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June 12, 2021

Is disrespect a common thread among teens?

Our local movie theaters – Gilroy Platinum Theater and Morgan Hill CineLux – are a couple of my favorite places to spend my extra time (and money). There’s just something about sitting in a darkened theater with a group of friends – and strangers – eyes glued to the big screen, laughing or crying or jumping out of our seats.

But every once in a great while, that experience is spoiled by a ringing cell phone, the light of someone texting or, as happened last week, a gaggle of tweens and teens being disruptive.

Last Thursday evening, a group of friends and I gathered at Morgan Hill CineLux to take in a good-natured comedy after a rough week at work. We all agreed that “Admission” was a good choice to lift us into Friday and toward the weekend.

A group of 10-15 teenagers filed in and gathered in the rows in the back of the theater, a row or two behind us. There was constant laughter, talking and seat jumping not only through the previews, but well into the movie – so much so that an audience member called out, “Hey guys, cut it out.”

This only seemed to fuel the fire and the disruption intensified. Eventually, two people in separate groups in the theater contacted the manager, who climbed the stairs to the back rows and promptly told the large group to leave. As the teens then filed out of the theater making as much noise as possible, applause erupted.

Then, as the final youngsters filed out – just to make sure they had the final word – one classy girl stopped and yelled, “F-word to all of you people!”


I was a teen not too long ago. Well, OK, maybe a little longer than that, but still. I was a teenager once and I know that teens are a different animal, so to speak. Back in the day, my friends and I had some sass, thought we were pretty cool and knew everything. We cursed and could be obnoxious. But we had limits and boundaries.

When the movie was over, my friends and I sat for a moment and discussed the state of teenagers today. We were all in agreement that, although we too were all rambunctious teens at one point and did some really stupid things, there were certain things we knew better than to do – for fear of embarrassment, authorities or worse: Our parents’ wrath.

I vividly remember one time – I’m sure there were others – when I was a teen at the movies with a large group of friends. We were being typical teens, chatting and giggling, until we were hushed by another patron. We actually weren’t being loud for the sake of being obnoxious, and we tucked down in our seats in embarrassment. To us, it was embarrassing to get called out – it didn’t cause us to rear up and fight back.

Don’t get me wrong, I know there are a lot of good kids out there. But what’s changed so much that obnoxious and disrespectful teens now seem to tip the scales? Has social media and the anonymity of the Internet helped create a new breed of teen? Have parenting skills adapted and changed through the years, creating kids who just don’t care?

I have no idea. Having no kids of my own, I can’t comment on what it’s like to be a parent today, how I would teach my kids to behave or what I would do if I had an overly obnoxious teenager.

But I do know something is shifting. I witness teen behavior at stores, in theaters and on the job – sometimes it makes me smile, but more often it makes me shake my head. A former education reporter I know regularly talks about how ridiculous kids behaved on campus when she would visit classrooms or hang out at lunch time getting quotes.

Perhaps my friends, colleagues and I are just getting cranky as we get further away from our teen years. Maybe adult responsibilities have warped our recollection of what it was like to be teenagers.

Whatever the case, my movie friends and I made sure to swing by the concession stand on our way out to thank the manager and staff – who themselves didn’t look much older than teenagers! – on duty at CineLux for clearing out the disruptive group and making our $10 tickets worth it in the end.

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