We all Deserve (aka: Movies are for Everyone)

Around a week ago, I jumped on the bandwagon and purchased a ticket to see Avengers: Endgame. Not just any ticket, either. Since I was going to see the highly anticipated movie by myself, I decided to splurge and see the movie in 3D XD. The ultimate film-going experience, with a giant screen and unbeatable surround sound. The price? $19 per seat.

I know. Way too much money. But it was my Solo Date Night. I wanted to have fun luxury-style, with cushy leather reclining seats, extra butter topping on my popcorn, and a frosty-cold cup of Blue Moon beer with a twist of orange. (Because that’s how we do cinema in my neck of the woods).

As the previews were beginning, I was vaguely aware of a trio of people taking their seats just to the left of me. They were a little talkative, but hey, it was only the previews. So I munched my popcorn and settled in, waiting for the movie to begin. Soon enough, the lights went down, and our feature film began.

Somewhere to my left, someone’s voice cut into the silence of the theater. I ignored it. But just as I was getting absorbed by what was happening on the screen, the person to my left began to talk again. And again. This continued throughout the first half hour or so of the movie. I am a patient person. Very patient. But I was beginning to grit my teeth a little. I mean, come on. $19 tickets, people! Don’t we all deserve to relax and enjoy a good movie without one person messing it up by talking through the film?

At first, I tried an innocuous little shh! Usually, that’s all it takes for people to get the hint and clam up. (Although once, the shh approach escalated the situation, and I found myself sitting next to a hostile noisy person who was apparently offended that I was offended by her rudeness). The shh was ineffective. My neighbor continued to chatter. At last, now quite distracted from what was happening on the screen, I whispered to the person to my immediate left, “Can you please ask your friend to quiet down?”

The woman responded with, “He’s autistic.”

Ugh. I immediately felt like the worst person in the world.

Here I was, so focused on my feelings of irritation, and my own sense of what I deserved. But for people with autism, many things, even sounds or lights or touch — things that wouldn’t bother many of us, can cause just as much irritation to them as the sound of one person’s voice in a movie theater was causing me. In fact, for some people with autism, their reactions to such stimuli can be pretty intense.

And deserving? Sure, for $19, I deserved to be relax and be entertained by a good show for a couple of hours. But then, so did the people to my left, including the patron with autism. So do people in wheelchairs. So do families who care for people with autism and other disabilities. We all deserve a break from reality, and movie theaters (and restaurants, and other public places) should not be exclusive spots where only certain people get to spend their recreational time.

Funny how easy it was to tune out the talking and enjoy the movie once I adjusted my attitude about it. The movies should be a place for all of us to sit back, enjoy our buttery popcorn and beer, and slip into a world of fantasy, if only for a couple of hours.

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7 responses to “We all Deserve (aka: Movies are for Everyone)

  1. It’s a good lesson, if the woman was telling the truth about her friend. Otherwise, pretty dirty on her part. in a former life I did volunteer work at a school for children with severe and multiple disabilities. The teachers there, who I refer to as the “ponytail girls” were, and are, like superheroes to me, rivaling anything you saw on the movie screen that night.

    My daughter participated in a program at school called “Best Buddies” that pairs high school students with a buddy with autism or other intellectual challenges. There are local chapters in schools throughout the country and it’s a great learning experience for both buddies.

    I have a long way to go to learn to be more patient with people, but unfortunately I find many people to be incredibly selfish and inconsiderate; while others are looking for a fight. Again, I hope the woman next to you was sincere. I see too many people like those using the “emotional support animal” label to play on people’s sympathies and get their way. Either way, your attitude, perspective and understanding reflects well on you.

    • Wow, that program really does sound like a great experience! Back when I was a public school teacher, I used to try my best to make inclusion of differently-abled children a positive experience for everyone. It’s important for kids to be aware that the world is filled with all kinds of people, and that it’s up to all of us to help those who can’t walk, or see, or communicate, to feel included as well. It does take patience, and a bit of “getting over yourself” at times, like I had to in the movie theater. People like your “ponytail girls” amaze and inspire me. It takes a special type of person to work with the severely disabled, and thank goodness for them!

      I think that we forget, too, that we are all just one step away from being that person with the disability, or having a child in our lives born with autism, etc. How would we want to world to open up for us? How would we hope that people would treat our autistic child/grandchild/nephew? That, then, is how we should choose to respond, right?

      I get your concern about the sincerity of the woman in the theater, and of others who may be playing upon the sympathies of others or seeking conflict. My thought is, choose to respond as though the other person is sincere, so long as it is not harming me or anyone else. I know that doesn’t work in all cases, but in a situation like the one I faced, it seemed appropriate.

      • “we are all just one step away from being that person with the disability, or having a child in our lives born with autism…”

        Yes and YES! One illness, one accident, one little twist of fate and it can be us. We need to find a way to negotiate this crazy world together. Knowing there are people like you gives me hope.

  2. I love the moral of your story, but in my neck of the woods the theaters have special days and screenings such as parent/children days, senior days, and special accommodations. A individual can of course go to a normal showing, but it is nice to have these options, plus all these days come with various perks such as discounted move prices, free popcorn, enlarge close caption etc…

    • Argh…accidentally sent my reply unfinished. 😝 Anyway, I like the efforts that movie theaters are making to accommodate various groups of people with special needs. But how should the rest of us respond to those with special needs who attend a regular screening, particularly when some individuals may have stimulation behaviors or non-typical reactions that may distract other guests? I really struggled with that at first. It took me a few minutes to force myself to tune it out, for the good of everyone. I guess to me, it doesn’t seem fair to expect everyone to go to the theater during special viewings only. Maybe that family really wanted to watch it during opening weekend in 3D XD, too. Maybe it wasn’t ideal for me, but I have the maturity and emotional intelligence to suck it up and focus on the movie despite the undesirable noises.

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