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How rude!

(Pic by LinusB4 /
RECENTLY, during a visit to the cinema, I encountered the infamous subset of Malaysians who seem to enjoy ruining the viewing experiences of others by being inconsiderate.

You know the kind: those who let their mobile phone ring during the movie, or check their SMSes and distract you with the glare from the screen, or proceed to yak away. Couples or groups who giggle and talk to one another throughout the screening. Those who provide a running commentary of the film itself, because apparently it’s too difficult to comprehend the plot just by paying attention. Then there are those who get bored and sigh loudly, perpetually fidgeting and kicking the backs of your seats.

Unfortunately, we are likely to encounter rude audience members at almost any cinema we go to. And I believe I speak for the majority of us — those who go to the cinema to actually enjoy the movie — that it is downright frustrating when other people demonstrate such a lack of thoughtfulness for those around them.

Based on my observation, theatregoers and those who attend other arts functions such as classical concerts tend to be a little more considerate. Less ubiquitous is the shifting and shuffling, the incessant chatter, the hemming and hawing. It could be because in addition to those seated around you, there are also the performers on the stage who deserve your focus and respect. And maybe because the ticket prices of theatre shows and concerts exceed those of the cinema. Heh.

So no talking during the performance, please; keep your mobile phones switched off; no taking photographs, or standing up and moving in and out to disrupt the show. What else can be done to stop rudeness in such spaces?

Kena scolding

Here are a couple of entertaining clips.

Halfway during a performance of the play A Steady Rain, actors Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig reprimand an audience member whose mobile phone rings:

But perhaps this isn’t as dramatic as when Broadway actress Patti LuPone stops a song midway through her performance of Gypsy to tell off a couple of photographers who distract her, and the audience, with their camera flashes. Oy. Audio only (turn it up):

Are these performers warranted in reacting the way they do in response to the inconsideration of certain audience members? Or are they being divas? What are your thoughts, dear readers?

My wish for this year, and for the years beyond, is that we continue to strive to be a little more considerate of one another, a little more understanding. In turn, may we be more tolerant and patient with those who, consciously or otherwise, irritate us. On the flipside, let us learn to stand up for ourselves when we recognise it is our right, and tell off those who aggrieve us with their selfishness and thoughtlessness.

May we know when to stop talking, and when to stop fidgeting. May we stop blinding other people’s eyes with our harsh glares and camera flashes. May we know when not to kick the backs of other people’s seats. And may we know when not to rustle sweet wrappers, and when not to bring smelly foods into a confined space.

Happy 2010!

Nick Choo had a terrific year-end up north in Penang, and had to churn out this column while recovering from the New Year’s festivities. He wishes he could have a holiday from his holiday.

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13 Responses to “How rude!”

  1. Leithaisor says:

    It is a very sad truth that uncouth folks are becoming… nay, have become… banes on society which are encountered daily.

    Not only selfish idiots or in-your-face punks in cinemas and theatres, but brainless kiasu types like those who double-park and vanish for long periods, often resulting in futile irate blowing of horns by blocked drivers.

    And instead of being apologetic, their response is often “Why are you so angry?” / “You have a problem?”.

    A sorry testimony of how of how parents and schools have failed to bring up children properly and how society has gone way downhill.

    And I see no signs of real efforts to reverse the trend. Half-hearted, badly executed, hijacked agenda programs only waste the limited chances available to teach our young people properly.

    The problem of uncouth people has been growing and growing for years. Many of them have become parents – guess what sort of children they will bring up?

    Some have become leaders – witness the shocking corruption, dismal integrity and double standards so prevalent both locally and globally. Not surprising at all; it was only a matter of time.

  2. Terry says:

    Don’t get me started on this:

    Rude drivers on the roads who persist in blocking lanes of traffic or cutting across double lines.
    Solution: Better enforcement (and the kind that can’t pay off).

    Spoilt brat teenager chucks a whole cup of mocha latte out the window
    Stiff enforcement of fines.
    Would like: One slap squarely across the face.

    People who cut in front of you in the queue at a counter at Starbucks or what ever.
    Tell them off loudly (I did this once, and the guy was actually angry I was telling him off or embarrassing him in front of his wife. I win!)

  3. Patrick says:

    I confess that I am perhaps one of those perpetual fidgeters, though I won’t go into why I fidget.

    But in any case, I find myself increasingly annoyed by patrons who not only let their phone ring in any occasion requiring silence from an audience, or allowing themselves to answer it in the middle of a show. Especially in a theatre production.

    In this case, giving dirty looks, loud ‘shhhs’ and telling them in a loud voice that they have no respect for the theatre is essential.

  4. Pao Sium says:

    Thick-headed … insulting my awareness of their existence.

  5. Cycads says:

    The rude and inconsiderate behaviour definitely comes from somewhere and not just a thing that happens when some people sit in a cinema. I think it’s part of our weekend mall culture in which going to the cinema is an excuse to kill time and not always about being really interested in the films shown. Going to the cinema is no longer a valued past time for many anymore as it used to be, so some people can in fact “not care” about the whole experience and certainly not for those around them who are sharing a taken-for-granted activity.

  6. Siew Eng says:

    Yup, got the yakking couple who brought along their kids (who were quieter and more well-behaved than the adults) for Avatar. Better still – a guy next to me brought an hour’s supply of crunchy snacks to watch Sherlock Holmes. And he opened each pack slowly as if trying to reduce the crackling sound – hah!

    I always wondered whether I’d get any support from people around me if I were to tell off these irritants aloud.

    Why would they pay RM10 and not keep their eyes and ears glued to the screen?

  7. Andrew I says:

    Well, the quality of films being produced might have something to do with the lack of concentration amongst cinema-goers.

    Take Avatar aka Dances with Smurfs aka Smurfahontas, for example. Sorry James, but to me, this is your Waterworld, in terms of story telling. Poor old Kevin was a little too early for his time. You might get away with it this time, but try it again, and you might just become James Costner.

    It’s all form and no substance these days. Go to the cinema to be awed by technology. Screw everything else.

  8. Azizi Khan says:

    I’d have to say, I constantly have this problem in Sydney too. And I have worked it all out. […] I think it also portrays our cinema-going generation.

    New movies are released in Sydney every Thursday. A movie ticket here costs AU17. On cheap […] Tuesdays it’s AU10. Gold Class cinema (plush comfy couple seats, small cinema) costs AU27.

    Now as a rule I avoid cheap […] Tuesdays. This is when a lot of Asian uni students and cash-starved teens head to the cinemas. It is noisy with phone ringing, comments, laughter, flying food… I avoid it like a plague.

    Now, swap that to another day and you’ll find much, much less annoyance, you just paid more but you actually get to watch the screen – unless you get a blockbuster. Then you could possibly sit next to Mr Asian Dude who is sexting his girlfriend, or Miss Blonde Teens who is giggling with her girlfriends because she is misunderstanding the movie lines.

    So the system is, if you want to watch a decent movie, don’t go on a Tuesday. Unless it’s a blockbuster – then buy Gold Class. You’ll save yourself from going insane or committing manslaughter.

    But I went to watch Avatar in Gold Class and some idiot decided to bring his kids to it and they were making noise. I think I should have told him to save his money and go on a Tuesday…

    Maybe there is no system. Just shut up, and leave me alone so I can watch my movie…

  9. Melissa says:

    It is definitely a sorry state. Rudeness and arrogance seem to have sprung up and taken permanent residence here. It’s everywhere, in the cinemas, on the roads and don’t get me started on the public transport.

    I think it boils down to the ways kids are being raised these days, getting away with murder and being pampered too much.

  10. pkunkish says:

    The Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman video is funny, in that awkward kind of way. The other video? What a diva! But maybe a bit warranted, given how irritating it is when people flaunt the rules in public spaces. Still, scary, man!

  11. Ashraf says:

    Why must [we be quiet in the cinema?] Though I agree handphones are a bit too much, talking about a scene of the film or even eating enhances the viewing experience. The fact that food is sold at the cinema shows that it is not wrong to eat; tell the cinemas to ban food, then.

    But really, films are about evoking emotion, pushing a certain button in you, whether its imaginary or real, be it action, thriller, comedy or sad drama. Suppressing this is really the antithesis to the point of motion pictures.

    I think people forget that the first motion picture had no audio, Charlie Chaplin made people laugh, and if audience had kept quiet then, I don’t think movies would have developed into what they are now. Also imagine a football stadium devoid of sound.

    Finally, the fact that you are easily distracted just shows that you are just one of them, you are just not fixated enough on the show.

  12. Nick Choo says:

    Ashraf, you’re missing the point. Of course it’s perfectly acceptable to laugh or jeer or applaud during a movie or theatre performance; that’s all part of the viewing experience. But what becomes annoying is when people aren’t interested in the movie, and would rather talk among themselves and laugh at their own private jokes, or speak on the phone or check their text messages — all actions that are unrelated to the purpose of being in the cinema or auditorium. The problem is when people who aren’t interested in a show proceed to disturb those who are. By all means, have your conversation, joke all you want — but go do it in a coffee shop or something.

  13. derelict says:

    I agree with @pkunkish, that Broadway audio clip is quite scary. That actress is really terror!! Not professional at all, if u ask me…

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