Netflix is learning what Hollywood studios learned years ago: You can’t please everyone.
And if you want to protect your bottom line, you may have to check your principles at the door.
According to Saudi media, Saudi Arabia and five other Gulf Arab countries have issued a joint statement demanding that Netflix remove content that “violates Islamic and societal values and principles.”
While the statement didn’t cite specific examples, it’s understood that the issue here is content featuring gay characters, same-sex kissing and young people behaving in a seemingly sexual manner.
The Arab nations feel impelled to act “in light of the recent observation that the platform was broadcasting visual material and content which violates content controls in [Gulf Cooperation Council] countries,” the statement by the Saudi General Commission for Audiovisual Media and the GCC Committee of Electronic Media Officials said.
Such content “violates Islamic and societal values and principles. As such, the platform was contacted to remove this content, including content directed at children, and to ensure adherence to the laws.”
It’s not my place to comment on other countries’ cultural standards.
But this matter is reminiscent of the same challenges Hollywood has faced for years with Chinese censors — and the artistic compromises that apparently get made to reach the widest audience possible.
America is the world’s entertainment leader. But not everything we produce travels well.
Again, I’m not going to comment on the objections other countries may have to the movies, music and TV shows we make. Ultimately, that’s their business.
But it seems indisputable that in trying to please everyone — particularly conservative societies with rigidly conservative religious and social values — U.S. content producers face a slippery slope of undermining their work until artistic expression becomes largely meaningless.
So here’s a thought I’d like to share with Netflix subscribers abroad.
And I mean this in the nicest, most respectful way.
If you don’t like it, don’t watch it.
Or don’t let your kids watch it.
Or don’t subscribe in the first place.
Doesn’t that seem simpler?