Backstory: Movie manners - an endangered species
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I used to have a prepared comment for the babblers who always seem to sit directly behind me. You know, the kind of people who feel duty-bound to provide a running commentary on the action to their partner, as in "Look, he's opening a door." I would turn around and ever so politely say, "Would you mind speaking a little louder? I can't hear you over the soundtrack?" But this proved to be too Zen for most people, some of whom actually did speak louder.Skip to next paragraph
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So now I do things differently. Rather than provoke confrontations, I simply scope out several empty alternate seats before I take my own. If the going gets rough, I switch. This doesn't work if the theater is packed, in which case you better hope that seated near you is one of those guardian angels with no compunction about shushing down the opposition.
But even when the talkers are compelled to quit it - not, I might add, by the ushers, since there aren't any - they find other ways to make their presence felt. People who are annoying in one way are usually annoying in many ways. Quieted down, these same patrons become foot jigglers or high-decibel whisperers. They rifle through their seemingly bottomless handbags for - what exactly? It always escapes me. Candy, swathed in the noisiest foil, is unwrapped. Popcorn is consumed kernel by kernel.
And of course, the quieted-down rarely stay quiet for very long. First-date couples are the worst - the guy is always trying to impress the girl with a patter of hogwash and she is too polite or intimidated to stop it. Generally speaking, the younger the viewer the more likely he or she is to jabber, but there are numerous exceptions to this rule. Age has no dominion over manners.
Just look at the cellphone noise-pollution epidemic. If you ask someone to keep quiet nowadays, you're likely to get back a look of genuine astonishment. People who are plugged into their own hum don't recognize your right to silence. What they recognize is their right not to be silent. It's democracy in action all right.
Not to put too fine a sociological point on it, the epidemic of bad manners in the movies is part of a much larger ill gripping the land.
What it all comes down to is this: There are few private zones in public spaces anymore. Restaurant reviews in many of the big city newspapers now rate the decibel level right along with the food and the service.
Maybe film critics should do the same thing for movie theaters. Not this critic, though. I've heard enough.
* Showing up late and asking people to move.
* Talking during the movie or the previews.
* Leaving cellphones or beeping watches on.
* Kicking the seat in front of you.
* Putting your feet up on a seat, occupied or not.
* Hogging the armrest.
* Eating loudly or making noise with your straw.
* Leaving trash on the floor or cupholder.
* Bringing infants or young children (who have trouble staying quiet) to anything but children's movies.