Aaron R. Davis
I’ve been trying to stay away from this topic for a while, but the time has really come for me to say: leave the people who are upset about Netflix alone.
I’ve just read too damn much of it online recently. Every news story this summer has immediately devolved online into the people who are upset, and the people who are upset with people who are upset. I don’t know when exactly our evolution into giant, throbbing, puckered assholes with credit cards took another big leap forward, but it’s really charging ahead full steam this summer.
Let’s look at the actual facts before I get into what I’m sure will sound like whining about whining about whining.
So, as of this week, Netflix has formally split its major services — streaming content to your computer or other web-enabled devices, and physically mailing you a DVD — into two separate plans. Before, you could get unlimited streaming and a disc for $9.99, now customers are being charged $7.99 for each. This is a 60 percent price increase.
Is it fair? I don’t think so. Is it the end of the world? No, of course not. Does it suck anyway? Of course it does.
What I keep hearing from people is that those of us who are upset at the second Netflix price increase in a year are whiny, privileged shitheads who don’t appreciate how convenient our lives already are. “Come on,” I hear. “It’s only six extra bucks a month.” The logic they’re arguing from always sounds more privileged and experiential to me. “I can afford it, so what’s the big deal?”
I always picture these people ordering a pizza, and then when they get the pizza it costs sixteen bucks instead of ten. “Come on,” says the pizza delivery guy. “It’s only six bucks. It’s not unfair at all. In some countries, they don’t even have Pizza Hut.”
Or how perfectly socially acceptable it is to whine every time gas goes up another 10 or 20 cents. Have you ever pointed out to anyone just how little America pays for gas compared to European countries? You get your head bitten off.
Americans don’t like to pay more. I get it. So do you. That’s why McDonald’s is richer than [insert name of made-up deity here]. That’s why people fool themselves into believing that the noxious by-products that sit behind the counter at Subway for days are delicious and healthy. Americans like cheap. Americans like convenience. And since Americans pay too damn much for things other countries get out of their taxes, like doctors and college and prescriptions, anything that delivers on that value almost immediately becomes a staple of daily life.
Imagine going to the pharmacy to pick up necessary drugs and not knowing that Congress has passed something else and being told “Come on, it’s only six bucks. Stop whining about your insulin.”
Since all of the arguments I’ve seen that are outrage over outrage argue from personal positions, I’m going to shamelessly argue mine.
I’m unemployed. When the school season starts, hopefully I’ll be able to find work as a substitute teacher again, but as I’ve said before, it’s not a real job — there’s no job security, no guarantee of work, lots of competition, the district has lowered the pay and put a cap on how much you can work in a year and zero benefits. My wife was laid off in advance of the retail chain she worked for going out of business, with no severance package. Because of this, we now have no health insurance, and I have a lot of health problems that demand medicine and doctor visits. The financial cushion we built up was wiped out because of a sudden car repair.
We had to cancel most of the little luxuries we could afford, because now we’re only living on my wife’s unemployment, which doesn’t leave us enough to live on once rent is out of the way. We’re not living month to month, we’re leaving week to week. And until last weekend, it seemed like radical conservatives in Congress were going to let the US default on its debt to prove an asinine point, so there was some question as to whether or not the unemployment check was even going to come.
But between filling out job applications (both of us, every day) and getting the occasional interview, at least we could relax and stream an episode of Star Trek or get a movie in the mail and sit back and watch it and forget the near-constant fears of getting kicked out of our apartment or having to turn on the gas in the middle of the night. Netflix was one of the few pleasant luxuries still relatively affordable to us.
And now it isn’t.
And you know what? Fuck you, it sucks and I’m going to whine about it sometimes because, again, fuck you.
And I do understand the studio crap that goes into this decision. I know Netflix’s ultimate goal is to go to 100 percent streaming so they don’t have to pay postage anymore (postage which is, by the way, factored into your subscription, so yes, you do pay postage) and deal with physical objects, but it’s kind of shitty to do this now when the people who don’t have broadband Internet vastly outnumber the people who do. Yes, it’s the studios, not Netflix, who are going to ruin the era of online video rental, because even now they’re raising their licensing costs and making deals for exclusive content at various outlets like Amazon and Hulu, which means torrents once again look more attractive than multiple subscription costs. I get that. I get it better than a lot of people who are upset about the price increase, and frankly I get it better than people who are upset about people who are upset about the price increase.
But you know, I’m not whining about docking fees on yachts here. I’m not whining about the help or complaining about the high cost of private jet fuel. I’m upset because the cost of something that made my currently shitty life more bearable has gone to a level I can’t rise to. I’m upset because I see my few luxuries being stripped away one at a time by corporate greed and idiotic decision-making. And when I dare to be unhappy about it, people who can afford it tell me I’m being whiny and entitled.
Fuck you. I’m not apologizing for that.
It sucks and it’s unfair and telling me I shouldn’t be unhappy about it because you can afford it or because it doesn’t affect you just makes you an asshole.
Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org