In my younger, more vulnerable years I remember TV was the most accessible route for me to engage with people. I played sports, sure, but keeping up with the latest “thing” on TV was the way I was able to more broadly socialize. I can remember watching Dawson’s Creek with the same studiousness that I approached geometry homework, and The OC as if it were Anthropology 101.
There are still shows that are broad cultural events- Game of Thrones, for example, but it seems as if the age of TV having that kind of broad relational reach is passing. No longer are you left nodding along unsure what “everyone else” is talking about the next morning at the water cooler as in the days of Seinfeld, part of that is due to streaming: we watch when we want and binge at our own paces.
The other side of that, though, is wealth of content to go along with that accessibility. Whereas decades ago it was a soft personality test to ask a person what they watch on Thursday night, these days there’s so much out there and it’s so accessible at all times that such a question is less reliable. What’s more, this year it’s becoming far more relevant and revelatory to ask a person: “what streaming service(s) are you subscribed to?”
Sure, Netflix is still the broad standard (for now), but more and more niche streaming services are supplementing peoples’ media diets: Hulu, Disney+, Crunchyroll, DC Universe, ESPN, NBA League, and more- didn’t we stop paying cable companies because we all secretly hoped for an single internet solution to serve all needs? Instead we’ve found ourselves paying a la carte for big media companies to provide us the brand of entertainment we like.
Is this a good thing? In some ways, yes: competition is healthy and sure these are all big corporations, but they have to produce quality content in order to earn your subscription and keep your eyes on the screen. In another way, we’re so awash in content, and it’s so siloed that the era of broad cultural experience through media may be lost save for the people that tweet about the latest season of Orange is the New Black or 13 Reasons Why finding each other on Twitter for the week or less after a new show/season premieres when discourse is at its peak.
The variable in this is how we as consumers respond to this new ecosystem: with so much content and so much competition we have a unique power to be critical consumers. Money talks, and if a provider isn’t providing quality content, or giving us diverse perspectives, stories, and casts in their work? Then they aren’t worth our $7.99/month. You don’t owe Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ or any other company your subscription, time, or attention. There’s no cultural mandate anymore that you “have” to watch anything- if there ever was. Cut whatever cords you want to, and pick the services- if any- that you like.
That being said, watch out later this week for my take on DC Universe’s original show, Doom Patrol.