The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Shed a Tear, Jerk!

Written by: Rob Van Winkle, CC2K Staff Writer

Is there any such thing as a male chick flick? Find out here.

It’s been a stressful month in my household. In addition to full-time jobs, my wife and I have also contended with schoolwork, volunteer obligations, family illnesses, and obligatory weekend trips. It has been a seemingly non-stop build-up of tension, and there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight.

Because of all this, I should not have been surprised by what happened a few days ago. After speaking with my wife on the phone earlier in the day, and finding her to be extremely emotional and snappish, I was filled with the dual concern and dread that comes from knowing that your loved one is in distress, fearing that you may be the only one who can reverse it, and realizing that the next phone call would be to tell her that you were going to have to work late again. When we did speak, she sounded strange. I asked if she was okay.

“I just did something for me.” She said.

“What?” I asked, wondering whether the next words out of her mouth were going to  terrify or titillate me.

“I was so stressed out, and I needed to get rid of it. So I watched Titanic.”

And there it was. She sounded strange on the phone because she was stuffed up from a steady hour of continuous crying. She has seen that movie over 400 times, and she has cried equally as much, and as hard, with each and every viewing. It’s such common knowledge for her that it’s become something of a shortcut. When, as Mark Twain puts it, she needs to “have what her sex refers to as a good cry,” she’ll just pop it in, and immediately lose it at the very thought that Leonardo DiCaprio will EVENTUALLY turn into a Jacksickle. Even knowing that the sad ending is coming is enough to get her going. Sure enough, she does, it did, and she did.

Now, as a practice, this fascinates me. Ever since I was in junior high, when the sight of a single tear running down a guy’s cheek was enough to ensure months of taunting and dodgeballs thrown at the head, I learned how not to cry when I was upset. (I imagine that there are one or two other guys out there who share this trait.) In fact, I became so good at this, that today I don’t know how to cry, even when I want to, or at least should. (See the above parenthetical.) If I were in my wife’s shoes last week, not only would I not have even been able to recognize that crying would make me feel better, but I’d be unable to find a way to do it, even if I had.

To sum up, crying during movies is, by and large, a very feminine thing to do. And this makes sense; women and girls are emotional creatures, while men and boys are taught to suppress emotions as much as possible. If a guy would take a dodgeball to the head for crying about something in real life, just imagine how much grief he’d get for crying when Winona Ryder dies at the end of Autumn in New York.

But this does NOT mean that men NEVER cry at movies; we just never cry at conventionally sad ones. Remember, we’ve been trained our whole lives not to cry at things that are supposed to make us sad, so why would we reverse this trend and start bawling when a movie tells us to? This is why the vast majority of men have never even SEEN Beaches, Steel Magnolias, Terms of Endearment, and all the others. Why would we subject ourselves to sitting for two hours, watching something designed to elicit a response that we don’t possess?

No, if a movie is going to make a guy cry, it has to take us by surprise. It has to either deal with something very similar to our own lives, or at the very least, have whatever the sad part is sneak up on us. It can NEVER be BILLED as a sad movie or “tearjerker”; if we know it’s coming, we’ll steel ourselves way in advance. The sadness rather has to be merely one SMALL part of the bigger picture of the…picture. It’s a tricky balancing act, and there’s almost no way to predict what movie will do what to which guy.

The following is a list of all the movies in my life around which crying was a factor. If you’re a guy looking to “get the stress out,” then I hope these work for you. If you’re a woman, and you read this in horror that the list is so small, or imagine that I’m lying, then I urge you to consider this: I am, as a guy, taking a HUGE leap of faith in even admitting this much. There are others who will deny that ANY movie EVER made them cry, and still others who would kick my ass for even implying that they might. So cut me some slack, okay?
Without further ado, the list:

  •  The Death of the Incredible Hulk – This was the last television appearance of the indelible tandem of Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. At the end (hope I’m not spoiling it for you), the Hulk falls from a plane or something, which kills both him, and Bruce Banner. It literally ends with Banner’s last breath. This was a terrible movie, and not at all sad, but as the credits rolled, it did lead to this exchange with my brother, then six:

Seth: (Smiling Broadly) I’m going to cry.
Me: You are?
Seth: (Still Smiling) Yeah.
Me: Because of this?
Seth (Still Smiling) Yeah.
Me: But this movie was so stupid!
Seth (Still Smiling) I know!
(Seth cries)

        First Seen: 12 years old
        Cried: No.
        Seen since: Never
        Cried on subsequent viewings: n/a

  •  Dead Poet’s Society – . I was fourteen, with aspirations of being an actor, when I first sat down to watch this movie. Now maybe I was too young to know any better, but I had no idea it was going to be sad, even as it was happening. An inspiring teacher, great lessons, a group of boys forming lasting friendships…it seemed like your perfect uplifting story as far as I was concerned.  But at the crucial point in the movie, when that one kid kills himself…well, whether it was the fact that I was his age, or that I shared his dreams, or even that I never thought that Robin Williams would betray me by showing up in a movie that took a depressing turn, it shattered me. I was a wreck for the rest of the night, and while subsequent viewings have also been sad, it never hit me quite like that again.

    First Seen: 14 Years old
    Cried: Yes
    Seen Since: Once or Twice
    Cried on subsequent Viewings: yes.

  • Schindler’s List – The most obvious movie on the list. Of COURSE it was going to be sad. But this was a movie I had to see.  What’s interesting here is that, while I DO remember crying, it was never at the most obvious parts. I still vividly remember the sequence in the middle where the little girl in a red dress – the only item in color on screen – is found, and arrested, and eventually killed and her body thrown onto a truck, but I am certain that this didn’t affect me emotionally at all. But the stuff at the end, where Schindler ruminated on how many other people he could have saved…that’s what did it. The interesting point here is that I knew just how important this movie would become to me (I have a huge movie poster framed in my house), and as such I went to see it KNOWING that it was going to be sad. However, it is not without importance to note that I have never seen it again.

    First Seen: 16 Years Old
    Cried: A bit
    Seen Since: Never
    Cried on subsequent Viewings: n/a

  •  Field of Dreams – This is the gold standard of movies that make guys cry, and I am willing to bet that a lot of men out there who agree with me. What gets you here is that you go in thinking it’s going to be about baseball, and you don’t realize until the very end that it’s a story about a boy and his dad. That’s the kicker right there; the father/son dynamic. Whether you have a good relationship with your father, a bad one, or none at all, the feelings associated with your father are intensely personal and complex. Field of Dreams taps into that dynamic quickly, subtly, and powerfully.  If ever I were to attempt my wife’s film-based catharsis, this would be the movie I’d pop in.
    First Seen – 18 Years Old
    Cried – Oh yeah.
    Seen Since – Lots
    Cried on subsequent Viewings: Every time

And that’s all I have. After thinking about this for two solid hours, I have come up with four examples of movies that make guys cry, and a full 25% of them were placed on this list just so I could mock my brother!

There may be others, and if they’re out there, we owe it to all guys everywhere to compile them all in one place. The benefits of such a master list would be twofold: if you’re LOOKING for a way (or an excuse) to cry, then such a list would consist of films vetted by other guys as okay to watch and at which to cry. However, if even THAT much frightens you, then this list would serve as a handy guide to movies you should avoid at all costs for the rest of your life.
So, if you’re reading this, a guy, and can think of something to add, please let me know. Write it up yourself, or send it to me as a comment or email, and I’ll add it to the article.
As a gender, we may never be able to possess the ability to “enjoy” crying, or even sit through “The Family Stone,” but together, we can show the world that in certain situations, with certain criteria in place, and with the right stimuli, we can remember the days when the sight of a green-painted Lou Ferrigno on the ground was all it took to "get it out."