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Netflix at the Nexus

Content, Practice, and Production in the Age of Streaming Television

Edited By Theo Plothe and Amber M. Buck

Netflix’s meteoric rise as an online content provider has been well documented and much debated in the popular press and in academic circles as an industry disrupter, while also blamed for ending TV’s "Golden Age." For academic researchers, Netflix exists at the nexus of multiple fields: internet research, information studies, media studies, and television and has an impact on the creation of culture and how individuals relate to the media they consume. Netflix at the Nexus examines Netflix’s broad impact on technology and television from multiple perspectives, including the interface, the content, and user experiences. Chapters by leading international scholars in television and internet studies provide a transnational perspective on Netflix’s changing role in the media landscape. As a whole, this collection provides a comprehensive consideration of the impact of streaming television.

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Chapter 8. Netflix: Culturally Transformative and Equally Accessible (Kimberly Fain)

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NETFLIX

Culturally Transformative and Equally Accessible

Kimberly Fain

For years, Hollywood television and film has reflected the angst of American pop culture icons. Generally, protagonists were “grimly captivating white guys like Tony Soprano, Don Draper, and Walter White, struggling to find a foothold in a culture and economy that were leaving them behind” (Tanz, 2016). However, Netflix’s streaming service is changing the perception that hit shows have to feature white male heroes to succeed. With Orange Is the New Black, Netflix “proved that hit dramas could move beyond straight white men” (Tanz, 2016). Subscription based platforms such as Netflix are willing to take chances “that traditional networks might consider too risky. In the meantime, three decades of boundary-pushing television has created a more sophisticated audience, willing to watch characters that previous generations may have found alienating” (Tanz, 2016). Still, despite the increased participation of African American writers, actors, directors, and producers in Hollywood and Atlanta, unless people have an opportunity to access diverse content, they’re unable to widen their perspectives. Due to Netflix’s reasonable subscription prices, their platform is accessible to a wide range of audiences here and abroad.

Based on the past flawed representations of African Americans in Hollywood, I appreciate Netflix’s role as a technological disruptor of ← 129 | 130 → American cinema and culture by using original programming to include diverse voices. Netflix’s original programming in the 2010s reflects characterizations of complex Black characters, written,...

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