A friend of mine wanted to watch one of her favorite movies, Casino, the other day. She owns a copy on DVD but her Blu-ray player was being uncooperative so she looked through the Roku catalog online for it. No luck whatsoever. But twenty years ago she could’ve walked into a video rental store, found the movie there and enjoyed it that day (assuming her VCR worked).
The video rental stores are all dead now. We killed them, trading the choice they offered for the convenience of streaming however many (and few) choices the services that succeeded them are able to negotiate the broadcasting rights for at any given time. This is also the reason digital television platforms (cable, satellite, internet, etc.) routinely lose channels and content that we never lost with analog antennas (except when someone turned on the microwave, of course). In short, we’re now paying more for less than we had before but led to believe (if you buy into the hype that millions of us do) quite the opposite. But it’s all smoke and mirrors. Movie magic. It’s a sensational lie sold at top dollar.
And in the vacuum left in the wake of Blockbuster, Hollywood Video and local rental places, we have the Deep Dark Web; the sinister international version of that cool friend or neighbor running off shitty copies of shows we want to save a few bucks on. Now new and improved with malware! And if you don’t mind German subtitles. And only if one has the technical wherewithal to know of and take advantage of these skeevy resources without compromising one’s computer to a tween-age Russian hacker or a botnet assimilating it into its zombie hoard of Viagra® and gold bullion spam whores — not most people. And of the few who do, very few of them are willing to do the work it takes to extract the content they want when/if better quality content is simply made available at a reasonable cost.
In this golden age of entertainment we’re promised by the fantasy marketed to us — not this candy coated Orwellian dystopia — content producers would make their entire catalogs available to be enjoyed in return for a nominal price whether that be commercial sponsors or fees. Instead, both producers and consumers are stuck dealing with these disparate content distributors, these middlemen, each bundling shit that, in many cases, we had better access to last fucking century! Not to mention that this American nation has the slowest internet speeds at the highest costs in the industrialized world!
So patronize and support our local libraries. You may not be able to walk out with the movie or show you want the same day you want it but the library is the one institution we have left that offers the closest experience to the video rental stores of yore — and it’s paid for with late fees and our taxes (you know, like banks!). I watched all eight seasons of Dexter thanks to the library that also carries the book that the show was based on. Right now I have Bates Motel season four and Ash vs Evil Dead season one coming. It’s awesome! Do it!