Over the past weekend, I binge-watched House Of Cards first season, episodes 1-6. Even after the assignment was over and I had collected my viewing notes, I still wanted to keep watching. It appears I had caught the binge-watching bug.
I stream my television from my Xbox on services like Netflix, Hulu, etc. I don’t really think the concept of screen intimacy was relevant for me, because I didn’t stream these episodes to my phone or tablet, it was on my TV, farther away from me. Although, I definitely felt a deeper connection to the show with Frank’s direct addresses to the viewers, as described by Casey McCormick in her Chapter “Forward Is the Battle Cry”: Binge-Viewing Netflix’s House of Cards.
I worked 9-hour days and then came home to watch the episodes, every night over the weekend; so I don’t feel it would be fair of me to comment on the physical fatigue brought to viewers by binge-watching…
Other than the fact that I was sitting with one leg crossed under the other for 2 episodes, taking my notes, then went to stand up and fell down immediately (leg was asleep) …embarrassing but true.
I did feel the mental exhaustion that came along with watching that much TV back-to-back. I think this was in part due to the fact, that this in a complex TV show. There are many characters and interactions/situations the viewer has to keep straight because of the continuity the show employs. I think this show flows so easily between episodes, that it is easy to binge-watch.
Although I can see Zach’s point of view about the potential for loneliness associated with binge-watching, I think it really does provide a different sense of comradery for some people.
Just as the invention of the internet allowed for more people to connect on niche interests, so do these shows and their availability to be binge-watched.
Since I’ve watched House of Cards, I’ve connected with several people solely over that shared interest and generated conversation about the show, creating a shared bond over the binge-watching aspect of it.
Truthfully, the behind the scenes drama that this show depicts reminds me of vengeful middle school girls. Frank is constantly lashing out when things don’t go his way, he has minions who do exactly what he tells them to do (ex. Peter Russo, Zoe Barns), he’s very manipulative.
I think the overarching theme of addiction is a really good point made by Casey in Netflix Effect. I noticed the nicotine motif she mentioned as well, which is surprising because when one considers congressmen, the last thing that comes to mind is the smell of cigarettes, at least for me. I thought the use of a seemingly lower-class activity was well-placed in this story, because as the story unfolds, it becomes more and more clear that Claire and Frank aren’t what they seem. They both partake in affairs and illegal deals, which is exactly the type of unseen political activity Zoe wants to uncover in her writing.
In addition to Peter Russo, and Zoe Barns, I also thought Alex might be a surrogate character as well. I think he kind of represents the bad boy type women want, while Frank is Claire’s more safe and functional partner. It seems like Alex is a symbol for Claire’s desire for adventure outside of her demanding schedule, and lifestyle that comes with being a congressmen’s wife.
I like that The Netflix Effect so effectively analyzed the addictive theme in the show, as a viewer I noticed nearly every character was addicted to something. Frank is addicted to power, Zoe to information, Peter Russo to drugs and sex, and even Marty Spinella to justice. Linking the premise of addiction to feelings a binge-watching viewer might experience, and even considering Rachel (a surrogate character), to encompassing the model viewer was very eye-opening for me. Although I feel like I consider the larger themes and messages a show is trying to get across, I can’t say I ever thought these would be connected to viewership and perhaps even used to promote binge-watching.
I appreciated learning the design aspect of these shows to be binge-worthy, the effort put in way behind the scenes to quietly usher viewers to the next episode.
House of Cards is most definitely a binge-worthy show- with it’s “narrative complexity” and “temporal play” encouraging binging. This show requires attentive viewing and has a “distinct forward momentum” which draws viewers in even farther.