Last week, Netflix released Another Life, a 10-episode sci-fi series where an astronaut and her team go on a difficult mission to explore the genesis of an alien artifact. In one episode, two characters arrive on a “mysterious moon” where they chance upon an “alien-looking” fruit. After one of them tries it, they call it “disgusting.”
Southeast Asian Netflix subscribers, however, were surprised to find that the alien fruit looked mightily familiar. One Twitter user spotted that it was, in fact, a rambutan.
If you aren’t familiar with the rambutan, it is a fruit common to Southeast Asia and is distinguished by its hairy, leathery “skin.” The translucent orb which it envelopes is quite sweet and similar in flavor to lychees. So, no, it isn’t disgusting at all.
After the tweet drew attention to the show’s use of the fruit as a prop, other social media users continued to poke fun while others problematized the issue as exoticism.
“When the entertainment industry runs out of ideas to the point where they can’t even design a fruit so they rely on hoping the audience is stupid enough to not know they called a real-life fruit extraterrestrial,” one Twitter user replied.
Another user replied to the original thread with: “White people discovered rambutan.”
Surely a Netflix Original could have created their own “alien-looking” fruit instead of co-opting one that’s actually popular in other countries. Especially since Netflix is reported to have a $15 billion budget on original shows and is specifically targetting their international subscriber growth in Asia.
At the end of 2018, Media Partners Asia estimated that 11 percent of Netflix’s 8.5 million subscribers in the Asia Pacific region came from Southeast Asia, according to The Hollywood Reporter. At the end of this year's first quarter, Southeast Asian subscribers were said to have reached 1 million.
If Another Life’s prop misuse isn’t enough to dissuade you from watching it, maybe the ratings are. It currently holds a 33 percent rating on Metacritic, and Rotten Tomatoes’ aggregated critics score rate it at a dismal 7 percent. Hollywood Reporter calls the show “dangerously close to becoming a spoof of a space series.”