Monday, February 21, 2011

The Personality of a DVD Collection

Whenever I visit someone's house, I usually try to sneak an innocuous peak at their DVD collection. Its part of my ritual of learning a bit more about them. I don't know about any of you, but I consider private possessions to often be indicative of elements of the personality of the owner. In times past, I might have looked at someone's artwork or record collection or paperback bookshelf, but today I think the DVD collection speaks the loudest. What does a person's movie collection say about them?

And I don't just mean the difference in tastes. The difference between a cineaste whose shelves contain Criterion Collections and Art House works in foreign tongues, a blockbuster braggadocio who has the biggest and best sets of the boldest and loudest Abrams, Bay or Cameron summer spectaculars, or the penny pinching Wal-Mart five and dime enthusiast with the latest direct-to-video mockbuster basic discs, these are not as important as the difference in personal human philosophy that can be distilled from the truly diverse and representative collection.

Different films have different things to say about the human condition, and it can be assumed that fans of those films agree with or at least appreciate these statements. Oldboy and Star Trek have very disparate notions of the basic decency of the human being, for instance. So what can you say about a person whose collection contains both? Can you determine the make-up of the person from the make-up of their philosophical possessions?


And even if the collection is largely seamless, a lighthearted indie romcom dreamscape ofRoyal Tenenbaums, Junos, and Little Miss Sunshines, there's always the one out of place shocker -- what the heck is Cannibal Holocaust doing here? -- for example, a lot of people see a shelf on my wall otherwise populated by American Psycho and No Country for Old Men and have a hard time stifling a giggle when they see The Last Unicorn amongst them. What kind of a person finds, in each of these films, a piece of themselves reflected back?

Part of the puzzle is really taking the time to think about what each movie has to say about the world, society, humanity, morality, and what that viewpoint says about you or your appreciation of the film. What is it about Iron Man that you really like? Is it just the jokes and the CGI, or is there something in the film's subtle capitalist, libertarian, futurist sentiments that you found yourself agreeing with? Why do you own a copy of Straw Dogs? Do you derive a sadistic pleasure from the rape and torture scenes or is the the film's sense of vengeful violence that you appreciate? Or do you see past that and derive some satirical sentiments on the underlying anger of mid-1970s America?

My point is that once you see the films on your shelf for what they really are, then you can start asking yourself -- what do they say about me? What is it about them that has influenced who I am, or what about me has influence their place in my collection?

What does your DVD collection say about you, your personality, your beliefs and your philosophies? Does it support them or challenge them? Do you have movies in your collection that are expressly against what you truly think and feel? If so, why are they there? Aesthetic value, completism, whimsy?

I'm looking at my own DVD collection -- the secular humanist mythology of Star Trek rests not too far from the objectivist superheroics of Iron Man, inbetween the two sits the nihilist selfishness of There Will Be Blood and the abstract anarchistic musings of Aeon Flux. What's the total picture painted in just that one shelf?

Or do our possessions in fact say nothing about ourselves except perhaps as a reflection of the 21st century's vapid commericialism? (I don't believe that, but I include it as a possible option for consideration).