Movies and misanthropy (or how I learned to hate the human race at the theater)
I’ve been a movie fan my entire life and I’ve spent untold hundreds (if not thousands) of hours sitting in a darkened movie-house escaping from the bland unadventurous world outside. Most of this time has been enjoyable, otherwise I would have stopped doing it a long time ago, but there have been way too many instances when the movie experience was marred, not by a poorly written, acted or directed film, but by the people that cruel fate aligned me with for that particular place and time.
I’ve mellowed (a little) with old-age, but there was a time when I took movies so seriously that I could hardly stand to watch a film when the focus was off, the picture was too dark or the sound was not perfectly set, and I would not hesitate to complain to theater management. But even worse than technical presentation problems are issues that are not so easily remedied, like rude and discourteous moviegoers.
Concerts, sporting events, or anywhere you are in a confined space with a large number of people, you are always at risk of having to sit next to ill-mannered idiots, but the theater is the worst because unlike those other venues you are supposed to be quiet and non-disruptive (you know, just like it shows in that public service cartoon before the movie starts.)
I’ve never understood how otherwise intelligent people find it perfectly acceptable to talk throughout an entire film as if they were sitting in the privacy of their home on their living room couch. Oh, and to be clear, even if I was in the unlikely position to be watching the movie on your living room sofa – I still don’t want to hear you.
I’ve seen stories recently on the Internets suggesting that, in order to survive, theaters need to become more accommodating to their audience by allowing texting, talking and introducing amenities like fine-dining and full bars. I’ll agree that maybe there is a place for this (like your living room), but for me the problem is that theaters are already encroaching on my enjoyment of a film by permitting too much of this behavior in their current venues.
This following list of theater rules is long overdue and I think that most moviegoers will agree with them. I’m suggesting they be posted on theater screens and enforced (preferably in a Judge Dredd like manner) across the country. If you are not in agreement, then guess what? These guidelines probably apply especially to you; so take them to heart next time you go to the movies – or better yet, do the world a solid and just stay home.
#10 – Show up on time. You may not care if you miss the trailers and/or the first fifteen minutes of the movie, and frankly, I don’t care if you do either; but when you disturb the other attendees by squeezing your way in front of them while the picture is playing, it disrupts the whole immersion effect and suspension of disbelief that one wants to obtain while at the movies. Get a watch. Use it.
#9 – No kids allowed. I’ll never forget going to see Pulp Fiction in the theater and sitting amidst a family with three children under the age of five. First, why are you bringing your young children to see this movie? Second, what makes you think that other adults, who have paid full price to see this movie (unlike your kids) want to listen to your toddlers cry, yammer and run up and down the aisles for two hours? It’s not that I question your parenting skills, because, yes, I’m quite positive that you are in fact poor parents. (Note to theater management: Don’t make things easy on these people, charge them full price for their child’s seat and maybe they’ll think twice before bringing their little hellions to the theater.)
#8 – Stop kicking my seat. I’m not a real big guy, but I’m not that small either, and you know what, I don’t think I’ve ever kicked the theater seat in front of me. Do you know why? Because it’s rude. Once might be an accident; twice is forgivable, but when it’s happening for the entire length of a movie you really need to realize that there are other people around you, in fact, right in front of you where you keep slamming your foot. You don’t have to cross your legs and the world does not revolve around you and your feet – keep them to yourself. That includes not resting them on top of the empty seat next to me. There is no reason I should have your skanky feet in that close of proximity to my face. Welcome to civilization.
#7 – Leave dinner at home. Theaters survive and stay in business by selling snacks at their concession stands. Said snacks are designed, for the most part, to be unobtrusive to the moviegoers sitting around you. When you bring a full course dinner meal from home with you to the theater, first, it stinks and nobody wants to smell your homemade chili concoction at the theater. Second, it’s messy and the poor cleaning kid shouldn’t have to deal with your nasty table scraps. Third, I don’t want to sit-in, step-in, smell, or otherwise have to deal with your evening meal. Try eating before the movie, then grabbing a bag of popcorn if you’re still hungry.
#6 – Wake up! The theater is not the place to sleep, and for the love of God, if you’ve got to do it, please pull the plug on the snoring. Better yet, if you are that bored just go home and go to bed.
#5 – Don’t answer the phone. You know you’re supposed to turn your cell phone down or completely off during a movie, right? You should also know that it is not acceptable to answer a call and hold a conversation in the middle of the theater while the movie is playing. There are people around you who paid good money to enjoy the film, not to hear your personal conversation, unless that conversation involves how you are going to adequately reimburse those who are annoyed by your rudeness. (Hint: It’s everyone.)
#4 - No cat-calls. I’ve been to movies starring Scarlett Johansson, so I get the urge to whistle, woo-hoo and exclaim your hormonal excitement, but please try to control yourself until you are well away from the crowd of strangers that make up the theater audience. Your caveman-like hooting is embarrassing.
#3 - Laugh only if legitimately funny. For the person who laughs at anything and everything, I’m truly envious of you and I wish I could be so easily amused and happy with life in general. It sincerely warms my heart to know that there are people out there who can find humor in something as simple as a door being opened, or someone saying, “Hello,” or watching a car go by; but when you’re in a crowded theater with people who might not share your simple sense of wonder & awe at the most mundane things, please try to contain your happiness to just a smile and you’ll in turn make everyone else smile as well. Isn’t the world a beautiful place?
#2 - Don’t repeat lines. Oh, the repeaters, the people who have to repeat the actor’s lines or last words of a line, just in case you didn’t hear them the first time yourself, and because they love to hear themselves talk. Often the line repeaters and the illegitimate laughers (see Rule #3) are one in the same, making for twice the irritation for the rest of the audience (and that most likely includes the person(s) you came with.) Do the world a favor and follow the next rule.
#1 - Shut-up! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! If your parents didn’t teach you to be quiet in a theater, then take this advice as a learning opportunity. Shut up! No one wants to hear you while they are watching the movie. If you are uncomfortable with silence, then don’t go to the movies. You know the part before the movie where they play the public service announcement asking you to be courteous to the people around you? They’re talking to YOU! Reminding you, so that the people around you don’t have to say anything to you and further disrupt the film. Oh, and when someone does ask you to please be quiet, that is not the time to get louder and ruder just because someone has called you out. Just shut up! Please.
So now it has been said. Read it, know it, live it, and the world can be a better place.
Because you’ve been good, we’re going to treat you to this classic Bert & Ernie at the movies bit. Enjoy!