Friday, August 10, 2007


Other night, I'm at the video store, looking to pick up the next disk of Season 2.0 of Battlestar Galactica and maybe a movie for family movie night (Note to the Siren: Thanks for the recommendation. The Crimson Pirate was a family movie night feature last year. Big hit.) and there were two couples in the store, in different aisles, arguing over what movie they were going to watch.

Not discussing. Arguing.

And in both cases the refrain was, "We always watch what you want! Why can't we watch something I pick out for a change?"

And in both cases the person claiming to never get to pick the movie was the woman.

And in both cases the reason she never got to pick was the same. He will only watch action movies.

It was all I could do to keep from going up to both couples and saying, "That's it. End it. Break up now. Your relationship is doomed for a variety of reasons, not least of all because he's a bully or a baby."

I might have added that if he always has to get his way when it comes to choosing the movies, maybe it's because he doesn't get his way in anything else. Bullies come in all shapes, sizes, and genders, and work in mysterious ways their emotional intimidation to perform. But although that's a possibility, it's not the likeliest one.

Run, I wanted to say to the women, run now, and ran far, and run fast.

I also might have added that if your guy has to feel like a GUY all the time and watching action movies makes him feel like a GUY, and if when he doesn't feel like a GUY for even the hour and a half it would take to watch Music and Lyrics he feels he is not being a GUY, he is not a man, and he's going to take his lack of real manliness out on the world in one way or another.

Run, run now.

This of course is a prejudice and it's based on my assumptions of what these two couples define as an action movie.

Bond movies are one thing. Steven Seagal movies are another. In this video store Space Cowboys, Excalibur, The Searchers, Heat, Blade Runner, all the Star Wars, Star Trek, Superman, and Lord of the Rings movies are shelved in the Action section, along with Jet Li's oeuvre, Starship Troopers, The Transporter, Total Recall, and Robo-Cop 2, but not the original.

If by action movies, these couples mean movies from the Action section, then it's possible that thanks to the him they never watch anything but great movies, while if her definition of more light-hearted and interesting fare is mush, Nacho Libre, or Saw III, he's saving her and himself from watching drek.

On the other hand he may be forcing her to watch nothing but drek.

But beyond the questions of whose taste trumps whose and the amount of bullying involved and who's actually bullying whom, I was also thinking that if these people don't enjoy the same movies, then they just aren't compatible.

And that's a different prejudice based on something else, the fact that not only do the blonde and I tend to like the same kinds of movies, it was movies that brought us together. I can't remember exactly how and when we started getting friendly, but I know our first long and serious conversation began when we discovered that we both loved an obscure little independent film called Between the Lines.

Things took off when it turned out that our favorite movie was Casablanca.

Naturally, we don't always like all the same movies. Once, when we were dating, I made her cry by revealing I hated Fame. We don't always like or dislike the same movies to the same degree. We don't always want to watch the same movies. She's not going to watch Inland Empire with me when it comes out on DVD next week. (It's generally the case that I want to watch more movies than she does, and I'm willing to try movies she's pretty sure sound boring or dreadful or not a whole lot of fun. Then again, she took the boys to The Simpsons and enjoyed it, while I refused to go.) And I'm sure if we each made a list of our top 25 favorite movies of all time, after Casablanca there'd be a lot of disagreement.

But there's never been a night when we wanted to watch a movie together that we couldn't agree on what movie to go see or what movie to rent or watch on TV.

So when I hear that there are couples who don't like the same movies, ever---or overhear them---I'm baffled.

I can't believe that their couplehood will survive.

But here's the thing.

One of those couples was college-aged. The other, however, was well into middle-age. I don't know if they were married or how long they'd been together, but except for my prejudice about shared taste in movies there was no reason for me to think they weren't married and hadn't been so for a while. They sounded married.

The blonde and I like the same movies. But we do not like the same books. We don't like the same TV shows. We don't like the same foods. We don't like all the same people. We don't have the same feelings about God, the Catholic Church, or religious faith in general. We don't even like each other all the time.

And our apparent compatibility when it comes to choosing and enjoying movies may actually be a sign of something else about us.

We aren't the kind of people who just show up at a movie theater and decide what movie to see based on which one is starting soonest. I don't understand those people at all. And we almost never run out to the video store at the spur of the moment to pickup whatever looks good just to have something to watch that night. When one of us goes, it's usually with a short list of two or three movies we already know we want to see.

It may be that the reason we never argue about what movie to watch is that we learned a long time ago how to avoid those arguments.

It may be that we spend so much time talking about movies we've heard about, read about, or seen in the past, that we've practically unconsciously negotiated and come to an agreement well before we decide to head out the door.

It may be that over time we've shaped each other's tastes.

It may be that our conversations about other things have taught us so much about each other that we don't even think to suggest a movie the other wouldn't like.

And it may be that it's just one of those flukes of personality.

For all I know, movies are the only area of disagreement for both those couples.

For all I know, when they're arguing about movies they are unconsciously coming to terms about a dozen other important matters in their lives, that they are learning about each other's feelings generally, and even though they're disagreeing about what they're going to be doing tonight, they are coming to an agreement about what they're going to be doing over the next couple of years---they're agreeing about how to raise the kids or how to divie up the housework or whether or not they're going to move or buy a new car.

For all I know, arguing over movies is a useful and necessary way for them to blow off steam so that they can discuss those other matters calmly and rationally.

For all I know, arguing over movies might be their form of verbal foreplay and it doesn't matter what movie they finally take home because when they get home they're going to be too busy to watch it.

And for all I know, they might just like arguing.

When you get right down to it, all I know is that if the blonde and I hadn't both seen Between the Lines I'd have probably kept chasing that wan, willowy, sad-eyed brunette and I'll bet you dollars to donuts she wouldn't have appreciated Casablanca at all.

By the way, family movie night this week's going to be The Librarian: Return to King Solomon's Mines.

The whole family enjoyed the first one in the series.

Still not looking forward to the Friday night when The Simpsons Movie is the feature.

Your turn: Lots of points for commenting. What brought you and your significant other together? What do you like that he/she doesn't and vice versa? What movie do you both love? What movie do you both hate? What does she/he like/hate you can't believe he/she likes/hates? What do you like/hate she/he can't believe you like/hate?

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