At one point in the movie Tony Stark needs to commandeer some tech equipment from a TV van. The scene is briefly set up by showing a beauty pageant and the media coverage of the event. The real point for the story is that Stark gets access to a computer and a broadcast signal (or something like that). He could have broken into the local radio station, but they made it an event with TV coverage. It could have been a cooking show, but they made it a beauty pageant. I’m sure someone thought the movie needed more women in swimsuits and made the call for the scene.
From my perspective, the movie screen filled with women in swimsuits, completely without warning. Like any happily married, Christian man, I glanced away from the screen, partly out of duty and partly because I genuinely wanted to make a moral choice in that moment.
The next thing on the screen was an old man in the role of a judge at the pageant. He over-enthusiastically lifts up a sign with a hastily scrawled “10” on it. The excited expression on his face said it all.
Most of the audience laughed; I smiled a little.
It was funny because it’s silly for an old man to be that excited about a beautiful woman.
It was funny because old men are cute.
It was funny because old men get a pass on certain actions that are socially unacceptable for most people.
It was funny because, though it’s not ok for me to lust, it’s ok for areally old guy.
It was funny because it pointed out and exaggerated the sexualization of American culture, while making it sort-of cute and acceptable.
We can laugh at the old guy making a fool of himself and that’s ok, we don’t have to think about the entire system of beauty pageants and women in swimsuits randomly thrown in to movies.
As I said, I went to the movie with my staff.
The female on my staff was sitting next to me.
When most of the theater laughed, she groaned.
And I thought, “oh.”
I don’t really know what that groan meant exactly, and I don’t know if she’d even remember if I asked. To me it sounded like disgust, or frustration, or weariness.
It sounded like, “this isn’t actually funny...”
I don’t know if she was groaning at the scene or the audience reaction or the subtle nuances of sex and media in American culture. But, to me, it sounded like, “enough is enough.”
I don’t really know what that groan meant.
But it got me thinking.
This young lady seemed to have a very different experience with that scene than I did.
I don’t know if she’s ever had an experience with a lecherous old man. I’ve seen enough Facebook statuses from female friends and acquaintances to know that situations like that happen, and they aren’t exactly funny in real life.
I don’t know if she’s had unfavorable experiences with men. But I know that many women have had unfavorable experiences with men.
Obviously I have no idea what it’s like to be a woman, but it was women being objectified on the screen and it was a woman sitting next to me in the theater.
The groan took me out of the “standard” response to the scene.
The groan widened my view and expanded my thoughts.
The groan brought me a little closer to seeing another perspective.
It took me out of the movie, but more importantly, it took me out of myself.
The guys on my staff are mature and wise and upstanding men of moral character, but I doubt I would have had this experience if I had sat by one of them at the movie. Who I sat next to changed my experience and expanded my worldview.
The choice of sitting by someone different than me at the movie resulted in me thinking hard about important issues from a perspective different than my own.
So the question is:
Who do you sit next to at the movies?
Who do you sit next to in life?
Are you ever in a situation where you hear the other reaction, to hear the groan?
How often do you find yourself next to someone who is completely different than you?
How often do you sit next to people who have experienced the world in a different way than you have?
How often do you sit next to someone you disagree with?
Have you ever sat next to another person and quietly observed his or her reaction to a world that you thought was “normal”?
Maybe it’s time you heard the “groan” of the other.