You should go to the movies this election season

“Where do I go?”, I asked the man I had just paid 75 kroner for a movie I’d never heard of in a cinema I’d never heard of on a day that I hadn’t planned on watching a movie.

He laughed. I’d given up trying to act like a Dane for the day and he could tell. “It’s just around the corner, it looks like this door here, but on the other side. You won’t miss it.”

I laughed. I thought about telling him that I usually don’t need this much help, that today is different from other days, that I might be back in a second if I couldn’t find it. But I think he knew already, so I didn’t.

I walked around the corner, determined that the door in front of me did indeed look like the door the nice man had pointed at, and that I should mill about until someone came to open it. I looked at the posters on the wall. Something about a Turkish Film Festival. “I lived in Turkey!”, I thought, “I should try to go to that!”

The doors opened, and the fifteen or so people who had tickets to the movie walked in. I was supposed to sit in row 6, seat 2. There are four reasons I didn’t:

  1. I would have had to climb over [danish] people.
  2. Climbing over Danish people requires talking to them, which requires them knowing I’m not Danish, and I really didn’t think that was relevant information in a dark room where no one is talking to anyone. Note on my Danish: I can say advanced sentences like Jeg hedder Katherine and Hvad er klokken?, but neither of those are Sorry, I’m supposed to sit in seat 2, and it’s pretty important to follow the rules, so I’d like to climb over you please.
  3. There were fifteen people in the theater, so like why do we need assigned seats anyway?
  4. American movie theaters never have assigned seats, and I had already given up on being Danish for the day, so there wasn’t really much of a point to following Danish rules.

I sat in row 6, seat 7.

And then the movie started. And it turned out that I’d accidentally bought a ticket to that Turkish Film Festival that I thought I’d try to go to and that the subtitles were in English and not Danish and that I’m not exaggerating when I say I don’t speak Turkish even though I did live there and I did take Turkish classes and that it was okay to eat the salt licorice in the theater even though I wasn’t sure that it was okay because I think it’s like a fancy theater or something but then again I’m not really sure because I wasn’t even planning on going to the movies today, and I just moved to Denmark recently so I don’t really know which cinema is which but I do know that this cinema also was playing Ninja Turtles at 7, so it probably was a good bet.

I don’t think I’d ever been to a movie alone before last night. Somehow, in the dark theater where everyone is focusing on the screen, the normal rules of life seem to fade away. Except for the 30 seconds when someone was kicking the back of my chair, the other people in the room faded away into non-existence, all of us focusing instead on the issues presented on the screen in front of us.

I forgot for a while that I had ended up in the theater only because I’d gotten lost on my bike looking for a place I should definitely know how to get to by now. I forgot that I was probably the only one in the room that cared the subtitles were in English instead of Danish. I forgot that I’d just paid 75 kroner for a movie ticket when the goal of my outing had originally been to apply for a job.

In the dark room, I allowed myself to just enjoy the story.

Or to interpret it from a cultural and societal and gendered perspective, which is basically synonymous with enjoy.

The film is called Nobody’s Home. The adult male (father) in the family is absent, and has left his family to fend for themselves. The mother falls into a depression, unable to leave the house on her own. The thirty-two year old daughter decides to marry a man she doesn’t love because he knows some plumbing and she wants to move out of her mother’s house. The seventeen year old son takes to smoking weed and sleeping with his best friend’s mother (the first time it’s rape, the following times it’s just uncomfortable). The twelve year-old daughter is just trying to keep it together while her family falls apart around her.

It was hard for me not to ask some questions. Are they really that lost without a man in the house? Is this film a critique on Turkish society not teach women to fend for themselves? Is it even questioning whether Turkish women should be able to fend for themselves? Is he raping her because he knows he’ll get away with it and he feels powerless? Did she decide she wants to sleep with him because it’s easier or because she actually wants him there? What is the point of this film?

As an American, it’s hard for me to know what the Turkish director’s intent was with the implicit gender roles and gender relations. But I came away feeling grateful that even though I often feel like I have no clue what I’m doing in this country, I never feel like Nobody’s Home. Even though I sometimes worry (implicitly more than explicitly) that my opinion doesn’t matter because of my gender, I have people around me who remind me that it does. Even though I’ve become legitimately upset that I failed at plunging the toilet, I never worry that I can’t plunge it because I’m a woman. Even though I would rather be living in the same place as my boyfriend, I don’t feel abandoned. Even though I sometimes get lost, I always blame it on my commitment to keeping up my appearance as a local rather than on my being lost without a man.

Even though I see my whole life through gender and I have experienced just how imperfect the system is, it’s also important to remember how much worse it could be. It’s just as important to encourage the good as it is to discourage the bad. Especially over the last few weeks, I’ve been feeling pessimistic about the election, about how many women have come forward as survivors of assault, and about how many men are surprised to hear their stories.

But I went to the movies yesterday because I had failed at almost all my goals for the day. I went to the movies because I’d given up on the day. That’s why I was laughing with the ticket seller. That’s why I bought the salt licorice in the first place. And while we shouldn’t laugh about the last few weeks to the point of staying home on election day, it might not be such a bad idea to admit that this whole thing is a shitshow and to take ourselves (figuratively as well as literally) to the movies a little more often.

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