Created By: Noaqiyeum on April 16, 2013 Last Edited By: Noaqiyeum on May 4, 2013
Troped

Surreal Symbolic Heads

Figures in dreams or surreal settings that are human, but with the head of something else.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope

A recurring motif in Surreal Horror, Surreal Humour, and, really, surreality in general, is an apparently human being whose head is something else entirely. In some cases, it's simply been replaced with the head of some species of animal; in others, it's actually an inanimate object walking about on an human body.

In any case, the effect ranges from unusual to sinister; they appear mainly in dreams, visions, hallucinations, and if they appear physically it's a good sign that Reality Is Out to Lunch. As a result, they are frequently subjects of the Rule of Symbolism.

Compare Malevolent Masked Men, which plays on much of the same imagery in a way compatible with a more mundane setting or situation. Compare and contrast Anthropomorphic Personification and Physical God - many take the form of a person with the head of something else, but unless they are used for surreality and metaphor they are not this trope. Also, not to be unnecessarily confused with TV Head Robot or Petting Zoo People.


Examples:

Comics
  • Doom Patrol
    • Several of Dorothy Spinner's imaginary friends and enemies take this form. Damn All has a newspaper with multiple eyes and a broad smile, his 'wife' Darling-Come-Home's face is a portrait of a light bulb, and their ghost baby Flying Robert has the head of a balloon.
    • Many agents of the Cult of the Unwritten Book have such appearances as well. The Weeping Blades are flayed, beheaded corpses with the heads of blades. The assassin group Fear the Sky all have the heads of celestial objects.

Film

Literature
  • Part of the mythos in The Stormlight Archive revolves around visions of strange creatures who are humanoid in shape, but have strange symbols for heads. Their presence and origin is as of yet unexplained.
  • In A Night in the Lonesome October, when a mass occult ritual starts to distort reality, the participants' heads all seem to shift places while their consciousness remains in place. As many of the participants are Familiar animals, this leaves many of the humans with animal heads.

Tabletop Games
  • Call of Cthulhu
    • Supplement Curse of the Chthonians, adventure "Thoth's Dagger". One of the Investigators who touches the title magic item will fall under its curse. He sees visions of ancient Egypt that include a guard with the head of a baboon and a priest with the head of an ibis.
    • Supplement The Fungi from Yuggoth, adventure "Sands of Time". While the Investigators are trapped in an underground area they have a vision of two men with the heads of crocodiles.

Video Games
  • All the characters in Mondo Medicals have televisions for faces - with a blank screen, simple faces, or a gnashing mouth. Mondo Agency uses the same idea, only now the screens are four-sided and spin!
  • In Hotline Miami, the protagonist is visited by three strangers in animal masks, in dreamlike settings. (It was produced by cactus, who also made the aforementioned Mondo games.)
  • In Yume Nikki, the Medamaude effect allows Madotsuki to dream that her head has taken the form of a large hand with an eye in the palm. ('Blinking' allows her to return to the hub of her Dream World.)
    • Another effect replaces her head with a functioning street lamp (useful for illuminating dark areas, naturally).
    • There are also the Toriningen, the 'enemies' of the game, who resemble tall girls with eerily silly bird-like heads.
    • In the fan sequel Yume 2kki, Urotsuki can dream her head into a telephone, a box of tissues, or a bomb in the shape of an eyeball.
  • One of the first-person areas in Batman: Arkham Asylum contains a mannequin of the Joker, with a television head that plays a message. Actually, it's the Joker himself.
  • In Turgor, the brother called Whaler has his head replaced with a kind of ornate metal spire. (The head itself is strapped onto his back...)

Web Original
  • One of the unexplained screens in the NES Godzilla Creepypasta shows a figure in a pinstriped business suit, whose head is a dripping faucet.

Advertising
  • Subverted in this Pepsi Max advert; towards the end, the boss sees one of the office workers with a horse's head and assumes that he's hallucinating. But that's just what the workers want him to think; the horse's head is fake and the workers are looking for an excuse to goof off.


Indices: Absurdity Ascendant, Dream Tropes
Community Feedback Replies: 31
  • April 16, 2013
    IsaacSapphire
    Does this overlap with anthro furrys?
  • April 16, 2013
    Noaqiyeum
    No. Well... there might be exceptions, but certainly not where the setting is furry, or when not played for being strange and disorienting.
  • April 17, 2013
    Surenity
    Would Egyptian Mythology count?
  • April 17, 2013
    Chernoskill
    In Hotline Miami, the protagonist is visited by three strangers in aninmal masks, in dreamlike settings.
  • April 17, 2013
    Noaqiyeum
    I'm not sure whether they would count or not. I don't think so, though, in their original context.

    What medium is Hotline Miami?
  • April 17, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    ^ Video Game apparently -> Hotline Miami.
  • April 17, 2013
    Noaqiyeum
    Ah! Thanks.

    (Of course it's by cactus. XD )
  • April 17, 2013
    IsaacSapphire
    So characters who might be furrys in other works can be used this way in, say, a realistic series?
  • April 17, 2013
    Noaqiyeum
    I guess so, depending on exactly what you mean by 'furry'... Did you have a specific example in mind?
  • April 17, 2013
    SharleeD
    • In A Night In The Lonesome October, when a mass occult ritual starts to distort reality, the participants' heads all seem to shift places while their consciousness remains in place. As many of the participants are Familiar animals, this leaves many of the humans with animal heads.
  • April 18, 2013
    AgProv
    Mythology

    Just about every Egyptian god or goddess, ie Bast (cat-headed goddess) Anubis (jackal headed), Hastor (cow-headed) Horus (hawk-headed)...
  • April 18, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    ^^^ Sorry, but if the point of this trope is "human body + animal head", then you shouldn't accept regular anthropomorphic characters as examples. Especially so, if you plan to keep that "surreal" part in the trope name, because there is nothing surreal about furrys.
  • April 18, 2013
    jbrecken
    Donnie Darko has recurring visions of a guy with a creepy rabbit head, but it turns out it was just a Halloween mask. Would that count?
  • April 18, 2013
    Noaqiyeum
    ^^ The surreal aspect is more important to the trope than it being an animal head specifically, if you'll see the rest of the examples. Mostly I'm a little vague on whether "animal head + human body" falls under what Isaac means by 'furry'.

    I believe Donnie Darko counts, since if I remember correctly he's presented as being a dream or hallucination up until the reveal.
  • April 18, 2013
    Noaqiyeum
    Oh, wow - the image on Surreal Horror looks like it is exactly this. Can someone who has seen Eraserhead write a description?
  • April 18, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    ^ I was actually supposed to add this one... just had a hard time overcoming my laziness.

    Film
  • April 18, 2013
    Noaqiyeum
    Thank you!
  • April 19, 2013
    Arivne
    Added some Namespaces and italicization to OP work titles.

    Tabletop Games
    • Call Of Cthulhu
      • Supplement Curse of the Chthonians, adventure "Thoth's Dagger". One of the Investigators who touches the title magic item will fall under its curse. He sees visions of ancient Egypt that include a guard with the head of a baboon and a priest with the head of an ibis.
      • Supplement The Fungi from Yuggoth, adventure "Sands of Time". While the Investigators are trapped in an underground area they have a vision of two men with the heads of crocodiles.
  • April 19, 2013
    Noaqiyeum
    Danke!

    Ah. There's a case where Egyptian mythology does clearly apply.

    I think we have a good number of examples; does anyone have any thoughts on the title or description?
  • April 20, 2013
    Noaqiyeum
    Image added.
  • April 20, 2013
    MisterKerr
    Literature
    • Part of the mythos in The Stormlight Archive revolves around visions of strange creatures who are humanoid in shape, but have strange symbols for heads. Their presence and origin is as of yet unexplained.
  • April 22, 2013
    Noaqiyeum
    Added.

    ...any thoughts on the title or description? Anyone?
  • April 22, 2013
    MissKitten
    Title and description seems fine.
  • April 23, 2013
    Noaqiyeum
    Okay... thanks.
  • April 24, 2013
    Noaqiyeum
    Bump for hats?
  • April 25, 2013
    IsaacSapphire
    I think the term used here for what I meant when I said "anthro furry" is Petting Zoo People, used in a surreal way. Which of course I can't remember any specific examples of at the moment, dang it.
  • April 25, 2013
    BOFH
    Advertising
    • Subverted in this Pepsi Max advert; towards the end, the boss sees one of the office workers with a horse's head and assumes that he's hallucinating. But that's just what the workers want him to think; the horse's head is fake and the workers are looking for an excuse to goof off.
  • April 26, 2013
    Noaqiyeum
    ^ Ha! I've added the advertising section to the end of the list for now; it breaks convention a bit, but I think it's bad form to start out the examples section with a subversion.

    ^^ Ah. Well, then... let's deal with that question when an example comes up, shall we? :P
  • April 29, 2013
    Noaqiyeum
    Ha - I misremembered one of the Yume Nikki examples. Fixed.

    Further comments? One more hat?
  • May 3, 2013
    Noaqiyeum
    ...ooookay, I'll wait one more day for any objections or suggestions. If nothing else comes up I'm going to launch it despite the hat shortage.
  • May 4, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In an episode of Arthur Brain is giving nicknames to everyone. At first they were friendly nicknames, but after Arthur bugged him to give him a nickname Brain turned them all to nasty ones. Then in an Imagine Spot Brain sees his friends as their nicknames - he has nicknamed Buster "Antenna Ears" and now Buster is a normal* anthropomorphic rabbit with a TV for a head, with his usual head trapped inside.

    *for a given definition of "normal" - he's still an anthropomorphic rabbit after all.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=7snw65q0atkuy4axw8k79p8u