Created By: MegaJ on March 20, 2010
Troped

But Not Too White

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He stuns his opponents with the glistening of his skin.

''"Gotta keep the tan up. It's not a skin color, it's a lifestyle, Brian. You wouldn't know that because you're white as a ghost. You're haunting this house with your whiteness, Brian."
Stewie Griffin, Family Guy

Might as well give this a try. No good at writing summaries, need suggestions and examples.

While fair skin is usually a common beauty standard around the world, pale skin is usually seen as unattractive in North America and Europe.

This wasn't always so (and still isn't for many people around the globe). In ancient times, fair skin was a sign of nobility and tan skin was a sign of the working class, due to outside labor. Great lengths were taken maintain pale skin, including using lead and arsenic based makeup and using parasols whenever going outside.

As fashions and lifestyles changed, tanned skin emerged as a new beauty standard sometime in the early 20th century. Tanned skin was a sign that someone spent a lot of time outside cavorting around and had money to spend to visit exotic sunny locations. Pale skin is now associated with people who don't do outside and get enough sunlight and sickness.

Usually this trope is Played for Laughs at the expense of someone's "whiteness." This still does carry Unfortunate Implications for people who are naturally fair-skinned, however the pale are still Acceptable Targets for many.

See also Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette and Evil Albino. Contrast But Not Too Black.
Film
  • In an inversion,Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart from the Twilight movies have been praised for their pale looks and many hope they can lower the skin cancer rates for teens due to excessive tanning.

ProfessionalWrestling
  • Professional wrestler Sheamus plays up his Irish heritage (or at least, Irish gimmick) with his pale skin. This makes him stand out amongst every other Caucasian WWE wrestler who have tanned skin. Of course, Sheamus's skin is often poked fun at on wrestling online forums.

Television
  • On Degrassi: The Next Generation, Paige and her boyfriend (who is also her teacher) are in the park enjoying themselves and they ridicule a guy's pale white legs -- and then they later find out it's her other teacher Mr. Simpson.
  • Cheers. Carla used to mock Diane Chambers for being white-bred, and mocked her as "whitey". Diane would defend her pale skin as "alabaster". Then came Lilith (who was played by Bebe Neuwirth, whose real skin tone was very pale.)
  • Frasier. Lilith's paleness was often mocked, and even lampshaded by Lilith herself late in the series in the episode "Lilith Needs a Favor".
    Albert (played by the ultra-pale Brent Spiner, aka Data): No, actually, I'm always this pale. My ex-wife used to say she could tell when I was embarrassed because I'd turn off-white.
    Lilith: I can empathize. Sometimes after a late night, I cover my under-eye circles with Liquid Paper.
  • A big part of Conan O'Brien's self-deprecating humor is the act of mocking his porcelain skin.
  • The BBC comedy sketch show Goodness Gracious Me had a sketch which poked fun at the Indian idealisation of pale skin, with a deathly pale but quite obviously Indian shop assistant touting cosmetics to make skin look paler. When the customer asked what she used she indignantly insisted she was that pale naturally. Like several other sketches on the show, it was poking fun at Indians who basically didn't want to be Indian, but wanted to be white (see also the Kapoors, sorry, Coopers).

Web Comics
  • 'Geeks', in particular, are often mocked as being pasty-white. I remember a strip from PVP Online where Francis (resident Teen Geek) takes off his shirt to affix a set of Dr. Octopus-style mechanical arms to his back, causing Marcy to collapse in paroxysms of laughter, and Deadpan Snarker Brent to stumble back, claiming that the glare was blinding him in spite of his permanently-attached shades...
  • In one Teen Girl Squad comic in the Home Star Runner universe, when Cheerleader complains that she wanted to go to "Coach Conrad's Sit-Up Camp For Shirtless Boys" instead of ending up at "Cosplayover Camp," Science Fiction Greg says, "Oh, I can take my shirt off!" Cheerleader is instantly charred in the "Blinding Voip" that reflects off Sci-Fi Greg's pasty white skin.
Community Feedback Replies: 15
  • March 14, 2010
    Chabal2
    Inversion: the Ancient Romans held a tan to be a sign of poverty (it meant you were outdoors all day working), so they did their best to make their skin as pale as possible, including (sigh) lead-based makeup.
  • March 14, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    I believe they were still using lead-based makeup to look paler until the Georgian era. Too Dumb To Live indeed. I sense a Troper Tales page for this one...
  • March 14, 2010
    MatthewTheRaven
    Tanning is a relatively modern hobby in white culture, so we shouldn't list too many pre-20th Century aversions.
  • March 15, 2010
    MegaJ
    • Cheers. Carla used to mock Diane Chambers for being white-bred, and mocked her as "whitey". Diane would defend her pale skin as "alabaster". Then came Lilith (who was played by Bebe Neuwirth, whose real skin tone was very pale.)
    • Frasier. Lilith's paleness was often mocked, and even lampshaded by Lilith herself late in the series in the episode "Lilith Needs a Favor".
      Albert (played by the ultra-pale Brent Spiner, aka Data): No, actually, I'm always this pale. My ex-wife used to say she could tell when I was embarrassed because I'd turn off-white.
      Lilith: I can empathize. Sometimes after a late night, I cover my under-eye circles with Liquid Paper.
  • March 15, 2010
    MegaJ
    'Geeks', in particular, are often mocked as being pasty-white. I remember a strip from PVP Online where Francis (resident Teen Geek) takes off his shirt to affix a set of Dr. Octopus-style mechanical arms to his back, causing Marcy to collapse in paroxysms of laughter, and Deadpan Snarker Brent to stumble back, claiming that the glare was blinding him in spite of his permanently-attached shades...
  • March 15, 2010
    lebrel
    The writeup should probably mention that this is a newer trope (deliberate tanning emerged in the 1920's) and largely restricted to North America and Europe; skin as fair as possible is still frequently considered ideal (especially for women) almost everywhere else (Asia, Northern Africa and the Near East, parts of South America...).
  • March 15, 2010
    callsignecho
    Newer Than They Think

    Also, I'll see your lead-based makeup and raise you some arsenic powder. Those Wacky Romans.
  • March 15, 2010
    randomsurfer
    Sure, use a picture of Sheamus but don't mention him or nothin'...
  • March 15, 2010
    MatthewTheRaven
    • A big part of Conan O'Brien's self-deprecating humor is the act of mocking his porcelain skin.
  • March 16, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    @lebrel, yes.

    My understanding was:

    Back in the day, ie when most of the population was in agriculture and thus had to work outdoors, pale skin was a sign of higher socioeconomic status (because the person could afford not to labour for their beer and bread).

    Then The Industrial Revolution happened, and the shift to urbanisation and indoor work took place, and being able to sit outside all day instead of working meant you belonged to the higher socioeconomic grouping. Or you could travel somewhere sunny, which meant you were heaps heaps richer and stuff.

    What does that suggest about vampires, then (pale-skinned individuals of wealth and taste expoliting peasants)? hmm? Hmm?
  • March 16, 2010
    SonofRojBlake
    The BBC comedy sketch show Goodness Gracious Me had a sketch which poked fun at the Indian idealisation of pale skin, with a deathly pale but quite obviously Indian shop assistant touting cosmetics to make skin look paler. When the customer asked what she used she indignantly insisted she was that pale naturally. Like several other sketches on the show, it was poking fun at Indians who basically didn't want to be Indian, but wanted to be white (see also the Kapoors, sorry, Coopers).

  • March 16, 2010
    solfieri
    Truth In Television not only in Europe and North America, but on Latin America as well (as this Brazillian Pale Skinned Brunette is painfully aware). Basically most of the western world worships tanned skin....
  • March 16, 2010
    JAF1970
    Incidentally, pale skin being a sign of higher socioeconomic status was what made tuberculosis in women so "attractive" - pale skin, unable to move and being frail... the Victorian standard of being a hot chick.
  • March 17, 2010
    Tannhaeuser
    In one Teen Girl Squad comic in the Home Star Runner universe, when Cheerleader complains that she wanted to go to "Coach Conrad's Sit-Up Camp For Shirtless Boys" instead of ending up at "Cosplayover Camp," Science Fiction Greg says, "Oh, I can take my shirt off!" Cheerleader is instantly charred in the "Blinding Voip" that reflects off Sci-Fi Greg's pasty white skin.
  • March 20, 2010
    MegaJ
    I'm thinking of launching this soon, if there are no objections
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=66adjkj29ren4fhow8bb6xy3