The credits roll. The lights come up. The curtains close. The projector in the rear of the room shudders to a halt and quiets itself. At the exact same time, the audience applauds.
Seated in Columbia College’s Film Row Cinema, the audience has finished viewing P.T. Anderson’s “Punch-Drunk Love” tonight, followed by Cinema Slapdown: Extreme Dating Edition. Here, two contestants will stand at separate podiums and answer questions asked by a potential datee, seated behind a curtain where only the audience can see him or her.
The first round is for gay men. Columbia faculty member and event host Ron Falzone introduces the contestants to the audience, though without giving any names for an effective single-blind. The Datee takes his seat, then asks questions one by one and reacts to their responses behind the curtain, knowing the audience will see his every reaction.
Question number one: “If we started dating and your sister or brother didn’t like me, what would you do?”
The audience responds with a very audible “Ooooh,” then quiets to wait for the response. “Well,” he begins, “I like my sister very much, but who I’m dating is who I’m dating. I respect her opinion, but at the end of the day I’m the one who has to go to bed with you.”
Applause from the audience, and we can see that The Datee is laughing behind the curtain, though covering his mouth to avoid being heard. The applause simmers down in anticipation of Contestant Two’s answer.
“I don’t really value my family’s opinion,” he says. He speaks with a little less panache than Contestant One, and the audience can see that The Datee already doesn’t like him as much. The game continues with questions to the contestants about their opinions on the film and its possible relevance to their lives, and the audience remains relatively quiet throughout all of it.
In the end, Contestant One is chosen. No surprise. Falzone asks The Datee to come out from behind the curtain and formally introduce himself to the contestants. Finally they have names and faces, to go with the voices they’ve heard, and there are smiles all around.
Round two is for two straight contestants and a female datee, while round three is reserved for three gay women. Quirky answers like “Dollar menu at Wendy’s—whatever she wants!” as an idea for a first date and “If we went to the theater on a date and you asked to see ‘Marley & Me,’ I would walk out on you” are thrown left and right as the audience boos and awws to each answer. Every time an answer goes over a minute, though, Falzone blows his whistle like a referee.
At the end of the night the contestants seem satisfied. They win prizes and gift certificates to spend on their upcoming dates, each excited that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. (Micah McCrary)