Friday, March 06, 2009

The Netflix Dilemma

     Company, you are pretty up to date with the times, so I am sure you have heard of Netflix.  In fact, I would guess that there is a pretty good possibility that you yourself are a member; one of those people who goes out to their mailbox on a semi-regular basis and gets the little red envelope, rips Madagascar 2 to your computer, watches half of it once, then sends it back maybe six or eight months later so you can get Amadeus, which you forgot you already own because it's hidden behind the stacks of Netflix movies you haven't sent back yet.  But anyway, I was watching TV, which I often do, and I saw a Netflix commercial that promoted the fact that there are no late fees.  "Take the drama out of renting!" they say.  I can't agree less.  Do not take the drama out of anything.
     The more I get to thinking about it, this is a big problem with the world today.  We have taken the drama, suspense, comedy, and especially the mystery out of everything from a magician cutting a hot assistant in half to who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.  We have managed to pull the strange double switch of getting more lazy AND informed at the same time, which has managed to erode the essential bads that make all our goods so good.  And it's ruining our quality of life.
     Let us start with the informed part.  It's true, and it's the Internet's fault.  Before we used to have to do things like, oh I don't know, leave the house or open a book or wait until 6 o'clock when we could watch Ron Burgundy read us the news, Champ Kind tell us what happened in the world of sports, and Brick Tamland tell us that it will be sunny and 75 tomorrow.  If there are big happenings Brian Fantana might even be live somewhere.  But that's how it was.  We would read the paper in the morning or the evening depending on if you got The Journal or The Sentinel.  All mail was actually carried be a person to your home or business, and you actually had a phone that was tied into a huge network of lines by, you guessed it, a line of its own.  But now, it's all different.  We don't have to wait for anything.  We don't even have to pick up the phone to order a pizza, which incidentally will be delivered to our homes.  Any piece of information is immediately available at our fingertips.  And the Internet is gigantic and very often anonymous.  This has allowed it to be the perfect place for the magician to reveal the secrets of his trade without the traditional scorn of his colleagues.  It's also the perfect place for that paparazzi who finds the Grammy Awards winners list in a trash can in the LA subway to release  who won, who lost, and who was left behind.  So now we all know whose album was best long before the start parade down the red carpet.  The Internet has managed to reduce going to a magic show or watching an awards show to the equivalent of watching the late-night replay of a hockey game you went to earlier in the day.  Sure it's still entertaining and marginally exciting, but where is the real suspense when you know who is going to win.  And you don't really miss that suspense until it has long ago been wiped away.
     So what about lazy?  We have certainly become more lazy.  Netflix has allowed you (I say you because I am not a member) to be able to get the latest movies without leaving the house, provided you have a mail slot.  But that takes away all the possibility for adventure.  What happens to you when you don't leave the house?  Hypertension and couch rash.  What happens to you when you leave for the video store, grocery store, local park, movie theatre, baseball game, wherever?  Anything could happen.  There is strife.  There is drama.  There is tension.  There is joy.  That's all the stuff that makes your favorite movie so good.  And if you notice there are VERY few movies that involve never leaving the house.  The bottom line is that the fine folks in the entertainment industry have pulled the most cunning and dastardly trick of them all on us.  They have convinced us to give up living all those things we see in the movies to watch them on our big screens.  How foolish are we?
     Even in the Netflix ad, as the guy dashes out of his house on a frantic bike ride to the video store to return his stuff and avoid a dreaded late fee, or as the girl gets off the bus and books it to the video store to get the good stuff before it's all gone, the tension heightens.  This however, is portrayed as a stress that is undesirable and should be avoided.  But that couldn't be farther from the truth.  Stress is the crux of adventure, and without this stress nothing worthwhile would ever happen.  Just like you can't appreciate good without evil, you can't truly appreciate the calm without the storm.  By jumping with both feet into the world where we are connected to the max yet unwilling to leave our homes for anything we have managed to dull life down into something that is much safer but far less fulfilling.  And I can never endorse that.  So go outside and go somewhere and do something.  But finish reading Big Dave and Company first.

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