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Netflix’s Broken is a hard-hitting documentary series exploring—and exposing—corruption and unethical behavior in key consumer industries. From makeup fraud that sees people putting actual poison on their faces to furniture companies that know their products are unsafe but do very little to fix them, Broken highlights key safety risks the public faces every day.
PRODUCER: Zero Point Zero Productions
This riveting docuseries exposes corruption and unethical behavior in key consumer industries.
The series starts with a look at the booming cosmetics industry, exploring how the rise of indie brands that allow for higher quality and more ethical production has also led to a huge market for cheap, low-quality fakes. The corresponding rise in internet-based sales and rapidly updated products (especially sought-after limited editions) has increased demand for new products and made it harder for consumers to verify authenticity. Unfortunately, while the old-school designer fakes did little harm to the buyer, these products are usually produced in unsanitary conditions, commonly containing everything from staph to horse urine. They also include toxic ingredients such as lead, which can cause everything from contact dermatitis to brain damage. Police, private investigators, and cosmetic scientists explain the extent of the problem, the steps being taken to address it, and ways consumers can keep themselves safe.
The episode covering vaping focuses on Juul and the way its marketing campaigns have led to an “epidemic” of vaping among American teenagers. Broken looks at the creation of the e-cigarette in China and its original intention of helping cigarette smokers kick their habit. It also explores how America’s lack of regulations, coupled with tobacco lobbyists, turned the Juul into a fashionable, high-dose nicotine delivery system, addicting a new generation. One notable aspect of the episode was the comparison of the U.S. to the U.K., where e-cigarettes are tightly regulated, hard to access, and primarily used to help people stop smoking cigarettes.
Broken tackles furniture next, which people might not assume is inherently dangerous. But thanks again to a lack of regulation in America, unstable dressers and other furniture send someone to the ER roughly every half-hour. This is an especially important episode for viewers with young children, but is also likely to be distressing, as many babies and small children have died as result of faulty furniture. The episode focuses on Ikea, as many considered the company’s response to the discovery that one of its dressers was prone to tipping over and had crushed multiple children to be callous and insufficient. The show exposes the darker aspects of the company’s past, as well as unethical logging practices in Romania, although the company disavows those actions and insists the issues have been addressed.
Finally, Broken addresses the recycling industry’s negative impact on Asia, and the ways in which the petrochemical industry has worked to push responsibility for the pollution and other environmental impacts onto the consumer. Covering corruption and violence by recycling companies in Southeast Asia and the pushback from the local communities, Broken exposes the culpability of lobbying groups and big businesses in America while offering potential, albeit partial, solutions for a plastic-free future.
While Broken can be a little patronizing at times, it’s overall an interesting and informative docuseries, highlighting the real dangers the consumer goods industry poses to consumers and the planet itself. While this sort of program can tend toward dull or preachy, Broken avoids these pitfalls, engaging viewers to the end.
Looking for something more specific? Here are our Netflix guides for the best war movies, documentaries, anime, indie flicks, true crime, food shows, rom-coms, LGBT movies, alien movies, gangster movies, Westerns, film noir, and movies based on true stories streaming right now. There are also sad movies guaranteed to make you cry, weird movies to melt your brain, old movies when you need something classic, and standup specials when you really need to laugh. Or check out Flixable, a search engine for Netflix.
Siobhan Ball is a historian, archivist, and journalist. She also writes for Autostraddle and bi.org