Netflix issues warning as “Bird Box” challenges go too far

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“Bird Box,” the Netflix original film that explores what happens when survivors of an epidemic keep themselves blindfolded to avoid watching affected others commit suicide, is inspiring a dangerous new trend, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The movie, which according to marketwatch.com, earned 45 million viewers, or one-third of subscribers, quickly became a trending subject because of the number of viewers. Then, of course, people became intrigued by what happens when a person tries to function at all times with their eyes covered.

As a result, #birdboxchallenge participation began sweeping parts of the country. The outcomes, reportedly have been short-lived and disastrous. Reports of injuries began to make the rounds of news outlets and social media.

The phenomenon has gotten so out of hand that Netflix US issued a statement on Twitter urging viewers to stop with the challenges. Although the note did indicate that the company’s representatives appreciates the “love.”

However, the entire thing inspires questions. Didn’t individuals already know that it would be difficult to do just about anything, from cooking to taking a walk, while blindfolded? In other words, the challenges seemed unnecessary.

Those who have seen the film know that part of the tension comes from waiting to see who would remove their blindfolds first, and when a person did, the gruesome outcomes kept viewers on edge. Other discussions about the movie have centered on how the movie seems to be a metaphor for some people’s approach to racism, but that thought thread has apparently taken a backseat to viewers’ real-life re-enacting of the movie’s main trope.

Figuring out the popularity of “Bird Box” despite the resulting injuries as people try their hand at blindfold survival, raises other questions. Are the challenges the result of a society heavily dependent on social media? Unlike other decades when people would watch a movie in a theater (read: in public), and if they liked it, they would watch it again, and again, until they memorized lines and began to dress like certain characters.

With “Bird Box,” audiences don’t have that, at least not on a large scale. Someone could host a viewing at his or her house, and have a blindfold challenge afterward, but that is still connecting with a known circle of people. Therefore, maybe something about seeing humanity under attack that touched a collective nerve in audiences and they sought to participate, however indirectly. That is one theory.

Whatever ideas or motives are prompting people to blindfold themselves and attempt to do what they usually do sighted, the reasons are not “big” enough to risk life and limb. Without the benefit of seeing a movie in a theater with like-minded people, contemporary audiences need to start new traditions.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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