Shortly after it came out, Kathy and I went to see the Brave in the theater. It was a good movie and all, but one thing I’ll never forget is seeing a mother and two children walking back into the theater during the middle of the movie—in fact, I think it was an important, revealing scene with Merida and that old bear—and the three of them couldn’t care less about what was going on on screen. This was a huge, momentous, plot-altering scene of the movie, and during their whole trip into the theater room, up the stairs, and back into their seats, not even the mother acted the slightest bit interested in turning her head occasionally to the screen to see what was going on, trying to piece together what she had missed, or shushing her kids so they wouldn’t have to miss any more.
It wasn’t that they were being rude; in fact, her kids might not have been making any noise, though that seems doubtful, because they’re kids. What struck me was how little—none, it seemed—this woman cared about a good, interesting, well-told movie and what she had missed of it and how she could catch up with the plot after missing several minutes. Paying attention to and enjoying the movie just weren’t among her goals for this movie outing. Such concerns weren’t even on her radar. Her purpose in taking her kids to see Brave was to go to a public place for a relatively easy, sedentary activity, to avoid the summer heat, and to put her kids in front of some big, colorful, moving pictures for an hour and a half.
I made remarks along these lines, in much briefer terms, either during or after the movie to Kathy, and she agreed it was kind of funny or weird. Unrelatable, at least. We couldn’t relate to someone who would go to a movie, even if it’s a kids’ movie, and have no interest in following and enjoying the whole thing. Now, I fully expect to take our children to some movies or other events where my main goal is to entertain and distract them for a couple hours to ease the burden of caring for them once in a while, but I also expect to at least pay attention to the whole movie and care about following it all. And let’s not forget that kids’ movies these days are on average better than ever, with the possible exception of the wonderful early- to mid-1990’s Disney movies (Brave won the Oscar for best animated film). So anyone who was paying attention to Brave would have become interested and invested in the movie almost immediately. But once the duty of taking her charges to the bathroom or the concession stand arose, this mother’s interest in the movie apparently disappeared. I hope Kathy and I never get like that with our children in the theater. Or even at home when we’re actively watching a movie with our children.