Ms. 35 #8: Outside Looking In

November 9th 2016

Ms. 35 offers helpful advice and answers to your etiquette questions related to NYC's moving image culture. Have a burning question about navigating the exciting world of New York City moviegoing? Unsure of how to conduct yourself during a communal experience? Feel like you're… in the dark? Send your inquiries to!

Dear Ms. 35,

I live in NYC and consider myself to be a cultured individual. I love seeing art, listening to music, taking in the many facets that we pride ourselves on, and being from NYC. I’m seeing someone who’s very involved in the cinema scene. Sometimes when I go to the movies I feel strange, because I don’t have the same connection to the cinema that they do. How can I approach going to the local art house and not feel bad about my less-than-dedicated involvement? How can I just enjoy the movie from an outsiders’ perspective without ruining the experience by worrying about it?

Average J

Dear Average J,

RUN. Run away. Move to another neighborhood—Hell, another borough. Turn back before it’s too late, before you’re sharing a Sheepshead Bay “economy apartment” half-filled with one-sheets and back issues of Film Fun, most of your shared time lost to their commute to and from the Ziegfeld.

Hey, we’re just bustin’ your chops here, Regular J! Sure, you traipse through the hallowed halls of the Met, swoon to the dulcet sounds of a soprano at the other Met, but you will always be a Veuve du Répertoire—a Repertory Widow. It’s not easy being on the outside looking in, plagued by fears of inadequacy. Unlike a pleasant Sunday at a picture gallery, the cinema for you is a sealed tomb of self-doubt about your relationship and yourself. Surely, this is no way to see a movie.

As if dating weren’t panic-inducing enough, lovers today are constantly engaging in elaborate mating rituals centered around common totems like food, music, or movies. This popular scholarship is a shorthand that we wear like merit badges, projecting our achievements as desirable qualities. Dating anyone with a deep and passionate interest in a specific scene can be intimidating, but take comfort in this:

One man’s highbrow is another’s low, and there’s always a higher (and lower) brow, especially in Garbage Town, a city so balls-deep up its own pretension that it trips over itself trying to hail a cab. The impulse, romantic or otherwise, to be an expert in everything is the defining feature of a pop culture landscape dotted with foxes and hedgehogs. If you’ll recall Aesop’s fable, you, like the fox, have a wide breadth of experience, tending toward the superficial. Your paramour is the hedgehog, burrowing ever deeper with knowledge of one weird trick . Fortunately, both are fine worldviews; I have no doubt the two of you are a very cultured pair, and delight in this fact.

Once you acknowledge your different approaches, you will be freed from anxiety and can turn your attention to the important things in life, like who gets the armrest? And who takes care of you when you get old? Realize you both have separate lives and when your paths cross at a screening of some totally middlebrow shit you both like for different reasons, such as Event Horizon, it will be beautiful.

Like a zen koan, you’ve accidentally answered your own question on how to simply enjoy a movie without worrying—don’t worry. You’re in the theater, ass on the same seat that’s cradled thousands before you. No performance—or projection—is complete without an audience, and as with any relationship, half the work is simply being present. At the very least, you never have to worry about picking the movie you’re going to see on a Saturday (or Wednesday, or Tuesday, or Christmas) night (or mid-day, or midnight, or afternoon).

See you (both) at the movies,
Ms. 35


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