Volume 22 Issue 12 / December 2018

Netflix and Academics

Guest-edited by a group of students at Concordia University, this month’s issue of Offscreen focuses on Netflix, as well as our viewing practices and critical engagement with content on the streaming platform. The issue’s theme, Netflix and Chill with Academics (a pun on the phenomenon associated with Netflix culture) represents and explores the various interactions that film academics have with the popular streaming platform. Not only is Netflix now a major distributor, they are also an established content producer, becoming something beyond Hollywood in its scope — a vertically integrated platform that resembles the studios of the Old Hollywood system. By dabbling in different genres and styles, Netflix has created a space to reintroduce older works and add new ones to the moviegoer’s virtual shelf. Netflix and Chill with Academics features various modes of reviewing that stray from the standard written review as a way to explore the variety of ways that academics should consider engaging with film criticism. This issue first features review pieces from film students at Concordia University that focus on Netflix content, starting with To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018) by Radina Papukchieva. The film is a Netflix original production featuring an Asian American lead as she navigates high school and embarrassing scenarios involving her various crushes. Papukchieva, using a formal and essay-like structure, demonstrates a more traditional approach to film reviews of Netflix content, while highlighting the platform’s potential to push diverse representation to a wider audience. Branching out from standard film forms, Victoria Berndt writes a personal reflection on Flavours of Youth (2018), a Japanese and Chinese animated co-production distributed through Netflix which focuses on the nostalgia of life’s little moments. The intimate experience of watching films and TV shows is particularly tackled here, and helps to look at Netflix’s international ties as well as its backing of major animation studios which have widened animated viewership in recent years. The third review by Tamas Molnar on Chris Smith’s 2007 documentary Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond (2017), explores the idiosyncratic nature of the documentary, its subject (Andy Kaufman) and the dramatic portrayal of that subject by Jim Carrey. By carefully juxtaposing the two comedians, temporally and spatially displaced from each other, Molnar looks at the film’s role in asking questions on fact and fiction, and the enduring influence of the late comedian. For the fourth piece, we’ve decided to do an interview, as a new form of critical engagement with a Netflix product, with an academic. Léa Le Cudennec offers her perspective on The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018), a teenage horror series that was recently released exclusively on Netflix for Halloween, and how its new adaptation differs and expands the original scope of the 90s series. Le Cudennec shares valuable insight on how platform exclusivity of the show may have influenced viewing habits, accessibility, and the show’s push for diverse representation and “teenage commodified feminism.” The last piece of criticism was done as a podcast, where all four editors of this issue shared their critical perspectives on the recent historical epic, Outlaw King (David Mackenzie, 2018). Here, we all pitch in on topics of the film’s place in the platform and the comparison with its precursors. The podcast also delves into the specificity of the platform itself, and what it means to have traditional historical epics on a more accessible small screen with which one would usually associate Netflix viewing experience — especially notable since it coincides Netflix’s recent push to release their big budget productions in a more traditional film festival circuits. Overall, the aim of the issue is to highlight critical points through which academics can engage with texts distributed by Netflix, as well as with Netflix as a text itself. The decision to engage in different modes of criticism is a response to Netflix’s own alternative nature, both as a distributor and a content producer, compared to the traditional Hollywood institutions—we felt it was only appropriate that the critique on Netflix contents should also explore similarly alternative methods of engagement, hopefully opening up new perspectives and intersections for critical engagements. Criticism surrounding Netflix content has been largely beyond traditional film scholarship, and we hope that our approach brings fresh perspectives both in terms of looking at Netflix as well as academic film criticism. (Max Mehran, Tamas Molnar, George Yi Chan Sohng, and Victoria Berndt, eds.)

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