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Monster Movies Make Me Cry MAG
My father and I left the movie theater together. I was quietly sobbing, and my father was holding my hand to comfort me. He was also trying to hide his amusement.
“It’s not fair!” I sniffed. “I didn’t cry during ‘Steel Magnolias!’ I didn’t cry during ‘Finding Neverland’! So why did I cry during ‘King Kong’?”
“Different movies push different people’s buttons,” my dad said reassuringly.
“Monster movies!” I moaned. “Why is it always monster movies?”
What I said that day after seeing “King Kong” was true - more than any other genre, monster movies make me cry. It’s not easy for me to understand.
My father tends to treat this trait with a certain benign indulgence, maybe even with some sociological interest. My mother is asleep by the end of any movie, so she usually doesn’t see me cry. My friends laugh when I tell them, but then I laugh at them when they confess to having a crush on Darth Vader or the Joker. Vader I can understand, but the Joker?
To try to understand, I should start at the beginning. I was seven years old and my favorite TV show was“Wishbone.” For those who don’t know, Wishbone was a cute little dog who liked to imagine himself the hero of various novels. It was a way of introducing kids to great literature.
Anyway, one day the book was Frankenstein. I knew it involved some kind of monster, which sounded scary, so I was completely unprepared for the image of a misshapen being begging for love that was denied from all corners. Bawling like an infant, I wanted to turn off the TV but my mom wanted to continue watching.
Flash forward: Now I’m 15 and sitting on the couch watching “The Phantom of the Opera” with my dad (the original silent one, with Lon Chaney, Sr.). Christine, ignoring the warnings from the audience (“No! Don’t do it, you moron!”), rips off the Phantom’s mask. He is hideous. I’m talking full death’s face here. He turns and curses Christine. Why, he asks, couldn’t she have loved him for who he was on the inside? Why did she have to humiliate him? At this point, tears were flowing down my face while my father smiled kindly.
Of course, all these pale compared to the saddest movie ever made: “The Bride of Frankenstein.” Combining all the Wishbone elements that had turned on my waterworks years ago with underrated actor Boris Karloff’s groundbreaking performance, one scene really got to me. The monster takes refuge with a lonely, blind hermit, who, unable to see his ugliness, offers him the only kindness the monster has ever known. I couldn’t even describe this movie to my mother and remain dry-eyed.
But why do I react this way? I’m no psychologist, but I think it might have to do with my childhood. I was an awkward, lonely kid. My parents’ marriage collapsed, and I was stuck in a place (Jewish private school) scarier than any horror movie. I had few friends, and perhaps the monster’s search for love hit a bit too close to home.
Or it could be that the plight of the outsider is a classic element of tragedy, and monster movies, in their own twisted and extremely unsubtle way, are one of the best vessels for this theme. And the pathos may even be part of what makes them frightening - we understand the reasons behind the monster’s rage, and wonder if, in a similar situation, we would do the same.
Of course, it could just be what my father said, that different movies push different people’s buttons. I can’t understand why some people cry at movies when someone is dying of a lingering disease (in perfect make-up) and they probably can’t understand why I feel sorry for the HAL 9000 computer as its electricity is cut off.
And then again, not all monster movies affect me. I suffered no pangs of sorrow when Dracula died. And up until the moment they change sides, I have no sympathy for the flying monkeys in “The Wizard of Oz.”
The monsters that elicit my compassion are a specific breed: the tragic hero. They are cursed with a certain self-awareness - they know how the world perceives them, and they don’t have any easier a time of it than humans do. They may be powerful, but the fact that their power is based on others’ fear makes their lives miserable. They look for love and acceptance and can’t find it anywhere. And like Greek tragedies, I weep as my hero struggles valiantly against his fate, until his tragic and monstrous flaw brings him crashing down.
And that is why I mourn for Karloff. When the monster dies, he dies in the grand tradition of catharsis. And when Kong tumbles from the highest building in New York City, he brings me down with him.