Binge-watching “House of Cards”

When Netflix introduced its show “House of Cards” in 2013, a neologism from the 1990s rocketed into our everyday lexicon.

binge-watch, verb:
to watch multiple episodes of a television program in rapid succession, typically by means of DVDs or digital streaming. [ORIGIN 1990s: from binge + watch, after binge-eat, binge-drink.]

The word binge-watch has been used in the circles of television fandom since the late 1990s, but it has exploded into mainstream use in 2013. The original context was watching programs on full-season DVD sets, but the word has come into its own with the advent of on-demand viewing and online streaming. In 2013, binge-watching got a further boost when the video-streaming company Netflix began releasing episodes of its serial programming all at once.

Oxford English Dictionary shortlisted binge-watch for its 2013 Word of the Year. Selfie defeated binge-watch. But don’t shed any tears. Only two years later, Collins English Dictionary awarded binge-watch its Word of the Year.

Not surprisingly, Kevin Spacey, who plays the villainous protagonist in “House of Cards,” advocates gluttonous television. At the 2013 MacTaggart Lecture, he implored television executives to give audiences “what they want, when they want it. If they want to binge then we should let them binge.” I admit that “House of Cards” has made me a binge-watcher because all of its episodes are released at once rather than over a season. The only thing stopping me is a hoary virtue called self-control.

From the beginning, I was ambivalent about “House of Cards,” simultaneously attracted to the story and repelled by its cynicism. But I am hooked. From an early age, the theater of politics has fascinated me. If you are familiar with “House of Cards,” the videos below are worth watching.


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