If you’re concerned about health, safety and the environment, Netflix’s four-episode mini-docuseries “Broken” is absolutely worth watching. This eye-opening web series details the harmful and fraudulent ways in which manufacturers create cheap products at the public’s expense and teaches viewers how to be smarter consumers without overdoing the scare tactics.
Whether it’s plastics, Juuls, makeup or cheap furniture, each episode follows a unique story and the impact that various products have on our bodies, society and the environment. With episodes running about an hour, the series explores personal themes as well as how entire communities can be impacted by the featured products.
“Makeup Mayhem” focuses on counterfeit makeup and how it’s filled with parabens, carcinogens, dangerous chemicals and even glue. The episode takes place in Los Angeles and looks into black market products produced in China that mimic brands such as Milk, Fenty Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics. The $5.4 billion black market perfumes and cosmetics industry creates lower-priced, poor-quality fakes that have caused allergic reactions from unsanitary production sites and contraband ingredients such as horse urine and feces. In this episode, viewers follow undercover counterfeit investigators as they tackle these fake products in LA.
“Big Vape,” the second episode, looks into vaping, especially in young people, and at the recent epidemic that has rattled the e-cigarette market. The creators of Juuls and e-cigarettes dive deep into their beginnings and how vaping-related deaths are covered in the nightly news. This episode also features high school students who look down on tobacco but praise Juuls. Connecticut high school senior Bella Carrol explained how being around her friends who vape makes her unable to quit her habit.
“It just doesn’t seem as bad of a thing” when everyone’s doing it, Carrol said. “It’s just something that people are doing.”
“Deadly Dressers” stood out as a unique and disturbing episode. While vaping and counterfeit makeup have been in the news before, bedroom furniture causing death is not something most of us have heard about. In this episode, viewers learn that cheaply made furniture contributes to the injury of a child every 30 minutes. From 2016 to 2017, 31 children died because of furniture tipping over.
Quality furniture that once was built to last a lifetime has been overtaken by cheaply sold and cheaply made pieces. In the 1980s and 1990s, furniture makers began a shift toward lower-quality products which have led us to companies such as Target and Ikea that specialize in lower-cost pieces. Ikea, which has expanded to 420 stores in more than 50 countries, is under pressure in this episode as we see parents demanding change and filing lawsuits against Ikea’s cheaply constructed furniture.
The final episode focuses on the horror and deceit behind recycling. Whether it’s in landfills or on the beaches of Southeast Asia, much of what we believe is being recycled is actually still causing serious environmental harm. “Recycling Sham” exposes corporations that are responsible for “trashing the planet” and how plastics can affect our health. Manufacturing doubles every decade leading us toward a world full of plastic.
The viewer is left with this loud and clear message: We must do better and be better in order to influence and change regulations when dealing with harmful manufacturing practices. Investing carefully and consciously in your purchases, whether that’s makeup or furniture, is imperative for moving away from the dangerous 21st-century consumerist model and toward a healthier, safer future.
By S. Nicole Lane
S. Nicole Lane is a freelance journalist based in the southside of Chicago where she covers women’s health, the LGBTQ voice, arts, and entertainment. Her byline can be found in Playboy, Rewire News, i-D, Broadly and various other corners of the internet. She is also a visual artist who works with small-scale sculptures.