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OP-ED: Is there anything worth watching?

  • Published at 11:53 pm October 17th, 2020
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Photo: AFP

Netflix drip feeds us with just enough to keep the system going

After a long day of work, there’s nothing better than coming back home, grabbing a pizza, and firing up Netflix. But while paying my monthly Netflix bills, I realized that I haven’t used my account for anything special for months now.

While I have watched the occasional good film that can be found on the site here and there, and have even been excited for Kaufman’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things during the start of the month, I pretty much spent the rest of my time watching reruns of The Big Bang Theory, a show that I don’t even like.

My practice with Netflix seemed familiar, but I just couldn’t put my finger on what it resembled. And then it hit me. What I am doing with Netflix now is the same thing I would do with cable TV when they were still hip.

Now, how did it come to this? Didn’t we migrate from TV to computers specifically due to this problem? And didn’t we later migrate to Netflix in order to avoid the hassle of having to go through the excruciating download times the local broadband takes to download shows? Well, kind of, but no. Due to memes and popular culture (phrases like “Netflix and chill,” for example), Netflix had already solidified its presence in the minds of people across the globe.

The first Netflix account I had, I was given access to it by a friend. When he moved to Canada and started earning some cash, Netflix was one of the first things that he subscribed to. And even then, there would be months where he wouldn’t even touch the account. And when I had amassed a good share of disposable income, one of the first things I subscribed to was Netflix as well.

Which brings me to my point: Netflix is one of those hip things that one must have like a smartwatch or iPad -- but it is also something that doesn’t provide much value under the surface. But does that mean that Netflix is completely useless? Not exactly. Granted, the removal of the hassle one must go through while torrenting is something to be applauded. The added bonus of streaming shows and movies directly to your TV also makes Netflix a force to be reckoned with.

And some of the originals -- namely shows like Bojack Horseman and movies like The Irishman do make it an attractive platform. But does that mean that Netflix has an attractive library in general? No. Over the past half year, the biggest releases on Netflix have been shows such as Dark, The Umbrella Academy, Sex Education, Money Heist, and the like. And while I don’t consider them good myself, there is no denying that these shows have a wide appeal.

Shows and movies like this come out maybe once or twice a month -- and that is a generous estimate. Aside from that, once you have run out of the content on Netflix that you have wanted to watch for a while, Netflix begins to show a distinct lack of quality shows and movies, at least in terms of getting that sweet subscription revenue from us every month.

Then how does it still manage to retain our membership? Well, to answer that, we would have to take a look at the example I have used at the beginning. Sitcoms generally don’t require much attention, and more often than not, they are basically made as the junk food of television. They are easy to make and easy to watch -- but more often than not, they generally don’t have much to offer in terms of substance.

For example, I was watching an episode of TBBT the other day while browsing my phone, but I still understood everything. And even when I knew the show was not good, I still had a good time watching it. There is something about turning your brain off and just lounging in front of the TV like that, and when you add the benefits of Netflix to the mix, it becomes clear why Netflix still has a loyal audience.

And while I don’t have academic papers to prove my theory, the Bangladeshi and global top chart of Netflix and the experience of my friends at least indicate that I am on the right track.

And since the inability to select what to watch has become a huge talking point when it comes to millennials, I think it says more about the content than the people who are watching them. So yes, while there are some good benefits to owning a Netflix ID, it has pretty much become an advanced version of cable TV.

And while it does add some value to our lives, the same could be done by downloading our favourite shows and just screening them on television using hard drives (something we eventually end up doing, due to a lot of quality shows not even making their way to Netflix).

But even when I am writing this, I am still a hypocrite in that I do not want to end my subscription.

The thing is, while there aren’t major benefits to owning a Netflix account, it still beats having to wait hours for your download to be complete. It still beats having to transfer shows to your hard drive and watching them on TV. Maybe capitalism has made us too lazy or has drained us so much that we are happy with the most basic of conveniences and the most superficial of values, but after 14-15 hours of classes, traffic, and having your boss yell at you, even downloading something off the internet seems like a chore.

And that’s where Netflix comes in and drip feeds us with just enough to hail them as saviours, and keep the system going. And in this hellish nightmare that we call the modern world, we should settle and make peace with what we have. We should settle and make peace with what we have. Right guys?

Nafis Shahriar is a freelance contributor.

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