Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"Hair black like night, skin white as snow..."

The Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette is a character not just with mere brown hair and light skin, but hair as black as midnight and skin pale as a ghost—possibly because they are a ghost, though it's not required. This black and white complexion is visually contrasting and interesting to look at, serving as a cue to a high contrast or even duality about the character and setting them apart from their peers. And it's dirt common among villains, creepy characters (vampires especially), and Goths.

The reasoning why goes something like this: black is evil, blonde is good (usually); tanned is healthy, pale is sickly. Put them both together and you get the most common villainous complexion. It's enough to suggest a tanning bed to would-be world conquerors. Who knows? Maybe regular trips to the beach might dissuade the Omnicidal Maniac from his schemes?

Sometimes Justified by Victorian Novel Disease, which practically codified the trope, hence its popularity in Gothic fiction.

That said, this is still something of an alignment neutral trope. On the Dark Is Not Evil side of the equation, there's the Goth, Strange Girl, Trickster, and Anti-Hero. Still, some of the more memorable examples of this trope are the likes of The Vamp, Blood Knight, and Wicked Witch. Oddly enough, the Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette is hardly ever The Big Guy or a bruiser, as most villains with this complexion complement it with haggard, sleep deprived eyes and near starved frames, perhaps to send the message that evil takes a physical as well as moral toll. If they are on the side of good, though, they'll usually be of The Lancer or The Smart Guy type.

This is somewhat ironic, as Once Upon a Time, pale skin symbolized wealth and education, as the privileged could afford to work indoors rather than in the fields. (Also, it's very easy to tell if a pale person is sick; with a 'healthy tan', one can hide it more easily.) Nowadays, this is not uncommon in Real Life. Also, some people find the coloration attractive.

One thing worth noting is that, since only albinos can have pure white skin in Real Life (if you want to get really technical, they can't either, since the blood under their skin will tint it very slightly), having a character whose skin is literally milk-white may land them in the Uncanny Valley unless it's part of a highly stylised art style. Comics and cartoons have also been known to tint characters' skin tones pale green, or violet, blue, or grey, as a variation on this aesthetic. Even in live action, a yellowish, or "sallow", tinge is not unknown.

Counterpart to the Dark-Skinned Redhead and the Dark-Skinned Blond. Very common among vampires. Often, these people look like Cesare, especially if they apply Excessive Evil Eyeshadow. Compare and contrast Tall, Dark and Bishoujo, Raven Hair, Ivory Skin, and Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl. Also see But Not Too Black. Not to be confused with Undeathly Pallor.

Examples of Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette include:

Anime and Manga

  • Most of the Otherselves in Black★Rock Shooter, bordering on Undeathly Pallor.
  • Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei: Kiri Komori fits this trope pretty much to a T, being a Hikikomori who, by nature, doesn't go outside much.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Zolf J. Kimbley and Frank Archer. Both have black hair, and Kimbley has unhealthy-looking skin because of his prison time. Archer has pure white skin that even the homunculi cannot compete with. Also Izumi, though she has an incurable illness as an excuse.
    • Nearly all the homunculi are like this except Gluttony and Envy, the former being bald and the latter having green hair in his preferred form. And King Bradley and Greed, while brunette, are not pale.
  • L, Naomi Misora, and Teru Mikami of Death Note.
  • Yuuko Ichihara of ×××HOLiC. Most color illustrations depict the rest of the main cast as these, too.
  • Sunako from The Wallflower. The boys in charge of making her into a lady initially mistake her for Sadako thanks to the general aura of creepy she constantly emanates.
  • This is one of the indications that the titular character of Hell Girl is not of this world.
  • Rue of Princess Tutu, playing up the crow imagery around her.
  • Kuromitsu, the beautiful, immortal vampire from Kurozuka.
  • Sawako from Kimi ni Todoke, whose creepy looks have had her nicknamed Sadako. She's actually very nice, very naive, and really lonely (since her looks and her (mostly untrue) reputation tends to scare off potential friends).
  • Orochimaru of Naruto goes beyond simply having pale skin—his is flat-out white, paired with black hair. Sai, Itachi, and Sasuke are less pale, but they all contrast with Naruto, who is blond-haired and well-tanned. More heroic examples are Hinata and Neji Hyuga. (Well, Neji becomes heroic...esque.)
  • Hotaru Tomoe from Sailor Moon is a Creepy Child who has both a planet-destroying soldier spirit and a demon bent on bringing "silence" to the world sealed inside her. Despite all this, when depowered, she's just a sweet girl who is misunderstood due to her fainting states and creepy looks.
  • Setsuna of Mahou Sensei Negima is noted for her pale white skin and raven-black hair which gives her the look of a traditional Japanese woman. Akira and maybe Konoka would also count.
    • Setsuna is arguably a subversion, as it's implied later in the manga that she's albino and dyes her hair so that she can fit in.
  • Tomoe in Rurouni Kenshin. Also, Kaoru, though she subverts the trope by being more emotional.
  • Precia Testarossa of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, an Evil Matriarch of a Big Bad with an Incurable Cough of Death.
  • Saki Hanajima from Fruits Basket, complete with creepy goth tendencies and an unflattering reputation. Her younger brother Megumi is one of these too, and he's arguably even creepier than she is. Rin and Akito, both Broken Birds, also fit this trope.
  • Momoko of Saki. This, combined with her ~su Verbal Tic, her power to disappear from sight, and the black smoke effect used to portray those powers, makes her seem like a ghost.
  • Re-l Mayer from Ergo Proxy, whose pure white skin, pitch black hair, and liberal amounts of blue eyeshadow make her rather...striking.
  • Fiore from Chrono Crusade, an undead Meido who works for the villains.
  • Ulquiorra Schiffer from Bleach has bone-white skin.
  • D.Gray-man has two heroic examples: Krory and Miranda.
  • Sebastian Michaelis from Black Butler.
  • Yuno Morino from Goth. The contrast of the scars on her wrists atop her pristine white skin is what drew the attention (and obsession) of the Nightmare Fetishist narrator.
  • The surreal OVA Radio City Fantasy involves an artist who is in love with his muse who fits this trope, her white skin and black hair being visually interesting to him.
  • Lelouch Lamperouge from Code Geass.
  • Death the Kid from Soul Eater. He's a nice enough if eccentric chap, but he does have black-and-white hair, slightly creepy yellow eyes, and comes across as more eerie than is the norm even for this series when he fights 'properly' or talks about gods, life, and death. And that's before you factor in his temporary insanity.
  • Emma from Victorian Romance Emma gives off vibes like this to those around her, which led a few men to court her, but is often considered aloof by her peers.
  • Shiki from Togainu no Chi has skin that's practically white and black hair. Were it not for his Red Eyes, Take Warning, in fact, he would have a very monochromatic appearance since he wears black all the time.
  • Nii Jenyi Ukoku from Saiyuki.
  • Hagoromo-Gitsune from Nurarihyon no Mago, as opposed to the Togainu no Chi example above, is monochromatic; she has Black Eyes, black hair, wears black serafuku with a white ribbon and has pale white skin that would make Snow White look tan.
  • Zeref from Fairy Tail

Comic Books

  • Death and Dream of the Endless in The Sandman, though the former is a much cheerier Perky Goth to her brother's somber disposition. The Endless can change their appearance; Dream appears African to one of his Girlfriends.
    • Desire and Despair, too.
      • In fact, of all the Endless, only Destruction has a human complexion of any color in his "default" appearance, at least in the present. Delight did as well before she became Delirium. Endless Nights also shows the first Despair as having pinkish skin.
  • The Bride of Nine Spiders from Immortal Iron Fist. Fittingly, her main power is the ability to summon hordes of spiders.
  • Ragamuffin from Lenore the Cute Little Dead Girl.
  • Cassie Hack from Hack Slash. Probably best shown in a panel from Slice Hard Prelude, where she and the Acid Angel are staring each other down.
  • Spider-Man foe Shriek [dead link].
  • Nemi is this trope.

Fairy Tales and Folklore

  • "Snow White": Back in the day, unnatural paleness was the epitome of feminine beauty, since tanned skin was associated with commoners who worked outside all day. Hell, dying of tuberculosis was considered to add to women's attractiveness by causing paleness and fainting spells. The paleness=corpse=unnatural association isn't any older than the twentieth century.
    • Tanith Lee played with this by taking the whole "Skin pale as snow, lips as red as blood, hair black as a raven's wing" description and concluding that this meant Snow White and her mother were vampires. So did Neil Gaiman.
      • Cecelia Eng wrote a Filk almost certainly based on Lee's story:

Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Cannot see my face at all;
My lips are red as the blood I crave,
My hair as black as an empty grave.

  • The legend of the Yuki-onna or Snow Lady in Japanese mythos. Exceptionally pale and beautiful, but her eyes can be terrifying. She may also lack feet.


  • Any film by Tim Burton, who got the idea from Conrad Veidt. It's practically guaranteed to have at least one, and it'll probably be Johnny Depp.
  • Sadako/Samara from The Ring.
  • The entirety of The Addams Family (except Pugsley, who's just as pale but has brownish hair) in the films, as a physical sign of their, er, 'difference'.
  • The Thermians in Galaxy Quest, done to emphasize that they are aliens who have disguised themselves as humans in accordance with the film's plot.
  • Esther Coleman from Orphan.
  • In Waltz with Bashir, the director portrays his ex-girlfriend, who dumped him the same week he shipped out, as one of these. He has fantasies of her as a ghostly presence on the battlefield. In an interview, the director stated that his wife objected to how attractive he made her in the film.
  • The BBC version of the White Witch is a straight up villainous example.
  • Selene from the Underworld movies. Being a vampire and all, this shouldn't come as a surprise.
  • The ghost girl in Dead Friend (aka The Ghost).
    • Heck, every character in the film could fit this trope. Possibly intentional? The four main girls were particularly creepy whenever they stood in a row and just stared someone down.
  • Elvira, Mistress of the Dark fits this trope to a tee. Then she turns out to be extraordinarily slutty, spiteful, cruel, and manipulative (far from the angelic image she's remembered as), so she also fits into the evil, dark-haired, pale-skinned group.
  • The Pasteur (yes, that's how they spell it in the credits) in We Are the Strange.
  • Kelly in Mystery Team.
  • Most of the covers (for example, this one) for May.
  • Loki in Thor. Fanart tends to take this even further.
  • Donnie Darko.
  • Kill List has Fiona, Gal's new girlfriend. There's something distinctly off about her and her appearance and strange actions during Jay's dinner party are one of the first major hints that something is very wrong here.


  • Sirius Black fits this for most of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. When it's revealed that he's actually good, the characters basically stop mentioning his pale, waxy complexion.
    • Also, Bellatrix, who, in the movies, is played by the pictured Helena Bonham Carter. And the rest of the Black family. And Snape, though he, like Sirius, turns out to be a good, albeit Byronic Hero. And young Tom Riddle, which creeps Harry out, as he looks a bit like him. Rowling loves this trope.
  • Coraline's Other Mother fits the sinister aspects of this trope. In the animated movie, her original form also fits Raven Hair, Ivory Skin.
  • Gregor Vorbarra from the Vorkosigan Saga is described as being like this - as well as being tall and thin and dressed in dark clothing - so it shouldn't be surprising that he's The Emperor of a multi-planetary, extremely militaristic empire. Except that he's also one of the good guys.
    • Most of Miles Vorkosigan's love interests fit this trope too, especially Elena and Elli.
  • House Raith of the White Court in The Dresden Files - a clan of psychic vampires that feed on lust and all look like this.
  • Juliet Salazar from Mike Carey's Felix Castor series, who has black hair, "black-on-black" eyes, and pure white skin: "the undiluted white of snow or bone rather than the muddy pink-beige mix that passes for white according to normal labelling conventions." Justified in her case, as she's a demon from Hell whose body isn't, technically speaking, an actual body. And in something of a subversion, she's not necessarily an evil demon from Hell, when she chooses not to be.
  • Heleth from Douglas Hill's ColSec Trilogy is an Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette with facial tattoos. Justified in that she was raised underground (the tattoos help camouflage her in shadows). And she sunburns badly.
  • Definitely on the Dark Is Not Evil side of this trope: Stephen Maturin, co-protagonist of the Aubrey-Maturin series. His hair is black, of course, and his skin tone is almost invariably described as "pale" or "sallow".
  • Xanatos, Manipulative Bastard and Big Bad of the Jedi Apprentice novels in the Star Wars EU, is more or less described as looking like a vampire.
  • Magiere from The Saga of the Noble Dead straddles the line between this and Undeathly Pallor. At her most normal, she has a chalk-white complexion (impossible given the amount of time she spends outdoors) and blood red highlights in her otherwise black hair (when her Super-Powered Evil Side comes out, so do the fangs). Oddly enough, she had a rough childhood and developed a thing about superstitious peasantry.
  • Emily of New Moon has very pale skin (to the point that, especially when she's a child, most people who meet her assume she's delicate and will likely die of tuberculosis) and black hair. It contributes to most people seeing her as a borderline Creepy Child.
  • While Snow White in the original fairy tale is far too nice to be this, her colouring has inspired several writers to depict her as a vampire, for example, Tanith Lee in Red as Blood and Neil Gaiman in Snow, Glass, Apples.
  • In The Count of Monte Cristo, Edmund Dantes is one of these, having dark hair and extremely pale skin. This is called attention to on several occasions, in which, as the Count, he's described as handsome but with an unsettlingly pale skin tone. The narrator explains that the years he spent in prison made Dantes very pale and prevented him from ever returning to his original tan skin tone.
  • The entire town of Dark Falls in the Goosebumps book Welcome to Dead House, sometimes bordering on Looks Like Cesare in the TV adaptation.

Live-Action TV

  • Morticia Addams fits the physical description (moreso in adaptations that are in color, rather than black and white), but is a very nice person. She just has some unusual hobbies and a slightly odd outlook on life. Same thing with her husband and daughter.
    • Speaking of her daughter, in the Netflix series Wednesday, she claims her mother does this by appling baking powder to her face instead of actual makeup; given that there are some scenes where Morticia seems to have normal-colored skin, this claim seems legit.
    • In the live action movies, her pale skin is accented by bright red lipstick and nail polish, plus a ghostly glow around her eyes, most noticeable in dim light, making her look even more eerie.
  • Lily Munster of The Munsters also looks like this and would probably get along very well with Morticia if they met.
  • In season 2 of Dexter, Dexter's girlfriend Lila is a pale-skinned brunette. Because they're all in sun-filled Miami, this leads Deb to speculate that she's "a gross English titty vampire". And when Lila turns out to be nuts, Deb describes her to the other cops as "pale as a fucking corpse."
  • Star Trek:
    • Lt. Cmdr. Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation was designed to be this on purpose to keep him on the left side of the Uncanny Valley. Amusingly, some aliens think he's just a weird-looking human. In homage to Kirk's "rice-picker" in The Original Series and Blatant Lies regarding Spock in Star Trek IV the Voyage Home, they tell some past humans in "Time's Arrow" that he's a "Frenchman".
      • In at least one holodeck episode, he passes himself off as South American.
    • Spock and most Vulcans (barring Tuvok) in general fit this trope.
    • Also, Deanna Troi.
    • Let's not forget Weyoun of DS9, or every Vorta, for that matter.
  • Merton J. Dingle from Big Wolf on Campus, since he's a goth.
  • River Tam of Firefly. Kinda justified on the pale-skinned part, as she doesn't leave the ship much. And she's pretty eerie.
  • Willow in Buffy the Vampire Slayer at the end of season 6. Justified in that, by that point, she's become completely taken over by grief, revenge lust, and black magic. She gets better.
    • Drusilla - likely a side effect of vampirism.
  • WWE Superstar Mark Callaway, aka The Undertaker (although his natural hair color is actually red), as well as his manager, Paul Bearer. Even after Taker changed his gimmick to a Badass Biker, he's still noticeably pale.
  • Bad girl Audrey Horne in Twin Peaks.
  • A benign version is Marian from the BBC's Robin Hood, played by dark-haired, pale-skinned Lucy Griffith.
  • By an act of divine fortune (for those who like women, anyway), Zoe Graystone from Caprica has very dark (nearly-black) hair and very light (as close to white as possible without albinism) skin. Particularly noticeable in the ads, in which she is stark-naked, looking over her shoulder, and holding a bright-red apple.
  • Abby Sciuto from NCIS. Real scary when she gets going.
  • Emily Prentiss from Criminal Minds.
  • The titular character from Sherlock. Not so much in the Pilot version, where he was a little more tanned and had slightly browner hair.
    • But Benedict Cumberbatch always has fair skin, being a redhead. The brown hair he had in the pilot version didn't make him look as pale, but the black hair next to his already pale skin made him look white.
    • Moriarty fits this trope even more so.
  • Power Rangers RPM does this to the season's mentor figure Dr. K. It's justified as she was kidnapped at a young age by government agents and raised in a think tank, being told that she was allergic to sunlight. It showed.
  • The loyal warlock Merlin and the king's ward Morgana, from the BBC's Merlin.
    • Though Morgana is a better fit for this trope than Merlin, since she's definitely paler-skinned (Merlin doesn't really have that "ghostly" complexion), as well as conveniently turning into a near-psychopathic villainess hellbent on dramatic angst and sorcerous revenge.


Tabletop Games

  • Due to flaws in various implants, all Raven Guards have dark hair and pale skin, regardless of what they looked like pre-surgery.
  • Dark Elves in Warhammer Fantasy are almost all pale and black-haired, though no actual reason is given. Perhaps that was just a major dominant trait among the Nagarytheans.
    • Nothing in official books, but various pieces of fluff and the occasional Word of God in articles and video-game material state that, yes, Nagarytheans tended towards this aspect. That, and millennia of using dark magic probably hasn't helped matters any...
  • Moon elves, or Silver elves, in Forgotten Realms usually have black to blue hair and pale to icy-blue skin. At least one novel even Lampshaded that the subrace visually is a perfect contrast to Dark-Skinned Blond drow. They look the weirdest of whole elvenkind (except Avariel), but tend to be the most human-like mentally (approachable, curious, and active) and the least decadent.
  • Ubiquitous in Old World of Darkness with its Gothic aesthetic design. Open a rule book and you will see this trope.


  • In The Musical version of Wicked, Nessarose is almost always one of these, no matter the actress (the exceptions being when she is played as a washed-out-looking dishwater blonde or the actress is simply not of an ethnicity that makes this feasible). It makes sense, considering that she's fairly sickly and, being crippled, is confined to bed, and also sees the world in terms of black and white. Later, when she turns evil, she exchanges her blue-and-white outfit for a black one.
  • Despite being The Ingenue, Christine Daae in Andrew Lloyd Webber's version of The Phantom of the Opera is sometimes (depending on the actress) played as this, though, in her case, it's mostly to make her look fragile and ethereal. In just as many cases, it's subverted by her having a fresh, lively, pink complexion to go with her dark hair, and a few actresses have simply been too dark to even come close to this trope.
    • The Phantom himself looks like one of these until it turns out his "hair" is actually a wig, and all he really has is a few scraggly wisps of graying brownish hair on an otherwise bald head.
  • The Japanese production of Tanz der Vampire made Herbert von Krolock into one of these. Western productions tend to go the other route and make him a White-Haired Pretty Boy.
  • Laurence Olivier played Shakespeare's Richard III as one of these onstage; when he recreated his performance for film, the makeup was toned down and Richard's skin tone was Olivier's own. (Ironically, the real Richard was, according to his surviving portraits, of middling complexion and with merely brown hair.)

Video Games

Web Comics

Web Original

  • Riley from The Guild, except for the sickly part.
  • Phase (Ayla Goodkind) at the Super-Hero School Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe. Her hair is jet-black (it was a sandy-blond back when she was a boy, before she mutated). She's quite pale (some wavelength of light may be passing through her). She's also very rich and highly educated, which fits the trope too. But she's one of the good guys. A lot of mutants don't believe that, because her family are the most notorious mutant-haters anywhere.
  • Persephone in Thalia's Musings.

Western Animation

  • Nearly all human(oid) Disney villains ever.
  • Mai and Jun of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Not to mention Zuko, arguably the palest character on the show.
  • Kevin from Ben 10 starts out this way and is quite psychotic. When he joins the team in the sequel, his skin tone is almost the same as the Tennysons.
  • Kylie Griffin, the Goth member of the Extreme Ghostbusters.
  • Ingrid Third of Fillmore!.
  • Triana Orpheus of The Venture Brothers, a bit of a Perky Goth subversion.
  • Shego from Kim Possible was designed with this in mind. Her green highlights make her seem poisonous. Oddly (given the suggestion above), she's often seen on a beach, or a tanning bed, with no apparent effects; maybe she wants to differentiate herself from her heroic brothers who follow a similar scheme.
  • Creepy Suzie, the Goth "Clubhouse Kid" from The Oblongs.
  • Raven from Teen Titans.
  • Marceline the Vampire Queen from Adventure Time is this, only because she is a vampire.
    • Well, Marceline was already pale-skinned and black haired before she was bitten, as seen in the episode Memory of a Memory.
  • Dib from Invader Zim is a male example. His sister Gaz comes close, except that she has dark purple hair.
  • Master XOX from Sidekick.
  • The animated version of Lydia from Beetlejuice.
  • The Incredibles has Violet Parr who is depicted as gloomy, uncertain and socially withdrawn—preferring to hide behind her long raven hair.

Real Life

  • Michael Jackson, for the last decade or two before his death. He suffered from vitiligo, which caused him to gradually lose his skin pigmentation; that alone wouldn't have made him creepy-looking, but he also got a large amount of plastic surgery that put him into the Uncanny Valley. He was also infamously reputed to be a pedophile following the accusations of child molestation in 1993 and again in 2003. He was acquitted both times (but that wasn't enough to save his reputation), but he was a Man Child and a spectacular example of a Cloudcuckoolander.
  • Skandar Keynes, the actor who plays Edmund Pevensie, in the Chronicles of Narnia, apparently manages to pull this look off, without even trying, a fact that helped him a lot to look like the bad one. His co-star, William Moseley, who plays his brother and is in contrast with him, joked about this at one point and told him he almost looked like a Goth.
  • Musicians with a gothic image, particularly members of alternative or metal bands, often have the looks of this trope (often in combination with Looks Like Cesare, as that page mentions), whether naturally or on purpose. However, not many of them come across as eerie to their fandoms or to laypeople, though a few have been painted as villains by Moral Guardians.
  • It's not that difficult[1] to acquire the skin and hair colors of this trope, if you dye your hair and stay out of the sun, and some people are naturally black-haired and pale-skinned enough to fit the visuals. Eerieness, however, is both harder to achieve and far more subjective, and people who try to be eerie can easily wind up looking like poseurs instead.
    • The physical features are particularly common in ethnicities with a higher than average proportion of red-heads.
  • The White Stripes. Both of them. ESPECIALLY Jack. It doesn't help that Meg is super silent.
  • Neil Gaiman breathes this trope.
  • Lena Meyer-Landrut, winner of the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest and further contestant in 2011.
  • Rose McGowan of Charmed fame.
  • Idina Menzel, minus the green makeup, as shown in this performance of "For Good".
  • Tommy Wiseau, although the eerieness is undermined by his...other traits.
  • Sid Vicious. Ebony hair and eyes, deathly thin and deathly pale, and it really didn't help that he liked to carve epithets into his chest.
  1. assuming you're white, Asian, or fair-skinned black; members of races with more melanin can only do it if they bleach their skin or happen to have a pigmentation abnormality