Netflix warns viewers against Bird Box challenge meme: ‘Do not end up in hospital’

  • Streaming service asks that people refrain from emulating characters in the film, who must perform every task blindfolded
  • Bird Box has been streamed more than 45 million times
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 January, 2019, 8:42pm
UPDATED : Friday, 04 January, 2019, 8:09am

Last week Netflix claimed that 45 million of its subscribers had streamed the Sandra Bullock thriller Bird Box in its first week of release: a record for original movie content on the platform.

Five days later, on January 2, it issued a public health warning in the interests of keeping as many of those subscribers alive as possible. The service was responding to a growing social media fad for the Bird Box challenge, in which people emulate characters in the film who must perform every task blindfolded, lest lurking monsters drive them to suicide.

“Can’t believe I have to say this, but: PLEASE DO NOT HURT YOURSELVES WITH THIS BIRD BOX CHALLENGE,” Netflix tweeted from its primary account. “We don’t know how this started, and we appreciate the love, but Boy and Girl (the two unnamed children of Bullock’s character) have just one wish for 2019 and it is that you not end up in the hospital due to memes.”

Netflix’s call for moderation – but not abstention – from the craze came after thousands of videos were posted online showing people stumbling around houses, stairs and woods with scarves wrapped round their eyes.

Meanwhile, YouTube star Morgan Adams’s 24-hour Bird Box challenge earned more than 2 million views in five days.

ABC’s breakfast show Good Morning America also engaged with the meme when one of its anchors attempted to apply make-up to his co-host while blindfolded.

The film, which has overcome mixed reviews to pick up considerable momentum – as well as celebrity fans such as Kim Kardashian – stars Bullock as a single mother endeavouring to save herself and her two children in a postapocalyptic America. She and her fellow survivors must wear blindfolds to prevent exposure to supernatural forces who take the form of their most potent fears and lead them to take their own lives.

Susanne Bier’s film has earned unfavourable comparisons with last year’s sensory-deprivation horror A Quiet Place, as well as 2016’s alien invasion thriller Arrival. In her review for The Guardian, Amy Nicholson took particular issue with the ensemble cast, including Sarah Paulson, Jacki Weaver and John Malkovich, saying it “feels as curated as a box of doughnuts”.

Bird Box has record opening for a film on Netflix, but why? Is it Sandra Bullock, the theme or the memes?

The film is adapted from a novel by Josh Malerman, and some fans of this original have taken issue with Bier’s considerable tweak to the book’s ending.

Netflix rarely releases data on how many subscribers have seen films or TV shows on its site. The unverified 45 million figure represents about a third of their total customer base. Previous big hitters in terms of their original content have primarily been romcoms, with To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before cited by the streaming giant as being a particular hit in 2018 – although no figures were released.

The service has also remained silent on data around its more prestige original movie content, such as Oscars front runner Roma and the Coen brothers’ The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. The same also applies to TV content, such as interactive Black Mirror episode “Bandersnatch”.