actually on this topic
manpain is a META concept that exists to discuss FICTIONAL SEXISM. in real life, if you laughed about “someone’s manpain”, you would be a disgusting piece of shit for a human being no matter what your gender was. if you were laughing that someone’s life was destroyed by the death of their mom or their fiancee you would be a fucking shitheel not worth my time, and i would not watch a fucking tv series about you.
Oh god yes. Are there people who don’t realize this?
The significant difference between fiction and real life is that in real life things just happen, whereas in fiction things only happen because of choices made by the writer/s.
When fancritics talk about manpain, we’re not mocking Bruce Wayne or Dean Winchester for their suffering; we’re mocking the writers for thinking that hurting them is the best way to tell the story, and that killing (usually female) characters they love is the best way to hurt them.
And perhaps more importantly: Killing off female characters is a good way to “hurt” them that won’t actually hurt them or slow them down, it’ll just make them mad.
“Manpain” is not the same thing as “pain felt by men”.
Also, male characters get to wallow in their pain and it’s used to justify any amount of bad decisions or antisocial behavior, whereas female characters are supposed to dust themselves off and stop whining, or they’re not “likable.”
Manpain is the prioritization metric that says the lose of one person by a male character in a story must be tended and treated as more significant than any lose faced by a female character.
Manpain is the Pain-but-also-not-emotional response of Stoic McGrimFace who expresses his loss through extremely unhealthy coping behaviours like serial killing, mass murder sprees, combat cosplay, and alcoholism.
Like, the hardboiled detective novel – a woman walks into the detective’s office to get an investigation into the recent death of her husband last week, and she is supposed to be immediately sexually available to the detective, with no emotional resonance from her husband’s death, whilst Unshaved Broodman of the Clan BroodingManPain is still drinking himself off the force because he lost his buddy back in ‘67 and it’s 1980
That shit is manpain. Like ManPain™: ask for it by double on the rocks!
Lot of good commentary’s been added to this post since I last saw it.
ManPain stems from a misused trope in how to write a compelling story.
In fiction it is good practice for the main character to have issues, a past that affects them at a core level, an event or events that colour the way they think and act, culminating in a flaw that must be overcome for them to succeed at the end of the story.
A good protagonist does two things, 1.they get themselves into trouble through their own actions. Rather than stuff happening to them through bad luck, or outside forces not under their control. It is the protagonist’s job to make a stupid spur of the moment decision that lands them up shit creek without a paddle. 2.They aren’t allowed to wallow in self pity for more than a minute and as a writer it is your job to keep them off balance and busy enough that they don’t have the time to. They should grow through action and/or a deep realisation, eureka moment where things become clear.
To but it simply they need agency.
Next, the character must suffer adversity and overcome it, or not, if it’s one of those stories but for this example we shall say they should. This usually means piling on hellish punishments to your protagonist and their friends to make them suffer and grow. We need the reader to want them to succeed and be cheering them on and we want the reader to sympathise and throw the book across the room when things go wrong because we want the reader to care.
Now we come to how things go wrong.
We fail any of the above rules. This will leave us with an unlikeable character who mops and whines and only has stuff happening to them, they don’t make any choices themselves.
We allow tropes to dictate story rather than support it. This is where ManPain comes in. In fiction we want to allow people to do/be something we don’t see in reality or aspire to. So of course in fiction men are allowed to be emotional and show it but they can’t show it in a tender non manly way because that would be unmanly. But of course this just leads to poor characterization and makes our protagonists look like some unhinged sociopath rather than a human being with actual emotions. The same goes for character deaths. This death means a lot to the character but does it mean anything to the reader? Character deaths should be there to tug at the heart strings of the reader and we shouldn’t need the main character to tell us why or how we should react. Hence why we get character deaths where the main character tells us how upset they are and how their life is so much worse now but not so much worse that the story cannot finish with the protagonist winning.
Did I say one trope? I meant a half dozen. And ManPain is one of many examples of how a poor understanding of tropes and poor writing craft in general leads to annoying, cliched and bland writing.