As a student doing a media related course, it’s safe to say that I’ve met my fair share of ‘Film Buffs’. However, there is a certain type of individual within this category that really gets on my nerves. You know the sort of person I’m talking about… the one who walks around thinking that liking niche arthouse films is a personality trait, that continuously references obscure foreign pictures that no one has heard of or feels the need to quiz their date about the latest Christopher Nolan film just to make sure that they can indeed be trusted.
There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with enjoying film, it’s a great medium for storytelling and has the potential to move people and change their lives. However, I should specify that when I talk about ‘Film Buffs’, I don’t just mean people who enjoy film.
There are plenty of people out there who have the ability to just casually enjoy a movie without making a big deal out of it. There too, are those whose main hobby is going to the cinema, who religiously watch films, and who regard it as their one true passion in life. But alas, I do not speak of these people, for they have managed to conduct themselves in a manner that is not obnoxious at every turn.
I, at least for the purposes of this article, reserve the term ‘Buff’ for the type of person described in the introduction above: the sort of person who feels the need to make everyone else feel bad for their lack of knowledge or interest in film, while simultaneously making themselves look superior.
Any attempt to point out this behaviour will incur an even heavier cost than the earful of egotism you originally received, for long speeches will often follow about how you are the one at fault for being an uncultured swine that needs to get a grip on fundamentals of cinema if you are ever going to get anywhere in life.
The biggest issue with this type of attitude is that it not only makes The Buff look bad but reflects poorly on the community as a whole.
Near the beginning of last year, when the Academy Award nominees were announced, there was lots of discussions around two particular films: Bong Joon – Ho’s Parasite and Joker by Todd Phillips. One was a masterpiece of foreign cinema, dealing with hard hitting issues that affect real Koreans every day, directed by an acclaimed director, whose work is one of very few to be both foreign and nominated for best picture. The other, a ‘dark’ comic book movie directed by someone who is mainly known for comedies, and which invoked fear of copycat terror attacks. I wonder who will win?
Some time goes on and it’s the big night, the Oscars have begun. And it’s safe to say that even now, for most people, it’s still Parasite vs. Joker. Joker picks up two wins; Best Actor and Best Original Score, only two wins out of a potential eleven. Parasite, however, has so far won three of its six nominations. At this point it’s anyone’s game, one has a better win to loss ratio, the other has far more nominations, frankly anyone of them is in with a chance to get the coveted Best Picture win.
At the end of the night, Parasite made headlines when it became the first ever foreign film to win the Best Picture award, and much to the dismay of many, Joker had all but lost. In a, now deleted video, Youtuber and movie fan, Robert Storm, voiced his opinion on the ‘controversy’ of Parasite winning. Claiming that it didn’t deserve to win for a multitude of reasons including that:
These are the type of things that the mainstream media will see and generalise entire audiences from; they’ll hear of one person who praises a movie like Joker yet disregards another, solely for the reason that it was a foreign film and project their assumptions of an audience on this basis. While everyone is free to critique the nomination and acclamation of a particular piece of cinema, the consequences of doing so, so poorly can lead to the reputation of film fans everywhere to be damaged. Due to the small, yet vocal, backlash against Parasite’s win at the Academy Awards, Joker devotees would find themselves being labelled as supporters of mass-shooting’s, racism, and overall bigots simply for relishing a film. While this should not lead critics to be held at gunpoint by the media industry, it should act as a signal as to how far unnecessary comments can go to destroy people’s enjoyment of a film.
This is exactly how I imagine right-wing people feel… The media only reports on what generates ‘hype’, they purposefully cherry pick the views of extremists to sensationalise the political arena and create a divide amongst the people… All for some attention and a quick buck. The reasonable ones be damned, those of right-leaning persuasions who think that the military is an important asset or that it’s not their responsibility to pay for others health care aren’t racist, sexist, or xenophobic… They just have political views like everyone else. The biggest difference is that out of politics and film, one is significantly less important.
I won’t be saying which one it is though.
The Buff is a strange creature. They wield their film knowledge as if it were a spear, ready to plunge its pointed-tip into the very heart of their next victim who might be so foolish that they are unaware of Tarantino’s foot-fetish or fail to correctly quote that it is ‘No’, rather than ‘Luke’, which precedes ‘I am your Father’.
It is this sense of superiority, rather than cinema itself, in which they derive pleasure from. By pointing out the gaps in an individual’s knowledge, even if it is simply film trivia, they manage to elevate their status to a person who is informed, educated, and cultured. Like those who are drawn to cults, secret societies, and academia, The Buff becomes endowed with an almost esoteric insight that cannot be grasped by anyone outside the know.
The Buff feels elated not only because they have become special, but due to the fact that the stature of those around them has been reduced. When someone isn’t able to articulate why they don’t like a film, i.e. The Godfather, other than stating that, ‘I just found it boring, it was too slow for me’, The Buff is able to use this to make the other person look less intelligent. They can say things like ‘you just don’t get it’ or ‘that’s the point of the whole thing, I don’t know why you can’t see that’ to diminish the other persons point of view. Since they hold a set of secret (yet just as subjective) form of knowledge, The Buff’s illuminated stance cannot be squelched.
This is an issue near and dear to my heart. As a relatively new fan to cinema, ‘new’ in the sense that I didn’t come out the womb knowing Hitchcock’s filmography, I am not as familiar with many older works as some other film fans may be.
While I can relate to The Film Buff, in that I relish sharing my knowledge and passion for cinema with others, I too empathize with the victims of form of personality-type and how useless and unknowledgeable you can feel when faced with a barrage of trivia questions.
People need to realise that it’s not a crime to just enjoy something for the sake of enjoying it. I’ve seen one too many reviews that’ll say of blockbuster action film: “Well it certainly isn’t Citizen Kane, that’s for sure”. However, this is completely missing the point, not every film is trying to be Citizen Kane, and that’s not a bad thing.
Everything doesn’t need to be a great work of art, sometimes a film is just a film. A trashy chick-flick, which has no real substance other than a few attractive actors who voice the poorly written dialogue of three different screenwriters, doesn’t inherently have any less value than something like The Shawshank Redemption. Sure enough, from an objective point of view, every single component of this film is better than say, The Princess Diaries, but when it’s 12:30 in the morning and I want something to fill the void and forget about life, I’d be putting on TPD (as the real fans call it) every single time.
When the world’s going to shit, I don’t want to watch a depressing war movie that challenges me by making me empathise with Hitler; all the while drawing comparisons to the philosophical musings of Emanuel Kant. I don’t even want to think, rather I want the comfort of watching that one episode of Gilmour Girls for the 10th time.
It’s simple really, once people learn that everything isn’t a competition and that it’s O.K to not always get high art or like reality TV, then surely, we will become a harmonious utopia. No more will people be shamed on what they have and haven’t seen, outlawed will be the notion that the cult film has more worth than a blockbuster comedy, and best of all its achievable, all you need to do is love everyone no matter what they choose to watch.
Unless they watch Coronation Street… Then they deserve everything that they have coming.
Illustrated by Sofia Toi.
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