Rotten on Netflix

The industries seem as if they shouldn’t exist due to the cruel and unfair practices going on throughout the world, and hardly any positivity is shown.

Avocados, bottled water and chocolate these everyday industries, along with others, have terrible physical and financial conditions for all involved. While this is explored in “Rotten,” the show presents information too in-depth, displays problems in parts of its production and fails to give thought toward its suggested solutions.

For each industry, the show has a laser focus on a unique experience. For example, the rise in popularity of avocados has resulted in increased organized crime in Mexico and rivers being illegally accessed in Chile. Each episode focuses on issues like these for half the time before moving on to the rest of the industry and undermining the other problems throughout companies, such as cocoa buyers setting their price for ingredients. Throughout the rest of each episode, the initial issues presented aren’t brought up again or connected to anything else, making them feel like a waste of time.

While the topics are important, each episode feels like it drags on, in part due to their strange pacing. Every industry has problems it faces around the world and explores them in specific situations presented in a dark manner, emphasizing how messed up conditions have become. After the first problem is adequately explained, there’s a sudden transition to another part of the world to look over an industry-wide issue. 

It often cuts between people from the first facility and the new one with sometimes differing opinions that seem disjointed. For instance, a French winemaker believes his business will have to watch an Asian winery that recently opened in case it tries to sell other country’s wines as French. The woman in charge of the Asian-owned businesses, meanwhile, talks about respecting the industry and buying a place in France to capture the respected essence of French winemaking.

The industries seem as if they shouldn’t exist due to the cruel and unfair practices going on throughout the world, and hardly any positivity is shown. While the main purpose is to expose hardships with common industries, it feels too biased against each industry to effectively and accurately portray the full image the show is aiming for.

In the last two to five minutes, the crew suggests a solution that could help many people in industries like winemaking or sugar. With how little time is given to them, there’s no exploration into how the solution could effectively take place. It seems like these solutions aren’t given much thought considering no one interviewed is given a chance to react to the answer despite it affecting them the most.

No facts or processes are presented in an interesting form. Instead, the narrator or interviewees drone on about whatever topic is focused on at the time rather than making sure they’re entertaining. It makes each episode feel painfully long despite the hour runtime. Plenty of opportunities appear for recreations of certain events like crops being burned by competitors or attacks on avocado orchards. Some other explanations are given that could’ve been accompanied by a visual to help the audience, like an underground channel that’s used to take large amounts of water from a river illegally to grow more avocados in Chile.

“Rotten” spits out plenty of negative facts about massive industries like sugar and marijuana but fails to make it entertaining, show a bright side or give solid solutions to problems. It’s a boring journey that sucks the life out of the audience, as they’re helpless to affect any of these industries substantially.

Contact Caleb Barbachem at barbaccf@dukes.jmu.edu. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.