It’s a meme come true for Ri­hanna

Net­flix con­tin­ues to change the game with a new project based on a vi­ral Ri­hanna and Lupita Ny­ong’o photo

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - NEWS - Don­ald Clarke

Help me out with an anal­ogy here. The Cal­i­for­nia Gold Rush of 1849 might work. The OPEC oil boom of the 1970s makes sense too. The folk be­hind the mighty Net­flix – which vom­its money as the wells of the UAE once vom­ited oil – are not spend­ing that loot on ho­tels in May­fair or man­sions on Nob Hill. They are spend­ing it on con­tent and they are do­ing so with a mad aban­don never seen be­fore in the in­dus­try. They are the new dis­rup­tors.

Noth­ing has made this quite so ap­par­ent as the scarcely be­liev­able tale of how a tweet is set to be­come a ma­jor movie. In April, a Tum­blr user posted a pho­to­graph of Ri­hanna and Lupita Ny­ong’o in the front row of a 2014 fash­ion show. “Ri­hanna looks like she scams rich white men and lupita is the com­puter smart best friend that helps plan,” the text read. The post found its way to Twit­ter and went vi­ral, and other users be­gan fan­ta­sis­ing about a film along these lines. More than a few pro­posed Ava DuVer­nay, the di­rec­tor of Selma, as the ideal per­son to get be­hind the cam­era.

The idea was pitched at last week’s Cannes Film Fes­ti­val, and Net­flix – whose pock­ets are beyond vo­lu­mi­nous – handed across an­other huge bag of dough. Fash­ion Scam could be with us as soon as next year. Movies have been adapted from toys, songs, video games and magazine ar­ti­cles. This is the first known in­stance of a film be­ing adapted from an in­ter­net meme.

Seven lay­ers of havoc

Net­flix have no re­spect for ex­ist­ing mod­els. Even be­fore the news about the Twit­ter film emerged, the com­pany had caused seven lay­ers of havoc in Cannes. They had two films in the com­pe­ti­tion. When it emerged that those films wouldn’t go into French cin­e­mas, the fes­ti­val banned such en­tries in fu­ture years. Pe­dro Almod­ó­var, pres­i­dent of the Jury, es­sen­tially said that he wouldn’t al­low ei­ther film to win in 2017 (sure enough, no prizes went the way of ei­ther The Meyerowitz Sto­ries or Okja). Net­flix shrugged and moved on. Stock is up and the com­pany is now val­ued at more than $70 bil­lion.

The Cal­i­for­nia Gold Rush is prob­a­bly the bet­ter ex­am­ple. Rather than buy­ing up ex­ist­ing cities, Net­flix is build­ing its own struc­tures in the fer­tile fron­tier soil. Re­mem­ber how odd it seemed when House of Cards, the com­pany’s first big se­ries, ar­rived all in one great lump? Telly was still ex­pected to be tied to a stag­gered broad­cast sched­ule. Net­flix gave it to us all at once. It was very free. It was very Amer­i­can.

When will the gold rush end? Fail­ure doesn’t mean what it

The 2014 photo of Ri­hanna and Lupita Ny­ong’o

used to. We don’t see rat­ings. So we don’t know what’s do­ing well and what’s do­ing badly. We as­sume that Baz Luhrmann’s mil­i­tantly ap­palling hip-hop saga The Get Down is do­ing badly be­cause it just got can­celled. We as­sume The Crown – which costs more to run than the real royal fam­ily – is do­ing well be­cause it is sched­uled to run un­til the 23rd cen­tury.

Even­tu­ally, some­thing still un­ex­pected and un­prece­dented will cut the dig­i­tal ground from un­der Net­flix feet. If I knew what it was, I’d be con­struct­ing it my­self. For now, can I in­ter­est you in a sit­com based on this tweet fea­tur­ing my cat in a waist­coat?

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