My Netflix account was erased in December. Gone, wiped out, completely reset to zero.
It had been almost exactly ten years since my family began using Netflix. When we first started using Xbox Live in January 2010, achieved by rigging a 100-foot ethernet cable across two rooms into the router box, its main use almost immediately became streaming Netflix. Sure, Halo 3 and Inside Xbox were important in our household, but the Xbox 360’s primary purpose was to stream movies and TV shows.
What was already a great service for its impressive DVDs-in-the-mail selection, but when it became widely available for streaming, it revolutionized the entire entertainment industry. My family was at its absolute worst shape financially in 2010, and it was not something that would quickly change. Through Netflix, we were still able to keep ourselves entertained through an $8 a month subscription service.
(There’s actually a good video on Netflix and Xbox by Stop Skeletons From Fighting that’s worth your time if you’re interested in more about Netflix in Xbox 360.)
So it was since 2010 that I had used Netflix, and had discovered so much media that completely changed my life in a creative sense. I journeyed through the world of Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, sat through the tense and perilous ride that Battlestar Galactica threw me on, opened up a whole new perspective for myself with the utter mayhem of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Netflix helped me discover hidden gems like Danger 5 just as much as it let me rediscover the magic of series like Animaniacs.
For a poor white kid in the early 2010s, while Redbox was obviously the only way I could get through most of the latest film releases, it was Netflix that gave me the opportunity to watch some older releases, the kinds of classics that would make me a movie lover for life. Seeing Rashomon at fifteen is a life-changing experience, and I don’t know where I’d be in life if I hadn’t seen Con Air, the greatest film of all-time.
When Netflix introduced profiles and let each family member have their own queue and recommendation algorithm, that changed everything even further. While the latter never proved very helpful for me, having my own queue was a huge deal, and let my OCD run wild as I sorted through everything I ever wanted to watch. For several years, at least until I made my Letterboxd account, my Netflix queue was an extremely important part of how I kept up with my watchlist.
It was never a perfect service, but it was probably the single best, most reliable service out there. Its sheer quantity of titles decreased rapidly as other companies realized they could make their own streaming services, but they made up for it by featuring a more “curated” selection of high-profile releases. The deluge of hit-or-miss Netflix Originals has been an interesting test in just how much a piece of content is worth in this brand-new media market, but even for all the crap that’s come out, we’ve still seen them try their hand at bold, risky projects like the Arrested Development revival, The Get Down, Duncan Jones’s Mute, Masaaki Yuasa’s Devilman Crybaby, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, and so much more. Even if a lot of their projects flop belly-up, they are releasing the kinds of content that are too expensive for TV, the kinds of content that simply doesn’t get released in theaters anymore.
Plus, Netflix gave us Okja. I mean come on, y’all. It’s Okja.
Even when I moved to Japan, my Netflix account still worked. Can’t say the same for Hulu, or Amazon Prime, or even my friggin’ Vudu account of movies I actually friggin’ own digitally, but when I turned Netflix on in Japan, guess what happened? It worked just fine. The selection of movies & TV is completely different, and some titles will inexplicably not have any subtitles (English OR Japanese), but the fact that it works so easily is a testament to how good it works.
Then some Latin American hacker got into the account and changed the e-mail and password, and when support gave the account back, they were forced to delete all of the data accumulated over those past ten years.
All of it, gone forever. A decade of watch history, ratings, queues, all of that whisked away thanks to someone brute-forcing their way into a stranger’s account.
So, when I turned Netflix on for the first time this decade in early January of 2020, I started fresh. In a sense this may be positive Netflix no longer has the data to collect on me and probably sell to analytics firms across the globe, but it also can no longer give out recommendations or help keep track of everything I’ve watched.
I’m probably not going to rate anything on Netflix anymore, since I don’t have that much use for the algorithms these days. I won’t say I don’t feel a strange sense of sadness thinking about an entire chunk of my life being erased in an instant, but, to be honest, that’s probably for the best.