Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Theater Ettiquette, Part One -or- Put Away The Duct Tape, I am Here to Help.

If you, like me always have the karmic misfortune of being seated near a noisy, badly behaved person when in a movie theater, you are in in luck!

I am about to offer you a quick course on several techniques to employ when confronted by talkers, gum snappers,wrapper rustlers, chair kickers, those who sing aloud to the sound track or warn the actors on the screen what is about to happen next as well as the heavily congested.

Take heart, you are not alone. After years of suffering through expensive trips to the movie theater, I have perfected a system that I am about to share with you.

I have had little choice but to become a "Shusher" a "Throat-Clearer" or a "Turn-and Glarer." And I am not the only one.You've seen us in action and now, after this brief tutorial, you too can attempt to completely control your environment and dominate everyone around you enjoy your next trip to the multi-plex.

First, like me, you can become a shusher. 
President Obama shushing
during a recent viewing
of "Stargate Atlantis."

A shusher is simply one who, well, shushes. The shush is probably the most common tool used in subduing unruly theater goers. Children, adults, people on oxygen with tanks that click every twenty minutes all get shushed. Shushing knows no demographic boundaries. Another popular technique, the Turn-and-Glare, or the TAG, more often than not, will precede the shush.

Done as theatrically as possible so as to maximize effect without actually making noise yourself, the TAG is traditionally done when someone behind you is taking an hour to unwrap candy, loudly clawing at the interior of their popcorn receptacle or making frequent comments to their seat mate. Often the TAG, the most complicated of all the techniques, is effective on it's own.

Typically the first weapon in your arsenal, the TAG should be done quickly at first. The velocity of the TAG can be decreased based on whether the offender has taken the hint. The slower the TAG, the greater your rage and, depending on the offense, their are countless variations of the glare.

When glaring, timing is important or it renders itself ineffective--too long a glare can invite confrontation, too short can be misinterpreted -- in the darkness of the theater -- as  comraderie or, worse, a desire to join the conversation.

If you have someone in front who is talking too much, there is an alternate move that is rarely done since it is likely to incur actual fighting. It is the Lean-Forward (LF).

If you employ the LF, you are entering someone's actual physical domain (although in the new theatres, the space between the aisles has increased, rendering the LF virtually useless). People are often surprised by the LF because they have totally forgotten where they are and that there are actually people, who have also paid $10 for a ticket and $75 for snacks, behind them.

The LF can be accompanied by a Shush or the rare spoken sentence. Here are three examples: "Please tell me if you plan on talking during the entire movie so I can change my seat right now," or "Are you aware that you're in a public place and not your living room?" My own personal favorite is, "Are you always this rude or is it only when you're at the movies?" If you use this last one, choose your victim carefully. If it's anyone other than two very old women with hearing aides who you are certain you can out run, you'd best be prepared to rumble.
That granulated sugar can
be tricky.

The throat-clear (TC) has gone out of favor as have all things of subtlety and nuance. Originally an alternative first step to the TAG, now people simply think a Sour Patch Kid has gotten stuck in your craw or that you may be about to choke on your popcorn.

So, you see, movie viewing is more complicated than it looks. Look for Part II tomorrow for tips on how to maximize your viewing experience and what it may really mean if you seem to always be seated near a badly behaved person.


  1. I'm hoping for information on how to deal with elderly, rain-coat-wearing, 'gentlemen' who think it's ok to fondle my thigh...

  2. How about the cell phone fanatics??

  3. Oh, God, Janet, that's another post entirely. For that, A taser or a butcher knife is necessary. XO

  4. I'm not sure the movie is appropriate if guys are wearing trenchcoats, but that's just me. I find that most theatre goers just don't have a clue anymore and are often friends with the ushers. I hate a good popularity contest, so I try not to hit any new releases. I find that being louder than they are often works to shut them up. I have issued a stern "excuse me?!" or a "seriously?" which then elicits the shushers from the entire room to make their mating call of silence. This is like not being the second guy to throw a punch. By being extra loud, one of two things happen: the people who are rude do it again and literally step on the last nerve of everyone around them OR the ushers are called and you get to make a scene where the people around you back you up. It's like bringing a gun to a knife fight, the only one up is to bring bombs....

    That made a little sense...

  5. Oh and mouse traps work on the thigh grabbers....

  6. Michele, how could I have omitted them? That will have to be for another day--I have plenty to say on the subject! Thanks for reading!

  7. Scott, that was a very funny comment, young man. I like the questioning use of the word "Seriously" and the idea of mass shushing.

    It occurs to me that I really don't like going to the movies at all.

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