Suggested ratings on Netflix are killing me.
You know the ones, those helpful little red stars that Netflix provides users to tell them how much they’ll like Hostel: Part III (1.7 Stars) or, I don’t know, Disco Godfather (4 stars). By design, they personalize Netflix’s rather cold interface, working as a kind of electronic replacement for the in-store video clerk, doling out suggestions based on nothing but emotionless mathematics.
Netflix has dumped millions of dollars into its rating algorithm, even going so far as holding a contest with a massive financial reward for whatever egghead could cook up new ways to improve the service’s suggestions. Its pool of movie ratings is huge, and the more that users help it out by rating movies they’ve seen while they’re bored at work, the more it gets to know what that user likes with nearly uncanny accuracy. It’s complicated, and it’s impersonal — but it works.
This is trouble for me, because I have had a lot of boring desk jobs and I love nothing more than wasting time at work. At this point, I have rated 1879 titles on Netflix, and, as a consequence, their rating system knows me better than I know myself. It knows all of my secrets, all of my desires and everything I have ever loved or hated that’s crossed the screen.
Because of the accuracy of Netflix’s recommendations, I’ve unwittingly come to treat them like dogma. Those little stars not only dictate every single movie that I watch, they also control what I think about them after the movie’s over. They control how I spend all of my spare time all while steering me clear of things that actual human beings have suggested that I watch versus what a heartless, brainless computer algorithm thinks I will like.
Sound insane and stupid? It is insane and stupid. But here’s the problem: I always agree with Netflix’s suggested ratings. Always.
Netflix has figured me out, and it is utterly dehumanizing. I have been cracked. Some nameless actuary at Netflix has nuzzled his or her way into my soul and figured out absolutely everything about me, and it’s all because of my own dumb quest to catalog and rate every movie I have ever seen.
There are plenty of movies out there that I want to see that Netflix doesn’t think I’ll like very much, but why bother spending two or three hours watching something when I already know that you won’t like it? I have better things to do than waste time on three star bullshit. Things like aimlessly scroll through facebook or open 15 tabs that I will never, ever read.
3.5 stars for Pretty in Pink? Yeah, that’s about right. Grizzly Man, 4 stars? Sure. Robocop, 5 stars? God damn right.
It’s the WORST.
Oftentimes I watch something just to challenge the rating. The only joy I get in life anymore is when I love something that Netflix thinks I’ll hate (Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2), or hate something that Netflix thinks I’ll love (which basically never happens).
“Basic Instinct deserves FIVE stars, Netflix, not THREE, you fucking ALGORITHM I am a PERSON, and I can make up my mind, and I think Sharon Stone RULES.” I wanted to shout at my television after watching Basic Instinct at 2:30 in the morning, but no, that’s not what happened. Netflix said I would like Basic Instinct three stars, and fuck if it wasn’t right. Why did I even bother?
Some of the stuff that Netflix thinks I will enjoy makes things even worse. According to Netflix, I will like the TV show Revenge four stars. Do you know how scary that is? My grandmother watches Revenge. That show is Homeland for moms, and Netflix thinks I’ll really get into it, which means it’s probably true. I haven’t even seen it, and I now know that I will like Revenge–though probably not as much as whatever I’ve rated Five Stars, which is basically just Ghostbusters and Chinatown.
I’m helpless in Netflix’s shadow; it dictates everything I watch, all the time. I haven’t watched fucking Serpico because Netflix thinks I’ll only like it 3.4 stars. How stupid is that? I can’t bring myself to waste my time with 3 star hacks like Sydney Lumet, when there’s 4 and 4.5 star gems out there to find.
Here’s my big solution: I just don’t watch anything anymore — that’s how much I cower in fear over Netflix’s suggestions. When I want to get some hard movie watching done, I am locked in barely functional indecision. I weigh every single option before I can pick anything. You know those old women at the deli counter in movies who will take forever to order a sandwich and it delays the main character who’s in a hurry to get past airport security to stop his wife from flying to Beirut? The bitch who wants the cheese way in the back of the shelf or whatever? That’s me trying to pick a movie to watch.
I have always been like this. I would take so long at the video store picking a movie when I was a kid that no one—fucking no one—would want take me there. My dad left there once because I spent so much time on the ground reading the back of James Bond tapes that he forgot that I was even there. I ended up getting Man with the Golden Gun, which Netflix thinks I would like three stars, which is correct. AGH.
Eventually though, I would pick something. And then I would form my own fucking opinion. Now, with Netflix helpfully supplying my every thought before it happens, it takes me an eternity—a fucking eternity—to choose something to watch, and when it’s over I don’t know what to think anymore because I don’t know if that’s my opinion or the opinion that Netflix planted into my brain with its brilliant, horrible goddamn ratings system.
My Netflix queue is useless in the face of its suggested ratings. I never watch what’s in my Netflix queue. That shit is homework. If I went with my queue, I could finally know what people are talking about when they gab on about The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover; I could finally watch Rare Exports, the Swedish killer Santa movie, but I haven’t watched either because Netflix thinks I will only like them 3.2 stars.
Why waste time? Guess I’ll go through absolutely everything Netflix has streaming, give up, and go to bed. You stupid fucking asshole.