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A Short Piece on Pop Culture

Or the Power and Redemption of a Good Cry

By Cynthia ScottPublished 2 months ago 3 min read
A Short Piece on Pop Culture
Photo by Claudia Wolff on Unsplash

Wuthering Heights is probably the only book that almost moved me to tears. There's one scene, an image really, that lingers in my head: Catherine's gravesite on the moors as the wind swept through the heather she loved. I admit I got a lump in my throat. There aren't many books that brought me to tears, though I've read plenty that should have––Katherine Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia, for instance, or C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, both of which I read and loved in grade school.

Truthfully, up until perhaps my mid-thirties, I was never a cryer when it came to pop culture, though there were certainly moments. The song from Disney's Peter Pan "You Can Fly," used to make me weep when I sang it softly to myself in bed. I was touched by its sheer beauty, but its melancholy as well. Buried beneath its hopeful, cotton candy message was a dream that could never be. There'd be no Peter Pans flying through my window and whisking me off to Neverland (and if there were such a thing as a Peter Pan he'd never show up in my 'hood), so the song had a wistful impossibility to it that pulled at my heart. The end of Spike Lee's Malcolm X also left me almost in tears. The scene of X's death was certainly effective and well-acted and directed, but all it produced in me was that lump, which remained in my throat unexpressed as the lights came up and I filed out of the theater.

And that was about it.

Yet now, I find myself easily moved to tears, especially by movies. I am a sobbing mess at the end of West Side Story, and even the credits at the start of the Wizard of Oz will have me fighting back the tears. I don't know when this change came over me––maybe it was the result of getting older and openly embracing my emotions, or it could have happened after my sister's death.

My sister, Tina, was thirty-nine and recently married when she suffered from an epileptic seizure from which she never recovered. I held her head in my lap as she died, touching my hand to her mouth to see if she was breathing and gently begging her to snap out of it as she always did whenever she was stricken. For years I blamed myself. Was there anything I could have done to save her? Given her CPR? Anything? She and I hadn't been close in the last few years before her death. A coolness had set in, not one of animosity or anger, but from a lack of intimacy. I blamed myself for that too. Her untimely death left me raw, vulnerable and exposed even to my own clouded and guilt-ridden emotions.

A few months after her death, I was hit by a one-two punch in the only way pop culture will deal you: Two different cable channels were airing first Cooley High and then Sparkle, two films that, for any black kid growing up in the 1970s, were canon. Two films that I must have watched countless times with my sister. Two films each in which a main character dies tragically. By the end of the three and some-odd hours, I was bereft and yet I felt strangely cathartic. I won't say that I stopped blaming myself (I'd descend into a depression in the following years, a depression I wasn't even aware I was suffering), but it helped in some small way. It helped to be able to grieve so openly, even if for fictional characters.

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  • Kendall Defoe2 months ago

    I remember 'Cooley High'. I was a West Indian kid of the 80s and was told not to show my emotions as a boy. It can be very hard to recover from the buffeting you get not to be a real person and be alive. Thank you for this piece. We should all hear it's message.

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