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In real life
, acne is a fairly common thing that people go through, usually when they reach a certain age. It's not uncommon to see pizzafaces left and right in the real world, and no one really makes a big deal out of acne unless it's really
noticeable on someone.
The world of fiction, however, didn't seem to get the memo. In fiction, especially shows and movies aimed at kids and teens, any character who develops acne (usually a girl
, but there are male examples too) will treat it like it's the end of the world, even if it's just one pimple
Usually this is used as a plot device when a female character is preparing for a date, school dance or something similar. She is bubbly and excited that she'll finally be going out with the boy of her dreams and knows in her heart that it will be the best day of her life. But then, the night before her plans, she notices in the mirror that she has a huge zit that in many cases resembles a flashing LED light (except for the "flashing" part, of course, unless Rule of Funny
is in play), usually right in the middle of her forehead. She will then spend the remainder of her time fretting over the fact that she doesn't have perfect skin and will usually take drastic measures to hide or remove the pimple. Her attempts usually fail and the acne is eventually revealed to her peers, who treat it like some kind of hilarious mutation the likes of which they've never seen.
Often, though, her date will tell her that it doesn't matter to him if she has perfect skin or not, saying she's beautiful just the way she is
. If a female character with bad acne succeeds in having it removed, it usually reveals that she was beautiful all along
With male characters, however, this is usually played completely for laughs and there is no sympathy
shown to them by any of the other characters at all. There's also an urban legend that having sex will cure acne, so the implication that a guy with bad skin. . .
Strangely, most shows that use this trope depict the character as only having one pimple, with the rest of their face being completely clear. If a show is known for anything supernatural or the protagonist has a vivid imagination
, expect the zit to become a speaking sentient creature.
This seems to be becoming a discredited trope
these days, as it rarely turns up outside of parody.
Anime and Manga
- Naota treats the horn he grows in the first episode of FLCL like this.
- Nitori from Wandering Son has quite the reaction when he starts getting pimples, however it's because he doesn't want to enter puberty.
- The Junji Ito story "Glyceride" turns this into pure Nightmare/Nausea Fuel.
- Exaggerated in Scorpion Shards. Supernatural circumstances result in Tory being covered completely in horrible acne. Even her acne has acne. She is very shunned. And it's not funny.
- Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Book 3. The Red Spot. It's not funny, either.
- Another unfunny example turns up in Thinner. Duncan Hopley, the local police chief, is cursed with a horrible case of acne all over his face and arms that eventually drives him to suicide.
- Galaxy of Fear: The Planet Plague has a funny example in the opening, when Tash frets over some of her first pimples. She puts those worries aside as soon as alarming unrelated things start to happen, though.
- The subject of an entire episode of The Cosby Show. Vanessa freaks out because she gets a pimple on her forehead, so Denise lends her a headband to cover it up. Naturally, everyone loves the new accessory.
- Brad got a pimple in the B-plot of an episode of Home Improvement. It's a textbook example of this trope, where he and the other kids act like having one noticeable pimple is a rare and horrible occurrence.
- In Saved by the Bell, acne is only mentioned in the high school setting twice: overall as something to be shunned and avoided at all costs (even considering the cast frets about it a lot but largely doesn't exhibit any), and in one episode when Screech is so overjoyed to get his first zit (as he considers it a rite of adulthood) that he names it.
- In an episode of The Wonder Years, Kevin gets a zit just several days before a nice girl is supposed to visit his family's home. Kevin doesn't want that zit to be her first impression of him and tries several measures to hide or get rid of it to no avail, including covering it up with a bandage with the excuse that he got into a fight. When the girl and her family finally arrive, it turns out that she has a zit too, and so the whole thing becomes no big deal.
- My So-Called Life, "The Zit". However, as usual for a deconstruction, the zit doesn't get very much attention.
- Wizards of Waverly Place Justin gets a magical zit that talks, and hits on older women. He tries to cover it with a hat with a limited degree of success.
- Justified in the series 3 episode of Men Behaving Badly, "Cleaning Lady". Tony has signed up with a modelling agency to try and impress Deborah, but a zit ruins his only actual job (despite rubbing his face with a concoction containing caribou's placenta) and he gives up.
- An episode of Married... with Children had a similar plot, with Kelly getting her only zit ever on the day she was due to appear on TV and trying ridiculous remedies to get rid of it.
- In a sketch from The Amanda Show, Amanda is on a date with a boy who has a large pimple on his forehead. She has a disturbing claymation fantasy about chiseling it off of his face, and it becomes sentient; she fights it, and then falls in love with it.
- With a name like Zits, acne has come up a fair number of times.
- Foxtrot: Paige panics over zits often enough. There was once a week long story of her trying to cover one up by wearing antlers to match her "red nose".