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Forget password sharing: Elon Musk blames Netflix slump on ‘woke mind virus’

April 20, 2022, 11:48 AM UTC

Self-described “free-speech absolutist” Elon Musk is wading deeper into America’s raging culture war. 

The tycoon currently attempting to acquire Twitter blamed Netflix’s first subscriber decline in over a decade on its politically correct programming, which, ironically, includes a recent two-hour documentary hailing Musk’s own pioneering efforts to explore outer space.

“The woke mind virus is making Netflix unwatchable,” the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX tweeted in response to a report on the streamer’s cratering share price.

Despite his embrace of sustainability and resource conservation as a core purpose underpinning his business empire, the native South African is increasingly discovering his inner Republican.

He ditched The Onion in favor of Christian satire site Babylon Bee, criticized Twitter bans that saw Donald Trump de-platformed, lashed out at leading Democrats like Elizabeth Warren for her attacks on “freeloading” centibillionaires like Musk, and ridiculed President Biden. 

Once the thin-skinned CEO even told Vermont’s elderly hard-left senator Bernie Sanders, “I keep forgetting that you’re still alive.”

But does Netflix’s subscriber decline truly stem from left-wing “woke” politics rather than password sharing among households, as CEO Reed Hastings claims? 

The company has definitely sought to be more inclusive, but this is in line with broader trends in an increasingly competitive industry landscape where costs can quickly spiral out of control.

As the media landscape flattens and production values soar, content creators are increasingly looking to tap into new audience demographics to survive.

Executives from traditional Hollywood studios and upstart streaming giants alike are often either developing dedicated programming that appeals directly to different viewers or broadening shows and movies by implementing greater diversity onscreen.

Just trolling?

The new buzzword among investors is “total addressable market“, or TAM—which at its heart is nothing more than an attempt to spread financial risks out over as broad a customer group as possible.

Disney+, for example, will in June release Ms. Marvel, featuring the fictional character of Kamala Khan, the first female teenage Muslim to wield superpowers.

That streaming service’s parent company has also become a useful punching bag for Florida governor and likely presidential candidate Ron DeSantis, for its opposition to the state’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill targeting the lightning-rod issue of genders and children. 

Meanwhile, later this year Amazon Prime Video will launch its tentpole epic The Rings of Power, based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth.

Studio execs made the controversial decision for characters in the billion-dollar-plus series to more closely reflect today’s society rather than strictly adhere to the conventions of the fantasy world imagined by the British author. 

In featuring a dwarven princess without her race’s telltale beard, as well as the first Latino actor to portray an elf—in keeping with studio guidelines that stipulate diversity quotas—Amazon sparked heavy debate within the Tolkien community.

By comparison, Netflix found itself falling short of its own aspirations for diversity despite series like Dear White People. 

In February of last year, it said it would invest $100 million to establish even more opportunities for people from underrepresented communities.

“We still have notable representation gaps in film and series for Latinx, Middle Eastern/North African, American Indian/Alaskan Native, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander communities,” Netflix wrote at the time. “And we still have work to do in increasing representation of the LGBTQ community and characters with disabilities.”

Musk, who first issued vague warnings of a “woke mind virus” back in December, didn’t clarify what shows he found objectionable.

Both his supporters and detractors argue alike that his Twitter musings shouldn’t be taken all that seriously.

Sometimes, they claim, he just likes to troll for the sake of it.

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