Netflix recently released its interpretation of Lemony Snickett’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” but all the frustration and disappointment in that depressing story can’t compare to my New Year’s Eve. I suffered the ultimate blow to a mildly-socially-inept person’s confidence. No, I didn’t embarrass myself at a party or attempt to go in for an unreciprocated kiss; I didn’t even have the chance. I spent the last hours of 2016 utterly, tragically alone.
Believe me, I tried desperately to be in the company of friendly people. My last-ditch efforts simply were not enough to overcome a wicked permutation of vacationing family and fickle friends.
So I did what any lonely millennial might do. I found a fuzzy blanket, put together some yogurt and granola, and sacrificed myself to the Netflix gods of predictive viewing. The programs that followed were a dramatic foreshadowing of the events that will plague us in 2017. They also represented me catching up on a lot of shows and movies, but that’s not important.
It began with the greatest adventure story in history, or a version of it. “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou” is a Coen brothers retelling of The Odyssey set in 1930s Mississippi starring George Clooney among other equally famous but less handsome people.
I’m sorry to say that the start of this year does not appear particularly positive. Netflix clearly views John Goodman’s cyclops Bible salesman as the characterization of Donald Trump’s inner musings. He’s a slimy con-man with unpredictable tendencies and a complete lack of empathy for anything living. He beats up the two protagonists, kills their toad friend and steals their car. Now, replace “two protagonists,” “toad friend,” and “their car” in the previous sentence with “Constitution,” “hope of stability in government,” and “money from the poor to give to the wealthy” respectively.
I wasn’t feeling optimistic about our political future, so I picked the next of Netflix’s suggestions with the intention of regaining a bit of positivity. What about “Good Eats” with Alton Brown? A cooking show with science, history and comedy baked in? Lay it on me.
There’s no way I could have known that the episode I was presented would put old-fashioned American values on the chopping block, that it would prognosticate about the charcoal grilling of middle class ideals, that it would drive a skewer through the heart of all we hold dear. The Netflix algorithm was on a roll when it brought up the episode called “Dis-Kabob-ulated.”
Alton Brown showed me how to properly slice meat and vegetables in preparation for skewering. Co
nservatives will show us how to slice up the Affordable Care Act so Americans can prepare for skyrocketing costs in a privatized market. Brown showed me how to spear those tasty morsels so that it would be nearly impossible for them to fall off their skewers. Conservatives will spear the xenophobia of a minority of Americans and turn it into legislation that makes life nearly impossible for illegal immigrants.
Enough with the startling realizations of our new political reality, Netflix. I’m supposed to be on break.
But it didn’t end there. After a heavy-handed proposal for a “Saving Private Ryan” viewing (we get it, we’re at war with our own ideologies) I received a roundabout recommendation for “Glengarry Glen Ross.”
It was a bit tricky to see where Netflix was going here. It couldn’t be as simple as a commentary on the brutalities of capitalism or the real estate market. Soon enough, it hit me. Alec Baldwin gives perhaps his most famous monologue at the beginning of the film in which he, between yelling, “Always be closing,” calls everyone a loser, brags about his wealth, turns red in the face and completely circumnavigates any questions posed to him. Couple that with the fact that Baldwin now has a four-plus-year gig with Saturday Night Live playing a certain someone and well, it’s a little on the nose. This character isn’t going to let up.
Surprisingly, there were more hours left in the day; just enough time to get a start on one of those “you have to see it” Netflix originals. Netflix, in its infinite android wisdom, knew this, so it buckled down for a grand finale of disgustingly obvious symbolism. Its weapon of choice? “Black Mirror.”
Spoiler to follow.
Have you seen the first episode of this anthology series? A primitive synopsis: Prime Minister, pig, must copulate. Well played, Netflix, well played. Also, gross.
We all thought 2016 was the worst, but it appears my Netflix account has confirmed it; 2017 will only continue to follow that downward spiral. Unless, of course, we stop watching TV for long enough to do something about it.