Tears, they say, are a sign of weakness. Breaking into tears is believed to be something only an emotionally weak person would do. And crying during a movie is considered more of a weakness on any person’s part.
Having been overcome by emotion, I do remember crying during certain movie scenes. Scenes so poignant that I just became oblivious to my surroundings and could not hold back my tears. I had often turned all weepy in front of friends, family and sometimes even in front of complete strangers. But am I ashamed of it? No.
My tears, I believe, are highly justified.
After all, how can you help but cry when Hachi continues to wait for his master even after his death in Hachiko: A Dog Story? In Forrest Gump how can you control your tears when Forrest visits Jenny’s grave? Scenes like these are just emotionally devastating.
Research suggests that 92% of people have cried during at least one movie in their entire life. And how can you not- when there are movies like The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas which is about celebrating the friendship of two boys who are completely ignorant of their fate during Hitler’s regime.
Then, there are movies which give you tears of joy. There are scenes which leave you so calm and happy that you end up crying out of satisfaction. For instance, I cry every time I watch Robert de Niro and Anne Hathaway in The Intern.
But, we have been conditioned to feel ashamed of crying during a movie, and this conditioning is even stronger in case of men who are brought up by the principle: “Men don’t cry”. But crying does not make a person weak. Instead, it means you are emotionally strong enough to feel empathy for other people.
Empathy is a sign of a fantastic individual. It makes you stronger and better at establishing human connections. Fiction evokes empathy. So, when you cry during a movie it means you are an understanding person, capable of feeling through the characters on screen.
To borrow from Roger Ebert: “We live in a box of space and time. Movies are windows in its walls. They allow us to enter other minds, not simply in the sense of identifying with the characters, although that is an important part of it, but by seeing the world as another person sees it.”
When we watch movies, our brains release oxytocin.
Oxytocin is what helps us connect with other humans and compels us to be more empathic, loving, trusting and unselfish individuals. Paul J. Zak calls oxytocin the “moral molecule.” One of Zak’s students conducted an experiment to show that individuals who watched more emotional content turned out to be more generous, thus donating money for charity.
The release of oxytocin makes us feel connected to the characters and also leads to happiness and a feeling of altruism. Crying has been proven to be good for us. It helps reduce stress and elevates our mood.