Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve started some fierce conversations (and ruffled a few feathers) with our features on books and bands that send up red flags among the dating population of Flavorpill’s staff, writers, and readers. With movies, it can get a bit more complicated — after all, a movie is a short commitment, so we can all be forgiven for seeing (and liking) some dogs, or for taking in films that dabble in disturbing subject matter. Where it gets worrisome is when you’re at the potential someone-special’s place, glancing over their DVD shelf, and a title jumps out that you realize they not only paid good money for, but wanted to keep around for repeat viewings. Thus, with the help of readers and colleagues (names kept anonymous to protect, well, everyone), here are some of the movies that you might want to clear from your shelves and queues if you’re heading out into the dating pool. Check them out after the jump, and add your own horror stories in the comments.
I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell
One of our polling subjects opined, “any of the ’80s frat boy movies, like Porky’s, Revenge of the Nerds, etc.” But frankly, those films are more forgivable (what with the always-tricky nostalgia factor) than this 2009 nightmare of snarky misogyny, which commits the twin atrocities of a) putting money in the pocket of vile, hateful Tucker Max (whose “book” inspired it), and b) causing us to forever associate poor Matt Czuchry — who we wish we still thought of as Logan on Gilmore Girls — with said vile, hateful Max. Ladies, if he’s got this swill on his shelf (or any of Mr. Max’s books, for that matter), fleeeeeeeeee.
Sex and the City 2
This writer has yet to formulate an explanation for his indifference to Sex and the City that was more succinct from this statement from Chuck Klosterman about attempting to watch it: “Every time I tried, all I saw were four peculiar-looking women pretending to talk like gay guys.” But hey, people like it, it’s fluff, doesn’t do anybody any harm, etc. Then it went to the movies, and sure, okay, you wanna catch up, see what everyone’s up to… What we’re working our way around to is that owning the show is forgivable, and even the first film, well, there’s worse things than the first film, but owning a copy of Sex and the City 2 — the one with all the ugly Americanism and the crass materialism and gay stereotypes and unconvincing relationships and a character actually saying, not just in the movie but in the trailer, “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore!” — is akin to a strong case of typhoid, dating-wise.
The Saw films
A female colleague notes, “Being into really hardcore horror or torture porn movies is a total deal breaker (Saw 4928 fans, I’m looking at you). I’m just not sure I want to date, let alone be alone in a room with, someone who would pay to watch people be tortured. Even if the good guys win in the end.”
I Spit on Your Grave
This one’s a bit of a follow-up to the Saw pictures, running along the same lines: the notoriously sleazy, skin-crawlingly grubby 1978 film in which a woman is gang-raped and left for dead by five men, whom she then hunts down one by one. (They pretty much show you the whole movie in the trailer above, minus all the rape.) Roger Ebert’s famed zero-star review — seriously, just read the whole thing — branded it “a vile bag of garbage” that left him feeling “unclean, ashamed, and depressed”; and as he points out, there’s something in it to mortify absolutely everyone. If you see it on a guy’s shelf, it means he digs a movie with something like a half hour of rape scenes. If you see it on a girl’s shelf, it means she digs a movie with a graphic castration and a disemboweling. Either way, head for the exit. Take the window, if necessary.
The Left Behind films
Hey, look, nothing against the devout. Some of my best friends are Christians, etc. But bear in mind that this trilogy concerns the rapture, where all of the true believers are taken up to heaven, leaving all us sinners behind on the shattered and chaotic planet. So the audience for that kind of story is fun on a date, right? (Bonus: humorless homophobe and creationist Kirk Cameron stars!)
The Twilight films
“I have one of them,” a colleague explains carefully, “because for some reason, my fiancé’s mom sent us a DVD for Valentine’s Day one year. Look, that’s weird. But buying and proudly owning every film in the series is way weirder.”
Our contention that the books of Chuck Palahniuk are a red flag got lots of fans’ dander up, but one female writer explains, “Dudes who are obsessive about movies of either the Fight Club or the Garden State variety will almost certainly have preexisting issues that complicate their relationships with women.” With Fight Club, those issues are pretty easy to nail down. With the latter…
Garden State, Elizabethtown, (500) Days of Summer
…let’s just say that the men who’ve succumbed to the fanciful notion of the Manic Pixie Dreamgirl (recently deconstructed in Ruby Sparks and, even more skillfully, on last week’s Louie) might be difficult to date when they discover that a) the vast majority of women aren’t actually like those girls, and b) those who are would either be exhausting for more than two hours, or would require heavy medication.
27 Dresses, The Ugly Truth, New Year’s Eve
In previous years, it might have been Meg Ryan or Julia Roberts movies, but these days, Katherine Heigl is the flavor of the month, the rom-com queen whose witless, flaccid pictures do little more than perpetuate tiresome, outdated gender stereotypes. If a guy sees one on his perpetual paramour’s shelf, that means he’ll have to go with her to see one in the theater one day, and that’s a strong argument for nipping that flirtation in the bud.
The Notebook, Drive, The Ides of March
We like the work of Mr. Ryan Gosling, a terrific actor with (mostly) good taste in projects. But he’s also painfully easy on the eyes, which causes one of our male writers to stay away from “films that lead to your date spending the rest of the subsequent dinner/drink enthusing about how hot Ryan Gosling is.”
The Passion of the Christ, Apocalypto
Mel Gibson’s predilection for graphic, detailed violence in his directorial efforts made us a little woozy even before we knew, well, the truth about Mel. But these days, in the words of one contributor, “any person who enjoys Mel Gibson movies without the squeamishness that comes along with that, after his cliché-inspired anti-Semitic diatribes, should probably get nixed.”
Jack and Jill, Grown-Ups, Click
There’s nothing alarming about someone with a couple of Adam Sandler movies knocking around — few are immune from the dopey charms of early efforts like Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, or The Wedding Singer, and there’s no apology or “guilty pleasure’ couching necessary when it comes to the genuinely good films he’s made for other filmmakers, like Punch Drunk Love and Funny People. But as we’ve noted before, Sandler’s not even trying anymore, and anyone who has shelled out for his lazy, late-period shitshows is suspect. (Even worse: those who own the Sander-less efforts of his Happy Madison company, true toxic waste like Bucky Larson: Born to Be A Star and Grandma’s Boy.)
Happiness, Life During Wartime
“From personal experience,” writes a friend, “I try to steer away from Todd Solondz fans.” Good point: Happiness, while brilliant, is also a film whose protagonists are a pedophile and an obscene phone caller, so anyone wanting to relive that magic at the click of an eject button should probably be backed away from, slowly. (The pseudo-sequel Life During Wartime is also just uninspired and kind of terrible, but let’s not start disqualifying movies solely on that basis, or we’ll be here all day.)
V for Vendetta
We like James McTeigue’s 2005 action/thriller as much as, well, the next person who liked James McTeigue’s 2005 action/thriller, but there is a certain worrisome self-seriousness about those who are obsessed with it. And as our nominating co-worker noted, “Double undateable points if you own a Guy Fawkes mask (sorry, Anonymous).”
Perhaps our favorite response to this query follows, in its entirety: “As a huge fan of Magnolia: Magnolia.”
Those are the warning signs we gathered up — what are yours? (Feel free to speak from experience.)