Mayhem At The Movies and The Unsuspension of Disbelief

nogunsThis story about the guy who wound up dead after texting in a movie theater made the rounds of the social media networks last week. I let it go by the first couple of times I saw it. It seemed implausible at first, but now that I have digested the heart-wrenching details, it seems all too familiar.

I don’t know how you feel about people who light up their cell phones in a darkened theater, but my first thought was: “that coulda been me…”

Not the guy getting shot. The guy doing the shooting.

Because I’m the one who has too frequently had to ask the asshole sitting near me to put their cell phone away during a movie.

I’m recalling one instance in particular, about a year-and-a-half ago. I wish I could remember what movie we were seeing, because unfortunately the only thing I remember about that occasion was the confrontation I had with the woman seated right next to me who kept looking at her phone and sending out text messages during the feature.

I tried to ignore it the first two or three times she did it. But then as the emotional scenes of the movie’s climax began to play out on the screen, she pulled her phone out again. This time I asked her to put it away.

Admittedly, the tone of my ‘request’ was probably not ideal. It was probably more of a hostile demand than a gentle suggestion. When I’ve been festering over a matter of perceived social misconduct like this… when I’ve been having an internal debate with myself over whether I’m finally going to say something and what exactly that something is that I’m going to say… by time I finally muster the fortitude to say something, it may well not come out with all the kindness and mindfulness that the New Age requires.

Well, this woman not only didn’t stop texting during the final scenes of the movie, she got fucking indignant about it, and started arguing with me. And then her boyfriend came to her defense, and the next thing I know we’re in the middle of a sotto-voce confrontation about this woman’s right to be texting in a crowded theater. The guy said something about meeting me outside the theater…

I don’t remember much of the actual words that were exchanged. I only remember the woman saying something like “do you know who I am??”

Well, no, lady, I don’t know who you are and frankly I don’t give a shit. To me you’re just the rude woman who thinks her outside-the-theater issues are so much more important than the rest of us that you’re some how entitled to ruin a costly flight of the imagination for the rest of us.

Going to the movies is an expensive proposition these days: By the time we’ve paid for two tickets, two buckets of popcorn (it ain’t a movie without popcorn) and two diet Cokes, an afternoon At The Bijou winds up costing between $40 and $50.

The whole point of that investment is to spend a couple of hours in the rapturous altered state that cinephiles describe as “the suspension of disbelief” – i.e. ignoring the practical implausibility of whatever is unfolding before your eyes in order to indulge in a fantasy experience.

There is nothing that can wreck that experience faster and more completely than the ass-hole next to you pulling out their brightly lit cell phone.

It is really unfathomable to me that any individual could be so self-absorbed in their own real-world issues as to think that all the “no cell phones or texting” warnings flashed on the screen before the movie don’t apply to them. Here’s hoping that more such people see that story in the New York Times (wishful thinking, I know..).

So, while I certainly don’t condone his actions for a nano-second, I do sympathize with the guy who asked the guy who was texting during the movie* to put his phone away. That the confrontation wound up in bloodshed and death is only slightly more incomprehensible than the first guy’s arrogant assumption that the rules of common courtesy in a movie theater did not apply to him.

I’m sorry that your kid is sick, but if she’s so sick that you think you have to monitor her condition with the baby sitter from a movie theater, then maybe you oughta stay home. You could always watch “Apocalypse Now” via Netflix on your 60″ HDTV…

99.5% of the people in attendance at any movie are perfectly capable of ignoring their cell phones for two hours. The other .5% can ruin it for everybody else. Or, now, can wind up dead.

nocellsThere is already an armed guard patrolling the lobby of the theater that Ann and I go to in Green Hills. How much longer will it be before there are metal detectors at the entrance as well, and going to the movies gets to be like getting on an airplane?

I really do hope it never come to that, but if it does, I hope the the metal detectors will be set to catch not just the guns, but the cell phones, too.

Just leave ’em in the car, people.

And enjoy the show.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

*it is not clear from this NYTimes account if the perpetrator was texting during the previews during the feature. Texting through the trailers is still rude, but acceptable to some level. But once the lights do the final dim and the feature starts, put the fucking phone away!