08 November, 2007

Watch 'em and weep: Why do we cry at the movies?

Washington Post:

" Why do we cry at the movies?

Maybe it is the movie or the psychological baggage we schlepped in with us. Or is it empathy, or you-are-so-busted guilt? Maybe genetics or cultural conditioning. Or were we simply bursting to spill that night because the boss refused to give us a week off for Christmas?

This much we do know: All of us do it in varying degrees of blubbitude. Some of us are waterfalls, soaking fellow moviegoers with our public displays of empathy (PDE). Others are Saharas for whom tears are about as rare as oases. Most of us fit somewhere in between.

The trigger may be the moral injustice in "Schindler's List," or the way Heath Ledger's throat catches when he confesses those forbidden feelings in "Brokeback Mountain." Or that cheesy Michael Keaton movie - you know, the one where he's dying of cancer and he makes a videotape for his future son and ... (we are too verklempt to continue).

Whatever the external stimulus, it dislodges the sandbags of our inner levees. And as the darkness wraps us in a mantle of complete permission, we release. There we sit, teary-eyed, vulnerable and helpless. And we become as emotionally intertwined with the characters in the movie as we do with real people. "

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