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Dirt Forcefield
Large Man with Dead Body: Who's that then?
The Dead Collector: I dunno, must be a king.
Large Man with Dead Body: Why?

The conspicuous lack of grime, dirt, or bruises on actors, especially those in action sequences. There is an inherent suggestion of grueling badassness to completely cover a character in sweat and grime to show that he's really gone through the wringer. This might be a remnant of older special effects, which lacked CG but were very fond of various fluids and chemicals being waded through and thrown around.

Particularly noticeable on actresses, who come off as Faux Action Girls because the studio doesn't dare film them except in the most flattering light. The human antithesis to this is probably Bruce Willis, who by the end of his movies is drenched in about five pints of grime, sweat and blood, mostly his own. Sigourney Weaver's stint as Ripley in Alien was probably the first major female exception.

One practical reason is that film and television scenes are rarely shot in chronological order, requiring the director to carefully keep track of which scenes are supposed to show which markings. The easiest solution is to avoid the issue by not having any stains in the first place.

See also Beauty Is Never Tarnished and Bullet Proof Fashion Plate. May not protect against Gunge.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga  

     Art 
  • Michelangelo's La Pieta is one of the more famous examples in art. Jesus's lovingly-detailed, well-toned muscles and polished-smooth skin don't look much like someone who's spent three days dying of thirst and blood loss. Mary also invokes this, with a face completely absent of the lines or blemishes that would have been typical on a woman who was in her late forties at least. Michelangelo largely gets away with it, because the anatomy is so good that it easily overshadows the inaccuracy, and because Jesus seems like a good candidate for someone with an actual Dirt Forcefield. This hasn't stopped some artists from trying, though.

     Comic Books  

  • Many female Superheroes tend to benefit from this trope, to the point where it is the Second-Most Common Super Power, beyond the first, of course.

    But it's worth noting that for most of comics history, minor injuries just weren't drawn on either male or female superheroes — a combination of the same artistic factors that contribute to Generic Cuteness, and the standard action hero's Made of Iron that turns severe injuries into Only a Flesh Wound. And superheroes tended not to get injuries at all, unless they were plot-sensitive (such as messing up a Secret Identity) or it showed off a power.
    • A secondary historical reason is also due to the Comics Code in the United States that existed for a few decades. Visible injuries would probably bump up the rating and, at a time when comics were severely censored, it either wasn't worth the risk or might not have been allowed at all, much as with film under the Hays Code.
  • Both lampshaded and justified in an issue of Superman, during John Byrne's run. Using his voluminous cape as an impromptu "robe" during a journey to the thirteenth century, Superman speaks briefly with two peasant farmers, then continues on down the road. The farmers turn to each other.
    "Who was that strange man?"
    "I know not; some great king, belike."
    "Aye, for who else could walk in such filth and not stain his robes?"
    • Pre-New 52, Superman's invulnerability was a protective aura - a literal dirt forcefield.
  • In the pages of X-Men, Emma Frost's costumes are always a pristine white no matter what she goes through on a mission.
    • It's possible she may be using her psychic powers to merely APPEAR pristine in the minds of those around her. Similar to how she hid her aged appearance in the Old Man Logan comics.
  • Superintendent Sam Steele from The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck's "Hearts of Yukon" chapter. A superintendent of the North-Western Mounted Police does not get... 'Muddy'. Nor, for that matter, does he get 'blown up' or say "Yowch!".

     Fan Works  

  • With Strings Attached
    • Apparently the Hunter has one of these —until he has his Heel-Face Turn. The battle on the Plains of Death leaves him completely disgusting and stinking to high heaven, even after John hoses him down.
    • Averted, though, with John's cloak, which spends the book getting smellier and smellier because he's afraid to wash it lest he wash the magic off.

    Film 

  • Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings films subtly obey this trope.
    • The peasant characters are always dirty, whereas a King like Aragorn is at least less dirty. However, it is only in the coronation scene near the end of the third movie that Aragorn's hair is no longer a mop of stringy, oily hair.
    • Gandalf the White's whiter-than-white robes but his case is justified and even then the edges that touch the ground are dirty; as Gandalf, as the Grey Pilgrim he is quite disheveled and wayworn.
    • As an elf, Legolas is always far better and cleaner looking than the men. However, when a lot of other elves show up at Helm's Deep, Legolas notably looks a lot worse than them.
  • Every Western prior to Spaghetti; The Hero was always immaculate and wore a dust-free white hat across the desert. No longer used in any Western made after Savage Guns.
  • James Bond almost never gets dirty during his action scenes - the biggest exception being Licence to Kill, where after setting the villain on fire, leading to a big explosion, Bond is bloody, with a wild hair and entirely covered in sand. Nothing less glamourous.
    • And he gets really, really dirty throughout the entirety of Quantum of Solace.
    • Quantum of Solace also features an exception to the rule regarding actresses never getting dirty. By the end, Olga Kurylenko is covered in just as much grime and sweat as Daniel Craig.
    • Daniel Craig also gets covered in blood after killing a goon in Casino Royale, a subversion to Bond's habit of simply straightening his tie and walking off afterwards.
  • Horror movies usually avert this trope, with their stars (particularly the Final Girl) being absolutely covered in grime and blood (some of it their own) by the time the credits roll.
  • Sort of lampshaded in Last Action Hero after Arnold's character falls into a tar pit and all it takes to clean himself completely is a few wipes with a tissue, prompting his kid sidekick to comment, "Tar actually sticks to some people."
    • A similar Running Gag is used in Evil Dead 2, in which Ash and everything around him would get drenched with ichor in one scene, then show no trace of goo (or at least, that particular color of goo) in the next. He does suffer lasting wounds and wardrobe-damage, however.
  • Humorously done at the end of Ghostbusters, when Venkman (the "coolest" Ghostbuster) has far less marshmallow on him than the other guys. This is reputedly because he got "slimed" by the onion head ghost earlier on in the film and didn't think it fair he should have to get completely covered in the finale.
  • This trope is both played straight and inverted in a Shout-Out to the aforementioned Ghostbusters scene in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Bill Murray's character is the only one to get bitten by leaches while moving through a swamp.
  • Every Transformer with a GM-licensed vehicle mode in the Transformers Film Series, thanks to the Product Placement agreements. However, In robot-mode you can see the paint scuffs and dents. note 
    • Mikaela's white pants in the second movie, which stay totally clean even after she's been laying in dirt.
    • The third movie takes it Up to Eleven: Carly somehow gets through a firefight between Autobots and Decepticons, wanton collateral damage left and right, and a collapsing building with shards of concrete and glass raining down from all sides without a single scratch. As for Sam... he looks like he ran into a bus... and a wood chipper... and a wild bear.
  • Considering the amount of time that the characters of Resident Evil: Extinction have spent on he road on a refugee convoy they all seem to have dirt forcefields, especially the women.
  • Done in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. No character goes out of a fight dirty. Epically fixed in Advent Children Complete, where everyone, after fighting, gets a good amount of dust, grime, and of course, blood.
  • The Great Leslie in The Great Race, up through most of the pie fight when he gets hit with a white pie.
  • A strange version appears in Kenneth Branagh's Henry V. The film gave a good deal of attention to historical accuracy (as much as was possible given that the play itself is Tudor propaganda) and realism. Accordingly, the cast spend much of the film dirty, bloody, and generally pretty realistic. Henry's white horse, however, remains remarkably clean. This is particularly noticeable during the Siege of Harfleur, when a very soiled and bloody Henry comes racing out from the city gates on his horse, which looks like it's just been carefully bathed for Grand Prix dressage. Someone apparently forgot to tell the wranglers about the "realism" thing.
  • Averted in Drag Me to Hell, where Alison Lohman gets about as soaked and muddy as it's possible to get, and bashed on the head to boot.

    Literature 

  • Rachel from the Animorphs series. To the extent that the others (especially Marco) snark about it. Once, her best friend Cassie jokingly throws a dirt clod at her. "I just want to see if it is actually possible for dirt to cling to you." Rachel catches the clod, drops it, and refuses to show Cassie her hand.
  • Lampshaded in the Dragonlance novel Legend of Huma by the wizard Magius. During a long trek, Huma and Kaz wonder why they are all muddy and Magius is still clean. Kaz then deliberately tries to kick mud onto Magius, which just bounces off some invisible barrier.
  • Non-character example: In Ghost From The Grand Banks, one of the investors funding plans to raise parts of the Titanic made his fortune by developing dirt-proof windshields and window glass.
  • Trapped on Draconica implies that Rana uses Shock and Awe powers to make dust afraid of her and keep her dress clean.
  • The Diamond Age: nanotechnology is pervasive, to the extent that almost all fabric is a nanotech construction that self cleans... children can play in the dirt in their best clothing and be still largely presentable afterwards.

     Live Action TV  

  • Game of Thrones: Ser Loras Tyrell should be covered in blood, sweat and grime in "Blackwater," yet he's completely clean. Loras' flawless appearance is further highlighted after Lord Tywin Lannister arrives to the throne room because the old man's face is coated with blood splatter and dirt.
  • Unintentionally done on the Discovery show Mythbusters. Jamie always wears a white shirt, and almost never gets it dirty no matter what he's working on. Adam often teases him for it.
  • Averted, then played straight in the Doctor Who story The End of Time. The Doctor is shot by the Master's captors, then ends up taking a skydive from an alien ship through the skylight of a mansion. By the time he takes the fatal blast of radiation to save Wilf, he looks like he's been through the wringer. After the blast, he heals his external injuries with the first energies from the upcoming regeneration, so that he'll look his normal, dapper self for his final goodbyes.
    • Played straight in Carnival Of Monsters, where Jo sinks to her waist in a swamp on location. Her clothes are clean and dry in the studio scenes set less than a minute later.
  • This is usually Played Straight for the Winchester brothers in Supernatural, but in the episode "What Is And What Should Never Be" (S02, Ep20), a victim keeps appearing to Dean and she is dirtier and more disheveled with each appearance.

     Tabletop Games  

     Video Games  

  • Messily averted in Dragon Age: Origins, where the least little battle absolutely covers all the participants in gouts of blood. You can disable it in the Options menu, though.
  • In Shadow of the Colossus, Wander will get progressively dirty and bloodied through the game, as expected of someone who fights walking mountains. He won't immediately show it though, as his appearance only updates after a colossus dies and the respective cutscene plays out.
  • Yo-Jin-Bo plays it dead straight. Running through a forest and fighting ninja will not even scuff your shoes, much less rip kimono or cause horrendous sweating and body odor.
  • Completely averted in Mount & Blade, where anybody can and will be covered in blood, usually their own, but kill enough enemies and your character will get redder and redder starting from their weapon, onto the hand and spreading everywhere else. In especially hectic sieges it's possible to turn completely red except for maybe your boots.
  • Kingdom Hearts generally plays this straight, as might be expected by the offspring of Disney and Final Fantasy. The secret movie "Birth by sleep" is an interesting exception - not only does it throw the impossibly-clean aesthetic out the window, it also manages to introduce a female lead in the middle of battle, covered in a mixture of dirt, grime, and her own sweat.
  • In Illbleed, the main female protagonist's appearance isn't affected by the environments, but it gets more and more torn, blood-soaked and muddy as she fails to save friends (i.e. completing a level without rescuing the friend there). In order to get the true ending, you have to lose everyone, at which point she is completely naked with only a few mudsmears to cover her bits.
  • A number of endings in the Mega Man X series have the heroes spotless, despite being in a series of violent battles.
  • Totally averted in Mortal Kombat 9. Typically, by the end of a fight, your character's clothes will be torn to shreds, covered with all sorts of grievous wounds, and coated with your opponent's blood.
  • Zig-Zagged in Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine: One of the game's major mechanics is that you regain health from slaughtering your enemies in as bloody and messy a way as possible (with chainswords and power axes and thunder hammers), so at the end of a battle your character's armor and face is completely splattered in blood. However, it will all have faded away within thirty seconds.
  • While most games in the Tomb Raider franchise play this painfully straight, Tomb Raider (2013) averts this with a vengeance; Lara is covered in sweat, grime and blood (a lot of it her own), right from the start, and gets worse as the story progresses. She gets cleaner on occasion, but that's because she was scoured clean by the river during the most recent time that she fell in.

     Web Comics  

     Web Original  

  • There's a student at the Super Hero School Whateley Academy whose codename is Pristine. She literally has a forcefield that keeps her body and clothes immaculate.
    • Which prompted at least one other girl to get a devisor to build her a low power Personal Forcefield Generator to achieve the same effect. There is an untapped market here.

     Western Animation  

  • Characters in Avatar: The Last Airbender generally get dirtied up when the occasion calls for it (they don't stay that way long, but that's justified when you have people who can manipulate air, water and earth). This is most notable in "The Drill" where everyone winds up utterly drenched in slurry.
    • A prominent example of averting it is "The Blue Spirit," where, after trudging around in a swamp and getting pinned to a log by about a dozen arrows, Aang's outfit is dirty and ripped in several places. The secondary theme of that episode was apparently "Aang Has a Bad Day".
    • Also constantly averted by Toph, whose feet are always filthy due to her always going barefoot to better use her earthbending to "see." She also appreciates "a healthy coating of earth."
  • Usually played straight in Teen Titans, characters' outfits are always pristine even during fights, and on the occasion that someone gets slimed by one of the show's goo monsters, it disappears in the next shot. One notable aversion is Terra and Raven's fight in mud, in which both end up soaked head to toe in mud, and it actually adds to the drama of the scene.

     Real Life  

  • Swans, egrets, and many other birds live in an environment with lots of mud and dirty water, and spend their days dabbling around in this mud finding the edible objects in it. They still have enough time to keep their own pure-white plumage looking clean. This is certainly an impressive feat when you imagine how much work all that preening must be. But they do it, because the best way to attract the opposite sex is to prove that "I've got such good genes that I can maintain these beautiful feathers and keep them from being tarnished by mud, lice, or injuries." Like us, they'll do anything for the chicks.
  • Cats are constantly cleaning themselves and are therefore almost always perfectly clean. One reason theorized is that this helps them hunt by not having the scent of blood and dirt giving them away. Dogs, on the other hand, go the opposite route and roll in other animals' feces and dirt, the theory for that is it hides the smell of dog from their prey.
  • There are some places where there can not be dirt in the area while manufacturing products. These are called clean rooms, and anyone who wants to go into one will have all dirt and dust blown off of them, and vacuumed away, so that they are perfectly clean.


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