It all started out so innocently. As a cinema studies major, I was virtually required to spend countless hours in Rosengarten watching movies on subpar TVs with questionable sound quality. But once I moved off campus, the 10–to–15 minute trek to Van Pelt felt like the Iditarod — worse, actually, since the prize for crossing the finish line was two hours of watching a woman peel potatoes.
As a result, I finally bit the bullet and bought a subscription to Netflix. Though I knew the real reason was my lethargy, I justified the purchase as being somehow scholarly. My plan was to explore intellectual movies from around the world, enriching my film background and making me a better student.
Oh, how that delusion quickly faded. Anyone who has browsed the Netflix streaming catalog (we’re not talking about the DVDs here) knows that it is far from academic. Yes, the company offers classic arthouse fare like Kurosawa’s Rashomon and Truffaut’s The 400 Blows. But for every cinematic masterpiece available for your voyeuristic pleasure, there are at least three movies that one should be ashamed to publicly admit watching. Chick flicks like Steel Magnolias and The Way We Were. Blood-pumping action movies like Die Hard and The Fast and the Furious. Virtually any movie musical. You get the picture.
By far, however, the most damaging Netflix pitfall — and the one that I naturally fell into — is the extensive collection of TV shows. Make no mistake, I was watching acclaimed indie movies and European art cinema for class. But I started to spend my free time cultivating an ironic addiction to Weeds and trying to decide when The Office stopped being funny. Instead of a rowdy Friday nights at Smoke's, I opted for a lazy night on the couch watching episodes of 30 Rock; when I meant to be working on papers, I wasted hours conducting marathons of Grey’s Anatomy.
More alarming than the sheer amount of time I was wasting was the content I was wasting it on. Almost all of my selections were things I had previously seen. Netflix prides itself on its ability to recommend movies that you’ll like based on your past viewing history, and many of its subscribers love it for prompting their cinematic exploration. I failed to take advantage of the unusual foreign dramas or the quirky Sundance hits I’d always been meaning to see. Instead, my Netflix addiction was to the familiar and comfortable.
It might not be adventurous, but I’m sure it’s relatable. Faced with the prospect of leaving college after 17 years inside the realm of education, my fellow seniors and I find ourselves clinging to what we know.
While we try to use this last semester to truly branch out, we still take classes with professors we know and love, and we continue to frequent Drinkers and Smoke's.
With only three months left until we’re forced to take the world by storm, I’ve started making new memories at new places. But if I’m going to start to transition outside of the college bubble, I can’t guarantee my viewing habits will stray much.