Ugh, if I had known that it was going to get stupid and boring so quickly, I’d never have mentioned my thoughts on movie-going and culture. But then, every discussion that’s perceived as being about race goes that way. Anyhoo, as Nick mentions in a follow up, I got an email about someone who claims that the worst people to see a movie with are Indian people. I suppose that’s possible, even probable, especially among Indian-born or -raised people, given that I’ve been at Indian weddings where people talked through the ceremony. It’s not a culture that’s overly reverent towards an event that’s supposed to be the Main Attraction. But my comments were more focused on the overall cultural expectation when in a theater, and I don’t know that there’s any place in the United States where the cultural expectations are being set by anyone from the subcontinent.
The more salient point, to me, is the incredible sense of entitlement that Americans of all stripes show with regard to their own cultural context. I noticed a comment on my observation that said, "Race issues aside, I wouldn’t tolerate talking back to the screen from anyone." and I was struck by the chutzpah of that statement. It would never occur to me that it’s in my realm of possibilities to "tolerate" another person’s behavior or not when we’re both in a public venue. I could be offended or pleased by it, certainly, but tolerance of someone’s words in public seems, to me, a fundamental respect that we all afford one another.
In a larger sense, there is a bigger problem, and it doesn’t truly break down by race, as any of us can effortlessly name people who fit into an unpredictable cultural context by behavior, inclination, socialization, or innate preference. This problem is the assumption, by people of almost all the various major groups in the U.S., that a new person will accept the social mores of one’s own group, even if that person isn’t a member of that group.
I’ve noticed this more when I was younger, and my identity was much more fluid in terms of relating to black vs. white or gay vs. straight. Every group I partially belonged to acted as if I had to conform to some purported norms, and was resentful of what I consider one of the fundamental privileges of my place in our society: the right to a fluid identity.
I suppose it’s only obvious to me, in that I’m not fully contained by the sets that describe vital parts of my persona and personality. But I should state it more clearly: America, wake up… not everyone acts the way you do, and not everyone has the same expectations, wants, and desires that you do. If it’s an orchestral performance, then shut the fuck up. If it’s a funk concert, then get off your ass and jam. Somewhere in between? Then figure it out. But don’t expect that everyone around you will arrive at the same conclusion.