Mark Thompson

Generation binge-watch: History’s greatest opiate

Approx Reading Time-10Speaking for the “binge-watch” generation, unlike previous social movements built around drug culture, our high will never end. Forever new, forever solitary.

 

 

 

Drugs. The 1960s had social optimism, safeguarded by the moral excuse of “drugs”; the 1970s had drugs without the optimism; the 1980s the optimism returned with the drugs; the 1990s brought a collective hangover and double fucking denim as the decade’s opiate. But for us, it’s different, even if the feeling is similar. We of this decade, like those before, pour our chosen medium into our veins until it numbs our minds, pours us onto the floor or further under the sheets as the only moment of clarity we’re afforded. The only true barometer of how far off “the right path” we’ve wandered is the glance we catch of ourselves in that tiny black mirror after the credits roll, but fortunately, the time until the next hit has already expired so we’re unable to donate too much thought toward what it is we’re actually doing to ourselves.

If we’re defined by our habits, then there must be two causes of death listed on the generational tombstone. Binge-watching, and puff science pieces that supposedly prove our craziest, laziest hypotheses. And yes, with that in mind, evidence exists to combine the two, green lighting our grandest addiction not just as a worthwhile pursuit for the mind but the body also.

As NY Times writer and media theorist Steven Johnson explains, following the complex narratives and multiple storylines seen in modern TV shows could actually provide “cognitive benefits”.

Professor Elizabeth Cohen, from West Virginia University, told The Conversation that the negative connotations come from the words we use to describe this type of viewing.

“Just think about the pejorative term ‘binge’, which conjures images of excess and abuse,” Professor Cohen pointed out. “Contrast this with ‘marathon viewing’, which connotes accomplishment, and has traditionally been used to describe the experience of consuming multiple instalments of film – not TV series – in rapid succession.”

We don’t travel to one location to place flowers in our hair, our social movement, although antisocial in application, is a group activity in meaning. Instead of Timothy Leary, we follow smutlord George R. R. Martin.

These two theories hold enough water to drown the fears we hold, fears emboldened by the negative rhetoric screamed in our dead, pale faces that we’re doing our lives wrong, that we should be ashamed of those things we do with the lights off, and in yesterday’s t-shirt; it will kill us, turn us impotent, and into the devil if left unchecked. We’re a hundred percent circumstance-driven victim, and we’re ok with that.

Looking further afield, I feel the detractors of binge-watching do so purely out of jealousy. Operating on impulse, they set out to judge us, perhaps in retroactive compensation of their own inability to keep their societal crux/condition alive.

The greatest moral compass steered by chemical imbalances is generally accepted as the “flower power” movement of the late ’60s which reached its zenith in the storied “summer of love” in 1969. One solitary season. For us, a season can easily be accomplished in one sitting. And while we don’t travel to one solitary location to place flowers in our hair, our social movement, although antisocial in application, is a group activity in meaning. Instead of Timothy Leary, we follow the alternate gospel of smutlord George R. R. Martin. Speaking of Leary, when his LSD movement petered out, there was, as Hunter Thompson espoused, a lot of refugees with no belief system to tether themselves to. The trip shook itself from the collective system, and reality soon dawned, and with it, the knowledge that it was truly over. Suddenly, it was time to go back to work.

We do not suffer from a similar threat of collapse to our value systems. The void we feel is a momentary pothole we overstep when adjusting our belief systems to support whichever new kick takes our fancy, ours is the trip that never ends, because we have no expectations to go with it. We’re not trying to win change. In fact, the opposite – we’re actively seeking to perpetuate the same cycle. We know it’s hollow but we do not care, it feels good. Our Woodstock moments are subjective, the narrative of the piece changes from person to person, in comfort, be it lounge, bed, or chair. We have no Vietnam War to halt, because we support the great television war. In fact, we support both sides, as we know that funnelling our funds across both combatants will enable it to roll on in perpetuity – and in turn, we feed the habit, and keep the dream alive, one 90 minute slot at a time.

 

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