Big boys don’t cry

NBD-coverI’m all blogged out. Seriously. It’s been a crazy-ass month!

Our Red Sage author “Truth or Dare!” event at Bitten By Books was huge, BTW. We had over 300 comments! I hopped online around 7.30am and finally finished up at 11pm. And then, next morning, when I checked in again, we were still going… *THUD!* (That was me falling off my chair.)

I’ve got one more guest blog spot this month — 19th June at Romance Reviews Today — and then it slows down a bit, with only one scheduled for July at this stage. (I’ll post the details next month.) So one more promotional guest blog post to write…. Phew!

As much as I love to talk about my book, Rez and Leisa, Namaah and Asmodeus, I need to write about something different to clear my head.

So it’s time for a thought-provoking post…. Which isn’t as easy as it sounds, given I just had to come up with a topic for my regular Thursday slot over at Writers Gone Wild. Sigh.

Okay, so here it is: Can a hero cry and still be heroic? And just so you know, I’m talking my-heart-has-just-been-ripped-from-my-muscled-manly-chest-and-put-through-the-shredder emotional pain here, not physical shit-that-bullet-hurts-like-forty-bastards pain.

For the most part, our heroes seem to be portrayed as staunch, suck-it-up-and-don’t-let-on-how-much-it-freaking-hurts types. I haven’t come across much weeping and wailing and gnashing of pearly whites from heroes  — either on screen or in books. And I was watching a movie the other day where the young college-student hero cried. And then in another scene, his kick-ass mentor cried. And that got me thinking about the whole heroes crying aspect. The movie was called Never Back Down.

Here’s a summary of the plot:

“At his new high school, a rebellious teen Jake Tyler is lured into an ultimate underground fighting club in a Backyard Fight, where he finds a mentor in a mixed martial arts veteran. After receiving threats to the safety of his friends and family, Jake seeks the mentoring of a veteran fighter, to train his mind and body for one final no-holds-barred elimination fight with his unrelenting personal nemesis and local martial arts champion Ryan McCarthy.”

Now I must mention that I’m not a fan of watching guys beat the crap out of each other — I don’t watch boxing matches for the very same reason — but this is a great story, with heaps more to offer than testosterone-fueled fight sequences.

Jake blames himself for his father’s death–he believes he should have stopped his dad from driving drunk. Instead, he let him drive, his father wrecked the car and died. Jake survived and he’s torn up inside with grief and guilt. He’s getting into fights because he’s angry as hell. All the time.

When he joins a martial arts club, the owner insits on one thing: you fight outside the club and you’re out. Period. No second chances. And Jake’s cool with that. Even better, he discovers the only time he’s not angry is when he’s training. Of course, fate (that capricious bitch!) steps in and Jake is provoked into fighting with his nemesis. And when his mentor learns Jake’s been in a fight (which is kinda obvious ‘coz he’s limping and his knuckles are all bruised and bleeding), Jake is out of the club.

Jake’s desperate to convince his mentor that he deserves a second chance, so he bails him up and tries to explain. It’s an incredibly emotional, powerful scene. The whole story about his dad comes out and when Jake cries, you just know this is the first time he’s let loose and cried over his dad’s death. Prior to this he’s been bottling it all up inside and twisting his pain into anger and physical violence.

The second lot of tears comes from a scene where Jake’s mentor, a complete hardass with a kick that’s powerful enough to launch your average bad guy into the stratosphere, finally trusts Jake enough to admit why he’s become a virtual recluse who hasn’t spoken to his father in a decade. Again, this is a powerfully emotional scene — perhaps even more so because in this particular case, it was the student who enabled the mentor and made him see that everyone deserves a second chance.

Given that Never Back Down is a story about fighting and beating the crap out of people — albeit providing pretty darned realistic motivation for both taking a beating and dealing out one — does the fact that two strong characters cry during the course of the movie lessen them in any way? Does it make them appear weak?

I don’t think so. It makes me empathise with their situations even more. It makes me even more emotionally invested in the outcome of the story. It makes them “real” people who leap off the screen. It makes me feel like this is a movie with true emotional depth and justifies the fact I chose to devote 90 minutes or so of my precious time to watch it.

Jake had to learn to control his anger and his desire to lash out at everyone. He had to forgive himself for his role in his father’s death and learn to be a role model for his younger brother. He had to learn to walk away from a fight. And then, ultimately, he had to choose to go against everything he’d come to believe and fight to protect his friends. There’s nothing weak about that.

Wolf, from the award-winning NZ TV series Outrageous Fortune, is another man who cried. He’s a hardened criminal who sees no reason to give up his criminal ways. His saving grace is he loves his family. And when, ultimately, wife chooses to go legit and insists there’s no place in her life for him anymore, he loves her so much he lets her go. And as he drives away, he cries.

Whoa. I still remember that  scene from an earlier series. It was gut-wrenching and I respected the hell out of Wolf for being strong enough to let her go so he wouldn’t drag her down and cause her anymore pain. And the fact Wolf cried, only made it all the more powerful.

So yeah, I reckon it’s okay for big boys to cry, but… I’d be very interested in a masculine POV — especially with regards to Never Back Down, which appears to be targetted at a male audience. Any takers?



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6 Responses to “Big boys don’t cry”

  1. Cai says:

    Great post, Maree.

    I’m on of those who doesn’t think it’s totally unmanly for an Alpha male to cry – sometimes that’s the best way to express what they just can’t say! Plus, most men aren’t like most women – they can cry and not leave a trace of tears – no red puffy eyes, no sniffling…how the heck do they do that.

    Another example of manly men shedding tears – Suzanne Brockmann’s Navy SEAL novels – I distinctly remember the character Sam Starrett crying…and he was DEFINITELY an Alpha Male!

    I’m sure there are more examples, but he’s the one that sticks in my head the most. :)

    • Maree says:

      Thanks for the recommendation, Cai! *jots down note to locate that book and check out Sam*. Can’t wait to read it.

  2. Julie E says:

    I don’t like to see men crying in front of other men. I can see the kid letting go of pent up emotions regarding his father to his mentor because he’s young, but I have a problem with the other way around. Men generally don’t cry in front of other men in real life. Crying to themselves or in front of a woman they completely trust is a different story. Those scenes can be really powerful. I’m just thinking of my husband and his best friend and the thought of them crying to each other is almost comical. My husband actually did have a friend cry to him and it threw him for a loop. Men are wired differently than women so we can’t expect them to have the same emotional responses.

    • Maree says:

      Excellent point about men being wired differently and not having the same emotional responses, Julie. As powerfully emotionally that kind of scene is in a book or a movie, I’ve got to admit that in “real life” it would be completely different. If my husband told me one of his friends had broken down and cried in front of him, I’d be thrown for a complete loop! And I have to wonder whether I’d look at his friend in a different light.

      From a feminine perspective, perhaps we’re projecting our own reactions onto the men. And perhaps we’re “accepting” the scenes more readily because of it.

      Hmmmm. For want of a better word, is it more “acceptable” for a man to cry in front of a woman?

      Gosh, I’d love a man’s perspective on this.

  3. Lynne says:

    Hi, Maree. I definitely think you can have the hero crying as long as you have the perfect motivation. Selfish reason I would think would be out.  Some past trauma is always a nice kicker. I actually love it when a hero sheds a tear. It shows his vulnerability and a depth that you wouldn’t get otherwise. But there is a fine line of course. We don’t want him blubbering like a crazy fool. That would be a turnoff for me.

    • Maree says:

      I agree absolutely, Lynne. Motivation behind the tears is key! And a few tears artfully trickling down those manly cheek-bones are excellent. But runny nose and red eyes and full-out piteous sobbing? Not so sexy, LOL.

      Ah, the double standard, huh?