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JOEL STEIN | [Love Your Work]

Hey you DVD twits: Pause, review, get a life

October 09, 2005|JOEL STEIN

FINALLY, YOU realized how embarrassing it is. That your shelves and shelves of DVDs are the most expensive way you could possibly tell the world that you're a dork, other than collecting enough Hummel figurines to spell out the words "I'm a dork" on the sidewalk.

After conning people for years, studios are reporting lower than expected earnings this year because DVD sales are down. The main reason is because owning DVDs is incredibly stupid. And people start to get wise just about the time they fill a second wall with pure stupid.

I know. You're going to tell me that you own every DVD you have because you love to watch those films over and over. Right. You're spending Saturdays savoring the nuances of shoving the jockstrap on the Asian kid's head in "Revenge of the Nerds" for the fourth time. Even if that were true, at $20, you'd have to watch "Revenge of the Nerds" five times to make it more economical than renting it. If you watch any movie more than four times when you're more than 6 years old, you've either got Alzheimer's or are too embarrassed to buy new porn.

No, you have a DVD collection for the same reason suburban moms have wicker baskets, decorative blue cobalt and those neat bathroom collections of serotonin reuptake inhibitors. To have something to talk about. To brag. To establish your identity. DVDs have become the new books.

No one puts up a bookshelf because they believe that someday they'll have to quickly look something up. That's an awful lot of living room space to devote to the possibility that someday you're going to get in an argument with your spouse about whether the ending of "The Tempest" was stolen from Ovid. If you wanted to eat up wall space on argument avoiders, you'd just put up a huge wipe-board to record how many times a week you've had sex.

People claim they have bookshelves because at some point in their lives they're going to sit in a big red leather chair, drink port and reread the classics. Yeah. That explains all those brilliant old people I run into all the time. Those are the people we all agreed can't even handle investing their own Social Security money.

The real reason that we have bookcases is to immediately let guests know that we're smarter than them. But in a post-literate culture, people had to turn to DVDs in order to communicate to their dates that they're sexually adventurous in a highbrow way without having to say, "I'm sexually adventurous in a highbrow way."

Because that can no longer be accomplished with a well-placed copy of "Tropic of Capricorn," people have to leave out a DVD of "Henry & June." Your manliness might not be noticed with a first edition "A Farewell to Arms," but it won't be missed with a Rambo boxed set. Conveniently, a DVD of "Under the Tuscan Sun" gets across the same thing as a hard copy of "Under the Tuscan Sun." Namely, run.

The worst part is that, because they've become the lazy person's gift, I have a small shelf of DVDs. And for some weird reason, everyone is gifting me like they're my grandmother: "Oh, Joel was into 'ALF' and the Who when he was 13, so I better load him up with those DVDs."

There's not enough marijuana in the world to get me to sit down to a night of Ann-Margret writhing in baked beans and a midget in an aardvark costume yelling "No problem!"

People are willing to waste an awful lot of money to establish their identity. But while books are cheap, DVDs are cutting into people's budgets for actual entertainment. As, it seems from recent circulation numbers, are their L.A. Times subscriptions.

I know it's American to try to own everything you can, but trying to materialize experiences is as sad as putting butterflies under glass. Just because you thought a moment was beautiful doesn't mean you have to have to pay to lock it up in your house. That's the kind of thinking that caused problems for the Sultan of Brunei's brother.

So, do us all a favor and sell your DVDs on EBay while you can, before movies are digital files you can pull up anytime. You'll still be able to see the butter scene from "Last Tango in Paris" anytime you need to feel OK about your own issues. You just won't need to share that with me.

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