Friday, March 11, 2011

Owning DVDs

Quoth commenter Sheldon:

I really don't get those people that are actually buying those movies. For what, I mean, how many times can you actually watch a movie more than once, and then follow ups of those movies a few times more? I just don't get it. If you want to watch it again some years or months later, why not just rent it again? This has been troubling me for some time.
This comment has just caused three Hollywood moguls to re-soil their pants, or one to soil his pants three times, but I won't dwell on that. (For now. Except to say they should really get that checked out by a doctor.) Instead I want to say a few words in defense of owning DVDs*, which is something I do.

First, I only buy DVDs that I'm reasonably sure I'll re-watch many, many times, so it could be that I am not even talking about the same kind of DVD-buying as commenter Sheldon. If he is talking about the kind of DVD-buying that most becalms the bowels of Hollywood moguls -- the kind where people just walk through the DVD aisle at Costington's** and pile several of the new-release DVDs they recognize from television advertisements -- then I quite agree with him. That sort of DVD-buying is ridiculous. I question whether very many people engage in it, even in the best of times, but I sometimes get the impression that Hollywood moguls are basing a substantial business model on it.

I could, of course, just rent -- or download, or stream, or otherwise ascertain -- my favorite films and tee-vee programs when I feel the urge to re-watch them, but there's something attractive in the idea of owning the tangible artifact, owning it outright, with a clear conscience that I have it fairly, legally, and as permanently as we ever own anything. I can pick it up, hold it, look it over, play it, or let it gather a little more dust according to my own schedule and inclinations -- I can, in some small way, integrate this work of art I love into the flow of my life, and as I have commented with respect to books and probably music CDs also, I can see it on the shelf and call to mind something I value in the world and in my best ideas of myself. (I never promised this wouldn't get loopy.)

Of course, soon enough I won't be gainfully employed, and I don't picture keeping many DVDs in the final shopping cart with which I trundle off to my new life on the sidewalks, back alleys, side streets, parking lots, and city parks. I expect I'll barter away my copies of There Will Be Blood, The Proposition, Citizen Kane, and The Jerk only in the most severe desperation. Same goes for No Country for Old Men, L'Avventura, Stepbrothers, The Dark Knight, Better Off Dead, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, The Godfather trilogy, Mad Men seasons 1-n, Spinal Tap, Gangs of New York, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Wire, Cosmos, Bergman's "faith" Trilogy, Raising Arizona, the Olivier Shakespeare box set, Branagh's Hamlet, Fargo, Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds, the special-edition Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Star Wars trilogy, Family Guy volumes 1-n, American Dad volumes 1-n, Futurama volumes 1-n, The Simpsons seasons 2-n ... ah, dammit, I am going to need a second and third shopping cart.

* I am using DVD as shorthand for the DVD format, the blu-ray format, and the emerging 3-D format. DVD is a tidy, succinct initialism; whereas I would prefer to write, see, speak, or think the term "blu-ray" as little as possible because it is clunky and, well, retarded.

** Thank you, The Simpsons.


The Duchess of Cookies said...

As the owner of extensive DVD, CD, and Book collections, I must say, I couldn't agree with you more!

Sheldon said...

Post spawner strikes again!

And I did that! I really made some Hollywood mogul soil his pants! Cool! Will try to do more of that.

Well to each his own my friend! I think I own 3 or 4 DVD myself when I bought Michael Moore's F-911 in the grocery store check out and other titles at garage sale.

Some bearded guy came up with a concept "commodity fetishism" which in some way may explain our joy in general about owning things. In this case those DVDs may be tangible symbol of the social relationship you have with the artists and producers of those works of art?

Dale said...

DC, yep! It's true of books, CDs, DVDs, even more.

Sheldon, yes the bearded man did mention this a time or two. I would say the idea of 'commodity fetishism' gets it pretty right in my case; only I would qualify that by wondering whether there's truly something unique to capitalism going on there. I strongly suspect people will tend to invest material things -- especially man-made ones -- with emotional, personal, social (etc.) qualities whether or not they're participating in a capitalist system. Consumer capitalism might be nothing more than a very elaborate and formalized cultivation of that tendency. (This is not an excuse for either commodity fetishism nor capitalism, just an observation.)

But yes, to the heart of it: I do not deny that there's a strong element of mystification here. Part of how we reconcile ourselves to the weirdness of our current-day social relations is to forge relationships with formations of silicone, plastic, and paper.

I can see that at work in my own head -- for example, I do not truly know this Neko Case person, but I can feel connected to her and what I admire in her if I hold tangible artifacts that she created. (Which involves, for starters, the rather fanciful idea that she is in fact connected to the CDs I've purchased. In fact I'm pretty sure she doesn't stamp out the individual CDs, but leaves that task to a manufacturer. She herself probably doesn't even know a thing about the manufacturer -- it's up to distributors and record labels and assorted blabbety blab blabs behind the scenes. The thing I hold on my shelf is, on some essential level, as foreign to her as it is to me.)

Still, it's possible to look past all that rather suspiciously easily. I am so deep in it that I have to try pretty hard to perceive the weirdness. Ideology at work!