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The conspicuous lack of grime, dirt, or bruises on actors, especially those in action sequences. There is an inherent suggestion of grueling badassness to completely cover a character in sweat and grime to show that he's really gone through the wringer. This might be a remnant of older special effects, which lacked CG but were very fond of various fluids and chemicals being waded through and thrown around.
Particularly noticeable on actresses, who come off as Faux Action Girls because the studio doesn't dare film them except in the most flattering light. The human antithesis to this is probably Bruce Willis, who by the end of his movies is drenched in about five pints of grime, sweat and blood, mostly his own. Sigourney Weaver's stint as Ripley in Alien was probably the first major female exception.
One practical reason is that film and television scenes are rarely shot in chronological order, requiring the director to carefully keep track of which scenes are supposed to show which markings. The easiest solution is to avoid the issue by not having any stains in the first place.
Anime and Manga
- Naruto: While not normally in effect this trope was once invoked for dramatic effect; after Gaara's team clears the Forest of Death portion of the Chunin Exams in record time, proctor Anko and one of her colleagues (but luckily for the audience, not the local Watson) notice that Gaara doesn't have a scratch or spec of dust on his body. As it turns out, Gaara didn't get dirty because he was covered by a layer of sand.
- In Dragonball Z, characters routinely survive ki blasts with planet-destroying power and take little to no damage to their clothes.
- Many female Superheroes tend to benefit from this trope, to the point where it is the Second-Most Common Super Power, beyond the first, of course.
But it's worth noting that for most of comics history, minor injuries just weren't drawn on either male or female superheroes -- a combination of the same artistic factors that contribute to Generic Cuteness, and the standard action hero's Made of Iron that turns severe injuries into Only a Flesh Wound. And superheroes tended not to get injuries at all, unless they were plot-sensitive (such as messing up a Secret Identity) or it showed off a power.
- Both lampshaded and justified in an issue of Superman, during John Byrne's run. Using his voluminous cape as an impromptu "robe" during a journey to the thirteenth century, Superman speaks briefly with two peasant farmers, then continues on down the road. The farmers turn to each other.
"Who was that strange man?"
"I know not; some great king, belike."
"Aye, for who else could walk in such filth and not stain his robes?"
- At this time, Superman's invulnerability was a protective aura - a literal dirt forcefield.
- In the pages of X-Men, Emma Frost's costumes are always a pristine white no matter what she goes through on a mission.
- It's possible she may be using her psychic powers to merely APPEAR pristine in the minds of those around her. Similar to how she hid her aged appearance in the Old Man Logan comics.
- Superintendent Sam Steele from The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck's "Hearts of Yukon" chapter. A superintendent of the North-Western Mounted Police does not get... 'Muddy'. Nor, for that matter, does he get 'blown up' or say "Yowch!".
- And yes, it does protect against being thrown into chest-high mud.
- With Strings Attached
- Apparently the Hunter has one of these —until he has his Heel Face Turn. The battle on the Plains of Death leaves him completely disgusting and stinking to high heaven, even after John hoses him down.
- Averted, though, with John's cloak, which spends the book getting smellier and smellier because he's afraid to wash it lest he wash the magic off.
- Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films subtly obey this trope. The peasant characters are always dirty, whereas a King like Aragorn is at least less dirty. Not to mention Gandalf the White's whiter-than-white robes. That last one makes sense, though.
- However, it is only in the coronation scene near the end of the third movie that Aragorn's hair is no longer a mop of stringy, oily hair. And Gandalf, as the Grey Pilgrim before returning as the White, is quite disheveled and wayworn.
- Even Gandalf the White's cloak and robes are quite dirty at their lower edges that constantly come in contact with the ground.
- Every Western prior to Spaghetti; The Hero was always immaculate and wore a dust-free white hat across the desert. No longer used in any Western made after Savage Guns.
- James Bond almost never gets dirty during his action scenes - the biggest exception being Licence to Kill, where after setting the villain on fire, leading to a big explosion, Bond is bloody, with a wild hair and entirely covered in sand. Nothing less glamourous.
- And he gets really, really dirty throughout the entirety of Quantum of Solace.
- Quantum of Solace also features an exception to the rule regarding actresses never getting dirty. By the end, Olga Kurylenko is covered in just as much grime and sweat as Daniel Craig.
- Daniel Craig also gets covered in blood after killing a goon in Casino Royale, a subversion to Bond's habit of simply straightening his tie and walking off afterwards.
- Horror movies usually avert this trope, with their stars (particularly the Final Girl) being absolutely covered in grime and blood (some of it their own) by the time the credits roll.
- Sort of Lampshaded in Last Action Hero after Arnold's character falls into a tar pit and all it takes to clean himself completely is a few wipes with a tissue, prompting his kid sidekick to comment, "Tar actually sticks to some people."
- Humorously done at the end of Ghostbusters, when Venkman (the "coolest" Ghostbuster) has far less marshmallow on him than the other guys.
- This is reputedly because he got "slimed" by the onion head ghost earlier on in the film and didn't think it very fair he should have to get completely covered in the finale.
- This trope is both played straight and inverted in a Shout-Out to the aforementioned Ghostbusters scene in The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. Bill Murray's character is the only one to get bitten by leaches while moving through a swamp.
- Every Transformer with a GM-licensed vehicle mode in the Transformers Film Series, thanks to the Product Placement agreements.
- Well, they're only clean in vehicle-mode. In robot-mode you can see the paint scuffs and dents.
- To be fair, this isn't just to make the cars look good, but because as all cars were on lease from GM, they had to remain factory perfect (meaning dents and scratches required the entire panel to need to be replaced rather than simple smoothed out) to be returned after filming. And to make things worse all the cars were either at the moment unreleased prototypes (Bee, Sideswipe, Twins) or custom made (Ironhide Ratchet), meaning there were no spare parts avaliable that wouldn't require a special order from GM. As a result the crew were very paranoid about delicate handing (Shia mentioned than anyone driving the Bumblebee car was ordered to touch nothing inside but the wheel, shifter and pedals.) and intentionally causing minor damage was not feasable.
- This is taken to a ridiculous extreme with some of the toys, particularly "Final Battle Jazz." The car mode is exactly the same as the regular version of the character, and all the battle damage is sculpted in the robot mode. The toy is actually packaged in robot mode (the vast majority of Transformers are packed in their vehicle modes), to allow consumers to tell it apart from the original.
- Not to mention the Mikaela's white pants in the second movie, which stay totally clean even after she's been laying in dirt.
- And then the third movie takes it Up to Eleven: Carly somehow gets through a firefight between Autobots and Decepticons, wanton collateral damage left and right, and a collapsing building with shards of concrete and glass raining down from all sides without a single scratch. As for Sam... he looks like he ran into a bus... and a wood chipper... and a wild bear.
- Well, they're only clean in vehicle-mode. In robot-mode you can see the paint scuffs and dents.
- Considering the amount of time that the characters of Resident Evil: Extinction have spent on he road on a refugee convoy they all seem to have dirt forcefields, especially the women.
- Done in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. No character goes out of a fight dirty. Epicly fixed in Advent Children Complete, where everyone, after fighting, gets a good amount of dust, grime, and of course, blood.
- The Great Leslie in The Great Race, up through most of the pie fight when he gets hit with a white pie.
- A strange version appears in Kenneth Branagh's Henry V. The film gave a good deal of attention to historical accuracy (as much as was possible given that the play itself is Tudor propaganda) and realism. Accordingly, the cast spend much of the film dirty, bloody, and generally pretty realistic. Henry's white horse, however, remains remarkably clean. This is particularly noticeable during the Siege of Harfleur, when a very soiled and bloody Henry comes racing out from the city gates on his horse, which looks like it's just been carefully bathed for Grand Prix dressage. Someone apparently forgot to tell the wranglers about the "realism" thing.
- Averted rather hard in "Drag Me to Hell", where Alison Lohman gets about as soaked and muddy as it's possible to get, and bashed on the head besides. Still manages to be cute, though.
- Rachel from the Animorphs series. To the extent that the others (especially Marco) snark about it. Once, her best friend Cassie jokingly throws a dirt clod at her. "I just want to see if it is actually possible for dirt to cling to you." Rachel catches the clod, drops it, and refuses to show Cassie her hand.
- Memorably, in one book, the narrator describes Rachel as being able (paraphrased) "to be hit by a flood, picked up by a tornado, buried in a mudslide, and walk out with her hair in perfect order."
- Lampshaded in the Dragonlance novel Legend of Huma by the wizard Magius. During a long trek, Huma and Kaz wonder why they are all muddy and Magius is still clean. Kaz then deliberately tries to kick mud onto Magius, which just bounces off some invisible barrier.
- Non-character example: In Ghost From The Grand Banks, one of the investors funding plans to raise parts of the Titanic made his fortune by developing dirt-proof windshields and window glass.
Live Action TV
- Unintentionally done on the Discovery show Myth Busters. Jamie always wears a white shirt, and almost never gets it dirty no matter what he's working on. To the point that Adam often teases him for it.
- Averted, then played straight in the Doctor Who story The End of Time. The Doctor is shot by the Master's captors, then ends up taking a skydive from an alien ship through the skylight of a mansion. By the time he takes the fatal blast of radiation to save Wilf, he looks like he's been through the wringer. After the blast, he heals his external injuries with the first energies from the upcoming regeneration, so that he'll look his normal, dapper self for his final goodbyes.
- Played straight in Carnival Of Monsters, where Jo sinks to her waist in a swamp on location. Her clothes are clean and dry in the studio scenes set less than a minute later.
- This trope is
avertedcrushed under the steel tracks in Gunnerkrigg Court. Quite fittingly, by Jones.
- There's a student at the Super-Hero School Whateley Academy whose codename is Pristine. She literally has a forcefield that keeps her body and clothes immaculate.
- Which prompted at least one other girl to get a devisor to beuild her a low power Personal Forcefield Generator to achieve the same effect. There is an untapped market here.
- Lampshaded in the parody RPG, Diana: Warrior Princess where a Dirt Forcefield is one of the powers of royalty.
- Messily averted in Dragon Age: Origins, where the least little battle absolutely covers all the participants in gouts of blood. You can disable it in the Options menu, though.
- Yo-Jin-Bo plays it dead straight. Running through a forest and fighting ninja will not even scuff your shoes, much less rip kimono or cause horrendous sweating and body odor.
- Completely averted in Mount and Blade, where anybody can and will be covered in blood, usually their own, but kill enough enemies and your character will get redder and redder starting from their weapon, onto the hand and spreading everywhere else. In especially hectic sieges it's possible to turn completely red except for maybe your boots.
- Kingdom Hearts generally plays this straight, as might be expected by the offspring of Disney and Final Fantasy. The secret movie "Birth by sleep" is an interesting exception - not only does it throw the impossibly-clean aesthetic out the window, it also manages to introduce a female lead in the middle of battle, covered in a mixture of dirt, grime, and her own sweat.
- In Illbleed, the main female protagonist's appearance isn't affected by the environments, but it gets more and more torn, blood-soaked and muddy as she fails to save friends (i.e. completing a level without rescuing the friend there). In order to get the true ending, you have to lose everyone, at which point she is completely naked with only a few mudsmears to cover her bits.
- A number of endings in the Mega Man X series have the heroes spotless, despite being in a series of violent battles.
- Totally averted in Mortal Kombat 9. Typically, by the end of a fight, your character's clothes will be torn to shreds, covered with all sorts of grievous wounds, and coated with your opponent's blood.
- Characters in Avatar: The Last Airbender generally get dirtied up when the occasion calls for it (they don't stay that way long, but that's justified when you have people who can manipulate air, water and earth). This is most notable in "The Drill" where everyone winds up utterly drenched in slurry.
- This trope is nicely averted in "The Blue Spirit," where, after trudging around in a swamp and getting pinned to a log by about a dozen arrows, Aang's outfit is dirty and ripped in several places. This could possibly be because the secondary theme of that episode was apparently "Aang Has a Bad Day"
- And averted hard by Toph, whose feet are always filthy due to her always going barefoot to better use her earthbending to "see." She also appreciates "a healthy coating of earth."
- Usually played straight in Teen Titans, characters' outfits are always pristine even during fights, and on the occasion that someone gets slimed by one of the show's goo monsters, it disappears in the next shot. One notable aversion is Terra and Raven's fight in mud, in which both end up soaked head to toe in mud, and it actually adds to the drama of the scene.
- Swans, egrets, and many other birds live in an environment with lots of mud and dirty water, and spend their days dabbling around in this mud finding the edible objects in it. They still have enough time to keep their own pure-white plumage looking clean. This is certainly an impressive feat when you imagine how much work all that preening must be. But they do it, because the best way to attract the opposite sex is to prove that "I've got such good genes that I can maintain these beautiful feathers and keep them from being tarnished by mud, lice, or injuries." Like us, they'll do anything for the chicks.
- Cats are constantly cleaning themselves and are therefore almost always perfectly clean. One reason theorized is that this helps them hunt by not having the scent of blood and dirt giving them away. Dogs, on the other hand, go the opposite route and roll in other animals' feces and dirt, the theory for that is it hides the smell of dog from their prey.
- There are some places where there can not be dirt in the area while manufacturing products. These are called clean rooms, and anyone who wants to go into one will have all dirt and dust blown off of them, and vacuumed away, so that they are perfectly clean.