How Love, Death and Robots’ weird controversy involved fans’ sexuality

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Love, Death and Robot’s strange controversy once involved Netflix allegedly changing episodes based on a user’s sexual orientation.

Today, May 20th, Netflix’s highly-acclaimed animated anthology series Love, Death and Robots finally returned for a third season. The widely-adored series is undoubtedly a fan favourite title for the streaming giant, collecting 11 Emmy Awards across its two fantastic previous seasons.

However, that doesn’t mean that the series is safe from controversy and to be honest, you would be hard-pressed to find another Netflix series that had a weirder ‘controversy’ than Love, Death and Robots season 1.

Love, Death + Robots: Volume 3 | Final Trailer | Netflix



Love, Death + Robots: Volume 3 | Final Trailer | Netflix





Love, Death and Robots finally returns with volume 3

Love, Death and Robots season 3 finally premiered worldwide via the Netflix streaming platform earlier today, May 20th.

Nine new episodes have been released as part of the third volume, spearheaded by the return of everyone’s favourite trio of artificial intelligence with “Three Robots: Exit Strategies”. At the time of writing, Love, Death and Robots is scoring an 8.4/10 on IMDB and 81% on Rotten Tomatoes across all available seasons.

If you only have a few minutes to watch a few individual episodes; arguably the best instalments of the new season are “Bad Travelling”, “Night of the Mini Dead” and “Mason’s Rats” – although every single episode has something to enjoy.

However, the epic animated anthology series has not always had such smooth sailing, with a rather strange controversy occurring after the release of volume 1 in 2019.

Love, Death and Robots’ unusual controversy explained

Back in 2019 when Love, Death and Robots season 1 first premiered, Netflix decided to try out a new experiment with the episode order. Specifically, there were four different orders for volume 1 episodes that could be displayed on a user’s Netflix streaming page – and users were randomly assigned one of these four orders.

However, a tweet from Lukas Thoms, the founder of the non-profit LGBTQ organisation Out in Tech, went viral after he claimed that the order of episodes “changes based on whether Netflix thinks you’re gay or straight.”

Thoms’ Twitter thread understandably went viral as fans started binging the new animated anthology series on Netflix, gaining more than 1,200 likes and 500 retweets in just the first few weeks.

Explaining with a side-by-side image of his episode order compared to a straight friend, Thoms claimed that his version started “with the one with a lesbian storyline” with his friends “starting with the one that has the most realistic and explicit hetero sex.”

“We’ve known for a while that Netflix personalized the marketing of their shows based on sexual orientation (trailers, cover images etc) but it’s next level weird to change the actual experience of watching it. Thought I was losing my mind trying to talk to Andrew about the show.” – Lukas Thoms, via Twitter

The theory gained further traction when Thoms added that “My other two gay friends Chris and Jon had the same episode order that I did.” At the same time, other fans of the Love, Death and Robots series also shared their own episode orders, throwing more fuel on the already rather confusing fire.

Thankfully, the theory that Netflix was displaying episodes of Love, Death and Robots based on their sexual orientation was quickly put to rest. The streaming giant responded directly to the Twitter thread by stating how the different episode orders were shown at random and that they didn’t even have the data needed for this to be real.

“We’ve never had a show like Love, Death & Robots before so we’re trying something completely new: presenting four different episode orders. The version you’re shown has nothing to do with gender, ethnicity, or sexual identity — info we don’t even have in the first place.” – Netflix, via Twitter.

A spokesperson then told Tech Crunch that “We want to showcase the variety of shorts within the anthology series in different ways and see what works for our members.” Thoms, in response, ended the interesting thread by stating how “Identity-based recommendations are still a good discussion to have, in this case, it was just random!”

“This makes sense to me as episode ordering is completely new, and there’s nothing keeping them from using the data gathered here for future identity targeting. I hear Netflix thinks and cares a lot about ethical algorithms, but every company needs to be more transparent here. However truly grateful for all the people in my mentions still saying “Netflix thinks I’m gay”. – Lukas Thoms, via Twitter.

It does not appear that the same experiment with alternative episode orders being displayed on Netflix was present in either the 2021 second season or the recently released season 3.

By Tom Llewellyn – [email protected]

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