hanging on the coattails of relevancy

Donnie’s early birthday gift (a Wii system) has provided hours of entertainment for him and me. While I slipped into a 2-week long obsession with Super Mario Bros. 3, D loaded up the “play now” queue on Netflix and went to town watching everything he ever wanted and didn’t really want to watch.

Initially, this annoyed me. The Wii is supposed to be about games and motion and succeeding at sports you otherwise would not be good at. It’s about bringing mobility to the elderly and families who no longer go to the park together, not about rediscovering the entire catalog of cheesy action-adventure movies from 1976-1984.

I quietly resented this about our new toy until one day I was in a bad mood and needed a cinematic pick-me-up. I began searching the “available now” queue to find something that would pick me up. My first and second and third choices were not available to watch instantly, and I became even more annoyed, but I opted for some stand up that had been released a few years back . I selected play and let Kathy Griffen and Wanda Sykes entertain me while I cleaned up the apartment, laughing at their topical humor that was no longer topical.

Since then, I’ve made several other discoveries of films, documentaries, and stand up that has clearly lost its virtual video store crispness and has been pushed over to the stale, “classic,” instantly available shelf.

Although these viewings would mean revisiting old and dear shows and movies to others, they’re all pretty much new discoveries to me. I really enjoy movies but I rarely watch them or see anything before it’s come out on DVD. Call it being selective, call it being lazy–but I never was one who needed to see the newest release while it was still new. I always eventually saw the things I wanted to, but there were many things that slipped completely past my radar. Fortunately, Netflix now has this online net to catch them all for me.

I can’t quite explain the strange sense of power and knowledge I feel from watching things that are only culturally relevant because they were made recently and a significant amount of people have watched them too, but it’s a little addicting. Somehow seeing the same movie as someone else and being able to relay an insignificant plot line or quote verbatim has a way of completely bonding you to that person (I’ve made friends with people because of my/their love for Pulp Fiction) or, in some cases, repelling you from them (Oh, so you liked Paul Blart: Mall Cop?). Obviously, I’ve had this happen with music and books, but those connections are different than this… perhaps a similar interest in movies is more accessible? More common? More able to bind people who otherwise might not feel like they have common ground?

The bottom line with movies is that for the most part, your opinion of the movie is not as important as just having knowledge about it. The simple acknowledgment that you and another person chose to sit for 2 hours and watch the same program creates this special Everyman kinship–a “see, we’re not so different after all.” Ever swap weekend stories with a coworker and you realize you both were watching the same movie on TBS at the same time? Notice how oddly happy/excited that makes them (and let’s be honest, you).

Watching stuff that was relevant 5 years ago isn’t necessarily making me some sort of pop culture goddess, nor does it really make me interesting (at all), but it’s at least making me feel like I’m getting closer to it, at least in the water cooler, casual conversation setting. But really, that’s not why I’m watching any of the stuff I’m choosing to watch–I’m not consciously selecting certain programs to establish some sort of cinematic superiority. That’s just a nice little aside to this whole thing. Why I’m really watching is because I no longer have an excuse to not access the thousands of movies/shows/documentaries that are now at my fingertips, because it’s interesting to see how much has and has not changed throughout the years through the cultural and political references highlighted in these programs, because we don’t have cable, because the Flava Flav roast is fucking hilarious.

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