Far Too Soon

Netflix takes 2020 humor to a place it should not have gone


Photo courtesy of Netflix

Death to 2020 poster

It’s hard to imagine that 2020 was the year that Parasite won Best Picture at the Oscars, or the year that Donald Trump’s first impeachment concluded, or the year that the Dodgers won the World Series with fans in the stands. 2020 was long and hard for everyone, however, for some people, it was longer and harder.

Death to 2020, a Netflix comedy reflecting on the year we just exited, casually pokes fun at some of the most tragic and triumphant events of the year. The comedy special was filmed like a National Geographic or History Channel documentary and goes through the events of the year in chronological order. There are jokes at every turn, and it seems like no event was spared from critique or humor.

The attempts at humor started immediately. Some of the jokes that appeared within the first five minutes were about a pandemic that has killed more than 350,000 Americans, and Australian fires that killed or displaced nearly three billion animals. The mockumentary also included a fake YouTube reaction video to the Beirut port explosion, a tragedy that killed over a hundred people and left three hundred thousand homeless.  

At one point they showed footage of Governor Cuomo of New York begging the federal government for ventilators and PPE and subsequently made fun of him for it. As we all know, at the beginning of the pandemic, New York was struggling and hundreds of people were dying daily; hospitals were overrun and frontline healthcare workers were having to use N95 masks until they fell apart. Governor Cuomo did his best to help the people of his state and to make fun of a public servant who was fighting for the people that he serves is in poor taste.

What the executives at Netflix, who approved and produced this film, failed to realize is that not everyone experienced 2020 from a place of privilege. Millions of people lost their jobs, hundreds of thousands lost their lives and millions lost their loved ones. This mockumentary would be funny if it was fictional, however, 2020 was a gruesome reality from which it is going to take years to recover. Perhaps if this was filmed in a year or even two years in the future it could have come close to being funny, but to come out before the year had even ended was far too soon.

One redeeming aspect of this mockumentary was the portrayal of the Black Lives Matter movement. This movement was one of 2020’s biggest triumphs and they portrayed it as such, rather than shamelessly mocking it as they did other events. 

Though the Netflix reflection was in generally poor taste, there were other ones that were much more sensitive and appropriate. One that was done right was the Vox 2020 Rewind. This seven-minute YouTube video takes a look at both the good and the bad aspects of the year and chooses to highlight the incredible strength it took to make it through the year,  rather than make any attempts at humor.   

It is important to remember that 2020 is still fresh in everyone’s minds, and many of the issues that plagued the year are following us into 2021. The mistake that Netflix made with this mockumentary, that other reflection pieces were smart to avoid, was that they cheapened the experiences of a large portion of the population for a few laughs.