Binge-watching: I’ve started it so I’ll finish it

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binge-watch (verb): to watch a large number of television programmes (especially all the shows from one series) in succession.

Sound familiar? Turns out you’re not alone. ‘Binge-watch’ has been named as Collins Dictionary’s word of the year, and it’s easy to see why.

As a student in my fourth year of study, this is a term that is slowly but surely wiggling its way into my vocabulary, posing a threat to the long-established ‘binge-drinking’, which seems to be getting much less airtime in recent months.

The availability and accessibility of programmes now means that one missed episode, and you must remain on high alert in case a fellow binge watcher decides to drop in John Snow’s death (apologies if you’re a latecomer to Game of Thrones), or spill the latest Orange is the New Black news on another lesbian sex scene between Piper and Stella. Series that were designed to span three months can now be watched in a day or so. What was once a weekly social activity between family and friends is now an intense battle with will power to close the Netflix page before the next episode begins. A battle that, if you’re like me, usually ends in defeat.

I can’t say that I’ll look back with a great sense of accomplishment on the summer days I spent clicking ‘next episode’ during my Orange is the New Black binge, which quite frankly, I didn’t even enjoy.

It all seemed a bit grey to me.

It’s like eating a family packet of chocolate buttons. You know you’ll feel bad about it later, and with each mouthful you tell yourself it’s the last one, but before you know it the packet’s empty and the guilt kicks in. Then comes the sobering moment you realise that you’ve managed to progress from episode 8 to episode 13 in the space of an afternoon. On the final episode of OITNB, mental exhaustion was at a high, and I clearly remember taking a huge sigh of relief at the sight of the credits at the end, as if someone had been stood beside me forcing me to stare gormlessly at a screen for hours on end.

Having missed the bandwagon for Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones, I have been unable to participate in many pre-lecture gossips, and become confused when a housemate runs down the stairs shouting ‘Oh my god he actually just crushed the baby’s head!’ But knowing the days I would spend slumped in bed, propped up by tellingly dented pillows, I can only feel liberated by the fact that I will have spent those hours (arguably) more wisely…probably watching YouTube videos of dancing cats but that’s another matter.

I have witnessed first-hand how binge-watching can take over not only your time, but also other aspects of your life. With each session of watching Mad Men, my brother would emerge from his room looking and acting increasingly like Don Draper. What started off as a subtle side parting and quiff soon escalated into a penchant for bourbon and the purchase of a crystal decanter. Luckily I didn’t take any inspiration from Orange is the New Black, although I think I’d look rather fetching in a prison uniform.

Binge-watching is a seamless race through multiple series eliminating the excitement of waiting and guessing where the story may take you. The intended build-up between each series becomes lost when all it takes is the insertion of the next DVD in your box-set, or a click on Netflix. After all, abstinence does make the heart grow fonder.

Are we losing our sense of anticipation? I can’t wait to find out.


Ellen Leach-Hutchings

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