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When She Smiles

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"You hardly ever smile, Sam, and you look so beautiful when you do. Your face lights up and your soul shines so bright."
Gabriel, Singing Cows, a Supernatural fanfic

So there is this one character who never smiles. They are always so serious. Or maybe they're The Eeyore who always sees the worst of things. Then one day they smile, and there is something about the sheer happiness in that smile that makes whoever is watching immediately feel welcome, or better, and very often want to make them smile again. Preferably a lot. Depending on the application, can lead to Love at First Sight, a Love Epiphany, or a heartwarming moment.

In summary, the requirements for this trope are:

  1. Character that rarely smiles (Emotionless Girl, Deadpan Snarker, Perpetual Frowner, Broken Bird, The Stoic, etc)
  2. This character smiles
  3. This smile is perceived as beautiful
  4. Other people experience an increase in their affection for this character

On rare occasions, this can be played with a character who typically shows an insincere smile (such as a Stepford Smiler or a Smug Smiler) who then has a sincere smile. May factor into Ends with a Smile, especially in a Surprisingly Happy Ending.

It's not actually Always Female; the title comes from the song "Absolutely (Story of a Girl)". Go Out with a Smile often involves this plus Tear Jerker. May involve Finger-Forced Smile. A shy cousin to What Beautiful Eyes!, and Unkempt Beauty; a subtrope of O.O.C. Is Serious Business. Contrast with The Unsmile, where the smile is just plain unnatural. Compare with Serendipity Shock, Beautiful Tears (when crying makes a character look prettier). See Smile of Approval if the character's smile is geared towards someone they don't think too fondly of.

In-Universe Examples Only, please. Do not include Audience Reactions.


Other Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • Similarly Batman barely ever curls his lips up as his dark alter ego and when he does smile it's immediately noted upon by his loved ones.
  • Cyclops rarely shows more than a slight smile, if he smiles at all, being a fairly grave and serious character by nature (a life that pretty much entirely consists of the Trauma Conga Line trope will do that to you). When he does smile, it tends to be adorable.
  • Judge Dredd is the Trope Codifier for Perpetual Frowner but on the very rare occasion, he does smile, it's quite pleasant.
  • Peanuts: Mentioned in the titular song of the movie A Boy Named Charlie Brown:
    Maybe it's a kind of magic
    That only little boys can do.
    But seeing Charlie smile,
    Can make you stop awhile,
    And get you feelin' glad you're you.
  • Superman has the warmest smile in the DC Universe. In Kingdom Come, he can't crack a smile even after the events are over. In the Novelization, the US President asks him when he's going to smile again because everyone felt better when he did. In both the graphic novel and novel, after Diana gives him a pair of glasses ("to see a little clearer") does Superman give a warm, unabashed smile as he pulls a giant plowshare.
  • Wolverine: First Class has a humorous example: Logan is stuck babysitting at Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, and at one point the students leave the danger room door open causing several deadly robots to begin wreaking havoc. Logan makes quick work of them and breaks out in an open-mouth smile...because he's able to continue watching the hockey game that the robots interrupted.
  • X-23 only very rarely smiles. In issue 30 of All-New X-Men, the time-displaced teenaged Angel convinces her to go on a date with him, and while talking afterwards, Warren specifically remarks that he likes it when Laura smiles and that she should do it more often. Notably, in the same conversation, he compares her looks favorably to Jean Grey.

    Films — Animation 
  • Sadness from Inside Out. She spends most of the movie frowning, moping, crying, and sometimes making sarcastic remarks. But the one or two occasions when she does smile...
  • Chuckles the Clown in Toy Story 3 is a Perpetual Frowner due to his being accidentally left behind by his, Lotso and Big Baby’s original owner, seeing Lotso become the tyrant ruler of Sunnyside Day Care, and he (Chuckles) being one of the few toys to escape Sunnyside after being mentally broken by Lotso. Later on, his current owner Bonnie has drawn pictures of all her toys, with Chuckles’s picture having a grin on his face. The other toys comment that Bonnie really captured his smile and it looks good. Unseen by them, Chuckles looks at it and breaks into a real grin.
  • Zootopia's Nick Wilde spends most of the movie being a Smug Smiler, constantly snarking at other characters' expenses with a contemptuous smirk—but in the end, when he joins the police force, he breaks into a huge, sincere smile as Judy pins his badge on him.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Completely subverted in Addams Family Values when Perpetual Frowner Wednesday Addams decides to smile after being tortured by sentimental films (many of them musicals) at a ridiculously cheery summer camp. When she does smile, some of the other camp girls start to cry in terror.
  • Legends of the Fall: When Susannah smiles at Samuel, she positively beams to the point that Siskel & Ebert specifically pointed out that smile to show Julia Ormond was a star.
  • In the film Lock Up, at the end Stallone's character tells the captain who walks him to the exit that he'll miss his incredible smile, at which point the captain slowly smiles.
  • Aurelia in Love Actually. In the commentary, Richard Curtis says he immediately decided to cast Lucia Moniz after she smiled during her audition, and immediately went from dour plain woman to radiant beauty.
  • Josh from Love Hard. He's an average-looking guy, not ugly by any stretch but not a hunk, either. He also considers himself unattractive. But, as Natalie notes, he's actually genuinely handsome when he's relaxed and smiling. She says he'd probably get more bites on his dating profile if he stopped overthinking it and just posted a normal, smiling selfie or two.
  • Mackenna's Gold: Gloomy Hesh-Ke looks a lot less threatening the very few times she smiles throughout the film (always at her former lover Mackenna).
  • A well-known scene in Ninotchka invokes this trope. Leon attempts to make Ninotchka laugh and/or smile by telling her jokes, but it falls flat when she doesn't find them funny in a room full of cackling men. Leon becomes frustrated and starts to insult her as he leans back in his chair, tipping over with the table behind falling on top of him. Ninotchka shrieks with laughter with the rest of the room, much to everyone's surprise. Leon is annoyed at first, but then laughs too, happy that he got her to smile.
  • Subverted early in the Pirates of the Caribbean cycle when the creators had to cut every incidence where Commodore Norrington smiled (they are still in the deleted scenes on the Curse of the Black Pearl DVD). Jack Davenport's smile was charming enough for the writers to go Draco in Leather Pants on their own character and start re-writing him accordingly — these scenes were cut out because the character wasn't supposed to have so much of the audience's sympathy.
  • Scarface (1983): Elvira only smiles once in the entire movie.
  • Sense and Sensibility: Elinor, as played by Emma Thompson, who lights up with one bright, beaming, radiant smile at the end of the film and immediately negates about five minutes' worth of Inelegant Blubbering. Edward's besotted expression says it all.
  • Lavinia from Titus, after her rape and mutilation. Despite the horrible physical and psychological torture she has endured (and is still going through), the rare moments when she smiles, such as when her nephew presents her with new prosthetic hands, are heartwarming - and the camera continues to emphasise her beauty with close-ups of her face.
  • The Ironic Hell for suicides in Wristcutters is just like the real world, except that nothing works, everything's kind of gray, and it's impossible to smile. After seeing nothing but despondent looks from all of the characters for the entire movie, the last shot—the leads smiling at one another — is like a wash of beautiful sunlight.

  • In the original The Blue Lagoon by H. Devere Stacpoole:
    "My box," said she; and as she spoke, holding it up as if to prove its safety, the little plain face altered to the face of an angel.
    She had smiled.
    When Emmeline Lestrange smiled it was absolutely as if the light of Paradise had suddenly flashed upon her face: the happiest form of childish beauty suddenly appeared before your eyes, dazzled them and was gone.
  • Number Ten Ox's description of Lotus Cloud in Bridge of Birds. He goes on about how she looks like just a normal, unremarkable peasant girl. "and then she smiled..." and Ox falls instantly in love, as does every other male with a working libido. She is a goddess in disguise, after all.
  • Ten-year-old Skeeter Traps from Chronicles Of Magic is almost constantly scowling or sporting a psychotic Slasher Smile. Thus, it shocks everyone when she gives them a genuine grin.
  • In the first book of James Blish's Cities In Flight series, They Shall Have Stars, the main female character, a secretary at a science lab, is described as plain and knows it. When a visiting spaceman dropping off some samples finds himself taken with her, she angrily accuses him of faking being nice in order to seduce her. He is shocked and equally angry at this accusation, and barks back:
    "[...]the most beautiful woman in the world would bathe in fuming nitric acid to duplicate your smile!"
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses: Feyre's smile is noted to be beautiful, though it takes a lot of work to get her to smile at all.
  • The Dresden Files: Minor side-character Vince Graver from Turn Coat was described as The Nondescript until his last scene, when he smiles. Dresden notes that the smile completely changes him from a generic average Joe to someone who could light up the room just by being there.
  • Dr. Greta Helsing:
    • Francis Varney struggles with Supernatural Angst and bouts of I Hate Past Me, but when he's reminded that his friends sincerely care about him, Greta observes that his smile is absolutely radiant:
      "...that odd, uncharacteristic, brilliant smile, like the sun rising over a field full of mist, turning it from blank impenetrable barrier to opalescence."
    • When the newbie teenage vampire Emily is able to get away from the Paris catacombs and settle down as a trainee monster vet, Greta offers her full support, which elicits a smile that "seemed to light up the warm dimness of the stall like a candle flame."
  • Fate/Requiem: When Voyager smiles, Erice Utsumi compares it to a shining star or a window straight to the heart.
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters — The Official Movie Novelization: The book describes the normally arctic-hearted eco-terrorist Alan Jonah smiling at Asher the only person he still genuinely cares about) as "a really genuine smile [Jonah] almost never brought out."
  • The Goblin Emperor: The dowager empress spends most of the book being a hostile and off-putting Alpha Bitch, but her stepson admits that she does have a radiant and appealing countenance when she briefly "forg[ets] herself" and has fun while dancing at a party.
  • The Great Gatsby: Gatsby has a glorious smile:
    He smiled understandingly — much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced — or seemed to face — the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just so far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya:
    • Haruhi herself starts out the series with a perpetual frown (hence the title of the first book, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya). Kyon describes her first smile as "reminiscent of a blazing sun in an equatorial sky," and later uses adjectives like "divine" and "cherry blossoms in full bloom" when referring to it.
    • Yuki Nagato, resident Emotionless Girl, gets one. This moment from The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is a plot point in the novel and its movie adaptation — seeing Nagato smile is what leads Kyon to question whether recreating the old world would really be the right thing to do. Three novels later it's revealed that the memory of her smile is still enough to make him question his decision.
    • Subverted with Kuyou Suo, the resident Humanoid Abomination. While Kyon comments on how smiling makes her whole appearance different, even beautiful, it still comes off as profoundly inhuman.
  • In InCryptid, Shelby gets this description early on.
    "Shelby was one of those people who looked miserable, almost funereal, when she wasn't smiling. When she did, it seemed like she could outshine the sun."
  • Meghan Whalen Turner's short story collection Instead Of Three Wishes has the protagonist of the titular story fitting the trope. Her honest smile "could make flowers bloom early" and stuns the elf king who's known her for a while when he finally sees her smile for real.
  • Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings Appendixes has been described to look solemn and grave but when he smiled, he appeared kingly.
    His ways were hard and long and he became somewhat grim to look upon, unless he chanced to smile and yet he seemed to Men worthy of honour, as a king that is in exile, when he did not hide his true shape.
  • Sandra Paris (a.k.a. the White Queen) in the Nick Velvet stories. In her first appearance ("The Theft of the White Queen's Menu"), Nick is astounded that Sandra has been able to keep him under observation in a casino without him noticing. Sandra replies that no one ever notices her unless she smiles. She then smiles at him, and she goes from looking like an innocent librarian to completely dominating the room.
  • Pride and Prejudice: Mr. Darcy's social awkwardness usually comes across as an aloof Sugar-and-Ice Personality, but the stoic mask cracks completely when he learns that Elizabeth has come to care for him. Oddly for the trope, Elizabeth misses it:
    Had Elizabeth been able to encounter his eye, she might have seen how well the expression of heartfelt delight, diffused over his face, became him...
    Even more oddly, Elizabeth actually has seen Darcy smile, but she only consciously realizes it when she sees Darcy's portrait: "...She beheld a striking resemblance of Mr. Darcy, with such a smile over the face as she remembered to have sometimes seen, when he looked at her."
  • Kristine Kochanski in the Red Dwarf novels. Curiously, it never comes up in the original TV series, but in the novels repeated mention is given to her "pinball smile" (see quotes)
  • Sharpe: The title character is described as looking perpetually sardonic and mocking due to a Rugged Scar, except when he smiles. Which isn't often, and then he looks kind and charming. Since he normally looks like some ancient God of War in mid-battle, this is an improvement. It is worth noting that he is always described as roguishly handsome, it's just that he looks kind when he smiles.
  • Asher in Someone Else's War is a rare male example. His face is heavily scarred, and he spends most of his time shunning emotion as weakness. Smiling (or laughing) makes a huge improvement to his appearances, but he doesn't do it often.
  • In Tales of Kolmar, the usually serious, inclined-to-brood mage Vilkas is noted by one character to be "pleasant enough, if only he'd smile now and again". Later she says her wish is granted, and she notes "a broad glorious smile that lit up his face and showed the joy that danced behind his eyes". At the end of the series, he's more inclined to smiling in general.
  • Tigana: Dianora's smile is described thusly:
    [Her face] was oval, wide at the cheekbones, almost austere. It changed when she laughed though—and for some reason she still knew how to laugh—becoming warm and animated, the unexpected dance in her dark eyes seeming to promise things that went deeper than amusement. Men who had seen her laughing or who had caused her to smile at them would encounter that look again in their dreams, or in the memories that lay on the border of sleep and dream, years after Dianora had gone away.
  • Uncle Chaim and Aunt Rifke and the Angel, by Peter S. Beagle: The Dybbuk's dead-black eyes convey the millennium of grief and pain he's suffered, but when he's shown genuine kindness for the first time, he reacts with a smile that's every bit as beautiful as his eyes are sad.
  • From Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga, as applied to a male: Aral Vorkosigan is a rather stern-faced military officer, with "cold intent grey eyes"; in a later book in the series he is described as being "heavy-jawed, heavy-browed, scarred". In Shards of Honor he has taken as his prisoner his future wife Commander Cordelia Naismith (from a rival—and potentially enemy—planet), but they're stranded on an uninhabited planet (along with one of Commander Naismith's officers, with a head wound that has reduced him to having the mentality of an infant) and have to hike their way across several hundred kilometers to a hidden supply cache. In an effort to save her wounded officer, Naismith has given Vorkosigan her parole, agreeing not to bash in Vorkosigan's head with a rock as soon as he goes to sleep, but officially they're still enemies of a sort. Then they (almost literally) stumble across a local herbivore, which happens to be edible, and Vorkosigan shoots it with a stun gun:
    "Oh, good shot!" cried Cordelia ecstatically. Vorkosigan grinned like a boy over his shoulder at her and jogged after his prize. "Oh," she murmured, stunned herself by the effect of the grin. It had lit his face like the sun for that brief instant. Oh, do that again, she thought; then shook off the thought. Duty. Stick to duty.
  • Words of Radiance (second book of The Stormlight Archive) has a variant. Shallan Davar is a Broken Bird who is very good at pretending to be a Genki Girl. When Kaladin chides her for being naive and sheltered, she calmly explains how she is very very not, and he finally understands the context of her rare true smiles.
    He saw it in her eyes. The anguish, the frustration. The terrible nothing that clawed inside and sought to smother her. She knew. It was there, inside. She had been broken.
    Then she smiled. Oh, storms. She smiled anyway.
    It was the single most beautiful thing he'd seen in his entire life.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 100 gives us Lexa, the young, beautiful Grounder commander. Being in charge of a violent Proud Warrior Race civilization that doesn't allow her to show any sign of weakness, she rarely shows any emotion at all no matter what happens. It takes many episodes of increasingly romantic interaction with Clarke for her to gradually drop the mask, and when she finally does crack a smile, it's a truly heartwarming sight to behold.
  • Angel: Angel may be The Stoic and broody, but we get to see in "Dead End" that he has an absolutely radiant smile. Cordelia even remarks he should smile more often.
  • Bates Motel: It's not until the middle of season two that we ever see Sheriff Alex Romero smile. This was deliberately done by actor Nestor Carbonell, who suggested to showrunners that Norma should be the one to make him smile for the first time. Throughout the whole series, he only ever smiles for her.
    Norma: Oh my God.
    Romero: What?
  • In Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Detective Rosa Diaz is normally scowling or smirking sarcastically. But when she genuinely smiles it's like she's another person entirely. Trying to get her to smile for a Christmas photo takes up an entire subplot of one episode.
  • Every morning, Richard Castle brings Kate Beckett a cup of coffee just so he can see a smile on her face. Given what a serious and sombre character Beckett often is (particularly in the early seasons), and given the way Beckett's (and Stana Katic's) face lights up whenever she smiles, it's hard to blame him.
  • Chuck: Sarah Walker is not a spy to be fucked with. She'll murder you nine ways from Sunday if you cross her or her team and especially if you hurt Chuck, BUT if you happen to get a genuine smile out of her, like Chuck did in the pilot episode and continues to do throughout the series, she's the prettiest damn thing you've ever seen in your life. You try not falling in love with this smile.
  • Criminal Minds: Aaron Hotchner is known for his perpetual frown and stoic demeanour, but sometimes when he's around his young son or in a social situation with his team his entire face will light up in a truly lovely smile. There's a period of a few years surrounding his divorce and his wife's death where that happens vanishingly rarely, but during Season 7 he starts dating, finally starting to get over his guilt and grief, and you can see the other members of the team (especially Rossi) take absolute delight in seeing him smile again.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Twelfth Doctor, before he passes out and loses all of his memories of her in "Hell Bent", asks Clara Oswald, his companion, to do one last thing for him: "Smile for me." Sadly, she's too heartbroken to do it.
    • Twelve himself is an example of this trope. When The Stoic, Knight in Sour Armor, Perpetual Frowner gets an opportunity for a genuine smile, his entire face lights up.
  • Echo (2024): Maya's face looks very lit up on the rare occasions when she smiles, as she's got a broad and charming grin that's a deep contrast with her usual grim or emotional appearance.
  • The same can be said for Danielle Panabaker's Caitlin Snow on The Flash. She's known for her stiff demeanor, but if you get her to smile, you could power all of Central City.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Though he's becoming increasingly sombre in disposition when Jon is truly happy, it really stands out. When he's reunited with Sansa in Season 6, she is the main source of his adorable rare smiles.
    • Despite introducing herself as a no-nonsense Little Miss Snarker, Lyanna Mormont looks adorable while smiling during Jon's Awesome Moment of Crowning (which she initiated).
    • Brienne of Tarth. After Jaime knights her, she gives what is, to date, the only full-blown, beaming smile we've ever seen from her, and it is radiant.
  • Sakura Nishihori/Bouken Pink in GoGo Sentai Boukenger started out as a super-serious member of the SGS and can't smile ever. It takes one mission to finally make her smile for a boy she's taking care of. As her leader said, her smile is possessed by only hers alone, and during the climax of the series, she did declare that her smile was her greatest treasure.
  • In Jessica Jones (2015) the number of times Jessica smiles in the first season could be counted on one hand. When she does smile she looks gorgeous, but it usually means she's being forced to do so by Kilgrave, as he's the one who enjoys her smile.
  • Kamen Rider:
    • Kamen Rider Drive's female lead Kiriko Shijima is stern and unflappable, with Shinnosuke making a big deal out of the rare moments when she smiles because it shows that she's not all business. An early episode shows that it's partly trauma: during the Global Freeze, the Paint Roidmude almost turned her into a picture, if not for the intervention of Proto-Drive.note  It also gets brought up in The Movie: when Shinnosuke asks his Kid from the Future Eiji who his mother is, Eiji says that she doesn't smile very often, but when she does it's very meaningful, prompting Shinnosuke to glance at Kiriko and mutter "It can't be..."
    • Subverted in Kamen Rider Amazons, where tough, solemn-faced Takai goes Undercover as Lovers with Haruka to infiltrate a restaurant run by Amazons. Everyone encourages her to smile to make the cover more convincing, and they brighten when she tries, but she ultimately gives up and admits she just can't do it.
    • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: Taiga Hanaya rarely ever shows anything else but Death Glares and smug smirks, but hanging out with Nico Saiba would eventually draw out his incredibly dorky smile for a moment. It erased years of pain and resentment off his face for as long it as lasted.
  • Penny Parker (there's that name again!), the recurring character Teri Hatcher played on MacGyver, made her debut in an episode called... "Every Time She Smiles". In the episode, it is commented on how guys just seem to lose their judgment when she smiles at them.
  • One episode of The Middle had the Heck family assigning individual New Year's resolutions to each other in an anonymous draw, Mike was told to smile more; later the family revealed to each other who assigned what to who, and Frankie says that Mike has a beautiful smile.
  • In Mr. Robot, Elliot is completely cynical and broken after spending his whole life in a dark place. But whenever he smiles, it is always shown to be heartwarming.
  • The Outpost: Talon doesn't smile very often, but when she does, it makes her look even more beautiful.
  • Dr. K from Power Rangers RPM. For a character that has No Social Skills whatsoever and comes across as a deadpan Little Miss Snarker, along with an extremely depressing past, she has a very endearing smile—a rare occurrence throughout the series. This becomes a sign that she opens up to her team as she does it more and more. It even becomes a plot point in the episode "If Venjix Won" when Ziggy Grover brings her the gift of a smile on her birthday by performing an elaborate shadow puppet show while being trapped in a cave.
  • It seems to be a pattern with people named Parker. Ms. Parker of The Pretender also counts.
  • Schitt's Creek:
    • Stevie Budd rarely if ever smiles, and if she does it's usually more of a smirk. That all changes when she meets travel blogger Emir Kaplan in the fifth season. As they banter, she smiles more than she has throughout the previous four seasons of the show.
    • You can basically measure David's character growth by his smile — in the beginning of the show, he rarely smiles, and his few smiles are closed-mouthed half-smirks. He starts to smile more and more as the show goes on, but it's not until the fifth season when he's in a happy and committed relationship and is in the best place emotionally that he's ever been in, that he starts fully open-mouth smiling more and more often in a way he would never have before.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Sarina, one of the Augments that works with Bashir in "Statistical Improbabilities", is catatonic in that appearance due to her senses being too slow for her brain to process. In a later appearance, Bashir is able to get her highly accelerated neural pathways in tune with her senses, breaking her out of her catatonia... and the first time she smiles, Bashir is absolutely smitten with her.
  • Generally inverted in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Cameron does not smile much—and every time she is shown smiling, it is creepy as hell because the audience knows she's smiling to manipulate people. The sole exception to this is in "Allison From Palmdale" where a scene showing her laughing and smiling is played as this trope—as Cameron is in her "Allison" persona and thinks she's human, and thus feels real emotions.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In the final scene of "Two", the woman smiles when the man says that her dress is "pryekrasnyy," meaning "beautiful."
  • In the Korean Rom Com drama You Are Beautiful, after a long day of getting lost in the city, when Hwang Tae-Kyung and Go Mi Nam who's really Go Mi Nyeo, posing as her twin brother while he's in America getting his plastic surgery fixed finally get back to the office Tae-Kyung, whose face is often wearing some gloomy, stoic, and/or grumpy look, smiles the most adorable little boy-like smile and makes Go Mi Nam's heart beat loud and hard. Naturally, since this is out-of-character for him after the slow-motion reveal his smile disappears just as fast as it came.

  • John Berry's "She's Taken A Shine," about Rosie, an unremarkable girl with an unremarkable life who transforms completely when she falls in love Jesse, a guy who frequents the diner she works at. Her new countenance is the talk of the town.
    She's taken a shine to him
    Becoming the woman that she's never been
    And all of the guys are wishin' they hadn't been so blind
    She's taken a shine to life
    Now there's a sparkle in her eye
    They all missed the gem, a diamond within
    She's taken a shine
  • Dia Frampton, "Inventing Shadows":
    Don't you know the world shines
    Every time you smile?
    Why can't you just smile?
  • Shawn Mullins' "Lullaby" mentions as much about the woman who's the subject of the song.
    All her friends tell her she's so pretty
    But she'd be a whole lot prettier
    If she smiled every once in a while
  • Anna Nalick, "Breathe (2am)":
    Here in town, you can tell he's been down for a while
    But, my God, it's so beautiful when the boy smiles
  • Nine Days' "Absolutely (Story of a Girl)" is the Trope Namer:
    This is the story of a girl
    Who cried a river and drowned the whole world
    And while she looked so sad in photographs
    I absolutely love her
    When she smiles

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Invoked by Molly Holly, who had previously been known as the cute smiley one on many rosters full of scowling brutes and vagabonds. When she stopped smiling, suddenly she wasn't so cute anymore, till it was time to participate in photoshoots and stuff, where people were reminded why she once had a beauty contest gimmick.
  • Matt Sydal's smile, his actual smile and not his annoying smirk, was said to be worth a million bucks by The Irish Luchador Billy McNeil.
  • Sara Del Rey and The World Famous Kana, who both smiled quite a bit initially before becoming angry at the world and smearing their faces with paint\eyeshadow and covering them with masks. Sara pretty much stopped smiling for the most part, whereas Kana still smiled semi-frequently but it gained a new ominous connotation since she was always up to no good.
  • Willow Nightingale's intro:
    "From The Bronx, NY, she's got big hair and an even bigger smile. 'The Babe With The Power', WILLOW NIGHTINGALE!"

    Video Games 
  • ALTER EGO (2018): In the True Ending, Es is finally able to smile with contentment at herself, having made peace with both her impulses, restraints, and desire to explore herself. That ending is the final one in both her and the Wanderer's journey, so her smiling symbolizes a Happy Ending and invites a feeling of healing.
  • Quote in Blade Strangers is a Perpetual Frowner 80% of the game, but in his reveal trailer and when he meets Curly again Quote has a warm smile on his face.
  • In Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, Albus' Last Request as his soul is sacrificed for Dominus is for Shanoa to give him one last smile. She does.
  • Taiga spends a lot of his interactions with Muriel in Duel Savior Destiny wishing she'd lighten up a little. He's never really at ease near her due to her stoic attitude, so when she smiles and laughs at the end of Mia's route he's terrified and runs away.
  • Adam from Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a Perpetual Frowner, but an easter egg in Mankind Divided has him sport a small smile when he finds a note from Malik on the bottom of his breakfast cereal box in his apartment.
  • One level in Elite Beat Agents has this trope as its very goal, as you must help a younger Leonardo da Vinci win the heart of a certain beautiful but emotionless young woman. Win, and she does give a beautiful smile, which inspires Leo to draw a certain famous painting.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy VII Remake:
      • Cloud Strife is a mostly Perpetual Frowner and is mocked by various characters for it, which is implied to be an affectation he does to look cool. But when he lets his mask slip, his smile is very cute — other characters act delighted to see it, and Jessie in particular coos over it.
      • The lyrics to the ending theme, "Hollow", are (according to Word of God) from Cloud's perspective and concern getting to see someone's beautiful smile again... though whose smile this is is left ambiguous.
      • In the "Intermission" DLC, the villainess Scarlet comments that Yuffie Kisaragi has a cute smile.
    • In Final Fantasy VIII
      • While he never smiles at all in the entire game, Squall finally smiles in the very end.
      • In the same way, during the last appearance of Seifer, we can see him with a very sweet smile, rather than the Smug Smirk he used to show throughout the adventure, as he watches the BGU flying over the bridge where he was fishing, and it is very heartwarming.
    • Lightning in Final Fantasy XIII and Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, especially in the epilogue of the latter.
    • Final Fantasy XIV has Emet-Selch, an Ascian with an embittered attitude, sarcastic smirks and a back bent by the burden of having spent the last 10,000 years or so attempting to restore his world, no matter the cost. When you finally kill him at the climax of the Shadowbringers main quest storyline, he stands up straight, finally freed from the burden of his responsibilities, begs you not to forget that he and his people once existed, and gives you a sincere smile. It is at once deeply heartwarming and absolutely heartrending.
    • Final Fantasy XV:
      • Noctis Lucis Caelum, the main player character, is usually seen with a straight face to match his sarcastic demeanor. However, that did not stop both the game and fandom from taking note of the fact that his smile is not only rare but very beautiful and cherished. One famous moment is his reunion with his friends after the timeskip and the last campfire scene at the end of the game.
      • The Episode Ignis DLC also gives us more evaluation as to why Ignis nearly sacrifices himself all to save Noct from performing the ultimate Heroic Sacrifice in the main game as well. He lives to see his beloved friend smile.
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses:
    • Due to Byleth being The Stoic to the point where some will comment that their impassiveness is offputting, the rare instances in which they do smile tend to draw this reaction. When their father, Jeralt, takes note of it, he confesses that returning to Garreg Mach Monastery was worth it just to see them smile.
      • The Cindered Shadows side story reveals that their mother was similarly stoic. Both Jeralt and Aelfric wax poetic about her smile.
    • Cyril and Lysithea's supports center around Cyril's illiteracy. Lysithea starts helping Cyril by reading lists for him, but at one point asks why he doesn't try learning on his own. Cyril replies that he enjoys having Lysithea read things for him as she always seems happy when he asks for help- and when she's happy, she smiles, and he thinks she's pretty when she smiles. This flusters Lysithea greatly, and Cyril is surprised to learn that other people haven't told her this.
    • Marianne normally has a morose expression on her face at all times, befitting her sullen personality. The few times she does sincerely smile are thus acknowledged positively, such as Claude expressing delight when she smiles in their A-Support scene.
  • Sin Kiske from Guilty Gear Xrd tries to invoke this with Ramlethal; during her cinematic attacks and winposes she loves to deliver a toothy Slasher Smile, but he wants to see her smile for real. In fact in -REVELATOR-, the slasher smile from her winpose is replaced with a wistful frown. She also goes out with a smile.
  • In I Was a Teenage Exocolonist, Dys and Tang rarely ever smile because the former doesn't care about the colony while the latter is so focused on her lab work. When they do smile, it's because they've become more comfortable with Sol over the years, to their appreciation.
  • In Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, when Namine laughs, Sora says he likes it when she expresses happiness.
  • This trope is pretty much the cornerstone of any ending for the Ikari Warriors team in The King of Fighters, where the mercenary team's antics help to get the ever-stoic Leona to smile or laugh. It's adorable just about much every time it happens.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Zelda for most of the game has a solemn and serious expression but the Great Deku Tree remarked that she has a smile like the sun and they greatly wished to feel its warmth again (and in the Japanese version, Link writes in the final entry of the adventure log that he hopes to save Zelda as soon as possible to see her smile with his own eyes). The few times that she does smile like in the True Ending is absolutely adorable and beautiful.
  • Mass Effect:
  • Raizze Haimer, the Emotionless Girl of Mitsumete Knight, has a special event and CG, where she has a rare beautiful smile, when the Asian is poisoned and she manages to save him. The game's CG Gallery names this CG "Mezurashii Egao" ("An unusual smiling face").
  • Resident Evil
  • In The Sandman (2014), one character describes the normally stoic and emotionally repressed Sophie as having "a smile like a goddess of the sun". And indeed, in the best ending, we get to see her flash a lovely smile for the first time all game.
  • SINoALICE: The ending of the Taiwanese and Global servers has Alice, who has been rather morose for the entire game, finally smile after waking up from her dream with a new lease on life, depicted in a positive light as her friend then happily heads out of the classroom they were in alongside her.
  • In South Park: The Stick of Truth, the New Kid, aka Douchebag, only smiles when Butters uses his healing touch on him.
    • In South Park: The Fractured but Whole, the New Kid, aka Butthole, emotes a lot more often, usually in battle, where their expressions can range from anger, sadness, and happiness whenever they use a superhero ability. But during cutscenes, they smile at exactly three moments, the first being when they play the mandolin and flugelhorn while performing community service for the old people, showing how much they're enjoying it. The second time is after they and the other members Coon and Friends finally rescue Scrambles from the police. The third time is when the DLC sidequest "Bring the Crunch" is completed after you defeat the alien invading Lake Tardicaca, where the New Kid has the biggest smile on their face along with the other heroes when they win.
  • In Tales of Berseria, seeing Velvet smile post-breakage is a rare treat. Typical triggers for her include Laphicet, her eventual Character Development, Laphicet, her True Companions, and Laphicet.
  • In Tales of Symphonia, even after Emotionless Girl Presea regains her soul and starts being capable of emotions again, she's got a lot of trauma to deal with and is mostly The Stoic. But after rescuing Colette (and being forgiven for her part in the most recent kidnapping, since she was basically under Mind Control), she smiles for real, and everyone notes how cute it is.
  • This might seem to be a strange trope to bring up when you're talking about a Perpetual Smiler, but Sans the Skeleton from Undertale apparently has a distinct enough difference between the smile he normally sports and the smile he makes when he's genuinely happy that it's even recognizable in a photograph. Depending on the context in which you do so, finding the photo album in his room and having the description of its contents followed by a simple "He looks happy" is either one of the saddest or one the most uplifting text-only moments in the entire game.
  • Neku in The World Ends with You is usually a stoic Deadpan Snarker, but during a flashback in the second week, it's just awesome to see such a withdrawn character smile without a hint of cynicism or sarcasm.
  • Yakuza Kiwami 2: If Kiryu manages to get Shoko to lower her guard and let her real personality shine through a little in her interactions with the rest of the cast at Four Shine, everyone she comes into contact with will comment on how her real smile is much more beautiful than her professional one.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's World Championship 2011: Over the Nexus, Misaki displays a cold attitude towards everyone throughout the entire game. In the ending, however, she congratulates the player with this.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • In "Rise From The Ashes" from the first game, your client is Chief Prosecutor Lana Skye who spends the entire case from stoic to irritated to angry. It's stated repeatedly by her sister Ema, and other people that she used to smile a lot more and after a certain case, she completely changed, but no action from her ever indicates any of this was ever true. Until you actually solve the case and prove that Ema did not murder Prosecutor Neil Marshall like Lana genuinely believed and that the real killer of her case and the one mentioned before was Damon Gant, Chief of Police, meaning Ema was innocent all along. The revelation finally hits her and she finally shows that smile everyone talked about all case long. And it is an AMAZING one!
    • Adrian Andrews in the final case of Justice For All. First she tries to present herself as The Stoic, only to be revealed that this is a front she puts to appear strong and cope with her mentor's death. She progressively breaks down in the stand after she gets implicated in a murder she didn't commit, but once the real culprit is found out, she's able to smile genuinely feeling happy with who she is. By the next game, she's much nicer and more cheerful, and her default expression has her smiling.
    • In Case 2 of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, Jinxie Tenma, the daughter of the defendant, usually has an expression that ranges from gloomy to terrified. Which is no small part caused by her demanding job as a maid, her fear of Youkai, and her being in the middle of a merger that is resulting in a murder and the false accusation of her father and hero. By the end of the trial where her father is found innocent and debunking Tenma Taro's existence, she is so relieved that she smiles for the first time in the whole Episode. Something that Apollo and Athena make note of.
    • Subverted in The Great Ace Attorney when Susato tries to invoke this trope from the eternally grim-faced Barok van Zieks in order to lift the mood after a very harrowing and emotionally draining trial full of Heroic BSODs and Villainous Breakdowns. Unfortunately, van Zieks either did not get the memo or ignored it completely.
      Susato: I'm quite sure that when you see Lord van Ziek's smiling face, everything will seem much better!
      Van Zieks: .....
      Ryunosuke: ... Um, Miss Susato... everything seems worse.
  • Cafe Enchante: Ignis normally has a scowl, a frown or at best, a cocky smile. But in his route, there was a moment where he smiles gently at Kotone and she is taken back by the warmth in his smile.
  • In Code:Realize, Cardia is a borderline Emotionless Girl due to living in isolation as long as she could remember. The first time she smiles without any restraint, it brings all the love interests in the room to a halt as they stare at her in wonder. Lupin even goes as far as to say they should make this day a national holiday.
  • In Fate/stay night, Saber rarely smiles for herself as she always smiled for others. So when she gives a genuine smile in the Fate route, Shirou couldn't help but feel warm after seeing her smile.
  • In Little Busters!, Nishizono Mio gets this treatment.
    Mio: I'm so glad.
    Riki: I am, too.
    Mio: ...why?
    Riki: Because I now know you can smile like that.
  • Katawa Shoujo:
    • Hanako is perpetually downcast Shrinking Violet because of her physical and mental scars caused by the fire that killed her parents. Her smile is recognized in-game as one of the most beautiful sights the protagonist has ever seen.
    • Shizune who normally has a very serious, almost bossy demeanor also seems to have a nice smile. At the very least, it's nice enough that Hisao tells her that she should smile more during her Act 1 ending.
  • Kyoko Kirigiri and Touko Fukawa in Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc do have sprites that could be described as smiling, but in Kirigiri's case it's more of an arrogant smirk while Fukawa's would be better described as a sneer or a nervous chuckle. However, both have two standout cases where they do smile for real: in Kirigiri's final Free-Time Event, she manages to tease Naegi again and his reaction has her seemingly trying to hold in her laughter and failing (this sprite never gets used elsewhere). For Fukawa it's at the start of the 6th chapter when she sees Naegi safe and sound after he was supposedly executed in the last chapter. The other case is in an old class photo taken during a sports festival when everyone was in school together, where both girls can be seen with warm smiles.
    • In Ultra Despair Girls, after developing her friendship with Komaru, Fukawa begins to genuinely smile, looking soft and happy. It's even more heartwarming when you consider that given her difficult life thus far, she probably hasn't smiled like that in a very long time, if ever.
    • Peko Pekoyama from Danganronpa 2 Good Bye Despair is The Stoic and has two smiling sprites and tells Hajime in Free Time that she forgot how to smile. Her next two Free Times are him trying to help her learn to smile. In her final Free Time, he is able to get her to smile again when he has her think of her "childhood friend's" smiling face (strongly implied to be Fuyuhiko) and thinks to himself when she's smiling:
      Hajime: As Peko reminisced about her childhood friend, she looked cuter than I'd ever seen her before. I'm...a little jealous of her friend...
    • Following in their footsteps, Maki Harukara from Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony has a grand total of two sprites where she doesn't look serious or angry and one of them is a very cute smile.
  • Monster Prom: When Vera smiles and it isn't a Psychotic Smirk or a Slasher Smile, it's generally considered to be a very beautiful sight. This is recognized in-universe in which case Oz/Yellow ends up dating her, as the ending polaroid will have a comment from him about her smile.
    Oz: The world stops when she smiles...
  • In Piofiore: Fated Memories, Lili is said to have a lovely smile. In fact, seeing her smile for the first time is the start of Roberto falling in love with her.
  • In Spirit Hunter: NG, if the player has Akira smile via the Judgement system, the other characters will often remark on how charming and handsome it makes him look, especially since he's normally quite moody.
  • Kaori Yae in the Tokimeki Memorial 2 game series does this, particularly after she has recovered from her Heroic BSoD. Lampshaded several times in the saga by the protagonist, such as in Dancing Summer Vacation, saying the following, as he notices how dazzling she is when she smiles:
    Protagonist: I have the feeling it's the first time I see her smiling, without being on her guards. It feels like she's a different person.

  • In Dubious Company, after learning that Tiren almost got the team killed over a toy:
    Gen. Izor: Aren't you going to discipline her?
    Cap. Walter: Are you kidding? This is the first time I've seen her this happy while not being drunk, violent, or both.
  • Fate/type Redline: Sakura Saber, Okita Souji, is introduced as very stoic and serious and scares Kanata Akagi by quickly killing an attacker. When they introduce themselves, Okita gives a smile which really affects Akagi.
  • Lackadaisy:
    • Mordecai of all people is given one of these in a side comic about what would make him smile. Tracy states that while there were meaner ways of answering that question, she went for the more "saccharine" of explanations: remembering a happy moment from his mostly crappy childhood involving his little sister. He cracks a small smile that not only softens his presence considerably but damn near makes him seem normal.
    • Viktor is a giant grump with a bad temper who has been described as a "badger caught in a wire fence with a personality to match." As such, he always has either a scowl or a Death Glare as his default expressions. The few times he does smile make him appear far friendlier and more approachable than he usually is.
  • In Narbonic, Helen describes Dave this way.
    Artie: You like his smile?
    Helen: It's rare, but when it's genuine, it simply lights up the room.
    Artie: Then why do you do such terrible things to him?
    Helen: Well, his scream is pretty cute too.
  • In True Villains, Bayn is an 88-year-old Evil Sorcerer cursed into an eight-year-old body, remarkable for his phlegmatic attitude, formal speech patterns, "complete rejection of having fun", and constant irritation at Mia. When he smiles for the first time because of something she wrote, Mia is absolutely overjoyed.
  • Gray Yeon from Weak Hero is a naturally reserved boy who doesn't have a lot to smile about. When he first does so, his best friend makes a note of it. When he does it again in the presence of a new group of friends, they all blush in pride at him opening up.

    Western Animation 
  • Bojack Horseman has the final scene of Season 4. Upon finally having a relationship he didn't wreck with his toxic influence, making amends with his friends and starting to grow as a person, BoJack is rewarded with Hollyhock stating that she still wants him in her life as a brother figure, prompting him to give his first sincere and genuine smile in the entire show.
  • In Castlevania, Dracula has the sweetest smile in the series but it's a understandably rare occasion.
  • Hinted at by the producers of Daria involving the title character when they used the trope namer song in the credits of "Boxing Daria".
  • Inverted in an episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy. Perpetual Frowner Mandy enters a beauty pageant and Grim and Billy spend the entire episode trying to make her smile. When Mandy finally does smile it breaks reality, so much so that our main protagonists end up as The Powerpuff Girls.
    Sir Raven: You fools! You've messed with the natural order!
  • Kaeloo: Mr. Cat's default expression is an annoyed frown, and when he does smile it's usually a Slasher Smile, an arrogant, smug smile, or a smile at seeing someone else miserable. When he smiles for real in episodes like Episode 105 or Episode 129, it's a truly heartwarming moment, usually between him and Kaeloo.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has several characters for whom a natural, happy smile is difficult, which makes it that much more meaningful when they do pull it off:
    • Pinkie Pie and her family were a whole group of Perpetual Frowners living on a rock farm. When Pinkie witnessed Rainbow Dash's sonic rainboom, the sight of it caused her to smile for the first time and throw her own party. With that, the rest of her family smiles too, and she earns her cutie mark.
    • Babs Seed from "One Bad Apple" is a bully who usually sports a Slasher Smile when first introduced, but when she pulls a Heel–Face Turn and is initiated into the Cutie Mark Crusaders, the feeling of acceptance makes her pull a smile that's just goddamn adorable.
    • Maud Pie is the most stable stoic-bordering-on-Emotionless Girl pony among the show's recurring characters, about as far a cry from her Genki Girl sister Pinkie as one can get. It makes the few times she actually smiles in the show that much more impactful, usually when she sees that her sister is also happy.
    • Starlight Glimmer, the Big Bad of Season 5 is this when she ends up pulling a Heel–Face Turn and accepts Twilight's offer of friendship and tutelage. Her smile looks more genuine than it did in her other appearances.
    • Even Discord has his moments. Normally, he smiles in a smug, mean-spirited way. However, after his Heel–Face Turn, he tends to smile in a more genuine, friendly way. It's adorable, in a weird way.
  • The Owl House: Prior to the episode "Lost in Language", Amity Blight only had three expressions, a smug grin, a deadpan stare, and pure rage. Once she realizes that Luz isn't actually so bad or when she's reading to younger kids, she gives a real smile for the first time. Luz even lampshades it when she sees it.
    Luz: Amity seems so nice, and smiley!
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • Ferb, being The Stoic, is normally shown with a blank expression. The moment where he smiles is a sight to behold.
    • Same goes for Perry, who usually has a mindless look (in pet mode) or a serious frown (as a secret agent).
  • Star Wars Rebels: Surprisingly enough, when Agent Kallus actually has cause to genuinely smile, as opposed to the smug smirk he usually does, it's like this. The warmest one comes in "Zero Hour", after his defection from the Empire, when he thanks Kanan and the Ghost crew for taking him in despite their pasts, and Kanan thanks him for everything he did.
  • Steven Universe: White Diamond. One of Pink's drawings in "Familiar" shows her with a genuinely happy smile, and after Steven convinces her to stop forcing her perfectionism on everyone, she gives a small but sincere smile at the end of "Change Your Mind", and it's adorable.
  • Storm Hawks: Master Cyclonis' default "smile" is usually a Psychotic Smirk when she isn't frowning, but in "Five Days", she lets loose a genuinely adorable happy smile upon repairing a crystal that shows an image of her grandmother and herself as an infant.
  • In Teen Titans (2003), it's implied that Beast Boy feels this way toward the Stoic and Cynical Raven, as he puts immense effort into getting her to smile.
  • Arcee in Transformers: Prime has seen countless death and destruction in the war with the Decepticons, but when her friends comfort her, she'll start opening up around them and surprisingly give off an innocent smile as a sign of friendship.
  • Ice Bear of We Bare Bears usually sports a neutral or frustrated expression, but smiles on occasions.

Alternative Title(s): When He Smiles


Oreki smiles

Hyouka ends with Hotarou finally smiling.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / WhenSheSmiles

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