What pop culture still makes you cry?

Clockwise from top left: Hamilton (Photo: Lin-Manuel Miranda and Nevis Productions LLC); Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Screenshot: Walt Disney Motion Pictures); It’s A Wonderful Life (Screenshot: Paramount Pictures); Lilo & Stitch (Screenshot: Walt Disney Motion Pictures)
Clockwise from top left: Hamilton (Photo: Lin-Manuel Miranda and Nevis Productions LLC); Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Screenshot: Walt Disney Motion Pictures); It’s A Wonderful Life (Screenshot: Paramount Pictures); Lilo & Stitch (Screenshot: Walt Disney Motion Pictures)
Graphic: Baraka Kaseko
AVQ&AWelcome back to AVQ&A, where we throw out a question for discussion among the staff and readers. Consider this a prompt to compare notes on your interface with pop culture, to reveal your embarrassing tastes and experiences.

This week’s question comes from reader Jacqui from Chicago:

What pop culture still makes you cry? I don’t think I will ever not tear up watching the final scenes of An American Tail where Fievel loses all hope he’ll find his family, only to reunite with them minutes later. (I’m crying right now as I type!)

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2 / 10

“It’s Quiet Uptown” from Hamilton

“It’s Quiet Uptown” from Hamilton

Like many people who went through a deep and virulent Hamilton phase, my listens of the Broadway juggernaut’s cast album often petered out some time around the start of Act II. Partly, that’s just because the back half of Hamilton drags a bit—it does, fight me, sorry, not sorry—but also because it’s vitally important that I not hear “It’s Quiet Uptown,” Lin-Manuel Miranda’s attempt to channel the grief of parents Alexander and Eliza over the death of their son Philip, unless I’m ready for a protracted sobbing session. Some of this is my own baggage, and my own processing of sorrow. But it’s also just the sheer, unrestrained grief of the song, Renée Elise Goldsberry’s heart audibly breaking, even as her voice rings out crystal clear, paying tribute to two people learning to “live with the unimaginable.” [William Hughes]

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3 / 10

Max von Sydow in The Diving Bell And The Butterfly

Max von Sydow in The Diving Bell And The Butterfly

When Max von Sydow cries, I cry. The late actor has a small but memorable role in Julian Schnabel’s dreamy memoir adaptation, The Diving Bell And The Butterfly, playing the father of Matheiu Amalric’s debilitated Jean-Dominique Bauby. Paralyzed by a stroke, Jean-Do and his housebound “Papinou” find themselves united in their isolation, and a one-sided phone call is the best they manage when it comes time to say goodbye. An invention of the film, the scene packs a lifetime of memories and regret in a few lines of dialogue, von Sydow breaking your heart with each trembling word. It remains one of my favorite bits of acting I’ve ever seen, and the fact that we lost the legend last year makes it all the more certain I’ll be a blubbering mess the next time I revisit. [Cameron Scheetz]

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4 / 10

Stitch is waiting for his family, Lilo & Stitch

Stitch is waiting for his family, Lilo & Stitch

Like William, there’s a Hamilton song—more specifically, a particular lyric from “That Would Be Enough”—that instantly fills my eyes to the brim. But since he’s already given that show its due here, I’ll highlight a cinematic moment that at first caught me by surprise and now conjures tears each time I recall it. In 2002, I offered to take my baby cousin to see Lilo & Stitch. I’d gone to plenty of movies with friends, but this was the first time I was taking a kid to see a movie and I was feeling very grown up. I wasn’t particularly excited to see the film (it was for kids, I was now an adult!) but in the middle of the movie, Stitch—a being we thought was a dog-like creature but is really a robot—is told by his creator that he will never have a family. “But… but…” Stitch replies. I’d spent most of the film making sure my cousin didn’t spill his soda, but suddenly I was weeping like they’d shot the damn robot dog thing. Stitch had a dream—a totally reasonable dream of just being loved—but he was told it was an impossibility because of what he is. As I type this out, I’m finally realizing why that maybe had such an impact on me, but at the time I was just doing all I could to wipe the tears away so my 6-year-old cousin would stop looking at me like “what a baby.” (The clip above cuts out before Stitch gets to his most gut-wrenching “but”s, so you’ll either have to check the film out or trust me that it gets even more heartbreaking.) [Patrick Gomez]

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5 / 10

It’s A Wonderful Life

It’s A Wonderful Life

I wasn’t able to instill my love of black-and-white movies in both of my kids, but fortunately, in the before times, my daughter let me drag her to the Music Box Theatre in Chicago whenever there was a Bette Davis or Bogie/Bacall matinee. This all started when she was about 9 and we went to our first MB holiday screening of It’s A Wonderful Life, the movie I used to stay up and watch every single Christmas Eve when I was a kid. Not sure if it’s because it’s now a tradition that the two of us share, but I have seen that movie countless times, and I always start sobbing when young George saves Mr. Gower from dispensing poison in the drugstore. Which is really early on in the movie, so my poor girl then patiently endures my tears all the way to the end: When it starts snowing on George on the bridge and he finds Zuzu’s petals again, my sobbing kicks in in earnest, every goddamn time. Weirdly, even with all the tears, this is my favorite holiday tradition; I hope my now-teen daughter still puts up with me and Bedford Falls for a while longer. [Gwen Ihnat]

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6 / 10

Luke’s final scene with Leia, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Luke’s final scene with Leia, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Celebrity deaths barely faze me anymore, but that’s only because Carrie Fisher’s death hit me so hard that no other celebrity can compare. I was a wreck through large parts of Star Wars: The Last Jedi when I saw it the first time, but the only moment in it that still destroys me on repeat viewings is Luke’s final scene with Leia. In the text of the film, it’s Luke getting ready to sacrifice himself to save Rey and the Resistance, but since the movie came out after Fisher’s death, it’s also Mark Hamill saying goodbye to his friend and comforting her with the idea that “no one’s ever really gone.” It’s both devastating and beautiful in equal measure. [Sam Barsanti]

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7 / 10

“The Constant,” Lost

“The Constant,” Lost

Plenty of scenes in Lost are total tearjerkers for me, but none are as impactful as the phone call between Desmond and Penny in season four’s “The Constant.” I cried watching it the first time and it’s a sobfest even now, especially because Henry Ian Cusick and Sonya Walger crushed their performances. There is so much poignant buildup and context to when Desmond—who was “unstuck in time” in this episode—finally gets to talk to Penny after eight years. Lost spent a bulk of its time on time-travel and island mythology, so it was refreshing (and yes, fine, emotional) to see some payoff to this love story. [Saloni Gajjar]

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8 / 10

“Mother’s Day,” Rugrats

“Mother’s Day,” Rugrats

I spent a lot of my time as a young teenager babysitting my siblings, and I have a distinct memory of bawling my eyes out as a couple of 6-year-olds stared at me while watching an episode of Rugrats. It was the Mother’s Day episode from season four, in which the babies, in their innocent way, learn about death while investigating the mystery of why all of them have moms except for the perpetually fearful Chuckie. Episodes of kids’ shows that discuss mortality are pretty much bound to be tearjerkers—more than 10 years before “Mothers’ Day” aired on Nickelodeon, Sesame Street famously explained Mr. Hooper’s death to Big Bird, and the kids in the audience by proxy. But the final moments in this Rugrats episode hit me especially hard, as Chuckie tells the babies, “I do have a mom. She’s right here in the flowers,” as they play in the flower bed Chuckie’s mom planted before she died. I wasn’t sure if that line would seem as heartbreakingly pure watching the episode again nearly 20 years later, but after spending my lunch break sniffling in front of Hulu, I can confirm: It still works. [Katie Rife]

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9 / 10

“Maps,” Yeah Yeah Yeahs

“Maps,” Yeah Yeah Yeahs

I’ve written before about how awe-inspiring art leaves me stone-faced while cheap, gratuitous, emotional-button-pushing bullshit fires up my tear ducts instantly, but a rare exception—and something I still think earns the welling up in my eyes each time—is Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Maps.” It’s not just that I first heard the song during a time in my life when I was pretty vulnerable to such sentiments; it’s not just that it’s a killer song; and it’s not just just the pure, almost fey simplicity of the song’s lyrical intent. It’s that Karen O’s voice has maybe never before or since been put to such nefariously effective use, her heartbreaking quaver the ideal delivery system for a song genetically engineered to slip past my barriers and reduce me—every time—to at least a bare minimum of a single tear rolling down my cheek, hopefully in a very non-public location. (Great—I had to grab the link for this answer, and now it’s happening again.) [Alex McLevy]

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10 / 10