Black eyes as a film/TV trope?
November 7, 2010 7:36 PM   Subscribe

I'm interested in cases in which male leading characters in TV or film drama over the past 20 years or so appear with black eyes or other visible facial trauma.

So I've been watching a lot of 90s-00s TV lately, and I've noticed this trope showing up quite often. I may be interested in writing a short paper or something of the kind on this topic, but I think that I need to gather more examples first.

Any cases are welcome, but ideally the facial injury should have something to do with advancing the plot, or, more specifically, have an effect upon a relationship with a female character. There's a good example in the last episode of Six Feet Under, season 3, in which Nate shows up on Brenda's doorstep with a seriously busted-up face and she lets him in. I can think of another example from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 6, when Spike takes a beating from Glory (because he's withholding information about Dawn) and Buffy kisses him out of gratitude. I remember also an episode of the X-files where Mulder gets beat up (or was it several episodes?) but I'm not sure which season it was.

Feel free to include plot details as to why the injury is important. Thanks!
posted by duvatney to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

You might want to look into noir films -- both original and neo-noir -- as this is a pretty standard trope in that genre. The protagonists in Kontroll and Brick get more and more facially bruised up as the film rolls on. Jack Nicholson in Chinatown gets his nose sliced open as a warning. Steve Buscemi's face gets shot open in Fargo and goes through about a quarter of the movie with the wound.
posted by griphus at 7:42 PM on November 7, 2010

In the second season premiere of Veronica Mars, Logan shows up at Veronica's door bleeding from a large wound on his face, prompting their reconciliation (I guess technically he shows up in the first season finale, but you can't see him).
posted by oinopaponton at 7:42 PM on November 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

In The Score Edward Norton implores a friend to mess up his face so that he doesn't look too pretty in prison.
posted by sockpup at 7:45 PM on November 7, 2010

Oh! Duh! Fight Club is pretty much a case history for what you're going for, as far as bruising and masculinity is concerned.

(Thx for the Norton reminder, sockpup)
posted by griphus at 7:46 PM on November 7, 2010

In As Good As It Gets, Greg Kinnear's character goes through half the film with a face full of lacerations and bruises from a beat down. He's gay in the film though, so his face doesn't advance any romantic plot lines.

In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones gets his face torn up and Marion feels sorry for him and dabs at his wounds with a cloth, which leads to a kissing scene.
posted by iconomy at 7:58 PM on November 7, 2010

In Breaking Bad, Jesse is often shown having suffered one form of physical abuse to his body at the hands of local drug kingpins or by law enforcement. It's a good visual metaphor for how he suffers for his position in the hierarchy.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:05 PM on November 7, 2010

(I mean....."so his face doesn't advance any romantic plot lines with females".... )
posted by iconomy at 8:19 PM on November 7, 2010

There's an episode of How I Met Your Mother in which Barney and Ted fake being in a fight. Barney gives himself a black eye because he knows that Robin thinks they're hot.
posted by synecdoche at 8:20 PM on November 7, 2010

Mostly just examples of dudes who took a beating:
Bruce Willis in Pulp Fiction and Die Hard with a Vengeance
Chris Pine in Star Trek
Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn in Made

Owen Wilson in The Darjeeling Limited (injuries were from a suicide attempt)
posted by puritycontrol at 8:40 PM on November 7, 2010

Spoilery, but, um, the last Private Practice (Grey's Anatomy spin-off) episode featured a very beaten-looking female character -- specifically, Charlotte King -- who had suffered a physical and sexual assault at the hands of a (male) stranger. The whole episode is based on the trauma.
posted by aintthattheway at 8:53 PM on November 7, 2010

Oh, missed that small little detail about it being a male character...
posted by aintthattheway at 8:54 PM on November 7, 2010

I think this is featured in every action movie or TV show ever made. They had a "magic towel" in the A-Team that instantly healed the injuries that Face received in seemingly every episode (which advanced the plot AND the romance angle every time). A punch to the eye would result in a small piece of sticking tape on an eyebrow instead of a black eye, a split lip would resolve with a few dabs of the magic towel, that kind of thing.
posted by fshgrl at 9:00 PM on November 7, 2010

Agent Aaron Hotchner on Criminal Minds gets the hell beaten out of him at least twice during a long-running plot arc involving a serial killer called the Boston Reaper. This also involves his marriage to his high-school sweetheart, Haley, and I'm not going to spoil it in-thread; you can read the Wikipedia character page for the details.

The Reaper arc is pretty much the defining Hotchner story; it touches on everything else that goes on for him in the course of the show with regards to his work, his family life, and his parenting and managerial skills. Even if you're not into standard "socially unacceptable lifestyle of the week gets what's coming to it" CSI-style shows, CM is worth a watch for its avoidance of a lot of that sort of thing.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 9:25 PM on November 7, 2010

In The Score Edward Norton implores a friend to mess up his face so that he doesn't look too pretty in prison.

That's actually The 25th Hour. Still Edward Norton though.
posted by dogwalker at 10:36 PM on November 7, 2010

There's an episode of Gilmore Girls like that — Jesse shows up with a black eye and Rory thinks he's had a fight with Dean (so it fits your impact on a relationship with a female character criteria). There's a brief summary of it on this Wikipedia page. The episode's called "Swan Song."
posted by sparrow89 at 10:53 PM on November 7, 2010

I should say, the Gilmore Girls episode is a bit of a reverse of the two examples you listed, because the black eye has a negative impact on their relationship. It ends up showing that Rory doesn't trust Jesse and leads to all kinds of drama.
posted by sparrow89 at 10:58 PM on November 7, 2010

In one of the very first episodes of The Larry Sanders Show (now finally on DVD!), Larry has an ongoing feud with a female network executive about advertising, and eventually she gives him a real shiner. It advances the plot because it changes negotiations entirely by giving Larry leverage; after the assault, he stops playing nice and begins dictating his own terms.
posted by heatvision at 10:42 AM on November 8, 2010

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