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When someone is wearing heavy makeup they run the risk that it get smudged, this is especially true if they start crying or otherwise get their face wet. Their makeup will start to run down their face in heavy, inky and colorful rivers; mascara especially. The black lines streaming down the face are very striking visually and make a very visible sign of sadness. A Sub Trope of Inelegant Blubbering.
Some characters may purposely invoke this effect by applying makeup in this way as a sign of continued grief, kind of like wearing black to a funeral. Be very careful, because these characters are generally carrying their sadness with an equal yearning for bitter revenge.
May sometimes overlap with Cosmetic Catastrophe, especially if it happens during a production. May wind up being the result of Guyliner if it happens to a male character. See also Excessive Evil Eyeshadow.
Anime and Manga
- In One Piece, Bentham has this happen during his final talk with Luffy and co. after they went through the Gate Of Justice towards Marine Ford. Only in the Anime though.
- Alice in Batwoman has this happen several times.
- Dramatically used to great effect with Winona Ryder's character Beth in Black Swan, who's all smeared mascara and smudged eye-liner.
- This happens to Charlotte early on in The Princess and The Frog.
- The Madam of Liquid Silver in the Tank Girl film.
- Dakota in Planet Terror as seen in this poster.
- Lola in The Transporter 2 and Valentina in the second half of 3.
- The Matchmaker from Mulan after Mulan accidentally sets her dress on fire.
- Rachel in Blade Runner.
Rachel: I'm not in the business. I am the business.
- In Porcupine Tree's "Blackest Eyes":
"It's so erotic when your make up runs"
- The Non Appearing Title of the Foo Fighters song "Cheer Up Boys (Your Makeup Is Running)" references this, in a likely Take That at the Emo scene.
- The Julie Roberts song "Men and Mascara" refers to "little black rivers running down her face" in addition to its hook line, "men and mascara always run."
- Cherry from the animated band Studio Killers looks like this all the time.
- The Decemberists' "The Tain": "Darling dear, what have you done? Your clothes are torn, your makeup runs."
- In the Sabrina the Teenage Witch episode "Sabrina the Teenage Boy," Sabrina's mascara starts running while she cries in male form, indicating that the spell is wearing off.
- Mimi on The Drew Carey Show had some pretty spectacular versions of this considering how much makeup she tends to wear.
- On That 70s Show, Jackie puts makeup on Kelso to give him the "androgynous David Bowie look", only to have it go wrong.
"Kelso. Your mascara's running."
- The Colbert Report: The inauguration of Barack Obama caused Stephen to cry with massive amounts of mascara running and snot hanging from his nose.
- Discussed in Soap when everybody is going to find out if the courts find Jessica guilty or not for Peter's murder when Mary (Jessica's sister) is unable to talk because she's holding back her tears. Burt tells Jessica she's trying not to cry because her make-up will run and she'll look like a raccoon.
- Played for Laughs in Hannah Montana with Miley encouraging an emotional Lilly to find another boyfriend at the beach, after thinking Oliver is cheating on her. It doesn't work well for Lilly. Similarly to the above Soap example, she is compared to a raccoon.
- Elliot on Scrubs has this happen to her on one occasion, causing her to remark that her running mascara made her look like Alice Cooper
- In the final episode of MST3K, Played for Laughs with Pearl's mascara when the S.O.L. engages re-entry protocol.
- This is how Mimi made fun of Peach before one of their fights during Super Paper Mario: "Better not cry, or all your pretty makeup will run!"
- Mass Effect 2 has this happen when you romance Jack/Subject Zero. During her romance scene she will begin to cry and her black eye makeup will run down her face which you can fully enjoy here.
- In Batman Arkham Asylum Dr. Young's mascara is ruined when she starts crying after she's nearly killed by Zsasz.
Next time you’re at a dinner party at which you are accused of murdering the host’s wife, remember to wear waterproof mascara! Rookie error.
- Helga's older sister Olga in Hey Arnold had this in one episode when she started crying.
- A recurring joke in Drawn Together is that whenever Captain Herocries, his mascara runs. Happens to Xandir too.
- Happens to Mai at one point in Avatar: The Last Airbender
- Caitlin from 6Teen is prone to crying, and whenever she bawls her face becomes a mess with black liquid running under her eyes.
- A rare male example would be Xiaolin Showdown's Jack Spicer. However, this has only happened once.
- In one episode of The Flintstones, Fred ends up causing Wilma to cry, making her mascara run down her face. He then starts laughing harder over how terrible she looks.
- Might be the same episode, but there was one in which Wilma was using makeup to make herself look more tired than she really was to guilt Fred into hiring a maid. Fred points out that her makeup is running, proving he knows she's faking it. Fred laughs at her and she breaks down and cries. Eventually he gives in and hires a maid.
- This was something of a trademark of Tammy Faye Bakker, wife of televangelist Jim Bakker. There is a story that she was once asked why she wore such heavy make-up, since it invariably ran when she (invariably) wept; she is supposed to have replied that it was so that people could see her cry.