Is Waiting Even A Thing Anymore?
The unforeseen consequences of an instantaneous life.
As I consumed the final season of Versailles in a one-weekend sitting, I realized — with the same disgust one might attribute to rapidly inhaling a poorly assembled Big Mac in a parking lot — that we never wait for anything anymore.
When a television show releases itself onto a streaming platform, it releases the entire season. Months if not years of work, consumed within days. Leaving viewers satiated for very little time, ready for the next entire season immediately. My childhood was a constant game of logistics, ranging from the ability to perfectly time one’s pee to the clearing of my schedule on certain weeknights. I didn’t want to miss anything, and if I wasn’t careful, I would.
But now, the roles are reversed. Instead of bending ourselves to fit TV, TV is one extended yoga pose after another making sure we have anything—truly anything—exactly when we want it, completely rewriting the nature of what a television “season” even is. We’re basically just watching extremely long movies now. They never even make us come up for air. Commercials have been banished to YouTube where even there I only have to distract myself with my phone for five seconds before I can skip. Good god even the introduction can be glossed over with the push of a button. “Spare me your expensive graphic design and opening acknowledgements of who actually exerted effort to make this art—just give me the good stuff.” We’re not well.
It’s probably an unpopular opinion, but I don’t think entire seasons of television shows should be released all at once. I think the time-release device was a far more elevated method of consumption, and now we just wolf down television seasons that took months to make in a number of hours. Are we not insulting the creators of the shows? Turning their hard work into mere snacks? I think we need Netflix to save us from ourselves and I don’t mind saying it out loud.
It’s established fact that the “fast” versions of things are categorically worse than their time-consuming counterparts. Fast fashion that you never have to save up for but falls apart in the spin cycle, TV dinners your Dad would feed you on his weekend with the kids, all manner of instant gratifications come to mind. The longer something takes to make or produce, the higher the quality—and I like that. But now, no matter how long it took to create something (I’m staring very pointedly in the direction of The Crown right now), we can still consume it in just as little time. Even Hanukkah takes eight nights for crying out loud.
We don’t anticipate anything anymore, we don’t wait. There’s no week-by-week buildup, nothing to look forward to. The only reason we have to stop consuming a television show we love is because we have to fall unconscious for a few hours as is required by biology. I think it’s training us to demand everything we want, instantaneously, all the time, and I think that makes us worse people. We’re a population of demanding toddlers amused by a lollipop for mere moments before demanding a stuffed animal, too. Remember when they worried TV would rot our brains? My brain is intact, but my patience is shot to shit.
We don’t savor television anymore, we binge it. We don’t discuss episodes the following morning at work for 12 weeks in a row, we tweet about an entire season for a day. In some ways, one could make the argument for opportunity. Our endless hunger for entertainment breeds more opportunities for creating shows, more jobs in the entertainment industry, steam of commerce yadda yadda. But I’m concerned that the rate at which we want to consume will dictate the quality of the entertainment provided. I’m afraid TV will downgrade from haute couture to H&M. I want storytelling and worldbuilding and stunning surround. Not a ten-episode hacking together of a zombie plot line with a bit of Jane Austen peppered in. Though let’s be honest I’d probably watch that, too.
In sum, I disgust myself. Could I have watched one episode of Versailles’ third and final season each night for a week and a half? One episode a week for ten weeks? Sure. But I didn’t. Because I didn’t have to. Because I am a trained hamster feeding from what’s supplied to me until there’s nothing left. Can it be repaired? Can production continue at pace if consumption slows down?
I want to remember what it was like to desire something for a week and then get it. I want to remember anticipation, and satisfaction in small, well-mannered morsels. I want to go back to a time when patience prevailed and respect was paid to the glorious artistic medium that is television. I want us to behave with a bit more dignity. I want it now.