“Mourning Them Is Like Mourning Some Big, Dumb Robot That Has Succumbed To Rust”

Retail outlets have always vanished, but they were usually pushed out by others like them that were simply run better. Now they disappear into a computer screen, into a smartphone. It’s progress and it’s better, but there’s still something vertiginous about the speed of it all.¬†From “Blockbuster Video: 1985-2013,” Alex Pappademas’ smart Grantland postmortem about a chain store we all hated and maybe secretly loved to hate:

“Even now, it’s hard to feel warm feelings for a Blockbuster. The company was a Borg-cube dedicated to pushing big-time Hollywood product. They frowned on NC-17 movies and foreign films and employees with long hair. If you wanted those things, you could go somewhere else, until you couldn’t, because Blockbuster also frowned on sharing any marketplace with a ‘somewhere else.’ They transformed the home-video business by plowing under the competition, then failed to adapt fast enough as that business continued to change. Mourning them is like mourning some big, dumb robot that has succumbed to rust after standing all night in the rain.

By the end of this year, 2,800 Blockbuster employees will lose their jobs. There is no other aspect of Blockbuster’s passing you could really call ‘sad,’ unless you’re like me and you feel a weird chill each time you live through the disappearance of that which was once ubiquitous, especially in the physical-media-retail sector.

Time only moves in one direction, and my daughter will never set foot in a Tower Records. Or a Waldenbooks, or a Coconuts, or even a Borders. All those chains were gone by 2011, victims of Amazon and Netflix and iTunes and our hunger for convenience, which is almost always the force that makes technology’s wrecking ball swing.”

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