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“Tear Jerker”, or “Tearjerker”, is a slang term used to describe various melodramatic stories and online media that are meant to invoke feelings of sadness, sorrow or despair for the viewer.
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word “tear jerker” was first used in 1911 as a compound noun used to describe newspaper stories about upsetting events.
On July 12th, 2003, Urban Dictionary user Eric Hartman submitted an entry for “tearjerker,” defining it as a sub-genre of drama films that conclude with “a sad, emotional ending.” On September 25th, 2004, Movie Forums member vintempe posted a list of 50 tear jerker films. On February 14th, 2005, the BBC reported that the “farewell” scene in the 1982 science fiction film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was voted the “top tearjerker” in a survey of over 70,000 voters (shown below).
On October 10th, 2007, Yahoo Answers user Val submitted a post requesting tear jerker novel recommendations. On October 12th, 2008, The Daily Mail reported that the 1942 animated film Bambi had been voted the “top tear jerker film of all time” in an online poll by the British cinema advertising company Pearl & Dean. On June 26th, 2009, Entertainment Weekly published an article listing 25 tearjerker films. On August 1st, 2010, a page titled “Tear Jerker” was created on the trope database website TV Tropes">. On October 3rd, 2012, Redditor lxxo submitted a post requesting readers to share their favorite tear jerker film scenes to the /r/AskReddit subreddit, where it garnered upwards of 1,300 up votes and 4,300 comments prior to being archived. On June 18th, 2013, the tech news site Mashable published a compilation of advertisements titled the “Top 10 Tear-Jerker Commercials of All Time.”
Related Term: Feels
“Feel”, a shorthand for the word “feeling,” is an Internet slang term used to describe an intense emotional response, such as sadness, excitement or awe. The term is also commonly associated with the phrase “right in the feels,” which indicates that something has deeply affected the speaker.