Does Netflix need to make a ‘Death To’ series?

A picture of a street with a billboard for the Netflix mockumentary Death to 2020.
Both 'Death to' mockumentaries have a US-centric view in its depictions of important global events. Source: David Dixon (via Geograph)

By Catarina Vicente | Comment Editor

If you browsed Netflix at any point during New Year’s Eve (whether in 2020 or 2021), you might have stumbled across Death To 2020/2021. In these Netflix original mockumentaries, a narrator summarizes the year by revisiting important events through satirical comedy skits acted out by famous actors.

So much happened during these two years, so the mockumentaries were a good refresher. In both, however, I found the same problem: the American-centric view that determined which events were ‘important’ enough to mention.

The two mockumentaries focused mostly on events that happened within the US, paying little attention to equally important events that happened in other places. Death to 2020 had the most distinct example of this, using footage of the August 4th explosion in Beirut in its intro while never mentioning or discussing it. In Death to 2021, this improved slightly, with mentions of the Korean series Squid Games and the COVID situation globally. However, certain events were omitted entirely, as the situation in Afghanistan, COP26, and the Suez Canal blockage; even if Netflix did not want to tread into political territory with the first two, the latter was the result of many online memes and thus the perfect mine for comedy material.

The US is an important player worldwide, and its internal events, such as the US elections, were certainly important worldwide. But focusing on the US presents a bias in the choice of events to discuss that indicates an American-centrist view.

There is the argument that Netflix, as an American broadcaster, would obviously uphold an American-centric perspective. However, the mockumentary’s selling point in the revisiting of the year through the eyes of the ‘average viewer’; by portraying this through an American centric lens, it reinforces the harmful notion that the ‘average’ person is American or, at least, from a Western country. As the most popular streaming platform, Netflix has a duty to be fair – or at least fairer – in its depiction of global events.

Overall, the mockumentaries still have valuable commentary – the discussion of the role of social media during the pandemic through a satirical depiction of a social media CEO was a personal favourite – but there is room for improvement. As a streaming platform aiming to increase its catalogue of international content, Netflix has a duty to present the year in an unbiased and fair way.

Catarina Vicente Comment

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