Lining Up...Again

April 11, 2005
A thought by James Berardinelli

It's always nice to have a helpful group of on-liners to show me the error of my ways. Such is the case when it comes to the poor, misunderstood group of Star Wars fans who are lining up in L.A., hoping to be among the first to file into the theater on the night of May 18 for the midnight showing of Revenge of the Sith. (Note: why not temporarily re-locate to the East Coast? That would give them access to the movie three hours earlier!)

Last week, I posted a "get a life" rant about these people, feeling that, being a geek and reformed Star Wars fanatic (granted, I was about 11 years old when the term applied, but still...), I knew a little about the subject matter. But a defender contacted me to tell me I had it all wrong. I will quote from her e-mail, but withhold her name.

"The people do not stand line continuously. They sign in and out accumulating time in the line. The person with the most time gets to buy the first ticket and so on. As far as I know, no one has stood in line the entire time for any of the Star Wars movies. This is an organized event raising money for charity. This year the fee has been lowered to $50.00 to participate. The money goes to Starlight Starbright Children's Foundation."

Okay... let me address her points. First, while the clock-in/clock-out approach sounds good in theory, this isn't taking into account the obsessive mindset of the fanatic. Someone who is first in line will not clock-out (except may to use the bathroom) for fear of losing that coveted first place. The same is true of #2 and #3 - not only don't they want to be passed, but they recognize that they might have the opportunity to usurp position #1. I can't imagine the guy at the front of the line saying, "Gotta clock out for a couple of hours so I can take a shower and get something to eat. See you in a little while." It may be true that people further down the pecking order just stop by for a few hours a day to enhance their time, but this doesn't apply to the die-hards. Once they start, they're there.

As for no one standing in line for "the entire time," that may be true, but there are some who come pretty close. The media may distort and exaggerate, but I don't think they made up the shots of guys in tents outside of the theater. People wouldn't set up camp sites unless they expect to be spending a lot of time there.

The participation of a charity smacks of exploitation. It seems to be in bad taste for a non-profit organization to be earning from the actions of an obsessed, possibly disturbed individual. As if a $50 entry fee suddenly justifies everything... If anything, it makes the whole "lining up" situation more creepy, if that's possible.

Finally, a word about hygiene. Presumably, the theater does not provide showers and lavatories for the line-standers. I'm sure they find someplace to relieve themselves, but bathing is probably not high on their list of priorities. (Not only might the facilities be difficult to find, but it would take too much time away from what's really important - after all, they would have to clock out.) A word to anyone who intends to interview one of these people: bring nose plugs.