EPisode 39: Justifying your Netflix Binges…


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            All creative projects are in flux. A creator might get into set patterns and habits throughout a project, let’s say a podcast, but who’s to say that lasts forever? In fact, no one can really offer that guarantee. Who know what life can bring? It’s always chalk full of surprises, that much is sure. But in this case, you can never know where someone’s personal growth or development will take them and what habits it might lead them to drop.

            Even if this is you whom we are talking about. You can’t even guarantee what your work is going to look like, say, 10 months into a project. After all, you might not be able to fit into what has become your home anymore. You might be growing, for example. You’re certainly changing by virtue of your existence, by constantly encountering new moments with new things and people that could shape you, and that change might be growth. Or might be called growth. But if so, then growing out of your surroundings can seem inevitable, somehow.

            So what does that mean for this podcast?

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            Nothing. That’s just the closest thing to a fake out I’ll ever be able to do when you consider—once again consider—the way I title and present these episodes.

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            It just so happens that I’m doing two double feature type episodes in a row. Genuinely. It was an accident or as accidental as a scripted podcast could be. Here’s the thing. I’ve tried picking episode topics in bunches because with The Oracle of Dusk now in full-fledged production, I need to be better organized. The Pokémon-slash-Hetalia episode last week was the last of its batch. And this episode was the first of its own. In this way, I can mentally distinguish between the two. And if that’s not good enough for you and if this still seems coincidental. Fair enough, I guess. Genuinely. I’m happy to take the L on that front.

            But let’s look at it this way. Having double feature episodes can’t be that surprising. In some ways, they will be—or at this point “are”—inevitable. I wouldn’t say they will ever become a critical part of this podcast because that would be missing the point of this show. Ideas and exploration are critical parts of this podcast as is media as a concept. Sure, up until this point, I had always done single topic episodes with the exception of podcast medley episode, but that’s not in the foundation of the show. I don’t have to do that. And sometimes, you need to look at an idea from multiple angles.

            And this is one of those times. Because for this particular idea or thought, looking at either piece of media alone isn’t going to paint the full picture of what I need to say. Believe me, if I split this up and stretch each discussion I can make two episodes, and I am very aware that I still owe you all one episode from the holidays when I had to skip when I was having a little bit of a, well of an insecure moment, for lack of a better term. Or a moment entirely defined by my many insecurities. That’s… that’s probably a better way of phrasing it. I might need to take a couple days off of work for that and to update the website. That’s… That’s something else I want to do.

But on the hand, I really can’t do that. Not without accurately violating what this show is supposed to be. Failing to couple these ideas is going to push you too far into one extreme when you need the full picture for your own sake. And I would be doing that twice. But more importantly, we need to see this full picture.

            In fact, this is one of those critical lessons that I wish we could all learn in school or—more accurately—on the school yard. But alas, there are very few guarantees in life. And neither of the more obvious ones are particularly that great, so most would think. On the other hand, it’s never too late to learn. But lessons that come late need to be properly with a great deal of care.

            And so there’s podcasting, there’s the digital world and its ability to let you craft something of your own design, and then there’s me who isn’t that great at it.


            At least I spend a lot of time on Netflix.

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            Hi. It’s M. Welcome to Episode 39.

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            Netflix can be a blessing and a curse, I guess. As an entertainment platform it changed the game for the better, giving users almost unlimited access to the media we love but also reminding us of the limited nature of our existence. Because there really isn’t enough time to get through it all. And while it’s always been true that we could never get to everything—we only recently managed to get access to almost everything—Netflix made it so much more obvious. It didn’t just ask the question but forced it. What are we going to do when we could in theory do anything but not everything?

            In the face of this existential crisis, we have several options on how to cope. And no matter how long that list of options is, disengagement is always the most utilized one. Partially because it takes on a variety of forms. If the only way to disengage was to chuck your laptop or device of choice out the window, then it wouldn’t happen at all. Or maybe it would happen occasionally, but that’s the sort of thing that takes care of itself. Technically. And not in a great way.

            But in this context, when I say disengage, I only mean that we no longer take on the responsibility of that choice. We become passive observers to what is technically a part of our own lives: what is technically our own choice. To make that possible, Netflix gives us an algorithm to present options to us, and it does that unsettlingly well, if I am to be completely honest. Because I don’t particularly enjoy knowing that something outside of myself has a better understanding of myself than I do. But that’s not the point.

            As a back up to that machinery, there is the collective consciousness that both influence us and that we contribute to. It’s like Rousseau’s sovereign if you won’t paying attention in class that day.

            Now, I can take potshots at people who didn’t pay attention in class that day, but I can’t do that to people who look to their friends, families, and/or strangers to dictate how they spend their time on Netflix, because that’s what I do.

            On that note, today I want to talk about two Netflix originals that might be very different in terms of substance but share a single link to bond them. And that link is us.

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            Bird Box is a 2018 post-apocalyptic thriller type film directed by Susanne Bier, based on the 2014 novel by the same name in which a woman must travel a great distance across a river and through a forest to hopefully find safety from a supernatural entity that compels people to commit suicide at the mere sight of it. The world fell apart pretty quickly when t first appeared, but we follow the journey of someone who’s managed to survive for several years and might even be able to survive for a lot more. She’s found this little sanctuary for herself, but it’s not going to last. So now, in the name of safety, this character a woman named Malorie has to do what seems impossible in and of itself with two children in tow and also blind folded.

            The latter part or final words of that description are the most important, in some regards. For, it’s an important symbol. Because in no small part, as many analysts both hobbyist and professional have pointed out, the film gets at what it means to be a parent: navigating a very difficult route with small, helpless children and without much guidance, i.e. your eyes. Hence the blindfold. As a parent, you can feel like you’re doing everything blind folded, some may say as a way of conveying the difficulty to people who haven’t done it themselves when nothing compares to that experience.

            That might not be the intended message of the original novel, and that’s certainly not the only take away from the novel or film. But it is an experience that is commonly had. After all, I would say life is not defined by death or taxes but by uncertainty, by not having a clearly defined path we can refer to or (quote) “see,” by every single person having to essentially wing it at critical moments. But we all pretend that isn’t true, of course, which is incredibly isolating. I would say you don’t have to have kids to feel this way, though tiny human beings whom you love dearly certainly raise the stakes.

            I think this is often called “imposter syndrome.” But as if to provide an illustration, I’m not confident enough to definitively say that’s what it is, though I am probably very, very familiar with it on a couple different fronts. It’s something they warned us a lot about in graduate school, but even then, even hearing people discuss it in a more abstract way, it never felt real. Like even when I could recite a more textbook definition, I still felt like I didn’t understand it. Despite living it.


            I have a thousand stories about moments went I felt this way, but from what I’ve learned, it’s such a common story that it might help you understand it better to leave it open ended, giving you space to pull out your own experiences to fill in that void.

            In these moments, you are panicked, scared. Scrambling seemingly to just exist or co-exist with an intense level of otherwise unimaginable anxiety. Meanwhile, everyone else seems fine. You aren’t. You are left alone then trying to find your way, confused and scared, seemingly beneath a threat that you cannot fully comprehend but that will certainly break you.

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            This isn’t true for the movie—because art can never be a complete representation of life but will always have to take some liberties with it—but in life acknowledging the  reality can mean a great deal when it comes to conquering it. We only think we cannot bear to encounter the monster. Because encountering, we think, will mean letting it swallow us up, but that’s not necessarily the case. We could push back, but to do that we have to at least acknowledge that it’s there, threatening all of us.

            Instead of what I would consider a profound and necessary conversation, we got the now infamous Bird Box challenge, that started innocently as a video game challenge where you would play your favorite games blind folded and see how far you can get. Great. And probably fun. It allows you to reencounter something you love with new eyes. Or lack of eyes, technically.

            But then the challenge escalated to real life activities. You’ve probably seen the videos or the resulting news coverage. Forget the familiar and enclosure video game where things are safe and can be undone. Now we’re in the real world where people can’t respawn and actual damage can be done. Sarcastic great.

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            It doesn’t even feel like a missed opportunity anymore. We could have had a great conversation about what it means to navigate life and how clueless we all really are despite the fronts we put up for each other. It could have been a bonding moment to help us push back, even momentarily, the weakest part of our nature, but instead, we proved how destructive we really are. Also, I was really tempted to say stupid right then, but that doesn’t seem fair.

            Because even in this case, we aren’t dumb so much as we are desperate for human connections, to feel like we are a part of something larger than ourselves. It’s like how you’re supposed to make yourself bigger when confronted with certain predators. Though admittedly, I don’t remember exactly which predator this advice applies to. Maybe talk to an expert about that. Which I am not.

            That’s a basic survival mechanism. However, when life is a little more secured like what we have in the first world where this was an issue, it’s harder to see that you aren’t alone, that you are larger than your physical body through the help and work of your community. In fact, if you have a terrible job or are in a bad work situation, you can feel quite the opposite: like you are far smaller than yourself. And then your desperation grows.

            None of that means I’m thrilled with the Bird Box challenge or any of the many challenges that have led to injury or harm, but as a general rule, I try to meet people with as much understanding as I can muster. I’ve found that it’s a less frustrating way of going about my daily life. But then again, that’s just me.

            So in this case, I have to say at least that I understand why this happened. Even if I’m not thrilled.

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            On the other hand, you have the Netflix documentary about the now infamous Fyre Festival released early this year. The full name of the movie is FYRE: The Greatest Party that Never Happened, but you probably knew what I was talking about anyway. After all, like Bird Box, this has invaded the popular consciousness. The disaster that was Fyre Festival was whatever the equivalent of legendary would be for failures. Epic failure just doesn’t seem like quite enough, to be honest, but I don’t know… It just feels like legendary has the wrong connotation.

            The Fyre Festival, if you don’t remember, was that supposedly luxurious music festival Fyre Media was developing on a supposedly private island in the Bahamas. Leading up to the event, it was all over social media, as the company had decided to push it and advertise it primarily through social media influencers, especially on Instagram. Instagram, of course, is the platform of imagery. Not just of pictures, because, of course, I didn’t mean that in a strictly literal sense.

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            Instagram has always been criticized for being built upon false narratives, perfect but fake imagery, and other misleading sights. That isn’t just about Fyre. Nor is it about corporate greed. Once again, it’s human nature gone awry. Instagram is simply the stage, and we—lost and confused but unable to admit it—feel the need to put on a grand show. As a sort of defense, we need to look larger than we actually are, partially because we apparently can’t remember what predator we’re supposed to use that tactic against, so we just use it all the time.

            Because maybe this predator is the unseen one, the one that our friends could be working for. So we don’t let them in on the lighting tricks or the way the smoke blows in our direction and makes us look so much better.

            But look, we all do it, so in some way, we’re all aware of it. But still, we put our trust in our eyes, literal or figurative, and what they tell us because we have learned to rely on them. They represent certainty and the perception of safety therein. Whereas without them or without the trust we have for them, we fear that we will be lost. Potentially rightfully so when you consider that we are often—for better or worse—creatures of habit, and by extension of that, we find it hard to learn new ways or strategies. Or even conceptualize that response or action in certain situations.

            But that’s not the point. Exactly. The point is that Fyre Festival played into this trust, particularly that trust which is placed in the upper echelon of users known as social media influencers. In this particular case, we readily dismiss logic, we overlook the cracks in their façade, and even chose to ignore what our common sense is telling us. All so that we can believe that what is in front of us is real. Because there’s something in the possibility that what they show us is real that gives us life despite everything that drains us of energy in the face of everything that’s trying to suck it out of us.

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            I don’t mean to criticize the entirety of modern living on a show that is only possible in a modern age. That’s a bit, well, just shy of hypocritical, I guess. I don’t think it is, but I don’t agree. Because there will always be more we can do or accomplish. Perfection is a myth, in many regards. At the very least, human imagination can always outpace the physical, assuming our physical natures and literal or figurative limitations therein don’t keep mucking things up. Which they probably will.

So having said all of that, there is certainly things to be unhappy about in the present. Especially if take things by a case by case basis. Each and every person have things about their lives they are unhappy about, but one of those things—more often than not—is their work situation. In a modern setting, employees are little more than replaceable cogs in a machine. And therein lies the problem. Many of us aren’t seen as people in the place where we spend so much of our time. What do we do then? Seemingly nothing because this is the new normal, because this is the inevitable extension of the way we are pushing our society to grow and improve and produce. We know pulling back isn’t so feasible of an option, but it’s not something anyone wants to make a judgment call on anyway.

So maybe things can’t be perfect, and things improving significant on a grand or personal level feels unlikely, but unlikely doesn’t have to be impossible. In this way, we are left only hoping for (quote) “better,” and an unlikely better at that. But that’s a reason to hold on all the more tightly.

            It’s desperation, by another name, sure. We need to believe better can be achieved because if not—if there’s nothing to be sought out for or to strive for—then doesn’t that suck the value out of the present somehow? Like why do anything now if there is no place to go or no point to it?

            So we need hope, don’t we? We need to see an oasis on the horizon to motivate us to move forward. And hope depends on possibility. Acquisition is not possible if the coveted item does not actually exist.

            And that’s what Instagram influencers offer us, isn’t it? In their images, they offer evidence that our dreams can be made true, that a better life is possible, even if it is not all that likely. After all, they have it. But we can only think that if we are willing to believe the show. We certainly don’t have to, but what does disbelief offer us? A sense of superiority that we could see what so many people instinctively know to be true.

            But playing along can give us something that we truly need. Hope. Nourishment for the soul when so much out there is trying to suffocate us.

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            This is what Fyre Festival played into. It offered its participants a certain kind of lifestyle for a weekend, which while unlikely wasn’t impossible. But it wasn’t all that possible, either, especially in the time frame the organizers had given themselves.

            And this is where the documentary gets its traction. Rather than outright saying it was fraud, the documentary shows just how frenzied Fyre employees were working to make a certain vision possible only for everything to implode when reality hit. Because creating a dream isn’t so easy. Not impossible but certainly difficult.

            Different employees are given a chance to explain the events as they remember them, and you see what could have been as well as what actually was. I walked away with the impression that if this inaugural festival had been given more time or resources—and if the resources Fyre did have weren’t squandered or mishandled—the Fyre Festival could have happened. It could have happened had key players accepted reality, but instead, they chose to ignore the writing on the walls.

            And for the participants, in some ways, they might have been able to figure out that this festival was going to go awry long before they made it to the island. There were leaks and warnings about Fyre’s dysfunction seeping onto the internet, but more so than that, if someone had taken the time to ask “how?” the illusion might have crumbled.

            But most people didn’t and instead threw themselves headlong into the festival only to wake up brutally when it actually happened. This led to a lot of ridicule for those who ended up stranded at the Fyre Festival that never was, for pursuing something so outlandish and absurdly priced. When in reality, I think everyone was looking at it from the wrong perspective.

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            Because even then, I wondered if the appeal of the Fyre Festival—to some and not everyone, I don’t doubt some people are what the pundits were depicting them as—was not the luxury but the ability to experience that luxury. That for a moment, dreams of lavish and easy lifestyles could be obtainable, something that could be touched.

            And really, while the old saying goes that seeing might be believing, if I can hold an object in my own hands, that’s even better. Then I really don’t have a reason to doubt.

            And for the reason, I think people were susceptible to the message Fyre was offering. And instead of making it our own or outright rejecting it, for our own sake we took it at face value.

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            So do you see why I grouped these two movies together now? In one, we miss what could have been the intended message. I’m not going to assert myself too hard, certainly not over the creative team that made the movie, though Sandra Bullock and Susanne Bier have nodded to my previously mentioned interpretation. And instead, we made this dangerous challenge that could swallow up far more than we could ever justify losing. Because in some ways, we needed to satisfy a specific human urge but we still haven’t figured the best way to do it.

            And in the other, we took a marketing message at face value, not questioning the feasibility of the many vague promises Fyre was making. And because of this constant buying in, the Fyre Festival was able to implode at the prolific level that it did.

But the illusion it was built upon is necessary. And people were complicit almost out of necessity. Because belief offered something that nourished the soul whereas disbelief only fueled the undesirable status quo that was threatening to consume us.

            Each case can be called an extreme on its own, standing almost on opposite ends of a spectrum. Their opposite messages are: listen for your own sake and don’t listen for your own sake.

            Clearly there needs to be some sort of balance or middle ground to this. And it’s so clear that I shouldn’t need to say it and someone who is listening to this likely rolling their eyes. I see you, good person. Figuratively, of course.

            In practice, it isn’t so easy. And as a consequence of that, when things go wrong, the assumption is made that it is because this lesson has been forgotten. So it is said again, and that is presented as a solution. Only for that to fail, leading the cycle to repeat itself.

            What I’m offering is not innovative or that great or anything like that. It’s just different. Namely, it’s the acceptance that mistakes are inevitable, as an extension of our flawed human nature and our inability to fully acknowledge it never mind plan around all the mistakes. One of these less ideal aspects of our nature is that when we make judgment calls in the moment, we embrace unseen whims even to our own detriment. And no matter how much thought or study, we may be overtaken.

            Because we’re human, and we’re going to make mistakes.

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            Ultimately, comparing different movies or shows or just two pieces of media in general can give us a map if what’s out there for us. It isn’t quite that it gives us options so much as it lays is the groundwork for the larger vision. What we do with that is up to us, but on the other hand, it’s easy to be dismayed, to pull back because it seems like there’s just too much to consider and we don’t know what we’re doing whereas everyone else seems to.

            That question has come back. Hasn’t it? They always do, it seems. You can’t escape the important problems of your life, the reality of it all just because you want to. The issue will always come up. And you’ll have to face the reality of the situation one way or another.

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            Last week of this, I promise. But in case I haven’t made it abundantly clear, I’m really excited about my new podcast, so as an extension of that, I want to share it with you. So here’s a trailer for The Oracle of Dusk. Find it wherever you are listening to my voice.


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I have a question for you. Suppose someone knows something bad is going to happen. Or they know something important about another person. Something that needs to be said. Should they say it? Are they under any moral obligation to do so? Would you think less of them of they didn't.


Interesting thought experiment, right? Well, I have one more question for you. (Music cuts) Are you listening?

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