Bingeing Buddies

5 Nov

Charlotte Brunsdon differentiates between addiction to television and binge-watching. What I find interesting about this is that, whereas with (real) addiction, addicts often get high together, making it a social activity of sorts, bingeing when used in the context of an actual affliction (such as with an eating disorder) is a very solitary experience—not only because the person is ashamed and embarrassed, but it’s also awkward to do with someone else. This idea fits with “To binge on television dramas is to abandon aspiration, to be stuck on the sofa in the living room” (66)–because that sounds like a pretty solitary experience to me. And perhaps there are people who are a bit embarrassed that they’ve spent twelve hours watching an entire season of a series in two days.

 Anyway, my main point in mentioning this has to do with the fact that Brunsdon uses The Wire as her main example, and that we watched The Wire for class. I have already done my bingeing on The Wire and it took me almost a year to get through all of the seasons—not because I wasn’t committed to the bingeing—no, I was totally down to stay up for ten hours to finish a season—but because I watched it with my dad (so we had to find common time to watch). I didn’t think anything of it, because we often do that as father-daughter “fun time”—binge on premium channel series (totally normal! right?). I never thought that bingeing for most was a private thing, but it is rare to find someone else who can dedicate the time to watching that many hours of a show—and is willing to put up with the same person for that long (and, let me tell you, I am no picnic to watch dramas with and was therefore grateful to have my dad with me). Having to re-watch The Wire alone, for this class, was a completely new experience. The first time around, I had to pause the show almost every ten minutes to figure out what was going on and who was who. Once I figured that out, I then tried to figure out what was going to happen for the rest of the season (my dad would do the same–he was always more correct than I was). And Brunsdon mentions how The Wire is specifically an experience to binge on, because sometimes the drama would get too intense and it would be a relief to stop (69). This was absolutely the case when I watched it and I would get so incredibly anxious and wrapped up in the story that I would ask countless questions about the well-being of the characters—which my father had no way of knowing, but still put up with it. My reason for getting all “story-time” here is that watching it again, alone (even though I know everything now, but it’s still been a while so it’s like a refresher course–so some things are still new-ish), I missed the experience of having someone to talk things out with. I would get anxious and then irritated that there was no one around to feel my pain, or someone to tell me what other shows or films Idris Elba has been in so I had to go look it back up on imdb (The Office—this was the specific appearance I was thinking of…among other things).

I think bingeing is a lot better to do if you have someone else who is willing to make an equal investment in the show—because with bingeing, you get so wrapped up in things, you want to discuss them (at least I do). So I wonder if there is a huge difference between bingeing alone and with someone else? Because even if you binge watch with someone, then re-watch alone, the excitement of watching it the first time is gone the second time around. So I just wonder if having someone else there has a big impact on the first-time binge-watching experience.

5 Responses to “Bingeing Buddies”

  1. Katie Hunter November 7, 2012 at 9:43 pm #

    I feel you. But finding the common time to watch a show is so hard! I had a similar experience with PLL, all my roommates and I watched it together at first. It was awesome — scary moments are SO MUCH SCARIER with 4 other people to be scared with!! Eventually though we got busy and couldn’t wait for the next episode, etc etc now we all watch it separately. It is actually not as rewarding of an experience because watching it alone feels like less of an investment, weirdly. Like, I decide if I’m also on FB or tumblr or something, as opposed to being stuck to one screen with all my friends. Basically I agree witchu, girl.

  2. crystalfong November 9, 2012 at 12:38 pm #

    Bingeing with a friend is always better than bingeing alone! Just like pigging out alone is kind of sad, but when I pig out with other people, then it’s a bonding thing. Same with bingeing on TV with a friend- to me, it’s more about the bonding experience than about watching the show itself. My apartment waits every week to watch Once Upon A Time together, so it’s become “our thing”, especially when it’s one of the few things we do together.

    However, sometimes with an intense show, just like Katie said above, it’s so hard to wait and find time when everyone is free. And to be honest, coordinating free time between more than one person is really hard especially during college. That’s why I prefer to binge on TV shows alone. Not because I’m ashamed, but because I like to watch on my own time. However, I think bingeing with buddies is the ideal experience.

  3. leemac113 November 9, 2012 at 7:45 pm #

    I completely agree that binge-television-watching with someone else is both more enjoyable and ultimately much more rewarding. Everyone on this post has already made the arguments for why that’s true, but we can also look at this in a different, but related way: having a binge buddy when one of you has already watched the show.

    Whenever there’s a show which I have watched and loved, I will look for any excuse to watch it again. The problem, of course, is that, similar to the conversations we were having in class about bingeing in the first place, you feel even less justified in doing this when you’ve already seen the show, as those are hours you could have spent doing something else. The answer to this, then, is to watch with someone else who hasn’t seen the show, as that way you are providing someone else with a rewarding experience, while simultaneously doing something socially, not just by yourself. In fact, right now, I am forcing my roommate to watch The Wire with me every time I watch it for this class, as even though I have already seen it, I am using it as an excuse to force him to watch it, since I’m not sure he would ever watch it on his own otherwise, and I am thus helping him to achieve a profound cultural experience. In the end, I feel great about myself for having helped someone else, while also getting to fulfill a guilty pleasure of mine for a second time.

    • katherinesnyder14 November 11, 2012 at 10:51 pm #

      I think that that is a really good point to make. My sister is much more into television than I am, so we have watched many, many, many hours together where I haven’t seen the episode but she has. I like to have her as a resource and a vent for my frustration. I often will get frustrated with the characters’ actions or the flow of the story, and she’s always there to commiserate or calmly tell me that it will all be ok in the end. She also helps me to feel like a part of the larger show-watching community than I think I would feel if I were to do it alone. The only downside to this is potential spoilers, like if she were to try to reassure me about something by saying “don’t worry, they won’t be there next season.”

      Bingeing with my sister is a much more enjoyable activity to bingeing by myself. I actually wish she were here to watch The Wire with me, rather than me sitting alone and watching.

  4. kebullock November 11, 2012 at 11:38 pm #

    While I agree that people definitely binge-watch TV shows alone because scheduling is difficult, I wonder if it might also have a little to do with our competitive nature. When a TV show comes up in conversation, the first question that always comes up is: How far are you? There is definitely pleasure in being the one who is further in the show, the one who knows more. While I would always choose to binge with someone, it can be fun to be the one who knows the secret.

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