The holidays are a time for giving — including, but not limited to, giving up the remote. 

Yes, 'tis the season for watching the films your parents insist are "timeless" or else be relegated to watching Elf ... again. I'm in that boat. I'm luckier than most as an only child, but I still have to share the television with my parents, whose particular film tastes make post-dinner entertainment a chore. I like two kinds of movies: Star Wars and romantic comedies. My dad likes action (think Taken or Rambo). And my mom, well, is physically unable to stomach the slightest bit of gore or sex in movies.

All this to say, I think I spend more of the holidays arguing with my parents over what to watch than actually sitting and watching, and I know I'm far from alone in the struggle. So, the next time you find yourself in this stressful situation, here's what you do.

Step One: Know what you're watching.

There's a time and a place to watch Game of Thrones, Shameless or Sense8. When you're with the people who raised you is not one of them.

In your defense, this is an easy mistake to make. It's natural to want to share your favorite episode of your favorite Netflix binge with those you love. But beware, even superhero shows like Jessica Jones can spring an edgy hallway sex scene on you. The last thing you want is to find yourself sitting in awkward silence while two characters get it on in front of your parents and siblings.

When you're watching shows alone, you can appreciate them. But the side-eye from your folks during a sex scene is the stuff of nightmares.

If you don't want to spoil anything before watching an episode with your family, try checking for reviews that might mention something steamy going down. Save yourself and learn from my mistakes.

Step Two: Be prepared to distract.

You might not think that The Breakfast Club or A Christmas Prince carry a secret plot to push a political agenda onto your family, but let's be realistic here: Political arguments can spring up from the most unexpected places.

If you suddenly find yourself caught in an argument over who should have won the governorship of Kansas or whether or not Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer, I suggest using a "safe" topic to swing the conversation back into gentler waters. Here are some examples:

If you're truly desperate, you could always just suck it up and talk about school or work. Give Grandma the academic low-down she craves.

  • "Hey, as fun as this talk about the governor of Florida is, I got a B- in College Algebra!"
  • "This talk about Josh Hawley reminds me of my promotion to shift manager!"

And if you do decide to engage in some political debate, well ... Politifact is your friend.

Step Three: Know how to lock in an armbar.

What? You've gotta be able to get that remote back somehow.

Step Four: Practice patience, or practice politeness.

Some people feel obliged to offer live film commentary. Some people like to loudly shush these people who offer live film commentary. Because of this, you might miss an important line of dialogue or a climactic twist.

For your own sake, let it go. You can pull up the movie later on Netflix if it really means that much to you.

And if you're the guilty party? Look, the rules in a home setting might be more relaxed than a movie theater, but that doesn't mean you should be a liability for your loved ones. Sit back and relax. It's good for you.

Step Five: Maybe, like, have fun?

The purpose of watching movies is deriving at least a modicum of pleasure from them, so ... enjoy yourself. Make the best of whatever situation you're in. Even if chaos reigns supreme in your household, find the silver lining and have a good time.

Godspeed, my friends. May your holiday season be full of cinematic goodness and devoid of awkward silences! Cheers!

Science fiction-loving senior studying arts & culture journalism and theater. Reach me at gabrielavelasquez@mail.missouri.edu or (901) 216-9147. Or check a coffee shop with a nitro blend.

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