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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, Tears of Awe, when they cry over something magnificent, 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 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Code Geass: Lelouch of the Re;surrection: At the end of the movie, Lelouch decides to join C.C. in Walking the Earth, even offering to call himself L.L. as his own form of a Wacky Marriage Proposal. C.C.'s response to Lelouch's choice is to tear up, look like she's about to sob outright... then smile gratefully, tears brimming her eyes as Lelouch smiles back.
  • 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*
  • 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.
  • When Kaguya's cellphone breaks in chapter 100 of Kaguya-sama: Love Is War, she starts smiling since she now has an excuse to upgrade to a smartphone. It's only once the fact that all the photos stored on it were lost (since the phone was old enough that it had neither cloud storage nor an SD card) sinks in that she starts crying. This happens again when she's giving a practice confession to Hayasaka regarding all the things she loves about Shirogane while admitting she could never keep him from going to Stanford.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Quintessential Quintuplets: Chapter 90 shows Yotsuba forcing herself to smile, trying to convince herself that she's happy that her sisters realized what a great guy Fuutarou is (and falling for him). Her tears make it painfully clear she's just bottling her own feelings, because she's the one who has loved him for the longest time, and still does even now, but thinks she doesn't deserve to pursue him.
  • 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.
  • The Seven Deadly Sins: Jericho gets this after realizing she has inherited her posthumous brother Gustav's Ice Fang magic. Resolving to become a Holy Knight to honor him, her eyes are brimmed with tears from her earlier breakdown that froze when her magic awakened. After those shatter, they're replaced by non-frozen tears.
    • This is used to a more... unnerving effect in the sequel manga, The Four Knights of the Apocalyse, where Jericho is now a traitor to Liones. She ends up doing this as she admits to her 16-year-old former apprentice, Lancelot, that she has a disturbing crush on him, and that she joined King Arthur because he could create a reality where she can be with a "Lancelot" of her own. The moment she snaps back into combat, her tears freeze and shatter.
  • 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.

    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.
  • Wonder Woman: Black and Gold: When Diana gives Badra her mother's crown the princess thief turned museum curator smiles and cries in heartsore joy at seeing not only something from her ruined home planet, but something her long lost mother wore every day.

    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 liminal 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..."
  • Jaune Arc, Lord of Hunger:
    • At the end of the chapter "Destiny", Jaune gives Pyrrha one last tearful Broken Smile before donning the Mask of Darth Nihilus and allowing Nihilus to possess his body.
    • In "Vengeance", Pyrrha has one of these while parting ways with Ren and Nora right before her battle with the Big Bad.

     Film — Animated 
  • In The Prince of Egypt,
    • Miriam gives a horrified Moses one when she sings their mother's lullaby and he recognizes it, fully realizing he is a Hebrew and he runs away in shock and confusion
    • Moses has one after his first encounter with God, where he is tasked with leading the Hebrews out of Egypt.
  • In Turning Red, Mei and Ming exchange these at the end of the climax due to their mixed emotions.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • The film adaptation of Filth ends with Bruce grinning falsely at the camera with tears in his eyes, just before he hangs himself.

  • 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 
  • Bernadette Peters invokes this after she helps a contestant win the big prize in a 1974 telecast of The $10,000 Pyramid.
  • Doctor Who: "The End of Time" has the Doctor do this twice: first, his voice is noticeably breaking when he's celebrating surviving the showdown with the Master before Wilf knocks on the door four times. The second time, during the dénouement, when he meets Joan Redfern's great-granddaughter and she asks him if he was happy — he smiles but looks like he's about to cry.
  • In Smallville, Chloe does this when Clark saves her in "Crush" and "Obscura".

  • An example of this happens at the end of the Vocaloid song Blessed Messiah and the Tower of AI by Hitoshizuku-P when the messiah realizes that, instead of stealing her blessings, as she thought, her friends had taken on eternal punishments to allow her to continue on and light the altar. She is glad that she can save the world from God's wrath, but also grief-stricken by the loss of all her friends and ashamed of herself for suspecting them of betraying her.
    • Another example appears in Hitoshizuku-P's song Amagoi Uta, or Rain Song. The priestess in the song begs the rain god to accept her as a sacrifice in return for ending a drought. The priestess then sees raindrops begin to fall, prompting her to cry both from relief and joy that her people won't die of thirst and from grief because the rain means that the god has accepted her sacrifice and she is about to die.

    Video Games 


    Western Animation 
  • Transformers: Animated: Sari after Optimus's First-Episode Resurrection.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender has a lot of this, with one of the most memorable being when Iroh and Zuko are reunited in the finale.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Twilight Sparkle does this in the series pilot upon realizing that these five quirky ponies, who insisted on accompanying her on her journey to find the elements, are indeed her friends.
    • Rarity also does this when she cuts off Spike's Anguished Declaration of Love, silently revealing that she knew about his crush on her all along.
  • A particularly heartbreaking example comes from Regular Show, from the episode "Cheer Up, Pops," when Pops is having a mental breakdown.
  • In the Ready Jet Go! episode "Jet Cooks Dinner", the Propulsions begin to miss Bortron 7 and the Classic 3-part Bortronian Meal. After they sing the commercial tune, Jet gets nostalgic about Bortron 7 and starts to cry a little bit while smiling.
  • Buttercup does this in The Powerpuff Girls episode "Buttercrush" as she's buying Gangreen Gang leader Ace's sob story alibi. (Blossom and Bubbles aren't.)
  • Late in the run of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, Daphne smiles with tears in her eyes when Fred announces his love for her and they kiss. Velma follows suit.
  • Lena does this in the DuckTales (2017) episode "Friendship Hates Magic!" when Webby's attempt to rescue her from the Shadow Realm (seemingly) fails and she beings to fade away.
  • Charlie Brown effects this in the special Charlie Brown's All-Stars after the gang presents him with a sweater that reads "Our Manager."