Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Does Watching Classic Films Make You Anti-Social?

I've been asking myself this question a lot lately and I've come up with two answers: Yes and No.

YES - During my days as an undergrad and the year or so before I started grad school, I was a loner. I had very few friends, and those friends lived quite a distance away and I only saw them maybe once or twice a year. It was during that period of my life (from the ages of 21 to 25) that I watched a lot of classic films. I would fill up my free time with Turner Classic movies. Films from bygone eras were my escape from the harsh reality of this so-called "real world". I tried to fill the void of not having friends by filling them with classic film stars. It couldn't completely console my loneliness though. I'm a very social creature by nature but I can be crippled by my shyness. When I started Grad school, I made an effort to make friends, to go out and to put myself out of my comfort zone. I feel that earlier in my life, I was avoiding dealing with real people by watching classic films. While I still watch classic movies to this day, I don't watch them voraciously as I used to because I want to use some of my free time to hang out with friends, family and the beau. If I continued to watch classic films like I used to, I would have just continued to alienate myself from real people in real life and would continue to be miserable, wallowing in my own loneliness.

NO - Having a particular interest that you are passionate about is a social catalyst. It gives you a topic of conversation, you can use it to pique someone's interest and you can use that passion to find other like-minded folks. Even in my days of lonely classic film consumption, I still had a burning desire within me to share and talk about the movies I was watching with other people. When I developed new friendships in my mid-20s, I cautiously started talking about classic movies. As soon as I opened up the gates, a flood ensued. I wanted to find more and more opportunities to talk about films with people. At one point, it started to drive me crazy and I needed an outlet to get my thoughts out there. That's when I started Out of the Past ~ A Classic Film Blog and I have been happy as a clam chatting about classic films ever since. I've developed great friendships both online and off through this blog. I met my good friend Kevin when I took his Film Noir class and Carlos and I immediately bonded with a shared interest in film. I've shared classic films with other friends to get some culture in their life. Other classic film bloggers have developed great friendships with each other referring to those friends as "non-fleshies". Two of my best non-fleshie friends, Jonas of All Talking! All Singing! All Dancing! and Mark of Bookmark Zero, I met online through my blog and mutual interest in classic movies. So in this way, classic films made me more social than I have ever been before!


Dear readers. If you were to pose this question to yourself, what would be your answer? I want to hear your thoughts.


  1. Heck, as long as a person doesn't become totally obsessive, I don't really think watching classic films makes one any less social than many other things one could do to escape reality--at least I hope not!

  2. It’s not just watching classic movies or movies in general, which can cause a certain amount of anti-social behaviour as anything you enjoy on your own can lead to it. But likewise it is finding that balance between being consumed with your passion, which mine is 80’s movies, and the “real world” which is most important. The good thing about having a passion for movies of any age is that it is a great conversation starter.

  3. I think your statement "Having a particular interest that you are passionate about is a social catalyst" is right on. Tho my interest in classic films isn't as focused as some folks', it is important to me. Overall, I think it's been social--I think it really started with one particular friend in Virginia--I don't even recall the films she & I went to see, but I do recall the atmosphere vividly. Interestingly, she went on to AFI & had a succesful career as a TV writer--& now she's a food policy blogger of all things!

    Interesting topic.

  4. Very honest insightful post, Raquelle. I agree with Andy, that any obsession can lead to being anti-social. It isn't the classic movies themselves, but our relationship with them.
    But if we focus on classic films to the point that we absolutely refuse to even consider watching a film made after a certain "line in the sand", we definitely become anti-social, besides robbing ourselves of some possibly rewarding experiences. We've got to remember that the movies being made today will be looked fondly upon as "classic" in 50 or 60 years.

  5. Hasfrau & Andy & PJowens - But I'm being very specific about classic films. Sure this can be generalized, but I've been thinking about it in terms of classic films ONLY. I feel like some may use classic films as an escape from reality because of how it takes us out of our current time completely.

    John - It's great that you've been able to bond with someone through classic films!

  6. I love this post--it's so honest and thoughtful. My classic movie experience was somewhat similar to yours. I got started in high school, and though I did have friends, I definitely spent a lot of time watching the classics. I was pretty shy, but for the most part, I just had no interest in the activities available at school, so I found something that I really wanted to do. I did have a super anti-social summer in college where I took summer school and watched movies allll the time. My friends were all at home, and I didn't make the effort to meet new people. I missed a week at the video store and the lady who worked there was actually worried about me! However, I was going crazy by the end of the summer, and ended up having to force myself to make friends at work. I always thought that I watched all those movies because I loved them, but your post has gotten me thinking that maybe I was avoiding getting out there and exploring the world. I do agree with you that being online has made it a lot easier to meet other fans. Most of my fleshie friends could care less about the classics! I love them for other reasons :-)

    You are so good at expressing yourself! Love it.

  7. OUCH. I feel like such a loser now.

    I do spend a lot of time watching classic movies. Though I'd say being self-employed, working from home and not being in school is what makes me more anti-social than the fact that I like watching movies. In fact, most of the friends I have I met because of our shared interest in films.

  8. KC - Thanks for sharing your experience. I appreciate it. Avoidance is definitely a key factor in both our experiences.

    Kate - Ouch?! Did you find my post offensive? Don't feel like a loser because you are quite the OPPOSITE. You are by far one of the most social classic film bloggers. I would rate you #1, tied with The Self-Styled Siren.

  9. Yes. Garbo said it first: "I vant to be alone."

    Seriously, it depends on which environment the classic film buff finds himself/herself. In a room full of non-movie buffs, say some rollicking insurance seminar or your husband's high school reunion, one is inclined to be a bit of a loner. Standing as close to the door as possible.

    But, when the old movie buff is plunked down in the middle of like-minded enthusiasts, there is no greater love-in. Complete strangers can come to either passionate arguments or deep and abiding affection based on the true confessions of what are your favorite films and actors.

  10. i guess my take is a bit dfferent because i was weened on this stuff from day one! i grew up with Karloff, Kong, the Gil Man and all the Harryhausen films and of course Cagney and McQueen! they're like old friends to me. i got into Hitchcock in my teens, then Ford, Hawks, Scorsese, Fuller, Welles, etc, etc, etc, one interest always leading to another.
    sometimes my movie watching was THE most important thing to me. i recall viidly when i was about 10 years old my friends asking if i wanted to stay after shcool and play ball and i couldnt because the Great Escape was on the 4 o'clock movie and aint no way i was missing that, lol! i dunno, i'm kinda anti-social, or non-social regardless of film watching. i like being by myself a good portion of the time so its no biggie to me. i like to quote Mickey Rourke from Barfly: "It's not that i dont like people, i just like it better when they're not around".
    the one time in my life that movies were a total escape from reality for me was about 13 years ago. i was going through a major health problem and had to quit my trade. i had no insurance, very little money, no prospects, seemed like no future at all. i didnt know what to do so i buried myself in old movies and watched 1001 of them in one years time. thanks to TCM, AMC and the local video store over 800 were ones i never saw before. i kept a journal of them all (which i still need to finish retyping!) with pics and reviews etc. even during that time i tried to make it somewhat productive which was probably all what kept me sane during what i call the "bad times". if it wasnt for my movies i dont know how i woulda dealt with my problems then. my friends were definitely there for me and we'd have movie night once or twice a month and i'd introduce them to things like the Ox-Bow Incident, Shock Corridor or One, Two Three. so see, not anti-social, just non-social, lol.
    when i look back now it's unreal to me that i devoted so much of myself to it but i sure got a good classic film education out of it, lol! its funny now because i'm lucky if i actually sit and watch ONE movie a week on average, but i'm just as non-social as i've always been, lol.

  11. There are so many reasons why I'm anti-social, I can't limit it to just because I love classic films :)

  12. When I was in film school, I was deeply alienated (watching all those Ingmar Bergman films probably wasn't helping me, either). I assuaged my loneliness by feeding an unhealthy obsession with that other famous Bergman, Ingrid, to the point where I actually considered "Adam Had Four Sons" a good film for a while! The weirdest part of this obsession was that I could watch Ingrid grow old and die on my screen (ever seen her grim portrayal of Golda Meir in 1982's "A Woman Called Golda?") without puncturing my fantasy of her fresh, radiant, natural Swedish beauty in "Intermezzo." That obsession, far from making me antisocial, actually redirected my misanthropic tendencies into an ultimately edifying private course in film technique. I was studying film directing at the time, and seeing some of the great films Ingrid made over and over again sharpened my eye for staging, lighting, cinematography, camera movement and a thousand other subtleties of the trade (luckily, Ingrid actually was in the hands of great directors much of the time, and she wasn't a bad actress, either). When I started dating actual women, this obsession faded, and though I'm now happily married to a beautiful, talented woman, I still get the occasional pang when I see Ingrid stride into Rick's Cafe Americain for the first time in "Casablanca." Ah, this mortal coil!

  13. Jacqueline - You make such an awesome point. Thank you for that. Our social tendencies really come out when we can participate. When we have something to share with others.

    Artman - You are a life-long devotee. I know a lot of us came to classic films later and weren't necessarily raised on them. I know that when I was a child, I didn't like movies at all! Thanks for sharing your experience. 1001?! WOWZA! My beau Carlos was injured and out of work for a month and watched 60 films in that one month!

    Amanda - Ha ha! I know that there are several factors with my shyness. My ultra-conservative upbringing didn't help much.

    Mark - I didn't realize you had a love affair with Ingrid Bergman!

  14. Sometimes I feel a little "outside" because of my retro/vintage obsession because I'm still in high school :/ I do feel a bit out of it because I'm not up-to-date on recent movies and music.
    I have gotten over it though! I'm happier by watching/listening to what I want, rather than silently dying at the midnight premiere of Transformers 2. (my friends dragged me, IT WAS TERRBILE. I weep for the future)

    I've also met some really awesome people by blogging and all, so I can talk to people with the same interest rather than talking my friends to death about things they don't care about.

    What a neat post! Really got me thinking.

  15. A very interesting post! In my case, I don't think I can say that loving classic movies (or comic books or pulp magazines or classic television or Sixties British rock bands) ever made me anti-social. Although I have never been the life of the party and I like being alone once in a while, I do have plenty of friends and always have. Indeed, I think my interests have been a catalysts to friendships. My best friend and I met through role playing games and our friendship deepened through a love of movies. And I've met a lot of friends online (including yourself) who I think very highly of. Ultimately, I think classic films or any "vintage" interest can be a stepping stone to some great friendships!

  16. well... it makes me feel old and out of touch. Which I shouldn't feel because classic films are the foundation that Hollywood movies are built on today (and I'm not OLD!). However, when I see a movie at the theaters (maybe with stupid 3D glasses on) and don't love it I think that maybe I'm just a nerdy movie snob. Really... The Watchmen is a pile of turd.

    I know better than to show friends outside of my classic film circle old movies (especially bad ones that I love).

    Anti social? Maybe not. Video games and porn probably make people more anti social in America than TCM ever could. I also don't sleep much so at 3am (and I know I'm not alone here) I sneak on an old movie and relax. It's one of my great outlets.. enjoying and writing about the great American art form.

  17. In my case, I'd say it makes me anti-social because I don't have anyone to share my interest in old films. It's frustrating when you're the only person you know that's into something. But, it's what I like, and I still get a kick out of discovering films that I haven't seen before.

  18. Wonderful post! I'm proud being your friend.

    I think i started to watch classic film almost by accident because I'm the curious kind. We had two membership cards to the Stockholm Cinematque at the library in my high school. no one ever used these cards so a friend and I started to explore film history with them. We went to just about every showing we possibly could attend. Just out of the Lego trip free cinema was always better than just hanging around. We saw anything eyes wide opened. anything from European art films to the most flickering silents you can possibly imagine.

    After a while we had pin pointed the genres we loved the most and concentrated our efforts on those.
    Obviously I found the period 1925-35 the most interesting, I still do.

    I don't know if all this movie going made me anti-social but to tell you the truth, you don't exactly make friends at the cinema unless you are a mime. I have found all my classic film friends online. I don't have a lot of real life friends actually. I guess my time spent at the cinemateque to some extent prevented me form building a network of real friends.

  19. Sarah – I know for a fact that it’s tough being a teenager in high school and having different interests from everyone else. It seems like you handle it well though. Transformers 2. Oh goodness I feel your pain

    Mercurie – Thanks for sharing your thoughts. There is something about retrophilia that brings people together!

    Steve-O – In a way I’m kind of jealous that you get to stay up late at night watching movies. I’m what people may call an over-sleeper and by 10pm I’m out like a light. I agree that video games & p-rn definitely isolate people more than classic films do. Thanks for sharing!

    Aaron – It’s like a treasure hunt isn’t it? I’m sorry that there isn’t anyone around to share you love of old films. You always have us classic film bloggers though!

  20. I believe being anti-social is a result of being shy and reserved, and not coming from whatever passion may have. Things like excessive TV-watching, or playing video games all day are just things people do to fill that void. It might be enjoyable but ultimately, we are all social creatures and still end up craving for meaningful relationships.

  21. Jonas - Wow. I didn't know about the background of how you got into classic films. Yes your interest is very focused even within the already focused interest of classic films. SO I can see how it's difficult to share that with others. I'm glad you are my friend.

    Castor - I don't agree that being anti-social is a result of being shy and reserved. Some people don't want the company of others but they would NOT be classified as shy. Also, I was shy but I was also very social. The shyness just got in the way of my natural social nature. I agree that we all crave meaningful relationships HOWEVER they put us in a vulnerable place and open ourselves to being hurt. Classic films, as well as other interests, can be used as an avoidance tactic to prevent us from forming real relationships with real people and thus preventing those real people from hurting us.

  22. Interesting post!

    Being only 15, my situation is similar to Sarah's. Most of my "fleshies" have seen few if any classics, which can make it hard. I have managed to force my really close friends into watching classics! MWAHAHA!

    But, also, having a blog has made watching movies a totally more social experience for me. My nonfleshies are like the coolest people in the world.

    So, yeah. I would say no. Because, old movies are just a part of me. Whether I'm with nonfleshies or "real" friends.

    Great post!

  23. I had anti-social tendencies long before I started watching classic movies, so I don't think it's really fair to blame them. :P

    Seriously though, I did go through (...maybe I'm still going through) that annoying neophyte stage where all I wanted to do was watch and discuss classic films. After I took my first film class, I was spending every available moment in front of TCM. If I hadn't done that though, I would've been alone in my apartment anyway; I just would have wrestled with boredom a lot more than I did.

    I've come out of my shell a lot in the past year or two, and I don't think my interest in film has helped or hindered me in that respect... it just is. I've said this before, but the social network of film bloggers was a wonderful support system when I was first starting to explore the classics, and those interactions were the catalyst that led to my declaring RTF as a second major. So in that way, I've found my love of classic movies to be very conducive to socializing.

    Is it a little isolating offline to be in a room full of people who don't know who Jimmy Stewart is? Sure. But I think the same can be said for any interest that's a bit out of the mainstream. It's just a matter of reaching out to people who do share your interest, and the internet has made that increasingly easy to do.

    (Sorry if this is a novel; the HTML's a bit borked so I can't tell how long this comment is, but I suspect it's giving War And Peace a run for its money.)

  24. First of all, I just wanted to say that I loved this post and the comments it generated. Watching a movie, regardless of whether it's a classic film or not is inherently an isolationist activity - it's what you do with that experience afterward that makes it social or not.

    I have a great, small group of friends and we all enjoy watching movies together, though I do find that they tend to be more current films than classic ones. Right now we're doing our annual Oscar push to see as many nominated films as possible, so I've enjoyed going out to the theater to see films with them. However, no one in the group begins to reach the interest (and obsession, truthfully) I have in films, so when I want to discuss them I sometimes feel like I'm having to force it out of them by drawing them out with questions, etc.

    As a result, I find that I have a huge craving to engage with people who love film as much as I do, and talk with them about it. Online blogs and forums certainly help, but what I wouldn't give for a film club "in real life" with people who have the same interest level as I, and who I could learn and gain insight from. I haven't found any yet, unfortunately.

  25. so many interesting answers to your question Quelle!
    hey 60 films in a month aint bad!
    my record was, one time i took a vacation for a week for the sole purpose of watching movies, so from that friday night until the following sunday night of the next week i saw 83 films, lol. oh god my eyes were so bleary by then it was sick, lol! I remember a lot of them were universal horror films i had yet to see like the Black Cat, Black Friday etc etc and they are for the most part pretty short so it was very easy to see 10-12 of those in a day....a long day, lol.
    anyway, enough of my insanity O_o

  26. YES - I was born shy & introverted and as an only child resorted to finding company with TV watching reruns and old movies. I grew up to be outgoing, but retained a love for classic film. It wasn't until a few years ago that a disabling illness led me to become a TCM maniac. Stuck at home, unable to work and often bedridden I started using movies to pass the time, especially for long painful nights. I intentionally used old Hollywood flicks as an escape from the realities of my current situation. In fact I would say allowing myself to get lost in the alternate universe of film noir and technicolor kept me from going wacky while stuck in the bed. I also found refuge surfing the internet. Eventually it became a round the clock ritual of checking the TCM schedule and searching for movie facts. I do feel alienated when I make a classic movie reference and the response is a blank stare. I don't think I'd get the same response to references about popular movies, so I kinda feel what Raquelle means by classic movies in particular having an anti-social effect. You tend to get caught up in the eras of old and make the golden age of Hollywood your frame of reference. You can easily get disconnected.

    NO - On the other hand once I started watching TCM exclusively (as opposed to renting DVDs) and surfing the internet I found a community of people that shared my love for classic film. Now I get to share my film experience with other people, which I LOVE doing. So far only have "cyber" friends that really share my passion, but as I hope one day to start a local group of classic film geeks to share appreciation for old movies. Great topic for discussion!

  27. Millie - Great answer! For classic film fans, these movies really are part of us.

    Princess - I was really hoping you'd stop by and share your thoughts. It's interesting that blogging and the classic film community encouraged you to pursue your current major. I feel like films/blogging changed my direction in life too.

    Cinemaphile - Good point. What you can't share with fleshies you can share with non-fleshies. Maybe not being able to share classic films makes us seek out other like-minded folks and in that way it makes us social.

    TCManiac - Thanks for sharing! I'm glad you were able to find solace in classic films via TCM.

  28. It is extremely interesting for me to read this article. Thanx for it. I like such themes and anything that is connected to them. I definitely want to read more on that blog soon.

    Best regards

  29. I'm completely obsessive about movies but there have been times when I was too obsessive. I avoided stuff I didn't want to think about or do by watching classic movies. Now, I try to be a little more balanced. But other classic film fans on the whole are wonderful, generous folks so if you can meet them and make friends, it's awesome.

    Speaking of which, I've added your blog to my blogroll. Cliff from Warren William blog says your tweets are must follow, so if Cliff says it must be true!

  30. I have always loved classic films, at one very low time in my life yes it was an escape from reality. But the past couple years things have vastly improved I don't watch as many movies as I once did. But still enjoy watching movies every once in a while. I don't like the term anti-social, just because one is in a bad place and seeks enjoyment out of films does not make them anti-social. They are just not sure how to cope, and if they find joy in doing something they do it frequently.

  31. Watching old films cannot make a person anti-social. But an anti-social person can have a lot of fun watching old films. I am not anti-social, I simply prefer being alone. Big difference.

  32. Yes and No for me too. It consumes my time because I love it so I'm addicted. Now, it's recessive. I long to hang out with my friends. Not just that, I want to brainwash them with all this classic stuff. :) I think it's different for some people. Some are naturally anti-social and having interest in classic films ease them. Now, I actually realized how outgoing I am especially with people that likes classic films :D

  33. I know I'm late in replying to this, but it's such a brilliant post I just had to share my thoughts!

    I personally think it doesn't make a person anti-social. My school friends aren't classic movie fans, but they totally tolerate my rants and ravings about them, and seem to think I'm 'eccentric' and therefore fun. Yes, I have tried to tell them I'm not eccentric! ;-P

    Also, I find it helps being a classic film fan when faced with meeting a person for the first time! Just put that out there; 'I'm a classic film fan!'; and the stranger soon becomes an acquaintance and wants to know how you got interested in the movies!

    Finally, look how many wonderful friends you make online who share your interests! :-D

    Once again, I want to say this is a wonderful, very thought-provoking post!


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