because it’s sad.
No, seriously. I watch the epic singing number, Nicole Kidman regal in her silver headdress and Ewan McGregor, in all of his misguided writerly passion. Then they twirl in rose petals or something and sing, “The only thing you’ll ever learn is how to love and be loved in return.” And then they kiss, and the evil redhead with a bad lisp is conquered, and some absinthe is had by all.
That’s the ending that I see.
What really happens is (and spoiler alerts abound here, but the movie has been out for years, so shame on you) Kidman breathes her last breath by coughing up blood from a crippling bout of consumption, and McGregor cries over her body in probably the most anguished way I have ever seen. His grief is almost repulsive, almost provocative. And then he dies, shriveled around his typewriter, a loveless man.
Okay, I made up the last part. But honestly I’m surprised I can even still remember the ending because I refuse to watch it. And believe me, there are plenty of other movies that I do this with, that I don’t remember the beginning/middle/end because I refuse to watch them. I keep myself in a sweet cinematic oblivion.
But what a difference it makes when I just cut off that last part in Moulin Rouge. Then, I live in a rose-colored world where clouds are made of cotton candy. And what a nightmare it is when I watch that last part. There’s suddenly a dark cloud over my entire life, and it’s made of black licorice (yuck!). Really, it is like some awful “choose your own adventure” story. On one hand, you have the perfect fairy tale. On the other, you have a Grimm’s fairy tale. And there’s NO in-between.
And while I could make this post entirely about one half of humanity, (me) who stops it before it gets ugly, and the other half of humanity, (not me) who pushes on and completes the entire film, it’s not really about that. Or, it’s not as cut and dry.
I think the real issue is that technology, on a greater scale, is going to continually give us the tools to numb ourselves, and we are going to keep asking for them. Excuse me if I simply regurgitate the entire plot of Click, but aren’t we all going to get to the point where we just fast forward through all of the sad parts? Actually, that’s where we are now. I am doing that now. Maybe not in my actual life, but in media. And we are getting to the point where the line is blurring between the two.
So, what I am taking issue with is not our ability to create. To make technology work for us. To direct, shoot, and produce sad films that I will inevitably have to fast forward through. It’s that we have such a problem with emotions in our culture. And we’re using technology as a huge bandage on this festering problem. Because about every song I hear is some woman trying to act tough by telling her ex-lover that he’ll “never see her cry.” And don’t get me started on men and crying. (And really, most men could use a good cry.)
So, why don’t we? Why aren’t we allowed to cry? Who decided that it was weak to cry? We seriously have some sick obsession with denying ourselves the catharsis of tears. Pills, food, and yes, even the fast forward button, all keep us safe from that dark, spiraling staircase we’re all afraid to go down inside of ourselves.
But of course, like all things, it starts with you. You have to give your permission to feel before what I tell you will sink in. (I would prefer if I wasn’t the one who made you cry, either.)
But if you don’t let your emotions out to play once in awhile, I promise you that they will come tearing out of you. And it will take all of your strength to put the cork on when it’s over.
So, once in awhile, watch Moulin Rouge to the end. Cry. Feel. Know that not everything gets tied up nicely at the end. And other times, turn it off. Live in a world where things are sweet and poetically justified.
Just don’t torture yourself. Well, maybe just a little bit. To remind yourself what pain feels like. And then shut it off again. Or fast forward. Whatever you prefer. Just remember to feel once in awhile.
Just remember to cry.