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"...his face which was a paper-white mask of evil -- sang us this song"
They Might Be Giants, "Turn Around"

Masks are spooky: they dehumanise, they make a dangerous inhuman inner being visible. White masks occupy a special place. They have a long history in several cultures. Being white, they are blanker and scarier, offering nothing for the eye to hold on to. And look like skulls.

Sometimes our imagination will dwell on what is under the snow-pure mask: ghastly disfigurement? Nothing at all?

Bonus points if the rest of the character is dark to accentuate the mask. Being white it'll show bloodstains starkly.

Anime and Manga have noh masks to draw inspiration from. Western tradition has Greek drama masks, the birdlike masks worn by medieval plague doctors (see the Real Life section), scary clowns, and the Ku Klux Klan. Mexicans have the masks of Dia de los Muertos.

This trope is fairly widespread in Anime and Manga. Compare Cool Mask. Sometimes doubles as a Mask of Power. Subtrope of Malevolent Masked Men.

See also: The Blank.

Examples of White Mask of Doom include:


Anime & Manga

  • Hollows in Bleach.
  • Ergo Proxy - The Proxy of Death, Ergo Proxy himself.
  • Tenchi Muyo! - Kain in the first movie has one of these which is also an Expressive Mask, since it turns out to be his real face. It becomes more creepy as he becomes more desperate in the final battle.
  • No-Face from Spirited Away. No-Face is first encountered as a partial black cloak and a white mask. Later his body grows a horrible maw, jarring with the lost-child-in-pain expression of the mask.
  • Several of the Angels in Neon Genesis Evangelion have what look like white, flattened plague-doctor masks.
  • Assassin apparel in Phantom of Inferno.
  • Hei from Darker Than Black: see the page picture. Unusually, he's the hero, if one prone to being rather scary.
  • Pokémon Special - The brainwashed kids under Mask of Ice in the manga.
  • Naruto - Haku's mask in the Land of Waves arc has no mouth and thin slits for eyes. The ANBU members wear similar animal-shaped ceramic masks. Then there's Naruto's six-tailed form, in which a fox skull engulfs his head.
    • Tobi's been wearing one lately, since Konan destroyed his old one. It's apparently quite sturdy.
  • Turkey/the Ottoman Empire in Axis Powers Hetalia.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's - The villainous Mysterious Protector is another mask with no mouth and thin slits for eyes.
  • Liar Game - The dealers and most attendants are Malevolent Masked Men with white masks.
  • Death 13 from Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure is a dream-haunting clown-themed Grim Reaper that wears an incessantly smiling clown mask. actually that may not be true, since that is more than likely his face.
  • Larva from Vampire Princess Miyu.
  • Soul Eater - Shinigami had a simple skull-shaped mask he made to deliberately avoid looking scary to the small children he wanted to recruit to his school. He added a sillier personality to match, which he took to very well in the long run. His older, much more skull-like mask is doomier. Kid occasionally copies his father's appearance with a cloak and mask of his own. But in his case it just looks cute.
  • Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei had a Magical Girl parody, and Sensei's villain mask and costume seen here happen to be a dead-ringer for Hei's outfit, emphasizing how "evil looking" Hei's costume is.
  • The Knights of Paris in Noir.
  • Go down to "Real Life". Look at the plague-doctor mask. One of Cardinal Mozgus's lackeys in Berserk wears it. He's actually a decent guy, but is he ever on the wrong side...
  • Rau le Creuset from Gundam Seed.
    • A majority of Char Clones in Gundam sport a white mask in reference to the original.
  • Played with with Kuze in Ghost in the Shell:Stand Alone Complex. Though the face of his white-skinned cybernetic body has been custom sculpted by a famous artist, it has no facial muscles and Kuze doesn't even move his mouth when speaking, so it's perfect beauty is always maintained and never twisted.
  • In Code Geass, Shirley's nightmares are plagued with these in an episode of R2, when she regains her memories and realizes that a lot of people are lying to her. As well, the metaphysical mask found in C's World can be considered a case of this, as it represents the masks that people wear (read: lies) caused by being individuals. It resembles the masks that Shirley had nightmares of, although this was coincidental; the masks were simply a recurring theme.
  • The Norza in Red Photon Zillion.
  • In the latest Golgo13 anime, a cult leader named Gabriel wears one of these. Beneath the mask... well
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Guradian Dreadscythe.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's: Aki Izayoi/Akiza Izinski in her Black Rose Witch/Black Rose persona.
  • Kurei from Flame of Recca loves this trope. He always wears a mask when going into battle, and has worn three different ones over the course of the series. What's under his mask? Nothing really, just a Badass Scar.
  • The villain Gargoyle in Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water wears a white mask all throughout the series, making an already terrifying character even creepier. We never see his face until the end of the series.

Comics

  • Night School - All astrals are basically living shadows with white masks.
  • Fantomas - at least the Mexican version.
  • Wild Dog, a vigilante in The DCU, conceals his identity beneath a white hockey mask.
  • V of V for Vendetta.
  • Elite, a Vigilante Man inspired by The Punisher. A rich man who wears a white suit and mask and kills the "undesirables" in his neighborhood. Frank is not flattered.
  • Father Wrath from Hack Slash.

Film

  • The mask worn by Ghostface in the Scream series.
  • The serial killer in the horror parody Scary Movie.
  • Jason from the Friday the 13th series wears a white hockey mask.
  • Halloween: Michael Myers, the killer from the movie series wears a spooky white mask. The original was a Captain Kirk mask, bought for all of $1.98, painted white and modified. In the film it doesn't look much like Shatner.
  • Used symbolically in Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal. Two of the characters (ironically, the only major characters to survive the film's ending) are a husband-and-wife team of actors who perform shows in the streets of the towns they visit while wearing stark white face paint so glaring it shows up even on the film's black-and-white palette. We get to see one of their performances, which consists largely of them singing and playing Bawdy Songs while wearing the whiteface. Their songs, while ostensibly entertaining, are quite crude and sound a bit...off, suggesting that something dire is about to happen. And in fact something dire does happen - namely, the show is interrupted by a procession of flagellating penitents wreathed in incense, loudly moaning Dies irae, dies illa, solvet saeclum in favilla... (which in English is "Day of wrath, day of mourning, Earth in smoldering ashes falling...").
  • Christiane's mask in Eyes Without a Face. Also a subversion because the mask scares her, too.
  • Star Wars series:
    • The face-concealing Stormtrooper helmets. It's interesting that the visually similar good-guy Clone Troopers of Clone Wars have color added to their helmets, and are forever getting the mask off to show a human face.
    • General Grievous sports a white mask in the form of a stylized, elongated skull.
    • Early concept art for Darth Maul featured one of these.
  • The Death Eaters from Harry Potter, in their secret society / magical terrorist mode.
  • Franklyn: Jonathan Preest (who is essentially an Expy of Rorscach).
  • The serial killer in Nightbreed wore a full head white mask with button eyes, made even more chilling by his soothing and reasonable voice.
  • "Killer" from Midnight Movie.
  • Babyface from The Hills Run Red.
  • The Stan Laurel mask that Evil dons near the end of New Years Evil.
  • The Phantom from The Town That Dreaded Sundown.
  • In Brazil, Jack Lint puts on a creepy baby mask when subjecting Sam to Information Retrieval. He gets shot in the head by La Résistance.
  • In the 2010 Alice in Wonderland movie, the Red Queen's oversized head looks like this.
  • These appear throughout the Halloween mockbuster Halloween Night, but the villain only wears one once, to disguise himself while escaping the asylum he was placed in.
  • In the first Bloody Murder, the killer wears a white hockey mask, but upgrades to something kabuki-like in the sequel.
  • The Cabin in the Woods has a few killers wearing these show up among the many other monsters let loose during the film's climax.

Literature

  • The Stranger in Pallid Mask mentioned in Robert E. Chambers' The King in Yellow short stories, and in Thom Ryng's Defictionalization of the titular play appears to be wearing something like this. The key word is appears.

 The Stranger: I wear no mask.

  • In CS Lewis's Till We Have Faces, the protagonist Orual spends most of her life wearing a white veil, which is portrayed in the illustrations as a white mask, completely featureless save for two eyeholes. While she's not evil per se, her subjects are definitely put off by it, and rumors spread about what she's hiding under her veil.
  • In the Discworld book Masquerade, the Opera Ghost wears a white mask which the narration consistently describes as "like the skull of an angel".


Live Action TV

  • The Carver from 'Nip Tuck
  • Ghost Adventures had the team visit Poveglia Island and don the plague masks mentioned below.
  • Mid-1990s professional wrestler Phantasio was notorious for wearing a black trench coat and stark white mask that he pulled off to reveal an equally immobile white painted-on face. But despite his warped appearance, he was a good guy. He delighted children by performing magic tricks that enabled him to pick up victories over his opponents.
  • The nightmarish Vanity Plate for the Russian TV company VID.
  • The Greendale Human Being in Community. In an misguided attempt to be overly political correct, the school mascot was designed to avoid all ethnical traits whatsoever: Uncanny Valley ensues.


Newspaper Comics

Tabletop Games

  • Warhammer 40000
    • Space Marine Chaplains wear a white skull helmet.
    • Death Jester Eldar Aspect Warriors wear skull-masked armour. The twist is, the bones on their armour come from its previous owners.
    • The assassins of the Eversor temple wear a similar white skull helmet. Where as the other temples of Officio Assassinorum rely on stealth, accuracy, misdirection, and soul crushing power, Eversor Assassins will crash through a wall and kill everyone in the building.

      An Eversor's mask looks like a giant skull. It pumps a stupendous amount of combat drugs directly into the brain; the wearer becomes a screaming ball of death and terror. The assassin will kill until he is killed or there is no one left. At which point he explodes.
  • In Magic: The Gathering:
  • In the Ravenloft universe, the mental institution of the Dr Heinfroth has both the inmates and the wardens wear grey monklike robes and white featureless masks.


Theatre

  • The Phantom of The Phantom of the Opera though unusually the Phantom's mask covers less than half of his face. Even though the iconic white half-mask is famous from a thousand theatre posters, in the original novel his mask was black.

Video Games


Webcomics

Western Animation

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
    • Many Fire Nation war helmets have removable white face coverings that look like skulls.
    • Koh, whose most memorable face is a female Noh mask [1].
  • The Legend of Korra: Amon, who wears a white mask with a red circle on the forehead.
  • Hexadecimal of Re Boot has a whole bunch that she can switch freely between at a moment's notice.
  • Sealab 2021 references plague doctor's white masks (see below) when Sealab is hit with a plague.
  • The Princess and the Frog has Dr. Facilier wear a Baron Samedi half-mask, but only during the climactic moments of his Villain Song. [2]
  • The Adventures of Mark Twain - In the ever-popular Nightmare Fuel "Mysterious Stranger" clip, Satan's face is a Greek drama mask that morphs into various faces, including an exceptionally disturbing skull.

Web Original

Real Life

  • Plague doctors during the Black Death wore white bird masks to prevent from getting the plague. These masks also had the effect of being frickin terrifying, despite being a dead ringer for the Black Spy from Spy vs. Spy. For some plague victims, that would be one of the last sights they'd ever see. Being scary was intentional -- the doctors had to be fearsome and barely-trusted, half mythical figures, or else they'd get mobbed by the sick every time they went out. They also went armed with clubs. The "beak" was stuffed with sweet smelling herbs to mask the sickening smell of dying plague victims.
    • Strangely enough, the mask and the rest of the plague doctor outfit actually functioned as a fairly effective, though crude, biohazard suit. Since the mask covered the mucous membranes--eyes, mouth and nose-- and doctors covered their bodies entirely with long, waxed robes, they were generally protected from plague spread by fleas or the victim's bodily fluids.
  • Guitarist Brian "Buckethead" Carroll.
  • Hip-hop dance crew the Jabberwokeez (with bonus Shaq!); spelt doom for their competition.
  • The Phantom Killer, the still unidentified perpetrator of the Texarkana Moonlight Murders, wore a crude, creepy white mask during at least a few of his attacks.
  • The Ku Klux Klan.
  • The Guy Fawkes masks worn by Anonymous members and some Occupy Wall Street protesters.

Notes

  1. He actually has a lot of Noh-style masks, and this may have inspired his name.
  2. He's also seen wearing a grinning jester mask while incognito at the Labouff's masquerade ball.
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