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White Mask of Doom

"...his face which was a paper-white mask of evil — sang us this song"
They Might Be Giants, "Turn Around"

Masks are spooky: they dehumanise, they make a dangerous inhuman inner being visible. White masks occupy a special place. They have a long history in several cultures. Being white, they are blanker and scarier, offering nothing for the eye to hold on to. And look like skulls.

Sometimes our imagination will dwell on what is under the snow-pure mask: ghastly disfigurement? Nothing at all?

Bonus points if the rest of the character is dark to accentuate the mask. Being white it'll show bloodstains starkly.

Note that the mask doesn't have to be pure white; any mask that is paler in color than most human skin tones and relatively featureless fits this trope.

Anime and Manga have noh masks to draw inspiration from. Western tradition has Greek drama masks, the birdlike masks worn by medieval plague doctors (see the Real Life section), scary clowns, The Klan, and Venetian Carnival masks. Mexicans have the masks of Dia de los Muertos.

This trope is fairly widespread in Anime and Manga. Compare Cool Mask. Sometimes doubles as a Mask of Power. Subtrope of Malevolent Masked Men.

See also: The Blank.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Hollows in Bleach.
  • Ergo Proxy - The Proxy of Death, Ergo Proxy himself.
  • Tenchi Muyo! - Kain in the first movie has one of these which is also an Expressive Mask, since it turns out to be his real face. It becomes more creepy as he becomes more desperate in the final battle.
  • Noh-Face from Spirited Away. Noh-Face is first encountered as a partial black cloak and a white mask. Later his body grows a horrible maw, jarring with the lost-child-in-pain expression of the mask.
  • Several of the Angels in Neon Genesis Evangelion have what look like white, flattened plague doctor masks.
  • Assassin apparel in Phantom of Inferno.
  • Hei from Darker Than Black: see the page picture. Unusually, he's the hero, if one prone to being rather scary.
  • Pokémon Special - The brainwashed kids under Mask of Ice in the manga.
  • Naruto
    • Haku's mask in the Land of Waves arc has no mouth and thin slits for eyes.
    • The ANBU members wear similar animal-shaped ceramic masks.
    • Then there's Naruto's six-tailed form, in which a fox skull engulfs his head.
    • After Konan destroyed his old mask, Tobi began wearing a dull gray mask carved with the pattern of a Sharingan.
  • Turkey/the Ottoman Empire in Axis Powers Hetalia.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's - The villainous Mysterious Protector is another mask with no mouth and thin slits for eyes.
  • Liar Game - The dealers and most attendants are Malevolent Masked Men with white masks.
  • Death 13 from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is a dream-haunting clown-themed Grim Reaper that wears an incessantly smiling clown mask. actually that may not be true, since that is more than likely his face.
  • Larva from Vampire Princess Miyu.
  • Soul Eater - Lord Death had a simple skull-shaped mask he made to deliberately avoid looking scary to the small children he wanted to recruit to his school. He added a sillier personality to match, which he took to very well in the long run. His older, much more skull-like mask is doomier. Kid occasionally copies his father's appearance with a cloak and mask of his own. But in his case it just looks cute.
    • Which makes it even more of a Tear Jerker when he officially replaces his late father, mask and all.
  • Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei had a Magical Girl parody, and Sensei's villain mask and costume seen here happen to be a dead-ringer for Hei's outfit, emphasizing how "evil looking" Hei's costume is.
  • The Knights of Paris in Noir.
  • Go down to "Real Life". Look at the plague doctor mask. One of Cardinal Mozgus's lackeys in Berserk wears it. He's actually a decent guy, but is he ever on the wrong side...
  • Rau le Creuset from Mobile Suit Gundam SEED.
    • A majority of Char Clones in Gundam sport a white mask in reference to the original.
  • Played with with Kuze in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Though the face of his white-skinned cybernetic body has been custom sculpted by a famous artist, it has no facial muscles and Kuze doesn't even move his mouth when speaking, so its perfect beauty is always maintained and never twisted.
  • In Code Geass, Shirley's nightmares are plagued with these in an episode of R2, when she regains her memories and realizes that a lot of people are lying to her. As well, the metaphysical mask found in C's World can be considered a case of this, as it represents the masks that people wear (read: lies) caused by being individuals. It resembles the masks that Shirley had nightmares of, although this was coincidental; the masks were simply a recurring theme.
  • The Norza in Red Photon Zillion.
  • In the latest Golgo 13 anime, a cult leader named Gabriel wears one of these. Beneath the mask... well
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Guradian Dreadscythe.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds: Aki Izayoi/Akiza Izinski in her Black Rose Witch/Black Rose persona.
  • Kurei from Flame of Recca always wears a mask when going into battle, and has worn three different ones over the course of the series. What's under his mask? Nothing really, just a badass-looking scar.
  • The villain Gargoyle in Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water wears a white mask all throughout the series, making an already terrifying character even creepier. We never see his face until the end of the series.
  • The Pawn rank Chess Pieces in MÄR.
  • Bloody Monday: Last Season has terrorists in white masks crashing international gathering of dignitaries. Fortunately the masks help the counter-terrorists infiltrate the group; unfortunately the counter-terrorists don't know about the special paint that could be seen with the masks' lenses.
  • Herschel from Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos wears one to conceal the skin that was peeled off his face.

    Comics 

    Film 
  • The mask worn by Ghostface in the Scream series.
  • The serial killer in the horror parody Scary Movie.
  • In V for Vendetta, the aforementioned "V" always wears one. At one point, quite a few citizens put on the same mask, in a show of support for V's actions.
  • Jason from the Friday the 13th series wears a white hockey mask.
  • Halloween: Michael Myers, the killer from the movie series wears a spooky white mask. The original was a Captain Kirk mask, bought for all of $1.98, painted white and modified. In the film it doesn't look much like Shatner.
  • Used symbolically in Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal. Two of the characters (ironically, the only major characters to survive the film's ending) are a husband-and-wife team of actors who perform shows in the streets of the towns they visit while wearing stark white face paint so glaring it shows up even on the film's black-and-white palette. We get to see one of their performances, which consists largely of them singing and playing Bawdy Songs while wearing the whiteface. Their songs, while ostensibly entertaining, are quite crude and sound a bit...off, suggesting that something dire is about to happen. And in fact something dire does happen - namely, the show is interrupted by a procession of flagellating penitents wreathed in incense, loudly moaning Dies irae, dies illa, solvet saeclum in favilla... (which in English is "Day of wrath, day of mourning, Earth in smoldering ashes falling...").
  • Christiane's mask in Eyes Without a Face. Also a subversion because the mask scares her, too.
  • Star Wars series:
    • The face-concealing Stormtrooper helmets. It's interesting that the visually similar good-guy Clone Troopers of Clone Wars have color added to their helmets, and are forever getting the mask off to show a human face.
    • General Grievous sports a white mask in the form of a stylized, elongated skull.
    • According to the EU, Grievous' mask is ACTUALLY a skull, just not one of a sentient creature (It belongs to a Kaleesh predator).
    • Early concept art for Darth Maul featured one of these.
  • The Death Eaters from Harry Potter, in their secret society / magical terrorist mode.
  • Franklyn: Jonathan Preest (who is essentially an Expy of Rorschach).
  • The serial killer in Nightbreed wore a full head white mask with button eyes, made even more chilling by his soothing and reasonable voice.
  • "Killer" from Midnight Movie.
  • Babyface from The Hills Run Red.
  • The Stan Laurel mask that Evil dons near the end of New Year's Evil.
  • The Phantom from The Town That Dreaded Sundown.
  • In Brazil, Jack Lint puts on a creepy baby mask when subjecting Sam to Information Retrieval. He gets shot in the head by La Résistance.
  • In the 2010 Alice in Wonderland movie, the Red Queen's over-sized head looks like this.
  • These appear throughout the Halloween mockbuster Halloween Night, but the villain only wears one once, to disguise himself while escaping the asylum he was placed in.
  • In the first Bloody Murder, the killer wears a white hockey mask, but upgrades to something kabuki-like in the sequel.
  • The Cabin in the Woods has a few killers wearing these show up among the many other monsters let loose during the film's climax.
  • John Singleton's Higher Learning (1995) has a scene in which some young neo-Nazis assault a pair of interracial lovers on Halloween Night. They are wearing grotesque skull masks.
  • The George Romero film Bruiser is about a man whose face turns into a white mask overnight.

    Literature 
  • The Stranger in Pallid Mask mentioned in Robert E. Chambers' The King in Yellow short stories, and in Thom Ryng's Defictionalization of the titular play appears to be wearing something like this. The key word is appears.
    The Stranger: I wear no mask.
  • In C. S. Lewis's Till We Have Faces, the protagonist Orual spends most of her life wearing a white veil, which is portrayed in the illustrations as a white mask, completely featureless save for two eyeholes. While she's not evil per se, her subjects are definitely put off by it, and rumors spread about what she's hiding under her veil.
  • In the Discworld book Masquerade, the Opera Ghost wears a white mask which the narration consistently describes as "like the skull of an angel".

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Carver from 'Nip/Tuck
  • Ghost Adventures had the team visit Poveglia Island and don the plague masks mentioned below.
  • Mid-1990s professional wrestler Phantasio was notorious for wearing a black trench coat and stark white mask that he pulled off to reveal an equally immobile white painted-on face. But despite his warped appearance, he was a good guy. He delighted children by performing magic tricks that enabled him to pick up victories over his opponents.
  • The nightmarish Vanity Plate for the Russian TV company VID.
  • The Greendale Human Being in Community. In an misguided attempt to be overly political correct, the school mascot was designed to avoid all ethnic traits whatsoever: Uncanny Valley ensues.
  • Doctor Who has a group of clockwork robots who try to pose as eighteenth-century French humans by wearing creepy white masks.
    • In The Beast Below the lady in the sinister white mask turns out to "the bloody queen" and one of the good guys.
  • The kidnappers in Crisis wear white masks that cover their whole faces whenever they're dealing with the kids they've kidnapped.

     Music 
  • The Surreal Music Video to Project Pitchfork's "Lament" features a cocktail masquerade with patrons wearing white kabuki masks.
  • Buckethead is famous for wearing an expressionless white mask and KFC bucket (or plain white plastic bucket) on his head during all performances, as well as just about any public appearance. This is because Brian Carroll happens to be extremely shy and eccentric in spite of his talent, and creating the fictional persona of Buckethead lets him remain semi-anonymous and unrecognized without the pressures of fame.
  • One of the few publicity photos that David Bowie has done for The Next Day shows him in an ominous white mask.
  • In the third verse of "Turn Around" by They Might Be Giants, a person turns around to reveal a "face which was a paper-white mask of evil".

    Newspaper Comics 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000
    • Space Marine Chaplains wear a white skull helmet.
    • Death Jester Eldar Aspect Warriors wear skull-masked armour. The twist is, the bones on their armour come from its previous owners.
    • The assassins of the Eversor temple wear a similar white skull helmet. Where as the other temples of Officio Assassinorum rely on stealth, accuracy, misdirection, and soul crushing power, Eversor Assassins will crash through a wall and kill everyone in the building.

      An Eversor's mask looks like a giant skull. It pumps a stupendous amount of combat drugs directly into the brain; the wearer becomes a screaming ball of death and terror. The assassin will kill until he is killed or there is no one left. At which point he explodes.
  • In Magic: The Gathering:
  • Dungeons & Dragons
  • Legend of the Five Rings
    • Several followers of the Lying Darkness wear such masks to denote their status as one of The Blank.
    • Fu Leng used to wear a white porcelain mask when he had a corporeal form. In some artwork so does his most faithful disciple Daigotsu.
    • Similar masks are used by Bloodspeakers to animate zombies from the bodies of the dead.
    • White porcelain masks are also quite in fashion with necromancers such as Iuchiban and Kuni Yori.

    Theatre 
  • The Phantom of The Phantom of the Opera though unusually the Phantom's mask covers less than half of his face. Even though the iconic white half-mask is famous from a thousand theatre posters, in the original novel his mask was black.

    Video Games 
  • Shy Guys in Mario are a cute example.
  • Darth Nihilus in Knights Of The Old Republic II. In fact, it is of such doom that he has concealed his essence in it, and it canonically survives centuries after you destroy him.
  • Assassin apparel in visual novel Phantom of Inferno.
  • White masks add to the menace of splicers in BioShock. The masks hide their cancerous disfigurement.
  • Vega from Street Fighter always wears one of those during a fight; not to conceal his identity, but to prevent his beautiful face from being touched.
  • Arakune from BlazBlue made himself a creepy expressionless white mask, purportedly to help him communicate. It doesn't. Hakumen, although a Lawful Good-ish Hero Antagonist, has a distinctly Zero-esque one.
  • Yume Nikki - "Hey, I wonder what this light switch do-aaaaaaaaaaaaaa!"
  • Averted with Mask*DeMasque in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. He wears a white mask but is generally gleeful and makes himself publicly popular despite being a criminal. Except for when he murders people. But he wasn't wearing the mask at the time and he wasn't the real Mask*DeMasque, so it's still an aversion.
    • In Dual Destinies, The Phantom is first "seen" by anyone, wearing a Noh Mask, which has much the same effect. It gives the Phantom a suitably creepy air.
  • Doctors in Assassin's Creed II wear below-mentioned plague masks, and the Doctor multiplayer character from Brotherhood has Sinister Shades over one.
  • The Medic in Team Fortress 2 can wear a Plague Doctor mask as well, called the Blighted Beak.
  • Members of the Masquerade wear these in Persona 2. Generals in particular have theirs styled after the Zodiac sign that doubles as their codename.
  • The White Glove Society of Fallout: New Vegas all wear White Masks (seen here) since it makes them mysterious in the eyes of their leader Marjorie. However, everyone else thinks that it just makes them creepy. Granted, they don't exactly have a clean record, but that's in the past.
  • In the adventure game Gray Matter, Dr. David Styles, reclusive scientist and resident of an Old Dark House, wears a white mask that covers half his face, reminiscent of the one the Phantom wears, to hide the horrible burn scars that he sustained in the car accident that killed his wife.
  • A Recurring Boss of Musha Aleste is a gunship with the face of a Noh mask.
  • Old SNK mascot G-Mantle, which appeared as a cameo in various games, before getting a role as a Striker in The King of Fighters 2000.
  • Victor Donovan in the cutscenes of Dead or Alive Dimensions.
  • The appropriately-monikered Masked Man in Rune Factory Oceans wears a creepy white mask with a black robe to conceal his appearance. He keeps the mask even after removing the robe and making his identity obvious to the player, only ditching it once he thinks the fight is won.
  • Curiously for a game that is all about masks, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask only features one. The Couple's Mask also subverts the usual creepiness by being a symbol of marriage and loving union; the lines it has in lieu of a face are a simplified image of an embracing couple.
  • In Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate the Lost Soul wears one as he silently observes the Belmonts in the castle.
  • In Psychosis for the TurboGrafx-16, an enemy found in the second stage is a floating white mask that splits in half to reveal a different white mask underneath.
  • In Shinobi X, the Stage 1 boss is a disembodied white mask.
  • Worn by Anarky in Batman: Arkham Origins, likely to hide the fact that he's pretty young, if his voice didn't already give it away.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • The masked man (Tim, maybe totheark) from Marble Hornets wears a rather unsettling white mask. Entry 26 show someone wearing a skull mask. Yup. There is more than one.
    • This seems to be a distressingly common feature of humans under the Slender Man's influence (called Proxies) in blogs set in the Slenderverse.
  • The Seadeater/Stitchface. Assuming it is a mask.
  • SCP-035 is a living White Mask of Doom based on Greek drama masks that compels anyone near it to put it on and take it as a host. It's also quite sociopathic and manipulative.
  • The SWAG members who beat up Tacoma and try to scare Rebecca in Demo Reel wear them.
  • The White Fang of RWBY all wear four-slotted white masks that cover their upper face; higher ranking members such as Adam and the unnamed Lieutenant have customized theirs by adding red markings to them or having them cover the entire face. According to a renegade member, they chose to wear them because humanity saw them as monsters, so they evoke the image of Creatures of Grimm, who really are monsters.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
    • Many Fire Nation war helmets have removable white face coverings that look like skulls.
    • Koh, whose most memorable face is a female Noh mask note .
    • There's the mask Huu wears with his swamp monster disguise. It's more light brown, apparently made of bark, but same difference.
  • The Legend of Korra: Amon, who wears an awesome white mask with a red circle on the forehead, which features prominently in both official and fanmade propaganda posters.
  • Hexadecimal of Reboot has a whole bunch that she can switch freely between at a moment's notice.
  • Sealab 2021 references plague doctor's white masks (see below) when Sealab is hit with a plague.
  • The Princess and the Frog has Dr. Facilier wear a Baron Samedi half-mask, but only during the climactic moments of his Villain Song. note 
  • The Adventures of Mark Twain - In the ever-popular (and creepy) "Mysterious Stranger" clip, Satan's face is a Greek drama mask that morphs into various faces, including an exceptionally disturbing skull.
  • In the Adventure Time episode "What Have You Done?", Princess Bubblegum briefly wears an old-fashioned plague doctor's mask.

    Real Life 
  • Plague doctors during the Black Death wore white bird masks to prevent from getting the plague. These masks also had the effect of being terrifying, despite being a dead ringer for the Black Spy from Spy vs. Spy. For some plague victims, that would be one of the last sights they'd ever see. Being scary was intentional — the doctors had to be fearsome and barely-trusted, half mythical figures, or else they'd get mobbed by the sick every time they went out. They also went armed with clubs. The "beak" was stuffed with sweet smelling herbs to mask the sickening smell of dying plague victims.
    • Strangely enough, the mask and the rest of the plague doctor outfit actually functioned as a fairly effective, though crude, biohazard suit. Since the mask covered the mucous membranes—eyes, mouth and nose— and doctors covered their bodies entirely with long, waxed robes, they were generally protected from plague spread by fleas or the victim's bodily fluids. Certain herbs in the beak also worked as natural antiseptics (phytoncides), doing a decent job of killing airborne microbes. At the same time, the doctor's lack of knowledge regarding germs meant that they rarely cleaned said suits or masks, and often carried just as much, if not more, disease than they cured, presumably this did not help their terrifying visage.
  • Guitarist Brian "Buckethead" Carroll.
  • Hip-hop dance crew the Jabbawockeez (with bonus Shaq!); spelt doom for their competition.
  • The Phantom Killer, the still unidentified perpetrator of the Texarkana Moonlight Murders, wore a crude, creepy white mask during at least a few of his attacks.
  • The Ku Klux Klan, although their leaders often wear red robes and masks, just like the medieval penitents they eerily resemble.
  • The Guy Fawkes masks worn by Anonymous members and some Occupy Wall Street protesters.
  • Serbian noise musician Dead Body Collection adopts this as part of his stage act.
  • YouTube gamer Cryaotic is often depicted in fan art as wearing a rather nondescript white mask, as he has never shown his face on camera. Some fans have taken to giving the mask a horror twist with cracks, sharpened-toothlike features, and blood splatters.

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