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The Faceless

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"And as years passed and there were fewer in the city (and none beyond it) who remembered my face, the wildest stories got about as to what that veil hid."
Orual, Till We Have Faces
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A variant of He Who Must Not Be Seen: The audience never gets a good look at this character's face. Specific variants include characters which are (almost) always...

  • Shot or drawn using an Unreveal Angle.
    • Shown from behind.
    • Shown behind something else.
    • Shown with the frame cropping out their face.
    • Shown from far away, so we can't notice any noteworthy details.
  • Shot or drawn with P.O.V. Cam, where we can only see what they see.
  • Standing in shadow, have their Face Framed in Shadow, or are silhouetted.
  • Wearing a mask, helmet, One-Way Visor, hood, or otherwise Never Bareheaded.
  • Only ever appearing onscreen from the shoulders down, usually done to emphasize how much taller this character is than the rest of the cast; parents and grandparents in works that focus on their offspring are particularly susceptible to this.

Closely related are:

There are several reasons for writing a faceless character, depending on their role in the plot. For a recurring character, hiding their face lends an air of ambiguity to the character and their motives. If said character is a villain, this additionally serves to make them seem more threatening. Often the villainous Faceless are a Diabolical Mastermind, The Man Behind the Man, or even an Ultimate Evil.

Non-recurring faceless characters tend to be Cannon Fodder Faceless Goons, whose facelessness removes their individuality, their humanity, and — hopefully — the audience's squeamishness about their deaths. Real-world famous people/roles may not be shown, to prevent the work from becoming dated.

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Occasionally, a faceless character will be dramatically revealed. This generally happens at the end of the story, or at least the character's tenure in it. The Reveal may try to surprise the audience by showing a Nerd in Evil's Helmet, The Mole, or even no face at all. Perhaps we will see a Nightmare Face—common for villains—or perhaps they were Beautiful All Along, or maybe They Look Just Like Everyone Else!

The Faceless exist to increase drama or impress people. Contrast this with the Faceless Masses, which is done for the artist's convenience, while the Scenery Censor hides other body parts, to please Moral Guardians.


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Other Examples:

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    Advertising 
  • In Venezuela, there is this beer ad that features a Ms. Fanservice known as "la catira Regional" ("the Regional blonde", for the brand of the beer), that's always in a bikini or some revealing outfit. But everybody is more concerned about why she never shows her face: would she be ugly? Would she be a man...? And, not happy with making the whole country be worried about this matter, after years of teasing they make this, where you can see her face very briefly for some seconds. Isn't it cruel?
  • A recent advertising campaign for the acid reflux medicine Aciphex features either people shown only from the nose down, or people who have their faces from their nose up conveniently obscured by objects like a lamp, cupboard door, and a car front hood.
  • In commercials for 4C during their "official iced tea/bread crumbs of the Davis family" campaign, the Davises faces are never shown.
  • In commercials for Shedd's Spread, we never see the faces of the couple talking in the commercials. Normally just their hands and arms are shown.
  • In many recent commercials for IBM, the people being interviewed are not shown on camera.
  • Converse recently launched their "Made By You" campaign showcasing people's customized Chuck Taylors. A short film sometimes shows up as a Youtube pre-roll ad featuring numerous wearers. However, none of their faces are shown.
  • The Energizer Bunny provides an interesting case, as while most of his face is visible, his eyes are often blocked off by his shades. Even when making fun of The Lone Ranger, his eyes are still largely obscured by the mask they use. The recent CGI commercials turn the sunglasses into an Expressive Mask of sorts, eliminating the need for proper eyes to be seen.
    • One holiday ad has the bunny take off his shades to reveal... another pair of shades.
    • That being said, there are several plush toys out there that give him eyes (A given, as they'd look awkward otherwise), but its inconsistent as to whether they're beady or traditional cartoon-style eyes.

    Arts 
  • The Sistine Chapel's altar painting only depicts God's lower torso and feet. While it's standard practice to avoid showing the full form of God for the viewer's sanity, this is an odd choice since several full-body paintings of God, face and all, lie on the ceiling above the altar.
  • No people Terry Ananny ever painted have faces.

    Asian Animation 
  • In Happy Heroes, Big and Little M.'s commander is only ever seen from the back, or otherwise has his face completely obscured from view whenever he is on-screen.

    Comic Strips 
  • Beetle Bailey — Bettle's eyes have never, ever been seen. Even before he was in the army, he had a hat pulled down low to hide them. They probably just look like dots, though. An early strip confirms your theory. Also, Mort Walker allegedly mentioned Beetle's eyes as being "India ink"-colored. Makes sense.
    • In one MAD parody someone finally sneaks up to Beetle and rips his hat off. His face is much like you would expect, except that it turns out he was hiding a tattoo on his forehead reading GET OUT OF VIETNAM.
    • In one actual strip, Lt. Fuzz noticed that he never saw Beetle's eyes, so in order to get a look at them, Sarge snuck behind him and yelled "BOO!" making it fly off his head. Unfortunately, Beetle was wearing sunglasses.
  • Spots from Dick Tracy was a criminal who had a floating array of dark spots in the front of his face where his eyes should be. Spots was killed in a street shootout with Tracy, the spots on his face dissipating upon his death, but his head was turned away from the reader, so his face still remained obscured.
  • Despite it being a very political strip, politicians almost never appear in Doonesbury, and are either represented by abstract symbols (a bomb for Newt Gingrich, a waffle for Bill Clinton, a giant hand for Arnold Schwarzenegger, etc), speech balloons coming out of the White House/Congress, or, in some rare cases, a face hidden in shadows, obscured by camera angles, and so on. Donald Trump is the only president cartoonist Gary Trudeau actually draws in full, and this is only because the strip established him as a "seen" human character in the strip long before his political career.
  • The face of Mr. Pembroke, the boss of Roger Fox in FoxTrot, is never seen. usually being just off-panel, with his desk and his hands (and sometimes a cigar) visible. Portraits of himself in his office likewise have the face cropped out.
  • Lena the Hyena in Li'l Abner, who was the world's ugliest woman - the area around her face initially had a blank space with the words "Deleted by Editor." Al Capp held a contest for readers to draw Lena's face. Basil Wolverton won. For the curious, here's the pic, but be warned, it's pretty gruesome.
  • Tiffany's father Tom Farrell in Luann. The few times he’s seen he normally has his back to the viewer, but at one point his face was concealed by his own word balloon, his face is finally seen in the June 22, 2020 strip.
  • In Peanuts, there was a series of strips where Charlie Brown goes to summer camp and tries to befriend a kid in the bunk next to him. The kid is always shown with his face turned toward the wall, and never says anything other than, "Shut up and leave me alone!"
    • Adults are never shown on Peanuts. The only exception were some adult bodies, but not faces, that were visible when Lucy was in a golf tournament, and this was back in the strip's early days.
  • The title character of The Phantom is a very strange example; he wears a mask in his heroic identity, as most superheroes do (in fact, he was likely the one who started the trend), but even in his civilian identity of Kitt Walker, he wears a fedora, sunglasses, and a trench coat with the collars turned up. The readers have never been able to see his unmasked face clearly.
  • Phoebe and Her Unicorn: Lord Splendid Humility subverts usual unicorn vanity by refusing to show himself, so the cast mainly interact with his horn as it protrudes from whatever bush he's hiding in.
  • For the longest time, both Don and Marcie from Safe Havens were never shown above the neck to emphasize their height. Eventually, though, their faces were shown, Don's when his son was born, and Marcie when Rosalind finally meets her (After a series of experiments left her at six foot three).
  • Downwind Jackson in the Smilin Jack comic strip, whose face was always turned away, usually to gawk at women. Creator Zack Mosley established that Downwind was a handsome ladies' man, but decided to leave his face to the readers' imagination.
    • MAD did a spoof that revealed his secret - he's actually an ugly little man who is chased by women because he happens to have a $100 bill stuck between his front teeth.

    Films — Animation 
  • Monsters, Inc.:
    • An in-universe example actually happens to Mike Wazowski, who for some reason, always has his entire face covered up in whatever media he's appeared in, such as a commercial, a magazine, and even the DVD! (The hole in the middle of the DVD was actually placed in a way so that it too covered Mike's face).
    • A more straight example would be a Godzilla stand-in named Ted, who is apparently so tall that he can only be shown from the legs down and clucks like a chicken (he was originally going to sound exactly like Godzilla himself, but the idea was refused due to copyright reasons). A blooper at the end of the film actually revealed that his upper body actually belonged to Rex, here portrayed as a normal-sized Tyrannosaurus rex instead of a plastic toy.
  • The gangsters' leader from The Return of Hanuman.
  • Treasure Planet - We viewers never get a good look at poor Jim's Disappeared Dad; some people on the Internet have taken advantage of this for video crossovers and/or fanart.

    Pinballs 
  • Cousin It from The Addams Family.
  • The green-skinned alien Tube Dancer toy in Big Bang Bar doesn't have a face... nor any other anatomical detail, either.
  • The Nihilists in The Big Lebowski have their faces replaced with indicator lights.
  • In Full Throttle, the player's character is always shown wearing a head-covering motorcycle helmet.
  • In Stern Pinball's Harley Davidson games, the Mystery Rider is always seen wearing a helmet that completely covers his face.
  • Pin*Bot's face is covered by its visor. Even with it up, however, there's no face to be seen.
  • TRON: Legacy has Clu and Rinzler, as well as Daft Punk. Most prominent in the third release of the game, as the backbox translite features Clu's faceless black helmet front and center.

    Radio 
  • Madame Boss, Giovanni's mother and the previous leader of Team Rocket, is depicted this way in Pokémon: The Birth of Mewtwo. The artwork shows her body but shades out her face.

    Roleplay 
  • Reyven Samoth in The Gungan Council, who probably doesn't even have a corporal face at this point. Darth Apparatus also used to run around with a mask or obscured face until recently.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Apocalypse World features the player character class 'The Faceless,' a mask-wearing thug. If their mask is removed, it's always treated as The Reveal, stunning everyone nearby and freaking the Faceless out.
  • In Exalted, the god Nara-O is always covered in thick dark bandages that completely obscure his features. As the god of Secrets Known To One Person, it is suspected that if any being besides himself was to know his appearance, he would cease to exist.
  • Games Workshop games:
    • In Warhammer, Warhammer: Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40,000, the preferred form of the Changeling’s is that of a multi-armed Daemon with its face covered by a heavy hood. It is said that the Changeling has taken on so many forms over its existence that it cannot even remember what its true face and form looked like.
    • In Warhammer, Balthasar Gelt, the Supreme Patriarch of the Imperial Colleges of Magic, has never been seen without a gold mask and heavy robes since an explosive Magic Misfire in his laboratory. Whether he's hiding skin transmuted to gold, Facial Horror, Chaos mutations, or worse is a matter of in-universe speculation.
    • Warhammer 40,000 specific examples:
      • Harlequin Shadowseers wear face-concealing, featureless masks in combat (and outside of it?), ensuring that the last thing the enemy sees will be the reflection of their own face (though the implication is that it goes beyond a reflection, and the enemy literally feels as though they are fighting themselves). On that note, all other Harlequins use masks as well, but theirs have actual theatrical expressions.
      • One of the defining physical characteristics of Eldar Wraith-Constructs is that they typically sport smooth, featureless heads.
      • The Angels Sanguine never remove their helmets, refusing to show their faces to those outside their Chapter. It is rumoured that the reason for this is related to a dark secret that lies in the catacombs beneath their Fortress-Monastery.
    • In the Warhammer 40,000 RPG Dark Heresy, Eloeholth the Faceless is a possible main villain.
  • Magic: The Gathering: Arcanis the Omnipotent wears a hood that conceals his face, and Eldrazi of the Ulamog lineage have heads covered entirely in bony plates. Honourable mention to Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, a planeswalker whose entire head is transforming into black mist, who isn't The Faceless yet, but is well on their way.
  • In the Pandemic expansion On The Brink, the Bioterrorist is depicted clad in a chemsuit, with no indication of hir sex or ethnicity.
  • Starfinder's kasathas have a taboo against showing their mouths in public. They are always shown in illustrations with their lower faces covered with scarves.

    Theatre 
  • In the stage version of Soviet rock opera Juno and Avos, Count Rumyantsev always wear a creepy golden mask, although he's rather a symbol of a heartless Imperial bureaucracy then an actual villain.
  • In classic stage versions of Peter Pan, the crocodile was never seen, but represented by an offscreen ticking from Hook's watch he swallowed.
  • Matt Cameron's play Ruby Moon features an unseen character called 'The Wizard', who always wears a mask and creeps around the cul-de-sac knocking on people's doors.

    Web Animation 
  • Most of the cast of Red vs. Blue, since it's a Halo-based machinima. In Season Three it's revealed that not only do the troopers of Blood Gulch never take their helmets off even when off-camera, but Church has no idea whether Tucker is black or not (though Tucker's more annoyed Church never learned his first name). The Animation Bump of Seasons 9 and 10 lets us finally see most of the Freelancers bareheaded during the flashback sequences, though with a few exceptions. Agent Washington almost never takes his helmet off, even eating with it on, though in one shot we get to see the back of his head (he has short blonde hair, by the way). The Director doesn't wear a helmet, but the camera avoids his face until the Season 10 finale, and the reveal that he and Carolina have Family Eye Resemblance. The only time Maine has his helmet fully off, Sigma is obscuring his face, and we later get a shot when he's putting his helmet on, revealing himself to be Bald of Evil and have the Meta's symbol tattooed on the back of his head.
  • Trick Moon: The villain Dr. Bleak is seated on a throne with his entire body in silhouette.

    Web Original 
  • Dream: While George, Sapnap, and Bad have done facecams revealing their true face, Dream's real appearance is unknown. According to him he has dirty blond hair and freckles, but unless he decides to reveal himself we won't know for sure.
  • Over at Froghand, the chances of Froge revealing his identity is close to zero, given how he wrote an entire article on how to prevent doxing.
  • Back in the early days of his YouTube career, Zerkaa hid his face behind a mask in live-action videos. After his group the Sidemen became popular in 2014, Joshua Bradley/"Josh Zerker" stopped wearing the mask, showing himself to be a man who maintains a consistent look of combed black hair and a modestly thick beard.

    Web Videos 
  • The Chief from Agents of Cracked is always lit from behind. Lampshaded in the first episode of the second series, when the Sarge points out that the Chief's office always has terrible lighting.
  • Binging with Babish host Andrew Rea frames each main shot he's in from his waist to his chin, in order to balance out his presence while cooking with keeping the focus on the food and the process instead of him. If his face is seen, it's only in short, incidental moments.
  • The Chronicles of Syntax never clearly show The Lady's face. It's either out of the shot, covered, or too blurry/far away to be seen in detail.
  • Neil, the cameraman on A Couple Of Cunts In The Countryside, often chimes in on the discussions, but was not seen on camera until the 50th episode.
  • Sp00nerism from The Creatures barely shows himself on camera and when he does, his face is hidden by a comedic horse head mask.
  • Daisy Brown's face is always offscreen.
  • Echo Chamber:
    • The full face of Mr. Administrator is never shown — he's only shown below the eyes.
    • Zack as well; he's usually behind the camera, filming everything. Although we do see his face briefly in episode 2. It's dark enough that most of the details aren't easily distinguishable.
    • Both of their faces are fully revealed in "Coming of Age" and "Mind Screw".
  • The Flying Man is always shown from too far away to make out his facial features... if he even has any.
  • IGSRJ, a parody of The Angry Video Game Nerd and The Irate Gamer. Furthermore, IGSRJ speaks through a text-to-speech program, making his voice hidden too.
  • Some spoof film trailers made by Italian director Maccio Capatonda (real name Marcello Macchia) feature an entity named "the little" Riccardino Fuffolo, represented by a very tall man in a black trenchcoat and a white towel on his head. His face was partially visible during a parody of The Matrix's bullet time sequence, when the towel slipped and his chin and mouth were visible.

 
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