If you regularly keep up on weed news, you’ve probably heard a bit about the new Netflix marijuana strains that were available last weekend as part of a promotion for their original comedy series Disjointed
. It’s a highly creative marketing strategy for pushing a TV show. If only that level of creativity had been applied to the show itself. While it’s always a welcome opportunity when a show attempts to normalize the use of weed, Disjointed
may not be the best example of this, sadly.
The Method to Viral Marketing Madness
With people having moved away from television as a primary source of information, the film and TV industry are being pushed to approach marketing from different angles. Just this past week, I went through a free interactive haunted house created as a promotion for the upcoming film adaptation of Stephen King’s It
. How does something like this get people in the theater? Well, first of all, they planted the house on the corner of Hollywood and Vine which is constantly immersed in foot traffic. Then, they gave everyone entering the house ample opportunity to snap some photos posing with characters in front of the impressively creepy façade of the house. They even offered up some helpful suggestions for hashtags. The result? Hundreds (if not thousands) of people enthusiastically sharing photos of themselves in a promotion for an upcoming film. And this is highly shareable content. People were jumping at the opportunity to share creepy photos of themselves in front of the house. So, if thousands of personalized Instagram photos of people excitedly or nervously standing in front of a haunted house can reach horror fans, it stands to reason that Netflix is considering stoners a target audience for their marijuana-centric show by offering limited edition official Netflix marijuana strains.
The Netflix Marijuana Strains
I haven’t actually tried any of the Netflix strains personally but I can only assume they’re what you’d expect from a novelty strain available for one weekend only. Three strains tie directly into Disjointed
(Omega Strain, Rutherford B. Haze, and Eve’s Bush) while other Netflix marijuana strains reference additional original programming such as Arrested Development
(Banana Stand Kush) and Orange is the New Black
(Poussey Riot). The strains were available at West Hollywood’s Alternative Health Herbal Services over the weekend and Netflix received no profit from their sale, meaning their stake in this was purely promotional. It’s a bit early to say how well it worked but it got me to watch the first episode of Disjointed
when the show otherwise would not have been on my radar.
Playing with Stereotypes
Unfortunately, the creative minds behind the marketing for Disjointed
weren’t paralleled by the show’s writers. I’ve only seen the first episode so perhaps the mold gets broken a bit more as it progresses but any hopes one would have of Disjointed
helping to normalize medical marijuana or acclimate prohibitionists to the truth are dashed against the prehistoric rocks of stereotypes, easy jokes and canned laughter. Within moments of the show’s opening, one of the dispensary’s employees introduces herself as the “tokin’ Asian” whereas later in the episode, a dick joke stereotypes African Americans and Jewish people in one punchline. But Disjointed
equally portions out the stereotypes, introducing the painfully unhip white mother who smoked pot once before a Spin Doctors concert and finds black people cool but intimidating. Her decision to treat her anxiety with medical marijuana isn’t so much of a progressive statement as it is an annoying burden. With this kind of lazy humor on a show set in a medical marijuana dispensary, you can probably guess how they handle stoner humor. Far too often, the jokes are laughing at stoners instead of with them. It’s here that the idea to market official Netflix marijuana strains may have skipped a beat. For example, the show is interrupted by fake commercials for marijuana products and bizarre segues that almost echo That ‘70s Show
(a show that, if not progressive about cannabis, was at least genuinely funny in the way it handled marijuana). One such fake commercial is for a law firm called Young & High LLC (cringe) persuading viewers to sue pizza companies that don’t deliver within the time promised (double cringe). Not exactly the kind of jokes you’d hope for from a show about a marijuana dispensary in 2017.
Progressive Moments in Tired Formulas
Amidst the digs at race, spirituality, feminism and weed, there are a few progressive points that are almost baffling when set beside jokes that would have landed without a hitch in 1992. A conversation between two of the main characters turned up the line “you can’t equate marijuana and crack” though this was the same scene with the aforementioned dick joke. The tension between those wanting to embrace the cannabis industry and all of its opportunities is juxtaposed against a desire for more intimate mom and pop style caregiver relationships and small, standalone dispensaries. There’s even a security guard who suffers from PTSD though it’s too early for me to tell whether this subject is treated with the sensitivity it deserves. Considering the Netflix marijuana marketing campaign, it’s also interesting to see Disjointed
tackle the sensitive subject of cannabis marketing through the dispensary’s “Strain o’ the Day” YouTube videos.
I recognize that Disjointed
is a comedy show but its premise tackles some volatile situations, and placing the show in a unique position to actually broadcast a certain reputation for medical marijuana. Perhaps the creative marketing gave me higher hopes that this show would say something its predecessors hadn’t. But shows like Broad City
, Six Feet Under
and even Legends of Tomorrow
seem to do more by showing regular people (and, yes, a couple of super heroes) smoking weed and functioning normally in the greater plot of things. Disjointed
, at least from the first episode, can’t determine who it’s laughing with or at. But too often they’re laughing alone.