The 5 Most Offensively Bad Thumbnails on Netflix
Scientists can’t pinpoint an exact date on this, but ever since one fateful day in 2015, Netflix’s choice of thumbnails for its streaming service has been… bizarre. It was as if in one instant, they had lost the rights to anything resembling a movie’s original poster or a Television show’s promotional photos. Some of these brand-new “Netflix icons” fill their designated role perfectly. These images feature at least a chunk of the main cast and give you a sense of the general vibe of whatever content you’re considering streaming. However, some of these thumbnails are truly beguiling and reduce me to a shapeless mass of impotent rage. It is truly the worst case of Corporate Gaslighting™ I have ever seen.
Well, I’m not going to stand by and let this happen a second longer. It’s time for us to stand up for ourselves. We may be mindless content-guzzling swill, but we have pride, damn it! This situation is completely unacceptable. I’m going to show you some of the worst, most criminally misrepresentative thumbnails the Netflix Instant Streaming service has to offer. By the end of this list you’re going to want to join me in a pilgrimage to “Netflix HQ” so we can get to the bottom of this.
5. Heathers (Movie, 1988)
Heathers is a Black Comedy film, which means that while it’s funny, it also goes to some really intense and disturbing places. The film centers around a 17-year old girl named Veronica (Winona Ryder) becoming corrupted by the debonaire new kid in town, J.D. (Christian Slater) And how is she corrupted? Well, through a series of miscommunications and goofy mistakes, Veronica is led to killing all the “Heathers” (the most popular girls in school, all conveniently named Heather.) So why does this thumbnail suck? If it’s a film about a girl killing people, shouldn’t this thumbnail hit its mark perfectly? Okay, well first of all- too soon. Second of all, the long-lasting appeal of Heathers comes from the film’s tonal shift from 1980s High School comedy to sociopath-driven suspense. This intense image of Veronica clutching her gun is taken from the film’s climax and betrays the original spirit of the film. This may seem like I’m nitpicking (hell, this whole article might just be me nitpicking) but I promise… it gets a lot worse from here. Also, I’d like to take this chance to wonder aloud if this film was funnier when school shootings were merely a far-off possibility and weren’t a terrifying and recurring problem in the United States. Welp, onto item number 4! I’ll try not to get taken off-task with thoughts of our dystopian reality again!
4. The Twilight Zone (TV Series, 1959–1964)
Son of a bitch, what the hell are those things?! Just kidding. I know what these things are. In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I won’t tell you which episode of The Twilight Zone these creatures are from. I will say that their hideous visages work especially well when they’re given two acts of being kept under wraps before the big reveal. This thumbnail is bullshit because you’ll know which episode it’s from the moment you start watching it and you will be spoiled. You will say, “god damn it, this is the one with the pig-faces isn’t it” and you will almost certainly be correct. I won’t speak ill of The Twilight Zone’s special effects, which are still impressive to this day, but I do wonder if this still image doesn’t do a tremendous disservice to the makeup work done on these actors. This cheaply edited image makes the show look like some schlocky cheese-fest, when in actuality The Twilight Zone tackled many issues and featured writing that was ahead of its time. Scripts from this program are dissected in College courses around the world as an example of quality Television-writing. It’s sad that if I were a Squirt-guzzling Netflix-obsessed idiot I would potentially be put off by these warthog-faced humanoids. The Twilight Zone is something to be drawn into via tantalizing morsels, one discordant piano flourish at a time. You can’t just give the audience everything all at once! Oh, the game is spoiled forever then! Oh, why didn’t Netflix just stick with Rod Serling’s all-knowing leer?
3. Frank (Movie, 2014)
Okay, when your movie is about a psychologically disturbed Singer/Songwriter who refuses to take off a gigantic and iconic mask, you don’t use a completely boring shot of your Conduit-Protagonist, whose only purpose is to keep the story grounded and offer an outside perspective on the main character. You certainly don’t show this guy doing something as monotonous as shaving! What were you thinking, Netflix?! I’m pissed! Frank is a wonderful cinematic experience. It’s a really bizarre and heartfelt emotional journey and really makes you examine what it truly means to be an artist and also think about the importance of mental health. Don’t let this thumbnail scare you away as the movie is anything but boring. This matters, damn it!
2. Gilmore Girls (TV Series, 2000–2007)
All the truly great Television shows of the 21st century have two-word titles that start with the same letter. Breaking Bad, Mad Men… and Gilmore Girls. Gilmore Girls is the story of Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel.) These are the Girls of Gilmore. They talk extremely fast, are whip-smart and are the beautiful queens of Stars Hollow, Connecticut. When I’m feeling generous, I consider Rory’s grandmother (and Lorelai’s mother, naturally) Emily (Kelly Bishop) a “Gilmore Girl” as well. Richard, the patriarch of the Gilmores (Edward Herrmann,) is not a Gilmore Girl but he is an important part of the cast nonetheless. I would accept any of these people being used as the thumbnail that represents the Gilmore Girls television series, even Richard! I think we can all agree though, that given the title and the importance of women on this show, it would only make sense for Lorelai and Rory to be the faces that greet you when you hover on this show’s thumbnail.
So who is this rugged teen we see here instead? Oh, well that’s Jess (Milo Ventimiglia!) Who? You know- Jess Mariano! He’s Star Hollow’s favorite bad-boy! Boyfriend to Rory for all of five minutes and pain in the ass to every other character on this show. He was relevant to this show for approximately two seasons and his job was basically to be a dick, pout and stare off into space to suggest that there might be something deeper to him after all. Maybe he could change after all!
Fuck you, Jess. You broke my heart. Just like Netflix.
1. Arrested Development (TV Series, 2003–2006)
Holy shit! Of all the media I consume, I never thought the show that would fill me with the most secondhand embarrassment would be Arrested Development. In their infinite wisdom, Netflix decided to use a scene from Season 4’s premiere in which Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) joins his adult son George Michael (Michael Cera) in the shower and stands uncomfortably naked and close to him. Hmm, well… okay, In the context of the show it’s just a really stupid gag about Michael not giving his son any space while he’s in college. It’s not the show’s finest hour comedy-wise, but it’s just a dumb joke. That’s not a crime. However, imagine knowing nothing about this program and stumbling across this image while scrolling through your Netflix queue. Michael Cera’s quivering and fearful countenance, Bateman’s eerie “this is happening whether you like it or not” calmness. This thumbnail is an absolutely horrifying misrepresentation of an incredibly clever and lighthearted show. They make it look like it’s either an edge-of-your-seat Thriller or some sort of gross-out Happy Madison-esque comedy production, which wouldn’t be too far out of line considering Netflix’s production deal with Adam Sandler.
Arrested Development may have received mediocre ratings but it won Emmys and was a critical darling for the sheer fact that it respected its audience. Arrested Development told set-ups for jokes whose punchlines weren’t revealed until many episodes later. It was equal parts heartfelt and cynical. It was a show about the most important thing: Family. Netflix, this thumbnail betrays the spirit of this show. If you must include a scene from the “Netflix Original” episodes, (Netflix brought this show back for a new season in 2013, to mixed reviews) please try to find one that is less suggestively incestuous. That’s all I ask.