Decades ago, male crying was a private matter, and the songs that addressed it had a special charge. Among these hits, with vocals that swooped, wailed or moaned, were Jackie Wilson’s “Lonely Teardrops” and Roy Orbison’s “Crying.”
More recently, Will Ferrell has transformed our discomfort with the grown man in tears into comedy, either in character as that champion crier Ron Burgundy or as a version of himself on the talk show circuit, where he once broke down over the breakup of Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson.
But there is a difference between sadness performed and on-the-spot emotion caught on camera, as Senator Edmund Muskie learned during the 1972 presidential campaign, when he choked up on the stump in New Hampshire.
At the time, Muskie was the Democratic front-runner. What appeared to be tears on his cheeks, he said after the fact, were really just melting snowflakes. Nobody bought it. “It changed people’s minds about me,” he said, years later. “They were looking for a strong, steady man, and here I was weak.”