When my grandad was diagnosed with stage IV cancer three days after my 29th birthday, my Netflix subscription had been laying dormant for a while. I’d reprised my role of avid series-watcher when new episodes of Orange is the New Black were released, but otherwise it was £5.99 I was waving goodbye to every month so my friends could use my Netflix account instead.
Cut to now, and I’ve watched Stranger Things, Don’t Trust the B**** in Apartment 23, Love, The Little Prince and The Fundamentals of Caring. I’m eyeing up Bloodline, I’ve started The Get Down, and I’ve been told that The Gilmore Girls is “amazing.” By several people. And that I should absolutely get on that.
My summer was a whirlwind of hospital visits, hugs and hand-holding. It was also when I streamed quite a lot of digital entertainment through a little app on my iPhone. I’d watch Netflix at my mum’s kitchen table, on the train and in bed. I was watching it when I got a call asking if I’d drive my mum to the hospice as things had taken a turn for the worse. If I hadn’t had my phone in my hand, I probably wouldn’t have seen the call flash up. So, cheers to Netflix, I suppose.
I stopped watching TV for a while a few years ago. Unless we were talking documentaries or really interesting films about life, or maybe absorbing Danish detective dramas with English subtitles (hat-tip to my grandad for the heads-up on that one), what was the point? What was I learning? What was TV adding to my life?
And now here I am, dedicating an entire blog post to the trusty magic of trash TV. Because I’m not sure how I would’ve got through the summer and kept my sanity intact (ish) without the sitcom in which a girl with a blunt fringe and an even blunter tongue plays matchmaker to her dad and her flatmate without informing her friend of the disconcerting connection, then fosters a child and sets her to work as her PA (yes, it’s illogical and exaggerated, but that’s the whole point). Knowing that people were still laughing and silliness still prevailed somewhere kept me going a little bit.
When life turns itself inside-out and every which way until it’s barely recognisable, I like to wallow in it. Possibly for longer than is necessary. The intensity of it all bubbles up until it becomes a tangible fizz in the pit of my stomach. And then I cry (usually in yoga class when I’m least expecting it) and close down and stay home by myself for long periods of time. Or walk the streets in floods of tears (yo, people of south London who bore witness to my recent emotional meltdown, how you doing?). Or draw a blank and forget what I’ve spent my time doing entirely. I don’t engage in small-talk and I confide in just a close circle of friends. And, apparently, I turn to the digital streaming of films and TV. The mediums that can transport me to any place, any situation, any mood that takes my fancy. That can validate my feelings of darkness and despair, or switch them up completely and have me laughing at someone else’s utterly stupid situation.
Sometimes, it takes being removed from your own circumstances and given a backstage look at someone else’s (fictitious and fanciful, but nonetheless fascinating) life in order to get some perspective. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with wallowing. But with a side of Netflix and chocolate, I’ve found it’s even better.