Sunday, 11 August 2013

On Cinema Etiquette


This piece, On Cinema Etiquette, originally ran on Next Projection

There’s currently a purposefully inflammatory article going around saying it’s wrong to shush people at the cinema. So ridiculous is the writer in his argumentative, click-baiting state that he compares cinema goers to being conservative but in a much more incendiary way. The obviously attention-seeking writer says that if you want people to remain silent in a cinema screen, not talk and not use their phones to check their timelines, then you are actually a fascist who is the type of person to be against gay marriage and for slavery. No, he’s serious, honest. So deluded in this state he acts as if the two monumental things are on the same level as people who hate chattering around them in a theater. Not only does he believe that but he believes that anyone who does shush is a bully. That’s right, in this one article about cinema silence he manages to insult everyone. Don’t you dare disagree with him though because you don’t understand the cultural norm of places like India and if you disagree with him and that culture – which many on Twitter are coming forward to say is hogwash – then you are in fact a racist fascist. Heavy words to throw around because you want to check how many retweets you just got.

Comparing people who want silence in a cinema screen to immerse themselves to people who defended slavery is beyond insulting to everyone in that blanket statement but more how lightly he treats the slavery problem that existed. He believes that social media and smart phones are of such cultural significance that those who don’t want that annoying iPhone light in their vision when in a blackened room are the people who are resistant to change – dinosaurs who don’t understand the “new” way that’s being presented. I’m all for people having special social screenings where they sit around texting each other with some background noise, they can do what they like in those screenings, I wouldn’t care at all. To come into a paid room where you go for the quality of the experience of being involved in a story with a giant screen and amazing sound quality and then natter, text and tweet, soiling the experiences for others, is the most inconsiderate thing you can do in the cinema.

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Ruining someone’s experience in a cinema where they have paid to be by being loud or distracting others from enjoying is inconsiderate. That’s all there is to it. Say there were 50 people in the room and only 1 of them wanted silence so they could watch the film in peace then it would be inconsiderate of the 49 others to soil someone else’s experience. Like Scott Weinberg said on Twitter: it’s not a social experience, it’s a communal one. It’s where people go to enjoy art or entertainment in a place where the quality of the equipment can maximise that. Why pay to be there if you’re not that bothered about watching the film in the first place? I paid to see The Conjuring like everybody else in a full screening and no one considered others in it. People behind me being “lads” kept saying “lad” things which were about as witty as an exchange between David Beckham and a brick. I had to sit through that for two hours while they constantly exchanged their laddish remarks about manly lad things when really they were idiots. Then the girl next to me turned the strobe light on her phone, texted throughout the entire film and spoke about how she knew what was going to happen next as if she was some sort of psychic when the scene was spelt out. Another inconsiderate idiot. Then a person answered their phone to talk and to say “I’m in the cinema, I told you I was, what do you want?” Was there a need to answer that phonecall? No. She’d already said she was in the cinema so not answering it wouldn’t have been the end of the world.

You say it’s a cultural evolution to want to sit in a multiplex and text but is it really? It’s aiding the already dwindling attention spans thanks to the addition of smart phones. They’re almost an infection of ADHD lately and I can’t say I’m not a sufferer, I am. I use my phone way too much but I don’t in a cinema screen because that would be disrespectful. You see, wanting the world to have a shorter attention span as a part of the evolution that’s being described is madness. No one wants a world where you can’t immerse yourself with people, art or anything. Constantly having to have some connection to something somewhere else is borderline dangerous. My phone destroyed my attention span and it’s embarrassing that it did. I’m not going to stop having one because it’s handy but I’d rather have control over myself and not have to give in and grab my phone, turn on an app and crave an update of nonsensical information that my head will throw away. It’s information overload with these things and with that in mind some films are getting simpler because the audience don’t have the patience for something more complicated and that’s something I’ve witnessed. There’s someone I watched a film with that didn’t pay attention at all, didn’t understand it and it was painfully simple, spelled out. Nothing complicated happened. While explaining the person switched off – looking at their phone – because their attention couldn’t be bothered to grasp that information.
Ruining someone’s experience in a cinema where they have paid to be by being loud or distracting others from enjoying is inconsiderate. That’s all there is to it.
Basically it all comes down to inconsideration. You think we’re rude for not accepting your “cultural norms” that you put to us as some sort of gospel truth, that we should accept what you say and not question your normal cinema going experience. In reality you’re throwing your toys out of your pram because you can’t check your mention tabs every five minutes because you’re much more important. Your need to check your phone, your addiction is not our problem and it should not be an affliction we have to suffer through while watching a film in a room that is made to watch a film. You are pushing your idea of correctness onto ours while saying we’re too close-minded to accept the future when the future is inconsiderate and rude. I don’t want to accept a future where people soil experiences for others. I don’t want to accept a future where manners aren’t around. I don’t want to accept a future where we’re all zombies to technology and need to connection worldwide to be receptive to anything. I don’t want to accept a future cinema going experience where I cannot escape into another world for a few hours because people are too busy polishing their online persona or saying that they’re eating popcorn. Everyone thinks they have something interesting to say all the time and it’s all crap. It’s useless. It’s monotonous. It’s dull. It’s boring and I cannot stand the fact that we’re in a reality where everything has to be shared and captured and never lived in. I’m a part of the problem, I’m not complaining to be a saint but I have enough manners to leave my need for a phone at the door of a cinema screen. It’s considerate to the others around me that I let them enjoy what they’ve paid for. The reason I can do that and you find it hard to? I’m not selfish.