The Seaworld Moviegoer, or My Cinematic Lamentations

Over the last few years I’ve noticed that I’m having a greater difficulty enunciating my feelings. I’ll have a thought about something but it is just foggy enough that I can’t express it.

This has bothered me deeply, especially when I’m very passionate about something but cannot find the means to express so. With that in mind I’m going to try and express my realization that I’m not going to the movies for the same reason as other people.

First I feel like we should establish this isn’t a quality judgment. I’m not saying that my reason for watching a film is better, I am merely claiming that my reason is different. At no point here am I going to argue that I think other people are experiencing an inferior moment in their life just because it doesn’t jive with my ideal.

As long as you can accept that then the rest of this should be relatively simple I hope. But even simple concepts are tough for me these days. Basically this all came to pass over the last few major film releases I’ve seen. Star Wars 7, Star Wars 8, Infinity War, and Endgame. I noticed during these films that the audience was routinely clapping anytime they recognized something. They’d talk during the film, look at their cellphones, take pictures, or otherwise just be treating the film as more of an attraction.

Basically the last handful of films I’ve seen have had audiences that mostly are acting identical to how they would act if they were at seaworld. For me this creates a great problem. This problem is entirely personal but ultimately I’m the only person I can speak for. If I don’t like olives it doesn’t help to know I’m the only person that doesn’t. That changes nothing in the end.

When I watch a movie I go into an almost dreamlike state, if given the chance. I feel like I am inside the film. If you talk to me, or talk near me, or really make any noise at all during the film that catches my attention, I’ll be ripped from it. If you’ve ever been 90% of the way to sleep and then been startled awake you’ll know why this is a problem.

Each time I nearly get into the film someone will inevitably make a noise of some kind and snap me out of it. It is uncomfortable in ways not unlike a limb falling asleep and then achingly waking. A very real pain that has no conventional physical cause.

In the case of Endgame a couple beside me talked for the first 30 minutes of the film or so. This meant that I never got to settle in and actually enjoy anything for that period. Further as the movie went along people would scream, or clap, or as mentioned, use their phones lighting up the area. This left me routinely being reminded that I’m not in the Avenger’s universe. I’m in a movie theater.

I think the major difference is that I’m at the movies to experience something. But I think most everyone else is going to the films to consume them. It is an attraction to them, like a dolphin backflipping in a pool. I can’t say that it is objectively worse, nor would I argue that these people are terrible, it just means that ultimately our worldviews clash in the most brutal of ways.

With the conclusion of endgame I think that I might perhaps be done with the cinema for movies I care about. For something like Detective Pikachu I don’t mind laughing along with the audience. Comedies or otherwise silly films work well with this whole spoon throwing craze we find ourselves in.

It could be that I’m like this because I grew up on movies at the naval base. Talking during those would often get you scolded. Nobody wanted to be the parent of the unruly kids. Nobody wanted to be the sailor getting in trouble, or the spouse of someone being trouble.

Is that still true at the military theaters? I have no idea. It has been well over a decade since I’ve been to them. But that was my childhood. I saw movies as an escape from the world. A brief chance to vanish from my own state of being and live within those of another. For me a movie is identical to a book. When I’m within these things I almost literally cease to be. My mind is awash with something that is not me. My fear is not simply my fear for the characters, it is a personal fear.

I experience the stories of these characters as if I were literally them. Not simply a compassionate actor witnessing their story. It is largely why I can’t watch horror films anymore. I took the experiences from those stories viscerally. And it is why characters I embody in a story acting out of character drives me into a rage. I see it as someone lying about me personally.

Is that fair to the creators? Probably not. But it isn’t something I can control. And I guess that is the end of all I have to say on the matter. I’m disappointed to be the odd man out on this. Saddened that so few people seem to share this world of mine. But perhaps that is inevitable. Some people adapt with new times or new places and others are left behind.

I’ll just stand aside and watch films when they come out on disk or streaming. Let the theaters remain for those that want to clap or cheer anytime they recognize anything. If everyone but me finds joy in some action I would much rather find an alternative for myself than expect everyone else to change.

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