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Mark of Shame

"Branded, scorned as the one who ran,
What do you do when you're branded, and you know you're a man?"
Branded

Bob's been discredited and disgraced, perhaps so badly that he can never go home again. In order to permanently label him as a failure, he's given an easily noticed marking of some sort, often on the face, chest, back or hands. Popular methods include tattooing, branding, and scarring, although for a less painful method of application, Bob may just be forced to wear something on his clothing to identify him as an Arsonist, Murderer, Jaywalker or what have you. It's also entirely possible that a coincidental, accidental marking he had prior to or received during the disgrace he suffered will serve as a Mark Of Shame.

If Bob receives the mark after making a Deal with the Devil, but it's still treated as a shameful, disgraceful thing, this can overlap with Mark of the Beast.


Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • In One Piece, there is the "Hoof of the Celestial Dragon", a claw-shaped Slave Brand given by the World Nobles (whose are also known as the "Celestial Dragons.") to their slaves. The branding is a mark of shame, hidden by those who do escape, like Boa Hancock and her sisters. The fishman pirate Fisher Tiger fixed this for slaves that became his pirate crew members by branding over the mark with the symbol of his "Sun Pirates". This erased the shame, because he gave the sun mark to everyone on his crew. It went a long way to remove the distinction of who was a slave and who wasn't.
    • When Nami reluctantly joined Arlong's crew in order to protect her island she received his crew's tattoo on her shoulder; she usually wore shirts with sleeves long enough to hide it. Much like Fisher Tiger, she has another tattoo placed over it after Arlong's defeat.
  • In Wolf's Rain Tsume's Cool Scar is eventually revealed to be a mark of cowardice given by his former packmates.
  • Criminals (usually read: people from Satellite) in Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds are given these. In fact, criminals who weren't from Satellite originally are forced to hang out there since they're no longer welcome in the city. The Hero Yusei, naturally, gets one in the sixth episode.
  • Kurei in Flameof Recca has a self inflicted one of these.
  • Yzak's scar from Gundam SEED. He recieved it after a failed battle against the protagonist, Kira Yamato. He kept the scar to remind him of the humiliation, until he settled the score. He got it removed in the sequel, after making peace with Kira.
  • Mugen from Samurai Champloo has two blue rings tattooed around each wrist and a single blue ring tattooed around and just above each ankle. This shows that he has served time in prison.

    Comic Books 
  • Jonah Hex. When his weapon broke during a sacred tomahawk battle due to sabotage by his opponent, Jonah drew a knife to continue the fight. This violated the laws of the tribe and, had Jonah not had an honorary relationship to the chief, he would have been killed. Instead he was branded with the Mark of the Demon by having a red-hot tomahawk pressed against his face.
  • Ariciaa in Thorgal gets one when it is discovered that her husband is an infamous pirate.
  • Going from mere 'mark' right into a combination of Body Horror and An Arm and a Leg, 'Empurata' from Transformers: More than Meets the Eye consists of the victim having their face and hands cut off and replaced by a Cyber Cyclops mono-eye sensor and crude claw-like hands, destroying a vast portion of their identity, as many empurata victims look like drones as a result. This is often done to mark criminals, but have also been inflicted by the corrupt Senate on their political enemies. Fantastic Racism has also come into play as an overwhelmingly disproportionate number of victims have been second class citizens of a sort.
  • In the Gail Simone written Red Sonja reboot, she gets one on her face for contracting the plague. Sonja removes the mark when she is later cured.
  • In Le Scorpion, the bishop of Armando's hometown had all of the prostitutes branded with a 'P' so that respectable citizens will know what they are.

    Film 
  • In Inglourious Basterds, the protagonists carve swastikas into the foreheads of the Nazis they don't kill.
  • Kovu from The Lion King II: Simba's Pride gets one from his Abusive Mother, making him resemble Scar from the first film.
  • In the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Jack Sparrow is positively identified as a buccaneer when Norrington uncovers a 'P' brand on his right wrist. "Had a brush with the East India Trading Company, did we, pirate?" In the second movie, it was revealed that this was the handiwork of Cutler Beckett. Jack may have retaliated in kind. Beckett told Will "We've both left our marks on each other", but made no reply when Will asked "What mark did he leave on you?" The movies never answer this question either. There has been some fandom speculation that Beckett branded Jack on the arm rather than the forehead (as was more commonly done to convicted pirates of that day) because he did not wish to mar Sparrow's comely face (possible sinister implications...?)
  • Interesting variation in Django Unchained when slaves Django and Broomhilda run away and are marked with an "R" on their faces upon their return. This is more of a Mark Of Shame for Broomhilda as it makes her unfit to be a "house slave" anymore.
  • In the film Dead End, one of the boys tries to give another the "mark of the squealer" for snitching on him.
  • Bishop from X-Men: Days of Future Past, has an "M" for Mutant above his eyebrow.

    Literature 
  • In The Scarlet Letter, the red letter "A" the main character is required to wear on her clothes labels her an adulterer in the Puritan community where she lives. Of course, she shocks the townspeople by making it big and elaborate with gold trim.
  • The Three Musketeers. In her youth, Milady de Winter was branded on the shoulder for thievery.
  • In the Gor novels, slaves are branded so other people will know what they are.
  • In the Robert Silverberg short story "To See The Invisible Man", a man is punished for "coldness" by having a mark affixed to his forehead so everyone else will know to shun him. Later made into a New Twilight Zone episode.
  • In The Baroque Cycle, Jack is branded with a V for vagabond. It works out to his advantage later, though.
  • In the books, Zorro cuts his Zorro Mark into the cheeks of evil men he feels are beneath him to kill. Since everyone in Old California knows what that means, most of them vacate the territory post-haste.
  • In the Knight and Rogue Series by Hilari Bell, Michael is declared "unredeemed", which basically means that he's committed a crime and hasn't atoned for it in the eyes of the law. Unredeemed people have broken circles tattooed on their wrists, which any local official knows to check for. Michael's actual offense isn't very terrible—he's a Lawful Good hero who got himself in trouble via Honor Before Reason—but the tattoos make for instant Hero with Bad Publicity.
  • Raven's tattoo, "POOR IMPULSE CONTROL", was supposed to be this in Snow Crash. It didn't end up working out that way.
  • Fade's brand of cowardice in Codex Alera. It's the Legions' mark for soldiers who run from battle, and he has it because nobody would go looking for Araris Valerian behind the face of a brain-damaged, cowardly slave. And because Araris thinks he did just that...
  • In the fourth book of The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, appropriately titles "Outcast" features this trope. Torak is thrown out of the Raven Clan, and given traitor marks so everyone knows it.
  • "The Mischievous Dog," a Middle Ages fable where the title character a young, attention-seeking mongrel sneaks up on people and bites their legs. The trope comes into play when the dog's master (aware of his pet's misbehavior, and having been unsuccessful with previous efforts to correct the dog's actions) places a collar with a bell around its neck. The dog thinks at first it is some sort of prize or reward for being a good dog, or at the very least by a liberal-minded pet owner who "just woves his pet" ... until a wise, elderly dog. aware of the reason for the collar, takes the youngster aside and tersely informs him the real reason for the collar ... it is not a gift but a mark of shame, to get people and/or other dogs to be wary of this ill-mannered mutt. (The fable ends there, with the "Notoriety is often mistaken for fame" moral, but it is presumed the dog is brought to earth in swift fashion.)
  • In Circle of Magic, Briar has two X-shaped tattoos on his hands, identifying him as a a thief. He later managed to cover them up with homemade tattoos.
  • In the 'Thule'-trilogy by Dutch children's author Thea Beckman, in the idyllic society of Thule (post-world war three Greenland), criminals are branded with a colored circle on a highly visible place. Anyone with such a circle would be ostracized by society, shunted by his friends, thrown out by his family, unable to get anyone to speak to him any more than the bare minimum. The circles would fade after a few years. Both the color of the circle as well as how long it would take to fade depended on the nature of the crime. For murder, a black circle would last seven years, as the people of Thule believe even the most heineous crime is forgiven after seven years.
  • In Harry Potter, after Marietta betrays Dumbledore's Army, Hermione casts a spell that scars the word "Sneak" onto her forehead. There's also "I must not tell lies," put on Harry by Umbridge.

    Live Action TV 
  • Branded: Main protagonist Jason McCord (Chuck Connors) is (unjustly) dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Army for cowardice; his mark of shame is a broken saber.
  • The classic Doctor Who serial 'The Visitation' features aliens called Tereleptils. The only one the TARDIS crew, and thus the audience, meets has a disfiguring facial scar that - apparently - marks him as a prisoner and a failure.
    • It was never specified if this was intentionally done by the authorities, or merely the result of being sent to the uniquely dangerous prison/mine. Other criminal Tereleptils in the story without speaking roles did not have similar scars.
    • It's revealed in his final episode that Turlough has one of these on his arm marking him as a political prisoner on Trion. His brother has the same mark, but grew up believing it made him The Chosen One since that was how the locals of the planet he landed on regarded him.
  • In series/Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger, Chaos lost a wing-like protrusion of his body during his last battle with Torin during the era of the dinosaurs. Though he could regenerate the wound, he refuses to do so until he can pay Torin back in kind. About halfway through the series Chaos has one of Torin's wings hacked off, but he still never heals his wound, possibly because Torin also gets better.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Terry Funk, during his 1980s "evil cowboy" gimmick in the World Wrestling Federation, "branded" his opponents (almost always, these were jobbers) with a "hot" branding iron following their losses. (In reality, the brand was chalk affixed to a cold iron, although the jobber's role was to sell that he was being "branded" with a hot iron.)
  • Toxxin allowed Jessie Neal and Shannon Moore to give Anarquia a tattoo of their choosing after Anarquia had grabbed her while she was trying to stop a fight between Ink Inc and Mexican America that broke out in her shop.

    Religion 
  • The Mark of Cain, the First Murderer, from The Bible, is often misunderstood as this. In reality, God gave Cain the mark after he was sent away from God's people "so that no one who found him would kill him." (Genesis 4). It was a mitigation of the punishment.
  • The Crown of Thorns, as told in Matthew 27:28-30, was meant by those persecuting Jesus Christ on the Day of His Crucifixion to be His mark of shame, not only to publicly humiliate and disgrace Him and cause extra pain, but to disparage the very reason why He came and express their rejection of His teachings. For Christians, however, the Crown of Thorns although acknowledging it as the ultimate symbolism of man's rejection of Christ represents the complete opposite of this trope, as it ultimately displays a mark of triumph and sacrifice over sin.
    • The scarlet robe that Jesus was dressed in just prior to being made to wear the Crown of Thorns also had an intended purpose of shaming Him.
  • In Hindu Mythology, when the sage Gautama found his wife sleeping with the god Indra, he put a curse on Indra that caused his entire body to be covered with a thousand vaginas to show the world how much of a pervert he was. He got so humiliated that he refused to perform any godly duties, so the other gods complained. Gautama settled for giving Indra a thousand eyes instead.

    Video Games 
  • In Halo 2, after one of the eponymous rings was destroyed in the first game, The Arbiter has a rune denoting "Shamed" branded onto his chest after being made a Scapegoat for the ordeal.
    Rtas: That armor suits you, but it cannot hide that mark.
    Arbiter: Nothing ever will...
    • Becomes an Insult Backfire when the Prophets betray the Elites. After rallying behind the Arbiter, Elite soldiers wear the same symbol on their armor as a mark of respect.
  • Kratos's characteristic pale white skin in God of War is a perpetual reminder of his betrayal: the ashes of his wife and child, whom he murdered in a blind rage, were grafted onto his skin.
  • Garrus Vakarian earned a scar when he took a gunship's rocket to his face. It's not enough to kill him, but he refuses to have the scars removed as a reminder to never grow complacent; the gunship and all those mercs went after him because somebody sold him out.
  • In Dante's Inferno, the cross Dante sews onto his own chest details all his sins.
  • Kimahri's broken horn in Final Fantasy X serves as one of these.
  • The non-lethal option in Dishonored for removing the High Overseer involves branding him with a heretic's mark on his face. This pretty much dooms him; it is literally a crime to give food or shelter to a marked heretic.
  • In BioShock Infinite, the "AD" scar on the back of Booker DeWitt's hand is one of these. They're the initials of his daughter, Anna. He gave himself the scar after selling her to pay off his gambling debts.
  • If you steal from the shopkeeper in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, Link's name is permanently changed to THEIF.

    Webcomics 
  • Kokkan's Slave Brand in A Broken Winter is this not for him, but for his adopted father Kuroda, who oversees the base where Kokkan was held as a prisoner, instead. Perhaps because it reminds Kuroda of his failure to protect the then seven year old Kokkan. Kokkan himself was given the brand because his biological father was branded a traitor by the government.
  • The Kyorl'solenurn of Drowtales use a mark known as a Heretic Mark that represents a stitched shut third eye to denote people who have been cast out for disobedience, and one character's backstory suggests that most of them are carved in with a knife. They also have more temporary ones made with paint for those who need to be "cleansed" (read: Mind Control) but can still be redeemed.

    Western Animation 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Zuko's facial burn serves as one of these.
  • James McCullen in G.I. Joe: Renegades receives this at the end of the episode "Enemy of My Enemy" in the form of the name "Destro", a title given to those of his clan who shame themselves and the clan through failure. And although it was sealed onto him as symbol of Cobra Commander owning him, his trademark metal mask could also be seen as a visual representation of his new name.
  • In The Simpsons, people banished from the Stonecutters have to walk home naked, dragging the Stone of Shame behind them.
    • Then parodied when Homer is revealed to be The Chosen One, which causes the Stonecutters to remove the Stone of Shame, and attach the Stone of Triumph, which is completely identical to the first stone except that it's bigger.

    Real Life 
  • During World War II, Nazi concentration camp prisoners were identified by coloured triangle badges, or numbers tattooed on their wrists.
  • Being placed on a blacklist is a type of mark of shame, as it often applies to someone who deserves (or is perceived to deserve) to be denied a particular privilege, service, employment, and so forth; or to be ostracized from a certain social or familial circle. For instance, a solicitor who has been convicted of illegally selling tickets at inflated prices may be placed on a blacklist, denying him employment as a ticket salesman.
  • The Sex Offender Registry, which applies to those convicted of certain sex crimes (originally intended to apply only for crimes against minors or forcible sexual assault, but almost all states now include things as minor as public urination and nudity related pranks like streaking in their list of crimes). In some jurisdictions, it also applies to those who have been acquitted solely by reason of insanity. In addition to being required to state where they live, this very severe "mark of shame" to sex offenders often results in restrictions of where they may live, work, socialize and go about their daily business. Since their profiles are made public, sex offenders are often ostracized by the public and their own families, and the effects can often lead to even tighter restrictions on their daily professional and social lives. Sadly, the inability to re-integrate into society makes offenders much more likely to repeat their offenses, or be lost track of by police after becoming homeless. Of particular notoriety is the Julia Tuttle Causeway Sex Offender Colony. A particularly stringent Miami-Dade County law that restricted convicted sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of schools, parks, bus stops, or homeless shelters, left sex offenders with almost no options for inexpensive housing, causing them to congregate in a shanty town under a Florida highway. For the record, as the vast majority of sex crime victims are known or related to the perpetrator, there is little evidence that this Mark of Shame actually makes communities any safer.
    • In many cases, a person's placement on the Sex Offender Registry can also have lasting (very) negative effects for the immediate family, even if they've broken off relations with him.
    • Some jurisdictions now go so far as to try and convict children as young as 11, often for such "crimes" as hugging or kissing a classmate on the cheek (without the pattern that would make this actual bullying or harassment) or sending nude pictures of themselves to their peers, creating the paradox of someone being considered both the perpetrator and victim in the same instance of a crime.
  • In the military, the most severe mark of shame is a dishonorable discharge, a distinction given to servicemen convicted of the most heinous or reprehensible acts, such as assault, murder, desertion, sexual assault, robbery and so forth. These are handed down after the officer is court-martialed. Not only does this individual lose all military benefits, it is a mark of shame that has lifelong effects, as they lose gun ownership rights (in many states), often are denied employment in many jobs and are ostracized by many social and civic circles.
    • Bad conduct discharges are also seen as shameful, but are not as severe in that the individual retains certain Veterans Affairs benefits.
  • Facial mutilation in history was often a means to mark individuals as criminals; there's even an account of a man in medieval England who was injured by accident and had to carry around a certificate saying he was not a criminal.
  • In ancient China, tattooing a convicted criminal's name and crime on their face was a common form of punishment.


Good Scars, Evil ScarsScar TropesPhysical Scars, Psychological Scars
Kick Them While They Are DownA Dishonorable IndexMedal of Dishonor
Marked ChangePersonal Appearance TropesMark of the Beast
I Was Quite a Fashion VictimIndex Of ShameMy Country Tis of Thee That I Sting
The Scarlet LetterImageSource/Live-Action FilmsScary Movie

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