Silence, Please!

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I went to see Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 with some friends yesterday. We enjoyed the movie, but I’m honestly not sure if there was more drama on the screen or in the seats. There were a dozen of us in the theater – maybe 20. We heard the usual warnings about silencing your cell phones and all but one actually did. With the exception of some occasional laughter and sharp intakes of air, it was silent.

Until the baby started crying. It started off relatively ignorable. OK, not really. But it was quiet enough that if you really focused on the screen, you could still hear the actors. The crying didn’t stop though so I thought for sure the person caring for this child would remove them from the theater.

Nah. The kid ratcheted it up a notch. Then two. Which is to be expected when a kid’s needs aren’t being met. I soon realized as the kid started talking loudly that the kid was not a baby but a young toddler. At a loud and violent PG-13 movie. Great.

The mom started whispering to the child. The child quieted for a bit. Then the child cried again. And then the spanking started. Which any idiot could have predicted was going to make the child cry harder. So no surprise to the rest of the movie-goers when the screams got louder than the whispering in the quiet, intense scene on the screen.

I heard the mom whisper various threats. You better quiet down. You need to behave or I’m going to spank you. Stop that. You need to stop right now. Other people were starting to mutter to each other. It was getting very hard to focus on the movie. I’m not confrontational, but several times I thought of calling out for her to take her child out. But like all the other well-behaved citizens, I just gritted my teeth.

At one point, we could hear muffled crying and my friend commented, “I think they are suffocating that poor baby.”

After the second round of spanking and wailing, though, a woman on my row had had enough. She stood up, turned around to face the back row, and called out, “Will you please take that baby out of here? No one in here wants to listen to her – or him – cry like that! We can’t hear the movie. You are being selfish. You need to take her out.”

The mom became immediately defensive and called back, “If you don’t want there to be noise in here, then why don’t you sit down? You’re making a bigger commotion!”

“Look! I’m sure other people in here feel the same way. They just aren’t saying anything. Please! Stop hurting that baby,” the first woman responded. “Stop spanking her!”

“Spanking?” The incredulous mom responded. “It’s not  spanking – it’s called discipline.”

Hmm… So when she threatened to spank the kid… she… misspoke?

It was getting ridiculous. Now I couldn’t hear the movie or focus on it. The two exchanged some more loud and angry barbs until the confronter sat back down and  apologized to us for causing a scene. While we all agreed with her assessment of the situation, I really just wanted her to shut up so I could hear Katniss.

The mom was beside herself. She began whispering desperately to the person next to her. Soon she was sobbing. I then heard a theater employee, who had apparently walked in, call out, “Please put away your phone.” I have no idea if she was talking to the sobbing mom or someone else, but the confronter took the opportunity to go explain the situation to the employee.

By then mom was outright crying herself. She and her seatmates, and the poor toddler who had been setup to fail by being brought to an inappropriate movie, began filing out. The mom’s cries lasted all the way out the door. Eventually the theater was quiet again and we finished the movie.

I thought about the (obviously) young mom afterwards. She hadn’t been willing to miss some of the movie to take the child out. She expected the child to behave at an age beyond her ability inside the theater. She had no consideration for the fact that the rest of us had an expectation of watching the movie without distraction. She was indignant that she was called out for her behavior. Ironically, she likely left feeling wronged.

I’m not sure what the best reaction is in a situation like that. Do you just sit quietly and politely ignore the rude and inconsiderate behavior (as most of us were doing)? Or do you call the person out (as the one brave woman did)? Should we have clapped to show our support for the woman? Or would that have just heaped more embarrassment on the mom? Do we have an obligation to point out inappropriate conduct to fellow citizens? Who gets to decide what’s inappropriate? Do we do more harm when we call people out or when we say nothing?

I don’t know. Like I said, I don’t know if there was more drama on screen or off. I certainly know which was more enjoyable. At least Katniss was fighting over something worthwhile.

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