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Tearful Smile

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"Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion."
Truvy, Steel Magnolias

Someone smiles while crying — usually after the tears start.

May be an attempt to paper over the grief, especially to fool a child, but often indicates a — complicated emotional state. As when No One Could Survive That! is succeeded by Not Quite Dead so quickly that the characters suffer emotional whiplash. (Compare Anger Born of Worry.) Sometimes a character will lie about crying, invoking Sand In My Eyes.

Compare Go Out with a Smile and Tears of Joy, a less ambiguous expression of happiness. See also Cry Laughing, a similar expression of mixed emotion.



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     Anime and Manga  
  • Misty from the Pokémon anime gets a tearful smile when Ash and Pikachu come back to life thanks to a friendly Ghastly, Haunter and Gengar after being accidentally killed by a falling chandelier. Pikachu also gets one in the first movie after Ash is restored from being turned to stone.
  • Casca from Berserk, several times throughout the series, but most notably during the Eclipse. While helping a mortally wounded Judeau walk, she is reminded by him that Guts loves her, and smiles. The tears in her eyes are barely noticeable, but prompt Judeau to say "You cry a lot when you're alone, don't you?" as his final words before falling to the ground.
  • Vash the Stampede in Trigun does a bit of this, being prone to complicated emotional states. (See chapter 32 of Maximum, 'Colourless Emotions.') Though mostly when he's really sad he goes right past tears to the Thousand-Yard Stare, and more often cries out of relief, frustration, sympathy, occasionally guilt, or as a gag.
  • In the After Story arc of CLANNAD, after reconciling with Ushio and promising to take care of her, Tomoya finally begins telling her about her deceased mother, Nagisa. He starts out composed, but scarcely gets past the story of how they met before beginning to cry and smiling as he remembers his late wife.
  • At the end of the Saint Beast OVA, Maya wakes up Shin from a Happy Flashback turned Flashback Nightmare and asks why he's crying. Shin responds that he's crying over happy memories, and when pressed further, explains it's because he's sad that those times are now over.
  • In Digimon Tamers, Henry does this when Terriermon and the rest of the Digimon were forced to leave and return to their Digital World. *sniff*
  • Yata attempts this in the last episode of Project K after Mikoto's death. It doesn't hold for long and he ends up sobbing halfway through the HOMRA chant.
  • Jotaro Kujo has a moment in the finale of part three of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. That he would smile while on the verge of crying is quite surprising, considering the type of person Jotaro is much of the time. Jotaro's grandfather Joseph and friend Polnareff also smile through their own tears and all three of them throw insults at each other while they embrace and bid farewell to one another.

     Comic Books  

  • Then there's this ElfQuest cover. Cutter was grievously wounded in the previous issue, and Leetah's expression here is deliberately ambiguous.
  • In Superman, both Lois and Clark do this as they say goodbye after Lois breaks off their engagement and decides to leave Metropolis.
    Clark: You're free now, Lois. Take care of yourself.

     Fan Works  

  • DC Nation : The mood whiplash hits hard at the end of the Olympics plot. Troia and Omen restored to life as per Arsenal's bargain with Hades. Unfortunately, Arsenal and Nightwing were killed in the process. As this is a limnal space between the living and the dead, the Titans and Arrows are saying farewell to their own. Athene wrests another condition from Hades; Troia will be allowed to choose which family she wants to bring back to life and stay with. Her choice is to restore her close friends Nightwing and Arsenal or her son and stepdaughter by Terry Long. After seeing her own children are terrified of her, she declares without hesitation to restore her teammates. Made all the more bittersweet because The Flash lost his kids before they were born, Arsenal has a young daughter, Tempest has a young son, and Nightwing had a yet-unborn daughter.
    From grief. To shock. To euphoria. To realization. And back to grief. Connor races down to help Roy to his feet. "She...She chose you, Roy. and Dick. I can't..."



  • At the end of Star Trek: Generations, Data and Counselor Troi are searching the wrecked Enterprise for survivors, and discover Data's pet cat, Spot alive under some rubble. Data begins to cry and wonders if his emotion chip is malfunctioning, but Troi assures him it's working fine.
  • Charlie Chaplin cries tears of joy at the very end of City Lights.
  • The end of Kill Bill, where Beatrix is reunited with her daughter has the main character crying in the bathroom before it turns into tearful laughter.
  • Near the end of Ang Lee's Sense and Sensibility, Elinor dissolves into tears when she hears that Edward is NOT married to Lucy. Since this is actually the release of tension and despair that she (and the audience) had been holding for nearly the entire film, she soon smiles.
  • Hermione does one of these at the end of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in the infamous "there's no Hogwarts without you, Hagrid" scene.
  • Joe and Ann during the press conference in Roman Holiday.
  • In Babe, Mrs. Hoggett hasn't finished crying with horror and embarrassment because she thinks her husband has gone crazy for entering a pig in a herding contest, before she begins laughing because he won.


  • In Terry Pratchett's Unseen Academicals, when Nutt says they can leave to go back to the city, cutting off her chance to speak, Glenda bursts into tears. Then, minutes later, she manages to smile on top of it.
  • In Carole Nelson Douglas's Six of Swords when Irissa has lost her powers and gone blind, she starts to cry. Kendric is cruel to her and leaves, taking the horses, causing her to sob. Then Kendric returns and Irissa finds her vision returning, and she sees that the tears were solid and colored; she regains both her sight and her powers, and smiles even as she weeps the last of the problem away.
  • In T. H. White's The Once and Future King, after Lancelot and Guinevere quarrel and make up
    The Queen dried her tears and then looked at him, smiling like a spring shower.
  • In Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, when Elinor learns that Edward is free:
    She almost ran out of the room, and as soon as the door was closed, burst into tears of joy, which at first she thought would never cease.
  • In John C. Wright's The Phoenix Exultant, Daphne both when she is recovering from her tears at remembering Phaethon's exile and seeing what a mess she made, and when she meets him again, and he remembers that she is Daphne Tercius, not Daphne Prime.
  • In A Brother's Price, Jerin feels like crying when he's about to leave home to get married, but knows that actually letting tears fall will make his little siblings even more upset than they already are, so he forces cheer. Later he's upset because he's too modest to enjoy wearing tight clothing to appeal to women but knows no one wants to marry a crying boy, so he doesn't. His Eldest sister knows, all the same, and tries to console him.
  • "How to Make Yourself Miserable", a parody self-help book geared to cultivate the reader's sense of self-pity to where nobody would want anything to do with them, featured a gallery of appropriate holiday cards, including one with a little man in an elf hat, smiling bravely with a tear in his eye with the caption "Don't Feel Obligated to Send Me a Christmas Card".

     Live Action Tv 
  • In Smallville, Chloe does this when Clark saves her in "Crush" and "Obscura".
  • Bernadette Peters invokes this after she helps a contestant win the big prize in a 1974 telecast of The $10,000 Pyramid.

     Video Games  

     Web Comics  

     Western Animation  


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