With its boatload of original programming and jealous secrecy regarding its viewership numbers, the next logical step for Netflix would be to build a cinematic universe out of its own content. All the other production companies are doing it! The people love self-referential stories filled with little winks and Easter eggs, so it stands to reason that some of Netflix's shows and movies would start to overlap. While binging my way through the streaming service's newest holiday offerings the weekend after a long Thanksgiving journey, I began noticing something strange. Here and there, subtle signs began popping up that all of these movies exist in the same universe -- or, at least, a self-contained universe separate from our own.
Netflix becoming self-aware is not a brand-new phenomenon: Characters in BoJack Horseman and Big Mouth have made comments alluding to the fact that they're creations in a binge-able TV show, and both seasons of American Vandal reference getting acquired by their parent company as if it were a real docuseries. But something new is afoot in Netflix’s crop of 2018 holiday content, which seem, at first glance, to be building a cinematic universe of sorts around themselves. (After all, in Neo Yokio's Christmas special, there's a running, self-aware bit about loving "original content.") Except, it’s a little more complicated than that.
I first noticed something interesting going on when, in The Christmas Chronicles starring Kurt Russell as a gonzo daddy Santa, there is a scene during which our three heroes -- a teenage boy, his younger sister, and previously described Santa Claus -- sneak by a valet attendant watching Stranger Things on his iPad.