Forget Old Yeller – 5 Truly Sad Moments From Pop Culture
This week, the League of Extraordinary Bloggers has a different sort of mission. Our assignment: Who cried when Old Yeller got shot? What movie, TV show, book, etc. turns you into a blubbering baby every time you see it?
I’ll admit; this was a tough assignment. You see, I’m a very manly sort of man, the kind of man who can’t be easily reduced to tears. I spend my time doing manly things. Manly men things like wrangling giant tusked spider bears, getting into manly street fights with my friends Billy and Jimmy, and giving birth to babies.
But as manly manful as I am, my eyes still have tear ducts, atrophied as they may be. Begrudgingly, I will admit there may have been times my eyes have manlily (mannishly?) wet themselves during moments of pop culture distress. Grab some tissues and take my hand. We’re about to revisit some tear-jerking moments from days gone by.
5. Tear-summoning Materia
Final Fantasy VII
Those of you who weren’t around for the original Playstation (PSOne, PSX, the “hey my video game system plays CDs, too!” console) might have missed out on this 50-hour time-sink. Widely considered to be one of the greatest video games ever made, FF7 was also, for me, the originator of the cinematic game experience. Also, this game had the added bonus of being able to traumatize me both as a human and as a gamer.
In FF7, we get to meet Aeris, a shy young woman who acts as the game’s healer and one of the primary love interests for the protagonist, Cloud. And before you get all Nippon-crazy with me: her name is Aeris. Call her what you want, but when I put my copy of FF7 into my Playstation, it called her Aeris. It’s a valid translation, and the only one that sounds like an even remotely real-sounding name.
Sorry about that. Anyway, about halfway through the game, after spending countless hours building your party, levelling up, and fighting awesome monsters, trouble occurs. Aeris, innocent flower girl, main healer for your party…
…gets completely and utterly dead. Sword through the chest. Game over. In one short cut scene, your entire game changes. No more convenient healing. No more easy love interest. And, for me, no more comfort of “finding the princess in another castle.” Final Fantasy VII showed me that games could be epic, unconventional, and tragic.
4. New York loves Spider-Man
In case you didn’t know, I love comic book movies. No matter the quality, it makes me proud that we’re living in a time when everyone is looking at characters I’ve loved since childhood and collectively saying “You were right, Nate. You were right.”
But there have been a couple of moments that have moved me to near-tears by the way they so perfectly capture the essence of the characters and the world they live in. One moment that really stands out was from Spider-Man 2. Spidey has a showdown with Dr. Octopus atop a moving train. As the train runs out of tracks, an unmasked Spider-Man uses his webbing to slow it down, keeping the crowd on board safe. The strain is too much for him, though, and a passed-out Spider-Man is crowd-surfed to safety.
Spider-Man is attacked again, but the people on the train defend him at the cost of their safety. Every time I watch this scene, I find myself thinking “Yes. Somebody gets it.” There is another similar example, from the recent series reboot, where a group of construction workers line up their cranes to provide a webway to an injured Spider-Man. Cheesy? Yes. Highly convenient? Absolutely. But both these scenes still somehow ring true to the character. This is who Spider-Man is. He’s a hero of the people. He may not be saving the universe like Iron Man and the Avengers, or protecting the city from villains like Magneto, but he’s there, swinging through the streets every day. He’s a down-to-earth, street-level hero. No other hero says “New York” in quite the same way. Watching Spidey get the respect he deserves is a great example of the movies getting things right.
3. Forcing Tears
Star Wars: Episode III
I hate the prequels. All of them. The only good moment from the first film was the casting of Liam Neeson. The second one had…nothing at all of value. But the third one, it had one of my favorite moments of the Star Wars saga, so it can be at least partially forgiven for what it did to my childhood memories.
That moment, of course, was Obi Wan’s “chosen one” speech. In a trilogy intentionally filled with wooden actors and green-screen cheesiness, this was the one moment that rang true. Obi Wan has lost everything to his pupil and friend, Anakin. The Jedi are dead. The Sith Empire is rising. And through it all, we’re shown a scene of deep personal betrayal in the midst of galactic chaos. Through the stellar performance by Ewan McGregor, we get to see the moment that Obi Wan’s Jedi heart breaks.
Truly an unexpectedly emotional moment in such a lackluster trilogy.
2. The Re-death of Jean Grey
New X-Men #150
Jean Grey is a running joke in comic books. Depending on how you count it, she’s died anywhere from 3 to 14 times, not counting alternate realities. She dies, takes a nap for a couple of years, and comes back refreshed. If comic book death is a revolving door, she’s the door man.
New X-Men changed that, though. I’ve talked about the series before as being one of the greatest X-Men tales ever. Grant Morrison’s run was a classic, and it all came to a head in the “Planet X” storyline. I won’t ruin some of the great surprises here, but I will say that Magneto returns to the X-Men books with a vengeance. As always, it’s up to the band of mutants to stop him, but this time, they’re also facing a foe more powerful than any they’ve faced before – Grant Morrison with an enormous amount of freedom.
During the fight, Magneto reaches out to Jean and, with a touch, causes her to suffer a massive stroke. Although Magneto was “killed” soon after (revolving door, remember?), it was too late for Jean. Cyclops, her husband and romantic partner for nearly 30 of our real people years, runs to her, holding her as she dies, and we’re treated to this scene:
I couldn’t help but tear up at this issue. Amongst all the other things this issue did right (and I’m planning a full article just on this saga), it left me looking at Jean Grey, first lady of the X-Men, dying on a dirty New York street. It was also the last time the X-books would be any good. Thanks, Grant Morrison.
1. Harry Potter and the Infinite Sadness
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Yes, I cried at a Harry Potter film. I can think of no geekier statement, save maybe “I got married in a replica of the Shire.” That might win.
But hear me out. While the other HP films may have had more surprising and important deaths, none unsettled me as much as the one we get in this film – the death of Cedric Diggory.
It’s not that Cedric is an important character – he isn’t. He’s just an everyday, normal wizard. He’s a nice guy, top of his class, high school prom king kind of guy. And he gets killed, which is sad, but I’m sure life moved on for everyone.
Think about the events leading to Cedric’s death. He wasn’t just an accidental death. He was murdered. The all-star nice guy got killed at a school-sanctioned event, attacked alongside fellow popular student, Harry Potter. Their attackers? Former Hogwart’s rejects and weirdos, Voldemort and Peter Pettigrew. The angry, withdrawn outcasts attacked and murdered a student simply because he was near their target, the most popular kid at school.
Goblet shows us the wizarding world’s equivalent of a school shooting, and the truly heartbreaking thing isn’t that Cedric has died, but that every student at the school has lost their chance at a normal life. Everything in their world has changed, and it always gets to me seeing how quickly everything you believe in can crumble. That, and Cedric’s father’s reaction always sends chills down my spine.
Gets me every time.
For a reminder of a scene that’s sure to make you cry, check out fellow leaguer Top Hat Sasquatch’s post.
For more Harry Potter sadness, visit Q the Adult.
And for a whole list of great choices, check out The Man Who Stares at Toys’.