Netflix’s New Reality: How the Service Opened a Wormhole

Within the past two years as Netflix has continued in its steady increase in viewership, there’s been an introduction of a new creative strategy in Netflix original shows: the existence of the service inside the shows.

It began with ’13 Reasons Why’, when the service created Instagram accounts for some of the main characters. Despite them being characters from a show, fans could still interact by liking and commenting on posts as if they were real people.

Additionally, season 3 of ‘Atypical’ features a plot line surrounding main character Sam trying to find out his best friend Zahid’s whereabouts using his Instagram account @brownsugar_doingit. The picture used to locate him within the series can be found on his account along with plenty of other photos of Zahid’s life.

Besides the social media tactic, Netflix has also began to integrate the service’s existence into their shows. Characters’ knowledge of Netflix began with the interactive special ‘Black Mirror: Bandersnatch’, where viewers could control how the story flowed and ultimately ended. Among the many storylines available, one involved the main character Stefan finding out what Netflix is, and even finding out that a Netflix subscriber is controlling all of his choices. That was one of the extreme cases, because a character is aware he’s inside a show, but it still sets a precedent for other shows to follow a similar pattern.

Since then, shows like ‘Daybreak’ and ‘Big Mouth’ have alluded to their service, ranging from subtle mentions to full advertisments.

This brings us to the use of the word “wormhole”.

Netflix is using a tactic that completely blends their narrative world with real life. While this is very interesting from a creative aspect, it’s proven difficult for fans to differentiate between the two.

In October of 2018, ‘Riverdale’ aired an episode where Shannon Purser’s character Ethel kisses Jughead, although he’s in a relationship with Betty. Die hard ‘Riverdale’ fans were furious, but rather than taking it out on the writers they directly attacked Purser. Lili Reinhart took to social media to address fans, saying “Shannon is my friend, and it is embarrassing that people felt the need to attack her personally for something that happened on a SHOW. Written by WRITERS. You are not a fan of mine if you treat my friend like this.” Reinhart continued the conversation in an interview with Teen Vogue, explaining that “People are kind of blurring the lines between real people and the characters that we play. It’s important to remember that this is a show, and that these are parts that we play, and these are sets that we’re on.”

As for where Netflix goes from here, it’s uncertain if this is an experiment or a new way of storytelling. The only way to find out is by watching more of their content- which is what they wanted all along.

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