Monday, August 15, 2011

Bummer #1: My Girl

(I'm introducing a new feature about Hollywood's sick fascination with traumatizing youngsters and the toll that this personally took on me throughout my adolescence and now as an adult. I'm looking to post something new every Monday. What better way to kick things off than with the Godzilla of soul-crushing family films: My Girl.)

Heartwrenching films usually move toward a single grim climax. At which point, we, the audience, tear up, feeling either genuinely moved or emotionally manipulated. The structure of these movies and our reactions to them really just follow that basic plot chart from high school English.

My Girl's structure, however, looks like something you might see on a seismograph.
(click to make bigguh)
My Girl is relentless and it's that lack of emotional respite that makes it so heart-shattering. You watch this movie and you feel like you really went through some shiz.
It's brutal! Every time I sit through My Girl, I spend the last fifteen minutes of the movie crying. 
When I was younger, that crying was just straightforward sobbing. These days, though, it's more about me trying and failing to rage against the inevitable tears--the end result being a lot of gulping, hiccuping, and an overwhelming feeling of lunacy. My Girl just hits me on this incredibly visceral level; the government should seriously look into somehow weaponizing it.

Thomas J.'s death is disturbing. Clearly. And when you're ten years old, even if you have a firm grasp on the concept of death, the last person that you expect to see die in a movie is a kid. Especially, a kid with glasses.

Like going to prom or accidentally calling your teacher "mom," crying at the end of My Girl is a rite of passage. I honestly love this movie but I've gotten to the point where I don't need to watch it anymore because (a) life is already depressing enough, I don't need to deliberately inject any tragedy into it and (b) I can't believe or accept how easily Vada gets over her BFF's death. I mean, it was kind of her fault that he died, right?
He was looking for her mood ring when those bees stung him.



Tara said...

This movie really kind of shocked me the first time I watched it. As a little kid, I couldn't believe the Thomas J death and it really did kind of devastate me to watch it, because it was the first time I considered that it could actually happen in real life to one of MY friends. The part about her loving her teacher got to me as well, mainly because I always had a thing for my male teachers...(Although, as a college student now, I'm not sure that has actually gone away...) It's a great movie, but it really is a lot of emotional baggage for a kid to process, even though it is just a fictional story. It's just having that realization that that kind of shit can, and does, happen, and it can even happen to a little girl like you or me.

Aaron said...

Can I just say, as a 31-year-old man, I still cry every time I watch this movie. And that is why I never watch it anymore.

dbs said...

Vada means "famous ruler" and er, fritter, I think. I thought I had a point here but...nope. Sorry.
Good movie.

girluntitled said...

there have only been 2 movies in my lifetime that i have literally sobbed the entire time through...

1) my girl

2) baz luhrmann's romeo and juliet.

and yes, it was very cruel and unusual punishment for a little girl like myself to go through. i agree with you ten-fold!

Stephanie said...

I snuck My Girl the book out of my mom's room and read it before I saw the movie (I was 10, so who knows why I wanted to read that book). Anyway, I was still mortified that Thomas J died when I saw it on film. MORTIFIED.

Also, can I just say that I loved Jamie Lee Curtis in this movie. And her camper.

Amiee said...

It always gets me with that line about his glasses. Such a good little actor that Anna.
I don't remember being traumatized by this when I saw it at the movies but I do remember we were all really shocked when another older boy in our school was at the same movies and he was crying. Maybe I was just a cold hearted child!

Barbara said...

This movie is so terribly sad. I also cry every time I watch it.

Shannon said...

I haven't watched this movie since I was a youngin'. I remember crying like the youngin' I was.

I probably will not watch this movie again as a non-youngin'. I don't want to cry like a youngin' again.

Did I use the word youngin' enough?

Jill said...

I cannot watch this movie ever again.

What is it about being a kid and watching the same 5 movies over and over again?!? This was on heavy rotation at my house one summer.

I feel like my parents should have sent me to counseling or something.

Nicole said...

I can't believe I watched this movie so many times as a kid. What was wrong with me? That would be like me now getting home from work and watching Precious over and over again. Like, why would anyone do that to themselves?

By the way, I've never actually seen Precious. I'm just assuming it's a downer.

Lorelai said...

I first watched this movie when I was really young, as in too young to realise that Macauley Culkin, Kevin McAllister and Thomas J were separate entites. I remember being awfully frustrated that he managed to go two rounds against hardened criminals in two different Home Alone movies, only to be killed later by bees.

MC said...

I was going to write a witty comment... but then I saw my captcha word was "herses" and I can't really top that.