Arrow-right Camera


Couples have unique ways of deciding on movies to watch

Sat., Feb. 26, 2011

Perhaps you are aware of this: Sometimes couples experience disagreement.

Oh, yes, it has been known to happen. And the tension isn’t always about sex, money or conflicting ideas about the proper use of weekends.

Occasionally it’s about movies. As in, which film to watch?

If you buy broad-brush gender stereotypes, the flick-picking discord arises because guys want to see nothing but car chases and shootouts while women are drawn to talky weepies in which romance triumphs over vexing misunderstandings.

But even if most real-life adults tend to be a bit more nuanced than that, there’s still plenty about which two moviegoers can disagree.

Maybe one person enjoys a certain comedic actor that his or her spouse/significant other loathes. Or perhaps you crave courtroom dramas or zippy police procedurals while your partner wants to see obscure indie projects or period costumefests with handsome characters hissing “Upon my word, sir!”

So how do couples bridge the gap?

Negotiate? Take turns picking? Defer to the person who has actually read about the film?

There is no one simple answer.

“In the past, my husband and I would rent a chick flick and something he wanted to watch,” said Brenda Nord, an administrative assistant at a Spokane hospital. “We’d start with the chick flick and when I fell asleep, he’d pop the tape out and watch what he chose.”

No harm, no foul.

But they have evolved toward what Nord described as a more collaborative, “democratic” decision-making process. Now they usually pick just one movie and watch via On Demand on cable TV.

“Falling asleep still depends on what time it is and the movie,” she said. “However, if it’s really good, my husband attempts to wake me.”

Tadashi Osborne and his wife love movies and watch a lot. They generally take turns choosing.

“Of course, on her birthday and Valentine’s Day, she picks,” said Osborne, who works for a package delivery business.

Assuming the two people enjoy one another’s company and have compatible cultural perspectives, deciding what movie to check out can be like opening a present.

The prospect of possibly being able to add another title to the list of shared favorites can be a bonding experience. It just requires a little respect, consideration and good cheer.

For some couples, though, choosing a movie can resemble an argument – complete with accusations that a certain person insists on watching plotless gabfests, not to mention counter-charges that someone else in the family seems to have an unhealthy interest in the actress Scarlett Johansson.

Sometimes these free and open exchanges of opinions result in a mutually satisfactory selection. And sometimes they culminate in an unopened Netflix envelope collecting dust on the mantle for weeks.

Still, an unwillingness to bend on movie choices isn’t necessarily indicative of serious problems in a relationship, said Laura Asbell, a clinical psychologist. “Unless it’s indicative of a larger pattern.”

To be sure, not everything has to be done as a couple.

Sue Libby and her husband have been married 35 years. They understand the value of compromise. And they enjoy watching films together.

“But occasionally he goes to a movie by himself, and I will sometimes rent one I want to see and watch it while he is kayaking,” said Libby, who does accounting for a title insurance and escrow company.

“The one thing we don’t do ever is try to talk the other one into seeing something they really don’t want to watch.”

They might be on to something. It has been said that viewing a film with someone who is doing so under duress can be a pain. At least that’s the case if the conscript chooses to grumble throughout and generally adopts a petulant “I didn’t get my way” pouting demeanor.

What fun.

Elsewhere on the spectrum is the reluctant viewer who undergoes an attitude adjustment, eventually admitting that he or she was wrong and acknowledging that the movie was terrific.

Family physician Anne Montgomery said she and her husband are blessed with similar “or at least overlapping” tastes. “We both like a very broad range of things – drama, action, sci-fi, et cetera.”

They don’t do slasher films.

“He has a habit of watching whatever good old movie is on cable to wind down in the evening, chosen by flipping through the channel guide and picking something that ideally doesn’t end after bedtime,” Montgomery said.

“Fortunately most of those are also things I like. If he picks one I don’t, I either ask him to pick another – since there is always something else on – or I go do something else.”

College professor Becky Dueben also savors the same pictures as her spouse. Most of the time.

“But sometimes, even if I’m not interested in the movie he wants to see, I am very interested in his perspective and understanding what he likes,” she said. “And sometimes I end up liking it just because he does, because it reminds me of him.”

Women, of course, have no monopoly on film-viewing flexibility. Realtor Forrest Schuck said he happily defers to his wife eight out of nine times.

“We pick movies like this: She likes romantic comedies, so that’s what we watch.”

Maybe this isn’t so complicated after all.

Click here to comment on this story »