So, something which has tickled my ass (interested me) recently is the notion of how to classify or categorize people who watch movies – mainly in reference to trying to decide what an essential movie is. Is Citizen Kane really an essential watch for someone who watches maybe ten movies a year? Is The Seven Samurai a must-see for people who only watch movies made in Hollywood? Conversely, is A New Hope an absolute watch for someone in Japan, or Iran, or India? I don’t know the answer to these things (even though the answer is yes) and I’m not going to offer any solutions here.
In reading other blogs and lists recently – fans’ favourite movies ever, critical lists of the best or most important or most essential movies ever, and also writing my Scoring System post has made me question if a better way to think about such things is by categorizing the viewer. The film is the film is the film, but opinions on the film obviously differ from person to person – it seems to me, without an ounce of research, that you can roughly guess the score of a film, or how someone feels about it, by categorizing the viewer – would the person who only watches the latest blockbusters think Citizen Kane was essential, or even good? Probably not. Categorizing people – it’s the way of the world, it’s tribal, it’s how we differentiate between who the good’uns are and who the ones who want to ravage our women and eat are babies are – you know, the ones who talk or look funny or live in that weird country five miles south behind an invisible, arbitrary border.
Yeah, I hate categorization under almost all circumstances – they serve only to de-humanize and make it easier to sleep at night after dropping bombs on them/not offering them a helping hand/refusing to pay them/telling them how they should live their lives. The individual is God. Yet, on the other hand, I love statistics and spreadsheets and lists and management sim games. It’s weird being me, in constant turmoil of hating and loving things even though those things are related.
We’re not trying to solve the world’s ills here though. All I’m doing is calling out a few loose categories of viewer and afterwards I might go back and look through my Oscars posts and say which films are ‘suitable’ for each group. Feel free to break my definitions apart and add your own – I don’t want a tonne of these so I’m hoping five will be a fair number, baring in mind that I’m thinking as I type with no fore planning. I will say that each category has a certain sliding scale and are malleable. Also, these could presumably translate to other media, such as music, games, books…. bird watching.
The Critic is at the head of the table. It is a critic’s job to watch everything, regardless of genre, country of origin, language, era etc. The Critic must also be knowledgeable about the history of film, technical processes, what is involved in the creation of a film, and be able to rattle off the most commonly thought of important and influential films of a particular genre, movement, actor, director etc. They will tend to have one or more individual specialist subjects, such as the life of FW Murnau or Spaghetti Westerns. They are more likely to be objective, more likely to be critical of what is popular, and more appreciative or originality, importance, and influence.
The Film Nerd
The Film Nerd is more often a blogger or a Youtuber. Traditionally they will not have the same access to and knowledge of movies as the Critic, but those lines are being blurred both positively and negatively each year. Nowadays The Film Nerd may see a similar amount of movies as The Critic, but will likely have a tendency towards the popular or the cult rather than the artistic or important, especially when you stretch the boundaries of what is mainstream and what is recent. Genre and language should not be of significance to The Film Nerd when deciding to watch a movie. They should have knowledge of the filmmaking process, but that knowledge will be less on the technical side and more on the conversational side – it is less likely they have studied film in any capacity when compared with The Critic, and won’t have the same level of educational discipline. They will probably care less about certain critical details and be more appreciative of popular efforts than The Critic while also enjoying ‘nerdy continuity’ such as actors reappearing in works with same director. They will be more invested by personal enjoyment than importance or influence, yet they will seek out any movie deemed important or influential by critics. They will have their personal favourite genres, directors, performers etc, but should not let this cloud their judgment.
The Wannabe wants to be a critic. Or in the movie business. For my purposes we’ll say they are a critic in waiting. They will have their own blog or channel and will strive to watch everything, but may be more easily influenced by critical opinion – ‘I’m watching this because I’ve been told I have to, and even though I don’t really understand it I’m going to say I love it’. They may sacrifice what is current and popular in their quest to catch up on the critical lists and become narrow – they should strive to watch everything. The Wannabe is likely a film student or graduate, or has studied some area of Humanities. They don’t have the objectivity or historical or technical knowledge of The Critic yet but must be willing to learn if they wish to become what they desire. They will have a guilty pleasure which they will hold on to and proclaim as important or essential when it probably is not, giving them an added layer of arrogance as they belief it proves they watch what ‘the rest of us’ watch.
The Fan is a fan of movies in general – they will try to watch as many movies as time allows, but it won’t consume their life. The fan can branch out in many directions and become a specialist – The Horror Fan, The Spielberg Fan, The Audrey Hepburn Fan etc, but in most cases they will stick to what is popular. If they are presented with a list of most essential movies ever, they will have seen many of them, but likely those which are more mainstream, recent, or commercial. The Fan won’t have any burning desire to see every movie on that list, but they will seek out those ones they have heard about from friends who are also in The Fan category. They will enjoy movies by or starring certain people, but won’t necessarily hunt down those they have missed. They will enjoy watching trailers of upcoming movies, get excited by sequels, and the majority of their movie watching will cover films which earned the most money in any given year rather than the indie or foreign markets.
The Casual merely enjoys movies – if you take them on a date to the Cinema, it better be something simple like a comedy or action movie starring whoever was on the cover of Tiger Beat recently (that’s not a thing any more, is it?). The Casual watches only what is popular, what others are talking about in school, work, or on TV, and will likely see much fewer movies per year than The Fan. If it’s not in the charts, they won’t be interested. Black and White? Subtitles? Slightly unusual? No thanks. They know what they like and stick to it, and that is usually a narrow field. The Casual may find themselves surprised if they take a risk and discover they actually enjoy something forced upon them by a friend who is in The Fan or Film Nerd category. They more likely enjoy the clothes and red carpet information than The Oscars themselves, and might even care more about who is in a movie than who made it or what it is about. They probably ask a lot of questions while watching and look at their phone.
The Careless could NOT care less. Yes, Americans, that is the correct way of saying that phrase. The Careless is probably your dad. Or your mum. Or a farmer. They will have no interest in the discussion of movies and will have no desire to go to the Cinema. They won’t care if they are forced to go by friends, significant other, or kids, but they will likely not may much attention to the movie. If they do, they will have likely forgotten about it the next day. A certain breed of The Careless may enjoy a particular genre or actor, likely due to a crush or some sort of formative experience – Westerns or David Soul or some such. They will channel surf and may stumble upon a movie that looks interesting and watch it, or fall asleep watching it. For The Careless, movies are a distraction from what they really care about, or a novelty that is experienced irregularly and disposed of.
The Twat only watches a certain type of movie and nothing else – don’t be like The Twat. Like a hipster is to music, The Twat doesn’t really like movies, just watches or claims to watch them so that they can be part of a discussion which they can then turn around to serve their own selfish needs. Alternatively, The Twat may genuinely love their chosen movie but will absolutely, stubbornly refuse to hear any criticism of it or suggestion of an alternative.
So there you have it, some rough breakage (roughage?) of people into groups. You shouldn’t be ashamed of whichever one you fall into, that’s who you are after all, and who you are will influence what films you enjoy. You can of course aim to move into another category, or you may tow the line between two or three of them, but don’t be ashamed. Unless you’re The Twat, in which case I suggest you drastically re-evaluate your life.
Stage two of this needless endeavor will see me (well, it will see me thinking about, but probably not writing about because once I have something out of my system I tend to forget about it) looking at a bunch of movies and ranking them per the above types. Maybe I’ll go through my Oscar’s posts, maybe I’ll take some Critical list or poll and investigate. Or maybe I’ll get drunk. Yeah, that seems like the more plausible outcome.