Created By: VictorCharlie on June 10, 2013 Last Edited By: XFllo on July 28, 2016

Classic Film Buff

Movie and TV characters only watch old classic movies

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Trope
Do We Have This One?? Several tropes seem to be awfully close. Please comment.
Filmmakers seem to believe that everyone is a classic film buff. Whenever characters are shown watching a movie, it's almost invariably an old, usually black-and-white, classic. This happens no matter the age of the characters.

Related to The Public Domain Channel when characters watch old programmes with "expired" copyrights which the producers don't have to license.

This trope falls victim to Small Reference Pools. Expect the same films to be referenced over and over and over again, especially Casablanca and It's a Wonderful Life seem to be beaten to death.

Compare with There's No "B" in "Movie". This trope has characters watching B movies, sometimes fictional, because their titles make it clear what the characters are watching exactly.

See also Pacman Fever, which is about characters playing old video games.

Examples from media:

Film -- Live Action

Live Action TV
  • More than once the teenage characters of That '70s Show watch Casablanca.
  • The pilot of The Mindy Project showed Mindy as a young woman obsessed with romantic old movies.
  • It's a Wonderful Life is watched by characters in Men Behaving Badly.
  • King Of Queens: Characters watch It's a Wonderful Life..
  • Designing Women: They watch It's a Wonderful Life.
  • Roseanne: They watch It's a Wonderful Life.
  • Everybody Hates Chris: They watch It's a Wonderful Life.
  • The original Psycho is watched by Mr. Gold in Dawson's Creek.
  • Mrs. Ochmonek watches Psycho in Alf.
  • A young boy in a episode of Amazing Stories watches Psycho.
  • In Due South, Victor and Fraser watch North By Northwest.
  • In The Mentalist Jane and Stiles watch North By Northwest in a movie theater, as if it were common for 50-year-old movies to be playing in movie theaters.
  • In The Sopranos , Carmela's book club watches Citizen Kane .
  • In Just Shoot Me!, Jack watches Duck Soup.
  • Gilmore Girls: Lorelai and Rory are into lots of old movies and old TV shows and they get referenced a lot, but they also like new stuff and rather obscure and less known movies.
    • Rory and Marty, friends from Yales, wanted to watch Duck Soup together, but at the end didn't, because Rory told Marty she liked him only as a friend and he was disappointed, and told her he liked that movie too much and didn't want to have it linked with that night.
    • Lorelai and Rory enjoy Pipi the Long Stocking when they are on a double date with Dean and Luke. They watch it in Kirk's home cinema, and snark at the film a lot, but it's clear the ladies love it to bits.
    • Lorelai and Luke watch Casablanca together. Lorelai was shocked when Luke told her he had never seen it before, and she made the night very special, and she initialized him in their film watching rules.

Community Feedback Replies: 45
  • June 10, 2013
    Larkmarn
    ... what does the name even have to do with the trope?
  • June 10, 2013
    TonyG
  • June 10, 2013
    VictorCharlie
    The name implies that filmmakers assume all movie and tv characters are classic film buffs. Sorry for the confusion.
  • June 10, 2013
    Paradisesnake
  • June 10, 2013
    crazysamaritan
    This trope is looking like reverse shout out. The fictional example isn't even of "film buff" characters. It's never stated that Mike is a fan of classic films.
  • June 10, 2013
    Chernoskill
    ^^Home Alone's Kevin also only watches one movie in the... movie, so you can't really deduct that he's a classic film buff.
  • June 10, 2013
    Duncan
  • June 10, 2013
    Diask
    See also Pacman Fever, which is about characters playing old video games.
  • June 10, 2013
    VictorCharlie
    This isn't necessarily about proving each individual character is a classic film buff. When taken as a whole, virtually all characters in the movie universe only watch old movies. This part of the description can be removed and it would still be a trope. All, let me know if that part of the description should be altered/removed.
  • June 10, 2013
    XFllo
    I agree with the first comment that the working title is not very good. The concept itself seems tropeable, but tropes are not logical fallacies. Perhaps something like Classic Film Buff?

    The draft needs formatting. Victor Charlie, let us know if you want anyone to help you with it. I'd be happy to.
  • June 10, 2013
    VictorCharlie
    Thanks, X Fllo. I've updated the title according to suggestions. I'd love your help with the formatting. I'm new here and have never edited or created a wiki page before, so all the formatting rules are more daunting than I expected. Thanks so much for your help.
  • June 10, 2013
    XFllo
    ^ Happy to help. This helped me when I started editing: Administrivia.Text Formatting Rules. I also used to copy the mark-up from other pages. :-) If anything is unclear, feel free to PM me. The inbox is accessible from the forum.

    The most useful and common are Wiki Words, Camel Case, Name Space and square and curly brackets.

    Ok, I will edit your draft as best as I can.
  • June 10, 2013
    spacemarine50
    V For Vendetta: V only watches the original Count Of Monte Cristo.
  • June 10, 2013
    XFllo
    I would add that the examples need more context. Zero Context Example entries are not allowed. What's that supposed to say or imply? The Sleepless In Seattle is a well-written example.

    If that's just any old movies for no sake, it really is not that distinct from The Public Domain Channel. There should be more meaning behind it.

    Several of your wicks you added should be separated into several entries. You list examples for concrete shows that use that trope with some story-telling purpose. Don't lump them together.

    Also, crazysamaritan mentioned that it's close to reverse Shout Out. It's now in YKTTW currently called Referenced By.
  • June 10, 2013
    VictorCharlie
    The trope doesn't suggest there are reasons for the characters to be watching these old movies. It's nothing more than "if a character is watching a movie, it will be a very old movie." Wouldn't the only necessary context be to demonstrate which old movie the character is watching? In Sleepless In Seattle, the old movie is an overriding theme, but that's not why if fits this particular trope. All that's needed is that they're shown watching the movie at some point. Public Domain Channel is a specific reference to the legal/copyright reasons. Wouldn't that make this trope different?
  • June 10, 2013
    XFllo
    In my opinion, no. That would be The Same But More Specific. If you think it's only "if a character is watching a movie, it will be a very old movie", then it's really covered by The Public Domain Channel because Tropes Are Flexible and be careful about Ridiculously Similar Trope. The copyright issue is just a justification out of universe and a reason why it's used.
  • June 10, 2013
    RandomSurfer
    In Remington Steele [the conman who is pretending to be] Remington Steele is a classic film nut, and frequently finds that they Mystery Of The Week parallels the plot of a classic movie.
  • June 10, 2013
    crazysamaritan
    Another problem: What is an example?

    Is Its A Wonderful Life an example, or Home Alone?

    What happens when a work shows a movie that isn't Black and White? is it an example or not? How old does the film have to be to become an example? Is a 1940s (color) cartoon showing a 1940s (b&w) movie this trope or not?
  • June 10, 2013
    spacemarine50
    On my example: Is the original b&w version on this wiki? Linked to the wrong version.
  • June 10, 2013
    biff49
    I have to disagree about this being covered by The Public Domain Channel. I got the distinct feeling the works listed in that trope were meant to be background filler, not something in which the characters actively engage and discuss. Besides, producers do very much, have to license Casablanca, Itsa Wonderful Life, Northwest By Northwest, etc.

    My suggestion for a trope name: Classic Film Love. It doesn't necessary type the characters as movie fanatics, though many are. Many others may just like the one classic movie.

    A couple more Casablanca examples:
    Harry and Sally watch it together, in separate apartments as they talk about it by phone, in When Harry Met Sally.
    It's a central theme to the Woody Allen movie Play It Again Sam, in fact an actor plays Bogie's persona from that movie. Plus, the film opens with Allen's character watching the ending to Casablanca in a revival movie house.
  • June 10, 2013
    biff49
    Also a lot of instances where characters discuss a favorite classic film at length but we don't actually see them watch it or otherwise see a clip. Example:

    The characters of Cheers celebrate their own annual viewing of The Magnificent Seven, including humming the famous theme song.

  • June 10, 2013
    XFllo
    @biff49: If it's actively discussed, it's something different but that would easily provide context, too. Why do they discuss it? What do they think of it? Why do they watch it in the first place?

    Also, the example is the modern work. The older work receives a Shout Out, but that's not what is present in the older work itself and not conscious choice by its creators.
  • June 11, 2013
    Surenity
    • In Benny And Joon, Johnny Depp's character Sam is obsessed with silent films and constantly reenacts them, emulating the likes of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. Though he has an affinity for bad horror films as well.
  • June 11, 2013
    Duncan
    This also might be related to Small Reference Pools, since a famous old movie should have associations with the audience that will tell them something about the character.
  • June 11, 2013
    UltramarineAlizarin
    Live-Action TV
    • Tom Paris of Star Trek Voyager is a fan of 20th century pop culture, and several times throughout the series he indulges in the holonovel The Adventures of Captain Proton, which is modeled like 1930s sci-fi B-movies -- including making everything Deliberately Monochrome.
  • June 11, 2013
    XFllo
    ^^ Now when I think about it, Small Reference Pools might cover this trope just fine. I'm adding a tag Do we have this one? -- because I think we do have many tropes that are very similar.

    I'm having some doubts about this being tropeable now.

    I edited the trope to separate examples that were incorrectly lumped together, and I provided context for Gilmore Girls but I haven't added those from the discussion. Some of them don't have proper mark-up.
  • June 11, 2013
    FastEddie
    As is, it reads like a complaint. What is the storytelling purpose of using these classic films within the story being told? Answer that and we have a trope write up. Without it we are just noticing something like "the characters, they always sit in chairs."
  • June 11, 2013
    Darthcaliber
    Chili Palmer in Get Shorty is an extreme film buff, which plays into the plot of him breaking into Hollywood from the mafia. In the sequel Be Cool he chooses to leave the movie industry partly because he has grown dissatisfied with the lack of originality in modern films
  • June 11, 2013
    VictorCharlie
    I think it goes a lot farther that a simple observation like "the characters, they always sit in chairs." It wold be more like "the characters, they always sit in plaid chairs." The point is they're so out of step with common practice. It's not just that they're watching old films, they're virtually never watching contemporary films. The reason will, at times, be part of the movie's narrative, but even when it's not the implication seems to be: We need to show the characters watching a movie. It has to be an old one. It might be to demonstrate romance between the two leads. But, why does it always have to be Casablanca or An Affair to Remember? Why not Titanic? My guess is that it helps the movie in question seem more timeless, to not be dated by a contemporary film. Either way, it's so common that it's virtually ubiquitous.
  • June 11, 2013
    crazysamaritan
    Pardon me, but stools are an alternative to chairs. Stools are out of step with common practice. It's not just that they're sitting on chairs; characters are virtually never seen with stools. The reason will, at times, be part of the story's narrative, but even when it's not, the implication seems to be: We need to show the characters sitting. It has to be a chair.

    Problem number one with the trope; you've used the term "film buff", which instantly invites misuse from editors believing this is a trope about characters that cite movies.

    Problem number two with the trope; "Classic Film" doesn't mean old. Toy Story is a classic film in the modern era, for several reasons, most notably due to it's use of 3D CG. The examples skew to Black and White, but classic also means well-received, and not all black and white films were well-received. MST 3 K is a great source of bad movies, both colour and monochrome.

    Problem number three with the trope; possibly the most damning aspect, You haven't found a way to organize the examples consistently. Is Its A Wonderful Life an example, and the works that show it should be listed under that entry? Or is Home Alone an example, because it shows Its A Wonderful Life in the work? Is this trope Referenced By or Shout Out combined with Small Reference Pools and Two Decades Behind?

    • I'm not saying you don't have a trope here. I'm asking you to take my problems, and take the time to formulate an answer that shows us what a trope is. A trope isn't "something that happens in a story". Tell us of a new trope, a new pattern in the process of creating and sharing a story.
  • June 18, 2013
    Himbeergeist
    Imo this trope is even more conspicuous in the case of Theatre/Opera. I've hardly ever seen anyone in fiction going to a more unknown or Regietheather production, even though these are clearly the majority. And if they do, it's Played For Laughs
  • June 10, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    I feel like this can probably be discarded.
  • June 10, 2014
    Statzkeen
    If this isn't a trope, then neither is Pac Man Fever.

    "It's a Wonderful Life an example, and the works that show it should be listed under that entry? Or is Home Alone an example, because it shows It's a Wonderful Life in the work?"

    Home Alone, definitely.

  • June 10, 2014
    bitemytail
    In Grand Theft Auto V, Michael is noted to enjoy watching old movies, especially Spaghetti Western types.
  • This is me in a nutshell, but I'm not a character, so I don't count. :P

    Western Animation
    • Arthur. In, "On the Buster Scale," Brain criticizes Buster's seemingly sugar-coated movie reviews, as he gives every movie he sees (and they're mostly exploding robot movies) a 10 rating; at the same time, Buster accuses Brain of not liking any movie, and dares him to name one movie he does like. As it turns out, Brain's favorite movie is a black-and-white foreign from the 1930s.
  • June 10, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    ^^ & ^ That's what the name indicates, but the draft defines it as "everyone" watches the same movies: Small Reference Pools.

    ~Satzkeen: right now the examples look more like a list of works, "Referenced By X" for Its A Wonderful Life. I'd be interested in seeing you re-draft it, though.
  • July 8, 2016
    Morgenthaler
  • July 10, 2016
    69BookWorM69
    Perhaps if the character expresses a preference for older movies (like the title character in Remington Steele did, if memory serves). They might even prefer black-and-white or films made before a certain year.
  • July 11, 2016
    StarSword
    This could be expanded to music and theater as well, since it has less to do with Small Reference Pools than it does to copyright law (reference Real Life Writes The Plot). Notice how in Star Trek The Next Generation everybody quotes Shakespeare rather than (for example) Cats, and Riker is a fan of Irving Berlin instead of Metallica? The difference is that Shakespeare and Berlin are in the public domain so they don't have to pay royalties to use the material. (By contrast JJ Abrams had the budget to license Beastie Boys tunes for the Kelvin Timeline films.)

    This can, however, be used as a characterization point if a character seems to specifically favor older movies over newer ones, e.g. Tony on NCIS quoting films up to the 1980s but nothing newer than that, in which case it's a subtrope of Fan Of The Past.
  • July 11, 2016
    69BookWorM69
    ^ There's something to this, and also a few other points. I've heard people and fictional characters say they prefer the aesthetics (the look) of black-and-white films. Also, the content of films was different in earlier periods thanks to The Hays Code, and some people like that, sometimes saying that such films "left more to the imagination" or were more optimistic.
  • July 11, 2016
    StarSword
    Yeah, basically the problem with this trope as written is, it can't decide whether it wants to be about characterization or just a Trope In Aggregate that there's a pattern of watching old TV and movies whenever characters watch anything onscreen in fiction (which is mostly covered by The Public Domain Channel). Also some of the examples in the draft are complainy: it's not that unusual for cinemas to re-air older films, especially as special events (one of the chain-owned theaters where I live used to regularly show The Rocky Horror Picture Show on weekends, and NC Comicon has a free-with-con admission B-movie festival).
  • July 11, 2016
    69BookWorM69
    ^ I think this will work if it is revised to emphasize the characterization aspects. In other words, stay with the characters who are this and less of the "old movies in the background".
  • July 27, 2016
    BOFH
    Video Games
    • The Longest Journey has the following conversation between April Ryan and Cortez:
      • Cortez: "In fact, I think I'd prefer the world to be in black and white."
      • April: "Like an old movie?"
      • Cortez: "Like all good movies."
  • July 27, 2016
    YasminPerry
    A better title would be something like "All Characters Watch Old Movies".
  • July 28, 2016
    69BookWorM69
    ^ If things stay as they are, I suppose so. If it is revised as discussed (royalties issues plus characterization—aesthetics and content preferences), then the current title works.
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