Surprise! I have nightmares. In my latest, I was stumbling through an eternal field in the dead of night, fog so thick I couldn’t see two inches. Then, out of the mist, a carousel materialized. Carnival music jangled as the wide-eyed wooden horsies screeched round and round. The moment I jerked awake, the meaning was clear: This is my freak show of a life on Netflix. So many evenings, the haze of the day gives way to the dull shock of the Scroll. Row upon row of bingeables, as infinite as they are inane, siren-song me to oblivion. If I dare pause on one, it shrieks grotesquely alive. Oh look, Netflix has a new movie about—YOU HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO WATCH THE INTERMINABLE TRAILER RIGHT NOW. Autoplay, you are an unconquerable horror, the sadistic ride attendant who won’t let me off. Make it stop, holy mother of cyberhell, make it stop! Amazon respects the stillness (along with my ability to read a show description); so does Hulu. Netflix, do you wish to nauseate your user base? To make it impossible to breathe, process, choose? Do you really have such minuscule confidence in the intrinsic appeal of your programming? No matter how many spins I take through the grid, terrified to linger lest I trigger a mini movie, I end up back where I started, a little deader inside. Carousels originated in ancient Arabia, let’s remember, with real-life horsemen running in circles. The 17th-century Italian word carosello meant “little war”—it was a training exercise. The Scroll appears to be training my brain for a more modern campaign: the streaming wars. When the time comes to pick sides, I’ll be stuck inside Netflix, riding and dying for it—forever.
This article appears in the December issue. Subscribe now.
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