“Manners maketh man.”
That’s the famous line by British secret service agent Harry Hart, played by Oscar-winning actor Colin Firth, in the 2014 movie Kingsman: The Secret Service and its 2017 sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle.
That quote stuck in my mind and I wondered: Where did it come from? Surely it existed before they used it in the movie. After curiosity got the better of me, I turned to Google.
Apparently, it means “your mannerisms and behavioural characteristics make you who you are”. Basically, it refers to the fact that people are judged by how they conduct themselves in public and with others.
But did you know that its earliest use had a broader meaning? Random House Dictionary Of America’s Popular Proverbs And Sayings traces the words back to the 14th century, when it meant that what differentiates humans from savages is etiquette and courtesy.
So, back in 21st century Kuala Lumpur where I remember watching the Kingsman 1 and 2 in the cinemas, and both times I had the misfortune of encountering “mini movies” playing out in the seats.
For The Secret Service, my husband and I were seated in the midsection of a packed hall. The ads were running and there was a couple talking loudly behind us. We thought they would quieten down once the movie started, but the running commentary persisted.
We turned and stared – the international signal for “Stop it! That’s irritating!” – noticing that others were also glaring at them. It was not the time to try and impress someone with your knowledge or commentary on the movie, but the noisy couple seemed oblivious.
Finally the heavyset man sitting next to us stood up, glared at the couple, and snarled: “Are you here to watch a movie or chitchat? If you are here to chitchat, go to a cafe. Everyone else is trying to watch the movie. Don’t be so inconsiderate.”
Startled out of their conversation, the couple immediately shut up, and we could hear silent claps across the hall!
Unfortunately when watching The Golden Circle, we encountered several “mini movies” in the cinema. The first was the infamous chair kicker. When the lights dimmed, the kicker launched into action.
“Thud. Thud. Thud.”
Though he was kicking the seat of the woman next to me, I could feel it too! We turned and saw a boy who was seated with an elderly lady. Finally, the woman beside me got up, turned around, and lowered her face to the boy. She was whispering, but it was loud enough for me to hear.
“Stop kicking my chair. Or else!”
There was silence after that. But not long after, two feet came creeping up to the head rest next to me – he had put his feet up on the woman’s chair. Eeew!
She jumped up and there was a huge altercation between the woman and the elderly lady (the boy’s grandmother apparently) on what was proper – or in this case, improper – behaviour in public. With that, the lady grabbed her grandson’s hand and dragged him out. They didn’t return.
Peace at last? Wrong.
A baby started crying, apparently disturbed by the altercation. We looked around and saw a stroller in the aisle next to another couple. Why would parents bring a baby to the cinema?
Also, this wasn’t a children’s movie! Even then, cinema personnel in Malaysia and abroad have advised against bringing babies and toddlers into a cinema as the Dolby digital surround sound can damage their hearing.
You would have thought the many shhhs around them should have spurred the young parents into action. But both of them were too engrossed in the movie and their popcorn, until finally someone yelled at them. The mother got up, picked up her wailing child, and scurried out of the hall.
Fortunately, these and other inconsiderate (to just plain rude) behaviour – like letting a mobile phone ring throughout a movie or, worse, actually talking on the phone – did not lessen my enjoyment of both Kingsman movies, as well as other films I’ve watched.
But don’t you think that this “manners maketh man” motto should be applied to Malaysian moviegoers, too?