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  • Julie Fingersh

Addicted to Netflix? Why It's The Best Parent-Kid Bonding Ever.

Friends, in last week’s post, we saw what happens when someone who has spent a lifetime shunning TV falls into a binge-watching stupor.

As I mentioned, I was raised by parents who believe sloth is man’s original sin which is why I received an email from my father post-blog that read:

“Binge-watching article gave me hives. Love, Dad”

We all devote some measure of psychic energy to banging our heads against the walls of life, trying not to become our parents, wonderful as they are, don’t we?

This is why, when my daughter, Jesse, who is brilliant, ambitious, and decidedly not a sloth patted the couch, wooing me to binge watch Jane the Virgin with her, I choked down my DNA and took a seat.

But how was I to know that a single butt-numbing day would transform me from self-righteous judge to zombie convert?

Like, I have a new eating disorder, but with my mind?

Like, I am living my life, but also starring in the old movie, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, where my brain has been fully taken over by celebrity crushes and fictional crises?

Binge-watching feels exactly like an addiction: a blinding loop of dopamine-driven pleasure wrapped in a vague sense of darkness. Like, help me….I cannot stop.

Let me explain:

1) While I am being a gleeful vegetable on the couch for hours on end, Jane the Virgin’s lead actors, Gina Rodriguez, Justin Baldoni, Brett Dier, Yael Grobglas, Jaime Camil and Andrea Naveda are working their asses off, harnessing their educations, honing their craft, embracing career risks…not watching TV. While Jane’s actors work tirelessly towards their Emmys, I am spending that same time in a TV-trance, immersed in the drama of their characters’ fake futures.

2) Like my imaginary love triangle with Bruce Springsteen, watching this show is interfering in my marriage. Attention, Michael and Rafael, Jane’s double love interests: How much deep and endless eye contact can you have? Can you please stop making our wonderful but not endlessly love-professing, eye-gazing husbands look so much less in love with us?

The only one looking at me like this is Scotch, our dog, who sits patiently in front of his empty dog bowl in the kitchen, legs sliding slowly forward on the hardwood floor, boring his eyes into mine, trying to trick me into feeding him again.

3) Binge-watching has turned me into a celebrity-crazed teenager, which feels simultaneously fun and pathetic. Here I am, compulsively following Justin Baldoni in real life, reading through miles of fan threads, looking at his wife’s Instagram (are they really happy?), seeing what new thing he has to say on Twitter. And yet, is Justin wasting a nano second of his life thinking about me? No, he is not. And this feels unfair.

But friends, like any good episode, there’s a surprising and hopefully satisfying resolution, a tiny, unexpected revelation.

And for me, this revelation has helped me bang my head through one of the walls of life, just a few tiny steps beyond my upbringing.

Unlike the frequently insipid, laugh-tracked garbage of my youth, today's television has turned into a medium of enormous creativity and talent.

When my daughter called Jane the Virgin art, I scoffed. But now that I’ve watched approximately 1,000 hours of it, I am nothing short of awed.

Get over the name and you will find that Jane the Virgin is not just a tele-playground of joy and fun, but also of great writing, directing and acting.

Gina Rodriguez’s portrayal of Jane offers a uniquely complex and inspiring model for girls and women. Justin Baldoni’s portrayal as Rafael, Jane’s love interest, shows a remarkable evolution from playboy to a complex role model for men, showing that they can be gorgeous and strong, yet vulnerable, emotionally connected and accountable. (Who knew?)

Moreover, the show manages to be both as entertaining and funny as it is thoughtful and current, tackling issues like immigration, gender pay disparity and women’s reproductive rights. Not to mention, Jane the Virgin breaks profound new ground in American television by putting a multi-generational Latino family at its center—one, I can promise, you will wish was part of yours. 

But that’s not the real breaking news. The real news is this: Something happens when I sit there on the couch with my daughter watching this show. We laugh together. We squeeze each other’s arms in moments of high anxiety. And after a binge-watching marathon, we dish, we hash, we re-hash, we yell, we rejoice.

A few weeks ago, Jesse went back to school. She’s three years into college, and I’ve almost gotten used to the sting of what it is to no longer share the intimacy of daily life. But now, we have Jane.

Every week, we watch in our own homes, on our own couches, from the headquarters of our almost entirely separate lives. And then we call each other and get into it, Twitter feeds, celebrity crushes and all.

It’s a surprising, new weekly tradition that creates between us a new language of connection. Pure joy.

If that’s not art, I don’t know what is.

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