Snow Mountain and the Future of Netflix

snow mountain depending on your age, location and political sympathies, either panders to you or trolls you. Its bias shows up right in the first word of the title, a favorite pejorative term for conservatives who find those on their left, especially the youth, overly sensitive. And its premise seems specifically designed to support the world view of people who are most likely to use snowflake like an insult. Presented as lazy, selfish and dependent on their parents, ten young people are tricked into a wilderness camp (they think they are going to a luxury villa) where a pair of military veterans turned survival experts are tasked with beating them up. in the form.

Being upset over such a stupid show would just play into the hands of its executive producers, reality TV professionals Cal Turner (Apprentice UK, undercover boss) and Joe Harcourt-Smith (A circle). But it is worth understanding that snow mountain does both above and below ground — not only because it so transparently capitalizes on our ever-intensifying culture wars, but also because that approach says a lot about where Netflix might be heading in the middle of an uncharacteristically bad year for the service. .

Snow Mountain cast members Deandra (left) and Ray

Pete Dadds

The show’s stated values ​​are conservative in a relatively mild way. Joel Graves and Matt Tate, preppers who are also the de facto hosts and Greek choir, offer a vague idea of ​​this perpetual scapegoat: “Kids Today.” “There are a bunch of young people who can’t even unload the dishwasher, let alone keep a job,” they lament in the opening montage, over shots of actors putting on make-up, lounging on couches and just whining. What these Generation Z bums supposedly need to become independent is not vocational training, student debt relief, or the same sense of geopolitical and environmental stability enjoyed by the previous two generations; it’s a couple of weeks in the woods, skinning deer and maintaining their own primitive septic system. The applicability of such an experience to modern life is never questioned.

But more contrast snow mountain draws between spinning campers and perfect human specimens Matt and Joel, who remains apparently unexplored. While the latter are rugged white men from the backwoods (the snotiest cast describes them as “two random guys who look like they’re from crocodile hunters [sic]”), most of their charges are young people of color who hail from large cities. And the show doesn’t let viewers forget that; in one episode in the middle of the season, I must have heard the words New York said a dozen times. So there are unpleasant echoes of racist stereotypes in the world. welfare queen in the spirit when Joel complains from the start that vacationers “don’t want to earn anything, they just need handouts”.

Matt Tate (left) and Joel Graves

Pete Dadds

Meanwhile, presenting girls as vain, superficial, and materialistic, and a pair of boys as effeminate, while the show avoids discussion of their sexual orientation, gives viewers the opportunity to indulge in unacknowledged sexism and homophobia. No one is voicing, let alone challenging, the assumption that historically masculine skills like climbing and, er, punching wood planks, are inherently more beneficial to young people in 2022 than traditionally feminine ones. In particular, in the first episodes, the cameras linger on the faces of vacationers when they sob, scream in pain, break. It is impossible to enjoy such jubilant sadism unless, I think, you have a sincere contempt for people like these so-called snowflakes.

The series gets softer the further it goes. For all their tough-guy pose, Matt and Joel are slowly becoming quite intellectual emotionally. Instead of demanding perfection, they praise vacationers for their sincere efforts. By the middle of the 8-episode season snow mountain began to focus on progress more than suffering. If a random real brat walks off in anger — a decision they know will cost their peers $5,000 out of a potential $50,000 prize to be awarded to one outstanding cast at the end of the experience — most contestants go along. The change in tone serves two purposes: it makes the effectiveness of Matt and Joel’s survival training a self-fulfilling prophecy, and it provides a plausible debunking of the show’s political prejudices in the event that it draws criticism from a liberal audience. The same goes for the late addition of a female survival coach, Kat Bigney, who only joins the team after the initial racial and gender dynamics are set.

While there are plenty of TV shows with an overtly conservative agenda, I find it hard to name one less biased media than Fox News that is so overtly advertised, from title to content. trailer it’s essentially a supershot of flailing vacationers for viewers eager to see young people, people of color, and people who read like women suffering at the hands of the macho military. Among other things, this suggests an attempt on the part of Netflix to disassociate itself from accusations of liberal bias – or what Elon Musk, recently renamed Republican, called a “streamer”.awakening virus— which now vex staunchly apolitical giants of the entertainment industry like Disney. When the cost of simply portraying a queer character in a children’s film is being weighed by far-right activists for “careplatforms desperate to retain these subscribers will likely have to pay lip service to actively support their extremist views of the world.

Vacationers “Snow Mountain” Devon and Solomon

Pete Dadds/Netflix

And it would seem that Netflix can no longer afford to alienate them or anyone else. It’s no coincidence that Musk’s tweet about the “awakening virus” was not a response to any particular show, but to News that the company’s shares plummeted amid a six-figure loss of subscribers. After years of content hunting and frenzied international expansion, amidst his top management boasting that his biggest competitors were not other streaming services, but Fortnite and sleepNetflix is ​​now publicly acknowledging the possibility that it has hit its US growth ceiling. Are we outsiders now? Bela Bajaria, Global Director of Television, thought aloud in a recent keynote address at the Banff World Media Festival. “It’s cool, it’s a good place to be.”

Is it so? By that I mean: how does the turn to patchwork underdog status fit in with Netflix’s current strategy of maintaining its market share by getting ahead of competing platforms in the hope of attracting the widest possible range of viewers? Unlike, say, Apple, which can afford to curate and take risks because TV and movies will never be its main source of income, Netflix can only prosper financially by being everything to all people. Existence snow mountain, with its pandering and dog-whistle fanaticism, implies a decision to welcome people offended by values ​​such as inclusion and empathy to this large tent. So is the fact that, after months of controversy over transphobic jokes in Dave Chappelle’s stand-up programming, Netflix decided not only to double down on its support for Chappelle, but also to air similar transphobic material from Ricky Gervais.

The more viewers he tries to please, the more existing ones he risks alienating. This is the paradox of this politically polarized era. In other words, to quote the autobiography of historian Howard Zinn, one cannot remain neutral on a moving train. Like Spotify, when it decided to continue funding Joe Rogan’s podcast despite its promotion of COVID disinformation — a choice that cost it the catalogs of Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and a few other high-profile musicians — the streamer is banking on the loyalty of subscribers who signed up years ago. when the service had a very different focus and target demographic. If the Chappelle riots are any sign, then the next quarterly report, and not the presence or absence of a public reaction, will decide whether we can expect new shows like snow mountain from Netflix.

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