A number of my friends have recently taken the plunge and subscribed to NetFlix, a service that’s becoming less and less definable as the sexual tension between my computer and TV continues to mount to the point where they should really just do it already so I can stop pretending they’re not together. However, I do still love Netflix and I wanted to share the various stages I’ve gone through over the past five years of getting DVD’s mailed to me.
Stage 1) You embrace a whole new world of art and culture:
Upon first signing up for the Netflix service one immediately creates a queue of forty seven bazillion movies that have been on some mental back list for years. Godard, Felini, Kurosawa, other names with vowels. You are suddenly presented with the largest video library ever known to this earth and you become downright giddy in your ability to finally lay your hands on all those old artsy movies that are never on TV and certainly weren’t at your Blockbuster. These are the works of masters, and as a lover of film you will finally round out your viewing history.
Stage 2) You realize you aren’t French:
Two months in and something called 8 1/2 has been sitting on your desk for so long you thought it was a coaster. It occurs to you that being able to say, “Yes, I’ve seen a number of Lean’s works,” is more important to you than actually watching any of these weird old movies where people stare off screen for hours at a time and the sound of a tractor on a potato farm is all that’s heard. Sure, you were glad to finally see Psycho and Cinema Paradiso was cute but for the love of god how many movies dissecting the notion that all actors are prostitutes did you really think you were going to sit through? At least mix in some explosions with your subtle implications that man, at heart, is no more than a machine. You get it. Their life sucks. Your life sucks too which is why you used to like watching movies. Surely you can get better use out of your subscription. Remember all those old comedies and action movies from your childhood that provided so much joy? Why, you can put those on your queue and relive your youth! You cut your losses and finally mail back the movies with names you can’t pronounce that have been sitting on your desk unwatched for months.
Stage 3) Nope, nostalgia sucks too:
God, your taste used to blow. Chevy Chase was only funny in, like, two movies and you already own Vacation. Old Arnold movies are…I mean wow. And Stallone is basically retarded as, quite clearly, were most of the 80′s.
It turns out that basic cable has being treating your childhood pretty well all these years and the stuff worth watching was being played on TNT six times a weekend anyway. Really you weren’t missing anything and re-watching everything else is only serving to bleed the few happy memories from your childhood away. You were better off utterly wrong, but utterly happy, in the notion that Cobra was good. You’ve successfully made yourself feel not only stupid at this point for not embracing cultural art house films, but embarrassed as well for having such shockingly poor taste.
Stage 4) You discover TV and things go horribly wrong:
Movies are boring and long, all the new releases are impossible to get and you’d rather see them in the theaters anyway. Anything worth showing is on some channel or another, most likely on demand, especially since Showtime is so desperate for viewers it constantly throws free months at you. And whatever slips through the cracks Starz picks up. But television shows? Now you’re on to something. They’re bite-size so when you have three discs sitting on your desk you don’t feel like some horrible obstacle is slowly being built tiny red envelope by tiny red envelope. And TV has become a groundbreaking art form. Over the past decade the shows on the air have moved from half hour plots structured around a jingle to truly great storytelling. Suddenly you’ve got the cultural feel you joined Netflix to get and it’s divvied up into smaller, bite-size pieces.
But you don’t realize the slippery slope you’ve stepped onto. The dramas are only forty minutes long without commercials and the comedies? Those are like eight minutes. It seems like this makes it easier to watch only a little and move on but once you hit that play button everything bleeds together. Episodes into discs into seasons and TV was not made to be watched like this. How many freaking bad days can one CTU agent have? It never stops! The surreal disjointed plots from your early French movie days are looked back upon with nostalgia as eight seasons of mafia character arcs get condensed into one month. What was supposed to be a few slow paced mob hits strung out over a decade is now fourteen murders crammed into one Sunday. And then you start watching Lost…and you are forever gone. Because Lost at the speed of NetFlix is like a Nyquil dream and you stay up late nights wondering if that hatch and that hydrogen bomb are really from the same show.
5) You give up and start watching cartoons:
Seriously. I’m done. And now they’re putting stuff online now so the very needed delay that used to be inserted by the United States Postal Service is vanishing. I watched The Shield straight through, all seven seasons. From early November till a few weeks ago all I ingested through my television concerned Vic Mackey and his horribly depressing spiral into oblivion. I can’t remember anymore if LA is a real city or not.
I have something called The Last Airbender heading my way in the mail. It was written for twelve year olds.
It sounds perfect.
I can’t handle any more art.