I Love Movies. I Dislike Movie-Goers
Going to the movies is a favourite date night for me. I get out of my own reality and escape into a new world. No interruptions from kids and no phone calls or knocks on the door. Movie popcorn is a secret guilty pleasure. Whispering to a friend during the pre-show or holding hands with my husband is a ritual. Cheap Tuesdays make me feel less guilty. However, I often wish I was wealthy enough to have a private screening room where I control who is allowed to come. Why? Other people. Plain and simple.
The list of possible transgressions is long:
- kicking the back of the seat
- sitting right beside me when there are tons of free seats available
- talking loudly during the movie (you are NOT in your own living room!)
- texting or talking on the phone
- not silencing your phone
- hanging your coat over the back of your seat so it drags on my feet
- hogging the arm rest
- putting your drink in the wrong cupholder
- gum or food spills on the seats
All of these are immensely annoying and can quickly pull me out of my escapism moment. With my teaching background, I have perfected the glare and have been known to turn around and shush the loud talkers. However, there is one transgression that I find horrifying and most unforgivable above all else: bringing young children to adult movies.
Setting the Scene
One Friday, my husband and I joined friends for a couples’ date night. We went to see Captain America: Civil War. As we entered the theatre, I noticed a stroller in the front row, but it was empty, so I put it out of my mind. As the movie progressed, I heard a child’s voice (that I pegged as a toddler) call out on occasion. Once, I heard the child clearly say, “I’m scared, Mommy!” This took my attention away from enjoying the show to worry about the welfare of this child. When the final credits had rolled, I watched as a mom and dad packed their child into the stroller (appearing to be about 2 years of age) to exit the theatre. It was all I could do to not shout something at them about responsible parenting. I commented on my surprise and worry to my husband and our friends and that elicited a conversation about parenting styles. All of us agreed that this movie was most unsuitable for a young child on many levels. We left the theatre still talking about our concern. I made a quick trip to the washroom and there in the vestibule was the empty stroller. When I emerged from the stall and was washing my hands, there was the mom with her toddler in tow. I opened my mouth to talk to her about my concerns, but closed it again when I realized I was uncertain of what to say or how to go about it. Righteous indignation? Humble concern? Ask an innocent question about how she enjoyed the movie and then move into a discussion about the violence? I left bothered, but without having spoken up.
I did some research when I got home:
Captain America: Civil War is rated PG with the warning “not suitable for young children” here in Canada. In the USA, it is PG-13. A website that I often consult as a mom when I have questions about tv/movies is Common Sense Media (CSM) website. Here is the CSM review for this movie. It identifies a lot of violence and the collective has advised children be at least 12 before seeing it.
A pamphlet on the topic by the University of Pittsburgh Office of Child Development on the topic of children and media/tv violence cites that studies show that when children view violence on tv or in the media, it may encourage aggressive behaviour with long-lasting results into adulthood. They identify that it can affect attitudes leading to a potential understanding of the world as a mean place and desensitization to violence. There are countless studies that espouse the same things.
What is the role of the “village raising a child” here? Should I have made a comment to the mother in the washroom? How should I have phrased it? The mere fact that I am still concerned about this days later lets me know it was important to me. Should I have overcome my worries about what people (the mom, bystanders) would think [insert polite Canadian excuses and wanting everyone to like me and minding my own business here] and say something on behalf of that child, or is it truly none of my business? I still get a shudder when I think about the echo of that child calling out “I’m scared, Mommy!”