View of the TV with Netflix Logo on it

Generation VHS versus Netflix

I came across an article in the Polish magazin Kino by Bartosz Czartoryski called “Video rental shop, Mon Amour” (08/2019). The article is in Polish, so this is why I decided to translate the idea of it on my own in order to discuss some interesting topic which I kind of disagree with: generation who grew up with VHS is different from the one who can watch movies not only on DVD or Blu-ray but chooses primarily Netflix or Amazon Prime.

Glorification of the VHS

The author starts with describing the Quentin Tarantino’s story. Is there someone out there who still doesn’t know how the director didn’t go to the film school but learnt filmmaking by watching movies? He mentions also other directors brought up by the video rental shops: Sam Swanberg and Kevin Smith. I must admit, that I didn’t know any of them and their stories were new to me but all three have something in common: they were searching for new movies in a video rental shop. This is what the author wants to glorify – the video rental shops itself. I quote translated into English:

Today the taste is shaped by the million of algorithms which suggest next titles we can watch based on the previously seen movies. It’s a digital equivalent of the workers from video rental stores. Or a colleague advising on choosing the next movie title.

Bartosz Czartoryski, WypożyczAlania Mon Amour, KIno (8/2019)

Once I read this sentence I felt like I’m boiling inside me. So untrue, unfortunately, and just stereotypical opinion. It’s not only movie industry, one can see it also in other areas of our life: people are more and more nostalgic and don’t want to accept changes. But! At the same time they tend to exagerate. A lot. Let’s analyze the sentence above. I still belong to the generation who experienced renting VHS, then DVDs and now has access to the movies online.

I can’t really follow Czartoryski’s point of view. Does really a physical space influence our taste in movies? Do we need to go out from home and talk with a worker to know, what movie we’ll decide to watch next? Above all, the absurd is his further claim, that digital suggestions replace the conversations about films with our family, friends or colleagues! It doesn’t matter where and how we watch it, people will still discuss.

We discuss, just differently

Open Instagram and search for #movie. You’ll find 39.1 million posts. Search for #moviereview, another 606.000 pictures posted on Instagram. Check one of them and you find out that they’re usually written by young people who discover different movies in order to define their own taste. They exchange. Yes, they exchange their opinion about movies and discuss. Open Facebook and you discover the same. There’s for example a Facebook group called Film Fans Germany which has, no more and no less, than 5677 active members who posts their cinephile thoughts everyday.

It’s funny how sometimes people assume we don’t talk anymore just because we’re more attached to Internet than before. We do! I enjoy each conversation in the Facebook group and if my choice would be reduced only to the physical conversations, probably I’d be bored long time ago. Internet connects you with more people and what’s admirable is the connection between countries. We can discuss a movie on Instagram and hear opinion from people living around the world. Moreover, in comparison to the Internet the typical rental video store had usually limited number of people working there. Thus wouldn’t you also have limited access to the movie suggestions?

Netflix – always the guilty one…

The easiest way is to complain and blame. And the players in the movie industry mastered blaming Netflix for every change in the movie consumption. Have we ever wondered, how far Netflix changed our way of watching movies and to what extend maybe just responded to our lazy need of being able to watch the latest movies from home? The greatest inventions were made by not only innovative but also little bit lazy people. Electric stairs, robot vacuums, electric scooter. See the pattern? We’re getting lazy and don’t always blame Netflix for this. Do’t forgett, there’s also Amazon or Sky in Germany and new services are coming (welcome Disney).

Czartoryski glorifies VHS, claims they became a cult status and feels nostalgic about the 80s. Finally he comes to the conclusion that the digital era moves us away from the common experience of watching the same movies. Before people watched the same movies as one VHS was “wandering” from one home to another. Well, the same one could say also about DVD but through the whole article, he forgets the time when DVDs were also available for rent. As he recalls the 80s, probably this is why he focused only on the cult of VHS.

But going back to the point: what about Game of Thrones? I met people who discussed the serie, especially the final season, during the lunch break. There were also special screenings in the cinemas in Berlin and a friend of mine organized her own movie night while watching the final episode. How VHS could do it differently? Shouldn’t we actually be happy with a broad choice the streaming services give us?

They do still exist

Last but not least, the business of video rental stores is dead but not completely. During my one-year stay in Berlin I lived in a block of flats which, watch out, had such rental store just next door! I always passed another one on my way to work and discovered another two in other districts, which specialized on arthouse movies. There’s also one in Nürnberg, where I currently live and here there’s also another cool spot: library with lot of DVDs for rent for free! Check one of my latest Instagram posts to know what I mean. Real movie fans even still do buy DVDs or Blu-rays. Netflix offers different movies but the offer changes, Amazon does it even quicker, and there are films which we also want to see whenever we want.

If you search, you’ll still find nostalgic places, because in my opinion VHS is only nostalgic. We watch movies differently when you think about the place but not regarding emotions, they’re still the same and they evoke the same discussions. Czartoryski claims at the end of his article that nowadays no one tends to think about long life of the blockbusters. Shortly after their time in the cinema, they’re streamed on Amazon, Netflix or another national streaming service. They’re “one time marketing actions” and no one produces cartoons based on these movies. He suggests that the future filmmakers lack common movie experience and wonders how it’ll influence them. It won’t. They’ll definitely touch different topics and the society might be different but it’s how it also should be, right? Unless we go in the right direction, let the filmmakers watch suggestions Netflix gives them. I fthey’re up to something great, like Tarantino, they’ll get bored and start searching on their own. Another point: what different life-span of blockbuster has to do with producing cartoons? It’s just another, in my opinion, nostalgic note.

Now I can breathe again. Movie isn’t dead. No one plans to cut on the movie production, at least Netflix doesn’t. Neverthless, it was a good article which raised debate or in my case, a monologue. The common thing for both article and my post: the love for films is here and it really doesn’t matter where and how we watch it. Let’s not forget that the medium is still the same and it’s an art of moving images called: movie.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.