From our Society is Doomed Desk, here's another depressing tale from the front lines of the war on poor movie theater etiquette. Via the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, a man has been charged with felony assault for striking a fellow movie patron he claims was shouting and throwing popcorn during the movie. He faces several months in jail for the attack.
I know what some of you are thinking — "He was talking, he probably deserved it!" — but here's the problematizing rub: the talker was just 10 years old. And the attacker hit him so hard, he allegedly knocked out his tooth.
"King County prosecutors contend 21-year-old Yong Hyun Kim knocked out one of the boy’s teeth after the child and several other youths refused to quiet down and stop throwing popcorn in April. According to charging documents, Kim admitted to hitting the boy and appeared ashamed when confronted by police with the boy’s age. Kim allegedly said he thought the boy was an adult when he slapped him in the face."
Unless this 10-year-old is 6 foot 2 with a voice like Tom Jones, and I'm not sure that argument is going to hold up in court. More from the official documents on SeattlePI.com:
"The boy told police he wasn’t sure why Kim struck him… According to the boy’s account, Kim said something to the effect of, 'You know what, I paid a lot of money to see this movie' and punched him in the face. For his part, Kim said the boy and others were talking loudly during the movie… and throwing popcorn, some of which landed on him and his girlfriend, a Kent detective told the court. Kim told police he confronted the group about their behavior, to no avail, the detective continued. 'The group laughed at him and did not quiet down.'"
For the record, striking a child in the face so hard that you knock out a tooth is totally inexcusable. But here's the part that confuses me: the article states that "officers arrived to find to find the 10-year-old, his mother and several friends in the theater lobby." So was the mom sitting there with the children the whole time or did she just drop the kids off and then return to pick them up? Either way, this is as much a failure of parenting as it is a failure of etiquette. Who lets their 10-year-old and his friends act like drunken soccer hooligans at the movies? Or, who lets their 10-year-old kid go to the movies unattended? Either way, something is very wrong here, and not just with the guy who turned into Charles Bronson from "Death Wish" on a little kid.
This case, in other words, is a microcosm of everything that's wrong with the modern movie theater experience: everyone is an asshole. What happened to a little common courtesy? What happened to teaching your child manners? What happened to a theater staff that occasionally monitors auditoriums to ensure patrons are getting a satisfactory experience? What happened to do unto others? Why can't we all just get along? Why can't I stop speaking in clichéd rhetorical questions?
At this point, I have no answers, just frustration, disgust, and a sincere wish that more theaters offered adults-only screenings. I leave you now with a glimpse back to a simpler time, and a scene from "Seinfeld." At least these guys appeared to be older than 10.
Thanks to Alan Zilberman, for forwarding this story.