“What do you despise? By this are you truly known.”

When I first read that quotation in Dune twenty years ago, it struck me as something true and profound. It’s been incorporated into my worldview so long and so thoroughly that I don’t always notice the words themselves, even if they’re there at the back of my mind.

It’s one metric by which I judge others and myself, and it’s something that’s been in my head a lot lately not only because I am re-reading Dune and realizing what a formative book it was for me, but also because of everything going on in the world right now.

We live in an age of militant, polarized opinions. Some people share their opinions online; others go out to protest. Either way, this is always the question I ask.

There’s a saying about dressing for the job you want, not the job you have. It sounds suspiciously like the kind of thing a high-end suit manufacturer might have come up with.

Anyway, I’ve accumulated quite a few outfits that make me look like a sci-fi character, so I’ve been following that dubious piece of advice either way.

The Judgmental Advice Column: Friends and Movie References

Dear Judgmental Advice Column,

I have a friend who hasn’t seen as many movies as I have and doesn’t watch everything I watch on Netflix. We get along great otherwise, but they don’t get my references.

I feel like I’m always explaining things like who Pauly Shore is and which Ghostbusters movie had the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Usually, I have to clarify that it is not, in fact, “the Pillsbury Doughboy or the Michelin Man or something.”

As extreme as it sounds, this person hasn’t even seen every single sitcom of the eighties and nineties.

The mental exhaustion of this is taking its toll in every area of my life, as unlikely as that may seem.

Please help, Judgmental Advice Column.

Sincerely,
Baffled Buff

We can’t cross every bridge together, though we may try. Some bridges are meant for trains and not humans.

Dear Buff,

At times like this, it’s worth nothing that we all have our differences. If all our friends were exactly like us, what would be the point of having friends? Our beauty is in our diversity.

That said, there’s something you need to remember:

If someone hasn’t seen a movie that you like, it says everything about them as a person.

I used to have a friend–let’s call him Ted, which is also Ted Bundy’s first name–who enjoyed the 90s sitcom Step by Step, but didn’t know that Suzanne Somers was in Three’s Company many years before. As you can imagine, this was a horrifying and difficult situation to be in.

I was younger then, and didn’t handle the situation well. It’s still embarrassing to admit that I told him, “You should check out Three’s Company sometime. It’s a classic.” I wince writing this, thinking of how I said nothing to speak out against Ted’s cultural ignorance.

So, here’s my advice to you, Buff:

Don’t listen to this person’s flimsy excuses about not having time or money. Don’t let them fool you with some claptrap about “reading books” or “going hiking with my brother.”

Ask yourself, if the situation were reversed, would you let them say those things to you?

Remember that age is a common excuse for people like this. Only you can say how much leeway you can give this person for having been born ten years before or after you, or for not having lived through the exact circumstances that led you to see each and every movie you’ve seen.

If they haven’t seen that show you always forget you already told them about, remind them that it’s on Netflix. If Netflix has removed the show from their catalog, that is a regret they will have to live with the rest of their life. In this case, you could show them compassion.

But if they say they “still haven’t seen” A Very Important Movie, well, why not? Ask. It might be difficult, but you need to be the one to bring this issue to the light.

Another thing to consider, Buff, is that communication and respect are the foundations of all relationships. You can’t respect someone who uses the wrong preposition when quoting a movie.

You need to correct their misquotes, and let them know that this behavior is not ok with you.

But ultimately? This speaks to the sort of person who can’t be bothered to memorize an entire movie, absorb all the trivia from its IMDB page, and then watch every single other movie that those actors had even a two-second cameo in.

You can do better, Buff. You say this person is your friend, but you shouldn’t have to debase yourself by explaining your references to tertiary characters in Punky Brewster like some kind of animal.

I can’t say if they are beyond redemption–that falls to you alone. But if this person doesn’t remember the names of all the actors who played the Brady Bunch kids…

If they’re incapable of even distinguishing the Ninja Turtles from one another after having only watched the show sometime last century, as if telling apart identical cartoon turtles named after Italian painters isn’t something we all have to do every day…

You may need to think about what, exactly, your common ground is with this person.

You may need to excise them from your life.

You can always replace a friend the way Suzanne Somers was replaced on Three’s Company.

Best of luck, Buff.

Your friend,
Judgmental Advice Column