Popcorn Can Make You Insane

As we get closer to the Academy Awards, I, like millions, am cramming to see every movie so that I can vote astutely and impress my husband on Oscar night.

"Les Misérables" was first flick on my must-see list.

I took my seat in the theater, looking forward to the acclaimed epic-ness of this two-and-a-half hour movie. The person sitting directly behind me was, too ... along with what seemed like an 8,000-pound bag of popcorn. Without exaggerating, she ate popcorn throughout the entire 157-minutes of "Les Miz." Kernel by kernel. Chewing and chewing. After one singular kernel was masticated, she dove back into the bag to fish for the next. And when that was consumed, she shoveled through the popcorn as if on another expedition to find the next perfect kernel to gnash.

A nano-second break from chomping was filled, not by Anne Hathaway's glorious rendering of "I Had a Dream," but by the sound of this woman digging around the bag of popcorn. Again.

She hit my last nerve.

What is it with popcorn at the movies? Is there anything that could possibly be louder without disturbing viewers around you? How about potato chips? Or a grisly piece of meat that takes all one's might to chew and swallow? Would anyone mind if I pulled out a raw carrot to munch on?

I was once at a movie theater and the person behind me was snapping bubble gum. I swung around and said, "Stop popping your gum!"

Staring at me, he put his hand up to his mouth, slowly pulled out the wad of gum, and proceeded to stick it under his seat.

"Happy?" he asked.

I call this an example of not "Being on Your Best Movie Theater Behavior."

Which gets me back to my rant. Why do people feel compelled to eat at the movies? And if they do, why do they chew so loudly? And why do they scrounge around their bag of popcorn like a dog burying a bone? And why does the sound annoy me as much as someone kicking the back of my seat, or hearing someone chew while simultaneously talking on the telephone?

Yeah, yeah, popcorn is naturally high in dietary fiber and low on calories (if it's air-popped). But here's a fact that might turn your stomach: According to an analyses of movie popcorn by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a medium popcorn and soda combo is 1,610 calories and three days' worth--60 grams--of saturated fat. (That's the saturated fat of one stick of butter and the calorie count of two sticks of butter.)

If this doesn't curb your appetite and you still feel you might become faint if you don't snack for two to three hours straight as you watch a movie, at least review your popcorn etiquette:

1. Do NOT scrounge around the bag of popcorn as if looking for a lost treasure. You know what's in the bag. There are popped kernels. It's not like a box of Cracker Jacks where you'll find a prize.

2. Don't shove handfuls of popcorn in a serial manner into your mouth. You might have to breathe midway through shoveling and swallowing. This could present a possible choking hazard.

3. Don't chew with your mouth open. (Although your mother should have taught you this years ago, it's never too late to learn.)

4. If you have to eat kernel by kernel, be quiet about it. Better yet, try sucking the crispy puffs. (I heard this cuts down carbo-intake.)

5. Americans consume about 16 billion quarts of popcorn a year. Embrace your individuality. Why join the pack?

Perhaps there should be a new trend for inaudible snacks. Wet noodles, maybe? They make no sound. They are as silent as ... well ... wet noodles. Applesauce would probably work, too. (But then you might get the slurpers.)

Here's another thought: how about we just watch the movie? Park the popcorn. Ditch the Milk Duds. Turn off your cell phone. Sit back, relax and enjoy the show. You will find when you exit the theater there will be no popcorn crumbs all over the front of you, nor empty candy boxes and soda cups surrounding where you sat.

And that we call, "Being on Your Best Movie Theater Behavior." Something to strive for during Oscar season.