It's been four days, more than 100 hours, and I still haven't finished Season 2 of "House of Cards."
I've gotten past the big Episode 1 spoiler. And I've made it through a few more predictably "shocking" chapters. But I haven't finished. And it's not because I think binge-watching is bad - I don't buy any of those arguments. I've binged on many shows in the past year alone. "Six Feet Under" I completed in a month this summer. I devoured all three seasons of "Borgen" in the final weeks of 2013, and I relished every minute. I started watching TV in earnest in college, so if a show ran before 2006, chances are I binged on it while putting off a paper on Kant or possibly an assignment for Slate. "Veronica Mars"? Binged that during finals freshman year. then again in anticipation of the movie.
But Netflix has tarnished binge-watching's good name.
Much has been written about the joys of binge-watching. Slate's TV critic, Willa Paskin, described it as "the classy way of watching too much TV, the rebranding of a previously disdained activity that makes the sedentary life palatable to those people - say New York Review of Books readers! - who would once have foresworn it." Less than 24 hours before Season 2 of "House of Cards," Alex Soojung-Kim Pang wrote in Slate in praise of the practice, calling it "restorative," and highlighting how "it's a way [for people] to reclaim their time and attention in a rushing, distracting world." He goes on to explain that for many, it's a reward.
Binging on "Six Feet Under," "Borgen," "Veronica Mars" - those shows felt like rewards, little presents I got to open whenever I felt like it. They offered a way to relax, and yes, reclaim my time. After all, I was on my own time. I'm sure others were binging on "Borgen" at the same moment, but we were not trying to keep pace with each other - no one was dictating a time period for us to finish so we could then chat about it. The show had run its course, and people who came well before us wrote the think pieces that we could now happily devour. There was no race to finish because no one cared when we finished. No one cared when we started.