Chinese Theaters Cut Down on Cell Phone Use With Lasers, Shaming
China’s been ahead of the Western curve for some time now. The U.S. economy cowers before the might of Chinese manufacturing prowess, and some of Hollywood’s most popular blockbusters have catered to Eastern tastes. By 2025, we will all have a workable knowledge of Cantonese. But for now, China has made its latest leap forward in the field of etiquette, more specifically movie theater etiquette, and even more specifically, how to deal with a-holes who won’t stop using their cell phones during a movie. Polite whispered requests, chair-nudging, chair-kicking, and in-theater doxxing have all proven ineffective in the continuing war on America’s rudest audience members. China’s contrived a smarter, more futuristic mode of combatting these menaces.
A nifty item in the New York Times this morning details a new practice taking root in China wherein ushers will shine a laser pointer at cell-phone users during performances in order to shame them into putting their devices away. It’s brilliant in its simplicity: ushers stand around the periphery of the theater, and when someone pulls out their phone, they hit them with a red or green laser beam so that the fellow theatergoers can take note of their misbehavior and shun them accordingly. It makes sense, though the question remains as to whether a laser beam would be more distracting than an illuminated smartphone screen during a performance. The NYT piece quotes an opera patron as saying “Of course it’s distracting. But seeing lighted-up screens is even more distracting,” which would seem to settle that. This, however, does not address the concern that people who use cell phones in theaters cannot be shamed into stopping, because if they’ve got the phone out in the first place, shame probably isn’t a huge concern for them.
But another source cites a more pressing concern: “I remember the first time I saw the lasers, it was shocking to see that little red dot in the middle of a performance,” touring orchestra consultant Joanna C. Lee, said. “Like someone was pointing a gun at the audience.” That, sadly, has happened in America, and while this practice may be helpful, getting people jumpy about guns is the last thing any theater owner wants. There would need to be some tweaking for this practice to be implemented in America, but something must be done about the long national nightmare of in-theater texting.