How To Have Proper Binging Etiquette

By  · Published on September 27th, 2016

Dear FSR

Stream like the pros without losing any friends.

At some point in your life, you’ve likely been faced with a question that has no solid answer. Some people may take such a puzzle to a trusted confidant, a friendly pastor, or the esteemed annals of Yahoo! Answers. But will they have the expertise needed to solve your most pressing film predicaments?

Think of Dear FSR as an impartial arbiter for all your film concerns. Boyfriend texting while you’re trying to show him your most precious Ozu? What’s the best way to confront the guy who snuck that pungent curry into your cramped theater? This is an advice column for film fans, by a film fan.

Dear FSR,

My friends (well, roommates) and I like to watch the new original shows that Netflix releases the week they come out, but our schedules don’t always line up. We usually have a night that we set aside to binge it all so we can have a little discussion group while we’re watching and for post-discussion, but recently one of my roommates has started getting ahead. He’ll watch one or two episodes on his own, then complain about not wanting to sit through the whole binging session with us. I don’t want to lose our dynamic, but I can’t force him not to watch things in his free time. What should we do?


Streaming Spurned

Dear Spurned,

If your friendship with your roommates is tenuous enough that it can be decided with an episode or two of The Get Down, I’m not sure establishing a baseline of binging etiquette will help.

There’s no turning the guy who leaves spoons in your couch cushions into an potential groomsman if you can’t trust him to hold in his love for Grace and Frankie for 24 hours. That said, you can take steps to try to restore this balance or you can excommunicate him from your discussion group for not showing you and your other roommates respect.

He could hop in at the point he left off at as long as you made him sign, preferably in blood, a contract banning any and all spoilers – written, verbal, implied, memed, smoke signaled, emoji sign languaged, or otherwise.

And that could work.

That respects the difference in schedules that most people have as well as the impatient desire for immediate cultural gratification that streaming was built to sate. I’m guessing that those one or two episodes will eventually turn into three, then half a season, until finally your friend is up all night just to lord his superior binging speed over you.

That’s nothing against your friend, your system, or binging in general – it’s what we as consumers are being trained to expect and expected to participate in so that we can be reactors in an online environment as quickly as possible. This isn’t necessarily good or bad, just the state of media.

To ask someone to hold off on watching something to watch with you is still reasonable, but if they don’t, don’t get too mad at them. Compromise is always available, but if he tries to spoil those first few, kick him to the curb.

For the dedicated few that wish to live by some sort of code – some streaming samurai with honor – let’s lay down some ground rules:

1. If you end up breaking any of the following rules for any reason, don’t spoil unseen material for anyone for any reason. Let people enjoy things.

2. Talking during the show is permitted only if agreed upon beforehand. Otherwise, save commentary til the end of each episode. Credits or designated snack breaks are perfect discussion times.

3. Subtitles must be voted upon, though hearing-impaired bingers automatically win.

4. If there is a seasonal divide – say you and a partner are going through Veep – under no circumstances should either party continue on to the next season without the other. Though this takes precedence over the same rule for episodic divides, adhere to both when possible.

5. No rewinding. Pay attention. If you’re fiddling on your phone and miss a name or a killer zinger, it’s your own damn fault.

6. Know when to tap out. It’s 4 AM and Don Draper is staring into your soul like a besuited Beelzebub. This is the moment to clasp your roommate’s shoulder in solidarity and call it a night. There’s honor and then there’s reckless disregard for sanity.

We’ll see you here for Stranger Things Season 2,


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Jacob Oller writes everywhere (Vanity Fair, The Guardian, Playboy, FSR, Paste, etc.) about everything that matters (film, TV, video games, memes, life).