Not in real life! That would make me a terrible human being. I don’t like it when actual people cry, unless they are happy tears. When people are sad, I’m sad with them, obviously.
In stories, though, I love it when men cry. Not like, constantly, but once in a while. I’m still sad with them, but it’s okay because it’s fiction.
I like very emotional stories. I like the lows to be really low, and the highs to be really high – and the former helps set up the latter. With stories like that, characters are going to do some crying.
In general, men cry less often and less publicly than women do. Part of this is physiological: testosterone inhibits tears to some extent. (The article I’m linking to says that studies show women in the U.S. cry about 5 times a month and men cry about once a month. That sounds so high to me… I think I cry less than once a month, and usually in a sentimental way rather than a sad way.)
Anyway, social conditioning triples down on this slight difference and makes it a much bigger one, with parents, other adults, and older children teaching boys from a very young age, in many different ways, that they aren’t supposed to cry.
That seems like a mistake to me. I’m guessing the evolutionary purpose of tears is to let fellow humans know, “Hey, could use a little help over here!” Getting support when you really need it is a smart life strategy.
The whole idea of real men not crying is hardly universal or timeless. Guys cry all the time in the Bible, and there’s nothing in there to suggest they shouldn’t. For example, it doesn’t say, “Jesus wept, which was pretty unmanly of him if you ask us.”
In the Arthurian legends I adored when I was a kid, the knights are crying all the time, and not only when their friends die (occasionally at their hands — “whoops I killed my friend” is a surprisingly common occurrence.) They cry when their buddies get mad at them, and when their buddies forgive them. They cry when they miss their girlfriends and when their girlfriends break up with them.
They also swoon a lot! I think these stories were created to exemplify manly ideals, so there must have been a different attitude back then.
But somewhere along the line, male crying became unacceptable, or suspect at the very least.
I think that’s why I especially like it when guys in stories cry. It tells me, as a reader or a viewer, that things are super emotional, because even a guy are crying! And I think characters, male and female, can be tough as nails and still cry. I don’t see it as a contradiction at all.
NOTE: SPOILERS FOR THE TV SHOW BLINDSPOT FOLLOW.
The other week, Blindspot (a show I’ve written about before) had kind of an amazing scene with men crying. Our hero’s dad, Kurt Weller, was a suspect in the disappearance of the little girl who lived next door. This was just one reason why Kurt’s relationship with his father was always strained, to say the least. It’s now clear that Kurt’s dad did not murder the girl, but Kurt still has questions.
This clip unfortunately cuts off before the end of the scene. Kurt grabs his dad’s hand and puts his other hand on his dad’s back, and Kurt’s crying. It kills me.
I love a lot of things about this scene. A terrible misunderstanding that drives a wedge between a father and son is great dramatic stuff. The idea that a suicidal man would feel not only despair, but also rage, is a realistic nuance. And in addition to men crying, it also shows the disastrous effects of men not being allowed to cry or to talk about what the hell is going on with them. I haven’t seen a lot of things like this.
I got hooked on one of my very favorite TV shows back in the day, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, because of male tears. I had assumed the show would be too silly and fluffy for me. (I have made this mistake more than once about shows!) But one day, flipping through channels to look for something else, I caught the end of this scene.
It’s so intense! The monster recognizes her… turns into a human… says her name… and falls on his knees holding her and crying. Even without knowing the context of the scene, which makes it all the more emotional, I thought, I have got to start watching this.
My absolute favorite show, Supernatural, was just picked up for a twelfth season. In Supernatural, the two Winchester brothers do plenty of crying… enough that there was a song about it in one episode, called “A Single Man Tear.” (It was in a musical about the show, in the show. It gets pretty meta sometimes.)
Anyway, when a male character cries, it helps me connect with him more as someone who sometimes cries. And depictions of guys crying in books, movies, and TV seem likely to help break down the taboo in real life.
I know some readers and viewers, male and female, do not like male characters to cry. However, if you’re a writer and you want your guy to cry — if that’s your aesthetic — I think you should go for it, and never mind the naysayers. There is no shortage of people like me who will get hooked on your story because you do.