Monday, June 17, 2013

Let's retire the phrase "Binge Watching"

Normally when "Entertainment Weekly" gets his hands on something, it's a definitive sign that its moment in the zeitgeist has already passed. Yet I fear its recent "guide to binge watching" was not the start of the decline of that odious phase, but rather a signal of mainstream acceptance. The term had bothered me for a while, but seeing "EW" devote so much space to telling us which kinds of shows we should "binge-watch" in which situations drove me over the edge.

I mean, for one thing, why don't we just, you know, watch a really good show we like when we're in the mood to watch it? It seems that consulting charts, graphs, and mood rings to determine a program to sit down and block-view complicates an activity that shouldn't be so complicated. And this is coming from a guy anal enough to organize rotations of his DVDs and Netflix picks (I never stick to the rotations, but I set them up).

More important is my fundamental dislike of the term itself. "Binge watching" doesn't sound pleasant at all. I have no problem with the "watching" part, but "binge" has negative connotations. It makes me think of gluttony, of overindulgence, of excess. If I'm sitting down and watching a handful of episodes of "Quincy" at once, chances are part of me is guilty enough about spending my time on the planet that way without being labeled a binger.

I can remember the term we used to use when we sat down and watched a bunch of episodes of something in a short period of time (NOTE: "watching a bunch of episodes of something in a short period of time" is also an acceptable phrase). We called it a marathon. Networks had marathons. Sometimes they had mini-marathons. When I myself dove into a DVD set, I might tell someone I had a little marathon of the show.

Marathon is a good word. Apart from Laurence Olivier and dental tools, it brings to mind positive images. It summons feelings of achievement, of endurance, or the triumph of the human spirit. No, rushing through a half-dozen installments of "The Secrets of Isis" to see the whole run before it expires from Netflix is not the most courageous of feats. But why not keep the facade that it is has some value, rather than saddling it with the term "binge-watching"?

I am going to avoid that term on this blog, and I would ask that you do the same. "Entertainment Weekly" is on its own.

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