What is it about politicians and the movies? We know Hollywood is like catnip to liberals who can’t resist Tinseltown’s leftward tilt. For obvious reasons, conservatives swoon over the few like-minded stars they have on their team.
And the allure was too much for Connecticut’s own Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, who was willing to trade any credibility he had left to become president of the Motion Picture Association of America, even though he repeatedly insisted he wouldn’t work as a lobbyist after being hounded out of the Senate in 2010.
But when they bring movies into the legislative arena, politicians transition from being merely annoying to diverting attention away from subjects that really matter.
Such is the case with state Rep. Carlo Leone and some like-minded colleagues who, at the request of a constituent from Stamford, introduced a bill last week to ban excessively loud content in movie theaters.
Never mind the fact that Connecticut has the worst new job creation record of all 50 states for the last 25 years and an unemployment rate that remains stubbornly higher than the nation’s as a whole. No, we must protect the tender ears of those who are earning enough money to stroll voluntarily into a cinema and pay $10 for Jujyfruits.
William Young, the Stamford chemist whose complaint prompted Leone to act, told the General Assembly’s Public Safety Committee last week the sound of some movie trailers is so loud it leaves his ears ringing.
“Who wants to sit there in pain?” Young asked rhetorically. “These companies shouldn’t subject people to harmful sounds.”
Earth to Dr. Young: if your favorite movie theater puts you in pain, why don’t you leave? Or complain to management? Or put in your iPhone earbuds to lower the decibel level? Or stay at home and watch Netflix or on-demand cable movies? Why waste the valuable time of the ruling class trying to get support for legislation whose need is nonexistent?
Ironically, one of Dodd’s minions at the MPAA appeared at the hearing and made perhaps the worst case that could be made against a bad idea.
“There are serious First Amendment implications raised with this legislation because if it were to be put into law, the state would be saying how a motion picture or how speech could be presented,” said Van Stevenson, senior vice president of government affairs for the MPAA.
There are plenty of reasons to be against Leone’s law (see above), but free speech has got to be the weakest. I have a right to free speech but if I shout my opposition to Leone’s law on the town green at 2 a.m. and wake up my fellow citizens, then the police will curtail my right in the name of common sense and consideration of the rights of others to enjoy a good night’s sleep.
But Stevenson’s other argument, that the law would be discriminatory because it applies only to movie theaters and not to other venues such as rock concerts or sporting events, makes more sense. To Stevenson’s list I would add auto racing and fireworks displays.
My house is a couple of miles away from Lime Rock Park and I have friends who live right next to the track. During the noisiest, unmuffled races of the year, they either wear ear protection or leave town. And if they really can’t stand it at all, they find another place to live. But with rare exceptions, they do not try to legislate the decibel level since they knew what they were getting into when they moved there.
To be fair to Leone and his colleagues, they aren’t the first to propose boneheaded legislation targeted at movie theaters. Connecticut news junkies and trivia buffs might also recall state Rep. Andrew Fleischmann of West Hartford proposed a bill in 2005 to force theaters to advertise the actual starting times of their films instead of making moviegoers suffer the indignity of sitting through several minutes of ads and trailers. Mercifully, the bill died in committee.
And so, too, should Rep. Leone’s bill. The peevish pique of one chemist shouldn’t be the basis for altering the viewing habits of thousands of his fellow moviegoers. This is truly nothing more than a solution in search of a problem. To paraphrase Marie Antoinette, let them wear EarPods.