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Broken Smile
"Mama...?"
What's with the face? It is happy, yet at the same time, disturbing.
Mark Chang, Fairly OddParents

Any Stepford Smiler worth her immaculately groomed Power Hair has a smile capable of withstanding a nuclear blast worth of shocking revelations with amazing Dissonant Serenity. Anything and everything could happen, the president is assassinated, the detective finds the basement graveyard, the in-laws visit unexpectedly, and still the smile stands. Then there are times when that perpetual and creepy smile... breaks. Maybe the cookies got burnt, or a lock of her hair has fallen out of place, or her perfectly manicured family just did something dreadfully embarrassing in public. The point is, it's the last straw and her smile, like her composure, has been shattered into so many pieces archaeologists will be puzzling it out for millennia.

Something snaps inside her head; she gets Hidden Eyes, and her smile suddenly becomes frozen and forced, with teeth grinding in a rictus of a Cheshire Cat Grin... or worse. The smile is only still there because the sheer shock has prevented any new expression from reaching her face. A deer in the headlights of a sixteen wheel semi has a similar expression. She may develop a twitching eyelid.

Cross-Popping Veins optional for comedic examples. Usually this is followed either by a Heroic BSOD or something to make those responsible forever Beware the Nice Ones. Often shown by Yandere.


Examples

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     Anime and Manga 
  • SHUFFLE!: Kaede displays this around episode 19 where her extreme depression and loneliness starts taking a toll on her sanity.
  • Arumi of Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi usually does this, if only for a second, before attacking Sasshi with her Paper Fan of Doom.
  • Seen on Yurika in Martian Successor Nadesico after her first taste of three new pilots, generally behaving even more strangely than the crew she's already gotten used to.
  • Not really a Stepford Smiler, but Zilba from Uninhabited Planet Survive only stops smiling when her cheek is bruised.
  • Shown above, it happens to Asuka in Neon Genesis Evangelion after she walks in on what should be the happiest day of her life so far, with what she believes to be proof she is a worthy daughter. Only to find that her mother has committed "murder"-suicide, hanging herself with a doll of Asuka.
  • In Bleach, Hinamori is visited by Hitsugaya and she has one when she starts ranting about how Aizen might merely be manipulated by Gin.
  • Happens to Ranka in Macross Frontier, when she runs to the deck thinking that Alto loves her... and stumbles into Alto hugging Sheryl, not knowing that it's because Sheryl's illness kicked in. "It can't be..."
  • Usagi does this in Sailor Moon R when Mamoru is breaking up with her.
  • Karakuridouji Ultimo: Rune has this after his confession to Yamato and during his fight with him.
  • Naruto:
    • Gaara tried to maintain one after discovering his uncle Yashimaru had attacked him, but it was soon wiped off his face by Yashimaru's faked confession of hatred.
    • Naruto himself is a Stepford Smiler and does this at times.
    • Sakura's had her fair share, namely after Sasuke betrays the village and lands Naruto in the hospital, and much later when Sasuke comes back, and she's happy and can trust him. Sai of all people calls the resulting "smile" a lie.
  • Menma's mother Irene in Ano Hana The Flower We Saw That Day, when Jin-Tan, Poppo and Anaru go to talk about the plan to build a firework in Menma's memory, not knowing that Irene is still mentally broken even after years of Menma's death..
  • Leo of Pandora Hearts flashes a lot of these after Elliot's death.
  • In the beginning of Battle Royale, a young Shuya and Yoshitoki notice that the girl who won that year's Program is smiling, but she doesn't really look happy. She does look very creepy.
    • Also in "Battle Royale", Yoshimi's adorable smile at finding Yoji again quickly becomes very creepy when he's shot in the head.

     Comics 

     Fanfiction 
  • Gamzee in Brainbent has a particularly heartbreaking one when he thinks he's made Sollux hate him. He's a bit of a type-a Stepford Smiler overall, depressingly enough.
  • Spike sports one at the end of Chapter 12 in Zenith when he discovers that Celestia knowingly sent Twilight to the location where the Pillar of the Sun was at.

     Film 
  • Michelle Pfeiffer's character Velma Von Tussle displayed a wonderful example of this in the 2007 remake of Hairspray, at the moment when her daughter failed to win the Miss Hairspray contest.
  • In Broken Blossoms, Lucy forces herself to smile like this several times, including while dying.

     Literature 
  • Gorgas in The Belly Of The Bow by K. J. Parker: he is confronting his brother who has killed Geogas' son in an unspeakable way. Gorgas decides that there's no sense in crying over spilt milk and confronts his brother wearing a smile like the one the body of his dead son is wearing.

     Live Action TV 
  • Richard Hammond's expression of glee on Top Gear gradually morphs into one of these when the Reliant Robin Space Shuttle's external fuel tank fails to separate and the assemblage plummets to earth in a gigantic fireball.

     Visual Novels 
  • Fate/Stay Night has Sakura Matou. She is not a Stepford Smiler in that she only cares about preserving her Yamato Nadeshiko mask for Shirou rather than her peers in general, but through a combination of love and severe abuse she eventually snaps, learning how to put on that dangerous smile, among other things.
  • In final two routes, Tsukihime 's Kohaku starts to show her broken smile to the protagonist, and plays the Stepford Smiler straighter than the above example.
  • Ace Attorney 's normally perky (in more ways than one) April May gets this along with a Twitchy Eye periodically during the first game's second trial, usually when confronted with a contradiction in her testimony. Her full breakdown causes her to lose the smile entirely.
  • ef - a fairy tale of the two. has Yuuko in her story with this caused by her traumatic past experiences of being continually raped by her brother figure Akira.

     Web Comics 

     Western Animation 


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