People! We love being entertained and, furthermore, we love being entertained by sad-as-fuck movies. But is there a reason why we're so attracted to stories that make us cry our eyes out? You know, besides a basic blood lust and affection for our fellow humans' suffering?
Maybe! Prior to the Friday opening of The Fault in Our Stars, the teen cancer rom-com (a genre in and of itself) that's sure to leave teens blubbering across America, The Daily Beast's Elizabeth Picciuto looked into why folks are so willing to make themselves sad and miserable by watching tear-jerkers or, as she calls them, "weepies."
"Our love of weepies is a bit strange," she writes. "It seems that one of the most flamingly obvious rules of human nature is that people tend to seek pleasure and avoid pain."
I don't know if it's all that strange, but then again, I don't view pain and pleasure as being at complete diametric odds. Some things can make you sad and happy at the same time and, other times, you can find relief in not being happy at all. Besides, people put themselves in real life situations with the potential for emotional pain all of the time — that's how we fall in (and out) of love, make friends, go after our goals, etc.
That being said, Picciuto's exploration into why we seek out tear-jerkers is an interesting one with an answer that might have roots in evolutionary psychology. Picciuto hypothesizes that we willingly witness sad (fictional) situations for the same reasons that we use our imaginations as children — as a means of learning empathy and honing in on our decision-making and social skills.
Or as she puts it:
...We are better prepared to deal with all that life may throw at us, the good and the bad. We would also need to respond emotionally to the negative pretend scenarios with real negative emotions. That way we know better what to avoid when making decisions, and we understand better when someone else is suffering. If it's true, as many cognitive scientists believe, that imagining enhances fitness, it makes perfect sense that we would be ready and willing to imagine tragedies and horror.
Point well taken, but I still say that I only watch sad movies to remind my old dried husk of a heart how to feel.