Cinema Psycho

"You know what? You have a losing personality." – Manhattan

The Flashlight Syndrome; or, How Not to Be an Asshole at the Movies

Posted by CinemaPsycho on July 17, 2012

So it seems the debate about whether or not to let people text in movie theaters is still going on. NATO (the National Association of Theater Owners, not the other NATO) is considering the possibilities, while Tim League of the Alamo Drafthouse is firmly against it. I would have thought common sense would have taken care of this issue long ago, but apparently not. I’ve never weighed in on this before, but here’s where I come down on the subject:

Don’t be an asshole.

That’s the bottom line. There is no reason to text or talk on your cell phone during a movie. None. You are there to enjoy the film and the experience. If you are incapable of doing that, stay home. Seriously. Don’t go to the movies if you intend to negatively impact the rest of the audience’s enjoyment in any way. You clearly don’t belong there. If you don’t have any respect for the film you’re watching or the people who made it, at least have some consideration for the people around you. Unlike you, they actually paid their money to see the film. And guess what, no one really cares to hear your conversations. Turn the fucking phone off and shut the fuck up.

Yeah, I’ve heard all the arguments for being allowed to text/talk, and I don’t really buy any of them. If you’re a doctor and you’re on call, don’t go to a movie. Do something else. If you’re a parent and you’re worried about your kids, don’t go to a movie. If you can’t turn the damn phone off for 90 to 120 minutes for any reason, don’t go to a movie. It’s that simple. Nothing gives you the right to ruin the experience for everyone else. Nothing. The only time I leave my phone on during a movie is when I’m literally the only person in the theater (which does happen occasionally), because I know it won’t bother anybody if the phone happens to ring. If even one other person walks in, I shut it off immediately. And I’m happy to do so.


Imagine this scenario: what if you decided to bring a flashlight into the movie theater, and you decided to turn it on at random intervals during the film? That’s basically what you’re doing when you turn your phone on. You don’t think that would upset people? Would you really be surprised if someone said, “Hey Asshole, turn that fucking light off, we’re trying to watch the movie!” Would you bitch about having the right to shine your flashlight in the theater whenever you chose to? Would it be more important for you to do what you wanted to do during the movie than it would be for the rest of the audience to enjoy the movie? Ask yourselves these questions, and maybe you’ll realize how ridiculous it is to “fight for your right to text”. Because to the rest of the audience, your phone might as well be a flashlight. They’re not involved in your life or your conversations, so to them it’s just a light that’s distracting them from what’s happening on the screen. So don’t be an asshole.

If we’re going to allow people to text in the theater, I say we should allow everyone to masturbate or even have sex in the theater as well. I’m talking full penetration, to completion, right there in the theater seats. Why not? Who cares if it bothers or upsets the rest of the audience, or distracts their focus from the screen? What’s important is that those specific people who choose to have sex in the theater have the right to do what they want, right? I mean, if they’re willing to risk being thrown in jail on obscenity charges, who are we to say they can’t do it? As for the theater workers who have to clean up afterwards, well, that’s their problem, isn’t it? That’s what they get paid for. The hell with everyone else if you can’t wait two hours to get your rocks off.

Yes, I realize that’s completely absurd. But the argument for texting in theaters is equally absurd. Just because certain people are selfish and stupid doesn’t mean the theater chains should cater to them. Hey, I’ve got an idea: let’s allow people to throw things at the bands during concerts! It’s supposed to be an interactive experience, right? Who cares if it stops the show and ruins it for everyone else? Let’s just let the assholes of the world destroy all the fun for the non-assholes. And we’ll see what happens when the majority of people just stop buying tickets to public events.

If anything, NATO should be trying to bring people back to theaters who have stopped going because of the assholes in the audience. The best way to do that is to do what the Alamo Drafthouse does: ban talking and texting on cell phones during all screenings. Tell people to turn their phones off beforehand, and eject them from the theater if their lights go on. That may not bring everyone back (lower prices would also help), but it would be a damn good start. Set rules and enforce them. That’s the only thing these people understand: “we’ll throw you out if you do this. No refunds.” Since they obviously don’t understand common courtesy and civility, the only thing to do is threaten them with ejection. Toss them out, and maybe they’ll learn something.

If it sounds like I’m being harsh, well, you’re right, I am. Because I love movies, and I don’t like assholes. It’s really that simple. If we allow a small minority of dicks to ruin moviegoing for everyone else, where do we draw the line? I think we’ve tried to be nice about it, and clearly it doesn’t work. So it’s time to get tough. Tell the morons to sit down, shut up, turn off the phone and watch the goddamn movie. Or get the fuck out. No exceptions.

And if they don’t like it, if they feel annoyed or put out or upset, then maybe, just maybe, they’ll start to understand how the rest of the audience feels. And maybe they’ll stop being assholes. At least for 2 hours.

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