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Not a Mask
The pinkish colour is makeup.

Camilla: You, sir, should unmask.
Stranger: Indeed?
Cassilda: Indeed, it's time. We have all laid aside disguise but you.
Stranger: I wear no mask.

A horror trope which has become something of a Dead Horse Trope, as it's now almost always played for comedy. It involves a character seeing an ugly face and begin pulling at it, on the assumption that it's a mask. Of course, it's actually someone's face and the puller will typically be Horror Struck. Sometimes a purely comedic variation will occur with wigs if the joke is that a woman looks like a man. Also closely related to "I'm not pregnant, I'm just obese" jokes. Compare with Your Costume Needs Work and For Halloween, I Am Going as Myself. Can be a result of the monster being Mistaken for an Imposter.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • A very creepy example turns up in an EC story: For years, maybe two, maybe three, this dude has seen this gal with a fabulous figure and a wonderful personality at a Halloween party (and only at that party). Only thing is, she's always wearing this horrible wrinkly witch mask. Finally, he proposes to her, they go get married right after the party- still in their costumes. They consummate their marriage in a hotel, but the kicker is, she turned out the light before they undressed. He dreams that she's still wearing the mask; pulling it off, she wears the same mask underneath. He wakes up, turns on the light, and yep, there she is, wearing the mask. So he pulls it off and... off comes her skin. It was her real face.
  • The Joker sometimes likes to pretend he's wearing makeup, but that ain't makeup. Well, except...
  • On their second meeting, Batman tries to unmask Man-Bat.
  • Done in a Firebreather comic, where half-dragon Duncan, while on a field trip goes to a mall, and escorted out by security after they insist on him "taking off his mask."

    Fan Fic 

    Film 
  • In the Disney adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Quasimodo's deformed face is mistaken for a mask when he attends the Festival of Fools, leading to an awkward moment when Esmerelda tries to remove his "mask" on stage in front of the entire festival. Thanks to some hasty damage control from Clopin, the crowd gets over their initial horror and embraces Quasi as the King of the festival... until a couple of soldiers start throwing vegetables, after which the mood quickly turns ugly.
  • Used in the first Austin Powers movie, although it was perhaps more a case of Not a Wig.
    "I'm sorry, Basil. I thought your mother was a man."
  • The Archbishop of Canterbury in Johnny English, though in this case it was because Johnny had discovered the villain planned to have a henchman impersonate the Archbishop with a fake rubber mask. The villain, realizing that he had been found out, wisely decided to forego this plan, leading an unaware Johnny to humiliate himself in his attempt to remove the "mask" from the Archbishop's face.
  • The Joker in 1989's Batman wore flesh colored makeup to cover up his face, which toxic waste had earlier bleached white.

    Literature 
  • Played straight in Robert W. Chambers's The King in Yellow, a short story collection that inspired H.P. Lovecraft and was a precursor of the Cosmic Horror Story. The quote used at the top apparently comes from the titular play, of which we never get more than a few small excerpts, as it drives its readers insane (no actual performances are ever suggested). The King in Yellow character is implied to be some sort of Humanoid Abomination.
  • In Beastly, Kyle goes to a Halloween party where he starts talking to a girl who asks to see him again but to do so she needs to know what he looks like and you know the rest.
  • Older Than Radio: Played straight in Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Masque of the Red Death".
  • Discworld:
    • Parodied by Death in The Light Fantastic, explaining why he appeared at a summoning ritual with a cocktail and a sausage-on-a-stick. "The party's nice, but I expect it'll all go downhill after midnight. It's when they think I'll be taking my mask off."
    • Terry Pratchett played a similar situation (almost) straight in his short story Turntables of the Night, with the catch that it's from the perspective of a guest at the party (who may or may not be drunk.)
    • Maskerade features Death appearing to a man while dressed in a bright red suit and an extremely cheap skull mask. The man demands that Death removes his mask, to which he complies. The man then asks him to remove his other mask...
    • In I Shall Wear Midnight, Mrs. Proust sells stereotypically warty and hideous witch masks and gloves, and appears to be wearing a full set. Then Tiffany realizes that the masks she sells are copies of her own face.
  • Shel Silverstein's poem "Best Mask?"
    They just had a contest for scariest mask,
    And I was the wild and daring one
    Who won the contest for scariest mask—
    And (sob) I'm not even wearing one.
  • In Quozl, the Petting Zoo People aliens are wandering around Disneyland pretending to be people in suits. (The protagonist's sister had written them into her kids' TV show) Hilarity Ensues when the security guards confront them for being dressed up like characters from a rival company.
  • May have been the case during the Bal Masque in Gaston Leroux's original The Phantom of the Opera. Justified example here: Erik's deformed features actually resembled a skull, so everyone thought he was wearing a skull-like mask with his Red Death costume.
  • An interesting variation occurs in the Goosebumps volume "The Haunted Mask" and its sequel. Here, the titular mask and its siblings were real faces. The work of a Mad Scientist, the artificial (we hope!) faces started out beautiful, but became monstrous because the experiment was flawed.

    Live Action TV 
  • Used in the first episode of Torchwood. The fact that the guy looks like an alien wearing a normal janitor's jumpsuit plays with you.
  • The League of Gentlemen's Papa Lazarou is not normally wearing makeup.
  • In the Tales from the Crypt episode "Only Skin Deep", the guy finds out the woman a deranged Serial Killer who murders men and cuts off their faces for her "art" he hooked up with during a Halloween party isn't wearing a mask when he scratches her and draws blood.
  • Used in an episode of Angel when Fred's "very normal" parents first meet green-skinned demon Lorne, they refer to him as a man in a bathrobe wearing make-up. Lorne defensively replies that "it's just a little eyeliner."
  • The original run of The Twilight Zone inverted this, with an episode featuring several masks, each representing a wearer's Fatal Flaw, becoming permanently affixed to the wearer's face.

    Theater 
  • Cyrano de Bergerac: In Act I Scene I, Cyrano is described by one of his friends, Raguenau:
    Above his Toby ruff
    he carries a nose!—ah, good my lords, what a nose is his! When one sees it
    one is fain to cry aloud, 'Nay! 'tis too much! He plays a joke on us!' Then
    one laughs, says He will anon take it off. But no!—Monsieur de Bergerac
    always keeps it on.

    Video Games 
  • This happens in Persona 4 in the first meeting with Teddie. While Teddie's head isn't a mask at first, it is detachable, to Yosuke's shock when Teddie takes it off to reveal his hollow body.
  • Fain of Lusternia. He used to be a handsome leader amongst the Elder Gods, but he partook of too much of the Soulless elixir and his trademark mask became fused to his face. His full title, incidentally, is "Fain of the Red Masque".
    • Rendered even creepier by the fact he can still make expressions with it, the metal of the mask violently contorting to reflect his wrath.
  • Played for laughs in the second Professor Layton game. When the professor and Luke first run into Inspector Chelmey, who Don Paolo had impersonated in the previous game, Luke immediately assumes it's him again. He has to be pried off the victim, who has no idea why Luke is trying to pull his face off.

    Web Animation 
  • Strong Bad's mask is his face in Homestar Runner.
    • This didn't stop him from trying to take it off once, safely concealed behind his enormous executive chair. (Which then tried to smother him in sweatpants. Long Story.)
  • In one video by College Humor, which is a parody of Scooby-Doo, Shaggy immediately suspects that a security guard is the culprit. He grabs for the guard's face and pulls it off, revealing...the inside of the guard's face.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • In the story "Tall Tales" in the Paradise setting, characters who began to see through the Weirdness Censor assume that the Funny Animals they see are humans wearing costumes. Of course, they are all attending a Furry Fandom convention at the time.
  • In this creepypasta for The Fear Mythos, this trope is applied to the Plague Doctor:
    "He had a funny beak face," the child said. "I asked him. I asked him why he was wearing such a funny mask. He told me that he wasn't wearing no mask."

    Western Animation 
  • SpongeBob SquarePants once pulled Squidward's face off, thinking it to be a disguise. (Hint: It wasn't.)
    • Same thing happened with Mrs. Puffs and the prison guards after SpongeBob and Patrick tried to sneak into prison disguised as guards.
  • Used in at least two installments of the Scooby-Doo Direct-to-Video Film Series, namely Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase and Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island. The former example happens with some enemies that originally were fake monsters, and the latter with one of the zombies.
    • Another Scooby-Doo example is the Halloween 1976 episode, where Shaggy falsely thought Elwood Crane was wearing a mask.
  • Hanna-Barbera also did it with Loopy de Loop and Magilla Gorilla.
  • Used on The Simpsons at the end of "Who Shot Mr. Burns? Part 1":
    Chief Wiggum: This isn't Mr. Burns' face at all! It's a mask! (pulls on his face) Oh wait, it is Burns. Heh — his wrinkly skin lo — looked like a mask.
    • Also, Krusty to Homer in "Homer's Triple Bypass", telling him what heart disease has been like and pointing at his own face: "I got news for ya. This ain't makeup."
    • Also inverted by Krusty. In "Bart the Fink", for a while Krusty went under the alias "Rory B. Bellows". The Rory persona looked like a "normal" Simpsons character, that is, with yellow skin, short brown hair and a normal nose. It turns out that it wasn't Krusty without his clown makeup, but Krusty with a disguise that covered his usual clown face... even his red nose was hidden under a fake yellow one!
  • Inspector Gadget, in his usual fashion, did this. In "The Infiltration", which involved Master of Disguise Presto Change-o, Gadget tried to pull off a young woman's very pretty face; he believed she was Presto in disguise.
    Gadget: All right, so perhaps I was mistaken. I assure you it won't happen again! But if I don't find Presto Change-o soon, the security of the free world could be in jeopardy.
  • Zigzagged in one episode of Popeye where Bluto asks the Sea Hag to disguise him via a youth potion which makes him look handsome so he can charm Olive Oyl. Popeye somehow recognized Bluto via the latter's voice, then tries to "takes [sic] off that mask" (to quote Popeye directly) by clawing at Bluto's face, which obviously doesn't work, much to Olive's disconcertion.
  • Subverted on Drawn Together in a Scooby-Doo parody.
    Captain Hero: This is no fat monster... (rips Toots' head off) It's a blood fountain!

Nobody Here but Us StatuesDisguise TropesObfuscating Disability
Live-Action TVImageSource/Live-Action TVVampire Bites Suck
No Immortal InertiaHorror TropesNothing but Skulls

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