I’ve had it up to here with crying women. I’m surrounded by them. I can’t get away from them. They’re everywhere.
Having said that, I rarely meet a crying woman in the flesh. I can walk down the street quite peaceably, and not see even one woman in tears. I go shopping for broccoli, and never see any crying female over the age of 3. Even in times of trial, I have never seen a girl sobbing uncontrollably on her knees on the tarmac in the rain. I can go to sporting events, hospitals, and even funerals, without seeing a single solitary crying woman.
You know where I can’t escape crying women, though? On TV. In the movies. And in books.
You can’t draw breath in the fictional universe without running headlong into the Cry Lady. A woman who is pouring tears down her lovely face, unable to bear the catastrophic weight of existing.
She cries over the dead and living. She precipitates her sadness both in fear, and in safety. She bawls with happiness. She sobs with loneliness. She wails with anger, frustration, and self-righteousness. In the fictional universe – and in particular, when it comes to crime, action, adventure, or spy thrillers – there is only one default expression of emotion, as far as women are concerned: they cry.
Some of the most wonderful action programmes I’ve watched on TV have been ruined because of actresses with bladders too close to their eyes. For example, Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix sucked me in with Dysonic power, until I realised that the main female principal, Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll), was unable to appear on screen for three minutes together without snivelling.
Clare Danes’ cry face had long been documented and discussed before someone decided that Carrie Mathison’s default reaction to all action in Homeland was the bizarre combination of terror in her eyes, tears pouring down her cheeks, and her mouth screwed up as though she’s just taken a bite out of a whole onion.
The other side of the coin, of course, is the non-crying woman. Because there are only two types of women in fiction: those who cry, and those who don’t. The non-criers are the tough nuts. They are as defined by their not crying as their wet-eyed counterparts are by their femininity.
It’s like a switch, you see: you either cry, and are therefore a fragile, lovely woman who needs minding; or you don’t cry, and are therefore a hardass heroine who is almost certainly going to take a bullet before the end of the story arc, because you were out there doing a man’s job.
There is no in between. Presumably because it would require far too much thought. It’s so much harder to portray the emotional depths of a woman who is struggling with a situation, or her inner demons, if you can’t play the crying card.
She must show that things are really hard right now! (Cry.)
Now everything has changed for the better and she has been saved! (Cry.)
See? Easy. All over. Never mind that crying has been diluted to homeopathic efficacy. Never mind that the Cry Lady has become as emotive as a cheese sandwich. Just get on to the next scene. Otherwise, you’d have to put in two paragraphs of expository dialogue or inner consciousness, and there’s no time for that when there’s baddies to fight.
Why is this? Why can we have emotionally complex anti-heroes such as Ironman and Don Draper and Frank Underwood, without a tear being shed? Why is there time to flesh out male characters with flaws and strengths and enigmatic behaviour, while the women have to cry, cry, cry?
The women I know in real life are as diverse in their behaviour as they are in their thinking. They represent an infinite variety of happiness, sadness, humour, anger, optimism, pessimism, and stoicism. I have only ever seen about 10% of them cry. And even those criers are generally people I know intimately for a long number of years.
So where are all the criers coming from? Perhaps my American friends can tell me if they are drowning in sobbing women on their side of the Atlantic, because the ocean isn’t rising over here on the back of Irish tears (no matter what the songs say).
But then again, I’ve never had to save an entire city from the forces of evil. Maybe if I had, I’d have something to cry about.
And I’m not saying it’s the fault of the actresses (although I admit – I do blame Clare Danes just a little bit). It just seems to be because they’re written that way. It’s tempting to think that it’s because this is the way they’re written by men. After all, Melissa Rosenberg wrote Jessica Jones, and none of her female principals spend their time walking around in floods of tears: they have better things to do. Baddies to fight. Inner demons to quell.
We need to stop writing about women crying all the time. We need to write about women who have emotions which don’t consistently pour out of their eyes. We need to demand more women who do other things, than cry.
And look: I’m a woman. One who likes heroes. But I don’t need to be saved from the forces of evil. Just save me from the ubiquitous fictional crying woman, and I’ll be fine.