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A character has unnaturally long rectangular teeth, often as an indicator of creepiness.

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
Arawn999 on Mar 12th 2019 at 11:10:35 PM
Last Edited By:
Arawn999 on Mar 16th 2019 at 2:54:53 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/nnoitra_jiruga_3.jpg
Smile for the camera!

Most human mouths have roughly 32 teeth of an assortment of different shapes, but not in this case. These teeth are unnaturally large, straight, and uniformly rectangular — bearing a striking resemblance to the ivory keys of a piano, and sometimes not even distinguishing where the maxilla's teeth end and the mandible's teeth begin.

Depending on how it's used this trope can be either Played for Horror or Played for Laughs — and sometimes both at the same time — but is always meant to look weird and offputting. When used for comedic purposes, this trope is chiefly a form of Sudden Anatomy cueing the audience in that the character — specifically one that doesn't usually have block-shaped teeth — is up to something; and usually sets up some form of dental retribution. In cases where it's played for horror, this trope is used to indicate at the very least that something is... off... about the person these teeth belong to. This trope is popular with the Monster Clown archetype, and is often paired with a Slasher Smile, some yellowing, and a bit of crookedness — all the better to better show them off while highlighting how uncanny the person who possesses them is.

A Subtrope of Scary Teeth that often overlaps with More Teeth than the Osmond Family. This style of teeth is often used as a sister trope to Tooth Strip due to its simplicity, but characters just having block-shaped teeth as part of the artistic style — without connotations of Uncanny Valley — doesn't count as this trope.

Not to be confused with a slapstick comedy gag trope common to Western cartoons where a character ends up with actual piano keys arranged like teeth in their mouth — usually as a result of having the piano dropped on them.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 

  • Attack on Titan: Several Titans have mouths sporting an abnormal number of identical rectangular teeth of varying sizes, further amping up their Uncanny Valley features. However, some Titans stand out in this regard:
    • The aptly named Smiling Titan has a mouth drawn back in a disturbing rictus-like grin, exposing every single one of her several dozen identical rectangular teeth.
    • The Attack Titan — when held by Eren Yeager — has no lips or cheeks, just a massive number of identical teeth set directly into its jaws; which prevents it from talking but comes in very handy for biting. As the series progresses, the Attack Titan becomes an antagonistic force, seemingly influencing Eren to turn on his friends and try to claim the other Titan powers for himself.
    • The Colossus Titan — who literally kicks off the series' plot — has dozens of identical rectangular teeth, though while enormous they're comparatively small to the rest of its body — amping up the Uncanny Valley already dialled Up to Eleven by its skinlessness.
  • Bleach: Shinji Hirako and Nnoitra Gilga are both drawn with long, rectangular teeth, and zero distinction where their upper jaw's dentition ends and their lower jaw's begins. The former is the enigmatic leader of the Visored — a group of Hollowfied Soul Reapers — and while creepy is on the side of good. The latter is a sadistic Arrancar and member of the Espada, and is one of the villains fought during the Hueco Mundo Invasion arc.
  • Gunnm: Desty Nova, a Mad Scientist who is completely unfettered when it comes to the depravity of his research, often sports this kind of teeth in a Slasher Smile when he talks about his favourite topics: Karmatron Dynamics and flan.
  • One Piece: The pirate Scratchmen Apoo is a comical figure whose Devil Fruit ability lets him turn his body parts into musical instruments. As a result, his teeth literally look like piano keys, and he can even produce musical notes by pressing them.
  • Tate No Yuusha No Nariagari: The Slave Merchant is a short, rotund man who styles himself after a circus ringmaster and constantly sports a too-wide grin of unusually rectangular teeth. His theatrically cheerful attitude belies a deeply sinister nature and serves mainly as a lure for potential customers and victims alike: he initially intended to enslave Naofumi; and eagerly offered to pay a significant amount to buy Raphtalia back upon seeing how much she'd grown, with the implied intent of selling her into prostitution.

    Comic Books 

  • The Joker is often drawn with too many too-long teeth as part of his trademark rictus grin, highlighting his nature as a psychotic and sadistic killer.
  • Norman Osborn is frequently drawn sporting a ghoulish grin as the Green Goblin, as are the other members of the Goblin clan. His rival, the Hobgoblin, stands out in particular, especially when drawn by Todd Mc Farlane.
  • Spawn:
    • In his humanoid form of The Clown, the demonic Violator is often drawn with these as an indicator that he's a) not human, and b) evil — whenever he's not just drawn with straight-up fangs.
    • Billy Kincaid, a pedophilic child murderer, is often depicted sporting a depraved grin with way too many uniform teeth — particularly in the animated series.
  • Venom:
    • The titular symbiote-augmented supervillain-turned-antihero was originally drawn with these before quickly transitioning into fangs, and some artists go back to this look for the sheer creepiness factor.
    • In Rick Remender and Cullen Bunn's run, Agent Venom briefly amalgamated the Venom symbiote with a derelict car to create the Venom Mobile, turning its hood into a mouth lined with far too many block-shaped teeth.
    • Cletus Kasady is sometimes drawn sporting a Slasher Smile with these — not counting his Jagged Mouth and/or fanged More Teeth than the Osmond Family as Carnage — to highlight his maniacal and nihilistic bloodlust.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Brave Little Toaster: The firefighter Monster Clown seen in Toaster's nightmare has a vertically too-wide Slasher Smile that bares not just his disturbingly long teeth, but a grotesque amount of gum tissue. Further amping up the nightmare fuel, he speaks without opening his mouth, just moving his lips around his teeth.

    Films — Live Action 
  • Laurel and Hardy: The butler from The Laurel-Hardy Murder Case — played by Frank Austin — smiles ghoulishly at the main characters after bidding them goodnight, with his teeth seeming to extrude as he grins at them. And when he closes his mouth his smile becomes all the more disturbing.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Mouth of Sauron is a man who — as his moniker suggests — serves as the mouthpiece for the Dark Lord Sauron, confronting and being killed by Aragorn before the final battle in The Return of the King. As part of his grotesque appearance, his lips have been cut off to reveal yellowed teeth that are far too long and look on the verge of rotting out of his head.

    Literature 
  • In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories: One of the illustrations shows a creepy-looking pipe-smoking man with a red hat and a green coat, terrifying the protagonist with his too-long yellowed teeth.

    Video Games 

  • Dragon: Marked for Death: The Ogres fought as Giant Mooks have lip-less mouths lined with blockish teeth, accentuating their hideous appearances. The first boss of the game — the Ogre Prince, and his father the Ogre King — are particularly cruel and sadistic, with their introductory cutscene being the former chowing down on a helpless villager while the latter laughs.
  • Fate/Grand Order: Rider of the Resistance — aka Christopher Columbus — is a depraved and sadistic Neutral Evil conquistador who has a number of sprites that show him sporting a "daring smile" — that is to say, distorting his whole face into a nightmarishly grotesque vertically-wide grin that exposes blockish teeth; a trait his Super-Deformed artwork exaggerates for comical effect.
  • Wario has large block-shaped teeth that accentuate his comically grotesque appearance, and even puts them to use in the Super Smash Bros. series.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Original 

  • Happy Tree Friends: While most of the cast sport these in addition to cutesy buck teeth, owing to the simplistic art style; Flippy the Bear stands out as an example given that he's a timid war veteran... until something happens to set off his PTSD and his Ax-Crazy split personality Fliqpy — who has fangs instead — takes over to brutally slaughter everyone he comes across.
  • Weebl & Bob: The animated song Scampi stars a rather paranoid man with red hair, an oddly-shaped cleft chin... and enormous yellow teeth that take up most of his face and don't move as he sings.

    Western Animation 

  • Courage the Cowardly Dog: The aptly named "Freaky Fred" was a Perpetual Smiler, always showing off his long, flat, white teeth, emphasizing his creepy nature.
  • Looney Tunes
    • This style of teeth is commonly used for artistic simplicity and comedic effect, and is often shown being used as doors, being shattered like panes of glass, and for other Cartoon Physics-laded slapstick gags. However, characters who don't normally have teeth like this — such as Sylvester the Cat, Wile E. Coyote, Daffy Duck (who shouldn't even have teeth in the first place and usually doesn't), and Taz (who is usually depicted with massive fangs) — are often depicted spontaneously sporting this style of teeth while being conniving or attempting to conceal a wrongdoing they committed or are about to commit. This sharp departure from their usual appearance is frequently used as a cue that they're up to something, and sets up the aforementioned dental horror gags as comeuppance.
    • In the banned World War II propaganda cartoon Tokyo Jokeyo, Japanese people are depicted with massive rectangular teeth as part of a racist caricature.

Feedback: 53 replies

Mar 13th 2019 at 12:31:47 AM

Off to a good start.

God, now I have the image of such a character in my head, but no idea who it's from, and with too few details to take it to YKTS... augh.

WAIT, I HAVE IT!

Heck, he could even do as a page image:

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/times_courage_the_cowardly_dog_left_you_deeply_di_2_13078_1422569055_37_dblbig.jpg

Mar 13th 2019 at 1:04:35 AM

Thanks! There's probably plenty of examples from Western Animation that are missing, too...

Mar 13th 2019 at 1:06:14 AM

I'm sure there are.

Just keep in mind that appearance tropes need special care to avoid bad examples, so be sure to make sure every example has the necessary context that shows the long teeth exists to make the character creepier.

Mar 13th 2019 at 2:23:27 AM

So the Rob Liefeld example is out, then? I spotted it in More Teeth Than The Osmond Family and felt it would fit here, though I doubt it was his intent to make the characters look more disturbing.


One thing I've noticed in Western Animation that a lot of Toothy Bird characters are depicted with this style of teeth, which crosses into Uncanny Valley because birds aren't supposed to have teeth in the first place — let alone a uniform array of incisors/molars.

It also seems to show up as a comedic trope in Western Animation, often paired with Grin Of Audacity indicating the character is up to something, or as a nervous grin.

Mar 13th 2019 at 1:41:29 AM

As for what pages this should be put under... Teeth Tropes, Scary Teeth, Smile Tropes, and Mouthful Of Index are the obvious ones. Any others?

Mar 13th 2019 at 1:52:52 AM

STOP! That image is definitely not fitting.

"These teeth are long, straight, and uniformly rectangular" - in that picture it's not uniform.

  • One Piece: the pirate Scratchmen Apoo has teeth that literally look like piano keys, and he can even produce piano sounds by pressing them.

Mar 13th 2019 at 2:31:02 AM

Found an image that better-illustrates the trope:

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/nnoitra_jiruga_3.jpg

Mar 13th 2019 at 3:10:49 AM

  • Examples section
    • Added the word "Examples".
    • Changed media section titles to All Caps.

Mar 13th 2019 at 3:28:19 AM

The title made me think of a cartoon character having literal piano teeth (black keys included) after a piano dropped on them.

Mar 13th 2019 at 9:02:37 AM

^ That occurred to me as well, so I left a little I Thought It Meant note at the bottom of the description. That said, having literal piano keys jutting out of one's mouth is a trope that should be on the wiki but doesn't seem to have been created yet.

If you can think of a new name for this one so as to leave "Piano Key Teeth" open for... well... having actual piano key teeth, please leave suggestions.

Mar 13th 2019 at 9:15:05 AM

Anime and Manga

  • In My Hero Academia has Perpetual Smiler and resident Butt Monkey Hanta Sero, whose teeth are frequently shown to be long and rectangular. His optimism and upbeat attitude ensure that they're almost always being shown whenever he's around.

Mar 13th 2019 at 10:01:35 AM

Somewhere in one of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels is a reference to a character with piano teeth - mainly white, but with very black ones regularly spaced among them...

Mar 13th 2019 at 10:14:07 AM

If you can remember the character's name and if they fit the qualification of having unnaturally long rectangular teeth, sure.

Mar 13th 2019 at 11:30:10 AM

Not to be confused with a comedic cartoon trope where a character ends up with actual piano keys arranged like teeth in their mouth often as a result of having the piano dropped on them.

When I saw the link, that's what I thought this was about. I'm kind of surprised that isn't a page here yet.

Mar 13th 2019 at 11:37:00 AM

Alright, new image does work pretty well too and I'll admit does fit every point on the definition, unlike with ol' Freaky Fred. Fair enough.

For a new name, maybe just a small word shift'll help? Something like "Teeth Like Piano Keys" maybe? Or just go for the straight-forward, "Creepy Straight White Teeth"?

Mar 13th 2019 at 12:15:57 PM

So... how important is the "creepy/unnatural yadda yadda" of this?

Because as an artstyle trope, it might be one thing (as Tooth Strip is, though it borders on an appearance trope), and it seems to be what the examples lean to.

But the creepy angle (which is theoretically more tropable) makes this essentially "Slasher Smile, but done lazily." And again, plenty of examples don't mention creepiness, villainy, or anything. Meaning there's trope decay a day after conception. Which is bad.

Mar 13th 2019 at 12:19:52 PM

^ I don't see how it'd be "lazy Slasher Smile". Rather, I think the reason the teeth would accentuate a character's creepy nature is that teeth like this are unnatural. It's not just "the character has a creepy smile and during this smile their teeth look like piano keys". It's an artistic choice that the character's teeth are designed to be long, white, and flat, much longer and flatter than typical in reality, making them look abnormal, which helps because the character is abnormal and creepy.

Mar 13th 2019 at 12:32:11 PM

It's artistic choice, but for a lot of the examples, the choice is that they're smiling creepily. The Loony Tunes example points out that it's just how the art style works. Any time you see anyone show teeth in Powerpuff Girls, that's how teeth are drawn. For Venom, it's just how McFarland draws teeth.

The "creepy" comes from the "giant ass grin" part, which is part and parcel of Slasher Smile.

Mar 13th 2019 at 12:47:03 PM

Again, not necessarily. Those are bad examples where the trait is just how characters in that work look. But that doesn't mean it there aren't legitimate examples where a character is made creepy because of their teeth. The Courage example I posted before is from a work where characters don't typically have that sort of teeth (Or I guess more accurately it's exaggerated in this case) so it makes Freaky Fred creepy by the standards of the work- while Courage does have other characters with "long, flat, white teeth", Freaky Fred's teeth are played up to be creepy.

... however, I'm starting to see what you mean by "the smile is what makes it work"...Freaky Fred might not be as creepy if he wasn't always smiling and showing off these teeth.

Mar 13th 2019 at 12:45:27 PM

This has happened to Wile E. Coyote at least twice, in the most literal way possible. In "Rushing Roulette," it is the result of the Xylophone Gag. In "Hook Like and Sinker," he plays "Taps" on his chops after another one of his falls (in which he is on top of a piano, even).

Mar 13th 2019 at 1:00:31 PM

"Block-Shaped Teeth" seems to work as an alternate name.

Mar 13th 2019 at 1:07:48 PM

Better, but you seem to be tacitly admitting this is a pure appearance thing and the creepiness seems to be incidental.

Mar 13th 2019 at 1:10:12 PM

The problem is, if it is a pure appearance thing, I don't think we'll be able to launch this. I suppose that maybe discussing it as a purely artistic choice where the artist draws teeth like this, and that with a creepy character it can have the added effect of making them look even creepier, could work.

Mar 13th 2019 at 1:21:38 PM

Hmm... Why wouldn't it be launchable? Tooth Strip exists as a "pure appearance thing", doesn't it?

Mar 13th 2019 at 1:18:55 PM

I think an art style trope and an appearance trope aren't fundamentally the same. There's inherently a reason art styles get used, even if the reason is "it's easier." I'd say we'd need a mod to weigh in, or bring it up in the Appearance Cleanup thread.

Mar 13th 2019 at 1:23:26 PM

Point taken that Him doesn't really qualify as it's not his teeth that are supposed to make him creepy, but I'd argue that cases from Looney Tunes where a character is suddenly drawn with huge block-shaped teeth work as examples — especially when they don't normally have them, like Daffy Duck and Taz.


As for the Clown and Venom, artists aside from McFarlane have drawn them with huge block-shaped teeth because it works to accentuate their creepiness.

Mar 13th 2019 at 1:25:57 PM

^ Right, but that's because they're following his character design. It's not the blockiness that's doing the heavy lifting, it's the giant grins exposing the teeth that lets you notice the teeth that's creepy.

Mar 13th 2019 at 3:08:58 PM

I think there's wiggle room on the "uniformly" — the point is that they're more uniform than actual teeth ever are.

And doesn't the general ban on appearance tropes have more to do with realistic appearances, like clothes, hair color, eye color, and things like that? Whereas with something like this, it seems like it's inherently a creative choice, whether for a single character or as part of a broad artistic style. I think there is a definite split between whether this being done for creep factor or comedy, but especially in a lot of the former cases, I think the answer as to which it is is simply going to come back as "both". It's that disconnect and accumulated association through cartoons and comics that creates the dip into Uncanny Valley when it's used in more realistic works, and that sense of the uncanny that can be exaggerated for horror.

For the latter, I don't think it's necessarily a "lazy" Slasher Smile so much as an overlapping trope. The Joker and Venom (and by that same token Violator/Clown) very much rely on the whole Monster Clown association.

I would say that cartoon characters who normally don't have teeth like this gaining them for a smile, gritted teeth, or other expression they don't generally make is more a case of Toothy Bird. Yes, even for non-birds like Taz.

Mar 13th 2019 at 1:39:39 PM

Hmm... I think the case could be made for two versions of this trope - one that's played for horror via Uncanny Valley, and the other that's played for laughs as in the Looney Tunes — though a number of those cases are meant to look creepy and disturbing.

Mar 13th 2019 at 1:43:38 PM

I'm pretty sure the Appearance Trope thing is less to do with what kind of an appearance trope it is, be it realistic or not, and whether or not the character's appearance is meaningful. A character's appearance isn't a trope. The reason I called this an appearance trope before is because, without focusing on the fact that it's an artistic style, it's just meaningless. There's no inherent meaning to a character who just happens to have blocky teeth, unless it's done for artistic reasons or if it's meant to show something about the character in question.

Mar 13th 2019 at 1:50:33 PM

I'd be more inclined to say that's the same trope Played For Horror versus Played For Laughs. It's always meant to look weird and offputting, but whether that's creepy or funny can vary. I don't know if you'd even need the soft split on the page, just so long as you note that it can be played multiple ways.

^ With something this exaggerated, it seems like it would kind of have to be done for artistic reasons by default, doesn't it? That's what I'm trying to get at.

Mar 13th 2019 at 1:51:03 PM

^ Sure, but that still needs to be mentioned in the description and made clear in the examples, lest we get a bunch of ZC Es that don't explain how the teeth are there for artistic reasons. Otherwise, people might just start adding examples like:

  • Show: Character X has teeth like this.

Mar 13th 2019 at 1:54:32 PM

Sure, that's what I was saying in ^x5 my previous post.

Mar 13th 2019 at 1:58:26 PM

^ Yeah, I can generally agree with what you were saying there, I just wanted to counter your point about appearance tropes. This is a tropeworthy idea, but only with the added context and purpose of it being an artistic decision, otherwise it is just another "Appearance Trope" no matter how unrealistic it may be.

Otherwise, we agree.

Mar 13th 2019 at 2:16:41 PM

Sure.

That being said, given that there does seem to be some talk about a separate trope for the gag where a character's teeth are replaced with actual piano keys, it might be worth trying to come up with another name for this. Wall Of Teeth? Flat Panel Teeth?

Mar 13th 2019 at 2:25:55 PM

Teeth Like Piano Keys strikes me as being a bit... wordy, though Wall Of Teeth sounds interesting. Hmm... Tombstone Teeth?

Mar 13th 2019 at 2:31:40 PM

Edit: Ahh, Tombstone Teeth, I like that. Has my vote.

I was also wondering if maybe the smashed piano teeth gag could be expanded to cover similar gags, like someone's mouth opening like a cash register.

Mar 13th 2019 at 2:35:25 PM

Alright, I changed the title.

So Piano Key Teeth (or Keyboard Teeth) should be set up as a YKTTW for the slapstick gag where a character's teeth are replaced by piano keys after said piano is dropped on their head... though you'd have trouble finding examples from media outside of Western Animation.

Mar 13th 2019 at 2:42:24 PM

I think there are already a few tropes that you don't see much outside of Western Animation or Comic Strips, and that's okay. There are definitely tropes that only really apply to Video Games.

Mar 13th 2019 at 2:48:01 PM

Yeah, it's okay if a trope only really comes from one medium, it would just be considered a Western Animation Trope.

Mar 13th 2019 at 4:53:20 PM

But why would you delete One Piece example? Apoo's teeth are natural unlike the "piano keys got into teeth" gag.

Mar 13th 2019 at 5:14:33 PM

I didn't delete it, I just commented it out until I could get more context regarding whether Apoo's teeth are played for comedy or creepiness.

Mar 13th 2019 at 10:20:05 PM

There was a scary stories book (with illustrations) about a kid who meets three creepy men, each with increasingly long fence-slat-like teeth. I wish I remembered what it was because it fits this trope without just being an artistic style choice.

Mar 13th 2019 at 11:34:02 PM

If you remember what it was I'll add it to the Literature section, which definitely needs entries. I can't recall if Iruoch from Widdershins Adventures has these or regular More Teeth Than The Osmond Family, just that he was a Humanoid Abomination with a terrifying smile.

Mar 14th 2019 at 4:56:53 PM

The creepy butler in Laurel and Hardy Murder Case episode.

Mar 14th 2019 at 7:00:09 PM

As somebody have noted, it's more about how the smile is drawn (i.e counting the whole face) as opposed to just the teeth. Like the smile in the picture, for example, could look like he has an overbite.

By the way, you be the judge: Rider of the Resistance from Fate Grand Order has a very vertically wide smile among his expression that gets exaggerated in his chibi artwork. Does he count here?

Mar 14th 2019 at 7:31:04 PM

I'd say old CC definitely counts here.

Mar 14th 2019 at 9:01:51 PM

Based on those images, definitely. They don't have to show these teeth at all times to be an example. The Joker closes his lips and even frowns sometimes.

And it doesn't have to be a smile, either. A grimace or snarl could show off teeth like this just as well.

Mar 15th 2019 at 1:02:03 PM

In regards to the book example I gave, I got it: It's In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories, an early reader book.

An illustration:

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/dirkzimmer_theteeth.jpg

The stories in the book are retold rather than made up, so this one may have basis in folklore. I'll have to find the book myself to see if there are any notes about where the stories came from.

Mar 16th 2019 at 1:24:34 AM

Any more suggestions, or is it ready to be launched as-is?

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