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Face it, we all take some stock in our appearance: at least, enough that we don't want to be all dirty, especially not in front of others. So what's a universal way for someone to be brought down a few notches? Well, by them being muddy, of course! Mud is a particularly dirty substance, hard to wash out.
Occasionally they'll be pushed into mud by someone, or simply fall on their own, which either way is an embarrassing experience. Bonus humiliation points if it's right in their face, or if they fall into a patch of mud that had pigs wallowing in it - this implies that the character is even more lowly than a pig, and, of course, there's a chance they're going to stink afterward. It may be part of a Humiliation Conga.
It can also have practical purposes for temporarily blinding an opponent in battle.
Now, while getting muddy may not be the character's choice, there are times when they'll intentionally cover themselves in mud. It may have a practical purpose such as helping to camouflage them. Or, perhaps, they may be getting extremely dirty in order to help someone else out, in which case they're seen as being more humble and selfless because they put themselves in that position. Sometimes, if the mud is from a character that spends a lot of time outside, such as gardening, it can imply that they're more of a down-to-earth person who spends more time actually doing things than worrying about their appearance.
Anime and Manga
- In Fruits Basket, Tohru's uniform is dirty from the mudslide that fell on her tent. Once she gets cleaned up, one of Yuki's fanclub, jealous that Tohru arrived at school with Yuki, says "That mud looked so good on you".
- As a combination of Butt Monkey and Ms. Fanservice, the title character in Maicchingu Machiko Sensei ends up covered in muck from time to time, usually while losing articles of clothing. This was averted in the episode in which she helps her students fight against bullies by knocking them in a big mud pit.
- Happens to Mei in Totoro.
- A staple of many war films, particularly those depicting World War I. Used to show that a character has been in the trenches for a long time and been covered in grime from shelling.
- In the 1994 film version of The Little Rascals, at the end, Alfalfa decides to fight back against the bullies, and sends one of them flying into a pig pen. He threatens to punch the other one as well, who decides he'd rather leap facefirst into the mud instead of getting punched! Both of them get completely covered in mud.
- In Dragonheart, some of Kara's former neighbors throw mud and fruits/vegetables at her when she tries to convince them to rebel against the king. Bowen taunts her about the mud, and she responds by smearing a smashed watermelon in his face.
- In Disney's Beauty and the Beast, after Belle rejects Gaston's marriage proposal, Gaston falls over and lands in the pigs' mud hole.
- In Cruel Intentions 2, Sebastian pushes Kathryn in a pool of mud as a declaration of war.
- Getting covered in mud is the standard method of avoiding thermal detection in Predator and its sequels.
- Behind Enemy Lines has this happen to the protagonist when he is forced to hide among the bodies in a mass grave.
- Tom and Huck: Tom (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) and Huck (Brad Renfro) get coated head-to-toe in brown mud to camouflage themselves in the woods.
- Late in the Made for TV Movie The Invisible Woman (nothing to do with the Fantastic Four character) the title character. played by Alexa Hamilton, gets doused with mud in a mud puddle, making her visible and showing that she's not really an Invisible Streaker.
- S1m0ne - When Taransky trys to discredit Simone, he has her rolling in the mud with pigs, in the hopes that the audience would be completely disgusted. The ploy backfires because the film gets a standing ovation
- Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter series is described as having lots of earth on her clothes and fingernails that would make prim and proper Aunt Petunia faint.
- In The Hunger Games, Peeta uses a large amount of mud with plants on top to disguise himself as part of a riverbank when he is too injured to move.
- In the Warrior Cats series, the Tribe rolls in mud to cover their fur in order to disguise their scent and blend into the rock better so that prey doesn't spot them so easily. The visiting Clan cats try this, and aren't too thrilled at the idea, but it works.
- In one Animorphs book, Cassie jokes about how Rachel never seems to get dirty - that any mud just seems to be deflected away. She throws a ball of mud at Rachel, who knocks it away without it splattering all over her. Cassie comments that Rachel's hand probably isn't even muddy, but Rachel refuses to show her.
- In The Curse of the Pharaohs, the second Amelia Peabody novel, Amelia's son Ramses interrupts a tea party after having gone digging in the compost heap and getting covered in mud (among other things). Ramses is described as not so much leaving muddy footprints as having a stream of filth trailing behind him.
- In Eldest, Eragon has a seizure caused by a cursed injury to his back. He's feeling terrible already because of the seizure and because it was in front of his teacher, but then he becomes especially embarrassed when he realizes that rolling around on the ground caused him to get his clothes (which were new and a gift from the elves) covered in dirt/mud.
- Winnie the Pooh covers himself with mud to disguise himself as a rain cloud to fool the bees while he gets their honey. The bees aren't fooled.
Live Action Television
- In Wipeout, sometimes there'll be mud instead of water under the obstacles for the contestants to land in. So not only do they suffer an embarrassing fall, but they also have to be coated in mud.
- Hercules: The Legendary Journeys
- Iolaus is on the run from somebody and their mooks, so he hides himself by covering himself in mud and lying in a mud puddle. He stays covered in mud for a few scenes afterwards.
- Iolaus (Michael Hurst) and Autolycus (Bruce Campbell) are handcuffed to each other and fight until they fall down a hill into a pool of wet mud. They spend the next few scenes completely covered in the mud.
- In the episode "War Bride", Iolaus (Michael Hurst) and Hercules (Kevin Sorbo) spend time at a spa where they indulge in a slimy mud bath until they are completely covered in the gray mud.
- Lois and Clark: in the Pilot Movie, Lois and Jimmy are captured by Lex Luthor's Dragon; Clark goes in to rescue her (as Clark, not as Superman). There's a bomb in the building and as it goes off Clark flies Lois & Jimmy a little bit, as if they're being pushed by the blast and they land in a pile of mud just far enough away that they're all safe.
- In the Mash episode which introduces new doctor BJ Hunnicutt, before he even gets to the unit he, Hawkeye and Radar get caught in a bombing raid by the North Koreans along with some GIs. As he runs from one wounded soldier to another he slips and falls into some mud, ruining his dress uniform.
- Step by Step: In the episode "The Wall", Frank (Patrick Duffy) goes to a beauty spa and sits in a bath tub. Suddenly slimy brown mud begins to fill the tub and Frank frantically tries to stop it but only gets coated entirely in the mud.
- Zoboomafoo: In several episodes of this children's show, Martin and Chris Kratt swing on vines and fly face-first into the mud puddle at Animal Junction.
- Even Stevens: In the episode "Boy on a Rock", Louis (Shia La Beouf) trips on a tree trunk and flies face-first into a mud puddle in the forest. He spends the rest of the episode caked in mud and attacked by girl scouts screaming "Mud Monster!"
- Malcolm in the Middle: At the end of the episode "Victor's Other Family" , The oldest brother Reese (Justin Berfield) runs on the porch completely covered in brown mud.
- In episode 3 of The Borgias, assassin Michelotto goes to a sauna and has himself covered in mud as a disguise.
- In World of Warcraft, rogues have the ability "blind" which pretty much consists of throwing dirt in one's face (previous versions had them carry special "blinding powder", which became Vendor Trash after the need for it was removed).
- Lampshaded in blinding powder's new item description:
Once favored by rogues as a blinding agent, it was abandoned for more readily available resources... like dirt.
- Monster Hunter Tri introduces the Barroth, the love child of a Tyrannosaurus Rex and a Bulldozer that is often covered in mud. It has a habit of shaking said mud off, and any hunters unfortunate enough to get hit by the flying globs are covered in quickly-hardening mud that makes it impossible to attack (and open to getting plowed under by the Barroth!)
- A few Pokémon attacks do this to the opponent, all but one of them being Ground-type attacks. As well as inflicting damage, Mud Bomb, Mud Slap and Muddy Water (the one non-Ground attack) reduce accuracy while Mud Shot reduces speed. Mud Sport does this to the user, giving them additional resistance to Electric attacks, despite most of the Pokémon that learn it being immune to Electric attacks already.
- In My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, Rarity, who can't stand the thought of dirt or behaving in an "uncouth" way, refuses to participate in the Sisterhooves Social with her little sister. She eventually realizes how much it means to her sister, who in the meantime has decided to run the race with Applejack, so during one stretch of the race, Applejack falls in mud. Rarity comes out of the mud in Applejack's place, and runs the rest of the race with Sweetie Belle, who only sees a mud-caked pony and doesn't realize until the end that it's Rarity.
- Played with in an early episode: Applejack can't understand why Rarity hates being muddy but enjoys Cucumber Facials. When circumstances conspire to cover Rarity in mud, Applejack quickly applies some sliced cucumber to make her feel better.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- Katara and Toph take full body mud baths in their spa day in "Tales of Ba Sing Se". Toph uses earthbending to traumatize the spa employee during her Cucumber Facial.
- "The Runaway" Katara and Toph get into an argument that turns into something of a mudwrestling match because of their water and earthbending abilities respectively.
- Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends: In the Whole-Episode Flashback detailing Firestar's origin, Firestar takes the Alpha Bitch and drops her in a mud puddle, whereupon she throws a splashy tantrum.
- Phineas and Ferb:
- "That Sinking Feeling" Baljeet and the girl from his past, in a flashback, before she "turned into a girl". They were playing and covering each other in mud.
- "Run Candace Run" has Candace and Jeremy both covered head to toe in mud after her borrowing the boys' speed shoes helps them win a wheelbarrow race.
- He-Man frequently threw his opponents into conveniently-placed mudholes or bodies of water. A soft landing, to be sure, but not very dignified. Sister superhero She Ra did it too.
- The Superhero Squad Show: Abomination, in response to being compared unfavorably to a dog, digs a huge pile of dirt and covers Reptil, Wolverine, and Thor in dirt to the point only their eyes are showing.
- The Simpsons, in a Treehouse of Horror episode parodying Orson Welles' War of the Worlds broadcast: Springfield is terrified of being invaded by Martians. Sideshow Mel tells everyone to take off their clothes and wallow in the mud. That way the Martians will leave them alone, not realizing that they're people.
- In an early episode where the family went camping, Homer and Bart get lost, Homer ends up covered in mud, unintelligible and raging from bee stings, and gets mistaken for Bigfoot.
- The What's New, Scooby-Doo? episode "Reef Grief!" where Scooby and Shaggy compete in a sand castle tournament. Spencer Johnson covers his hypnotized competitors with mud so they can build his underground freeway.
- As many parents of young children can testify, this happens quite often.