Created By: LordGro on December 22, 2011 Last Edited By: MyTimingIsOff on April 4, 2012

Tears of Weakness

Character cries for being weak. [Formerly called Water Works]

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This is the page cut and sent to YKTTW on the basis of this TRS thread. Couldn't come up with a proposal how to improve the trope, so I just put the old page here unedited.

The trope is too vaguely defined. One of its problems is (in my eyes at least) that there's too much subjectivity as to what are "Tears of Weakness" as opposed to (for example) "Tears of Despair" or "Tears of Pain". The current description seems to aim for crying that makes a character seem immature and/or ridiculous, but disregards that characters can cry "for their own problems" and yet come around as sympathetic to the audience, because we can understand them and/or think their emotional breakdown is justified.

This is also apparent in the example list, where different interpretations of the trope collide with each other.

Up for Grabs.
" 'You ought to be ashamed of yourself,' said Alice, 'a great girl like you,' (she might well say this), 'to go on crying in this way! Stop this moment, I tell you!' But she went on all the same, shedding gallons of tears, until there was a large pool all round her, about four inches deep and reaching half down the hall."

We have Manly Tears for when even a strong man would cry, and Sand In My Eyes for when even those tears are (mostly) suppressed, and Tender Tears for proof of exquisite tenderness of heart, Tears of Remorse for overwhelming guilt, and Tears of Joy for indicating a Crowning Moment of Awesome.

This is for tears that really are a sign of weakness. May range down to being utterly contemptible. Especially when men cry them, but even women who engage in them may be despised. Small children are generally safe, but even older ones may be told "Big boys don't cry."

If the character apologizes for the weakness, the effect can be minimized. Especially if the character has been through trying experiences that would weaken anyone. Characters who haven't eaten in three days or slept in two may start to cry as a sign that they are very near breakdown.

Tears Of Weakness are generally characterized by being for the person's own problems, and often by crying instead of doing something useful or even necessary. Frequently Inelegant Blubbering. (Note if the tears are for what he has done, they are Tears of Remorse.)

On the other hand, scorning the tears as Tears Of Weakness may also be used to characterize others as cold-hearted and callous. Tender Tears, Manly Tears and even Sand In My Eyes can thus inspire the invocation of this trope.

See also Cry Cute and Your Makeup Is Running.
Needs Examples.
Community Feedback Replies: 26
  • December 22, 2011
    randomsurfer
    • The song "Big Girls Don't Cry"
    • Perahps a too literal example: in Clan Of The Cave Bear Ayla (a young cro-magnon girl) is upset because her adoptive father Creb (a neanderthal) was mad at her, so she cries. Neanderthals are physically unable to cry so they don't understand what Ayla is doing; they think that something is wrong with her eyes and have the medicine woman look at her. She can't find anything wrong. They just diagnose that Ayla has weak eyes that leak every once in a while.
  • December 22, 2011
    MyTimingIsOff
    ^The first example you gave was X Just X. That isn't acceptable, especially for a trope being made on the ashes of a trope whose misuse saw no end.

    I don't think the example list from the old page should have been copied, they are all Square Peg Round Trope or X Just X. Since you tagged this Up For Grabs I'm removing them.
  • December 23, 2011
    VioletOrange
    • In Claymore, it is quite common to see these in truly desperate situation (such as being seriously wound and against an opponent the character couldn't match if he/she was in perfect condition). Notable example are Deneve in Pieta, and Yuma against the destructor's progenitur.
  • December 23, 2011
    MyTimingIsOff
    ^The "weakness" in Tears Of Weakness is referring to emotional weakness, not physical weakness.
  • December 23, 2011
    randomsurfer
    ^^^Fine.

    • In the song "Big Girls Don't Cry" by the Four Seasons the narrator relates the story of his girlfriend saying that big girls don't cry.

    [Edited per discussion below.]
  • December 23, 2011
    SavvyAngel
    ^ What? "Big Girl's Don't Cry" is a song by Fergie, who is a women.
  • December 23, 2011
    HiddenFacedMatt
    ^^^ Perhaps using a word other than weakness may make that clearer.
  • December 24, 2011
    randomsurfer
    ^^To me, "Big Girls Don't Cry" is a song sung by the Four Seasons, who are men. The Other Wiki tells me there are also two other songs with the same title.
  • December 24, 2011
    SavvyAngel
    ^ Ah, gotcha. You should list the artist, so other people don't get confused.
  • December 25, 2011
    randomsurfer
    I'd never heard of any other "Big Girls Don't Cry" songs before this discussion so it didn't seem neccessary. There was a ykttw a while back called "I Kissed A Girl" named after the 1995 Jill Sobule song of the same name rather than the more recent Katy Perry song - the sponsor had never heard of the latter until I asked which one it was named after. Some of us Tropers aren't Young Nerds after all.

    Back on topic: I'm still a little confused about the point of this trope. Is this for when crying is used to show that a character is weak, or for In Universe examples where Alice cries and Bob says that only weak people cry?
  • December 25, 2011
    Arivne
    Does this include crying because you're frightened/scared/a coward?
  • December 29, 2011
    lebrel
    ^^ @randomsurfer: I think it covers both.
  • January 4, 2012
    lebrel
    bump
  • January 11, 2012
    lebrel
    bump?
  • January 18, 2012
    lebrel
    Bumping again... Anyone have more comments / examples?
  • January 18, 2012
    AP
    Live-Action Television
    • In Cutey Honey THELIVE, the main character's best friend loses a fight to another student and cries about it once she gets home.
  • January 25, 2012
    lebrel
    Bump. Is this abandoned too?
  • January 26, 2012
    Chabal2
    No actual tears seen, but the behavior is the same: Zant in Twilight Princess basically throws a tantrum when his plan to usurp the crown fails.
  • February 15, 2012
    lebrel
    Anyone else have any comments for this? I like this trope and would like to see it launch (not that I like the attitude it represents, but I think it's a thing and deserves a trope).
  • February 16, 2012
    Frank75
    I thought this was about people crying to manipulate other people helping them. Like Jamie Lee Curtis in A Fish Called Wanda.
  • February 16, 2012
    lebrel
    ^ That sounds like a mild version of Wounded Gazelle Gambit.
  • February 19, 2012
    LordGro
    I think there might actually be several tropes in this description that are mixed together; or maybe some things that aren't tropes.

    As I wrote above: The current write-up emphasizes the negative aspect, implying that "weakness" is bad and that a character that sheds such tears as this trope is about is overly sensitive, self-absorbed, immature, and unsympathetic to the audience.

    But that disregards that characters can legitimately cry when they are in a really hard situation, or reach a major low-point, and yet not be presented unsympathetic or come across as childish, immature etc.

    There's also the fact that what constitutes a legitimate or illegitimate reason to cry has a subjective dimension. Different viewers/readers may react differently to the same scene.

    Maybe we should split the current description into different tropes, such as:
    • Tears Of Despair -- A character's crying demonstrates, or underlines, that he/she has hit rock bottom.
    • Crying Alone, Lonely Tears -- A character is shown crying without someone watching, revealing the degree of his despair to the audience.
    • Public Crying: A character cries publicly and thus loses respect in the eyes of other characters.
    • Turn Off The Water Works: A character's crying makes another character help him so that s/he stops crying. Different from the Wounded Gazelle Gambit in that there is no deception involved.
    And possibly others.
  • April 3, 2012
    lebrel
    ^ I think this proposal includes a lot of valid ideas, but it doesn't cover the core of the current trope, that is, the idea that crying (especially when fustrated) is weak, wimpy and possibly feminine (which is of course bad, right?). The attitude that stands behind Men Dont Cry.
  • April 4, 2012
    LordGro
    ^I am not sure what the core of the current trope is (or whether it even has one). I would think that Men Dont Cry is itself an attitude, so there is no need for an attitude to be behind it, nor a trope for the same thing from a different angle.
  • April 4, 2012
    HaggisMcCrablice
    What about Cry Baby (not to be confused with the film)? Serena from Sailor Moon practically defines this Trope, literally flowing from the eyes...although on occassion she weeps in a dignified manner, such as when a friend or even an enemy is hurt. Perhaps a Distaff version of Manly Tears is in order: Motherly Tears?
  • April 4, 2012
    lebrel
    ^^ But Men Dont Cry isn't a stand-alone attitude, it's a symptom of the idea that crying is weak/wimpy/feminine. Men Dont Cry gets extra oomph from the idea that Men Are Stoic / Emotions Are Feminine, but Crying Is Weak can also be applied to boys, girls and women who cry, not just men.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=w3ek094gvfwteuebznd4h2r7