Rogue Element #114: Grab a Tissue
By Avril Brown
“Crying doesn’t indicate you’re weak. Since birth, it has been a sign that you’re alive.”
I am a somewhat emotional individual. While I am not overly effusive in the demonstration of my emotions I do feel them, all of them, rather intensely. I suspect this is the reason I am so quick to cry. Sadness, anger, frustration and overwhelming gratitude all bring forth the waterworks, and the longer I’ve gone since the last time I cried, the worse the deluge.
To help avoid embarrassment should I find myself in a confrontational situation, and also simply to provide an outlet for my constant abundance of sentiment, I occasionally make myself cry. When the urge strikes I secure a box of tissues, a bottle of wine and a tried and true method for calling forth the keening kraken.
Book – “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes”
This is the first book that ever made me cry, and with good reason. Based on the true story of Sadako Sasaki, a young Japanese girl who developed leukemia nine years after the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, this children’s book tells the tale of her brave and heartfelt struggle to fulfill a legend. The story says that if a sick person can fold one thousand paper cranes, their wish for health will be granted. Though young Sadako died after folding only six hundred and forty-four cranes, her classmates and other well wishers folded the remaining three hundred and fifty-six which were buried with her. Now a statue stands in her memory and the memory of the other innocent children lost to war, and sixty years later visitors continue to leave paper cranes in her honor and for her ultimate wish: Peace.
Movie – “Donnie Darko”
Anyone who knows me is also aware of my penchant for ‘happy ending’ movies. Typically if someone’s not riding off into the sunset or the world isn’t saved, I’ll pass. “Donnie Darko,” however, is a movie so filled with love, loss and some serious mind-fucks I couldn’t help but be drawn in, despite its (mostly) tragic conclusion. If you’re not familiar with the film it can be hard to summarize in only a few lines, but it is a young love story with a unique science fiction twist. Donnie is a brilliant but troubled teenager (his imaginary friend is a guy in a freakishly scary rabbit costume) who falls for the new girl in school. He ends up sacrificing himself to save his girlfriend’s life, but due to the nature of how he pulled it off (time travel wormhole is the best way to describe it) he dies knowing he saved a life, but his totally kick-ass family is left mourning his loss on their front yard. His father is wracked with sobs, clutching his youngest daughter, as the other daughter cries quietly nearby. His mother stands with silent tears, smoking a cigarette and sharing a moment with the young woman who, unbeknownst to her, is only alive because Donnie chose to die. For me, seeing a family grieving the loss of a loved one is carte blanche for unrestrained bawling.
Television – “Angel”
Who better to bring on the pain than Joss ‘I hate happy couples’ Whedon? There are actually several Whedon-inspired weepers I could choose from, but one has been removed from the docket due to hitting too close to home. ‘The Body’ is one of the more famous episodes in “Buffy” history; Buffy comes home to find her mother dead on the couch from an aneurysm. The episode is painfully well done and was shot in long takes with no musical embellishment, complete with stunning performances from the cast depicting very realistic reactions to an unexpected loss, and is more than enough to bring a tear to even the driest eye. However, my mother has an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) which is an abnormal connection of blood vessels on the brain. It is responsible for a few scares in recent years, so that particular episode, while very easy to cry to, gets me right where I live, and is avoided like the plague.
Therefore I turn to the ridiculously overdone “Angel” series. I still haven’t seen half of the series, but I have seen the fifth and final season quite a few times, particularly the episodes where Fred, the adorably bubbly girl genius, dies and her body taken over by an eons-old god. What kills about this two-part episode is not just that Fred is the only universally likeable character, but that she and paramour Wesley had finally gotten together and didn’t even have a whole episode of happiness (I think that was a new low for Whedon). Also, she was the think tank of the crew who had previously spent years in a hell dimension and who, by her own angry admission, “…would not be cut down by some monster flu; I am BETTER than that!” Seriously, all flights of fantasy aside, watching this strong woman slowly dying even as she struggles against the inevitable and tries to have faith in her champions, is guaranteed cry-material. As the infectious ancient entity Illyria ravages her body, Fred fights to experience every single second of life. Determined to the last to stay brave, she still can’t help but wonder at her final moment, “Wesley, why can’t I stay?” Gets me every time.
Comic – Garth Ennis, “Battlefields: The Fall and Rise of Anna Kharkova”
The X-Men have a phrase about death as it relates to their teammates: ‘That trick never works!’ In superhero comics, death can be somewhat of a revolving door; those who head out could just as easily be on their way back in. There have been a few passings in the world of spandex that are irreversible and have tugged hard on my heartstrings, but no comic has made me utterly dissolve like Garth Ennis’s “Battlefields.” Ennis is a war history buff and his “Battlefields” series tells the story of many real life superheroes from various conflicts, and he does it right. In WWII Russia had a squadron of women pilots whom were dubbed the ‘Night Witches’ by the Nazis they hunted. They would glide their planes into enemy territory in the dead of night, drop their bombs and hightail it out of there before the Nazis even knew they were being attacked. Garth told their story in his own unique way, with his own unique character: Anna. One of the successful ‘Night Witches,’ Anna was a naturally gifted pilot. She suffered the loss of her love before the wars end and fought her way out of a POW camp. In her subsequent story arcs, she’s injured in combat and nursed back to health by a Jewish doctor, learning a level of compassion she never previously understood along the way. Back in the motherland she is ultimately supported by a fellow Witch who has gained some status in the Russian government, and is granted a stay of execution, but her rebellious nature leads her to piss off the wrong people, and she and her friend are thrown into a work camp. Supportive of Anna to the last and her desire/right to fly the skies like she was born, and once encouraged by her country, to do, Mouse dies in the camp, leaving Anna alone with a pathetic excuse of a ‘leader’ who goes out of his way to make her life miserable. Yet Anna never loses her fighting spirit, and screws him over in the most amazing and heartbreaking manner possible. She steals a visiting MiG, the ultimate in Soviet air warfare technology, for one final flight. Anna pushes the plane to the limits and is eventually confronted by a fellow pilot, an American. When asked of her intentions, Anna weighs her options. She could return to Russia, and to her execution. She could continue along to an American base, defect and live out the rest of her days in which would undoubtedly be a rather cozy manner given the fact she would be gifting them an invaluable plane, but instead she chooses the only avenue she feels is right for her unique position as a born pilot and a loyal Russian, by taking her beautiful plane and “throwing her at the sun.” It took me an hour to pull myself together after finishing that book.
Needing a good cry isn’t a ‘girl’ thing necessarily; my mother is one of the least lamenting people I know. Crying is not the only external passageway for my passions, but it is an effective one, and every single individual has to have a release of some kind, whatever form it may take. Be not ashamed of your tears, be grateful that you are feeling enough to shed them. Grab a tissue and a cucumber for those morning-after eye baggies, and just let it out.