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"Do you remember when Captain Kirk saw a beautiful woman, the screen would go all misty? I thought his eyes were steaming up because he was so excited. Every time I talked to a girl in my class I tried to make my eyes steam up. They called me Scary Jeff."
—Jeff, Coupling, "The Girl With Two Breasts"
An especially common creature in The Sixties, the Gaussian Girl is distinguishable by her supernatural blurriness and the soft, romantic music accompanying her.
When filmed, the Gaussian Girl is shot through a soft-focus filter, a piece of translucent plastic or a quick smear of Vaseline, depending on the director's preference. This gives a soft, glowing aura to her, and smooths out any unappealing pores or lines on her face. The result makes her look nothing short of ethereal. If you can't tell a soft-focus shot, look at all of the light sources around her; if they have a starry-glare look, it's soft focus.
Depending on the show, she might only display this quality when first encountered to show that she's the Girl of the Week, or she might be blurry all the time. She'll never be blurry when a man is in the shot with her, unless they're kissing. Closeups tend to have the most blur.
Named for the Gaussian Blur effect in Adobe Photoshop and imitators. Also, she may arouse a viewer's desire to degauss his screen. That is, until he remembers it's LCD...
You can create your own Gaussian Girl by duplicating her base layer, giving the new top layer a strong Gaussian Blur, and then setting it to about 50% opacity. If you need glasses, you can achieve a similar effect by taking them off before looking at women. If you don't, try having a lot of alcohol first. This latter technique is called the Beer Goggles effect. ("She's a 2 at 10 but a 10 at 2")
This technique has been somewhat less common since Moonlighting left the airwaves, having caused a critical shortage in the world supply of soft focus. Of the remains, some of it goes to embellishing non-human objects of desire as well these days; witness Food Porn as well as the Cargo Ship examples offered below. Some suggest that with the inception of High Definition film and television, which naturally shows more imperfections; that the Soft Focus trick might make a return to compensate.
This may come from a practice in the early days of film making when a piece of gauze, a sheer stocking, or Vaseline was placed over the lens of the camera to blur the image of the actresses and hide imperfections on the face. Popularized by the fabulous Carole Lombard, who spent her time in the hospital after suffering a serious facial injury devising ways in which she could hide her eventual scar. If she didn't invent the Gaussian blur, she knew the person who did.
A more limited, so to speak, application of the technique was used during the days of the Hays Code to make sure that women in low-cut dresses weren't displaying their cleavage in too much detail, thus corrupting innocent youth. A limited portion of gauze or stocking, held in a frame, could be used to blur the "offending" anatomy and render it suitable for viewers.
Compare Bishie Sparkle.
- Naruto sometimes fantasized Sakura in this manner in a few episodes.
- Rohfa from D Gray Man constantly sees Allen in a Gaussian Girl light.
- Last Exile, which generally isn't enamored of False Camera Effects, does this with a vanship at one point.
- Train from Black Cat is seen this way (complete with Bishie Sparkle) by his Stalker with a Crush Kyoko, whenever she's imagining or thinking of him.
- In Full Metal Panic, the bedridden Gauron is shown recalling "beautiful" memories of a 12-year-old Sousuke being in a Gaussian Girl manner. Yeah, Gauron has problems.
- Also, in the short amount of time he was shown in the show, Zaied had frequent, really Gaussian Girl-esque memories of playing half-naked in the water with a young Sousuke.
- In the second Pokémon Mystery Dungeon special, this effect is used on a shot of Gabite when Sunflora has been hit with Attract.
- Particularly noticeable in Omamori Himari's eyecatches.
- Possibly the earliest anime use could have been in Space Battleship Yamato (aka Star Blazers). Queen Starsha typically appeared this way, even in scenes where she was having a normal conversation. Trelaina appeared this way througout The Comet Empire series. In fact, most of the willowy women in Leijii Matsumoto anime often appear this way: Maetel (Galaxy Express 999), Maya (Arcadia of My Youth), and Queen Millenia. Emeraldas seems to be an interesting exception to this trope, probably because she is supposed to be seen as a female version of Captain Harlock.
- In Gail Simone's run of Wonder Woman, Tom Tressner remembers Wonder Woman proposing to him with a Gaussian effect. If there was one woman to use this on, Diana would be it.
- Carole Lombard used this technique many times to hide a facial scar.
- The angelically beautiful elves in the Lord of the Rings movies displayed this quality for both genders, particularly for Liv Tyler's Arwen.
- One movie of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream used this effect for the fairies.
- Used in the first shot of the love interest in Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow. (On the other hand, much of the film seems to be shot like this...)
- Catherine Zeta-Jones was shot this way in the movie The Mask of Zorro.
- Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund in Casablanca.
- No less than Alfred Hitchcock used it in Vertigo, as handy shorthand for "Love At First Sight". This was also the film that pioneered the much-less-cliched Vertigo Effect, just to show that there's highs and lows to cinematic creativity.
- Once Doris Day got a few lines on her face, she had a contract that all her closeups had to be filmed this way. It's especially noticeable when Rock Hudson is still in sharp focus, but she's fuzzy and glowing.
- In WALL-E, Eve not only gets this treatment at times, but actually lives it. Her semi-translucent white plastic body scatters light, giving her an innately soft outline.
- Jewel, the havoc wreaking femme fatale in One Night at McCools, is shown this way when each of the three guys see her for the first time. She's played by Liv Tyler, who just has one of those faces.
- Lester's visions of Angela in American Beauty. Due to the massive age gap involved, it stops being romantic and comes across as Squicky.
- Sophie Maes first appears this way in the film version of How To Lose Friends And Influence People.
- Parodied with Lady Helen Port-Huntley and Narcissa in The Saddest Music in the World.
- Done for laughs in Wayne's World. When Wayne first sees Cassandra, she's on stage aggressively singing "Let me stand next to your fire". Wayne's view of her is in Gaussian and he hears "Dream Weaver".
- Close-ups of Donna Reed are slightly blurred in It's a Wonderful Life.
- One or two close-ups of Saunders in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, but it's mainly used to show her becoming captivated by Smith's idealism.
- Used with the Child-like Empress in The Neverending Story, to make her look...child-like.
- Used in Telstar when Joe first sees Heinz.
- In West Side Story, when Tony and Maria both see eachother for the first time, the edges of the frame are noticeably blurred (though, this is more to create the effect that they each have eyes only for one another)
- The Man In The White suit- Particularly noticeable in a romantic scene when the camera cuts back and forth between crystal-cut shots of Alec Guinness' character and really really fuzzy shots of Joan Greenwood's character.
- Sextette, a Mae West vehicle from 1978, noticeably used this technique in all of her scenes to try and portray her as a cougary seductress (her current love interest was played by Timothy Dalton). Keep in mind she was in her eighties. It didn't help.
- A jarring example near the beginning of Sherlock Holmes. Cutting quickly back and forth between Robert Downey, Jr. and Rachel McAdams when he was shot without blur, but her and her surroundings were slightly out-of-focus.
- Lois Lane gets this treatment in the first Superman movie.
- Pretty much all of Equilibrium is shot in a very harsh, very cold light, to drive home the concept of emotionless impersonality, except for John Preston's wife, who not only gets the gaussian treatment, but shots of her include actual colours, as opposed to the slightly desaturated/bleached out effect of Librium as a whole. There's even a sequence (as she's being arrested for sense-crime) in which she shares a shot with and kisses her husband as she's dragged away. Her side of the screen? Sparkly, glowy, soft-focus. His side? Cold, harsh, slightly desaturated hard focus. Even in the middle of the kiss.
- Used as a joke in the live-action Scooby Doo! Curse of the Lake Monster, when Fred catches Daphne after she'd knocked out a barn's upper window. As the pair gaze at each other and they both realize he's saved her life, the image of Fred is blurred and soft-lit.
- The most Egregious use of the Gaussian Girl was in the original Star Trek, where Kirk's Girl of the Week would never, ever be in focus, at any point during the episode, and would always be accompanied by soft strings or woodwinds (or in the case of Edith Keeler, the song "Goodnight, Sweetheart"). This effect was achieved by a small piece of plastic placed over the lens.
- This always happens to Barbara Walters, but whether ABC News insists on it or whether she does is, unfortunately, unknown at this time.
- Italian politician and owner of several TV stations Silvio Berlusconi had himself filmed through a nylon stocking, although definitely not a girl. Comedians joked he should've put the nylon stocking over his face instead.
- In Saturday Night Live, a sketch involved Michael Moore and Phil Donahue contacting Barbra Streisand by cable. Her image is shown with a super-strong Gaussian Blur, as they comment on how young she still looks.
- And don't forget the Elizabeth Taylor's White Diamonds ad-parody sketch featuring Sally Fields behind about four layers of gauze.
- Charmed loved this trope. It was generally used on Alyssa Milano, because Phoebe was supposed to be the pretty one (although everyone secretly likes Piper best.)
- Used when the girls first meet their mother in the first season.
- In the last episode, used on Patty and Penny, because both actresses were about 25 years older than the age they were playing.
- Used, among other effects, to indicate that a character has entered Soap Drama Mode in this Daily Show clip lamenting the cancellation of Another World.
- Also parodied in an episode of The Goodies - Bill and a woman are in soft focus whilst kissing, when he suddenly stops, runs up to the camera and wipes the petroleum jelly off the lens.
- The sequences within the Fortress of Solitude in Smallville all get a bit gaussian...
- The Kirk version is referenced by Jeff from Coupling, in the page quotation.
- RuPaul used this on herself on the first season of RuPaul's Drag Race (with her song Covergirl (Put the Bass in Your Walk) replacing the romantic music). By the 2nd season, everyone on Logo, even one of the contestants, was mocking her for it.
- Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson attempted to create the romantic soft focus on a car by smearing vaseline on the camera lens. It didn't go well.
- The New Adventures of Old Christine seemed to use this in every episode.
- In the original Mission Impossible, this was used with some frequency on Cinnamon.
- This effect--and other concealing camera tricks--are used throughout the music video of Divinyl's hit "I Touch Myself". Singer Christina Amphlett was trying to conceal her true age (she was about 32 at the time, probably more than a decade older than most Top 40 female pop singers).
- There's Shout-Out "Soft Focus" spell... in "Nymphology. Blue Magic" (Mongoose Publishing, Encyclopaedia Arcane series).
- Played with a little in Metal Gear Solid 3. When Snake knocks out Ocelot, soon to be his Stalker with a Crush, we see through Ocelot's eyes. He's losing consciousness, and so Snake is fully Gaussianed and even appears to sparkle a little in the light.
- Final Fantasy VIII: Averted for the most part with Rinoa, until the ending--and then subverted, by having her face so blurry it was basically a bunch of vague shaded and non-shaded spots, since Squall couldn't remember what she looked like.'
- In Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, during Zack's death, Cloud is shown to have flashbacks and memories of Zack in a Gaussian Girl manner. Yeah.
- In Mass Effect 2, Joker mentions this trope in one of the dialogue sequences about how he and EDI are getting along.
EDI: Regulations are clear, Mr. Moreau: Personalization does not include grease on my bridge cameras.
- Parodied twice in Futurama. Zoidberg spots a lobster in a tank this way (and ends up leaving the bar with it) in an early episode, Love's Labours Lost in Space, back before Flanderization had rendered him the perennial loveless loser. And in the episode "Bendless Love", when Bender first sees Anglelyne, she appears out of focus - until the foreman orders the dirty glass in front of her removed.
- This is also inverted as the glass is curved, distorting and muting her curvy body.
- Also parodied in The Simpsons, when the Comic Book Guy first spots a geekily beautiful fangirl, he sees her in a classic Star Trek soft-focus-and-music moment, while her braces play light over his startled face.
- And then there's Homer's experience with boudoir photography, in which the photographer smears Vaseline on the lens with a trowel ("Light is not your friend").
- Rio repeatedly applies this to Jewel (a female macaw; the protagonist's a male one.) It's later used on Linda, but only when she wears a macaw costume.