March 28, 2005


so the whole puking-under-duress thing is a fiction. at least, it is vastly overrepresented in film and television. tonight i was watching “grey’s anatomy” (some cloned doctor show…this is what having no cable does to you) and the inexperienced interning physician is overwhelmed by a situation. after demonstrating her youthful inadequacy and dramatically tromping away from the scene does she weep uncontrollably? of course not, she vomits. by now it hardly seems unusual…but it should. sudden uncontrollable nausea is quite abnormal, how did it become the standard cinematic reaction to bad news or emotional strife?

apparently, the puke is a by-product of the woman’s lib movement and can be traced back to a single moment in film history. as the story goes, some 1970’s movie (maybe woody allen) called for a particularly traumatic breakup, for the woman at least. the question was how she ought to react. fearing that a crying girlfriend would be deemed inappropriate in a feminist era where female leads were charged with projecting strength, they chose instead to have her character vomit into a streetcorner trashcan. although i’m sketchy on specifics here, i am reasonably sure that this choice went on to achieve a fair degree of notice, due to the fact that it was pretty original back then. sure, i’ve thrown up after hours of worrying about something, but never suddenly and without warning. i think though that people started believing that it was normal because they see it in movies and on tv, thus perpetuating the myth, despite none of these people ever having seen or experienced it. now emotional vomit is everywhere and no one gives it a second thought. astonishingly, it’s like this behavior which has never been commonplace has somehow gained widespread acceptance and the perception of normality due to its highly desirable film qualities. compared with crying it’s quick, dramatic and it doesn’t make anyone look ugly. and of course it doesn’t mess with any politically incorrect assumptions about women as criers.