White men can get a bad rap. From my perspective as a black woman, things can seem to come so easily for them: money, access, power, constitutional rights, reproductive freedom, criminal justice, I could go on but you get the picture. However, things aren’t always easy for Chads. They feel pain, heartache and challenge too. There are even times I watch a tv show or movie and feel sympathy, compassion and, dare I say, CRY at the plight of a white man! Here are 7 times a white man onscreen made this black woman cry. [Full disclosure: my partner is a white man so, he’s probably been weakening my black female emotional defenses over the past 7 years we’ve been together BUT 5 of these I saw before I even met him so they’re legit.]
1.Leaf Phoenix (Garry)- Parenthood
If you’re in the mood to watch a white family implode, nothing, and I mean NOTHING, delivers like this classic. Diane Wiest & Martha Plimpton absolutely kill it in this movie. But, the character whose story I am truly invested in is the shy awkward son, Garry, played by a young Joaquin Phoenix (fun fact: at the time of this movie, Joaquin was going by the name Leaf Phoenix).
The scene where Garry calls his father to ask if he can move in with him is gut-wrenching. Every single time I watch it I hold my breath hoping it will end differently and it never does. It’s soul crushing. Almost makes you forget that his grown-up adult self would make $21,698 per year more than me, on average, for the same job.
2. John Krasinski (Jim)/Rainn Wilson (Dwight) — The Office Season 4 Episode 4
This one is a “two-for,” as in two white men for the price of one episode, made me cry. By way of background, Dwight is in love with Angela and Jim is in love with Pam. In this episode, Angela agrees to go on a date with another dude right in front of Dwight. Dwight runs out and Jim goes into the hallway to console him. Jim tells Dwight that before he and Pam got together Pam was with another dude. Jim talks about how he couldn’t eat or sleep, that this period was the worst time in his life. Then he says: “And it is something that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy and that includes you.” I’m tearing up RIGHT NOW just typing this because it’s beautiful AF watching white dudes support each other in something not involving a hate crime especially since black people are the most targeted group for white dudes to commit hate crimes against. Suggestion: support each other in healing your broken hearts instead — just an idea.
3. Casey Affleck (Lee) -Manchester by the Sea
This entire movie had me totally destroyed. I watched this at home and, real talk, at one point I had to turn it off and cry deep sobs for like 15 straight minutes into my man’s chest while he held me because the pain that Affleck’s character experiences is so palpable I could not hold it in any longer. It was horrible. I just. I can’t. Casey’s character feels responsible for the death of his kids. And he pretty much is, on an accidental level and he REFUSES to forgive himself. Now, not every white dude who’s done something horrible needs to be forgiven. I’ve yet to forgive Dr. James Marion Sims, the “Father of Modern Gynecology,” who performed vaginal surgeries on black female slaves without their consent and without anesthesia, but because Casey’s character shows remorse and didn’t profit off of his actions — and also because he’s not a sadistic freak like Sims, I think he should forgive himself.
4. Seth Rogen (Kyle) — 50/50
Rogan plays the best friend to a guy diagnosed with cancer and in pretty much every scene he comes off as selfish. In the tear-jerker scene, Rogan’s friend accuses him of only wanting to use his cancer to get girls. Later that night, his friend goes into Rogan’s bathroom and finds the book “Facing Cancer Together” in Rogan’s bathroom. The book is about the best ways to support a friend with cancer and passages are underlined and dog-eared and it’s obvious Rogan has all along been studying how to be a good friend and really cares about the dude. Gets me every time. Speaking of cancer, black women are 41 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than white women. Also, 25% of medical residents in a 2016 study thought black people’s skin was thicker than white people’s, it isn’t. Black people aren’t “magic.” Not even Oprah. Beyonce is magic though. But, she’s the only one.
5. Richard Gere (Foley) — Officer & A Gentleman
Richard Gere’s character is kind of a jerk in this movie, he pushes people away and tries to go through life not caring about anyone. But of course, he does end up caring about people and there are a few moments where I cry, but the moment I really love is when Louis Gossett Jr. gets fed up with Gere’s antics and says he’s kicking him out of the military for good. And then Gere’s character, in an unexpected show of vulnerability, says he can’t leave because he has nowhere else to go and he has nothing else. Pitiful, as my mother would say, just pitiful. I really felt for him. I was like holy shit, this guy doesn’t have anywhere else to go. Don’t make him leave. Don’t kick him out. Then I remembered, black people in the military are two and a half times more likely than whites in the military to face a court-martial and Gere is white so he’s gonna be fine. And I was right. Gere’s character did not get in trouble, he was fine.
6. Andrew Lincoln (Mark) — Love Actually
This guy’s storyline is that of every person who has ever loved someone who didn’t love them back and suffers in unrequited misery. Andrew’s character is in love with his best friend’s wife. We don’t find out he loves her until the pivotal scene where she finds the wedding tape that Andrew’s character made from her wedding to his friend. In the tape, the only person he has recorded on it is her (it sounds creepy but it’s actually not when you watch it). As the audience, we are all rocked by this because he’s been hostile to her in every scene. He tells her he’s mean to her because it’s easier for him, he says it’s self-protection and oh man, haven’t we all been there? Then the soundtrack starts and he walks out of the apartment. Then the follow-up scene where he shows up at her door and tells her that he will love her always but he’s moving on and hopes to find someone else — turns me into a weeping mess every time. Unrequited love is an SOB. You know who else is an SOB? That darn Dr. Sims — still not over it. Also, the doctor who removed the uterus of civil rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer without her consent. Hamer’s uterus was unrequited because that hospital had a policy of forced sterilization of black women. Unrequited uteri is also heartbreaking.
7. David Schwimmer (Ross) — Friends Season 2 Episode 14
I grew up watching this NYC based sitcom and this episode is WITHOUT QUESTION my favorite. In the episode before this one, Rachel dumped Ross for some b.s. reason and nothing Ross did would make her take him back. In this episode, the friends watch an old tape from their high school days and it’s a tape of the day Rachel was going to prom. In the present day of the show, Ross and Rachel are both adults but Ross has been IN LOVE with Rachel since they were in high school, something Rachel never knew but is totally obvious to everyone else. The tape is shot in Ross’ parent house, Rachel was there because she was best friends with Ross’ sister who was also going to prom. Rachel’s date hadn’t arrived and it was getting later and later, so it looked as though Rachel’s date was going to stand her up. Ross, at the suggestion of his dad, decided that he’d put on a tux to go to the prom with her.
His plan was to surprise Rachel by walking down the stairs in the tux. As Ross is making his way down the stairs, he stops and gives himself a little pep talk (so sweet) then continues to walk down and just as he’s about to get to the ground floor, Rachel zooms past him out the door with her late date who showed up while Ross was upstairs changing into the tux. The look on Ross’ face as she leaves with the other guy is heartbreaking, never has disappointment been more beautifully and painfully captured. It always makes me cry.
Almost makes you forget that gentrification is responsible for most black people being pushed out of NYC, you forget because all the Friends were white and rarely interacted with black people. Seriously, this sitcom could’ve been set in Zurich for all the black people in it.
So that’s it. The 7 roles that remind me that even though it’s tempting to look at white dudes as invulnerable, they’re actually human, just like me. Well, just like me but with more money, power, access, constitutional rights, reproductive freedom etc etc. Other than that, just like me.