Sappy, But Called For: Giving Blockbuster the Swan Song It Deserves
Thinking of the obsolete is usually a chuckle-inducing activity. As we ponder the demise of now outdated things (think VCRs, film cameras, fax machines and pay phones), it’s funny to reminisce on the relevance they somehow, someway once laid claim to. Call it the cruel humor of the more advanced, but the past undeniably has great comedic potential.
As of late, though, I’m having trouble accepting, much less laughing at, one new addition to the list of irremediable have-beens: Blockbuster. On Nov. 6, the once ubiquitous movie rental chain announced it will discontinue all domestic operations and shut down almost all remaining stores.
My sense of stubborn denial definitely doesn’t come out of surprise. Blockbuster’s decline has been a steady one, with the company declaring bankruptcy in 2010 before being bought by Dish Network. The latest news represents only a proverbial “nail in the coffin,” reaffirming what has now become common knowledge: Blockbuster’s business model makes absolutely zero sense in the age of digital streaming.
Recent movie watching behavior of mine also doesn’t justify the emotional clinging I feel toward the company. After all, I haven’t physically stepped foot inside a store in years. My own Blockbuster back home in Florida was bulldozed, torn down and cleared out long ago. I’ve converted to Netflix and its many wonders as wholly and readily as anyone our age.
So, does my reluctance to let Blockbuster rest in peace have a reason? Or am I just, against all odds, a hopeless nostalgic?
I miss Blockbuster because of its ties to childhood.
I miss the fact that renting a movie was, back then, an activity all of its own. I miss losing myself among shelves and shelves of discs, looking at the covers, reading the summaries, waiting for something to stand out. I miss the inevitable battle-royale arguments I’d have with my sisters over which movie to rent, as we’d each try to uphold the superior merit of our respective picks. Even more, I miss that we came together as a family to watch what we rented, as opposed to the individual, isolated movie watching Netflix now engenders.
Broadly speaking, I guess I miss how real the Blockbuster experience was.
Though reality isn’t solely defined by physical manifestation, in our “e-world,” the increasing absence of the latter definitely creates a form of hole, a kind of lack. Far be it from me, a 21st century college student, to speak against Netflix, iTunes or Kindle Libraries, but these sites, despite their greatness, can sometimes be stiflingly virtual. At Blockbuster, we were literally surrounded by movies, by art and, in a way, it was beautiful. It’s nice having something to hold on to.
When I go back to my home country, Argentina, to visit my family, I can’t help but make at least one trip to the local video renting store, which is somehow still in existence there. Watching a movie is almost the last thing I want to do in those always-too-short stays in my hometown, but walking through the store’s doors and through the shelves of movies, movies I can touch, movies that exist, I can’t help but feel like a kid again.
I understand why Blockbuster has to go, I really do. But here’s to hoping that not everything from our childhood, not everything that makes this world more real, gets bulldozed over, torn down and cleared out.
Unrelenting pragmatism makes too much sense.
There’s such a thing as making too much sense.