America For Better Or Worse

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate July 2001

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It's Friday night. My wife and I are sitting on the couch wondering what to do for the evening. I reach for the Good Times section of our local paper and begin to thumb through it. Ah yes, the movie section. After a mild tug of war, I convince my wife to see Gladiator. So it was decided, we would be entertained for the evening. Having been to the theater in the past there were some underlying themes to be endured as well. Themes like celebrity worship, excess capitalism, and of course stepping over mountains of popcorn and candy on the way out.

I will be the first to admit that I have, and will probably continue to fall prey to this form of celebrity worship. For what you may ask? Quite honestly, to be entertained I would reply. We all have our favorite actors and or actresses. My personal favorites would include: Jack Nicholson, Russell Crowe, Nicholas Cage, Samuel L. Jackson, and of course, the master, Sean Connery. Does this mean I have to go see any movie these people are in? Absolutely not, but I probably will. A fair amount of you reading this might be in the same boat I am. Does it make sense to line their pockets on a regular basis? No, but we continue to. Some of the films they're in are not even remotely good. In light of this fact, we still find a way to give credit. Several years ago there was a film made called The Avengers, based on a television series from way back. This was one of the worst movies I've seen, but it had Sean Connery in it, and that makes it all right. I'm not asking that you boycott the movies. That would be ludicrous. After all, I will continue to attend them. I'm just trying to instill some insight on why we continue to worship these people, no different than ourselves. On the left tray of the scale, you have all the negatives I've discussed. On the right, there is entertainment. A serious imbalance of the scale, or is it? I have found a lot of times where this is a worthwhile trade off. Maybe you have too.

As you walk through the doors, you will find the ticket counter in front of you, and a slew of video games to your right. On your left is the coffee shop, and beyond the ticket counter is the concession stand. In order to get to the movie you must make your way through the battlefield of excess capitalism. Focusing on the task at hand, you make your way to the ticket counter. You make your selection, and for two the total comes to fifteen dollars. Beyond this is where I tend to have issues. I can live with the fifteen-dollar entry fee. It's the twenty-dollar concession fee you'll have to fork out for some soda, popcorn, and candy that I have a problem with. Those are just the basics. Now there are personal pizzas, nachos, hotdogs, and nearly everything else under the sun. The prices have exploded to a ridiculous level. I wonder what they make on a six-dollar lunch bag full of popcorn? Perhaps three or even four dollars, maybe more. Or the large size soda for four to five dollars. Have you seen the size of these take home cups? I myself refuse to give in to this scam. Here's the trick. Have your wife or girlfriend empty their purse or handbag at home. You may want to allow some time for this. Purchase a couple bottles of soda or water and a couple bags of your favorite candy. Smuggle them into the theater, walk happily by the concession stand, knowing you only spent five dollars and enjoy the movie. I don't want to come across as cheap, because I'm not. Just do the math.

Once you have been entertained, there is the trivial task of taking your trash and throwing it away. This is not a difficult thing to do. After all, you have to walk by the trashcan to leave. That still does not deter us from leaving everything under the seat. I can't say most of us or even the majority because I don't have the statistics. It would be neat to test this theory out. Set up a hidden camera to see how many of us actually do throw are trash away. I have been guilty nearly half the time, with no other excuse other than laziness.

I recently had the opportunity to help a friend out with the night cleaning of this particular theater. This is an eye opening experience. There are twelve theater units that need to be gone through every night of the week. That was enough for me to never ever leave my garbage under the seat again. The single biggest thing I noticed on the first night was the incredible amount of waste. Popcorn bags only half empty, soda containers partially finished, and candy boxes not fully consumed. What's worse is that it ends up out of the bag, container, and box all over the floor. Are we really this messy and wasteful? Help clean a theater for a week and your answer will undoubtedly be yes. Then there are the unacceptable. Cups turned spit containers, beer bottles, cigarette butts, and my personal favorite of the week, a used diaper. The last one really disappoints me. First of all, a child still in diapers could not possibly comprehend the content of even a Disney film. Perhaps no sitter was available that night. Even so, who in their right mind changes their child in the middle of a movie theater? God forbid they missed any of the film. I find this behavior very disturbing when there are changing tables provided in the restrooms. For anyone who has left something behind at the movies, I suggest a week of volunteer work cleaning them. It worked for me, I'm certain it would work for the rest of you.

Celebrity worship, excess capitalism, waste, and the inexcusable offenses at the movie theater create a mirror image of our America, for better or worse. How did it ever come to this? Have we really changed so much from say two hundred years ago? I think the real issue lies in the area of human nature. Laziness has not changed over time. We all have it, some more than others. We all have the basic need to consume also, whatever it maybe. If there continues to be a demand for the excess, then producers will provide at an unreasonable cost. As far as waste, not much has changed accept quantity and the means of disposal. At least now we try not to dump it into the rivers, although there will always be someone trying to save a dollar on this one. Does all of this mean we should stop going to the movies? No. Should we stop buying popcorn and soda at the concession stand? Maybe. Should we stop leaving our garbage and personal crap all over the floor? Yes! Continue to be entertained, for that is the basic counterpunch for boredom. Try to consume and dispose of with a more conscious effort next time out. Enjoy the show.