We can, I think, largely agree that the majority of the criticism leveled at millennials is the same criticism leveled at Gen Xers before us and has been leveled at young people everywhere since time immemorial, and also that it’s mostly overly generalized nonsense that usually only applies to a very small group of rich young white people who are related to New York Times columnists. Also, most of it is very silly, and the greatest problem facing our world today is not participation trophies, &etc., but I am willing to concede to them a single point: there are too many pre-movie warnings about texting in movie theaters.
Have you been to a movie lately? (If you’re not too busy showing up late and inappropriately dressed for job interviews and suing your professors over trigger warnings and not saving for retirement, I mean.) There are, I would estimate conservatively, between three and five requests to turn off your phone before the previews started. And they’re not just quick flashes on the screen to remind you! They’re mini-previews in themselves. They have design budgets. Here is just one of them:
But there’s never, ever just one of them. There’s two or three or four, and they all take different emotional tacks. One will be stern and schoolmarmish, the next one pleading, and yet another will dangle the carrot of using a theater-sponsored app to deliver a reward into your phone itself if you place it in Movie Mode for the next two hours. You guys!!
I don’t think it’s exclusively young people who are texting during movies, obviously, but these embarrassing-for-all-concerned entreaties are clearly geared toward the under-30s. There is one (AMC, I think) that repeatedly refers to people who turn off their phones at the movies as heroes. With capes! It is too much, I am sorry that we as a generation did not defeat Hitler and I guess I am sorry that you feel like this is how hard you have to beg us to get us to comply with movie etiquette now.
But people are either going to turn their phones off or not, I think, and if one warning at the beginning of the previews doesn’t do it, I don’t think a series of short films begging us to “please, ignore the small screen in your pocket for the big screen you came here to see” is going to do the trick.
It’s like my friend Natalie, right, whose mom did her laundry right up until she left for college, which was ridiculous but I’m not her mom so I couldn’t exactly say anything about it, and she (the mom) would repeatedly beg and plead and cajole and wheedle her (the daughter) to bring her laundry down to the basement so she (the mom and laundry-doer) could launder her (the daughter and laundry-shirker) clothes more efficiently, and she just would not do it, because why should she? She can drive and she knows that her mom is going to do her laundry no matter what, so why not be shitty about it, and the point is if you think someone’s not going to do something, just ask once and then introduce consequences into the situation if they don’t do what they’re supposed to. It’s too many movies, is what I’m saying, and it’s embarrassing that you, a multi-million-dollar chain of theaters, have been reduced to calling me a “champion” for turning off my phone. It demeans us both, you know?
Just do the one warning, is what I’m saying! A quick flash on the screen that’s like, “Turn off your phone during the movie,” is all you need, and if people don’t do it then, five animated videos about the Importance Of Turning Off Cell Phones aren’t going to do the trick, and they will just have to learn from the chilly sting of social disapproval, you know? Like, they shouldn’t, obviously, I am in complete agreement with the turning-off of phones during movie, the glare is super distracting, I am with you in wholeness of heart here. But don’t keep knocking on Natalie’s door and being like “Sweetie? Did you bring your hamper downstairs?” when you know that she hasn’t and she never has to face consequences when she doesn’t do it and it’s making me feel super uncomfortable watching you guys fight about it knowing that she’s going to get her way no matter what happens. Be better than that!
So that’s the one thing you guys kind of have on us, but also it’s not entirely our fault, if you’re expending so much useless energy trying to get us to do what you want.
ETA: TO CLARIFY, I do not believe texting during movies is a uniquely millennial act, but I DO believe the people making these ads BELIEVE that it is, and also that they need to alternately wheedle, praise, flatter, coerce, beg, and bribe us in order to get us to stop, rather than just YELLING ONCE and leaving it at that.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.