Now that a poll has shown that REM’s “Everybody Hurts” is the song most likely to make grown men cry, perhaps it’s time to own up to the fact that, now and again? Crying is great – and so are the movies that make us cry.
Firstly, look: I’m really not making up that thing about “Everybody Hurts” (Other songs included in said list were Eric Clapton’s “Tears In Heaven” and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” the latter of which proves the impact that Jeff Buckley and use of music in television and movies really has on people).
I’m comfortable enough with my masculinity to admit that I’ve teared up at the movies – Most recently, at the start of Pixar’s Up (Yeah, like you didn’t get a little bit heartbroken when his wife died. And if you didn’t, then shame on you, you heartless bastards) – and it’s always struck me that crying at movies, or getting very close and then catching yourself because, dude, you’re surrounded by strangers and what are they going to think, is a sign that you’re watching something great. For a movie to make you cry means that it’s managed to get past your suspension of disbelief, your cynicism and world-weary sense of familiarity about the tale it’s telling and made you believe in the world and characters it’s telling you about – it means that it’s succeeded. Crappy movies don’t make you cry, unless it’s at the thought of the money and/or life that you’ll never get back after the experience.
I’m pretty sure that the first movie that made me cry was Ol’ Yeller, when I was… five years old, or something? And the first television show I remember crying at was the episode of Doctor Who where Adric died (Spoiler alert!). Clearly, mortality is a necessary ingredient in making my tear ducts work in fiction. For whatever reason, though, movies and television shows that set out to make you cry – “weepies,” as my grandmother fondly called them – are looked down on by the majority of people as something insincere and somehow lesser than other genres, even ones as clearly (and intentionally) dumb and throwaway as action or horror. How, exactly, did that happen?
Don’t get me wrong; I like a good fright or fight as much as the next man who nonetheless thought that The Expendables seemed more like a sketch on SNL than an idea for a real movie – and that’s why I’m not a Hollywood executive – but what do we need to do to get the weepie recognized as a legitimate genre for movies again (Or, perhaps, a legitimate genre for male audiences, as it seems female audiences get it already)? Perhaps it’s time for today’s big name movie auteurs to truly challenge themselves: Yes, Christopher Nolan can make people take a Batman movie seriously, and okay, so Kenneth Branagh’s got no problem attaching Shakespearean intensity and tropes to Thor, but can either man own their emotions and come up with something that’ll make a grown man cry without shame?
Pop culture goes through cycles, with different genres popping back up and becoming rejuvinated and legitimized for new audiences all the time. In the past couple of decades, we’ve seen action, horror, pulp/grindhouse and superheroes all become renewed and accepted… What will it take to get sentimentality and the need for a good cry every now and again to become the next big thing?