Please explain “tear jerker” in “two tear jerkers on Channel 6”.
Two heartbreaking movies to watch on TV, Channel 6, the movie channel, where movies are shown every day, all day, morning to night.
To be specific, very sad or otherwise moving dramas that make you cry.
Make you cry, literally, with tears flowing freely – streaming down both cheeks. And you can’t help it.
That’s what tearjerker means. Tears are tears. Jerker is something that jerks, making spasmodic movements. The knee jerks, for example, when you tap on the nerve that causes muscles at the front of the thigh to contract and jerk the leg up.
This is a reflex act, an action that is performed without conscious thought.
Metaphorically speaking, hence, a tearjerker refers to a moving scene in a movie or a book that causes an automatic response – bringing tears to your eyes.
The Color Purple, a movie I watched some parts of again last week, is a tear jerker. If you haven’t watched this film, watch it. It’ll be worth your while. I won’t spill all the details, but it’s a movie about pains and hopes of black women in America some 100 years ago. Starring Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey, this movie is directed by Steven Spielberg. If these famous names are enough to make watch this movie, an old movie, in fact (coming out in 1985), that’s fine. But you may also want to read the book of the same title from which this movie is adapted. It’s written by Alice Walker. Read the book as well (if you haven’t). And keep the tissues within reach. Both the book and the film are genuine tear jerkers.
All right, here are media examples of “tear jerker (tear-jerker or tearjerker)”:
1. Sad movies are bad news for diets. A newly reported study from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab showed movie-goers watching tearjerkers ate between 28% and 55% more popcorn both in the lab and in a mall theater during the Thanksgiving holiday.
According to findings published in a JAMA Internal Medicine research letter, movie goers ate 28 percent more popcorn (125 versus 98 grams) when watching the tragedy Love Story than when watching the comedy Sweet Home Alabama.
Dumpster diving analyses of discarded mall movie popcorn in seven cities across the US, showed similar results over a Thanksgiving weekend. After weighing discarded popcorn and counting popcorn boxes, Cornell Food and Brand Lab researchers found that moviegoers who bought popcorn and watched a sad movie, Solaris, ate an average of 55 percent more popcorn (127 versus 82 grams) than those watching the more upbeat movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
If you love tearjerkers, don’t despair. “Sad movies also lead people to eat more of any healthy food that’s in front of them,” says lead author Cornell Professor Brian Wansink, author of Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life, “It’s a quick and mindless way of getting more fruit or veggies into your diet.”
This study complements a recent finding also by the Cornell Food and Brand Lab which shows that action and adventure movies also lead television viewers to eat more calories – but only if the foods are within arm’s reach. “With action movies, people seem to eat to the pace of the movie,” said Aner Tal, Ph.D. Cornell researcher and co-author, “But movies can also generate emotional eating, and people may eat to compensate for sadness.”
Wansink provides a last piece of advice for dieting movie-lovers, “Keep snacks out of arms reach, ideally leave them in the kitchen and only bring to the couch what you intend to eat. It’s easier to become slim by design than slim by willpower.”
- Enjoy a Good Tearjerker? Study Says Sad Movies Can Make You Fat, Manufacturing.net, March 3, 2015.
2. From the moment I first saw CODA at 2021’s Sundance Film Festival, I knew that grumpy cinephiles – with their love of dark, gritty palettes and tragically tortured protagonists – would turn their nose up at it. Because CODA is not dark, nor gritty, nor tortured. This is not to say that those traits in a movie are a bad thing – but CODA is proof they are not the only way to be great. Because CODA is unabashedly sentimental. It leans into, not away from, well-loved tropes. It’s a movie that will make you laugh, cry, and go “Awww!” It’s a tear-jerker, a feel-good film, maybe even a weepie. And it’s also a great movie.
The secret ingredient is writer/director Sian Heder, who adapted the film as an English-language remake of the French film, La Famille Bélier. The story follows a teenage girl named Ruby (played by Emilia Jones in the American film) who is the only hearing member of her all-Deaf family. But Heder balances the melodramatic undertones of the story with a fierce dedication to authenticity. First, she insisted on casting Deaf actors in the Deaf roles – something the French movie failed to do. There’s not a weak link in the cast. Oscar-winner Marlee Matlin plays Ruby’s mother, Jackie, with the perfect touch of breezy narcissism. Troy Kotsur is laugh-out-loud hilarious as Ruby’s always boisterous, sometimes gross fisherman father, and Daniel Durant is all sizzling frustration as Ruby’s prideful brother, Leo.
In addition to authentically representing Deaf folks on screen, CODA immerses itself in the real-life fishing community in Gloucester, Massachusetts, where the movie was shot on location, not far from where Heder grew up. In a previous interview with Decider, Heder recalled how hard she worked to get to know the local fishermen. “That’s a very tight knit, Italian and Portuguese community that doesn’t really trust outsiders,” Heder said. “They were not flinging open their doors to allow people to go out on their boats. It was a real process to get that community to trust me—hanging out at the docks and going out to the bars that I knew those fishermen would be when they came in at two o’clock in the afternoon.”
- ‘CODA’ on Apple TV+ Is Proof That Feel-Good Tear-Jerkers Can Also Be Great Movies, by Anna Menta, Decider.com, August 14, 2021.
3. Living with depression can be painful and exhausting. It’s hard enough to get through one episode of major depression – the sadness, the emptiness, the feeling that a gray haze has descended on your life. Sadly, for some, depression returns periodically, more like a chronic illness than a single incident.
This phenomenon, often referred to as chronic depression, may be characterized by recurring episodes of major depressive disorder. You may go months or years functioning normally, then suddenly, depression knocks you off your feet, and you can’t get out of bed for two weeks. For others, their mood disorder manifests in a constant, mild depression, called persistent depressive disorder – a low mood that never quite goes away.
Besides the emotional and social difficulties of depression, chronic depression also becomes a genuine logistical issue. It is inconvenient to be periodically depressed. The demands of your life remain maddeningly persistent, even as your resources to cope with those demands are rapidly depleted. Even though your brain feels like a nuclear wasteland, the groceries need to be bought, the bills need to be paid, and you are expected to behave in some approximation of a functional adult.
If you chronically experience depression, emotional endurance is a very handy skill. It is a strength to have the patience to wait for the storm to pass. But simply enduring is not enough to feel that you live a fulfilling life. Here are a few practical ideas to get you through the next dark time in your life, while still living well.
Stop Resisting and Start Accepting
It is sad to accept that depression may be a permanent fixture in your life. Nothing could be more natural than wanting an uncomfortable feeling to go away, preferably fast, and forever. Besides, we live in a culture permeated by values of self-sufficiency and self-improvement. It’s tempting to believe that if you could just work hard enough and stay positive enough, you could overcome your depression for good.
Make Depression Urges Work for You
OK, so at the end of a long, depressed day, you’ve exhausted yourself by practicing all the skills above. You’re fed, hydrated, and you even took a mental health walk even though you hated it. Nice job, buddy! Now all you want to do is collapse into a gray, fatigued heap until you have to do it again.
The last skill I want to suggest is a bit of emotional jiu-jitsu. Don’t fight your depression urges – make them nice. Channel the low, tired energy of your depression into a healthy activity. Do you have the urge to isolate and cry for two days? Great! Sounds like a wonderful opportunity to clean your living room, get cozy, and watch a marathon of your favorite tearjerker movies.
You have no appetite and only want ice cream? That makes sense! Drag yourself to the grocery store and get a reasonably balanced frozen meal that doesn’t sound horrible (for nutrition!). Then, work with your depression urge by picking out the nicest flavor of ice cream that you’ve never tried before. It’s not depression, it’s gastronomy!
You’ve done enough hard work for the day. Now, make your life easier by redirecting your depression urges towards activities that could even turn out to be a little bit fun, if we’re dreaming big.
- 6 Ways to Live Better With Chronic Depression, PsychologyToday.com, October 9, 2021.
About the author:
Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.