Recently, I went to see the just-released movie Flame and Citron, about heroes in the WWII Danish Resistance. It's a fine and troubling movie, which you should see. But this blog is about another aspect of going out to see an actual film in an actual theatre: the pre-show commercials. I know I should be blogging about global warming, endangered species, or the sad state of politicial misleadership, but really this is more important.
Why, I wondered, do we sit still at a movie theatre and allow ourselves to be subjected to a series of loud, aggressive promos for things we have no interest in? We have paid to be there. This recalls a classic Monty Python skit about a business which, among other services, offers insults and being hit-on-the-head lessons, if you pay first. If I hunger for a conversation between two tongues and an eyeball about Coke Zero, I can always visit Youtube.
If I want to be subjected to barrages of several commercials, in a row I'll watch TV. I don't watch much TV anymore. Doesn't that tell you something?
It enrages me that , when I have played my part of the bargain -- laid out an exorbitant amount of cash for a seat in a theatre, not illegally downloaded the movie or waited for the DVD release -- I am expected to quietly watch several minutes of commercials which insult both my intelligence and my taste. Don't theatres make enough profit with the 600% mark-up on drinks and popcorn?
Genuine movie-goers -- now a dying breed, except when the new Harry Potter or Miley Cyrus vehicle is released -- need not be so passive. We should be ripping up our none-too-clean, popcorn-scented seats and hurling them at the screen until the ads are yanked. I remember an apocryphal story that somewhere, back in the heady 60's when the movie 2001 first hit theatres, in one place (I'd like to think San Francisco) a patron stood up when the black obelisk appeared, yelled "I see God" and ran right through the screen, leaving a human-shaped hole in it for the rest of the screening. Now that's re3ally getting into a movie.
We North Americans are otherwise too passive in our movie-attending behaviour. In the Middle East, folks hoot and whistle at actors and scenes, and even throw pop bottles at villains. I think we could learn a thing or two from such enlightened audiences. It's time to get out of our seedy plush seats and take back the time we have paid for.
Causes John Oughton Supports
PEN International, Amnesty International, League of Canadian Poets, POR AMOR, Greenpeace