Okay, I promise that this isn’t supposed to be a series or anything, but I’m going to be touching on subjectivity again here. Less so this time though, so feel free to sit back, relax, and turn your brain off for this one. If you’d like to check out my other articles on the subject click here and here.
I just got back from seeing Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2. I’m not going to spoil it for anybody; no review, no nothing. If you want to form an opinion on it, go and see it for yourself, or else tune in to the Hit Continue podcast next week when I’m sure we’ll talk about it. Yes folks, there’s no spoilers in this one, with one small exception—I’m going to talk about a small detail of the ending in very broad terms.
I have a story that I tell occasionally at parties and to new girlfriends when I want to seem funny and sensitive. It’s true, and technically it’s embarrassing but I laugh about it so it’s not typically that bad to tell: I cry at movies a lot. Like, a lot a lot. More importantly, I cry during movies where you’re probably not supposed to cry. The story goes that my most ugly and embarrassing movie cry was during 2011’s reboot of The Muppets. At the very end, when they’re leaving the theater and they open the door and there’s like ten thousand people there cheering for them I burst into fat ugly tears. Every. Single. Time.
The first time I saw the film I was living in the dormitories at university and I was roommates with a very manly-man hockey defenseman and I choked up so loudly that he knocked on my door to ask me what that weird noise was. I can only assume that he thought I’d somehow smuggled an eight-year-old girl into my room.
The ending of Guardians made me cry in similar fashion.
I’m grateful that it was dark, because I saw it with fellow Low Fiver Greg, his cousin and his cousin’s wife. What’s more, I’m thankful that I didn’t make any noises because when I get into a real good cry I sound like the tauntaun from Empire Strikes Back getting cut open for warmth.
The reason I’m writing about this though is that as we were leaving and I was kind of chuckling to myself about how lame it was that I could add this to the long list of stupid things that make me cry, I had a bit of a revelation. Namely, I was finally able to put my finger on what trope it is that makes me burst into tears.
Specifically, it can be summed up with the phrase, “We still love you.”
The trope plays out something like this: Characters B through Z walk out on character A, leaving him/her alone and abandoned. Either character A dies and it unites B through Z together in a “he/she wasn’t so bad after all” sort of way, or in their ultimate moment of need, all the other characters come back and stand by A’s side to help them through their crisis.
You might at this point be saying to yourself, “Yeah, that happens in like, every movie. You’re just describing the transition from act 2 to act 3 in every script ever written.” And now you understand why so many movies make me cry.
If I might get a little real for a second, this trope plays on one of my biggest and most deep-seated fears. For a long time I struggled as a child and a young man to form long-lasting friendships, both because I was getting in my own way and because I was unlucky with the people to whom I attached myself. Over time, the possibility of ending up completely and utterly alone not only began to scare me in the existential and far-off sense, but it started to scare the shit out of me because it was actually a possibility. The friendships that I had were tenuous, and my inability to control my own negative behavior made me realize, or at least think, that people were interacting with me out of convenience rather than because of any particular desire to actually be there. In the present my life’s not like that but the fear still exists.
So having the metaphorical rug pulled out from under that fear is the fastest way to reduce me to a blubbering mess of a human being. In that sort of eleventh hour moment of despair a grandiose gesture of unadulterated and genuine affection hits me so strongly in the feels that there’s literally nothing I can do. And I’ve tried, audience, I’ve tried hard. Even during Guardians I had my internal monologue going like, “Really? Right now, in front of you friend? C’mon man, hold it together, you’re better than this.” And from the back of my brain a tiny voice cried out, “No you aren’t!” and the goddamn waterworks started.
I think everybody has a trigger like that though. It’s not necessarily a thing that makes you cry at movies, but maybe it’s the thing that makes you go quiet in a conversation, or the thing that keeps you up at night when you’re alone. Maybe it’s the thing that like, once a month you get one of those serious nightmares that sticks with you all day after it’s over. It’s not really something to be ashamed about, it’s what makes us human. Like any other red-blooded American you have an obligation to tamp those feelings down into a tiny bottle in the pit of your soul and let them fester for two decades as a mental illness until you have a stress-induced heart attack.
But seriously though, these manifestations happen to everyone. I got quite lucky because the worst expression of my fear is that I cry at movies sometimes. What’s more, I’ve got the tools at my disposal to laugh at myself when it happens. It’s funny! Seeing Kermit the Frog be loved by New York turns me into a little bitch, and I’m sorry, but if you don’t think that’s at least a little hilarious then you’re probably an unfeeling robot. And if you’re an unfeeling robot then you don’t cry at movies anyway.
What movies have made you cry? Are you a sucker for the dog dying? I know I am.