Spring break has finally arrived (phew!), and I’m now working on the introduction to the media marathoning project. The current iteration of the introduction incorporates how content-delivery technologies have fueled changes in viewer/reader behaviors and media content. The essential argument is that our ability to stream and download has encouraged more immersive viewing/reading experiences and has concurrently allowed content producers to create more complex stories. Because the text is more consistently available with a click of the mouse or a flick of the remote (compared to a TV episode that would air once or a book we’d have to physically buy/borrow rather than download), viewers/readers will do the work to follow along and can enjoy the more detailed narratives. (See Jason Mittell’s upcoming book or 2006 Velvet Light Trap article for a more in-depth look at complex narratives.)
To be fair, some of the marathons do not involve texts that can be considered complex. Gossip Girl, The Hunger Games, and Star Wars aren’t exactly difficult to comprehend. However, marathoners are taking great pleasure in analyzing the social significance of texts, learning historical information from texts, and searching for plot holes, among other forms of higher-order thinking. (You can tell I’m concurrently working on the media marathoning introduction and the chapter on marathoners’ cognitive involvement with the texts.)
The collective sum of the three variables (innovative content-delivery technologies, changes in viewer/reader behaviors, and quality media content) is the best explanation I can offer for why media marathoning is happening now. My interviews suggest that this trend has really taken off in the last 5-8 years.
I would love to hear from readers about what you think has changed in the last 5-8 years in media or society to pave the way for marathoning. Are you marathoning because the Most Interesting Man is doing it? Or because you can’t watch just one movie featuring the handsome guy in the vest…you have to watch all three?
6 thoughts on “The Most Interesting Media Marathoner”
During the winter and early spring of 2007/2008 my husband, Brian, and I used Netflix to consecutively watch every televised episode of the Sopranos that we had missed in the previous 8 years because we were frugal college students during that time and would not splurge on HBO. Perhaps more surprising than the fact that we “marathon-ed” through approximately 860 hours of drama in a few short months is that we were able to avoid friends and media spoiling the ending. So after pouring ourselves into this show socially and emotionally, we intimately shared the disappointment in the ending of a long-running series and immediately realized it was no longer relevant.
I have to admit that it’s often frustrating to have to “start-stop” my marathon when life gets in the way. There are many shows right now I still consider myself to be “in the middle of”– Weeds and Downton Abbey are just two. I think the comment above raises an interesting question; what is going to happen when I *finally* get the time to sit down and watch again? Will I find the show just as interesting as it was previously? Or, was it just a passing fad that I related to/found interesting only at that point in time? That being said, I still have to reconcile my need to “finish up” with the relevancy argument and probably just bite the bullet and watch away! 🙂
I did all my media marathons when i was bed ridden due to an injury.
Hi Lisa. I did a bunch of media marathoning in those first weeks after my first baby was born. I watched all three seasons of Veronica Mars and 5 seasons of Bones (to name just a couple) on Netflix instant streaming. Oh and several seasons of survivor via some other streaming site. I was feeling pretty anxious about ever leaving my apartment so it helped me to feel a little less trapped and was a welcome distraction with respect to the whole life upheaval thing that was going on. It also provided something to look forward to during nights when I was getting close to no sleep. We gave up cable in 2009, so at that point we almost exclusively watched TV through instant streaming (these days we mostly settle for network TV via antenna b/c our internet is a little slow due to the cables outside being “squirrel chewed” and in need of replacement.)
Media marathons happen for me in two distinct ways. The first is by accident. I sit down, usually with my wife, to check out the show everyone’s talking about or that has received critical acclaim and 6 episodes later we’re saying “how about another” at 3 in the morning. The “Battlestar Galactica” episode of Portlandia depicts this perfectly. While intense, these marathons rarely sustain themselves as rationality creeps in with the rising sun and the spell is broken and often I leave shows mid-season never to return.
The other way media marathons happen for me is the intentional, built up marathon that requires timing, snack supplies, and happen with other devotees (if they can be coerced) and might be better referred to as pilgrimages than marathons. These pilgrimages are usually re-re-rewatchings of favorites like The West Wing and of course the Star Wars Saga and have as much to do with my own knowledge of the texts as they do with the texts themselves. For example, this winter a bought with the flu provided me with the perfect timing to revisit all 6 of the Star Wars movies. After some research on the interweb I came upon a new way to enjoy the epic. I started with A New Hope, then watched The Empire Strikes Back. Using the dramatic turn provided by Darth Vader’s revelation (spoiler alert) that he’s Luke’s father as a jumping off to an extended flash back, I watched Episodes I, II, and III, and then finally Return of the Jedi. It was a cool new look at text I basically know by heart and saved me from starting off my pilgrimage wading through the cheezy swamps of Naboo.
I don’t media marathon often, but when I do nothing else matters.
Thanks for the responses, everyone! I find it very interesting that many are marathoning around illnesses or notable life events (like having a baby) and marathons often have a strong relationship to not having cable. I love Dave’s idea of the pilgrimage when one is re-marathoning or re-consuming a text. I feel that way about Harry Potter.