Why should false painting imitate his cheek,
And steal dead seeming of his living hue?
Why should poor beauty indirectly seek
Roses of shadow, since his rose is true?
A Forgotten Trope
nowadays, but one that lasted for many centuries: wearing any form of "paint" on your face is a sign of evil, particularly dishonesty, more to be expected of the Deadly Decadent Court
or Vice City
than any more wholesome place. Only an actress
or some such disreputable woman would self-paint, which is why "painted woman" is — not a compliment. The Femme Fatale
and The Vamp
obviously use make-up, as part of their stock in trade is unnaturally good looks. (The trope is rarer but stronger for men
Historically, also, many forms of make-up have been hazardous — such as lead-based or arsenic based ones — so a woman who used them might sacrifice her health or even life, not to mention her looks in the long term, for a brief attractive appearance. So even if she wasn't thought of as evil, it was taken for granted that she was vain and foolish.
The trope faded out as make-up became acceptable, with points at which heavy make-up rather than make-up in general was the mark, and the degree of evil entailed varies widely. When the trope appears nowadays, it's usually applied to garish
May overlap with Beauty Equals Goodness
and Evil Makes You Ugly
: only evil people would need to paint, since good ones are naturally beautiful.
This often involved very heavy make-up in visual media, to make it clear that the character wears it, the alternatives being showing it being put on, having it run from tears or rain, or becoming lipstick kisses.
A staple of the Villainous Crossdresser
to Sensible Heroes, Skimpy Villains
and Delinquent Hair
. An influence on Uncanny Valley Makeup
. See also Excessive Evil Eyeshadow
, Beauty Is Bad
. Monster Clown
and Enemy Mime
are extreme versions of this trope.
Anime & Manga
Films -- Animated
- Femto (Griffith's God Hand persona) and Slan from Berserk are the only God Hand members to have such red lips.
- In Demashita! Powerpuff Girls Z, the source of Sedusa's powers of imitation is make-up tainted by Chemical Z, and one tell-tale sign that she's around is that she smells like cheap make-up.
- Seen in the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga with Ms. Chono, a Sadist Teacher who wore so much makeup it was practically a mask.
- Shapiro Keats of Dancougar, being a triumphant example of a Sissy Villain and The Fighting Narcissist, wears very prominent blue eyeshadow.
- Averted in After War Gundam X. Cool Big Sis Toniya uses make-up and once tells Tiffa to put on some, but she isn't portrayed as evil. Also, at the end of the episode Tiffa is seen wearing a bit of lipstick — a subtle proof that she's starting to open up.
- Played straight and Subverted by Kai Hiwatari in Beyblade: no matter on what side of the Heel-Face Revolving Door he's at the moment, if he's beyblading he's wearing facepaint.
- Although heroic characters of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure are also seen wearing make-up in many illustrations the most prominent villainous examples would be Kars with his distinct eye-makeup and the multiple instances of Dio being portrayed wearing dark lipstick.
Films -- Live-Action
- A buttload of Disney movies do this, and some pretty recent ones as well! In most of these movies, the only person with makeup on is the villain; Evil Queen Grimhilde, Maleficent, Lady Tremaine, Medusa, Cruella, Jafar.. Ursula takes this Up to Eleven by squashing a sentient creature to produce lipstick, literally making her makeup evil.
- It should be noted that most of the women mentioned above are truly ugly even with the makeup. Maleficent, being a demon, even has a sickly green face - which makes any actress who dresses up as her at the Disney theme parks to be a Real Life example.
- In The Princess and the Frog, Charlotte is not the villain — she is not even particularly evil, but more Spoiled Sweet. Nevertheless, the scenes where she puts on make-up emphasize her silly and vain side.
- The Madam of Liquid Silver in Tank Girl is really overly made up.
- In Little Shop of Horrors Audrey (the girl, not the plant) wears a lot of make-up due to her poor self image. She takes it off when Seymour convinces her she doesn't need it in the "Suddenly Seymour" number.
- In The Hunger Games most citizens of the oppressive, decadent Capital wear heavy make-up (in the film, if not always in the book). The most evil characters tend to avert the trope, though.
- This trope was even used to show a subtle shift in characterization for Effy Trinket. While in the first film, it's practically impossible to see Elizabeth Bank's skin under all the makeup she wears, by the second film, although Effy's clothes are still outlandish, she's wearing considerably less makeup, showing that she's begun to identify less with the citizens in the Capital and more with Katniss and Peeta.
- The Joker from The Dark Knight. He does it to accentuate the grisly scars across his face, in this version the white face being clown makeup and not his actual skin color.
- There's also a (more subtle) example in the original Batman (1989): Dark Chick Alicia is always in glamorous makeup, while Vicki Vale is (usually) barefaced, or at least looks natural by comparison. This is then turned Up to Eleven in the museum scene: Vicki is wearing hardly any makeup at all, while Alicia has painted her face white to disguise the fact that the Joker has burned off half of it.
- The film version of Tommy:
- Sally Simpson applies lipstick and eyeshadow after being seduced by The Power of Rock (which her vicar father certainly considers evil). She then attends one of Tommy's concerts, where she has her face split open by a policeman's baton, has a grotesque scar stitched across her face to close the wound, and then marries a rock musician and becomes a sleazy teenage mother.
- Tommy's mother (Ann-Margret) turns into a vain, decadent woman after she becomes rich, sporting excessive mascara on her eyes. She also wears a ridiculous amount of costume jewelry, which her son rips off of her after she converts to his new religion.
- We reach some kind of singularity with the Catwoman film. The two main villains are the CEO and spokeswoman for a cosmetics corporation. Granted, the company itself is mostly innocent (mostly).
Live Action TV
- In L. M. Montgomery's The Blue Castle, Valancy had once tried to put color in her cheeks before a party by pinching them. This started a rumor that she had worn rouge, which, unusually, did not manage to sink her reputation, because everyone knew that dowdy Valancy Stirling could not be fast.
- In A Tangled Web, Aunt Beckie puts on rouge before her last family gathering, shocking her living companion, but insisting on it. Then she orders Nan to wash off her rouge — over Nan's objection that Aunt Beckie was wearing it herself. (Afterwards, Nan amuses herself by setting out to romance a young man to take him from his fiancee.)
- In Gene Stratton Porter's Her Father's Daughter, this is a mark against Eileen.
I never knew Eileen to be honest about anything in all her life unless the truth served her better than an evasion. Her hair was not honest color and it was not honest curl. Her eyebrows were not so dark as she made them. Her cheeks and lips were not so red, her forehead and throat were not so white, her form was not so perfect.
- Queen Jezebel of The Bible notoriously put on makeup before confronting God's prophet. Unfortunately, it didn't stop her from becoming dog food.
- In the Victorian story "The Fatal Cosmetic" a woman who starts out flattering a poor performance ends up using a dangerous cosmetic, not disposing of it properly and then lying about it, so that it is mistaken for medicine and administered to another woman with fatal results.
- In Tom Robbins' book Skinny Legs and All, this is the in-universe Berserk Button for fundamentalist preacher Buddy Winkler, he calls the protagonist a jezebel for wearing makeup and once washes her face till she bleeds.
- In Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, Meg is made up "like Cinderella" but it includes this — though she revolts at rouge.
On the Thursday evening, Belle shut herself up with her maid, and between them they turned Meg into a fine lady. They crimped and curled her hair, they polished her neck and arms with some fragrant powder, touched her lips with coralline salve to make them redder, and Hortense would have added 'a soupcon of rouge', if Meg had not rebelled.
- There is no doubt of the evaluation, since when later confessing to bad behavior at the party, Meg includes it:
"Of course not. Don't I always tell you everything? I was ashamed to speak of it before the younger children, but I want you to know all the dreadful things I did at the Moffats'."
"We are prepared," said Mrs. March, smiling but looking a little anxious.
"I told you they dressed me up, but I didn't tell you that they powdered and squeezed and frizzled, and made me look like a fashion-plate. Laurie thought I wasn't proper. I know he did, though he didn't say so,
- In G. K. Chesterton's The Paradoxes of Mr. Pond, one character comments on its decreasing significance, but still thinks it shows something of character.
we all know that making-up and even dyeing your hair doesn't mean what it once did; lots of women do it who are perfectly decent; but not those who are—well, utterly inexperienced.
- In "The Sword of Wood", the stranger is known to come from the corrupt city by this (and does turn to be, if not quite villainous, hardly a good guy).
'His face is painted,' said Griffin. 'That is the sort of thing they do in London. And he wears a pile of false hair out of a barber's; and walks about in it, like the house of a Jack-in-the Green.
- In Gone with the Wind, Scarlett is admonished for acknowledging Belle Watling, a painted woman who was a prosperous town prostitute.
- In Lisa Shearin's All Spell Breaks Loose, while the princess wears make-up, Raine comments on how she probably would have looked just as well without it, and the villainess wears too much for good taste.
- In C. S. Lewis's The Last Battle, one reason why Susan refuses to remember Narnia is her obsession with make-up.
- In P. G. Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster novel Right Ho, Jeeves, when Tuppy and Angela quarrel, he says he disapproves of this habit of modern girls, putting on make-up.
- While not exactly "evil", Midnight Sun has Edward go on about how all the other girls in Forks are unwilling to do things like enjoy the rain because it ruins their makeup, with the implication that those girls are silly and shallow. Of course, Bella doesn't wear makeup because her complexion is flawless anyhow. Naturally.
- The notorious French couplet Egle, belle et poete, a deux petits travers: elle fait son visage et ne fait pas ses vers note - nowadays, saying "you are a plagiarist AND you use make-up" is ridiculous, but in the 18th century both were seen as equally dishonest.
- In Seanan McGuire's October Daye novel Rosemary And Rue, Toby's criticism of a girl who confronts her at Home mentions the overdone makeup — and how one thing she looked liked was a downtown whore.
- In Viva Maria, Marie tells the titular Maria that her otherwise kind father once hit her when she once put on lipstick. Though this may be more because she put it on despite them being members of La Résistance...
- This appears in the video for the Paramore song 'Misery Business'. As part of a Humiliation Conga inflicted on the preppy, evil high school bully at the end of the video, Hayley Williams wipes a damp towel across her face, revealing that she is caked in makeup. Hayley then tuts and walks away. Rendered deliberately ironic by Hayley's spectacularly dyed hair and flamboyant eyeshadow, but nevertheless...
- Shakespeare's "Sonnet 67" is a lament that people try to imitiate a man's beauty with make-up, so that he is actually a corrupting influence.
- "Sonnet 68" chiefly complains in similar tones of wig-wearing, but opens with the observation:
Thus is his cheek the map of days outworn,
When beauty lived and died as flowers do now,
- Christina Rossetti wrote an early poem about a woman who fainted at a ball, but had not grown pale — did this woman paint?
- In Robert Browning's The Flight of the Duchess, the Duchess used damaging make-up that ruined her looks.
- In Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock, Belinda's use of make-up is tweaked:
Sees by degrees a purer blush arise,
- In Hamlet, the Prince berates Ophelia (or, rather, all women) for being false in various ways, and through makeup:
I have heard of your paintings too, well enough; God has given you one face, and you make yourselves another.
- Later, faced with a skull, he comments on how it will not keep her alive.
Now get yet to my lady's chamber, and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must come; make her laugh at that.
- Subverted in "Welcome to the 60s", from Hairspray, where part of Edna's confidence-boosting make-up specifically calls for lipstick.
Dontcha let nobody steal your fun/ 'Cause a little touch of lipstick never hurt no one!
- Medusa's appearance in Kid Icarus: Uprising, while based off of her depiction in the original game, seems to have taken on a more gothic look, with (among other things) eyeshadow and a tattoo around her left eye.
- Inverted in Mass Effect with the turians, who for the most part have painted-on facial markings indicating which world they're from, a tradition stemming from a civil war between turian colonies a thousand years before the events of the series. 'Barefaced' turians are considered untrustworthy, and the term 'barefaced' is even used as slang for a politician. It's worth mentioning that all this is told through the codex, which is intentionally a bit of an Unreliable Narrator, and given that Shepard never sees any prejudice between turians in game, the stigma may have faded.
- Could also have something to do with the fact that the only barefaced turian consistently seen is Saren... Mass Effect 2 gives us a couple more in with Warden Kuril and Joram Talid. Neither is trustworthy.
- On Atomic Betty, Penelope Lang is the only girl in school who wears eyeshadow. In contrast Betty just wears lipstick, mostly while in her Galactic Guardian uniform, but she sometimes she puts on lipstick for special occasions. Also, Betty's mom wears both eyeshadow and lipstick, but while she might be a bit of a neglectful and self-absorbed mother she's not evil.
- The Mega Man cartoon had a corrupted cosmetics robot attack Roll and give her a bad facial.
- The flashback episode of The Simpsons that shows how Homer and Marge got together has Marge's mother give her this advice before her high school prom: "Ladies pinch! Whores use rouge."
- Asami Sato in The Legend of Korra was initially meant to be a case of this when designed as a villain, but ended up subverting it instead. She wears noticeable amounts of lipstick and eyeshadow, in contrast to her rival for Mako's love, the protagonist Korra. This along with her color scheme, helps give the false impression that she's a dangerous Femme Fatale.
- "Cosmetics" used to be a euphemism, because still earlier a cosmetic meant something that would actually improve appearance, removing a blemish or freckle or whatever instead of hiding it.
- Caroline of Brunswick, being sent off to marry George IV, got a lot of grief for her appearance at the British court, including for her "painted eye-brow".
- Some religions discourage or forbid the use of makeup, on the grounds that either looking too good will entice others to Lust, or that changing one's natural appearance is an affront to the Creator(s).
- Adolf Hitler condemned the wearing of cosmetics by Nazi-era German women, since it violated the "wholesome" image he wanted the women of his country to have. He preferred German women with their hair tied back, their legs covered, and no makeup - not "whores in Indian war paint."