Glurge is a catch-all term for any "inspirational" tale which conceals a much darker meaning than the uplifting moral lessons it purports to offer. (The word "glurge" was initially coined by a reader of Snopes.com and derives from the sound of someone throwing up.)
These stories are meant to be purely sentimental parables, touching hearts and teaching morals. The problem is, they accomplish this by simplifying their message to the point of complete uselessness to any reader who thinks about it seriously. All shades of grey between the black and white of good and evil are wholly overlooked, meaning potentially more valuable lessons about actual hard work, understanding, personal growth and sacrifice are completely ignored in the rush to present a universe in which everything happens for a satisfying reason.
"Glurge" is hard to describe, but easier to identify. This being a super-trope, it involves one or more the following:
- Aesop Collateral Damage: Glurge often relies upon the suffering of a secondary character to drive home the lesson. This gives the protagonist an opportunity to realize his mistake and choose to follow the lesson after all — sometimes he might even reason that God (or whatever Powers That Be) caused this suffering to show him the "right way".
- All That Glitters: The protagonist learns that money isn't everything. He typically goes to the complete opposite extreme, becoming The Hermit and renouncing things that he found important, like his own health and the people close to him.
- Angst? What Angst?: A character is a victim or survivor of some sort of tragic or traumatic incident, and feel absolutely none of the grief or trauma that any real person would feel, indicating the writers are not writing realistic human traits into the character. Alternately they may initially suffer from grief or trauma, but it only lasts one scene, chapter, or episode, and by the next scene, chapter, or episode they act as if nothing happened. This might seem to trivialise their condition, if the character is treated as typical.
- Black and White Morality: Glurge-y works leave no doubt as to who is right and who is wrong. The sympathetic side will be entirely good, while the opposing side will be not only incorrect but actively hostile to all that is good.
- Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Every mistake or transgression results in disaster.
- Children Are Innocent: Only kids can get anything done, or even do anything right. In stories that involve an element of the spiritual or supernatural, children are able to perceive or experience those elements, but the adults and teens in the story are not.
- Disproportionate Retribution/Disproportionate Reward: Because Glurge is there to teach a lesson, it will reward the characters who agree with the message while heaping abuse and suffering on those who disagree, making them an example to the others (see Aesop Collateral Damage, above). Laser-Guided Karma is usually also in play.
- Easy Evangelism: The character who speaks the work's message will be impossibly persuasive, winning over all the sympathetic characters. Those who ignore or reject him will be portrayed as stupid, in denial, or evil, regardless of how illogical it would be to take this total stranger at his word. Their judgement is considered valid if it goes along with the religious message, even if this implies gullibility or illogic. Works promoting a religion easily fall into Glurge territory for this reason.
- Inspirationally Disadvantaged: This trope ignores the real limitations a disability imposes; it makes disabled persons seem lesser, "lazy", or just not worth writing about if they haven't developed some sort of Disability Superpower.
- Littlest Cancer Patient: The terminally-ill are most sympathetic when they are children. You can fill in the blanks.
- What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Has similar implications: animals are mostly of importance when they are found 'cute.' This can seem emotionally stirring, but its implications might not seem obvious if the non-cute animals are just ignored.
- Purity Sue: A character — set up to be admired and imitated — whose purity and saintliness are impossible in Real Life.
- Stalking Is Love: Many "romantic" Glurge stories feature this trope. It's a particularly dangerous phenomenon; in real life, stalking is demonstrably not love, but rather a compulsion arising from social phobia or mental illness. And works have a distinct Double Standard for this trope; shady-looking stalkers are evil and the victim is in real danger, good-looking stalkers are romantic and sympathetic, and nerdy unpopular stalkers are just there to be pitied.
- Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Usually ties in to Aesop Collateral Damage. It also has the effect of suggesting that living in general is terrible, and there's no point in being good because you'll wind up dead!
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Glurge-y stories often distort and fabricate historical fact in the guise of offering "true stories". Their stories hence seem to portray 'real life,' as they conceive it.
- White Man's Burden: A rich white person helps out a poor non-white person out of the goodness of his heart. This has a number of Unfortunate Implications, most significantly that minorities are helpless and unable to overcome the problem themselves.
- Whoopi Epiphany Speech: A poor, ethnic minority, disabled, illiterate, or ill-educated character (ideally all of the above) makes a wise and insightful speech to the white, able-bodied, richer, better-educated protagonist. If the epiphany-giving character isn't sufficiently well-developed in their own right, they can seem like a mere plot device to spur the protagonist — who really matters — to take constructive action. This can seem akin to White Man's Burden and imply the helplessness of minorities.
- You Know Who Said That: A character states an argument for or against something, and then tells us that they were quoting a famous person. Such quotes are often mined or out of context, sometimes even on purpose, and they also assume that the famous person is automatically right.
Remember, though, that Tropes Are Tools; a work can use any number of these tropes without becoming Glurge. The hallmark of Glurge is a questionable message, conveyed through an emotionally manipulative delivery, meant to arouse strong emotion in the reader, but failing to withstand Fridge Logic afterwards (though the reader is supposed to be so emotionally stirred that looking at the work dispassionately feels cold-hearted or downright amoral).
Not to be confused with Anvilicious or Tastes Like Diabetes, though those are common features of Glurge. See also Unfortunate Implications, which has more to do with subtext (and isn't clearly stated at the end). Glurge is often caused by Values Dissonance, as things that seem heartwarming and uplifting according to the values of one time might seem disturbing and offensive in another. Oscar Bait often has similarities with Glurge. Believe it or not, some people have the urge for this trope and are Glurge Addicts.
- Code Geass has a strange relationship with this trope. The protagonist, Lelouch, is a Britannian (read: European) nobleman who leads the Japanese in a revolt against their European colonists. He essentially single-handedly tries to end hatred, malice, and endless war. It looks a lot like a Mighty Whitey situation, in that the Japanese are incapable of freeing their country on their own. But it's made stranger because Lelouch is a Villain Protagonist, deliberately invokes a Zero-Approval Gambit, and has to operate in disguise. And it's a Japanese series, so it's difficult to tell what race anybody is anyway.
- One of the main points of Popotan is that the girls always have to travel through time. Mai, in particular, hates it because she can never settle for any lasting friendships. Eventually, upon finding who they're looking for, they're given the option to either continue or return to any time of their choice. But, even after deciding to go back to those they felt closest to, they're now unhappy about not being able to see each other anymore. Daichi even calls Ai out for abandoning her purpose in life, and encourages her to reunite with her sisters and continue the journey. This completely ignores the idea that some people just need to move on with their lives, and suggests that you should eschew happiness in favor of repeating an endless cycle to make others happy.
- Naruto's central lesson is that The Power of Friendship can overcome anything, as long as enough people support. But it's delivered so ridiculously that it's impossible to apply it to real life; by the end, the story believes so strongly in Defeat Means Friendship that it works on villains who were previously trying to wipe out humanity and did nothing to deserve such redemption. The show tried to mitigate this by bringing us Kaguya, a Bigger Bad Physical God, who comes out of nowhere to be a Hate Sink and retroactively excuse the other villains' crimes.
- Kaguya-sama: Love Is War has an in-universe example with Today Will Be Sweet, a tear jerking manga the cast has read. According to the brief plot summary, the male lead is an Ill Boy with a terminal disease while the heroine lives in an abusive household and suffered from isolation and anorexia before the male lead breaks her out of her shell. She also hasn't eaten decent food in a while, and the one decent meal she gets is a curry dish made by her love interest before he kicks the bucket.
- FernGully piles on every Anvilicious Green Aesop known to man — and then breaks them because the villainous, demonic spirit of pollution is so cool (and voiced by Tim Curry no less) that you'll end up rooting for him instead. Though it does technically mean you will be cheering for death and destruction, so the glurge interestingly is the lesser of two evils.
- A Troll in Central Park is so saccharine it will give you insulin shock. A particularly broken scene has Stanley the troll show the kids his vision of a perfect world — a Sugar Bowl filled with trolls exactly like him.
- Almost any "inspirational" movie about a teacher, especially of the Save Our Students type, actually implies: (a) a teacher can reach all students just by caring, which means not having a life at all; (b) all the other teachers those students ever had just didn't care enough; and (c) the school system doesn't need discipline, funding, national standards, or any actual improvements — it just needs teachers who care more. They also often overlap with White Man's Burden, as the teacher is often white and the students non-white, the school is often in a gang-ridden ghetto, and the teacher's ability to "overcome racial differences" to "reach the kids" is hailed as amazing and not at all racist.
- Dangerous Minds is a good example of how such films are implicitly racist; only the white teacher can get through to the students, and not his non-white fellow faculty members.
- Up the Down Staircase shows how this trope is used in school districts' "training" programs, which has the effect of blaming teachers for everything wrong with their schools — rather than overcrowding, lack of a consistent discipline policy, or other leadership failings at the government level.
- To Sir, with Love avoids this very well — possibly because it's a true story — but it still makes it clear that Sir and his students' success was only possible because of lowered expectations.
- God's Not Dead is about a religious student clashing with his atheist teacher over God's existence. The glurge comes from the movie's badly-written Black and White Morality that says all Christians are good and all atheists and non-Christians are either evil or sad people who really do believe in God, but just pretend not to in response to a tragic backstory event. The film ends with the teacher getting hit by a car and accepting God just before he dies, with his death being painted as a cause for celebration simply because he converted before he died. Critics and general audiences were not pleased, but it was a massive hit with its target audience (as preaching to the converted tends to do).
- Lean on Me also avoids falling into the typical Glurge trap. Joe Clark stresses discipline and control as the only effective methods of instruction, he can only save the core student body rather than everyone, and the principal unceremoniously throws dozens of "troublemakers" out of the school, facing the issue head-on with brutal practicality. The film is, though, Undermined by Reality; the actual school never saw much improvement in test scores, Joe Clark left his position (partly because of his fellow teachers' resentment of his work), and the state took over the school a year later.
- Half Nelson subverts this by making the aspiring inspirational white teacher a hypocritical drug addict. To the young black female student he'd like to inspire, her jailed brother's drug dealer partner is a better role model.
- Parodied in Tropic Thunder: Actor Tugg Speedman, in a blatant bid to win an Oscar, played a mentally-disabled farmhand in the film-within-a-film Simple Jack. He didn't win anything, and the film was a total bomb. Kirk Lazarus explains to Tugg that this is because he went "full retard", and he goes on to show how the actors who did win (or come close to winning) Oscars didn't actually portray mental disability accurately — like Dustin Hoffman playing an Idiot Savant in Rainman, Tom Hanks playing The Fool in Forrest Gump, or Peter Sellers playing a Seemingly Profound Fool in Being There. The only one he says actually played an accurate "full retard" was Sean Penn in I Am Sam, who "went full retard and went home empty-handed."
- The end of Knowing was blatant Glurge. Earth fries, everybody dies. Except for some 30-odd kids who are saved by aliens, whose reason for being there is never explained, and taken to some alien garden, surprisingly nonchalant about everybody they know having been horribly killed.
- Will Smith, in his Oscar Bait film Seven Pounds, plays an Atoner with God complex who chooses on a patient to receive his saintly organs. He thinks that using fake IDs is a perfectly legitimate means to contact prospective recipients, and he considers a person worthy if he is rendered barely articulate by a volley of insults. The film implies that committing federal crimes is okay as long as it's for a good cause. But the serious Glurge is that the protagonist commits suicide at the end to donate his organs, and this is treated as some sort of beautiful martyrdom. And the moral breaks under Critical Research Failure; his method of suicide is needlessly complicated — a box jellyfish, whose venom should leave most of his organs unusable anyway. Film Brain of Channel Awesome despises this movie for these reasons.
- The film Soul Food is about a grandmother who shows her love for her family by cooking delicious but unhealthy "soul food". She dies of clogged arteries, and her family honors her by eating the same unhealthy food that killed her. The Boondocks pointed out how Glurge-y this is.
- Forrest Gump, as shown by Michael A. Novelli at The Agony Booth, is chock-full of Unfortunate Implications brought about by its Glurge; Forrest is only a good guy because it never occurs to him to do anything that falls outside a conservative American framework of morality. (The novel it's based on is much more nuanced, showing how Forrest struggles to apply his Black and White Morality to the crazy world around him.) A Cracked: After Hours video also comments on the problems with the love story between Forrest and Jenny, particularly the scene where Forrest — a confused, mentally handicapped man — shows up at Jenny's dorm room and she tries to have sex with him. Swapping the genders in that scene leads to a very sinister result.
- Patch Adams is supposedly Based on a True Story, but it throws away much of the real Patch Adams' philosophy note in favor of Glurge. It even changes a real-life medical student and friend of Dr. Adams into a female love interest with an implied Rape as Backstory who ends up killed by a patient, all for cheap drama. The real Dr. Adams hates the movie for this reason.
- In Radio Flyer, a boy escapes his abusive stepfather by building an airplane out of a toy wagon and flying away in it, presumably to his death.
- Rock: It's Your Decision is supposed to be an educational and supportive movie about a Christian teen realizing that he must stop listening to sinful rock music (i.e. all of it). As to the result:
Brad Jones: I'm not kidding, this is one of the most depressing films I ever sat through. And I've watched Salo and A Serbian Film.
- It seriously works better as a tract on the evils of fundamentalist Christianity than it does its actual subject. He starts off as a decent person and ends up as a ranting bigot who has turned on his friends and family.
- The Search for Santa Paws, a spinoff of Disney's Air Buddies film seriesnote , could be the most Glurge-y Christmas movie of all time. A deliberately cute Heartwarming Orphan, who lives in an Orphanage of Fear, comes across Santa's talking dog, who can only be understood by those who truly believe in the magic of Christmas. The dog's mere presence makes all the other orphans realize the meaning of Christmas (including the jaded older girl who's given up on ever being adopted). Santa himself has suffered Easy Amnesia and becomes a Mall Santa in a toy store; the (sadly infertile) couple who owns it has to help the orphans Race Against the Clock to find Santa's MacGuffin that will save his life, and in the end the couple adopts the aforementioned heartwarming orphan. It's played completely straight, and as a result it's completely ridiculous and implausible.
- The Odd Life of Timothy Green, from the same studio as Santa Paws, involves an infertile couple who somehow grows a child in their garden (It Makes Sense in Context).
- The Boy Who Could Fly has an uplifting message about autism, but the protagonist's behaviors are not even close to how a regular autistic person acts. Being a popular classroom movie at the time, it may have given lots of students the wrong impression of how autistic people behave and look.
- Letters To God ticks all the Glurge boxes, including a Too Good for This Sinful Earth Littlest Cancer Patient.
- North seems to think of itself as an uplifting morality tale of a kid who learns to appreciate his parents. Instead it comes off as a story of a raging egotist who abandons his parents but returns to them only because all the other ones he encountered were raging racial stereotypes. What's worse, the film tries to save itself by revealing it was All Just a Dream, but that just reveals North to be a huge racist himself as well.
- While Whatever Happened To Baby Jane wouldn't qualify, the song "I've Written a Letter To Daddy" sure would, if it weren't staged rather creepily.
- The Ultimate Gift. Sinful, jerkass man who disregards his father? Check. Said man must go through a series of trials that improve him in order to get the titular "ultimate gift"? Check. He falls in love with the single mother of the Littlest Cancer Patient? Double check. The kid dies? You bet. The part where all this starts to go off the rails is the ending, where Jason receives two billion dollars for his efforts, implying that the "ultimate gift" is just money.
- This is an accusation levelled at the film Little Boy, a blond American kid's Coming-of-Age Story marked by the bullying he goes through, his father being sent off to World War II, and the racism hurled at the Japanese-American neighbor the kid strikes an Intergenerational Friendship with.
Youtube commenter, about the movie's trailer: "Little Boy is a ww2 movie implying that the bombing of Hiroshima/Nagasaki was because one little boy prayed really hard for his father to come home from the war, and God was so moved by his prayers that he decided to vaporize thousands of Japanese people."
- War Room, ostensibly about a couple turning to faith during a rough patch in their marriage, imparts the message that Satan is responsible for a verbally abusive and adulterous husband's behavior, and all his wife needs to do is pray for him. This is particularly dangerous, as many abuse victims stay with their partners precisely because they believe it's their responsibility to "save" their abusers.
- A subplot of the film has the husband, Tony, making thousands of dollars by stealing and selling his company's drugs. After he finds the Lord, he takes the stolen goods back to his boss, all but insuring major prosecution. The boss is so moved, he lets the whole thing slide - imparting the message that being sufficiently Christian will spare one from real world consequences of actions; even a cursory reading of The Bible will not support such a moral.
- Old Fashioned, marketed as The Moral Substitute to Fifty Shades Of Gray, showing a love story based on romance and courtship rather than sex. Our hero, Clay Walsh, is so disgusted by the possibly of giving into his base desires, he refuses to be in the same room as his Love Interest Amber, and much of their so-called romance is actually him molding her to his ideal of a properly submissive wife and mother, even making her cut up food for a friend's baby. In one scene, he shames a sex worker to her face (all in the name of "treating women with respect") and almost gets to a fight with her driver when he correctly points out that Clay just cost her a night's worth of pay.
- The Shack is meant to be an uplifting story where the main character, Mackenzie, meets with the Holy Trinity and learns to move on from his daughter's murder. It completely ignores the fact that he, as a thirteen year old boy, poisoned his father and got away with it, not to mention that his daughter's killer is never caught and possibly slaughtering more children.
- Airplane! viciously parodies many Glurge cliches, such as having an adorable Littlest Cancer Patient (who gets comically abused) and Ted's "moving" romance with Elaine (which is portrayed as incredibly shallow and stupid). Note that it was directly based on a real movie, Zero Hour!, which played all the cliches and Glurge completely straight.
- The Book of Henry can come off as extremely contrived and overly sentimental for all the wrong reasons. Main protagonist is a young boy with an Ambiguous Disorder who pays his family's bills because his mother would rather play video games? Check. Main love interest is being physically and sexually abused by her stepfather, despite showing no physical evidence of said abuse? Check. Main protagonist suddenly dies of a brain tumor halfway through the movie...but not before creating a series of instructions on how to kill said abusive stepfather and get away with it? Check. Mother follows instructions until literally the last minute (as in standing in front of the stepfather with a sniper rifle) when she realizes her dead son was just a kid and maybe she shouldn't listen to him? Check. In the Midnight Screenings review of the film, Brad Jones even compares the movie to films such as Jack the Bear and the aforementioned Radio Flyer.
- Parodied in The Areas of My Expertise with The Six Oaths of the Virtuous Child, which are more creepy than inspiring.
- Today shall not be wasted. I shall rise before the sun, so that I may then watch my family as they slumber, with intent, waiting eyes.
- I shall honor my mother today, and I shall tell Father he is powerful.
- Today I shall be clean. I shall not touch my teeth, knowing that the oils of my skin shall cause them to disintegrate. I shall instead hone them with a good steel twice after prayers.
- I shall be a faithful child, and I shall ever make science my enemy. Also eels.
- At day, I shall perform my chores and duties happily, and if I see an eel, I shall kill it before it may speak to me seductively of its lazy life on lazy river bottoms.
- At night, I shall dream of more labor, and in my sleep I shall smile with sharpened teeth, knowing that today has not been wasted.
- Mark Twain wrote two stories parodying this: "The Good Little Boy", in which the title character's life ambition is to be the star of a Sunday School book, and "The Bad Little Boy", in which the title character misbehaves and karma utterly fails to inflict ironic punishments.
- In his stand-up routine, David Cross savages the book Promises to Keep: Daily Devotions for Men of Integrity for being full of Glurge and Warped Aesops.
- The Nazi party published kids books, which were unsurprisingly full of Glurge. They also presented Jews and Romani as evil, conniving demons who wanted to ruin the lives of all the big-eyed Teutonic waifs. One Nazi children's book featured Hitler inviting a little girl to his private villa for tea and cookies, then giving her a hug and a kiss as she leaves.
- Invoked in The Fountainhead: Alvah Scarrett's career is built on writing glurge-filled newspaper editorials.
- Dog books such as Saving Cinnamon, The Dog Who Couldn't Stop Loving, A Small Furry Prayer, and What a Difference a Dog Makes are often filled with glurge. As an Entertainment Weekly reviewer summed up:
They are all blatantly, painfully the same exaggerated story of hope and triumph-of-the-humane-society spirit. You know the kind — a pit bull learning to love, a pug saving a nursing home, a chihuahua crusading for immigration reform! Not to be callous, but I've had it! I'm sure Oogy and Pukka are great pooches, but their cloyingly cute books are enough to give you a case of the canine diabetes.
- Edward Everett Hale's The Man Without a Country is quite Glurge-y, much as it tries to pretend to be a manly man's story set among the men of the Navy. The moral lesson is: love your country dammit, because if you don't have a country your life is worthless and you dwindle into a pathetic loner obsessed with the whole notion of "country." Never mind that patriotism for the sake of patriotism is naive at best, or that what happened in the story was a form of low-key brainwashing, making the man's life revolve around the lack of the United States — it's really nauseating.
- The Secret is infamous for claiming that good things happen only if you really, really visualize them enough, and that if they don't happen to you, you just didn't want them badly enough.
- The Love and Logic parenting books imply that the best solution to problems between parents and children is for the parents to do whatever they want and just repeat the phrase "I love you too much to argue" when the child protests.
- Kate Breslin's inspirational romance novel For Such a Time got some good publicity and was nominated for two 2015 Romance Writers of America awards — whereupon people not in its target audience of conservative Christians found out about it. A Whole Plot Reference to the Book of Esther, it recasts the story's events as a romance between a Jewish concentration camp prisoner and a Nazi commandant, the latter of whom is redeemed by The Power of Love and God's grace. There's a lot written about it online, but this joint discussion and the comments below it sum up the major criticisms well: the extremely offensive and mostly intentional use of Artistic License – History throughout, without which the story couldn't end on Happily Ever After; the Stockholm Syndrome nature of their relationship; and the Jewish characters not acting authentically Jewish, to the point that a common misconception is that by the end the heroine has converted to Christianity. Thus, the book distorts and exploits both a horrific chapter of Jewish (and 20th century) history and a beloved Old Testament story (which is not even a romantic one) solely for the benefit of Christian readers.
- Scottish actress Louise Linton's book In Congo's Shadow received heavy criticism for this. To make long story short, Linton's portrayal of Zambia during 1990s is inaccurate as hell, filled with racist stereotypes, and suffers horribly from Mighty Whitey.
- In the Venus and Mars books, there's a story about a knight who rescues a princess from a dragon. She marries him, then gets attacked by another dragon, and tells the knight how to kill it. This happens again and again until the knight rescues another princess who doesn't tell him what to do or how to do it. What the reader was supposed to take from this is that it's important for a man to be able to solve his own problems. What it ended up implying was that women need to be delicate and passive to protect their boyfriend/husband's ego, and that if he cheats, it's her fault for being too outspoken. It also introduces Fridge Logic: If the princess knows how to slay the dragon herself, why doesn't she at least try?
- The Hallmark Channel has made a small industry out of Glurge-filled made-for-TV movies, known as A Hallmark Presentation. Most often these films are about someone who is overwhelmed with working in the big city, and are forced to live in a small town, which they end up finding more satisfying than their past life. Usually a ridiculously hot love interest drops right into their laps to help the process along, along with a few quirky but bland small town friends. The only real obstacles the protagonist has to overcome are getting off on the wrong foot with the love interest, or some petty rival, which in real life could be fixed by talking to the love interest like an adult and ignoring the rival. Everyone is just sort of cutesy and non-threatening overall. If the main character is a woman the movie will emphasize that starting a family is more fulfilling than having a job. Then December rolls around and Hallmark replaces their normal movies with special Christmas ones, which are the same except the overworked person is so overworked that they don't know the true meaning of Christmas, which they learn by moving to the small town and experiencing a little Christmas magic.
- The Lone Gunmen: "Like Water for Octane" is a story about the Lone Gunmen struggling to expose the truth about a revolutionary engine which doesn't use petrol, only to decide that the world is too stupid to be trusted with the truth and that the trio should appoint themselves custodians of that technology. The episode seems entirely sincere in this belief, which makes it seem like the production team have somehow misunderstood their own characters. The Lone Gunmen collectively decide that the world does not need to be freed from its addiction to gasoline. Who wrote this episode, Jeremy Clarkson?
- Viewers of 7th Heaven are force-fed Christian morals like a baby. The version of Christianity was the vague, feel-good sort that could best be described as "spiritual masturbation". You don't mention Jesus as anything more than a really hoopy dude, because people might feel bad, And That's Terrible.
- The Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode "Faith" is a look at the darker side of glurge: the Victim of the Week is a benefactor who planned to stop supporting a girl who suffers from Lou Gehrig's disease and survived abuse to write an inspiring book about her experiences. He planned to stop because he found out she isn't real, and her "foster parents" are con artists. And this is actually inspired by Anthony Godby Johnson, supposed "author" of A Rock and a Hard Place.
- MADtv's parody skit Nice White Lady subverts the "inspirational teacher saves inner-city students" story that shows up in so many movies by pointing out the racism underlying many such stories. MADtv's inspirational teacher doesn't do much to inspire her black, Latino and Asian students except make random speeches and utter platitudes — but she doesn't have to, because, as the title says, she's a nice white lady.
- Touched by an Angel: Sending the message of God's love is awesome, but mixing it with this trope ain't exactly a good idea. The original unaired pilot was more cynical with one angel Monica calling humans "god's sport" and Tess smoking.
- Parodied in The Middle. In the first Mother's Day episode, Sue Heck, who often tries out for things that she never makes it into, finds an inspirational fridge magnet with a dolphin flying a kite that says "Think of the thing you can not do and then do it." However, since her father Mike doesn't buy the fridge magnet for her (since Frankie may not have wanted it for Mother's Day), Sue steals it, which is basically contrary to her nature and makes her feel very guilty. So much for the inspirational message.
- There was an ad promoting Proposition 8 (a law which banned gay marriage in California) featuring a cute, little blond girl playing with Barbie dolls. While the ad seemed sweet on the surface, advocates for gay rights would see this as a way of using children (who don't really understand what it is they're doing) to promote homophobia.
- The notorious I Am Autism is a film produced by Autism Speaks and put on the Internet in September 2009. It starts out with a man's deep voice speaking over footage of autistic children playing at various activities as "Autism!", gloating about how he "work[s] faster than pediatric AIDS, cancer, and diabetes combined" among other things. Then it switches over to various saintly neurotypical adults who all talk about how they will bravely fight autism, with one woman saying that "Autism!" "think[s] that because [her] child lives behind a wall, [she is] afraid to knock it down with [her] bare hands." Unsurprisingly, it got a lot of backlash from autistic people, autistic allies, and many disability rights organizations. Autism Speaks did pull it down, but the director of the piece, none other than Alfonso Cuarón, hasn't publicly apologized or even spoken about it since.
- The Values.com advertising campaign has verged into saccharine territory. The biggest offender is a 2015 ad centered on a footrace for handicapped children; the first-place runner trips mid-race, the second-place runner stops to help him up, and then all the other runners lock arms and skip across the finish line together.
- The song "Christmas Shoes" is a by-word for Glurge. A man who's not in the Christmas spirit comes across a boy who counts pennies and wants his dying mom "to look good if [she] meets Jesus tonight." He buys a pair of shoes for the boy and winds up changed for good. He further reasons that God sent the boy to help him change (but doesn't address the idea that God must have also nearly killed his mother — or might not let her into heaven if she looks too poor). It's so infamous, even Christian radio stations have stayed away from the song these days, and it's evoked a ton of responses:
- Patton Oswalt offers an Alternative Character Interpretation that posits the kid is a Street Urchin scamming his marks by playing on their heartstrings.
- The Nostalgia Chick calls it the #1 disturbing and inescapable Christmas song.
- Hard 'N Phirm wrote an over-the-top response song called "She Named The Pony Jesus", in which a guy steals a horse from a fair to give to his ridiculously ailing daughter. The song ends with the horse trampling the girl and running away.
"Can I have a pony, Jesus
your humble servant begs
you see my little girl breathes through a tube
and has a wheelchair for her legs
I'm not asking you to fix her spine
or uncollapse her lung
but I know she'd thank you for that pony
if she had a working tongue
I know that horse won't stop her tremors
or reattach her nose
but I know she'd hop right on that pony
if she could move her shriveled toes"
- In the Dolly Parton song "Letter to Heaven", a little girl writes a letter to her dead mom. On her way to mailbox, she gets run over by a car and dies.
- Red Sovine made a career out of Glurgy songs, most of them about truckers:
- "Teddy Bear": A lonely little paralyzed boy with a dead father and only a C.B. Radio for company.
- "Giddy-up Go": An old trucker, whose wife and son left him years ago because he was gone so much of the time, meets a young trucker and recognizes him as his now-adult son by the name of the young man's truck: "Giddy-up Go", the same thing the old man named his truck when the son was a small child.
- "Little Rosa": A father tells of buying a rose to lay on the grave of his little girl, Rosa, who was killed by a train.
- "Bringing Mary Home": The urban legend of "the vanishing hitchhiker", who's now a little girl.
- "The Deck of Cards" by T. Texas Tyler implies that playing cards in church is punishable by death.
- Michael Jackson was a Glurge Addict, so it's not surprising that some of his work falls into this territory. In particular, he always plays Children Are Innocent straight.
- The video for "Heal the World" posits that soldiers and terrorists would lay down their arms if they could just see how happy and peaceful children are, in an effort to return to that state of innocence. This doesn't address that these people were children themselves once, and that they're fighting for reasons much more complicated than any child could understand.
- Ghosts was something of a response to accusations that his affection for children hid unsavory motives. It uses the framework of a black-and-white horror movie. An evil white mayor (played by Jackson) leads a Torches and Pitchforks mob on the supernatural Michael, just because he was sharing ghost stories with some local boys.
- "Earth Song" is a Green Aesop guilt trip that attacks the listener for not even bothering to notice the suffering of plants, animals and people. In the video, war victims and natives wailing and gnashing their teeth somehow prove sufficient to magically turn back time and make everything all better. To make matters worse, live performances had Jackson singlehandedly stand up to a tank and reduce the driver to tears by standing down the gun he aimed at him.
- "Little Susie", from the same album as "Earth Song", isn't as well-known (it wasn't released as a single), but it's just as much of a guilt trip. The title character is a little girl who, thanks to a combination of death and abandonment on her family's part, lives all alone in an apartment. She spends her time singing a song to a tinkly music box tune, while no one in the building tries to help her; only one person is even aware of her existence. She's finally found dead at the bottom of a flight of stairs, which is either a suicide or a murder (if the latter, clearly by someone in it For the Evulz).
- A lot of early-to-mid-20th-century pop can fall into this nowadays, given how completely sentimentality has been redefined since then. "Artificial Flowers" (best-known version by Bobby Darin) is a great example.
- The worst offenders were the many girl groups in the The '60s, whose lyrics would be perceived as downright creepy if they were written today.
- One particularly chilling example is Neil Sedaka's "Next Door to an Angel", in which he delights in describing his young neighbour's physical development ("She used to be such a skinny little girl/But all of a sudden, she's out of this world!") and plans to "make that angel mine"; while the girl next door is explicitly identified as 16, the narrator is suspiciously not. And yet, it's all cheerfully sung to the most cheesy, goofy rhythm imaginable.
- This was probably intended to be from the viewpoint of one teen singing about another a la Paul Anka's "Puppy Love". But "Right Next Door" was released in 1962 and Neil Sedaka was born in 1939, so in real life a 23-year-old singing those lyrics about his 16-year-old neighbor is still pretty creepy.
- Many songs advertised as father-daughter dances at weddings fall into Glurge; prime examples are "Butterfly Kisses" by Bob Carlisle, and "My Father's Eyes" by Amy Grant. Some brides are now catching on to how Glurgey and slightly creepy they are.
- "Diary of an Unborn Child", an anti-abortion Author Tract, would have been slightly more effective had the titular foetus not been a grotesque mix of sickening sweetness and Nightmare Fuel in equal parts, making its death more relieving than tragic. And then it starts singing.
- "The Little Girl", sung by John Michael Montgomery, is based upon a religiously-themed urban legend (similar to the above-mentioned "Christmas Shoes"). Songwriter Harley Allen, when asked about the song's origin, stated that "if it ain't true, it ought to be," which has Unfortunate Implications: the eponymous "little girl" witnesses the brutal murder-suicide of her parents.
- "This Is Your Time" by Michael W. Smith is a Christian pop song based on a story that arose from the Columbine massacre (the real-life story, about how Cassie Bernall was killed after saying she believed in God, had enough glurgy overtones to have its factual nature called into question). The song came out less than a year after the shooting and is intended as an inspirational tale about how Bernall was supposedly willing to die for Jesus, so you should be, too!note
- Whatever it Takes, an album compiled in her memory, isn't quite as glurgy, but Allmusic has this to say about it:
In the wake of her death, a non-profit cottage industry has sprung up around her memory — which, depending on your perspective, is either a way to spin an extraordinary and dramatic tragedy into a positive good, or an odd marriage of grief and capitalism that might seem disturbingly manipulative no matter how well-intentioned. [...] Anyone inspired by Bernall's story will find it difficult not to feel the same way about many of these songs. Yet if one takes a larger perspective, the album is also another cog in a veritable merchandising machine; the sheer scope of this sincerely motivated attempt to find utility (and revenue) in tragedy makes it hard to shake the feeling of exploitation, no matter how noble the ultimate cause.
- Whatever it Takes, an album compiled in her memory, isn't quite as glurgy, but Allmusic has this to say about it:
- A little over a year after 9/11, the slew of nationalistic country songs written in its immediate wake were slammed for being shallow and reactionary, and were seen as shamelessly capitalizing on the country's grief. The two most infamous of these were "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue" by Toby Keith and "Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning" by Alan Jackson, the latter of which was mercilessly parodied on the South Park episode "A Ladder To Heaven" where Jackson solemnly strums his guitar, occasionally singing "Ooo yeah, 9/11..." while everyone weeps.
- Mass Effect 2 has a hilarious parody of glurgy chain e-mails called "IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU!" It involves a terminally-ill drell (desert-dwelling green-skinned humanoid) lying in the ocean, praying to the Enkindlers, and being told that it wasn't the water but the Enkindlers who were keeping him afloat, then waking to find himself cured. Bonus points for making no sense in the context of the Enkindler religion, which is essentially deist. Hell, the religion actually knows the Protheans are Precursor Aliens, it just chooses to revere them for uplifting the Hanar.
- Each Zen Pencils comic is a Framing Device for a famous quote — and it falls into all the pitfalls of You Know Who Said That, with many quotes being hypocritical or out of context. A surprising number of comics also encourage readers to quit their jobs and pursue their passion (even if it's obsessively binge-watching Game of Thrones), suggesting that the only reason to do anything is for the art. Its attempt at an original story arc is a Glurge-y attempt to paint art critics as hateful trolls who are defeated by The Power of Art.
- TheGamersCave's "I am a Gamer" is supposed to be a celebration of the gamer identity. It begins innocently enough, talking about how video games allow players to experience a reality other than their own, but it goes downhill when the narrator starts claiming that video games are superior to Real Life, reinforcing common gamer stereotypes (such as preferring imaginary relationships to real ones). The uplifting techno music in the background only adds to TheGamersCave's preachiness. The video made the narrator a source of mockery, especially when he tried to get a parody taken down.
- Parodied by Rink Works' "Pea Soup for the Cynic's Soul", a collection of tales whose beginning and middle are stereotypically glurge-y but end in rather twisted or horrific fashion.
- The Nostalgia Critic has a tendency to choose really sappy music for rousing speeches delivered to straw villains. He has mocked this a few times, like in We Wish You A Turtles Christmas, where he's spewing about Christmas but Tamara is getting gored by zombie Malcolm behind him.
- Mercilessly parodied in this memetic image here:◊
- Related is the "liek dis if u cri evrytiem" meme, consisting of poorly spelled and nonsensical glurge stories.
- Parodied in Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: In one episode, this is how Mac is able to tell which of the Bloos is his true best friend. The one that made the heartfelt speech at the end wasn't the real one, since Bloo would never say or admit something like that.
- King of the Hill:
- Hank's mom Tilly collects cutesy figurines, and Hank utterly despises them because of how much she loves them and how they seem to control her life. Then Hank realizes those figurines were the only things that kept her going while she was trapped in her marriage to Hank's Jerkass father Cotton.
- In the episode "Husky Bobby", Bobby begins modeling as a plus sized child. Hank is extremely embarrassed about this, as he is prejudiced against overweight people. The whole episode centers around Hank trying to get Bobby to quit. He finally succeeds before a fashion show for plus-sized males, which ends with the children who were not dragged out by their dads getting pelted with donuts. Nobody does anything to stop it, it ends with a heartwarming moment between Bobby and Hank, and nobody is punished for their actions. A Weighty Aesop at its worst.
Bobby: Wow Dad, you were right!
Hank: Hell, when you get fashion shows, teenage boys, and donuts in the same place, this is bound to happen.
(Scene fades to black and happy music plays)
- The Dreamstone, especially in early episodes, concerns a Serious Business feud about spreading dreams and nightmares. The Big Bad's minions, the Urpneys, were sympathetic Punch Clock Villains who got beaten up and sent to face their murderous Bad Boss whenever they tried to ruin the heroes' dreams, all still depicted in a sickly sweet and righteous tone.
- The Legend of Korra includes an in-universe example of Glurge with a historical tale: A heroine couldn't be with her beloved because he was the son of her enemy and had an Arranged Marriage with a princess, so she rode a dragon into battle, burned down the country, and jumped into a volcano. Jinora thinks it's the most romantic story ever, while Korra is completely nonplussed by it.
- Used In-Universe on The Simpsons: Bart becomes a co-anchor on Lisa's news show, and taking the advice of Kent Brockman, he does a series of human interest stories of this nature, including one of a duck feeder who is upset that ducks stopped visiting him (even though there's another pond filled with ducks nearby).
Mr. Burns: *while watching the duck story and shedding a tear* Smithers, do you think maybe my power plant killed those ducks?Smithers: There's no 'maybe' about it, sir.Mr. Burns: *sniff* Excellent.
- Spam, chain letters and faxlore by the thousands. Snopes has a section dedicated to examples of these, with well over one hundred entries, and yet even that barely dips into the endless well of schmaltz, Narm, and unexamined assumptions that winds up in people's inboxes daily.
- Parodied on Cute Overload!, in which the storyteller gets confused by the sequence of events in the pictures, leading to a very Lost Aesop.
- "Weird Al" Yankovic lampshades this among other things in his song "Stop Forwarding That Crap to Me".
- Facebook has its own brand of chain letters, which often include pictures and added emotional blackmail along the lines of "only 3% of your friends will be brave enough to share this!".
- The "Self-Esteem Movement" that permeated much of academia in the 70s, 80s, and 90s could be categorized as an example of real-life Glurge, broadly defined. The theory was that all children naturally want to be good students, but they must be taught self-esteem to live up to this. Bad behavior, bad grades, bad sexual choices among adolescents, and bullying were all supposedly symptoms of low self-esteem. In real life, this view mixes correlation and causality; it's just as unhealthy for skilled students to put themselves down as it is to artificially build up the self-image of those who have achieved nothing. If you're looking for people with healthy, but realistic self-images, rightly satisfied with their positive qualities, recognizing faults in ways that allows for future improvement, you're probably not going to find them attending high school — or in Glurge for that matter. An analysis of Nightcrawler by Leon Thomas uses this example.
- Socialist Realism and other totalitarian art forms like to portray glurge, with endless scenes of happy farmers, industrious workers, and brave soldiers without conflict or human suffering or any of the imperfections that make real life real. This has led to some commentators using the umbrella term "totalitarian kitsch" to describe art used as propaganda in totalitarian regimes.
- The theme of these paintings has been jokingly described as "girl meets tractor".
- Pinterest is especially hated in some circles for its extremely sentimental and preachy "inspirational" quotes. Its glurge can take a pretty nasty turn through "fitspo" pins (designed to inspire the viewer to get in shape), which combine the glurge with emotional blackmail and guilt-tripping.
- There's a popular story that pops up from time to time that Evanna Lynch, who played Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter movies, got the role because J. K. Rowling promised it to her if she continued to seek treatment for anorexia. While certain elements of it are true (Lynch spent two years in and out of the hospital due to anorexia nervosa, credits the Harry Potter books with helping her deal with the hospitalization, and of course would go on to play Luna in the movies), Rowling had no role in Lynch's casting. While such rumors make Rowling look great, they carry with them the implication that Lynch did not actually earn the role that made her famous, but had it handed to her out of pity. It's especially bad because the real story is pretty damn inspirational as it is; check out her entry on Promoted Fanboy.
- This happens on Tumblr a lot whenever someone doesn't do the proper research:
- An infamous post of a long black object with pink on it was claimed to be a black man's burnt arm, and it was called "tragically beautiful". Then it turned out to actually be a picture of a dildo shaped like a horse's penis.
- A common GIF image purports to depict someone dying in the middle of an MRI scan. The original poster claimed that death causes the brain to release "tons and tons of endorphins that make you feel a range of emotions. Tragically beautiful." After being reblogged as "deep" and "beautiful", someone pointed out that it actually depicted someone turning into a zombie in The Walking Dead — with the AMC logo not even removed from the corner.
- Someone posted a picture◊ of a police officer with scars on the side of his face, calling it "Joker without makeup". Some users were sufficiently saddened, others visibly offended, before someone pointed out that it was actually a screencap from The Dark Knight where The Joker was hiding out among a group of policemen.
oh thats awkward
- There was a heated argument about a photoset of a bird covered in chocolate, calling it animal cruelty and saying that the bird probably died from interacting with the chocolate. Then it was pointed out that the photos were fake and came from this scene in Jack and Jill. The whole ordeal went memetic rather quickly.
- Another Tumblr post◊ featured an image of a machine pouring a strange pink goop into a bowl, claiming that this was "mechanically separated chicken" and detailing the excruciating process chickens go through to create it. It got a few disgusted and horrified reactions until someone realized it for what it really was—the Tubby Custard machine.
- There was for a long time an infamous post circulated on Tumblr, depicting an animated GIF of an oncoming train in black and white, with the claim that if the viewer closes their eyes at the moment the train "hits", they will immediately feel relaxed, because their brain will momentarily be tricked into thinking they have died. A lot of people have spoken out against the post's apparent glorification of suicide to an audience of mostly teenagers and young adults, and taken great pains to point out that suicide is no laughing matter.
- The BuzzFeed article "29 Signs You're the Lisa Simpson of Your Family" consist of images of Lisa Simpson accompanied by text obtensibly comparing the reader to her. Some of these images are taken out of context. Especially the final point, "You started from the bottom now you're here. [sic]", accompanied by an image of Lisa in a pool surrounded by other kids; this episode had those kids treating Lisa as popular just to get to swim in that pool, which Lisa's family recently bought.
Terri: Isn't it amazing the same day you got a pool is the same day we realized we liked you?
Sherri: The timing worked out great, don't you think?
- This actually seems to be a recurring thing with Buzzfeed articles that bear the title "How to Tell You're [Insert Popular and Frequently GIF'd Character Here]!" These articles, and the pictures that accompany them, are usually taken out of context, and sometimes bearing incorrect quotes, since the GIFs were swiped from Tumblr after the fanbase had photoshopped them. The peppy blurbs accompanying them do little to soothe the irritation.
- The infamous "There's a reason erasers don't work on your heart" vine crosses glurge with an Ice-Cream Koan.