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:

“Lessons of Manliness”

Movies that drip testosterone don’t necessarily teach us anything. That’s ok, not all movies have to have deep meanings. Sometimes you just want to see spaceships explode or biceps beat up the bad guys. However, to transcend the “popcorn movie” and join the ranks of truly memorable films they need to teach us how life should work. Knowing who the bad guy is and why the good guy is fragging them serves as bare minimum for a plot, but actually learning how to be a better man yourself after viewing the film is what creates cinematic classics. When I say “better man,” I don’t mean being able to light a match with your chin stubble. Being a better man involves life lessons such as standing up for what you believe in, defending the innocent even if it means putting yourself in danger, etc. Lessons that work just as well for women as they do for men, and when presented very often bring tears to our eyes.

1. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

The plot isn’t really a plot and there’s something magical about that. Ferris realizes that his life is about to get a lot more boring and lonely as an official adult, and wants to have one more adventure as a kid. No cross-country trip to find his love, or gigantic implausible monsters to fight…just seeing a parade, swimming and eating at a restaurant. The care-free nature that he displays is starkly contrasted by Cameron, his friend and consummate worrywart.

At the end of the film Cameron shows some character growth, but there’s one moment Ferris breaks the fourth wall and predicts Cameron’s future that really rings truer that many of us would like. Cameron will marry the first girl who shows him attention, and generally be unhappy by living in the fear-filled shadow of his father. For those of us who have friends with rough stretches of life that could be seen coming miles away, this part can tighten the chest a little bit. It’s a rough lesson to learn, but sometimes you have to not just know of the danger ahead, but plan for it. Ferris did, Cameron didn’t.

2. The Pursuit of Happyness

Spelled wrong on purpose, I swear. This film is tough to watch simply because it shows a very realistic view of someone who’s down on their luck clawing and scraping not only to get by, but to bet out of the pit they’ve been placed in. Will Smith does an amazing job of showing how simple things such as a friend that owes you money but thinks they’ve settled the debt by helping you move can be devastating. Add to that being a single father, and it’s hard not to pass on some of that frustration to the child even though it’s not their fault.

The lesson is to never give up, which is hard to accept without being jaded. When Will Smith’s potential boss borrows Smith’s last $5, leaving him broke, no one would begrudge him for refusing to lend the money. He could have made a scene. He could have given up trying to better himself and gotten a job at a fast food restaurant. But like a true man he held his head high, took the beatings and kept on coming, and ultimately succeeded.

3. The 40 Year Old Virgin

A comedy about a guy who’s socially awkward at best and on the Autism spectrum at worst. Many people forget this movie due to its age and light-hearted nature, but the core (much like all Judd Apatow films) houses something deeper. It’s glossed over to some degree why Steve Carell’s character hasn’t ever had sex in his life, but what’s given more screen time is how important that is. Where his friends first inundate him with the absurdity of his virginity, they each slowly realize that none of them have healthy relationships with sex or women.

Steve Carell erupts at one point, yelling that sex shouldn’t be the goal in relationships but rather one way of expressing love within the relationship. It’s easy for his friends and us as the audience to go for the immediate reward, and do what feels great without any thought put into the long run. This film subtly teaches a different, better way of getting to know someone so well without sex that once sex is introduced, there’s no fear involved. Plus it’s just a hilarious movie.

4. Cool Hand Luke

Another very manly film built around the lesson that a true man doesn’t let external attackers change who he is. Paul Newman plays Luke who is basically beaten literally and psychologically over and over again by his situation (prison). The scariest part of the film isn’t any abuse done to him, but the moment when we are led to believe the abuse worked. That Luke, the rebel, the wild stallion that cannot be tamed, could be made subservient by “The Man” is worse than any death that could befall him. And when we see that he was never truly beaten as a person, we know he’s won. Even if he’s still in prison, or killed, or sent away, he’s still the same Luke and therefor he’s won.

The lesson is a hard one to learn, because it’s very easy to conform to whatever form receives the least abuse. Pretending not to believe something so you don’t get persecuted, being kind to horrible people so the horribleness doesn’t get directed towards you. This film is a shining example of the importance of not giving up your principles. Even if you lose the battle, you win the war.

5. Seven Samurai

A great film that everyone should see, end of story. One of the first films of its kind, somewhat echoed in the more recent Magnificent Seven, it’s the story of seven unrelated heroes that come together to protect the innocent. Not all the heroes are as skilled as the others, and some are just pretending to be heroes at all. The lesson that’s taught in this film and those like it is that even pretending to be a hero makes you one in the eyes of those you protect. Even better if you legitimately protect them!

In the film, one of the samurai is basically a poser, a groupie to the cause. They initially shun him, but his idea of what they should be and his point of view, so different from their own, ends up making them stronger as a group. This is fantastic advice for anyone who thinks they can’t join a group or participate in an effort because they weren’t born into it. Perhaps that very fact will make you a valuable asset.

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