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"Why should false painting imitate his cheek,
And steal dead seeming of his living hue?
Why should poor beauty indirectly seek
Roses of shadow, since his rose is true?"
William Shakespeare, "Sonnet 67"
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A Forgotten Trope nowadays, but one that lasted for many centuries in western Europe: wearing any form of "paint" on your face is a sign of evil, particularly dishonesty, more to be expected of the Deadly Decadent Court or Vice City than any more wholesome place. Only an actress or some such disreputable woman would self-paint, which is why "painted woman" is not a compliment. The Femme Fatale and The Vamp obviously use make-up, as part of their stock in trade is unnaturally good looks. (The trope is rarer but stronger for men.)

Historically, many forms of make-up have been hazardous — such as lead-based or arsenic-based ones — so a woman who used them might sacrifice her health or even life, not to mention her looks in the long term, for a brief attractive appearance. At the very least, this was a sign that she was vain and foolish.

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The trope faded out as make-up became acceptable, with points at which heavy make-up rather than make-up, in general, was the mark, and the degree of evil entailed varies widely. The transition towards non-toxic materials also helped in this. Fastidiously-applied makeup might indicate a character is rigorous and strict, usually a trait found on villains or Wicked Cultured; a male character wearing makeup suggests a character who ignores normal gender roles, with a whole host of Sissy Villain and Otherworldly and Sexually Ambiguous readings that have stuck around even as attitudes towards gender have relaxed.

When the trope appears nowadays, it's usually applied to garish makeup. From the very beginning, Punk Rock and Heavy Metal have demonstrated that a painted — and usually male — face is a sure sign that a character is mean or crazy, or at least sinister.

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May overlap with Beauty = Goodness and Evil Makes You Ugly: only evil people would need to paint since good ones are naturally beautiful.

This often involved very heavy make-up in visual media, to make it clear that the character wears it, the alternatives being showing it being put on, having it run from tears or rain, or becoming lipstick kisses.

Due to the strong historical and cultural associations of cosmetics with femininity, a man who wears obvious makeup in present-day society (outside of certain specific contexts, such as stage acting or the circus) will often be taken for a Crossdresser, or at least be considered effeminate. This trope is thus (predictably) a staple of the Creepy Crossdresser archetype. By contrast, it is inverted by the Drag Queen, who entertains by cleverly subverting gender norms, and shows crossdressing and makeup as positive and fun things.

In real life, the trope is especially hard on Transgender people, who often need heavy makeup to be able to appear presentable as their preferred gender.

Sister Trope to Sensible Heroes, Skimpy Villains, Femme Fatalons, and Delinquent Hair. An influence on Uncanny Valley Makeup. See also Excessive Evil Eyeshadow, Beauty Is Bad. Monster Clown and Enemy Mime are extreme versions of this trope.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Berserk: Femto and Slan are the only Godhand members to wear red lipstick.
  • Beyblade
    • Zigzagged with Kai Hiwatari in Bakuten Shoot Beyblade, not to mention it overlaps with This Means Warpaint and Facial Markings. Kai is an Anti-Hero due to his strong desire to overshadow everyone else, which is a result of traumatic events in his childhood, and essentially puts him in a constant state of hostility. He's the only protagonist and one of the very few characters overall to wear facepaint, and a good portion of the others who wear makeup do so for cultural reasons. For a short while in Rising, he went around without his facepaint when he was forced away from beyblading by his grandfather.
    • Ryutaro Fukami in Metal Fight Beyblade is a member of Dark Nebula. He wears facepaint that holds the middle between feminine makeup and kabuki facepaint.
    • Kira Hayama in Metal Fight Beyblade Zero-G is a member of Dark Nebula Again. His only makeup is lipstick, but in combination with everything else flashy and feminine about his design it gains weight.
  • Demashita! Powerpuff Girls Z: The source of Sedusa's powers of imitation is make-up tainted by Chemical Z, and one tell-tale sign that she's around is that she smells like cheap makeup.
  • Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba: When in the form of a woman, Muzan wears heavy mascara and a small amount of lipstick. He also happens to be the first and most evil of the demons.
  • Fairy Tail: Ultear, Minerva, and Midnight all wear makeup, though in Midnight's case, it helps emphasize his Goth look. Noticeably, they all wear much less after their Heel–Face Turn.
  • Pretty Rhythm Rainbow Live: Ritsu Renjoji wears purple eyeshadow and heavy red lipstick. While it's later revealed that she's misguided rather than malicious, her perfectionism has brought a lot of problems to her daughter, Bell. Perhaps symbolically, she lacks her make-up both when they had a better relationship and in her reappearance after their reconciliation.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Ms. Chono is a Sadist Teacher who wears so much makeup it's practically a mask.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Batman (1989): Alicia is always in glamorous makeup, while Vicki Vale is (usually) barefaced, or at least looks natural by comparison. This is then exaggerated in the museum scene; Vicki is wearing hardly any makeup at all, while Alicia has painted her face white to disguise the fact that the Joker has burned off half of it.
  • Catwoman: The two main villains are the CEO and spokeswoman for a cosmetics corporation, and their Evil Plan involves an anti-aging cream that causes skin to rot if the user stops using it.
  • Elvira, Mistress of the Dark: Elvira checks into a motel and meets the cranky old motel owner. The owner's granddaughter then comes downstairs, only to be confronted by her grandmother and told that she will not wear makeup. Later in the scene, Elvira reassures the girl that she used to have the same problem with the nuns at the orphanage. Of course, she was only 8.
  • The Hunger Games:
    • Most citizens of the oppressive, decadent Capital wear heavy makeup (in the film, if not always in the book).
    • In the first film, it's practically impossible to see Effie's skin under all the makeup she wears. By the second film, although Effie's clothes are still outlandish, she's wearing considerably less makeup, showing that she's begun to identify less with the citizens in the Capital and more with Katniss and Peeta.
  • Little Shop of Horrors: Audrey wears a lot of makeup due to her poor self-image. She takes it off when Seymour convinces her that she doesn't need it in the "Suddenly Seymour" number.
    • This trope is more explicitly applied (maybe) in Audrey II's case, as it appears that Twoey is wearing lipstick [1].
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
  • Stations of the Cross: One of the most insistent teachings of Maria's church is that makeup, fashion, and dresses are self-absorbing topics that serve only to invoke lust in men and keep women from God:
    • The first scene sees the parish's priest mention fashion and dresses as a temptation established by the Devil to lead the people of the real Church astray.
    • In the second scene, Maria tries to avoid being in a picture to avoid thinking of her appearance, but her mother orders her to. Ironically, Maria's mother chastises her, not for lacking confidence, but for being too preoccupied with her appearance by not being preoccupied with her appearance. Faced with a family that will always see her as self-obsessed, Maria ends the scene on the verge of tears.
    • In the fourth scene, Maria's mother smiles and tells Maria she can buy a dress with stripes for her Confirmation as if that's somehow scandalous and cool for a mother to allow. She acknowledges that her standards are a little peculiar, but only in the context of decrying the fashion of the modern day.
    • In the fifth scene, the parish priest pushes for Maria to confess that she's been attempting to stir lust in a boy she's been talking to, even though Maria knows that's not the truth. Still, it confuses her enough to want to totally cut contact with that boy, who happens to be her only friend as she goes through suicidal depression.
  • The film version of Tommy:
    • Sally Simpson applies lipstick and eyeshadow after being seduced by The Power of Rock, which her vicar father certainly considers evil. She then attends one of Tommy's concerts, where she has her face split open by a policeman's baton, has a grotesque scar stitched across her face to close the wound, and then marries a rock musician and becomes a sleazy teenage mother.
    • Ann-Margret turns into a vain, decadent woman after she becomes rich, sporting excessive mascara on her eyes. She also wears a ridiculous amount of costume jewelry, which her son rips off of her after she converts to his new religion.
    • The Acid Queen is definitely framed as immoral and insane. This is emphasized by her demonic red lipstick on her Un-Smile. See for yourself if you dare.

    Literature 
  • All Spell Breaks Loose, by Lisa Shearin: Raine comments on how the princess probably would have looked just as well without makeup, and the villainess wears too much for good taste.
  • Another Note: Beyond Birthday is the Villain Protagonist and the only character described as wearing any kind of makeup. He's a notorious Serial Killer who acts more like a realistic Ninja.
  • The Blue Castle: Valancy had once tried to put color in her cheeks before a party by pinching them. This started a rumor that she had worn rouge, which, unusually, did not manage to sink her reputation, because everyone knew that dowdy Valancy Stirling could not be fast.
  • Cheaper by the Dozen: Frank Gilbert becomes increasingly strict with his daughters as they approach womanhood, refusing to allow them to cut their hair, wear stockings, perfume, and makeup, deeming all of the above as only worn by loose women. He doesn't mind it on his daughters' friends, though.
  • The notorious French couplet Egle, belle et poete, a deux petits travers: elle fait son visage et ne fait pas ses versnote nowadays, saying "you are a plagiarist and you use make-up" is ridiculous, but in the 18th century both were seen as equally dishonest.
  • "The Fatal Cosmetic": A woman who starts out flattering a poor performance ends up using a dangerous cosmetic, not disposing of it properly and then lying about it, so that it is mistaken for medicine and administered to another woman with fatal results.
  • Gone with the Wind: Melanie is admonished for acknowledging Belle Watling, a painted woman who was a prosperous town prostitute. Later, Mammy has a fit when Scarlett asks her to buy her some rouge, outright stating that only whores wear "face paint".
  • Her Father's Daughter, by Gene Stratton-Porter:
    I never knew Eileen to be honest about anything in all her life unless the truth served her better than an evasion. Her hair was not honest color and it was not honest curl. Her eyebrows were not so dark as she made them. Her cheeks and lips were not so red, her forehead and throat were not so white, her form was not so perfect.
  • The Jennifer Morgue: The Bathory PaleGraceTM makeup line carries a youth-projecting glamor and uses Virgin Sacrifice as an active ingredient. That said, thanks to stem-cell research and Post-Modern Magik, the manufacturers have cut the virgin blood down to just 14 parts per million, so at least it's efficiently evil.
  • The Last Battle: One reason why Susan refuses to remember Narnia is her obsession with makeup.
  • Little Women:
    • Meg is made up "like Cinderella" but it includes makeup — though she revolts at rouge.
      On the Thursday evening, Belle shut herself up with her maid, and between them, they turned Meg into a fine lady. They crimped and curled her hair, they polished her neck and arms with some fragrant powder, touched her lips with coralline salve to make them redder, and Hortense would have added 'a soupcon of rouge' if Meg had not rebelled.
    • There is no doubt of the evaluation since when later confessing to bad behavior at the party, Meg includes it:
      "Of course not. Don't I always tell you everything? I was ashamed to speak of it before the younger children, but I want you to know all the dreadful things I did at the Moffats'."
      "We are prepared," said Mrs. March, smiling but looking a little anxious.
      "I told you they dressed me up, but I didn't tell you that they powdered and squeezed and frizzled, and made me look like a fashion-plate. Laurie thought I wasn't proper. I know he did, though he didn't say so,
  • October Daye: In Rosemary And Rue, Toby's criticism of a girl who confronts her at Home mentions the overdone makeup — and how one thing she looked liked was a downtown whore.
  • The Paradoxes of Mr. Pond, by G. K. Chesterton: One character comments on the decreasing significance of makeup, but still thinks it shows something of character.
    we all know that making-up and even dyeing your hair doesn't mean what it once did; lots of women do it who are perfectly decent; but not those who are—well, utterly inexperienced.
  • Right Ho, Jeeves: When Tuppy and Angela quarrel, he says he disapproves of modern girls' habit of putting on makeup.
  • Rizzoli & Isles: Believing that Beauty Is Bad, Jane Rizzoli refuses to even wear lipstick to try and improve her homely looks. In the first novel, she visits a makeup counter and is so disappointed in the results that she outright declares that models ought to be shot for giving women false hope that makeup can make someone unattractive gorgeous.
  • Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Was Not: In "The Adventure of the Walk Out Wardrobe", Sherlock Holmes is explaining the odd actions of the victim and comments that because commercial cosmetics are associated with prostitutes and actresses, respectable ladies wishing to enjoy the benefits of makeup often attempt to make their own.
  • Skinny Legs and All: Buddy Winkler calls the protagonist a jezebel for wearing makeup and once washes her face till she bleeds.
  • "The Sword of Wood", by G. K. Chesterton: The stranger is known to come from the corrupt city by his face paint (and does turn to be, if not quite villainous, hardly a good guy).
    'His face is painted,' said Griffin. 'That is the sort of thing they do in London. And he wears a pile of false hair out of a barber's; and walks about in it, like the house of a Jack-in-the-Green.
  • A Tangled Web: Aunt Beckie puts on rouge before her last family gathering, shocking her living companion, but insisting on it. Then she orders Nan to wash off her rouge — over Nan's objection that Aunt Beckie was wearing it herself. Afterwards, Nan amuses herself by setting out to romance a young man to take him from his fiancee.
  • Twilight: In Midnight Sun, Edward goes on about how all the other girls in Forks are unwilling to do things like enjoying the rain because it ruins their makeup, with the implication that those girls are silly and shallow. Of course, Bella doesn't wear makeup because her complexion is flawless anyhow.
  • Viva Maria: Marie tells the titular Maria that her otherwise kind father once hit her when she once put on lipstick. This may be more because she put it on even though they're members of La Résistance, though.
  • In Xenophon's writings about Socrates, make-up gets mentioned twice: in a legend about Heracles being offered a choice between two women, one Vice and one Virtue, and it's pointed out that Vice was more white and scarlet than nature allows; the other when a husband finds his wife wearing make-up and goes to rebuke her, pointing out that she would not like it if he falsely showed her property that was not his.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor's Evil Counterpart, the Master, is often associated with makeup, with the Delgado and Ainley versions wearing heavy Guyliner, the Simm version being shown applying it, and Gomez's "Missy" incarnation using a makeup compact as a weapon, as well as often being seen applying lipstick or doing her nails. The Master's gimmicks are disguises and Hypnotic Eyes, playing along with the "beguilement" and "deceitful" part of this trope.
    • Male Time Lords in "The Deadly Assassin" wear makeup as part of their culture's ceremonial dress, but it's subtle or absent on the sympathetic characters. Runcible and Spandrell are barefaced while Goth and Borusa paint it on, and you certainly wouldn't catch the Doctor in white lipstick and eyeshadow (though this overlaps with Wardrobe Flaw of Characterization in his case — his own culture's clothes don't suit him for clear Rule of Symbolism reasons).
    • Men and women wear Uncanny Valley Makeup in "The Robots of Death". The makeup itself isn't evil, but the degree to which it's modeled on robots is suspect and drives home how decadent and dependent on technology Kaldor City society has become.
  • Downton Abbey: Mrs. Patmore is furious when she catches Ivy wearing rouge (no doubt to impress the chaps), and demands she scrub it off immediately.
    Mrs. Patmore: Not in this house, Miss Hussy!
  • The Drew Carey Show: Downplayed with Mimi. She wore infamously garish makeup for which Drew often mocked her, and she was often a grade-A bitch. However, the mocking was overall more because she was a bitch rather than the fact that she was wearing makeup. Given the nature of the show, a similarly painted but nicer character probably would have gotten much lighter and more good-natured riffing.
  • Horrible Histories:
    • The dangerous nature of 17th and 18th-century makeup has been touched on in a few skits. The ladies wearing makeup are just vain and oblivious to the danger, not evil, but the makeup itself is literally bad because it's got things like lead or arsenic in it.
    • In the Cromwell Christmas sketch, Oliver Cromwell says "Makeup is SINFUL!!" and "Especially that eyeshadow with that top".
  • Inside Amy Schumer: Parodied in an episode. A Boy Band appears to Amy and starts singing a song called "Girl You Don't Need Makeup", about how she should remove her makeup because she doesn't need it to be beautiful. As soon as she does so, the boy band literally change their tune, singing about how they were wrong before and Amy should put her makeup back on.
  • Murdoch Mysteries:
    • In "Till Death Do Us Part", when Eunice is first seen, she is complaining that she remains pale no matter how much she pinches her cheeks. Later, after she is revealed as a con artist and a murderer, she is applying bright red lipstick.
    • In "Painted Ladies", the male characters are surprised to learn even respectable women visit the cosmetician; the times are changing.
  • Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: When brainwashed, Dark Mercury is clearly wearing much more makeup, including Excessive Evil Eyeshadow. Beryl also wears a decent amount of makeup.
  • Orphan Black: When impersonating Sarah, Helena gives herself away to the viewer by the light red eyeshadow she hasn't removed.
  • Power Rangers in Space: One of the first things Astronema/Karone does after her Heel–Face Turn is to ditch her wig(s) and most of her makeup. The Rangers certainly consider it an improvement.
  • Rome: Octavian's propaganda machine is accusing Marc Antony of having been corrupted by Cleopatra and her decadent Eastern ways. "He blackens his eyes with soot like a prostitute!"

    Music Video 
  • Paramore's "Misery Business": As part of a Humiliation Conga inflicted on the preppy, evil high school bully at the end of the video, Hayley Williams wipes a damp towel across her face, revealing that she is caked in makeup. Hayley then tuts and walks away. Rendered deliberately ironic by Hayley's spectacularly dyed hair and flamboyant eyeshadow, but nevertheless.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • The Bible:
    • Queen Jezebel notoriously put on makeup before confronting God's prophet. Unfortunately, it didn't stop her from becoming dog food.
    • The Apocryphal book "Enoch" specifically mentions makeup as something mankind was not meant to know and a secret given to the world by sinful angels.

    Poetry 
  • Christina Rossetti wrote an early poem about a woman who fainted at a ball, but had not grown pale—did this woman paint?
  • The Flight of the Duchess, by Robert Browning: The Duchess used damaging makeup that ruined her looks.
  • The Rape of the Lock: Belinda's use of makeup is tweaked:
    Sees by degrees a purer blush arise
  • William Shakespeare:
    • "Sonnet 67" is a lament that people try to imitate a man's beauty with makeup, so that he is actually a corrupting influence.
    • "Sonnet 68" chiefly complains in similar tones of wig-wearing, but opens with the observation:
    Thus is his cheek the map of days outworn,
    When beauty lived and died as flowers do now

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Crush was an exception, he was clean shaven and clean faced when he was a surfing-themed face and then, when he became a Foreign Wrestling Heel, both growing a Beard of Evil and wearing sinister make up.

    Theatre 
  • Hairspray: Subverted. In "Welcome to the 60s", part of Edna's confidence-boosting makeup specifically calls for lipstick.
    Dontcha let nobody steal your fun/ 'Cause a little touch of lipstick never hurt no one!
  • Hamlet:
    • The Prince berates Ophelia (or, rather, all women) for being false in various ways, and through makeup:
      I have heard of your paintings too, well enough; God has given you one face, and you make yourselves another.
    • Later, faced with a skull, he comments on how it will not keep her alive.
      Now get yet to my lady's chamber, and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must come; make her laugh at that.
  • Titus Andronicus: Aaron derides the other characters as using paint — "Ye white-limed walls! ye alehouse painted signs!" — and cites his own black skin as preferable because it could not use make-up.
  • In Hamilton Peggy Schuyler and Maria Reynolds are often played by the same actress. Besides different color dress (Peggy wears yellow. Maria wears red.) one way to tell them apart is Maria wears bright red lipstick.

    Video Games 
  • Mass Effect: Inverted. For the most part, the turians have painted-on Facial Markings indicating which world they're from, a tradition stemming from a civil war between turian colonies a thousand years before the events of the series. "Barefaced" turians are considered untrustworthy, and the term "barefaced" is even used as slang for a politician. It's worth mentioning that all this is told through the codex, which is intentionally a bit of an Unreliable Narrator, and given that Shepard never sees any prejudice between turians in game, the stigma may have faded. It could also have something to do with the fact that the only barefaced turian consistently seen is Saren, and neither Warden Kuril and Joram Talid from Mass Effect 2 is trustworthy.
  • Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse: God's angels tell the player that makeup is the work of the devil. Considering how much of a Jerkass God is, one should take it with a grain of salt. Lucifer isn't much better, though.
  • Skullgirls: Fukua wears eyeshadow and lipstick in contrast to her barefaced and heroic original counterpart, Filia.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: Jaesa Wilsaam can turn out either Light or Dark-side depending on the player's actions, with the main physical difference being that Dark Jaesa wears purple eyeshadow and lipstick.
  • Yandere Simulator: The most made-up students are Musume Ronshaku and her Girl Posse, as part of their Gyaru Girl style. Of course, Ayano herself is likely to be Eviler Than Thou, and she doesn't wear any makeup at all.
  • In Final Fantasy VII Remake, male members of Shinra's elite forces, like Reno and Roche, wear makeup and have elaborate dyed hairstyles. Cloud, who styles himself as a former member of Shinra's elite forces, has a fluffy, flowing hairstyle and features intended to look like natural beauty.

    Webcomics 

    Western Animation 
  • Atomic Betty:
    • Penelope Lang is the Alpha Bitch and the only girl in school who wears eyeshadow. In contrast, Betty just wears lipstick, mostly while in her Galactic Guardian uniform, but she sometimes puts on lipstick for special occasions.
    • Betty's mother wears both eyeshadow and lipstick, but while she might be a bit of a neglectful and self-absorbed mother, she's not evil.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
  • In the fifth 1980s Strawberry Shortcake TV special, Sour Grapes' obsession with making the perfect perfume causes a huge, rotten-smelling cloud to form and threaten Strawberryland and the Berrykins, and she tries to capture and shake the scent out of the Berrykins to get it right.
  • Mega Man: A corrupted cosmetics robot attacks Roll and gives her a bad facial.
  • The Powerpuff Girls:
    • Him always wears a lot of makeup, and he's basically the devil with lobster claws for hands.
    • Mask Scara ran across the city covering everyone in makeup that wouldn't come off. When she came across Him, she dressed him in clown makeup.
  • The Simpsons: In the flashback episode that shows how Homer and Marge got together, Marge's mother insists she pinch her cheeks before high school prom to make them look rosier. When Marge asks if she can just use some rouge instead, she gives Marge this advice: "Ladies pinch! Whores use rouge."

    Real Life 
  • Adolf Hitler condemned the wearing of cosmetics by Nazi-era German women since it violated the "wholesome" image he wanted the women of his country to have. He preferred German women with their hair tied back, their legs covered, and no makeup—not "whores in Indian war paint." Consequently, American women in World War II were encouraged to wear red lipstick as a Take That!.
  • Caroline of Brunswick, being sent off to marry George IV, got a lot of grief for her appearance at the British court, including for her "painted eyebrow".
  • Communist regimes were also very heavily against make-up, especially in their more rigorous programs.
  • The term "painted lady" was an old euphemism for a prostitute, which people of the time would've associated with moral degradation. It died once The Roaring '20s rolled around..
  • Some religions discourage or forbid the use of makeup, on the grounds that either looking too good will entice others to lust, or that changing one's natural appearance is an affront to the Creator(s).

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