The following essay takes place between 12pm and 7am on January 30th, 2015, during the California Presidential primary (If you don’t get that reference, I envy you).
The idea started innocently enough; just a few hours of binge watching. I’d done it before, I’d heard of people doing it, and I was sure it was going to be fun. There was little to be worried about and I was prepared. I had never been more wrong.
The idea: watch an entire season of 24 in one sitting.
The goal: determine the appeal behind binge-watching.
The outcome: sleep deprived insanity with a touch Jack Bauer-style insanity.
I approached the marathon the same way I assume Usain Bolt approaches any of this runs. Or the same way a polar bear would prepare for hibernation. I approached this marathon viewing with the same intensity of Usain Bolt and Norwegian polar bear and that still wasn’t enough. Because, the truth of the situation is that I was crushed by Jack Bauer. I was incapable of keeping up with him. Hour after hour, Bauer after Bauer, I came to the conclusion that committing yourself to anything for 24 hours is not only idiotic, but borderline inhumane. And, as someone who has experience similar to what Jack Bauer has experienced, I can confidently tell you that, in those 24 hours, you begin to lose yourself, your identity. By the end of the marathon at 7am, all I knew was 24. When I looked in the mirror, I saw Jack Bauer. When I spoke, all I heard was Jack Bauer. The only thing that mattered was Jack Bauer. In fact, looking back at it all, there is an argument to made that we suffered just as much, if not more, than Jack Bauer ever did.
The thing that interests me about binge-watching is its association with the more common terms ‘binge-eat’ and ‘binge-drink,’ neither of which are particularly pleasant ideas. In both cases, there is an uncomfortable amount of food or drink consumed in an equally uncomfortable amount of time. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard someone talk about how proud they are of their decision to power-eat four full pizzas. Why? It’s simple: bingeing is not healthy. Bingeing leaves everyone uncomfortable, depressed, and bitter. So if this is the case, why is something like binge-watching so popular?
The fact of the matter is that binge-watching, no matter the capacity, is in no way beneficial or helpful to the experience of the show. The separation between episodes becomes lost, characters begin to weigh on your patience, pacing becomes about as smooth as tar, and every exiguous deviation from the main plot becomes similar to the torture techniques used by the man himself, Jack Bauer.