We shouldn’t be surprised Netflix is trying to conquer late night

Talk shows are just another step toward the service’s total TV domination

We shouldn’t be surprised Netflix is trying to conquer late night

Netflix’s transformation of the television industry has long been debated as being either a blessing or bane for the old gogglebox. With the streaming giant’s latest string of original programming, that debate has now zeroed in on one specific genre: late night.

Talk shows have been around forever, but Netflix seems to be trying to work its magic to bring new dynamics to the tried and true late night formula.

Bill Nye’s Bill Nye Saves the World cuts to enough celebrity segments to give it the feel of a talk show, but it primarily focuses on zany experimentation and palatable scientific explanations. Chelsea Handler’s now-canceled Chelsea eschewed the traditional monologue in favour of longer interviews, more cinematic and comedic segments, and even ‘remote’ dinner parties featuring multiple guests.

One of Netflix’s latest ventures, The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale, exposes its viewers to a wide range of content, some drawn from the internet. It harkens back to not only McHale’s previous show on E!, The Soup, but another clip show of old: Ray William Johnson’s Equals Three.

Elsewhere, Jerry Seinfeld and David Letterman have managed to make the simple art of conversation exciting again with Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee and My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, not to mention Jim Rash’s talk show lite take on behind-the-scenes footage with Beyond Stranger Things.

With these exciting, fresh takes on a classic genre, Netflix is cleverly combining its own pedigree with the individual star power of big-name celebrities to usher in a new age of late night — the same kind of new age it brought with its other originals. The revolution is truly being televised.

No revolution is without its opponents, however. Netflix has been blamed for significantly impacting traditional cable viewership with its à la carte nature and quality original programming.

Netflix boasts a slew of high-profile shows with large fanbases under its Netflix Original label. Stranger Things, for example, has had such a cultural impact that it warranted a coveted Super Bowl halftime trailer for its second season.

The influence of the Netflix special has even made its way into comedy. The service has begun to offer many comedians, seemingly regardless of their mainstream popularity, the chance to film their own hour.

Late night is only the latest foray Netflix has made into original programming, and it might have only just begun. The Daily Show alum Michelle Wolf, a standup comedian and long-time contributor to the satirical news show, recently announced her own talk show venture with the streaming giant. Fellow Daily Show alums Jessica Williams and Hasan Minhaj have also contributed to the Netflix catalogue, and Minhaj also recently secured his own deal with Netflix for a talk show.

The talk show correspondents and hosts who have attracted Netflix’s attention prove that the streaming service has an eye for talent and is willing to expend its resources to lure them away from traditional broadcasting.

The great prestige attached to its original work and the unprecedented access it provides to an ever-expanding library of network TV shows have firmly established Netflix as not only a part of the industry, but of the cultural zeitgeist.

Such a force cannot exist without challenge or something to challenge. Netflix very much seems to be gearing up to actively compete with traditional cable television. Be it in late night, standup, or scripted shows, the Netflix Original is undeniably on the rise.

Who is the most extra character on Riverdale?

The Varsity investigates

Who is the most extra character on Riverdale?

Everyone’s favourite crime-solving, gang-busting, shower-sex-having teens returned to television on October 11. That’s right, Riverdale is back. We just can’t decide if this show is the best or the worst thing ever. We asked our contributors for their opinions on who the most ‘extra’ character on Riverdale is — a difficult task when many of them routinely accuse their parents of attempted murder.

Dr. Masters

Less than two minutes into the second season premiere and Riverdale is already up to its old tricks. As Archie rushes his dad to the hospital, the audience comes face to face with the most absurd looking doctor ever shown on screen. His name is Dr. Masters, and he looks like a Tic Tac. He looks like the kind of doctor that would tell Archie it’s okay to shower with a cast on. He looks like he primarily operates on teddy bears, and like he was genuinely excited when Crocs were invented. His look is extra AF, and I hope I never see him again.

— Elspeth Arbow

Veronica Lodge

“Daddy?!” This moniker is, impressively, made even more ridiculous than usual in Riverdale — thanks to none other than Miss Veronica ‘my parents may be attempted murderers’ Lodge. That alone should be enough to win the richer half of B&V the title of ‘most extra.’ Between using childish terms of endearment at her age and throwing wild accusations left and right, Veronica truly goes above and beyond to say absolutely nothing of value. Speaking of value, her steamy idea of comforting Archie as his dad lay comatose? Maybe not the most tactful. If hyperbole personified wore preppy skirts, it would almost be at Veronica Lodge’s level.

— Sarim Irfan

Vegas

For all the talk about dogs being selfless creatures, Vegas seems to have Archie on a tight leash. Fred Andrews is literally comatose in the hospital after a shooting, and the dog needs a walk? Considering the amount of emotional labour that apparently goes into caring for Vegas in the Andrews household, you’d think Vegas might have been a bit more concerned that one of his owners came home covered in his other owner’s blood.

— Teodora Pasca

Archie Andrews

Archie is definitely the most extra. I mean, come on, an emotionally sensitive football quarterback? Please, Archie, you banged your music teacher and wanted to show your ‘undying’ love for her by playing crappy poems and guitar. How many love interests has Archie had again? And he won’t even give Betty, the sweetest character of all time, a chance. Has everyone forgotten that he’s only 16 and yet he’s out here trying to find a gun to somehow save his dad? Stay in your lane and stick to the football field, Archie.

—Yasaman Mohaddes

Betty Cooper

Some may argue that Betty Cooper is one of the only remotely sane characters in Riverdale, but the fact of the matter is that Betty is just as extra if not more extra than Veronica, Cheryl, and the others. At least they can remember their crazy antics. Since she seems so kind and innocent, Betty can get away with throwing on a black wig and almost boiling Chuck Clayton to death in a hot tub. Obviously, it’s Riverdale, so almost killing Chuck is hardly considered an extreme act, but it’s the fact that Betty usually pretends that she wants to drink milkshakes all day at Pop’s and have everyone get along that concerns me. Who knows what she’s truly capable of?

— Lauren Dubay

Jughead Jones

I think Jughead is the purest cinnamon roll and I love him dearly. Let’s face it though, he’s the show’s oddball. And he’s totally okay with that. I think I’d even go far enough to say that he perceives himself to be edgier — and weirder — than he actually is. Everything that comes out of his mouth is so, so extra. By now, we’ve gotten so used to it that if Jughead said something remotely normal, we wouldn’t be able to handle it.

— Rue Guha

Cheryl Blossom

Cheryl Blossom is undoubtedly the ruling queen of extra. One half of a set of creepy redheaded twins, her obsession with her brother Jason and her propensity for sleepwalking the halls of her ancestral mansion, bedecked in a floor-length gown make for delightfully hammy gothic vibes. Cheryl takes her complex even further when she arranges for the song that her parents listened to during her and “Jay-Jay’s” conception to play at semi-formal. The cherry topping this sundae of crazy is when she burns down the Blossom McMansion with a freaking candelabrum. Cheryl Blossom: To know her is to be extremely, involuntarily, horrifically, entertained.

— Alice (KX) Zhang

Penelope Blossom

While many of Penelope Blossom’s actions can be understood as being affected by the loss of her son Jason, her obsession with the Blossom name reaches a whole new level. The idea of having “purely Blossom” twins thrills her so much that she even accepts her son’s unintentionally incestuous actions. Her desire for a picture perfect family leads her to enter a burning building to save a portrait. Was that worth suffering from third degree burns, Penelope? Also, she slapped Alice Cooper. There are much less dramatic, and more mature, ways to deal with someone you dislike. What kind of example is she setting for Cheryl?

—Alexa Ballis

Ms. Grundy

Ms. Grundy is definitely the most extra person in the most extra show. The way she stares at Archie in the crowd, thinking of their steamy summer. Isn’t it amazing how Grundy managed to run into Archie in a purple Volkswagen bug, with red heart-shaped sunglasses on, while sipping a slushie? In the end, poor Grundy did leave Riverdale, but just when you thought she would never be back, we see her in Greendale, teaching piano again. Guess what? She’s in the middle of seducing another young student, and gets killed just after being kissed. Isn’t that ironic?

— Sammi Chan

To the Bone zeroes in on the one per cent

The Netflix film’s portrayal of disordered eating is distorted

<i>To the Bone</i> zeroes in on the one per cent

Netflix’s original programming appears to be on a mental health kick. Not too long after the hit series 13 Reasons Why became entangled in controversy over its depiction of graphic content, this summer’s feature film release To the Bone has ignited similar debates.

The film follows 20-year-old Ellen, played by Lily Collins, as she struggles with anorexia; there have been claims that the movie could be triggering for viewers vulnerable to depictions of disordered eating, with some going so far as to accuse the film of glamourizing eating disorders.

Director Marti Noxon, who has had personal experience with anorexia, has stated that she intended for the film to spark a wider conversation about body image and eating disorders. “What’s amazing,” she told IndieWire, “is people who’ve been through [disordered eating] know what we’re talking about, and people who haven’t finally say, ‘Oh, I get it.’ That’s what I hope.”

Though Noxon’s compassion is appreciated, if To The Bone’s raison d’être is to transform the way we talk about eating disorders, it sorely misses its mark. Of the numerous problems with the film’s portrayal of disordered eating, the biggest is the simple fact that it does nothing to correct the misconceptions that dominate the popular understanding of these illnesses. Instead, it perpetuates the maddeningly oversimplified image of the emaciated white teenage girl as the archetypal eating disorder patient.

Eating disorders are estimated to affect up to 15 per cent of adolescent females. In Canada, that could translate into roughly 448,000 young women. The rate for adolescent males is roughly three per cent. At the college level in the US, the rate is 16 per cent for trans persons. All ethnicities are affected. By contrast, the prevalence of anorexia nervosa specifically, which serves as the main villain in To the Bone, is estimated by Statistics Canada to be one per cent at most among the general populationGiven that anorexia has one of the highest mortality rates of any mental disorder, even one per cent is a disturbing figure.

Unlike the film’s cast of characters, the vast majority of those with easting disorders do not look sick. This is the crucial gap between the wider perception of disordered eating and the reality thereof: even though eating disorders manifest in the body, they wreak the most havoc on the mind. Put differently, you do not have to be thin to have an eating disorder.

While most people are familiar with anorexia and bulimia alone, there are actually several eating disorders listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Among these is Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED). OSFED serves as a catch-all category for ‘partial-syndrome’ cases in which an individual definitely has disturbed eating- or weight-related behaviours but does not meet diagnostic criteria for a ‘full-syndrome’ eating disorder. For instance, one’s body mass index might not be low enough to qualify as diagnosed anorexia nervosa, or they may not purge frequently enough to be bulimic.

From a distance, this system of classification seems to establish two tiers of eating disorders: ‘serious’ and ‘not that serious.’ But recent studies have demonstrated that partial-syndrome disorders carry with them the same level of impairment as their full-syndrome counterparts. When it comes to somebody’s level of internal anguish — how long they spend thinking about food and weight each day, how often they pinch and tug at the fat on their bellies, how intensely it distresses them just to look at their body in a mirror — there is no meaningful distinction between OSFED and disorders like anorexia.

Although estimates of prevalence can vary, one study with a sample size of 496 adolescent females found that 11.5 per cent of adolescent females had experienced OSFED by the time they were 20, while 0.8 per cent had been diagnosed with anorexia. This is not to undercut anorexia’s seriousness — it is certainly a deadly disorder, but fortunately it’s one that is relatively rare.

Given that anorexia is the only diagnosis that requires a significantly low body weight, it’s reasonable to assume that many, if not most, people with eatings disorders might not appear unhealthy to an average observer. What people need to understand about disordered eating is that it is usually invisible and able to masquerade in our weight-obsessed culture as benign dieting or simply ‘healthy eating.’

To the Bone nonetheless focuses on that 0.8 per cent, and in doing so, inadvertently reinforces the idea that a person must be on the verge of death before they can be considered ‘sick’ with an eating disorder. This perception has very real consequences: it blinds those afflicted, their loved ones, and even their doctors to the fact that they have a psychiatric illness.

To the Bone does not get everything wrong. Noxon takes aim at the false idea that eating disorders are born out of vanity, a notion she dismantles through her empathetic and careful telling of Ellen’s story. 

But while the film is well-written, well-acted, and darkly funny, it is by no means a game changer.

Dear White People and the dilemmas of campus activism

An examination of campus tensions reveals the personal toll that speaking out can have

<em>Dear White People</em> and the dilemmas of campus activism

One of Netflix’s most controversial endeavours into original programming, Dear White People takes an unflinching look at campus culture. Set at Winchester University, a fictional private Ivy League institution in the US, the show not only showcases issues of racism, prejudice, and ignorance that are prevalent on university campuses, but also explores the presence of controversial voices on campus. 

The first several episodes of the series revolve around a ‘blackface party’ thrown by the school’s satirical magazine, Pastiche. Racially insensitive parties like these are not limited to fictional shows on Netflix, but are rather emblematic of actual events that have transpired on actual campuses. 

Winchester University’s Ivy League distinction is a veiled reference to recurring issues of racism at Yale University, including a fraternity party that was advertised as “white girls only.” At Queen’s University last year, several photos surfaced online of students attending a costume party that became the subject of controversy as pictures emerged of students dressed as insensitive cultural stereotypes.

A student at Queen’s University told Vice that “this isn’t an isolated event at Queen’s… All these things are brewing and adding up and it’s pretty frustrating and it’s pretty disappointing to see from the student body here.”

It is equally disappointing to see this type of behaviour from the student body at the University of Toronto. In December of 2016, St. Michael’s College Students’ Union (SMCSU) was subject to controversy over a series of Snapchat videos that were leaked online, depicting former and then-current SMCSU executive members reading aloud and laughing at Islam for Dummies and singing along to Estelle’s “American Boy” — replacing the word “American” with “Muslim.”

In this way, Dear White People tackles an issue that is not sufficiently discussed: that even ‘liberal’ campuses can perpetuate racism and disenfranchise their students of colour.

But what makes Dear White People a remarkable show is that it goes one step further, exploring the difficulties that outspoken, controversial voices on campus face.

Two of the show’s main characters, Samantha White and Lionel Higgins, are active in campus media. Sam hosts a radio show called Dear White People, while Lionel writes for the university’s student newspaper. Both use their voices to speak out against the issues of discrimination prevalent on the Winchester campus. As a result, they are the targets of numerous personal attacks and threats.

Personally, I found it easy to relate to Sam and Lionel’s experiences based on my own experiences writing for The Varsity. This past year, I served as a columnist for the Comment section, offering my views and opinions on campus culture, politics, and issues on a tri-weekly basis. When asked about my strangest experience with reader responses, I usually tell people about the time I angered the CEO of an American security firm with my piece on Kim Kardashian and the trivialization of violence against women. 

These are not unusual reactions to opinion journalism. However, the hyper-locality of student journalism adds a discomforting element: on campus, you are surrounded by your readership all the time. The person who sends you a personal attack on Twitter might be the same student who sits next to you in a class lecture the next day. 

Dear White People questions whether it is worth enduring personal attacks and criticisms in order to bring important issues to the forefront of public discussion.

At one point in the show, Pastiche‘s Editor-in-Chief confronts Sam. “Has anything that you’ve done actually made things better?” he asks her. 

Here, we see Sam at her most vulnerable, confronted by the question of her own ability to affect change. This is a feeling experienced by activists across all university campuses — the feeling that, despite their efforts, they have not changed anything.

I too have felt this way before. I’ve questioned whether my column for The Varsity has actually inspired change. Regardless of any writing in The Varsity, we may still experience incidents of rampant racism and Islamophobia on campus. 

The question of a student’s ability to affect change is not given a conclusive answer in Dear White People. But it’s explored in a multitude of other television shows. One of the most inspirational quotes about change comes from the television series Angel, a show that explores the concepts of change and redemption: “If nothing we do matters, than all that matters is what we do.”

If we feel that what we’re doing is important, then it shouldn’t matter whether or not we make a difference. Sam and Lionel’s activism is fueled by their mutual investment in combatting anti-Black racism at Winchester; despite the adversity that they face, they continue to use their voices to speak out on the issues that are deeply important to them. 

This isn’t to say that we aren’t able to make a difference — we are. But perhaps affecting change is not the sole importance of activism. Despite personal attacks and vulnerability, we should continue to speak out about issues that are important to us, not only in the hopes of making a difference, but because the attempt itself matters too.

More than just a hobby

The arts has the ability to educate, not just entertain

More than just a hobby

Rather than write an essay for my American Politics class, I spent last Sunday binge-watching the first half of Making A Murder. This was not how I had initially planned my day, but despite my lethargy, it proved to be a surprisingly educational way of spending my time. Now, roughly 10-and-a-half hours later, I’ve learned more about the American criminal justice system from Netflix than I have from any of my classes.

This is not to say that my classes haven’t tried to provide me with this knowledge. I’m sure they have. But two-hour lectures are dull, and rarely form a lasting impression on my easily forgetful brain.

What isn’t dull, however, is film. And perhaps that’s why I learned more from the first season of Making A Murderer than I learned from the first season of POL203.

Within the realm of academia, art rarely gets the credit it truly deserves. This isn’t a surprising statement coming from the Arts & Culture editor, but it sure is a loaded one. You probably enjoyed The Force Awakens, and so you’re probably wondering why you’re being antagonized for not appreciating art. What I mean to say is that we often sideline our artistic interests in pursuit of other academic endeavors.

For the most part, we choose a field of study based on what we as students believe to be most valuable in the post-undergrad world, and — with the exception of philosophy students — we base these choices on what will earn us the most money come time to have to afford grown-up things.

In doing so, we shove our inner artist to the side, and downgrade our artistic interests to a mere pastime or hobby, specifically reserved for the moments when we’re not focusing on our ‘serious’ work. In the end, what we fail to realize is that, particularly in the social sciences, the interest we’ve developed in our chosen field of study is often inspired by an art form.

Rewind to 2012, the year of a notably sketchy activist group named Invisible Children. In early March, the organization released a video by Jason Russell entitled “Kony 2012.” It’s goal? To raise awareness of the actions committed by indicted war criminal and on-the-lamb militia leader Joseph Kony.

The plan was to have him arrested by the year’s end. The video broke, nay, pulverized the Internet, spreading across the web like wildfire until it reached around 100 million views and nearly 1.4 million likes on YouTube.

Sure, the documentary was a dupe. But for a while it had you convinced. However faulty the video may have been, it’s a textbook example of the power that art bears.

[pullquote-features]It wasn’t simply the subject matter that informed viewers’ opinion; rather, it’s the stylistic choices of the filmmaker whose fingerprints were all over your newly formulated opinion.[/pullquote-features]

 

With due thanks to swelling violin noises, a motivational narrator, and the ability to present the issue in a rather mesmerizing fashion, the 30-minute documentary impassioned, outraged, and in some cases mobilized swarms of people to take action. It wasn’t simply the subject matter that informed viewers’ opinion; rather, it’s the stylistic choices of the filmmaker whose fingerprints were all over your newly formulated opinion.

Various forms of art hold this ability, and it’s hardly necessary to lay out the proof. When packaged into a song, movie, or painting, to be made accessible to those who view or listen to it, an art piece takes on an influential manner.

The song “Hurricane” by Bob Dylan is often credited with harnessing support for Rubin Carter, a middleweight boxer wrongfully convicted of a triple murder. Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing brought to light the cruel realities of police brutality in Brooklyn, New York. You likely have a friend who’s been a vegetarian since the day they watched Food Inc.

The thing about videos like Kony 2012 or songs about wrongfully convicted criminals is that they hold the ability to formulate your values, beliefs, and general state of awareness to the world around you. These art forms can lead to social change, but they can also lead to misinformed activism, as we saw with Kony 2012.

At the other end of the spectrum, art can even be used as a weapon; Hitler often used Richard Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries,” in Nazi propaganda films to drum up audience fervor.

It’s peculiar, then, that a field of study such as art — a form that holds such an influence on those who encounter it — would ever take a backseat to a form of more standard academia. When we’re surrounded by art everyday, from watching Netflix to listening to our iPod, it’s critical that we study it in an academic setting, and understand the power it wields.

Jacob Lorinc is a third-year student at Innis College studying political science and cinema studies. He is The Varsity’s Arts & Culture Editor.