Watching Alone?

One of the most common social outings is going to the movies. Ironically, the process of going to see a movie is inherently antisocial. Think about it: You go into a dark theater where talking of any form is discouraged for two hours and are (hopefully) mesmerized by the film on the big screen. During the movie, you will have virtually no social interactions with the friends that accompany you (I exclude affectionate teen couples from this generalization) besides the occasional shared laugh. In fact, an argument can be made that having friends present detracts from the diversionary experience of the movie by reminding you of reality. Ever go with a friend to a movie who laughs at absolutely everything? Or talks excessively during the movie? This actually detracts from your movie watching experience by preventing complete immersion in the film.

My point is not that you should always attend movies alone. I understand that if you and a friend have a shared interest in a movie, it could be beneficial to have the opportunity to discuss it afterward, especially if the film precedes dinner. My point is that solo movie attendance is not only justifiable but, likely, preferable to the social movie experience. Unlike during solo dining, where you often don’t have food in front of you, at a movie you don’t need anyone or anything else to occupy you or converse with you during breaks in the main activity. The movie, where you are entertained the entire time you are in the theater and cannot even see others, is extremely conducive to a solo experience.  Moreover, individuals sometimes have a desire to see a movie that their friends do not want to see: Solo movie attendance allows them to better satisfy their movie preferences.  Yet, there is such a stigma to solo movie attendance (and many other activities) that people shy away from going to movies alone, myself included.

Let me respond to one potential objection to this argument that goes like this: The point of going to the actual theater is to do something social. Since we can rent DVDs a few months later, people who do not want the movie-viewing experience to be social can just rent the DVDs when they come out.

First, there are definitely other reasons to go to the theater besides social ones, including seeing a new movie before the plot is spoiled, because you are excited by a particular acting performance, or just the experience of seeing it on the big screen. Second, while I do agree that many people go to the movies to do something social, I maintain it is still—in general—a bad social activity. Just because it is something that people do does not mean that it is a wise thing to do. In fact, when I haven’t seen friends in a while I rarely will suggest going to a movie since that will likely detract from our overall social experience. Third, with the ease of communication these days it is pretty easy to discuss a movie with others even if they did not attend the movie with you. Besides chatting with friends who already have seen the movie, forums and reviews provide an easy way to see how others’ views of a movie compare with your own.

So, NPI readers, I offer you a challenge: The next time there is a movie that you want to see that your friends don’t, go solo…Dare to watch alone.

4 responses to this post.

  1. […] of No Pun Intended, recently posted about the phenomenon that is movie-watching with friends.  It’s a phenomenon because everyone goes to movies with friends, despite the fact that […]


  2. […] the example of your going with a friend to a movie she wants to see (which may be extra gracious given my critique of this sort of activity). You may end up enjoying the movie too, so when the friend says “Thanks”, you respond “No […]


  3. […] “Watching Alone” by Josh. From the title’s subtle allusion to Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone, “Watching Alone” is perhaps the quintessential Josh post. It takes something that is socially stigmatized, and it simply wonders “Why?” In this post, he criticizes the act of going to a movie as a social activity, and for good reason. Posts like this illustrate the way Josh thinks: always inquisitive, always logical, and never willing to accept “Because” as an answer in itself. […]


  4. […] I rarely see more than 10 films in a given year. In 2012, though, for a variety of reasons—like embracing Josh’s philosophy—I saw more movies than in any other year of my life, so I finally feel qualified to make a […]


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