Random Thoughts: In Defense of Seeing Movies Alone
“If you wanted to do something absolutely honest, something true, it always turned out to be a thing that had to be done alone.”
― Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road
Loneliness is not next to godliness, but cleanliness is. Although, I am not sure I completely agree as there have been numerous times in my life when I would have preferred to have been alone, rather than to be clean. I cannot specifically say when being alone, or being referred to as a “loner” became a bad thing, but for as far back as I can remember, I’ve always subliminally and outwardly been told that, alleged, social events like; grabbing a bite, purchasing trousers, or taking a show at the local theater are best done with the company of others. Only now, at age 22 (a very streetwise and sophisticated 22, mind you) am I beginning to realize that tranquility exists within loneliness and that there is nothing strange about wanting to see a film alone.
As I grow older, I have to come to find that I quite enjoy being alone. Not all the time, mind you, but at select times and under certain circumstances, I find being alone to be a very pleasurable experience. There are obvious times (your own birthday party, a vacation to Disney World, Thanksgiving) where it is best that you spend your time in the company of others, but many events are best sung solo. Moments alone where we are allowed to perceive things through our own lenses without considering the opinions of others or feeling the pressure to conform are when we learn the most about ourselves.
“Film conformity” is forever prevalent in our social media driven world. Such examples of film conformity include: telling everyone you love Tarantino without having seen Reservoir Dogs or overtly trashing the Twilight series without taking in a second of Edwards’s perfectly unblemished complexion. Far too often minds are made up without even giving the medium a chance, but by separating from the pack and embracing the “lone wolf” (there is a Hangover joke somewhere in that last line, but it’s not 2009 anymore, so I will hold off) lifestyle we are allowed to be honest with ourselves and form our own opinions, with only our own biases to deal with. I believe that the experience of seeing a film at the theater is an experience genuinely aided by allowing yourself to take in a picture on your own terms that allow you to decide whether the picture was enjoyable or not.
Having friends and spending time with loved ones is, indeed, very comforting and the perception of not having people in your life that you can be with is the exact opposite. The thought of being spotted in a place like a movie theater that is commonly associated with first dates and birthday parties is inconceivable and terrifying, but why? If anything the experience of seeing a movie seems to have been constructed precisely for several one man/woman attendees. Take the seating structure for example. A Volkswagen Bus style of bench seating or a booth design might promote promiscuity, if you catch my drift, and make sense if the movie theater experience was attempting to sell audiences on a social experience, but they are not. In addition to secluded seating, you are “forbidden” from talking- with forbidden in quotations because the whole “no talking” rule is not enforced to the degree which it should be. Who reading this cannot recall a situation where their viewing experience was ruined by a group of giggling high school students sitting in the back, or an elderly couple who think that their whispers are inaudible when they are, in fact, louder than the films dialogue? We have all been there. The temptation to talk to others is often too much to bare, but this “forbidden fruit” impossible to taste when alone as the person next to you in all likelihood doesn’t know who are you and could care less about what you have to say.
Darkness falls upon a movie theater as soon as the previews begin, so if you are taking in a film with an incredibly attractive person (unless the film has high amounts of bright footage like deserts or arctic landscapes) you probably won’t be able to make out much of that persons appearance. First dates at movie theaters have never entirely made sense to me for these aforementioned reasons, if you cannot see the person you’re with and cannot talk to the person you’re with then are you really with anyone at all. In actuality, a movie theater is possibly the worst place to take someone in the early stages of dating. You have a high probability of walking out the show knowing less about the person than when you walked in.
I concede that movie dates work because they are, relatively, cheap and completely remove all pressure from the situation. They work because the man doesn’t come off as a misogynist when he tries to check out other women (theaters are dark remember) and the woman is not afforded the opportunity to complain about how terrible her day at work was because she is “forbidden” from talking. By masking personalities and keeping talking to a minimum, movie theaters have been birthing second dates since the Vaudeville acts of the twenties.
The movie theater is not a temple or a place to be held sacredly, but if you want to escape the anxiety of the world or the troubles that exist in your life then it is a perfectly acceptable place to do so. There is nothing inherently wrong with taking part in an often perceived social act in an unsociable way. Seeing a film alone allows you to formulate your own opinions without worrying about how others feel about it, you’ll always have the opportunity to catch up after sometime down the road if interested. Movie theaters are not designed for large groups, nor do they elicit a sense of camaraderie or togetherness. Structurally and by way of rules and regulations, the cinematic experience is best alone. It is not recommended to turn down an opportunity to see a film with a loved one or friends, but please do not dismiss the idea of indulging in the experience on your own. You won’t look like a forgotten loser or a disheveled loner, you’ll look like someone who is confident enough to be in their “own skin.” Everyone should give it a try, just once.