Some Thoughts On Becoming A Weepy Little Baby Man Who Cries At Movies

In which Scott discovers he kind of has a heart?

I cannot stress this enough: I am not easily moved to tears.

In fact, I've always believed myself to be a heartless asshole (I can provide many references if you'd like a second opinion on this). I've never cried at a funeral, I've never cried at a wedding, I've never cried upon being punched in the face (note for those who've never been punched in the face: it's not awesome!), and I've only rarely shed a tear at the end of a relationship. Historically speaking, crying just isn't a tool I employ in moments of profound sadness. 

And yet, lately I've found myself moved to tears by movies, and frequently enough that I've felt compelled to spend some time thinking about why that might be. I cried when Bing-Bong died in Inside Out. I cried earlier this year during Swiss Army Man's "bus" sequence. I cried at Fantastic Fest, through the final moments of Arrival. I cried just a few weeks ago - like some sort of nightmarish, blubbering firehose - throughout the final ten minutes of Black Mirror's "San Junipero" episode. Each time I was astounded to find myself weeping.

"What have I become?," I wondered.

For a long time now, I've felt that the value of a good cry has been in sharp decline. I've grown comfortable with the idea of crying during a movie, but the idea of crying over a trailer (or, even more inexplicably, over a thirty-second commercial) continues to baffle me. In my most cynical moments, these naked displays of emotion strike me as posturing: "I cried because I saw Han Solo standing next to Chewbacca and am thus more of a Star Wars fan than you are." 

I have come to understand that this is unfair. 

People cry at movies for all kinds of reasons. The people crying in response to the Force Awakens trailer were probably just relieved to see their old friends back onscreen (why you'd post selfies of that highly personal moment remains unknown, but let's stay focused). Some people cry because they strolled into the theater on a particularly bad day, and something in the film touched on what they're going through and gave them an emotional out. Some people cry just because they're easily moved to tears. It goes without saying that there's nothing wrong with any of this - an overly-emotional response to a film is just as valid as any stone-faced stare - but, believe it or not, it's a realization that took me a while to come to.

I tend to cry at movies because because something universal and profound is being said; it rarely has anything to do with the plot itself. I can do this because, with age and maturity, I have embraced empathy, something I was critically lacking in my more rough-and-tumble days as a sass-mouthed teenager (or a somehow-even-more-sass-mouthed twentysomething). This sounds like such an obvious thing to be saying out loud, but - speaking on a very personal level - it feels like something of a breakthrough, a vital part of actually becoming an adult. Yes, I'm cynical and I'm misanthropic and I'm a big fan of gallows humor (quite often, it is the only thing that makes sense, our last defense against the truly horrific) and my best friend insists I am "chaotic neutral", but at least I sort of understand the rest of you now.

On a related note: we're living in emotionally-trying times. Having empathy for one another will be key to surviving the years ahead (and, indeed, to our continued existence as a species), and I feel a strange sense of pride for having developed this much as a human being. In between one thing and another, I've learned that - even though I'm pretty sure I'm still an asshole - I actually have a heart. 

Better late than never, right?

Comments