Monday, January 27, 2014

Netflix Kind of Sucks

            It’s Sunday night.  Seven guys are crowded around the table.  One or two are sipping on beers.  Another is making a lackluster attempt at Spanish homework.  Half-eaten Golden Buddha is sitting on the table—it’s half-eaten not because we’re full, but rather, because it was only half-edible in the first place.  Some mediocre movie is playing in the background but nobody’s really watching…one out of the seven guys always insists on watching “this great movie on Netflix.”  Unfortunately for us, only a handful of such films exist, and none of us is a particularly gifted critic.  Yet, that’s how it goes, another night…another movie.
            These are the evenings when I begin to question my lifestyle.  It’s one thing to watch a lot of movies, but it’s another thing entirely to fall into the vicious trap of scrolling through Netflix for hours on end, knowing that the prize will be a sci-fi thriller, starring a B-list actor, with a 41% on Rotten Tomatoes.  What’s even worse, however, is accepting that fact.  I know my film viewing habits weren’t always this bad.
            I’m not convinced that I watch more movies now than I did five years ago.  The difference lies in the quality of my viewing experience.  There are a number of reasons for this, foremost of which is the size of my party.  The bottom line is that there are very few movies that seven people will all love.  Even the best films usually get one or two poor reviews.  So, trying to find a free movie that will please the entire group is virtually impossible.  The decision-making process is almost unbearable, and the first fifteen minutes of the show are always tense.  At that point, we’re usually capable of deciding whether the next two hours of audiovisual entertainment will really be worth our while.
            The next issue with Netflix is that it’s free.  Of course, it’s a subscription service, and someone is paying for that Arrested Development marathon, but it’s never you.  Maybe your dad, or cousin, or roommate, or ex-girlfriend is, but no college kid is paying for his own Netflix.  This concept of free entertainment is a two-fold problem.  First, who would go to the movie theater or buy a DVD, when thousands of—albeit shitty—titles are waiting on their computer…for free?  Historically, watching a film was an activity associated with immediate payment.  Whether it was renting a VHS at Blockbuster (those were the days) or purchasing a ticket at a local cinema, there was always a currency exchange of some sort.  Then, a dollar value was directly associated with the experience—we had to consider whether renting The Bourne Supremacy was really worth $4.00.
            My final concern with this Netflix culture is the social component.  I’ve been going on movie dates since middle school—my grandparents have been going on movie dates for 60 years.  Taking a girl to the movies used to be one of my favorite things to do—that was before my friends started going to bars, and clubs, and concerts.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy other forms of entertainment and fun, I just still have a soft spot for going to the movies.  Yet, as a sophomore at a liberal arts school, movie dates have suddenly become a foreign concept to me.  The last time I checked, girls still like movies, I just never ask them to go.  For three semesters, I didn’t bother to think why not.

            So, this is the end of my rant.  The truth is I probably use Netflix more than 90% of the people who will read this.  Most of the time I really enjoy it.  Still, there are moments when I mourn the loss of Blockbuster and movie dates, because when it really comes down to it, Netflix kind of sucks.