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Masking the Deformity

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The Phantom, very nicely demonstrating the trope he helped create.

"Why are you wearing a mask? Were you burned by acid or something like that?"
Fezzik, The Princess Bride

When a character has some kind of mask or facial covering, in many cases, they're wearing it to cover up some serious Facial Horror. What exactly this is depends. It could be scars, some inborn deformity, or other, more gruesome disfigurements. They might wear it out of shame, or out of a desire to spare others from the effects of seeing their face.

This can be a Cool Mask; it can also be something more pathetic and pitiful. It also doesn't have to be a literal sculpted mask — veils, cloths, or paper bags serve just as well. Both heroes and villains can wear these. It can be shown to the audience from the start, or be part of a reveal during a Dramatic Unmask. It can also sometimes unclear they're even wearing a mask at first.

This trope was popularised in its current form by various adaptations of the The Phantom of the Opera, which has its central unchanging plot element a man who wears a mask to cover his deformity — the exact nature of which varies between adaptations. Very many of these examples below will therefore pay homage to it or its various specific adaptations in some way.

Compare Clothing-Concealed Injury, where the intention is always to hide that any injury even exists — wearing a conspicuous mask, as this trope often involves, makes it much more obvious that a person has a reason to be doing that. Inconspicuous examples of this trope tend to involve Latex Perfection — that is, not clothing. However, a case where a character has a plausible reason to hide their face — such as a knight's helm — but is later revealed to be doing this to hide injuries to the face, would be both. Compare also Hiding the Handicap and Hide Your Otherness, both of which also tend to involve far more inconspicuous means than a dramatic, flashy mask, but can still overlap in some cases, as above. Compare also Please Keep Your Hat On, which is this trope but for headgear, and Skin-Tone Disguise, where the concealment is to hide an unusual skin color.

Note that the character need not be wearing the mask specifically to hide their deformed face. Darth Vader is an iconic example of this trope, and while having a terrifying, skull-like visage helps his image much more than being a visibly burned, middle-aged man, he also has to wear it, or he'll die. Similarly, while Jason Voorhees covers his horribly mutilated face with a hockey mask, it's never specified that he's doing it to hide anything. That's still this trope.

Commonly subverted/parodied by having a character remove a mask that they claim hides a deformity that turns out to be very minor or nonexistent. This can be Played for Laughs to make the character look like a drama queen, or Played for Drama to show the depths of their delusion.

Examples below should go into a reasonable amount of detail on what, specifically, is wrong with a character's face. Doesn't need to be medical textbook levels, but it should avoid a long string of repetitive 'character x has a deformed face' examples.

Given the nature of this trope, unmarked spoilers below.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Berserk: After being tortured for months, Griffith's horribly destroyed face is hidden behind a beaked, birdlike mask. This is both a kind of Dark Reprise of his association with hawks and a Shout-Out to the Phantom of the Paradise. We're never shown what his face looks like in the manga or anime itself, only characters' horrified reactions to it; the damage is left up to the readers' imagination. What's left of his actual face is shown in an official artbook. It's... not pretty. The entire upper half has been ripped off. This is a real injury called facial degloving; do not look up photos of this if you want to sleep tonight. Once Griffith becomes Femto, this mask becomes his face; a very neat symbolic representation of his complete inability to move on from his trauma.
  • Dr. STONE: Downplayed. Suika initially wore her signature melon mask because there was apparently something about her face that she didn't like people seeing. It turns out that the only thing wrong with her is that she's very near-sighted and uses her mask to see via the pinhole effect (though taking it off causes her face to scrunch up, making her look like a Gonk), leading to Senku modifying it with glass lenses to help her see better.
  • Gundam: A few of the Expies of the character Char wear their Cool Masks for precisely this reason.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam 00: In Season 2, Graham Aker, aka Mr. Bushido, wears his Kabuki-style mask due to having burn scars all over his face, a result of having been exposed to GN Tau Drive particles from his last battle with Setsuna F. Seiei in Season 1. He stops wearing the mask by the time of the movie, as part of his Heel–Face Turn and subsequent Good Costume Switch.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans: In Season 2, it's revealed that, in addition to wearing the mask to hide his true identity, Vidar, aka a Not Quite Dead Gaelio Bauduin had sustained facial scars from his fight with McGillis in the finale of Season 1, which his faceplate mask helps to hide. After revealing himself, however, this becomes a Subverted Trope, as he no longer needs to hide his true identity anymore. In-universe, it's pointed out the scarring isn't so intensive that he'd ever want to wear a mask just to cover it up.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury: Subverted. Prospera Mercury claims she wears her mask in order to cover up severe injuries she sustained in a mining accident on Mercury. It's actually to conceal her true identity as Elnora Samaya, the Sole Survivor of the raid that wiped out the original Gundam program. It's also an interface connecting her to Aerial, which makes it a Double Subversion in the finale, where overuse actually has scarred Prospera's face.
  • Kanojo Wa Rokurokubi: Yocchii, heavily implied to be the Kuchisake-onna, is a kind woman who nevertheless really doesn't want people making fun of her stitched, scarred Glasgow Grin, and so always wears a face mask to cover it. She is really sensitive about it and initially refuses to help in the athletic competition for fear that it might fall off.
  • Kengan Ashura: To hide the Glasgow Grin he got as a child from Agito Kanoh, Minoru Takayama wears a mask covering the lower half of his face.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Rare Hunter/Ghoul Pandora/Arkana wears a mask to conceal his face after a magic trick went wrong severely scarring it. At one point, he takes it off to show Yugi the damage that was done; we, the viewers, never see it.

    Asian Animation 
  • In Happy Heroes, in Season 7 episode 13, Clown Monster hides his face behind a mask because he has facial paralysis that makes him unable to smile. He vowed to make everyone smile forever, donning the Clown Monster alias and using a gem on his clothing to freeze people into stone whenever they laugh.

    Comic Books 
  • This is Deadpool's whole bit, because he is hideously deformed by the cancer that has overrun his whole body. He wears an all-body suit all the time.
  • Fantastic Four: Doctor Doom provides one of the most famous non-Phantom examples, and also an interesting example of Playing with a Trope. In some variations of his backstory, he was horribly burned by an experiment gone wrong, leading him to cover his face; in others, his injury is incredibly minor, but he covers it anyway due to vanity. In the most famous variation, he suffered a minor scratch from an experiment gone wrong, and in his desperation to cover it, donned a still hot, newly forged mask, horribly burning his face.
  • In The Vigil, Blackbird's mask hides his extreme Ehler-Danlos Syndrome, which has left him with skin that is detached from the rest of his body.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Brainbent: In this AU, Calliope is a young girls who covers the bottom of her face with a decorated cloth mask (the kind that would become popular years later) to hide burn scars.
  • Danganronpa: Memento Mori: Luka wears a surgical mask to keep her Glasgow Grin hidden from sight.
  • Played for Laughs in the Red Dwarf fanfic "The Point of No Return" when Rimmer hides part of his face with a mask, convinced that he's permanently facially deformed after an incident with a vending machine. Lister checks the damage and finds that he only has a black eye and a small cut that will heal in a fortnight, Rimmer having overreacted.

    Films — Animated 
  • The eponymous character in Inu-Oh was born with various physical deformities and wears different masks to cover his highly disfigured face. Even as his body magically recovers from the deformities while dancing, he still wears masks to cover his face and it's only after his face is fully restored that Inu-Oh stops wearing the masks.
  • In Legend Of The Guardians The Owls Of Ga Hoole, the main antagonist wears a metal mask to hide his torn-off beak, earning him the nickname Metal Beak.
  • The Phantom of the Opera has two of these in the 1987 animated adaptation of the book. One is a blushing, mustachioed porcelain mask that looks oddly like a Guy Fawkes mask; the other is a more realistic blond man's face. His actual face underneath is more Ugly Cute than anything, though. His appearance in this film is based on the Lon Cheney version from 1925; in the art style, however, his ghoulishness ends up so reduced that the masks actually seem creepier.
  • Subverted in Scooby-Doo! Stage Fright, another animated Phantom adaptation. When the gang tracks down the Phantom in the sewers beneath the opera house, he dramatically rants about how he's needed to hide all his life to conceal his hideous face. Then he yanks off his mask... to reveal a completely normal-looking guy. It turns out that his only mirror growing up was one from a fun house, and he never saw his face in any mirrors when he went out thanks to wearing a mask.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Subverted in Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom. The Man in the Bamboo Mask is a Chinese prince who wears it to hide his hideous deformity, but when he takes it off, it turns out that said deformity is that... he's a natural blonde. He and the princess fall in Love at First Sight.
  • Beneath the Planet of the Apes: The mutant humans who survived underground appear to have normal features. Near the end of the movie, it's revealed that they're all wearing latex masks to make them look normal because their faces are horribly disfigured.
  • Darkman has the titular protagonist do this thanks to some horrible burns, but the material he uses for his synthetic mask disintegrates if exposed to sunlight too long.
  • In The Elephant Man, John Merrick is shown wearing a kind of capped sack over his head to hide his deformities.note  This was also used on the poster, to help preserve the surprise of what exactly he looked like.
  • Eyes Without a Face: Christine wears a White Mask of Doom to hide the mutilated face from the car accident that her father caused.
  • Friday the 13th:
  • The Golden Voyage of Sinbad: The Grand Vizier of Marabia, named heir to the throne after the sultan died without a son, wears a solid golden mask that covers his entire head. Below it, his face is nightmarishly scarred, with hairless, waxy skin, thanks to Koura the Black Prince setting fire to it, just to prevent the Vizier from becoming an obstacle to the throne he wants for himself. Towards the climax of the film, the Vizier takes off his mask to reveal his face and scare away the green men who are threatening to kill Sinbad and his crew, and at the end of the film, once Sinbad puts the "crown of untold riches" gained from the Fountain of Destiny onto the Vizier's head, the mask melts away into thin air, revealing that the Vizier's face is now magically restored back to its full healthier glory, along with a full head of hair and a nice beard.
  • Gremlins 2: The New Batch: One gremlin throws acid at another gremlin's face. He uses a Phantom of the Opera mask to hide his now deformed face.
  • King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem wears a metal mask in Kingdom of Heaven to cover the damage inflicted on his face by leprosy.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Captain America: The First Avenger: Johann Schmidt wears a Latex Perfection mask for the first half of the movie to hide the red skull-like face he developed from a botched prototype of the Super Serum that empowered Cap.
    • Black Widow (2021): Taskmaster wears a metal, skull-like helmet that fully covers the face. This hides the fact that she is Antonia Dreykov, who still bears the scars from Natasha's assassination attempt on her father, leaving half her face with burns and her eye discolored.
    • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3: At the end of the movie, it's revealed that the High Evolutionary had been wearing a Latex Perfection mask of his own face to hide his real one after Rocket brutally ripped it apart in a Rage Breaking Point years ago. His real face is an unsightly mess with no nose, eyelids, or lips, and very little skin left everywhere else.
      Drax: His face came off!
      Rocket: It's a mask.
      The High Evolutionary: Look what you did to me...! For what...? All I wanted to do... was to make things... perfect!
  • In Mystery of the Wax Museum, Ivan Igor's mask covers the burns he acquired during the wax museum fire that opened the film. The same goes for his counterpart Henry Jarrod in the remake House of Wax (1953).
  • Nope: Mary Jo Elliot wears a veil to cover her face, which was mutilated by an irate monkey that tore her lips off. At one point, it flips up, and we get to see her injuries in full. note 
  • Various live-action film adaptations of The Phantom of the Opera render the titular Phantom's — named Erik in most versions — deformities and mask in different ways. This article shows all of the primarynote  masks listed below for visual reference, along with the animated film and theatre versions.
    • The Phantom of the Opera (1925): Erik (played by Lon Chaney) wears a fairly lifelike mask with a cloth flap over his mouth. Underneath, his face is hideously ghoulish and skull-like, with no nose and barely any hair. This face — and its origin due to birth deformity — is very close to the novel's description, but also so absolutely nightmarish and real-looking that it caused cinemagoers to faint and left Robert Bloch terrified as a child.
    • Phantom of the Opera (1943): Perhaps as a reaction to the horrifying Chaney rendition, this version — with Claude Rains in the title role — is notably less gory. This was the adaptation that introduced the idea of the Phantom being Two-Faced, with what looks like livid but shallow burns across the entire left side of Erik's face, covered by a green mask with a butterfly-like design over the eyes and exposing his (undeformed) mouth. This was also the first adaptation where Erik was injured rather than born deformed — much like Two-Face, one side of his face was burned with acid.
    • The Phantom of the Opera (1962): In this version, the Phantom — here called Petrie — was again burned by acid, but the ultimate effect is something of a middle-ground between the two previous versions. His face is blanched ghoulish white with nasty bloody wounds in his skin all over, and one eye destroyed, with his skull exposed just below it. His mask is also noticeably creepier, resembling a scarecrow — it's been compared to Leatherface.
    • In Phantom of the Paradise, which serves as a Setting Update of the original novel, the Phantom — Winslow — is mutilated by a record press that again graphically destroys half of his face, causing him to cover his injuries with a birdlike mask that covers the upper half of his head. He also loses his teeth and gains metal fangs, but his mask doesn't hide that; he actually wears black lipstick to show them off more. It's... that kind of movie. This version became particularly iconic; Winslow's backstory and famous beaked mask is referenced in MF Doom and Berserk, respectively, and the mask — in a probable recursive Shout-Out to Berserk because of its context — makes an appearance in, of all things, The Owl House.
    • The Phantom of Hollywood, another Setting Update to The '70s, the Phantom — Karl — is again a case of injury rather than birth defect, having been disfigured by an explosion. He wears a kind of medieval executioner's outfit cum BDSM uniform, covering his burned face, which does not look particularly convincing or visceral when shown.
    • The Phantom of the Opera (1983): The Phantom, name again changed to Sandor, has a face disfigured by fire and hidden by two distinct but equally disturbing masks; both are eerily lifelike, one resembling a plague victim the other a face with livid red skin.
    • The Phantom of the Opera (1989): This is a Bloodier and Gorier version. Here, Erik (hey, back to the original name again, finally!) is played by Robert Englund, the actor of Freddie Krueger — like Freddy, he has incredibly nasty and bloody decay all over his face that resembles the end stages of a flesh-eating disease, caused by a Deal with the Devil gone badly wrong. To cover it, he wears a mask sewn together from human skin.
    • Phantom of the Mall: Eric's Revenge: Another Setting Update. In this version, Eric wears a close copy of the musical version (described in the relevant folder below), as he is again Two-Faced; this is one of the few versions to include the detail from the original novel that the Phantom's deformity extends beyond his face, with his burns (in this adaptation from fire) visible on his neck even when he's masked. Another Bloodier and Gorier adaptation; Eric's face looks less burned, more melted.
    • The Phantom of the Opera (2004): As a direct adaptation of the stage musical, Erik has its iconic half-mask; however, his deformity is much less severe than in basically every other version of the Phantom story (excepting versions where he isn't deformed at all). Theoretically a birth defect, he has a... slightly... reddish... and sore-looking... upper left face. Oh noo. Charitably, it's a toned-down version of the 1943 Phantom's deformity; memetically, it's 'a bad case of sunburn'.
  • Discussed in The Princess Bride. Fezzik questions why the Man in Black is wearing a mask, and suggests this as an example. He dismisses it, and says he wears it because it's comfortable. It later becomes clear that he wears it to hide that he's Westley.
  • Red Sonja: Evil queen Gadryn wears a golden half-mask over a sider of her face to hide the scar given to her by the titular heroine. It's quite a modest scar too, probably could've been covered with make-up, and definitely not bad enough to massacre Sonya's entire village over. Unlike with the 2004 Phantom's example above, this one works to underscore Gadryn's enormous vanity, especially when Sonya confronts her about the massacre, and Gadryn dramatically tears off her mask, revealing the shallow cut benearth and retoring that "Their lives were nothing compared to this!"
  • Star Wars: Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader wears his signature black helmet and mask to cover his horribly burned, hairless face and head. This serves as an interesting case of a multi-decade reveal, and yet another trope-popularizing example.
    • In the first movies of the Original Trilogy, A New Hope, it's unclear why, exactly, Vader wears his signature mechanical suit. In The Empire Strikes Back, we get a brief glimpse at the back of his scarred head before Return of the Jedi shows the full extent of his horrific injuries, and the suit suggested to be a life support mechanism; the novelisation also clarifies that his injuries were inflicted by lava burns. Eventually, in Revenge of the Sith, we see that Anakin was mutilated with a lightsaber and fell onto volcanic sand near a lava flow, being burned horribly in the process; the suit he was then installed in acts as a life support system, and he is only able to remove the helmet and live in specialised, controlled environments.
    • Notably, the original Star Wars expanded universe, now designated Legends, makes clear that Vader's suit and mask are agonising to wear; a hint of this can be seen in the masking scene in Revenge of the Sith, where nasty looking needles are plunged into Anakin's freshly burned face as the helmet is put into place. This is a rare example of a case of this trope actually acknowledging that having a mask pressed over a serious facial injury would probably really hurt.
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon: Megatron wears a shawl over his face as an improvised mask after half of it was blasted off during the climax of the previous film. He partially wears it to keep dirt and other contaminants out of the wound, as he's seen undergoing slow repairs before events of the film keep him too busy to continue treatment.
  • V for Vendetta: V wears a Guy Fawkes mask all the time. Judging by the burnt scars on his hands after removing his gloves, it is suspected that he wears the mask to cover his burned face which he received after escaping from the burning military camp in the past.
  • In Wonder Woman (2017), Dr. Isabel Maru wears a kind of "quarter mask" (covers the bottom right side of her face), cast in flesh-coloured plastic to replicate a mouth and nose much like Richard Harrow's mask; underneath, her nose and the lower half of her face have dissolved away, implicitly from a chemical experiment gone wrong. She ain't nicknamed 'Dr. Poison' in the comics (where she, notably, isn't scarred under the mask) for nothing.
  • Zoolander 2: Played for Laughs; Hansel wears a mask to cover a "hideous" scar on his face that he got during an accident. When he shows Derek just how "deformed" he is, the damage is revealed to amount to a thin, barely noticeable scar. Hansel only considers it hideous due to the importance he places on his looks.

  • The joke sexual classifications of women as single-bagger, double-bagger, and triple-bagger uses this and Brown Bag Mask. A single-bagger is a woman so ugly that you can only have sex with her if she has a bag over her head. A double-bagger is an even uglier woman, where you have to wear a blinding mask too, just in case hers falls off. A triple bagger is a double-bagger, but so ugly that you need to cover the dog's head so it doesn't lose respect for you.

  • The Belgariad: The evil god Torak, formerly a vain Pretty Boy, was burned on the left side of his body when he misused a Cosmic Keystone, destroying his eye and hand. He wears a steel Expressive Mask to hide his maimed face; his priests wear replicas as a uniform.
  • Subverted in Gaunt's Ghosts: Necropolis, in which the Chaos-corrupted besiegers are all Malevolent Masked Men. It's speculated throughout the novel what sort of horrors and mutations lie under their helms. Then one of the Ghosts tears a mask off... and goes half-mad with horrified fury to find out there's nothing different about them. It's just a man, corrupted utterly in soul without a blemish on the flesh. Which, in an Imperium that indoctrinates its populace that one can semi-easily spot the heretic or mutant, is all the more terrifying.
  • Heralds of Valdemar: The great mage Firesong horribly burns his face while helping to prevent The End of the World as We Know It at the end of Storm Breaking. When he reappears in Owlsight, he's taken to wearing elaborate masks to hide his burn scars—not out of shame, but to spare others the pain of looking at his rather scary face. Being an Agent Peacock, he makes the masks into fashion statements, designing them himself and coordinating them with his outfits.
  • The narrator of Invisible Monsters wears veils to hide that she's missing her jaw because of being shot in the face during a drive-by shooting then having the remains eaten by birds. It's later revealed she actually shot herself.
  • Kane Series: General Javro in Dark Crusade wears a helm with a visor that looks like a snarling demon's face. Underneath, his own face is horribly disfigured by burns.
  • The Phantom of the Opera: The original Phantom. Probably closest to the Lon Chaney example, Erik was born with a full-body deformity that left him looking corpselike; it's been suggested to have been congenital syphilis, which would also explain his erratic behaviour (syphilis damages the brain). In the book, he wears a black full-face mask to hide this, and in a scene replicated by most adaptations, has it pulled off by the girl he's kidnapped, Christine.
    Erik: Look at me! I AM DON JUAN TRIUMPHANT!note 
  • In Redwall, Slagar the Cruel (formerly known as Chickenhound) wears a harlequin-patched mask and cloak that covers his entire head, below which most of the left side of his face is deprived of skin thanks to the corrosive venom he was injected with following an attack by Asmodeus (which, Slagar being Slagar, he blamed on the Redwallers, since Asmodeus is no longer alive for him to take revenge on).
  • Rivers of London: Lesley May wears a combination of a hoodie and a face mask after possession by a revenant makes their face fall off.
  • The Saga of Arrow-Odd: Years after Arrow-Odd has ripped off the face of his archenemy Ogmund Eythjofslayer, he hears of a mysterious warlord called Kvillanus who has made himself king over Novgorod, and who always wears a mask. Odd travels to Novgorod and challenges Kvillanus to jousting. After three days of indecisive jousting, Kvillanus offers to make peace with Odd, and Odd is ready to accept if Kvillanus will reveal his true identity. Kvillanus takes off his mask, revealing that he is Ogmund Eythjofslayer, who has been wearing the mask to hide his mutilated face. It is implied Ogmund's motive is not so much shame or vanity but that he does not want to be recognized because he knows that Odd is still seeking revenge on him.
  • Subverted in the Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of the Yellow Face". Learning that his client's wife is making secret visits to a mysterious person wearing a yellow mask, Holmes suspects that this is the woman's first husband, concealing "some loathsome disease". He's completely wrong; the masked person is the woman's mixed-race daughter, who's been made to wear the mask so there shouldn't be "gossip about there being a black child in the neighbourhood".
  • The Wheel of Time: Balthamel the Forsaken wears a full-head leather mask due to an extreme case of Age Without Youth. No one ever sees the extent of the damage, but it leaves him unable to speak.
  • The Witches: The Grand High Witch of the World has a hideously deformed face that is covered by a beautiful woman mask.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Boardwalk Empire: Richard Harrow wears a Phantom-esque half-mask over the left side of his face, sculpted after the intact half of his face, to hide severe war injuries.
  • Cadfael: In "The Leper of St. Giles", the leper wears a heavy robe and cloth mask, hiding both his true identity and the extent of the damage from his illness. He lifts the mask to show Cadfael why he lets his loved ones believe he died instead.
    Cadfael: But there was one Lazarus who did rise again from his tomb, to the great joy of his kinswomen.
    The Leper: Is this the face that made his sisters glad?
  • Coroner: Subverted in "LGND". The head of Surmount (a major support group for individuals who had a near-death experience), Tim Whitman, always wears a stylish silver mask, officially to cover up scars he received following a near-fatal fall whilst mountain climbing. However, as Jenny and Donavon realise, the real Tim was murdered years ago, and the present leader of Surmount is a con artist who is impersonating him. This is confirmed in the climax when Donavon manages to fight him off and his mask slips, revealing his intact face.
  • The Continental: The Adjudicator of the 1970s is shown wearing a mask that covers the lower half of her face. When Winston guns her down outside the Continental at the end, the mask comes off to reveal that it hides the fact that she doesn't have any lips.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Magnus Greel, a war criminal from the 51st Century from "The Talons of Weng-Chiang", escaped to the 19th century through his time travel experiments but was severely injured due to its unstable nature. He takes to wearing a black mask to hide his deformities. When ripped off by Leela at the end of episode five, it's revealed half his face is melted.
    • Sharaz Jek from "The Caves of Androzani" is a genius who built the robots necessary to mine Spectrox but was betrayed by his greedy partner Morgus, who left him to die in the molten mud. Jek was left horrifically deformed and utterly insane, thus he fashions himself a black and white mask, then uses his robotics skills to build an army to take over Androzani Minor and stop Morgus from being able to extract any more Spectrox.
  • House of the Dragon: Over the course of the first season, King Viserys gradually becomes more disfigured from an unnamed leprosy-like illness. In the eighth episode of the season, he wears a golden mask that covers half his face while presiding over the royal court. Later that evening during a private dinner with his family, he removes the mask, revealing that one of his eyes and part of his cheek have rotted away.note  In this moment, he shows his true vulnerability to his loved ones as he begs them to set aside their mutual hatred and come together as a family for his sake.
  • Moon Lovers: Wang So wears a metal quarter-mask (covering the top right quarter of his face, unlike Dr. Poison's bottom right quarter) to hide the... comically minor cut scars his Queen Yoo gave him under his eye.
  • Parodied in the Night Gallery segment "Phantom of What Opera?", where the Phantom (played by Leslie Nielsen) drags a young lady to his lair. As he plays the organ, she rips off his mask, revealing his deformed visage. He angrily tries to strangle her, only to remove her mask — which reveals an equally disfigured face. After his shock wears off, the two fall into each other's arms in a warm embrace.
  • Charles Dance played the Phantom in a 1991 miniseries, The Phantom of the Opera (1990), which is a very unusual example of this trope, and an unusual adaptation of the book, in that his deformed face under the mask is never actually revealed to the audience.
  • The Punisher (2017): Billy Russo wears a mask after Frank Castle crushes his face on broken glass. Soon after, his fellow robbers start to wear masks, too.
  • Scream: The TV Series: Brandon James was born with a deformed face, which he wears a mask to hide. This becomes the mask of the killer, who may or may not be Brandon.


  • Malevolent: Kellin Holeman, a random individual whom Arthur meets and agrees to take a ride from, constantly wears a gas mask claiming it's to cover injuries he received during the "Great War." Whether this is true or not is never outright confirmed, especially as it quickly becomes clear that Kellin is quite out of his mind.

    Professional Wrestling 

  • We Are All Pirates' Revenge: Melvin wears a domino mask as his only item of clothing. As it turns out, he's hiding a scar across his left eye, which was inflicted on him when Captain Flamebeard scratched him across the face with the sharp edge of a Beast Blood crystal. This is a reference to Slagar the Cruel, another example of this trope who was one of the main inspirations for Melvin.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Vampire: The Requiem: The deformed Nosferatu Vampire Variety can gain the Merit "Unyielding Mask", a Mask of Power that bonds permanently to their face. That said, some choose a design that increases people's uneasiness around them.
  • Warhammer: Balthasar Gelt, the current Supreme Patriarch of the Colleges of Magic and head of the Gold College, wears a golden Greek-style face mask at all times. He only took to doing this after a mysterious alchemical lab accident many years ago, but nobody is quite sure what the mask (and his full body robes and gloves) covers. Some speculate his skin has turned to gold, others that he is horribly burned and disfigured, yet others that there's actually nothing wrong with him at all and it's merely an affectation. Balthasar isn't the sort of person one generally feels comfortable asking these things, and he probably wouldn't tell you even if you did.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Brother-Captain Tycho of the Blood Angels was the victim of a psychic attack by an Ork Weirdboy which caused the right half of his face to be frozen in a rictus grin. He takes to wearing a golden half-mask to cover this deformity, but it gradually chips away at his sanity until he finally snaps and succumbs to the Black Rage.

  • The Phantom of the Opera: Taking a cue from the earlier film adaptations, the musical Erik is Two-Faced, again due to birth deformity rather than injury; this allows his disfigurement to be covered by a half-mask, which is easier to for the actor playing him on stage to sing and see through.note  This half-mask in turn became very iconic and is often since referenced in other instances of this trope. The exact nature of the masked half of his face varies from production to production. One version notably even had the half mask be part of a larger mask that hid the entire head.

    Video Games 
  • Handsome Jack of Borderlands 2 fame wears a mask that looks like his own face, albeit of an obviously different skin tone to the rest of his head. This mask hides a massive scar in the shape of a vault logo that was given to him by Lilith, as revealed in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!.
  • In Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun, Kane wears a metal mask that covers half of his face to cover the burns from the ion cannon that destroyed his temple at the end of the first game. His bald head is still scarred on top, which isn't hidden. However, he also uses a visual filter when speaking to his followers that shows him utterly unharmed. In the expansion for the third game, he dramatically removes his mask to Brother Marcion, revealing that his burn scars have completely healed, which immediately causes Marcion to repent and become a loyal follower.
  • Crusader Kings II: It's possible to gain the trait "disfigured" through a variety of scenarios (i.e., a duel going wrong, being captured and tortured, medical treatment, etc.); upon doing so the character will automatically gain a mask on their portrait covering their entire face. You can upgrade to more decorative masks (for a heavy cost) in certain scenarios, which will help counteract the opinion penalties that come with being disfigured.
  • Darkest Dungeon: The Leper wears a metal mask to hide his face, disfigured by leprosy. When camping, he can remove it to heal stress, at the cost of stressing the rest of the party.
  • Subverted in Freedom Force. Shadow is a former fashion model who, after being scarred in an accident, hides her scar behind a hood and half-mask and attempts to eliminate all beauty from the world. When she is defeated and unmasked, it is revealed that her "hideous" scar is small and almost invisible; to everyone other than herself she is as attractive as she was before the accident.
  • Genshin Impact: According to books and items pertaining to them, hilichurls supposedly wear masks because they don't like it when they see their reflections. The real reason is that hilichurls are the mutated citizens of Khaenri'ah, choosing to wear masks to avoid seeing how disfigured they have become by the curses put on them by Celestia.
  • Donna Beneviento of Resident Evil Village wears a black veil to hide her horribly mutated and bloodied face. Good thing, too, because when the player briefly gets a clear look, it looks like this.
  • Tales of the Black Forest: Aiko Megumi is a Kuchisake-onna who wears a face mask to cover up her slit lip, which she got from a Loony Fan attacking her back when she was a human celebrity.

    Web Animation 
  • Madness Combat: Death Is Cheap for the main characters, but some damage remains:
    • Hank the protagonist starts to wear a bandana over his mouth in Episode 7 after losing his lower jaw in an exceptionally messy decapitation.
    • By Episode 4, Tricky the undead Monster Clown starts wearing a crude steel mask over his Undeathly Pallor and facial wounds. The mask gets damaged as Tricky gets more and more obviously inhuman; he discards it in Episode 7 after becoming a massive demon.
  • RWBY: Adam Taurus wears a distinctive white mask with red accents, which resembles the faces of the Grimm, and later a black blindfold, to cover terrible scars from having been branded like cattle by the abusive SDC.


    Western Animation 
  • Subverted in an imaginary sequence in the Arthur episode "Francine's Pilfered Paper". A man shows up in a mask, claiming to be the author of the article Francine plagiarized. However, when Muffy asks him why he wears a mask and if it's because he was disfigured by rage, the author clarifies that he just has sensitive skin, but he is filled with rage.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Downplayed. Zuko goes through most of the series with his scarred face uncovered, but when he dons the Blue Spirit disguise, the mask hides his scar. In fact, it was Zuko's scar peeking out from under the broken mask that revealed his true identity to Aang in "The Blue Spirit", since it is so distinctly linked to him.
  • Batman: The Animated Series:
  • Subverted in The Legend of Korra. Amon, the leader of the anti-bending extremists in season one, wears a full-face mask at all times to conceal the extreme facial scarring from his futile fight against a firebender who killed his family. It is later revealed that the firebender story is a lie, as Amon is a bender himself, and his scars are actually painted onto his skin and dissolve under water.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (2016): In "Bubbles of the Opera", Bubbles's face flares up due to an allergic reaction to makeup, so she wears half of a bunny mask over the swelled-up part as she adopts the villainous persona "Dark Bubbles".
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: After being maimed by whatever she did to gain her Black Magic, Shadow Weaver always wears a full-face mask. She takes it off before her Heroic Sacrifice, revealing an Undeathly Pallor, heavy scars, and partly missing lips.
  • Parodied in The Simpsons; in the Flash Forward episode "Lisa's Wedding", Martin Prince is left disfigured after a science fair explosion, wearing the musical Phantom's half-mask, although his unmasked half still has visible scarring.
    Martin: Not quite perished, my lady love, although some days I wish I had. [starts playing 'A Fifth of Beethoven' on his organ]
  • The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) episode "The Phantom of the Sewers" has a mysterious man running around the sewers while wearing a mask. When the Turtles meet him, he explains that he wears the mask because of an altercation where his business partner threw a chemical in his face, disfiguring him. At episode's end, he shows his disfigurement to the Turtles by taking off the mask. It's then that Donatello realizes that the chemical thrown in his face was paint. All he has to do is wash it off and he's good to go.

    Real Life 
  • Joseph Merrick, the famed "Elephant Man", wore a mask to hide his deformed face. This is depicted in David Lynch's 1980 film of his life story, wherein he was erroneously named John Merrick.
  • In the latter half of season 1 of Batwoman (2019), the Batwoman cowl was redesigned to better conceal the still-healing surgical scars that Ruby Rose had after an accident on the set.
  • The extensive use of these for men disfigured during World War I is detailed here.


Video Example(s):



Fizz dramatically pulls off his jester hat to emphasize the "real" him to Ozzie, revealing what remains of his horns are jagged stumps.

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Example of:

Main / MaskingTheDeformity

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