Inelegant Blubbering

    Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

    "THAT is how you cry. That's the kind of crying where liquid oozes out of every orifice and you make noises like a drowning moose. The kind of crying that isn't attractive because... sadness isn't attractive."


    A character cries. It is not pretty. It tends to be loud. Expect the character to, afterwards, need to blow his nose and have red, puffy eyes. And if any make-up is involved, expect it to run -- badly.

    A literary trope, mostly, since we do not have to see the character actually sobbing. Often lampshaded. Plus, of course, actors can more easily mimic tears than the full effect.

    Note that this may occur for any motive for which someone can cry.

    May be done by a Hysterical Woman. Contrast Cry Cute.

    Liable to turn drama into unintentional comedy if mishandled. This can also be done intentionally.

    Examples of Inelegant Blubbering include:

    Anime and Manga

    • Eiichiro Oda took this trope to a whole new level with One Piece. Everyone in One Piece has done this, though male characters more often than female. The artist just loves drawing rivers of tears mixing with rivers of snot and saliva, apparently. It's Oda's signature move really.
      • Franky and Chopper are especially prone to this. Luffy's had his moments too, both sad (Ace's death) and happy (reuniting with Usopp after Enies Lobby, the picture up top).
        • His way of drawing tears and crying facial expressions really hits home when it comes to Tear Jerker moments, where the grimacing facial features really strike you as painful to watch.
        • This is probably why, way back when, the entry here used to say "But without it, One Piece would really be lacking."
        • Only averted with Robin's famous "I wanna live" line in the Enies Lobby arc. That is more into the Cry Cute territory.
    • Naruto plays this straight with several characters, both in the manga and the anime. (For instance, the scene where Naruto cries over Gaara's death in Shippuuden is very well done.)
    • Rossiu gets a moment like this in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. He's got a stoic face for the crowds the whole time he's planning to sacrifice some of them to save all of them. But in private (as revealed by someone close to him), he was crying his heart out into his bed. It may have been the hardest thing he ever had to do, but he was going to do it.
    • In R.O.D the TV this often happen to Anita.
    • In D Gray Man, this happens every time anyone cries for real.
    • In The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Mikuru engages in this in the last episode of of "Endless Eight." It's one of the few times she's not very cute-looking in the series as she has twin trails of snot running down her face
    • In Welcome to The NHK Sato bursts out into screaming, tortured wails at the end of episode 13. Although mostly off-screen, what we see is not at all pretty, and the voice acting in both the sub and the dub is both heartbreaking and uncomfortable to sit through.
    • Whenever Miyoshi cries in Bakuman。, it starts with Cry Cute and devolves into this - for example, when Mashiro and Takagi get their first serialized manga.
    • Chrono Crusade: Although most of the tears tend to fall in-between the two extremes of Inelegant Blubbering and Cry Cute, Rosette has a full-blown snot-dripping sob fest towards the end of the manga in the afterlife when she realizes that she's dead and admits "Chrono! I don't want to leave you!"
    • Deconstructed in Soul Eater when, during a very serious fight, Medusa going on about parental abandonment/abuse prompts Deathscythe to exit weapon mode and personally threaten his opponent. However, even as he grabs her by the scruff, he chokes on his words and can't get anything out other than "Why, you...!" and "You little..." Medusa calls him pathetic for not preparing his words properly, and throws him away.
    • In Negima, Kotarou goes into this after he's defeated in the Mahora Tournament after promising to meet Negi in the finals.
    • Played for laughs in Chibi Vampire Karin. Karin is not attractive when she cries. Most characters tend to look pointedly away when she does.
    • The Girl Who Leapt Through Time: Played heartbreakingly straight. Every time Makoto cries could qualify as a Crowning Moment of Sadness.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam had the crew of White Base do this after the death of Guntank co-pilot Ryu Jose, complete with Bright Noah collapsing on all fours and sobbing "It's All My Fault!". It was considered such Narm, especially in light of the much more restrained and touching salute they gave the late Matlida Adjan, that the compilation movie version completely redid the scene.
    • Stardust Crusaders: Polnareff sheds some very un-manly tears after Abdul's (apparent) death.
    • A staple of the Studio Ghibli movies. Boths kids in Grave of the Fireflies, Chihiro in Spirited Away, Sophie in Howl's Moving Castle...
    • Happens to nearly all the characters at various points in Rave Master. it's not always handled so well, and quickly becomes Narm when you see the more macho and stoic characters bawling like toddlers in places where Manly Tears would have been more appropriate.
    • Narrowly avoided in Kimi ni Todoke when Sawako was about to cry because her best friends helped her get ready for a New Year's date with love interest, Kazehaya. Ayane and Chizu realized the ultra-sensitive Sawako was about to cry because she was so happy to have such great friends, and quickly pleaded with Sawako to hold it in. Sawako stopped herself from turning on the water works just in time to save her makeup from becoming a godawful mess.
    • Nearly every book owner or mamodo (save Brago resident Badass ) ever breaks out into these in Gash Bell
    • Literature Girl in Daily Lives of High School Boys had one in the skit High School Boys and the Way We Are, breaking down crying like a little child after a humiliating string of Epic Fails.
    • In Saint Beast, Maya's tears tend to go along with full on tantrums, which work really well on his brother.

    Comic Books

    Fan Works

    • Shifts by Fernwithy covers Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix from the point of view of Remus (who spends most of it on Order business at Dudley's prep school.) Needless to say, the Inelegant Blubbering comes in near the end.
    • In With Strings Attached, Paul sobs his heart out on John. Later he wipes his nose on one of John's wings.

    I deserve this, John reflected.




    Sam: I got an idea. I don't know whether this is gonna work or not. Quick, turn around!
    Tess: I'm turned, Sam.
    Sam: Whatever you do, baby, don't turn back.
    Tess: But Sam, if anything...
    Sam: Do as I say, angel!
    Tess: I will, Sam.
    Sam: Good. Because I think... I'm gonna cry. (starts sobbing pathetically offscreen)

    • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Roger blubbers inelegantly after he's told his wife is playing around.
      • This scene is an almost exact remake of the opening from Chinatown.
    • The Wizard of Oz: The guard on the Wizard's audience chamber.
    • The hero in Gladiator when he discovers that his wife and child are dead. There's even snot involved. This was an actor and director decision, and invoked intentionally.
      • And it totally works.
    • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Cedric Diggory's father.
    • Every time Neytiri cries in Avatar.
      • Well, she is an alien.
    • Laura's honking in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me.
    • One of the best parts of Funny People was when Seth Rogan's character just starts doing this in the middle of a crowded restaurant during dinner with Adam Sandler's character.
    • Stevo in SLC Punk! when Heroin Bob dies.
    • Played for laughs with JP in Grandma's Boy. There were multiple strings of spit coming from his mouth, and his eyeliner was smudged as well.
    • Marty in "Bully" when he was telling Lisa about Bobby.
    • In Rocky III, Rocky does some of this just after Mick dies.
    • In Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, originally Dopey made a funny face that ruined the mood of the crying scene and made the test audience crack up, so it was cut. In the final version, he hides his face.
    • Moulin Rouge's Christian does this when Satine dies but because it sounds almost like he's laughing hysterically, it potentially kills the mood.
      • Justified (perhaps) in the director's commentary where it's suggested that only a completely devastated person cries like that, because whether or not they sound silly is the last thing they're concerned about.
    • The Blair Witch Project features this. It makes the scene especially realistic.
    • At the end of Schindler's List, Oskar Schindler does this as he says that he could have saved more Jews if he had sold his belongings (the blubbering grows from the repeated phrase "I could've gotten more...")
    • Christopher Eccleston is particularly good at this, and does so in Jude, Flesh & Blood and in a scene that got cut from The Second Coming. (Observe. )
    • The Fountain. Tommy Creo breaks down after the death of his wife.


    • In Terry Pratchett's Unseen Academicals, Glenda's crying is explicitly described as not being like a romance heroine's.
    • In The Belgariad, Ce'Nedra sees Garion with another woman, spits poison at him, and runs off to cry. Polgara tracks her down to let her know that woman was his cousin and clean her up a bit, because she does not look pretty after crying. Not the only time this observation is made: Also happens when she's trying to lead a war and gets hit with the enormity of the fact that most of the people she's just rallied to battle are going to die.
      • And again in The Mallorean, after she has a period of deep depression and weeping over her baby's kidnapping:

    Polgara: "You really shouldn't cry in public, dear. You haven't the coloring for it."

    • In Derek Robinson's novel Piece of Cake, a pilot breaks down crying next to the adjutant who is made very uncomfortable and observes that it's a shame that, when men need comfort the most, God makes them look like monkeys.
    • In Lewis Carroll's Sylvie and Bruno after Ugugg got his ears boxed,

    Uggug (who was blubbering his loudest, in the hope of attracting notice)

    In Sylvie And Bruno Concluded, when they catch a thief of apples, he blubbers.
      • The narrator's sister in Carroll's Melancholetta is portrayed this way:

    My dismal sister! Couldst thou know
    The wretched home thou keepest!
    Thy brother, drowned in daily woe,
    Is thankful when thou sleepest;
    For if I laugh, however low,
    When thou'rt awake, thou weepest!

        • And later, when he tries to cheer her up by inviting "three gay young dogs from town" for dinner

    "Hounds IN FULL CRY I like," said she:
    (Oh how I longed to snub her!)
    "Of fish, a whale's the one for me,

    • In Henry Zhou's Warhammer 40,000 novel The Emperor's Mercy, after aristocrats are rounded up in a raid, the women are crying with their black make-up running, and the men are worse.
    • In Lioness Rampant, when Alanna is crying after a tiff with Liam, Thayet comes in to console her and remarks that "some women can cry and look pretty. You and I can't."
    • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel Only In Death, Ludd's tears leave his eyes red.
    • In Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, Door collapses into tears—afterward, she has red eyes and looks as if she had vigorously blown her eyes and scrubbed tears from her face.
      • During the ordeal, the Jessica cries so that her make-up runs.
    • In Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games, Katniss is afraid of this after she volunteers; it would make her look weak. After she shoots the apple out of the mouth of the Gamemakers' roast pig in anger and walks away undismissed, she sobs inelegant Tears of Remorse for fear they will harm her family over it and give her a bad score, meaning she will do poorly after she promised she would try to win.
    • In Neil Gaiman's Stardust, when Tristran finds the star, her eyes are raw and red with weeping.
    • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "Jewels of Gwahlur" not exactly wise for an imposter goddess.

    Wipe your face. A goddess doesn't cry like a whipped schoolgirl.

    • In Rick Riordan's The Lost Hero, Piper tries to invoke this, but since Aphrodite decided to bless her with beauty, beautiful she remains.
    • The Dresden Files: Jim Butcher does not like Cry Cute. He does not like it at all. While the female characters are rarely weepy, on the times when they do cry, it is always described as incredibly unflattering. Of course, the protagonist being who he is, that only pisses him off even more. He's fully aware of this flaw, and is getting better about overcoming it. And Harry himself does not weep manfully—he curls into a ball of whatever misery has currently landed on him and sobs his heart out.
    • Joan Foster, the narrator of Margaret Atwood's Lady Oracle, admits in the first chapter that she is prone to this sort of crying; her eyes get as red as "cooked tomatoes," her nose runs, she clenches her fists, snorts and moans. "Decorous weeping was another of those arts I never mastered, like putting on false eyelashes."
    • In Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder's Except the Queen, crying like this is one of the multiple indignities heaped on Serana by her exile.
    • In Amelia Takes Command, Amelia fears doing this after she gets bullied, because, according to her, people tend to have chins that crinkle up or mouths that look like rubber bands when they cry. At the end, the bully, Hilary, dissolves into all-out bawling after Amelia finally tells her off. She's described as having "a rubber-band mouth and a crinkly chin."
    • The Chronicles of Narnia: In The Silver Chair, Jill Pole is doing this when the book opens. Also, young Digory Kirke in The Magician's Nephew. Both times, the author spends quite a bit of time on how unattractive it is.
    • Invoked in Stephen King's Dream Catcher where one of the boys cries so hard snot drips out of his nose. Also happens to "Duddits", a mentally challenged boy with Disability Superpowers, when a group of bullies beat him up and force him to eat a dried dog turd.
    • Scout in Yoda: Dark Rendezvous is described as having a soaked sleeve and a slimy face while still sniffling after a bout of tears.
    • Lanen of Tales of Kolmar observes that she's seen women who only looked more beautiful when they cry, but her eyes go bright red and puffy and her nose runs.

    Live-Action TV

    • Happens on Titus when the titular character finally breaks down over his mother's death... in an airplane bathroom.
    • In Winter Sonata, a drunk Oh Chelin loses it after she proposes that "the jilted ones" (she and Sang-hyuk) start dating. She's the sole blubbering mess while everyone else in the series cries so carefully.
    • Lilly in Hannah Montana is all about this trope when she cries.
    • M*A*S*H: Happens with some frequency—lots of really red eyes and folks breaking down completely.
    • Grace from Will and Grace is a champ at this, completely with incoherent high-pitched talking.
    • Doctor Who has a few of these, all with fairly good reason.
      • Rose at the end of series 2 -- the Doctor is fairly composed; she's bawling her eyes out.
      • The Doctor when the Master dies at the end of series 3.
      • And in human form in "The Family of Blood" ("God, you're rubbish as a human!").
    • A fleeting example in Merlin 3x05 - after Arthur is shot and Merlin thinks he won't be able to save him, he's briefly shown in tears, completele with running nose, as he washes the blood off his hands.
      • Guinevere in 4x09. When Arthur confronts her about kissing Lancelot on the eve of her wedding to Arthur, Gwen is on the verge of hysteria considering she was under a spell at the time, didn't understand what she was doing, and can't provide Arthur with a coherent explanation.
    • This happens with Monica and Rachel in Friends when they are saying goodbye because Rachel is moving to Paris. Her blubbering becomes so unintelligible that Monica can't understand what she's saying.
    • A recurring sketch in Man Stroke Woman is a man whose girlfriend has just dumped him, causing him to blubber incoherently while his friends hazard increasingly bizarre guesses as to what he's trying to say.
    • SCTV - resident primadonna celebrity Johnny La Rue (John Candy) goes into pathetic blubbering, pleading fits when station higher-ups deny him his perceived perks.
    • Debra Morgan in Dexter, when she returns to the spot where Frank Lundy was killed.
    • In Kamen Rider Fourze, Gentaro does it after Jerk Jock Shun Daimonji breaks down in tears and tells him about how much pressure and stress his father puts on him to be the "King" of the school.
    • Jean-Luc Picard is twice reduced to this: once while expressing Sarek's repressed anguish and a long Vulcan lifetime of regrets, and once when he finally breaks down over what the Borg did to him, and how he wasn't strong or good enough to stop them.
    • Izzie Stevens from Grey's Anatomy.
    • Ianto from Torchwood is a rather ugly cryer.
      • Gwen also cries like this when Rhys dies in the Season 1 finale.
    • Marshall from How I Met Your Mother does this hilariously in "The Chain of Screaming" after being yelled at by his boss. The others have a very hard time not making fun of him for it.
      • Also, Ted is notorious for doing this during toasts at all his friends' weddings, which earns him a lot of flack and a youtube video. However, when he's being mocked for it at Punchy's wedding in the 7th season premiere, Marshall stands up and furiously admonishes everyone at the reception, pointing out that Ted's only crying because he's overcome with joy after Lily announced she was pregnant.


    • Albert Collins' hard luck blues story But I Was Cool
    • Depressive Black Metal has a lot of these cries formed into vocals. They're so painful to hear you'll want to cry too. Example at about 5:55.

    Video Games

    • Professor Layton and the Unwound Future: "Now Luke, you know a gentleman never makes a scene in public" "I'm sorry professor, but I'm not a gentleman yet!"
    • Katawa Shoujo: In Hanako's route when Hanako and Hisao climatically reconcile their feelings for one another with all the pain and loss both have experienced in their pasts.
    • In Super Paper Mario , Emotionless Girl Nastasia goes into a blubbering fit when she learns that Count Bleck is gone forever. She recovers her dignity with equal abruptness.

    Web Comics

    Web Original

    Western Animation

    • In Family Guy, Stewie does this near the end of the episode "New Kidney in Town". Brian even makes mention of how gross it is when Stewie tries to hug him.
      • Joe Swanson also does it at the Drunken Clam in an earlier episode, after trying to catch a thief who stole money raised for a boy's surgery. (He got the money, but lost the perp.) This actually causes the other guys to slowly exit the bar through increasingly-unlikely ways to get clear of him.
    • In the classic short film Feed the Kitty, Marc Anthony goes into a massive blubbering fit after believing Pussyfoot has been baked into a cookie. He goes into yet another one when he's handed a cookie in the shape of a kitten. Thankfully the kitten turns out to be safe.
    • Bolin does this in The Legend of Korra "The Spirit of Competition." Ocular Gushers, rivers of snot, the whole deal. And then he runs away from the offending sight.