Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Gathering dust

Charlie Brooker mentions a feeling in this excellent article which I experienced recently also, and which ties in with one of Bambi's recent posts. I had the deep personal revelation that even if no more media is produced from this day, there is too much in existence already that I want to see for me to watch it all. No matter how much of my free time I spend on it (assuming I'm not blessed with immortality or a lottery win), there will be some aspect of entertainment media which I want to experience that I will never find time for.

And on top of that, there is ever more media being generated every day. I've had to stop watching trailers (and not just because they frustrate me), because they taunt me with films I'm never going to see. "Look", they say, "a dark sci fi thriller with a good script - no chance you'll ever get to watch it, even though it's probably amazing". "And look at this, a modern action film with incredible special effects - you know you'd enjoy it, but you'll never persuade yourself to spare the time because there are so many more worthy films to see. I bet you haven't even watched Raging Bull yet, have you...". Apparently shouting at the trailers to shut up is grounds for removal in some cinemas.

Anyway, it struck me reading Brooker's article (and Bambi's post) that if buying stuff I'll never watch is stupid, then everyone buying the same things they'll never watch is multiply stupid. Even buying a film in case you want to watch it starts to feel a little dubious when there is almost total availability of films for free, if not online, then on other people's shelves.

What we need is a system whereby a group of people (say "friends") who are able to meet up (say "locally") arrange within themselves that they won't buy a DVD that another one of them already has. Instead, if they want to watch it, they can arrange a time to borrow and watch their friend's copy. With n people involved, they either spend n times less on DVDs, or have access to n times as many DVDs as before. And best of all, the purchases are actually used. There's very little point in me owning a copy of a film (even the best film in the world *cough*Primer*cough*), if I watch it once and then it sits on my shelf forever. A product that serves no purpose for 99.99% of it's life is not something that we should all be buying and filling our homes with identical copies of. If all your neighbours bought copies of that soup can painting by Warhol and kept them under the bed, only taking them out for a few minutes a year to look at, you'd think they were mental. Far better if I own a film and yet it gets watched by various people all the time.

For an added benefit, if nobody is watching the film, sell it on ebay. If you want to watch it again in the future, borrow a copy, or buy it back. Second hand films won't depreciate much, so you shouldn't lose any money if you then simply sell it again afterwards. Obviously if a film is likely to become scarce in the future, then hanging onto a copy or two is a good idea, but in general I think the principle is that millions of copies of the same DVDs are sitting on shelves all over the world not being watched and it makes no sense. There's nothing to be done about consumerism in general, but there are surely more efficient things we can do in our own lives that make more sense.


happylittlecynic said...

So... If two friends each owning a copy of the same DVD is stupid, how stupid is it for one person to own five copies of a certain DVD *cough*Primer*cough*? ;)

TheTelf said...

Not stupid at all, if those copies are often distributed to friends. Anyway I *bought* 5 copies. I only *own* 2. The others were presents.