?There’s nothing wrong with getting in touch with your feelings. A good crying jag can help relieve stress and help clear your mind. Don’t worry, Topless Robot isn’t going all Oprah on you. Instead, today we will be looking at nerd-centric moments from pop culture that evoke a strong emotional response — namely uncontrollable weeping. So if you haven’t taken your meds today, you may want to take a pass on this Daily List as it is full of examples of death, despair and sadness that are specially designed to make you crawl up in a fetal position and scream for your mommy. Let’s put the clich? about misery loving company to the test and check out 11 moments of glorious nerdiness that are guaranteed to make you go all dewy eyed and sniffly.
Disclaimer: Topless Robot is not responsible for any extreme fits of prolonged sadness or general malaise that may result from the entries on this list. Also, these entries are based on my personal experience so your mileage may vary. Now that that’s said, let’s get ready to crumble!
11) Starman Returns Home
After the relentless nihilism of The Thing almost killed his career, John Carpenter lightened things up a bit with a completely different kind of alien story — 1984’s Starman. What it lacked in mutant E.T./Wilford Brimley hybrids it more than made up for with romance and life-affirming drama. At the end of the flick, the star-crossed lovers (played by Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen) are forced to go their separate ways, resulting in the touching goodbye you see above. It’s almost sweet enough to make you forget about the fact that Allen’s character probably spent the rest of her life in a maximum security prison for obstruction of justice. Still, it’s a nice moment, don’t you think?
10) The Doctor’s Farewell to Rose
When Doctor Who relaunched in 2005, a conscious decision was made to give the series more of an emotional weight than it had previously. Thus the first season was rich with pathos-strewn moments, from the “everybody lives” ebullience of “The Doctor Dances” to the moodiness of “Father’s Day.” But the most touching moment came in the appropriately titled “The Parting of the Ways.” Viewers already reeling from the Doc’s holographic goodbye to Rose earlier in the episode had their hearts and minds further fucked with when it was revealed that the Timelord didn’t survive his injuries as it initially appeared. Unlike David Tennant’s self-indulgently emo farewell, Eccleston went out in a graceful manner that fit his version of the character perfectly and set the stage for all of the emotionally draining Nu-Who moments that followed.
9) The Death of Cornelius and Zira
The best thing about the various Planet of the Apes movies is the demented game of one-upmanship that is each successive film’s ending. The original Planet of the Apes merely reveals that humanity wiped itself out via nuclear holocaust. But that’s just peanuts compared to what was to come. Beneath the Planet of Apes wraps things up with the following cheery voiceover: “In one of the countless billions of galaxies in the universe, lies a medium-sized star, and one of its satellites, a green and insignificant planet, is now dead.” Whee! By the time the credits roll on Escape from the Planet of the Apes, beloved chimpanzees Zira and Cornelius are ruthlessly murdered, along with the only human who ever truly cared for them and some poor bastard baby chimp who had the misfortune to get caught up in their time-traveling monkey business. The conclusions of the final two entries in the film saga were hardly picnics either, but at least those movies didn’t start off as light-hearted romps about talking animals becoming media darlings and getting loaded on cheap wine.
8) E.T. Looks Like Shit
?E.T. is masterpiece of emotional manipulation that was carefully calculated by Steven Spielberg and a team of scientists to maximize its ability to make you cry and scare the piss out of you. (Regular readers to this site should be well aware by now of just how terrifying E.T. is, and not just when he’s screwing folks in Victorian England). Critics will have you believe that the saddest part of the film is when the space botanist severs his link with Elliott and apparently dies. Nonsense. The most tear-inducing moment comes a few minutes earlier when a pale, nearly lifeless E.T. is found lying near a creek. As a kid, this moment made me burst into tears instantly because it was so upsetting. Oh yeah, it also gave me nightmares for months. The scene is nothing less than a perfect storm of childhood traumas — death, fear of abandonment, getting eaten by animals, inability to tan, etc. — that myself and the rest of my generation will likely never get over.
7) Optimus Prime Buys the Farm
One shall stand, one shall fall indeed. Once kids stopped crying from Optimus’ big screen death, they realized that Rodimus was a huge pussy who had no business leading the Autobots. Ratings dwindled and Optimus made an eventual return to the Transformers series in the awesomely batshit season that followed the film. You know the They Might Be Giants quote “you can’t shake the devil’s hand and say you’re only kidding?” Feel free to apply that sentiment to Hasbro’s handling of the Rodimus debacle.
6) Every Lost Death Ever
Hearing the opening twinkle of Michael Giacchino’s “Life and Death” during an episode of Lost meant that a character was about to die — and you were moments away from crying. The understated melody inspires a Pavlovian reaction in viewers that evokes deep feelings of sorrow. Pair that with the emotion of seeing yet another Lostie going to the big church shindig in the sky and you’ll be sobbing on the couch quicker than you can say “the magical cave of light was bullshit.”
5) Kirk Bids Spock Adieu
In Kirk’s eulogy for Spock at the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, he remarks upon how human the soul of his fallen Vulcan friend truly was. During the speech, he gives us insight into his own inner self as well. The movie is rightfully considered the finest Trek cinematic outing, and this is largely because it shows us for perhaps the first time just how deeply the characters feel. It is packed with small beats that examine how the characters’ decisions weigh upon them (Kirk’s ennui about aging, Scotty’s stunned reaction to his nephew’s death, etc). In the movie’s final moments, Shatner forgoes his usual hammy acting style to layer his performance with rage and profound loss. The speech gets the waterworks turned on before Nimoy’s closing narration really opens the floodgates.
4) Aeris Kicks the Bucket
It’s hard to make emotional moments in videogames; there’s just something about digital characters that, no matter what tragedies befall them, it’s hard for them to pluck on our heartstrings. The exception that proves the rule is Aeris’s death (and yes, I know she’s generally known as Aerith now, but Aeris is her name in the original game) in Final Fantasy VII. Explaining what the hell she’ss doing would take forever (and probably wouldn’t make much sense), but watching the peaceful, praying Aeris coldbloodedly murdered by Sephiroth should be striking enough. For players, it was worse, because not only was she one of the main character’s love interests, but since it was an RPG, you’d likely spent hours leveling her up, getting her the best weapons, etc. It might sound silly, but it used the mechanics of RPGS to get players invested in her — and feel her loss. You want proof? The legions of fans who were convinced there had to be a way to resurrect her, even years after FF7‘s release.
3) Jake Sisko Commits Suicide
It’s easy to get lost in hyperbole when discussing Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, so let me simply say that it was truly a special show. Like its predecessors, some of DS9‘s strongest installments were the ones that focused on the human interactions between the characters. Which brings us to “The Visitor.” This high-concept episode features an elderly Jake Sisko (brilliantly portrayed by Tony Todd) visited by a young writer who loved his two novels and wondered why he wasn’t more prolific. Through flashbacks, it is revealed that Ben Sisko vanished years earlier during an accident. However, the elder Sisko isn’t dead, but rather trapped inside of a subspace limbo thingy that allows him to appear to his son sporadically throughout the years. Determined to figure out a way to rescue his dad, Jake puts his writing — and his marriage — on the backburner before finally realizing that the only way to truly reunite with his dad is to end his life while they are together. This course of action will send Benjamin back to the moment of the accident and allow both men to avoid a shared lifetime of suffering. The above Cliff’s Notes synopsis does not begin to do the episode justice, but suffice to say it touches upon issues of mortality, the often-complicated relationships of fathers and sons and the paralyzing consequences of grief. It’s a tour de force that forever silenced the naysayers who dismissed Deep Space Nine as a series that was as cold and lifeless as space.
2) Gandalf Schools Frodo
?In December of 2001, I had to put my dog down following a lengthy illness. Ushered into a tiny room at the vet’s office to say my goodbyes, I looked down into my pet’s fearful eyes and whispered “be at peace, son of Gondor.” It was then I realized just how much Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring utterly destroyed me. Don’t get me wrong, each of the movies has moments capable of reducing anyone into a blubbering mess. But there’s something so powerful about Fellowship that resonated amongst Tolkien purists and newbies alike. The Mines of Moria is a particularly devastating sequence that is highlighted by Gandalf’s “all we have to decide is what to do with the time given to us” speech to a reluctant Frodo. That line could very well be the epitaph of the past decade: an age of uncertainty and fear in which the only way to move forward was to proceed cautiously and hope for the best. (For the record, Return of the King‘s toast at the Prancing Pony kills me every time too).
1) The Rainbow Connection
Twenty years after Jim Henson’s death, Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher’s evocative song about yearning has evolved into a bittersweet celebration of the puppeteer’s life and legacy. If this doesn’t move something in you, you probably don’t have a soul. This list has been a bit of a downer, so to end on happy note here’s an upbeat version of “The Rainbow Connection” from an 1981 episode The Muppet Show featuring Debbie Harry:
Whew! That’s better.
Obviously, what makes people cry is a unique, highly individual matter, and we know not everyone is going to agree with this list. Feel free to tell us what we missed in the comments — what moments from your favorite nerdy series that made you reach for the kleenex?