Shushing Strangers at the Movies, Writing a Fan Letter to Someone Who Isn't Famous, and Other Questionable Advice
Welcome to Thatz Not Okay, a regular column in which I school inquiring readers on what is and is not okay. Please send your questions to email@example.com with the subject "Thatz Not Okay."
As holiday blockbuster season approaches, Thatz Not Okay's inbox has been inundated with emails from people whose friends and acquaintances (and non-acquaintances) need to shut the hell up during movies. We're starting off today with two related questions:
1. I have a friend who is really loud and obnoxiously talkative. She is a great person, very generous and caring, but she is embarrassing to be around in public. She talks through movies, commenting loudly at the screen. She does the two finger whistle blow in classical concerts. She also is an avid Facebook journaler ("Realized I'm happy being single! Personal growth moment!" ) which fits in with her over-sharing of everything. She's just very LOUD. I have tickets to a movie marathon I know she would love but I don't know if it's fair to everyone else in the audience to invite her. I'm worried I'll come across as a total asshole but I'd to tell her to pipe down a bit but — is that okay?
2. I was out at a movie tonight, sitting next to a couple who were talking throughout the entire thing. About halfway through, I turned and asked them to stop talking, because it was distracting. The response was to laugh at me, and then continue talking. At the end of the movie I overheard them saying that if I didn't want anyone to talk during a movie I should've stayed home and just gotten it bootlegged, and that I had "totally crossed a line." Did I cross a line? When you ask strangers in a theater to be quiet, is that okay?
Thatz all okay.
The thing unapologetic movie-talkers don't realize is this: "You shouldn't talk during the movie" isn't a fussy opinion held by a few busybodies who happen to be sharing the theater with them. It is a rule. The movie theater itself tells you to be quiet before the picture starts, often with the use of an elaborate cartoon. The message of these clips isn't, "sometimes pieces of film reels break off and dance around the abandoned concession stand after dark – isn't the cinema a wonderful place?" It's, "SHUT THE FUCK UP. DO NOT MAKE NOISE. ALL THE NOISE YOU NEED TO HEAR WILL BEGIN EMANATING FROM THE SCREEN IMMEDIATELY AFTER THIS CLIP ENDS."
There's nothing impolite about asking a person to stop talking during a movie. There is something impolite about cutting through the silence of the theater to yell, "Amelieeeeeeeeeee where you takin' that GNOME girl!!!!!!!!!!!"
The people in the movie, which is pre-recorded, cannot hear movie-talkers' questions and advice. The people in the theater, who paid money to watch and hear the film, can.
My mom has a louder voice than anyone I know. My theory is that she developed it as a side-effect of her work, which requires her to have a lot of interaction with the elderly. (My mom is a witch who steals young people's youth and turns them old.) I think she got so used to speaking up in order to be heard by them, that MAX VOLUME became her default speaking level.
If my mom is WHISPERING LIKE THIS at a movie, I respond first with firm finger-to-mouth hand gestures. If she keeps talking, I just stop reacting. I think one time I just got up and changed seats (MOM I'M TRYING TO WATCH RETURN OF THE KING IN SILENCE.) If one person talking during a movie is distracting, multiple people fighting about talking during a movie is even worse.
If your friend is being obnoxious in a public place like a restaurant, where talking is allowed but screaming is discouraged, you can make it sound like you're both in the wrong by looking around and laughing, "Haha, I think we're getting a little loud."
If you don't think you can trust her to behave at the movie marathon, I wouldn't bring her. Not only will it annoy your fellow patrons; it will be stressful for you. The fact that it's something she loves only increases the chances that she will have a lot of loud remarks to make as the night unfolds. And no one wants to hear repeated exclamations of, "But why's that kid runnin' to the SEA to CRY?" in the middle of a French New Wave marathon.
If either of the letters above were addressing behavior during a Rocky Horror Picture Show showing, all advice is reversed and the letter writers should be chastised for rudeness.
But, for the record, anytime someone's moral high ground is predicated on advising you to buy a bootlegged movie, you're probably in the clear.
I've recently put in my two weeks' notice where I work, but before I go, I wanted to write an e-mail to someone who works for a different office. We've never personally interacted, but I've read some of the decisions she's issued, and transcripts involving her. I've also heard many good things about her, and been CC'd on e-mail exchanges. The combination of all of this over a period of time has led me to look up to her and have a tremendous amount of respect for her. I want to let her know that she is a motivating factor for me to get more education, but because we've never spoken before or met each other, I'm worried that she will find it creepy and inappropriate. I was thinking of sending an e-mail basically saying that she's motivated me to try to do more with myself. Is that okay?
A good rule of thumb is: if you have something good to say, put it in writing. If you have something bad to say, do it face to face, so you leave no paper trail and your negative words blow away on the wind. (Prove I called you "an asshole." PROVE IT.)
There is no downside to shooting off a complimentary email that will almost certainly make this person's week. It's not like you're saying, "you've inspired me to start professionally shooting dice in the liquor store parking lot." You're writing to tell her she's motivated you to better yourself. Oprah lives for these emails.
If you're worried about things veering into "creep" territory, keep it casual. Email is more appropriate than a handwritten letter in this case, and certainly better than a mix CD titled "Songs That Remind Me of You/Us."
Don't put yourself down in your message. Don't ask for any favors or goad her into being your mentor. Don't reveal how you've even started copying that little thing she does where she presses her lips together after laughing because you love it so much.
And since you're never interacted before, don't suggest meeting up to discuss your appreciation of her CC's in person. Respect her from a distance.
Best case scenario, she'll take an interest in you, and you find yourself with a new champion/someone to underwrite your liquor-store dice shooting. Worst case scenario: Isn't that a nice thing you did? Have fun in heaven after you die.
Submit your "Thatz Not Okay" questions here. Image by Jim Cooke.