Is It Sterling K. Brown’s Personal Mission to Make Us Cry in Every Damn Role He Plays?

This Is Us (NBC screenshot)
This Is Us (NBC screenshot)

The most popular show on network television stars black people and is set in Pittsburgh, but I cannot bring myself to watch This Is Us. I’m sure it’s as compelling as everyone says it is. But the commentary attached to the show—which vacillates from “OMG THIS SHOW MAKES MY EYES SHALLOW PUDDLES OF SALT!” to “OMG I NEED TO WATCH THIS WEEK TO SEE EXACTLY HOW TRAGICALLY THIS CHARACTER I LOVE DIED!”—just doesn’t make it seem particularly entertaining to me.


Now, I love a good cry as much as anyone. Sometimes you just gotta let your cry flag fly. But I find myself getting teary-eyed at the randomest things now: book passages (I actually got teary-eyed twice yesterday when reading Brittney Cooper’s Eloquent Rage). Commercials about dog food. Kendrick Lamar songs. A memory about a parking meter. And I don’t need to voluntarily engage with shit that’s intended to induce tears. Because I might just spontaneously combust into a tub of saline solution.

Sterling K. Brown, however, is relentless. He knew of my edict not to watch shit that I know will make me cry; he knew I avoided This Is Us for that specific reason; and he knew that I planned to see Black Panther. But like the trickster and scoundrel that he is, he pulled a “Gotcha, bitch!” on me during the movie. And then there I was, sitting in a packed theater and bawling like a baby when Daddy Killmonger came back from the grave to counsel his son. It wasn’t a full ugly cry. I wasn’t this guy. But it definitely was a “Yeah, I can’t even play this off as something in my eye” cry.

I hate Sterling K. Brown.

As devious as he is, though, I know that even if I hadn’t seen the movie, he’d still somehow try to find a way to make me cry. Perhaps he’d track me down in an elevator and show me some pictures of orphan puppies getting adopted. Or maybe he’d send me a text saying, “Hey, Damon. I just went to a medium and was able to communicate with your mom. She said she’s very proud of you. And that you’ll always be her ‘Dae.’” Or maybe he’d invite me to a school where a bunch of kids just learned that they were accepted to college.

Either way, I’m on to his tricks now. Which is why from this point on, I’m going to carry a clip of Fergie singing the national anthem with me everywhere I go. Because the only way to fight cry fire is with, um ... laugh fire.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)


hocuspocusoctopus says wash your damn hands

My SO basically cares about the Randall story line only, and I have walked into the living room with him openly weeping while that show is on and Sterling is always on the screen.

I think I got a little teary during an acceptance speech he made.

And that one scene in Black Panther... it hurts. He sure did get us.