You might be surprised to find me using the word “douchebags” on this blog, but sometimes you have to call a spade a spade.

I’ve written this upon returning home from seeing Splice, a surprisingly good science-fiction thriller, at a multiplex in Manhattan. The review I’ll post later; this isn’t about the movie. This is about the audience for the movie, composed, it must be said, of mostly respectful patrons who watched the film with reasonable shock and enthusiasm. The majority of film audiences are reasonable; I’m not addressing them. I’m addressing the select few, like the three individuals sitting one row ahead, who spoke incessantly from the moment they sat down to the moment they dragged their knuckles out the door. Cinemas aren’t a monastery; some allowances may be made for occasional whispers or even an outburst or two of surprise or excitement, especially during a horror film, action film, comedy, or thriller. Movies at their best are a shared experience, and such communal responses are part of the fun.

Allowances, however, will not be made for raising your voice to be heard by the entire auditorium — surely you’re not speaking so loudly to be heard by the people seated right next to you. Allowances will not be made for loudly describing the action as it’s happening on screen, sometimes with a question in your voice suggesting an inability to follow the most rudimentary developments of a plot. Allowances will not be made for answering your phone or, from the sound of it, re-dialing when you are disconnected. Surely we have reached the day and age when you already know you’re an asshole as you answer your phone in a theater, so we will no longer think you simply carelessly insensitive. You’re deliberately and willfully a prick.

More profanity. More to come. This will not be a decorous essay about my frustration with behavior at the movies. I’ve written it already. It’s not satisfying anymore to be polite about those who have no understanding of politeness, or to use reason to describe a person who says, “Oh, he’s fucking her?” confusedly during a rape scene. Shall I discuss the value of the moviegoing experience with those who squeal with stupid delight at the most obligatory flashes of violence from the trailer of the latest Resident Evil movie or loudly exclaim at every cracking bone in the ad for a new exorcism movie? Have you ever seen a movie before, dullard, or been presented with any kind of moving image projected on a screen?

I must seem awfully superior, but sometimes superiority is just a fair estimation of value. I think the vast majority of people are superior to the sub-degenerate mouthbreathers who sucked valuable oxygen in the row in front of me as I and my fellow patrons tried to enjoy Splice. They are an extreme example of an ever escalating phenomenon at the movies, growing also to include the reach-out-and-touch-me set who still don’t realize — and probably don’t care — that the bright neon glow of their cell phones as they send text messages is an obnoxious look-at-me distraction that irritates the eyes. So let this message go out into the universe for all the inconsiderate nitwits wasting precious space at movie theaters and flushing the increasingly exorbitant price we pay to be there down the toilet:

Fuck you, you fucking fucks.

Who the fuck do you think you are? What the fuck entitles you to decide that my money should have been spent to listen to you snark, snicker, comment, and bitch instead of to watch the film I paid for? Where the fuck is your sense of common courtesy as you answer that urgent call or text from friends and family you haven’t spoken to since they called or texted you ten minutes ago? Why the fuck didn’t you stay home? DVD was invented for insensitive jerks like you, the same way car accidents were invented to remove you from the gene pool. At home on your couch you can scream at the screen all you like, laugh at dramatic moments, make inappropriate comments, stage Mystery Science Theater viewing parties. It’s a private space where you disrupt nothing and distract no one. When I go to the movie theater I make no noise but appropriate laughter during a comedy (laughter at really bad dramas can’t be helped, but I try to keep it silent), not because of some ascetic self-discipline on my part, but because I know nobody’s there to listen to broadcasts of my opinion. I know this because I’m a grown-up.

I think there must be something really wrong with you. The compulsion to enter a public space among strangers and make a nuisance of yourself requires a certain lack of shame, dignity, and self-respect. How do you keep such a lack of consideration of others from infecting the rest of your life? If you behave with such narcissistic disregard for others in restaurants, at parties, on buses or trains, it’s hard to believe you’re welcome anywhere outside your own house. Perhaps you’re not. Perhaps you seek refuge in the safety of a darkened cinema, where hopefully others won’t be able to see you to hurl rotten fruit and expletives at.

I’ve said before that you only get one chance to see a movie for the first time, and as a lover of films I consider it a sacred trust, but even if you’re only a liker of films you should respect the medium. If you care nothing for film at all you should respect your fellow customers. But some of you demonstrate an inability — no, an unwillingness — to even consider the feelings of others. You put your blinders on, so the only person who exists in your myopic little world is you. You who are so clever, so witty, so goddamn proud of every little thing that stumbles sideways out of your fool mouth.

Why should we complain, you might say. It’s only a movie. Lighten up. As sure as I am that this blog entry amounts to pissing in the ocean, it must be said: It’s not just about the movie. It’s about character. Get some.

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