A Third of Ohioans Get Their Only History Info from Netflix, Other Streaming Services

Dear Ohio: Netflix's "The Crown" is not a documentary.

May 21, 2021 at 1:01 pm
click to enlarge Emma Corrin as Diana, Princess of Wales, in The Crown on Netflix. - Image: production still, Netflix
Image: production still, Netflix
Emma Corrin as Diana, Princess of Wales, in The Crown on Netflix.

Ohioans may need a history refresher, suggests one recent study.

Buckeye State residents and people throughout the United States are admitting that they get most of their information about real-world history from Netflix and other streaming services. That information comes from an unlikely source — soap opera-focused Soap Hub, which recently surveyed 3,000 people about where their history knowledge comes from.

According to Soap Hub, about one in three Ohioans — 37% — say streaming platforms are their primary sources for learning about history, while only 27% of Kentuckians say the same.

That's kind of disturbing, but not quite as bad as the folks in Nebraska, where 52% say that Netflix is their teacher. That's followed by New Jersey with 45% and Connecticut with 44%.

Documentaries and historical pieces have thrived on streamers. Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo on Netflix, I Am Not Your Negro on Hulu and Tina, HBO's documentary about singer Tina Turner, are all stories supported by news accounts and historical records that give viewers insights into actual events and lives.

But the services also have plenty of period dramas like Netflix's Bridgerton; however, many of these are fictional or are merely inspired by historical eras. When The Crown debuted in 2016, many viewers assumed it was a semi-accurate look at the reign of the United Kingdom's Queen Elizabeth II and family. But Prince Harry, who stepped down as a senior member of the royal family in 2020, reminded late-night host James Corden in February that it's fictional.

Obviously, if Americans are getting their history lessons solely from these shows, that's a problem. Soap Hub says that 46% of respondents admit that they don't read history books at all. Historical accounts in books often are whitewashed and ignore women, but they typically have a few more facts right than many television shows do.

But it seems that half of the Soap Hub respondents at least acknowledge that what they're soaking up isn't necessarily true. Of the survey takers, 55% say that historically based shows and films such as The Crown should be advertised as fictional (as of press time, Netflix labels it as a drama and includes maturity warnings), but 49% say that these entertainment options at least make them want to learn more.

See Soap Hub's infographic about which states are learning the most and least from streaming services.