We live in the era of thirst, a time when it's normal not just to talk publicly about who and what you're attracted to, but also to do so using extremely evocative and specific descriptions — as Buzzfeed's celebrity thirst tweet series shows. The devil is in the details. No one would bat an eye if you said your type was a tall, dark, and handsome man. Being inexplicably drawn to veiny arms, sockless ankles (how Victorian), pottery TikToks — that's the stuff of thirst. It's not a broad feeling of attraction, it's often a weird preoccupation, a fascination. Like the one I have about hot dudes crying.
To be clear, my fascination with good-looking and watery-eyed guys isn't about healthier representations of men in the media or combating toxic masculinity or anything useful like that. It's just something that makes me nod in approval. Straight white dudes aren't hurting for representation in pop culture; moving forward, if they're going to appear on screen, maybe more of them should simply be depicted tearfully. That's my humble opinion. I'm just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to earnestly, beautifully weep.
Part of the draw is obviously just that actors are hot in general, and hot people continue to look hot doing most things — crying, smiling, cringing, scowling. While sometimes we see examples of ugly crying (like the classic GIF of Dawson sobbing, Tobey Maguire as Spiderman, and Tobias in Arrested Development), most of the time, actors in TV shows and movies look arrestingly distressed, hauntingly disconsolate, almost saintly in their suffering. It's an aesthetic.
There's a real subset of fans who greatly admire their favourite actors' crying abilities, evidenced by the many Tumblr accounts dedicated to men crying. Common appearances include Timothée Chalamet crying at the end of Call Me By Your Name and Tom Hiddleston crying in a bunch of different things. I am attracted to neither criers personally, but I very much respect the people documenting their crying.
Another aspect of the appeal of an attractive fella crying is definitely that it's a rare sighting, making it intriguing. If the clichéd appeal of Mr. Darcy is that he's secretly warm-hearted even though he has a cold, hard exterior, the type of character I'm talking about wears his emotions on his sleeve and is constantly looking misty-eyed about the object of his affection. As for the trope of the tough, stoic men who aren't great at talking through their feelings, who seem to purposefully shroud themselves in an air of too-cool-for-you mystery — all that behaviour seems to me to be as uninspired as florals for spring.
This is also a good time to point out that hot dudes crying isn't the same thing as manpain, which is a term coined by fans to describe a fictional man whose personality, relationships, and narrative arc are defined by a dark, angsty past. There's often a woman sidekick (or a dead woman character) whose main story purpose is to fix the manpained character, or give him a vengeful purpose. Manpain is trauma that looms entirely too large in the story, and may revolve around the character's obsession with masculinity itself. We've heard this story so many times that it causes more fatigue than empathy as a viewer. Leo in Inception has manpain; Leo in Romeo + Juliet is a hot dude crying. Hot dudes crying, as a genre, is also not equivalent to trauma porn, which is exploitative of grief and often gratuitously violent, too.
Simply, it's a thrill to see a shake-up of typical power dynamics. While it's absolutely not a weakness to cry and show your emotions, the traditional ideal of manhood involves being somewhat above the feelings and concerns of women and children, not beholden to anyone, not in anyone's thrall. No other person should elicit such intense emotions from a man as to unravel them. Fan behaviour — as in getting genuinely giddy over something or someone — and thirst are both weirdly coded as not masculine; it’s something teenage girls do, not serious men. So to see a man constantly on the verge of tears because he's unabashedly pining for someone? That's hot. He should be pining. He should be gushing in his diary about how amazing his love interest is.
One recent example of this archetype is Ben Barnes' villain character in Shadow & Bone, called The Darkling but really more of an Overwhelmedling. Fans note that in the book series The Darkling is an icy asshole who would never publicly shed a tear, yet in the show he's constantly verklempt and watery-eyed because his love interest won't spend more time with him.
This earnestness about their feelings means that the hot crying dude is connected by strings on a corkboard to himbos, simping, and cinnamon roll characters too pure for this world. A hot dude wouldn't be crying because he feels insecure about his masculinity; he would be crying over the 100-foot-tall vampire lady from the latest Resident Evil game that everyone online was obsessed with. He acknowledges that true beauty is fearsome, knocks you off your feet, and maybe drinks your blood a little bit.
Crying is a powerful emotional outlet for all genders, for both the person crying and the person observing. It's also an entrancing sight, like fireworks or a plate full of delicious steaming food, and I, for one, can't look away. As a counterpoint to the term ugly-crying, I actually like how I look after a nice little cry. It makes the face look more vivid, and adds a certain sparkle to your eyes, like the sky after a storm passes.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it's mostly men who believe men shouldn't cry. A survey commissioned by Kleenex showed that 90% of women think it's socially acceptable for dudes to cry, but only 77% of dudes think it's acceptable for other dudes to cry. Another study found that men were much less willing to help crying men than crying women, while women's willingness to help didn't drastically differ depending on the crier's gender. That's really sad. My eyes are welling up as I type this. Every woman has a story about a man, often a stranger, suggesting she smile more. But I think if anything, from now on, women should be asking men to cry more. They could look so much prettier if they just shed a tear.