Tell Me Lies, Tell Me Sweet Little Lies

I was surfing TVtropes tonight, as one does, and stumbled across the Onion AV Club’s 24 Great Films Too Painful To Watch Twice list. Since I’ve apparently got something for self-flagellation, I decided to add the films I hadn’t seen to my Netflix queue.

First off was Dancer in the Dark. It seemed a little off to me that the next closest thing to what I was actually searching for was ‘Aliens in the Attic’–I mean, if you’re looking for something to make you sob and snuffle unattractively in front of your TV and require ‘in the’ in the title, perhaps ‘Flowers in the Attic’ would be a better choice? And surely there are closer hits to ‘Dancer’ than ‘Aliens’–‘Dances with Wolves’, ‘Dirty Dancing’ or how about ‘The Dancer’? I chalked it up to what amounted to a search engine burp and kept moving down the list, adding as I went.


Next, “When The Wind Blows”, which seems to be unavailable through Netflix.


Hmm. Aliens in the Attic is the second most likely option? Really? This is odd indeed. ‘When the Wind Blows’…’Aliens in the Attic’. Yep. Similar. They even rhyme, if you aren’t too particular about pronunciation. Or letters. Basically, if you’re Krusty the Clown and your secret shame is that you can’t read, they’re awfully similar. What are ‘W’s but upside down, mangled ‘A’s?

Next up is ‘In A Year With 13 Moons’. 0017wyet

‘Aliens in the Attic’? Really? I suppose they do both contain the word ‘in’. Surely not a common word in movie titles, not a common word at all, really. The last sentence nonwithstanding, of course. In fact, I’m quite certain that using the word ‘in’ is not in, you know, in the inner circles of influential grammar wizards. ‘In’ is not in with the in-crowd.

How about ‘Grave of the Fireflies’? There’s a common word in the title, yes, but I’m quite certain ‘the’ is disregarded by most search engines and other, more similarly titled movies will be pulled as a result.


Well, let’s see. Along with ‘The Water Horse’ which isn’t similar to the search term other than the incredibly common ‘the’ AND is a pretty popular result along with ‘Aliens in the Attic’, there’s ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ which also ONLY shares the most common of common words with the search term. Then there are some results that seem almost appropriate and normal, but scroll…wait for it…keep scrolling…and ‘Aliens in the Attic’? WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING HERE?


By now, I’m starting to think Netflix is fucking with me. Or maybe they’ve got some sort of sponsorship deal with the studio that put out ‘Aliens in the Attic’ and if I search for a movie that no one on earth enjoyed, it won’t pop up on the search because even sponsors don’t want to be associated with it.


…I am a broken woman. I am out of theories.

I called the Netflix customer support line and got a very nice chap on the other end who seemed poised to deal with what was likely his 1,000th complaint of the evening. I asked him quite directly whether Netflix did sponsored searches as I’d been searching for all sorts of movies this evening and ‘Aliens in the Attic’ always seemed to pop up, no matter what. He laughed and said no, he’d never heard of that, Netflix doesn’t do sponsored search results like Google.

Well, if they don’t, someone please explain these search results to me. Since the company has tried so hard to improve its recommendation algorithms by 10%, it seems counter-intuitive to me that they would try to repeatedly force a movie on someone who has already definitively indicated she has no interest in watching it, but I’m also having difficulty thinking of another plausible excuse for these search results.

Netflix, baby, are you lying to me? I enjoy the occasional bonus DVD and all, but I’m really not into ‘Aliens in the Attic’. Really.

16 Comments Tell Me Lies, Tell Me Sweet Little Lies

  1. lostsatellite August 17, 2009 at 11:49 am

    that totally has to be a sponsorship thing…the DVD is from this year, and obviously they’re really trying to get people to watch it…I don’t understand why they have to push it _that_ heavily though, or why they couldn’t mix it up with other new releases…although why they can’t just let the search results go by what you’re actually searching for, I don’t know…

  2. anerda August 17, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    i think that movie is still in theaters.

  3. cajoje August 17, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    Christ, I’m gonna go re-watch ‘Up’ now…

  4. weaselmom August 17, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    I’ll take “Lame Marketing Shenanigans” for a thousand, Alex.

  5. variax August 17, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    Ws are As that were totally askin’ for it.

    1. admin August 18, 2009 at 4:53 pm

      Just look at the way they were dressed!

  6. watchout5 August 17, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    100% sponsorship thing, either that or it’s the most commercially friendly bug ever.

  7. earthdotprime August 18, 2009 at 9:08 am

    Search: The Last Wave

    The Last Wave
    The Water Horse
    The Lost Wave
    The Least of These
    The Last House on the Left
    The Wave
    Tinkerbell and the Last Treasure
    Aliens in the Attic

    Search: The Life…
    The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou
    Aliens in the Attic

    w. t. f.

    1. admin August 18, 2009 at 4:53 pm

      Search: The

      The Water Horse
      Pink Floyd: The Wall
      Aliens in the Attic

      Search: In

      Aliens in the Attic

      Shockingly, a search for ‘Alien’ does NOT result in Aliens in the Attic on the first page of return hits.

    2. admin August 18, 2009 at 5:07 pm

      Search: The Contender


      The Contender
      The Contender/Oil Raider double feature
      Thea Constantine
      Paul: Contending for the Faith
      The Water Horse
      Aliens in the Attic

      Search: Lady in the Water

      Lady in the Water
      Waterfront Lady
      Aliens in the Attic
      The Water Horse

  8. Anonymous August 18, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    Water Horse: Legend of the Deep

    “Water Horse: Legend of the Deep” has shown up in nearly EVERY Netflix search I’ve ever done — and it’s in one of your results, too!

    1. admin August 18, 2009 at 8:47 pm

      Re: Water Horse: Legend of the Deep

      Yeah, I’ve noticed that one is pushed pretty heavily, too. I wonder what the deal is, if these results really aren’t sponsored.

  9. poetrix618 August 18, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    G’wan, watch it. WATCH IT! WAAAAATCH EEEEEET.

    It’s your destiny.

    1. admin August 18, 2009 at 8:44 pm

      NO. You know those times you watch a movie and are sad because the trailer looked so good and the movie was so shit? Even the TRAILER for this movie sucks. I’d rather watch Death Bed: The Bed That Eats again.

    1. wunderwood August 27, 2009 at 3:17 pm

      Netflix does not disregard “the”. Try a search for “the”, and you’ll get results.

      Search engines are tuned for correct results, not for showing wrong results in order of decreasing wrongness. You searched for “Dancer in the Dark”, and that movie was the first result, so the search engine worked. Which wrong results are next is a side-effect of the algorithms tuning for correct results.

      For example, Water Horse shows up because it has “the” twice in the title and is a recent, popular movie. Search for “the” and it is first.

      It is not a conspiracy, it is just software with a tiny brain.

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