A character who was underwater (usually a woman with long hair) emerging in a massive splash, bending their spine and throwing their head back in a way that makes all to almost all of their hair flip backward and fling some water droplets from the splash over themselves in an arc, occasionally having their eyes shut and mouth hanging open.
While some examples existed before, Princess Ariel from The Little Mermaid is without a doubt THE Trope Codifier. The visual of Ariel striking this pose became one of Ariel's most famous moments and basically guaranteed that it would forever be associated with mermaids. Ironically, when Ariel performed this hair flip/splash combination she wasn't a mermaid. It was when Ariel was turned human for the first time and emerged from the ocean after almost drowning. This is why characters having their eyes shut and mouth hanging open like they're struggling to breathe is often part of this pose, even if it doesn't make much sense like when it's a creature who can breathe air AND water.
This is not an uncommon pose to see in scenarios involving water for a lot of reasons.
- It's a very striking visual that grabs your attention easily, with a character just suddenly emerging from a body of water, and the flying droplets caused by the splash and caught by the hair looking rather sparkly if caught by a light source. A great way to make a character the center of attention in a shot.
- It could be used as a way to imply or emphasize that something magical is going on, like a character just transformed in some way or that a character has powers of the "Making a Splash" sort, with the water almost seeming to perfectly compliment their movements.
- It could be used for dramatic effect, like to show that a character almost drowned or barely escaped from some kind of danger in the water. The abruptness of a character emerging from the water like this could add some nice shock value akin to a Jumpscare.
- If it's an older character doing this, it can make an excellent Sexy Surfacing Shot , often for women but it has been used for other genders as well. Due to the way it's executed, it makes the face visible, the hair looks dynamic, pushes out the chest and rear, and can even show off a character's legs depending on how far out of the water they are. It helps that the general body language of this note can heavily invoke a stereotypical Immodest Orgasm in an elegant and tasteful way as the character in question isn't doing anything that's actually sexual in nature. Occasionally, depending on how much clothing (or lack of) a character is wearing, Censor Shadow will be used, which makes the shot invoke something akin to a Sexy Silhouette. May also be combined with the attention-grabbing aspects to create an In-Universe Distracted by the Sexy moment. Common in scenes involving a Waterfall Shower and/or Skinny Dipping.
- It is occasionally used in parodies of works like The Little Mermaid, sometimes with a twist, like the hair not moving as intended or someone using something that isn't their hair (like a beard) or making fun of the Fanservice aspects of this pose by having it be done by a conventionally unattractive character.
- It's also an effective way of getting one's hair off the face and out of the eyes when surfacing.
In the instances where this is played for Fanservice, this counts as a Sub-Trope of Sexy Surfacing Shot for when a character who was subermged underwater gets out of the water in a way that is meant to draw the audience and/or other InUniverse character's attention to their physical attractiveness.
- Go! Princess Pretty Cure: In the transformation sequence of Cure Mermaid, she bends backward and pulls her now longer hair out of a blob of water, splashing it away. It's also worth noting that this Power Makes Your Hair Grow moment (which the series usually shows from the front, the back, or all-around) is shown from the side.
- Sailor Moon Crystal: The first time we see Michiru she is swimming in her apartment and climbs out of the pool while throwing her head back in this fashion.
- This is a pretty common pose for Aspen Matthews to strike in Fathom. Due to her Making a Splash powers, it is likely that she is manipulating water around her to make these poses look as dynamic as they are.
- In Gen¹³: Rainmaker does this when surfacing out of the water while Skinny Dipping in front of her teammates.
- Starfire once struck this pose in Red Hood and the Outlaws . Her red hair combined with her purple outfit actually makes her bear something of a resemblance to Ariel herself while she's doing it.
- The most famous example of all occurs in The Little Mermaid, where a human Ariel emerges from the sea and desperately gasps for air after almost drowning in Ursula's lair. Alongside Ariel as a mermaid singing "Part of Your World" on a rock with waves crashing behind her, this is arguably Princess Ariel's most iconic moment.
- The sequel shows Ariel's daughter, Melody, strike a similar pose at the beginning of the movie while she's swimming in the ocean.
- After Mulan jumps into the lake, she resurfaces throws her hair in an arc, droplets flying everywhere. Though unlike many cases of the trope, she's just happy doing it.
- In Ralph Breaks the Internet as a callback to this famous moment, Ariel (once again as a human, not a mermaid) happily performs her signature hair flip and gasp for breath near the end of the film. This time it's done as a head-to-toe full-body shot of Ariel with a brief slowdown effect so you can really take it in. Notably, Ariel making the biggest splash possible and getting water everywhere is important to the context of the scene as she needs to make sure the top of Moana's water pillar is a certain shape so Elsa can freeze it to create an ice slide that helps save Ralph.
- Wonder Woman (2009): After Deimos throws Diana into a fountain, she's seen throwing her hair in a backward arc before doing an Action Dress Rip revealing her Wonder Woman uniform under her dress.
- Parodied in Big City Greens episode "Fill Bill". Bill, a hefty older man, learns a lesson about not needing to change who he is to fit in, has his merman tail turn back into legs, then swims to the surface and throws his head back in a direct Shout-Out to the transformation scene from The Little Mermaid (1989). He then wakes up in a diner and gags on a mouthful of drool, in a further parody of a Catapult Nightmare (which the dream isn't, but it's there).
- In the Dexter's Laboratory episode "Ocean Commotion", while the family is at the beach, Dee Dee swims in the ocean, wearing a bathing suit that looks like a mermaid tail. At one point, she swims to the surface and throws her head back as a direct Shout-Out to The Little Mermaid (1989).
- Justice League Unlimited: In "Destroyer", when the Watchtower sends out an "Omega-level alert" to the entire League and begins teleporting them, Fire is seen emerging from a pool in a bikini and throwing her long green hair in a backward arc before she "flames on" and is teleported away.
- In The Little Mermaid, as a throwback to the movie, Ariel does this towards the end of "T'ank You for That Ariel". Notably, this is only time Ariel strikes this pose as a mermaid instead of a human.
- A comedic example occurs in The Fairly OddParents episode "Just Desserts!", where Mr Bickles does this after high diving into a swimming pool.
- In Samurai Jack, Ashi does this while trying to scrape off the ash covering her body in a pool of water.
- Storm Hawks: In "Dark Waters", when Aerrow escapes from underwater riding on a creature's back, they rise into the sky dramatically; at the peak, the crouching Aerrow raises his head to take in a gasp of air, his hair flipping back.