WAS IN CALIFORNIA TOURING NETFLIX’S HEADQUARTERS, seemingly the only lifestyle journalist amidst a sprawling group of tech reporters from around the world. We were there to learn about Netflix’s work with Dolby Digital to increase picture quality, and hear how Netflix recommends better programming by tracking our tastes. Probably a lot of other technical things, too, but they flew over my non-tech-journalist head. (I should have taken better notes.)
During a Q&A session with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, a reporter from a Scandinavian country asked a question. He sounded surly, but it could have been his accent. Truthfully, I’m not entirely sure he was Scandinavian. (Again, really should have taken better notes.) His question was something like this: “You say you look for the best programs from around the world to put on Netflix, and so I’m just wondering, nothing from [insert country] must be good?”
I rolled my eyes, and decided the question was entitled. Netflix, after all, isn’t an essential service. As a business, it’s extending its global reach, but if their lack of local programming offends your sensibilities, no one is forcing you to subscribe. There are other ways to watch Fuller House.
Only, now I think I understand where that foreign reporter was coming from. I remember as a kid I would get a thrill every time someone on TV would so much as mention the existence of Canada. I didn’t care for Marvel comics at the time (I was a staunch DC fan), but I thought it was pretty awesome that Wolverine came from Alberta. And while I don’t mean to equate my experience of wanting to see Canadians in pop culture with the kind of representation Master of None’s Alan Yang (pg. 48) talks about needing, (after all, it’s not like there aren’t enough straight white men on television), I get why it’s important to see some part of you outside your own small circle of existence.
Because it’s not just seeing yourself that’s important; it’s having others see you, too. Culturally speaking, America is like the captain of the schoolyard baseball team, and we all want to be picked. We want to be recognized, and not just for the funny way we talk, but as talented, intelligent people. Real humans (like Peter Mansbridge, pg. 40). We want to be seen, to know that others know that we exist.
Canada is celebrating 150 years of existence this summer. And it will be great to hear other Canadians tell their stories and sing their country’s praises. But I hope we get some birthday cards from other countries, too.