Among the victims killed at the midnight showing of “Batman: The Dark Knight Rising” in Aurora, Colorado, were a three-month-old baby and a six-year-old boy. A father lost track of his four-month-old son while escaping the mayhem, only to discover later that the mother had picked up the baby while shot in the leg. What were those parents thinking when they took their young children out in public after midnight when the entire family should have been in bed at home? I sometimes wonder if bad parenting is a bigger threat to our children than gun violence at the movie theater.
When I worked at Accolade/Infogrames/Atari (same company, different owners, multiple identity crises), the QA team saw the first matinee showing of “The Lord of The Rings: The Return of The King” at the AMC 20 Mercado when on opening days. Along with people from several other nearby tech companies, hardly anyone attended the first showing. This was a remarkable contrast when the entire company—still Accolade back then—spent the entire day to see “Star Wars Episode: The Phantom Menace” at the Century 22, where the HR girls handed out cold drinks to everyone in line as we waited for hours to see the first showing.
I noticed a young father barely out of high school with his baby daughter sitting behind me inside the theater. He smiled back at me at he nervously ate his popcorn, as if he knew he was doing something wrong. Although I’m not a parent, I knew he was doing something wrong. LOTR was never meant for children, especially with the horrific battle scenes between the forces of good and evil that dominated the third movie. This wouldn’t end well.
The little girl responded with glee to the My Little Pony toy commercial and paid no attention to the trailers that preceded the movie. Once the movie started, she became very quiet as her father ate the popcorn faster. The movie opened with the origin story of Gollum as a hobbit who came in possession of the One Ring, sitting down at the river and holding a caught fish. A screen-wide mouth with ugly teeth appeared, biting into the fish and ripping the flesh to shreds. A loud wail ripped through the theater before the crying started in earnest with lush wails.
I didn’t need to look back to see the father spilling his popcorn and hustling his kid out the door. They were soon forgotten as the LOTR theme song overwhelmed the theater. Needless to say, he didn’t get to see the movie that morning. Too bad he wasn’t charged with child abuse. Too bad the parents who take their young children to a midnight movie weren’t charged with child abuse as well. Maybe a stay in the pokey would put some commonsense back into them about raising children.