It’s not Tony Soprano who killed Big Pussy; it’s the kids today, what with their Netflix Instants, thinking they’re too good to violent TV live, like a normal, violent person. In an essay for the Los Angeles Review of Books‘ blog Dear Television, film and media studies professor Anne Helen Petersen wrote about how references to The Sopranos and Six Feet Under go over her students’ heads, because those shows aren’t on Netflix Instant.
Today, we live in a television culture characterized by cord-cutters and time-shifters. Sure, many, many people still appointment view or surf channels old school style. I know this. I also know people watch the local news. Yet as a 30-something member of the middle class, I catch myself thinking that my consumption habits — I subscribe to Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Full Cable; I still appointment view several shows — are typical.
I’m so wrong, but not in the way I might have expected. My students taught me that. They watch Netflix, and they watch it hard. They watch it at the end of the night to wind down from studying, they watch it when they come home tipsy, they binge it on a lazy Saturday afternoon. Most use their family’s subscription; others filch passwords from friends. It’s so widely used that when I told my Mad Men class that their only text for the class was a streaming subscription, only one student had to acquire one. (I realize we’re talking about students at a liberal arts college, but I encountered the same levels of access at state universities. As for other populations, I really don’t know, because Netflix won’t tell me (or anyone) who’s using it.
Some students use Hulu, but never Hulu Plus — when it comes to network shows and keeping current, they just don’t care. For some super buzzy shows, like Game of Thrones, they pirate or find illegal streams. But as far as I can tell, the general sentiment goes something like this: if it’s not on Netflix, why bother? (Via)
And yet, still people aren’t watching Terriers. (It’s been rated 129,613 times, compared to The Munsters‘ 645,646.)
When I ask a student what they’re watching, the answers are varied: Friday Night Lights, Scandal, It’s Always Sunny, The League, Breaking Bad, Luther, Downton Abbey, Sherlock, Arrested Development, The Walking Dead, Pretty Little Liars, Weeds, Freaks & Geeks, The L Word, Twin Peaks, Archer, Louie, Portlandia. What all these shows have in common, however, is that they’re all available, in full, on Netflix. Things that they haven’t watched? The Wire. Deadwood. Veronica Mars, Rome, Six Feet Under, The Sopranos.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE.
Even Sex in the City.
You people are A-OK in my book.
Talk to a group of 30-somethings today, and you can reference Tony Soprano and his various life decisions all day — in no small part because the viewing of The Sopranos was facilitated by DVD culture. Today, my students know the name and little else. I can’t make “c*cksucker” Deadwood jokes (maybe I shouldn’t anyway?); I can’t use Veronica Mars as an example of neo-noir; I can’t reference the effectiveness of montage at finishing a series (Six Feet Under). These shows, arguably some of the most influential of the last decade, can’t be teaching tools unless I screen seasons of them for my students myself.
“Hey, Sallie Mae, I need a loan to take Professor Petersen’s ‘Gabagool C*cksucker Death Montage’ class NOW.”