Tears and Laughter

comedy tragedyI asked my Facebook readers if they like books and movies that make them cry. I found the answers fascinating because there were so many different takes on the subject. Some people feel manipulated by a writer if they’re moved to tears. Others like a little tear-jerkiness as long as they don’t feel manipulated. Still others think a good cry means the author or screenwriter has done a good job.

A few people prefer laughter to tears when reading a book or watching a movie, and some don’t care whether  they laugh or cry as long as they feel something. A few want to read for escape, period, which means no tears, thank you very much.

All of this made me ponder my own feelings about what I read or watch.  I enjoy comedy, but I’m more drawn to drama, as you could guess if you’ve ever read my books.  I do love a good cry, but if I feel manipulated I will be annoyed, and the writer had better not harm so much as a toenail of an animal and if she can leave out the Holocaust and all other forms of man’s inhumanity to man, even better.  

I like subtlety–the tears that catch me unawares. The gentle relationship between Julia and Paul Child in Julie and Julia, for example. The joyous reunion of Jamal and Latika in Slumdog Millionaire. The tender scene in A Beautiful Mind where Alicia tells John she needs to believe “something extraordinary is possible.” I’ve wept during any number of scenes in books like Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife, Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, and Marisa de los Santos’ light-but-touching Belong to Me. Those books and movies will stay with me for a long, long time because of the emotion I felt as I enjoyed them.

That’s the bottom line, isn’t it? Enjoyment? What do you turn to for your reading and viewing pleasure? Do you prefer to be moved to tears or laughter. . . or both?


  1. Lindsay on November 18, 2009 at 3:14 am

    I answered this on facebook but I figured I’d comment here too! I’m one of those that just wants to feel when I’m reading a book or experiencing a movie. I think re: comedy or drama it depends on my mood. a lot of times with movies I’m looking to laugh and watch something unrealistic. With books I tend to want more realism. Although that’s not to say that occasionally I don’t enjoy a funny read or a serious movie.

  2. Ann on November 18, 2009 at 4:11 am

    If the story is good I don’t mind to cry and I love to laugh. I guess any good story is what I like.

  3. Diane Chamberlain on November 18, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Lindsay, it’s the same with me. With movies, I often look for comedy, especially when life is getting me down, but with books, I tend to like something deeper. Lately, we’ve been watching a lot of old Friends reruns because it feels good to laugh!

  4. Denise on November 20, 2009 at 9:50 am

    I like a book or movie that can make me cry or laugh outloud. I tend to cry or laugh easier at movies. The sign of a good book, in my humble opinion, is one that can make me cry or laugh!

  5. brenda on November 20, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    Who can forget the tears in Steel Magnolias? Then the scene at the cemetary and the laughter…so incongruous…Of course, I love Sally Field…each year, my students tell me, “Mrs. B you look and act like that older woman actress…S. Field…lol My reply is that I only wish I could have done a movie with Burt Reynolds back in the day…

  6. Margo on November 21, 2009 at 11:53 am

    What a nice compliment from your students Brenda!!…Sally Field is WONDERFUL!!
    Diane, I love any book or movie that ‘gets to me’ and either shows emotions of tears or laughter…any author or film director that can do that is a genius…Diane, you have brought me to tears many times so that is a compliment to you. I think of your books for weeks after finishing them and some characters never leave me…that is the mark of a phenomenal writer.

    • Diane Chamberlain on November 21, 2009 at 2:45 pm

      Brenda, now I can finally picture what you look like! Margo, thanks for the compliments I’m so glad you feel that way about my books.
      Here at Weymouth, we’re having a fun day with the writer and photographer from Our State Magazine who are here to do a little article about us. I’ll try to blog about the experience tonight.

  7. Gina on November 22, 2009 at 9:21 am

    I love books that make me cry. For some reason, it makes me feel good.

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