By Edwin Arnaudin, The Isolated Moviegoer
Going to the movies is a comfort. It’s reliable. Regardless of the weather (extreme, power-outage storms aside), you buy a ticket, take a seat, and sit back. At the advertised time, the lights go down, the projector lights up the screen, and you take part in a tradition that dates back over a century.
A safe, comfortable, reliable tradition.
To have that comfort shattered by violence is unthinkable, yet that’s precisely what happened last Friday morning at an Aurora, Colorado theater when a gunman turned innocence into tragedy.
As you know, I see a lot of movies. I choose to go to the movies. It’s a tradition that I came to willingly. Therefore, I take strong ownership of that tradition and the joys it brings, and the thought of people being stripped of those pleasures deeply saddens me. The terror that the victims endured has also forced me to look at moviegoing in a new light, and I’m both troubled and strengthened by my findings.
Picturing myself in the Aurora audience’s position, I realized for the first time that, as with most passive leisure, a major part of the moviegoing experience means putting ourselves in a vulnerable position. It’s an odd set up, when you think about it. In a theater, you sit in the dark with your back to the door and surrender yourself to the events onscreen. Kind of weird, huh?
As with other safe comforts, however, the reliability of the moviegoing experience dwarfs all potential risks that the position presents. If safety is all we’ve experienced, why would we consider other outcomes? The sanctum has been preserved for so long that the comfort derived from the act is something that rightfully brings us back to theaters again and again.
That comfort is precisely what drew the Aurora moviegoers to the theater that night. These were no ordinary viewers, mind you. They were the most dedicated of the flock, participating in that hallowed cinematic event: the midnight show. Bleary-eyed, running on caffeine and adrenaline, they represented the best of us, primed to leave the theater at 3 A.M. with knowledge others could literally only dream about. We envied their passion and wished we could be with them.
Had I been at that fateful screening of The Dark Knight Rises, like many of the audience members I would have thought that the explosions were the work of the theater, pulling out all the stops to make an epic film even more exciting. The initial jolt of the noise would have shaken me from my cinematic comfort zone, but I’d have forgiven the disturbance in the name of fun that has come to define moviegoing.
That the noise was the opposite of fun is shameful on countless levels. The shooter took advantage of a time-honored position of leisure and for many forever altered their trust in moviegoing.
It’s easy to say, “That will never happen to me.” Hopefully that prediction will ring true, but as with watching a movie for the first time, we don’t know exactly what will happen. The best we can do is go on with our lives, conscious of occurrences around us without letting fear of the unknown overwhelm our existence.
We spend enough time looking over our shoulders. The movies should be one of the places where we can set aside worldly concerns and relax with confidence. Our safety may have been temporarily breached, but the movies remain our refuge and should be for years to come.