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Seriously, You'll Like It: A Well-Intentioned Guide to Manipulating Your Spouse

By Brian Byrd | Think Pieces | June 25, 2012 | Comments ()


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To the left of my laptop sit a pair of tickets to an opening weekend IMAX showing of The Dark Knight Rises. One of the very few perks of living where I do - aside from the occasional meth lab explosion that serves both as a brilliant example of acceptable population controls and evidence of sheer unbridled Darwinism - is a gorgeous full-size IMAX theater tucked inside a rather nondescript arts and sciences center. This isn't one of those half-assed IMAX joints that led to Aziz Ansari's manifesto. We're talking a floor-to-ceiling screen so large and bright it'll cauterize your rods and cones 10 minutes into the previews. Couple that with bowel-loosening sound and plush, ass-devouring seats, and you're as close to cinematic heaven as exists outside of an Alamo Drafthouse.

This is, without question, one of the more anticipated pop culture experiences in recent memory. Scores of pear-shaped Bat-fans in hockey pads will line up hours before showtime for that pristine center seat or fourth extra-large Icee (SUCK IT, BLOOMBERG!). I could not be more stoked. My wife, however, would rather clean prison toilets with her bare hands than use the second ticket.

Such is life for a couple on opposite sides of the pop culture spectrum. "Popposites," if you will (actually, this isn't Entertainment Weekly so no, you won't. Dissolve that word in a tub of acid and give its bones to the dog). Mrs. Byrd is a wonderful woman and we share many similar interests. Just not movies. Or television. Or most books. Or music. A Venn diagram of our pop passions resembles a hideous boob job - two circles with a giant gap in the middle, their edges never threatening to touch.

"Wanna watch last night's 'Game of Thrones?'"

"Nope, the six-hour 'Bachelor' finale and 180-minute post-show skankfest are on later. Plus, the guy in your medieval show killed a dog."

This disconnect isn't unique. Almost all my friends find themselves in identical circumstances with their spouses, soulmates or slumpbusters. Sure, lots of couples have some comedy overlap - a few lucky ones even want to see the same movie on a Friday night - but the overwhelming majority seems to operate on different pop culture frequencies. Which is kind of a bummer, really. Entertainment should be a shared experience. Most of us don't finish watching a great movie or a brilliant season finale, shrug and go to bed. Compelling, thought-provoking entertainment stimulates discussion, interaction, comparison and criticism. Like-minded subjects thirsty for intelligent interaction flock to sites like this one to converse about movies, television shows, writing, politics, sports and sex, because the discourse itself accentuates the enjoyment.

But wouldn't it be great if that could happen with the person next to you in bed, too? Well, it can. You just have to be willing to stack the deck a bit. Below is a handy how-to for bringing a significant other into your pop culture fold. Granted, this won't make your partner choose Human Centipede over The Vow, but it should at least help him or her establish a connection to a few of your favorite movies and TV shows. Oh, and ladies? Forget these steps. You come equipped with a very particular set of skills, skills you have acquired through years of puberty. Use those to get what you want instead of all this nonsense.

Plan ahead: Start with the basics. You can't be rifling through channels when she walks in with dinner. A guide on the screen leads to, "Oh, what's on?" That right there is a prelude to compromise. Now you have to find something you both want to watch, which really means you're stuck with what she wants to watch, which means you're going to have to pour bleach in your eyes instead of enjoying a delicious grilled chicken dinner. It's the classic false compromise. Don't believe me? Ask a Congressman. They've mastered the art. One will say something crazy like "I think a giant picture of my dick engraved into the surface of the moon would reduce debt and create jobs." Even when the other side says, "No, that's bonkers," the compromise is still half a dick on the moon (it would probably have to be a stubby choad, for aesthetic reasons. Can't very well have half a dick up there every night, you know? Just looks stupid).

The midpoint between crazy and rational still includes a lot of crazy. Know what you want to watch and lock it in before she sits down. Chances are she'll at least give it an honest look before the first commercial break. Get her hooked and you're home free.

Reframe the central theme: OK, so you were sloppy and didn't find something to watch ahead of time, but you just can't stomach another episode of "Ice Loves Coco." No problem. Select a great movie or TV show she's never seen. When the inevitable "What's this about?" question arrives, tailor your answer to focus only on themes she finds appealing.

My wife has a sociology degree. Dramas dealing with troubled kids, family dynamics, psychology, complex relationships and strong-willed women are right in her wheelhouse. Therefore, "The Wire" doesn't center on the inner workings of the drug trade. It's a multifaceted mediation on the disintegration of public institutions, social programs, and various professions as viewed through the citizens of a socioeconomically diverse American city (actually, that's not really disingenuous). "Deadwood" isn't about a South Dakota town full of conniving, gun-slinging murderers. It's a contemplative look at the struggles of 19th century Americans in an era of great upheaval; the series' layered portrayal of independent women is a particular strength. Also, Olyphant.

Remember, this is about breaking down preconceived notions and creating interest. The movie or show still has to do the heavy lifting. So...

Choose wisely: No matter how much you red-pen the synopsis, some forms of art are beyond spin. Learn what those are and remove them from the list of candidates. Extreme violence is a no-no in my household, so asking her to take part in a "Band of Brothers" marathon is just a waste of ammo. Not only will she hate it, but everything I recommend in the future will conjure images of exploding European towns and dying teenagers. It's not worth poisoning the well for a minor victory.

Trickier are those on-the-fence programs that will appeal to her interests but contain enough grisly violence or graphic sex to sabotage the whole endeavor before there's a chance to set the hook. I sold "Justified" on originality and Olyphant; now it's one of her favorite shows, and allowances are made for the occasional bursts of violence and sporadic disarmament. Less successful was her "Game of Thrones" indoctrination. Kid shoved out the window after witnessing twincest? Fine. Two beheadings in the first 10 minutes? Still with it. Then the charming husband from "Missing" disemboweled the nice girl's adorable puppy, and the next thing I know she's walking up the stairs. Ball game. Know when to roll the dice and when to walk away.

Solicit favorable reviews: The Internet bubble can be opaque and impermeable. It's easy to forget that a large majority of the country doesn't frequent blogs, message boards and comment sections on a daily basis. To your significant other, rotten tomatoes are probably just something you need to clean out of the fridge. Trusted word-of-mouth is still the best form of advocacy. Unfortunately, if your spouse is anything like mine, the words coming out of your mouth have all the credibility of Bill Clinton swearing to tell the truth with his hand on a stack of James Frey memoirs.

"Did you lock the door?"
"Yes."
/goes and checks door

But a girlfriend? Her word is bond. Use that. For instance, an acquaintance who once mentioned "Yeah, I heard [insert movie or show] was interesting" becomes "Your best friend told me [insert movie or show] spoke to her soul in ways unknown to most humans and will not even look at you until you watch it." Some 400-page vibrator called "50 Shades of Grey" sits on every nightstand in the country because women trust the advice of their social circles. Why not work it to your advantage for once?

If you think manipulation and this blueprint share similar DNA, you're right relax. My heart is in the right place. Like any cultural journey, this is about expanding the palate and reaching outside comfort zones. I want my wife to give movies and shows a chance not because I hope to change who she is or force my passions on her, but because she'll truly enjoy most of them. The ending to Usual Suspects, the brilliant character development of "Breaking Bad," The Dark Knight's magnificent set pieces - these all become a bit more pleasant when there's room for two. You may not believe there's much to like about a guy in a rubber suit kicking ass on an eight story screen. But give it a shot. After all, those IMAX tickets were expensive.

Brian Byrd hides his copy of "50 Shades" inside a Penthouse to avoid embarrassment. You can email him here or follow him on Twitter.



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Comments Are Welcome, Douches Are Not


  • CrabbyAbby

    So guys like gritty and fantasy and sci-fi, but girlies just like dating shows. So girlies need to be tricked. But girlies don't have to trick boys because BOOBIEEEZZZ.

    Seriously, Pajiba? You're letting Adam Corolla ghost-write posts now?

  • monkeysparkets

    It also can't hurt to occasionally try to find something that she likes and attempt to watch it with an open mind. Just sayin'.

  • My wife doesn't like many of the shows and movies I want to watch, but she loves Fletch, which makes her pretty fucking awesome.

  • branded_redux

    Did no one else read this as light satire based around an actual want to get a spouse to enjoy the same movies/TV/entertainment? Poking fun at stereotypes but still acknowledging that anecdotally some may still apply simply based on personal tastes?

  • chanohack

    I'm sick of dudes assuming that I get whatever I want because of my "skill set." No amount of boobies (or lack thereof) will convince my boyfriend to do anything he doesn't like, including watch the Muppets, Harry Potter, Parks and Rec... or Star Wars, take that, stereotyper. It's insulting to imply that as a woman, of COURSE I withhold sex to get my way.

    And everyone knows that tomatoes don't belong in the fridge, GAWD.

  • AudioSuede

    Well, I'll defend the author a bit, as, while my situation is not the same as his, I've been in this situation before, and it can be a difficult process. It's tough not being able to share something you love with your partner because they're close-minded. And, while the women of Pajiba are obviously more informed than some others, this is a legitimate source of strife in many households. This is an amusing piece that rings true. It's not anti-female; it's a personal narrative with a list element.

  • superasente

    I'm with Byrd.I agree that it is a dance trying to find a way to introduce certain bits of pop culture to the wife. To get her to watch Monty Python I had to remind her that Alton Brown loves them. To get her to watch Chronicle, I had to swear up and down it wasn't a superhero movie. And on the other side of the coin, it took her years to get me to agree to watch Stargate SG1. And now I love it.

    It's not about just learning to enjoy things on your own. We're all adults. We all learned how to do that a long time ago. It's about wanting to share that enjoyment with someone you love. Sometimes you have to break down those preconceived notions to make it there.

  • Mrs. Julien

    You had to "get her" to watch Monty Python. Is that generational? In my day, if the object of your affection didn't get the first reference you through at them it was game over.

  • Mrs. Julien

    Crap! How do I edit? Do I have to be registered? Is this your problem really?

  • Erin Elizabeth Long

    I know he's making generalizations based on his own relationships, but seriously: I don't have a dick, but I like Deadwood. One isn't a prerequisite for the other.

  • dahlia6

    Most of the time, this kind of thing pisses me off, but really, I just want to pat the author's head, give him a cookie and some milk, and send him off to bed. Really, dudes, its not that hard. We'll tell you what we like, respect our boundaries, and we'll like you all the better for it. Maybe even enough to get our boobs involved, which is a win/win for all of us.

    Also, Ice Loves Coco is the shit, and I defy anyone to disagree with me.

  • King DudeBro

    Ok, so you give him milk and cookies and a pat on the head, and then you say Ice Loves Coco is the shit?

    YOU'RE ADORABLE.

    **head pat**

  • ponyofponies

    Media taste is a lens that tempers our world view. If you and your lover cannot see eye to eye on media, your flavor of life is fundamentally different.

    And stuff.

  • ponyofponies

    My husbandfriend and I watch all the movies and play the most same games. In fact most couples I know watch all the same things and play all the same games.

    Even if our tastes don't match up, we tend to discuss the media, which is just as generally awesome.

    Why does this article start with an assumption that woman like lesser/trashy/reality media?

  • Ronniedobbs

    Holy shit, I feel bad for dudes who date/are married to women who like "The Bachelor", et al. Subtle manipulation is a part of every relationship, but who the hell wants to waste it on the lack of pop cultural common ground? I'm more of a geek than my boyfriend (clearly something he doesn't fully appreciate). And there are plenty of us geeky ladies out there, gents, so don't bemoan not having locked one down. Now excuse me while I go watch Arrested Development season 2 for the fifth time.

  • Ed

    My wife recently downloaded some horrible shit called "Melissa and Joey" on her friend's recommendation. She watched one or two episodes and declared it bad. Next day I walk in and she's watching the next episode! "I thought you said this was shit?" I said. "It is, but I want SOMETHING to watch!" she cried. "You scrolled RIGHT PAST Deadwood, Justified, Black Books, Arrested Development to get to that!" I replied. Then she dropped that famous bomb:

    "I don't want to have to THINK about it! I just want to turn my brain off and watch something!"

    I can't... I just... No words.

  • valerie

    Newsflash: she probably likes watching a who's the boss re-do with the girl from Clarissa Explains it All and the bro from Blossom. It's fun and light and she's likely embarrassed to admit she enjoys it. Just let her have it...

  • Ash

    "I don't want to have to THINK about it! I just want to turn my brain off and watch something!".
    haha i've heard this one so many times. IMO, there's a fine line between 'turning brains off' and turning them into sludge never to be used again.

  • celery

    Ok, I'm not going to lie, I skipped bits of this article. I guess I deserve to get Internet-yelled-at if I missed out on relevant passages, but really? Really? There are just too many generalizations about girlfriends/women here for me. this article is not the best flavor of pajiba.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Nah, I think he's putting general manipulation in the context of his specific wife.

  • i'm the luckiest guy in the world - engaged to a woman who owns her own business, is beautiful enough to actually have modeled in LA, and loves action and other "guy" movies more than i do. damn, i AM lucky.

  • Sparkles McUnicorn

    I have the perfect situation, honestly. I adore shoot 'em up movies (give me Vin Diesel, Statham, and some shit blowing up and I'm thrilled) but I sometimes, I just want to watch a Spunky Heroine Find Love. I "trade" a shoot 'em up for a movie of my choice, and while admittedly sometimes I just pick another violencefest, I did get my man to see the Stephanie Plum movie with me.

    ...Don't judge me, I loved the books.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    I thought that was a surprisingly good movie and I'm more the apocalyptic virus/zombie movie kinda gal. It didn't hurt that they cast some lovely men in that movie as her "love" interests.

  • AngelenoEwok

    I used to offer up an agnostic prayer to the shrine of action figures in our apartment -- thanking y'know, whoever, for giving my husband and me a shared value system so that were rarely disagree on politics and social issues. After reading this and the comments though, I'm truly thankful that we are *mostly* on the same pop culture page as well. I'm willing to listen to a million Pardon The Interruption episodes while making dinner
    because he's willing to bemusedly sit through Jane Eyre or Dirty Dancing
    when I request it. But we both wholeheartedly embrace Star Wars, Star Trek, Tarantino movies, Degrassi, pretty much most things HBO puts on the air...

    I might have to embrace polyamory solely for TV watching purposes if it were otherwise.

  • Pookie

    Dude, the last time my old lady and I went to the movies was fifteen years ago. We were dating and I was trying to get in her pants. Fast forward fifteen years later, we're married and I'm not interested in taking her to the movies. We don't like the same things, and that's life. We both know what the other likes and dislikes are, why try to go against it? Stop being a goddamn pussy and go see Dark Knight by yourself.

  • valerie

    Agreed. And maybe the reason she's dreading to see the Dark Knight Rises with you is because your making her wait hours for a midnight showing in an IMAX theater. Either go with a friend or take her on an off night where she won't be surrounded by super fans. Speaking as someone who's former boyfriend tried to make them dress up for the Matrix Reloaded premiere...it's not cute when you have to not only go to a movie you aren't interested in but go and act like a superfan.

  • beartato

    Jesus Christ. Was this post compiled from a rejected Cosmo article and some shitty '90s stand up?
    If your partner does not want to go see a movie, go see it yourself. You're sitting in the dark, not talking. You really need company?

  • Slash

    "The Dark Knight Rises" is a porno title. Or should be. In a double bill with "Star Whores."

  • Since I watch TV about a million times more than my husband, I'm usually the one picking the shows. Most of the time he just ignores what's on the TV as he sits on the couch with his computer. We've been married two years and I know his modes with things I watch.

    He ignores the cheesy TV shows, the telenovelas, the romantic, slow movies. He'll put on his headphones for horrible reality shows, or leave the room entirely. He'll stay for comedies--I've managed to get him to not only watch but LOVE "King of the Hill", "Scrubs", "Arrested Development" and "Parks and Recreation". And then he'll ask me to play "Game of Thrones" and superhero movies.

    When it's Movie Night we compromise. Usually for something war or action related.

  • competitivenonfiction

    Oh! and if you're looking for a good starter to get your wife/partner/dog to trust your taste, go for the Good Wife. I am still amazed at the amount of common ground that show provides. It's fantastic.

  • Guest

    ...

  • competitivenonfiction

    My husband and I are generally on the same page (pun intended), but nothing will quite make me fly into a fury like him suddenly saying "I have to read [enter book I've been recommending for a year] because [enter buddy's name] said it was awesome." I think I threw Game of Thrones at him last time. So as much as I've been trying to convince him that he'd like The Beach - don't judge, give it a chance - or World War Z, I can't use that trick.

    Our biggest problem is our tendency to start joking mocking whatever show we're watching. I'm sure our neighbours became convinced we were a violent Italian couple during our Sopranos marathon. Yelling "Look what you did!" in a bad fake accent every time one of you does something stupid will not endear you to anyone sharing your walls.

  • Slash

    I think the lesson I've drawn from this is that most women watch shitty TV and movies. I kinda already knew that but to see it verified by so many others is kind of depressing.

  • Based on my relationship, and what I've observed from others, I think gender tends to only really dictate your taste in the guilty pleasures of entertainment, or what you like if you have ridiculousness poor taste.

    Very few women get the appeal of a movie like "the Expendables" or more importantly, the 80's movies that inspired it. My friends and I love these movies, but we can recognize that they are objectively ridiculous and mostly enjoy them for the over the top cheese. However, for some men the entire point of any movie is the explosions, and they generally won't remember the plot or the names of any characters.

    On the other side of the coin, lots of women enjoy trashy reality tv shows like Jersey Shore because they find the antics of pathetic and terrible people amusing. On the other hand, some women actually care about the people on these shows and are emotionally effected by the twists and turns of the melodrama without a hint of self awareness.

    Most intelligent men and women will find a lot of common ground and should be willing to trust their partner enough to take a chance on a movie or show at their spouse's recommendation, even if it is from a genre that they don't usually care for. For instance, last night we watched a movie that my wife recommended, and despite my aversion to formulaic rom-coms with titles like "Crazy, Stupid, Love", I fucking loved it. Meanwhile, my wife, who is somewhat adverse to nerd culture, heartily agrees that Game of Thrones is the best shit ever.

    As for the other people, I hesitate to label them idiots, since a lot of smart people don't place much value/dedicate much thought to entertainment (and I really can't argue with that). I guess I'll just say that they like the things that idiots like, and leave it at that.

  • John G.

    Then again, I'm a man, and I don't get The Expendables, and I work with lots of braindead guys who love The Jersey Shore. Maybe these ideas people have about what men like versus what women like are just not true.

  • Wednesday

    Most *people* watch shitty TV and movies. See, the continued success of Adam Sandler and the fact that The Real World will probably never be cancelled.

  • competitivenonfiction

    This is depressing. I will admit that I know more women who watch reality tv and crime procedurals than anything I'd consider great, but (and this is a huge but), I've also noted that women tend to have more varied tastes and tend to be a bit more willing to try new things, especially if pressured. So more of the women I know will watch both reality TV and Community or GoT than just one or the other.

  • i feel your pain with the game of thrones thing. My wife watched the first season with me, but after they started killing babies in the first ep of season 2, she now refuses to watch it again.

  • PyD

    can't really see the point of a relationship with someone who can't / won't share enjoyment of types of stories
    you're going to share the shitty things in life in a long term relationship if you can't share the great things what's the point?

  • Fabius_Maximus

    I agree. There should be at least a partial match in the stuff you both like. OTOH, there is such thing as a deal-breaker.

    This whole thing reminds me of a friend I went out with once. Things were going rather well, if pretty nervously, in my eyes. Then something happened I wasn't informed of and she called the whole thing off (not that there ever was a 'thing').
    She regularly claims that our taste in movies wouldn't match whenever the issue comes up. Recently, she told me that she liked the second Ghost Rider movie.

    I'm suddenly not sure anymore what I ever saw in her.

  • Miss Laaw-yuhr

    I never really realized this was a problem. Seriously. The biggest fight I have with my significant other is that he watches the programs/movies before I do. The house echoes with "No, you cannot watch GOT/MadMen/Louis/etc. without meeeeeeeeeeeeee! My work schedule is such that I have to work late many weeknights and he often sneaks out to the theater for sneak previews, the traitor!
    I guess this is just what happens when geeks find each other, but I think someone still needs to explain to him how very lucky he is.

  • ERM

    You shouldn't give dogs any bones that have been soaked in acid.

    The More You Know.

  • John G.

    You shouldn't give dogs bones.

  • Peezy

    If your wife doesn't want to see Dark Knight Rises, I'd say a divorce is more reasonable than anything mentioned in this post.

  • lowercase_ryan

    Did you really just divulge all of your tricks? No one is that self-less. You're either holding out or in search of martyrdom.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    This works reverse, too. That's how I suckered a man into Food Network & Top model.

    Btw, that "stubby choad" bit made my Monday.

  • fribbley

    This will sound almost ridiculous, but I'm currently trying to find a way to frame Star Wars in a way that makes my wife interested in seeing it. She "doesn't like science fiction."

    Any thoughts?

  • BiblioGlow

    Describe it as being mainly about the characters and the little family they make for each other, and call it an adventure movie or hero's journey, if she's a lit nerd. Tell her they arm the princess and she kicks serious ass. A lot.
    Basically, just describe it as awesome and promise her she'll like it, because she probably will. Your enthusiasm will sell it, and it's a genuinely good, enjoyable series.
    Trump card: Tell her you'll dress as Han Solo for Halloween (This has the added bonus of her dressing as Princess Leia, and you can begin your campaign for slave Leia over bun head Leia ASAP).

  • Gina

    Reciprocity: You watch Star Wars with me, I'll watch "Sex in the City" with you.

  • Wednesday

    It's a classic good versus evil movie. The sci-fi is only window-dressing.

    And whatever you do, stop after the original trilogy or she'll never trust you again.

  • fribbley

    Oh, I already told her I only want her to see the three originals. "It's one story in three movies," I said.

  • competitivenonfiction

    The tension between Hans Solo and Princess Leia is awesome and holds its own against the tension in even the best romantic comedies. Also remind her that a lot of the books she likes are probably speculative fiction, which is really just a hop away from science fiction (e.g. Time Traveler's Wife, Never Let Me Go etc.). Obviously, I'm making some assumptions about her taste, but I'm willing to bet she liked Time Traveler's Wife, because everyone does. Another option is to trade Star Wars for something she's been asking you to watch. I'd imagine for the shared experience of it, you can challenge yourself to watching something you'd normally avoid? Whatever you do, do not use the term "Space Opera."

  • fribbley

    I tried to explain that some science fiction is more realistic than most romantic comedies. It didn't immediately sway her.

  • competitivenonfiction

    Damn. Maybe try the romance angle rather than realism? - though that might be what you meant?

  • fribbley

    That's a better idea, certainly.

  • monica

    As a lady, I was pulled in by the promise of critters like the ewoks, jawas, wookies... never underestimate how cute she might find all the nonsense creatures running around the Star Wars world. That bar scene is hilarious to everybody, not just guys.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Go all Joseph Campbell on Star Wars.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Or just explain there isn't any actual science in Star Wars.

  • fribbley

    I think she has an aversion to weird creatures and laserguns.

  • Miss Laaw-yuhr

    You could point out it's such a cultural touchstone that most people have seen it, even if they don't care for it. There are so many references to it in popular cultural that seeing it is essentially "a given".
    Or you could just make cool little lazer sounds with your mouth while you act like your hands are spaceships. Pwew-pwew! Pwew-pwew!

  • fribbley

    I suspect a mixture of these two methods might get me where I need to be!

  • Slash

    RE "Couple that with bowel-loosening sound and plush, ass-devouring seats"

    Best reason to visit an IMAX theater or worst reason?

    I say "worst": I don't really want my ass devoured at a theater. Cradled lovingly, yes. Devoured, no. And I don't think I have to address the obvious downsides of anything that loosens bowels in a public place.

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