Sundi Rose
November 18, 2014 6:47 am

Movie and TV clichés and tropes are, by design, meant to train us to feel things. Once you’ve reached a certain level of pop culture (over?) consumption, you become conditioned to feel a certain way when you see a certain sequence of events. For instance, just like Pavlov’s dog when he spots food, I always salivate when Ryan Gosling takes his shirt off, and I will always tear up when I hear the first few bars of Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel.”

Producers and writers know how how to illicit all the feelings from me, and I have started to acknowledge the beauty of those few archetypical scenes which get me every time. When these scenes play out on the screen I know exactly how I’m supposed to feel about those characters in that moment, and, like so many other times in my life, I am comforted by my precious precious popular culture.

These expected actions/moments/scenes are sort of what makes our humanity beautiful. Even though they’ve become cliched, there is connection in that shared experience. I love that I’ve been able to share these experiences with so many characters over the years, and it makes me feel closer to the characters that I love.

While there are probably dozens of such scenes (and I’m looking forward to hearing from y’all about what I’ve left out), these are my most powerful emotional connectors:

1. Girl cuts her own hair:

When I see a female character standing in front of her bathroom mirror, tears streaming down her face, scissors in hand, I know, in that exact instant, that some serious sh– has just gone down in this girl’s life. I know I am supposed to acknowledge her unchecked frustration with the situation, and the sheer act of cutting her own hair signals how far into her own despair she’s sank. It happened on Girls when Hannah was at her lowest point. Most recently, Nashville, my favorite nighttime soap, invoked this scene with Hayden Panettiere’s character Juliette. The minute Juliette brought those scissors up to her long blond hair, I connected with the emotional impulse and empathized with her. You know you have to be in a particular place to be standing there, and I love that we could see that about Juliette just from that moment.

2. Couple kissing in the rain:

Who doesn’t get misty when Noah and Allie finally have their kiss in the rain after years of separation? Just as much as we love this iconic scene from The Notebook, we love what this sort of scene has come to symbolize: romance in its purest form. This scene is meant to show us how loves drives us; how focused you become on the person with whom you are tangled up. Scenes with a couple kissing in the rain remind us, just like Spidey and Mary Jane’s, that passion supersedes everything else, and even the natural elements are no match for true love’s kiss.

3. The drink slap:

This happens all the time on TV and in movies, but hardly ever in real life. I sure have been tempted a few times, but have never found the nerve. Barney Stinson has had more drinks wasted on him than I care to count, and seeing those women boldly tell him where to go makes me feel empowered. Seeing a woman do it on TV makes me envy what a badass she must be. When I see Blair Waldorf toss that martini, I am supposed to feel emboldened by her moxie and spurred by her indignation; and I do, every time. Even though I’m not willing to waste a ten dollar drink on some creep doesn’t mean I don’t want my fictional heroines to do it, and it never gets old seeing a woman stand up for herself.

4. Lovers separated by a door:

This scene works both visually and symbolically. Who among us has not suffered a break up and felt the pain over the actual and figurative distance it created? There is something so poignant about seeing two people in love on the opposite sides of a boundary; wanting to be together, but can’t. It’s heartbreaking to root for them to be together, and then have that not come to be. Remember in season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer when Buffy goes to Spike’s crypt, but doesn’t go in?  They are both just standing on either side of the door, longing for each other, and we’re at home screaming at the screen, “Just open it!” Didn’t it just break your heart? And remember right before Rachel and Ross’ first kiss, she opened the doors of Central Perk to let him in? There’s just something about a door that spells passion.

5. The slow walk down the stairs:

I haven’t had the good fortune to have a moment where I descend a grand staircase in a glamorous dress while some smitten boy grins up me. But that doesn’t’ mean that I don’t eat it up every time I see that scene on TV or in movies. There is something so satisfying about that moment when the date looks up at the girl as she takes one step at a time. When the new Laney Boggs comes down the staircase in She’s All That, I don’t think I could love any man more than I loved Freddie Prinze Jr. in that moment. His face says it all, and by the time she hit the bottom he was a goner. I know exactly how the girl is meant to feel, and I feel it right along with her.

I’ll have my staircase moment one day, but in the mean time, did I leave any of your favorite archetypical scenes out?

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