If you had been monitoring my families television watching habits over the last two to three years you’d probably say we are binge-watching experts. Once we get hooked on a show, particularly on Netflix, we like to “see it through”. Sometimes I feel like it’s a co-dependent addiction, but usually, I just tell myself that we are committed (sounds better, right?) And I’ll be honest, our love of television and binge-watching is a big part of why I was excited to take this class. After all, when else would a primarily history major, seminary-bound, 40-year-old wife, and mother of two have the chance to take a class like this?? What I wasn’t counting on was our first binge-watching assignment, House of Cards. Until this point, I’ve usually had control of the shows I consume. If I don’t connect with something I turn it off. And if I feel tired or drained after a rainy Saturday of binging on the latest series I at least feel good about finishing the story. When House of Cards originally came out everyone told us we HAD to watch it. I gave the first episode and a half one, somewhat inebriated, viewing and decided I wanted nothing to do with it. So here we are five years later and it’s come back to haunt me. Like the first go around I feel like this show highlights the worst of aspects of our society: greed, addictions, distorted priorities, distrust, disloyalty (even when it’s disguised as loyalty, yes I’m talking to you, Francis and Claire!), indifference, insincerity, cheating, the inability to see the beauty around you, and the disregard for other human beings for starters. Upon reflection, I realize that a part of the reason why the show bothers me so much is that some of these aspects can apply to me when I’m binging a show. For instance, there have been times when I’ve forgotten to fold the laundry (distorted priorities) and don’t realize the rain has stopped and I could take the dogs for a walk (the inability to see the beauty around me.) Even more disturbing is when I start a show and become obsessed! You wouldn’t know anything about that would you Frank? While I wouldn’t say I’ve become obsessed with House of Cards it did grow on me. My attitude towards Peter went from annoyed indifference to empathy and, by the end of the sixth episode, hoping that things work out for the guy. One character I didn’t have to work hard to connect to was Freddy. His part may be small, but it reminded me of a straight-shooting grandpa. And without Freddy, I’d probably never have been open to believing Frank had any goodness or decency.
One thing that didn’t help was where I watched House of Cards. Because we have a 10-year-old daughter I watched the show over two evenings in my bedroom where she would have to knock before getting exposed to the show. And by the time I finished with three episodes each night, it was dark and I was left feeling pretty depressed. It was in those moments when I could completely identify with Zachary Snider’s assertion that binging can leave you feeling really alone and disconnected from your loved ones. When I started my second evening of watching my husband was still cleaning up dinner and putting our daughter to bed. By the time he was done, I was almost through a full episode and he was behind. While he still came into the bedroom, instead of watching with me he watched an episode of a show I don’t watch on his phone, with earbuds. It was a stark reminder that you don’t have to physically be alone to feel alone.
In the end, I’m leaning more towards binge-watching being an addiction. What do you think?