Crying is a very powerful expression of human emotion. But not all cultures and times understand the symbolism of crying in the same way. Particularly variable is the degree to which this symbolism has been gendered over the centuries.
Boys don't cry. It doesn't matter the circumstances; shedding any tears is the ultimate no-no in terms of what you can and can't do as a man. But sometimes... sometimes... sometimes there comes a time when a man's emotions deny any other form of expression, and they pour forth—prerequisite impassioned speech may or may not be present—by cascading down his cheeks. And crying does NOT make him any less badass in the eyes of the audience, but in fact may even reinforce this status. In other words, Manly Man-Tears Of Manliness.
Common cases of this are:
- Loss of a significant other - child, Love Interest, sibling, beloved pet, friend, comrade in arms, parent, Old Master, Antagonist in Mourning, you name it.
- Pride or joy for a significant other - child, Love Interest, sibling, etc. (as above)
- Patriotic pride, especially if he's military (current or retired) and/or his country's anthem is playing.
- Seeing something beautiful like a finely crafted weapon, or a wild and beautiful landscape. (This can overlap with patriotic pride if the beautiful sight is in/from his home country.)
- Intense gratitude for a significant service or favor, especially if it involves someone saving his life or the life of his aforementioned significant other.
- A particularly well-executed Rousing Speech, especially the one right before the Final Battle or Big Game.
- Sympathizing with someone's (or some group's) plight.
- Reaching an important goal in one's life, especially if The Hero is Hot-Blooded. (Vowing to achieve said goal also works.)
- Having a father-figure finally say, "Well Done, Son."
- Any case of Heroic Sacrifice.
- All-consuming rage.
- Values Dissonance - for the movies set in some very different historical or cultural context (even in Europe, it was actually common and even expected for men to cry on certain occasions in Antiquity and the Middle Ages).
- Basically any time a badass is overwhelmed with emotion.
The common thread here is that Manly Tears are justified and dignified. Crying for no (good) reason doesn't count, nor does crying out of frustration or over wounded pride. Pain is out too, for no matter how bone-shattering the beating or how excruciating the torture The Hero will never give their tormenter the satisfaction of MANPAIN TEARSnote . Crying in fear is also out, for the same reasons. On the "dignity" side, however justified they might be, Inelegant Blubbering generally doesn't qualify as Manly Tears because of their lesser/non-existent dignity- though depending on the situation and the person, the two can overlap on very rare occasions: There are some things which can move even the most stoic Badass to openly weep.
Manly Tears may swiftly change into Berserker Tears if the one who caused the hero's suffering is here.
Contemptible characters may attempt to characterize these tears as water works; the effect is to make them even more contemptible. The crying character may also apologize for them as a sign of weakness. True friends will probably reassure them It's Okay to Cry.
Contrast Sand In My Eyes, where the man denies to the end that he is crying. See also Not So Stoic, Sorrowful Stutter, and Break the Badass. May be in the form of a Single Tear (which generally makes it even manlier).
Since there is no separate trope covering works from cultures where crying is actively expected as a part of masculinity, or no big deal, examples of that are included here. But in such cultures the message of the symbolism is not "he's crying because it's so extreme that even a normally unemotional man would cry", but rather "he's crying because a display of authentic emotion is what is expected of a man in these circumstances".
The phrase "manly tears" originates from Anime fandom. Fist of the North Star is the Trope Codifier, due to how the hyper-masculine macho badass Kenshiro is not afraid of shedding tears. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is arguably the Trope Namer, as it was the Gurren Lagann fanbase that coined the phrase "manly tears".
- Anime & Manga
- Comic Books
- Fan Works
- Film — Live-Action
- Live-Action TV
- Video Games
- Western Animation
- Real Life
- An American anti-littering ad featured a (fake) Native American viewing the littered landscape and finally a single tear escapes him. Thus creating the trope Crying Indian. (In a follow-up ad, the Indian rides with a big smile through towns where people are cleaning up.)
- An Australian ad for KFC has a crowd of men screaming like fangirls for the new product, and one of the men played by a Mauri footballer is shown sobbing very, very manly tears.
- Charlie Barkin, a large, masculine dog, sheds a manly tear at the end of All Dogs Go to Heaven. As does his friend earlier on.
- In Balto, after Balto falls off a cliff along with the crate of diphtheria antitoxin needed to save the sick children of Nome, he reaches his Despair Event Horizon, covers his face with his paws, and sobs softly. Fortunately, just then, his white wolf spirit guide appears and inspires him not to give up.
- Earl Devereaux subverts the trope in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and plays it straight in the second movie. He orders a tear back into his tear duct after first seeing the food animals. But at the end, he allows it to fall, whereupon it somehow manages to make a blueberry grow chest hair.
- The Death of Superman sees Jonathan Kent, Bibbo Bibboski, Jimmy Olsen, and one of Superman's pallbearers cry as a reaction to the titular event.
- Dumbo: Dumbo's feisty mentor/caretaker Timothy Q. Mouse occasionally cries a little. For instance, he sheds a single tear as Mrs. Jumbo sings "Baby Mine" to her son, knowing that it is time for them to leave, and again while giving the crows a speech about what happened to Dumbo. Jim Crow and his brothers do this during Timothy's speech too.
- The Great Mouse Detective:
- Bartholomew sheds tears and sobs like a baby while Ratigan talks about his history with Basil during "The World's Greatest Criminal Mind" number.
- One of Ratigan's thugs also sheds a tear after Bartholomew is eaten by Felicia.
- Dawson starts to cry after Olivia gets kidnapped.
- Occurs near the end of the movie with Basil himself after Olivia goes back to Scotland, even though tears are not visible. He's obviously Trying Not to Cry after their goodbye.
- Hercules and Phil cry Manly Tears over Meg's Disney Death. Phil also sheds a Tear of Joy in the movie's finale when Zeus creates a constellation of Hercules.
"That's Phil's boy!"
- Quasimodo has a few crying scenes in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, most memorably when he sees Esmeralda and Phoebus kissing and at Esmeralda's Disney Death. Some people might argue that these are Tender Tears, since Quasimodo is generally a sweet, gentle character, but since the climactic battle proves that he can be a true badass, they qualify as Manly too.
- Occurs at the ending of Mulan with Yao, after he and his friends hug Mulan goodbye.
- Moses in The Prince of Egypt, at the deaths of all the firstborn Egyptian sons. After Rameses finally grants the Hebrews permission to leave (while mourning over his own son's body), as Moses walks back to the Hebrew dwellings amid the echoing sound of bereaved mothers' cries, he is overcome with grief and collapses against a wall, sobbing.
- Quest for Camelot: Garrett sheds a tear during the reprise of "I Stand Alone" as he leaves Kayley.
- In Robin Hood (1973), Little John is a big, tough Lovable Rogue of a bear, but all the same, his eyes fill with tears when he briefly thinks his best friend Robin Hood is dead.
- Rock and Rule: when Mok finally raises the demon and innocent hench-man Zip takes a mortal hit for the hero, his villainous brother can only tearfully ask him why he did it.
- The chivalrous Sir 1036 in Rudolph's Shiny New Year is seen shedding tears when he and the other archipelago representatives begin to lose hope that they'll be able to bring back the Baby New Year in time.
- In Shrek Forever After, when Shrek was in the alternate reality, he convinces Donkey that he knows him, but it didn't do very well, Donkey freaked out and ran away, then Shrek saw one of the triplets' doll, then Shrek sheds a manly tear and he knew that they're not there at all. That is the first time we ever see Shrek cry.
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: All seven dwarfs cry over Snow White's Disney Death. That includes Grumpy, who lead the attempt to rescue Snow White and therefore is easily the manliest of them. This scene may also have invoked a meta example of this trope at its first showing; after months prior to the release of people calling the movie "Disney's Folly," saying that an hour and a half of color/animation would drive people mad, etc., a bunch of grown celebrities, men as well as women, burst into tears over the sight of a dead cartoon character.
- Miles Morales and his father Jefferson shred some tears (namely over the death of their uncle/brother Aaron aka The Prowler) in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
- It’s Played for Laughs but Adult Spider-Man crying in the shower (in full costume) after getting divorced from MJ is still pretty sad.
- In Turning Red, Robaire sheds a Single Tear while singing to help Mei's family.
- The Bible:
- Jesus wept. - John 11:35, the shortest passage in The Bible. He weeps out of compassion for the grieving sisters and friends of the dead Lazarus, whom he proceeds to bring back to life.
- Similarly, after Jesus' prediction that Peter would deny Him three times comes true, Peter weeps bitterly.
- Throughout the Hebrew Bible there are many examples of strong men weeping. Joseph, son of Jacob, repeatedly breaks down in tears throughout the later part of his story, as he reunites with his family and reconciles with the brothers who sold him into slavery.
- Occurs many times in Homer's The Iliad. Particularly between Achilles and King Priam when Priam begs Achilles to return the body of his son Hector for burial. Priam's passion moves Achilles who begins thinking about his lost friend Patroclus; and the two men weep together over their loss. One of the finest examples of enemies united in grief in the history of literature.
- The Odyssey consists of Odysseus crying on a rock, Odysseus defeating sea monsters, Odysseus crying on a rock, Odysseus defying Poseidon, Odysseus crying on a rock...
- To say nothing of Odysseus's reunion with his son Telemachus. Many tears are shed on both sides.
- The Shahnameh has many examples. Most prominent would be Rostam, the manliest character in the entire book, bitterly crying when he realizes he's just killed his own son.
- Goodarz kills his long time rival and counterpart Piran, then sheds tears for him.
- In Virgil's The Aeneid, Aeneas and indeed many other heroic characters break down and cry on several occasions. This is further expanded upon in the notes, where it says that it was not prohibited for a Roman man to cry under extreme duress.
- In Classical Mythology, Orpheus was able to make The Stoic Hades shed "iron tears" by playing his lyre to appeal the return of his lost beloved.
- In The Divine Comedy, Dante sheds tears over the suffering of the damned, over losing Virgil, and over Beatrice's condemnation of him.
- Les Murray's poem "An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow" is about a man who weeps "like a man" and a crowd who surrounds him in wonderment.
- Ric Flair cried during his final match with WWE, cried at his Hall of Fame induction ceremony, and cried during his farewell speech.
- Shawn Michaels repeated the Flair farewell experience two years later, after being beaten by The Undertaker at WrestleMania 26. He shed tears after the match and the next night on Raw. Triple H got in on the Manly Tears at the close of the show when he came out to hug Shawn.
- Speaking of Triple H, we see this fully when he beat The Undertaker in 2018. A Mixture of Kayfabe & reality. He tearfully hugs Shawn before dropping to his knees and laying his head on the mat with Shawn there rooting for him. He composes himself and goes to help up Taker but the latter hesitated taking his hand. Triple H seems to lose his composure again as he kneels down with a Headbutt of Love and says something to his Kayfabe rival and real-life friend. After Taker takes his hand, Triple H helps him up & hugs him, still looking very tearful. note
- Paul Heyman at ECW One Night Stand 2005, though he insisted that the reason his eyes were red and watery was because he was smoking a joint with Rob Van Dam.
- Paul also mentioned in the Rise and Fall of ECW that everybody cried after ECW finished their first pay-per-view, Barely Legal.
- Despite trashing the Ring of Honor fans, after wrestling what was thought to be his last match with the company, a two out of three falls match with Colt Cabana, it was obvious CM Punk was crying. It would happened again, him being overwhelmed by the positive fan support his debut match with the revived ECW brand received, cried while celebrating his win. He thanked the fans for their support during a taped segment the next week.
- Hulk Hogan, during the in-ring eulogy he gave for Gene Okerlund started tearing up, so he put his sunglasses back on to cover them.
- After his retirement match against Triple H, Mick Foley seemed to get emotional.
- Whenever somebody wins a championship for the first time, expect this to happen. Randy Orton, Shawn Michaels, Beth Phoenix, Natalya Neidhart, The Miz are famous examples and tend to be heartwarming moments, even if they happen to be heel.
- Cyrano insists in Act I of Cyrano de Bergerac that he never cries, but in Act IV, Christian notices a tear drop on his most recent love letter to Roxane.
- William Shakespeare's heroes, when they cry, always apologize for the way their emotions overcame them. (To be sure, the character does have to say something to let the watchers know he's supposed to be crying.) One of the better-known (if not well-known) of these is the scene in Macbeth where MacDuff receives the news of his wife's murder. From one man to another:
"Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak
Whispers the o'erfraught heart and bids it break."
- In Much Ado About Nothing, Don Leonato expresses grief over his daughter Hero being the victim of Don John's slanders (which he at one point believed and attacked Hero over):
"I pray thee peace, I will be flesh and blood;
For there was never yet philosopher
That could endure the toothache patiently."
- In Much Ado About Nothing, Don Leonato expresses grief over his daughter Hero being the victim of Don John's slanders (which he at one point believed and attacked Hero over):
- Marius sometimes has these as Eponine dies in his arms during Les Misérables.
- The stage directions of Miss Saigon call for Chris to sob when Kim dies in his arms, though whether he actually does it or just lets out a Big "NO!" depends on the actor.
- Of course, the Phantom lets loose with these at the ending of The Phantom of the Opera.
- In the stage version of Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, not only does Quasimodo have his crying scenes as in the film, but in the final scene, the even manlier Phoebus also cries over the body of Esmeralda, who unlike in the film is Killed Off for Real.
- This is Older Than They Think: the 3rd century AD Sanskrit play "Swapnavasavadatta" by Bhasa includes a scene where a king is reminded of his dead wife and starts crying - only to be interrupted by his new wife (who he has married for political reasons), so that he has to pretend that he was having an allergic reaction to pollen grains.
- The obligatory Manly Guys Doing Manly Things example. Also, the commander was once falsely told all of his siblings were dead......and he openly starts weeping just like anyone would after being told their whole family had died.
- In The Order of the Stick here — after an Honour Before Reason parting.
- Vasco from Lookism the architect student will sometimes burst into tears for no reason what so ever, he's also one of the biggest badasses in the series, but also one of the biggest idiots. He cries so often that the others will often beg him to stop.
- Torg from Sluggy Freelance sheds a few of these after Alt-Zoe dies. Oddly enough, he's not particularly manly most of the time, except when crying like this.
- Davan's plan to prove that Jason can cry in Something*Positive goes horribly wrong when, upon playing Tom Smith's uber-sad song "A Boy and His Frog" (about Jim Henson and Kermit, and the death of the former), both of them break out in tears.
- Blu Sniper in Cuanta Vida when Red Spy (his lover) pushes him out of the way of the Red Sniper's bullet and is killed instead.
- In Girl Genius, Tarvek tears up when he tells his sister Anveka that she was Dead All Along and that the clank body she was using as her puppet had taken over her identity completely. He adds that he loved his sister, and having the clank body around was comforting - right before shutting down the puppet body.
- Parodied in Crystal Heroes when Garrett does this while telling a story about his friend not dying during an encounter with some monsters.
- In Giant Days, it takes the stoical McGraw most of an issue to crack over the death of his father. The sight of him shedding any tears is all the more powerful for that.
- In Yokoka's Quest, Pinky cries at Blinky and Clyde's wedding.
- In Court of Roses, Sven the goliath weeps openly when hearing Diana's instrument/weapon came from her supportive mother.
- In Beyond The End, Michael has the tiniest tear after having to kill a shroud that had disguised itself as Uriel and coming back and confirming that he hadn't accidentally killed the real one in his conviction.
- Aaron has a scene where Chris discovers that a) his brother was going to have a baby, meaning he would have become an uncle, b) the baby died, and c) their parents tried to cover it up. Upon getting this news, his eyes get quite watery.
- Happens a couple times in Broken Saints — Oran during Raimi's "No More Holding Back" Speech; Kamimura when he finally expels the fragment of Goku's soul and becomes free.
- The Nostalgia Critic could never be accused of being manly, preferring instead to wail pathetically when the slightest thing goes wrong, but when he's matured into The Atoner for To Boldly Flee, he keeps his (apparently loads of) crying offscreen. All we see are some very red eyes throughout the entire movie.
- In Demo Reel, Quinn is a former IRA member and even he blinks back tears at the Blue Patches sequel Rebecca and Tacoma made for Donnie.
- Chuggaaconroy makes noises implying he is crying during Chapter 6 of his Let's Play of Mother 3
- In Megan Kearney's Beauty and the Beast, the Beast is incapable of crying. In the end, when he finally becomes human again, the first thing he does after the initial shock is break down in tears of relief in Beauty's arms.