Recently, there has been a particular picture circulating that has shaken up our meme culture and social media groups. This photo is of a man with a blond mullet, eyebrow ring and very interesting fashion choices that involve a great deal of sequins. The live tiger that is sitting next to him completes the picture. As many of you may have correctly guessed, it’s Joe Exotic from the trending Netflix show “Tiger King.”
Many friends have explained to me the basic premise of the show, and they never fail to mention how crazy it is. The constant spotlight “Tiger King” receives from talk show hosts and even the president himself has allowed me to put the show’s title on my “Netflix Shows to Watch” list. However, my main feelings of confusion regarding the show have also made me realize how much I lack connectivity and relatability with my generation because I do not own streaming services like Netflix, Disney+ and Hulu.
Monthly subscription services have grown in popularity over the years and have pervaded pop culture, or specifically, “streaming culture.” We’ve become a generation that reminisces over hilarious scenes and references iconic characters in part of our everyday dialogue. We communicate with others through the language of TV shows and movies and have become greatly attached to these sources of entertainment. We are even guilty of placing stickers that reference TV shows on our belongings that act as badges of honor, shouting “I’ve watched all the seasons of this show on Netflix, and I’m proud of it!”
Streaming culture has also pervaded the time we have to ourselves by encouraging “binge-watching” behavior. This is usually followed up with questions regarding how many seasons we watched or whether the show is good or not — establishing this as a possible sense of normalcy within ourselves. Maybe some of us feel unaffected by current seclusion and social distancing because we are already accustomed to the self-induced isolation that we have created and encouraged for ourselves through binge watching.
As a result of streaming services, the age of cable television and DVD entertainment is grinding to a halt. The long-term contracts and hefty prices for a great deal of channels that many don’t even watch are the main turn-offs for young consumers. Cable TV also prevents many from receiving content all at once due to long commercial breaks and being inefficient to access on mobile devices. While cable TV tries to create a feeling of togetherness with others — for example, uniting on the couch to watch shows on the “family TV” — services like Netflix allow for individuality because one can access the subscription from any device and any room. Nowadays, we’re streaming our favorite shows on our television screens, phones or tablets — it’s cheaper, faster, more personalized and all at once.
Perhaps these are the symptoms of the underlying ideals in our quotidien lifestyles. The idea of instant gratification is part of our tradeoff to have technology play a key component in our lives. I find myself easily relying on Amazon Prime’s two-day shipping, and I defend myself by writing it off as convenient and something that “everyone depends on.” Similarly, our insatiable appetites for convenient accessibility and anything that is fast and online nowadays have led to user-based subscription streaming services.
As aforementioned, I have yet to fall guilty to this generation’s need for convenient streaming entertainment. My feelings of disconnection to the rise of streaming services may be due to the way my family has always regarded old entertainment methods. My father, a film connoisseur, influenced me the most as I’ve grown up entertaining myself with his large movie collection. Our Thanksgiving tradition involves waiting in long lines to purchase DVDs at Best Buy the night before Black Friday. The living room’s Blu-Ray DVD player has faithfully continued to play its role as my family’s special way of bonding — we appreciate the quiet time we individually receive, but also the sense of emotional connection we share as we analyze each scene, read each caption and listen to every word spoken.
Maybe I am reluctant to let go of the disc era because I have placed sentimental value on every physical disc I’ve used and every Redbox visit I have made, especially as they are increasingly becoming obsolete. Questions are always spiraling in my head — should I assimilate to this streaming culture that is dominating pop culture and prioritizing efficiency and low costs over simple emotional attachment? Is this what the older generations felt when the newspaper, VHS tapes and cassettes were slowly dying before their eyes?
This new reality of being back home has allowed me to reflect on how our social interactions have changed and the evolution of our generation’s methods of entertainment as a whole. My family is now discussing a transition from cable TV to subscription services. If we do make this decision to switch, it will be intriguing to see the personal impact of streaming in the end — will I be able to relate with society more, feel nostalgic for my DVD player or will I just be amused by Joe Exotic’s absurdity? Only time will tell!
Sarah Kim is a Life Columnist at The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.