Crying_game_poster.jpgThis week’s selection for Ethical Dilemmas on Film is the 1992 Neil Jordan film The Crying Game. Here are some questions to focus your reflection on the various ethically relevant themes this work addresses:

Does The Crying Game fit into any particular genre? 

What’s the purpose of the frog/scorpion story? 
In how many ways does the film play with the issue of identity? 
Why does Miranda Richardson have the name Jude? Why does Stephen Rea have the name Fergus? 
Why does Fergus begin to change his mind about Jody? 
How does Jordan play with diegetic and extra-diegetic music? 
Why does he choose the music that he does – especially “Stand By Your Man” and “When a Man Loves a Woman”? 

How much of the latter half of the film is foreshadowed by the first half?  

Is this film about politics? racial politics? 
Is this film politically correct?
Who loves whom in this film? 
Originally Jordan meant for either Fergus or Dil to die at the end. Why is the actual ending more or less effective than the planned one?
If you have seen this film before, does it work on a second viewing? Are the suspense and plot twists replaced by different pleasures?
How does Jordan view anatomy? Does he feel that it determines feelings? Tastes? Desires? Does he feel it is crucial to understanding a human being? Is it integral or peripheral?
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16 Responses to The Crying Game: Questions for Reflection


    Even in the last twenty minutes of the film, I feel that Fergus (Jimmy) and Dil really do care for each other. Even when she has him tied up, keeping him from his mission. However, there is a tension between them throughout the film. When they first meet in the hair salon there is a odd exchange, but a visible connection. Later in the bar it is apparent that Fergus is fixated on Dil, and she enjoys toying with him. Her outgoing personality and strong appearance are matched by Fergus’ quiet and mysterious demeanor.

    Before I watch a film I usually do a little research on the actors and storyline, but I did not in this case. I am glad I didn’t because I would have most likely ruined a lot of the surprises and shock of the story, leaving me without the suspense that is intended. If I had to label this film as one genre I would have to pick suspense, but it is much more than that. It is a political thriller and a romance as well. Though I found the entire film to be incredibly exciting and captivating, the relationship between Fergus and Dil is so dynamic and interesting.

    I believe that when Fergus and Dil initially met, he was blinded by the idea of her, as Jody’s girlfriend. There was a mystery to her and Fergus could not see what we as the audience could objectively see. It is the main reason I am glad I did not research the actors in the film prior to viewing it. When I first was Dil I did question her appearance, and I wondered why she was chosen as Jody’s girlfriend. She is attractive, but her masculinity was quite apparent at first glance. I brushed this idea off, thinking I was being too critical of casting. It wasn’t until they were getting intimate and she revealed her true self that this idea popped into my head again. I’m glad I put that in the back of my mind because it let me share the perspective of Fergus.


    The theme of identity is an extremely important one in The Crying Game. The main point that I believe Jordan is trying to make with the theme identity is that no matter how much you try and change yourself, deep down you are who you are. Fergus exhibits this time and time again throughout the movie. The first example of this is in his dealings with Jody. We see that although the rest of the members of the IRA are very mean to Jody, Fergus absolutely is not. He treats Jody with kindness and respect. Despite his exterior as a hardened member of the IRA, he is still just a kind man underneath. This is seen even further when Jody tries to escape and Fergus lets him, in contradiction to direct orders. We see this same thing happen, although in a different capacity, when Fergus moves to England. He tries to blend in, to work a construction job and to make a life for himself there. Still, his past with the IRA catches up with him, because in the minds of the IRA members, he is still one of them. He can’t escape that part of himself, and it ends up causing a world of problems for him and Dil.
    Jordan’s message about identity isn’t just confined to a myopic sense, either, as we see with Fergus’ interactions with Dil. Dil, obviously, is a man. Fergus doesn’t know this at first, and he had been developing deep feelings for Dil up until that point. As soon as he finds out Dil’s gender, he tries to disassociate himself from the relationship. He finds, though, that he can’t do it, and he goes back to Dil. In this way, he tried to change how he felt about Dil, to essentially change who Dil was in his mind. He was unable to do it though; he had an original idea of who Dil was, and no matter how much he tried to cover it up, it still shone through. In this way, her identity as Fergus saw it was unable to be changed; he couldn’t escape it. Still, positives resulted from it, allowing Fergus to continue his relationship with Dil.


    One of the questions that has made me keep thinking about this movie in the weeks since we watched it was how Lisa posed the idea in class that the only thing that separates gender lines is “a piece of meat.” I think this whole film is one big challenging of borders, in a sense. Borders between countries, borders between genders, borders between people’s own prejudices or ideas that keep us apart. I think Jordan definitely thinks that anatomy determines feelings, but his film recognizes this as more of a default (heterosexual) human state. He shows this through Fergus’ transformation, from first being repulsed and upset by Dil being a man, to truly coming to care for Dil. The reason for this transformation is, interestingly enough, probably because of the guilt that Fergus feels for Jody’s death. It is in Jody’s death that Fergus first becomes a different person, now carrying this baggage, and in Dil’s unhinging that Fergus capitalizes on his new self by taking the fall and ultimately ending up in prison. (At the risk of being all over the place in this post, I want to point out in keeping with the idea of borders, that the film ends with Fergus and Dil separated by a glass wall…yet another border).

    What I think Jordan is trying to say is that yes, anatomy is crucial to understanding human beings and the things that motivate their actions and desires. However, I think he is saying that while it is crucial, it is also transient. Your physical anatomy determines what you look like, and how other’s perceive you, but only at the outset. Like Fergus and Dil, the discovery of anatomical similarities was crucial for Fergus’ perception of Dil. But as time progressed, the important of anatomy faded away, and the spiritual connection between them was forged. Anatomy is integral, and you must face it head on, but can be viewed peripherally when one turns their head to the side and takes in more than meets the eye.


    No film in this class surprised me or confused me like The Crying Game. What I thought was going to be a film focusing on the happenings of the IRA instead became a look into a one character’s experience leaving the IRA. When you meet Fergus, he is, pretty unbelievably, a “nice guy.” He takes good care of Jody and befriends him. When Jody dies, we doubt Fergus’s “nice guy” position. Then, by leaving the IRA and searching out Dil, he reclaims his supposed goodness. What makes his character so unbelievable is the violent, terrorist activities of the IRA he then leaves them so quickly—in reality, if one has devoted so much time and been encompassed by the violence associated with a cause that one believes in, it seems unlikely that one would go out of one’s way to befriend the “enemy,” and then, leave your terrorist organization so easily. If this were true, we wouldn’t have such serious problems with terrorism today. Fergus, instead, seems at such a general loss of identity that he is an unconvincing character.

    Enter Dil, who redefines the problem of identity confusion. Fergus is attracted to her (because he feels at debt to Jody and in need of absolution or because he is actually attracted to her?) and then disgusted when he finds out she is not who she (through her silence on the subject?) said she is. However, he still remains in touch, and even in a slight physical relationship, with Dil, which strikes me as only out of guilt. This is when Dil’s insecure identity comes into light. What was formerly a strong, independent, emotionally dull personality completely collapses. She becomes needy, dependent, willing to accept or do anything and everything for “Jimmy.” She becomes the embodiment of every “weak” stereotype of the female gender. And “Jimmy” become the male rescuer, trying so hard to protect her.

    Here, the story about the scorpion and the frog comes into play once again. In the beginning, we knew Jody thought Fergus was the “nice guy.” However, at the end of the film, looking back, is Fergus the scorpion or the frog? He “rescued” Dil; yet, if Fergus had never existed, Dil would have never been in that mess from the start. Perhaps Jody would still be alive, and perhaps Dil would not be as lost and needy as she is now. I question Fergus’s motives, and I think he, driven only by guilt, is just as lost as Dil. Like the scorpion, he “can’t help” but bring destruction everywhere he touches. Fergus, as strongly as he may believe in his new identity, could just as likely been the scorpion. Either way, in the end of the story, he drowns.

  5. Natalie Masters says:

    I would consider the Crying Game a drama with a slight mix of romance and action. The aspect of Drama is seen through the internal deliberation that Fergus goes through as he is deciding what to do after Jody’s death. It is clear that Fergus feels guilty for the death, and guilt is an extraordinarily powerful driver of action. Since Fergus was only a volunteer for the IRA, it can be inferred that he was not completely rooted in the success of its mission. He was not as heartless as those who ran the missions. I think the guilt drove him to care for Dil as he did. I do not think he loved Dil, but his respect for Jody as well as the guilt he felt was the driving force. Even though this is clearly not a typical romance, I do not think I could consider this one.

    On the topic of sexual orientation, the spectrum of androgyny is very important. Gender perception can no longer be viewed as a black and white. As discussed in one of my psychology classes, there is a ranging spectrum of the typical gender behaviors. Every human has certain qualities that are more female or male associated, but it is all based on a gray spectrum. Everyone has a mixture of male and female tendencies in them.

    A question here to be raised is why Ferges has so much guilt? Is he the Frog who will go above and beyond for anyone he meets? Technically, Jody was his proposed enemy, but Ferges takes him under his wing while he is a prisoner. I do not think that makes Jody the scorpion though. I think the other members of the IRA can be seen as the scorpions in this movie. They use people like Ferges and Jody to see their jobs through without a care to those “Frogs.” The volunteers and captives are disposable in their minds. I think this is a very powerful metaphor- especially when thinking of the naming of Jude. Judis is the first person I think of when the name Jude is mentioned. Jude can be seen as a similar scorpion as Judis in the Bible.


    I wasn’t particularly a fan of this film. I feel as though there wasn’t enough background on Freges’ sensitivity and Jody’s history. Perhaps it was almost a good thing that we didn’t know them very well so that they could develop solely together and play off what the other had to offer. They don’t quite say why Ferges was so determined to be a part of Dil’s life except for the fact that he felt guilty for Jody’s death. Which, may be enough for some people, but there has to be some sort of deeper mentatlity behind being so apt on protecting Dil. He makes every promise there is in the book to Dil, which is truly a substatial life change from his former life. I feel like Ferges is a classic metaphorical example of people’s constant indecisiveness on how to handle their own lives, so they live through others. Doing something is always better than doing nothing, though. I think that if Jordan had killed off Ferges or Dil in the end there would be a lack of purpose for all that ferges went through to keep his proimise is Jody. The open ended version was definitely the better plot choice. As much as I didn’t enjoy this film, however, the proactive atempt to being about the topic of sexuality and sexual preference to the audience’s attention is commendable. Ferges is immediately turned off to Dil’s body even though he was falling in love with the rest of her. Just as certain people won’t be friends with someone else if they know they’re homosexual. It was a good eye opener as well as tactical writing when Ferges was able to get passed that. Generally, the message of this film is strong, it was just the execution that was weak.

  7. ANNA PRINCE says:

    “The Crying Game” is a very interesting and unique movie in that it does not seem to fit into any particular movie genre. There seem to be two separate parts of the movie that are completely different from one another. The first half is more of a war film in which there is a prisoner being kept captive, while the second half is a love story that deals with the meaning of identity. There are many instances throughout the film that make the viewer question how one can be identified. Traditionally, there are males and there are females. But going by this traditional statement, how would one classify Dil’s character? Dil looks, dresses, and acts like a woman, but she/he has one very distinguishing feature that scientifically makes her a man. She has what is referred to throughout the movie as “a slab of meat”. This feature, is what stops Jude from having romantic relations with her, even though before he found out about her male parts, he seemed completely in love with her. The point of the film seems to be to criticize society’s obsession with the roles of males and the roles of females. It’s asking the question of why the “slab of meat” really matters.


    The tale of the frog and scorpion can be directly correlated to this issue of identity: what is it in this film? How do these ideas of masculinity and femininity set affect our ability to understand or make sense of this film? What really separates a man and a woman, and does this have to relate to sexuality? These questions and more arise from the relationships of Jody and Dil, Dil and Fergus, Fergus and Jody, and even Fergus and Jude. A frog and a scorpion do not represent a duality in gender as different species, meaning that a frog does not have a feminine connotation versus the masculine connotation of a scorpion. This difference is not the focus of juxtaposing these two animals with each other. Instead, the focus is strictly placed on their difference in “nature” or instinctive tendencies. As argued in the fable, the scorpion is an unavoidably sadistic species whereas the frog opposes that inherent “evil” with innocence. Thus, we can distinguish the difference between the two by strictly the defining factors of their actions and thoughts. It does not matter if it’s a male or female scorpion or frog, but rather that it is a frog or a scorpion. This tale could seem to deconstruct the visages of feminine humans and masculine humans by forgetting about the difference in clothing, hair, voice, mannerisms, or even genitalia by connecting us all by a common ground: the genus homo sapiens. I think this film does a seamless job at thrusting outside of the mentality we carry around everyday when we see another being and decide based on how they appear a whole mess of assumptions: gender, sexuality, interests, etc. One of those variables could not be up to par with our societal assumptions, and we assume they are abnormal or without a concrete definition. Yet, what I find the most interesting question to ask in this, and most, situations is, “Who says?” or even, “Why not?”


    This film was probably one of the most interesting ones that we have watched this semester. It honestly kept me on the edge of my seat and it always kept me guessing. That aside, I think that it is important to discuss the significance of the scorpion and the frog story. To me, it was all about deception, as was this film. In the story, the scorpion deceives the frog by telling him that he cannot sting him or else they would both drown. Obviously, the scorpion stings the frog anyways regardless of the outcome because it is “in his nature”.

    I think that deception shows up all over in this movie much like it does in the scorpion and the frog. The first example of deception occurs within the first ten minutes of the film. Jude takes advantage of Jody, which eventually leads to his capture by the IRA. Then I thought that it was pretty deceiving that Fergus kept telling Jody “not to think that way” when Jody would say that he had to die no matter what. Fergus maintained this “you’ll be fine” attitude for a long time. To me, it was his attitude even after he knew that Jody was going to die. Then, when Fergus took Jody out into the woods to be killed, I think that the viewer was deceived into thinking that Jody was going to get away, but obviously that did not happen either.

    To continue with this theme of deception, I thought that it was really interesting that the army, the entity that was supposedly going to “save” Jody by making the deal with the IRA, was pretty ruthless in the attack of the IRA hideout. I mean it didn’t seem like they held back at all. They were blindly shooting up the house and set fire to the satellite structure without much hesitation. I just think that it was interesting that even the character’s saving grace was deceptive. And then, there was the coup de gras of deception: finding out that Dil was anatomically male. Honestly, I did not see that coming. And then, on the other side of that interaction, Dil was deceived by Fergus not only in thinking that he knew about her anatomy, but also in that he found her via the death of “her soldier” (Jody).

    And finally, a brief note about gender identity in this film. It seems to me that the director of this film really drives home the idea that one’s anatomical gender does not determine one’s tastes, feelings, or desires. And it doesn’t. As we see in this film, human identity is widely variable and while it may be fundamental part of our anatomy, physical gender is not integral to understanding a human being or his or her identity.


    The “Frog/Scorpion” theme was a representation of human nature. In other words, slight differences in humans can cause an inability to work together, whether they be cultural, racial, gender-related, et cetera. The frog and the scorpion weren’t able to work together because they were in different groups and it is in their nature to manipulate each other. In the movie, this can represent the different groups that Fergus and Jody were involved in. They weren’t able to work together because of their differences but Jody also saw that Fergus had a good heart and that he would be able to accept those differences and do good.
    Also, I liked that Fergus did not die at the end. In my opinion, this represents the transformation of evil to good. What Fergus has done for Dil justifies what he did to Jody and validates the fact that he should live. If he were to die, it would have been at the hands of evil. Evil never prevails.


    Overall the Crying Game was a pretty messed up film, but it did have its basis in ethical dilemmas and moral pulls. Fergus felt like he had to find Jody’s girlfriend after his death. Fergus felt personally responsible for the death of Jody, and also had many other thoughts swirling around in his head that I think he felt that finding her was his only option. Things took a nasty twist when he discovered that not all the things with Dil where as they seem. I think that this is where the metaphor of the scorpion and the frog most comes into play. Jody said earlier that it was in Fergus’s nature to be kind, just as it was the scorpions nature to sting the frog even if it wasn’t in its best interests. Fergus should have ran far away from the mess that came with Dil, but it was in his nature to be kind, even though this did not end up being in his best interest as seen in the ugly ending to the movie. Fergus was a naturally kind man at heart and this gave him emotional ties to people throughout the movie, many which came back to haunt him in the end.


    The metaphor of the frog and the scorpion says far more about the film “The Crying Game” than one may originally think. In our class discussion, we spent a large amount of time trying to define gender, and trying to categorize or diagnose the characters into very specific groups. However, the story of the frog and the scorpion suggests that perhaps there is a large gray area in between. The frog represents someone who is trusting and good, whereas the scorpion represents all that is evil and a sense of betrayal. This story shows that we should not label people because these descriptions are often inaccurate, and one’s identity may be far more complex. Another struggle we discussed was trying to categorize The Crying Game into one particular genre. It’s nearly impossible. An IRA movie? A black comedy? A twisted, unconventional love story? All of these in one? Neil Jordan keeps viewers guessing through the entire duration of the film. I would argue that a major theme of this film is ambiguity: ambiguity in terms of genre, in terms of names of characters and in terms of sexual identity. Even after seeing The Crying Game multiple times, these are still ideas that I struggle with understanding.


      I’m glad you brought up the scorpion and frog story because even after our discussion, I was still confused as to how the audience was supposed to interpret that metaphor. As I tried to understand what conclusions The Crying Game was trying to reach by the end of the film, I started to get a bit overwhelmed; however, maybe that was the point. The film pushes the audience to think about several parodies people are confronted with, and forced to address, simply because they were born. I wanted to discuss Jody’s character in relation to the frog, because they both went against their nature and lost their lives as a result.

      The tale of the frog and the scorpion believes a person is defined by their physical being. For a scorpion, its inherent nature is to be encased by a black barrier and adorned by a poisonous tip. Whereas a frogs’ existence is characterized by a fragile exterior, possessing no defense system. When the scorpion asked the frog to carry him across the river, the frog was right to be skeptical and refuse his request. But the scorpion was able to persuade the frog otherwise, claiming that while it is in his nature to sting, it is more in his nature to live and therefore gaining the trust of the frog. At this point in the story, there is the potential of life being created to follow a particular nature, but that each life is unique in its own way and subject to circumstance. However, the story squanders any potential for one to act beyond the way nature intended them too, as the scorpion invariably stings and kills the frog.

      Jody’s end came about for the exact same reason as the frog; however, not in the way the previous story would suggest. For the sake of reproduction, nature tells us that because Jody was born a man, he is meant to desire women. However we see this is not the case, as Jody desires Dill. It is only when Jody behaves according to nature and pursues a woman, that his luck takes a turn for the worse and he dies. His death signifies it is more in one’s nature to live, rather than to live by nature.

      In the end, I found the film to be unbiased when describing the positive and negative potential both of these lifestyles posses. As an audience, I think we are supposed to realize that every choice has the potential for good and for bad, but freedom of life is that we have the ability to choose.


    The Crying Game presents two strikingly different settings and juxtaposes them in order to make certain statements and to elicit a particular response from the audience. The harsh world of the IRA in Ireland and the untypical world of the homosexual population in England seem like an odd pairing, and the pairing of flamboyant Dil and serious Fergus is even stranger. However, the stark differences between Dil and Fergus prompt the audience to search for any similarities, and, upon further examination, it becomes clear that the two do have some key things in common. Both have doubts about the role that society has given them. For Fergus, his Irish upbringing and connections to the IRA have formed a certain path in life for him. Similarly, Dil’s physical gender has set her on a particular track. However, Dil rejects the path that she is given and instead forges a new one that is based on what she believes and who she believes she is. Fergus has similar motivations to change how he is defined and start living his life differently. Unlike Dil, he has not made the ultimate commitment to disassociating with his past, and he struggles to separate himself from his IRA past. In some ways, Dil seems like the less stable character. She is unable to stand up to the abusive man from the bar, and she has a breakdown after Fergus cuts her hair. Nonetheless, when looking at the characters in terms of commitment to their ideals and ability to fight against what society wants them to do, Dil surpasses Fergus and becomes the dominant character. She is able to get on stage in the bar and show off her looks to other patrons, and she boldly visits Fergus at work. In the end, Dil seems to be the stronger character in terms of defending how she feels.


    I think that killing off Fergus or Dil at the end of the film would have taken away a big part of the final message of the film. After Fergus has grown so much in terms of connecting to Dil on a personal level (rather than basing their relationship on his perceived traditional labels, it seems such a waste to kill him off and prevent future growth. Similarly with Dil, killing her off would prevent our protagonist from any further personal growth, and would also nullify Fergus’ entire journey. Fergus would be left on his own with only his past. Even if the two do not become a romantic couple, they still are a couple, and, if there were a point to make from one of their deaths, it would be a shame to tragically separate the two of them. Killing either character would not contribute to the greater message of finding your identity, and it would simply make the ending more depressing. I think leaving the ending open and ambiguous to Dil and Fergus’ future is a more interesting and fitting end to the mercurial mood of the film.

    • AUGUST B SANCHEZ says:

      I would have to agree with you on this point. As we learned from Europa Europa, a death is not always with meaning. Only one in hundreds of millions of deaths is a martyrdom. It would also seem weak of the director to kill off one or even both, just for the sake of the film itself. I believe that the film ended excellently.

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