Cinematic Experience Defenders
One of the main reasons I enjoy going to an opening night, or to the theater in general, is because some films are just better in crowds.
Recently, I enjoyed going to see Black Panther and watching the mostly black audience react to this historical cinematic achievement. The moment that really warmed my heart was seeing a black family leaving the theater with their son, who had dressed up as the eponymous character. It made me happy to see that despite what the media and politicians are telling us, our culture is progressing to the point where one of the most beloved superheroes on the silver screen is Black Panther. Young black kids are finally able to see themselves in the heroes on screen. Now, I am not trying to be a Social Justice Warrior or anything like that, but I do recognize the historical and cultural implications of this moment and what it means to other people.
To a somewhat lesser extent, I had the same feelings seeing young girls dress up as Wonder Woman and celebrate what it means to be female. However, Black Panther was a bigger deal in that not only was there a black super hero being prominently featured, but a mostly black supporting cast, and the introduction of the smartest and objectively cool Shuri into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
That’s right, we got a glimpse at the smartest character in the MCU and it was a BLACK WOMAN. This movie reached deep into our cultural zeitgeist and did more for racial harmony than most politicians in the last 20 years. White people and people of color celebrated this film to the tune of 1.3 billion dollars worldwide.
Being part of a cultural phenomenon like that was impressive. I went to see the movie 3 times and bought it on digital home video. Each time I went to see it, the theater was PACKED full, even 3 weeks after its release date. “Wakanda Forever” indeed.
However, there is a bit of a catch 22 to going to see a major film early or on the day or weekend it opens. Being surrounded by more people is not always a good thing, as some people just seem determined to ruin the experience. Obnoxious people who talk during the movie, make noise, or commit the cardinal sin of using their damn phone, are always going to called out by me.
That’s right. Whenever some uncouth bastard is in a theater with me, I feel it is my duty to tell them to shut up or put their phone away. I am that guy. The defender of the cinematic experience. I have had my fair share of assholes sitting next to or near me during a show and I have always found that these numskulls don’t know they are doing something wrong unless you tell them. They are so unaware that they are breaking the social contract of “shut up, be quiet, turn your phone off, and enjoy the movie” and they are typically easily silenced.
In an attempt to educate modern movie goers, I propose more people should be celebrated for standing up to the people who come to our turf and act without consciousness of the others around them. So let’s talk about these piles of human garbage...
During a viewing of the Denis Villeneuve film Arrival, I was seated in the very back of the theater, just right of center. There was a guy to my right on the very end of the row who insisted on being on his phone during the movie. Now, let me preface this by saying, I get it… in cases of emergencies and during the previews, I think it is fine to chatter and even mess around on your phone. However, once the lights go down, the curtains widen, and the feature begins… your “me” time becomes “our” time. I paid for a ticket to see a movie, not to watch your twitter feed. And that is EXACTLY what this guy was doing. He was scrolling through twitter. How do I know? Because he was holding his phone in a manner where I could see his screen. The bright light was destroying the ambient darkness around it and ruining my experience.
So I leaned over to him and quietly and politely asked, “Can you put that away?” to which he responded “I need it for business”. I dropped the politeness and told him it was 9pm on a Saturday and that he was clearly on twitter and if “business” couldn’t wait, he could leave the damn theater. Sure, he sat there and pouted during the rest of the movie, but he put his phone away. Problem solved. The moral of the story is: Don’t ever be afraid to speak up to someone during a movie. 99% of the time, you are right and other movie goers support your brazen attitude toward these jerks.
I have had several other instances where I have had to tell some fool to stop talking, quit kicking my seat, or go get a tissue and blow their nose. Most people are too embarrassed when you call them out for their rude behavior to react in anyway other than to sit there like a scorned puppy.
My hope for the future is that more people will be emboldened to take up the mantle of “Cinematic Experience Defender” and join me on my quest to eradicate rude behavior during the shared experience so that we can all enjoy the immersive world of theater and film. I am so happy to see more and more theaters taking a strong stance against this type of rudeness. Every theater should "Remember the Alamo" policy: