Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor
Audiences both fascinate and frustrate me. At their worst, fellow moviegoers can be horrible distractions. I am like everybody else. I have cursed at a few rudely talkative people before. I have wished cell phones could somehow explode in the hands of people using them during a film. I have felt great pity for a parent with a crying baby. . . at least until that parent does not take the baby out of the theater fast enough.
Sometimes though, I find audiences really entertaining too. Today, I saw Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), the slow to get rolling but then reasonably enjoyable DC character-based film with the unfortunately long name. There was a prime example of what I love about audiences in there with me.
For this viewing, this particular woman was sitting down from us. And wow, was she enjoying this movie. I mean, she just howled. When others in the theater chuckled, she whooped it up. While I did enjoy the movie, I found myself wishing I was having as much fun as she was. I admit, had I been sitting closer her big, brassy laugh might have driven me crazy. But I quickly realized there was some kind of movie magic happening here because the greatest guffaws were reserved for lines from Harley herself. Heck, one time this viewer cracked up at a tiny bit of dialogue used as a sound bridge. I know nothing of this woman, but something simpatico was happening between her and Quinn. There was an implied “you go girl” in every chuckle.
But the most fascinating thing I overheard at this particular film was a comment I caught after the movie had ended. I did not hear what his friend said to solicit this brief review, but it was one of the single most-amazing movie comments I have ever encountered. The man replied, with a matter of fact air of disappointment: “Too many penises bein’ stomped on.”
I did not hear much more after that. It took everything I had not to fall down laughing. I really did not want the fellow to think I was laughing at him. I mean he has every right to his reactions to the movie. There was just something so delightfully unexpected in that sentence, a terse encapsulation of what he found to be wrong with the movie.
And like all good criticism, it caused me to think about the film. I mean, there were a number of bad guys being busted in the junk. It is an R-rated movie that clearly revels in the grittier fight sequences that helped get it this rating. Limbs were broken in slo-mo, people were shot, and yeah there were hits to the groin. Our Birds of Prey faced waves of flunkies. They had to stop them somehow.
A number of questions invaded my mind. What constitutes stomping? Any injury to the sensitive zone of the male anatomy? Or is it just kicks? Stomping implies kicks, does it not? What is the right amount of being stomped on? Six? Eight? Is it the context of the stomping that matters? Or is it who delivers the stomp? Is there emasculation to this emancipation?
I wish I had asked. For what it is worth though, I thought there was just the right amount being stomped on.