≡ Menu

A Hunger For A Polite Spine

It’s “POLITE SPINE DAY” on Ehell!   Two posts today!

I wanted to share a success story with you — and my success is thanks to E-Hell!

Recently, like so many other Americans, I attended a showing of The Hunger Games. It was opening night, so the theater was full and everyone was very excited. My husband and I arrived on time (that is, before the previews) and chose seats in the less-populated back, taking care not to block anyone.

During the previews, a man and two teenagers came in and sat behind us. All was well until the movie started. One of the teens behind us started up a running commentary, comparing the movie to the book.

Normally, I just sit and fume, because I’m always worried about “causing a scene.” My husband would shift and sigh, but he also doesn’t like causing a scene. But I thought about what I’ve learned from your site — to have a polite spine. Plus, I figured the teens probably just didn’t realize how loud they were.

At a lull in the movie I quickly turned around and said, “Can you stop talking, please? Thanks!”

And she did! There was no scene, no seat kicking, no one waiting after the movie (to beat me up? To yell at me?). The teen had a very surprised look on her face; I don’t know if she was embarrassed or just surprised. But I felt proud for speaking up.

Thank you so much!   0411-12


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • AMC April 12, 2012, 7:58 am

    Way to go, OP! Hey, Admin, maybe there should be a section for E-Hell success stories. 🙂

  • The Elf April 12, 2012, 8:12 am

    I’m so glad it worked out! I’ve had mixed success with speaking up to loud talkers in the movie theatre. Sometimes it works, sometimes nothing changes, twice it got worse. The first time the talking patron actually did shut up, but then she accosted me after the show and threatened violence. The second time, the person got louder and added chair kicking to her repetoire. Thankfully the theatre wasn’t crowded so we just sat elsewhere.

    This is one thing I truly despise and I had to grow a polite spine to deal with it. I also don’t go to the movies as much as I used to. With a nice TV and surround sound, I’m usually willing to wait until it comes out on video rather than brave the talkers, texters, criers (babies), and seat kickers.

  • LovleAnjel April 12, 2012, 8:19 am

    Woohoo for polite spines! Politely asking someone to quiet down does not lead to disaster – more of us need to remember that.

  • Hemi April 12, 2012, 8:44 am

    Bravo, OP. I loathe people who talk in movies.

  • Enna April 12, 2012, 8:45 am

    This is great! I remember once being at a threatre and a couple behind me were talking (well the man was talking) I kept looking at him making eye contact and he didn’t take the hint I’m going to say something next time.

  • Cat April 12, 2012, 9:08 am

    Sometimes teenagers have never learned what is and is not polite behavior. I used to go over rules of behavior before prom night because the boys had never learned to escort a lady wearing a formal-walk ahead of her going down stairs on a crowded/narrow staircase so you can catch her if she falls, for example.

    The girls had never worn a formal before and needed to know things about long dresses, stairs, high heels, and they all needed to know about alcohol in polite surroundings. Passing out in the men’s room and having your date’s father come to collect her is not a good way to end an evening-which happened to one couple.

  • Brian Katcher April 12, 2012, 9:26 am

    I find that politely asking someone to stop talking usually works. Usually. Once, the guy behind me would not stop his running commentary on the movie, no matter how many times I shushed him. So I opened my umbrella.

    “Hey, I can’t see!”
    “And I can’t hear. Maybe we can reach a compromise.”
    I closed the umbrella and he didn’t say another word.

  • Cat Whisperer April 12, 2012, 9:41 am

    Sometimes people don’t realize that they’re inconveniencing other people. I have a theory about this generation of teens, based on my observation of my daughter and her friends: I really believe that the prevalcnce of “ear buds” for MP3 devices and computers has affected the ability of current young people to “calibrate” their voices appropriately for certain situaations. I also think that the invasiveness of texting into every situation has eroded their sense of the appropriateness of conducting side-conversations while others are present. They are just so used to dividing their attention that it doesn’t seem as inappropriate to them to conduct side-conversations as it does to those of us who are older, and who have the ingrained expectation of giving undivided attention to something like a movie.

  • Cat Whisperer April 12, 2012, 9:48 am

    Also, I have to comment on a far worse transgression I encountered at the theater not too long ago.


    Two kids in the seats at the rear brought laser pointers to the movie. They were using them all through the previews, in spite of being asked by several people to knock it off. Someone finally went and got a theater employee who escorted them out, snickering and making rude comments. What in the name of little green apples do people like that get out of making a whole theater full of people mad at them?

  • nk April 12, 2012, 10:34 am

    Allow me to paraphrase Firefly: There’s a special level of E-Hell reserved for people who talk at the theater.

  • Drawberry April 12, 2012, 10:34 am

    Oh dear. I remember when I went to see The Dark Knight (a Batman film) when it came out, I’d already seen it twice in theaters and this particular trip was making it my third. It seem’s I wasn’t the only one who’d seen it before, as a round-faced 12 year old boy sitting with some older peers proceeded to narrate every single scene the entire movie. The theater was packed full despite the film having been out for at least two weeks already, so everyone around this child was subject to his over enthusiasm. The whole time I listened to him telling his peers, none to quietly, things like:

    “Look, look this is the ‘pencil trick!'”

    During a particular scene and explaining how it was done afterwards.

    I don’t think I’ve ever disliked a 12 year old so much in my life.

  • Jojo April 12, 2012, 11:17 am

    Yay for polite spines everywhere!
    I work as a reviewer and inconsiderate audience members are the bain of my life. Many ‘crimes’ are things I’m just not able to do anything about at the time and are generally committed by people who should know better- it’s not really appropriate to take the top critic in the area aside and ask her to get rid of the small light she uses to make he notes with for instance.
    I make my notes in the dark, I can generally read what I’ve scrawled when I get home and, as my tickets are complimentary, I feel it rude to intrude on the enjoyment of the paying customer sitting next to me. At a recent gala event, a well known local actor’s girlfriend spent the evening audibly speaking the lines from the script before the actors on stage – including ALL the songs. She was just too far away for me to shush.
    Then there are the people collecting press tickets who queue jump. Generally there is a separate queue for complimentary tickets at large events but the number of uppity press officers I’ve seen queue jump because they are somehow more entitled than the rest of us defies belief.
    The absolute worst was the gentleman sitting behind me with a constant twitch in his leg. He insisted on spending the entirety of the first act of a show I was reviewing with a plastic bag of sweets in his lap, the sweets were inside a second plastic bag wrapped in foil. To say there was a bit of a ‘rustle’ coming from his direction is an understatement. He disappeared at the intermission so I didn’t have a chance to ask him to move his sweets before I took the easy option and moved seats.
    If only audiences were encouraged to be a bit more like the one I encountered at a recent comedy gig in a tiny venue. During the middle of one of the performer’s sets a mobile phone went off, the whole room erupted in a judgmental ‘ooooooh’ as the crowd looked around to find the perpetrator and make fun of them!

  • Ashley April 12, 2012, 11:40 am

    I don’t even mess around at movie theaters anymore. I’ve had too many bad incidents that now when someone starts talking or kicking my chair, they get one warning and if they don’t stop, I go get an usher who usually kicks them out. Movies cost too much to waste any extra time shushing people.

  • Jelly Rose April 12, 2012, 11:44 am

    I hate talkers in movies, the people I usually go with can drown them out but I can’t. Last movie I saw with some friends was a horror movie and we had some jerk behind us explaining to his girlfriend exactly -why- the movie was scary. I told them to shush a couple of time but it didn’t really work so the last time happen to cue up just as something really really scary was happening on the screen… I ended up scaring the girlfriend half to death but it did quiet them.

  • wowwow April 12, 2012, 11:44 am

    Now Brian’s got something going there!!!! 🙂

  • June April 12, 2012, 11:59 am

    This also serves as a reminder for other situations: Don’t let things fester until they are unbearable, take care of them early on.

  • Angela April 12, 2012, 12:17 pm

    Nice job. Sometimes teens aren’t so much rude as they are self-absorbed. She probably had no idea she was disturbing anyone.

  • Lisa April 12, 2012, 12:37 pm

    To Brian Katcher: Brilliant!

  • BarensMom April 12, 2012, 12:38 pm

    This happened to us once at a showing of “Aliens.” What made it worse was the guy was already drunk and still drinking. I finally asked them to quiet down and they called me a name and got louder. Then my husband told them to shut it and they got belligerent. I went running for an usher, who, with the manager, escorted drunk guy and his buddy out.

    That experience (and the crack lady incident) taught me not to waste time asking, just go get an usher/manager.

  • Shea April 12, 2012, 2:13 pm

    Good job, OP!

    When my boyfriend and I were first dating (i.e., this was something like our second or third date, so we were really just getting to know each other), we went to a movie. A kid, maybe 10 or 11 years old, was sitting in front of us, and within the first 15 minutes of the movie proceeded to pull out his phone and start playing a game on it. The light was quite annoying. BF leaned over and in a whisper asked the kid to please put his phone away, thanks. The kid looked surprised, but did so.

    I mentally assigned him extra points on my date-evaluation scale for that :-D.

  • anotherloginname April 12, 2012, 2:32 pm

    Brian, that is inspired. You are officially my hero.

  • Ann April 12, 2012, 3:51 pm

    LOL. Brian’s fan club grows…

  • Candra April 12, 2012, 10:00 pm

    I must agree, Brian ftw on that one 🙂

  • Ultra Venia April 12, 2012, 11:23 pm

    Elf, if the other person escalates, you escalate. If the person doesn’t cooperate, tell the usher that the person is deliberately bothering you after you politely asked him to stop. If it doesn’t work and it distracts you enough, go see the manager on duty and get your money back.

  • Kate April 13, 2012, 4:57 am

    Well done, OP!

    I had a similar experience going to see The Hunger Games. Here in Australia, our cinemas usually have assigned seating, so if you’re in a crowded cinema and stuck near a rude person there’s not a lot you can do. I went to the movie with my parents and a group behind us kept up a running commentary from the word go, explaining the film to each other. I tried a few pointed glances, to no avail. Finally, I turned around and hissed “would you PLEASE be quiet?” only to find my mother had made the exact same decision at the exact same time as me. Two angry glares and hissed requests to shut up certainly got the message across!

  • spartiechic April 13, 2012, 10:20 am

    Bravo, OP! I remember when The Phantom of the Opera came out a few years ago and my fiance (then boyfriend) took me to see it as I loved the stage version. A man behind us proceeded to sing along with all the characters. We gave a few pointed looks, but it continued. By the time Think of Me started, we had had enough. DF turned around and said in a stage whisper, “do you mind? We’re trying to watch the movie.” The man looked quite embarrassed, but didn’t sing another word. Now that I’m older, I would never even wait that long before doing something. You pay too much to have to listen to someone else’s nonsense.

    On another note, I remember once taking my father to see Spiderman 2 because he was a huge comic book fan. A man, clearly feeling himself making a sacrifice to take his young son (9 or 10) to the movies, conducted business on his cell phone the entire time. His son looked miserable and lonely, but was as good as pie. I felt so bad for him, but the father was too far away for me to shush. When it became clear, after the previews, that he wasn’t going to stop, I went and got an usher. It didn’t get better and the young usher seemed too afraid to do anything more than ask him to stop. I talked to a manager after the movie and got my money back.

  • Ginger G April 13, 2012, 1:52 pm

    I took a (much overdue and needed) vacation day off from work mid-week last week so I could go see the Hunger Games with my mother when there wouldn’t be much of a crowd. Of course I had forgotten that it was Spring Break here for many school kids. We still got lucky with a fairly sparse crowd, but 3 boys about 13 or so sat in the row in front of us. I was immediately on guard but they were fairly quiet the first half or so. I don’t know if they got bored or what midway through but they started whispering to each other non-stop. It wasn’t loud enough for me to make out the words exactly, but it was really annoying. I thought about saying something, and if the theater had been crowded with nowhere to go, I would have. I decided to just move further down our empty row and that solved the problem for me. My mom said she didn’t even hear them, I guess her hearing isn’t as good as it used to be. But yeah, definitely reminded me why I go to very few movies at the theater now. I was just really looking forward to The Hunger Games, having read all three books.

  • babs April 13, 2012, 3:48 pm

    WTG Brian. I don’t care if there’s not a cloud in the sky, I’m taking an umbrella into the movies with me from now on!

  • --Lia April 14, 2012, 7:16 am

    I’m not sure why, but while teenagers have the rep for talking in theaters, I usually find that it’s older women who do it the most. I’m not the least scared or shy. I get up if I have to, go straight to the offenders, and do a loud “Shh!” straight in their faces. That usually does it.

  • JennJenn68 April 14, 2012, 4:26 pm

    The oblivious talkers/texters/whisperers are the biggest reason why I rarely go to the movies anymore. When I do, however, I pay the extra money at my local cinema to have access to the V.I.P. theatre (restricted to 19+ because it’s licensed) and that seems to solve ninety-nine percent of the problem right there. People who are paying a premium to be seated in that theatre are there to watch the movie, not giggle and whisper with their friends. To me, that extra five bucks that I pay gives me hundreds of dollars’ worth of peace of mind. Plus the seats are so much more comfortable (Ahhhh!!) and I can have a “grownup” beverage if I’ve a mind to do so… I’ve had enough of the tittering, texting teenage trolls (Oooo! Alliteration!) and I refuse to tolerate them in any way, shape or form. Life’s too short to put up with the obvious annoyances that can be dealt with by simple avoidance.

    (Add me to the list of those who wish to join the “Brian Katcher” fan club, by the way. Must remember that if I’m ever foolish enough to allow myself to get into that situation ever again!)

  • Alto April 15, 2012, 4:17 am

    A few years ago I saw the Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King at the cinema with friends, and had to put up with a running commentary from the people behind me as to how the movies were different from the books (including life stories of the characters onscreen). Ruined the whole movie for me. At the time I never said anything because my friends and I were teenagers (with our mobile phones turned off I might add) and I was concerned they might make a fuss and I would be the one to get in trouble.

  • sugaryfun April 16, 2012, 3:50 am

    Nicely handled OP! It’s great when it works.

    I had a similar experience at a showing of Sweeney Todd. The particular screening my friends and I went to had captions for the deaf, and for some reason the group of teenage girls we were seated next to (there was assigned seating and the cinema was fairly full so we couldn’t move) found the captions hillarious. The laughed and commented loudly on every single caption (not just the characters words but every noise made in the film). In fairness to them they may have assumed that they were the only hearing people in the cinema, but most deaf people have some residual hearing and might be able to hear the music but just not catch every word the characters said, except when everything was being drowned out by noisy teenagers. So a few minutes in I asked if they’d mind being quiet please. They looked really surprised but we didn’t hear a peep out of them for the rest of the movie.

  • Margo April 16, 2012, 5:16 am

    I had a similar problem when I went to a live music show a couple of years ago. There was a group of girls sitting immediately behind us. The were chatting loudly throughout he pening band’s set – totally ignoring the filthy looks and ‘shh’s they were getting from all around them.

    When the headline act came on they continued to chat and also to join in with the singer (these werent big rock numbers, it was a solo singer)

    Eventually I got fed up, turned round, and said (very calmly) that as I and most of those there had come to listen to [performer] could they please either be quiet, or go into the bar where they could watch the show on TV sceens and not disturb anyone else.

    They did shut up. I later found out that the person sitting immediately behid them had said something similar a few moments before me, and they had told him to “f***-off” because “no one else minded” – I suppsoe that my intervention, coming so soon afterwards, made them realise that actually, lots of other people did mind.

    I would have got a staff member had they continued

    I can’t understand why somone would spend £30 or more for a concert ticket and then talk over the person they’ve paid to come & see.

  • Laura April 16, 2012, 11:10 am

    Who needs Barack or Mitt? Brian for President!!

  • Brian Katcher April 17, 2012, 8:49 am

    Wow, nice to wake up to a fan club! Now go buy all my books 🙂

  • Doris April 20, 2012, 3:33 pm

    My husband & I had to settle for “Ya-Ya Sisterhood” when the movie we’d originally chosen was removed early. We knew what kind of movie it was – which wasn’t the type of movie we generally see – so we were surprised when a large group of teenagers entered the theater. When I say large group, I mean 2 rows of kids age 15 to 18. We ignored it when they talked over the previews and moved around in their rows. We ignored their noise during the first few minutes of the movie. Then, they began throwing candy. We were about 6 rows behind them, but I got hit in the face with hard candy. That was the first time my husband asked them to be quiet and behave. They continued talking and began sending each other text messages. About 40 cell phones lit up at the same time made it harder to see the movie. Then one boy returned from the lobby and yelled “I just took the longest p!$$ ever!” That was the 2nd time my husband asked them to be quiet. Apparently the bladder-relieved boy took offense. He began turning to stare at us at intervals and started tossing nail polish on people! At this point, my husband went for a theater employee. Who did nothing! In fact, after the boy complained about being “yelled at” by my husband, an employee leaned on the wall nearby and watched us, ignoring all the antics of the teenagers. I did lodge a complaint with the theater manager, who did not reply. I’m not sure how we could have been politer or had more spine.

  • Ashley October 2, 2012, 11:52 am

    I did confront people in a movie theater one time, and it was totally out of character for non-confrontational me. I was at a movie, a girl and a teenager myself, and a group of teenagers who were obviously drunk or high sat right behind me. They started talking very loudly, and because the movie was Twilight, I am pretty sure they were there to talk during the movie about how bad it was. I was by myself, nearly the only other person in the theater, so I ignored them. That is, I ignored them until they started talking about sex and sexual acts with me . . . me sitting right in front of them!!!!!! I turned around, stared down the most alpha-guy there, and calmly said, “I will slap you if you don’t stop.” I turned back around after a couple more second of staring him down, and almost instantly the entire group stood up and moved to the very first row of the theater, as far away from me as they possibly could. I was so proud of myself!