Last year, I outlined the selfie archetypes of straight men: the fish guy on Bumble; the newly single dad; the blurry bathroom selfie; and the Lin-Manuel Miranda lip bite. But there’s a new pose in the pantheon of dude selfies, and it’s perhaps the most oppressively male yet: the red-eyed cryer.
Director and adult sports jersey wearer Kevin Smith is the sobbing forebearer of this pose. Last week, he tweeted an ode to WandaVision, punctuating his heartfelt goodbye free verse poem (to a show still available for viewing and featuring characters that are contractually obligated to appear in future films) with a selfie.
In the close-up shot of his face, Smith has just finished crying after his third viewing of WandaVision. It’s not the most flattering picture: blotchy red eyes, flushed cheeks, wet eyelids and one too many Funko Pops in the background. It’s not supposed to be flattering, though — it’s supposed to be raw. Kevin Smith was so moved by his experience watching a superhero TV show (admittedly one about grief) that he just had to pick up his phone and snap an immediate selfie of his emotional reaction.
Smith has been doing this for a while now. Bug-eyed front-camera selfies are his thing, so much so that “Kevin Smith Crying” is a certified meme. In December, he posted his teary-eyed reaction to finishing The Mandalorian, as he’d done before after watching Captain Marvel and Arrival and visiting the set of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Disney better be sending him eye drops and tissues for this constant promo work.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with his tendency toward tears after watching a movie per se. I cry every time Amy Adams gets roped into another prestige film that isn’t going to get her an Oscar, whenever Lucas Hedges stares in awe at an acclaimed actress of a certain age and when Jennifer Lopez growls “I can trap a snake too” at Jon Voight in Anaconda.
You could argue that it’s great that Smith is showcasing his emotional side. However, there’s nothing terribly earnest about this repeated reaction to tentpole movies and TV shows. Instead, it comes across as stolen valor for being an emotionally attuned man, as if the act of crying is proof of the quality of both himself and the film he’s just seen. To that end, what he’s actually doing is putting the focus on himself — in the way that guys often do when they realize they’ve reacted strongly to someone else’s work — rather than simply giving props to that person for creating something so compelling as to make him cry.
Superficially, these posts are reminiscent of women shedding makeup for an unfiltered selfie, showcasing the real, raw versions of themselves. Busy Philipps found a career resurgence being vulnerable on Instagram, while Drew Barrymore (who is representation for aunts always about to burst into tears) promoted her bonkers talk show with a video of her crying in the dressing room, overwhelmed at the pressure of being a mother, talk show host, boss and woman in the workplace all during a pandemic. But the difference is that both Philipps’ and Barrymore’s reactions are in response to the disdain people have for women being emotional. When women are publicly sad online, it’s usually an honest rejection of the idea that they must always appear composed.
Smith, however, is correlating crying with being “soft,” partly captioning his photo, “For the folks who say I cry over movies/TV because I’m too stoned? I haven’t smoked weed in a week.” He then goes on to say, “Stop blaming the herb. I’m just a soft boy.”
He presents this as a joyous declaration — in the past, he’s been critiqued by people online for crying during movies, so it’s clear this is him standing as an out-and-proud sensitive man. What he’s looking for is praise in his truth. But what is it that he did that’s worthy of acclaim? Being soft, it seems. Fixating on softness — seemingly a euphemism simply for being sensitive — negates the fact that soft boys can still be mediocre and expect praise for doing the bare minimum.
What Smith is doing by bringing attention to his reaction is actually reinforcing the perception that men aren’t normally emotional. This novelty — a man, crying! — isn’t something we need to continue acknowledging, but rather begin treating as a regular experience, which it is. The “honest” Kevin Smith might post a red-eyed crying selfie, but the vulnerable Kevin Smith should be encouraging men to embrace and understand their emotions — without focusing on what it says about their public personas.