We close out the summer by talking about the quintessential summer blockbuster: Independence Day

The goal of this series is to show that being “manly” and being disconnected with your emotions do not necessarily go hand-in-hand. While the approach to these articles is one of comedy and satire, the emotional core of these movies is very valid. Manly movies make guys cry, for example:

Independence Day

As summer comes to a close, I’m reminded of the quintessential summer blockbuster, Independence Day. Its association with the summer holiday is as ubiquitous as the Halloween franchise to October 31st, or hardcore porn to my wedding anniversary (long story). And much like with A Christmas Story, turning on the TV at any point during the 4th of July will yield a high chance of seeing Will “Mr. 4th of July” Smith welcoming someone to Earf. It’s a glorious movie, one of the last Roland Emmerich films that people enjoy un-ironically. And boy does it bring tears to guys’ eyes.

First, the “Manly” test must be passed. Aliens, explosions, a brief stripper scene…this movie’s got it all. First off, roughly 60% of the civilized world is blown off the map halfway through the film, and then the rest of it is aerial dog fights and machismo enthusiasm. Aliens with advanced technology and knowledge come and blow up virtually all of our offensive capabilities, but dammit we somehow do enough pushups and fist-bumps to scare them off. But behind every fist bump there’s a sensitive soul, masking their feelings with testosterone.

It’s ok, it’s safe to feel, we won’t judge. Here’s 5 reasons we all got hit in the feels on this one.

1. Will Smith was still untouchable
This is more of a tear of pride than of sorrow. Will Smith used to be a name you could throw on a film if you wanted it to succeed, no matter the plot. You know what he did after this film? Wild Wild West. You know what role he turned down to do that film? Neo, as in The Matrix‘s Neo! After the TV and rapping success and 2 blockbusters (the other being Bad Boys), it was thought that Mr. Smith was the renaissance man of acting.

Had he skipped over WWW and went straight to Ali, then perhaps that streak would have continued, but between Shark Tale, Hitch, and Hancock, it seems like Will can’t quite make the casting decisions that we all wish he would have.

Let’s not get started on the M. Night thing.

2. Jeff Goldblum is terrible at life
In the excitement of this film, it’s easy to skip over the subtly of just how bad Jeff “Chaos Theory” Goldblum’s life was before the whole “Aliens blowing up the world” thing. First off, obviously he’s divorced, because his ex-wife was more ambitious than him. This bleeds into his lack of ambition, where he graduated from MIT but works a menial job at a cable company. The movie goes out of its way to show he has extraordinary skills, but he only uses them when the situation asks him to.

With little to no self-motivation, Jeff really has nothing going in his life other than playing chess with his dad. At least Will Smith had a dog! Plus, Jeff “Aaaahhhh” Goldblum is a raging anger-monster! Oh, you didn’t notice that character flaw? First scene with him and the president revealed that he punched a man unjustifiably because he thought his then-wife was having an affair. Then when the aliens were spanking humanity, Jeff gets drunk and starts kicking chairs. Maybe it’s good that his ex hit the road.

I know he’s one of the protagonists, and the film has to paint him as relatable, but a jealous, alcoholic, un-motivated slacker with anger management problems is a sad idol to look up to. Poor Jeff, we just want to give you a hug.

3. Randy Quaid was probed by aliens, and no one cares
Randy really gets the short end of the stick in this film. First off, he claims he was abducted by aliens. Naturally not a soul believes him, but the moment real gad-daym aliens start attacking, the government should have been knocking down his RV door asking what secrets Randy could tell them. Sure, there’s the possibility he was a crack-pot, but you’re telling me that Scientist Data at area 51 was more trustworthy?

Then, when he was AT AREA 51, preparing an assault on the ALIENS ATTACKING EARTH, Adam Baldwin still rolls his eyes when Randy expresses eagerness at retribution for the abduction years ago. What does Randy have to do for the world to at least give him the benefit of the doubt?

4. Scientist Data dies because of Irony
Poor, poor scientist Data. To my knowledge, this film is Brent Spiner’s second most recognizable role. This is a man who is locked in a secret underground military base, I assume 24/7. He’s been studying the aliens for decades, so fascinated with them and disconnected from humanity that he’s elated when their wireless power starts activating all his bits and bobs. This is his life, all that he has going for him.

Then after Will “Jiggy” Smith punches an alien in the face and drags him onto the autopsy table, Scientist Data gets 5 minutes of study time before being brutally murdered/mind-raped by the creature. Was Data dead before he had the lengthy surrogate conversation with the President? Did any of them care? Only when the alien started attacking the President did anyone bother to shoot. Such disrespect.

5. Randy’s sacrifice
Randy Quaid, beaten down by his kids not respecting him, tired of no one believing him, commits suicide by crashing into the alien spacecraft. No, that’s not exactly how it shook out, but in Randy’s head it was close. Before he went on his final mission, Quaid’s kids had done nothing but feel sorry and ashamed of him. Sure, interchangeable child #2 gave him some coffee during Adam Baldwin’s crash course in avionics, but that’s not exactly a group hug.

So he’s flying around with a 10 year hangover, more than half the world’s dead, and the alien’s main laser is about to kill his kids. A little spark of paternal instinct and patriotic duty ignites the alcohol in his system, and he decides that he’s going ramming speed. He tells his kids he loves them, and ONLY THEN do they, the military, Adam jerkwin and everyone else realize he was on the up and up, and then he freaking kills all the aliens.

What the heck is that in my eye? Welcome to Earf, indeed.

Like what you see? Secure enough in your masculinity for more? Check out more Guy Cry Cinema or watch Dan on No Right Answer, the weekly debate show that knows what’s really important: Pointlessly arguing about geek culture.

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Daniel Epstein
Father, filmmaker, and writer. Once he won an Emmy, but it wasn't for being a father or writing.

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