Whether it is acceptable or not, we are in an age of entitlement that is souring the basics of common decency. This became very apparent recently when my wife and I spent a rare child-free evening away from home. The group in the room beside ours was clearly getting their “drink on” prior to a night out on the town. Though the 20 or so people were loud and rowdy, with cries of “oh (expletive) we broke the bed” echoing through the walls, since it was still early I figured they were entitled to their fun. After all, they paid for their room too. However, when the partying hit three o’clock in the morning, and my sleep was being impeded on, I hit that crossroads of whether to complain or endure the annoyance further.
The experience quickly brought me back to several outings I have had in the cinema this year. The “I paid for it, so I can do what I want” mentality that was displayed by the party goers next door can be found almost daily in the cinema. The film going experience now seems to include texting, reading Twitter, talking on the phone and bringing young children to movies that are not, in my mind at least, age appropriate. We are in an era were villains are not the perpetrators, but the folks who tap them on the shoulder and politely ask them to put away their phones.
After all, they did pay for their ticket.
So I guess the question becomes what is one entitled to when purchasing a movie ticket? The obvious answer is the guarantee of both seeing the film and having a seat to sit in. However, what one does in their seat is another thing entirely. Somewhere along the line we mistakenly assumed that our $12 ticket entitled us to more. This is evident in when you see those people, who enter the theatre just as the trailers begin, loudly venting their frustration that there are no seats in the middle available. Or the person who feels the need to answer the phone mid-film just so they can inform the person on the other end of the line that they are watching a film.
Now I know there are those who advocate for theatres becoming a more interactive experience. They argue for a change that better represents the multitasking audience of today. In many ways the shift seems to be taking us back to the Restoration era where going to the theatre was a far more social experience. In fact the plays occurring on stage were secondary in most people’s mind during that time.
What bothers me about this, in the context of film, is that it only seems to make the situation worse not better. Why should the whole system change to appease those whose interests are completely selfish? Should the laws of the road change to satisfy drivers who cannot go two minutes without checking their Facebook status on their cell phones? The communal aspect of the cinematic experience is slowly dying. Sure we all sit in the same theatre, but we are becoming lost in our own foolish sense of self-importance. Instead of fighting for a more interactive movie experience, how about fighting for common decency. If there are those who assume they have the right to do whatever they want in their seat, do I also not have a right to a distraction free cinema experience?
After all, I paid for my ticket too.