Binge-watching Netflix at 1.5x speed is the horror future we deserve
Just hook it to my veins!
Claire ReillyFormer Principal Video Producer
Claire Reilly was a video host, journalist and producer covering all things space, futurism, science and culture. Whether she's covering breaking news, explaining complex science topics or exploring the weirder sides of tech culture, Claire gets to the heart of why technology matters to everyone. She's been a regular commentator on broadcast news, and in her spare time, she's a cabaret enthusiast, Simpsons aficionado and closet country music lover. She originally hails from Sydney but now calls San Francisco home.
ExpertiseSpace, Futurism, Science and Sci-Tech, Robotics, Tech CultureCredentials
Webby Award Winner (Best Video Host, 2021), Webby Nominee (Podcasts, 2021), Gold Telly (Documentary Series, 2021), Silver Telly (Video Writing, 2021), W3 Award (Best Host, 2020), Australian IT Journalism Awards (Best Journalist, Best News Journalist 2017)
But Hollywood has missed a key point. Speed-watching is the grim new TV hell we all deserve right now. We are the ravenous suck-feeders that Netflix is trying to satiate, and we will not be happy until we've snorked up every last piece of content through our hungry little mouth tubes.
Also, if someone had let me speed-watch Breaking Bad, I definitely would have.
Last week, Android Police first reported that Netflix was testing a variable speed feature, allowing viewers on Android devices to slow down playback to 0.5x or 0.75x, or speed it up to 1.25x or 1.5x. Netflix confirmed the reports on Monday, saying in a statement that it is always "experimenting" and this latest test was limited to mobiles and "may not become a permanent feature on Netflix."
The news would have passed by unnoticed, were it not for Judd Apatow weighing in and calling the feature out with characteristic Hollywood humility, on behalf of "every director and show creator on Earth." Thus summoned, the Hollywood establishment sat up from their microdermabrasion tables and took notice.
Apatow, the auteur behind such pieces of cinema You Don't Mess with the Zohan, tweeted out a promise to fight Netflix on the move. "Don't fuck with our timing," he wrote. "We give you nice things. Leave them as they were intended to be seen."
The director/producer/slashie has a point. Hollywood creates its art with an end goal in mind. It should be enjoyed without skipping, without rushing, without speeding over the poignant pauses and cinematic sweeps across the horizon. Or in Apatow's case, without fast-forwarding over Melissa McCarthy explosively sharting in a sink. (Sweet mercy, Judd, this scene in Bridesmaids is still THE BEST moment of film magic I've ever seen.)
But Judd doesn't know what it's like to be on the other end of the pipe (I'm referencing the film distribution pipeline here, we've moved on from Bridesmaids). There is such an unrelenting stream of content rushing at us these days (once again, apologies for that previous mental image) that speed-watching is the only way to get through it all.
What hope do you have of grimly hate-blinking through Friday night's date with Cliff if you don't cram seven seasons of Mad Men beforehand? The Handmaid's Tale could surely do with a bit of a trim. And Game of Thrones? Would you rather watch Daenerys spend 47 episodes discussing the council politics of Qarth or a five-hour supercut show called SEX DRAGONS?
And that's before you even get to the cinema classics you're supposed to have watched.
I watched 142 minutes of 2001: A Space Odyssey before I realized the gorillas weren't ever going to get on the spaceship. I still haven't seen Citizen Kane (rose… bud?) and I had to watch Rashomon four times before I even knew what was going on.
Hollywood might meticulously craft its cinema, but I need Netflix to yeet it into my eyeballs.
Still, there is a downside. If you start speed-watching Netflix you'll become *that guy.* You know the one. The person who rolls their eyes while insisting that podcasting Hardcore Histories on 2x speed while microdosing LSD really helped when they were trying to get their sneaker startup off the ground.
Maybe it's worth taking Hollywood's offerings in the preallotted doses that it has portioned out for us. Otherwise we'll become overstimulated hype beasts, watching TV shoot past our eyes. Like that final scene in A Space Odyssey. The one right before the gorillas make it onto the spaceship.
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