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25 January 2005 @ 05:09 pm
Rant 2: Cry to your mommy about it, why don't you?  
Tears are like bay leaves: they are best used sparingly, if at all.

I mean, okay, bay leaves are fine in chicken soup, and on pot pies and tears are appropriate in certain situations, but you start throwing bay leaves in lentil soup and making quarterbacks cry because they've been sent to their rooms, and you've set yourself up for disaster.

Now, before I begin, I should probably note that all of this is coming from someone who cries very, very rarely. It's a thing. However, I do recognize that the way I am about crying isn't neccesarily the way everybody is.

BUT! That doesn't mean that everyone else in the world is going to break down sobbing at the drop of a hat, either.

In our current society, men are not encouraged to cry. In fact, it's been a long time since male crying has been in vogue. If it ever really has been. Men are encouraged toward stoicism -- if not by their families, but the general cultural milieu in which they are raised, and some men are more encouraged than others. Like, say, cops, doctors, that kind of thing.

But even setting aside cultural concerns, crying in front of someone is 1) a loss of control, 2) a stunning amount of vulnerability to allow when you are less than completely comfortable with someone, and 3) perceived to be an admission of weakness. These are things you absolutely have to factor into any scene you're writing where you're considering using tears. I mean, maybe it's just me, but I find it *exceedingly* hard to believe that Lex Luthor would ever *ever* allow anyone to see him cry if he could get away with it (and was in his right mind), let alone Clark. Even as early as first season, and why?

Because he doesn't fully trust Clark -- and because he's a giant, mondo freaking control addict.

Furthermore, people don't always really respond well to crying. I mean, somebody else breaking down in tears in front of you, particularly when it's someone you don't *expect* to cry in front of you -- your partner on the police force, the lawyer you consider your nemesis, your ship's doctor, the deputy chief of staff at the White House -- you are not neccesarily going to go immediately into comforting mode.

Crying makes some people so uncomfortable that sometimes, it turns them into bigger assholes.

Guy1: I love you!

Guy2: Due to my inability to really deal well with what may or may not my own burgeoning homosexuality, that makes me uncomfortable.

Guy1: *bursts into tears*

Guy2: What the fuck, man!?

People are not always princes when someone else begins to cry. Tears are not a wellspring from which goodness and understanding spring. Sometimes, they just exacerbate the problem.

And, a lot of the time they can be incredibly manipulative.

Guy1: I want to break up.

Guy2: But - but - *bursts into tears*

Guy1: You totally saw this coming, what with me cutting off your hand and all.

Guy2: *sobs loudly*

Guy1: Oh, come on, stop.

Guy2: I cannot stop wailing until you give in and do things my way!

If you're going to write a manipulative crying scene, then more power to you -- if you do it in such a way that the manipulation is clear, and in character. I don't think Clark Kent would cry to make Lex do something his way - he'd probably pull out a handful of self-righteous statements and try to *shame* Lex into doing things his way with the clarion call of his moral rectitude.

Crying? Not so much.

In my experience, the profound misery doesn't always call for tears. Tears come more when there's like, rage and frustration and that kind of thing. Profound misery is more adequately expressed by the absolute inability to *emote* it. It's something that's more pervasive, part of the atmosphere, that kind of thing. The Ryan Adams line from "Cry On Demand" is, to me, a much more accurate depiction of what a real guy is going to do when he's upset: smoke and stare at his shoes.

Not that everyone in the world is a smoker, but I'm just sayin'. That line is more powerful to me than all the wailing and gnashing of teeth in the world.

But, oh, sad tears are not the only ones, my pumpkins. There is also the problem inherent with 'tears of joy'. Tears of joy only really make sense to me in terms of a new-born baby. It may be that I'm a cold hard bitch, but it's also that this is one of the very few instances in which it is societally acceptable that a man might cry.

Also a daughter's wedding. But that's beside the point.

Tears of joy can work. I've read tears of joy that have worked -- like, you know, when someone discovers that their lover isn't dead, or something like that. But you can't just give me "And then he cried a lot" it has to be something complicated, something *real* -- like anger at being made to be so upset that he's crying, mixed with joy, mixed with relief, mixed with fear, and lust and all kinds of things.

I guess that's just the crux of what I'm trying to say: when you're writing strong emotions, you have to make them *real* because otherwise, they're going to fall flat, and what you're going to have on your hands is a bunch of blubbering cops, sitting around sobbing as they take notes on witnesses, and who even wants that? Not me.

It's hard to read about men crying about everything because that's just not realistic, not to me. I've seen my father cry once, and then it was only a misting. I've seen my male friends only cry a handful of times, and for a lot of them it was at a mutual friend's funeral a year and a half ago.

Tears are the big guns, emotionally. What brings people to tears are the *big* things. If you have a character crying over something trivial, if you have them crying all the damned time, then you make it less of an important gesture than it really is. You strip it of any and all *real* value.

And that's maybe what I find most objectionable. When people cry, they do it because something *huge* is going on inside them, and if you making crying have as much inherent emotional value as yawning, then you trivialize a huge moment. You trivialize the *trust* that allows someone to cry in front of someon else, and that is a *huge* trust. That kind of vulnerability isn't something that *anyone* - male or female - shares with anyone else lightly.

And here endeth this rant.
 
 
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sageness on January 25th, 2005 10:45 pm (UTC)
your icon is so utterly perfect. Tears of rage, I can buy. And tears of omg-my-entire-world-is-fucking-OVER, see-me-flip-completely-the-hell-out. But the tears have to be EARNED within the context of the story. Like RayK breaking down after the whole Botrelle thing. It's earned. It feels organic and drives home just how much it all had fucked over the foundations of his professional life, sense of honor, and essential beliefs about what's right and who he can trust. Naturally, he looks up & sees a mountie next to him, and how can he *not* glom onto that emotionally--which does not mean sobbing into Fraser's serge. It means staring at his shoes and *wishing* for contact.

Wow. *laughs* You know, I sure write a lot of extreme emotional distress. I really hope I'm living up to my own standards. *g*

*psst* Write fic!