Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What Netflix Thinks of Me

I was cleaning up my Netflix queue this afternoon. I needed to remove some of the movies I'd watched recently from other sources (Juno, Superbad, Sweeney Todd and the like) and get rid of some of those stupid foreign films that have been clogging up my queue and causing me to work through my list a little more slowly than I liked.

I actually don't have anything against foreign films. Many of my favorite movies had to be experienced with subtitles because I haven't the slightest understanding of the language in which they were filmed. It's just that when I'm looking for a movie to watch and I'm not in the mood to be a studious viewer, these are the last DVDs I want to stick in the player. Reading the dialogue can be the price to pay for a great movie, but when you're not in the mood, it's just work, and it's been feeling like work too often the past few months. I left a couple of Zhang Yimou films in there along with Shaolin Soccer, which, if it's anything like Kung Fu Hustle, will be entertaining enough to make up for having to read the subtitles.

Digging through my 200+ DVD lineup (a lot of those are actually the individual discs from the boxed sets of a few TV shows I never saw, but less than half) I realized that if Netflix were tracking my selections and making judgments about me from what I rent, then they'd have a skewed perception of who I am. In my ethnicity they'd think I was a black Chinese Iranian immigrant, although they'd think I'd recently fallen out with my Iranian grandparents since I just dumped a bunch of Farsi-language films from my queue that I don't even recall adding in the first place. (I think I added those over a year ago.) I'm not even sure why I chose those way back when. my first experience with the country's film industry was dreadful. I really can't recommend A Taste of Cherry at all.

Representing my black self, I've got the pimp-turned-rapper film Hustle and Flow in the mix with the Big Boi vehicle ATL and Malcolm X is next up in my cue. My high ratings of Hotel Rwanda, Sometimes in April, and God Grew Tired of Us suggests a strong interest in Africa, further strengthening Netflix's case that I am in fact black. That final bit of ethnic confusion comes from the fact that I watch a huge amount of Chinese language films. Zhang is one of my favorite directors, but there's a whole slew of mainland Chinese directors that in the last couple of decades have created a body of cinematic work that is truly amazing, and it's not the lowbrow Kung Fu movies Hong Kong is famous for.

Maybe Netflix thinks I'm half black and half Chinese and used to play basketball in Iran like several other not-good-enough for the NBA developmental league types. It's entirely possible, or at least more possible than being half black, half Chinese, and half Iranian.

Netflix also thinks I'm gay. It's true that I loved Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and that my MP3 player holds the soundtrack to that movie. It's also true that I gave three stars to Latter Days, about a gay Mormon missionary coming to terms with his sexuality. It's also true that I thought Before Night Falls, the story of gay Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas, was pretty good. (Javier Bardem is a great actor.) However, I prefer to think of myself as more open-minded than gay. A good story is a good story. I'm perfectly fine if that story's sex scenes involve only men. I'm not in the habit of using my Netflix selections to get in the mood. If I were, my current lineup of The Muppet Show would be a little odd. If the story's sex scenes involve only women, well the story only gets better.

I had to throw that last line in there to prove that I really am straight. Despite all of my talk about being liberal and open minded, it's all really just talk. I'm horrified at the prospect of someone thinking I'm gay. Or straight. Actually, I'm horrified at the prospect of people thinking I have sex at all, which is the entire reason I never wanted to have kids. They're just walking proof that you go around having unprotected sex, and what kind of role model does that make you?


JustinS said...

So glad to see someone mention Kung Fu Hustle...

And Shaolin Soccer isn't quite as good, but it still has its moments.

Julie said...

One of my friends recently decided to 'start trying' for a child and then had a minor freak-out about how people would know she was having sex with her husband if she got pregnant.

I wonder what Netflix thinks of her.

Jacob said...

Your friend is silly. Saying "I do" is a lot like saying "I'm getting laid, whoo-hoo!"

It's just a lot more expensive.

Courtney said...

I know what you mean. My Netflix also thinks I'm gay (probably because I also liked Hedwig and the Angry Inch, as well as Imagine Me & You) and it also thinks I'm British. Britcoms appear in my recommendations all the time.

Hank Gay said...

"I do" and "whoo-hoo" even rhyme. Coincidence? I think not.

Hank said...

Also, Hong Kong is known for both hi-brow and low-brow kung fu movies. The members of Fans Of Cinematic Kung Fu And Combat Entertainment (FOCKFACE) demand the respect and recognition our chosen films have been denied for too long.