Thursday, July 03, 2014

5 Reasons to Rethink Sad as Entertainment



I’ll never forget seeing the film Somewhere in Time with a friend. Let me just tell you spoiler-alert-style that it is Sad—yes, with a capital S. Distraught by what we had just put ourselves through, she said, “You call that entertainment?”

Diane Lane in Nights in Rodanthe
Some sad movies and books are compelling, of course, but I have to agree with my friend about their entertainment value being suspicious. Avoidance is often my strategy. Those movies when Lassie gets lost or ends up trapped in a well?  Uh, no—and I am not even a pet person. Heidi with Shirley Temple crying out for her grandfather when they take her away from him? Absolutely never again. Nights in Rodanthe? Maybe, but only because I can steel myself and no one can cry quite like Diane Lane.  (Another spoiler alert: Her grief is Oscar-worthy in that film, if you ask me.)

Anyway, I think there are at least five reasons to avoid sad for so-called entertainment. 
1.       You might sob so loudly in a theater that other patrons will have no choice but to move to where they can weep at an acceptable decibel and not be associated with you. This interrupts their sad experience and they will not thank you for it.

2.       If you are reading a sad book on the beach, and you start kind of choking, don’t be surprised if a lifeguard is called on your behalf. This could be embarrassing, especially if you also try to explain your behavior to an eighteen-year-old male lifeguard, who might think a book title with the words fault and stars would be about actors who experience earthquakes, which, yes, would be sad for them.

3.       Returning library books with pages completely tear-stained is probably a no-no. They should make some kind of super-duper plastic cover for the inside of books. But as far as I know, such a thing has not been invented—yet.

4.       Experiencing self-invited, unnecessary sadness might desensitize you so that you’ll find it hard to well up at appropriate times, like at weddings. And at Facebook videos. (You know the videos I mean; they should be rated S for sadness so those who are on a sad fast are not blindsided.) 

5.       And last, do you even know what you look like after what you call a “good” cry? If you merely avoid the mirror afterward and think that makes your appearance irrelevant, you might want to rethink that strategy for making yourself believe your addiction to sad is okay. We can all see you, and sometimes the way you look post-sad-movie-or-book makes us . . . well, sad.

Readers, what sad book did you last read that made you cry but, sadly, you loved every minute of it? Did it make you want to see the story played out on the big screen as well?

Writers, do you cry when you write sad passages? Do you imagine your readers crying?  What makes a sad story a good story?

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