If we were sitting in the same row at the theater, I'd probably be the subject of your eye rolls. If you invited me over to your house for movie night, invariably, at some point, I'm sure you'd question that decision.
"Nobody really cares about the shadow, or the threshold or scar," you'd want to say to my disruptive little face.
Don't you think you'll figure that out if you keep watching? You'd think to yourself.
Unfortunately, my husband is stuck.
He's perfectly content entering a movie at any point--twenty minutes in, seventy-five minutes in, heck he can even find entertainment when there's only five minutes left. And he has no problem getting up to go to bed when he's tired or he has to work or he needs to leave for some other commitment, even if there's only a few minutes left in the show. He has realistic expectations for lowbrow satires, and following a tough day at work, he is fine with predictable story lines, nature shows or low-level comedic movies.
But those sorts of things often annoy me. If I'm going to spend time sitting and watching, I want to know the whole story. I want to fill in all of the gaps. And I want something weighty enough to have gaps. I want something that forces me to think, that challenges me to keep track of details, that makes me question standard roles and hierarchies. I want to learn and I want palpable tension with layers and good writing.
Even more, I want to talk about how the story presents each of those things.
I wish I weren't like that. I wish I could detach, relax and find pleasure in watching something mindless. I wish I could separate entertainment from visual literature. I wish I didn't ask questions or initiate disruptive discussions.
But I do.
And so while my husband is busy zoning out during simple movies or actually watching the more complicated ones, I'm busy analyzing, asking questions he doesn't have enough information to answer, or making statements that quite possibly render me the most annoying person on earth.
But despite knowing that I am annoying, I struggle to curb it. Making connections, interjecting questions, or conjecturing meaning until my husband slowly inhales through his nose, presses pause, and very calmly and kindly says, "I don't know, Laura. I've seen as much as you have."
For years, I've wondered why I do it, but a few days ago, when I began questioning the discoveries of a botanist on the show, Manhattan, my husband said, "You're a reader. How are you so impatient?" And boom. As soon as he said it, I realized my problem.
I. Am. A. Reader.
Cue the lightening, cue the ahhhhs, cue the bubble over the head that says, "woah, how have you not figured this out before?"
See, I am one of those old fashioned people who cozy up in chairs and peel open actual pages that smell like mildew and chalk. I'm trained to persistently ask questions of the text, and then I'm trained to uncover, anticipate and unravel answers. I'm trained to follow patterns and make connections. I'm trained to discuss, analyze, and hypothesize.
But with shows, there is no space for me to be a reader.
There are no margins. There is no room to mark interesting things with post-it-notes or underline curious sentences or highlight archetypical symbols. There's no time to make predictions or tick mark foreshadowing, or dog ear important passages or decode allusions. Because people don't frequently stop shows, annotate screenplays, or issue mid-point discussions about movies, if you want to be a reasonably enjoyable viewing partner, you must relegate those thoughts to solitary confinement in your brain. When the show ends, you might get a chance to revisit them, but while the show is unfolding, watchers should not publicly display the behaviors of readers.
Instead, in an effort to uphold the proper decorum, I must sit still. I must bide my time until the credits appear. I must allow my eyes to live through the characters on the screen--the characters I see, not imagine--and let the screenwriters deliver me to an uncharted ending point of truth. But mostly, I must stop trying to be interactive. I must stop seeing movie dates in the same vane as book clubs. I must let everyone else in the room experience the story--uninterrupted--on their own.
If I don't, I might literarily lose my chance to ever watch a movie in the presence of another human being again.
Or perhaps even worse, I might become the terrible villain who gives my fellow readers a bad name.