As this is my first piece for Anglotopia.net, I thought I should come clean about one thing: I love singalongs. I love the dressing up, the singing out of tune, the waving of tchotchkes, and all the other silliness that goes with them.
But, a couple of years ago at a Grease singalong, I had the misfortune of sitting in front of a row of young drunk women. At first, I tried shushing them, but when their bad behavior escalated, I found myself embroiled in a pointless screaming match.
We’ve all been there, or somewhere similar. Relaxing on a Sunday afternoon at the local cinema, happily transported to another time and place, when suddenly someone’s mobile phone rings or the light from a smart phone blinds us or we’re hit by flying popcorn from the balcony. Maybe we told the person off; maybe we complained to the management; or maybe we just sat there and silently fumed.
But now naughty behavior has a new enemy: Cinema Ninjas.
After complaints from patrons at London’s Prince Charles Cinema—ironically, best known for rowdy sing-alongs—theater management decided it was time to take action—and who more suited to action than ninjas? While in feudal Japan real ninjas carried out covert acts of violence, in today’s England—the western world’s capital of politeness—Cinema Ninjas choose the stealth soft touch over violent confrontation.
Volunteers in black full-body Lycra suits, provided free of charge by Morphsuits (a Scottish clothing company), silently creep up on loud talkers and other “code of conduct” breakers and tap them on the shoulders or shush them. In return for their do-gooding, they get to watch the movie for free. Volunteer Catherine Small explained, “It’s all about cinema etiquette and making people have a great experience and hopefully enhance the experience.”
And what’s the reaction from the naughty? “The last thing I expected was two completely blacked-out people suddenly appearing by our seats and give me and my mates a warning to shut up,” said patron Abdul Stagg. “It was actually pretty terrifying at first, but then I realized it was a bit of a laugh and a great way to make it clear what I was doing was having an impact on those around me.”
The idea for the Cinema Ninjas actually evolved from a Facebook discussion among fans of Morphsuits, says founder Gregor Lawson. Conceived originally as a marketing stunt, the program was supposed to have only a limited run, but the response from film-goers has been so overwhelmingly positive that Morphsuits hopes to expand the program to other UK theaters.
This is not the first time Morphsuits have come to the aid of London do-gooders. During last month’s ‘unriot,’ a group of ‘ninjas of good deeds’ literally cleaned up the streets of Clapham, one of the worst hit areas in last year’s riots.
So what’s next in the world of anonymous do-gooding? Queue Cutting Police? Channel Surfing Mounties? Table Etiquette Samurai? The possibilities seem endless. But, for now, at least, we can rest assured that in the fight against bad behavior, the score is clear:
Ninjas 1. Naughty 0.