Uncanny Valley Makeup

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Some ladies wear Cover Girl, she wears Dutch Boy.[1]

Generally, people use cosmetics to make themselves more attractive. A little extra colour or definition can make a world of difference. In the wrong hands, however, or taken too far, that dab of lipstick, powder and paint can push a person straight into the Uncanny Valley. The human face disappears into the make-up, leaving something profoundly unnatural: a clown, a porcelain doll, or a something just plain grotesque.

This is disconcerting enough even if accidentally incurred in an honest effort to achieve perfection - if a character cultivates Uncanny Valley Makeup on purpose, like the semantic colors on a venomous snake, be on the alert for serious, premeditated creepiness.

Bonus points, if the person is wearing an old fashioned Pimped-Out Dress, a frivolous multicolored outfit, or an all black outfit. Or they may also dress in a skimpy outfit that was intended purely for Fan Service.

Depending on the circumstances this trope can be considered a good source of Nightmare Fuel, Fetish Fuel, or Fan Disservice.

See also Make-up Is Evil, Cosmetic Catastrophe, Impossibly Tacky Clothes and Excessive Evil Eyeshadow.

Examples of Uncanny Valley Makeup include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • In Samurai 7 (anime adaptation of Seven Samurai), Gorobei, Rikichi, and Heihachi are forced to dress in drag as part of an undercover mission. Gorobei and Rikichi sport laughably gaudy visages - Heihachi, however, makes for a very pretty lady.
  • An example occurs in Ouran High School Host Club when the host club dresses as women to cheer up Haruhi. They wear makeup that is hilariously overdone, wigs, and gaudy dresses. Likewise, every production done by the Zuka club features a lot of this. Likely this is because most of the characters already look like that...
    • And it's actually lampshaded by the Host Club when they see Haruhi in it, claiming "IT'S TOO THICK!"
  • In Tenchi in Tokyo, Ryoko applies makeup to herself by the pound. The result is her face looking so creepy and silly looking that her rival Ayeka all but pisses herself with laughter at the sight of it.
  • Shortly after joining The Shinsengumi in Peacemaker Kurogane, Tetsunosuke gets jealous at Yamazaki Susumu, who does his spying work crossdressed as a beautiful woman. Tetsunosuke grabs a spare kimono and borrows Susumu's makeup box, ending up looking more like a Kabuki clown than a lady, to the horror of innocent bystanders.
  • A teacher in Yu-Gi-Oh! wears so much makeup, it may as well be a mask. After a run in with Yami Yugi, it literally breaks off like a porcelain mask.
  • In a first season episode of Pokémon, Misty recieved a makeover from Team Rocket's fake salon that made her face look clownlike and oddly decorated. Needless to say, Ash was laughing his socks off over it.
  • Done for laughs (though very slightly dramatic) in Eureka Seven when Eureka tries make up.
  • The Ganguro girls in Durarara!!. So much makeup...

Film[edit | hide]

  • Queen Narissa from Enchanted, especially in her live-action form.
  • The Mystery Man from David Lynch's Lost Highway has no eyebrows, as well as a fairly subtle combination of eyeshadow and lipstick that renders his face fairly... uncanny.
  • In My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Toula's family is preparing her for her wedding, and they are in such a hurry that everyone pitches in to do her hair, makeup, and dress her. The end result is that she, in Toula's words, "looks like a snow beast".
  • In Shaolin Soccer, the hero's love interest tries getting a makeover to look prettier... but it fails spectacularly, with excessively heavy makeup and a huge Eighties Hair wig.
  • Pavi's faces in Repo! The Genetic Opera have a shade of this to them. It helps that they're skinned off of various women and hooked onto his face with clips. Features like eyebrows and lip color are pretty clearly redone in... post-production, as it were.
  • Mark Hamill had just suffered a car wreck before the shooting of The Star Wars Holiday Special. To hide his facial scars- AAARGH! SEND IT TO HELL!
  • Natalie Portman's makeup in Black Swan.
  • The Warriors. The very, er, colourful gang colours give it a Camp quality in hindsight.
    • The Furies, especially. Particularly because their glowering expressions never seem to change under the bright Day-Glo face paint.
  • "Baby" Jane Hudson as an adult in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?. Bette Davis suggested the idea she never washes her face, she just cakes new makeup on every day.
  • In John Carpenter's Escape from L.A., Bruce Campbell plays the Surgeon General of Beverly Hills, a man obsessed with achieving physical perfection through plastic surgery. The prosthetic makeup he wears for the part—sculpted cheekbones, a thinner nose, a squarer jaw, visible hairplugs—makes the character look more like an animated mannequin than anything else.
  • Blithe in The Sitter.
  • The matchmaker's makeup in Mulan. It falls even more in the Uncanny Valley after Mulan causes trouble.
  • Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, seeing as how he was intentionally meant to invoke Uncanny Valley (makeup was used to make his skin look unnaturally pale and flawless, and Christopher Lloyd avoided blinking when the camera was on him).
  • The Dee Dee twins from The Return Of The Joker.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • In A Series of Unfortunate Events, Count Olaf has a group of henchmen that help do his bidding. In his group, there are two women, with white powder all over their faces, and they are never depicted without the face powder.
  • In Bridget Jones Diary Bridget goes out partying with a "friend" who is always able to bring down her self-esteem with cutting remarks, and ends up convinced that she is horribly prematurely aging. As a result, the next time she goes out she spends ages applying lots and lots of makeup, to the point that when she arrives her friend Tom tells her she looks like Barbara Cartland.
    • In the sequel, she goes out to a fancy dinner with Mark Darcy and, in a hurry as ever, makes up in the cab on the way there. She can't work out why everyone at the party is looking at her strangely, til Mark sends her to the ladies' room and she finds that, in the dark, she confused plum eyeshadow with rouge...
  • In Wyrd Sisters, Magrat goes overboard on powder and mascara when going out to rescue Nanny Ogg from the Duke's dungeons, and is described as looking like "two flies that had crashed into a sugar bowl".
  • In A Clockwork Orange, the sociopathic culture of the young is partly indicated by the crazy way they dress and the insane makeup the girls are described as wearing:

These sharps were dressed in the heighth of fashion too, with purple and green and orange wigs on their gullivers, and make-up to match (rainbows round the glazzies, that is, and the rot painted very wide).

  • In Bridge of Birds, this is apparently the standard of beauty - among the many, many preparations Li Kao claims a beautiful woman makes every morning are "checks to make sure that her makeup has hardened into an immovable mask" and "looks into the mirror for any visible sign of humanity, and is relieved to find none".
  • Effie Trinket from The Hunger Games. She wears technicolor wigs, but then you find out the whole Capitol wants to look like this.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • The League of Gentlemen has Papa Lazarou. His face really is black and white like a minstrel, and he has to paint over it with makeup to appear normal. Well as normal as a demonic, polygamist blackface minstrel who runs a Circus of Fear, can look anyway. Papa learned the makeup skills to cover his minstrel face from his various wives.
  • The porcelain doll look is used to a fantastic effect in this advert for Eastenders.
  • Mimi Bobeck from The Drew Carey Show frequently wore more makeup than was necessary healthy for the proper brain functioning of those around her.
  • In the Are You Afraid of the Dark? episode "The Tale Of The Many Faces" a struggling model named Emma visits a strange woman named Madame Visage who gives her some powder that apparently helps her get a modeling job. The powder didn't really do anything, considering that Emma was pretty to begin with. (It does seem to almost hypnotize those around her, who will drop everything to mention how pretty she is.) However, its revealed that Madame Visage is a Vain Sorceress and the face powder has properties that keeps girls faces looking younger and the skin smooth. She wants the faces to be in peak condition so that she can steal them and use them as her own face as a way to keep herself looking younger.
    • Another AYAOTD episode called "The Tale Of The Mystical Mirror" features another Vain Sorceress named Mrs. Valenti who hires only in her words "beauties" to work in her clothing boutique and she is later revealed to regularly kill young girls in a ritual to keep herself eternally young and beautiful while she was actually centuries old. She gives her employees a compact filled with makeup, and she makes sure to keep her "youthful" face covered with so much makeup that her face looks like its made of plastic and she appears rather Stepford Smiler-ish.
  • Toddlers and Tiaras: nuff said
  • In How I Met Your Mother, the makeup that makes Barney look fat (possibly just Ted's imagination, we'll never know) is positively horrifying. Just take a look.
  • Helen A imposes this on all the citizens of Terra Alpha as part of her Stepford Smiler dictatorship in the Doctor Who story "The Happiness Patrol".

Music[edit | hide]

  • The Music video for Fall Out Boy's America's Suitehearts features Pete Wentz in some freak facepaint that makes him look like he has a large smiling black mouth full of teeth.
  • Emilie Autumn has some sort of creepy porcelain doll/french aristocrat look going on.
  • From the world of 90's Visual Kei, ex-Lareine bassist Emiru [dead link]. Any grown man who can have a little girl as a stage persona and get away with it definitely has a place here, especially if that stage persona has a distict air of Creepy Child about it, what with it's twisting off a doll's head (3:27-3:35) whilst looking blankly into the camera amongst other things.
  • Most of Lady Gaga's music videos, including "Born This Way." The protruding horns/cheekbones, flesh colored eyebrows and this little ensemble. [dead link]
  • Vocaloid has Matryoshka. It's either this or something else.
  • Every Robert Palmer video featured a group of models made up to look like emotionless mannequins.
  • Nicki Minaj looks like an IMVU character in the video for Super Bass, especially the eyelashes.
  • Ke$ha: "We R Who We R".
  • Joan Jett's album cover for Bad Reputation.

Video Games[edit | hide]

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • At least two episodes in Hey Arnold! feature Helga's older sister Olga break down crying so much tears that her makeup runs down her face and it looks like she's crying black tears.
    • Another episode has Helga give herself a makeover, in order to make herself look more girly for Rhonda's party. When her mother opens the bathroom door and sees the finished product she gasps and faints, causing Helga to say "Maybe I should've gone a bit lighter on the eye shadow."
  • In the Ruby-Spears Mega Man cartoon, a cosmetics robot looked like this to begin with. When Mega gave her a bad facial it got even worse.
  • Seen in My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, "Sonic Rainboom." When Rarity lets her new wings go to her head, she enters the Best Young Fliers' Competition herself wearing heavy make-up and a Pimped-Out Dress.
  • All of the female characters in The Problem Solverz have brightly colored eyeshadow and facial markings.
  • One late episode of The Powerpuff Girls had the Villain of the Week , "Mask Scara," fly around giving horribly trashy makeovers to everyone in townsville as well as some of the billboards. Not as uncanny when it's supposed to be funny, but still really, really ugly.

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Combined with Values Dissonance, this applies to most historically accurate recreations of historical makeup styles, such as the English Renaissance fashion for caking on a pale, lead-based makeup- which often ended up horribly disfiguring long-term users, incidentally.
    • From the 16th-18th centuries, the style for rouge was to apply it in a round (or occasionally triangular) pattern with no attempt to bend it into the foundation, creating a rather clownish effect to modern viewers. See also Blush Sticker.
    • Much like the What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? example under Film, its been suggested that some women never washed their face, they just caked new makeup on every day.
    • There are theories about the high numbers of mentally disabled children in noble families in 18th century Japan, for being caused by babies touching the lead makeup of their mothers and suffering from lead poisoning when it got from their fingers into their mouths.
  • Pageant photography, especially of kids.
    • That owes at least as much to aggressive use of Photoshop as to the makeup.
  • The late great Tammy Faye Messner. The woman's makeup would have scared the Joker.
  • Those two haven't got anything on Divine
  • Chris Crocker demonstrates in this video what the Joker would have looked like without his white face powder.
  • That ungodly combination of bright orange tanned skin and bleached blonde hair popular with many sorority girls and young gay men, who love to combine it with overly tweezed/waxed eyebrows.
  • Ganguro. Girls who followed that trend deliberately used makeup to look like Japanese ghosts and demons.
  • The late Dame Barbara Cartland, prolific romance novelist. Clive James famously described her face as looking like "looking like the corpses of two crows that had flown into a chalk cliff".
  • That "two crows flying into a chalk cliff" analogy could also apply to Taylor Momsen as of late. Ever since she's said she "doesn't fucking care" about being a good role model, she has begun layering her make-up on pretty thick. Michael K of Dlisted has unfavorably compared her multiple times to a panda.
  • Lady Gaga.[citation needed]
  • Boy George, especially on his appearances in I Love the (Era), when he's... not so Pretty and still wearing heavy amounts of makeup.
  • Some more Values Dissonance examples: Heavy makeup for women was especially popular in The Roaring Twenties, The Fifties, and The Eighties. Usually ladies from these eras were tactful in their application of cosmetics, but at times they overdid it. This was especially the case with actresses who were playing characters in historical movies set long before the advent of mass-marketed cosmetics.
  • Some youtube tutorials will teach you how to enter the uncanny valley of makeup, by trying to make you look like an anime character. No, not uncanny valley like an anime character wearing makeup. Looking like an anime character.
    • Worse is when you try to make yourself look like a character that simply doesn't have human facial proportions to begin with. As is the case with this tutorial on how to paint your face to look like Sonic the Hedgehog.
  • When girls are just beginning to wear makeup and experiment with it,(usually in their pre-teens) sometimes they can look downright clownish. Maybe they used foundation multiple shades too dark or too light from their actual skin color. Or maybe they used a little too much eyeshadow and blush. Or maybe they had put on the brightest shade of lipstick they could find. Possibly all of that.
  • Lots of the more OTT makeup styles amongst alt fashion wearers in Japan (and the fashion followers in western countries). Contact lenses that make your eyes look impossibly round and huge? Check. Two to three pairs of false eyelashes? Check. So much pale foundation and powder that you look like you're made of chalk? Check. Foundation'd-out lips? Check. Perfectly round clown blusher? The list goes on. The effect is often adorable, but it doesn't make it less creepy.

Other[edit | hide]

  1. No, not the famous one with his finger in the dike. It appears that "Dutch Boy" is a brand of paint available in parts of the USA.