It was 10:30 on a Thursday night, and I was at a movie theater for the first local screening of “Spring Breakers,” which is about four trashy college girls who go to Florida and get in trouble with guns, drugs, and sex. (Note: it’s impossible to go to Florida and not have trouble with at least one of those things.) The movie had opened in New York a week earlier and was already infamous for featuring former Disney stars Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens as two of the girls, all boobs a-flashin’ and suchlike. It’s a sign that they’ve grown out of their “Wizards of Waverly Place” and “High School Musical” personas and want to be grown-ups now, like when Shia LaBeouf left “Even Stevens” in 2003 to become a meth cook and was never seen again.
Just as the movie was starting, four guys came in and sat next to me, in what might have been the only cluster of four seats still open. There was a lot of last-minute seating going on — mostly of teenagers who’d been kicked out earlier by a surprisingly conscientious theater employee who checked their IDs and enforced the “under 17 requires parent or guardian” rule. Now that the heat was off, some of them snuck back in.
(To answer your question, no, I had never in all my life seen a theater employee do this before, and I would not believe it had happened this time had I not seen it with my own four eyes.)
My new seatmates were not among these, however. They were all about 20 years old, stylishly dressed, and heavily cologned. I gathered from the language they spoke and other factors* that they hailed from somewhere in the vicinity of India or Pakistan or thereabouts. A couple minutes into the movie, the fellow seated immediately to my left used his phone to take a picture of the screen. Piracy! In the wild! This was something else I’d never witnessed before, not up close like this. (You’ll notice it didn’t happen at a press screening.) He seemed to have snapped the picture at random, not in an attempt to capture a particular moment from the film. Perhaps it was a new phone and he was testing its ability to take crappy photographs of faraway things in dark rooms.
He took another one about 90 seconds later. I decided now that I had to do something — not because I care about piracy, because I don’t, really, except where it concerns the production of additional “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, and then I am against it, but because I didn’t want to sit next to some idiot who was going to have his glow-in-the-dark phone out the whole time. I guess this is what those public service announcements mean when they talk about how piracy affects individuals, because here it was, affecting me. It really makes you think.
So I whispered to the guy, “Hey, you can’t take pictures of the movie.” He said, all innocent-like, “Oh, I can’t?” And I said, “No, it’s against the law!” He said “OK” and put his phone away. I wanted to have an additional conversation about whether he REALLY didn’t know he wasn’t allowed to photograph the movie, but this was neither the time (during a movie) nor the place (a movie theater).
A different problem emerged a few minutes later, a problem as old as time: Pirate McShutterbug and his friends started talking. They made brief but frequent comments to each other in ordinary speaking voices. I gathered that they were expressing opinions on the women in the movie, but I don’t know for sure because they were speaking in a foreign language. This brings up a position I have long held, which is that if you’re going to talk out loud during a movie, you should at least have the decency to do it in a language that I, personally, understand.
But having scolded these kids once already, I was reluctant to do it again. I felt out of place anyway: a lone 38-year-old man in a theater filled with couples and groups under the age of 25. This was their territory, not mine. Who was I to tell them how to behave? Besides, I suffer from a condition that most people my age suffer from, whether they will admit it or not, which is that I want cool young people to think that I am cool. Shushing these bozos would be very un-cool.
So I deployed the hood on my hoodie and hoped that the other people sitting nearby would take care of the problem. After each new exchange between two or more of the guys, I waited for one of their peers in the row in front of us to turn around and say, “Hey, bros, chill with the jibber-jabber,” or however the young people talk nowadays. But this never happened, either because nobody else minded the chatter, or because everyone else was, like me, waiting for someone else to take action.
Well, after putting up with this for only like 45 minutes or so, I DID take action. I leaned over to the main offender, two seats away from me, and said, “Hey! Come on!” And then I got up and moved to a different seat.
Now here’s the same story from the point of view of the guy next to me.
“We were a little late to the theater because we were doing a lot of cool things in our stylish clothes, and the only four seats we could find together were next to this weird loner who was the oldest person in the room. I had to sit right next to him. First thing he did was hassle me about taking pictures of the movie with my phone, like it’s any of his business. Then he put his hood up and sat there silently like a psycho while the rest of us enjoyed pointing out which of the girls in the movie had boobs we wanted to see. Then out of nowhere he’s like, ‘Shut up, you guys!’ and then he stormed off to go sit somewhere else. Probably so he could find someone to stalk and kill. This is why I hate going to the movies.”
*skin tone, but I don’t want this to sound like a race thing