My family was a little late to jump on the Netflix bandwagon. We were loyal to the Blockbuster franchise all the way to its tragic, anachronistic end. In our sleepy suburban town (a place that so often clings to the old way of doing things), our local Blockbuster stood steadfastly against the ever-changing times. While across America other Blockbusters were closing their doors, our Blockbuster remained. Like an unswerving sentinel, this particular Blockbuster guarded the traditional movie-watching experience with all of its might.
But this is real life, not some action movie—and Blockbuster is certainly no John McClane. Amidst the overwhelming pressure coming from Netflix cyber terrorists, Blockbuster had no choice but to lower its arms. It was around this time last year, in the summer of 2013, that it finally gave up the fight.
I know what you’re thinking, and it’s true: I have had plenty of time to come to terms with this devastating loss. I have to be honest and say that I didn’t really have time to mourn. Not long after Blockbuster had its last big mega-sale (“STORE CLOSING—EVERYTHING MUST GO!!!”), my family took the next step and signed up for a Netflix subscription. It was perhaps the best and worst decision of our lives.
You may say it was a little insensitive of us, like buying a new dog so soon after the old one passed away. Blockbuster had just left such a huge gap in our lives that we had to look elsewhere for consolation and home entertainment. Alas, we had no choice but to turn to Blockbuster’s archenemy.
You will never forget the first time you use Netflix for the same reason you will never forget the first time you ever drove a car. The exhilaration, the rush! You feel high on the sheer number of possibilities. Simply choosing what to watch is the hardest part; sometimes, I feel like I spend more time choosing what movie or TV show to watch than I do actually watching. I know that’s not true though, because once you finally choose something to watch, you can never stop.
After you get the first taste of it, there’s no going back. The initial high turns into a constant need, like a tobacco craving. Your body itches for one more House of Cards episode the same way a chain smoker longs for another cigarette. You think you have it under control until it is four in the morning and you realize you have to somewhere to be in a few hours. I’ll even admit that I’m rushing to write this because I desperately want to go back to my Weeds marathon; summer has barely started and I’m already deep into the third season.
It wasn’t always like this. At least Blockbuster encouraged some degree of moderation. Netflix does the complete opposite (is the twenty seconds between episodes honestly enough time to overcome any sort of impulse?). The Netflix effect has spread well beyond the realm of TV-watching. We live in a binge-consuming culture. I myself binge on slam poetry videos and Cool Lime Refreshers. On weekends, I binge on all the sleep I should have gotten while I was on Netflix during the week. With Netflix especially, we have become even more impatient. We can hardly stomach a cliffhanger nowadays, let alone contemplate the clever subtleties within an entire episode of Mad Men.
We no longer peruse; we zone out, we consume. Often, we isolate ourselves for hours, or even days, at a time (because frankly, no one wants to binge-watch seven seasons of Dexter with you). This is the future we’re heading towards–the weekly family visits to Blockbuster are now nothing more than relics of of a lost civilization.