The Mancunion

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The evolution of “Netflix and chill”

Rowan Jenner charts the evolution of “Netflix and chill” from innocent beginnings to misleading euphemism

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It’s everyone’s new favourite internet-born, social media-fuelled, tongue in cheek innuendo—“Netflix and chill”. In the most literal sense, it could quite simply be a screening of Gossip Girl with a packet of Maltesers in hand on a Friday night—but in recent times, this phrase has evolved to represent something else entirely.

In a sense it’s kind of perfect. It’s the ideal way to mask one’s adolescent, sexual intentions. To an unsuspecting victim, “Netflix and chill” can sound as innocent as a good old-fashioned first date in the cinema—where going to watch a movie you’ve paid to see is far from your number one priority. Yet, as always, social media has promptly jumped on the bandwagon. The creation of endless memes, tweets and vines ensued, all highlight the fabulous new code language for inviting someone around for a from from innocent encounter.

Netflix first began offering a video streaming service in 2007, which was available for free to all of its subscribers. In the years that followed, and as Netflix grew more and more popular, “Netflix and chill” still had no alternate or subversive meaning—it was just a two-word pairing, or, alternately, a verb phrase that had literally meant to watch something on Netflix, whilst chilling.

It wasn’t until the latter end of 2014 where people had started to catch on and adopt the true euphemism behind the phrase. There were tweets with pictures of smug faces, and memes alongside captions such like, “When she says Netflix and chill.” Meanwhile, other, more naïve Twitter-goers have tweeted pictures of surprised, and somewhat dismayed, faces with their captions including, “When you find out what Netflix and chill really means.”

By 2015, a “Netflix and chill” app had even been created in order to find people nearby, inviting them to join you to “Netflix and chill.” In April this year, it had finally became an addition to Urban Dictionary with the rather blunt definition: “Code for two people going to each other’s houses and fucking or doing other sexual related acts.” Then, finally, even Netflix itself had joined in with the latest internet craze—by posting a gif from Clueless, revealing Cher Horowitz’s honourable attempt to seduce her high school crush whilst watching a movie, with the caption: “Netflix and chill? No, really.”

Sadly, the cat may be out the bag as many American parents have started to catch onto the innuendo. There have even been rumours of one American mother attempting to sue Netflix, as she blamed Netflix for her 16-year-old daughter’s pregnancy which had resulted after a “Netflix and chill” session. As more parents and older people begin to understand the secret language of internet slang, the hidden meaning behind this comical phenomenon is revealed and ultimately loses its appeal. Could this really be the end of “Netflix and chill”? There is little doubt that performing the actual deed of “Netflix and chill” will cease—but for the phrase itself, it may be the end of an era. At least until social media undoubtedly fires up the next flirty and hilarious euphemism.