America at the mall


Sunday, June 03, 2018

I went to a local mall to see a movie – more about that later. The show was sold out, so waiting for the next one an hour later, I wandered around not having had this uniquely American experience in many moons.

The place was filled with people – families, groups of teenage boys, girls, and the occasional loner like myself. Some were in a hurry to get somewhere and others just strolled around or sat on the benches, most fiddling with cell phones. No one was reading a book. I was drawn to an area where youngsters where racing around a track in cars wearing NASCAR outfits. It seemed harmless enough but I wondered if that was true when there were a lot more than this handful of kids.

More fun could be found in several arcades, which had the usual electronic video games with mind-numbing whistles and bells. The saving grace for me was watching a parent and child play skeeball, which I enjoyed on the boardwalk back on Long Island. An intriguing storefront offered an interactive, immersion adventure where you use clues to solve a mystery and escape from some themed room. Of course this takes place in cyberspace.

A most disturbing aspect of the mall was the incessant loud noise and music which was overpowering, not allowing any clear thought or quiet. And no clocks. “Forget your troubles come on get happy,” as the song goes. Sadly, lost as well is interaction with others in a meaningful way. This all is designed to ensnare and enrapture people into spending their time and money, often on things they don’t need or really want, and can’t afford. Consumerism run amok. Just as upsetting was the emphasis on aggressive, violent, frenetic activities.

This was in surplus in “The Black Panther,” which has garnered rave reviews and huge audiences. The film had some redeeming qualities: an almost-all black cast, touches of witty humor, and a story – though puzzling at times – that expressed a philosophy of compassion and aid for downtrodden people and cooperation between countries. (The contrast to Trump’s policies was no accident, I believe.)

However, I was subjected to frequent fighting and bloody killing of all sorts which entirely undermined the virtuous content. This was coupled with an ear-splitting soundtrack. During the half-hour of previews, all of which were insipid action movies, I closed my ears to prevent hearing loss since the sound is turned up then. It was exacerbated by being in a 20-row theater (typical of the multiplexes) where one is almost deafened and blinded. This sensory assault, which pervades our daily lives, isn’t noticed by most, who have become accustomed to it. And while I felt entertained in some ways, this was due more to sensory excitement than artistry. When the film ended, I was left with an empty feeling and some shame at participating in this dangerous ritual.

With the latest school shooting tragedy still fresh, and renewed calls for tighter security and background checks along with banning of assault weapons, there should also be greater awareness of the role such violent entertainment plays. It is reflective of our nation – whose citizenry is by far the most violent in the world. Further, our society has gone from a Puritanical one in sexual matters, to that of loose morals and excessive titillating images in films, TV, and magazines. This has led to rampant physical and sexual abuse within families and relationships by everyone from our neighbors to Hollywood types and presidential advisers.

The Florida schoolchildren who have become a sad but needed voice in combating the “deaf ear” of our elected officials in remedying the situation, are unwitting victims of this macho mentality. But now they rise up across the country, as have women of the Me Too movement, with Never Again (as Jews did in their same-named refusal to tolerate anti-Semitism and another Holocaust) The March For Our Lives next month will serve strong notice that this unchecked, destructive gun culture will not be tolerated any longer. They and all children, and the rest of us, deserve to live in an atmosphere of peace, harmony and respect for one another. Anything less is unacceptable and selling ourselves short.

David Fersh lives in Charlemont.