We finally got to see Ant-Man today. (It’s been busy in our household lately.) There was a sign up saying that they reserved the right to go through bags and backpacks, and that buying a ticket was basically granting them permission to do it. This was new. I’ve known for some time that it’s at least theoretically true, given that it’s at least theoretically true of most tickets, but the ticket-taker was apologetically asking the woman ahead of us to open her purse, explaining that it was a safety measure.
In point of fact, I did have contraband in my purse. But the very nice girl looked in, saw my baggie of peanut butter cookies, and waved me through. You see, that wasn’t what she was looking for.
I thought about it again, a couple of times, as the movie played. It’s rare in my experience to be watching a movie in the theatre and have more than a single employee poke a head into the theatre once, just to make sure no one has set fire to the seats or what have you. But at least twice, today, a theatre employee came in and walked the entire room before leaving again.
I suppose this fuss is to make us feel safer, because there have been two shootings in US theatres recently. A few years past, there was the famous incident during The Dark Knight Rises. Heck, there was a shooting over texting during a movie. These events aren’t common, but they’re now hyped enough so that we are apparently requiring these precautions.
Of course, I had an acquaintance, years ago, who worked at that particular theatre. I’m not saying I think he was likely to shoot up the place, but I am saying that I wouldn’t have trusted him to stop someone else from doing it. That would have been an awfully altruistic act, and he’s a sociopath. He has no particular interest in protecting others, and I can promise you that the theatre wasn’t paying him enough to give him one. I’m not sure how much that would be, but even at an increased minimum wage, there’s no way. At that, he at least looked able to stop someone; he’s six foot six and big. The person who searched my purse today was over a foot shorter than that and small. What she could have done if someone had been armed and chosen to press the issue was die.
Goodness knows I’m not saying I want cops in every theatre. That has a long list of other problems associated with it. In fact, since I can only name four movie theatre shootings ever, this seems like a solution in search of a problem. The most the employees at my local theatre are likely to find are mind-altering substances and my illicit bag of homemade cookies. Statistically, the movie theatre is still a pretty safe place to be. Safer than the road I traveled to get there by quite a lot.
However, it strikes me that we in the US like this kind of Band-Aid solution, because we don’t have to address any real problems. Let the person making perhaps ten dollars an hour (Washington State has a pretty high minimum wage, and I think the theatre employees make slightly above it) search a bunch of purses; it won’t stop anything, but it will make us feel better. The solutions that will actually do something probably cost money. We might have to spend some time in self-reflection. And then, when there aren’t any more theatre shootings for a while, we can feel that our Band-Aid has helped, because the majority of the gaping wound is elsewhere.
Honestly, I don’t want to get much into the solutions I think might actually do something, though I will say I think that arming all those employees would be a much worse idea. My acquaintance the sociopath wouldn’t actually be a danger to others if he had a gun, not unless you actually suggested that he go into a confused situation with it and stop someone else from shooting. I doubt Regal Cinemas would send him to the police academy or similar to learn how to handle such things, after all. I don’t even think most people who have been through the police academy would handle a situation without the possibility of hurting innocents, and I don’t think my acquaintance has even seen the Police Academy movies.
However, the reason I don’t want to discuss solutions is that I don’t want to listen to people yelling at me for disagreeing with theirs or because they disagree with mine. This is a pop culture site, not a political one, and the most political I tend to get here is a lot of columns about feminist issues and treatment of the mentally ill in film and by certain famous actors. Still, in the movies, they’d have been right to search my bag, because I am mentally ill and am therefore the Most Likely Suspect. Even if there was barely room in my purse for a Swiss army knife.
My point, though, is that maybe some people with a little more authority than I have ought to take a step back and ask if having a teenager who just wanted a summer job with air conditioning and free movie passes wave a flashlight around a room is really the most effective way of keeping us safe should another person decide to shoot up our theatre. I can’t think that anyone with any sense thinks it is.