We’re all spending a lot of time inside right now, which means many of us are watching Netflix more than ever. I’m obviously no director, but when producers want a lucrative project, I’m guessing a PR-centric story doesn’t always come to mind (which may be intentional). Or maybe that’s because public relations can mean a lot of things, and some producers aren’t fully aware they’re writing about it. Whatever the case, here are five Netflix programs about PR elements that you can watch right now.
1. The Rum Diary
The Rum Diary is based on Hunter S. Thompson’s novel of the same name. Johnny Depp plays a struggling author named Paul who moves to Puerto Rico to work for a dying newspaper company and finds inspiration for his writing. When Paul is befriended by a shady land developer named Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart) and asked to publish ads for his real estate scam, he is forced into an ethical dilemma that offers valuable lessons for PR practitioners.
2. The Social Network
The Social Network is about computer coding, a couple multi-million dollar lawsuits, and the crumbling friendship between Facebook’s co-creators: Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield). However, underneath all of that lies heavy strategic and PR planning as the Facebook brand grows. Throughout the film, the FB team deals with various scandals, though none quite as bad as the Cambridge-Analytica data leak in early 2018.
I love this movie. If you haven’t seen it yet, you need to do yourself a favor and watch (and quickly too, because it’s scheduled to be removed from Netflix Sept. 30th).
“We tell them the truth. . . or at least our version of it.” Chappaquiddick is a biopic about former senator Ted Kennedy and the ensuing public scandal of a fatal drunk driving accident he caused in 1969. Like The Rum Diary, this film heavily deals with ethics in PR, as Senator Ted’s advisors will stop at nothing to salvage his image. Prepare to watch a preventable political crisis unfold as U.S. history is changed forever. If you’re interested in a movie that depicts PR’s role in politics and/or legal teams, look no further.
4. Bojack Horseman
To write about one of my favorite shows of all time is sort of a dream come true.
Bojack Horseman is an animated, six-season Netflix original released in 2014. It’s about an anthropomorphic and alcohol-dependent horse (stay with me here) named Bojack who is trying to reignite his acting career after spending decades out of the limelight. BH is perhaps best known for its poignant portrayal of depression, addiction, and Hollywood’s dark side.
However, its depiction of professional communication is often overlooked by audiences. One of the side characters, Princess Carolyn, is both the talent agent and on-again, off-again love interest of Bojack and thus deals with his wrongdoings on a public and interpersonal level. However, she also struggles with her own issues, such as familial and romantic loneliness. In the workplace, she competes with rival talent agent Vanessa Gecko for clients and recognition. She is a character that is easy to become emotionally invested in as you learn about PR.
I highly recommend Bojack Horseman if you’re a fan of adult animation, drama, and animal puns (of which there are countless). Its humor is dark but not crude, and characters find themselves in situations that cannot be adequately described with the word ‘absurd.’ But above all else, this show’s unique portrayal of mental illness, addiction, self-destructive behavior and all of their nuances gives way to an important discussion, and has helped me cope with my own demons. Do not be fooled for a moment by this show’s colorful, seemingly kid-friendly animation. This show can get very dark, and may trigger some viewers.
5. Mad Men
(OK so this one was recently taken off Netflix. However, it can be found on Amazon Prime)
Mad Men tells the story of advertising agent Don Draper and co.’s complicated lives in 1960s-era New York. In its seven-season duration, Mad Men won numerous TV accolades including the Emmy for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series in 2015 (Jon Hamm) and Outstanding Drama Series in 2011. Any PR scholar may benefit from familiarizing themselves with the advertising field, and it just so happens one of the best dramas of all time focuses on just that.
This blog post was written by Matthew Robinson, Digital Committee Member