I don’t cry when I watch TV.
When asked what movie or show makes me cry, I laugh. “None of them,” I say, met with disbelief.
I’ve read studies and psychology articles on why people cry when they watch TV shows, hoping to reverse engineer the explanations and come up with a succinct answer for why I — someone who has seen more on-screen breakups, breakdowns, deaths and despair than the average human — can’t get those tear ducts flowing. Most give the obvious explanation: empathy.
I say that’s bullshit. My dry eyes aren’t for lack of emotional connection. I feel for fictional characters to what some might call an unhealthy degree. My friend Christian overheard me talking to another friend about how all I wanted was for Blair Waldorf to be happy, and the fervor in my voice convinced him I was talking about someone I knew and not the Queen B of the CW’s “Gossip Girl.” I got more mad at a friend for calling Betty Draper a “cunt” than I did when a group of my friends forgot my birthday in seventh grade. The emotions are there — the physical response is not.
I don’t cry when I watch TV, but if I did, here are the things that would make me cry:
Vampires. I wish I were kidding, but the number of times I’ve overflown with emotion over a damn vampire show, of all things, now surpasses the number of times I’ve had to explain why “True Blood” sucks. So, no, Alexander Skarsgård can’t quite crack my hardened interior, but plenty of other fanged folks have done the trick, like in season two of “The Vampire Diaries,” when Elena walks to the top of a hill with her longtime vampire boyfriend Stefan and tells him she’s only a 17-year-old girl, she has her whole life in front of her, and she doesn’t want to be a vampire. Or in the following season when Caroline explains to her father — who’s ironically gay — that he can’t make her vampirism go away.
Musical montages. Every. Damn. Time. Score a scene with a power ballad from the early 2000s, and you’ve got me. “Revenge” and “Pretty Little Liars” consistently exploit this weakness.
Bitches breaking down. My favorite characters on most shows are ones frequently labeled bitches, and most of these ladies, like me, aren’t quick to cry. So, when they do, it’s powerful. The first time I saw Olivia Pope shed a tear on “Scandal,” I thought the world was ending.
Anything and everything Jason Katims has ever touched. At Paleyfest this year, when panel host Michael Ausiello asked Katims — the man behind “Friday Night Lights” and “Parenthood” — if he and his writers make conscious effort to include at least one tearjerker moment in every “Parenthood” script, he said no. The writers, Katims explained, are always surprised by the scenes that end up carrying the most emotional weight. “Parenthood” brims with in-your-face sadness like Kristina telling the family about her cancer diagnosis and recording a farewell to her children. But the more subtle moments linger with me long after an episode ends, like Julia learning Spanish so she can connect with Victor or Max finally getting that goddamn vending machine back in his school.
I don’t cry when I watch TV, but I came pretty close one time.
Two summers ago, I was living alone in Jackson, Mich. Wondering what the hell everyone was talking about when they said a summer in Michigan would be more temperate than back home in Virginia, I spent my AC-less evenings with my good friend, Netflix. I was in the midst of my first straight-through viewing of “Buffy.” My friend LaToya had warned me that season five was one of the series’s most emotionally tumultuous, but nothing could have prepared me for “The Body,” an episode full of death, grieving, silence and intimate camerawork. All it took was an 1,100-year-old vengeance demon discovering the absoluteness of death to break me. A single tear rolled down my nose onto my bare knee. “Kayla’s First Tear,” my friend called it.
I don’t cry when I watch TV. Or when I read books or see movies. I don’t cry when I say goodbyes or I’ll-miss-yous. Only in very rare instances of emotional release do tears escape the crevasses of my too-dark eyes. My friends call me robot, cyborg, Cylon.
But I promise you, I feel. Just watch me watch any show helmed by Joss Whedon and you’ll see a jolt of emotion surge through my center. “Ohmygod,” you’ll say, just like all my housemates do. “Are you going to cry?!”
Don’t get your hopes up.