On being a classic film fan, pre-internet and today

A few days ago Vanessa of the wonderful blog Stardust made a post about her life before the internet, and how her classic film viewing habits have changed since the World Wide Web took over our lives. Vanessa mentioned that she doesn’t spend quite as much time watching classic films as she did pre-internet. She writes:

“I hardly devote any time at all to the films that once sparked so much joy in me and I’m constantly striving to fix that. Truth is, I’d rather be glued to my laptop surfing booktube and beauty videos on YouTube, reading endless posts on Book Riot and shopping like a mad woman on sites like Black Milk Clothing and Zara.” (Read the full post here.)

I found Vanessa’s post interesting because I’ve had a much different experience concerning the internet’s impact on my life as a classic film fan. So, today, I’ve decided to share my perspective!

I should preface this by mentioning that I just turned 24, and since my dad works in the tech industry, the internet entered my life pretty early. I got my first AOL email address when I was in elementary school. So, technically, my pre-internet life was short… but the internet didn’t really become a prominent part of my day-to-day life until around the time I began high school.

I was a classic film fan long before I became an internet user. As I’ve mentioned before on the blog, my first introductions to classic film were through my grandparents, who showed me films like The Wizard of Oz, The Sound of Music, and Gone with the Wind.

I rented many a VHS tape and DVD during my youth, but titles like The Women and The Petrified Forest were not easy to come by at my local video stores.

I rented many a VHS tape and DVD during my youth, but titles like ‘The Women’ and ‘The Petrified Forest’ were hard to come by at my local video stores. (Image via contac.tumblr.com)

I loved these films and watched them frequently… but my exposure to old Hollywood aside from a handful of big-name classics was very limited. My VHS collection was largely made up of cheesy teen movies. (My sister and I would split our free time between playing games outside, reading, and re-watching our favorite not-so-great movies until the tapes wore out.) Our local video stores didn’t stock many old movies. I had not yet heard of or stepped foot in the Redford Theatre. We didn’t have cable TV, so I didn’t have access to TCM. I was a classic film fan, but a casual one, due to my limited access to older films.

A few things changed that and turned me into the certified Old Movie Weirdo that I am today: gaining access to TCM in high school, gaining access to Amazon/eBay/various streaming services as I became more web-literate, and starting this blog in 2012. I watch a greater number of films now, and especially a greater number of classics, than I ever did pre-internet.

Like Vanessa, I do find myself distracted by other things at times — YouTube videos, reading my favorite blogs, browsing news websites, taking Buzzfeed quizzes. But I don’t find myself doing these things constantly, or even on a daily basis. When I have free time and am on my laptop, I feel the urge to devour films on WatchTCM before they expire, or to watch a forgotten public domain film I’ve downloaded from the Internet Archive. Some days I don’t turn my laptop on at all, and instead spend my free time just as I did pre-internet: split between spending time outdoors and watching films from my collection (which has grown exponentially since my discovery of Amazon, the online TCM shop, eBay and other DVD-selling web stores).

I never remember to tape or tune in for everything I want to see on TCM, so WatchTCM has become one of my favorite ways to discover movies. (Screenshot by Lindsey for TMP)

I never remember to tape or tune in for everything I want to see on TCM, so WatchTCM has become one of my favorite ways to discover movies. (Screenshot by Lindsey for TMP)

Sometimes I’m not in the mood to watch a film, so I’ll browse my WordPress reader or watch a few YouTube videos instead. For the most part, I tend to use the would-be distractions of web surfing to kill some time when I’m trying to fall asleep at night, or to fill some of my free time during those brief “viewing slumps.”

Perhaps I’ve had my fill of the internet’s non-film offerings. I was, regrettably, a Myspace addict during the height of the site’s popularity. I must have met my lifetime social media quota during those years, as I have little interest in it now aside from connecting with fellow classic film bloggers and book lovers! Perhaps I also watch a greater number of films now because I stick to a daily schedule on this blog, and simply need content to fill that schedule.

Whatever the reason, my film consumption is at an all-time high, and the availability of classic films through the internet is at least partially responsible for that!

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4 thoughts on “On being a classic film fan, pre-internet and today

  1. This a great post! I’m old enough to not have had the Internet until after university but it definitely changed my movie watching habits. Before that you had to watch whatever films were on tv and I grew up with only four channels!

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    • Thank you! I don’t remember exactly how many channels we had, but I’d say it was somewhere around five, and they rarely showed classic films. So even when they did show movies, there was little opportunity to discover the oldies!

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  2. I share your general experience and perspective. The more that’s easily available to me, the more I watch. So many classics and trash oldies to enjoy on archive.org (saw my first Theda Bara last year there), via Netflix and Amazon Prime and YouTube, too. im probably the only classic Hollywood fan who doesn’t watch TCM because I don’t have cable, but I still see many films and enjoy them all!

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    • I only have access to TCM because I’m living at my dad’s while going through grad school, haha. I’ll be sad to lose it when I move out, but there are plenty of other places to catch great films on the web, as you mentioned!

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