Was All That Time I Spent Watching Netflix Worth It, I Must Know

by Sam Blackwell

“Recommended for Sam: SciFi/Fantasy Dramedies with a Strong Female Lead”

The first time that Netflix offered this subgenre on my list of recommended television shows, it was a moment of sudden brilliant clarity, an unexpected realization of something I didn’t know I didn’t know. I mean, I love me some Sci Fi/Fantasy Dramedies without a strong female lead (Merlin, Star Trek, Doctor Who) and I’m all over non-Sci Fi/Fantasy shows with kickass ladies (Revenge, Scandal). But that beautiful, concise phrase encapsulated my television passions and desires so perfectly that I couldn’t help but feel that everything in my life had begun to make more sense.

But then I got to thinking: how did Netflix know? How had they pulled this recommendation from the deep corners of my subconscious? I know they have their “algorithms” or whatever, but had I really watched that so many Sci Fi/Fantasy Dramedies with a Strong Female Lead that Netflix could make such an authoritative suggestion?

Yes. Yes, I had. A quick run-through of all the shows I’d recently watched revealed that I had devoted hours upon hours of my life to watching badass ladies kick vampire/demon/monster ass. I had enjoyed myself, obviously, and I can’t wait to get started on Xena or whatever, but I began to ask myself: is this addiction worth it? What have I missed out on? What have I gained?

To answer this question, I added up all of the time I’d spent watching these series (time cost) and multiplied it by my current hourly rate at work (potential pay lost) (I don’t watch at work, but it’s always good to commodify your downtime). Then I spent some time thinking about what I could have done with that time and that money and what I had gained from these shows.

Once Upon a Time
Total Time Spent: 16.5 Hours/$239.25

Opportunity Cost:
• I probably could have read a book in 16.5 hours. Maybe not an Infinite Jest, sure, but something with a little bulk.
• $239.25 would pay for this pair of Ray-Bans I’ve been eying, including shipping.

• Staring at Prince Charming’s face for a substantial number of those hours.
• Telling anyone in earshot how much I love Gennifer Goodwin’s tiny tiny hair.

The Vampire Diaries
Total Time Spent: 49.5 hours (2 days, 1.5 hours)/$717.75

Opportunity Costs:
• 3 hours a week for 16 weeks is an entire semester of ESL classes I could have taught, enriching the lives of others and improving my Spanish.
• A car ride to and from Seattle.

• Fierce Team Damon v. Team Stephen debates
• That moment when Catherine realizes she can totally and convincingly impersonate Elena if she just straightens her hair
• Gratuitous shirtlessness

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Total Time Spent: 108 hours (4 days, 12 hours)/$1566

Opportunity Costs:
• In 3.5 hours, I could probably bake a cake from scratch. With 108 hours, I could have baked a cake everyday for a month. SO MUCH CAKE.
• $1500 is a pretty solid downpayment for a car, probably.

• The unadulterated campiness of the first season
• The fifth season when suddenly Buffy is a fully developed character and there are so many tears

Total Time Spent: 132 hours (5 days, 12 hours)/$1914

Opportunity Costs:
• $1914 is about the most I’ve ever had in my bank account at one time.
• If I’d spent 132 hours actively applying for grad school, I’d bet I’d be there by now.

• Deciding whether you’re a Pru, a Piper, a Phoebe, or a Paige is a nice break from the typical Carrie/Miranda/Charlotte/Samantha debate.
• You really get a good glimpse into early-2000’s feminism (“As women we may be governed by our feelings, but we can channel that hysteria into secret powers!”)
• So many parallel-universe or old-timey costume episodes.

Conclusion: $4437 in hypothetical lost productivity is a lot, but, hey, it’s hypothetical, so who cares? The wasted 306 hours (almost 13 full days!), though, is a depressing and harrowing figure. I should be more productive! I should get things done! I should change my ways!

I will, too. I swear. Once I get through Fringe.

Sam Blackwell lives in Minneapolis.

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