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If some character has teeth in need of orthodontic correction, it's pretty unlikely you're going to see them in regular, boring old braces. After all, we see those all the time in Real Life -- how dull and boring! Instead, poor crooked-teethed Timmy or Susie is going to be saddled with this monstrous orthodontic device that sticks out of their mouth, takes up half their face, and brands them as a nerd/dork/geek for the rest of their formative years. Yes, be prepared for the be-headgeared character to be a stereotypical nerd, or at least take on a few nerdy mannerisms. No popular or cool kid ever has to wear one of these ridiculous things.
Due to the rather blatant character attributes the headgear usually implies and orthodontic technology having improved significantly since the nineties, this is now more or less a Discredited Trope. It's rare to see such headgear now except for the sake of a one-off gag. Curiously, regular braces are still somewhat rare on TV. Guess they must all have the invisible kind.
Compare and contrast British Teeth.
- Averted in the comic version of WITCH, in which Hay Lin gets regular braces, and even gets to customize them!
- Aversion: Stargirl, of the Justice Society of America, got braces in the second issue of her solo series. She still has them to this day, though they're typically only drawn in during close-up panels.
- Inverted by body-modification fan Pierce from Zits, who gets disheartened when his orthodontist (the main character's father) tells him he can't have more metal added to his teeth/face.
- Smile, the graphic autobiography by Raina Telgemeier, talks about the various dental and orthodontic procedures she went through when she seriously damaged her teeth in an accident. As such, the procedures are realistic such as she has to wear an external frame at one point, but only when she was in bed. She did have to wear a variant brace at one point that included a rubber band inside her mouth that was diagonally position from one side of her upper jaw, to the other side of her lower one. However, most of her braces were reasonably subtle in appearance and once she finally dropped her false friends who continually teased her about them, the real friends she later gained didn't notice anything after a while.
- The French comic Titeuf has Jean-Claude, a boy with a brace so invasive he is incapable of normal speech (and is reduced to sputtering saliva).
Films -- Animation
- In Finding Nemo, the character of Darla has braces that wrap around her face. Somewhat justified in that her uncle's a dentist.
Films -- Live-Action
- The live-action musical film of Little Shop of Horrors has a kid in headgear so complex she cannot talk. It looks like the Reverse Bear Trap from Saw.
- Charlie's Angels Full Throttle: Teenage Natalie had outside-the-face braces. Even after the Flash Back, which showed that despite this she grew up to be a super-hottie, she still had the klutzy geekiness and was an unpopular girl at heart.
- Sixteen Candles
- In the second Brady Bunch movie, Jan had the braces and the headgear.
- Johnny Depp's Willy Wonka from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has them in flashbacks. His father was a very strict dentist, and the constant denial of candy was a major development point in his newly made up backstory. "Present" Willy has aggressively perfect teeth, though, so they did the job.
- Lane's fix-up date in Better Off Dead is with a girl wearing hideous orthodontia. Fortunately, she doesn't want to go out with him, either, so she just gets him to pay her what he would've spent on the date.
- Problem Child 3
- In the second The Addams Family film, a Alpha Bitch at summer camp wears these, but only at night.
- Robbie's braces in Poltergeist 2 are relatively normal... until they try to electrocute him.
- Shirley in Brazil.
- The Harry Potter-cosplayer-with-a-traffic-cone-for-a-wizard-hat underage drinker in Hot Fuzz certainly qualifies. Although his bracers look pretty standard on a surface level, the gleam of metal when he opens his mouth is so bright it makes a sound and blinds an unprepared Sgt. Angel.
- In a non-cartoon example, a character from Eerie Indiana has headgear that somehow allows him to translate dog communication.
- When Marcia Brady needed (regular) braces, an entire episode of The Brady Bunch was devoted to her overcoming the angst and insecurity of wearing them. Three seasons later, Jan was seen wearing them without any explanation as to how they got there. Same with Bobby and Cindy the following season.
- In Pushing Daisies, Chuck apparently wore these as a kid, which is why she's so good at understanding mumbled speech. Somewhat subverted in that she wore them as a form of birth control.
- One episode of Kids Incorporated had Renee needing braces. After spending an entire episode angsting, she got an invisible set.
- Bailey Pickett of The Suite Life on Deck wears an old-fashioned head-mounted retainer to bed.
- The title character of Ugly Betty, which gets pretty bizarre as she keeps them during the show's entire run. You really have to wonder if her dentist is just a con artist.
- Grace on Will and Grace mentioned that between her braces and scoliosis brace, she looked like scaffolding growing up.
- Averted for the most on Even Stevens. Ren wears braces, but this fact is hardly ever brought up (the unobservant likely wouldn't even have known). However, in the episode where she gets her braces removed, the kid after her at the orthodontist's office has one of these monstrosities on.
- Miranda wore braces in one episode of Sex and the City, after learning she was a tongue thruster. She had her braces removed by the end of the episode once she decided that being a tongue thruster was the lesser of two evils. Although the braces she wore looked normal, it's worth mentioning because she was in her mid-thirties, making her older than the usual children/teenagers you normally see wearing braces on TV.
- In the first episode of Police Squad!, Detective Drebin goes to shake down a nefarious orthodontist. The patients in his waiting room are actually sitting in order of the ridiculousness of their appliances: from the first patient with simple braces, to the last patient wearing a giant vice clamp on her head.
- Used in an episode of You Can't Do That on Television. Subverted, since the braces weren't meant for Orthodontic correction, but to prevent her from kissing boys.
- In "The Paper Route", a third-season episode of The Middle, Sue is expecting to get her braces off. Instead, since they've overcorrected her teeth, she's forced to wear headgear full-time.
- Eddie is shown with braces and headgear in one episode of Family Matters, apparently for an overbite. He's never seen with them before or after that, though.
- Laurie on The Partridge Family angsts over having to get braces, refusing to open her mouth for anyone. She later switches to a retainer and night brace when the braces turn out to be interfering with the electronic sound waves on her keyboard during band practice.
- In the music video of "Last Friday Night" by Katy Perry, her character (Kathy Beth Terry) has this most of the time. She Cleans Up Nicely, though.
- The video "Hobo humpin' slobo babe" by swedish group Whale. Singer Cia Berg wore regular braces, but looked somewhat unusual since she wore them on both upper and lower jaw, and she was 30 at the time. A rumour stated that the braces was a forfeit for some kind of bet between her and her then husband (also a member of the group), allegedly about oral sex. Weird rumors like these were pretty much par for the course for Whale, and was their standard way of doing cheap promotion.
- Them music video for "Every Morning" by Sugar Ray features a girl with headgear (and a neck brace). Could be justified since the video is set up like a period piece - a roller rink in the late 1970's - so clunky old braces would be the norm.
- The Simpsons
- In one episode, the family discovers that Lisa needs braces. After she's initially offered practically invisible ones, the dentist finds out the Simpsons don't have a dental plan anymore (thanks to Mr. Burns) and heads straight for the type of obtrusive orthodontic headgear known only to cartoon nerds complete with the admonition, "These pre-date stainless steel, so you can't get them wet." Strangely, in this episode, Lisa's braces get less and less obtrusive in every scene in which she appears. At first, she can't even conceal them by closing her mouth, but later she can, and eventually they're only slightly more noticeable than ordinary braces. She eventually ends up with newer and better braces after Homer manages to get the dental plan back.
- The big-ass orthodontic headgear made another appearance in a Simpsons comic Halloween special, as an attempt to become unappetising to monsters.
- In another episode where a school dance is held at Springfield Elementary, Milhouse's date to this dance wears orthodontic headgear. Yes, she's on the awkward and ugly-looking side.
- In the "Bye Bye Nerdie" episode, the clunky headgear is seen on a character on the bus who is wearing a "Frankie Says relax" shirt. Later in the episode, the normal kind are seen on another character at the school.
- Orthodontic headgear comes up on more than one occasion on the cartoon Cow and Chicken. For one thing, Chicken's friend Earl wears them all the time. There was also an episode where everyone (even Earl) was terrorized by the "Orthodontic Police" and forced to wear various orthodontic devices, all of which were obtrusive and exaggerated-looking. Some of them even came with belt harnesses.
- Shannon from Whatever Happened to Robot Jones?, in a partial aversion. That is, she appears to be relatively well-adjusted socially and there is a pseudo 80s feel to the show as a whole. Her braces are the least of her problems: she's also missing a leg and has a rather odd-looking metal prosthetic. This is implied to be the reason Robot Jones is attracted to her.
- Darren wore these in the first season of As Told by Ginger. Since that show didn't do the Not Allowed to Grow Up thing typical to most cartoons, he gets them removed at the beginning of Season 2, becoming a hottie overnight.
- Stan's sister, Shelly Marsh, from South Park.
- The Fairly Odd Parents
- Timmy's friend, Chester, wears what look like regular braces. However, in an episode set in the skate park they kept getting damaged and replaced with ones that did unusual things occasion, such as sprouting swingsets.
- Don't forget Vicky's little sister, Tootie.
- Averted in Kim Possible. Kim had regular braces in her tween years, not orthodontic headgear. (Disney tries to be enlightened about such things.)
- Funny enough, the same goes for Ren Stevens, portrayed by Christy Carlson Romano, the voice of Kim Possible.
- In All Grown Up, Chuckie wears regular braces, though he's still socially awkward.
- Jimmy's retainer in Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy, which is apparently of the non-removable sort. It's at least simpler than most cartoon orthodontia; It's merely a ring hovering around his head.
- In an odd inversion, Little Shop, the Animated Adaptation of Little Shop of Horrors, features a strong bully wearing orthodontic headgear (probably a reference to the equivalent character in the film being a sociopathic dentist). He's the kind of guy you do not want to cross in a dark alley.
- Played with in, of all places, Braceface. The series revolves around this whole trope: although her braces look as physically normal as those in reality, the title character gets into bizarre and awkward situations when the braces tend to magnetize various objects.
- Played with in the animated version of WITCH. Hay Lin's new braces become a plot point for the episode "T is for Trauma": Nerissa is able to convince Hay Lin that her normal-looking braces are ugly, leading to a Heroic BSOD for Hay Lin. This later leads to a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming after Hay Lin's boyfriend Eric tells her that the braces don't detract from her looks at all, and even implies they look cute on her ("They're so shiny!"). Then Hay Lin happily glomps him.
- Codename: Kids Next Door
- The dentistry-obsessed villain Knightbrace uses his orthodontic headgear as a Precision-Guided Boomerang. In "Operation: T.E.E.T.H.", he also forcefully fills completely Numbuh Four's mouth with braces.
- One of the Delightful Children wears headgear under his football helmet.
- Played with in My Gym Partner's a Monkey, where the shark bully has to wear headgear that's essentially reverse-SCUBA ear (gill) muffs.
- Leela from Futurama is shown to be wearing normal braces in a flashback to her childhood, but she still had a very nerdy and awkward appearance. Judging from the general squalor of the Orphanarium she grew up in, they must have funneled all their funds into the dental plan. Of course, this is a thousand years in the future... maybe then, braces like that are considered to fall under this trope.
- Aversion: Frylock of Aqua Teen Hunger Force wears unobtrusive, traintrack-type braces. He's also the closest thing that show has to a cool guy.
- Also averted with Butt-head, in which the fact that he wears braces is only pointed out in The Movie, where he meets Chelsea Clinton just before she defenestrates him from her room.
I noticed you wear braces. I wear braces, too.
- The movie, though, also shows that Butt-head used to wear a larger set of braces when he was younger.
- Gretchen on Invader Zim has very noticeable braces, but oddly, they're fairly normal -- the main problem is her teeth are so large and stick out even when her mouth is closed. She's a geeky background character (though a bit more popular in the fandom since she has a crush on Dib).
- In The X's, a Nickolodeon TV show about a family of spies, the girl, Tuesday, is supposed to get braces. She gets a pamphlet and becomes excited at the prospect of braces that are clear so that they won't be easily noticeable. Her Too Dumb to Live father, however, thinks that those kinds of braces are spy gear, and says that she has to wear the "approved" set, which is one of these. This goes horribly wrong when Truman, the little brother, discovers that he can control Tuesday's actions through them, causing him to nearly ruin a date she was on. Fortunately, her date's evil uncle ended up trying to do this too, and the date turned out all right.
- An episode of Quack Pack has Huey get the faceguard-braces... only it turns out that he went to the wrong orthodontist and the braces were actually a mind-control transmitter, which he promptly uses on pretty much THE ENTIRE WORLD for the rest of the episode. A robotic agent burned the transmitter's circuit, but it was kinda funny.
- In Ugly Americans, during the credits for the episode Demon Baby we see Callie wearing a Reverse Beartrap from Saw for braces.
- An episode of Mucha Lucha had this as a villain's plot. The Evil Dentista of Doom plans to conquer the world by burdening the best masked wrestlers with oversized, unneeded braces.
- Subverted in an episode of Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi in which, while Yumi is forced to wear clunky, impractical headgear connected to her mouth (and gets caught in all kinds of jinx thanks to it), they do not serve an orthodontical purpose; instead, their utility is to force her face into a Cheshire Cat Grin.
- In Aaahh Real Monsters, Oblina ended up with these once, because her teeth were straight (due to her youthful indiscretion of brushing her teeth once). This actually caught the attention of the Romantic False Lead, who admired his reflection in the massive things.
- A flashback in the camping episode of Tuff Puppy revealed that Snaptrap wore huge braces as a child.