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[HACKER VOICE] I’m in.
Hey guys, welcome back to Gals Being Pals, this is Sara, your host.
This week we’re going to look into the magic of binge watching — a past-time that I’m sure all of us have not only partaken in, but found great joy throughout.
Whether it’s watching something for the first time or reliving the magic of an ol’ faithful, I wanted to take a look at the dynamics of binge watching and see if it really is possible to relive something you’ve seen before through the fresh eyes of those that you’re seeing it with — and if binging begets more binging.
So! Four friends and myself went to catch the double feature showing of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 followed by the recently released Vol. 2 in one sitting — a total runtime of 4 hours and 20 minutes. Here’s how it went down!
Well, back up. For those not-in-the-know, Guardian’s of the Galaxy is Marvel Comic’s latest adaptation series. It’s about a rag-tag team of space outlaws who are forced together to do good deeds that benefit the galaxy-at-large.
Because we’re looking at this on a more meso- and macro-level, there won’t be any specific discussions of the plot for either film, so proceed forwards with this episode free of spoiler fear.
Now, onwards for real!
When we arrived I noticed that there didn’t seem to be any people on their own, which in retrospect seems obvious thanks to double features being more of a gimmick than regular occurrence nowadays. It’s an event, and events are usually something done in groups; that's backed up by science.
A poll done by Netflix in 2013, as reported by Variety magazine, found that 51% of their responders said that they liked to binge material with at least one other person.
In her 2016 study on binge-watching, Mareike Jennner found that 73% of people in their study defined binge watching as watching between 2—6 episodes of the same thing, which correlates to 2 to 6 hours of media viewing. That means that most bingers have a pretty established routine established by now, and a movie theatre won’t mess that up.
As I mentioned earlier, I was very cognizant of the audience. Given that this is a college town, the observation should be tampered with a grain of salt, but the audience was mostly college-aged people and what looked to be young professionals. However, MPAA’s annual Theatrical Market Statistics for 2016 study corroborated that the 18-39 year old bracket make up the majority of the frequent/dedicated theatre audience, so even though my audience’s makeup may be exacerbated by the population of the area, it certainly is representative of the data.
I was so caught up in taking all this in — before I knew it the lights had dimmed and it was here: rewatch time.
Conversation flowed pretty much the entirety of the film, at varying levels of volume. There was a clear yet unspoken understanding that this was for the fans, or at least for a majority of people who had seen it before, and everyone was looking to have an experience rather than a viewing, if that makes sense at all. The usual theatre decorum didn’t apply. This is a key difference from marathoning in your own home. As Jenner also goes into depth in her 2015 research journal on the topic of video-on-demand and how it pertains to the mainstreaming of fandom, binging typically allows the viewer to give their full attention to series that require it, and the autonomous nature of binging enables that. In this case, you cannot control what others are doing, and so the decision is out of your hands.
Given that this is a comic book action film made to appeal to wide, global audiences, the plot and dialogue isn’t exactly great literature, so this wasn’t required. Two of my friends hadn’t seen the film, so they didn’t get that reverent first viewing that they would have gotten last year when it was shown for the first time — in exchange for that loss, though, they were given a communal experience, akin to watching something at home where there is no need to worry about other’s opinions, making the whole thing just that much more intimate. I had a lot of fun seeing their reactions and feeding them information, and was whispering pretty much nonstop .
The topics of conversation ranged from people asking questions about what was happening in the film, what they thought would be touched on in the upcoming film, and how it related to the comics. There were also comments and questions on the actors, and lots of “focus on this!” nudging from one viewer to another. It was important that you helped your friend see a particularly funny or touching scene, because you cared more about their reaction to it than the actual event itself.
There were also a lot of jokes being made, both in private and on a more public scale. Each group seemed to have existing or be developing in-jokes based on the material, but that damned shared sense of community meant that we were all coming up with communal in-jokes as well.
In that same 2015 study that I mentioned earlier, Jenner explicitly states the the practice of binge-watching encourages non-fans to be ‘temporarily moved’ by a text, and that’s what seemed to be happening. Casual viewers were moved to be doing fannish things, and fans — comic book fans, no less! Who as a bunch are infamous for being close-knit and exclusionary, I say as a longtime reader myself — were letting them into their space as equals and compatriots. True pals.
Looking back on it all, it was clear that all of us who had seen the film before were far more into our friend’s reactions than the actual film itself, and our friends were much more inclined to ask us questions rather than watch the film and figure things out themselves. The binge/rewatch aspect had an effect that worked both ways!
At the end of the film there was a great exodus — I’m assuming bathroom breaks, food restocking, and the need to stretch those legs muscles were pressing concerns for many.
Just as before, the lights dimmed again and off we went.
That camaraderie carried through the trailers, where reactions seemed far more public than the norm, but it all went away when the new film began, respect and decorum firmly in place. I talked about binges allowing for attention to be directly solely on the media, and this was where that applied.
People returned to their insular pal-groups, speaking quietly and rarely — from what I heard, usually small jokes being shared or quick questions for clarification being asked. There was a pointed degree of silence and stillness for the high-stress or particularly emotional scenes, something that hadn’t existed during the first film’s reshowing.
At the end, not a single person moved from their seats, eager to see that sweet stinger scene. It really is a testament to the conditioning we as an audience have undergone within the last decade, trained to expect one and willing waiting until the very end to see it, far too afraid to leave before the very last credit has rolled, lest we miss out on a extra, even more hidden bonus.
After the film there were a lot of general chatter about the film. Jokes were revisited, moments relived, characters and actors given praise or called out for subpar work.
More than that, though, there was an eagerness to keep the marathon going. I found that even more than watching the new film, it was the rewatching with friends of the first where I had the most fun, to the point where I enjoyed the first one more. It seemed that I was able to relive it though my friends, as well as the general crowd. That said, I felt as if I picked up on every single throwback to the first film in the second, thanks to my very recent viewing of it just before.
My friends and I started talking about other superhero franchises we loved, and quickly came to an agreement to meet up with one another the following day — a Friday, praise be — to binge as many of the X-Men films as possible. I feel as if this is a common phenomena: the desire to keep going once you’ve hit a stride, and to look for something else to continue on with if you’re current backlog has been expended.
The question then becomes, is this just a feature of the nature of media, or is it the innate human need for bonding that has existed since we dwelled in caves, lonely creatures gathering together around a fire to share stories? Is the bonding we do around media a natural extension of the many forms that humans bond through grooming?
Tune in next week to find out! Your assignment for this upcoming week is to take your pals out — or invite them in! — and see what binging in a group is like for you. Shoot me an e-mail or @ me on twitter with your experiences. Thanks so much for listening, I’m out!
POP CULTURE //