Friday, April 29, 2016

Classic Film Fans Defy Stereotypes

Society has a tendency to stereotype various groups of people, including the various fandoms that exist. Despite the prevalence of such, there is generally never any truth to these stereotypes. Not all Star Trek fans are nerds. Not all cat lovers are lonely spinsters. This is no less true of classic film buffs. Various stereotypes exist about classic film fans and pretty much none of them are true.

Indeed, perhaps the most common stereotype for classic film fans is that all of us are older folks. Indeed, even though I am an older member of Generation X, people are sometimes surprised that I am a fan of classic films. Strangely enough, they think I am too young to care about Humphrey Bogart or Hedy Lamarr! The fact is that there are a good number of younger people who love classic films. In fact, LA Weekly published an article just this week on why young people love the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival. A number of my friends and fellow classic film fans were mentioned in the article. Now most of my friends mentioned in the article I would consider part of Generation Y, but I even know quite a few Millennials (people 24 and under) who also love classic films. The fact is a number of my classic film friends are considerably younger than I am. As prevalent as the idea is that most classic film fans are over 70, it isn't true at all.

Beyond the stereotype that all classic film buffs are over 70, there also exists the stereotype that all of us are Northern European in descent (or "white" in common parlance). This doesn't hold true any more than the stereotype that all classic film fans tend to be older. I am friends with classic film fans who are black, Hispanic, East Asian in descent, South Asian in descent, and a good number of other ethnicities as well. Frank Capra once described cinema as a "universal language" and I have no reason to doubt him given my experience. Film appeals to people of many different ethnicities, backgrounds, and ages.

Yet another stereotype about classic film buffs is that all of us are focused on the Studio Era or the Golden Age of Hollywood (roughly the Thirties through the Fifties). This doesn't hold true either. I have many friends who prefer the Silent Era to the Studio Era. I have yet other friends who prefer films made in the Seventies. I have still other friends who prefer films made places well beyond Hollywood. My favourite place and era for film is actually Britain in the Fifties and Sixties, although I love the films from the Golden Age of Hollywood as well.

Just as there are stereotypes about classic film fans in general, there are also stereotypes about what sorts of classic films appeal to certain groups of people. Among the most common of these stereotypes is that women generally don't like Westerns. Just as all classic film fans aren't over 70, not all Western fans are men. In fact, I know as many female Western fans as I do male Western fans. Perhaps the biggest John Wayne fan I know is a woman.

Just as it is assumed that women don't like Westerns, it is often assumed that men (at least heterosexual men) don't like musicals. Again this doesn't hold true. Musicals number among my favourite classic film genres and I know several other straight men who love them as well. Aside from Westerns it was quite possibly my father's favourite genre. He was the person who convinced me to watch My Fair Lady and in doing so not only introduced me to musicals, but Audrey Hepburn as well!

There are probably yet other stereotypes about classic film buffs out there, but these are the ones I have encountered most often. Most of them are based in preconceived notions society has about various categories of people (young people, men, women, et. al.). And like many preconceived notions they have little to no basis in reality. Classic films are classic films because they have existed for decades. And in that time they have been seen by many people. Many Baby Boomers and Gen Xers were introduced to them on local TV stations and cable channels. Many Gen Yers and Millennials were introduced to them through Turner Classic Movies. Their appeal is universal and transcends generations, ethnicities, genders, and sexual orientations. Is it little wonder then that nearly every stereotype about classic film fans rings false?


Taylor Sartre said...

An interesting and timely piece!
Thank you!

Carissa Horton said...

Stereotypes are lovely things aren't they? I happen to be one of those females who LOVES westerns, although not as much as another blogger girlfriend of mine. And I've got a guy friend at work whose favorite musical is The King and I. My dad introduced me to the 1939 Pride and Prejudice. People surprise us, and well they should.

Great article!

Eva said...

Loved this post! Interesting and thought-provoking. :)

I'm seventeen years old and I adore classic films, from the 30s to the 60s (with the 40s possibly being my favorite decade). Westerns and war films are my two favorite genres (my favorite movie of all time is probably The Magnificent Seven) and not only do I love the movies, I also love the stars. Dana Andrews, Gregory Peck, James Coburn, Steve McQueen, James Stewart, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman...these are just a few of the actors and actresses whose work entrances me.

So, yes, I'd say that I'm breaking some stereotypes.