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An older trope, maybe even Dead Horse Trope.

Let's say, there's a hero from the western world meeting a tribe of savages somewhere in Darkest Africa, or another part of the world far from western civilization. How do we depict that these people are savages? By showing that they're pierced.

This is kind of Truth in Television, since many real tribes use various forms of body modification as part of their culture. Before piercing became mainstream in The Nineties, in the western world it was common only among certain subcultures, except for the accepted form: earrings (women only). So someone wearing rings through his or her nose (or lips, or belly buttons, or nipples, or naughty bits) must be a savage. Bonus points if we aren't talking about metal rings, but pieces of wood, or worse, bones. These bones often (especially in comics and animation) will more look like the standard doggie bones, implying that these savages aren't even sophisticated enough to use tools. (In reality, stone age humans were capable of making quite delicate carved objects.)

Examples of Savage Piercings include:

Anime and Manga

  • Jojo's Bizarre Adventure gives us a subversion with the Pillar Men. They are ancient beings from a long-dead civilization and are fully decked out with piercings and loincloths. However, their intellect far surpasses modern-day humans, as they can become fluent in new languages just by listening to them for a few seconds, and they can expertly disassemble guns, despite not knowing what they are.


  • In Pirates of the Caribbean, Jack is caught by these guys.
  • 300, anyone?
  • Avatar had a tribe of Na'vi with bones through their nose.
  • In Apocalypto most of the tribesmen and women had piercings of some description. There were wooden and jade studs, as well as more complicated, ornate pieces.
  • Spoofed in Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. When the other giraffes make Melman their Witch Doctor, they present him with the requisite nose bone. "Don't worry, it's a clip-on."

Video Games

  • Trolls in the Warcraft universe have bone piercings (they're mostly Jamaican-accented).
    • Orcs have them too, though they often use metal instead of bone. One of the female orc joke quotes goes something to the effect of, "I have no respect for people with small piercings. If you're gonna do it, go all-out. Put a spear through your head!"
  • Mandibuzz from Pokémon.
  • Sulik the tribal in Fallout 2.

Western Animation

  • Sideshow Mel from The Simpsons has a bone in his hair to suggest savagery but not make the Animated Actor get an actual piercing.
    • In the episode "Simpson Safari", Bart and Lisa make some new friends in a village from Africa. Lisa is given a stack of neck-stretching rings, and Bart gets a lip plate.

 Marge: Bart, I told you not to get your lip disced!

Real Life

  • There are several southern African nations in which lip plates are, or were, the custom for women.
    • Ironically, it's thought that some of the more extreme versions may have come about to deter interest from slavers.
      • That theory has largely been debunked. There are just different standards for beauty, apart from a handful of basics, like symmetric features.
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