Gentlemen, let me introduce you to Nicholas Sparks, the source of a lot of your suffering

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As men, we’ve probably all been there. All you wanted to do was watch Jason Statham rupture some random Eastern European henchman’s spleen with a skillfully placed kick, but unfortunately your significant other is on film selection duties tonight. So instead of expanding your repertoire of badass moves, you find yourself assaulted with waves of romantic schmaltz, secretly gnashing your teeth so as not to disturb your girlfriend while she has herself a good cry on your shoulder.

Yep, you’ve just been dragged to see the dreaded “weepy chick-flick”, the bane of most manly men’s existence.

What you probably didn’t know though, is that a number of those emotional films was the work of one person.

It was while reading up on Mr High School Musical, Zac Efron’s next cinematic outing, The Lucky Ones, that I spotted the name Nicholas Sparks as the writer of the novel upon which the romantic drama is based. The name sounded very familiar but I just couldn’t place it, and since my favourite party trick is knowing stuff that nobody else cares about, this oversight was gnawing at me.

So first bit of free time I had this morning, I fired up Ye Olde Google Machine, entered his moniker and was instantly greeted by an emotional manipulation rap sheet as long as the tear streaks on your girlfriend’s cheeks.

Since 1996, this 46 year-old Nebraskan has churned out 16 pretty middle-of-the-road romantic drama novels, most of which seem to employ the same theme of people falling in love and then being driven apart by parents/fiancees/cancer/death/pirates. Yes, pirates. I swear, you throw in a bare chested Fabio-lookalike and some dodgy metaphors and you have yourselves a Mills & Boon novel. And women loved it. Nearly all of his books have ended up on the best seller’s list, making Mr Sparks a very successful man.

But his true claim to fame though, is the fact that of these 16 novels, 7 of them (that’s nearly half!) have already been adapted to the big screen. And if you’ve been in a relationship with someone of the fairer sex for anything longer than two dates, chances are that your tear-soaked chest is intimately familiar with most of them:

I have personally suffered through 4 of the 7 on that list, but I know that there are fellow brothers out there that might have had to experience the full brunt of Mr Sparks literary assault. They will always be in my prayers.

Now for the ladies that are (still?) reading this, you are possibly thinking that I’m just being a loud mouthed chauvinist with the equivalent emotional age of a zygote, and quite frankly you would probably be right, but you’d also be pretty hard pressed to argue that any of these films are fine cinema (Miley Cyrus “acts” in one of them, your argument is invalid). Even the most critically praised of the lot, The Notebook, is only sitting on 51% over at RottenTomatoes. And that film had the ultra-cool Ryan Gosling in it!

Now what these films lack in such banal trivialities as decent acting, skilled direction or non-cliched and cheese drenched scripts from Nicholas Sparks, it makes up for with that magical ability to kick audiences’ hearts square in the testicles. Yes, heart-testicles. And just like their male lower-body counterparts, they can only take so much punishment before their owners are reduced to uncontrollable sobbing and much leaking of mucus. This goes for men too. Because you see, just like with waterboarding, every man has a breaking point. Nicholas Sparks has driven me to the brink of mine a few times, but luckily I have yet to go tumbling into that grim crevasse. (The trick is to picture explosions. And tanks.)

Unfortunately not everybody has my testicular fortitude. I know giant, hairy beast-men that to this day, the moment they hear the words “Note” and “Book” in close proximity, are instantly reduced to this:

Look at that picture, ladies. Look at it. Is that really what you want to wake up to every morning? Do you want to be running out of tissues all the time because we’ve suddenly discovered feelings? How long before we forget which way to turn a spanner when we want to loosen a bolt?  Because that’s what Nicholas Sparks is doing to us!

So while I cannot stop Hollywood from turning his special brand of torture into movies, I can request that you stop dragging us to them. So next time your man wants to see Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson shoulder tackle a building, think of the bigger picture here and let him. It’s for the best.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Critical Hit as an organisation.

Last Updated: March 20, 2012

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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