Ode to Physical Media


We live in a world where entertainment has solidified its place on the screens of our iPads, iPhones, iSewing Machines, smart TV’s, computers etc. No matter if you want to watch the newest episode of Stranger Things or read the latest Scott Snyder comic, you just press an app and get started. Everything you could possibly want to amuse yourself is on a little device you can put in your pants baskets (or pockets if you will). For those in the mainstream this is normalcy now, but for countless people actually owning a physical copy of the media they love still means something. DVD/Blu-Ray companies which cater to more niche audiences have a devoted following; book stores are still a thing even your town only has one of the big box merchants; most moderately sized communities still have at least one comic book shop; Hell, among a good section of people, mostly horror movie fans, VHS’ are experiencing a revival. If I could get personal with all of you beautiful people for a second (imagine me now spinning my chair around and sitting it in backwards as so many youth pastors I have witnessed do), I am one of these people who relish owning the physical media of what I enjoy.

Now you may be saying to yourself “Geez Josh, are yo gonna go churn some butter and watch Murder She Wrote? Get with the times you old head!” and my answer to you would be “Last time I churned butter it left a huge mess and everyone hated it.” But for me there is something about actually owning the entertainment I enjoy. The DVD or book I hold in my hand is an actual tangible thing I own or have temporary possession of and it gives me warm feelings in my tum-tum. Jokes aside, there is a small emotional or mental sense of gratification of actually having that object in your hands that can be difficult to define.

It is a safe bet that my hometown hero could dunk over me quite easily

Not only is it emotional thing, but I also found there is definitely a quality element to things as well. I recently got a brand new TV and sound system courtesy of my beautiful, intelligent, and overall amazing wife. However, a minor obstacle was we needed a new cable to hook my Blu-Ray player to it, and while we waited for the delivery man to carelessly heave said cable in the direction of my doorstep; I streamed quite a few movies that I normally would have just thrown in the Blu-Ray player. Of course, I enjoyed the viewing experience because the likes of: Casablanca, The Dark Knight, The Horror of Dracula, Lord of the Rings, The Thin Man, The Shining, are all proven masterpieces of cinema. During some of these viewings, I did notice that the streaming format lacked something in some of these films. The Dark Knight trilogy was filmed using actual film, a rarity in movies nowadays, which gives it a rich visual language. In addition, the action scenes in both The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises were shot in the IMAX format, which translates wonderfully on the Blu-Ray print. When I streamed these movies, while I still got the awe-inspiring trilogy Christopher Nolan intended, they were missing that extra “oomph” if you will. In that same vein, when Thin Man finally received a Blu-Ray release a while back, Warner Archives prided itself on having made the best print of the 86 year old movie to date. To say they succeeded is like saying Ja Morant could beat me in a dunk contest. Strangely, the print available on HBO Max for streaming, while it still has all the wonderful Nick and Nora chemistry and snappy dialogue, went with the print they show on TV. This could be a placebo thing, but I do not care I stand by my convictions that some movies are better on Blu-Ray than streaming.

While streaming movies and shows can be fun, the rights issue on the backside can create a bit of an “ouchie!!” for your brain. When Netflix ruled the streamosphere, one of their flagship shows was Doctor Who, their service played a massive role in growing the audience for the revived series here in the US. Eventually their contract ran up and the TARDIS vwoorped-vwoorped (or however you spell it) over to Amazon Prime. So I you were a Netflix guy you either had to quit watching the show or follow it over. THEN the journey through time and space ended up on HBO Max, so that same guy from the first scenario now has to sign up there. There is a chance, small is it may be, that this hypothetical man will have his brain melt and for the good of himself and society have to be locked away in a padded cell. On the other hand if you just happen to make a one-time purchase of Doctor Who on DVD then BAM! they are yours and no computer can take them away from you, not even an evil computer with Doctor Octopus-like tendrils. One of my favorite films is the terrifying noir thriller Night of the Hunter starring Robert Mitchum. For the longest time it was available on Netflix, but one day it was no longer there. Instead of fretting and going “is it on Prime?! Is it on Hulu?! Is it on some other service which will take $10 out of my pocket each month?!” I acted in a way that I believe Batman would and walked over to my DVD cabinet, picked it out and put it in my DVD player.

Movies and TV shows are not the only forms of physical media to be enjoyed as things also extend to the world of literature. I will admit my preference for actual books over E-reader books or Kindle-things is merely a matter of personal preference. If having an electronically powered tablet in your hand will help you indulge in literary masterpieces like Hop on Pop then E-read away. Unlike traditional books, comic books are a medium which have cultivated a certain community. Aside from those comicgater jabronis who should be driven into the sea, comic fans are lovely people who are passionate about funny books. Should you wish to congregate among them the place to do that is your local comic shop. I was pretty much raised into adulthood before the counter of my local comic shop, where a man named Pat, who for my money is one of the greatest human people ever, presided over conversations concerning all things in fandom. I forged friendships there that last even to this day. With the serialized and continuity-heavy nature of superhero comics, it helped having a Village Shaman who could answer my questions like “Who is Lori Lemaris?” or “What was the Crisis on Infinite Earths?” Had I simply downloaded from Comixology I would have missed all of this. Speaking of the communal experience of consuming physical media, I am lucky enough to live in a city with an actual video store. Black Lodge Video provides that same communal experience, though in light of the global bastard (or global pandemic if you will) the parties and concerts they usually host are on hold (if possible I beg of you to help them out HERE). With 30,000 titles, they have plenty of films that have never seen a streaming service. They also have DVDs to many films that never actually received a legitimate DVD release but that is a whole ‘nother jar of peanut butter. This is because the owner Matt, who always calls me “brother” in a cool raspy voice, recognizes the power of physical media enough that he amassed one of the largest movie collections in the country. That brings me to one of the biggest, yet some may say superficial, benefits of collecting actual media, the pride of showing it off. If someone shows you their Netflix queue it just makes you go “Big deal, are we gonna do this vandalize street signs while eating sandwiches thing or what?” but if someone shows you their vast collection of actual movies, that is awe-inspiring. It may take up space, but it is nothing short of impressive especially when you unveil hidden gems or titles that hit right in the nostalgia button.

This article is not a diss on streaming, in fact I love streaming services they are stupid convenient and allow people an insane multitude of entertainment options they may not have otherwise. They can specialize in niche groups of fandoms who are often overlooked by the broad brushstrokes of entertainment. If you are a fan of horror you can subscribe to Shudder and watch all the horror movies you want. If you like the nostalgia of classic Disney films you can get Disney + and enjoy the cinema of Hayley Mills while doing shots of tequila. Because of the power of streaming I was even able to liberate my house and lands from the clutches of The Looming Darkness of Evil, other people call it Comcast cable but to each their own. But just because elevators exist it does not mean you have to give up on stairs. Stairs are great and help in one’s physical wellness. If you prefer streaming and downloading to physical media that is awesome and I do not wish to rain on your picnic. I just want everyone to do what they love and have hearts filled with joy and brains filled with knowledge and bowls filled with ice cream. But there are plenty of benefits to owning the actual DVDs or books you enjoy. You pay for them once and they are in your collection to enjoy or show off whenever you would like and that is a beautiful thing which should give you warm feelings in your tum-tum.