Netflix: Opiate of the Masses
I love Netflix, and so do you.
The reason we all love Netflix so much is because we all collectively hate to read.
If you don’t believe that Americans hate reading, consider the demise of Barnes and Noble, Borders, and Walden bookstores. I know that you can still find a few Barnes and Noble stores where books are essentially set pieces for people either watching YouTube videos on their iPad or dutifully typing their screenplay while sitting at the in-store Starbucks, but that doesn’t make those few remaining Barnes and Noble bookstores any less a sad diminution from what they once were, when they used to be the middle class alternative to going to the library and having to sit next to a homeless person pretending to read the New York Times held in place on a four-foot wooden stick.
If you aren’t yet convinced that reading isn’t exactly at the top of the American electorate’s list of priorities, just consider the fact that Donald Trump and Ben Carson are the leaders of the Republican party primaries. While it’s true that the Republican party is distrustful of reading of any kind and regards literacy as a liberal conspiracy, the fact that Donald Trump is generally incapable of stringing together a complete sentence when speaking extemporaneously should be a clear indication that if not for picture books, “The Donald” might never have “graduated” from Wharton School of Business, much less been able to complete a book report on those tricky Dick and Jane texts in grammar school.
And contrary to Bobby Jindal’s assertion that the reason that Donald Trump has never read the Bible is because he’s not in it, the real reason he hasn’t read it is because unless its core tenets are being conveyed through stop-motion claymation horses and green men, its content is a little too high-brow for his facile understanding.
If you in any way doubt my authority to speak on this topic, please be aware that I taught high school English for ten years. My experiences there have taught me that teenagers regard reading as only slightly less excruciating than wearing a condom, which is to say that apart from books written at a second-grade reading level (i.e., Twilight and Harry Potter) books are regarded as an anathema on par with delayed gratification and planning for the future. In fact, most teenagers actually get a flush of civic pride when shown images of Nazi book-burning parties, and they regard the world of Fahrenheit 451 as a promising utopia.
This approach to reading is also why teenagers are responsible for mangling our language with text-speak and emojis, which streamline and replace the need to express oneself in words and are second only to dick pics in terms of sufficiently conveying millennials’ most intimate thoughts and ideas.
It’s no surprise, then, that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the Columbine shooters, chose to kill themselves in their school’s library. There’s nothing misanthropic teens hate more than stacks of books. And for those teens fortunate enough to have escaped the library that day, they undoubtedly counted their blessings to have avoided having their life ended while surrounded by reams of punishing reading material, which for any teenager would be the equivalent of Whitney Houston dying in a commune in Salt Lake City surrounded by Dr. Drew and the Jonas Brothers.
In sum: the popularity of Netflix is just one more way in which America demonstrates its steadfast determination to resist reading, which requires effort and, so long as one avoids blogs by Alex Jones and Randy Quaid, expands one’s knowledge and understanding of the world.
And so while America continues to forfeit its status as a nation of innovators and entrepreneurs and reaffirms the rest of the world’s impression of us as Cheetos-noshing couch potatoes who firmly believe in the science of detoxing and gluten-free substitutes, Netflix will afford the intoxicating sedative carrying us onward and downward into relatively painless, accomplishment-free lives that should expire around season 23 of House of Cards. Except that doctors are busy keeping us alive with new life-extending treatments that should keep us around long enough to witness season 57 of Orange Is the New Black, which is the season when it’s bound to finally get interesting.
Hopefully Obamacare’s death panels will change all that, and we’ll die sooner, secure in the fact that we didn’t miss much.