I saw a Facebook post by a certain Adeline Tien recounting her experience watching “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” this morning. The post got about 2000 shares before it was taken down. Apparently a group of moveigoers were intolerant towards a special needs child in the cinema during the show.
Adeline watched watched the 6.50 p.m. screening of the movie at the Golden Village Cinema at Great World City. She sat next to a family of four, parents and their two sons. The elder of the sons has autism. Apparently, the parents knew how to manage their 2 children well so that they are not much of a bother to the other movie-goers, but the elder child had “his quirks – uncontrolled, spontaneous bursts of random words and sounds”.
While most moviegoers weren’t bothered by the boy with special needs, a group of 6 – 7 friends who were seated two rows in-front of the family were. According to Adeline, they shouted at the boy, “Eh, shut up!” and “get out of here!”. Their intolerance shocked the mother, “she was close to tears – i could hear her sniffling”, Adeline said. Adeline has since taken down her post (I wonder why…).
I wonder whether that was the full story. How frequent were the outbursts of the boy with autism? How loud were they? How disruptive was it? Was it reasonable to ask the other moviegoers to tolerate the disturbance? I’m not saying that the parents were wrong, or the people who shouted at the boy were right. I am saying that we should have more information from different perspectives before we can make any meaningful judgement.
I must confess. I get irritated if there are people who talk too much during movies. Incidentally, when I watched “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, there was a boy seated a couple of rows behind me who would frequently talk to his dad. The frequency of the boy’s comment and his volume just about bordered on ignorable and irritating enough for me to have to do something about it. I remembered being fairly irritated. And I did turn back a couple of times to see who the boy was. I may have “tsk-ed” a few times. But I certainly didn’t shout anything out.
I can understand though I can’t quite empathise (because I don’t have kids of my own) the challenge that parents go through. You want to bring your kids to the movies. Kids, being kids, sometimes can be rowdy. It would be even more challenging if the kid has some form of special needs. As much as other other people should be understanding, that doesn’t absolve parents of the responsibility to do everything they can to minimise the disruption to other moviegoers.
Because on the flip side, there are parents who feel that their kids are entitled to act stupidly and inconvenience everyone around them. These are the parents who simply let their kids scream at the top of their lungs. And there are parents who let their kids run around in restaurants, or on trains. And if someone trips over that kid, the parent goes all batshit crazy and blames the other person. It has happened to me a few times. A few kids have introduced their faces quite forcefully to my knee. And I got screamed at by the parents. No. I don’t hate kids (not that much anyway) that I deliberately go around knee them in the face.
So I think it’s important that everyone be reasonable. As people without kids, we ought to be reasonable and understand that parents have their challenges and struggles. And cut them some slack wherever possible. Parents ought to also be as considerate to those around them, mindful to minimise the inconvenience to other people caused by their actions and those of their kids.
And if there’s any conflict, I hope that we are all matured and gracious enough to raise the issue with the “offending” party without being rude. So for this case, if the boy with autism was really being disruptive, the people who were most irritated by the actions could have gotten up and went to speak to the mother, rather than shouting. Or even if they wanted to shout, it could have been something more polite, such as: “Please keep it down!”. Which is what happened once when I watched some movie in a cinema in London many years ago. Some kid was screaming in the middle of the show (can’t remember what show it was), and some other guy (not me…) was pretty irritated and shouted “Hey there! Please keep it down!”
So the key, I think, is for everyone to be reasonable, put ourselves in other people’s shoes, be mindful of how other people will feel, and do our best to not inconvenience other people. We owe it to one another to do that. Hopefully then, we can truly be a more gracious society.