The days when the term ‘Netflix and Chill’ consisted of lonesome, solitary innocence are well and truly behind us, for some they aren’t even memorable. So, just how did the innuendo-free phrase become the sexually-fuelled euphemism it’s known for today?
‘Netflix and Chill’ is a slang euphemism for romantic or sexual activity. Originally an innocent statement in a Tweet, the invitation to turn on ‘Netflix and Chill’ has, over time, evolved into a coded message for one person visiting another’s house to engage in sexual acts.
By April 2015 it was added to the notorious Urban Dictionary, the site where users can make their own additions in the formation of the modern-day teen lexicon, defined as: “code for two people going to each other’s houses and having sexual intercourse or doing other sexual related acts.”
Let’s start at the very beginning, the ‘Netflix and Chill’ origin story. Shockingly, Netflix has been around since 1997 when they were originally a Video and DVD rental company, competing with the likes of – flashback moment – Blockbuster before they went on to introduce a digital streaming service in 2007.
Setting the scene of 2009, when Netflix had just been made available to stream from the main electronic devices i.e. Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 we see the first documented use of the phrase ‘Netflix and Chill’ used in a tweet by a user ‘NoFaceNina’ that stated: “I’m about to log onto Netflix and chill for the rest of the night.” It’s a tweet that emulates a throwback-style social media post, one that ensures the world is informed of your every movement. But it’s also one that highlights a virtuous, wholesome society, free of innuendo where the teenage generation really did look forward to kicking back alone and watching TV.
The year 2015 was the main turning point for the phrase. After having been added to the Urben Dictionary, the phrase became increasingly subversive, picking up hints of sexual connotations until it had taken a complete social media-fuelled semantic drift, one which the company themselves weren’t afraid to be a part of. In July 2015, Netflix embraced the meme culture that had given its company sexual undertones, by posting a GIF on their social pages from a comedic ‘seduction’ scene in Clueless, captioned ‘Netflix and chill? No, really.’ From there ‘Netflix and Chill’ memes went viral across social media.
Although ‘Netflix and Chill’ is a newly coined phrase the concept of inviting someone over to ‘hook up’ in such a metaphorical way, is not. The English language has relied on the use of innuendo to allude to sexual intercourse for centuries, in attempts to be – debatably – polite.
There were many predecessors of such an ironic invitation that have been lost to the digital age, the most infamous being “Would you like to come up and see my etchings?” which dates back as early as the 1890s. Moving into more modern times, most of us will remember the iconic Gold Blend Couple, a story built on the pre-digital innuendo of ‘coming up for a cup coffee’.
There is no doubt that in the fast-paced digital world of social media and technology that we will carry on forming new ways to be cleverly suggestive. Other streaming and entertainment services have attempted to jump on the bandwagon and get some of the ‘Netflix and Chill’ spotlight too, including ‘Hulu and Hang’, ‘Imax and Climax’, and other even less appropriate alternatives.
When you’re preparing to ‘Netflix and Chill’, the actual film you plan to watch probably isn’t at the forefront of your mind. Still, you might want to ensure whatever is on in the background is appropriately mood-setting or, at least, not too distracting. Vice has rated the 13 best movies for your ‘Netflix and Chill’, including Adventureland, Cocktail and Magic Mike.
Representative of a turning point in social culture, the slang term made waves across the digital and physical world. Businesses were inspired to use the success of ‘Netflix and Chill’ to boost their marketing efforts, including
Netflix even announced a proto-type service, dubbed by some the ‘Netflix and Chill’ button, they officially called The Switch. The idea being that, at the click of a button, you can dim the lights, turn Do not Disturb on your phone; order a take-away; and queue up a series to binge-watch. Due to complications in programming The Switch to work with an individual’s TV, phone and electrics the idea didn’t take off. Nevertheless, the trend of ‘Netflix and Chill’ was unwavering.
In less than ten years the phrase ‘Netflix and Chill’ went from being an introvert’s catchphrase, explicit in meaning and solo in activity to becoming one of the most used and understood Millennial euphemisms, outlaying the modern-day opinion of casual sex and the overwhelming power digital media can have on language. Platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr have taken the phrase on their own etymological journey before the eyes of millions of online followers, allowing them to participate and to form the phrases’ meaning themselves.