As strange as it may seem, Netflix played a crucial role in helping me to decide my major. Though Netflix may be synonymous with "procrastination" to many students and educators, I'm here to offer a new perspective on Netflix and explain how it impacted my studies in a positive way.
The summer before my senior year, I was enamored with Netflix and TV as a whole, having just finished a series* in which every episode seemed like a carefully crafted and beautifully rendered movie. For the first time, a TV show wasn't just a show to me — it was art.
As a result, I became interested in the TV industry itself; how networks decided which shows to greenlight and which to axe, how online streamers like Netflix and Amazon were disrupting the traditional TV industry and how TV had made more progress in terms of diversity and representation than the movie industry. Each day as I made the long walk from the parking lot to my school building, I obsessively read each article about TV that filled my Apple News feed. But I’m an obsessive person by nature, and I figured like most of my other obsessions that consumed me for some time, this one would eventually fade.
When it came time to apply for college, I applied to most of my colleges as a communications major, feeling that this broad subject would allow me to explore many facets of communication. It was a hard choice but a pleasing one. I had many interests, but this major encompassed many topics. However, when the school year ended, my interest in TV still hadn’t.
Senior year, which was purported to be the easiest one, turned out to be the hardest, both in terms of my school and personal life. Netflix provided a bright spot whether I was watching characters in situations that were harder than, funnier than or similar to my own. These shows acted either as escapism, allowing my mind to a break from worrying, or as realism, reminding me that things always could be worse. TV had a history of helping my mood: Last summer, I’d written notecards on episodes of The Office to quell my stress.
Presently, I was still reading articles about TV every free moment I had. I was expanding my Netflix queue and watching a larger array of shows than ever before, rather than just rewatching Parks and Rec for the millionth time (not that there will ever be anything wrong with that). I began reading the pilot scripts of TV episodes and writing my own. It felt like fate that every TV critic and network CEO was proclaiming we were in a “platinum age” of television, and I was lucky enough to be living in the middle of it.
Obsession over? Ha. I was more invested now than ever.
I came to the realization that TV gelled perfectly with my lifelong passion for storytelling. I’ve always loved reading and writing novels, and TV was similar in that both mediums revolved around telling a story artfully. This was no fleeting obsession — it was another extension of the passion that defined me.
For this reason, I ended up changing my major to media studies. Looking over the classes for both the communications and media studies majors at my college, media studies was much more in line with my goals. Not only will I be studying storytelling of all types and genres, but I will also be able to create my own art. I will be exposed to other students with stories to tell, all of us learning from teachers who have experience in their fields. And truly, I can’t think of a better topic to be studying.
I make no mistake about my choice of major and job aspirations. The TV industry is a wildly competitive one, which doesn’t pay those of us with behind-the-screen talents (such as writing) as much as actors. Fortunately, telling stories that reach a large audience is no longer restricted to having your pilot picked up by a major network. The internet has allowed creators to share their work with ease, as well as help networks to discover promising talent. Times are a-changing, and I’m ready to change with them.
Who knows ― perhaps I’ll start school and decide that media studies isn’t for me. But I truly doubt it. However the future goes, I know that good TV will always impress me, that characters I love will always occupy my mind. I know that watching Stranger Things on Friday nights brought my family together, that watching Brooklyn 99 in the backseat of the car gave me and my younger brother a common interest. I know that the new seasons of Degrassi made me and my friend cry while Portlandia gave me and another friend something to laugh over. I know that some of the best times of my life are defined by a friend forcing me to watch Supernatural during dinner break at color guard practice and that some of the worst times of my life are defined by me binge-watching Broadchurch and Bob’s Burgers until I forgot about the world outside. I know I remember my summers based not on what vacation I went on, but by which comedy series I devoured (2017: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, 2016: 30 Rock, 2015: The Office, 2014: Parks and Rec). I know that TV has brought an inexplicable amount of joy to my life, but never anything less (except when I valiantly tried and subsequently failed at forcing myself to finish The Grinder, telling myself it simply had to get funnier at some point in the season. It did not.).
No matter what, I know that TV has influenced my life positively. I know that storytelling will always be my passion. And I have Netflix to thank for introducing me to another way of telling stories.
*The series referenced here is the French show Les Revenants. Tragically, it is no longer available on Netflix. Even more tragically, the horrible American adaption of it, The Returned, remains available. I’m hard-pressed to think of a greater injustice than this one.
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