What Stace had to say on Tuesday, August 5th, 2014
Judged by Netflix

Goodness, it’s been a while again, hasn’t it? I’m sorry! I’ve been working very hard, and now the girls are off school for the summer so we first had a bunch of school activities and now me trying to keep them amused. And by “me trying to keep them amused,” I mean me taking two or three times as long to do any household task because they’re “helping” me, and me teaching them how to play Solitaire in the desperate (and failed, sadly) hope that it would give them something to do other than hanging out and “helping” me with the aforementioned activities.

At the end of next week they’re going to visit their grandmother (my MIL) for about five days. I’m kind of freaking out about that–I’ve never been away from them for so long, and while I’m glad they’re going to go and hope they have fun, and I’m looking forward to the uninterrupted work time…ack, they won’t be home with me!

Aaanyway. One of the things I do when I’m alone in the kitchen is watch Netflix on my phone. Watching it on my phone means I’m limited to UK Netflix, which is frankly rather shitty, so I watch things I may not otherwise watch just because at least it’s available.

But here’s the problem with UK Netflix–it seems to be a slight issue with US Netflix, too, but to a lesser extent, because on US Netflix you can click on a category and see everything available, whereas here you only see what in that category UK Netflix thinks you might be interested in based on what you’ve watched before. Which means UK Netflix is constantly making these weird suggestions to me based on the fact that, for example, I watched ten minutes of the first episode of Sons of Anarchy before I switched to something else. (Sons of Anarchy actually seemed like a pretty good show, but one I’d have to pay real attention to, which isn’t easy when I’m watching in the kitchen because, you know, I’m cooking or doing dishes or sweeping or whatever.) I am still getting recommendations from them based on Sons of Anarchy, and that was four months ago that I watched those few minutes.

And their recommendations are, well, they don’t make much sense, because of the categories they put things in. I watched Memoirs of a Geisha one afternoon in May. I am still getting recommendations based on it, and those recommendations are all romantic comedies/chick flicks. I watched Memoirs because I read and liked the book and have seen the movie before, and because I was in the mood for something sort of historical and about Japan. So recommending Confessions of a Shopaholic to me based on the fact that I wanted to watch something historical and Japanese makes about as much sense as recommending Fatal Attraction to me because I watched a movie about bunnies (it would not surprise me to learn this actually happened).

Now, I sound like I’m whining, and that’s not my intent–I love Netflix, I really do, and hubs and I have been absolutely spellbound by House of Cards over the last few weeks. My intent is simply to use the above to illustrate why I am also afraid of Netflix.

See, I have a lot of interests, some of which are rather odd. Some of which aren’t odd at all but are rather odd for me. For example, in the last few years I’ve developed this weird but semi-passionate interest in mountain climbing. I have never climbed a mountain and I have no plans to–my idea of exercise is baking bread (you would be amazed how much upper-body strength that can require, if you’ve never done it yourself) or having to walk the girls to school instead of driving. I am not an outdoorsy girl at all; I don’t even like picnics or eating outside (I loathe insects). So while there’s nothing particularly odd about being interested in mountain climbing, it is rather odd for me to be interested in it.

But I am. So I’ve watched a lot of mountain-climbing documentaries and read quite a few books/listened to a few audiobooks. I’ve spent more time than I should online reading articles and stories (especially haunting Outside magazine’s excellent website. I even caved and bought a copy of Jon Krakauer’s INTO THIN AIR, even though I have some issues with Krakauer (I find it really annoying and borderline irresponsible the way he keeps insisting Christopher McCandless died of accidental poisoning instead of admitting the truth, which is that the kid starved to death; I found this same “I admire this person therefore they cannot have possibly made a mistake” attitude evident in INTO THIN AIR but still enjoyed the book). Documentaries on Everest? Of course. Ghosts of K2? Bring it, baby. The amazing Eiger: Wall of Death? Hells yeah. And pretty much any other doc I can find.

But here’s the thing. I find mountain climbing and, really, stories about mountains fascinating. But that doesn’t mean all of my interests necessarily follow, which is why I am afraid of Netflix judging me.

See, there’s some documentary on Netflix that looks like it could be rather fun, in a weird and ridiculous kind of way. I can’t remember the name offhand, but it’s basically a documentary that claims the Bush family was responsible for the death of John Kennedy Jr., presumably because of politics/GWB running for President in 2000–I’m not entirely sure. And I really do not mean to get into politics here (you all know this is not a political place) but I find the idea of this so, well, silly, that I would actually like to watch this documentary, because it seems like such a far-out idea that I’d enjoy seeing what evidence they’ve managed to come up with for this theory.

But when we first got Netflix, I made the mistake of watching David Brashears’ Everest documentary (the one filmed in IMAX; it loses quite a bit on a regular TV, I think, but it was still pretty good). Netflix decided that my interest in Everest must also translate to an interest in all things outdoorsy and, well, neo-hippie-like, which means that I am *still* trying to clear my suggestions of various documentaries about the evils of corporations and Enron and militant environmentalism and whatever else. It’s not that I don’t think any of those issues are important; it’s just that I don’t care about them enough to want them recommended to me instead of things I might actually want to watch. And it seems like no matter what other things I watch, no matter how frivolous they are, no matter how many times I click “Not Interested” or try to “refine” my interests, Netflix insists on suggesting documentaries about soccer and environmental terrorism to me.

So you can imagine my fear of actually watching that JFK Jr. documentary on Netflix. What would Netflix think of me then? What in the world would they start recommending to me based on that? There is no box to tick that says, “I’m watching this ironically,” or “I just think this might be amusing but it’s not a topic I care much about.” That box does not exist. Netflix insists on seeing me as, I dunno, some sort of chick-flick loving environmental activist from a motorcycle gang who likes to snowboard. I cannot imagine what they would add to that if I watched some JFK Jr. conspiracy movie. It’s at the point now where I quite literally skip watching things that might interest me because I’m worried about what dark paths of the soul it might lead Netflix down as far as recommendations.

I know this is paranoid…but I bet I’m not the only one, either. (I hope not, anyway.) Anyone else find their Netflix recommendations rather silly or impossible to change?

I will have some news-updates next week.

12 comments to “Judged by Netflix”

  1. Lissa
    · August 5th, 2014 at 7:48 am · Link

    This made me laugh so much! I have a similar fear with people seeing my iPod. My taste in music is metal metal metal but I have a secret Cher playlist. Her 80s music is so damn catchy. I bet iTunes judges me :(

    • Stace
      · August 5th, 2014 at 4:09 pm · Link

      Hahahaha! Awesome. Hey, we all have secrets, right?

  2. BernardL
    · August 5th, 2014 at 8:55 am · Link

    I think they’re following the Amazon model, Stace. If you browse anything on Amazon, they follow up for weeks after with similar products. Very funny though. :)

    • Stace
      · August 5th, 2014 at 4:11 pm · Link

      Oh, I know. But it’s funnier to look at it as something kind of ridiculous, hee.

  3. Nellie
    · August 5th, 2014 at 9:28 am · Link

    Yeaaaah, I like to watch B movie horrors. But there are some horror movies that I would classify as M or N but because I watched five-ten minutes and couldn’t stand watching the movie anymore, it still brings up “Because you watched this SERIOUSLY HORRIBLE HORROR movie, though you didn’t watch it in its entirety, here is something similar.”

    • Stace
      · August 5th, 2014 at 4:08 pm · Link

      It just seems like they should have a better classification system, doesn’t it, and a way to keep things out of your recommendations?

      We have a whole box set of Hammer horror films here, which are pretty fun.

      Oh, and speaking of movies way more gory or whatever than you expected…when I was seventeen I rented I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, which I thought was just a revenge horror movie; I’d never heard of it and the selection at the store wasn’t great. So I start watching it and my dad’s girlfriend’s two sons–who were like ten and twelve–walk into the room just as the first violent rape scene starts. I quickly try to fast-forward over it. It’s a very long scene. I turn off the picture and try FFing that way, and when I turn the picture back on it’s another rape scene. It ends. And then another one starts, and then another…I’d forwarded through like half the movie trying desperately to get to the end of the hideous raping only to find that every time I brought the picture back up there was more rape when I realized that I was fighting a losing battle and there was really nothing else to the film. (And of course several years later I read Ebert’s review, in which he called the film, basically, a disgusting pornographic piece of shit. I really wish the box had no called it a “horror classic.” So yeah…I know what you mean about thinking you’re going to get one thing but getting another. I’m not into gore at all, really–I like spooky horror, not gory horror–and I shy away from most of the stuff Netflix has for that very reason.)

  4. Sammy Pitnick
    · August 5th, 2014 at 2:21 pm · Link

    Netflix does the same thing to me! The problem is my kids like to watch movies on it all the time so all my list are- because you watched Teenage mutant ninja turtles, because you watched Rio etc and there are no longer any lists that give the option Because you get to run the TV for two hours… Sometimes..

    So lame.

    By the way Sons of Anarchy is pretty sweet- hope you get to watch it.

    • Stace
      · August 5th, 2014 at 3:59 pm · Link

      Ha, Sammy, I tried creating a separate user profile for the kids (called, originally, “Kids,”) and asked them to watch their stuff on it, but of course they didn’t listen–and neither did my husband–so yeah, I get that stuff, too. Sigh.

      • Andrea
        · August 19th, 2014 at 2:10 pm · Link

        Did the same thing for my two year old. I still get recommendations from his picks. Ahh!

  5. jeffo
    · August 5th, 2014 at 7:01 pm · Link

    US Netflix does the same thing. My daughter was using it at times at college with her friends, one of whom has a thing for kiddie TV shows. SO, we’re getting ‘Because you liked Pulp Fiction’ side by side with ‘Because you watched Thomas the Tank Engine.’ Funny stuff.

    By the way, all of our social media type of stuff do this. They keep showing us what they think we want to see based on who we interact with, what we watch, etc. (don’t get me started on Facebook and how bad they are with this) If we get too lazy, we’ll end up allowing ourselves to be more and more limited, and exposing ourselves to fewer new ideas/experiences.

  6. Jenna
    · August 6th, 2014 at 5:31 pm · Link

    So, I’m linking this not because I’m soliciting (that would be beyond rude) but because I think you might find it interesting. Through the wonders of Facebook (hah) I learned that some people I went to elementary school with are making a documentary about Nepal. It’s a good cause (I’ll let you read about it) but the part I thought you’d like is the story of Christen, a lady in her mid-30’s with zero hiking experience who agreed to go hiking in Nepal with the documentary team. It is so fascinating to read her blog posts about the experience, I thought you might like to see it. http://karmadocumentary.com

  7. Brighe
    · August 18th, 2014 at 4:34 pm · Link

    oh please oh please Stacia, when will we get some news? and of course excerpt from Terrible’s new story? I’M DYING to read some of it <3
    also, randomly wondering, will Chess and Terrible get married? It would be so sweet!!

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