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House of Broken Mirrors

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Turns out getting turned into a monster causes many broken mirrors.

Mirrors are traditionally seen as symbols of Vanity since the beautiful and narcissistic (or just plain narcissistic) constantly stare at their reflection and adjust their hair, clothes, and makeup. A broken mirror isn't a simple reversal however, a symbol of ugliness and selflessness...but of ugliness and insanity. The mirror casts a jumbled and distorted reflection, with missing pieces and dozens of small, fractured copies (and probably a little blood on it) and is oddly silenced. It can't reflect back a true image, and anyone normal looking at their reflection will feel a little diminished doing so.

So what does it say about a person when all the mirrors in their home are broken, and all the pictures have their face clawed or blacked or cut out? Quite simply, they are not well.

Generally, whoever goes to the trouble of smashing all the mirrors in their home and removing or defacing all their likenesses has had some disfiguring accident or ego-destroying revelation. The destruction is a kind of "defense" against being reminded how "ugly" they've become, or how far they've fallen. Typical examples include: Beauty to Beast, vampires without reflections, and victims of a Forced Transformation. Where this can be especially terrifying is if the resident is normal, or even beautiful save for one tiny scar or flaw, and just thinks they're ugly due to decades of emotional abuse.

Friends or loved ones may have to use Cooldown Hugs, and other methods to get the resident to accept I Am What I Am and move on, though that's no guarantee. Compare Drama Panes.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Delicious in Dungeon: The first thing the party sees upon entering the Mad Sorcerer's house is a hallway with walls covered in all sorts of different mirrors, all of them broken. It seems to symbolize how the Mad Sorcerer's identity has been pared away by his patron, the Winged Lion, to make him a more filling meal. When another character replaces him, all the mirrors are renewed in a small-scale World-Healing Wave.
  • In Gunsmith Cats, one of the villains loses his right hand to Rally. He goes around his place hacking off the right hands of pictures and suits of armor.

    Comic Books 
  • In at least one appearance, Doctor Doom looks at his marred face in a gilt-framed mirror only to smash it. He then muses that once the world is his, he might decree to have all mirrors destroyed.

    Films — Animated 
  • In the opening montage of Disney's Beauty and the Beast the Beast shreds a portrait of his former prince self with his claws. Broken mirrors abound inside the castle, especially in the west wing.
  • From a short in the French animation anthology Fears of the Dark, there's a house where all the photos from more recent years have their heads cut out. But there is a mirror.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Night Flier: The vampire in the film habitually smashes every mirror he comes near.
  • Erik, at the end of The Phantom of the Opera (2004), smashes all the mirrors in his lair. Overlaps with Exit Villain, Stage Left.
  • Happened in Punisher: War Zone, Jigsaw, a villain whose face wound up looking like patchwork of skin, can't bear to look at himself in the reflection anymore because he used to be a babyface. His brother, Loony Bin Jim took it upon him to smash every mirror they come across.
  • In the movie The Skeleton Key, all the mirrors in the house are covered up. The reason for this is that the mirrors reveal the true form of the owner of the house, who is really a voodoo priestess possessing the owner's body. It also causes the old man to be even more stressed since the mirrors remind him of the body he is trapped in.
  • The Wall: Pink smashes all the mirrors when he trashes his hotel room.

  • In the Interactive Fiction game Bronze by Emily Short, a retelling of Beauty and The Beast, the heroine has moved all the mirrors in the Beast's castle into her room, at first to keep the beast away, and then, later, when she comes to know him, says that she'll keep them there because she knows the beast doesn't like seeing them around the castle.
  • Chronicles of the Kencyrath. James thinks that Lady Kallystine is Tantrum Throwing when she hears her smashing all her mirrors, but it later turns out she's the victim of a Magic Misfire that made her ugly (plus she's also throwing a tantrum).
  • Discworld:
    • Granny Weatherwax in Witches Abroad has a sort-of subversion of this—she goes around destroying or hiding every mirror she comes across, however, this is because her sister is watching them through the mirrors.
    • When she breaks Lily's own mirrors, however, this is played straighter as the jagged, fractured reflections symbolise Lily's insanity.
    • Hogfather compares Mr. Teatime's mind to a fractured mirror — "all marvelous facets and rainbows, but, ultimately, also something that was broken."
  • Eveless Eden by Marianne Wiggins. The love rival of the protagonist, a Romanian diplomat and spy, has a habit of removing all the mirrors in whatever room he's staying in (given his country of origin, this leads to the Obligatory Joke about Dracula). He eventually bleeds to death after he smashes the mirror in a safehouse and cuts himself on the shards.
  • The Malloreon: One sign that the Dark Prophecy is possessing Zandramas is sparkling lights moving within her skin. When those lights reach her face, she promptly smashes every mirror in her quarters.
  • In the novel Peeps by Scott Westerfeld, the Peeps in question will do then when they first get the virus.
  • Red Dragon: The fact that all the mirrors in the victim's house were smashed up leads the investigators to think the killer might be disfigured.
    • The killer's own home has the mirrors smashed, except for a large one he keeps in his weight room which he doesn't break the mirror because he gets off on seeing himself pumped up (he wears a mask so he doesn't see his face).
  • A slight variant shows up in The Stormlight Archive, where Shalash, one of the Ten Heralds (humans revered somewhere between saints and gods by the Vorin church and believed to have Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence millennia ago, but actually still around incognito) goes around destroying every representation of herself that she can find. Statues, paintings, murals... it's started to make the other Heralds very worried. in Oathbringer we have a scene from her point of view that indicates she does this because she doesn't want people to worship her as a divine being.
  • In Alexey Pehov's pentalogy Wind and Sparks the trope is played straight. Alenari rei Vallion, a beautiful noble sorceress, received disfiguring scars during a mages' rebellion. (For which she was nicknamed "Pox".) The only capable healer refused to help her. Alenari had a mask crafted from some precious alloy. She breaks every mirror that reflects her new face, earning her the title "Executioner of Mirrors". Her hatred is so strong, that she would rather break mirrors than save her life. On a related note: she is rumored to kill every beautiful woman she meets, which is probably untrue.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Interesting variation in The 10th Kingdom: the mirror in question was not smashed by the person looking into it, or in order to keep from seeing something terrible (it was a simple accident), and because of this it is no longer magical. However, considering the point this happens in the narrative (the smashing of the mirror itself keeps the characters from getting back to our world, their princely companion is losing his mind in the dog body he's been trapped in, and Virginia just learned (she thinks) that Wolf didn't love her and so she has left him), having the heroine see her shattered reflection in the pieces they've managed to gather is still extremely symbolic.
  • In Angel, the vampire who sired the eponymous hero, Darla, is rendered mortal again. Not a recipe for sanity — especially given her rap sheet. When Lindsey turns up at her safe house, he finds that all of the mirrors have been smashed. When Cordelia sees this, she confusedly points out that Angel didn't start smashing mirrors when he got his soul back. Angel points out that he doesn't have to look at himself in them.
  • Are You Afraid of the Dark?: In "The Tale of the Mystical Mirror", a girl visiting the house of her new employer (who owns a beauty salon) notes that there are no mirrors in the house, even in the bathroom. Turns out it was to avoid Glamour Failure.
    • She remarked on it, noting that the woman was vain enough to have photos of her winning beauty contests (including ones that are suspiciously too old) should have mirrors all over the place.

  • The Blue Öyster Cult LP Mirrors and its title track are all about this trope.
    A mirror, is a negative space with a frame,
    And a place for your face,
    It reveals, what the rest of us see,
    It conceals, what you'd like it to be

    Tabletop Games 
  • Exalted: The Lunar Exalted Ma-Ha-Suchi. He used to be a dashing, urbane bishounen who everyone desired (and not just the women), but centuries of hiding in the Wyld have warped him into a goat-man monstrosity. So now he set out to destroy anything resembling civilization, saying that they breed weakness. But of course the elder Lunars know his real reason. He also has a literal house for this, the Nameless Lair. Once the Salon Provocative, a wonderful temple devoted to the finest beauties of the First Age, Ma-Ha-Suchi destroyed most of the artwork inside once he got back from the Wyld, and only kept around a few things either because they were useful or they were enchanted not to break.

    Video Games 
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution: No, the mirror in Adam Jensen's apartment hasn't been replaced yet. How did it get broken, anyways? Probably the same way it got broken the last few times...
  • A House of Many Doors: There is an entire CITY dedicated to literally going to war with your own reflection. You're not considered a true citizen until your mirror reflection is a walking corpse, so the whole city might be made of mirrors but most of them are shattered. The Fetch-Mirrors obtained from this city allow you to slow-teleport anywhere in the house in two weeks at the cost of shattering the mirror.
  • In Little Nightmares, all the mirrors in the Lady's Quarters are broken. It's a hint that you need to use the one unbroken mirror, hidden away in a boarded-up room, to defeat her by shining light at her.
  • In Puyo Puyo! 15th Anniversary, Dapper Bones mentions having thrown away every picture depicting himself when he was alive into the ocean. When Lemres considers recovering these photographs via magic, Dapper begs him not to.

    Web Animation 
  • In Murder Drones, the Absolute Solver seems to absolutely loathe mirrors and those infected by it can't look into one without their powers activating to break it. note  As a result, Doll's apartment not only contains a mess of half-eaten drone body parts and her dead parents but also a pile of broken mirrors high enough to allow Uzi to escape into the air vents by climbing it.

  • In Alice and the Nightmare, Rougina's personal study has a broken mirror, in which the villains, Jabberwocky, are reflected. She's connected to them closer than she should be.

    Western Animation 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Azula's descent into madness starts with her primping herself in her vanity mirror, which she breaks after a hallucination of her mother Ursa appears in it.
  • The Smurfs (1981): In the episode "Hats Off to Smurfs", Vanity turns his own house into this when he sees how disfigured his face becomes after he started wearing a magical yellow hat created by Gargamel.
  • In Teen Titans (2003), Terra's betrayal is accompanied by a bunch of broken mirrors in a carnival. This scene is revisited in "Things Change", the series finale, when Beast Boy sees Slade, who claims that Terra chose to disassociate herself from him.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Broken Mirror Broken Mind


Hellen Gravely mirror

On the left side of the room, Hellen Gravely's mirror is shattered, foreshadowing her true ugly appearance.

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