Feminist Agenda: Taylor Kirby
Let’s talk about the Netflix revolution.
Luke Cage, Marvel’s newest gift to humankind, has been streaming for nearly a month. I admit saying that is a product of my Marvel bias—the show is far from perfect. It suffered the same bloatedness and thinly sketched secondary characters of predecessors Daredevil and Jessica Jones, but I couldn’t get enough. It’s not often that my shameless love for high-powered franchises intersects so brazenly with the social justice politics I’ve devoted a large part of my college education to.
I wasn’t sure how to articulate the significance of television like Luke Cage until watching The Walking Dead’s season premiere this Sunday. Having devolved into little more than body horror and shock value, the viewing experience The Walking Dead provides is purely visceral. I don’t mean this derogatorily—obviously, I’m still watching it. But it can’t be denied that shows like this and Game of Thrones have captured their multi-million person audience by sanitizing themselves of anything openly controversial.
Netflix, inversely, is a platform for more cerebral writing. It doesn’t rely on ad-revenue and cares so little for ratings that it’s never released them publicly, even for heavy hitters like Stranger Things and Orange is the New Black. It’s the only company that can comfortably adapt Luke Cage from its 1970s’ Blaxploitation source material and graft even more politically charged themes onto it. AMC would never be willing to give a black man indestructible skin, dress him in a Trayvon Martin-inspired hoodie, and release him in a primetime slot–weekly television relies on not making waves. Netflix thrives on just the opposite.
The Walking Dead is fun, but its commentaries on the human condition are generalized to the point of being inaccessible–I’ll never have to make the decision to kill a 10-year old orphan who just murdered her sister so she would become a zombie, though the horror of that resonates with everyone. Broad appeal doesn’t always correlate to quality storytelling.
I want writing that changes the way we see the world, not meets us where we are. Give me more shows that spend an entire season wrangling themes of sexual assault and PTSD like Jessica Jones. Give me more Black Mirror (which is finally being given the time and budget it deserves via—you guessed it—its Netflix revival). Give me, above all else, a strong narrative that evokes a strong real world response.