Big industry is broken. We all know that, and anyone that doesn’t is either a brainwashed minion for “the man” or not on social media, because exposing big industry is all anyone ever does these days. Although this trend is justified, it has begun to grow repetitive in the echo chamber that is social media. The four-episode Netflix series “Broken” takes on the exact same role as these anti-industry social media accounts, but more in the form of an educational packet rather than a documentary film. Upon first watch, there isn’t anything particularly revolutionary about it — it’s a classic documentary you might watch in high school when there’s a substitute teacher in class, or if you need something to fall asleep to.
The topics are interesting and relevant enough, but the show doesn’t try to make itself stand out as an investigative documentary. Instead, it rides the coattails of these relevant topics to relay information that could likely be found on the internet with light digging. The first season focuses on counterfeit cosmetics, big vape, poorly constructed dressers and single-use plastics. The documentary never dives into deeper, darker parts of these industries, shying away from exposing them at their gritty core and the parts that consumers never could have imagined.
The documentary genre is one that’s difficult for filmmakers to navigate. Its intent is to inform, but it still has to tackle the same task of keeping the audience engaged and presenting their information in a stylistic way. “Broken” seems to avoid taking advantage of what new style and film technology has to offer and instead takes a traditional route, using dark filters and blue shading to indicate when something is supposed to be scary. My initial hopes for this documentary were reasonably high — after watching nature documentaries like “Blue Planet” and “Our Planet,” and touching into investigative documentaries, the genre that once was associated with boredom had slowly started to redeem itself. “Broken” is a reminder that the documentaries that stand out are just that — silver linings in a genre that remains mainly stagnant, struggling to find a balance between information and entertainment.
Like most informative materials these days, “Broken” also falls into the trap of being too preachy. While well-intentioned, it seems impossible to avoid feeling like you’re being lectured by some member of woke culture at every turn, and this intensified as I watched the counterfeit cosmetics episode of the documentary. After being presented with all this information about counterfeit cosmetics and how and by whom they’re produced, the episode concludes by repeatedly emphasizing that “the hands are in the consumer” and nobody else to fix this problem. This led me to wonder whether we really need a documentary like this right now. Exposure to the world’s larger-than-life and incredibly nuanced issues makes it easy for one to spiral into a fit of existential dread, and it doesn’t feel like another one of these woke culture preach sessions is really going to inspire the average consumer to change their habits more than they probably have already tried to for other pressing issues, such as climate change. It’s worth a try, perhaps, but again, “Broken” didn’t do enough to suddenly be “the one” that revolutionizes consumer behavior. There’s already so much shame against the consumer, can’t we hold producers just as responsible? It’s a chicken or the egg question, and this documentary fails to answer it to any level of satisfaction.