Talk about a Long Line

April 08, 2005
A thought by James Berardinelli

For those of who waiting with baited breath to hear what I have to say about "24" and "Lost," you'll have to wait another day or two. Something else caught my attention and I have to make mention of it. Last night, my wife told me about a news story that a group of Star Wars fans are lined up outside of Grauman's Chinese Theater in Los Angeles. Presumably, their goal is to be amongst the first to get in to see Revenge of the Sith - even though Fox representatives have told them that the movie will not be screened at the theater. Instead, it will open several blocks away.

I don't want to discuss the absurdity of a group of people camping out in front of the wrong theater. Presumably, once they are convinced that the Fox suits are not lying to them, they'll find out where the correct location is and shuffle over there. (Will they maintain their current order, or will whoever gets there first take over the prize position? Is there honor amongst Star Wars lunatics? Do I care?) What I do want to ruminate about, however, is why any sane perosn would stand in line for weeks or months.

Maybe they're homeless and are simply killing time. After all, no one with a job or family could afford to give up such a large chunk of their life doing nothing. One assumes a bond forms between these ne'er-do-wells. After all, they're spending night and day in each other's company. Could a romance form? (Are there any women?) But what's the lure? I confess that it escapes me. They're obviously trying to fill a hole in their lives, but it's disconcerting that this is how they choose to do it. (My wife, who is studying to be a psychologist, offers this diagnosis: "They have nothing better to do.")

I have been a geek all of my life, but this sort of extreme example of geekism unsettles me. These people will argue that they're not hurting anyone and that they're enjoying themselves (both true, I'm sure), but that's what many people who engage in abnormal behavior argue. I do not believe they should be forceably removed - as long as they're not breaking any laws or interfering with others, it's their right to do this. But this is unproductive - what if these people could be encouraged to channel their dedication in another direction?

The longest I have ever waited to get into a movie is 90 minutes, and, oddly enough, that was for a Star Wars film (The Empire Strikes Back). The longest line I have endured at an amusement park is about the same. I cannot fathom how people can queue up for 24 hours to file past the body of Pope John Paul II. But that level of dedication pales in comparison with those who give up two months of their lives for a 120-minute piece of entertainment. Even if it's the best movie ever made, it's not worth that. (At minimum wage, each of them is devoting between $7000 and $8000 to this wait. Actual real income lost, also at minimum wage, is between $1500 and $2000.)

I know I'm being judgmental, but I feel close enough to the situation to offer an informed opinion. (There but for the grace of God go I?) I don't think this is healthy. It's not an act of fandom, but of selfishness and laziness. Better to hang out in line than get a job. Better to develop relationships in this artificial setting that try to establish something in the "real world." Is this a harsh judgment? Yes. But while most people chuckle at these people, I find myself getting angry. And maybe it's just because, like extreme Trekkies, they give all fans a bad name. In the words of William Shatner in his immortal "Saturday Night Live" skit: "Get a life!"

As for me, I'm not concerned about when I'll see the movie. It may be at a press screening, a week before it opens. Or, if Fox restricts access to certain approved critics, it may be on opening day, or the day after if the crowds are prohibitively large. A line of 20-30 minutes is long enough.