I never thought it would get this serious. First it was an after-work thing. Then it was weekends. Eventually we were seeing each other anytime I had two hours to spare. This is the story of how I fell in love with Netflix. My Netflix queue (which I will henceforth refer to as “Q”) understands my dreams. There are no cliché action movies between the two of us, no sir. Our relationship is all about Foreign Films with a Strong Female Lead, Dark/Gritty Dramas, and Social-Political Documentaries. Sometimes Q even suggests the six-part BBC series “Walking with Dinosaurs,” because he knows I have a playful, scientific side.
Given how intimate we’d become, I can only imagine how jarring it must have been for Q when a new man came into the picture. This man—my Paris-born fiancé—hopped right into bed with us for a cinematic ménage à trois. That “Commando” ended up on our list of saved searches no doubt threw Q for loop, as Schwarzenegger flicks began to pepper the “Suggestions for Laura” list alongside the likes of feminist-indie-horror movie “Teeth.”
What I thought would be a pleasant surprise for Q, though, were the French films that started to flood our stream. At first, my fiancé was helping me pick these out, but eventually it was just me pumping Q up with Frenchness for the dual goal of improving my language skills and watching the type of movies I enjoy. These movies, which range in release dates from the ‘70s to last year, can be summed up by the phrase “Smoking Naked Crying”—a term my friend coined in an attempt to (jokingly) encapsulate the whole of French cinema. People smoke, get naked and cry. I adore these movies.
The plots do vary of course, but what they generally entail is: A beautiful, successful Parisian couple in their late ‘30s or early ‘40s vacation somewhere rustic, occasionally with kids in tow; they wag cigarettes in each others’ faces while much talking ensues; at least one of them has some sort of crisis; one or both of them cheats with (somewhat refreshingly) someone their own age; families collectively whimper and bawl as they watch their lives fall apart or, in the case of my latest viewing, learn that dad shot himself in the head because he couldn’t pay the bills.
I think Q is starting to get depressed. The occasional feeble reminder that he has options similar to “Arrested Development” can’t stand up to the stockpile of French white-collar tragedies banging on our TV screen. This vexes me not for Q’s sake, but for mine. I believe the entertainment we consume represents what we hope to become and what we like about ourselves; what we fear we could become and what we dislike about ourselves; or a combination of everything above. The French flicks that Q’s algorithm spits out—based on a genre and plotline that continuously sparks my interest—mean something. I want that rustic, sexy French getaway, but I’m also afraid that, somehow, I’ll lose it.
I’m elated to be engaged to a man I love, one who wants kids and extended vacations. Getting engaged, though, has stirred up some fears that have been hiding in the crevasses of my insides—fears of ruining something or having the rug pulled out from under me.
As is the case, I imagine, with anyone who has experienced loss and since then encountered an idea of happiness, there is an underlying fear that by some tragedy that happiness will be taken away. My fears manifest themselves through a cathartic string of melodramatic French films. I try to remember that Q represents a friendly ghost, though. Acknowledge its presence, and we can live together in peace. Based on what Q’s movie suggestions are telling me, I acknowledge that I’m afraid of what the future might hold. I acknowledge that I am so determined to hold on tight to the present moment that I might not actually be enjoying the present moment. I acknowledge that things could fall apart.
I’d rather say hello to those fears in my reality, instead of letting them get bigger and stronger in the shadow of Q’s fictional world. Together, my fears and I will shop for a dress and plan a big love party called a wedding. We’ll take lots of photos and remember how we celebrated this love, no matter where it takes us in the future.
Follow the ridiculous things Laura’s fiancé says on Twitter.