The last thing anyone wants to see in the darkness of a movie theater is a man standing up and shouting at someone, but that's exactly what moviegoers witnessed at the end of a showing of Ghostbusters last week in Toronto, Canada.
In a Facebook post picked up by Love What Matters, witness Momo Hatsa described the tension that suddenly filled the theater as the movie came to its climax. With just 10 minutes remaining, Hatsa reports that a man suddenly began shouting at the man sitting in the row in front of him to "move over."
Those surrounding the man immediately commenced shushing him, but it was to no avail.
"He said it again and again and again, each time a bit louder and more aggressively," Hatsa wrote. "Everyone in the theatre was getting agitated, with a few people asking him to keep quiet."
As the situation escalated, a scene very different from the one that audience members might have imagined began to emerge.
"After a few moments of silence," Hatsa continues, "this man stood over whoever it was he was speaking to (another man in the row in front of him) and yelled at his fullest volume, 'I SAID MOVE OVER!' The woman behind me, a mother who had brought her son to watch the movie, also got up and yelled back, 'BE QUIET!' To which this man, standing up in a darkened theatre full of people who were ready to call security on him, replied, 'I WILL NOT. HE IS HARASSING HER.'"
The mood in that theater suddenly shifted.
"And it got very quiet," Hatsa wrote. "And the standing man waited until the man in the row in front of him got up and moved to another seat. And the standing man checked on the woman being harassed and finally sat down, this time behind her to make sure she wasn't bothered again. And the mother sat down. And we all settled down. And we were all surprised that what we thought was hypermasculinity rearing its ugly head was actually feminism raising its voice."
Read Momo Hatsa's post below, then scroll down for our exclusive interview with this hero.
That man standing up for a stranger was Dale Wells.
"I was enjoying the movie, when I heard the guy talking incoherently to the screen," Wells told A Plus in an interview. "I shushed him at one point. Later, about halfway through the movie, he tried engaging the woman two seats over. She tried to discourage him. Then he moved over and sat beside her. She was firm in asking him to move but he wouldn't. After her second request, I added my voice."
When we spoke to Wells, he expressed surprise that his actions had had such an impact on social media.
For him, it was just a matter of doing the right thing.
We asked him what was going through his head as he stood his ground in a theater of angry moviegoers.
"There is a moment in the movie where they talk about 'If you see something, say something.' We're watching this empowering movie and someone is being harassed," Wells said. "It didn't seem like anyone else saw anything. I wasn't on the aisle to go get security. In hindsight, I should have yelled for security but I was focused on protecting the woman. That the audience was bothered by my method seemed like a worthwhile tradeoff. Focus the negative at the appropriate party."
People have taken to Facebook to praise Wells' selfless actions.
Wells talked to us about the emotional aftermath.
"I was stunned from the adrenaline. A few hours later, it was nice to hear from family and friends but I didn't think it would grow beyond that," he said, still in shock over the impact that the story has had on others. "Reading Ms. Hatsa's account made me both proud and tearful. To know there was an impact beyond the incident was astounding... and humbling."
When asked what motivated him to make a stand, he told A Plus about how he grew up with a strong sense of fairness. "I could say it is the experiences of being a Canadian of mixed culture, or having LGBQ2SAA family members and friends. It might be that I've shouted 'It's not fair!' since I was young," Wells said candidly.
"The act of standing up against the small wrongs is the right first step toward conquering the bigger wrongs."
Thanks to Dale Wells for taking the time to answer our questions. You can follow him on Twitter.
Taking The Lede is an A Plus original series featuring ordinary people who quietly do extraordinary things. We believe these unsung heroes deserve their place in the headlines.