I’m not really angry about this, only mildly piqued. I saw The Dark Knight twice, once as a matinee about week after it came out and the second time recently with MPA’s honey, who decided that she wanted to see it over our dinner of barbecue and piña coladas after a fine day in the park listening to a Brazilian drum choir. Just so you understand why I’m not actually angry per se.

Both times the experience was marred by screaming children. Time number one involved a youngish (twentysomething) mom with Junior of age 4 and Even More Junior of age 1 or so. First of all—call me old fashioned—but Junior shouldn’t be seeing The Dark Knight until he’s quite a bit older. The Joker’s disappearing pencil trick is really not appropriate for children, and it goes down from there fast. Even More Junior won’t actually understand anything, but crazy sounds, flashing lights, big booms, and so forth aren’t exactly comforting stimuli. To a one year old mind they are going to be overwhelming. Twentysomething Mom went in and out of the theater several times with screaming Even More Junior. It didn’t ruin the movie for me but it didn’t exactly help it either. On the second time, MPA and MPA’s honey go to see The Dark Knight. Again—surprise!—there are at least two small children in the theater. And again small children start to cry when the scary music starts playing (including the way-cool Shepard-Risset scale in the Joker theme), the big booms go off, and scary Mr. Joker is up to his tricks.

I am not personally opposed to “audience participation” in the movie-going experience, if it fits the mood. If you’ve ever seen a horror movie with a substantial number of black folks in the crowd, you know what I mean: A scary silence on the screen punctuated with “Girl, don’t you even go into that room!” or “Aw, you gonna get it now boy!”makes an otherwise stupid horror movie something special. Similarly, I once saw Monty Python and the Holy Grail with an extremely drunk college audience at the late, lamented Co-Ed Theater which used to be right on Green between Sixth and Wright Street. Drunken recitation of many a line by the entire audience followed. “That rabbit’s dynamite!” And who in their right mind would watch Rocky Horror except in a theater with live players?

Screaming child, however, isn’t audience participation. Millennia of evolution have made the sound of a screaming child pretty much as demanding to the human ear as it gets. Why are some parents such jackasses that they just have to see movies in the cineplex and either can’t get a sitter or, I don’t know, wait until the DVD comes out? It’s not good parenting. Not only does it subject Junior to a scary stimulus which has a non-trivial chance of leading to nightmares but also it teaches Junior that it doesn’t really matter if you ruin other people’s enjoyment. Besides it’s pointless: Chances are good you the parent won’t be seeing much of the movie anyway, not when you have to take screaming Junior to the lobby to calm down every fifteen minutes.

You have a small child. This is going to mean that there are a lot of things you won’t be able to do until Junior gets older. That’s just how it is.

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Aside 1: What a tragedy that Heath Ledger died in such a pointless way and won’t be giving any more performances like The Joker. Jack who? I’m not really a superhero move fan, but Chris Nolan’s take on Batman is the one to watch.

Aside 2: As I was reminded of when watching the trailer for the upcoming Body of Lies, it has become evident over the last few years that Leonardo di Caprio—object of loathing for many an Angry Man—has turned into a good actor and not just a pretty boy. He no longer looks like a twelve year old. He’s had some fine roles, e.g., Amsterdam Vallon in Gangs of New York, Howard Hughes in The Aviator or Danny Archer in Blood Diamonds, and turned in solid performances each time.