The sky was dark, the wind whipped, and rain clouds threatened. Still, we pulled into an almost full parking lot.
“Apparently a lot of people like to see movies on Saturday nights,” I remarked to Buc.
“You think?” he snorted, exasperated that he couldn’t find a parking spot.
As we stood in line, waiting to be gouged thirty dollars deep, I found my mind’s gears shifting into analytical mode again…as they so often do when I’m supposed to be having fun.
Why are we paying so much money for a cheap thrill that will soon be over?
Flashbacks: Scenes from my Movie-Watching Past
When I was fourteen, going out to movies with friends became the thing to do. None of us could drive, so our parents would chauffer us the fifteen miles to the Cozy Theater in W, Minnesota, drop us off, and pledge to return in a few hours. Then we’d loiter in the video store trying to look “cool” while waiting for the movie to start.
Usually it was some terrible show I didn’t want to see, but I had come just to fit in. I don’t know how many movies I watched those teen years just because someone had invited me to. Godzilla was one; Star Wars, the prequel, was another (but I hadn’t even seen the originals–I realize I may have just lost some readers now). Then there was Behind Enemy Lines, which my then-boyfriend took me to see. Actually, I took him. At sixteen, I’d recently gotten my license, but he, a few months behind in age, was still bicycle bound.
I drove to his house, he climbed in the car, and we drove in almost complete silence for all twenty minutes of the drive. During the movie, which he’d chosen and which bored me stiff, we sat like statues, our palms turning clammy in one another’s, my arm getting sore from holding the pose too long.
In fact, everything about our four months together was sorta like that. Mechanical, I mean. I guess I was too young, or he just wasn’t the one. Ah, first loves.
At that age, it’s enough to just be with someone—it doesn’t matter who, unless he’s totally gross (and luckily this guy wasn’t)—because at least if someone openly loves you, it’s not just you against the world trying to prove your worth. Somehow it just helps to have someone, anyone, in your corner. (But when you’re sixteen, oh, for the affirmation of a cute guy!)
I’m guessing it’s this desire to feel wanted, to have a place to belong, that held me captive to so many morbid movies in my youth. And even my young adulthood.
When I got married at age twenty, I was suddenly trying to fit in with my hubby’s family (because they were the only family and potential friends I had at the time). Then, too, I found myself sitting through what seemed like interminable Sci-Fi or shoot-em-up movies—what other options did I have? It never occurred to me to speak up and start a meaningful conversation. This mind-numbing bevy of bullets and violence was what everyone wanted, right? And anyway, who was I, a little whisper of a person who’d just mysteriously blown in from Michigan, or was it Wisconsin, or maybe Iowa?
During those first few years of marriage during movie nights at their houses, my in-laws formed the opinion that I was an easy sleeper. I guess it was just easier to let them think this than to explain that the real reason I kept falling asleep on their couches was that their movie selections, in my opinion, weren’t worth staying awake for.
Because I Can’t Help Myself
Have you noticed, by the way, that movies seem to be getting more mechanical all the time? Have you noticed all the machinery involved, both in front of the camera and behind it? So many plots in which Good Guy avenges Bad Guy with machine gun (or his super powers); or Superhero combats Evil with atomic level warfare (did anybody else find The Avengers incredibly loud?). Or day-after-tomorrow scenarios where one lone survivor is desperately seeking human contact in an otherwise virtual reality?
Is this trend in cinema parabolic in any way? Somehow telling of our times?
That’s what I wondered as I watched the people milling around at the movies this weekend. Fat people paying to get fatter as they handed over $5 bills for 42-ounce drinks (I can only say this because I, too, overpaid for calories I didn’t need). Time wasters paying to waste more time. Teens traveling in packs, maybe to see movies they don’t want to see, just to belong.
(Please note: I realize this picture isn’t true of every movie-goer—I’m just calling out some trends I see.)
Have you ever wondered: Why do we, even for a few hours of ignorant bliss, squander our hard-earned money for the cost of movies, drinks, and junk food we don’t need? (Or is this just a rare analytical curse I happen to live with?)
I don’t go to movies often (I prefer to waste my money at book stores and coffee shops, thank you), but when I do, I am quickly reminded of why I stopped going. Notwithstanding the monster tub of popcorn I’ve helped devour throughout the show, it’s that empty feeling I’m left with at the end.
Still, when enough time has elapsed, I’m sure I’ll look forward to going again, just as I did all day Saturday. I’ll forget just how short-lived the fix is—and I’ll find myself standing in line, once again, waiting to be raped by Hollywood.
Have you noticed how mechanical movie-goers are getting these days?