(edited and refreshed on 2 Jan 2021)
TL; DR: Start 2021 with this strange resolution: To NOT watch that hot new show that dropped on Netflix/ Amazon Prime/ Disney+ et al right away. Don’t watch it over a single day/ weekend as if you’re cramming for an exam. Don’t watch it “as it airs” at 2 AM and call it “appointment TV”.
To do this is to be part of the global cultural bourgeoisie and enslave yourself to the OTT algorithm gods. Instead, watch something old and consider how the conversation around it flowed and shaped over the cultural eon that has surely passed on the internet in the few weeks or months since it came out. Better yet, re-watch something you truly love; savor it, ruminate on it, and then think about how it has impacted you. You will be better off.
Tell me if this internal monologue is familiar to you:
“I really have to watch that new season of X the very weekend it comes out. I might get ‘spoiled’ if I don’t, see? (And being spoiled is BAD!) Also everyone will be talking about it on Zoom tomorrow and I don’t want to feel left out. Plus I probably look cool for bingeing the whole thing in one go. Oh, and there’s that other thing dropping next week, so I must have time to binge that too… although thank god it’s coming out — I am running out of things to watch. Did I finish Netflix LOL?”
So here’s the problem: there’s a new kind of attention slavery in the world. We willingly let our lives be ruled by the far too many release calendars that many creative types cook up for our attention pie. There is a stunning seasonality (no pun intended) to our attention span as it moves from the latest Star War, Strange Thing, Cinematic Universe Stencil, or live action adaptation/ revival of that old 80s Childhood Favorite (if you’re a millennial) that we’d put behind us.
I posit (with no objective evidence or research at all, because !) that this means we all talk about the same anodyne thing all the time and it makes our social and intellectual lives poorer. Gone are the days when each person brought their own life experience to a conversation and enriched those they spoke with. Now we all just meet up and agree the last season of The Mandalorian was high art and Tiger King should never have been made. (if it was so crappy, why spend precious time to talk about it?)
Look, I’ll be the first to admit that this is a first world problem. To suffer from it, you need a) economic security, b) free time, and c) the tendency (like me) to subscribe to whatever “Premium”/ “Super” subscription service the mandarins at the newest streaming media venture think up. In the year of COVID just past, this has never been truer
If you’re a consumer of creative stuff, there has never been a better time to be alive. I think it is objectively true that more human beings have the privilege of more entertainment, across more channels, at their fingertips than ever before in human history. The options are many and more fandoms are available to you for joining should you be obsessed with even the most niche content (thanks Internet!).
I was having conversation the other day with a good friend who binges way more media than I do. We got to talking about the new Godzilla anime movies on Netflix. I was aghast to find out that although he’d seen the first two, he had forgotten it was a trilogy, and had even forgotten the cliffhanger(ish) ending to the second one. This made me sad. If you love a thing, shouldn’t it leave more of an impression?
Creative things you love should leave you with a long hangover. I remember fondly obsessing over the Star Wars Original Trilogy as I watched and re-watched them, poring over every detail. (Han shot first!). By comparison, the really bad “The Rise of Skywalker”, broke my heart when it came out only about a year ago. It was a terrible movie but it already feels like it came out a decade ago. We’ve had about eleven different “cultural discourse phases” at least in the year since it came out.
The Proposed Solution
In 2021, just as I did for the most part in 2020, I resolve to watch everything that comes out and gets labeled ‘the hottest new thing’ at least 3 months after it attains said status. This is easy because I have ended up not having much time to watch about 50 different things that came out this year and I mean to watch anyway.
More to the point though, I will consciously avoid said hot new thing and refuse to let it cause my not knowing about it cause me social anxiety. I will be willful in my ignorance of whatever the OTT services are pushing no their home page with auto-play trailers, or whatever the cool crowd are talking about.
Instead I will read or even reread more books (again, huge backlog helps) and refocus myself to go deep (as opposed to broad) in my entertainment choices and media consumption. I will Re-watch/ Re-read and enjoy old favorites and refuse to keep up with the media Joneses.
Long-form, well-aged, beloved things over short, new, flashes in the pan.
I hereby pledge to stop running on the infinite scrolling media treadmill that the media bosses have planned as my future. I will break the binge. (Also, probably binge Breaking Bad at some point… I hear it’s good!)
Join me? Am I over-reacting/ wrong? Tell me! :)