Say you’re on a blind date. 1 You have to find something to talk about, right? There are some universally-accepted topics, that range from the safe and boring (weather, traffic) 2 to the potentially hatred-inducing (religion, politics). 3 In the middle are those other topics, the ones that can turn into conversational goldmines or gateways to deadly silences (movies, television, music, books, hobbies). Just as you may find a connection over your mutual interests in difficult literature and Top Chef, you are equally as likely to find out that one of you thinks Ernest Hemingway wrote Jonathan Livingston Seagull and has never seen The Cowbell Sketch. 4 It’s dangerous, this dating business.
Anyway, it can be difficult, talking about your entertainment preferences, especially if, when people ask you what kind of music you like, you answer “Oh, everything!” I understand that answer. It’s probably a lie, 5 but I understand it. It’s because people judge. And who wants to be judged for listening to Britney Spears while driving? 6
I get it.
Anyway, we all have our types. I’m still not entirely certain how I would define my type, but I know it when I see it. And I think a large part of what constitutes a type is the ability to connect over the types of things that interest us. This isn’t exactly news. But, you know, it makes life easier if you like the same kinds of things, so you don’t end up having to fight over the radio while you’re going places together. 7 Stuff like that.
But while it’s true that it’s possible to learn a lot about others based on what kinds of music, books, TV shows (et cetera) they like, or at the very least, it’s possible to learn what kinds of music, books, TV shows (et cetera) they like, sometimes it can be challenging to talk about these things. “What kinds of movies do I like? Uh, the ones with the people and the talking? I don’t know.” Yeah. Well, I happened to be clicking around Netflix the other day, and I don’t know if this is a relatively new thing or not, but I finally paid attention to the recommendations it was giving me. Now, I know that Netflix always gave me recommendations based on my viewing choices and whether or not I liked these movies, but when did they start with the groupings by genre with the crazy titles? Don’t know what I mean? Here’s a list 8 of the types of movies Netflix thinks I will enjoy:
- Critically-acclaimed suspenseful crime movies
- Visually-striking cerebral dramas
- Witty movies directed by Woody Allen
- Quirky independent comedies
- Visually-striking exciting dramas
- Dark political documentaries
- Critically-acclaimed dark movies based on real life
- Crime thrillers from the 1950s
- Exciting independent dramas
Oh, I know.
Other than the fact that this list reads like the dumbest Mad Libs ever, I feel like Netflix is trying to tell me something. I don’t really know what, but something. Unfortunately I didn’t pay attention to any of the actual movie recommendations, because I was too fascinated with these genre names, but still, this is an entertaining list. Critically-acclaimed dark movies based on real life? What about the cheesy, emotionally-manipulative, based-on-a-true-story movies that usually involve a teacher or a coach who REALLY CARES and everybody overcomes adversity, and this aforementioned adversity overcoming is proved when the team wins the big game or the misfits do a spectacular dance number and somehow your heart grows three sizes even while you resent the fact that the movie is manipulating you? 9 I fall for those every time. Well, not every time, but a lot of the time. Yeah. WHAT ABOUT THOSE? And how about movies where things blow up and Bruce Willis says “yippee ki yay, motherfucker” because I love Die Hard. 10
Anyway, the point is that this genre list? It kind of makes me sound like an asshole. Whether or not I actually am an asshole is entirely debatable. 11 If anyone were to ask me, I’d probably say sometimes yes, sometimes no, and we all have our moments, don’t we?
The point is this: if I happened to be interested in someone and he were to ask me what kind of movies I like and I replied, “Visually-striking cerebral dramas,” his response would tell me everything I needed to know so that I could make a proper judgment of whether or not to date this guy. I can’t share with you what I deem to be the correct reaction in this scenario because that would be telling, but think about it. 12 “Visually-striking cerebral dramas” sounds an awful lot like meaningless pretentious babble that is actually amazingly dumb, does it not? That’s because — let’s face it — it totally is. And the theory that I invented sometime during the course of writing this post is that if you put all other stuff aside — you both like the same books, you share an enjoyment of quoting Omar Little from The Wire, 13 you both really like that one band nobody’s ever heard of, you tend to agree on politics, and so forth — one of the most important things is how a person reacts to you when you are blindingly stupid. 14 And one of the best ways to be blindingly stupid is obviously to say completely meaningless things in an attempt at sounding like you know what you’re talking about. And while I can think of several ways to do that, it’s always nice to have a list to work from, so in short, thanks, Netflix. You’re swell.
1. Go on, say it.
2. “Yeah, so it was raining earlier, and now it’s not. How about that?”
3. “I hope you have a fun time realizing how WRONG YOU ARE when you’re BURNING IN HELL. More wine?”
4. No, I’m never getting over that.
5. I have a pretty diverse collection, or at least I think it is, but there are still things that people can play that make me want to shove a knife in my ears. Anything by Shania Twain, for instance. (And is she even still around or did she die or something? I can’t say I keep up with these things.) Speaking of Shania Twain, do you remember the 90s? Or maybe it was the early 00s, when VH1 did this series of concerts called “Divas” that was simultaneously horrible and awesome? And one such show included Shania Twain, Celine Dion, Gloria Estefan, Mariah Carey and Aretha Franklin? And then at the end Mariah Carey tried to out-diva Aretha Franklin and Aretha Franklin was all “Bitch, please” and then proceeded to own her? You probably don’t remember it, and that’s okay, but it just serves as a reminder that I can’t remember important things, but stuff like this sticks in my brain forever.
6. You can judge me all you want. I listen to Britney Spears sometimes while I’m driving. I’m not apologetic about it, either, because oh, Britney Spears is terrible? You don’t say.
7. “I have a plan. Let’s listen to nothing but Radiohead for the entirety of this 10-hour road trip and see if we can reach our destination instead of driving off a cliff. It’ll be awesome!”
8. Does Netflix do this for you as well? What are some of the weird genres it suggests to you?
9. I will watch Remember the Titans every time I find it on cable, even if I only catch it after it’s 3/4 of the way over.
10. Why yes, I do own the box set. My mom got it for me a couple of Christmases ago, because my mom, she knows me so well. Die Hard may actually be my favorite Christmas movie.
11. No, really.
12. Go on, think about it.
13. “You come at the king, you best not miss.” Eternal wisdom, Omar.
14. Feel free to shoot holes in this theory; I only thought it up this morning. But the more I think about it, the more sound it seems to me.