“House of Cards” with Kevin Spacey which started yesterday on Netflix is, from what I’ve seen so far, on the money, so to speak, regarding our corrupt crony capitalist system . It was a hit in the UK and everybody loves a good political thriller, so Netflix decided to gamble and produce it themselves. They got David Fincher and the guy that wrote “Ides of March”, Beau Willimon, to write the scripts. You can watch all 13 episodes at once too. But Variety calls that “binge viewing” and will lead the company to ruin while Netflix calls it viewer autonomy and believes it can bring in new viewers because of it and make a nifty profit. Hollywood and Silicon Valley rarely see eye to eye, so no surprise at Variety’s harumphing. Whatever! I heartily recommend it. Delicious in its evilness.
As to whether people will cotton to watching one episode or all thirteen, it’s probably just a matter of psychological type or simply how much time you’ve got. When I read, I finish a chapter and often pause because the author does. But just as often I can’t help myself and I have to start reading into the next chapter until I realize that I have to get some shut eye. That is a singular pleasure. On the other hand with a TV series whose episodes only air one at a time, there is the joy of seeing the current episode of a series and then discussing it at the water cooler or water hole the next day and speculating about where the story is going with others. Watching all 13 episodes in one sitting or even half one night and half the other is a more solitary experience and more like reading a book. Watching an episode per week as with normal TV series is a bit more communal. Not quite like going to the theater and sitting at a cafe afterwards and arguing about it, but a not bad second best.
I remember way back when my friends and I were young actors. We went through every detail of Sunday night’s Brideshead Revisited” on Mondays . Now “Downton Abbey” has become the latest “Brideshead” as the characters become part of many of our lives, resist as we might. (What a twit that Lord Grantham is!) So is the new “Netflix” idea going to lead to more community or more aloneness, I wonder?
Robert Putnam coined the term “Bowling Alone” and wrote a book with that title. Unlike our European cousins who spend their evenings in warm cafes talking about ideas found in movies and books, Americans screwed up by building these vast wastelands called suburbs and exurbs. Those poor souls wearily come home after an hour’s commute, pick up their aptly named “remote”, and surf/bowl alone.
I don’t live in a suburb, but I no longer live in New York City where meeting people to converse and bandy about ideas is easy, much like in Europe. So living in a very small town, I have to make do with the one watering hole that has a semblance of cafe society. If you want to get past the surface kind of conversations of weather or sports, but stay out of party politics; TV and films seem to offer the best venue for discussing ideas. But many of my friends in this small town have made a conscious effort not to have TV. They have a TV as a monitor to watch movies and even watch old TV shows. This helps them to avoid the TV as a marketing device. So they don’t watch “The Good Wife” or “Downton Abbey” in real time. Interestingly, they are mostly Democrats. My Republican friends do have TVs and do watch TV series in real time. So we end up talking about class systems, war, injustice, politics as portrayed in these series. And they often come at these things from a very different point of view than I do which keeps me on my toes and is kind of fun.
Every industry has its pros and cons. I happen to work in the entertainment industry which takes its share of knocks. But it is on a cold night, like last night, in a remote town that I found a way to agree and disagree about actual important issues. It beats talking about the weather or whether there will be a tie in the Superbowl.
So after some brief exchanges last night about a book by Joe Bageant with a Dem and “Downton” with a Repug, I drove back to my place to pick up the remote and watch “House of Cards”. There I was, just me and a bunch of conniving dog killing politicos. It was a perfect ending to a pretty good evening. I considered that I had the best of both worlds. I was remote, but I not alone.
Next time: I will continue to tell you about my experiments in getting past “phatic communication” as described by John Michael Greer, The Archdruid. Phatic communication is the “How about them Ravens, ” and ” Sure wish the wind would stop blowing” kind of exchanges. But they are also conversations that you have with like minded people about politics. These are the conversations that give you the “warm fuzzies” rather than the cold pricklies”.
Note: I now mostly use the terms Democrats and Republicans in describing which team my friends root for since the words “conservative” and “liberal” have lost most of their original meanings. I’m much more of a conservative in trying to keep a sense of community rather than the Calvinist (my upbring) emphasis on self-interest and pursuit of property which is really where “liberalism” comes from. I attribute this path I’m on to reading John Michael Greer’s website “The Archdruid Report”, Arthur Silber’s “Once Upon a Time”, Dimitry Orlov’s “Club Orlov”, Ian Welsh’s blog, and the fine commenters on Naked Capitalism including “from Mexico, Alcuin, Hugh, and Lambert Strether who has his own site “Correntwire” on which I occasionally post. They have really challenged me and led me to say what Silber said awhile ago, “Everything I knew is wrong, everything.” And go from there.