Binge Watching: Defining A Generation?

I don’t usually watch TV shows as they air, although I’ve never been able to figure out why. I tend to wait until after they come out on home video and then watch them. Sometimes this means being almost a year behind everyone else, sometimes this even means being several years behind. Does that make me a typical binge-watcher? I guess the mentality is the same. I watched House of Cards season 1 in about a week right after season 2 came out, which I probably won’t watch for at least another month or more. I remember watching season 5 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in about three days, no I’m not exaggerating, but that was during my vacation when I had literally nothing else to do. On the other hand, I’m a year behind in Game of Thrones and only halfway through True Detective. Maybe I’m just better at keeping up with sitcoms, although I’m usually a week or two behind in them as well.

There’s something enjoyable about that. Being behind. I feel like I can take the show at my own pace. I can avoid getting caught up in the insanity of fan theories, fan fiction, fan obsession, anything to do with fans, really. I can pace myself, digest the show slowly, really appreciate it. Or I can binge-watch, but I can do so at my own choosing. This lets me chose different topics to write as well. I don’t have to recap the episode or the season because by now everybody’s seen it. I also don’t have to write about what I thought of that particular episode or how it fits into what we’ve seen of the season so far. I can pick apart more lofty themes, or discuss the characters’ influence on pop culture.

The thing is, I don’t really care about these things. They are perks, yes, but I could really do this just as easily if I watched on a regular basis. I don’t want to knock on people who do typical reviews, many of them do it wonderfully. It’s just not for me. But I don’t need to wait a week to write what I want to write. I just do it out of necessity sometimes. I might be busy writing something else, or maybe I don’t know what to say yet. I believe you shouldn’t just talk about something if you don’t have anything to say, or if you don’t believe in what you’re saying. Despite how fast the world appears to move, it will actually wait for you. People still read about The Sopranos. We still discuss All in the Family. You just have to find your audience.

As for spoilers, yes I have threatened psychological terror on my friends who have watched ahead of me, and sometimes I have to avoid certain websites, but if I’m being honest, this is neither inconvenient nor something I really care about. I know how some stories end. I can forget I know for a while, or I can just enjoy the ride. That seems to be a skill a lot of us have lost lately, and I’m not really sure how. Everything I read these days seems to have a spoiler alert on it, but I don’t want to get into a discussion about spoiler alerts. I’d rather talk about why we can’t handle knowing how things end anymore. So what if you know that XXXXXXXXXXX happens (see what I did there?), does that really ruin it for you? I’m asking honestly, not rhetorically. Does knowing the end of something actually take away from the experience? Sometimes it does. I hate knowing the end to things, but I’ve also found that when somebody does spoil something for me, if the story is good, I usually don’t care. The details are too rich, too nuanced, for it to really matter if I know the outcome. It’s not really about the end result, unless it is.

What does that say about the way we approach life? Are we afraid of spoilers because we’re afraid of facing our own inevitable deaths? Have we forgotten how to savour the little details because we’re trying to avoid growing old? Have we become binge-watchers because we’re afraid of missing out on any real experience? Or have we become better at managing our time, better at appreciating what is around us, better able to take in experiences and stimuli and ideas. I feel the millennial generation gets a bad rap for being tied to our phones all the time. Yeah, we should probably watch where we’re going more often (although for some of us that has nothing to do with technology), but we’re also privy to more information and knowledge than any generation before us. Some people I know have such an amazing capacity for learning I feel left behind myself.

Still, I think it’s good to maintain some balance. Perhaps some stories just lend themselves better to being told in large blocks and others in small blocks. Maybe it doesn’t actually say anything about our generation. Maybe binge watching is just exactly what it is and isn’t really comparable to any activities of other generations. Who knows what’s coming next so we might as well enjoy it as it is right now. Or not, because really, it’s up to us to decide.

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