Before the emergence of HBO Max, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus, or even Hulu, Netflix had a monopoly on TV-binging entertainment. Heck, Netflix got even more traffic than YouTube to mp3 converters. Despite the growing competition, Netflix is still one of the largest streaming services and continues to produce high-quality, original content for its overwhelmingly large audience.
Today we look back at Netflix’s golden era, where it seemed that every month, its original TV shows seemed to capture the public’s imagination, becoming the forefront of water-cooler conversation. We’re remembering 5 Netflix shows that broke the internet and propose some reasons as to why they engaged the masses so effectively.
13 Reasons Why
13 Reasons Why (Season 1) explores the tragedy of Hannah Baker, a high school student who ends her own life, following an onslaught of awful bullying, and some unforgivable actions from her class peers. With such an intense, deeply sensitive subject matter being tracked, the TV show attracted mass controversy from the news, media and schools, concerned about its potential impact on a youth-orientated audience. Many schools even hosted assemblies to discuss the show openly with students, or outright ban/strongly discourage students from watching it.
Naturally, all the press and heated debate only made Netflix viewers flock to the show to see what the fuss was about. There are valid arguments to be made on both sides of the table, but we can all agree that this show was at the forefront of our collective public consciousness for about a month.
Tiger King is a documentary about real people, though you’ll spend the whole viewing experience in absolute disbelief that they are true, real people. The idiosyncratic doco follows the lives of those in the underworld of big cat breeding, and man, are they eccentric. There’s a rumoured murder underlying the whole thing, drug smuggling, financial troubles, a three-way marriage, lost limbs, and that’s all just in the first episode.
Tiger King came out during the early peak of lockdown, giving us all an escape from grim reality, where we could take comfort that at the very least – we weren’t as doomed as this Tiger-King bunch.
You may have noticed that our media climate is really nostalgic for the ‘80s at the moment. We hear it in our music (The Weeknd), see it in our clothes (bright-colourful jackets), and yup, see it on the TV.
One of the frontrunners for that ‘80s goodness is the sci-fi, period piece Stranger Things. With a richly detailed story, incredible child actors, cliffhangers, meme culture, and the perfect trickle of Steven King influence, Stranger Things deserves all the hype behind it. If you’re after an awesome band with a hint of ‘80s in them, check out San Cisco Flaws live here.
As our digital worlds continue to evolve, so does our scepticism of the technological movement. I mean, did you catch the recent video of Zuckerburg talking about the Metaverse?! Crazy indeed.
Black Mirror preys on this fear by telling standalone stories, each of them highlighting a potential negative impact of specific technology advancement. For example, an episode where your star ranking correlates to your accommodation opportunities results in a sea of fake humans, and a protagonist’s inevitable meltdown.
The stories are emotional, complex, and although they’re sci-fi/fiction, don’t feel that far out of reach from our own world. That’s what makes Black Mirror so darkly compelling.
Netflix’s most recent global phenomenon was Squid Game, and it might just be their biggest show to date. Squid Game feels like a crossover between Lord of the Flies and Hunger Games, as a group of broke, low-socioeconomic individuals collectively partake in cruel, life-ending challenges for an enormous cash prize – all for the viewing/betting entertainment of the wealthy/corporate elite.
It’s got thrilled, character arcs, humour, underlying political themes, a shocking twist ending, and the ultimate cliffhanger to keep you coming back, episode after episode.
It’s yet another brilliant piece of Korean cinema that goes to prove Hollywood needs to further fund diverse shows and stories.