Netflix addiction: A tale of redemption

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Do you sometimes stare at your television or computer screen for hours, searching for a new movie or show to stream?

Have you exhausted all of the resources available on the “What’s Popular on Netflix” list?

Have you already finished “Breaking Bad,” “Arrested Development” and “Freaks and Geeks”?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be struggling with a Netflix addiction. Netflix addiction — technically addictus netflixius, or “the ability to watch a fucking shit-ton of Netflix” — is a problem faced by many college students in today’s society. Midterms are failed. Flights are missed. Relationships are ended. Weeks are lost to “Desperate Housewives.”

Hi. My name is Jeremy, and I am addicted to Netflix.

Because I am guessing that many of you struggle with this same problem, I thought it would be helpful to share my story with you. But I warn you, my story is not a fairytale. It’s a tale of shame. A tale of darkness. A tale of redemption.

It all began with “Malcolm in the Middle.” I was scrolling through Netflix one Saturday morning, when I noticed that this childhood favorite had become available to stream instantly. I began to nostalgically watch the adventures of Malcolm, Dewey, Reese and Francis with a smile, remembering the childhood antics of my two brothers and myself. I watched one episode at a time — maybe before I went to bed or after I wrote a tough paper. It took me a couple months to finish the entire series.

But things went sour quickly. After finishing all eight seasons, I moved on to “How I Met Your Mother,” the tale of one quirky man’s search for love. Each episode felt like it ended with a cliffhanger. I had to watch the next one. I had to find out who the hell Ted ended up with in the end. I finished the series in three weeks.

Next, I watched “Scrubs.” Two weeks. Then, “House of Cards.” One week.

Eventually, I found myself locked in a room with the blinds closed, my phone turned off and six empty boba containers on the floor. I had finished “Orange is the New Black” in one night. I felt like death. I had probably gained five pounds. I had 10 missed calls. My parents thought I might have died.

I knew I had a problem.

I had to do something about it. I began to browse through all of Netflix’s suggestions — “The Vampire Diaries,” “Hitch,” etc. I dodged the “Recently Watched” section (which serves as a constant reminder that I love “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”). It felt as if I had searched for days but found nothing. Did I accept defeat and decide to start “Gossip Girl”? No. I had to find something that was worthwhile, something that would not be embarrassing to tell my friends I had watched, something that would make me think.

I knew that there were some hidden gems out there; I could feel it in my bones. I glued myself to the couch, threw my feet up on the coffee table and bravely ventured into the most unknown corners of Netflix — the “Cult Movies” section, the “Foreign” section and the forbidden “Independent” section. What I found was amazing.

The first film I discovered was “Punch Drunk Love.” I saw that it was written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, the brilliant, intellectual mastermind behind “There Will Be Blood” and “Boogie Nights.” But, my inner Netflix addict began to take hold of me:

Sounds intellectually stimulating and … ehhh … a little boring. Rewatch “Lost.” It’ll be even better the second time around.

Then I realized that it wasn’t the real me talking. I decided to watch the film. And I loved it.

After “Punch Drunk Love,” I realized what a great film could do to me. It stimulated me in ways I didn’t think were possible. I moved on to more great films — in moderation. I found excellently written and beautifully shot films full of drama, films that made me laugh more than I thought was possible and films that made me realize what a good cry is. I had solved my problems.

And now, I am a film fanatic, which I like to think is a little bit healthier than my previous affliction.

Jeremy Siegel writes Thursday’s arts and entertainment column.

Contact Jeremy Siegel at [email protected].