The moon glistened under the cerulean sky as the corn kernels crackled on the sizzling pan; it was yet another day to procrastinate on weekend work and binge-watch my favorite shows. I propped myself on the couch and turned on the television. And there she was, her signature bold red letters staring back at me from the black screen — Netflix. The epitome of all TV streaming platforms had finally migrated to Indonesia.

As a passionate television lover, I scrolled through the available shows. Jane the Virgin? Too clichéHow to Get Away With Murder? Binged there, done thatPretty Little Liars? Too long-windedOverwhelmed with dismay, I hung my head low and shut off the TV. (Just kidding; I proceeded to watch Gossip Girl and ended up failing my Trigonometry test)

To me, and many other TV fans, the Indonesian Netflix was a complete disappointment. There are only a few mainstream shows, some two to three-star movies, and a limited collection of anime. In fact, this deficiency is so despised that when you Google ‘Netflix in Indonesia,’ one of the first search results that comes up is a link showing you how to access the American Netflix ‘for an easy $3’. Nevertheless, this content deficit has one obvious culprit: The Indonesian government.

doraemon_censored-in-indonesia

Since Indonesia is a conservative Islamic country, the government has been busy building firewalls restricting access to pornographic, violent, or anti-Islamic websites. Some Western shows have many scenes that the Indonesian government deems ‘inappropriate’. As a result, the government is debating whether to make certain shows unavailable or to remove Netflix altogether. Even with its limited content library, the Indonesian Netflix still censors its shows. Explicit scenes are omitted from shows like Orange is the New Black and even children’s shows may be subject to censorship.

However, the question remains: Does censoring Netflix actually restrict Indonesians from watching ‘inappropriate’ content?

Indonesia is so isolated from the Western world that when netizens want access to Western content, they will download torrents or stream pirated content. Although these methods are legal in Indonesia, it is still an unethical way to access Western shows. Even then, the government blocks some of these torrent sites because netizens also use them to download pornographic content.

If that is the case, then how do Indonesians keep up-to-date with Western pop culture and TV shows? Given that Indonesian Netflix’s content library is limited, the streaming company is caught in a lose-lose situation. This means that 1. Netflix misses out on exposing more shows to a large population and 2. Indonesians remain unhappy with the lack of options.

Exposure to Western pop culture is essential in today’s society. It serves as a tool for bonding among friends and helps people find common ground. I have Grey’s Anatomy and The Vampire Diaries to thank for allowing me to use my fandom as a basis for conversation. If not for those shows, I would not have been able to form many of the close friendships I have today.

Indonesia, please step up your censorship game; I would like to finish my popcorn with some good quality (and legal) TV.

Natasha Sondakh
Living in Jakarta, Natasha Sondakh enjoys writing – she writes editorials, creative essays, poems and prose. An aspiring literary translator, Natasha is also currently translating some merited Indonesian short stories. You can find her at www.tashasondakh.com.