Friends on Netflix: From Watching To Studying It

In the beginning, I was just merely watching the sitcom hit in the 90s entitled Friends. The more I watch it, the more I find myself to be studying Friends and treating it like a case Study. In this blog post, I intend to reflect upon my ‘addiction’ to watching Friends, but also how this addiction has made me immune to the humour of my favourite sitcom.

Since ‘Friends’ becomes available on Netflix, I cannot stop watching it. Last weekend for instance, I have spent the whole Saturday watching its episodes after episodes. As much as I do not want to be disrespectful to the experiences of those individuals who are actually struggling with their substance addiction, my watching behaviour last Saturday mimics addictive behaviour if not a symptom of addiction itself. I have lost control and this has already happened in the past.

Unlike the more structurally scheduled programmes on local television channels, Netflix offers us relatively more choices and freedom to watch what we want, when we watch them, and how much of it we want to watch in one sitting. As David Brook once wrote in his book entitled, The Social Animal: ‘freedom without structure is its own slavery’ (2012:58). While my face was glued on the screen watching Friends the whole day last Saturday, I was quite aware that I was being a slave of my own freedom.

That awareness, however, did not stop me from doing what I was doing even though I was so desperate to do something else other than watching in general and watching Friends in particular. At that moment, it did not feel like I was driver of my own existence. Instead, I was being driven by a force other than myself who is stronger and more powerful than I am, and therefore, my existence is not of my own. It seemed to me that I was not the owner of my own body. The more I let it happen, the more my self-respect shrunk and the more I felt humiliated.

As I woke up that day, I allowed myself to watch one episode while having my breakfast. I thought: why not? One episode of Friends is harmless. I could have not been more wrong. I could not even remember what that episode was, but I thought it was funny and yet I felt not entirely fulfilled so I wanted more. I told to myself, one more episode and that will be the last.

But that episode was not the last. Before I knew it, I was watching it the whole day and could not stop. It was like eating one piece of chocolate but before you knew it, you have eaten the whole box. The ‘one little old drink’ which sounds harmless and innocent at first can become a monster out of control.

I was so remorseful and yet I could not stop watching. One of the symptom of being addicted is that when we have come to realize that the object of our desire becomes an obsession to the extent that we wanted to regulate it and yet unable to do so. Reflecting and writing about this behaviour helps me to put that experience into perspective. Writing about that moment of weakness and unfulfilling pursuit allows me to turn the table to my advantage. Sometimes, inspirations present themselves in most unlikely spaces and opportunities knock when least expected.

Watching Friends the way I did has provided me an opportunity to discern few patters of the grand narrative that I would have otherwise missed when watching the episode one day at a time. I have become critical and analytical of what I was watching.  While it made me passive for one whole day, I was actively watching nonetheless. What I did is that, while I was so deep into it, I committed myself to this obsession by not only watching it, but also studying it.

Our surroundings changes gradually throughout the year so gradual that we are sometimes unaware of the changes taking place. Watching the changes seasons throughout the year compressed in one single minute allows us to see the mobility of what we have discerned to be static when lived and experienced in real time. That is how I can describe watching as much episodes Friends – or other TV series for that matter – I can in one sitting. It has allowed me to see pass the humour and see the ideologies imbricated within it. Friends is merely a vehicle and its passengers are ideas that maintains the status quo.

So, in a way, by the too much freedom that Netflix extend to this generation of viewers, we become immune to the drugs that popular cultures administer to us. As we become immune, we see these materials for what they really are. They are not innocent and contain ideas within it. They are disciplining tools to keep us in place and to keep us in line.

In order to redeem the Saturday that has been lost from watching Friends all day, I will attempt to reflect on how this particular sitcom maintains the status quo. Why does the sitcom Friends is so comfortable to my subconscious? Why does it make me feel good and that everything will be alright? Why does it so reassuring.

To be continued… I hope… maybe tomorrow, maybe next week…

But first, I will watch one episode of Friends… just one then I will stop.. promise..

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