A normal healthy person may not know this, but if you watch too many episodes of a show on Netflix consecutively, it assumes that you have gone to sleep or have died on your couch. It asks you if you are still watching, and you have a moment to consider your life choices and the events that have led you to this moment, where a program on your television is asking, somewhat judgey, somewhat incredulous, are you, a human being gifted with choice and personal will, going to watch yet another episode of Law and Order, or House of Cards? Are you seriously going to do that Netflix seems to ask, I mean, seriously?
NETFLIX: Are you still Watching Parks and Recreation?
Yes, Netflix, I am actually. Because I want to believe that there are people like Leslie Knope out there, that work hard for the good of their communities, that care deeply about things, that believe in friendship and sacrifice and altruism. I want to believe that there are officials out there that aren’t only interested in looking like they are doing something but are actually doing something, and that will stand up for what is right even if it is unpopular. I am still watching, Netflix, because it is friendly and good spirited and because Ron Swanson is the model for independence and personal responsibility, and despite their diametrically opposed politics, he and Leslie can be good friends.
NETFLIX: Are you still Watching The League?
Yeah, I am. Because My brain plays tricks on me, dirty tricks that makes me feel lonely even when I am surrounded by people that love me, even if my life is too full, even if all my dreams have come true. My brain is getting revenge on me for years of abuse and poor treatment, and it makes me feel like I am the only person in the world who feels like I do, like I am completely utterly alone. So sometimes I get lonely here, and I like to remember what it is like to have a group of friends that I can trust and laugh with, that have a shared experience with, that will quickly forgive me if I fuck up, that answer the phone if I get drunk and need a friendly voice. And outside of family, I have nobody that would put me up on their couch if one day my wife comes to her senses and gives me the boot. I am still watching The League because I don’t have any friends like that anymore, and am only able to experience platonic friendship through texts, or through social media, and like the Metermaids say, “nothing on the internet counts as human contact.” I am still watching, because it is impossible to make friends as an adult, because I have a full life, and no time for people. Yeah, Netflix, I am still watching. Still.
Social media is a poisonous lie, a perpetual parade of pictures of greener grass, people, smiling, hugging, victorious, filled with pride, laughing, at peace. We scroll, watching this, believing it, and we question our own place, we look at our own lives and wonder what is wrong. Look, there is Guy from High School, he is more handsome, and more successful, he is more fulfilled and joyous. This guy is more active, this guy is more fit. Nobody posts pictures of themselves in sweatpants watching the same shows over and over again, hoping to feel connected to something other than fiction, nobody shows themselves up at two am lonely, scrolling through post after post of people that seem better off, happier, more confident, more tan and muscley. That greener grass? It is a fever dream hallucination, you can see similar things if you hold your breath too long, or get kicked in the nuts by a mule. That other side that looks so green and lush isn’t even there, all that is on the other side is a hell pit filled with dirty needles and thousands of spiders, all of whom have hepatitis.
Make art; therein lies your hope.
Look inward; therein lies your peace.
NETFLIX: Are you still watching Rick and Morty?
First of all, Netflix, Rick and Morty is on Hulu, and not Netflix, so what the hell? Regardless, yeah, I still am, and not just because it is smart and funny and irreverent, even though it is. I keep coming back for the bleak nihilistic philosophy that drives it, that in an infinite universe that there is nothing that we can do that will ever matter, that our lives are a flicker of light in an infinite darkness. And I identify with that, sometimes, if I allow it, but there is more there, there is the feeling in the show that even though we are facing an unimaginable void, that connections with others matter, that the reason to keep going into the void is that we get to do it with the people we love, that our insignificance is tolerable only if we share ourselves with others, if we connect to people.
Rick is compelling because he is the smartest person alive, filled with all of the knowledge of the multiverse, and that makes him irremediably lonely. But for all of his nihilism, he clings to relationships, because they matter, even if for the briefest of moments, people are worth it.
NETFLIX: Have you considered maybe working towards your goals instead of watching TV and playing video games and screwing around on your phone? Perhaps a bit of exercise and fresh air would help? Maybe it would be best for you to unplug, you know, get outside your own head, play cards with your family or pick up your guitar, or finally finish that painting that is collecting dust in the basement? Maybe the answer to your periodic bouts of melancholy cannot be found on a screen? Maybe you were meant for something more than staring at images in the darkness, your face lit pallid and flickering as the life you were gifted with passes you by minute by minute, and every second you waste watching shows and movies that you have seen a million times is another second closer to your own inevitable death?
Yeah you might be right, Netflix, and I’ll get right on that after just one more episode.
You know the drill: Twitter @RDPullins Buy my book, even if you will never read it. Comment here or whisper your comment to a sparrow and release it on the first day of Winter. Or you can email me, if that’s more your thing dissent.within at gmail.com. Peace.