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  • Julie Fingersh

Binge or Purge? Netflix is Evil

“C’mon, just trust me,” my daughter says sweetly, green eyes flashing, patting the space on the sofa next to her like a kidnapper with a lollipop.

“Oh, Jess, really?”

I’m scrunching up my judging face at the prospect of watching TV at all, let alone in the morning.

“It’s art, Mom. What’s wrong with art?”

Nothing’s wrong with art. I just don’t get how a TV show called Jane the Virgin can be art.

How did Jane the Virgin get pregnant? Should we care?

Furthermore, the prospect of saying yes to a show that has roughly 1,000 episodes gives me hives.

How do people just funnel off literally hundreds of hours into mindless television oblivion?

How could this be living one’s best life? What would Oprah say?

Jesse’s answer is astonishing. “Because it’s fun.”

What? Because it’s fun?

Growing up, my family worshipped at the altar of productivity. In my world, TV equaled sloth. As in, you are wasting your life. As in, you have no self-control. As in, get off your ass and do something.

Which is why my brothers and I were raised like aliens, permitted thirty minutes of TV during the week (Mork & Mindy, obviously) and two hours on weekends (The Love Boat, Fantasy Island).

My husband and I have raised our two kids, on the other hand, to not be from Mars, so that they are now just like the rest of the happily binge-watching world.

I am tortured by this fact, landing somewhere between horrified and envious: Horrified because I fear I have failed as a parent, and envious because giving oneself over to a long-term relationship with TV shows seems like such a fun, normal, American thing to do.

I look at Jesse patting the couch. What if I try to be a normal, fun, TV-watching American for a few hours?

“Okay. Okay. I’ll do it.”

So I sit down on the couch next to Jess. She raises her arm in a straight line, remote control extended toward the TV like a scepter. Instantly, the large black screen in the living room comes alive, transforms to the wooing red Netflix logo, then the grey static transition with the pleasing sound... and we begin.

Jane the Virgin. S1 E1....

Within minutes we’ve entered a state of hyperfocus. Without the remotest notion of time, we watch. And watch. Episode after episode after episode after episode.

The light outside turns from early bright to angled afternoon to a silently darkening dusk. We are in a trance. My butt cramps. I am sewn to the couch. My bladder is exploding, but who cares.

Every forty minutes, the message that announces “Next episode starts in 6 seconds” barely registers. I have surrendered fully now, vaguely aware of the pleasant sensation of dopamine washing through my brain at the beginning of each episode.

My husband, Dave, who left us that morning in this exact position, opens the door.

“Jesus,” he says. “You’re still––”

“Get out,” we say simultaneously, bleary eyed, turning up the volume in a rage, zombies.

The next morning, the instant my eyes open and consciousness comes, I am repossessed.

No thoughts of, what’s on the agenda today? Not, I better get Sam up for school. Not, the world is melting or what about the border crisis or call mom or wow, what a beautiful day.

No. Instead, the urgency of Jane’s love triangle presses on me. Who will she choose? Michael or Rafael? Omg. It’s so hard! Jane really loves them both. I mean, she really loves them both! I am torn. I feel actual anxiety.

Turns out, I am not alone. Turns out that legions of my fellow Americans are actively, simultaneously angsting about Jane’s dilemma right along with me.

I know this because instead of getting out of bed, I’m holding my phone three inches from my face because I’m on Twitter, trying to read without my glasses, checking the Team Michael and Team Rafael accounts, maniacally reading the miles of threads devoted to our fake crisis.

As my day unfolds, part of my mind is elsewhere, devoting three - five cylinders to my new alter-reality. I am thinking, thinking, thinking about Jane, Xiomara, Rojelio, Michael, Petra and Rafael.

What will become of them all?

At day’s end, the moment Dave and the kids are occupied enough with their own stuff not to notice, I race off to the bedroom, laptop and headsets under my arm — Jesse’s on to other things, but who even cares — to get back to my people.

My friends, my family, my life can wait. I need to know what happens next.

But what happens next is not to Jane. What happens next is to me...and maybe you.

And friends, that’s what we’ll find out next week, when our next episode begins…

Next up: Binge or Purge? Netflix is Evil, Episode 2.

But first, friends, let’s discuss:

a) Do you binge watch with a clean conscience?

b) Do you put boundaries around it?

c) Do you feel that Netflix enriches your life or robs you blind of attending to your real life?

Do, do tell in comments below.

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