Over seventy years ago, sound came to the movies. Suddenly, audiences were thrilled not only with what they could see on the screen but with what they could hear. The "talking picture" or "talkie" changed the movie business and American culture forever. Unfortunately, the thing that many moviegoers are forgetting more and more lately is just because they called them "talkies" doesn't mean that you're supposed to talk while watching them.
It's hard to go to a movie these days without being disturbed by annoying talkers. Many people blame television for the increase in movie talking. The theory is that people are so used to watching T.V. at home and talking to each other that they just continue this habit in movie theaters. This may be logical, but shouldn't the candy counter, all the strangers that surround them, and the sticky floor be clues to these people that they're not at home?
One question that plagued me for years and probably still bothers you is why do these talkers always sit behind us? I know the answer now. It's a conspiracy. It happens too often to be random. There must be a secret Association of Movie Talkers who get together and decide how they can be as annoying as possible. At their conventions, they probably discuss new ways of spreading out in theaters to maximize the number of people they can disturb. Most likely, Movie Talkers take great pride in what they do, and brag to each other about how they're much better at disrupting movies than their competition -- Coughers, Loud Eaters, and Tall People with Hats.
Some Movie Talkers talk about things unrelated to what's on the screen. They discuss where they had their car serviced, or bemoan that awful time they had when they visited their relatives in Poughkeepsie. The second category involves people who discuss what's going on in the movie. They say obvious things like, "He's going to get shot," or critical things like, "That's not funny," or prophetic things like, "I'm telling you, that guy with the beard is a bad guy."
I haven't found anything that works to silence Movie Talkers. Generally, my first response is The Stare. They usually just stare back. Next, I escalate to "shushing" them, and then, as a last resort, I ask them politely to stop talking. At that point, it's open warfare. They start talking louder, and they say how rude I am.
Sometimes, especially if it's a couple on their first date, I feel a little sorry for Movie Talkers. They talk so much during the movie I worry that they won't have anything to say when they go out to eat afterwards. I imagine them sitting at their table in uncomfortable silence.
A cruel but just punishment would be to follow them to the restaurant after the movie. We'd get a table next to theirs, and stare at them as they fidget silently. Then we could say something loudly like, "I read a study that said people who have nothing to say to each other shouldn't be with each other." They'll probably give us The Stare, but that won't stop us. Just as they did in the movie theater, we'll say something obvious like, "Here comes the waiter. I'll bet he's going to bring some cheese for that pasta." They'll get angry, but won't even say anything to each other because they're not talking. Finally, they'll pay their bill, shoot us one more dirty look, and then leave in silence. And I know where they'll be going -- to a crowded movie theater to talk about what just happened.
E-mail your questions and comments to Lloyd Garver
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.size>
By Lloyd Garver