Why do bad things happen to good fans? Whether it’s atrocious art, ridiculous writing or something else entirely – some crimes against fandom cannot go unanswered. When that happens, it’s time to say “BLAARGH!“
(In response to Ben Gilbert’s In Defense Of…Physical Media.)
Last month, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment announced (via Conan O’Brien) that the 1960’s live-action Batman television series, starring Adam West, Burt Ward, Cesar Romero, etc., would finally (?) be released to home video via boxed set sometime in 2014 (details are still minimal). The comics internet seemed to stand up and cheer in unison as if something extraordinary and revolutionary had just come across their Twitter feeds. My response? A puzzled chuckle and dickish tweet about how cute it was to see people excited for DVDs in 2014.
Getting excited about DVDs in 2014 is adorable.
— Jason Knize (@BelieveInKnize) January 15, 2014
Why was this such a big deal to so many? Sure, the home video rights to Batman had been in limbo for years, but my DVR used to runneth over with episodes of Batman recorded from The HUB. It’s not like Batman hasn’t been available, fans just haven’t been able to hold it in their greasy little sausage fingers. And that speaks to the bigger issue: Physical Media.
For years I was reluctant to make the switch to streaming, and would rebuff the Best Buy cashiers’ offers of a Netflix free trial every Tuesday when buying a stack of DVDs. Now, my MASSIVE DVD collection gathers dusts, as I would prefer to watch any number of the titles Netflix has to offer than get up from the couch, go to the shelf, pick out a DVD, walk over to the player, insert the disc, and wait as the DVD menu loads. Even titles that I own on DVD I would prefer to watch on Netflix, because the quality is often BETTER than a standard definition disc on a high-definition television. Chalk this, and most of this article, up to personal preference.
Physical Media is taking a turn for the obsolete as streaming is quickly becoming the standard. I still own a VCR and VHS tapes. Most of my home video collection is on DVD, with a few titles purchased on Blu Ray in recent years. That’s not to say that I’m chucking all of my physical copies, or that some day they will all magically cease their primary functions when Netflix brings the hammer down. However, it’s disappointing to stand back and look at the wall of DVD discs I’ve collected over the past 15 years, only to realize that I can now watch many of those same movies without leaving such a large carbon footprint and flushing thousands of dollars down the toilet. Betamax begat VHS, VHS begat DVD (Laserdisc is in there somewhere), DVD begat Blu Ray, and Blu Ray will make way for streaming. I can’t imagine another generation of actual physical home video when streaming has become so prevalent.
Among the arguments in Ben Gilbert’s article In Defense of…Physical Media, he cites the Netflix streaming service’s inability to offer every title available on DVD, as well as the lack of permanence in the streaming offerings. These claims are true, but why do we need every title available at all times? It’s a hoarders mentality. It’s the same mentality that got me thousands of dollars in the hole with a collection of DVD discs that I rarely touch anymore, some of which I’ve never even watched. Also, I’ve never heard of a more “white people problem” than the concept of being stressed or afraid that a title in your Netflix queue might disappear without notice. GOD FORBID. Guess I’ll just have to watch one of the hundreds of other titles Netflix offers via streaming.
What about those fans who enjoy collecting DVDs and Blu Rays for their supplemental content, such as special features, commentary, and bonuses like Marvel Studios‘ One-Shots. Obviously, I’m not your mommy, you can buy whatever you want. But that’s not to say that Netflix streaming won’t be offering similar content in the future. They’ve already shown their willingness to provide commentary tracks, as seen with House of Cards, and implementing the option for special features for after you’ve finished viewing a title seems like a simple addition. Not to mention the simple fact that a lot of DVD and Blu Ray special features are available on YouTube following a disc’s release, I don’t see the practice of supplemental content going away any time soon.
What value does physical media hold over streaming? A new DVD or Blu Ray depreciates in value as soon as you tear into the shrink wrap, more than driving a new car off of the lot. Has anything with the words “Collectors’ Edition” emblazoned across the top ever ACTUALLY been collectible? While I’m not wholly against the clever DVD/Blu Ray boxed sets that give you something to hold or look at, like the Breaking Bad barrel, the Dexter blood slides, or the Walking Dead heads, why not just buy merchandise? Why not action figures or statues or replica props?
We all have movies and TV shows that we love, titles that we need to have in an arm’s reach at all times just in case of emergency, so sure, there is your benefit of physical media. My family will always have physical copies of Star Wars and The Dark Knight trilogies in our home. However, streaming and digital has drastically changed the way we collect physical media, and instead of filling our shelves with previously viewed copies of movies from Blockbuster that we’ve never seen before, we’ll instead fill up our queue with the same type of random garbage we may or may not ever watch anyhow. But at least there’s no cleanup, no fuss, no muss, and no dust.
Filed Under: BLAARGH!