"Not the face!"A character does not want to be struck or injured in a certain manner. They could have a low pain tolerance in general, or they may be able to take punishment, but not that specific punishment. In these cases, it isn't uncommon to hear a character desperately shout this Stock Phrase at their attacker. Usually the character gets hit in the face anyway. Often subverted when it turns out that the character's pleas were just Briar Patching all along. Can involve, but doesn't demand, A Handful for an Eye, Boom, Headshot, and if someone's being particularly vindictive, Face Palm of Doom. Compare Ow, My Body Part!, Oh God, with the Verbing!, Nobody Touches the Hair. Not to be confused with actually going inside the face.
— Every character on this pagenote
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Anime & Manga
- In the Love Hina manga, Keitarō tries to spank Sarah, who promptly exclaims, "Nooo, not the buttocks!" Turns out she has a panda-shaped birthmark on one of her buttocks.
- Brook from One Piece does not want you to mess with his Funny Afro. To be fair with him, it will never grow back if cut, and he needs it for Laboon to recognize him.
- Conrad in Rune Soldier Louie: "Not the face! Please, anywhere but the face!"
- Grell from Black Butler yells this when Sebastian is about to hit. He of course gets hit several times in the face.
- Naruto: When Sasuke is hunting down escapees from Orochimaru's lab, amongst the screams one person can be heard shouting, "Please, please, not the face!" It rather undermines the drama of the situation.
- M.O.D.O.K. screams this when Squirrel Girl's sidekick Tippy-Toe jumps on him. Given that he's about 90% face, it's surprising he doesn't do this more often.
- Moon Knight gets this a lot. He rarely listens.
- A corrupt cop repeatedly begged the (Ultimate) Punisher not to shoot him in the face. He knew he was going to die, but wanted to be shot in the heart or strangled so at least his mother could identify him. Frank's Response?
Punisher: Face it is, then.
- Although he never openly said anything of this nature, Tim Drake occasionally worried about this when out superheroing — mainly because a teenage boy having visible bruises invited uncomfortable questions.
- Arkham Asylum: Living Hell has a vicious outbreak of all of the inmates from their cells, and the guards are getting their asses kicked until head guard Aaron Cash arrives, giving the following scene:
Junkyard Dog: Aw, man! Not you! Wait... just not the face!
Cash: You giving me orders, Dog?! CRACK
- The Trope Codifier likely comes from Arthur from The Tick comic series. He shouted "Not in the face!" as a potential battle cry. The cartoon turned it into more of a Running Gag.
- In Wanted, Doll-Master asks Mr. Rictus that he leaves his face intact while killing him. He already knows that he's gonna die — he just wants to make sure his family finds a relatively peaceful body. Mr. Rictus then spectacularely kicks the dog and reveals that he already killed them.
- Lampshaded by Grace Choi in Outsiders #36 after an evil speedster beats her up, leaving her with a face like raw hamburger.
Grace: Ow. Always the face. Why do these douchebags always mess up the face?
Films — Animation
- A subversion in Felix the Cat: The Movie: one of the Mizards tells Felix (whom they thought, because he's a cat, he plans to eat them) not to eat his tail first. Because he lost many tails, which takes a long time for a new one to grow.
- "Hey, not in the face, pal!" Said during a fight in The Brave Little Toaster... by Radio, the only character who does not have any sort of face at all.
- In Treasure Planet, the robot B.E.N. shouts it when captured by pirates.
- In The Road to El Dorado, Tulio says this during his sword fight with Miguel.
Films — Live-Action
- Blazing Saddles. When director Buddy Bizarre is about to be punched by Taggart:
Buddy: Not in the face!
Taggart: (punches him in the stomach)
Buddy: Thank you. (collapses)
- Whenever someone does something that irritates Bruce Willis' character in The Last Boy Scout:
Hallenbeck: (to the friend his wife is having an affair with) Head or gut?
Matthews: Gut. (cue the punching)
- And at the end of the movie...
Hallenbeck: (to the ingrate Senator whose life he helped save) Head or gut?
Sen. Baynard: Huh? (gets punched in the face and the gut)
- Inverted in GoodFellas where Tommy is shot through the back of the head so his mother will have to give him a closed casket funeral.
- 10 Things I Hate About You: When Bianca punches a very deserving Joey in the face, he howls, "Shit, Bianca, I'm shooting a nose-spray ad tomorrow!"
- Parodied (if that's even possible) in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy at the beginning of the Newscasters Fight Scene:
Ron Burgundy: Now before we do this, let's go over the ground rules. Rule number 1: "No touching of the hair or face." And that's it! Now let's do this!
- Even more amusing is the blasé way the other newscasters agree to it, as though it was something so incredibly obvious.
- Leatherheads inverts this during a fight between Carter and Dodge. After discussing numerous places not to hit they agree to stick only to hitting each other in the face.
- At one point in American Psycho, Patrick Bateman chases a hooker through an apartment and tries to eat her leg. She kicks him in the face and, being a self-absorbed yuppie, he screams at her, "Not the face! Not the fucking face!"
- In Wild Wild West, Artemis Gordon is captured by the villain and (because he's scretly wearing a bulletproof vest) makes a last request to be shot in the heart that he used to love his country so much. The villain realizes what's going on and orders his men to shoot Artemis in the head.
- In Heroic Trio, the three main characters get put through the ringer but when an explosion gets too close for comfort, the youngest member of the trio exclaims, "My face! Am I still pretty? (she is)," indicating the one and only part of her body she is concerned about.
- Head: In an old movie parody, Davy Jones plays the sensitive violinist from the slums who becomes a prizefighter. In a casting session he looks over a line of boxers and chooses Sonny Liston (sort of the Mike Tyson of his time). He good-naturedly banters "You won't hurt the face, will you? Million-dollar face, this is." This is intercut with ringside footage of Liston beating Jones' face to a swollen bloody pulp.
- In The Punisher (2004), when Mickey thinks he's about to be killed by the mob for the death of Howard Saint's son, he calmly asks them not to damage his face, for his mother's sake. Luckily, they don't intend to kill him.
- In The Elite Squad, this is Baiano's plea when BOPE are about to finish him off, so as not to ruin it for the wake. Matias doesn't care.
- In the book version of The Godfather, Johnny Fontane's movie-star wife tolerates his beating her — but "not in the face, I'm making a picture."
- On one episode of Tales from the Crypt which stars a pair of bandit lovers, the man is always paranoid about something happening to his visage. At the end of the episode you find out that the reason for this is that they are zombies, and therefore any bodily damage done to them will not be deadly but still leave a lasting mark. He gets shot in the face and, while still undead, is left looking like that for the rest of time.
- Recurring bad guy on RoboCop: The Series William Ray "Pudface" Morgan has an issue with this, ever since his first encounter with RoboCop resulted in him being disfigured from toxic waste; Morgan blames Robo for it, but according to Sgt. Parks (the series's equivalent of Sgt. Reed from the movies), it was Morgan's own fault. In their subsequent encounters, whenever RoboCop has Morgan cornered, he will invoke this trope. RoboCop does not oblige him.
- On Friends when Ross and Chandler are going to fight the couch bullies, they agree to no face attacks, 'cause they all have work on Monday. Nor below the belt because one of the bullies and his wife are trying to get pregnant.
- Red Dwarf. In "Legion", circumstances force Kryton to knock out his crewmates. The Cat: "Do what you gotta, but don't mess up my hair."
- On That '70s Show, Kelso is being beaten by Jackie and yells this, there is then a pause and he yelps in pain and says "Alright, alright! In the face!"
- Inverted in an episode of Malcolm in the Middle has Malcolm wanting to get out of something, so he asks Reese to hit him. Naturally, Reese obliges with a punch to the stomach. Malcolm then says he wanted to be hit in the face, and Reese answers that their mother would see the bruises, and ground him for it, thinking Malcolm just wanted to get him in trouble.
- On one occasion in How I Met Your Mother, Ted was angry at Barney, who offered Ted one free hit anywhere but the face. Ted complied — by punching Barney in the groin instead.
- On Greys Anatomy, when Izzie thinks Callie wants to fight her over her affair with George, Alex and Cristina give her some advice:
Alex: Punch with your left, protect your face with your right.
Cristina: No, protect your hands. Your surgeon hands. Your face can heal.
- when Puck tries to recruit more people into glee by telling his football teammates how cool it is, they decide he needs to be beaten up like all the other nerds, and he yells for them not to damage his pretty face.
- When Rachel expects physical retribution for betraying Quinn, she offers her face, but requests that, if she can, Quinn try to avoid her nose.
- The first episode of Power Rangers RPM had Ziggy screaming this after his carjacking attempt goes awry. He didn't exactly expect the lone traveller to be a skilled fighter capable of chopping metal with his bare hands.
- On The Sopranos, Pussy makes this request just before being shot by Tony and the others for being a stooge.
- From Burn Notice, Westen plays this straight, as the villain of the week has a gun pointed at him and ready to shoot: "If you're gonna do it, then not in the face, please. Please, not in the face!" He's not Briar Patching, merely buying a few seconds while he moves out of range of the trap he set for her.
- Tracker, "Double Down". Troy Montana, the underwear model whose billboard Cole took his human form from, says this several times. Obviously, he's afraid of being out of a model job if his face gets messed up.
- Jeff from Community claimed that he had never been in a fight due to his vanity. When it came time to get into a fight with the college's bullies, he asked not to be hit in the face. He was punched in the gut instead.
- An episode of Happy Days saw the Fonz being forced to punch Richie in order to keep up his tough guy image (long story). He asked Richie where he wanted to be punched, mentioning that a gut punch hurt more but a punch to the face would leave a bruise. Richie ended up convincing him not to hit him but as they left the room, Richie hit his head on the door, prompting everyone to believe Fonz did it. This restored Fonz's tough-guy image but also led to Richie earning the sympathy of every girl in town.
- Played with in The Prisoner episode "The Girl Who Was Death" as Number Six is pulled into a boxing match with a typical hulking bruiser who tells him between punches "'Ey, take it easy, me face is me fortune, you might knock it back into shape!"
- Through his career, legendary British heel Mick McManus HATED anyone messing with his ears (apparently they were extra sensitive). The inevitable result was many matches where his ears became the sole focus of his opponents, much to the delight of the fans.
- When Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake returned to wrestling in 1993, many of his matches had a stipulation that he couldn't be hit in the face. Justified in that he had (legitimately) destroyed his face in a parasailing accident and had to have screws inserted, and too much trauma would've destroyed his face again. It was only a matter of time where – in Kayfabe, of course – this would be averted … and it was, when Ted DiBiase interfered in Irwin R. Shyster's match against Beefcake and struck him head-on with a metal briefcase, this after Beefcake had Shyster ready for a free haircut.
- Chris Nowinski wore a plastic face mask claiming his reconstructive surgery (or something) was too expensive to be hit in the face. Naturally, Scott Steiner hit him in the face on every opportunity he had, which made Chris get a metal face mask which he used as a weapon. (Too bad the Dudleys were on its receiving end instead of Scott)
- Sensational Sherri placed a stipulation in the match between Shawn Michaels and Rick Martel at SummerSlam 1992 that neither was supposed to hit the other in the face.
- "Dashing" Cody Rhodes, who plays a slightly toned down Gorgeous George gimmick, started doing this in a team elimination match in Survivor Series (2010) after getting slapped in the face. He leaves the ring to make sure it didn't leave a mark and even starts crying. Then Rey Mysterio Jr. broke his nose. Cody Rhodes did not react well.
- WWE NXT features Tyler Breeze, a narcissistic Gorgeous George type who struts around like a supermodel and is always taking pictures of himself. For a while he went absolutely ballistic if his face was hurt in a match, but as the character became more serious this element was gradually dropped.
- This is an aspect of The Miz's "Hollywood Megastar" persona, beginning in summer 2014. In backstage interviews he refers to his face as "the moneymaker" and stresses that he can't allow any harm to come to it. He'll even retreat from the ring if he fears his opponent might target his face.
- Tales of Symphonia: This is one of Zelos' "ouch" phrases.
- Super Punch Out: Narcis Prince is, as his name suggests, overly protective of his beautiful face. Punching him there pushes his Berserk Button — he Turns Red and becomes very aggressive, while at the same time dropping his defenses and becoming much easier to fight.
- Vega of the various Street Fighter games. He goes so far as to wear a metal mask to protect his face from damage. In Vega's case, though, it has nothing to do with the pain of being hit: he just doesn't want his face damaged since he's a hopeless narcissist.
- In fact, in Street Fighter IV, you can have Vega toss away his mask intentionally because by exposing his face to damage, he knows it'll allow him to fight more aggressively and he'll do better damage as a result.
- Variant: In the ending cinematic of Final Fantasy VI, Mog is literally hanging by a hair after being saved from a Bottomless Pit, but he still cries: "Not the hair!"
- Jedi Outcast had a line "Please! Noble Jedis! Not in the faces!"
- In Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, Amazing Spidey will occasionally shout "Not the face!" when the player doesn't dodge enemy attacks.
- Inverted with Face McShooty in Borderlands 2. Not only does he want to be shot in the face, but he becomes irritated with the player if shot anywhere else.
- Red vs. Blue:
Tex: Hey, punk. I don't need a weapon to kill you.
- The reds have Tex captured, and they unload her ammo (the game engine didn't allow people to be unarmed). Grif taunts Tex finding out that she's a girl.
Grif: Yeah, right. What're you gonna do, punch me?
(Tex silently motions towards Grif)
Grif: (hastily stepping back) AAAARGH! Not the face!
- Before this occurs, Simmons gets hit in the back of his head, stating "Oh geez, the back of my head!" When Church goes back in time, Simmons wakes up only to get hit in the face, this time saying, "Oh geez, the front of my face!"
- "Not the face!" is a catch phrase for Matt in Edds World.
- Collar 6: See the image at the top of the page.
- Girl Genius:
- Played with:
Castle Heterodyne: No! Not in the facing!
- Agatha's reindeer clank also says "Not the face!" after jumping down a ledge. It tries again when faced with Bohrlaikha, but gets Killed Mid-Sentence.
- Played with:
- From The Order of the Stick, Old Blind Pete, after having his eyes just regenerated, pleads before a vengeful Belkar: "Please don't stab my eyes out, please don't stab my eyes out, please don't stab my eyes out..."
- Arthur's battlecry on The Tick, as mentioning above.
- The Simpsons:
- Moe says this quite a lot. He once got attacked by an eagle and screamed "Not in the face! Not in the face!" Eagle switches to his crotch, and trope is inverted. "OK, the face! The face!" When the eagle goes back to the face, he even remarks "That actually feels okay, after the crotch."
- And in the Treehouse of Horror segment, "The Ned Zone", Lisa basically lampshades an unwritten rule of said Halloween Episode series — namely, facial injuries are rarely shown. The line in question is as follows:
Lisa: Remember, if you really have to kill our dad, remember the Simpsons'note rule: not in the face.
- At the end of an episode of Johnny Bravo (in which he has dressed up as a Barney-like dinosaur) he yells at the kids jumping on top of him "Not the face! Not the face!"
- One episode of Doug has the title character get harassed by another student leading up to a fight. At the time of the confrontation, the guy ends up being a complete wuss and even tells Doug to hit him in the arms because his stomach wasn't feeling so great.
- King of the Hill:
- Cotton once says that he would take a bullet for Bobby, except in the face, because "that's how I makes my livings." Hank is unable to process what this means.
- Hank also displays this trope in one episode when he got a nose job after it was broken during football practice. He admires his new nose so much that he goes to great lengths to protect his face so that his new nose doesn't get damaged.
- After Hank and the gang make a golf course out of the alley, they invite Kahn to be a member. When Kahn answers the door to Hank holding a golf club, he automatically says "Oh please! Not in the face!"
- In The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy Christmas Special, Grim requests the vampire elf bats attacking him (long story) to not target his face.
- In Megas XLR, it tends to come from Gorrath's second in command near immediately after he calls out his superior's commands.
- Justin and Chris both do this on Total Drama Action''.
- In Jumanji animated, episode 17, Peter has been frozen solid (long story). Alan and Judy end up using him as a bridge; when walking across him he remarks, "Not the face, not the face!"
- Codename: Kids Next Door: When Laura Limpett becomes the Big Badolescent after tasting the Delightful Children's cake (angry that it has coconut in it), she advances on them menacingly. The Delightful Children, in unison, say "Not in the face! Not in the face!"
- Plankton shouts it as he is about to be stepped on in the Spongebob Squarepants episode "Sleepy Time".
- Vanity in The Smurfs episode "Chlorhydris' Lost Love" says this when he gets hit in the face with a tomato by the Smurfs affected by the black heart arrow.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Keep Calm and Flutter On", Rarity pleads "Not the dress! NOT THE DRESS!" to the animated soup tureen spitting on everypony.
- When Joachim Murat (one of Napoleon Bonaparte's generals, as well as his brother-in-law) was executed by firing squad for sedition against the Kingdom of Naples, he specifically said "Aim for the heart, but avoid the face". Although Murat was considered something of a vain dandy, this was more an example of him being flippant in the face of death to cap off a long life of general badassery.
- At the battle of Pharsalus, Julius Caesar directed his pikemen to aim at the faces of Pompey's cavalrymen, guessing (correctly) that they would fear disfigurement more than death.