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