Blue Eyes and I went out to see The Hobbit the other night. I wish I’d done some research on it beforehand, but I thought I could trust a movie that had been made from a delightful, magical children’s story.

Sigh. To say it was violent is like saying autism is a pain. A major understatement!

THE-HOBBIT-AN-UNEXPECTED-JOURNEY-PosterFrank Schaeffer from The Huffington Post, in his review of  The Hobbit, says that there were levels of “carnage, violence and needless clutter ‘noise’ in the form of extravagant needlessly complicated action (in) almost every scene.”

Sure wish I’d read that review before deciding to go.

The non-stop carnage and violence got to me. Big time. I felt sick and anxious. My heart was going a mile a minute. But, I thought, I’m a big person. I can make wise choices. So halfway through the movie, I told Blue Eyes I was going to go find a happy movie and that I’d find him when it was over.

The theater had two other movies playing. I stood outside one and listened: screaming, pounding, guns firing. Nope, not that one. I stood outside the other: dialog, laughter, sweet music. Maybe I’d found my movie.

I made my way to a seat and watched Django Unchained. This movie mixed in sweet southern scenes with horrid, violent excess.  I held my breath and shut my eyes while the dogs ripped apart the slave. Then we were back to southern sweetness and hospitality, and I relaxed. The unexpected bloody gun scene made my muscles rigid with tension. In a few seconds my fear drove me from my chair and out the door.

I was literally shaking.

I was also stuck. It was 37 degrees outside, so I couldn’t go sit in the car and wait for Blue Eyes. The ushers were hanging out in the lobby, talking and laughing, and I didn’t want to spoil their fun. I looked at my watch: 15 minutes left of the Hobbit. They must be calming down and resolving the movie at this point, I reasoned; I’d go back in and enjoy it.

In I go, 3D glasses propped over mine. Creatures attack the dwarves and the hobbit. The lovely dwarf king is brutally beaten. Crazy things pop out of the film at me. I turn to Blue Eyes and whisper, “I can’t stand it anymore. Can we leave?” “It’s almost done,” he says. In our parallel universes, Blue Eyes can separate fact from fiction, whereas I am unbearably stuck in the violence.

Even in my traumatized state, I flashback to Joseph turning to me in the middle of a movie and asking, “Can we leave?” What a pain that was. Yet now I was taking a walk in his moccasins.

I sob quietly, and tremble until the fighting is over. Finally the movie ends. People applaud happily; what a great movie.

On the way home I sit, shaken and sombre. I think about how trapped I felt. All the violence and noise and excess flying around me, and I couldn’t escape it. I couldn’t stop it from affecting me. It was like the horror reached into me and did with me what it wanted, and I had no choice in the matter. Was I the only one who felt this way? If so, why was that?

I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve gotten Joseph to a movie. He is so sensitive that the blaring surround-sound is difficult for him. If anything happens that is remotely bad or violent, he feels it deeply. We watched a video the other night and he burst into tears when they gave a dolphin a tranquilizer shot. He cried in his class when they watched a G-rated movie where the dogcatcher caught a dog in his net.

I used to silently mock Joseph for his movie sensitivity, but no more.

I tell Blue Eyes two things: 1) I will, henceforth from this moment, be much more careful about the movies I see, and 2) I will be much kinder to Joseph regarding his sensitivity to movies. Whereas many people can stand, and even enjoy, more than I can in movies, I can stand, and enjoy, more than Joseph. This does not make him wrong or bad or stupid. It is to be respected.

Once, at an autism support group, Blue Eyes and I made a joke about Joseph’s sensitivity. We told them that, when he was naughty, we threatened to take him to the movies. Everyone laughed.

They understood because their children, too, were ultra-sensitive.

But I wonder, how normal is it to enjoy the violence and horror of the movies I watched? For that matter, how normal is it to be unaffected when a dolphin gets a shot or a dog is captured? When is sensitive too sensitive, and when is it right to feel for another’s suffering?

Today’s normal is a far cry from the normal of 50 years ago. It is also far from humane. The normalizing of violence simply must play a part in the mass shootings that have been taking place way too often. I think that, on the spectrum of sensitivity, I’d much rather be on my son’s side than on the other.

There is so much in life we’re not normally sensitive about: Angels among us, intuitive guidance, souls we’ve known before, the presence of God. Whether it’s movies, spirituality or anything else, perhaps we’re meant to cultivate our  sensitivity rather than to try to lessen someone else’s.We’d be watching different movies, and it’d be a pretty different world if we did, wouldn’t it?