"Judging your friends by their Netflix lists."
Judging your friends by their Netflix lists.
By Sam Anderson for Slate Magazine, Sept. 14, 2006
When I first started looking at my friends' Netflix lists, it felt a little creepy. At first I only peeked at their lists, looking for recommendations. While I was there, however, a few things caught my eye.
One of my friends, for instance, had given Mr. and Mrs. Smith — a film so notoriously bad it took all kinds of scandalous celebrity name-blending to get people to see it — a rating of four out of five stars. Also, one of my smartest, most sophisticated friends had rated Lindsay Lohan's Mean Girls as highly as he'd rated Woody Allen's Annie Hall.
Other friends had given perfect ratings to productions as various as Deliverance, Pretty in Pink, Edward Scissorhands, Madonna: Truth or Dare, and Xena: Warrior Princess (Season 3).
My in-the-moment friends, I discovered — the ones who eat canned sardines for dinner and tend to let leases expire without finding new places to live — were also living hand-to-mouth on their Netflix lists (one had only three titles in her queue), while my more practical friends had lists long enough to keep them entertained for years, and — in the event of untimely deaths — to bestow upon their families generations of orderly, effort-free renting.
Some lists were tortured records of cultural duty: Dense classics would march solemnly towards the top, only to be demoted (as soon as watching them became a real possibility) and replaced by season three of Felicity, until finally all the most challenging films of the 20th century were pooled at the bottom of the list like dark sediment beneath a froth of romantic comedies.
It's the Netflix version of the divided soul: The end of your list is the person you want to be -- Eraserhead, the eight-hour BBC Bleak House, the complete Werner Herzog -- while the top is the person you actually are: Wedding Crashers, Scary Movie 4, The Bridges of Madison County.
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