DISCLAIMER: This is not a series dedicated to proving men shouldn’t cry, or to suggest ONLY women cry and are therefore inferior. The goal of this series is to dispel the pre-established (yet flawed) notion that being “manly” and being disconnected from your emotions go hand-in-hand. Even the most macho of men enjoy and even shed a tear at films, and the sooner we can admit that the sooner the concept that one sex is better than the other can go away. While the approach to these articles is one of light-hearted comedy, the emotional core is valid. While men might be more hesitant to admit it, movies often times have the potential to make us cry, for example:
“White Guilt Movies”
This Monday is Martin Luther King Day, which other than getting a day off of work for most people, means that we take a moment and think about one of the most influential voices in the USA’s march towards Black/White race equality. Some will feel proud about how far we’ve come, others feel angry that we’re repeating the same mistakes with Muslims and gender issues, and still others will feel guilty that our past selves (some still living) could have ever been so racist. This guilt has led to the romanticism and promotion of the positive influences, fiction or non. Those who fought racism in years past are portrayed as the heroes they were, and modern fighters against lingering hatred are spotlighted. Sometimes fictional heroes must be created to alleviate the fear that not enough fought for what was right, but still these make for dramatic excellent films. We may not all have hatred in our family trees, but that doesn’t mean we can’t come together to enjoy films about those who took a stand against hatred, just like the good doctor. Here’s a pick of 5:
1. The Help
This movie is fantastically entertaining, but also tough to watch at times. Not because of any failure in the filmmaking department, but because it reminds us of how NOT hating someone because of the color of their skin could lead to being ostracized from your community. Emma “Should be my girlfriend” Stone plays a writer who publishes a book comprised of the stories of black maids that cook, clean, and raise the children of wealthy white families. They might not be slaves but their poor treatment, low wages, and second-class citizenry doesn’t put them very far off from being property. Luckily there are magic white people (as I call them) who have modern sensibilities about equality, and put their more regressive peers in their place with a few well-timed barbs and comeuppance. Reality wasn’t necessarily that satisfying, but this is Hollywood.
The racism is difficult to face due to how much of it rings as historically accurate, but what really has a chance at getting a guy to shed a tear is how these rich white folks also treat their children as property, or really as some form of decoration. On a maid’s day off, a child was left in a soiled diaper far too long and got a rash. And the staggering thing is that the maid still gets blamed for it. Still, fun movie.
A more modern take of magic white people swooping in to save the day among a sea of racist hillbillies. Sandra “Should be my girlfriend” Bullock plays a real-life woman who takes in an inner-city boy who had nowhere to go. Of course the fact that Bullock was rich and white, while the boy was black and dirt poor had nothing to do with anything. Initially everyone writes the boy off as either too dumb to learn, or too violent to be trusted. In time, he revealed that he was gifted with football which in modern society pretty means you get to do whatever you want. Just like rich white people! Snide remarks aside, it’s a really fun movie with lots of heart, and Sandra does a great job of making you NOT hate her as she functions as a anthropomorphic winning lottery ticket for this young lad.
The sad part comes when the movie shows a similar boy in the obituaries, killed in a situation this movie’s protagonist would have been in had things turned out differently. The two boys are contrasted with each other just to ram home that the environment in which the boy is immersed can easily affect his future. It’s a somewhat shocking moment in an otherwise smooth and light-hearted movie.
Now we go back in time, both within the movie’s plot and in cinematic history. Our good friend and narrator to the universe Morgan “God” Freeman plays a driver for the titular Miss Daisy, an old racist white lady. Ah, but this time there’s a twist! See Miss Daisy is Jewish, which means she experiences racism as well. This “always a bigger fish” racism allows Miss Daisy and Morgan to bond, teaching each other and exploring race and anti-Semitism. Then Miss Daisy gets committed to a home after going senile, but the heart is still there. This is one of the classic great films, and definitely deserves a watch if you haven’t already.
What makes us cry from this film? Miss Daisy is lucky enough to attend a dinner where Martin Luthor King is giving a speach. This is after she’s taught Morgan to read, bonded with him, and become his friend. Nope, he still gets to wait in the car while she goes to the dinner alone. Never trust old ladies.
Can’t talk about white guilt without bringing up a movie where white guilt is the literal framework of the plot. Tom Hanks plays a white man whose guilt echoes through time for the death of an innocent black man. Michael Clark Duncan plays the supernatural prisoner on Death Row, and despite Hanks considering him a friend and a true miracle, the job still dictates an execution. Michael not only shows that he can heal infections and wounds, take evil intentions out of bad men and spit it out into the air, but shares visions of his innocence of the crime. All this and he’s still put to death for a crime he didn’t commit, basically framed by white men who wanted a scapegoat. Tom is never called out as being racist in the movie, nor is he the classic magic white character. But rather he is the secondary victim of the era and the circumstance. When at the end of the movie we see that he’s lived well past his normal lifespan, he views it as punishment for destroying a miraculous power and the good man it was attached to. A fantastic movie and a tearjerker for sure.
One could make the argument that Michael’s character was the second coming of Jesus, but because of the color of his skin he basically was treated like dirt. That’s the worst part for me, maybe the third coming will go a little better?
Besides Michelle “SHOULD BE MY GIRLFRIEND” Pfeiffer being the magic white woman who shows a group of inner-city kids the value of education, this is a classic “White guilt” movie. Michelle plays a retired marine who gets a class of rowdy high school ghetto kids, and through speaking their slang and being cool (Coolio is in the soundtrack!) she reaches them. And unlike the reality that this movie was based off of, she even gets a little attracted to one of the students because why not? This movie is less specifically about black vs white and more about white vs ghetto. The underlying logic that just a few white people can save the youth is flawed to say the least.
The part of the movie that turns on the waterworks is the most un-Hollywood plot point. Michelle tries to help the students in the classroom and at home. Unfortunately one student’s gang involvement proves too much for her, and he ends up dying. Generally in a movie about a teacher coming in to fix everything, you don’t expect one of the kids to die, so it’s quite shocking and very sad. Although definitely a product of the decade it was released, this is certainly a wonderful film.