Will Trimming the ‘Woke’ Fat Help Netflix Recover?

Will Trimming the ‘Woke’ Fat Help Netflix Recover?
Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Netflix has been struggling over the past year. It has lost hundreds of thousands of subscribers and is looking for ways to regain its lost customer base. The company recently raised some hackles when it decided to lay off 150 employees and do away with some of its “woke” content.

But that’s not all.

The company also published an update to its “culture memo” explaining that if workers had a problem with Netflix not producing content with a progressive bent, they might want to seek work elsewhere. In the section titled “Artistic Expression,” the company said it will not “censor specific artists or voices” even if employees view the content as “harmful.” It also said, “[i]f you’d find it hard to support our content breadth, Netflix may not be the best place for you.”

“The Artistic Expression portion of the Netflix Culture document appears in large part a response to the controversy over Dave Chappelle’s “The Closer” that embroiled Netflix last fall over what critics said were his transphobic and homophobic comments in the stand-up special,” according to Variety.

The section acknowledged that

“[n]ot everyone will like – or agree with – everything on our service” and that “[w]hile every title is different, we approach them based on the same set of principles: we support the artistic expression of the creators we choose to work with; we program for a diversity of audiences and tastes; and we let viewers decide what’s appropriate for them, versus having Netflix censor specific artists or voices”

Essentially, the company is committing to publishing content regardless of political affiliation to appeal to a wider audience rather than only catering to the woke crowd.

We’ve all heard the phrase “go woke, go broke.” It appears Netflix is banking on the opposite to be true. The company is in dire straits after having its shares plummet by 37 percent in April.

The company has also axed a number of different programs including Dr. Ibram X Kendi’s “Antiracist Baby,” and other shows designed to promote progressive messaging. The employees who were laid off were working on these specific projects. “Those promotional workers were assigned to work on Netflix projects Strong Black Lead, the Asian American-focused Golden, the Latino-focused Con Todo, and the LGBTQ-focused Most,” according to The Daily Mail.

Among those who were laid off were former employees who were the most vociferous in condemning Dave Chappelle’s special “The Closer,” another indication the company is moving away from wokeism and more towards mainstream entertainment.

To be fair, there are other factors contributing to Netflix’s bad luck. Over the past two years, the streaming giant benefitted from lockdown orders following the outbreak of COVID-19. With more people staying home, people didn’t have much more to do than to “Netflix and chill.” Fortune Magazine explained:

Of course the stay-at-home economy fashioned by the pandemic sent Netflix’s paid viewership on a moonshot, and by October 2021 had swelled its market cap to $310 billion. But as has been the case of late with many Nasdaq high-fliers, Netflix still faced the same problem: It was almost impossible to invent an earnings trajectory steep enough, from a still modest base, to forecast that Netflix stock could keep ascending in the years ahead.

Now that things have started to get back to normal in the post-COVID era, the company is experiencing a downturn. The same is happening with other streaming services like Hulu and Disney Plus, which experienced a slowdown in the fourth quarter of 2021. The author also wrote:

By Q4 of last year, it was already clear that Netflix had benefited from a one-time, pandemic-driven boom that would fade fast. By mid-April, its stock had already dropped 50% from the October peak. Then came a haymaker following the market close on April 19. On its Q1 earnings report, Netflix disclosed that its customer growth rate fell by half, year over year, from 13.6% to 6.7%, and posited a drop to a paltry 5% in Q2.

Nevertheless, despite the myriad of problems the company is facing, it is hard to imagine that the focus on wokeism in its program has played a major role in its plummeting stock price. Consumers seem to have grown weary of the constant politicization of all the things. When they want to binge a TV series, they do not want to be lectured or preached at – they just want to engage in a bit of escapism. The fact that much of this programming tends to be rather ham-fisted with shoving progressivism down the throat of the viewer, rather than presenting their message in a more subtle manner, is a massive turnoff. Netflix will have to make a number of changes to turn things around – but ridding itself of far-leftist programming is sure to be a step in the right direction.

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