welcome to strong feelings! Essays by writers we love, in which they share their most impassioned opinions on a given subject (or thing). If you love our usual advice column — don’t worry it’s not going anywhere. This month for strong feelings, writer, video producer, and body-positive influencer Catherine Mhloyi unpacks talking during movies.
I once went on a third date with a gorgeous Virgo woman. It was nearly our last.* She suggested we watch a movie together at my apartment (like actually watch a movie), but she insisted on silence the entire time.
We watched The Craft, which, in my humble opinion, is a film deserving of a detailed play-by-play. Namely, because I need to be able to full-lung shout at Sarah through the screen. She’s the real villain! If you know, you know. Gorgeous Virgo didn’t know though, because I felt like I couldn’t say a word.
I was desperate to yell, “Justice for Nancy!” But instead, we sat in silence. All I wanted was some verbal indication that our views on the subject were aligned — I would have even taken a quick debate — but alas, nothing. (*She was an amazing kisser, so that was not, in fact, our last date.)
All of this brings me to my emphatic thesis: We should all talk during movies.
Before we begin, let me make myself clear: I’m not referring to chatting at the theater. Well… not entirely. I’m referring to watching movies in the comfort of your home with your roommates, family, or friends.
Some people hate it, this much I know. But every movie (or show) offers some kind of opportunity to connect. If you put on a comedy and no one is laughing, that’s a great sign to turn it off. But the one thing that can save a terrible comedy? Talking about how terrible it is.
Talking during movies can have unintended benefits to deepen friendships or even add clarity. Explain to your foreign friends what Single White Female-ing someone means. Bi/trilinguals: give us the hidden gems that can only be found when translating the small bits of dialogue or on-screen text that don’t have subtitles. Watch romantic comedies and comment on how sexist the plotline is, just to make sure your friends have their heads screwed on straight. If we’re not pausing Gossip Girl to debate which character should’ve been Gossip Girl, why are you even at my house?
If we can take the volume of the hang-out to a library without being scolded, it’s all wrong. To me, a sea of virtually unintelligible chatter is the audio equivalent of sitting by the fireplace with a hot chocolate in hand. There’s a warmth and a kind of peace in hearing how many voices belong to people who care about you.
anyway, here’s how to talk during movies
You might be thinking, “won’t talking make it harder to understand the plot?” There's usually a right way to do most things that people think are wrong. (I said most things, not all things.) There’s a right way to cut in line: just ask, and make sure you have a good sob story. There’s a right way to show up late to a party: bring twice the amount of snacks and/or alcohol than you usually would.
And there’s a right way to talk during movies. See as follows…
You must designate a “Remote Captain” at the start of your viewing, this is non-negotiable. This person is responsible for pausing for bathroom breaks, small conversations, and the like. If what you have to say is more than a sentence long, ask the Remote Captain to pause.
I said you can talk during movies, but don’t take advantage of me. You can pause 3 times (4 if the movie is longer than 90 minutes), any more is excessive!
Three words: Ask for consent. Spoilers are called spoilers for a reason, for some people it can be really rotten. If it weren’t we would call it “freezer burn” or “stale chips”. Others have no qualms about scraping the mold off of the metaphorical bread, so to speak, but you need to ask permission. This includes alluding to spoilers without actually dropping one, i.e. muttering things like “you’re gonna regret that later” under your breath.
Stop asking for spoilers if everyone else keeps saying no! You can ask for an aside with the spoiler-holder to find out privately, but y’all are usually the type who can’t keep a lid on it once you find out so it's probably better to forgo it.
deepening the conversation
Genuine questions are welcome. This includes asking “why” or “how” even when you know that no one in the room has a clue. For those who don’t get it, this is movie-talker speak for “let’s hypothesize.” You cannot, however, ask “what is going on” because you haven’t been paying attention.
Good opinion: I like You season 4 part 1
Bad opinion: I like You season 4 part 2
I don’t make the rules, I just write them down. See also: Deepening The Conversation.
See also: Pausing. Some off-topic thoughts are encouraged because they can help ground the film more in reality e.g., “I remember when I went to Butter (famous for being the restaurant that Jenny took Nate to in order to curry favor with the popular girls in Gossip Girl). The food was expensive but not expensive enough for it to be such a flex to eat there.” It puts things in perspective, right?
That said, talking during movies is one thing, a vocal stream of consciousness is another. We all love conspiracy theories, but don’t waste 10 minutes speculating around something that might be explained in the next 2 minutes.
don’t be a downer
See also: Deepening the conversation. If you hate the movie, don’t go. An example: I’m a huge hater of frat boy comedies (i.e. anything from the creators of The Hangover or anything with red solo cups on the poster). My gift to my loved ones is steering clear of them.
the only time you can’t talk
If you join someone else whose intention was to watch the movie alone, don’t talk through it unless they want you to. None of the aforementioned rules or justifications apply if this is the case, so please don’t cite me as a source when your earth sign friend gets pissed at you. I don’t want to have secret beef with someone who can hold a grudge forever.
loved this essay! i always let my friends know beforehand that i’m a movie talker, which is why apps like watch party/telepathy are fun bc i get to chat while watching something. i don’t do anything beyond whispering in theaters bc that actually feels rude to me but i’m an avid marvel movie geek and love tearing apart the movies and scenes mid-watch lol
I'm a proud remote captain <3