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:
Movies That Focus on Family
Recently I found out that my sister and her boyfriend, who live locally and have a great relationship with myself and our parents, decided to forego Thanksgiving dinner together and instead go on a personal vacation out of town. She doesn’t read this so I have no problem calling her out here. If this were a movie and she were the protagonist, she would be painted as the selfish jerk who through the course of the film would learn the value of spending major holidays with your family.
Movies are a great way of broaching those topics, as you can see representations of your family members being horrible to each other without the real-life ramifications of said bickering. In the end, everyone makes up and the value of family is renewed. While my good-for-nothing sister enjoys her vacation (I love you sis, just kidding), here’s five examples of films that perhaps could steer her in a better direction:
1. Christmas Vacation
One of, if not THE quintessential family gathering for the holidays movies, Christmas Vacation throws such a wide net in terms of family stereotypes you can’t help but identify with at least one of the characters. Clark Griswald, the hapless dreamer who just wants to recreate the potentially fictional perfect gathering he remembers through rose-colored glasses of nostalgia. The children, who try to balance their genetic and genuine love of their elders with their awareness of how stupid everyone is. The elderly family that can’t help but throw in criticism with every complement. If you’re in a bad mood, you’ll point at a scene and say “See, that’s what I hate!” If you’re in a good mood, the movie will make your day even brighter. It’s a classic for a reason, folks.
The bitter-sweet part is that a scroogy boss played by one of the Murray brothers, does away with holiday bonuses but then reinstates them when he gets a stern talking to by Clark and his own wife. In real life, that boss would fire and press charges against Clark, divorce his wife, and cancel all holiday parties for his office as well. The 1% movement has made this happy ending just a little too fictional to be satisfying anymore.
A modern classic of a Christmas movie with Will Ferrell in it (which will never feel normal saying out loud), people love this movie. Whether it’s Will’s hyper yet supernaturally genuine enthusiasm of everything ever, or the deadpan reactions of everyone around him, it’s just fun to watch. A human raised by elves could have been a disaster, as well as just adding family drama to the Christmas motif doesn’t equal success (see Fred Claus to see this done horribly wrong). The film wisely brushes off the “He thinks he’s elf people” idea early on, and then spends the rest of the film with Ferrell trying to reconnect with his estranged father. The holidays are just a catalyst allowing Ferrell’s dad to realize family is more important than work.
Around the edges there is sadness to Ferrell’s story. First off, his mother had him and didn’t tell his father. Then she gave him up for adoption and died. Then Ferrell crawled into Santa’s bag and NO ONE SEEMED TO CARE A BABY WAS MISSING! No wonder he’s intellectually stunted, it’s probably a form of coping with severe depression.
3. Planes, Trains, & Automobiles
I added the oxford comma to the title, you’re welcome. Many may remember this as one of John Candy’s best movies this side of Cool Runnings, but others remember it as a rare movie about Thanksgiving instead of Christmas (Must be a war on Christmas, right Red Cuppers?) A road trip movie with Steve Martin trying to get to his family for Thanksgiving and having to deal with the walking disaster machine that is John Candy’s hapless character, everything that can go wrong does. Steve Martin has a temper, John Candy is unthinking, but by the end the two of them are friends and everyone gets to enjoy Thanksgiving. HEAR THAT SISTER?!
After all the disasters of the movie, it’s revealed that John doesn’t even have a family to eat Thanksgiving with, being a widower of eight years. Steve invites him to eat with their family and everyone is happy, but after Thanksgiving John’s still a widower whose low intelligence and capacity for accidents will probably lead him to an early grave. Then we remember that John Candy did die early, and then the room just goes all silent and morose. Sorry.
Perhaps the movie my sister should watch the most, this is about a woman who’s life is basically destroyed so fully within the first 10 minutes of the film, she’s forced to live the only hell she knows – spending Thanksgiving with her family. Plus Robert Downy Jr. is in it as a gay relative, so how could you NOT watch it? The movie is very much a vent session, focusing on everyone yelling at everyone else everything that they’ve ever wanted to say, and then feeling conflicted about what they just said. In the end, the characters and we as the audience do feel that it’s healthier and more cathartic to be open and honest with family members than bottle up feelings until they burst out. The protagonist, despite her life being in upheaval, feels more solid on her feet for spending time with her family even if they are frustrating.
That being said, it’s definitely a “let me fix your problems with my penis” type of movie. She’s still jobless at the end, but at least she has a new boyfriend? Yeah, that doesn’t really fix things that urgently need to be fixed. Sorry.
5. Home Alone
Remember when this movie wasn’t just a straight-to-DVD mess? Pepperidge Farm remembers, and so do I. In a rare reversal of form, the movie starts out with the entire family together rather than having the big meal as the end payoff. Of course the character-building of this early meal shows that everyone takes everyone else for granted, and feels it’s ok to be dicks all around. Sure Macaulay Culkin is a spoiled brat, but with a family like his we’re not surprised. The bulk of the movie is a young child at first enjoying his absent family, and then mourning their absence, with the signature “Wet Bandits” shenanigans thrown in for tons of fun.
Every time we cut back to his parents however, we see grief-stricken adults who both realize they’ve screwed up in the short term, and REALLY screwed up in the long term. As if that wasn’t enough, the creepy neighbor-turned savior old man reveals he’s got an estranged family that he’d love to reconnect with, if only he knew how. Everyone in this cinematic universe just wants to be with their family and in the end they all show how great it is to be together SISTER WHY DON’T YOU LOVE ME?!
(sobs in corner)