It got me thinking: In today's highly individualized zeitgeist
why is the loner—the isolated movie watcher, in particular—synonymous with "pathetic" and "loser"? If, say, you were in a theater and saw someone flanked by empty chairs, would you feel pity? Condescension? Would you nudge your companion to join in
Okay, you might not go that far. But you might just think, "I would never watch a movie alone."
Other enterprises are immune to the stigma. It's well within social norms to work out at the gym alone. The same is true with buying groceries,
shopping at the mall or even watching cinema's cheaper, less-attractive sibling: television.
But not the movies.
I have yet to come across a satisfying answer as to why. The problem, I assume, lies in a self-consciousness ingrained by habit and ubiquitous
reminders of "social standards." It sucks being alone when you're surrounded by a mass of people who all know each other. Ever gone
to a party where you didn't know anyone? Yeah, me neither. Because that would be terrible. You appear unpopular and feel like an outcast, like a
nerd who just transferred to a new school, where even the nerds won't talk to you.
The summer movie, in particular, is unruly for the loner because it attracts a certain audience. I know the crowd in, say, Transformers 3 will
be different from the one when I saw The King's Speech, whose theater was half-filled with middle-aged couples, grandparents and other
single parties like me. In other words, the crowd was sedate and un-hip, the type that frequents estate sales and the Hoover Dam. But it was also a
decidedly less-harrowing experience for a loner. Everyone acts the same at these wintertime Oscar-buzz movies: reserved, quiet, almost embarrassed to
The summer blockbuster crowd is rowdier. Screenings of The Hangover 2, Super 8, and Captain America are likely to be filled with a motley
crew of action junkies, crying kids and rambunctious teenyboppers with nowhere else to legally enjoy the night. Mob mentality emboldens them. They
text. They chat. They provide unsolicited commentary or, like when I saw Cyrus last summer, drunkenly sing along to the soundtrack and ask
aloud, "Hey, is that the chick from My Cousin Vinny?" They're more inclined to do this because it's the summer, the
movie they are watching is blaring with the sounds of explosions and sex, and they're with a large, equally loud group. And it all serves to
highlight that you, the loner, are alone.
The movie loner, therefore, must constantly defend from distractions and judgment, living with the suspicion that people are talking about"the
guy over there who's by himself." So we fidget and play with our smartphones—anything to look busy and forget our
The mocking even becomes physical sometimes, like when I watched Funny People and was suddenly bombarded by airborne hard candy from three
snickering teens dressed like Ali G wannabes and sporting shit-eating grins. I have a feeling I wouldn't have been bothered if I was with a large
group. They wanted to pick on the loner.