the next day because they are “so stressed out” with all that school and work they do that still allows them to meet in the cafeteria for lunch. Every day.

The bar they all hang out at looks like a TGI Fridays. Julie's music sounds like a meth addled Sheryl Crow.

Also all of Felicity's boyfriends are manipulative pricks, all of them. The art student who takes advantage of her. Creepy RA who hits on the scared freshman. Dickish Ben who freaks out anytime she's interested in anyone else. Gross bullying Craig who is a total asshole to everyone who isn't actively assisting him in his own life interests. I haven't made it past season 2 yet, but I can only imagine by season 4 she's selling photos of her feet on craigslist and sleeping with Javier, the gay barista. Which is the best outcome I can imagine for her.

But there's no one to talk to about this, because No One Cares, because this was a dumb fucking show 12 years ago, and is still a dumb fucking show.

But look, there is no way Jennifer Gardner ever dates Noel, not even in a fake world.

I should probably watch Alias again.

In conclusion, Netflix, I guess what I’m trying to say is if you are going to be the new HBO or Showtime, the channel we pay for to stay hip and current with whatever crap everybody else is talking about online, then I think you have a duty to be a responsible curator. Your job is not to regularly shame us with reminders of what we stayed up till 3am watching last night because we were waiting for a text from a boy, Your job is to offer a more nutritional alternative. Instead of flashing Felicity at me and reminding me that Ben is probably going to have a sex scene with that married woman in the next episode, suggest another Herzog movie, or a documentary that isn’t about war. Train me to have better taste. Guide me. This is why we used to pay for HBO, after all, to be cooler. Felicity is not making me cooler. Reliving the 90s is not making me cooler. It's making me want to wear oversized sweaters.

*the repertoire being 1) a wide eyed gasp with slightly parted lips actually, that's it.


  1. this happened to us 2 months ago, and damnit if i didn't watch the pilot giving keri the benefit of the doubt, right up until the point that i realized that she was going to double date the two boys, in some way or another. and that NEITHER BOY had anything of substance. everytime i heard another voice over MY EYE ROLLED SO HARD IT FELL OUT OF THE SOCKET.

    my netflix recommendations are as follows:
    "exit through the gift shop" a documentary about banksy
    "the wild and wonderful whites of west virginia" a documentary about hillbillies in west virginia. exactly what you are expecting but engrossing nonetheless
    "top gear" i am a boy

  2. Excellent. And it really was a dumb fucking show. On the other hand, there was a time in the 1990s when I'd routinely hang out at a friend's apartment and watch Walker, Texas Ranger and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman while getting seriously wasted.

    Exit Through the Gift Shop is good. Netflix also has some great Michael Powell movies like Black Narcissus or A Canterbury Tale, if you're into that kind of thing. The selection ain't great, though, and it's not getting better.


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