Why I Cry at Kids’ Movies


I was watching the latest episode of This is Us with my wife the other night (why I continue to watch this show is beyond me; it’s genetically designed to pull at its viewers’ heartstrings at the expense of anything like a compelling narrative). And as Mandy Moore sat there munching on a candy bar as she received the news her husband had died, I glanced over at my wife. Tears streamed silently down her face, her brow knit up like a Christmas scarf your mother made when you were six. And I turned back to the show and just watched, not crying. Not that I felt nothing, but I wasn’t impacted so deeply by what I was seeing.

Maybe it’s because I know the show’s goal, like the Greek tragedies of old, is to get under my skin and tap into the emotions I’m not supposed to express in my walking-around life. The entire raison d’etre for This is Us is to make its viewers bust a tear every week, to give us a blubbering, tear-streaked catharsis. I know that, and I have feelings about that goal (I think it’s cheap, but more on that another day), and my viewing of the show is as a result inescapably cynical.

It made me think: what was the last movie I really cried at? Adult movies (yeah, what I meant there was movies for grown-ups) don’t really do it to me anymore. My wife swears I cried the first time she made me watch The Notebook, but I remember it differently. And I can still get a little misty towards the end of Titanic, a movie about which I’m as cynical as it comes.

But no; what makes me cry these days are kids’ movies.

bingbong

Pretty sure this purple jerk Disney/Pixar cooked up is responsible for more adult tears than an ocean full of Titanics.

Show me The Lion King and I will weep manly tears as Simba noses at Mufasa’s body, trying in vain to wake him up. Inside Out gets me every time when Bing Bong throws himself off the wagon so that Joy can escape the black hole of memory. Shoot, I cried the first time I saw Frozen when Anna sacrificed herself to save a weeping Elsa, and Elsa threw her arms around her sister’s frozen statue. Don’t even get me started on A Dog’s Purpose. I had to leave the room. (I haven’t seen Up. I don’t plan to. I’ve heard stories.)

They didn’t always do this to me. In fact, I would have laughed at a version of myself who cried at kids’ movies, before I became a version of myself who cried at kids’ movies. (Actually, that’s not true. I still totally laugh at myself for crying at kids’ movies.)

And I think I know why I cry at kids’ movies.

It’s because I’m a parent now. And being a parent changes your perspective.

Time was when I could watch a kids’ movie and just, y’know, watch it. As a movie. Here’s a protagonist, here are their struggles, here’s how they deal with them. Strife happens, as strife happens to all, but a resolution is reached. Bing bang boom, kids’ movie over, no tears.

Now, no longer. Now, a kids’ movie comes on and I can’t help viewing it as a parent. Not in that is-this-thing-appropriate-for-my-kid-to-watch-or-should-I-be-calling-my-congressman-about-it kind of way. Rather, I watch it, and either subconsciously (or other times, entirely deliberately) project my kid onto it.

The Lion King: I’m not crying because Mufasa has died. I’m crying because Simba’s father has died, because the center of Simba’s world is gone, and now Simba has to navigate the world without his role model and mentor. And it hits me. WHAM. What would it be like for my kid if he had to go through life without me?

Inside Out: I’m not crying because Bing Bong disappears forever. I’m crying because something that makes Riley young and adorable and sweet just kind of fades out, never to be recovered. Not only does Bing Bong die (and man it’s hard to take ANY sort of post about anything serious seriously [yeah, that’s grammatically correct] when you’re repeatedly typing out “Bing Bong”), he gives himself up knowing full well what it means: that a little part of Riley’s imagination dies with him. WHAM. What will my kid become when she stops obsessing over Minnie Mouse and My Little Ponies?

Frozen: I’m not crying because Anna dies for her sister. I’m crying because for a heartbreaking moment, Elsa knows that she has lost her other half, the sister who’s been her only family for most of her life. WHAM. What will my kids be to each other when my wife and I are gone?

And there’s only so much of this WHAMming that a parent can take before we start to leak from the eyes at the merest hint of strife befalling our kids — or the kids we subconsciously project onto the kids in these movies.

My daughter’s latest obsession is the My Little Pony movie. It’s hard to live in our house for more than a few days and not come away quoting the flavor-of-the-month they’re watching (and the list is long: Cars, Wreck-it Ralph, Curious George, Boss Baby, Finding Dory, The Little Mermaid, Ice Age, Moana, Lego Batman, The Secret Life of Pets, Zootopia, stop judging me this list is not exhaustive), but I’m managing it so far with this one. Not only because something in my soul still manages to HATE My Little Pony since the days when my sisters loved it, but mostly because I don’t want to have to explain to my wife why a handful of animated magical horses have moved me to tears when a perfectly good show for grown-ups doesn’t.

But the day is not far off.

I only hope I’m already chopping onions when I inadvertently catch the emotional moment.

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The Inhumanity of Improperly Opened Packaging


I was pretty sure I was living with an alien when I found out my wife squeezes the toothpaste tube from the middle.

Turns out that’s not a dealbreaker; every so often you just give the tube a good squeeze from the bottom and the damage is undone.

But there’s no coming back from this. This is definitive. This is beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt proof she’s not human:

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WHO OPENS PACKAGES LIKE THIS? NOT HUMANS.

I can’t. Just look at it. You can’t re-seal that. You can’t reach easily into it for a handful of tasty, tasty cookie crackers. You can’t even pour them out into a bowl. EVERYTHING IS WRONG.

This is like owning a dog for years, having it constantly by your side, bringing it up from a puppy so that it loves you and only you, and then coming downstairs late one night to find it having a secret meeting with the cats to plan world domination.

This is like eating an entire bowl of spaghetti and then finding half a worm in the bottom of the bowl, or sucking away at a piece of candy for hours and then finding a toenail in the center.

This is waking up from a nap to find that the sun is green, gravity has reversed itself, and ships are sailing blithely off the edge of the flat earth.

I love my wife dearly. I just can’t believe she’s from this planet anymore.


You Might Be an English Teacher If…


Does anything contribute to sudden discomfort and fits of blinking into the middle distance than a poorly-placed bit of punctuation?

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What the hell does “daily” mean? If it’s sliced everyday, you don’t put “daily” in scare-quotes like that!

Who is the guy who writes the copy that goes on the packaging? Where is their copy editor? Do these people realize just how much strife they’ve caused me? It’s 5:45 in the morning, I’m trying to make a sandwich to send my kid off to school, and now my sleep-addled brain is burning out its tires trying to puzzle out just why in the name of all that’s holy the word “daily” isn’t just the word daily there.

Is it more-or-less daily? Like, some days they slice it, some days they don’t, but on the average, they slice it every day? Or is it “daily” as in taking place on a day?

This all could have been so easily avoided.

Just look at the havoc unnecessary punctuation causes.

All I wanted was a sandwich.

Oh, that novel I’m editing?

IT’S GOING “FINE”, WHY DO YOU ASK?

Here’s an experiment: In the next “e-mail” you “write”, just drop random “words” into quotes for no reason and see how badly you can confuse the “person” on the other end.

Let “me” know how that goes for “you”.


Hands Across Canada


Right now, there’s a dead hand touring Canada.

That’s not the name of a metal band; don’t don your blacks and your eyeliner and venture to the North to bang your head. No, the dead hand is the literal hand of Saint Francis Xavier. Why is it touring? For … publicity, I guess?

The story is here. Watch the video and marvel.

Here’s a thing I’ll never understand about religion. The claim is that the hand is a “relic”, which means it contains some sort of divine power. This power is bestowed, apparently, because it’s “the hand that baptized hundreds of thousands of people.” (The rest of his body, apparently, can Fargo right off.) Great, cool, awesome. I guess if you’re the sort of person who believes baptism actually does something and is therefore a thing worth doing, I can see holding in some regard a man who had done a lot of them. Of course, there is no mention of this man, or his hand, in any holy book; its divinity is tacked-on after the fact by a bunch of dudes in robes (and only dudes, let us not forget. Whether women could come up with something so ridiculous — I imagine they couldn’t — is irrelevant, because we’re talking about the Catholic church, here). But still, no, seriously, it’s a relic. It’s holy. It has powers.

By that rationale, they could sanctify my left earlobe (after my death, of course — one presumes I’d still be using it, and they could not therefore cart it around the world touting its holy powers, while I was still attached to it) if I could sufficiently convince them that God tickled it.

(By the way, it’s the hand of a dude. It did a lot more than baptize people, is all I’m saying. Consider that for a moment, and consider, then, the fact that people are pressing overpriced medallions and cards (which you can buy at the venue!) and pictures of their loved ones to the hand for blessings. [Okay, fine, the hand is tucked safely away in a glass case. But still.])

Consider the cost of this exercise. The hand has a caretaker who presumably draws a salary (we can’t just drop the thing in UPS after all — there are laws against the 2-day shipping of dead bodies and their parts). The venues that host it have to bring in volunteers to wrangle all the faithful flocking to see it. And the faithful! Imagine dropping what you’re doing to cross the countryside (this is Canada, where I understand it’s 99% countryside and 1% silly accents) and gawk at a bit of dessicated flesh attended by men in expensive suits. Then they come away crowing that this “experience” will have a tremendous effect in their lives.

Spoiler alert: the experience of being taken for a fool only positively affects your life if you learn from it.

Pretend you’re an alien. You voyage across interstellar space and come across this pale blue dot. They’re sending out radio signals, and the planet is swarmed by satellites and rocket ships and space stations and you’re thinking to yourself, hey, maybe the people of this planet have got things figured out. You look a little closer and see, I dunno, the internet and our politics and you say well, maybe not so much.

Then you train your telescopes up toward Canada and discover that there’s a whole lot of hubbub being made over some guy’s skeletal dunkin’ hand. (And we’re not talking about Michael Jordan’s dunkin’ hand, either — that at least you might have heard about. Space Jam exists, after all.) Literal worship of a dead man’s appendage.

You’re an alien. You see humans doing this.

In what universe would you not drop your spaceship into high gear and leap away at lightspeed?


Protect Yourself From the Flu With These Easy Steps


Everybody is sick lately. Flu shot or not, you’re coming down with this stuff. I’ve had the parents of five students contact me today to tell me their kids are out for the week. My wife has just been diagnosed. Which means it’s only a matter of time now.

So here’s my guidelines for the rest of the week to keep myself healthy:

  1. Wear a mask at all times, even in the shower
  2. Avoid everybody who may potentially be infected (which is basically everybody) by means of:
    1. underground bunker in the backyard (most effective but most labor-intensive)
    2. hermetically sealed camping tent on the roof (cheap but our roof is probably too heavily slanted to sleep up there)
    3. getting one of those human-sized hamster balls to roll around in until the fever passes (I really like this idea even for non-epidemic times)
    4. You know, just hoping
  3. Detoxify surfaces often with an LBN mixture (lysol wipes, bleach, and napalm)
  4. Raid the pharmacy for all available flu shots; inject them all before sunset
  5. When possible, avoid breathing
  6. Wash hands often, again using an LBN mixture
    1. Don’t forget to scrub under fingernails
  7. Burn the house down just to make sure all the germs are gone
  8. Leave the state to avoid whatever’s left
  9. Sacrifice a Saharan spitting goat by moonlight
  10. “Appropriate” a beekeeper’s suit for everyday use
  11. Eating all the oranges for vitamin C
    1. Eating everything that’s orange, just in case

With these simple steps, I am pretty sure I can remain germ-free until spring comes. Try them out and let me know what works for you!

*receives note*

Okay, don’t *wink wink* try any of these methods *wink wink* to ward off flu symptoms.

*receives note*

Okay, the same thing I just said, but instead of winking, I’ll say “wink wink” instead.

*receives note*

Fine. No winking at all in that last statement. Even where I was obviously winking.

Stay sanitary.


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