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Manuel

A day at the movies...

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Manuel

I'm sure many of you have been to the cinema in China:

 

  • People pulling out their phones half-way through the film to take a picture of the screen so they can share it on WeChat and tell the world how wonderful their lives are.
  • People replying to messages on their phone with the screen brightness set to max in front of me.
  • People answering phones and walking out of the room as they talk
  • People resting their feet on the back of the row in front
  • People rhythmically kicking the back of my seat
  • People spitting (even if they don't spit on the floor)
  • People leaving before the movie ends just because the lights have already come on.

 

Re. the last point, at Chinese theatres the lights always come on 2-3 seconds before the move actually ends. I think it is part of Chinese culture to want to be first at any cost even if there is nothing to be gained, so the lights coming on too soon doesn't exactly help. As soon as the lights come on, everyone stands up and leaves as quickly as possible. it's an exodus, a rush for the exit. It's like they give a gold medal to the first person to hit the exit. Something similar happens on flights—if you hear the sound an overheard locker before the plane comes to a halt, it's usually a mainland China passanger, usually new money. Similar behaviour is often observed on highways, but we'll leave that one for another day. Basically there is no etiquette in China, no courtesy.

 

Well, last night my wife and I went to the cinema to watch 扫毒2:天地对决, a Hong Kong production about drug gangs. The movie portrays very graphic violence practically from the start (including wife beating in front of child, body parts being severed, torture, hurling people off rooftops, a person having their throat slashed with a razor blade, etc), drug addicts doing their thing,  prostitution, and a lot of swearing—you guessed it, the kind of film you'd bring a 5 year old along to watch, right? Well, apparently someone in the 5th row thought so. Initially I could hear a kid's voice—a girl—but I didn't make much of it because I didn't know what the film was going to be like, since it was my wife who had bought the tickets, but as soon as the first graphic scene kicked off my mind was immediately taking off the film and drawn towards the kid. What kind of parent take a kid to watch this movie? A few minutes later the kid, who naturally couldn't understand the movie, started to get bored, so she proceeded to run around, talk to whoever she was with from a distance (movie sound was quite loud and the kid was basically talking over the movie), and climb and jump on empty seats. I tried to ignore it for a while but I'm the kind of person who can't ignore a dead pixel, or a flashing icon on the system tray, or the sound of a tap dripping at irregular intervals. I was basically unable to filter the kid's noise and the fact that a minor was in the theatre being exposed to an adult film. Meanwhile a woman four seats to my right was incessantly talking to her husband about something she was reading on her phone and replying to voice messages on WeChat with the screen at full brightness. I was starting to get very irritated. I shone my phone's flash light in her face till she noticed  me and asked her to please stop talking and using her phone. She cooperated. Later she fell asleep, head on her husband's lap. Why even bother coming at all? By that time the kid started to get impatient and noisier due to the fact that she was basically bored, and that was about 30 minutes into a 99--minute movie. I had already lost track of the plot and could no longer follow. The kid started singing. A woman two rows down from mine started to crane around meaning "wtf is going on with that kiddo?". That for me was the last straw. I sprang up and walked straight towards the kid so I could deal with the idiot in command. The kid was running up and down the stairs at the time. I asked her, "Where's your mum?". When she saw me the bearded laowai talking directly to her she kind of recoiled, maybe she was frightened or surprised, and she uttered a sound that implied disgust. Then she ran back to a woman in the fifth row. "Is this this girl with you?" I asked the woman, who said "Yes" "Is anyone else with you here?" "Just us me and the girl" she replied. I said "OK, you two please leave NOW." "Why?" she enquired, as if she didn't know (standard procedure in China). I said "For starters, a child should not be watching this and you should know better, and second, the kid is making a lot of noise and is ruining the film for everybody else." Then she started to do the usual mainland Chinese thing where they try to stand their ground even though they know they are wrong but I stood next to her and asked her repeatedly to leave. The kid started crying. She finally stood up and started to motion towards the exit, with apparent reluctance. I escorted them all the way to the exit. She said "Then I'm wasting my tickets", I said "Yes you are, and so is everyone else if you two don't leave. Goodbye", and I gently pushed her back through the doorway, and shut the door behind them. I returned to my seat. I sighed—I was finally able to enjoy the movie. However, 10 minutes later I started to hear a child's voice again, now coming from the right. I thought it was strange, because I hadn't heard any other kids except for the girl earlier. When I looked, I saw the same woman I had just evicted, now secretly standing in the exit corridor and watching the movie from there. I stood up again and told her again to leave. The kid was sitting on the floor near the corridor's inner wall so she at least was not able to see (though she could still hear) the 18-rated content. I grabbed the kid by the armpits directly and put her outside the theatre. This time the kid didn't cry or display any aversion. The woman said they would leave if I paid for her tickets. I said "OK let's go talk to the ticket guy". My movie had already been ruined by this moronic woman so I had nothing to lose. The first thing I did is scold the ticket inspector at the entrance for letting a kid watch a movie that was clearly meant for adults. The woman had actually bought two tickets, one for the kid and one for herself. He didn't say much but he immediately called the manager. Meanwhile I told the woman a few home truths, including "what kind of brain-dead selfish parent takes their kid to watch this movie when The Lion King is screening literally next door? Do you have a brain in there? If you want to watch this movie, don't bring the kid, and if you can't leave the kid with someone to look after them, then don't come at all. It's extremely selfish and it shows you are an unfit parent." The manager offered me two free tickets to come and watch any movie at any time, and denied the woman a refund, but offered her the option of watching another movie. The woman then asked "Can we not just go back in and continue watching, now that this guy (i.e. me) is leaving?" I said "No she is not allowed back in theatre."  Manager asked: "But... who's not allowing her back in?" I said "I am. She is not going back in there. She is ruining the movie for everyone else, and her kid shouldn't even be there anyway.". In the end they switched her tickets to The Lion King. The woman claimed the girl was her daughter but I'm not convinced. I squatted to get my head level with the girl's and asked her if she liked the movie, of if she was bored and that's why she was making noise. The girl didn't reply. Instead she stood quietly a few feet away from her presumed mother. That's not what scared kids do. A scared kid her age would have run to her mother and clang to her leg, which in hindsight I think was very odd.

 

It's funny how different people react to things in general. My wife basically didn't even noticed the kid. I bet she was not the only one. Many Chinese people are so used to morons that they are able to filter them out. I am sure I wasn't the only one who wished that kid wasn't there, but it's not in Chinese people's nature to take action when it means a face-to-face confrontation, even though they secretly fantasise about it. The only time they confront others is on social media, where they can get rather vicious.

 

Anyway, so that's my little story. What do you think? Did I over-react? I probably would have acted differently had there been other people with that woman, especially men. You don't want to trigger a mainlander, because there's no winning a dispute with a mainlander unless someone gets hurt, and I don't do fights.

 

 

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DavyJonesLocker

I gave up going to the cinema in China for those reasons you mention. It happens single time, It drive me nuts .

I even tried going during the day and it's worse again as you have mother's with their the kids running around yelling from the front "妈”!

 

As much as I like china I can't agree with people when they say "it's just cultural differences" or "when in Rome ..." ,. No  thats just a cop out. it's just plain selfishness and rude! The know it's bad behaviour but just don't care. 

 

My partner (China) is the same, she hates going to the movies in China. She becomes  irritated and starts shushing people but then it puts here in a bad mood and ruins the movie.

 

I think you need to find some way of avoiding or at least filtering out all the redneck activity you can see daily for mental and emotional stability. I don't mean just give up and accept everything but know when to pick your battles. 

 

I tell people to stop queue skipping in supermarket and coffee places but usually say it immediately otherwise it will build up and I'll speak in a somewhat aggressive tone. 

 

Planes? Without a doubt the worst country for idiotic behaviour on a plane, and I have been to a lot.  Sitting on the runway, about to take off, and naturally someone will get up and start rummaging in the overhead locker. How the air personal deal with it daily and keep their cool is beyond me!

 

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Balthazar
1 hour ago, Manuel said:

Then she ran back to a woman in the fifth row. "Is this this girl with you?" I asked the woman, who said "Yes" "Is anyone else with you here?" "Just us me and the girl" she replied. I said "OK, you two please leave NOW." "Why?" she enquired, as if she didn't know (standard procedure in China). I said "For starters, a child should not be watching this and you should know better, and second, the kid is making a lot of noise and is ruining the film for everybody else." Then she started to do the usual mainland Chinese thing where they try to stand their ground even though they know they are wrong but I stood next to her and asked her repeatedly to leave. The kid started crying.

 

While I can understand (some of) your annoyance, I think you behaved in a completely unacceptable way, especially by getting physical. You probably traumatized the kid more than the film did (what's up with interrogating the child at the end there?) Why didn't you just contact a worker immediately?

 

1 hour ago, Manuel said:

It's funny how different people react to things in general. My wife basically didn't even noticed the kid. I bet she was not the only one. Many Chinese people are so used to morons that they are able to filter them out. I am sure I wasn't the only one who wished that kid wasn't there, but it's not in Chinese people's nature to take action when it means a face-to-face confrontation, even though they secretly fantasise about it. The only time they confront others is on social media, where they can get rather vicious.

 

Have you also done some reflection on how you conducted yourself, or on appropriate behaviour as a foreigner living in China? If it is more or less universally accepted that people talk and use their phones, do you think it is okay for you basically take on the role as etiquette police by applying the standards of your own country and force other guests to leave? Do you think you will be able to change the society by passively-agressively shining your light on people that annoy you and preach about proper parenting?

 

If I were you, I'd stay away from cinemas in China the future.

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imron
15 minutes ago, Balthazar said:

While I can understand (some of) your annoyance, I think you behaved in a completely unacceptable way,

I second this opinion.

 

15 minutes ago, Balthazar said:

If I were you, I'd stay away from cinemas in China the future.

From the sounds of it, a break from China for a while probably wouldn't hurt either - 距离产生美

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Lu

Agreed with Balthazar and Imron. I completely understand your throrough annoyance and had I been there with you, you and I would have walked out (and perhaps asked our money back). But yes, when in Rome, at least put up with what the Romans do even if you don't join in. The behaviour you describe is rude and anti-social and it's also not your society to fix. I'd make an exception if someone was being hurt (for example, the woman beating the child), but in this case the most you can do is ask for something politely and for the rest, just manage your own reaction (walk out, for example, to do something nice instead).

 

Also, for your next rant... please consider paragraphs?

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Manuel
14 minutes ago, Balthazar said:

While I can understand (some of) your annoyance, I think you behaved in a completely unacceptable way, especially by getting physical. You probably traumatized the kid more than the film did (what's up with interrogating the child at the end there?) Why didn't you just contact a worker immediately?

 

Workers usually do nothing. I've contacted workers before. The "workers" are the ones who let a 5 year old kid watch an adult movie in the first place. Do you honestly think they care? For me this is equivalent to selling cigarettes to a minor, except that there is no "rule" to say it can't be done. Never mind the kid whom is probably going to be hopeless anyway due to unfit parents, I have a right to enjoy the movie I paid to watch. If other people want to have kids, they need to be aware that it's not fair inflicting them on the rest of us when it is perfectly avoidable. I have no compassion for that woman because she is selfish.

 

14 minutes ago, Balthazar said:

Have you also done some reflection on how you conducted yourself, or on appropriate behaviour as a foreigner living in China? If it is more or less universally accepted that people talk and use their phones, do you think it is okay for you basically take on the role as etiquette police by applying the standards of your own country and force other guests to leave? Do you think you will be able to change the society by passively-agressively shining your light on people that annoy you and preach about proper parenting?

 

I'm not proud particularly proud of getting "physical" but you are just being politically correct. Someone can inflict a lot of suffering on others but as long as it's not "physical" it's acceptable, but a slight brush of the arm and you'll get roasted. Yeah, physical contact is usually the tipping point between negotiation and a fight kicking off, except that in this case there was not going to be any fighting because it was a lady and I don't do fighting anyway. I didn't use force anyway, I was actually very gentle and it was more a "physical invitation to leave the presmises". The kid was only a bit shocked the first time when I walked up to her because she didn't see it coming. The second time she was so visibly bored that actually leaving the theatre was more attractive than the prospect of another forty minutes on the floor hearing gunfire and swearing, and she didn't say anything as I carried her outside. I know Chinese people don't take nicely to strangers touching their kids. Had there been a man there I would not have done anything because I don't want trouble. But down there in the corridor nobody could see anyway so it just felt right. I didn't it because the woman didn't seem to have any intention to leave. Literally, if the kid had been quiet the whole time, wrong as it may be, I would have ignored it. The first time the woman told me there was no need for them to leave, because she was going to tell the kid to be quiet, at which point I realised she was more stupid and selfish than I thought. I assume you and I are very different. Many people are unable to filter intermittent stimuli, whether visual or auditory. It's not a choice we make, it's a condition. I carry earplugs with me at all times for that very reason, but at a cinema you expect people to watch the film not bring their kids along to do their homework while mum and dad watch the movie. People like me really appreciate others not invading our personal space.

 

When it comes to etiquette, I'm no police, more like a preacher who tries to lead by example. If I'm already in the elevator and I see someone walking towards it, I hold the door for them. The same person reciprocates the next time they see me. There are times where you cannot lead by example. For example, I could queue to lead by example, but then people would just think I'm stupid and jump ahead. Here's another one, there are three elevators in my building, and the design is terrible because the buttons are not linked, so if you press all three buttons, three elevators come to you and, you guessed it, people ALWAYS press all three buttons to ensure they get the elevator first. I've politely told these people before but they just give me that "wtf are you talking about you crazy laowai" look. Me pushing just one button—the one for the lift that happens to be nearest—and expecting these people to even notice the logic in my actions is unrealistic. You have to say it, but then it's fruitless 99% of the time.

 

14 minutes ago, Balthazar said:

If I were you, I'd stay away from cinemas in China the future.

 

I think that's sound advice. I actually stay away from people in China in general. I usually minimise interaction with the locals most of the time and live in a bubble. Frankly, with the pollution outside I don't have many reasons to leave my apartment. I joined the gym downstairs when it opened last year. Back then it was nice and new, and there were very few members. Fast-forward six months and it's already going downhill. Too many members and frankly some of them disgusting. I really bothers me to hear someone hawking up phlegm in the shower cubicle next to mine every 15 seconds, or people leaving used cotton buds and tissue everywhere. Not to mention the various maintenance issues I have reported to the gym manager which have gone unresolved. Never mind the hair dryer with exposed live wires that short-circuited and didn't trip the circuit breakers. Fellow gym-goers laughed it off and didn't report it. I did. The hair dryer was still there for another three days until I physically (that word again) unplugged it and took it to the manager myself. So yes, now I avoid interaction with most of the locals, except a few sensible ones I personally know.

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Manuel
13 minutes ago, Lu said:

Also, for your next rant... please consider paragraphs?

 

Well, that'd depend on the nature of the rant. I don't think its respectful to take photos/vudeo without the person's consent and they deserve a chance to accept and correct their error. Plus, I make it a policy of mine not to use my phone at the cinema (except for alerting the annoying woman nearby).

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Manuel
45 minutes ago, imron said:

From the sounds of it, a break from China for a while probably wouldn't hurt either - 距离产生美

 

That's a temporary fix. It wouldn't work for the same reason taking a break from the Chernobyl accident doesn't fix the radioactive leak.

BTW when I have the option to walk away from something that annoys me, I always do. It's only when I'm trapped (e.g. on the plane, public transport, at the cinema, etc) that I feel the need to confront the perpetrators.

 

Back in my country there are arrogant selfish people too, I mean, you find people like that everywhere. In fact, in my country if you tell a teenager to take his filthy shoes off the seat on the bus he by default might refuse to cooperate, but you tell the driver and he'll kick the arrogant little prick right off the bus. In China the driver probably won't do anything about it.

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Lu
3 minutes ago, Manuel said:

Well, that'd depend on the nature of the rant. I don't think its respectful to take photos/vudeo without the person's consent and they deserve a chance to accept and correct their error. Plus, I make it a policy of mine not to use my phone at the cinema (except for alerting the annoying woman nearby).

We have a small misunderstanding here. I meant: please consider using line breaks to break the text of your rant into paragraphs, to make it easier to read.

I agree it's better not to film people without their consent.

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Manuel
5 minutes ago, Lu said:

We have a small misunderstanding here

 

LOL read photographs!

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Balthazar
50 minutes ago, Manuel said:

For me this is equivalent to selling cigarettes to a minor, except that there is no "rule" to say it can't be done. Never mind the kid whom is probably going to be hopeless anyway due to unfit parents, I have a right to enjoy the movie I paid to watch.

 

Do you also step into KFC outlets and drag out the obese kids that are brought there by their parents? I can understand that you want to watch a movie in silence, but  the caring about the child part seems really contrived.

 

50 minutes ago, Manuel said:

I'm not proud particularly proud of getting "physical" but you are just being politically correct. Someone can inflict a lot of suffering on others but as long as it's not "physical" it's acceptable, but a slight brush of the arm and you'll get roasted. Yeah, physical contact is usually the tipping point between negotiation and a fight kicking off, except that in this case there was not going to be any fighting because it was a lady and I don't do fighting anyway. I didn't use force anyway, I was actually very gentle and it was more a "physical invitation to leave the presmises". The kid was only a bit shocked the first time when I walked up to her because she didn't see it coming. The second time she was so visibly bored that actually leaving the theatre was more attractive than the prospect of another forty minutes on the floor hearing gunfire and swearing, and she didn't say anything as I carried her outside. I know Chinese people don't take nicely to strangers touching their kids. Had there been a man there I would not have done anything because I don't want trouble.

 

Right, I'm not saying you were abusive, but there is definitely a line between physical and non-physical interaction with others. Also, "I know Chinese people don't take nicely to strangers touching their kids" - can you name a single country where people do accept strangers touching their kids, especially in a hostile context such as this one? This time the cultural factor might have been your saviour, you'd probably get sucker-punched or slapped for what you did in many other countries.

 

50 minutes ago, Manuel said:

Many people are unable to filter intermittent stimuli, whether visual or auditory. It's not a choice we make, it's a condition. I carry earplugs with me at all times for that very reason, but at a cinema you expect people to watch the film not bring their kids along to do their homework while mum and dad watch the movie. People like me really appreciate others not invading our personal space.

 

Right, I too am horrible at filtering out stimuli, noise in particular. Which is one of the reasons I usually stay away from cinemas in China.

 

50 minutes ago, Manuel said:

When it comes to etiquette, I'm no police, more like a preacher who tries to lead by example. If I'm already in the elevator and I see someone walking towards it, I hold the door for them. The same person reciprocates the next time they see me. There are times where you cannot lead by example. For example, I could queue to lead by example, but then people would just think I'm stupid and jump ahead. Here's another one, there are three elevators in my building, and the design is terrible because the buttons are not linked, so if you press all three buttons, three elevators come to you and, you guessed it, people ALWAYS press all three buttons to ensure they get the elevator first. I've politely told these people before but they just give me that "wtf are you talking about you crazy laowai" look. Me pushing just one button—the one for the lift that happens to be nearest—and expecting these people to even notice the logic in my actions is unrealistic. You have to say it, but then it's fruitless 99% of the time.

 

From your first post:

 

"I asked the woman, who said "Yes" "Is anyone else with you here?" "Just us me and the girl" she replied. I said "OK, you two please leave NOW." "Why?" she enquired, as if she didn't know (standard procedure in China). I said "For starters, a child should not be watching this and you should know better, and second, the kid is making a lot of noise and is ruining the film for everybody else." Then she started to do the usual mainland Chinese thing where they try to stand their ground even though they know they are wrong but I stood next to her and asked her repeatedly to leave. The kid started crying. She finally stood up and started to motion towards the exit, with apparent reluctance. I escorted them all the way to the exit."

[...]

"The woman then asked "Can we not just go back in and continue watching, now that this guy (i.e. me) is leaving?" I said "No she is not allowed back in theatre."  Manager asked: "But... who's not allowing her back in?" I said "I am. She is not going back in there. She is ruining the movie for everyone else, and her kid shouldn't even be there anyway.". In the end they switched her tickets to The Lion King. The woman claimed the girl was her daughter but I'm not convinced. I squatted to get my head level with the girl's and asked her if she liked the movie, of if she was bored and that's why she was making noise. The girl didn't reply. Instead she stood quietly a few feet away from her presumed mother. That's not what scared kids do. A scared kid her age would have run to her mother and clang to her leg, which in hindsight I think was very odd."

 

Sure sounds more like policing than preaching to me. Actually, a little bit of both, first policing then preaching.

 

Also, if I understood your elevator example correctly, I too would be inclined to press all three buttons.

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Manuel
28 minutes ago, Balthazar said:

Also, if I understood your elevator example correctly, I too would be inclined to press all three buttons.

 

If you press one button, there's 100% certainty one elevator will come. It's just that it takes that little extra mental effort to check which floor each elevator is at and then pick the nearest. Pressing all buttons by default only buys you time if the elevator which was nearest makes many stops along the way. Sure, calling all three elevators will save YOU time, but it will waste everyone else's.

 

28 minutes ago, Balthazar said:

Do you also step into KFC outlets and drag out the obese kids that are brought there by their parents? I can understand that you want to watch a movie in silence, but  the caring about the child part seems really contrived.

 

I expect kids to be at KFC. It's not easy to get kids to be quiet, so I accept it. Usually I don't eat at restaurants anyway to avoid this kind of situation. If there are noisy people nearby I usually request another table as far as possible. If I go to watch The Lion King, complaining about kids would be ridiculous. If I go to watch a movie about drugs and hookers, I kind of expect a child-free environment to be part of the deal.

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Lu
1 hour ago, Manuel said:

Had there been a man there I would not have done anything because I don't want trouble.

This also stood out to me in your first post: you physically picked up a child and told her and her mother to leave, because you were not afraid that the woman would hit you. I.e., you only did what you did because you perceived them as weaker than you. Again, I fully understand your irritation, but that is bullying.

 

You came here to rant and to ask whether we think you were in the right. You told the whole story from your point of view, explaining your actions in the best possible light for you, yet you are getting the reply that you were not in the right. Defending yourself further is not going to help convince anyone at this point.

 

Again, the behaviour you describe is really annoying and I sympathise, but it is not something one irritated foreigner is going to fix. It has to come from the inside, perhaps with some official nudging. And maybe you should step back from cinemas or perhaps from all of China for a bit until it gets better or until you cool down from the boiling point you're at.

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Shelley

I agree it was wrong for the child to be there, I agree it is annoying that it was making a noise, but I can't agree with how you dealt with it.

 

Just leave, don't ask for a refund, but tell the man at the desk why you are leaving.

 

Does China have film ratings? was technically illegal for the child to be there? If so go straight to the police station and report the cinema for allowing minors to watch x rated movies or what ever the equivalent rating is.

 

Put it down to experience and if you really want to see such a movie, go another night. Personally this sort of movie is not for me and I wouldn't even go.

 

Or buy a big TV and watch all the movies you want in the quiet and comfort of your home.

 

There are so many other ways you could have dealt with this without turning into the mean foreigner. Personally I am upset that you have added one more brick in the wall of all foreigners are weird at best and bad at worst.

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Lu
Just now, Shelley said:

Does China have film ratings?

Actually I think it doesn't, which is problematic for various reasons (all movies have to be suitable for everyone, or children get tickets for movies not suitable for them).

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Shelley

Ah yes I see what you mean, parental guidance is probably out of the question from what I can see.

 

I suppose its a bit like the american system where almost as much violence as you like is allowed but one bit of suggested nudity is right out. Twisted if you ask me.

 

Still not the appropriate way to deal with it.

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DavyJonesLocker

No film ratings just a "not suitable for children" notice which is left up to the parents. There are no real R rated films in China , will not like the level of an 18+ cert one in UK. Brutal scenes are cut which often most of the time I don't mind but the odd time it does take away from a key intense emotional aspect  in the story, e.g historical epics , racial injustice, child abuse etc 

Western movies often just add nudity and violence for no apparent reason so you become immune to it  and it just seems that the director is trying to add shock factor to detract from good story telling 

 

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abcdefg

I agree with Doctor Roddy. 

 

Sounds like you are dangerously close to the breaking point. Time for a strategic retreat. Fall back and regroup. Get some med/psych help. It would be easy to wind up doing something you would forever regret. 

 

All else aside, this kind of angry, aggressive, behavior must be terribly upsetting for your wife to witness. 

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