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Written by Timothy Sexton
The Effect of the Nature of the Individual Upon Society
The Crying Game is a meditation upon enough major issues facing society to cover two movies. One pervasive thematic element touches equally upon all those other concerns to officially qualify as the primary focus of the film. The answer to the question that has perplexed so many viewers and critics—just what is The Crying Game about—is answered by the fable that Fergus tells his prisoner in totality and that he starts telling to Dil at the film’s final fade-out. That fable is the one about the scorpion hitching a ride across the river on the back of a frog which it stings to death halfway across despite assurances that it would never do so since it was not in his best interest. The central theme driving the narrative of The Crying Game is the effect and consequences on society as a whole as a result of the basic nature of individuals.
The real moral of the fable is that it is the frog who is to blame for his own death as well as the scorpion. The frog should have known better than to believe that the scorpion would go against his nature and not sting him, thus ensuring doom for both. The scorpion can be forgiven for stinging the frog—it’s his nature—but he is certainly to blame for denying his essential truth. That denial is not the cause of the disaster that befalls both creatures as they try to cross the river. The cause of that disaster was the frog putting his desire in the hands of an entity he knew should not be trusted.
Remaining True to Yourself and Expecting the Same of Others
The Crying Game ultimately is about the value and affirmation of remaining true to yourself while at the same expecting the same of others. Fergus seems an unlikely candidate for IRA terrorism. Unlike Jude and Maguire, his nature is not to pursue his revolutionary aims no matter the price and whatever the cost. That is their nature and to expect anything less from them is to court disaster. Fergus never reveals that he is not committed to Irish independence, but he does reveal that there are limits to his commitment. That is his nature and to expect anything more from him is to court disappointment.
An Affirmation of Stoicism
Fergus exhibits a natural propensity throughout the film to accept things as they come and deal with them as they evolve. He is not a man with an agenda and seems to reject even the basic concept that the future can be planned. One can plan for the future, but that is not the same thing. And that stoic philosophy is exactly what allows Fergus to make the leap from terrorist (freedom fighter) abductor of an enemy to friending a fellow human being to pursuing the girl of the man who death he is partly responsible for to awkward acceptance of homosexual romance. At every incendiary twist that the movie throws his way, Fergus remains true to his nature. Even more impressive is that he shows the same respect for others who remain true to their nature as long as their nature doesn’t try to infringe on his.
Deceptions Can Be Appearances
Dil is true to herself to an even greater dimension. Born a man, she recognizes that her true nature is feminine and pursues a life that others may view as deceptive, but that she and eventually Fergus recognize as being the exact opposite. Because she knows firsthand the trouble that comes with not being true to your nature, Dil is as accepting of others as Fergus, making them the perfect match. Where the trouble comes from is Jude and Maguire, who make the same fatal mistake as the frog in the fable.
The Logic of Self-Preservation
Jude, especially, knows full well the true nature of Fergus. Despite this, she insists on believing that such a nature can be twisted to conform to the dictates of self-preservation. Where Jude goes remarkably off course is applying her inner logic to Fergus. She is the type of person who would betray her nature if the payoff was worth it, whether self-preservation or her political goals for Ireland. Saving himself at the cost of doing something that just isn’t natural to him is not in the cards for Fergus. The choice not to betray his individual nature thus produces an effect that has consequences for others. In the case of Fergus, he is the scorpion who fees no particular need to apply his venomous stinger when there is no pressing to do so.
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