Apr 6, 2015

Leaving the theater...or just never entering it

1975. That’s when Roland Barthes describes the “cinema situation” as “pre-hypnotic”. His description of leaving the movie theater (albeit - a bit long-winded) is a feeling that many may have felt- then and now. Being elevated and removed from your world and into the cinematic reality that appears on that big screen, is an essential factor of the cinematic experience. And then leaving in this hypnotic trance is part of the cinema situation. As is the burning of eyes from sudden light, a bladder filled with coke and the regret of eating way too much popcorn (with butter) during the credits.

Don’t get me wrong. I still like going to the movies. I saw Fast & Furious 7 this past weekend. It was fun…I think I enjoyed it more watching it with my friends, but I believe the hypnotism that entranced Barthes whatever day he stepped out of the movie theater way back when is completely different from the moment I stepped out of that movie theater last Friday.

For one, that “idle leisure” of going to the cinema- “How does he go in?...he goes to movies as a response to idleness, leisure, free time” (345)- is almost non-existent in my schedule. I don’t go to the movie theaters for leisure. If anything, with the type of marketing movies have today with red carpets, bombarding TV and YouTube ads, and billboard posters, going to the movies for us would be more equivalent to going to the movie palaces back in the 1920s. It’s a big event- planned, highlighted and orchestrated, except our movie theaters aren’t as cool and we don’t get dressed up, but we can still be just as excited for opening day for a particular movie.

While this is not always the case, going to the movies really means planning to go to the movies. Finding the time to go to the movies. Movie theaters are too far away. You have to wait forever in line if it’s opening day. And if you’re going with a group of friends, coordinating the When? Where? What time? And who gets the popcorn? doesn’t seem like the type of idleness Barthes talks about in "Leaving the Theater".

Ironically, this hypnotic experience he describes, I related more to my TV binge-watching, which he definitely wouldn't agree with- “television doomed us to the Family, whose household instrument it has become –what the hearth used to be, flanked by its communal kettle (346).” 

To be fair, he probably did have only 5 channels and had to wait 1, 2-, 3- weeks for the next episode of a series. And while it was a family activity before (and still can be, but then again so could going to the movie theater) our laptops have made movie watching a singular cinematic experience. Surround sound (Sony headphones); darkness (no lights in room); and getting comfortable as if I were "sliding down into [my] seat as if into a bed, coats or feet thrown over the row in front row (346)" because the seat probably IS my bed. Complete immersion.

Which is why our television (and I’ll include laptop. Hello. Netflix.) experiences can be considered more hypnotic and captivating. What can be more hypnotic than TV shows or streaming series that allure you to try and binge-watch more than 24 hours of content in just 11 hours?

1 comment:

  1. Glad Barthes made both of us think about Fast and Furious!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.