Opinions

Limited library misses out on huge part of film history

It’s amazing how great Netflix can seem when you’ll watch anything. When you’re with a group of friends who don’t know what they want to watch, it’s wonderful to scroll through the site on a flat-screen until something looks appealing to everyone. But as soon as your intent becomes specific, when you’re looking for that one movie from (insert year here) with your favourite actor (insert name here), Netflix will almost always let you down.

With its ever-increasing popularity, Netflix’s budget keeps growing and so too does its capability for buying rights to new shows and movies. Netflix has even begun to put out its own stellar original series, such as House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. But despite the many great titles found on Netflix, the selection will always be lacking. For instance, last I checked I couldn’t view a single Stanley Kubrick film, a shame for any student or lover of quality cinema with works like Full Metal Jacket, A Clockwork Orange, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Mel Brooks is also incredibly unrepresented with only The Producers and Young Frankenstein available, and good luck with obscure directors who were pioneers in their field, like Federico Fellini or Ingmar Bergman.

Now, I don’t expect Netflix to have all these movies and directors. I understand there’s a limit to everything, and that they have plenty of competition. Amazon and Hulu, as well as the entirety of cable television, would probably like to put them out of business, and spending your budget on classic films for a niche market just isn’t good business.

The problem is that in order to survive Netflix must appeal to as many people as possible, and that unfortunately means appealing to the lowest common denominator. That means making sure that the newest blockbusters are available, as well as the entire Adam Sandler collection. I don’t begrudge them for it, but I’ve come to expect that most of what I want to watch can only be found elsewhere.

Like radio and television before it, Netflix is a homogenizing force. It spans the world and promotes much of the same movies and television shows to everyone. This, in my mind, is a reason to be cautious of it. For there are plenty of good movies — classics, cult hits, and underappreciated modern pieces — that just aren’t popular enough to make it on the site. If we become dependent upon Netflix, we will lose a critical part of film history and culture.

I’m not calling for people to unsubscribe to Netflix. It’s a great tool for both casual and devoted film and television watchers. But let’s not be apathetic about it. Let’s decide what we want to watch first and give up our search for it when “no results” appears on the screen. There are too many good things out there to let ourselves be confined to such a limited library.