Tuesday, 13 January 2009


Strange things are happening on the tube.

It used to be that you jostled for elbow space with nerds with their handheld consoles, whipping their bodies about in the direction of the punch or the missile or the curve of the racetrack. Now, with the advent of accessible downloadable television on to your phones, they’re watching television, loudly. Being old-fashioned, I tend to favour a good ol’ fashioned book with real-life pages and printed words and everything, such a fuddy duddy I am. Before, I used to catch the whispers of machine guns and kung-fu yelps and revving engines. Now I sit next to people and catch the whispers of machine guns and kung-fu yelps and revving engines but it’s got the allure of mute televisions, drawing my gaze away from my page. As someone who gets really protective about what I’m reading when I feel someone’s reading over my shoulder, I’m not doing the same, watching the mute flickering images of someone else’s film.

Today I was sat next to a lady trying to read Tibor Fischer’s excellent new book. I kept getting distracted because she was watching Dexter. Two things happened in my brain:

1) I wanted her to know I too watch Dexter, because I don’t know a huge amount of people that do and if she knew I watched it too we would be in some secret cool cult television cult that only we knew about and we could discuss how dysfunctional his step-father was and whether Miguel Prado was more or less dangerous than Rudy. Also, when you hear someone talk about something you watch or listen to, I watch them to know I’m there with them. It’s a curse.
2) I’d seen the episode she was watching and the subsequent ones, thus knew the arc so kept getting distracted as I tried to remember where this episode fitted in everything that happened that season as, once you’ve finished, it all melds into one episode.

Then something weird happened that made me embarrassed.

There was a gruesome killing with lots of blood, then a graphic sex scene. On the tube. For all with eyes to see. I felt embarrassed for her that she was watching something naughty in public and averted my eyes, rereading the same sentence in my book again and again till it was over. She had the volume up on her headphones so we heard all the yells and moans and screams. So I ask:

What is the etiquette when watching a film or TV in public that has graphic violence or sex in it?

I got embarrassed watching The Wire on a longhaul train once and there was a sex scene. Do I skip through the scene, or act like an adult and power through cos we’re all adults? Or do I choose my viewing that might be overseen carefully? I’m inclined to do the latter cos it’s easier. But then, as I’m discovering with the lady who cared not this morning, it appears I’m the prude not her.

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