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Go Back to Sending Me Scratched-Up DVDs in the Mail You Fucking Website

Netflix started out as a great movie rental service — then it drove off a cliff

Time slips by faster and faster, and before you know it, the recent past is ancient history. Of the things that make me feel oldest, many are memories of tech as it used to be. When I had a Discman instead of an iPhone. The internet before YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. Or the mid-aughts period in which Netflix was a subscription service that rented out DVDs by mail.

That Netflix was pretty cool. I miss it.

But in 2020? It’s very bad. I mean boy, do they suck. Quite trash.

Once upon a time, not 15 years ago, I paid Netflix a monthly fee to send me scratched-up discs that encoded such essential films as Old School and Ocean’s Twelve. They wouldn’t always play properly — in fact, you had skip glitchy scenes a lot — but it was a noble business model, vastly widening the movie selection you’d get at Blockbuster while adding convenience and subtracting the late fees. If you really liked something, you’d keep it and tell them it arrived broken or wasn’t delivered. All good.

Now, however, Netflix is a “streaming giant” and a goddamn mess.

Yeah, yeah, everything has to be on the cloud these days. Physical media is for record collectors and that’s it. So when I’m in the mood for TV or a home-cinema experience, I get to log onto 2020’s version of Netflix and swipe through their putrid buffet of original content. Don’t want a docu-series about mentally ill people raising tigers in abject conditions? Fuck you. Ozark? The Kominsky Method? 13 Reasons Why? No, none of those are real. Be serious. We should have realized what a clown car Netflix was when their first in-house drama starred Kevin Spacey doing a Foghorn Leghorn voice.

I don’t want Stranger Things, I want to rent the movies it blatantly ripped off! And stop rebooting shows that should have ended! I hate you, honestly!

Alas, burning money to pump out their own dreck (while meddling stupidly with artistic choices made by brilliant non-white creatives) is Netflix’s strategy for surviving the stiff competition from Hulu, Disney, Warner Bros., et al. They’ve tried to free themselves from a dependence on licensed intellectual property that will ultimately revert to its true owners, and for the most part, they’ve hit an algorithmic dead spot. You can spend hours scrolling through the platform without a single thumbnail catching your eye. By the way, those rare, obscure and artsy titles that once gave them the edge over Blockbuster? Not available. Better head over to the Criterion app.

Anyway. I’m aware that we can’t get 2005-vintage, cute-little-startup Netflix back. It is what it is. But I hope at least one person there has thought about how the company abdicated the role of maintaining a priceless archive to become a shitty Hollywood studio. I’d rather wait half a week to get a busted DVD of Napoleon Dynamite than see this brand flail about and keep giving comedy specials to creeps who call everyone “snowflake.” Netflix may have a captive audience for the moment, but the end is still coming.

Get ready to binge on regret, you monsters.