THE BLOG
17/10/2013 09:19 BST | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

Madonna at the Movies

You've probably read about this recent slice of cine-scandal in one of your desk-breakfast guilty-pleasure web-mags: Madonna goes to festival screening of hard-hitting slavery flick; Madonna texts during hard-hitting slavery flick; Madonna accuses hard-feeling audience members of being "enslavers"; Madonna is banned from watching movies at major cinema chain ever again.

Loathe as I am to weigh in on celebrity gossip, this time I can't help but throw my two cents into the grubby paper cup of public opinion.

You've probably read about this recent slice of cine-scandal in one of your desk-breakfast guilty-pleasure web-mags: Madonna goes to festival screening of hard-hitting slavery flick; Madonna texts during hard-hitting slavery flick; Madonna accuses hard-feeling audience members of being "enslavers"; Madonna is banned from watching movies at major cinema chain ever again.

Now, sending texts during the New York Film Festival screening of Steve McQueen's acclaimed and much-anticipated 12 Years a Slave is not the worst thing that Madonna has ever done in a cinema. In fact it's not even in the Top 3, but it certainly carries the most cultural significance.

By tapping away on her smartphone whilst others were trying to watch a serious work about a serious subject at a serious industry event, she has shone a spotlight on exactly the kind of anti-social, detrimental behaviour that many thousands of cinemagoers suffer every day.

You see, the cinema is one of the few remaining public spaces were other peoples' private lives are not being shoved in your face and down your throat. The notion of a truly public space (that is, one that the public share, rather than just buzz around in their own private microcosms) is something that appears to have largely been lost with the advent of the smartphone. In the cinema, it completely kills the concept of collective experience.

This is why Alamo Drafthouse (the cinema chain in which Madonna chose to text in) are right to ban Madonna from any of their theatres until she issues a full and frank apology.

The smartphone is a revolutionary tool that allows us to be connected to everyone and everything - and that is why it has no place in the auditorium of a cinema. Because the cinema is perhaps the one place on Earth that requires - nay, demands - that you disconnect from all distractions and submit your attention to the one single thing in front of you. Because the experience of cinema is a transformative, transportative one - and anything that breaks the illusion of walking with dinosaurs, or sailing with Leo and Kate or, in this particular case, tolling the fields in the Antebellum South, destroys the experience.

In our ceaseless push to reinvent and innovate every aspect of our lives, it's important to remember that some things are worth preserving as they are - and one of those things is the pure, unfiltered storytelling that you only get from sitting in a big, dark room and allowing yourself to be carried away. We're constantly encouraged to augment our every experience, to multi-task and second screen - to be 'always on'. But that is the direct opposite of what is required in the cinema.

It has a lot to do with 'being digital' versus 'behaving digital'. By virtue of our devices, we're all 'digital' now. But 'behaving digital' means knowing how, why and when to apply 'digital' - how to integrate 'digital' into your life and the world around you in a constructive way.

And so, Alamo Drafthouse's zero-tolerance stance on texting is to be commended for upholding the values and principles of cinema at their most essential. In banning Madge from the movies, they are defending cinema's truest virtue - and that is its purity. Cinema remains more-or-less the last bastion of focused storytelling, true shared-experience and public privacy - and that's something worth fighting for.