Matter of Laugh or Death
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
A NEW HORROR MOVIE: GOING TO THE THEATER
My wife and I never go to the movies anymore. We haven’t been to a movie theater since Bruce Willis wore his own hair. I can’t remember exactly which flick we saw on that long ago occasion, but I think one of the preview-of-coming-attractions was for the new Charleton Heston action thriller, “Ben Hur.”
On the other hand, our two teenagers go to the movies all the time. It’s what teenagers do since their recreational options are so limited. When they have some free time, these are their choices: A) do homework (ugh!); B) do chores around the house (double ugh!); C) watch TV—with their parents since we refuse to let them have TVs in their bedrooms (triple ugh! “Dad, how can you possibly think a talk show about politics is interesting?!” “You’ll understand, my dear, when you begin paying taxes.”); or D) go to the movies with their friends. I’d say the choice is a “no brainer,” which also happens to be the main theme of most movies nowadays.
If teenagers could choose other recreational activities, they might opt to fly to a foreign country and soak up the local culture. But thankfully, most parents have enough sense to draw the line. (“I don’t care how bored you are, young lady, you’re not flying to Brazil this afternoon just to see if any of your friends are there!”)
The exceptions to this rule, of course, are the parents of John Walker Lindh, who apparently saw nothing wrong with letting their teenage son fly off to Yemen where he could absorb the curious idea that totalitarian murder is more noble than democratic freedom. If teenagers want to be brainwashed into hating America, they shouldn’t travel all the way to Yemen and join the Taliban. They should do it the old fashioned way: enroll at Harvard or Berkeley.
Anyway, just like 900 billion other teenagers in this country, my kids love going to the local megaplex. (New advertising slogan: “18 theaters! 18 different movies! 18 cubic yards of oil-soaked popcorn! 18 convenient ATMs to pay for it all!”)
The fact that teenagers love the movies so much is probably why Hollywood abandoned making movies which can be enjoyed by anyone past the ripe old age of 22. They focus today on making movies which stimulate the typical teenage central nervous system. The four main themes are: sex, violence, sexy violence, and violent sexuality. And occasionally filmmakers encourage teens to save the planet from global warming, as long as they do it violently while wearing tightly fitting clothing—or better yet, no clothing at all.
Our kids asked us why we never go to the movies anymore (as if the fact that Hollywood has not made a good flick since “Casablanca” was an irrelevant consideration). Even if there were movies worth seeing, there are many reasons why going to the megaplex is simply too much of a hassle. First, there are never any open parking spaces in the same zip code as the building. Second, the waiting line to buy tickets is often longer than the restroom lines during Free Beer Night at Yankee Stadium. Third, the cost is astronomical: $10 per ticket, $8 for a bucket of popcorn, and the largest expense of all, $40 to have your shirt dry cleaned after the popcorn “butter” seeps its way down your hands and onto your sleeves. If you don’t bring your shirt to the cleaners immediately upon leaving the theater, the “butter” will leave permanent stains on the shirt, and permanent scars on your hands. (The exact formula of popcorn “butter” is a closely-guarded movie business secret, although independent laboratory research indicates the substance might be some sort of industrial solvent.)
These are all good reasons to stay home and read a book, but the primary reason my wife and I don’t go to the movies anymore is the simple fact that the place is always crawling with hundreds of hyperactive teenagers. Personally, I have nothing against teenagers—other than everything they think, say, or do—but being in a building filled with teens makes me about as comfortable as a cat who accidentally wanders into the Westminster Dog Show.
If the theaters would occasionally have a Senior Citizens Night—no one under age 22 allowed—then my wife and I would gladly attend. And I hope they show something exciting, like that new “Ben Hur” movie.
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