How Far Is Too Far With Cinema Etiquette?
Like many people this week, I heard about the bizarre case of a Texas man suing his date after she left part way through a screening of Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, that she had been texting during, taking the car with her and leaving him stranded. Also like many my response was 'well this is kind of petty but gosh darn it I do hate it when people text in the cinema'. The cinema is a place to sit down and watch a movie, if you want to have loud conversations or text then watch a movie at home or do something else, and putting the phone on silent doesn’t change the fact that your lit up screen is brighter than the beacons of Gondor in a dark room. It’s all just rude behaviour that isn’t fair to the people who want to watch a movie. Don’t do it. Just don’t. However, facts have been emerging which make this particular case less about cinema etiquette, and more stalkerish revenge for a bruised ego.
Now, we’ve all had bad dates. Sometimes we’ve even been at a loss financially from those dates. I myself was once walked out on halfway through the date and left with a £12 bill for our drinks and his food. I was annoyed, not going to lie, but I paid up and now it’s a great anecdote whenever a conversation with friends turns to dating disasters. Taking it to legal action is something else entirely, and when the amount is $17.31 for the movie ticket and $4 for pizza you have to wonder what the point is when surely legal fees would negate any profit. The complainant claims that this is about the principle of common decency and it's sending a message about public behaviour. That’s a little much, don’t you think?
As said we all hate texting in cinemas, but I would hardly call someone who does it “a threat to civilized society” as the lawsuit states. To responses that he should just move on from the incident the following was tweeted “I don’t owe a selfish, disruptive, exploitative stranger anything.” Well, in that case she similarly doesn’t owe you anything; you aren’t magically entitled to a refund for a bad date. She especially doesn’t owe anything to someone who feels the need to make a viral sensation over something that does not matter. It’s not as though this case is going to be the landmark that puts an end to bad cinema behaviour, and the only message it sends is that some people care way too much about incredibly stupid things. He claims that he asked her to stop texting, fair enough, and to take it outside if it was that important. She did. Then she left, and that is probably what this is really about. She embarrassed him, and so he’s feeling the need to publicly embarrass her under the banner of principle, and clearly enjoying all the attention if his Twitter feed since the incident is anything to go by.
The entire situation also brings up some very unpleasant things in the area of dating. The woman herself, who has wanted to remain anonymous and honestly I can’t blame her, said that her date made her feel uncomfortable and she had to leave due to a friend needing her immediately. Discomfort is a sentiment that many women can relate to when meeting someone whom they met online as was the case here, and even if what she said about her friend was just an excuse she also wouldn’t be the first woman to claim that a friend or relative needed her to get out of a bad social situation. It’s actually pretty standard social strategy for keeping ourselves safe. Plus, we don’t know how the date went before the texting and leaving incident and it’s entirely possible that she had good cause to feel uncomfortable; all we have is his word that the date had been going well until that point. There have also been reports that the plaintiff has been repeatedly contacting the woman’s family about her paying back the money, and if true then this is incredibly creepy and out of order behaviour. For many women everything about this case is another example of a man feeling entitled to a woman’s time and attention and then acting out when she isn’t meeting those standards.
This isn’t about justice or cinema etiquette and this man is not a hero. This is just a weird little news story that we’re all going to forget about by next month and that is for the best.