Basically, fake tears.
Many actors can be relied on for their facial expressions, their voices, their looks, muscle, hair, what have you. But to be able to cry on demand? That is a rare and powerful gift.
But the power to do so, without sincerity, in the hands of the Manipulative Bastard? Heaven help us all.
This trope gets its name because crocodiles can and do produce tears, but not out of emotion as humans do; it's simply a way of getting rid of excessive salt (something that many seabirds also do). 14th century travel stories had it that they cried to draw in their prey, or as a false show of guilt or grief over the prey they were eating, and the usage has carried over to human displays of false tears over the years.
This trope is not limited to just the Manipulative Bastard, however. Children "crying" to get what they want is Truth in Television (see #6 on the Cracked list Six Shockingly Evil Things Babies are Capable Of.).
Often a key part of a Wounded Gazelle Gambit.
- This trope is referenced in Ouran High School Host Club — all the male hosts seem to cry at the drop of a hat, in order to create 'emotional' scenes, and Haruhi soon stumbled on the explanation - they all use eyedrops to induce tears, though Tamaki claims he doesn't - a true host can cry on command without needing such aid! (Towards the end of that episode, Haruhi accidentally pushes Tamaki into some fairly drastic action with some surprising tears - which, as it turns out, was caused by a loose contact-lens.)
- In Pokémon Adventures, Blue turns on fake tears when confronted by Ho-oh.
- Also in Adventures, there is a literal case as one of White's agency Pokémon, a Sandile, has the specific purpose for crying for any tragic movie scene.
- In the anime, a Teddiursa pulls this by framing Chikorita and Totodile for stealing food and beating it up. Actually, said Pokémon were trying to stop it. But when Teddiursa tries this with Bulbasaur, Ash and his friends don't fall for it this time.
- Also in the anime, Shamus reveals he uses this tactic whenever he abandons a Pokémon so that they'll leave him alone.
- One Naruto Non-Serial Movie had a big-name actress use eyedrops to create fake tears (because she'd become such a Broken Bird that she was now an Emotionless Girl).
- Quoted word for word in episode 37 of Motto Ojamajo Doremi. In this case, Onpu was using these to try and lure out the fairies who had begun a rebellion and were refusing to leave the Recipe Diary and thus block progress.
- An episode of Paranoia Agent features an Internet suicide pact between two men who are shocked to discover that their third member is a little girl. When they decide to leave her behind, she tries to guilt-trip them by crying, even though there are no visible tears.
- Kokinchan from Anpanman constantly uses these. As an added bonus, if other people are hit by her tears, they'll start crying uncontrollably. She's a little girl, so she uses these to get what she wants, or just to get other people to start crying. When her needs are satisfied, she'll stop crying at the drop of a hat.
- Kanna did this on her first day of school in Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid in order to get Saikawa to drop her Tsundere act and become friends with her. She dropped the act when Saikawa offered her some candy.
- In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood, Dio Brando sheds such tears while pretending to be remorseful over poisoning Jonathan's father. He tearfully begs for forgiveness in an attempt to lure Johnathan close enough to stab him with a hidden dagger. The tactic almost works. However, Jonathan's friend Speedwagon sees through Dio's trick and warns Johnathan in time. Dio is quick to drop the act once confronted.
- In Lex Luthor: Man of Steel, when Lex sets off Hope's self-destruct system, he narrates "If only my tears didn't brand me as your Judas", but there are clearly no tears in his eyes. Notably, the only time we see any tears is when Superman is there to see them.
- In Violine, Muller does this while threatening to kill Redder.
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame "Let's see... One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine. So there's ten of you, and one of me. What's a poor girl to do?!"
- Roland from Strange Magic pretends to cry in order to get Sunny to pity him enough to trick him into getting a love potion for the two of them two to use. The tears mostly work, except Sunny is more annoyed by the tears than sympathetic.
- Near the end of Adam's Rib, the protagonists' marriage is saved when Spencer Tracy's character cries, prompting his wife (Katharine Hepburn) to become sympathetic and ignore their differences. Soon he reveals that he was crying on purpose, and makes a point of the fact that it's not just women who are capable of that kind of emotional manipulation.
- In Catwoman, our heroine confronts the villainess in her home, who reveals her husband's dead body which just so happens to be covered in deep scratches, right before she triggers an alarm and cues crocodile tears, screaming "IT WAS CATWOMAN!"
- Referenced in The Man Who Knew Too Little. Wallace says something that offends Lori, and she cries briefly. Wallace, who thinks everything is a play and Lori is an actress, marvels at what he thinks is the ability to cry on demand.
Wallace: Was that a tear? ...How do you people do it? Did you... poke yourself in the eye? Or are you thinking right now: "My dog is dead."
Lori: What's the matter with you? Are you enjoying this?
Wallace: Enormously. "My dog is dead." [pokes himself in the eye] "My dog is dead."
- In the film of A Series of Unfortunate Events, Count Olaf pretends to be weeping when he's told he can't raise the Baudelaire children anymore... by pouring water in his eyes.
- In the Laurel and Hardy short Big Business, the heroes get into an argument with a homeowner, which eventually leads to Stan and Ollie wrecking the homeowner's house while he destroys their car. After a policeman puts a stop to things, Stan and Ollie burst into tears. The homeowner and cop start crying in sympathy, and the cop lets Stan and Ollie go. Then Stan and Ollie start laughing, revealing that they were faking tears. The cop sees this, and chases after them as the film ends.
- In Foolish Wives, Count Sergius, a liar, con artist, and all-around dirtbag, decides to fleece Maruschka the maid of the two thousand francs that are her life savings. To convince her that he's in a crisis and needs the money, he actually dribbles drops from a finger bowl onto the tablecloth, to make it look like he's crying.
- The Big Lebowski - Mr. Lebowski summons The Dude to his mansion, and gives him the job of delivering bogus ransom money to the kidnappers of his trophy wife. He sits by the fireplace in solemn tears, telling The Dude "Strong men also cry", masking the fact that he's pulling a scam, using foundation money for the ransom and keeping it for himself.
- The Little Drummer Girl (1984). Charlie weeps when told that the terrorist she's pretending is her lover is dead. Those interrogating her aren't impressed, pointing out that she's an actress and has therefore been trained to cry on cue.
- Les Larmes de Crocodile/Crocodile Tears, by Andre François, is pretty much a bilingual gruesome warning story for kids about what happens if you believe a crocodile when it's crying. With cute little cartoon illustrations.
- In Robert A. Heinlein's Lazarus Long stories, Lazarus's Opposite Sex Clones are stated to be capable of producing tears on command. Lazarus notes that he can do it too but that it isn't very useful for males.
- One of Tom Holt's near-interchangeable protagonists (Paul Carpenter, IIRC) at one point remembers how, when left to play with a young cousin, the little rodent would at the first hint of boredom burst into tears and run out crying "Mummy, he hit me!" Since most of Tom Holt's protagonists are Butt Monkeys and/or Chew Toys, this is pretty much standard.
- Played with in the children's book Big Max by Kin Platt, after Big Max and the King of Pooka Pooka have escaped from a literal crocodile.
"Look, he is crying," said the King. "That means he is sorry."
"A crocodile's tears can fool you," said Big Max. "He is crying because he did not have us for dinner."
"Don't remind me," said the crocodile. He cried some more.
- Star Wars Expanded Universe:
- In the X-Wing Series, a point is made of Gara Petothel's ability to cry on cue.
- Splinter of the Mind's Eye has Luke Skywalker, in a case of Characterization Marches On - later he's a bad liar - able to not only come up with elaborate false excuses on the spot, but also to make them convincing, to the point where he can make himself cry.
- In I, Claudius, Claudius mentions that his sister Livilla can cry on command. She uses it to manipulate Postumus into a trap.
- A Song of Ice and Fire: Sansa remarks how convincing Littlefinger is when feigning grief and a Guilt Complex to boot when discussing the death of his wife Lysa Arryn (whom he personally murdered) to Nestor Royce.
- Dave Barry Slept Here:
In a dramatic televised moment, [Oliver] North, his eyes moist and his voice shaking, revealed to the committee that he was a courageous patriot, after which he became so overcome by emotion that he knocked over his bottle of Revlon eye moistener.
- Evvy in Street Magic can force herself to cry what Lady Zenadia thinks are Tears Of Weakness... by remembering the look on her mother's face when said mother told the slavemaster to sell Evvy for as much as possible.
- Used in one episode of CSI, by the girl who manipulated the people around in an intrigue that resulted in murder. And our heroes found out by running a chemical analysis of the tears...
- The second episode of Dexter featured a prolific drunk driver who specialized in these. The episode was aptly titled "Crocodile".
- Sherlock: Sherlock is apparently able to cry on cue.
- In "The Great Game" he pretends to be a grieved friend when speaking to a victim's wife purposely getting things wrong about her husband to get her to reveal information by contradicting him. Once he has his information, Sherlock instantly drops the act and wipes away his fake tears as he and John leave.
- Sherlock pulls out the fake tears yet again in "A Scandal in Belgravia" while pretending to be a priest that had been mugged. Doubles as a Funny Moment.
- Word of God reveals that the tears atop St. Bart's were also fake. He was trying to upset John so that John would believe that Sherlock had killed himself.
- In "The Empty Hearse", Sherlock uses this to catalyse John's decision to forgive him by pretending he is unable to defuse a ticking time bomb so that John thinks that they are both about to die. Once he is forgiven, he breaks down laughing.
- Referred to by name in an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Ashley uses them to get Will to agree to participate in a scheme, but blows it when he catches her smiling reflection in a window after he says yes.
- In Justified, when Donovan threatens to shoot Quarles for killing Brady, Quarles tears up, confessing that his father forced him into prostitution as a child to get money for heroin. Donovan lowers his gun, and a tearful Quarles embraces him. Later, we see Donovan bound and gagged in Quarles bathroom just before Quarles sexually assaults him, suggesting that Quarles' tears were a ruse.
- Hornblower, "The Even Chance": Having been rescued from the sea, Midshipman Jack Simpson, a hissable, twisted villain of a Bully, tries to look shattered and sheds some crocodile tears when he gives his report regarding the destruction of the Justinian and the loss of Captain Keene. It's quite a performance, but Captain Pellew and the other officers are mostly embarrassed and visibly uncomfortable.
- In the Supernatural episode "All Hell Breaks Loose, Part One" (S02, Ep21), Ava pretends to sob hysterically to deflect suspicion away from her for the deaths of the other Special Children.
- In the Monk episode "Mr. Monk's Other Brother," Adrian Monk's con artist half-brother Jack Monk Jr. turns out to have mastered this. At one point, he fakes hysterical sobbing while posing as a relative of the murder victim he's been framed for killing, to get into the victim's residence. Adrian remarks, "I can't help but notice your fake crying looks a lot like your real crying."
- Doctor Who. At the end of "The Eaters of Light", Missy is moved to shed tears, but the Doctor naturally suspects he's being manipulated by his friend-turned-arch enemy.
Missy: I don't even know why I'm crying. Why? Why do I keep doing that now?The Doctor: I don't know. Maybe you're trying to impress me.Missy: Yes. Probably some devious plan. That sounds about right.
- Invoked in the song "A Girl in Trouble Is A Temporary thing" by Romeo Void.
- "Crocodile Tears" by LO Hess
- Pokémon: Dark-types have a reputation for using dirty tricks, with moves like Sucker Punch. True to form, there is a dark-type move called Fake Tears that lowers the enemy's Special Defense stat when used.
- Banshees in Miitopia use these to make Miis cry, incapacitating them for a while.
- Tracy from I-0 can do this.
- Dahlia Hawthorne from the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series. She mainly uses them to manipulate the courtroom into looking the other way when you catch her lying her ass off on the witness stand.
- Rise in Persona 4, lampshaded by Chie.
- In Batman: Arkham Asylum, after Harley Quinn has been recaptured, she sits in her cell sobbing pitifully with her face buried in her hands. However, she occasionally looks up to make sure that Batman is still looking at her, and Detective Vision reveals that her heart rate is still registering as 'Calm'.
- During Bioshock Infinite Elizabeth realizes Booker has been deceiving her about escaping to Paris and is really taking her to New York to be used in paying off his debts, she starts crying somewhat abruptly. Booker approaches her, clearly about to apologize- and then a noticeably dry-eyed Elizabeth knocks him out with a wrench.
- Hiyoko Saionji in Super Danganronpa 2 is quite good at this, sometimes even going so far as to taunt your own protagonist Hinata for falling for it. During free time events, he'll sometimes guess that she's only saying that in a strange inversion of Sand In My Eyes (because the tears look pretty real to him).
- The "North Korean Photoshop Tutorial" by CollegeHumor has Photoshop Project Manager Brian O'Neil Hughes do this to a crowd photo from Kim Jong-Il's funeral:
Brian O'Neil Hughes: Now let's move into some closeup shots of the crowd. Okay, these people are going to need to be A LOT sadder. So this is where our Warp Tool comes in. We'll just droop these a jowls a bit, okay. Just drag this frown down here. Yeah, just really make this woman look like a rotting misery pumpkin. We'll take the soft brush here and add in a few tears. [The result is that the woman looks cartoonishly miserable, with over-the-top tears exploding from the side of her face] And I've gone ahead and done that for the rest of these people as well-whoops, got a little smudge there! Let's take care of that real quick. [He draws a box around a soldier pointing a gun at these mourners; with a button press, the gun is replaced with a cat] Great. Everything's great.
- Maximus Slade from T.O.T. tries to garner sympathy from Mark after he subdues him by crying a bit and saying he doesn't know what's wrong with him mentally. Mark sees through his lie instantly, and Maximus immediately switches back to his smug demeanor.
- Jonny does this in an episode of Ed, Edd n Eddy when he throws a party and only the Eds show up, much to Eddy's annoyance. Eddy decided to walk out, and Jonny begins crying and saying how he only wanted to have a special day for Plank. Eddy (reluctantly) decides to stay, only for Jonny to shout, "FOOLED YA!" and stop crying.
- Jimmy does this in another episode, after being an exemplar Bitch in Sheep's Clothing to the Eds (and Eddy in particular) for a whole day, as soon as he sees Sarah coming, he throws himself on the ground and claims the Eds made him eat dirt all day, tears included. Sarah acted about as well as you'd expect.
- The Flintstones:
- Wilma would sometimes resort to this to get Fred to do something for her. Once he agreed, she would immediately perk up. Betty also did this to Barney at least once.
- Pebbles often did this too.
- The fake Cadance does this in both parts of the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic finale "A Canterlot Wedding".
- The Simpsons: In the episode, "The War of the Simpsons", Grampa Simpson used this to guilt trip Bart and Lisa into cleaning up the house after they throw a wild party when Homer and Marge are away; he throws it in their faces at the end, saying he can turn it on and off like a faucet.
- On Chowder, Panini resorted to applying saline solution in her eyes and then sobbing for Chowder to come back to being the "father" of a bluenana she adopted.
- The Powerpuff Girls: In "Getting Twiggy With It", Mitch very cleverly uses these every time the Girls interrupt his torture of Twiggy.
- The succubus in the South Park episode of the same name.
- Bloo does this to Wilt in the Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends episode "Cuckoo for Coco Cards."
- On Steven Universe, Aquamarine's design invokes this—she has a tear-shaped gem right under her eye, but she's actually a condescending Jerk Ass who treats humans like bugs and isn't much nicer to Topaz, either.
- This happens in the first two seasons of Total Drama:
- In Island, Heather utilizes this as her scheme to break up Gwen and Trent. She lures Trent into the dock by sobbing and lies to him that Gwen insulted his music, then kisses him in front of Gwen. The outcome of this is Trent's unfair elimination.
- In Action, Chris announces that the reward for the medical-themed challenge is that one contestant is selected to win a free trip to a spa with a family member. Leshawna breaks into tears and everyone gives her the reward out of sympathy, but as she gets to the Lame-o-Sine she reveals to her childood friend Leshaniqua that she wasn't really crying but secretly tricked her castmates so she can claim the spa trip for herself.
- In Doug, Roger attempts this to try and convince Doug to look after his cat, Stinky, while he and his mother go off to a monster truck show. As he does, Doug's sister, Judy, an actress, whispers "Doug, what's that noise he's making?"