So you're watching a movie or TV show and a formerly beautiful character gets injured in some way that makes them... well, probably still beautiful; this is Hollywood we are talking about after all
... but have some kind of unattractive disfigurement. Common examples are losing a limb or receiving severe burns in a universe where that means permanent disfigurement. At this point, it's a pretty safe bet that that character is doomed. This isn't simple cause and effect: the character isn't usually killed by his injuries, either directly or indirectly. The injuries are just a sign that something else is going to pop up and kill him. In general, if the disfigurement looks like it would be expensive or time consuming to replicate every week, odds are they're not going to.
This is usually because while death is relatively common in fiction, having to live the rest of your life disabled or as a "freak" is seen as a Fate Worse than Death
fit only for the worst of villains. (In fact, even with villains, receiving a disfiguring mark from the hero is a sign that the fight is just about over.) Sometimes, this is subverted with An Aesop
about how life is worth living in spite of disfigurement.
And because this is Hollywood
, getting over disfigurement and accepting to live one's life regardless is almost always applied to males
. Due to the Beauty Is Never Tarnished
rule, disfigured women will most likely suicide themselves (especially if the damage is really severe) or seek plastic surgery if they can afford it. Because, as anybody knows, a woman who is no longer young and beautiful is of no use to the plot...
Therefore, women who get this treatment and remain alive will almost always be villainesses.
Sometimes "justified" by the person saying I Will Only Slow You Down
Basically, the far less laughable equivalent of Amusing Injuries
. Related to Beauty Is Never Tarnished
, Beauty to Beast
and Bullet Proof Fashion Plate
As a Death Trope, all spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.
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Anime & Manga
- Neil "Lockon Stratos" Dylandy in Gundam 00 loses an eye, put on an Eyepatch of Power then dies. Then again, he is a Gundam pilot, and losing his eye let his rival/killer Ali have the upper hand as they fought.
- Gantz: Part of this follows the trope, and part of it subverts it. Subverted while the characters are brought to the places to fight aliens, and they get horribly dismembered. Many of them think they're goners. Until after the mission is over, in which case Gantz teleports all the survivors back and completely restores them. Followed, however, in the real world, where any character that gets a permanent dismemberment (and doesn't get sent to Gantz) dies.
- In the first Fullmetal Alchemist anime, Scar loses both of his arms before transmuting himself and all the military inside the city they are attacking.
- And in the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Scar rips off both of Führer Bradley/Wrath's arms; Bradley still manages to deal one last blow afterward (with a blade clenched in his teeth!) before breaking down and dying.
- "Loyalty" had an especially poignant example in the resolution of the Desert Rescue Arc.
Films — Animated
- 1 survives most of 9 despite being a grumpy old guy, but once a machine crushes his hand... at least he has the chance to make a Heroic Sacrifice.
Films — Live-Action
- In Spider-Man 3 Harry is disfigured after Peter throws one of his bombs back at him. He shows up disfigured in the last scene and dies (in a completely unrelated way) during the same scene.
- In Sin City, Lucille's death is basically guaranteed after she loses her hand.
- The cop in Reservoir Dogs is killed after he receives facial scars and loses an ear, even pointing out that he's "deformed" before he's killed.
- In Daredevil, Elektra is in a fight with Bulls-eye. When she gets her weapon thrown back through her hand, she dies very shortly after.
- Batman (1989). The Joker burns his girlfriend Alicia's face with acid to make her a "work of art". She later commits suicide by throwing herself out a window... or so he says. Knowing the Joker, anything's possible.
- Another, more fiddly Batman example is Two-Face in The Dark Knight. If the movie wasn't based on a world-famous comic book and didn't have characters who were household names, then to the audience Harvey Dent's disfigurement would have been a sure sign of his death. But of course, because we all know Harvey becomes a supervillain named Two-Face, we know that this isn't really the case. Then Nolan went and killed Two-Face anyway.
- In the Film/Catwoman movie, the Big Bad, Laurel has gained flesh as hard as marble due to the side-effects of her make-up line. During the climatic fight with Catwoman her face ends up being cracked and scarred, though she initially doesn't realize this. Eventually she ends up hanging off a ledge, and upon seeing a reflection of her damaged visage she plummets to her death. It's left ambiguous as to whether the shock of seeing herself like that caused her to lose her grip for a fatal moment, or whether she consciously chose to die rather living with her disfigurement (and a doubtless lengthy rap sheet).
- Subverted with An Aesop in The Man Without A Face.
- In Se7en the victim of the pride murder commits suicide rather than live disfigured.
- Subverted in Forrest Gump: Lt. Dan loses both of his legs in Vietnam but not only he survives but also learns to cope with it.
- In The Matrix Revolutions, Neo has his eyes burned off. Apparently this is enough to require that both he and his girlfriend Trinity have to die. Or it could have been because he's a blatant Christ Allegory...
- Irritatingly done in the crappy MST3K movie The Atomic Brain. Bea loses an eye at about the mid-point of the film, and then gets arbitrarily, pointlessly killed off at the absolute last second before the end. After the villain was disposed of, no less.
- Inverted in 300. Dilios loses an eye, and he is the only Spartan to survive.
- An example of the villain variant comes from The Mask of Zorro. During the final fight, the young Zorro cuts an M into Captain Love's face, a variant on the standard Z. Subsequently, the fight ends very, very quickly.
- In the ending sequence of RoboCop (1987), henchman Emile is drenched by a vat of toxic waste, gruesomely disfiguring him. Shortly afterwards he is killed by stumbling out in front of his boss' speeding car. Interestingly, this series of events directly leads to the final showdown with the Big Bad.
- Justified in that Emile isn't just disfigured but actively melting to the point that he bursts into a mess of boneless liquid when he's hit by the car.
- Surprisingly averted in the otherwise straightforward remake House of Wax (2005) - the Final Girl has one of her fingers cut off and survives the film.
- Thoroughly averted in the case of Ash of the Evil Dead series. After removing his hand, he simply attaches a chainsaw and goes on killing zombies.
- In The Big Heat, Debby's face is badly burned when Vince throws hot coffee at her. Of course, she gets killed off ... but not before she returns the favor to Vince, who is arrested, but survives.
- In Robin Hood (2010), the English turncoat who has been secretly conspiring with the French king against Prince John undergoes a gradual physical degradation as the movie goes along: first, his face is grazed by an arrow, giving him a Glasgow Grin; then a small cut is opened on his forehead by a sword's blade; and, finally, he is slain by a second arrow through the skull in the movie's climactic battle.
- Subverting this is the point of the movie Penance: the heroine's genitals are horribly mutilated, but she has to live with it.
- Robert's death in Mystery Team, being hit in the face with a cherry bomb; it's even commented that someone "stole his face".
- In Demon Knight, a minor character loses an arm and then dies.
- A Japanese tourist in Hostel loses an eye to torture and is Driven to Suicide, despite being saved.
- In the Battle Royale film, a student who loses his arm to Shogo’s shotgun is promptly killed by said gun merely seconds later.
- Averted in Maleficent, where Stefan cuts off Maleficent's wings and she survives and takes revenge. She even gets her wings back; they crash through the glass case where Stefan kept them and ram themselves back onto her.
- In the original book version of Dangerous Liaisons, after her plots and manipulations are revealed, the Marquise de Merteuil is reported to have contracted smallpox that left her with severe facial scarring. Apart from this being a Fate Worse than Death, this should be understood as a physical manifestation of her evilness and humiliation.
- In Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Silena Beauregard, daughter of Aphrodite, gets hit in the face with poison that is strong enough to melt armor. Subverted because this is definitely what kills her.
- Inverted in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: George Weasley gets a disfiguring injury (he loses his ear in such a way that it can't be restored by magic), but survives; it's his identical twin Fred who ends up biting it. Hard not to think Rowling was deliberately avoiding playing this straight.
- Played straight with Dumbledore; his right hand is shriveled and unusable at the beginning of the 6th book, and he dies at the end of it. Justified in that the curse on his hand would soon kill him anyways, so he let himself die for the sake of continuing The Plan and saving Harry.
- Averted and subverted multiple times in A Song of Ice and Fire. Beautiful knight Jaime Lannister loses his right hand, and is initially ready to die from it because he sees no point in living without a sword arm, but survives and gets Character Development instead of a quick death. Princess Myrcella Baratheon loses an ear and a cheek to a sword and lives on, though she's apparently doomed to die at some point after being crowned. Princess Shireen Baratheon (her cousin) was disfigured by greyscale when she was young and is still alive, though the wildlings claim it's only a matter of time before she dies from remission. Loras Tyrell gets hideously disfigured by having boiling oil dumped on him and has yet to die from it, though he's currently still on his deathbed from said injury and may die from it after all. Tyrion Lannister loses half his nose on the Blackwater (but then again he wasn't exactly very 'handsome' to begin with) and survives it. And for the last few days of his life, Ned Stark walks with a cane after his leg is injured in a fight with Jaime Lannister. Then he gets executed.
- In The Princess Bride, Inigo Montoya disfigures the six-fingered man with the same type of scars he got himself as a child during their duel. The six-fingered man is dead at the end of said duel.
- Averted in The Lord of the Rings, where Frodo loses a finger at the climax of the story, but survives.
- Happens in Spooks episode two. A female main character is tortured by having her arm put in boiling oil. From that point (to me at least) there was no longer the slightest tension about whether or not she'd survive (she didn't).
- In one episode of Melrose Place, a minor character gets a tattoo. Since no-one could possibly recover from that, he's killed in the following episode.
- In Boardwalk Empire, the prostitute Pearl gets her face cut by someone looking to hurt Jimmy. She kills herself the next episode when she realizes she'll never be pretty again.
- In the Doctor Who story "The Daleks' Master Plan", one-shot companion Sara has to transport a time-destroying weapon, which ages her into an old woman. She's dead by the end of the scene.
- Kattrin in Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children. As a young child, she became mute after being used as a play-thing by soldiers. She travels with her mother Anna and her two brothers, but because she's unable to communicate, her mother sees her as little more than a burden. (Although she does care deeply for her children, Anna's own survival and her travelling shop are most important to her, and throughout the play she does everything she can to stay in business - which directly causes her to lose her children). Eventually Kattrin is attacked (and very possibly raped) while trying to run errands for the shop, and is left with a scar on the side of her face. When she overhears her mother say she'll be unable to ever find a man now, Kattrin decides to sacrifice herself to warn a nearby town about a group of soldiers by climbing a silo and banging on a drum as loudly as possible. She dies when she's shot down from the tower, still holding the drum in her arms.
- Combined with Defiled Forever in Titus Andronicus, where Lavinia's rapists cut off her hands and cut out her tongue. At the end, her father kills her because that's what things were like in Ancient Rome. Titus thinks of it as a mercy kill.
- Inverted to some extent by Metal Gear. Many characters lose arms over the course of the series and two are scarred, but these are the ones likely to survive - until the next game, at least. Only played straight with Gray Fox, who gets squished and dies shortly after losing his arm.
- Subverted by Modern Warfare where Big Bad Zakhaev loses his arm and keeps going for another 15 years. Played straight in that he dies shortly after this is revealed.
- In Saints Row 2, Carlos is horrifically mutilated from being dragged behind a truck and is mercy killed shortly thereafter.
- On the villain side Mr. Sunshine, Maero, Matt.
- In Condemned SKX get's half his face blown off and carves an X into his forehead. He's thought dead at the end of the first game (where he's shot in the face/shoots himself in the face), but survives the sequel, when his disfigurements are prominently shown off).
- Whether Fear Effect plays this straight or averts it is up to the player. Glas loses his arm partway through. At the end, the player chooses whether or not he survives the Mexican Standoff. On Hard Mode, he survives no matter what because the standoff doesn't end in someone's death.
- In Resident Evil 6, Piers gets his arm impaled and crushed, and tears what remained of it off to free himself. He injects himself with the virus to survive, disfiguring himself even further and growing a new, lightning-shooting appendage, but then decides to sacrifice himself before infection fully takes over.