THE BUREAU OF MELODRAMATIC RESEARCH
Cry-Baby HOW TO WIN HEARTS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE
Special thanks to Declan Clarke & Stefan Tiron
Introduction CRY AGAIN. FAIL AGAIN. CRY BETTER. ...and a tear dropped from the Mother of Godâ€™s black eye, the empress stood up in all her glory, touched with her dry lip the cold tear and she sucked it in the bottom of her soul. It was in this moment that she became pregnant. Prince Charming, The Tear-Begotten1
CRY-BABY (Romanian: smiorcait/a) is usually a bad name thrown at young men or women by the macho society, by their parents and teachers, usually by those who pretend that they never get hurt. Crying has been generally excluded as a soft and unwanted emotional phenomenon in comparison to its overrated relatives such as laughter, smiling etc. Nevertheless, the Bureau of Melodramatic Research has recognized a broadening of the term, a new complex category of crying and the CRY-BABY. Our archaic cry-baby, Prince Charming, The TearBegotten is born out of the sorrow of his mother. It has deep underlying meanings making him an artificially in vitro and in lachrima hero. For parents without offspring, and only sorrow, he is the only way out of infertility and reproductive failure.
Fat-Frumos-din-Lacrima (Prince Charming, The Tear-Begotten) is a Romanian cult fairy tale, inspired by folklore and written by Mihai Eminescu, considered 'the national poet' in Romania, a key figure for the current nationalist revival. The tale was first published in 1870 in the literature magazine Convorbiri literare. 1
The Etiquette of Crying in Public Who are the Cry-Babies? Smiorcaitii or the cry-babies, as the British/American translation puts it, have recently become highly acceptable, but only in particular situations and for particular reasons. Acceptable or not, cry-babies are everywhere, it seems. From the common ones to the big ones. Crybabies can range from ordinary people to political leaders or pop culture characters. They have become a matter of debate for many psychologists, sociologists and other technocrats concerned with social health and emotional control for the sake of corporate bodies, the state or civil society. The contemporary cry-baby is neither the ‘problem teenager’, nor a fictional character. The cry-baby is more and more often placed in an active role, either as an individual or as a collective, shedding political tears in the public space, a figure molding public opinion and depending on it at the same time. Crying is more commonly accepted as resulting from an emotional response to something such as pain, suffering, compassion or distress. Nobody considers the natural lachrymatory agents such as onions or other chemical compounds as playing a key role. In the case of big cry-babies, such as presidents and other highranking political figures, the tearful demonstration of compassion is highly impacting, though the causes for such conspicuous emotional outbursts are open to speculation. Of course, there is fierce competition on the cry-baby market, a competition driven by mass media, fostered by economic interests and determined by the number of cry-baby neophytes, by the influence
There is fierce competition on the cry-baby market
of emerging cry-baby communities, visible and active either at a local or global level. There is an imbalance between the compassion resources of different groups. It seems that there is a new emerging category of professional mourners. Focusing on poverty and suffering they are able to produce a large scale outpouring of empathic grief and are involved in the accumulation of a considerable amount of sentimental capital. This well of emotional empathy is being sucked dry, and the capital produced by mourning never returns to the mourned ones.
Even now some think of tears as feminine secretions no matter if they are side-effects of contemporary weepies or of onion-cutting for the sake of the nuclear family
The cry-baby race is also influenced by gender stereotypes, thus calling into discussion the gendering of tears and its historical roots. Throughout history, affection has been assigned to the sphere of the feminine, even after the golden age of the sentimental woman in the 19th century had finally passed. The association of women with emotions and as having dominion over sentimentality and the private sphere is, to a certain extent, still in place. By comparison the man was viewed as a master of rationality, the only one active in the public life and fully in control of his emotions. Interestingly, the title of the John Waters’ 1990 musical, Cry-Baby was translated in the 2000’s in Romania as Lacrimi de Fata (Girl’s Tears). We cannot say exactly whether this is further proof of the still persisting genderization of emotion or if the translator was using his good sense of irony to indicate an essential trait of the social climate in the American 50’s, where the action of the film is set. We just know that even now some think of tears as feminine secretions no matter if they are side-effects of contemporary TV-weepies or of onion-cutting for the sake of the nuclear family.
Nevertheless, there is a new sentimental macho figure emerging. Sensitivity and vulnerability are the landmarks of the new male-streaming, and the figure comes wrapped together with its newly acquired tears. The old Hollywood model is being safely reproduced in a new package, a mutant male body combining resistance, virility, fitness with perspiration, blood spilling and tear-dropping. All this powerful emotional flow has to be kept in check under the tight corporate shirt however, aiming at fine-tuning the boundless reservoir of emotions. The leader as the new emotional capitalist welcomes affective storms from his employees just to control and better manage their outbursts. Contemporary theoreticians Hardt and Negri don’t include crying in their theory concerning affective labour when they discuss the role played by positive emotions and empathy, mainly in the service and care industries. Still, we consider crying as an important part of affective labour, in which most of the public figures are involved. These range from state policy makers to NGO’s as well as the so-called transnational organizations such as the World Bank. Nowadays, it seems that the well-adjusted emotional outburst is ubiquitous, from the advertising campaigns to management theories, from the soapoperas to the political arena. How to avoid drowning in the contemporary river of overflowing compassion?
Still, we consider crying as an important part of affective labour, in which most of the public figures are involved.
Term coined by Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt in their seminal work, Empire Hardt, M. and Negri, A. (2000) Empire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press 3 See the 2000 World Bank publication: Voices of the Poor: Volume 2: Crying Out for Change 2
The Etiquette of Crying in Public A Guide from the Bureau of Melodramatic Research The Bureau of Melodramatic Research proposes an extension of the newly accepted ‘cry-baby code’ by using practical alternatives. Others have also tested our method and they seem to agree that this is a sustainable strategy for crying in public. We strongly recommend taking care. We have created this easy-guide, the BMR etiquette of crying in public, which turns to the most common lachrymatory agent: the onion. However, the Cry-Baby guide is not recommended for the suffering one, or for his/her compassionate counterpart, always ready to shed new supplements of purported emotional tears. It is in turn for all those who seek out the power of reflex tears, who, by reading this guide, or by their own understanding believe that counter-crying is a necessary act nowadays. The new skool of lachcrimatory practice aims at breaking the alleged monopoly of ‘psychic tears’. It is part of a protest which doesn’t end but start with tear gas. So spare your hormone-induced tears and follow the Cry-Baby guide! But before doing so, please do consider the most appropriate public events in which to make use of your new skills. According to local needs, feel free to practice it on public talks, presentations, exhibition openings, film screenings or any other situation involving particular topics and audiences.
The Etiquette of Crying in Public Professional Mourners Barack Obama was a popular candidate, not a populist one. He never goes into trivialities, sensationalisms, ass-kissing of the nation, electoral thanksgivings, he didn’t yell, he didn’t play the moralist, the vigilante, chest-pounding himself with the mike, no melodramatization, he shed but one tear after his grandmother’s death. Cristian Tudor Popescu4, Gândul, 5.11.2008
But who sets the tone of these behaviour codes, who are the choir masters of the current cry-baby choirs and concerts? In proposing its new etiquette for crying in public, the Bureau of Melodramatic Research would like to take into account the geopolitical aspects of tear supplies, as well as the impact of the natural resources (such as the onion) on the development of the cry-baby code. As always, access to resources has been an issue in the international economic and political order. Does a preferential access to emotional resources follow the same pattern? Seen trough the eyes of Romanian media arbiters such as C.T. Popescu, big cry-babies such as Obama, seem to look like sober alfa-males, wiping their sole tear with a starched white handkerchief. The proof we have, which haunts the media in the name of emotional politics, is a few antiseptic photos with tidy backgrounds and perfect lighting. Maybe our success manual is of no particular help to Mr. Traian Basescu, the Romanian president. Anyway, his crying and flamboyant emotional manners would surely reach the finals, if there was to be a cry-baby championship. Consequently, there is little doubt that this race for overt compassion really takes place unofficially, and that it is recording the production of a hypersensitive nationalism. A compassionate nationalism keeps all compassionate feelings inside, within borders. Because it seems that tears, like people , are subjected to repressive border control, hardly ever migrating out of the country-fortress. C. T. Popescu is a Romanian journalist. He teaches a course on Manipulative Techniques in Cinema and TV. 4
In spite of the upcoming regulations aiming to forbid hired mourning during funerals in countries that have recently joined the EU (which is also the case of Romania), there is a very strong tradition to have loud professional wailing cries enacted in memory of those who passed away. The same customs are still in place in other Eastern European countries such as the former Yugoslavian ones, as well as in Africa and the Middle East. The high-pitch shriek is usually performed by a group of women, as a result of their century-long monopoly on violent displays of affect in public. Even if the habit of amplified weeping at burials is slowly fading away, it makes room for other types of leaky outbursts in public, as shown in the already described cry-baby code.
The Etiquette of Crying in Public How to win hearts and influence people 6 SIMPLE STEPS Make sure you always have onions in your storage room. Carry one or two with you wherever you go, accompanied by any sharp tool that fits in your bag. Choose the most appropriate public event to display your cry-baby skills. Donâ€™t forget to bring a large supply of handkerchiefs with you. Pay attention to what is going on there or on the contrary ignore the event until you set to work. Whip out your onion and knife. Begin chopping up the onion. As the tears come out, adjust the flow, intensity and noise according to the content and delivery of the speeches.
The Etiquette of Crying in Public Monument to the Onion The Bureau comes from an onion-rich country with a long tradition in cultivating this vegetable and using it as a medicine (The onion requires, like any other crop, skills, devotion, toil, soul.5). On the other hand, the vegetable has been playing a key role in the countryâ€™s economic processes, as a large part of the rural population would grow it in their gardens and earn their living on this activity. Nevertheless, we cannot make sure that you get the desired bioonion in accordance with the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety6. Whether within the safety norms or not, the golden vegetable is highly praised in Romania, as proven by the Monument to the Onion erected in a small village called Pericei. Built in 2007, it was acknowledged by the World Record Academy two years later as being the largest in the world, which reminds of another size record in the country, the highly controversial People's House. The onionous climate partly explains the persistence of the mourning culture in this region of the world, and could represent a starting point for its further developments that we are proposing. Nina Marcu, Revista Lumea Satului/Rural World Magazine, online issue, no. 10, 16-31 may 2009 6 On 29 January 2000, the Conference of the Parties, by its decision EM-I/3, adopted the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Protocol seeks to protect biological diversity from the potential risks posed by living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology. http://www.worldinbalance.net/intagreements/2000-cartagenaprotocol.php 5
The Bureau of Melodramatic Research is a dependent institution founded in Bucharest, Romania in 2009 by Irina Gheorghe and Alina Popa. Its main strategic goal is to raise the veil laid over melodrama in different social contexts and ensure public free access to the results of the research. BMR is a non-profit making organization with the general aim of cooperation with institutions in order to reveal the circuit of the sentimental capital which determines social, politic and ultimately economic relations. BMR examines the way in which emotions, as key elements of melodrama across its historical development, are currently used and manipulated in the public sphere, whose handkerchiefs hide the tears shed in the course of the contemporary sentimental outburst. The Bureau takes a critical view of the cultural construction of the womanâ€™s image, in particular the representation of femininity as a reservoir of emotions and sentimentality, built in opposition with a presumably masculine reason. The same manichaeistic approach emerges in depiction of the east-west relations, as well as in the utopian portrayal of art as a mythical locus of sensitivity and creativity. www.thebureauofmelodramaticresearch.blogspot.com