I remember once, as a sprightly, naive young buck, I gathered a number of my friends to watch one of my favourite films of all time: The Thing. Strap in, cabrones, time to show you lot a thing or two about horror - a true classic coming your way, you won’t know what’s hit you!
Only thing was, ha ha, they talked the entire way through, made fun of the special effects, checked their phones, just went full steam ahead and blew the atmosphere to smithereens. As such, it ruined the experience for me by proxy, and the entire endeavor was a failure. Me, sat there, side-eyeing everyone for the duration, to make sure they were watching, which they resolutely were NOT - you lot are making me grip my thigh so hard that it has started bleeding.
“No, but you need to see this bit, it’s amazing, why aren’t you looking? GET OFF YOUR PHONE.”
Of course, don’t actually say any of that, just think it, because nobody likes a pushy parent - simply sit there in a maddened silence, cheeks all hot and red, and regret ever putting the stupid DVD on in the first place. Your snarky mates have ruined it. Everything is damaged. I want to have a sit-down shower and cry.
This repeating trauma is a common occurrence in my life, and each time the level of stress is too much for me and my thighs to bear. It’s the same every time - I, the expert, who is familiar with the material being displayed, am absolutely on edge in the immediate approach to any moment I deem to be good, fully not being able to enjoy said moment myself, as I am obsessively preoccupied by making sure everyone else is paying attention. I’m not even looking at the TV anymore, my eyes are locked on them - imagine actually choosing to spend an evening watching someone else watch a film. It’s ludicrous.
Then, if I catch them not watching the movie, a fire has started within my body, a back-draft of hate caused by an explosion of ungratefulness. I’m on fire, basically; I contain within me a screeching, hooting, billowing chimney of flame, shooting up my spine and lapping at the bottom of my brain, heating it to boiling point. ‘Enjoying things’, this is not.
Yet, I have been doomed to experience it time and again, like a particularly violent version of Groundhog Day.
Like, showing my friend my favourite film Drive (1997) and having him criticise a fight scene only 20 minutes in. I turned the TV off, ejected the DVD and left the room. Sulk City, population me.
Or, introducing an ex-girlfriend who had zero interest in Hong Kong action movies to Hong Kong action movie Iron Monkey and her justifiably falling asleep mid-way through. I took this as a personal attack and willfully descended into a childish huff. Adult behavior, I think you’ll agree.
In fact, I don’t even need to be in the same room as the person to whom I’m recommending my shit - the act still fills me with a tsunami of dread. Case in point: me imploring a friend to watch Banshee and then loudly proclaiming a match fix when I discovered they’d stopped watching it because it was “too ridiculous”. Ignore the fact that I hadn’t even reached the episode they were at yet - it was still a sniper-precision shot shattering my sternum and burrowing into the heart of my very being.
And it’s not just movies or TV shows, is it? Email a song you love to a mate, and you 100% cannot concentrate on a single fucking thing until they’ve messaged back with “TUUUUUUNNNEEE” (favourable, rare) or “Yeah good one mate, sounds like a pint of slugs being poured into a blender, you terrible clown” (life-ending, common). A direct cuss to your carefully-honed cultivation means that all that apprehension, that crippling hour of utter stasis, was for nowt.
It’s anything, really - this panic stretches across all mediums. Hand over your phone to a friend to show them a hilarious meme, and if they don’t immediately erupt into hysterical, tear-strewn laughter, then they have made a powerful new enemy. Tell them your favourite anecdote, and without at least three hearty slaps to their knee, they are dust to you. A waste of space, a luddite incapable of appreciating art.
So, I just stopped doing it. Stopped showing people things I like. I haven’t shown anyone Drive (1997) in over ten years, because I can’t handle the tense adjacent monitoring and resulting cowardly outrage during the affair. And why should I have to? I like the movie - isn’t that enough? If people can’t be trusted to pay attention and appreciate gold, then it’s their loss - they shall never experience the carnal pleasures inherent in my most prized and favoured diamonds. They will never be granted access to my boudoir, my goods are off limits to them.
I can continue to watch, listen, laugh at my favourite things - give them my full attention, no creepy stares from the corner of my eye, no cushions twisted up inside my tightly-wound fist, no excessive use of the pause button, no childish tantrums thrown and spectacles made when the audience reveals its disrespect. Just calm, gracious attentiveness - eyes glued to the screen, taking it all in, and loving every horn-dog second of it. Uuuuuuhhhhhh.
There are exceptions of course, but they are scarce. It is acceptable to gauge the lay of the land, and carefully make the decision to recommend something to someone - but you’ve got to be sure you’re going to end up with a positive outcome. Say, you’ve just seen a very good slasher film and are desperate to tell someone about it - just stop, look, listen, first. Tell only someone you are positive enjoys these movies of the same ilk - it’s far less stressful and far more likely you’ll end up with the reaction you’d like.
You must demand that they watch it on their own though, because you still won’t enjoy it if you’re in the same room. Also, you’ll save money on having to buy a replacement phone after you’ve snatched theirs out of their thankless hands and hurled it into the cocking window, the self-centred little shits.
So yeah, essentially, what it is, is: don’t try and convert people. If your favourite movie is an ‘80s low-budget macho action movie, and your friend’s favourite movie is Anchorman, probably just don’t bother testing the waters - you’re on a hiding to nothing. If your mate doesn’t like grime, don’t sit him down in the living room and make him listen to an hour-long grime mixtape. If your flatmate enjoys The Big Bang Theory, then just don’t show them anything funny ever, because they are a lost cause and do not possess the required genes to get the goddamn picture.
To boil it down, if you like something, you are presented with two options:
- Keep it to yourself
- Solve the required equations to effectively predict that the person you are about to enlighten will enjoy it, to an accuracy of at least 95%
It’s as simple as that, really.
Oh, and don’t forget: if you do ever find yourself with the shoe handily transferred to the other foot, to their feet, and someone else has made the brazen decision to recommend something to you, the oracle, then make damn sure that you positively DO NOT put your phone down throughout the entire duration of the screening. It reaaaaalllly pisses them off, it’s such a laugh, the dumb idiot! Trying to tell me what to like! Bastard!