Five Emotions Apart

Five Feet Apart inspired/forced me (and my tear ducts) to reappraise my previously-outlined distinction between “tearjerkers” (boo!) and — a word of Write All Nite’s own invention (at least to my knowledge) — “snifflers” (yay!).

And the difference between “inspired” and “forced” summarizes it all up!

Using the term “tearjerker” to encompass every emotional movie has always rubbed me the wrong way, mostly because “jerk” perpetuates the notion that they elicit these emotions through forcible means. Some do, and for those, “tearjerker” applies. But plenty of heartbreakers stimulate our ducts without relying on such obvious manipulation. In the past, I’ve rescued these rarified few by creating a new umbrella term to house them: “sniffler.”

Initially, I differentiated the two by fixating on the specifics of their separate approaches, but doing so places too much importance on subjectively deducing the creators’ collective intent, a classic case of personal projections feigning objectivity. After shooting down this idea, I temporarily flirted with an easier designation: tearjerkers induce tears of sadness, while snifflers lead to tears of joy (who doesn’t enjoy a nice happy cry?).

But that doesn’t solve my aforementioned problem with painting all heartstring-yankers with the same unfair brush of artificiality. Plus, people’s tears and sniffles are the same no matter the type of cause, so their respective names wouldn’t make much sense. 

My current solution is more evaluative: “tearjerker” will be reserved for tears brought on by the too-transparently hokey, and “snifflers” will be a more dignified label for pieces of art that seamlessly earn their sniffles.

And yes, I know it’s all still subjective — welcome to the wonderful world of critiquing!

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