To Binge or Not To Binge?
Catherine Lloyd and Olivia Garrett debate the pros and cons of binge-watching.
To Binge with Catherine Lloyd:
Pick your poison of choice: Netflix, Amazon, Hulu. It’s Saturday and prime-time for a binge. So seek refuge under the covers and wave ta-ra to the last vestiges of episodic TV; the frustrating notion of waiting a week for a new episode is now obsolete. You’ll find yourself hours deep in the streaming site abyss, hypnotised by the silver screen and indulging in every genre known to man. “Everyone needs a brain vacation from the stresses of mundanity”, you say to yourself endlessly scrolling. Guilt may hit after the third episode but that will only be momentary; Netflix’s auto-play function will automatically take you onto the next episode before you have time to scold yourself over any wrongdoing.
Don’t be discouraged by the pejorative term: binge-watching. Yes, you associate ‘binge’ with excess and self-indulgence. Yes, social approval is low. Yes, you will be dubbed a layabout every family gathering. But the redeeming factor that offsets any negative concern is this: you have unlimited access to cinematic universes whereby you can submerge yourself in the exploits, tragedies and hilarity of fascinating characters, fittingly in the comfort of your home.
There is no need to depart from one’s sacred bed when season after season instantaneously materialise at your finger-tips.
Aided by Netflix’s auto-play, you will be absorbed into any world you desire without having to leave it. There is no need to depart from one’s sacred bed when season after season instantaneously materialise at your finger-tips. Delight yourself with Friends, humour yourself with Four Weddings and a Funeral and terrify yourself with Marianne. A virtual world but in particular a newfound escapism. With streaming giants all vying for your affection, the choice is endless. As back-to-back viewing is the norm, the relevancy of a program is now measured by how binge-worthy it is. Our indicators of success are changing, alongside our viewing habits.
In a time of great nostalgia, where we stream reruns of 90s sitcoms, Netflix and streaming sites alike are a vehicle for us to reminisce. Traditional TV is being deserted for its younger counterpart; the tide is shifting. Binge-watching – or the preferred name: Marathon-viewing – allows us to watch in sequential order rather than catching the odd infrequent rerun; we can consume at our own will and pace. From a group Harry Potter marathon night to a solitary Gilmore Girls cry-sesh; to an impromptu Stranger Things watch – solely because you heard the hype – to the 100th Fresh Prince of Bel-Air re-watch. Binge-watch responsibly and let Netflix autoplay you to sleep.
Not to Binge with Olivia Garrett:
It’s a rainy Monday evening and I’m on my way to a B.A. meeting. I walk in, sit in the circle, and say “Hi I’m Olivia and I’m a binger”. After the choruses of “Hi Olivia” and “it’s nothing to be ashamed of,” I feel I should explain.
As a self-confessed binger I understand the draw of a non-stop marathon, the raw excitement you get from clicking the ‘next episode’ button on Netflix and the feeling of achievement when you complete a series. You’re reading an anti-binge article from someone who watched seven seasons of Game of Thrones in twelve days (about six episodes a day). But this is not the way it should have been done. For one, it was totally not worth it because the ending was so bad and for another, there was no tension, no prolonged excitement, no eager anticipation for the next episode to roll along.
When you wait, and have these weekly TV rituals, you keep one foot in the show world and one foot in the real world
When you watch a show once a week and get left on a cliffhanger, it’s painful. You get this hollow feeling in your gut and you feel like you might explode if you don’t find out what happens, but painful or not, this increases your love for the show tenfold. The advantage of delayed gratification is that the delay gives you time to theorise, research, discuss with your friends and altogether invest in the show. It develops a sense of community as it allows you to partake in this intense waiting period and you find yourself relating to people you never thought you would. Even though I binged Game of Thrones, I watched the last series live. As I’ve already said, I think it was terrible, but that’s not the point. In the six weeks the show was on I found myself talking to random people about the show, all of whom were friendly, enthusiastic and excited. Those weeks, though bad, showed the power of television – the unity and joy it can create on an international level.
Yes, this is soppy but I miss the time where someone would yell up the stairs that your show was on and you’d have to sprint down because the TV didn’t pause. I still love gathering around with a group of people to watch The Great British Bake Off – or any show. Binging is great, but it can also be very lonely and it’s easy to lose yourself in the show. Alternatively, when you wait and have these weekly TV rituals, you keep one foot in the show world and one foot in the real world. You become more immersed in the culture of the show, and you find your people based on that culture. Now, please excuse me while I go and catch up on The Good Place and try not to regret picking this argument.