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In Our Sad Girl Era: Why Are We Obsessed With Misery Porn?

In Our Sad Girl Era: The Reason We're Obsessed With Misery Porn

Watch out! This post contains spoilers.

Image Source: Matt Towers/Netflix

I finished "One Day" in one day, pardon the pun. I was glued to the screen and couldn't resist watching more, despite hearing that the ending was due to crush my heart into a million pieces. But, this unhinged practice of watching something knowing it would make me cry, an experience I have put myself through countless times before, made me wonder - are we all obsessed with misery porn, or is it just me?

If you haven't seen the Netflix series yet, you might have heard of the 2011 movie of the same name starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess, or even read the worldwide bestseller by David Nicholls, which both the movie and the series are based on.

Once again, "One Day"'s tragic love story of Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morely captured the hearts of the nation. It follows the duo's decade-spanning friends-to-lovers relationship, as we see their lives on the same ordinary day, July 15, a year older every episode. Dex and Em experience love and joy - with each other and respectively - they move together and apart while encountering the highs and lows of adulthood after university.

Dex and Em naturally gravitate towards each other, and it's clear to us viewers that they're meant to be together, but we watch as substance abuse, grief, work-life, egos and pride get in the way of their romantic destiny. We're desperately rooting for them, so when they finally end up together, it seems like a dream come true — the fairytale, happy ending we all wanted. And then, you see that there are still two episodes left.

In the penultimate episode, Em tragically dies after being hit by a car while riding her bike. Dex falls back into drinking as a coping mechanism and is nursed back to health by his ex-wife Sylvie and his father, Stephen, who urges him to try leading the life they built together, despite how difficult it may be. By the end of the show, Dex is at peace, reminiscing on happy memories with Em as he returns to their university town, Edinburgh, with his dad and daughter, Jasmine, to reflect on Em's life.

Image Source: Ludovic Robert/Netflix

By this point, I'd gone through a box of tissues and looked like an emotional wreck, but reading through X, formerly Twitter, I realised I wasn't alone. "Finished #OneDay and I have been crying for two days," one viewer wrote. "That man wasted 10 years of her life and was only true to her for 2. The movie is better but the series makes you cry just as much."

"Love is a beautiful thing. I sometimes wonder if it is an undiscovered curse! This was beautiful in every kind of way but was agonising as well. I should have stopped at episode 1!" a second, heartbroken viewer typed.

Even Leo Woodall, who plays Dexter, felt the intensity of the ending, telling "Tudum": "It's so unbelievably heartbreaking — you feel a bit robbed. I found it quite hard to snap out of it after we finished."


Its one of the best and saddest shows I have ever watched

♬ wait m83 - ✧・゚: *✧・゚:*

The common theme here is that most of us had an inkling that there'd be something to cry about, amidst the grand romance of it all, and was that what we secretly wanted?

Several TV shows and movies seem to appeal to this desire. "This Is Us" fans know that it was rare not to shed at least one tear per episode as we watched Randall, Kate and Kevin's lives unfold, while looking back on the sweet memories of their dead father, Jack.

Similarly, films like "Seven Pounds", 'Marley and Me", and "My Sister's Keeper", or series like "When They See Us" and "13 Reasons Why", are known for their tragic stories. And fresh viewers flock to them regardless. Why? Dating expert and founder of FeedMeFemale Hope Flynn believes there's relatability in watching our favourite characters perish in love.

"Living in your 'sad girl era' and having a good old cry along to a film can actually help you."

"We often resonate with misery in romance on screen because it taps into our own emotions and experiences," she tells POPSUGAR UK. "The depiction of failed relationships, heartbreaks and struggles in love allows us to connect and find relatability with the characters, the situation and the highs and lows of their relationships. These emotional scenes in shows or movies allow us to release pent-up feelings that we may have been holding in, so we use the act of crying to let it all out."

Relationship expert and co-founder of dating app So Syncd, Louella Alderson couldn't agree more, telling us that we experience a form of "emotional catharsis" when pressing play on a tear-jerker. "Watching these stories unfold on the screen allows us to experience a wide range of emotions, including sadness, from a safe distance. This can provide a form of emotional catharsis as we navigate through the characters' heartaches without any real-life consequences. It's not us who are experiencing this, but we can often relate to and feel it."

Image Source: Netflix

Misery porn is just the latest pop culture phenomenon to emerge during our "sad girl era," which is currently in full swing. "The 'sad girl era' is a reflection of our culture's fascination with being authentic and vulnerable," Hope says. "It makes you feel connected to others, allows you to process your own emotions and experience the therapeutic benefits from the release of how you are feeling."

Yet, in the midst of all this sadness, it's important to discover the light at the end of the misery tunnel. In One Day's case, Dex is able to look back fondly on his time with Emma, where she became "more than just a footnote" in the story of his life.

Louella says that final element of joy is par for the course. "Despite the misery often depicted in these stories, they usually offer some form of hope or redemption," she concludes. "Whether it's the promise of new love, personal growth, or reconciliation, these positive outcomes provide a sense of comfort and satisfaction, making all the heartache worth it. It reminds us, the sad girl viewer, that this is what it is to be human."

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