My daughter, Rebecca—from mannerisms and facial expressions, to likes and dislikes—is a mini-me, except for the fact that she is much taller. Every year at our Drama Club banquet, we had the tradition of giving out funny superlative awards to everyone. From the time she was nine until she was my student in high school, Rebecca always won “Most Likely to Become Her Mother.”
Rebecca lives with me, and we do all sorts of things together. We try new restaurants and revisit favorites, have spa days, and go shopping. On the first weekend of every month, we try different beach cafes for brunch, and we’ve recently added lunch and a movie when our schedules permit. However, there is one activity on our repertoire we enjoy the most: binging our favorite television shows. We try to make time every day for at least a little binge of a favorite. This is time we get to catch up, relax, and laugh.
Rebecca loves to tease me, asking questions during episodes like, “Do you want to know what happens?” and giving observations that make us laugh out loud – the kind of laughter that leaves us breathless – laughter accompanied by tears and what I can only describe as convulsions.
Truth be told, I have always had a television-binging habit. I binge-watched shows long before it was a thing; before Netflix, Hulu, Sling, and before every show on television was available via On-Demand. I paid more for each season of my favorite shows than I now pay for a year of most streaming services.
Since I no longer teach high school, there’s been a lack of teen angst, drama, and awkwardness in my life, and nothing fills that void quite like Degrassi. Rebecca was already addicted to the show and all things related to it. She introduced me to the Facebook group, “It’s 2022 and Degrassi is Still on My Mind.” I find myself reading post after post from millennials and people old enough to be their parents. We have become part of the show’s cult-like following.
Late last fall, after a lengthy Degrassi binge, Rebecca began watching the series Criminal Minds for the umpteenth time. She strongly suggested we watch it together, and so our tandem binging began. Rebecca introduced me to a few episodes a week. By Christmas Eve, we had devoured two whole seasons.
Spending hours profiling criminals can get intense and disturbing, leaving us with dark, nefarious thoughts. Rebecca’s solution: We start binging Degrassi simultaneously. She’d been trying to get me to watch it again for quite some time. I don’t know if that’s because I write YA Fiction or because I’m immature (or as I like to convince myself, “young in spirit.”) Either way, I was down.
We decided to toggle between the two shows, first going deep into the minds of serial killers and other heinous criminals, and then unwinding with the trials and tribulations of Canadian teens.
Criminal Minds requires more attention on our part. Especially because Rebecca likes to egg me on, asking, “What do you think happened?” or “Who do you think did it?” Even though it is a very intense show, she can make me laugh during even the darkest episodes. There was an incident in a later season in which Thomas Gibson, who plays SSA Hotchner, known as Hotch, kicked a writer and was subsequently written off the show. Hotch is a very serious man, and in many scenes, he is angry. Or, at the very least, he looks angry. When we watch a scene with an angry Hotch, our response is something like, “He looks like he’s angry enough to kick someone. Oh wait, he did!” Or “Watch out! Hotch is going to kick someone!” Because I am the most awkward person ever when getting my picture taken, Rebecca will say, “Think about Hotch kicking someone.” It always brings a genuine smile to my face and takes most of the awkwardness away.
Rebecca’s motivation in recruiting me as her binge partner for shows may have been to rid me of my guilty pleasure – watching Hallmark movies, which to her dismay will never happen. I’ve convinced her to watch a handful of movies with me, but the only Hallmark ones she’s willing to see all (suspiciously) star Degrassi alum.
The routine of binging has brought a sense of comfort to both my daughter and me. When we just watch quietly, it’s a comfortable silence. And when we’re chatty, we chat. I feel incredibly blessed that she chooses to hang with me on a regular basis, even when, after she looks over at me in a truly emotional scene, she laughs, and asks, “Are you crying?”
Although it may sound like a passive, non-relational activity, our marathon television sessions have strengthened our relationship. Binge-watching provided me with the opportunity to be there for her when she needed me the most. In July 2008, days before her sweet sixteen, she and her first boyfriend broke up. Being available for my broken-hearted daughter allowed us to strengthen an already tight bond. This time with Rebecca has given me a chance to know and love her for who she is and who she is becoming. She has always felt she could openly share even the most personal details of her life with me, but now that we spend so much time binging our shows, there are opportunities to open up daily, and we don’t hold back.
No matter what we’re watching, there are always issues or behaviors that lend themselves to open dialogue regarding our views, feelings, past mistakes, and fears. To me, this confirms the idea that it doesn’t matter how we spend our time with loved ones. If we’re open to it, sharing even the most quotidian activities can create or deepen closeness. This has also allowed me to see how very alike we are.
Often, whatever shows we are co-binging, have me covering my eyes and saying, “This can’t be happening! I don’t want to see it!” However, Rebecca just says, “You have to pay attention to this part.”
And so, I do, and I’m never disappointed.
Sunee Lyn Foley is an MFA candidate studying Young Adult Fiction and Playwriting at Antioch University Los Angeles. Her plays have been produced at California State University Dominguez Hills and Redondo Union High School. Several of her plays have toured elementary and middle schools and her play Detox has toured California State universities. Her nonfiction appeared in As We Like It. She currently lives in Torrance, California.