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Who Was in the Wrong in the Greta Gerwig Movie Case? Everyone, but Mostly Society.

Greta Gerwig attends the TIME 100 Gala celebrating its annual list of the 100 Most Influential People In The World at Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 24, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS / AFP)        (Photo credit should read ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)
Greta Gerwig attends the Time 100 Gala at Lincoln Center on April 24 in New York City.
Angela Weiss/Getty Images

Greta Gerwig took in an afternoon showing of the Amy Schumer comedy I Feel Pretty on Wednesday, and the actress and director did not think too highly of the movie. She didn’t say anything about it publicly, though, so how do we know this? Because a fan who was in the theater with Gerwig live-tweeted the star’s reactions throughout the movie, letting the world know at what points in the movie Gerwig gasped, when she laughed, and when she groaned. (Apparently there was a lot of the latter.) The thread, from Twitter user Jaye Hunt (@hayejunt), spread through the platform via likes and retweets, and before long, Vulture, HuffPost, and other online entertainment outlets picked up the story. And that’s how the whole world learned that it might be a little awkward next time Gerwig sees Schumer at an industry event.

Some fellow fans reacted to the thread with glee. Others found the whole thing more cringe-worthy than fun. What started as a giddy star sighting (“she’s drinking the biggest movie theater soda I’ve ever seen!!!! I always thought no one ever ordered the extra large but GRETA GERWIG DOES”) has now become a window into an ongoing debate about how much privacy famous people deserve. Did the Twitter user go overboard with her live-tweets? Who needs that much soda? And who tweets during a movie, anyway?

The impulse to trumpet a celebrity sighting is completely understandable. Once I saw America Ferrera and Amber Tamblyn together on the subway, and I still insert this fact into random conversations and pieces I’m writing, like this one, years later. God knows I would tell everyone if I saw Greta Gerwig at the movies. I also like to think I would seek to find some kind of happy medium between bragging about having seen Gerwig in person and trying to act in a way befitting of how much I admire her (a lot) … which gets at the tricky balance that must be struck in a society that teaches us to worship famous people, but also lightly encourages us to have conscience and let the famous person in question have her privacy. Live-tweeting, we may be collectively discovering, might cross some sort of invisible line.

In Hunt’s defense, all the details—the gasps, the heckles, the big soda—would be fair game if she had texted them to a group of friends or shared them with colleagues. And that’s not so different than what she did: With fewer than 2,000 followers, she probably didn’t expect her tweets to have that much reach. But our current bizarre media ecosystem operates at hyperspeed—a tweet can snowball into a full-blown news story before anyone bothers to fact-check it (by the way, about that … )—and that cycle is what bears most of the responsibility for blowing this story up. Don’t blame the mostly innocent fan who saw a star she loves at the movies and got carried away; blame the powerful tech platform with an outsize importance to media whose consequences with which we’re still trying to grapple, and save another slice of blame for the journalism business model that prizes speed and clicks over accuracy and deep reflection. (And know that Hunt, in apparent repentance, has since changed her display name on Twitter to read “i just wanted to see aidy bryant’s new movie.”)

To rule on the other matters at hand: Using your phone during a movie is a no-no, but so is talking loudly during it. Greta Gerwig, I would have expected better from you! Still, I have no doubt Gerwig will be able to smooth things over when she runs into Schumer: If anyone’s been there, it’s Amy Schumer.