The Rockwood Files: Give me drama, minus the despair

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

A few weeks ago the cable news anchors talked for hours about Hurricane Sandy’s ominous approach, frequently comparing it to “the perfect storm.” Every time I heard that phrase, I remembered seeing the movie by the same name 12 years ago. George Clooney was the leading man, which is usually a good reason to go to the theater. But Clooney let me down, and I left The Perfect Storm with a perfectly hot temper.

I’d spent nearly two hours on the edge of my seat, rooting for the little ship to make it to harbor. Then minutes before the final credits rolled, they served up an ending devoid of all hope – despair as big as the ocean itself.

I didn’t realize the movie was based on a real ship and crew that met a tragic end in an epic storm. If I’d known how sad the movie’s ending would be, I would have saved my ticket money, since hitting oneself with a hammer is free and both experiences are equally painful.

Maybe I’m not “deep” or “artsy” enough, but I like movies that entertain or inspire versus those that feel more like removing a Band-Aid for an hour and a half. If I want to feel depressed and dejected, I can stay home and watch the national news. If I’m paying double digits for popcorn and Raisinets, I expect a little more entertainment value.

Although Clooney’s Perfect Storm was the biggest movie letdown, there are plenty others. In 1999 there was a movie called Random Hearts starring Harrison Ford, and the next year brought another titled Autumn in New York starring Richard Gere. Both movies made me want to curl up in the fetal position and drown my sorrow in Haagen Dazs. If there were bright spots in either film, I must have missed them while I was in the ladies’ room searching for tissues and a dose of Prozac.

You might think you’d be better off with family films – good ol’ wholesome Disney flicks. But even Disney has an affection for tragedy. And mothers all over the world have noticed the startling number of dead mommies in some of the most well-known children’s movies. If a mother even makes it into the movie at all, she almost always kicks the cartoon bucket during the first 20 minutes.

Cinderella, Snow White, Ariel from The Little Mermaid, Belle from Beauty and the Beast, Jasmine, Aladdin, Pinocchio, Tarzan, Bambi, and Mowgli from The Jungle Book are all motherless. Poor little Nemo never met his mother because she was eaten by a barracuda while he was still just a fish egg. Dumbo’s mother was the only one who escaped with her life but even she was chained up like a prisoner. If you’re a Disney mother, your days are most certainly numbered.

When kindergartners cling to their mothers on the first day of school, it’s not because they’re scared of what might happen at recess. It’s more likely they’re afraid Mom might get gobbled up by a barracuda or shot by a deer hunter and never make it back to pick them up again.

Maybe it’s cliché or just plain predictable, but I want a movie where the Von Trapp Family makes it over the mountain to the safety of Switzerland. I want Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal to realize they’re perfect for each other. I want Harry Potter to defeat the Dark Lord, marry his true love and have little wizards of his own. I want the happy endings.

Is that too much to ask? Pass the popcorn.

Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s new book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.