The male survivor’s guide to “War Horse”


Many blokes can get out of seeing so-called chick flicks by suggesting their partner takes a girlfriend while they go to the pub.

Blokes prefer much stiffer medicine when it comes to movies – shoot ’em up action heroes and war-mongering, to name but two worthy themes.

A tear-jerking moment as Albert says goodbye to Joey.
A tear-jerking moment as Albert says goodbye to Joey.

And therein lies the average male’s difficulty with Steven Spielberg’s “War Horse”.

Naturally, their horse-loving partner will be dead keen to see the movie because the lead character is none other than a horse.

Naturally, because it is set during World War 1 and includes plenty of action, they will expect their bloke to be more than happy to watch it with them.

Problem is, this cinematic triumph is deliberately designed to be a tear-jerker.

Any average male who fronts to watch the wartime exploits of Joey the horse without proper preparation is sure to end up a blubbering wreck.

Perhaps their partner will be delighted to see this hithertoo unseen “softer side”.

Is crying such a big deal at the movies?

For most blokes, it is. It’s not that men necessarily have a problem with crying. It just doesn’t seem right bawling your eyes out over make-believe stuff.

Thus, we bring you Horsetalk’s essential guide to surviving “War Horse” without tears rolling down your cheeks.

On average, women cry 64 times a year. That’s more than once a week, so your average woman would surely rely on at least a dozen or so tear-inducing movies every year to keep up this kind of batting average.

Men cry an average of 17 times a year. If every male got through “War Horse” without tears, that average could be brought down to 16!

It seems we mostly cry alone, and most often between 7pm and 10pm (which is sure to be when most “War Horse” screenings occur).

Firstly, there are no guarantees of success. On that score, surrepticiosly slip a fresh handkerchief into each of your trouser pockets in case of meltdown. It will be bad enough crying, without having to ask your partner for their hankie!

Secondly, it’s not your fault. It seems you should blame a hormone called oxytocin. It transpires our stupid bodies struggle to distinguish between real-life reasons to cry and stuff that’s made-up.

This surely is an evolutionary quirk, as no other animal sheds emotional tears, but may do so if their eyes get irritated.

Research indicates we are most likely to cry over deaths, births and illnesses of children or older parents. Cheating and/or violent husbands are right up there. It is seemingly mandatory when accepting an acting award and even low-level frustation can boil over into tears.

Joey and Albert running free
Joey and Albert running free

In search of answers, Horsetalk’s team of researchers came up with the following gems.

First up, take a deep breath. This, apparently, can help a lot. Focus on breathing deeply. Look away and turn your thoughts elsewhere. Even pinch your arm.

Count candy on the theatre floor and run through your list of chores for tomorrow. Only return your gaze to the screen when you think the chances of tears have passed.

Yahoo! Answers offers a few thoughts for those who admit to being tearful moviegoers.

“Man up,” suggested one writer. “Testosterone shots,” said another.

“Stop going to the movies,” another wrote.

One would-be blubberer offered this superb suggestion: “Do what I do. When you feel like you’re going to cry just laugh hysterically. Then you shouldn’t cry, just annoy the people who are trying to watch the movie!”

The prize answer is surely this one, after one person said: “I am a 32-year-old male, motivated and ambitious. Unfortunately, I cry easily! For instance I can cry at ‘Ghost Whisperers’. I feel I have no control over it, but I hate it! How can I stop doing this?”

The reply: “It sounds like you have a blocked or sensitive tear duct. This can cause you to tear up at anything. Even if something isn’t sad. This usually happens in adults. If this is the case then you should tell your doctor during your next appointment or physical and if they think that it is, then they can run some routine tests. If you do have either one, then they will give you some antibiotics … This seems like it could be what is happening. I hope you get better.”

This is brilliant! A sudden onset of sensitive tear-duct syndrome in the days before the movie would be just the trick. Carry half an onion in cling-wrap in your pocket to secretly wave in front of your eyes occasionally to make it look like the real deal.

Here’s another approach: “It’s really not a big deal to begin with, but just try to have no emotion while watching them. That has always worked for me. Just think, ‘Who cares about you? You’re some actor who’s living in a nice house and making millions. Who cares if your ‘friend’ died?”

Be careful of any partners who threaten to become serial “War Horse” watchers.

This exchange should be warning enough: “Why can’t I stop crying because of Titanic!?” a person asked in Yahoo! Answers. “I just saw ‘Titanic’ and I just can’t stop crying! Every time I see the film I cry myself to sleep. Is that normal? It’s already been 14 years since they made the film and it’s still a sad movie.”

The reply: “Yesss, you are VERY normal. I cry every time and I’ve seen that movie 13 times.”

Thirteen times???!!!

Once you’ve got your emotion-controlling strategies in place, it’s best to know a little about the really challenging “War Horse” bits.

There a particularly harrowing scene where Joey the horse, charging through No Man’s Land in some breath-taking footage, becomes entangled in barbed wire. Oh, the horror! Poor Joey struggling for freedom!

First, rest assured that no horses were hurt in the making of “War Horse”. In all, about a dozen horses played Joey at various stages of his life, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was on hand at all times to make sure the horses didn’t get into any bother.

Albert and Joey in a scene from War Horse
Albert and Joey in a scene from War Horse

Second, the barbed wire was made out of rubber. You won’t catch me out with that, Mr Spielberg!

Finally, if you do get to “War Horse” and end up soaking your generous supply of hankies, console yourself with the knowledge that researchers have found that happiness is over-rated.

Research reported in May in the journal, Perspectives on Psychological Science, found that too much happiness can be a problem.

One study followed children from the 1920s to old age and found that those who died younger were rated as highly cheerful by their teachers.

Researchers have found that people who are feeling extreme amounts of happiness may not think as creatively and also tend to take more risks.

Psychological scientists have discovered what appears to really increase happiness.

“The strongest predictor of happiness is not money, or external recognition through success or fame,” said June Gruber, of Yale University, who co-wrote the article

“It’s having meaningful social relationships.”

That means the best way to increase your happiness is to stop worrying about being happy and instead divert your energy to nurturing the social bonds you have with other people, she said.

In other words, go with your partner to “War Horse” and cry your eyes out if you have to.


Written by Lewis Whitehall


This article has been written by a contributor to

2 thoughts on “The male survivor’s guide to “War Horse”

  • January 12, 2012 at 5:38 am

    It is socially acceptable for women to cry over movies in public, but in the case of men, it would be the ego issue. If my partner did not cry over War Horse in public, he would most definately cry at home, following a slap from me, for being unemotional and heartless. Ha ha.

  • February 7, 2012 at 7:30 am

    I saw War Horse yesterday with my wife and mum and we were all sobbing our hearts out. There’s nothing wrong with a man crying.


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