Not everyone can travel when they want. Work, family, money, commitments, pregnancy, illness and even fear can all get in the way of a much needed escape. In my case, as soon as cold weather starts to resurface, I turn to a trusty ally: binge-watching. What if you could be swept away in a wave? Lost. Bitten. Charmed. Scared. Enchanted. Humbled. Inspired. Call it whatever you want. It sure is one heck of a way to travel from your sofa.
OK, well maybe going to Barbados is better. The evolution of my binge-watching condition came in a logical, systematic manner and Barbados is partly responsible. I am also not ashamed to pinpoint the roots of it either. As a professed veteran, I use the word “condition” to describe binge-watching because it is not unlike a disease, or illness.
So what is the appeal? It’s quite simple. It is not an escape like going to the movies. It is like an escape vacation. It consumes so much time that it is almost as if life gets put on hiatus, just for a little while at least.
Binge-watching is therapy.
Allow me to explain. When I was pregnant with my fourth, I developed an ear infection that rendered me couch bound and in excruciating pain for 6 weeks. Around the same time I had cancelled our cable TV subscription in order to save money for the arrival of our latest. Fearing the rebellion that would ensue, we signed up for Netflix. Best decision ever.
To distract attention away from my illness which also included morning sickness, I decided to watch Mad Men from my laptop on my sofa. I had heard from others that it was a must-watch show that was sexy, dark, irreverent all with a visually stunning set design if you like retro 60’s style. The perfect prescription. As I lay on on couch and descended into the advertising world of Don Draper and all his discrepancies I was not only transported away from my acute physical pain, I was re-introduced to the world of binge watching.
The feeling of watching episode after episode was hypnotic. Addictive like a drug (even though I don’t do drugs). Watching and knowing you can get your next fix by clicking a button is for sure a guilty pleasure. At the time, it was like I had lost control. Not the remote control. Who needed a TV when you could watch it on your computer? As a homemaker, I would tell myself that it was OK not to make the beds, do the laundry or spend long on dinner because I had to watch another episode. Just one more. I became a TV junkie. After years of watching The Wiggles, Blues Clues and Dora, this felt like retribution.
Then our Internet bill started to grow. So we did what any responsible parent would do, we upped our bandwidth. When the kids started watching more movies and shows it became apparent that 60GB a month was not enough, nor 90GB, or 150GB. We reached the pinnacle when we switched to unlimited Internet. We are currently hovering just under 700GB a month. Teenagers who are on their third run of watching Friends and what I loosely refer to as our “honorary 6 year old teenager” who loves YouTube and Minecraft, continue to push the limits.
As each binge trip would end, I would talk to my siblings and cousins, or what I like to refer as “my binge dealers” and ask them what would be a good follow-up show. Since I had already been bitten by True Blood the summer before I had our fourth, I knew that whatever I watched had to be biting, for lack of a better word. Enter The Walking Dead. I had never been a person to like scary movies or shows but my brother promised that once I got over the zombies in the first few episodes you would realize they move slow enough and make enough sound to give you advance warning! Hooked. I watched like a zombie. Spoiler alert… people are far more scary than zombies.
What could top being immersed in an apocalyptic world with zombies? My brother guaranteed me that Game of Thrones would do the trick. Worked like a charm. The Lannister, Stark and Targeryen families were intriguing, compelling and mesmerizing. Made me really appreciate my own family, actually. But now I was too immersed. I needed to slow things down and focus. Enter Downton Abbey. After watching the first season I walked around the house pretending to be the staff, cleaning my home so that it could be presentable to even the likes of Lady Crawley.
If I could just have stopped there I would have been happy. But no. I remembered that throughout my pregnancies with my first three kids I had never gotten around to watching Lost. Netflix had all six seasons. Brilliant. We spent the summer of 2010 lost in Lost until our fourth arrived.
But like all good vacations, there always is an end.
What I have sadly come to realize is that shows begin to blur when you are an addict. You consume a show so intensely and voraciously that eventually you become traumatized when it is over. So much so that you go through a state of amnesia. I know I watched it and loved it, but where did it go? I fear that binge-watching is turning our short term memory into slime.
I even tried to make a list of all I have watched but I know it is not complete because my brain is now a little like putty and I fear my vernacular is fading too because when I need a new fix, I am certain it should be flix. The image at the top is my humble attempt to spill the beans on some of the shows that are lost in my head somewhere.
I have learned a few things about being a homemaker. When you are not around like minded peers or friends on a daily basis, you end up with a decision to make when it comes to mental therapy. I have always tried to stay current with what is going on in the world so that when I go out sans kids, I am not the overbearing one at the party that people try to avoid. But over the years, being a news junkie has also had its downfalls.
When you watch or read too much news, the world starts to seem like a really scary place – hashtag #Trump.
I still to this day have vivid memories of watching in Barbados as a child, The Thorn Birds with Richard Chamberlain and Rachel Ward and North and South with Patrick Swayze. Back then, these TV mini series were taped onto VHS by relatives who visited us and watched by my sister and I all in one fell swoop. Little did I know that it was just the beginning.
Do I love being a homemaker? Yes. Do I love my kids, husband and family, of course. Am I thankful that I have my health and get to go to the gym? Without a doubt. Should I get off the chair/sofa and go volunteer, do better? Of course. Yes I should read more books but listen, no one is perfect. I embrace my weakness and take full responsibility for my habit. If it had not been for binge-watching, I do not think I might have mentally survived some of our long Canadian winters. So I will say it again, binge-watching is therapy. And by the way, since I did bring up the subject of Trump, can I just say that The Americans on FX is amazing.
[Photo Credits: The collage of photos above I put together using befunky.com from screen shots of images that I do not take credit for in any way whatsoever. They belong to their rightful owners. It is not intended for commercial purposes. It is simply an artistic collage to share with you the shows I am guilty of watching. All images courtesy of ABC, AMC, BBC, PBS, HBO, Netflix, NBC, Showcase, Showtime, Sundance Channel respectively.]