Monday, April 29, 2019

How to get your own Netflix Special

If you’re like me you log onto Netflix and have no idea what to watch. The Home Page is filled with a dizzying assortment of thumbnails for shows and documentaries and specials – most of which I’ve never heard of. Okay, I clicked on the BONDING trailer to see what that was all about. Zoe Levin as a dominatrix piqued my interest. Not a lot of hot Jewish girls in leather. But otherwise, I’m seeing all those series from other countries, or fourth seasons from shows I never watched and it’s somewhat overwhelming.

If I don’t plan to watch long I tend to sample comedy specials. If they’re funny I stay with them, if they’re Amy Schumer I write blog posts. But I’ve discovered some terrific new comics I was unfamiliar with.

So I come upon a special by someone named Brene Brown. Who? Well, she must be famous if she has a Netflix Special. So I click on and it starts like every other stand up special – the performer backstage (basically a waste of the first three minutes), and then this attractive middle-aged woman steps out onto the stage. It’s a big theatre with balconies. You can’t do a Netflix special without balconies. And she immediately gets a standing ovation. Have I been marooned on a desert island for five years? Who is this person getting a standing O? She starts off with a few mild jokes that are getting screams. And then I start to realize she’s not actually a comedienne, she’s a self-help guru. But she’s one for Millennials because every sentence was peppered with “So I’m like… and then he’s like… and I’m like… and like they’re like…”

She’s going on for five minutes trashing the suggested covers for her book and of course the crowd is roaring. What the fuck is this? I’m wondering.

Finally, she makes reference to a TED talk she once did. So I decided to turn off the special and seek the TED talk.

And what I saw was almost a completely different person. Brene Brown was a social worker/researcher at the University of Houston. She’s also a mom and has a PHD. Nothing fancy, nothing glitzy. She gave a very earnest straightforward speech on the value of vulnerability in self improvement. She was very genuine. Not a single “I was like” in the entire presentation. This was 2010.

I guess Oprah or somebody discovered it and the TED talk went viral. And suddenly Brene Brown is a social media star. She now has a bunch of books (I assume with covers that she is allowed to approve), a top draw lecturer, and Netflix Special-er.

Her message sounds sound and every few years another self-help guru comes along (where is Susan Powter when we need her?), but to me the most interesting thing about Brene Brown is her transformation from academic lecturer to zeitgeist celebrity. She’s now got the new hair, new wardrobe, new zippy patter, new Millennial-speak. Someone should really study that phenomenon. Hey, maybe there’s a Hulu Special in your future.


therealshell said...

While it is true that Millennials are most guilty of uttering the annoying patois of “So I’m like… and then he’s like… and I’m like… and like they’re like…” I recall first hearing people talk like that back in the '80s. I am also certain that someone will correct me on this.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

I'm kind of the same way about YouTube. Been producing content on YouTube for over eleven years, been constantly swept under the rug for about five or six of those years. Meanwhile, I'll occasionally see or read news about "YouTube Influencer, So-and-so, has announced retirement," or, "YouTube Celebrity, So-and-so, will be hosting this year's Kids Choice Awards," or, "YouTube Star, So-and-so's account has just been terminated," and every time I see this kinds of headlines, I always think, "Who?"

Granted, nobody knows who the hell I am either, but I've never heard of about half of these so-called "YouTube Influencers" or "YouTube Celebrities," yet apparently they have millions of subs and huge followings. . . . And yet, kind of like these supposed Netflix comedy specials, these big-time YouTubers are basically all the same as well: their channels are usually just them vlogging about their lives, or reorganizing their closets, or what's in their refrigerators, or what games they're playing . . . meanwhile, there's people like me who actually put time, work, and effort into the content they create for YouTube, and it goes unnoticed. It's almost pointless.

workplace innovator said...

@therealshell, you're right. Moon Zappa did something like it on her father's song in, like, 1982.

Kosmo13 said...

Everybody and everything gets a standing ovation these days. It has been rendered meaningless.

Buttermilk Sky said...

The day Jordan Peterson gets a Netflix show is the day I cancel my subscription. Which just increased in cost, by the way.

John Hammes said...

So many are told (i.e. pressured)time and again they must transform or "re-invent" themselves on the surface. The soul/spirit/person inside/ (however one wants to put it) will always be who we really are. Not than one will hear that much in a world of "handlers" or "enablers", but there it is, and that reality is a whole lot easier, anyway.

Seriously. Just be yourself. Like, totally.

Kaleberg said...

I like your post title - Netlix Special - that says a lot. I keep imagining a giant tongue.

Since I don't follow celebrity culture all that much, I'm always saying who? I once tried to get with it and made a set of flash cards, but the celebrities kept changing. By the time I remembered a few, they weren't really celebrities anymore. I tried binge watching, but it's frustrating. I put things on my watch list, but by the time I've cleared out an hour or two for watching, they're no longer available for streaming.

In some ways these Net[f]lix Specials are good. There have always been subcultures. In the old days, you'd only notice their celebrities if you passed the right venue at the right time and glanced at the notices. Who? These people wouldn't be on the radio or television or get written up in the main stream press. Now, even a giant like Netflix throws these subcultures a bone now and then. I'll be honest, I love the Korean sitcoms on Amazon Prime and Netflix. They remind me of 1960s sitcoms from my youth, except everyone is speaking Korean. They're wonderfully lame, and no one expects me to remember who's starring in what? How do you say Who? in Korean?

As for subcultures, I gather there are people who take TED talks seriously. I have a friend who takes Chautauqua talks seriously. They've been around since the late 19th century. Odds are the more recent ones, post movie camera, are available for streaming, and odds are that we'll see one of them as a Net[f]lix Special.

flurb said...

I think you're missing an f in your headline/blog title.

I read you every day. Thanks, Ken!

YEKIMI said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MikeKPa. said...

Why only a Hulu special? Don't you think we're good enough for that cash cow known as Netflix?
And why are those robot photos we have to click on always out of focus? I've seen sharper photos on Google Maps.

Loosehead said...

Workplace Innovator, that was a song called, like, Valley Girl.

Peter said...

Truly heartbroken by the death of John Singleton. I really hoped he'd pull through. 51 is no age to go. So sad. RIP

Anonymous said...

Yes, Dr. Brené Brown has been working for decades as a social worker and academic. As you mentioned, she's not just an "attractive middle-aged woman". She is a professor at the University of Houston in the graduate school of social work. She's written several bestsellers and, after her TED Talk, was endorsed by Oprah, bringing her work to the mainstream. But she also has a training program for therapists who want to bring her shame and vulnerability research into the psychotherapy arena -- family work, trauma work, social justice, etc. Her program is ethical and based on decades of research (she's a grounded theory qualitative statistician). [Full disclosure: I am a clinician who has taken her course, but is not affiliated with Dr. Brown or her company].

This is much more than just popular self-help. It's groundbreaking work. Further, she teaches her program to executives and important leaders to help businesses and institutions identify how the traditional shame-based and rigid cultures actually hurt their employees and bottom line.

Tony Robbins got his own Netflix special. He has no formal education, is not a scholar nor a researcher, and is a "self-help guru" who works with CEOs. Nobody really batted an eye. Sure he might be reasonably attractive for a middle aged man, but he does not hold a candle to Dr. Brown. :)

Myles said...

Yep. As a millenial I recall seeing it in movies as a kid way before anyone my age said it. Also, millenials are 23-38. Gen Z'ers are the ones doing a lot of what millenials get blamed for. lol. Millenials are full adults with possible teen kids of their own.

Johnny Walker said...

I guess you become someone else when you’re in a sold out show filled with fans. I’m guessing you must have seen similar transformations from actors who hit big? Definitely an interesting psychological thing to study!

Also FYI: she just did an apparently very good WTF episode.

Frank Beans said...

I was totally prepared to deride it as Oprah-style pop psychology BS, but I watched the TED talk about vulnerability and shame, and it actually was very insightful and wise. I would recommend it.

As someone who knows a lot of people in academia, I can say that it can be tough to be a public speaker--or even in front of a classroom--when you are basically an introvert with your nose in books and research all day. So you tend to adopt a kind of awkward persona at first while speaking. Like acting or any performance, it just takes time to get better at it.

DrBOP said...

J'Accuse Cali

Further, we were hearing the beginnings of this dialect as early as the mid-60s in both LA and SF; and it was called rich kid-speak. (I think I remember Tommy Smothers riffing on it one night in '68 or '69)
It had a bit of that haughty, nose-in-the-air inflection to it. (The put-down was "Take your nose outta the air....'yer blockin' the light ;>)

What's surprising to this now geezer Canuck is the amount of younger folks who have picked it up IN CANADA!
And mixed with the Canadian inflections....the only descriptive that suffices is BIZARRE!
Now add the fact that I'm hearing it more in French-Canadian 'yoots......speechless.

The TRULY mind-blowing fact in the Wiki article is that Ricky Nelson's daughter assisted in the spread of valley-speak. Guess she took the meaning of pop's hit single, "Never Be Anyone Else But You" differently than the rest if us.


sanford said...

She just did Marc Marron's podcast if anyone wants to listen.

ScrabbleGuy said...

Hahah! AMAZING! I watched her Netflix show last week... and lasted about 20 minutes...why? Because of the LIKE. I could not imagine how a TED speaker and educated person could get this gig talking like a junior high schooler...I have perhaps set my standards too high....

mike said...

There's a great Peanuts cartoon where Lucy is recounting a conversation she had thus: 'So he goes...and then I go...and then he goes...' and then Chuck Brown says, 'What ever happened to the word 'said?'
Then it was 'goes' and now it is 'like.' Is the English language slowly being murdered, or is it a natural kind of change?