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Shutterbugs in the spotlight
作者:Raymond …    文章来源:X-Ray    点击数:167    更新时间:2017/2/26   

Shutterbugs in the spotlight

[Photo by Cai Meng/China Daily]

Snapping photos of the screen or stage is a public nuisance. But if well managed, it can be good for both the movie and the audience-as well as being a good lesson in etiquette.

The just-finished seven-day holiday has been a boon for China's film industry. Out of the record 3.38 billion yuan ($491 million) in ticket sales, at least three tickets had a back story more dramatic than what was shown on the big screen.

Or, shall I say, a cautionary tale.

A 39-year-old woman in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region's Guilin went to watch Duckweed, with her mother and her 9-year-old daughter in tow. During the screening, she whipped out her cellphone and incessantly snapped photos of the screen-complete with flash.

"I was so excited when I saw Eddie Peng on the screen," the woman, surnamed Qin, later explained, referring to one of the stars in the film.

Two women, roughly of Qin's age, were sitting right in front of her. They were not amused and turned around to stop her. She might have turned a deaf ear to them. Anyway, by the time the movie ended, the duo were still holding a grudge. They confronted Qin again and beat her up.

There is no doubt that the women should have refrained from inflicting physical violence upon her. They should face a penalty for their conduct.

While it is up to law enforcement to deal with the duo, it is for society at large to reckon with Qin.

Ideally, the women should have notified the cinema's management, who in turn should have stopped her and, having failed, should have expelled her from the premises. Or, the women should have confronted her afterwards and told her sternly, but not with verbal abuse, that it was wrong of her to disturb other audience members in that manner.

Etiquette is a scarce commodity when a society is undergoing upward mobility.

It may be taught in schools, but what about adults? One may find that those most prone to violation in China are senior citizens. Whenever there is a line, it is usually the grandpas and grandmas who do not hesitate to jump it.

Consider it survival instinct. They were conditioned to fight for what little was distributed among them. Coupled with China's tradition of respect for elders, things can get complicated.

The above story would have taken on an extra layer of moral complexity had the two women been of a younger generation. Even a stern warning would have been out of place. About the only option left would be a gentle reminder.

Given the circumstances, we all have a Qin inside us. For any street intersection with properly installed traffic lights, there are always pedestrians who ignore the red lights.

You can break these jaywalkers into several categories: those who totally disregard the traffic signs and would rather do a ballet of dodging incoming traffic; those who believe in the power of the masses and go with a crowd in violating traffic laws; those who run the red light but make sure they are safe. Only a very few hold their ground until the light turns green.

Meanwhile, this season's most dramatic rule breaker, who was unconventionally and tragically punished, was the man who tried to circumvent the ticket office of a wildlife park by scaling the high wall and ended up being mauled by a tiger. He was killed by the tiger, which in turn was shot dead.

Humanitarians defended his action by blaming the 130-yuan ticket price. Pitted against them were the animal lovers and rule advocates who saw the tiger's man-eating as animal or nature righting what's wrong.

While it would be excessively cruel to wish one to be beaten or killed for such violations, I admit that sometimes I do wish cellphone interlopers in cinemas or theaters would inadvertently drop and smash their gadgets.

In 2015, Broadway royalty Patti Lepone snatched a phone from an audience member who had been using it during her show and stopped doing a number for a 2009 show to demand that another theatergoer be removed from the hall for using flash photography.

While it is bad to point one's camera to the screen or stage, it is equally rude to use one's phone for texting. In the dark the greenish lights from small screens is very distracting. From the stage it probably looks like a blinking shop of horrors.

For almost every show I attend, live or filmed, there is always a person or two, usually young in this case, who never stops checking her WeChat account.

In my opinion, they are much worse than the photo takers. The latter at least love your show; they just do not know how to express that affection in an appropriate way. The former, by contrast, carry an air of condescension or even disdain, as if to say: "You see, I'm such a big shot that I have to attend to matters of great importance all the time. But I still bought a ticket for your show. However, the world will not survive if I stop issuing orders for two hours."

Perhaps the busy WeChat user is either madly in love or has just been jilted by her lover. If so, she should not be in the theater in the first place. "A show is not as important as your love life," I have really wanted to shout to them on many occasions.

If violations such as snapping photos in a show are commonplace, rules and etiquette need to be re-examined. If disturbances can be managed, wouldn't it be a good and free tool of publicity for the show? Honestly, I feel a strict no-photo policy is passe.

I have noticed that several stage shows, including the touring production of Mama Mia! and Cloud Gate Dance Theatre's Water Moon, reserved the encore or the last number for audience shutterbugs or other forms of participation.

Having been informed that this opportunity would come, they behaved extremely well during the performance.

Movies, especially comedies, can leave the end credits for a similar purpose. This part nowadays often incorporates outtakes or factoids. It could be a fun way to end a moviegoing experience if Eddie Peng addressed his female fans like Qin, either in or out of character, and facilitated a Kodak moment.

Contact the writer at raymondzhou@chinadaily.com.cn

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