Friday, March 05, 2010

#7 Blacks and Talking In Movies

Poor Blacks talk in movies, and not just to each other. Oddly, they talk and/or about the people on the screen, as if a response is somehow possible. The non-Black and non-poor find this rude. I would agree. That’s why I am very selective about theaters and attendance times. A White guy in Philly capped a brother for talking in Benjamin Button – I guess it really pissed him off (here). Philly’s a tough town.

So then, what’s up? First off, Black folks have no corner on the rudeness market. Rudeness is up everywhere. Don’t believe me? Check out the study (here). White kids are rude, even when they’re not imitating Black kids. Discipline is down, acting out is up. However, when poor folks act up people really get in a snit, because if you are poor in America, you are supposed to be quiet and unobtrusive. Poor Whites got that memo, poor Black folks did not. Also, to the MSM, White ignorance is embarrassing and not news, while Black ignorance is entertaining and sells.

There are some reasons why some Black folks act completely ignorant in theaters. I call it the Apollo Theater Syndrome. Whenever poor Black people are in a theater or night-club, they think it's audience participation time, like mid-night at the Apollo. They believe they are supposed to heckle the performers. It also like church, where the reverend wants to hear some ‘amens’ and such, so he knows folks feel like they are getting their money’s worth from the Lord.

If Whites are unfamiliar with the Apollo or have not been to a Black Baptist church, then consider the Rocky Horror Picture Show. This was the local Apollo for White people. White folks, young and old, yacked throughout the whole movie (still do), even dressing like the screen characters. It was very disturbing, but easily avoidable – just stay away from mid-night movies.

So I guess that’s the answer. Avoid theaters that either do not enforce no-talking rules, or that (in the absence of enforcement) are frequented by that (any) demographic that thinks talking enhances the experience. Any other more creative solutions (that don't involve gun play)?

James C. Collier


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Ms. Negro said...

Black people talk to the movie screen, to the actors in plays, to the singer on stage, to almost anybody entertaining. The reason- it goes waaay back. There has been a study on this too. Black people like call and response. It goes way back to Africa, this is how we entertain and are entertained. Although now it is being shunned as "ghetto, ignorant, low class,etc". Who told you it was only poor blacks? Where did you get that from?

While I understand the reason behind talking in theaters and other places, and I myself like interactive entertainment, it's not cool if it bothers other people.

James C. Collier said...

Ms. Negro: Can you point us to the study, and/or anything on 'call and response'. Sounds interesting. Also, poor blacks don't care (as you say) if it bothers other people.

The Roving Reporter said...

I don't understand why people talk back/shout in the movie theater. I've been to theaters where black folk do this and it annoys me so much.

To Ms. Negro: I've never heard of any kind of study like that. It sounds interesting.

Anonymous said...

Here in PR people of all classes do it, they also clap at the end of the movie! LOL! My daughter hates it!
I don't really care, because except for the occasional comedy or a good documentary,or to accompany my daughter if she asks because a friend is unavailable to accompany her. I don't like or go to movies, call me unholy,I just think they're mainly a bunch of hype which I no longer have the patience for.
When you've lived and gone thru so much, fanatasy pales in comparison...
I like to make fun of the characters and make little private snide digs at and about the characters,remaeks which are often found amusing and on the money by people around me, but of course usually not by ny daughter(although sometimes she can't help but laugh) who will give me the evil sideeye with a shut up warning! LOL! I love it, and I know, I'm bad!
She has also warned me that if I dare to clap at the end of any movie where she is present,there will be a smelly government old folks home waiting for me in my later years! LOL!

Rox said...

I've been in theatres where this happens and I don't find it annoying. I find it entertaining and at times funny. I too talk back at the screen sometimes (depending on the movie, theatre and audience - I know when to just shut up and watch). I don't think talking back to the screen is any reason to get attacked (that person has serious issues beyond someone talking during a movie).

I'm also interested in the study about the correlation between this and "call and response."

Thanks for this entry, it was really interesting.

Marcus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lockrocker! said...

Yes, we may talk back to the players, but it's not just us. I did find this link to audience activity in the days of Shakespeare.

Failing the link, just google Shakespeare audience behavior. At the time, audience interaction was expected, if not always appreciated. Even beating down a pickpocket was something that might happen during "A Midsummer Night's Dream." And if it's good enough for Shakespeare, James Cameron can shut up and take it.

On a more pertinent note, This just in from Wikipedia:

In Sub-Saharan African cultures, call and response is a pervasive pattern of democratic participation—in public gatherings in the discussion of civic affairs, in religious rituals, as well as in vocal and instrumental musical expression. It is this tradition that African bondsmen and women brought with them to the New World and which has been transmitted over the centuries in various forms of cultural expression—in religious observance; public gatherings; sporting events; even in children's rhymes; and, most notably, in African-American music in its myriad forms and descendants including: gospel, blues, rhythm and blues, jazz and jazz extensions.

Of course, Wikipedia is not always the most trustworthy source.

Also google these articles-
Call and Response as Critical Method: African-American Oral traditions and Beloved

Using Call-and-Response To Facilitate Language Mastery and Literacy Acquisition among African American Students. ERIC Digest.

Also, look up antiphony. Blacks did not invent call and response, not do we corner the market on it, but we do use it to great, and recognized, effect.

Of course, anecdotally, Black people talk back at movies more. Of course, it can get ridiculously out of hand. And of course, anyone who brings a gun to a theater and uses it is probably mentally ill.

Anonymous said...

Aww lighten up frank! What's better, human interaction,or a fake fantasy onscreen? I say human interaction every time!

Besides, I whisper my running commentary and snide remarks,and intersperce it with adecuate quiet intervals.So there!

Frank said...

lol cactusrose - you're right human interaction is great and makes a production more lively. In a movie theater though, I'd prefer to be able to keep track of the plot! But I will admit I do whisper to whoever I'm with during a flick - nothing wrong with that!

sungod said...

now are u sayin "poor blacks" just do this...cuz if so i disagree ur right regardless of ethnicity even SES discipline lacks severely. I just think most dont have any home-training as they say. i had an incident where me and gurl were at the movies and these young gurls were cussing and about to fight in the middle of a movie..the onus is of course on the parents and/or the individual but also the movie theaters have ushers and rules that should be enforced.

sayyes said...

I've never noticed blacks talking in movies, but alas I live in a suburb.

somali dude said...

I remember seeing "The Ring" (2002) in theaters. It was a friday night crowd and I was sitting in the middle row at a perfect distance from the screen. But for some reason, the other side of my row was filled with black girls from high school, most of them in my grade. They would not stop talking back at the screen. Every scary scene, every shock, every plot development elicited from them howls of delight. And you know something? This made the film more involving. Because of those girls, I enjoyed that movie experience all the more. So I would say there's a time and place for such behavior.

A couple of years later I was at another theater seeing a David Mamet thriller called "Spartan." There was an elderly white gentlemen sitting right me with his wife. This man was offering running commentary on every development. The thing is, you can tell he was REALLY involved in the film, as if he never got to go to the movies that much. I didn't mind his talking, but someone else did, a black gentleman sitting on the end of the talking man's row. This black guy said, as loud and as rudely as possible "HEY, WE KNOW WHAT'S GOING ON. WE'RE WATCHING THE MOVIE WITH YOU. NOW THE SHUT THE HELL UP." It felt like everyone in the theater squirmed in embarrassment for talking old guy. No one cheered for the black guy.

I think the reason for this is because the talking old guy was...OLD. No one had the heart to instruct him to cease vocalizing his impressions of the movie. I sided with everyone else in that theater against the black guy.

Chi Chi said...

I think it's silly to label the Call and Response phenomenon a poor Black thing. I have been to academic conferences,and other venues that are predominantly Black, and the response behavior is simply more likely to be present. It was actually a White professor who told me to adjust my presentation style for Black audiences because of this. It is not a matter of class, it is a matter of culture. And as much as "Bougie Negros" would love to pretend a generation of an extremely moderate gain in wealth has completely transformed them, you still have much more in common with "poor blacks" than you would like to admit. I have been in movie theaters with young Whites and Asians. Don't even get me started...

Different is not necessarily ignorant. Even if it's simply not your preference of environment. It's okay. I don't like it either. But the constant class reference is a little simplistic. Plenty of middle class Kanye-type Black kids will give hoodrats a run for their money (or fake gold chains).

frater jason said...

The Rocky Horror example was insightful.

I had not experienced the "talking back to the screen" thing until a friend and I went to see Harlem Nights. The poor, white demographic of the audience that rural town were substantially altered that night; the two of us were the sum total of Anglo attendance.

At the time I remember being disoriented and frustrated by my inability to hear the movie's dialog and what I perceived then to be general chaos and wildness.

In retrospect, my understanding has ripened and broadened. I think that audience and my more familiar audience has different expectations of the movie experience. I think the Black folks in the audience understood the screening more as an event, or as a context for social interaction rather than something to closely observe. The movie was being shown but it was not centrally important.

If I am on track here then expecting this audience to quietly listen to the movie would be akin to throwing a big party and expecting everyone to sit around listening to one guy talk all night. Not going to happen, and for valid reasons.

Anecdote: when I was a young man there was a dying drive-in theater in Dallas. We used to go there, pay to enter, drink smuggled beer, meet girls, and generally ignore the film. It was a place we could party without getting hassled by the cops. Is this in any way related? The Black movie experience seems more structured and functional than that somehow (although I am an outsider and do not perceive the function clearly), but it's the closest thing from my own experience.

If I am way off base, please offer correction. I am ignorant but willing to learn.

Anonymous said...

My observations over the years of friends and random people would lead me to speculate that it is a sort of powertrip in a very very subtle way.
Basically, this same sort of heckling the screen happens in the home with groups of friends, but the heckling is held to a standard. If the joke does not reach a certain shared bar of funny, the heckler is heckled for their bad joke. If you can keep telling jokes as the movie goes on and are not being erm... downvoted as it were, then you are raising yourself up the pecking order in terms of the group dynamic. This applies to everyday life, not just movies. Those who always have the good jokes, have the last word, because since everyone are "friends" or more precisely "Frenemies," it will generally never turn to violence to decide whos the boss in the group of friends.
Now, since the power is in the mind now and not in the pocket ($) or some other measure, it matters little what else you have going for you. If you care about approval from your friends, even if you have more going for you, you can be the butt of the jokes and at the bottom of the pecking order if you can not rebut jokes or come at other people effectively. It's verbal warfare in a sense.
So if you take this mentality with you when you are outside around other people, a lot of the measuring of other people comes down to jokes. See a rich guy who has got a fucking lot going for him roll up in a benz? Find something to make a joke out of. Now your friends reinforce the joke. Now you and your friends are not threatened by that person's success because you feel superior to them because you have made a joke out of them.
Fast forward to a movie theater. You and your friends are the center of the world to your own group. You reinforce that wherever you go because to not reinforce this inflation of ego is to actually measure your worth versus others in terms of things like material success or social standing. By being loud, obnoxious, and doing what you normally do, you are reinforcing that you are "the coolest kids (adults)" in the building. If you can do this successfully, then socially, you have in your mind proven that you are more important and socially "rank" higher than everyone else in the theater. Your enjoyment is more important than everyone elses, and your power over the room by your heckling the screen without being successfully "downvoted" verbally (burned hard by someone that makes the whole theater laugh at you) gives you some form of social dominance that makes you not feel like a worthless human being to the standard that a lot of other people in the theater would measure you against.
You basically just said "I'm the shit and you all can suck it" to the entire audience and since nobody did shit to stop you or counter your heckling, you walk out with your friends feeling like you are socially important to the world just like you believed before you went in.
Mental domination is a tool that people use who would otherwise be called losers by most people's standards. It is the same tactic in a different form that bullies use to feel better about themselves when they make fun of kids who have more going for them at school. Usually the truth is that those bullies have been made to feel like shit at home, so they create their own method to build their ego back up.
Social etiquette would say to be polite and not do any of this, but when you are at the bottom of the generally accepted social ladder, then you do not want to be on that ladder. By separating yourself from the rest of the social society and caring only about you and your friends, you are in a way saying "we are not losers because we decided to not even be ON your social ladder, we have our own equal social ladder." So in that way, thumbing your nose at the social norms reinforces your mentally self-inflated social standing.

Anonymous said...

TO ALL BLACK PEOPLE ARGUING THAT THEY SHOULD BE PRIVILEGED TO DISRUPT THE MOVIE EXPERIENCE OTHER PEOPLE HAVE PAID FOR: Did any of you read the usually ENORMOUS and CONSPICUOUS usually MULTIPLE messages at the beginning of the move asking that you 1) silence your cell phones; 2) do not text; and 3) BE QUIET so as not to disturbe others? For those of you that cannot read or are too lazy to read, they also make these annoucements VERBALLY. So why is it that you feel entitled to talk, make noise, use cell phones, etc?

Anonymous said...

if you listen to any public speaker with some black people in the audiance you will hear 'mmm humm' ' i hear you' 'thats right' etc... its as tho they think that the person is speaking directly to them and so feel it necessary to respond. i dont think its a poor balck person issue but if they are not intelligent enough to realise that they are being noisey and annoying in a movie then id say thay are unintelligent

Anonymous said...

Laughing at how the ONLY person that has argued the idea that talking during movies is rude is a black girl. Way to go, Miss Stereotype!

Anonymous said...

I just saw The Cabin in the Woods - a very off the wall movie. It had some raunchy humor in it, although this movie is worthy of some level of quiet contemplation (which I was unsuccessfully trying to give it). A black guy behind me (in a black group) was constantly contributing useless comments and profanity. You could tell he was getting off layering over the whiteness of the movie with this dismissive black commentary. He wasn't funny. A lot of it was just "Damn!" and "Fuck!" and "Dat bitch crazy!" The white woman sitting next to me was getting VERY frustrated, and she politely turned around and said that she was having trouble concentrating with all his talking - he completely ignored her. The woman asked her boyfriend to do something and he didn't. I nervously contemplated confronting the guy myself, because I'm the stereotypical timid white guy that always flees from confrontation (like black people like to make fun of white people for doing). We got through half the movie and he wouldn't shut up, so I got up and walked to the front of the theater and sat down. I think it was the civil thing to do. It's a public place - if that's what he enjoys doing, let him. I'll enjoy it my way in another part of the theater. Or I could just wait for it to come out on DVD.

I remember I saw Jennifer's Body in the theater too, and there was a row of black women sitting behind me. That was different... Jennifer's Body is FULL of very snobby white humor. Megan Fox was pulling off a great snobby white girl, and hearing the black women's commentary on all of it was HILARIOUS. Even when they didn't comment on something, I could still *feel* their comment. I liked Jennifer's Body and enjoyed the crude white girl humor on it's own merit, but those black women's comments DOUBLED the entertainment value. I could not stop laughing. So I think it depends on the black person - some of it is funny, and some of it is just annoying.

I think it depends on the type of movie too. Comedy and horror are more acceptable to comment on. But I wouldn't have wanted to hear anyone saying anything during Benjamen Button either.

Some things deserve quiet concentration. I NEVER comment on movies. I save discussion for AFTER the movie. To me, movies are an individual experience, and I enjoy movies the most when I'm the LEAST distracted. I pay $9 to absorb the most of the MOVIE as possible, then share the experience I had afterwards and hear other people's experiences. But not everyone is like that. People are different - nothing new.

Anonymous said...

Solution to problem: If you don't want the "Interactive Movie Experience" (which sometimes can be fun) take your butt to a White Suburb and go to a "NO ONE UNDER 21 ALLOWED" (heaven) movie theater with big comfortable seats which serves food and alcohol. It was the best movie experience I ever had. You pay more, but it's worth every penny if you want to actually see a movie.

Anonymous said...

that theater in philly is the worst. it happens at every movie where people think they are comedians. once they get a laugh it is like an invitation to continue comments.

i have seen fist fights because of it. we had to stop going there even though it is close by and sometimes the movie we want to see is only playing there.

Unknown said...

If anyone doesn't care if they are intentionally bothering other people thrun have a mental illness.

Unknown said...

If you don't go to movies why are you even commenting? And comparing talking to clapping at the end is the most ignorant comparison I've ever heard.

Unknown said...

This isn't Shakespeare. You aren't going to win this. Talking is rude and unacceptable. It's common sense. End of story.

Unknown said...

Uhhh well if you're paying to watch a movie (fake or not) it's assumed you'll be able to hear it as well. There is no socially accepted way that talking is or ever will be Okay. I don't care about your heritage or any study. Once another person that doesn't share your heritage walks in, it is no longer acceptable. Does this really need to be explained?

Unknown said...

Unless I can hear you because ill tell you (not ask) to shut the #@$% up.

Unknown said...

Great post. Lots of insight. Thank you for your contribution.

Anonymous said...

This is the stupidest thing I've read all month and I've been reading the Podesta leaks.