How did I end up becoming the villain in Stefan’s story? Why couldn’t I just watch some 30 Rock and go to sleep, like most nights? But most pressingly, what do I do now? I don’t want the controls. In fact, I convince myself that I never did (bullshit!). If the villain is defined in opposition to the hero by the struggle for control, the easiest way to stop being a villain is to give up control. But how do you give up something you never really had? So you sit back like an errant child and hope it is taken away from you. When Stefan refuses to toe the line, it comes off as much needed relief. Will this be your redemption? Are you ready to die, bad guy? But just because you are willing to give up control doesn’t mean you can transfer it back to Stefan. All that wishful thinking comes crashing down with the realisation that Stefan will never be free, just like any character in any story. The hero may have options, but no control over those options. The world isn’t your playground; it’s only your sandbox. Without authority to change the options, the control that you have to choose between given options is no control at all. It’s not just a choice between Coke and Pepsi – it’s a choice between diabetes and diabetes. How sweet?!
Then there is only one thing left to do. Find a way out. Explore the shipwreck and look for a way out when all is done. Damage control. Wait, there are multiple ways out? Is there no way out? Does it matter how many ways lead out? As long as you are out of it, does it matter if you take one or all of them? You would think that the most surefire way out will be to close the player (“go back to browse,” as Netflix calls it). When I found something that resembled an ending, I was more than happy to take the way out as Netflix serendipitously offered me a button to “skip to credits.” Sorry, false lack of alarm. That’s when the progress bar comes back to haunt you. I exit the player only to realise that Netflix has a resume button and not a play button. I thought it was over but it’s not over until Netflix says it’s over. Remember Marshall McLuhan? No better way to explain how the medium is the message. At this point there are two options: go back and finish what you have started, or start over. You don’t want to start over as you know your sense of control was misplaced and this time would be no different if the game is rigged.
You know that old joke which relies on your sense of sincerity to get you:
Person 1 (say Netflix): What is the difference between a piano, some tuna and some glue?
Person 2 (say me): I don’t know – piano, tuna, glue? What even?
Netflix: You see, you can tuna piano but you can’t piano a tuna.
Me (putting aside the overwhelming urge to facepalm): But wait, what about the glue?
Netflix: I knew you would get stuck there!
So much for control. The mirror cracks. You try to fall asleep knowing you’ll never look at cereal the same way again.