Wednesday, June 26, 2013


This piece by David Edelstein over at Vulture about how people need to shut the fuck up and put their phones away in movie theaters is as open-and-shut as anything arts-related can ever hope to be. (Also, shutting the fuck up and putting your phone away means you don't need to deal with getting David Edelstein pissed at you.) It's not a debate. Shut the fuck up and put your phone away.

Unfortunately, this is not self-evident to everyone. And sometimes it leads to some mildly unnerving encounters. One such, at a midnight screening of Iron Man Three: the inimitable Bastard Keith's birthday revelry found several of us, pleasantly but distinctly drunk, in the mood to see some Tony Stark ownage, and so we adjourned to that zillion-screen googleplex on 42nd Street, occupying most of an entire row, with me way down at the end.

That last is relevant because it meant that no one else but me was in a position to be blinded by this dickhead's phone starting about halfway through the movie. I tried doing the thing where I held up my hand to block the light, but then the guy started waving his damn phone around; again, at just such an angle that it was out of the line of sight of my friend sitting next to me. I probably could have been more diplomatic, but I gave the back of the guy's chair a sharp kick.

The phone went right off, but the guy turned around and glared at me like “What the fuck?” And so, softly, I said, “Put your fucking phone away.” He kept glaring at me, but I turned back to the movie. Still, the way the guy was looking at me made me think, oh boy, we could have a real retro Times Square night at the movies on our hands, and for the rest of the movie (which I still greatly enjoyed), part of me was preparing logistically for a confrontation once the lights came up.

So. When the movie ended, Phone Guy and his (it turned out) four buddies all stood up and made this casual, la-di-da display of sizing us up. There were five of them, five of us, but they had the advantage of knowing something was up, which really made it five of them, one of me.

I played it stoic. BK and I headed into the men's room, followed by Phone Guy and one of his buddies. Herr Bastard (who had no idea what the fuck was going on and is probably going to be really surprised if he reads this) was loudly talking about how awesome the movie had been, and extolling the virtues of Shane Black, and as jocularly as I could, I was saying stuff like “Fuck yeah,” and probably throwing an “ownage” or two into the mix.

Phone Guy and his buddy were sizing us up, this whole time (suspiciously, they were in a men's room not taking a piss, which is how I know they were following me). BK and I were both bigger than they were, even if they'd probably been in far more fights than we had, but still, they were wary.

I got out as quickly as I could, and without making it look like I was up to anything, stood with my back against the wall outside so none of the guys could get the drop on me. (Also, I was rolling my eyes at myself for being paranoid, but you never know.) So when Phone Guy came out of the men's room, eye-fucking me like a Real Tough Guy™ I just stood there, neutrally, ready if he said anything.

Only, and here's where he fucked up, the burlesquer friend of BK's who was standing next to me thought Phone Guy was ogling her tits in her corset, so she threw silent “FUCK OFF” eyes right back at him. Phone Guy was visibly rattled by this, and, rather than saying anything to me or her, he and his friends evaporated into the evening. I exhaled. Ready though I was, it's always nicer to not have to suddenly discover an opponent has a knife at an inopportune time. I was almost not born due to similar circumstances.

I don't think I mentioned anything about this (ironically) non-verbal drama to any of the rest of my friends that evening, and am very glad none of them had any idea anything was happening. Fortunately, Phone Guy and his buddies weren't about to try anything. Maybe they realized the morally untenable position they were in. Also, I didn't even kick him that fuckin hard. So, everyone went home safe, and maybe Phone Guy thought twice about using his phone during a movie again.

The point of all this is tripartite: a) phones off during a movie, b) if someone has their phone out during a movie, there are quick and efficient means of letting them know they shouldn't, and c) whenever possible, hang out with burlesquers.