August 6th, 2012 by L. James Everett, III.
My wife gives me ultimatums.
I know that the plural of “ultimatum” is “ultimata,” not “ultimatums.” But, that’s okay. It’s not one of her ultimatums that I spell every word I use correctly.
The most recent ultimatum was that I am no longer allowed, after many many years of marriage, to say/shout “It’s pretend time” in movie theatres.
The one right before that was actually a repeat of one she gave me last summer: I am no longer allowed to go over street curbs on all fours, even if it is safer.
Back to the movie theatre ultimatum. I have control over myself. I do. My wife typically is the one that prefers not to announce that it is so awkward in elevators. So, that might give you an idea of what she is like, she would say she is “normal.” I love her to death, and I take her word for it that she is able to pick up on certain social cues that I don’t.
But look, if it’s awkward after 2 seconds in an elevator, I want to say so. I doubt that will make it less awkward to stay quiet, especially with that strange person over there who I have never even seen before and who acts like they haven’t seen us.
I was able to negotiate with her on the movie theatre ultimatum. The details of our truce are as follows: I can say “It’s pretend time!” up to 5 times between the time we enter the building, to the time when we get into the theatre. After that, I can say it whenever it occurs to me to say it, up until the previews start. And in return, she is allowed to throw as many individual pieces of popcorn at my head as she desires, while I am rendered powerless to return fire — and here’s the kicker — even if I haven’t on this occasion actually exclaimed “It’s pretend time!” or similar language (like “This is so fake!”).
She said people would look at us weirdly, and think bad things about us otherwise.
I don’t know how I would have made it through the first 30 minutes of Saving Private Ryan without being able to say what every person watching that invasion scene was thinking: “This is only pretend, it’s pretend, it’s pretend.”
Frankly, I don’t know how I would’ve made it through Finding Nemo without the right to acknowledge it’s pretend. I mean, I, for one, was insulted. Fish don’t talk. They don’t talk English, they don’t talk Russian, they don’t talk Swahili. They don’t talk!
What, do I look stupid? Not even people can talk English underwater. Kids can see right through that stuff. Eventually, I took a deep breath and remembered it’s pretend time. Saying it aloud was proved therapeutic.
I had the producer’s son in my class at college in Los Angeles, and I asked him to convey the message to his father: We aren’t stupid. Toys don’t talk, neither do cars or monsters.
He said, it’s just pretend.
His mom sent us a bottle of wine for Christmas. That was nice. I wonder if they got the message.
I suppose the contract we have with the movies is as follows: I agree to pay you to lie to me, if you (movie-maker people) agree to do so well-enough that that I sort of forget you are lying to me.
That’s why we hate bad acting. It’s a reminder of what we already know — that is a set, a studio, not an actual apartment. And those two on the screen don’t actually know each other. They aren’t really best friends. That is not really their dog. She is not really crying. That’s not even her stuffed animals, or tea cups. They aren’t really getting shot at.
If you see the gaffer or glimpse the microphone, you get sort of mad. You want to be lied to. You want it so badly, you are willing to pay your cold, hard-earned cash so that an over-paid pretender — a liar — a hungry, hungry hippo-crit, can lie to you, hopefully so well that you kind of forget you are being lied to, that this is all a contract of lies and pretends.
So, all I am doing is acknowledging the existence of the contract at the Point of Sale (POS). At the POS, I remind them: they are shoveling lies at me. It’s pretend time! I give you money, you give me fakeness which looks real. But it isn’t real.
In the special lie-room (the movie theatre), I want to acknowledge the lie. It helps me.
But my wife reminds me, separating truth from willful ignorance is often-times not socially acceptable.