Netflix has pushed the button on changing its ratings system. Now, instead of the apparently-overwhelming star rating system used by everyone from common reviewers to Letterboxd, they’ve made it a thumbs-up and thumbs-down. They’ve moved, then, from a nuanced system to a plain binary, without even the opportunity to write a review that may explain the thinking like Siskel & Ebert did on At the Movies.

While this system had been beta-tested before, the attributed influence of the action is generally recognized as Amy Schumer’s whining about getting poor reviews for her poorly-executed program, The Leather Special.

I know that The Leather Special is supposedly victim of a conspiracy from “alt-right” people to derail the ratings for Ms. Schumer. A special prize goes to the magazines who ran with that as a factual statement instead of measuring if it would have had an actual impact if true.

I watched as much of The Leather Special as I could tolerate before giving the lazily profane effort a one-star rating myself. It recalled the worst of Andrew Dice Clay, when he fully embraced replacing punch lines with shock value.

The funny thing is, if she hadn’t ginned up controversy to get people to watch, I’d likely have missed its release and not contributed my own low rating. But it really is bad.

The whole thing amounts to Ms. Schumer’s own insecure view that no one could possibly have disliked her special for any other reason than political malice. It’s a pitiable window into her own thinking and inability to divorce politics from personal life.

white house
Photo by Aaron Kittredge on Pexels.com

Why This Stinks

I also wondered how Netflix was going to treat the existing ratings in its system. While not a tremendous hardship to have personal ratings removed, the fact is that they were given and I’m not especially inclined to go back and rate things again, especially since I’ve already watched them.

So when I got the notice today that Netflix had changed its ratings, I checked a few titles I know I’d rated before. As I thought, they wiped them out. After all, there’s no way for them to know a metric for whether I’d consider 3 out of 5 stars a “thumbs down,” or if I’d only give one to a one-star monstrosity.

So everything was wiped out. They didn’t bother, as they could have, to give users a link where previously-rated titles were inventoried and you could do a quick rundown.

Again, it’s not like I’m equating this with bread lines in the USSR or having bad tap water in Flint, Michigan. It’s at worst an inconvenience.

Feet of Clay

However, it is an unnecessary inconvenience, poorly conceived and executed. And with the timing matching Amy Schumer’s whining self-pity, it’s a clear indicator that Netflix considers itself beholden to the tantrums of those in need of special handling.

I wonder, if someone gets too many thumbs-down, they have a crisis response team to spring into action to cap the number of bad boolean results. After all, if there is some sort of conspiracy to keep Ms. Schumer down, there’s nothing to stop these bad actors from making the simple click frenzy happen again. Based on the interface, it’s even easier.

At the very least, it’s good to know Ms. Schumer has an easy mental excuse if people continue to give her poor reviews. Then she can whine again and they can remove reviews altogether to give only “likes” to things the way Facebook does, or “loves” if you REALLY like it.

If you don’t like it, they may reason you shouldn’t rate it at all. Let’s all think happy thoughts only!

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