If you’ve been keeping up with Netflix’s plethora of original movies over the past few years, you may be aware of the wavering quality of these mass-produced films. Movies like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Swiped, Reality High, and The Kissing Booth have been churned out by the streaming service in larger quantities than ever before. The stories in these films are often filled with blatant plot holes, the acting feels forced and artificial, and the slapstick jokes and cheesy one-liners feel like they’re straight out of a Lele Pons Vine compilation. So what is up with all these painfully trashy movies?
With critic reviews like “Not funny. … Not much of anything,” (Roger Moore) and Rotten Tomato scores averaging in the teens or lower, it seems as if everyone is on the same page: these movies are being measured by an inferior standard. So why waste time and money producing films that are objectively terrible? Why is there such a strong audience for such substandard entertainment?
As someone who’s watched a fair amount of these Netflix originals, I’m well aware of the absurd, mind-numbing content that I’m consuming, and yet I can’t help but watch every single film. It’s like witnessing a horrific car crash: a scene so awful that you just can’t look away.
There’s something about the overwhelming plot holes, blatantly unfunny jokes, and overused tropes that draws the audience into such movies. They’re laughable in how bad they are, and the more people make fun of them, the more views they receive. From Netflix’s point of view, the only thing that matters is quantity and audience rates. If they can rake in streams for movies that take so little effort to make, then why not take advantage of that? With the amount of attention these films have gotten, it’s logical from a marketing standpoint to pump out as many of them as possible.
Ted Sarandos, the chief content officer of Netflix, has called The Kissing Booth “one of the most watched movies in the country, and maybe the world.” In the summer of 2018, a particularly popular time for cheesy Netflix films, over 80 million subscribers tuned in to stream these rom-coms, though a good amount of these views can be attributed to repeat viewings from die-hard fans (I’m a bit reluctant to admit that I was one of these viewers). Netflix is clearly making a profit off of these movies, yet it’s hard to believe that all of these views are coming from those who relish in the objectively bad quality of these films. Surely there must be fans who actually enjoy the films that critics have called “the most painful one hour and forty-six minutes of [their lives].”
To find these viewers, we must turn to everyone’s favorite website for top tier, indubitably refined literature. I’m talking, of course, about Wattpad.
As someone who is all too familiar with the website, I’ve found that some people genuinely enjoy films like Netflix’s infamous originals. After all, The Kissing Booth and its two sequels were adapted from a Wattpad story, which now has over two million reads. In case you’re unfamiliar, Wattpad is a website mainly used by amateur writers to publish original stories. The site is saturated with stories written by self-indulgent authors to satisfy their teenage romance fantasies, demonstrating the many similarities between the content on Netflix and Wattpad. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the average Wattpad reader thoroughly enjoys these Netflix originals. These films seem to take every romantic trope from every high school coming of age movie, regurgitate them with unbelievably poor execution, and somehow, sell them to an excited fanbase. For a certain type of viewer, as long as a movie has attractive leads and a few awkwardly timed sex jokes, there’s not much else they could ask for. Who needs an engaging, well-developed plot anyways?
When it comes to Netflix films, it is clear that the target audience does not consist of acclaimed cinema critics. But if you’re easily entertained or just want something to laugh at, I guarantee Netflix has some films for you. These movies may be unfunny, cringe-inducing, and straight up ludicrous at times, but that’s what makes them so successful. Is it possible that these movies take off a few years of my lifespan every time I watch them? Yes, very much so. Am I going to go watch the third Kissing Booth installment as soon as I finish writing this and indirectly incentivise Netflix to continue this pandemic of abominable cinema? Absolutely.