Friday, February 3, 2012

I Don't Know Quite Enough About The Crying Game

Lately I've been kind of fascinated by what makes people cry. It's obviously a personal subject, as everyone has different triggers for what taps into those deep watery wells (as is my understanding of the human anatomy). I used to think my girlfriend cried a lot, until I polled all the women I knew and discovered that weekly crying sessions are apparently fairly ordinary, even for celebrities like Kristen Bell, who can't even hear about a sloth without bursting into tears.

For God's sake woman, you were Veronica Mars!

While I don't tear up regularly - I am a man after all - there are certain things that make my face transform into a weepy, soggy, mess. Thankfully, outside of my cat passing away 2 years ago, my tears have been mostly limited to emotional scenes from movies and television shows. There's even a running theme to them too, I've discovered. Let's check out the list, shall well?

Matt Shafeek's Major Tearjerkers
(FYI: Major spoiler alerts for some pretty old movies/shows, in case you care)

Forrest Gump Asking If His Son Is Retarded Like Him

I feel like Forrest Gump gets a lot of guff from people for being either a crappy movie or one that's just constantly 'tugging on your heartstrings,' but I genuinely loved it. The story of a simple-minded man's journey through life can be done very very wrong (and it has, many many times), but I think this is a rare case of a person with below-normal intelligence's (like how I'm avoiding the word "retarded" when I just put it in the title?) experiences being portrayed with just the right mix of heart and levity.

There are plenty of sad moments throughout the film, but nothing gets the onions in my eyes quite as much as the moment when Forrest finds out he's a father. After having a one time tryst with his lifelong love Jen-ny, and a brief clarification from Jen-ny that the "Forrest" her son is named after is actually him, Forrest takes a step back, and the first question he asks is:

"Is he like me...or is he..."

And that's it, I'm just done. Throughout the whole movie, Gump happily admits he's "not a smart ma-an," but this one moment shows that despite the man's cloudy-dumb-dumb brain, he does still feel shame for his limitations, and the fear of him passing those limitations onto another human being is palpable.

Charlie Pace Describing His Life To Date As Pathetic

When my cat Milhouse first got sick a few years ago, I wrote in a post that watching this scene several years ago was the last time I cried before I'd turned the waterworks on full time. And I honestly can't remember weeping quite so openly while watching something since. The scene, from the end of the third season of Lost, features a once-famous musician named Charlie Pace, who  has been told for the past few weeks that death has it out for him by a clairvoyant island dweller named Desmond Hume. Desmond has been stepping in the way every time to save Charlie, but every time he does so, the rest of the "future" he sees in his vision is changed. During his most recent vision, on top of seeing Charlie drown, he also sees a rescue helicopter come and save everyone else, including the love of Charlie's life, Claire.

Still with me? So Charlie decides it's finally time to accept his fate, hoping that it will be for the greater good. He spends the episode reflecting on his life, and makes a note of his "greatest hits" (because he's a musician, see?) and he hands the note off to Desmond just before whacking his self-sacrificing friend in the head with an oar, taking a bold leap into a secret underwater station, accomplishing his mission, and ultimately drowning as Desmond's vision has predicted. Wah wahh.

Here's the thing though - his death isn't actually when I cried. I went for the tissues right at the moment when he hands over the note to Desmond on the boat, telling him it was a list of his five favorite moments from his "sorry excuse for a life," and Jesus Christ I can't even type these words without clamming up. Charlie's life was troubled, you see - he came to the island with a drug addiction, his music career had stalled, and remember that girl, Claire? She spent the better part of Season 2 hating him. There's just so much pathos in seeing a man sum up all his regrets in one moment that just kills me.

The Iron Giant Insisting He Is Not A Weapon, Goddammit

I can barely start typing this one without getting a little teary-eyed. For those of who haven't seen the movie, the Iron Giant is a story about giant robot from out space who crash lands and wakes up with no memory in a small town in Maine. There, it befriends Hogarth, a young boy who has trouble fitting in with everyone around him, most likely due to his really, really terrible name. The two become fast friends and the boy basically has the best life ever for like a day before shit hits the fan. See, it's the 1950's, and the government is just a wee-bit paranoid about giant metal space robots walking around on U.S. soil. Because you know, this playful, innocent robot could secretly be some kind of mass-killing genocide-bot sent to kill everyone.

So they investigate, and Hogarth and his artist friend who lives in a dump help hide the robot from the asshole government agent that's been hounding them all day, and for a minute, everything is hunky-dory. Then the movie takes a very interesting turn: as it turns out, the robot actually is a genocidal deathbot sent to destroy everyone in it's path. Or, at least, it has a very strong inclination to do so, as we see when it unconsciously opens fire on poor Hogarth after seeing a toy gun in his hand. After Hogarth escapes the friend he can no longer trust, and is thought to have been killed, the Iron Giant loses its shit and starts raining hellfire down on the entire U.S. Military.

It's only when Hogarth, very much still alive, stands in the face of the hulking metal creature, currently armed to the teeth, with its guns all pointed at him, and tells it: "you are not a weapon, you choose what you are!" that the machine reverts back to its former innocent, pacifist self, making the conscious decision not to wipe the town right off the map. And that's when the waterworks start. The killer robot has a choice! We all have choices! Wahhhhhh.
(I can't embed this one, but this links you to most of the final 8 minutes of the movie, including the scene I've described at 3:30)


All three of these movies have a running theme about standing in the face of what we dislike or are ashamed of about ourselves - our mistakes, our weaknesses and our flaws. And judging by the way I get choked up just thinking about it, obviously it taps into something that's on my mind a lot, both consciously and unconsciously.

You know this blog post was quite cathartic, like a good cry. Now that I've shared, I feel like hearing from the rest of you. Tell me dear readers, what gets you nice and teary-eyed?


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