Memes work. Bird Box, Netflix’s silly, scattered new spooker, is as popular as its online reputation might suggest. Netflix has been asserting as much, but their penchant for withholding viewership data doesn’t make them the most reliable narrators. Nielsen, on the other hand, is to be trusted, and they report, via Variety, that Bird Box played to nearly 26 million U.S. viewers in its first seven days of availability. Per Nielsen, that number confirms the streamer’s assertion that the movie’s viewership made it the “best first 7 days ever for a Netflix film,” though it can’t confirm the 45 million worldwide users Netflix claims watched it in its first week. The only Netflix original to surpass Bird Box in viewership, Nielsen says, is the second season of Stranger Things.
Bird Box is unique in that its popularity stems not from critical affection or star power so much as the ubiquity of the memes that have surfaced in its wake.
“I only watched Bird Box for the memes,” a Netflix user named Stafford Heppenstall recently told The Ringer. “After the scene with the guy forcing the old women’s eyes open, I stopped watching the movie. I got enough context to know what the memes were and after I read a spoiler on Twitter (while I was watching the movie) I really didn’t think I needed to watch more.”
Hilariously, some have posited that Netflix itself masterminded the spread of the memes, and, while that’s unlikely, they’ve most certainly encouraged them by bringing even more attention to the stunningly stupid “Bird Box Challenge.”
Whatever the case, it works, which means the age of marketing as memeing has officially begun. Get your Imgur account ready.