It was pretty exciting when Apple first announced that they were moving into the streaming game with a cool $1 billion investment in original content. But according to the Wall Street Journal, said content is going to be cleaner than a freshly unboxed iPhone, with no violence or naughty words allowed.
Tim Cook reportedly sat down and watched an episode of Apple’s first scripted drama, Vital Signs, a biopic of the life of hip-hop artist Dr. Dre, and was deeply alarmed to see scenes featuring cocaine use, an orgy, and “drawn guns.”
I don’t think Tim Cook understands the whole “gangster rapper” thing, or perhaps he was under the impression that Dr. Dre had a Ph.D. in medicine. Hilariously, Apple’s own staff in Los Angeles have begun referring to the streaming project as “expensive NBC.”
Of course, it’s more than possible to tell a good story without violence or cocaine-fueled orgies. You can even tell a good story without drawing a single pistol, as long as you steer clear from the western genre. And cop shows. But are inoffensive sitcoms and drama-free dramas really all Apple has to offer?
The excellent, hard-hitting series that HBO constantly creates are so appealing to the public because they’re not afraid to shy away from the unpleasant aspects of life. Saccharine-laced sitcoms can be entertaining enough, but they have their limits. Who wants to pay for a streaming service that’s afraid to make a Game of Thrones rip-off?
Conflict drives story, even children’s stories. You ever watch an episode of Thomas the Tank Engine? It’s essentially a soap opera about a group of excessively bitchy trains who do mean things to one another; in one episode, one character even gets bricked up inside a tunnel.
Netflix has created a ton of unique content, some of it family-friendly, and some not; it’s all part of the experimentation and innovation. And that willingness to let creators create, unhindered, is what has led to Netflix’s greatest hits, and what will keep their audience paying that precious monthly fee. It’s certainly led to a few stinkers too, but that’s an inevitable part of the process.
But Apple isn’t just refusing to show consensual love-making, drug-taking, and flashes of weaponry, they’re also censoring religious iconography, for fear of causing offense. After signing a deal for a series made by M. Night Shyamalan (a psychological thriller about a couple who lose their child), Apple executives reportedly had one, simple request – remove the crucifixes from the couple’s house. Apple original content isn’t going to approach religion or politics, not even in background detail. So, no House of Cards competitor.
But in all fairness, crucifixes are supposed to make you think of the crucifixion of Jesus, and that’s pretty gosh darn violent, right? Best to protect the audience from all those deeply disturbing thoughts, and stick on an episode of House; just make sure to cut those gory surgical scenes, and that entire Vicodin addiction plotline that drives the show. You know what? Just put on The Good Doctor. But maybe remove all the references to autism.
I’m being facetious, but I’m struggling to think of why anyone would be willing to pay for a streaming service that isn’t willing to cross a line mainstream television crossed decades ago. One can’t help but suspect that Tim Cook is slightly out of touch; maybe that’s why Apple thought U2 was, like, the best band ever, and we’d all want their latest album inserted into our music library.
There’s a ridiculous amount of streaming services coming our way soon, and consumers will have to make a tough choice of which is worth their hard-earned cash.
Thankfully, Apple just made that choice a little easier.