Not everyone appreciates comics. I learned this early in life. It only takes a few instances of getting your precious plucked from your hands on the school bus or at recess and getting torn up to the tune of laughter to teach you that (also, FYI, only takes a few instances of getting kicked in the nuts to teach people never to do that to you again. Just saying). But unless you've been living under a rock, you'll notice that there has been a resurgence in the popularity of comics recently. New comic conventions are popping up all over the place, and kids are once again dressing as superheroes for Halloween.
What caused this resurgence? Well, Netflix believes part of it is due to them.
After doing some market research, Netflix discovered that a widely diverse group of people have been watching their multiple series based on Marvel comics. Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, Daredevil, and Luke Cage viewers come from all kinds of backgrounds and love all kinds of different movies, from mysteries to romance, and of course, action flicks. What's bringing such a diverse group together to watch these series?
Well, part of it is by design. Netflix worked hard to create an algorithm that will recommend its shows to people who like other shows with similar aspects--even it they are in different genres.
"At Netflix, we know genres are just wrappers, which is why we work hard to create algorithms that help members break these pre-conceived notions and make it easier for them to find stories they'll love, even in seemingly unlikely places," says Todd Yellin from Netflix.
Overcoming genre bias hasn't only helped Netflix with the Marvel shows. Many viewers of the hit series Stranger Things and Black Mirror were brand new to the horror and science fiction world. How does Netflix know that? Because they can see that these particular viewers had never before watched something with the labels of horror and SF on Netflix.
So what are the key aspects of the shows that attract people who are fans of other genres? This is where tags come in handy. Shows and movies on Netflix are marked with tags like "buddy movie, cooking, adventure, conspiracy, friends, first love," etc. The possibilities are endless. Specifically, Netflix attributes these terms to the Marvel shows:
Daredevil: Anti-heroes and moral ambiguity
Jessica Jones: Sharp humor, strong females, dark crime
Luke Cage: Dangerous worlds, complex consequences
Iron Fist: Edgy, coming of age
Once viewers watch these shows and realize they enjoy them, they go off and explore other things in the genres, starting with the comics, and branching off into other things like novels, action figures, and more. It's a win-win for people to explore new things, and Netflix is helping out with that. Sure, it sounds kind of Big Brother-ish, to have your viewing habits tracked, and if we were to fall into a 1984-like world, there could be some negative consequences. But for now, these algorithms are being used to steer fans toward new and exciting content. And who doesn't want that?
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Melanie R. Meadors is an author of fantasy where heroes don't always carry swords and knights in shining armor often lose to nerds who study their weaknesses. She has edited two upcoming genre anthologies, MECH: Age of Steel and HATH NO FURY, and is the science and pop culture blogger at The Once and Future Podcast. You can find her at her website, melaniermeadors.com, on Facebook, and Twitter, @melaniermeadors.