Opinion: The Real Reason Grown Men are Crying at 'Toy Story 3'

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The Real Reason Grown Men are Crying at Toy Story 3

This is what it sounds like when dads cry. Illustration by Christopher Healy

Just like the majority of the adults in the audience with me, I was wiping tears from my cheeks as the credits rolled on "Toy Story 3".

This was far from the first Pixar film to make me blubber, and I thought nothing of it. What surprised me was discovering that, according to the news media, my weepiness was part of a supposedly startling trend. News flash: Grown men are crying openly in movie theaters!
First off, it's 2010. Are we still supposed to be shocked by male tears? Didn't Rosey Grier take care of that back in 1972 with his vulnerable, semi-on-key song, "It's All Right to Cry?" But apparently men getting misty at the end of a deeply emotional, heartstring-tugging film is cause for national debate.

And while most of the journalists who've taken on this topic want to let their male readers know -- just as Mr. Grier did when we were kids -- that their moist cheeks are nothing to be ashamed of, they also try to play down these manly weepfests by assigning them the most acceptably macho motives they can think up.

Be warned, spoilers lie ahead.
The reason for all the grown-up guys crying at the end of "Toy Story 3," we've read, is because they're taking the movie very literally.
Oh, how it pains us to see a boy give up his precious toys -- the material goods that have made him happy for so many years. Men love things!

New York Times film critic A.O. Scott referred to the movie as a tale that captures "the sorrows and pleasures that dwell at the heart of our materialist way of life." That notion has been taken up as a rationalization for men crying: What real man wouldn't be moved to tears upon seeing a fellow male give up his treasured commodities. He who dies with the most toys wins, right? Poor Andy's in real trouble now, I guess.

For a slightly less cynical approach, there's also the rationale put forth by Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman. He layers nostalgia onto the materialism. Adult men are watching this film and being saddened not just by the loss of toys, but the loss of cool, old toys -- the kind we used to play with when we were young. Never mind these beeping, animatronic playthings of the modern age -- we're talking about pull-string cowboys and piggy banks. In essence, we see the movie through Andy's eyes and feel like we're giving up our own childhoods all over again.

I'm certainly not going to say that there aren't men out there who are moved by "Toy Story 3" in these specific ways. But by assigning such literal interpretations to the movie, it lets macho men off the hook in a way. For whatever reason, it's never unmanly to think or act like a child -- so being sad for the same reason Andy is sad in the movie is okay.

I can tell you why I cried at the end of "Toy Story 3." When my 8-year-old daughter saw me drying my eyes after the film, she tried to console me with, "It was real sad when Andy had to give up his toys, right?" And I told her that I was sad because the toys had to give up Andy. Those toys had watched Andy grow up, been there for him at every stage of his young life -- good times and bad -- and now they were realizing that their little boy wasn't so little anymore. It was time for him to move on and grow up; and the toys had to let go.

As a dad, I related to the toys. Although it's still far off for me, I was instantly brought to that future point when I'll have to kiss my daughter and wave to her as she takes off for college, or gets married, or moves out of the house. That's some really raw emotional territory for a movie to dig into. And I'm sure there were plenty of other guys -- especially other dads -- feeling the same pain.

"Toy Story 3" is a brilliant, deeply moving film. And to the men who cry upon seeing it: Give yourselves some credit. You're in touch with your emotions. It's all right to cry -- even for reasons other than losing your favorite plaything.

Related: Top Teen Beach Reads: Which Should Scare You, Which Should You Borrow?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.