I never cried at Disney. My child-like eyes were more frightened of the wolves chasing Belle, than Mufasa falling off a cliff and Bambi’s mother being shot. Maybe I was too young to gravitate the sadness. Watching Titanic, after hearing the wails of people screaming for their lives, my innocent eyes only thought of Jack. From a young age, we’re drawn to seeing death in movies, yet fragile to witnessing any story on a person dying in real life. Why are my favourite films built on sadness?
According to Medical Daily, University of Oxford researchers believe our “masochistic movie tendencies” can boost social bonding and “our threshold for physical pain”. We feel the same endorphins when watching tragic stories, as we do when enjoying comedy. The findings remind me of a motivational speech by Simon Sinek, noting how the symptoms of excitement and nervousness are the same. Athletes are trained to believe that anxiety is simply excitement.
Drawn to melancholy
When experiencing depression, there was a sadistic pleasure to watching crime documentaries. Sometimes I would find myself so caught in the lives of victims, that I’d cry for their souls at the end. There’s a release – a moment that I’m a mere fish in a sea, with no real problems. A comfort knowing my issues were not as bleak as others – life could get worse. A will after – crystal-clear message to keep going because life is short and abruptness happens.
Sadness is found in the pages of my favourite books – recently glued to Hollywood icon Lauren Bacall recalling the death of her beloved husband Humphrey Bogart, twelve years and happily married, in songs, and in films such as Beaches and Stepmom. I knew nothing about the singer Selena, but upon my mother telling me she was killed young, I immediately watched.
It’s not just seeing death in movies – I have a slight addiction to beautiful woman who faced tragedy. Marilyn Monroe fascinates me; the opera singer Maria Callas is full of intrigue. A woman who gave up her career for a man, who then married Jackie Kennedy, ran back to Callas repeatedly, and she always gave in. Both Onassis and Callas ended up dying with heartache – never marrying their true love – each other.
Psychcentral.com published an article by Lauren Suval on why we we’re drawn to sad movies. The piece explores various researchers and their theories – from sadness making us realise how important our relationships are, to confronting our upsetting emotions in a safe environment. Movies almost invite you to cry. Tear-jerking thoughts become natural – the one time you cry and nobody huddles round to ask if you’re okay.
Death in movies encourages me to face up to life. I believe there’s a strange beauty in sadness. The pain of others – knowing that it’s not really real. That allows us to wake-up to the realms of living from which we hide. Although I appreciate a lovely, Hollywood ending, I admire a movie which turns the other way. Something raw and thought-provoking. Death in movies will always appeal; we will always see the attraction.
How do you feel when seeing death in movies? Would you say it is socially bonding or a pain release?