There is something deeply tedious about browsing from my couch, clicking right, right, right to see what else the algorithm imagines I’ll like. Were I doing my high school movie exploration today, I would never come across titles as different as Ed Wood and The Bells of St. Mary’s, or Down with Love and The Thin Red Line. I would never burrow that deep in the digital rabbit hole.
Gone is the chance meetcute with some hitherto unknown flick, the “Wait, what was that?” on the way up to the checkout counter. Comparison is difficult — there is no Netflix counterpart to holding two VHS boxes next to each other, studying the back matter for some definitive insight. Video store picks were a commitment built on meticulous scrutiny and schedule, so a movie that started slow or otherwise failed to immediately appeal could not be lightly abandoned. Now, the ability to instantly drop anything I don’t like is a constant temptation. I can click “back” at any moment, though more often I never click “play” in the first place.