Has Netflix betrayed us?
I'm starting to think so. I've been a member of Netflix since the days when it cost me $35 a month. In 2004, that meant that I'd receive 5 DVDs per month of my own choosing, restricted only by my imagination. It meant, if I wanted Fantastic Four's short but memorable cartoon incarnation in the 90's.... then, check. Buckaroo Bonzai ft. Peter Weller...score. Farscape, Gummi Bears, Benny Hill or Barney Miller....booyah and booyah. My choices were then delivered safely in a pull-apart, put back together package that Fed-Ex could only dream of. It was a video customer's dream personified, married to the bride--the internet, and endowed by the passion of Hollywood religion and beyond. I was in Hog heaven.
Then...things started to change.
I remember the birth of Netflix streaming. I was on board. At the time, however, the reality was that the movies available to stream were not only the worst of the worst, either having been prostituted ad nauseam via Ted Turner's afternoon cable whorehouse (i.e Forrest Gump, Air Force One, or Ben Hur on TBS or TNT), or so obsolete that Mothra V Godzilla seemed top rated in comparison. To add insult to injury, this small video streaming company was so infantile in its hardware, that its process of streaming made the movie experience a jittery, forever buffering wasteland of nothingness destined for ultimate failure. Should I wait two days to get my DVD copy of The Dark Crystal?--or wait 20 minutes for a bad version of The Breakfast Club to load? In 2004, that was a no brainer.
Then, the Video Store died.
I used to frequent any local video store within 30 miles of my home. I enjoyed not only browsing, but holding, touching and grabbing movies. Seeing movie posters, reading movie descriptions and doing laps around the store was as much exercise as it was education. I could spend two hours there, with the pile of my movies changing titles four times before I went to the checkout. At checkout, I could consult with the middle aged, dirtbag video expert at the cash register for his Oscar opinion, right before I added microwave popcorn and skittles to my total, and petitioned him to wave my previous late fees until next time. Undoubtedly, he'd say " no problem", I'd reserve my copy of the next shitty Van Damme release, and I would await that home phone call announcing that Universal Soldier had arrived and was waiting for me. I was a movie Junkie, addicted to not only my local dealer, but my secret dot com...
Things changed slowly, but quickly.
Before I knew it, Netflix, whom I had feverishly campaigned for among friends and family, wanting them to have access to rare titles not available at John Doe Video, had butterflied virally, and subsequently spelled disaster for not only "Lackluster" video, but for the Mom and Pop shops I had so often frequented. This wasn't what I wanted! I wanted a supplement to my feverish addiction to movie lore, a way to satisfy my hunger for every need I had for nostalgia and enjoyment. I wanted to get sick of waiting for a rare DVD on Netflix, and be able to journey to the local Video library at John Doe's. The movement had swept away without me, and the rest is history.
Flash forward to Now...
I don't blame the early Netflix subscribers for our current state, because across the consumer spectrum, online shopping has usurped brick and mortar establishments everywhere. Amazon.com has put Circuit City out of business, Black Friday has given way to Cyber Monday, and we all love the freedom that dotcoms have provided. My issue is with what we as lovers of video nostalgia have sacrificed, to make way for Netflix.
Netflix has gone through a maturation process, in which time they've vastly expanded their library immensely, but unbeknownst to the viewer, soaked us for every penny. No, we don't pay the $35 a month I paid in 2004. . Now, for a mere $10-$12/month, Netflix has added a streaming service that is (at times) as reliable as a cable stream, an ability to watch a selection of TV in "binge" form, and even a slew of original programming that is causing traditional Networks to rethink their entire philosophy. But what have we lost? Most of us still indulge in Redbox- the Orwellian junkyard of Video Stores gone extinct, pay per view, and movie theatres, and probably still spend the same percentage of income on movie entertainment as we did when VHS ruled the world,...so why does it suck now?
Why Does it suck Now?
Since it took the throne, I have watched the Netflix corporation continually "dumb down" its selection of Studio movies and TV, feed us with a starvation diet of just enough content to prevent total revolt, and force its own shows and movies down our throats as if we didn't notice that it lacks The Simpsons and Seinfeld. During the same period, the genocide of movie stores has gone virtually unseen. As secretive as Netflix is with its numbers, no longer withholden to the Neilsen ratings, it comes as little surprise to we viewers that we question--where will it end?
A.) Addicted to the thought of Daredevil Season 2, a new Full House series, House of Cards, and every episode of Star Trek ever.
B.) Wondering why I cant see the Simpsons, Seinfeld, the dirtbag who let my late fee go, and now....Doctor Who
C.) Bracing for what Netflix chooses to take away next