Sunday, August 28, 2011

Approximations of Popularity

When I was at BYU I formed what I called the DVD United Order. Basically I made a website with all of my DVDs, categorized by name, genre and rating. Because I love categorizing something fierce. Then I got others to add their DVDs to my list and I entered them on the website. Eventually we had a list of a thousand or so DVDs amongst my friends and ward members. So when you wanted to see a movie you could look on the list and see if someone around you had it, and then you could watch it together or borrow it, or simply judge people for owning Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Which is a horrible example because that movie is great.

It worked well at the time. Everyone lived within a minute of each other and we all had no money. Now my friends are scattered throughout town and we have some means. More importantly, the age of Netflix, torrenting, Blurays and other such modern wonders have rendered this venture obsolete.

But 5 years ago when I moved to Ohio, the idea wasn’t entirely antiquated. I tried to get another DVD United Order started, but was stymied. My bishop gave permission for me to send an email around, but the person in charge of the email list refused to allow it. Now, I don’t agree with her ignoring the bishop’s permission and wielding her limited authority like a cudgel of fun-hatred. But she was right about one thing: my intentions weren’t entirely altruistic.

It’s often seemed odd to me that girls don’t have more movies. Most of the contributors to my DVD United Order were men, though there were select ladies who contributed generously. But in general, men accumulate movie collections and women not nearly so much. Part of this is a certain predilection men have to visual stimuli in general, and film in particular. But part of it is simply about having something wanted.

In every prison movie you’ve ever seen, there’s a guy that can get you whatever contraband you want in prison. Perhaps the most famous example is Red in The Shawshank Redemption. Now admittedly, Red would probably be popular in his own right. But otherwise, these characters become popular/important due to their supply of goods. Providing a service towards others increases their social standing.

I love movies, but I don’t rewatch them overly often. I’d say a great many of my DVDs I’ve only seen once, if at all. Why do I have them? To show to other people. Part of this is to share something that I have enjoyed. But realistically, there’s always been an element of wanting to be Red. Wanting to have something that others want, and forcing an association because of it. It’s never really been intentional, but I think it’s always been there. I find myself wanting to buy things, then realizing I have no real reason to have them. I just think others might want them, and I could be their source.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have a movie collection, or that you shouldn’t share what you have. It’s just something that I think we all do. Maybe we collect movies. Maybe we collect board games, that we can’t possibly enjoy independently. Maybe we have coffee table books that are there purely to grab others’ attention. These aren’t bad things, or bad reasons to have things. They may simply be purchases that we subconsciously hoped would lead to human contact. A better course would be to focus on the socializing, and let the purchasing come naturally thereafter. But don’t let MGM know I said that.

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