Thank you for joining me in The Emu Cafe. I am enjoying a peppermint tea with a splash of half and half and a bit of sugar. The Emu only has the finest tea leaves. If you will, choose your favorite tea and indulge me as I reminisce about a class trip in May of 2005. We will start with the story before discussing its relationship to the good life. Then we will examine two questions. First, whether one should stay for the credits after watching a movie. Second, whether one should leave a bad movie before it is over.
Updates: I replaced the main image for the article with an optimized version. I changed the formatting of quotes in “The Story” section – but the article is otherwise un-altered from its original form.
In late May or early June of 2005, my high school class was preparing to go on class trip to see the newly-released Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. My de facto homeroom teacher – let us call him Mr. Z – was a good and very interesting man. To be sure, he was a committed denizen of the far left who corrupted much of my class with his political pontificating. How shocked they were when President George W. Bush won reelection after Mr. Z had assured them that it would not happen. But let it not be said that interesting people can be expected to be faultless. As I am wont to do, I digress.
Sometime before the trip, Mr. Z dispensed sage advice to the class in a very serious way. Now with this having happened fifteen years ago, I cannot remember the exact words he used – but I assure you that the content of my reconstruction captures his point exactly.
When you go to a movie, stay through the end credits. That is how you show respect to the people who worked hard to make the movie.Mr. Z
High school classes are known to feature a smart aleck or two. In this case, I remained silent while another smart aleck chimed in with a witty retort. We shall call him Mr. A.
What if the movie was bad?Mr. A
I actually do not remember which one of my classmates asked this natural follow-up question. In any case, it was actually a fair question. Should you stick around for the end credits if you feel like you already wasted an hour-and-a-half of your life? Mr. Z laughed before answering.
Then you leave before it’s over.Mr. Z
The Trip to the Movies
The class stayed through the end of the movie, although I do not remember if we sat through the credits as well. I sat next to Mr. Z for the showing. He took it quite seriously. I remember one moment in the movie where he leaned over and whispered very seriously, “This is where he turns to the dark side.” Whatever moment that was where Anakin Skywalker turned irrevocably on his path to becoming Darth Vader truly resonated with Mr. Z. It was there I could tell that this movie was no mere diversion for him. He took Star Wars seriously. (For whatever it is worth, I recall enjoying the movie as well.)
When we got back to school, I lost the championship final match of our chess club tournament. I still remember having a comfortable lead and then realizing I had made a terrible mistake when I removed my hand from my soon-to-be deceased queen. This, however, is another digression. Let us proceed toward contemplating Mr. Z’s original quote.
Reflections on Mr. Z’s Quote
I have remembered the exchange between Mr. Z and my classmate as a funny story. Mr. Z attempted to dispense guidance, one of his students asked a snide question, and Mr. Z was ready with a witty answer. I do not recall ever thinking more of it than that it was humorous. For whatever reason, working on The Emu Cafe for The New Leaf Journal brought that story back to the forefront of my memories. While it is perhaps a charming anecdote, what if there were more to the exchange? What better place to examine it than over drinks at The Emu Cafe?
Mr. Z presented two complementary points. If you enjoy a movie enough to see it through to the end, then you should observe the final credits as a sign of respect to those who created it. Conversely, if you find the movie unappealing, you should leave well before the end credits. For the sake of discussion, let us assume Mr. Z meant for us to take the message of the second point as seriously as the first.
Point 1: Watch the Credits if You Watch the Whole Movie
The first point, being straightforward and unobjectionable in principle, is less conducive to deep analysis than is the second. Even if one does not always, or ever, remain to watch the full ending credits for a good production, the idea that he or she ideally should is supportable. To watch the end credits and observe the names is a small way of showing appreciation for those who spent time and effort making the movie possible.
That one had already supported the production by paying for it in one way or another does not negate the significance of watching the credits. While appearing in the credits may not be a big deal to the stars of the production, it may be the crowning life achievement for many others who were involved. Although one may argue that remaining for the credits is a trivial thing, one could not argue that it is in any way a bad thing.
Aside, I would like to add that remaining for the credits is made much more enticing by good credits production. Let us compare the first and second seasons of the good-but-uneven anime, Clannad.
During the first season, the ending song is the classic Dango Daikazoku. It would almost be a crime to not watch the credits. During the second season, Clannad After Story, the ending song is Torch. While Torch is relatively generic and inoffensive in a vacuum, it jarringly clashes with the mood of the most dramatic episodes. Anyone who is familiar with the story of Clannad After Story will understand what I mean immediately. The effect is so harsh that you would often be better off reading the credits with the sound off, if at all.
Maybe there should be some give-and-take on the issue. More Dango Daikazoku-quality end songs and animation – more people watch the credits. But I have sadly digressed again, let us return to Mr. Z’s second point.
Point 2: Leave a Bad Movie Before it is Over
Now, more than when Mr. Z articulated his views in 2005, we are surrounded by a proverbial overabundance of content.
Speaking about books in mid-nineteenth century England, John Ruskin stated that “all books are divisible into two classes, the books of the hour, and the books of all time.” Focusing on good books, the authors of the books of all time are “written with the view of … permanence,” while the good book of the hour is “simply the useful or pleasant talk of some person whom you cannot otherwise converse with, printed for you.” I will leave a detailed study of Mr. Ruskin’s classifications for another day. Suffice it to say, the vast majority of books and more modern media fall into the “book of the hour” category. But as Mr. Ruskin noted, there is nothing inherently wrong with the book of the hour, provided that it is “useful or pleasant.”
Because good content “of all time” are inherently worth engaging in until the end, it will be helpful to think of our inquiry as being limited to content of the hour. Furthermore, we are not primarily concerned with the good content of the hour that we find “useful or pleasant,” but rather the content of the hour that wears out its welcome after fifteen minutes, but persists in vying for our attention for a sixteenth minute.
Assessing Mr. Z’s Position on Leaving of Bad Movies
The premise of Mr. Z’s position was that your time has value. The ways in which you spend your time should be worth your time. If a movie proves to not be worth your time, your best course of action is to leave the bad movie and spend your time on something that is worthwhile. The time and money already spent in starting the movie are of no consequence when considering the value of your future time. This principle applies clearly not only to trips to the movie theater, but also to reading, playing games, using the internet generally, or watching or otherwise consuming content in the home.
One could venture several counter-arguments to the more assertive versions of Mr. Z’s position. Perhaps even sub-par content can have something redeeming. Maybe it has a good moment, an endearing quality, or things to pique the interest of a trained eye in the art form. One may argue that even if something is sub-par, it may be relaxing – which can be of value after a day of dealing with stressful things. Others may simply be completionists – and there is no shortage of tools, from social media generally, to Goodreads to books, to achievements for games which allow people to showcase all the books, games, or shows that they have completed. Finally, a social setting may make consuming lesser media entertaining where it would be trying alone.
On the whole, however, I think a gentler version of Mr. Z’s rule is the best approach – and the approach that I have gravitated toward in recent years. We must remember that our time is both finite and valuable. We owe it to ourselves to find and consume meaningful content from which we can either glean something useful or at least spend a pleasant time with.
In so doing, we must be active and discerning consumers. Content makers strive to catch our attention and keep us in the sphere of their content. While some seek to do this by producing interesting content, many others seek to take advantage of our boredom and malaise. Even if one breaks Mr. Z’s rule by occasionally dabbling in content that would generally not be worth his or her time, he or she should do so with an attentive and clear mind. In this way, one may gain something even from poorer content, even if that something is recognition that a certain type of content is unfulfilling and should generally be avoided.
The Emu Café thanks you for reading this far. We hope that the content was, at a minimum, pleasant. Outside of Mr. Z’s quote itself, the story highlights the value of paying attention even to things that seem a little silly. While I doubt Mr. Z thought at all about his advice for dealing with bad movies before he offered it in a split-second response, it gets to an interesting point that has only become more significant in the past decade and a half since he said it.
As we make clear both in The Emu Café introduction and the About The New Leaf Journal posts, we are interested in questions about the best ways to consume content in the information age. We look forward to exploring these interesting issues further here in The Emu Café and at The New Leaf Journal.