Friday, April 08, 2011

10 Things the Netflix Generation could learn from the VHS Generation

As a man who's experienced 2 generations of home video viewing, I have a distinct view of the past and the present world of home video. I remember the days of going to the video store and renting a movie. I also was one of the very first people to ever sign up for Netflix and take advantage of their 3 DVDs out monthly fee.

Just for full disclosure, I once was banned by Netflix due to "lost DVDs". I never stole any DVDs back in 1999. It just so happen that they got lost in the mail. But I digress. I'm currently not a Netflix member but I know the benefits of Netflix streaming and the like.

In this day of video in demand and instant streaming, somethings been lost in how we find out what movies we want to watch. And the list below is 10 things I think the Netflix generation could learn from the VHS generation.

1.) VHS box art and a vague description sometimes resulted in finding a hidden gem

Sure you can see the artwork and plot on Netflix and you can also view the trailer. But when you had to rely solely on bad artwork, it was like the mystery meat of video stores. You never knew what you'd get and sometimes you'd watch a flick that surprised you.

2.) Be Kind, Rewind

Kids were taught self discipline to rewind their movies or face a hefty (well for kids anyway) fine. But the most important thing about not being able to skip chapters easily was you usually watched a movie straight on through. These days, we sometimes watch a flick over a few days. There is something to be said about having to watch a whole movie all the way. And who didn't have an automatic rewinder?

3.) It's due the next day

When you rented a movie, you watched it the same night as usually new releases had to be returned the same day. The urgency of watching a movie as quickly as possible is non existent these days but getting friends together because you got a copy of the latest new release made it feel like a big deal.

4.) The ability to tape movies from TV

What kid didn't know how to program his VCR by the time he was 8? You knew the difference between LP and SLP and pretty much knew how to edit the commercials out from the movie you were taping (PAUSE right before the break!)

Once you taped that flick, you'd watch it over and over again. These days, you watch a movie once and sometimes fail to appreciate it after multiple viewings. Sure the quality is shit, but the reason why we can quote every line from Indiana Jones or Ghostbusters is because we cherished these movies and watched it over and over again.

5.) Renting a Rated R movie was like robbing a bank

You just had to find that one video store clerk that didn't give a shit and it was money.

6.) You actually watched the classics

I highly doubt the Netflix generation is searching for classics on Netflix. But after perusing the video store for like an hour, you'd end up in the classics and try a flick. In a bullshit statistic I made up, 80% of kids today have never seen Citizen Kane.

7.) Employee recommendations were kinda cool

The Netflix Generation has user ratings and brief reviews. But seeing that shelf dedicated to employee recommendations was like crazy awesome. Sure, some employee picks were utter garbage but sometimes you'd rent a flick from say employee "Jeff" and he had the same taste as you did (remember that Seinfeld episode?). Suddenly, you had a go to guy for movies to rent. "Jeff" was like your movie renting mentor.

8.) The Dollar Bin

Remember that bin in the video store? Where shitty movies go to die? Sometimes, you'd find an awesome flick or a flick you've been looking for in that bin full of crappy movies. It was like finding treasure for 99 cents. Does this place exist today?

9.) The VCR to VCR recording method

Every kid became experts on the component cables (red/yellow and white) Quick quiz: Which wire was for audio? Pretty much how you copied your dad's porn. You became a secret agent when it came to this. Sneaky, techy and resourceful.

10.) The Sci Fi Movies were next to the Horror which was next to the Porn

If you went to any video store in the 80s and 90s, this was the set up. If you ended up through the Adults Only doors, seeing those oversized porn boxes was like heaven. That feeling is long gone. Why were the boxes so big anyway?


Of course, the convenience of being able to stream flicks or have them delivered to your home is 100% more ideal. But it's become a little harder to discover new flicks online without endless browsing as opposed by just walking into a store. Maybe it's nostalgia or the fact I've experienced both generations but the 10 things listed above are subtle reminder of what we lost and what we gained.

It's important we remember that.


Bookmark and Share


  1. I love this list! I feel like the nostalgia for VHS is coming back more and more, sorta like vinyl. Sure, the quality is diminished but there is something more genuine about the process. Of course, I still choose bluray. Ha!

    #5 is especially spot on. Renting an R-rated movie was the absolute best!

  2. Being old enough to have seen the invention of the VCR this list brings back some really great memories. The kids today are missing out.

  3. Kick ass! I'm gonna share this! BTW, why don't you have netflix anymore? Is how you're getting movies now really a better deal and how exactly is that? Like how the hell did you find out about the "Deadneks"?

  4. We have these memories, they're just vague. I would always record things on a constantly-rotating cycle of three blank VHS tapes, until my parents suddenly switched packages, and suddenly I have to get a Tivo. Which I didn't, because fuck that.

  5. These are pretty much my memories of growing up in the VHS age. We'd go to the video store on the weekend and all those covers captivated me. I'd sneak away from my mom over to the horror section and scare the crap out of myself just imagining the terrors that lied within all those creepy covers. Stuff like Street Trash, I must have looked at that cover 100 times before I ever actually saw the movie. I miss those days.

    I'm even proud of my time working at a video store. (Crazy Mikes in Seattle.) It was my childhood dream come-true. The reality of it mostly sucked, but I had fun pointing customers towards lesser known titles and I took a particular pride in putting up my employee selections. I feel a little pang of grief every time I see a video store closing... and they all are these days.

    But whatever time you grow up in, you form these kinds of memories. I was hanging out with my 13 year old cousin, and he was flipping through all the horror selections on the Netflix on demand feature on his Xbox, and I could tell he was gawking at them the same way I did those old VHS ones. Wherever movies are in another 20 years, I'm sure he'll feel nostalgic for that.

  6. Oh you back me in some more interesting times. Video store's were crazy places especially when i read last part "The Sci Fi Movies were next to the Horror which was next to the Porn" I started to laugh and there were memories. I had one friend who only rented porn movie when there was working some girl and looked around for at least half an hour and always asked them for suggestion. Fun and interesting years.

  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.