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Expressive Mask

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Robin must've swapped his usual mask for his custom "eyebrow raised" mask faster than 1/24th of a second.

"The turtles wear rubber masks as a disguise. But why do the mouths move? Those are some expressive masks."
James Rolfe, Top 20 Turtle Flubs

A character's mask is usually intended to obscure the face. In animation this used to also be a helpful cheat to draw something similar.

In order to look less wooden it is very common for the mask to become a character's face. The eyeholes and even the shape of the mask will contort seamlessly depending on the character's mood. At the very least the mask will move as if painted on. This is especially true when a character's eyes are not drawn while in costume.

This can even extend to eyeglasses (especially Eye Glasses) and similar accessories. The lenses of an expressive character become organic extensions of the body: widening with surprise, narrowing with suspicion, and scaring with shiny. Interestingly cracked glasses can autorepair thanks to this property between scenes. This is similar to Open the Iris, where the iris, not the pupil, widens and shrinks.

Even if the mask, helmet, or head itself isn't very expressive, you can still get a lot of mileage out of Disembodied Eyebrows. For other emotion-conveying clothing see Expressive Shirt. If a character has a similarly animated skull for a head, then it is an Expressive Skull. For a mask that perfectly replicates the face it's modeled on, down to expressions and emotions, see Latex Perfection.


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  • Commercials for the Jack-in-a-Box restaurant. The mascot's head is a giant ping-pong with a pointed nose and painted-on face, which always wears an expression suited to his tone of voice, though the actual transition only occurs when he's off-camera.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Daimos is a Super Robot, but he tends to make Oh, Crap! faces when Richter's forces give him a heavy beatdown, as to mimic his pilot Kazuya Ryuzaki.
  • Daltanious: Atlas is eerily capable of mimicking human facial expressions despite being a Super Robot. When he forms Daltanious with the lion mecha Beralios and the jet Gunper, he loses this ability.
  • A great example is Kinnikuman, where the main character and just about everybody on his Planet of Hats wears a skintight mask meant to completely replace his face. It follows each and every one of his expressions perfectly. Due to the series being primarily about Professional Wrestling, several other characters wear masks of varying properties (Mystic wood, crushed sapphire/steel alloy, etc.) that are likewise expressive, just not to the degree that Kinnikuman's is.
  • Alphonse Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist could be remarkably expressive with his helmet, despite the fact that it never moved (even when he talked; his voice came from inside the armor). He's actually able to blush visibly, despite being a soul bound to an empty suit of armor. The helmet only changes when he's drawn as chibi. Which happens fairly often — possibly because of this trope. The rest of the time it never changes. Most of his expressions can be seen in the way he tilts his head; when it's tilted back he can look surprised, or when it's forward he can look angry. Barry the Chopper from the same place also has an expressive mask, though his is made of bone instead of metal. Even so he can look surprised or angry when the situation demands it.
  • In Fushigi Yuugi, Chichiri's mask can change its facial expression like it is real face.
  • The villain Kain in the first Tenchi Muyo! movie had a face that resembled a mask (including not moving when he spoke) and which changed expression occasionally, though it seems to have been a part of his body.
  • Getter Robo has Stilva, a very expressive Humongous Mecha that mirrors its pilot's expressions, to the point that it even has a full set of teeth and an uvula. Similarly, all of the Ganmen and the titular mecha of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.
  • Boss Borot, the robot piloted by Mazinger Z's comic relief Boss, tends to be even more expressive than the human characters!
  • In Hetalia: Axis Powers, Turkey has this, combined with his nice hat.
  • Shinigami-sama from Soul Eater has a mask in which the eyes change shape from round and dopey to triangular when he is about to beat an enemy into the ground. And for a masked character who doesn't seem to have a body inside his costume, he also manages cross-popping veins and tears.
  • In Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, Inosuke usually wears a mask shaped like a boar's head, presumably skinned from a real boar, to portray his feral warrior nature. His mask is usually still like a dead animal’s skin should be regardless of what Inosuke is saying or doing, but during comedic moments Inosuke’s reactions will sometimes make the boar mask express his emotions through it.
  • Naruto:
    • Kakashi is a notable aversion of this: the entire bottom half of his face (nose to chin) is always covered by a mask and his right eye is covered by his ninja headband most of the time, neither of which moves more than they realistically would. You can usually very easily tell his mood from just that one eye and its eyebrow. The immobile mask thing has improved slightly with Shippuuden, so now we generally see some movement when he speaks.
    • Tobi's almost completely face-concealing mask is likewise immobile, and he mostly expresses himself with body-language or, after he reveals himself as Madara, a close-up of his eye.
  • In The Story of Saiunkoku, Kou Kijin's masks themselves aren't animated, but he has a wide assortment of them made by his friend and colleague Kou Reishin, and some of them are very expressive.
  • Averted by Usopp's Sogeking mask in One Piece, which never moves and generally hides his expressions to make him look calmer, but even then you can see his jaw sticking out from the bottom or his eyes poking out of the holes in a Wild Take.
    • Brook can do this with his skull head. This happens particularly often when he's in battle, when he'll often have angry eyesockets.
  • Arkana's mask in Yu-Gi-Oh! fluxes with his eyes. Since the mask is wider than his head, when his eyes are open large, it can look like Arkana's eyes are wider than his head.
  • Raideen: Raideen is a Super Robot who's metallic face tends to look sad or shocked from time to time. When Charkin commits suicide in front of everybody, you can see the shock on the poor thing's face.
  • Some Hollows in Bleach manage to be rather expressive despite the fact their face is essentially a bone mask. This is helped by the changes to the glowing pits of fear that are their eyes, narrowing and widening to help convey their emotions.
    • The star on Mask de Masculine's mask sometimes changes pattern. It becomes a question mark when he realizes he can't hear Renji, and then a light bulb when he realizes how to fix the problem. When he goes One-Winged Angel, the pattern changes again, and Renji actually calls attention to it this time.
  • In Skip Beat!, Kyoko's Bo costume (a giant chicken suit) is somehow capable of blinking, glaring evilly, and a wide variety of other expressions.
  • No Face's noh mask in Spirited Away is meant to be a complete blank and rely on tricks of lighting to convey mood, both as real noh masks do and to suggest his lack of individual personality. It winds up betraying some emotion, though, with the mouth and eyes seeming to tilt up and down slightly.
  • The Voynich Hotel: Alice's mask the "Rabbit of Truth" reflects her actual expression, being a magical artefact and all.
  • The female Saints from Saint Seiya, but the viewers have to look very closely at them to notice.
  • In Battle Spirits Shonen Toppa Bashin, Suiren has one, which tends to change shape depending on her mood.
    • Also used to the same effect with Zazie in Battle Spirits Brave, though he has a different type of mask.
    • Inui gets this as well in Battle Spirits Double Drive, with his mask at one point gaining swirly eyes.
  • Kedamono from Popee the Performer has a wide variety of individual masks with different expressions painted on them that he's able to switch between at the drop of a hat. One wonders how he's able to fit all those masks on his face.

    Asian Animation 
  • Happy Heroes: One of the standard designs of the citizens of Planet Guling in Season 6 is that of one wearing a stone mask whose eyes will move to match the expression they would be making otherwise, but not the mouths.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman:
    • Batman's mask can sometimes be seen doing this. For Bats it's almost always "brow furrowed." Almost. The appearance of this is explained by the live-action films: close-ups on Batman's face make clear that he's wearing eye makeup in the gap between his mask and the edges of his eyelids. (This is the most likely method for any live actors masked in the same style.) Except in certain close ups of Batman's face in the comics, we see that the eyeholes end around his skull holes and there is no black eye makeup. The moving mask could be explained as flexible skin tight material, or just artistic expression, a la the white eyes.
    • Another good example is Cassandra/Batgirl II's mask: Unlike Batman's it's full face and even the eyes are black, but they get a lot of mileage out of changing the shading on it.
    • Spoiler's mask is similar to Spider-Man and Deadpool below, complete with the cocked eyebrow
    • All the Robins have expressive domino masks, and Dick retains one as Nightwing while Tim moves on to an expressive cowl like his mentor as Red Robin.
    • Jason Todd (aka Red Hood) wears an expressive helmet in the New 52.
  • Destro in G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (Marvel) was a very good example of this, given that despite his wearing of a metal mask that completely covers his head, it was in essence "painted on", in regards to being able to furrow his brow, smile, frown, move his lips, etc. Destro's mask was played with in the live-action film where his severely burned face is turned to flexible metal through the Applied Phlebotinum of the nanomites.
  • Marvel Universe:
    • Spider-Man and Deadpool often manage some pretty goofy expressions even though they wear masks concealing their entire face. These are usually of the "cocked eyebrow" variety. Depending on the Artist, Deadpool's mouth can be seen through his mask, making his expressions even goofier. Most dramatic is when Spider-Man narrows his eyes. Somehow this makes the whites of his mask narrow as well. (During the McFarlane big-eyes era, this was particularly emphatic.) They experimented with this for the movie, but decided that it looked too creepy in live-action. However, by the Spider-Man: Homecoming Trilogy, it was incorporated — the mask was redesigned by Tony Stark to expand and contract the eyes as it adjusts to what he sees. Lampshaded in a recap issue of Superior Spider Man, where the in-character design sketch for the new costume's reactive eye-lenses has a note saying "lens can also be used for emotion!"
    • Also from Spider-Man, the Green Goblin, Hobgoblin, and Goblin Knight have masks so expressive and kooky that they could be mistaken for actual faces covered in makeup.
    • Like Batman, Black Panther's expressions are usually limited to his eyes narrowing to make him look more intimidating.
    • Both Iron Man and Fantastic Four villain Doctor Doom have masks specifically described as made of metal, yet both can show emotion when needed. The trick is the angle from which they're shown. Justifications exist: Iron Man is shown creating a faceplate for his armour that follows his own expressions, the better to intimidate his foes. In The Ultimate Super-Villains anthology, Doctor Doom's updated mask contains micro-servos that can mimic expression. He habitually keeps it locked in an arrogant scowl to better intimidate his underlings.
    • The Iron Man villain Madame Masque, Depending on the Artist. Sometimes her mask is essentially "painted on" (like Destro's), and moves with her facial features. Other times it's clearly a metal or ceramic mask that doesn't show any emotion other than from the holes for her eyes. In one story, Kate Bishop actually gagged her by putting a strip of duct tape over the mouthpiece on the mask, implying that it's normally movable.
    • The supervillain Taskmaster wears a skull mask that is quite expressive, to the point where his mouth seems to move when he talks. Depending on the Artist is will either contort with his expressions like a rubber mask, or rely on the expressions of his eyes if it's a harder mask. All-New Wolverine takes the "eyeblack around the eyes" method beneath his skull mask.
    • Citizen V's mask in Thunderbolts is meant to be featureless, but with reflections on it that just happen to resemble facial expressions. Sometimes it looks more like you can see the Citizen's face through the mask, somehow.
    • Although generally averted with Wolverine's cowl in All-New Wolverine, Ig Guarra has the eyes shift to fit Laura's expressions and mood in issues 10-12.
  • The Spirit has a domino mask that's very flexible and shows expression very well. In the movie, they got around this simply by making the mask's eye holes large enough so as not to obscure the actor's performance.
  • V for Vendetta: V's mask does not move, but lighting effects are used to make it more expressive. If you don't show the eyebrows, he looks innocently happy, but focusing on them makes him look more formidable.
  • In Fall of Cthulhu by Boom! comics, the Masked Mute IS this trope. Her communication is literally all the different expressions her masks make.
  • The Phantom. Arguably the Trope Maker since he's been doing it since 1936, four years before Batman and The Spirit existed.
  • Rorschach from Watchmen, whose Inkblot mask changes depending on his emotion at the time.
  • Emoticon from Welcome to Tranquility is something of a unique example. His mask actually always shows his true emoticons, and is effectively a proxy face for him, given a supervillain by the moniker of The Typist actually mutilated his face beyond recognition and rendered him utterly blind. The mask also has prosthetic eyeballs in it, allowing poor Emoticon to see. Understandably, he's got a bit of an attitude problem. Poor guy.
  • Heimdäl from Noob, whose mask looks like a normal face aside from being white.
  • A select few comic characters, including Mister Miracle and Mike Allred's Madman, really go the extra mile. They wear full-face masks with openings that are flawlessly molded to their eyes, nostrils, and lips, and that move/open/close freely along with them. For any practical purpose, their masks are faces, made of some miracle fabric known only to comic creators.
  • Whirl from The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye is a Cyber Cyclops with no face due to a horrific Mark of Shame ritual known as Empurata, which took away his normal, expressive face and replaced it with a single glowing optical sensor. In spite of this, he manages to to convey emotions like shock, skepticism, and even cheekiness with a single yellow dot set deep in a black void; he can even deliver quite a Death Glare by narrowing the... shutters?
    • Some other characters, such as Rewind, Chromedome, and Tailgate, have visors and faceplates, which shift to convey emotions. Tailgate's even vents energy sometimes to give the impression of tears.
  • Steel: John Henry Irons usually wears a metal mask that looks exactly like his face and moves the way his face would. A lettercolumn suggested this was either something to do with his mysterious superpowers (during a period when he could teleport the armour on and off, but didn't know how) or "really strong facial muscles". These days (the mysterious superpowers having long been abandoned) generally accepted that there's some kind of motor that detects his expressions and relays it to the mask, and the mask itself is surprisingly flexible in the same way that there aren't obvious joints on his arms and legs.
  • Plastic Man's goggles contort with his expressions, although this is justified since his costume was doused with the same chemical that gave him his rubber powers.
  • Michael Holt AKA Mister Terrific's T-shaped mask is a skin tight fabric that only covers his face and naturally moves with his expressions. At times it more resembles black makeup than a mask.
  • Parodied in Doomsday Clock when Rorschach’s inkblot mask (see the Watchmen examble above) briefly changes into a crude smiley face when he sees a plate of pancakes.
  • The Extremist Vector: Lord Chaos' mask seems to smile when he's killing people.

    Fan Works 
  • In general, more comedic fan art featuring the Pyro from Team Fortress 2 will make its gasmask expressive, since it is otherwise The Faceless. There is also a mod that does this to his/her/its model.
  • In Dei Fabula, it's the only explanation as of how people can tell whether Viole is smiling or not.
  • Invoked and justified in Amazing Fantasy. Peter built motors into his mask's lenses in order to allow them to imitate his facial expressions and eye movements. This is meant to soften his image and make him more personal rather than cement his Creepy Good credentials with those huge, alien eyes. The lenses of Izuku's mask also move for the same reasons, though they're slightly less necessary as it doesn't cover the bottom half of his face.

    Films - Animated 
  • The masks in The Incredibles are essentially dark patches on the characters' skin, changing shape as their features move and even covering their eyelids. Particularly notable in that when Violet throws one at the ground in the second movie, it bounces and keeps its shape. Given everything else their costume designer, Edna Mode, is able to make their costumes do, this might just be another feature.
  • In Hotel Transylvania, Griffin the Invisible Man is visually nothing but a pair of floating eye glasses that bend and distort with his emotions.
  • Aversion: The character designers for the animated film The Iron Giant deliberately gave the title character's head extra hinges, shutters, etc. so that it could produce facial expressions without cartoony contortions. The live-action Transformers movies are similar, with even greater detail.
  • In the Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf film Moon Castle: The Space Adventure, the Bitter Gourd King wears a sheet of paper on his face bearing the Chinese symbol "苦", meaning "bitter". This mask does not move for most of the film, but near the end the mask's mouth moves when he accidentally swallows one of Wolffy's tears of joy and stops being bitter.
  • Spider-Man: Spider-Verse: The masks of the Spider-People have eyes that move with theirs (and in Peter Porker's case, the nostrils too), except for Miles while he is wearing his store-bought costume. And when he wears his new, custom-graffitied Spider-Man suit, the eyes move just like on the other Spider-people's suits.
  • BIONICLE films:
    • This was actually the first and most important design choice of Creative Capers, the studio behind the original three BIONICLE movies — having worked on Don Bluth animated films in the past, they applied a similar style of exaggerated expression to the LEGO characters. The circular holes that held the masks on the toys were thus re-imagined as tube-like mechanical "tongues" that were visible when their mouths opened. They also added separate, articulated jaws to certain masks, which would magically detach or vanish when the masks were taken off. Characters who didn't wear masks also had bendy metal faces, and the Rahkshi/Rahaga heads were completely changed for the third movie to allow for expression.
    • In the fourth film, The Legend Reborn, the characters' helmets remain static save for their expressive eyebrows. Whenever Mata Nui (the only one with a classic Mask of Power instead of a helmet) is outside of battle, the mouth part of his mask folds away so his actual mouth can be seen moving. TLR characters also had lips made of a second row of teeth over their normal teeth that slid back and forth to simulate lip movement.
  • Mr. Earthworm wears expressive sunglasses in the film of James and the Giant Peach to compensate for his lack of actual eyes, as an earthworm.

    Films - Live-Action 
  • The skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts have angry "eyebrows."
  • Justified in The Mask (all versions) because the thing is magic, even if it appears wooden when not being worn.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe
    • In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ultron's main body has a moving mouth and eyes, allowing him to make various disturbingly human expressions. His comic self, by contrast, has a fixed, glowing red "smile", and was first seen as a malfunctioning Iron Legion drone that had been hit with acid, resulting in its macabre grin.
    • Spider-Man has retractable lenses that allow him to mimic this effect. This is justified by the fact his Spider-Sense risks giving him Sensory Overload whenever it activates, so Tony Stark crafted the adjustable lenses to let Spidey modulate how much he sees at once (beforehand, he made do with welding goggles).
  • The Deadpool movie uses an expressive mask, making this a first for live-action comic book films (since the Batman and Spider-Man movies usually eschew this). The look was achieved by using CGI to have the eyes appear to move whenever his expression changes.
  • Played for laughs in Scary Movie, where the expression of the mask worn by the killer changes between shots into anything from mad, to happy, to stoned.
  • In Scooby-Doo: Monsters Unleashed, the Big Bad wears an expressive metallic mask with eyes that not only change shape, but also colour, turning bright red when they get angry. In the end the villain is unmasked as Heather Jasper-Howe, and she is then unmasked as Jonathan Jacobo wearing a Latex Perfection mask. Jacobo was thus wearing an Expressive Mask on top of an Expressive Mask.
  • There were plans for the actor playing the Green Goblin to wear one in the first Spider-Man movie, with makeup and animatronics used to allow a full range of movement and emotions. The mask was scrapped in favor of an unmovable, Power Rangers-like helmet after Sam Raimi decided that audiences wouldn't buy that a simple rubber mask could move like that.
  • While for the majority of V for Vendetta movie V's mask is just a mask, several scenes have been digitally edited so that the mask moves very, very slightly. The idea was, because people are so used to masks not moving, if they saw the eyebrow go up an unnoticeable fraction, it would make a huge subconscious difference. And it did, obviously. Watch the mask just before the big fight towards the end. It helps that it already looks a bit CGI in its normal form, but watching closely you can see it move the tiniest bit.

  • In The Belgariad and its prequels, the god Torak wears a steel mask over a severe burn that shifts as his healthy face would. In his defense, he is a god.
  • In Castle Hangnail, Edward is a suit of Animated Armor infused with the ghost of its former owner. The faceplate of Edward's helm (and particularly the eyeslits) are sometimes described as showing facial expressions.
  • Roald Dahl's book The Witches gives the Grand High Witch of All the World a mask that looks exactly like a beautiful human face, moving perfectly with her own, which is ugly and scabby. The improbability of such a mask is commented upon.
  • Discworld's Death explicitly doesn't do this in the text itself. His skull is always described as "grinning". However, Paul Kidby's illustrations of the character can be pretty expressive. They still grin, but subtle changes around the "eyebrows" (or at least the place where eyebrows would be if he had them) play a big part.
  • The character of fallen and tragic Prince Gaynor the Damned turns up in several of Michael Moorcock's novels that feature an incarnation of the Eternal Champion. Prince Corum opposes Gaynor, and so does Elric at one point (in The Revenge of the Rose). Prince Gaynor the Damned is described as being sheathed from head to toe in metal armor which changes colors constantly, so that nothing of his body can be seen, and carries a great shield with the eight-arrowed star, the sign of Chaos. The colors that play over the surface of Gaynor's armor appear to change in reaction to Gaynor's emotions and moods. Indeed, Gaynor was cursed with eternal torment for betraying the cosmic balance and is unable to take off the armor on his own (although in one of the books, Corum rips off Gaynor's helmet and reveals a face continuously transforming in accordance with his status as a being of Chaos; his flesh seems to writhe like a mass of maggots). Gaynor is immortal (and may be unkillable, too, as he alone survives a wound from Elric's soul-sucking runesword Stormbringer), but longs only for death.
  • Accord of Worm is described as having a metal mask woven to match his expression precisely.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Tales from the Crypt episode "Only Skin Deep", an abusive creep goes home from a costume party with a shapely young lady - himself dressed as a pirate, her as a body bag ('artificial shell with a corpse inside' - tip off number one?) and with a slightly disturbing mask. Naturally, he doesn't notice that the mouth of the 'mask' and the eyeholes move when her mouth and eyes do, respectively... typical Crypt type 90's horror ensues. It's clearly makeup, but for plot purposes, no one has ever apparently put on corpsepaint in their life, god forbid for a costume party...
  • The puppet's sunglasses in the original Mahna Mahna video change shape to match his expression.

  • Sid Wilson (of Slipknot) wore a robotically-styled mask from 2008-2014 that featured a eyebrows that moved, using a mechanism controlled by Sid remotely.
  • Mystery Skulls: Lewis (the Fred Expy) in the Ghost and Freaking Out music videos has a expressive skeletal head as a ghost.
  • The change of expression on the rabbit in Moby's video for Beautiful could possibly be seen as this, depending on whether you interpret the character as being a guy in a costume in-universe or an actual Funny Animal.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Calvin and Hobbes - Spaceman Spiff, interplanetary explorer extraordinaire, wears a space visor that is more like a small square black screen perched on his nose, which somehow conveys all of his eyes' expressions. The standard expression is two squares, but he uses circles for alarm, a thin line for when he's squinting, and triangular shapes for when he's angrily blasting stuff. Justified as it is A. an advanced piece of tech specifically designed to do this, and B. imaginary in the first place, so obviously it does whatever Calvin wants it to do. For that matter, the Calvinball masks and Stupendous Man's mask are very expressive for pieces of cloth (the Stupendous Man hood, however, does white out Calvin's eyes in his daydreams.)

    Tabletop Games 
  • Exalted has a somewhat terrifying example in the Mask of Winters. He wears a mask that covers his entire head — one side has a diabolical grin, while the other side has an expression of sorrow and fury. You can tell what mood he's in by which side is facing you — and he'll always be facing you, as he can reverse every joint in his body at will.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons there's the Hat of Disguise, which can, when activated, become any type of headgear; thus, it could become a mask, the expression on which could be changed each round.

  • The Swiss theater troupe Mummenschanz play with, deconstruct, mash back together, and otherwise have all sorts of fun with this trope.
  • The masks used in ancient Greek theater had all sorts of exaggerated expressions, but averted this trope: they were fixed facial expressions that could not change. The actor used his note  body to convey emotion, and nothing else.
  • Other theatre traditions, including the Italian Commedia del Arte, also avert the trope with Greek theatre-like masks.
  • The masks of Japanese noh theater are made to change expression based on how you tilt your head.
  • An Expressive Mask can be created simply by drawing the mask onto the performer's face with makeup. As well as being cheap and easy, this method doesn't hide the face like an actual mask, which could otherwise inhibit the emotion the performer conveys.

    Video Games 
  • Ralsei's glasses sometimes do this in Deltarune.
  • Psychonauts: Not quite a mask, but Agent Sasha Nein's glasses are capable of changing shape with his expressions. He is psychic, of course, but that seems a rather trivial use of telekinesis.
  • The Shy Guys from the Super Mario games do this, at least in Paper Mario and Mario Strikers Charged.
    • Bandits also fit this trope to a T. The mask essentially is their face.
  • The human characters in Viva Piñata wear tribal-style full face masks that move and emote perfectly. However, given the cartoonish style of the game and related tie-ins, it's possible that these "masks" are their actual faces.
  • Legion in Mass Effect 2 has several articulated plates around his single eye, capable of approximating organic facial expressions like surprise or interest. The effect is similar to Iron Giant and Transformers mentioned above.
  • The mask Sly Cooper and the gang wear are quite expressive, Sly is never seen without it!
  • Monkey Island: Murray the evil demonic skull has expressive eye sockets.
  • Fain in Lusternia combines this with Not a Mask for creepy effect.
  • Bernard from the Maniac Mansion series has expressive glasses, as shown in the Day of the Tentacle intro.
  • Sissel from Ghost Trick wears a pair of sunglasses, which most of the time bend ever so subtly to match his expression.
  • The Raikov mask from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is notably able to blink (which makes it the first of its kind in the story), but its mouth doesn't move.
  • Many of the Super Robots from Super Robot Wars have flexible faces. Special mention goes to Valsione, which has a distinctly humanoid face that expresses the same emotion as its pilot.
  • In Socrates Jones: Pro Philosopher, the Arbiter's skull mask is inexplicably capable of making a ^_^ face.
  • The Zoraï of Ryzom wear Kami Masks of Discipleship, which, when seen in the character creation screen, can get extremely expressive at points; however, in gameplay the mask is static, making it a bit of an Informed Ability.
  • Borderlands 2:
    • Zer0, the Assassin class, has a holographic display in front of his faceplate that projects an image, typically an emoticon, correspondent to how he's feeling at the time and doing a task, such as ":(" when idle for too long, "<3" when reviving a teammate, ":D" when picking up a car from Catch-a-Ride, or "?" when looking at the map. His trademark "0" appears when he kills something with a melee attack.
    • Handsome Jack wears a mask that mimics his appearance prior to getting most of his face scarred at the hands of Lilith. The mask is just as expressive as his face was prior to putting it on.
  • Jack-O' from Guilty Gear Xrd -REVELATOR- has one of these, especially when she gets hit by Faust's infamous Stimulating Fists of Annihilation.
    • Faust himself is an example, only he does this with the single eyehole cut out from his Brown Bag Mask.
  • Watch_Dogs 2 has an interesting variation in Wrench, whose mask is deliberately designed to invoke this trope. The eyes use LED screens to display various ASCII characters, with the effect of simulating certain emoticons like @_@, >_<, and ^_~, depending on the situation.
  • Similarly with the protagonist of RUINER, who's entire mask is an LCD display capable of displaying text (which he uses to communicate instead of talking.)
  • In Life Goes On the Knight's helmets can be quite expressive. As most of them are quite small on the screen it's only really noticable on the intro screen which shows the King ordering knights into the portal and in the few cutscenes that are present in the game.
  • StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty: It’s very subtle, but the lenses on the Reaper’s gas mask move like eyebrows in his unit portrait.
  • Taokaka (and presumably other members of the Kaka clan) in BlazBlue wears a black mask with red dots for eyes and a huge Cheshire Cat Grin. Said mask is as expressive as any normal face, though, and she can even eat while wearing it.
  • Billy Kid of Zenless Zone Zero has a full metal mask on his face, with only his glowing eyes visible through a small slit. Despite this, the slit and his eyes are capable of widening, narrowing, and changing shape to demonstrate his many emotions.
  • The newest WWE Video Games have a handful of face-concealing "Halloween" masks that take on the expressions of the wrestler wearing them. This looks hilarious and somewhat creepy at the same time when you give one of them the Oni mask and see it yell in a panic along with its wearer as you trap them into a suplex.
  • Downplayed with Casey Jones in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge, since he never takes off his hockey mask (as usual for the '87 series). While not too expressive, Casey's mask has moments of emoting, such as Blush Stickers when he high-fives with other characters, and the eye holes going wider should he get flattened.
  • In Spider-Man (PS4) several of Spider Man's suit's, including the base suit include the mechanical lenses featured in the MCU version mentioned above, while the cell shaded suits on the other hand use a more cartoony version of the same effect.
    • Spider-Man: Miles Morales continues this trend with several of Miles' costumes. In addition, Prowler's helmet includes mechanical shutters on his eyesnote .

    Visual Novels 
  • Mr. Wolf from Halloween Otome will tell you all you need to know from his ears. And if not, then surely his blushing will do the trick...


    Web Original 
  • Strong Bad from Homestar Runner. In his first ever Strong Bad Email, he claimed that his mask and gloves were his face and hands. 161 e-mails later, he was "shown" removing his mask off-screen with a ripping noise, and making painful gurgling sounds until he puts it back on, after which he swears "I am NEVER gonna do that again!"
  • Parodied in Red vs. Blue, which can't do this because it's Machinima in Halo, where everyone wears a helmet. Even talking is merely head bobbing.
    • When the Reds see the Blues talking on the screens under the canyon, but can't hear them, they comment on how ridiculous people look because you can't see their emotion. While vigorously bobbing his head.
    • The directors even noted how the best character to try conveying emotion in spite of the mask is Carolina, given the smaller visor can be interpreted as angry when looking down, and sad when looking up.
  • Not in canon, but fans love to take the Pyro's gas-mask and deform it according to this trope.
  • Death 13's mask during the Death 13 mini-arc in Vaguely Recalling JoJo. Seen when Kakyoin is stabbing "Baby Stand" into his arm with a knife and when Death 13 is seemingly triumphant over Hierophant Green.
  • Quite possibly the most entertaining part of CollegeHumor's animated short Which Is Nerdier: Star Wars or Star Trek is just how impressively expressive they made Darth Vader's mask. And the NES Controller on his chest.
  • Kitten from Hunter: The Parenting is capable of emoting through a full-face ski mask and goggles. His mouth is visible through the mask when he's upset or angry, his goggles deform with his emotions, and the cat-ears on his hood move like a real cat's.

    Western Animation 
  • Not quite a mask, but many characters wear glasses capable of changing shape with their expressions:
  • Most Animated Adaptations of the characters in The DCU (and the Marvel Universe) have expressive masks; especially notable are Robin from Teen Titans (2003) (pictured) and JLU's Steel, whose mask is an immobile steel helmet.
    • Steel's mask shows his expression in the comics as well. A lettercol suggested it was either evidence of his superpowers (a Retcon that was later dropped) or he had really strong facial muscles.
    • Spider-Man shows in particular traditionally seem to love using the mask to not only show but also highly emphasize the character's emotions and expressions. Spider-Man: The Animated Series was fond of using the mask for expressions of surprise, including one instance where the eye-parts of Spidey's mask become so large that they take up most of his face.
      • This extends to the The Spectacular Spider-Man Animated Series, which also takes a lot of pleasure in the marvelously emotive full head masks of Spider-Man, the Green Goblin and the Chameleon. Green Goblin's mask is so expressive and kooky that it could be mistaken for an actual face covered in makeup. The Chameleon, at least, has a good excuse; his whole thing is being a Master of Disguise, and his white mask is designed to fit under various personalized ones.
    • Also noteworthy from the DC Animated Universe are Atomic Skull and Blight; both have exposed skulls (the latter because of transparant skin, the former because...well...) which tend to show a greater range of emotion than you should be capable of getting from a skeletal jaw and eye-sockets.
    • Music Meister wore a visor-ish mask that was detailed to look like a measure of music with a pair of one-eighth notes on it. It was quite expressive, with the notes functioning as pupils and the bar connecting them flexing like a mono-eyebrow. And, of the over a dozen costume changes he does in the course of one episode, is the one part that NEVER CHANGES.
    • The coffee-table book Batman Animated reproduces the official model sheet for Harley Quinn, which explicitly instructs that the top of the mask is intended to change shape with her facial expressions ("Think of it like eyebrows").
    • One aversion of this trope in Batman: The Animated Series is Page Monroe's completely unmoving mask in "Mean Seasons," which parallels her aversion to her actual face.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes:
    • Iron Man and Ant-Man might have a broader range of expressions with their masks than without.
    • Ms. Marvel can also express a range of emotions with her mask.
    • Black Panther's mask occasionally does this as well. Could be justified by the fact that he's from Wakanda, a country known for having extremely advanced technology.
  • Almost impossible to spot on Belphegor's mask, from the Belphegor TV series. His mask lacks a mouth and seems featureless, if slightly scowling. However, sometimes when he's upset the scowl seems to deepen a bit.
  • Downplayed in Bionicle: The Journey to One, where facial expressions were limited to subtle expansions of the masks' eye holes. Even when a character had an actual jaw under the mask, it didn't move when they talked.
  • Numbuh Two's pilot goggles from Codename: Kids Next Door. This actually applies to all the members of his family and their respective glasses as well.
    • To a lesser extent, Lenny from the same show. His football helmet isn't exactly a mask, but it covers his face and the mouthpiece has been shown to grin or frown like a mouth.
  • In Darkwing Duck, Megavolt's goggles change to match his expression.
  • Death gets one Expressive Skull in the animated adaptations of the Discworld novels.
  • Any time Fred Flintstone has dressed up full-body as a dinosaur or dino-like monster (such as in "The Monster From the Tar Pits," "The Masquerade Ball" and "Son of Rockzilla"), the mask acts as if it's a real face when Fred is wearing it. Also applies to other masks worn in "The Masquerade Ball" (including the bird mask Mr. Slate wears) and even the hunting trophy heads Fred and Barney wear in "Kleptomaniac Caper."
  • The titular Freakazoid!'s mask is a domino mask that changes shape along with his eyes whenever he changes emotions.
  • Filmation's Ghostbusters Big Bad Prime Evil had a robotic skull for a face/helmet; despite the fact that it was apparently made of metal, it could cartoonishly change appearance for a variety of expressions (but then, since he's already a ghost, this could be a Justified Trope.)
  • G.I. Joe:
    • In G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, Destro wears a polished metal mask which behaves in all ways like his real face would.
    • G.I. Joe: Renegades: This version of Destro is a subtler example, as only the parts surrounding his eyes move and even then it's so little that it's only ever shown in close-ups.
  • In fact, Hanna-Barbera used this trope a lot whenever a mask was utilized, especially if it was a Latex Perfection type of mask, but sometimes even with cheap plastic face masks.
    • But it's surprisingly averted in the Yogi Bear short "Bear-Faced Disguise", when Ranger Smith dresses up full-body as a polar bear to spy on Yogi so he doesn't steal any picnic baskets. Yogi even lampshades it...
      Yogi: I just don't trust anyone who smiles all the time, (imitating the polar bear mask's expression) and talks without moving his mouth.
  • Skeletor of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe is usually shown drawn with what looks like angry eyebrows for his eye sockets, but sometimes it turns out he can emote with his skull face, such as in this video where he manages to look glum for a moment before reverting straight back to his usual short temper.
  • The Hollow: War one of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse helmet completely covers his face, yet he can still be rather expressive with it a la Alphonse Elric.
  • On Invader Zim it's hard to tell that Dib even wears glasses; not only do they adjust with his expression but the frame is apparently wire-thin and there are no temples connecting them with his ears. Zim's fake human eyes and GIR's eye cups also adjust with their expressions, which is presumably Justified as alien technology.
  • Subtly done with Amon in The Legend of Korra where slight changes to his mask's mouth give a better representation of his thoughts.
  • The earliest animated use of this trope may have to go back to the Looney Tunes cartoons whenever a Full-Body Disguise (or at least a Latex Perfection -style mask) is used. Worth of note is this rubber goat mask Sylvester wears in "Fowl Weather," with the eyes and mouth acting like the real thing and a nice double take fully showing through (when Tweety blows his cover, not fooled by the mask.)
  • Miraculous Ladybug: Almost every Miraculous holder sports one while transformed. The masks are magical and are fused to their faces, so it's justified.
  • Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur (2023): The goggles the titular superhero wears are not only technologically advanced enough to mimic her eyebrows and lids, but also contain screens that use different icons to express with her as well.
  • ¡Mucha Lucha!. Seeing as all the characters (yes, even Rikochet's dog) are wearing masks and it would be difficult to portray their emotions otherwise, this is justified.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Barely noticeable, but Photo Finish and her oversized glasses certainly count. It's most noticeable during her interview with various newsponies about how she discovered Fluttershy as her next big star.
    • The Shadowbolts play it more straight. Rainbow Dash's Shadowbolt costume too, by extension.
  • Averted in The New Adventures of Zorro (1997), where Zorro's mask actually shows his eyes.
  • In an inversion, ReBoot's character Hexadecimal, a computer virus of an excessively chaotic and unpredictable behavior, had no facial animation for most of the series. Her face was a "drama mask", and her expression would always change on a cut or while her face was not visible (usually blocked by her hand).
    • Lampshaded in one episode where AndrAIa assumes Hex's identity. She sits in front of a mirror waving her hand back and forth in front of her face, watching the expression change and saying "Happy...sad! Happy...sad!"
      "INTRIGUED! I've never been more in touch with my emotions!"
    • In an episode where Bob actually removes Hex's mask, we see that there is nothing underneath. The mask is her face, and her expression is at the mercy of chance. This is why, in the third and fourth seasons, after Hex becomes sane and does a Heel–Face Turn, her face does become expressive and actually moves when she talks.
  • Rock, Paper, Scissors: The shades that Scissors wears change shape depending on his current emotion.
  • Rugrats: The Reptar mask used in "Reptar On Ice" is like this, with the mouth moving very realistically and the eyes blinking and showing expression, even though the rubber head is larger than the man wearing it.
  • Scooby-Doo villains can have expressive masks even when it's not logical.
    • It's a show with the main character is a talking dog. Logical isn't the best word for it to begin with.
    • Even as the franchise got more realistic and more logical, the expressive masks remained, probably because they've began to appear more in real life as well (see Real Life below).
  • In The Secret Saturdays, V.V. Argost's mask moves so well with his lips that you probably wouldn't think it was a mask at first glance.
  • The eyeholes in Secret Squirrel's hat change shape to match his expression.
    • In Super Secret Secret Squirrel (the 90's revival), Morocco Mole's sunglasses never change shape, but the reflections on them do (for example, turning into exclamation points when he's surprised).
  • In Staines Down Drains, Dr. Drain's gas mask manages to perfectly convey his emotions (usually irritation), especially via the eyepieces.
  • Pretty much every masked character in The Tick exhibits this, but especially the titular character.
  • The goggles that Time Squad officers wear in Time Squad act in this way. The easiest example would be Buck Tuddrussel.
  • Total Drama:
    • In "Super Hero-ld", Pythonicus (Chef) and Dander Boy (a cat) wear masks that overtly move along with their facial expressions.
    • The Peruvian Zing-Zings in "The Am-AH-Zon Race" wear large wooden masks with a third eye way up above head height. For the most part, these masks are stiff, but whenever the Zing-Zings are seated at the campfire all three eyes gaze in whatever direction is of interest.
  • Most Transformers faces were like this. Despite being made of metal, they would easily slide into various facial expressions. This even happened in Beast Wars, in which the character in question may not even have a mouth.
    • Taken to an extreme with Transformers: Animated Shockwave, who has no facial features at all. Well, when he's not in Longarm Prime mode. All he has is a red circle as an optic sensor in the middle of his dark face, but it changes shape subtly according to his moods the way the other characters' optic sensors do.
    • Averted in the Live-Action Adaptation, in the same way as The Iron Giant (see above) did.
    • Transformers cartoons employ this trope heavily because the alternative, especially when not well designed, comes off quite badly. The stiff and primitive CGI of Transformers: Energon is notorious within the fandom for turning almost all facial expressions into Dull Surprise thanks to a lack of expressive features.
    • Soundwave in Transformers: Prime uses his completely blank face as a video display. While he still doesn't emote much, this allows him to be The Quiet One as well: he doesn't need to say that he's downloading data, he can just display a progress bar, and he can mock the heroes by showing emoticons rather than insulting them verbally. This quiet, faceless presence makes him possibly the creepiest take on Soundwave in the Transformers mythos.
  • The Monarch henchmen in The Venture Brothers wear goggles that blink and move like real eyes.
    • Though in commentary for the Season 1 DVD, either Doc Hammer or Jackson Publick mentioned that they hated blinking goggles.
  • In Wakfu, Nox's mask has shutters that act as eyelids. However, more often than not, we get the full unsettling effect of those unblinking glowing eyes.
  • Some of the villains that wear masks in WordGirl can move to change emotions.

    Real Life 
  • Many high-quality full-head silicone and latex masks (particularly those made by SPFX Masks, Composite Effects, Immortal Masks and Greyland Productions) are capable of having somewhat-to-hyper realistic mouth movement and facial expressions, bringing Latex Perfection to real life.
    • There have been some experiments merging silicone/latex masks with mild animatronics that mimic the facial movements of the actor portraying the character (using things like chin straps), theoretically allowing for expressive masks that are further removed from Rubber Forehead Aliens that don't require separate animatronic performers. This was notably used in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace for Nute Gunray, and while the mask itself was of high quality and believable, the lip syncing with the actor was made fun of (doubly ironic because Gunray was already a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Japan regarding clothing and accent, making him look like a badly dubbed anime). Later movies used CG or actual animatronics to get a better performance.
  • John Rhys-Davis gave a lengthy talk on how to enact this trope in the Lord of the Rings extended edition documentaries. Acting through the prosthetics requires extensive overexaggeration. Jim Carry had similar discussion about how to make the Grinch prosthetic work, which you can truly appreciate in footage of the make up artists wearing the costume while testing it out, and it looked completely wooden in comparison to Carry's performance.


The Inflatabutt

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