The Netflix Country Dossier is the midterm for my Global Media Cultures course and serves as the evaluation for the course’s four-week unit on Translation. The assignment allows students both to summarize the concepts learned in the unit and to apply these to a real-world scenario: critically analyzing creative decisions in Netflix original programming for specific countries. In the course unit, we approach the issue of translation from four different perspectives: language, adaptation, genre, and localization. The readings and screenings for this unit include:
- Laurena Bernabo, “Progressive Television, Translation, and Globalization: The Case of Glee in Latin America,” Velvet Light Trap 80 (2017): 66-79.
- Tessa Dwyer and Ioana Uricaru, “Slashings and Subtitles: Romanian Media Piracy, Censorship, and Translation,” Velvet Light Trap 69 (2009): 45-57.
- Kester Dyer, “Indigenous Cinema, Hamlet and Québécois Melancholia,” in In the Balance: Indigeneity, Performance, Globalization (Liverpool University Press, 2017): 105-122.
- Tejaswini Ganti, “The Bombay Film Industry and the (H)Indianization of Hollywood,” in Media Worlds: Anthropology on New Terrain (University of California Press, 2002): 281-300.
- Haider (Vishal Bhardwaj, 2014)
- Michelle Cho, “Genre, Translation, and Transnational Cinema,” Cinema Journal 54.3 (2015): 44-68.
- Christina Klein, “Why American Studies Needs to Think about Korean Cinema or, Transnational Genres in the Films of Bong Joon-ho,” American Quarterly 60.4 (2008): 871-898.
- Mother (Bong Joon-ho, 2009)
- Bianka Ballina, “Juan of the Dead: Anxious consumption and zombie cinema in Cuba,” Studies in Spanish & Latin American Cinemas 14.2 (2017): 193-213.
- Ramon Lobato, “Making Global Markets,” in Netflix Nations (New York University Press, 2019): 107-134.
- Kingdom (Netflix, 2019)
It is important to note that this assignment requires a substantial amount of time dedicated to it, so I would plan for at least one class session for students to start working on it. I include a table with ten countries for students to choose from, but they have the option of suggesting another one if they can find two original series to analyze. (Of course, the table can always keep growing. My thanks to Amanda Lotz and the members of the Global Internet TV Consortium for providing an early list of countries and original series.)
A 2016 analysis of Netflix’s global strategy concludes that:
“When Netflix does Bollywood, for instance, it will do whatever version of Bollywood it thinks has the best chances for success not just in India, but in Arizona.”
In short, Netflix believes even its local content should have global potential. This midterm assignment requires you to analyze how Netflix negotiates between local productions and global audiences. Choose one of the countries in Table 1 and prepare a dossier that critically evaluates how the streaming platform’s original content performs this negotiation. The dossier should have three sections:
Section I. Prospective Summary (~400 words)
Why would Netflix want to produce series for this country? Briefly describe the country’s media market, regulations, internet availability, and any other features that might have incentivized the streaming platform to develop original content there. Start your investigation by consulting the reports of the Global Internet TV Consortium [https://global-internet-tv.com/netflix-country-reports/] but feel free to find other sources as needed.
Section II. Series Analysis (~1000 words)
Choose two Netflix original series from the same country (refer to Table 1). Watch at least the first three episodes of each and provide analysis of the main features of both series, including:
- Genres. Go beyond stating comedy or drama, e.g. what kind of drama is it (historical, family, etc.)? What are its characteristics? Does the series mix several genres? How does this mixing work (or not) in its favor?
- Film-making style. Consider mise-en-scene, editing, soundtrack, etc. Find one scene that you think best represents each series’ style and analyze it in detail.
- Celebrity. For example, are the main actors famous in their country or around the world? Do the series reference popular figures from that country? If so, how are they represented?
- Contextual knowledge. For comedies, which elements translate well and which do not? If relevant, how does the series explain historical contexts? Do they assume viewers will know about specific events or people?
Section III. Global Appeal Synthesis (~700 words)
This section requires you to build on your analysis and speculate as if you were in the mind of a Netflix executive. First, consider what are some similarities between the two series you analyzed. Then, point out what elements of these series seem similar to TV shows we would watch in the U.S. Based on these considerations and what we have discussed in class about language, genre translation, and adaptation:
Do you think these locally specific series would have global appeal? Why or why not?
Make sure you support your answer with your analysis from the previous sections, and with insights from course materials, but not with anecdotal evidence. (For example, just because you and your friends watch House of Flowers here in the U.S. does not mean it has “global appeal.” What are the formal and generic characteristics of the show that make it popular to non-Mexican audiences?) Also remember that you are not making assumptions about any one country and the people there, but speculating about how Netflix executives envision a country’s audience and about the local content’s potential to appeal to Netflix subscribers elsewhere.