Netflix Glitch Mashes Up Plot Summaries, and the Results are Amazing

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
May 22 2014 11:58 AM

Netflix Glitch Mashes Up Plot Summaries, and the Results are Amazing

Netflix has dealt with its fair share of issues over the years. Data outages, name changes, and price hikes have sometimes left the company’s insatiable customers close to tears. But a recent bug in the Netflix system left users laughing instead. It appears that a glitch was causing plot summaries from separate movies to merge—creating hilarious mashups of some classic (and not so classic) films.

Twitter user Summary Bug capitalized on the glitch on May 17, posting photos of dozens of hilarious movie mashups. One summary appears to combine a Power Rangers installment with Inglorious Basterds, with glorious results:  “The Samurai Rangers get stuck in the Megazord’s cockpit on Christmas Even when it breaks down. Can the Rangers get out and assassinate Adolf Hitler.” Another plot summary suddenly makes Terminator 2: Judgment Day seem a bit less terrifying: “A reprogrammed Terminator arrives from the future to protect young John Conner from a relentless shape-shifting cyborg gumball machine.”

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The Summary Bug account was the brainchild of Bob Lannon, a technologist at the Sunlight Foundation who casually tweeted out a photo of the glitch from his personal Twitter account.* He had noticed the problem sporadically since December, but thought little of it. After waking up to thousands of retweets, though, he quickly set up @SummaryBug, which quickly amassed more than 4,000 followers. In an interview with Slate, Lannon—a developer who helped create the nonprofit’s AdHawk app, among others—was empathetic toward his brethren at Netflix, saying, “I hope I didn’t ruin anybody’s week!” Some users believed the entire account was a publicity stunt, but terrible plots like “Join Papi and his two- and four-legged family as they move into a posh Beverly Hills hotel, complete with a luxurious doggy sold into slavery” seem to be beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. (Except possibly the Sultan of Brunei.)

But the fun may already be over. Last night, a Netflix representative confirmed with Slate that the bug was real, saying in an email, “Indeed this bug has given us a few chuckles, too. We are looking to fix it as soon as we can, though. We have confirmed the issue, it happens rarely, and are working on a solution.” (It’s unclear whether Lannon’s popular Twitter account is what alerted Netflix developers to the problem.) Just minutes later, the spokesperson confirmed that the product team has fixed the summary mashup issues.

The Netflix Twitter account even joined in on the fun:

After a hearty boo, Summary Bug responded with class:

It was indeed fun while it lasted. Let us shed a tear for the incredible movie mashups that will never be.

*Correction, May 22, 2014: This post originally misspelled Bob Lannon's last name.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Tyler Lopez is a writer living in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.

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