Created By: JusticeReaper on May 14, 2013 Last Edited By: JusticeReaper on May 16, 2013

Insane All Along

A person is revealed to have been a psycho from the beginning.

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Trope
Needs More Examples. Needs a Better Description.

So you meet someone who seems to be quite nice, friendly, very amiable, but something about them seems a little...off. Sometimes you figure that something's there behind their cheerful face, other times you've no clue anything's wrong because they're acting as normal as you'd expect them to be...but the truth is, they are not well. And once you find out, it's far too late to do anything about it.

A frequent characteristic of the Serial Killer, and it may also be the secret that a Stepford Smiler is hiding behind his/her fake smile. It may come out if the character's Berserk Button is triggered, or through some other means via The Reveal. The revelation may happen in an instant, or little clues may be given here and there via gradual Sanity Slippage. If a nice or quiet person is secretly unwell mentally, and it eventually comes out, be afraid.

And the scary part of it is, it could be anybody. Including your relative, your next-door neighbor, or your office-mate.

Generally forms part of The Reveal in many a slasher flick or a psychological thriller.

Note that while the Mask of Sanity is where a person disguises the fact that they're mentally sick, this trope deals with the moment of revelation when that insanity is unveiled, both for the audience and in-universe, thereby changing a whole lot of perceptions regarding the character and their points of. Contrast Obfuscating Insanity, where a character deliberately fakes madness.

Also see Mind Screw, which messes with the audience's perceptions of what's going on, and The Ending Changes Everything, where an initially perceived view of a situation is altered at the end of the story by one detail being changed or revealed.

As a Reveal trope, expect spoilers.

Examples include:

Anime and Manga
  • This may be the case with Tsutomu Tanaka in Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, as hinted in Chapter 521. When he first appears in the series during the D of D tournament arc, he is shown to have a habit of talking on the phone with his wife, and during his second appearance after that arc, he's revealed to be harboring intense hatred against Ogata Isshinsai for the death of his master/father-in-law. But in the most recent arc, while he's fighting Ogata after the latter interrupts yet another phone conversation with his wife by kicking the phone out of his hand, Kenichi gets hold of the phone and urges the wife to stay away from the park where the fighting is taking place only to discover that it's only a generic phone service voice recording on the other end, right at the same time when the Ryozanpaku masters are discussing the character's background history, with the implication being that Kensei killed Tanaka's wife and unborn child in the backstory as well, and that Tanaka went insane from that as a result.

Literature
  • Misery does this with Annie Wilkes, who at first appears to be a helpful nurse assisting the main character, but who reveals herself to be psychotic when she finds out how he, the author of the titular novel series, plans to end his latest novel. This is more evident in the movie adaptation, whereas in the original novel Annie is shown to be nutty right off the bat.
  • The murderer of And Then There Were None, Judge Wargrave, is a very collected and logical man in public but reveals himself to his last victim to be a ranting madman instead.
  • When Charles finds out how Leo has been treating his pack in Alpha and Omega he assumes that Leo has gone "age-crazy," where a werewolf who is Really 700 Years Old goes insane as the world changes so much that it has become unrecognizable from the one they were born into. It turns out Leo has not gone age-crazy after all but his mate Isabelle did. Leo was just covering up for her.

Live Action TV
  • On one episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer the titular character hallucinates being in a mental hospital. According to the doctors there, her memories of being the Slayer and all of her supernatural adventures are the hallucinations. At the end of the episode it is up for interpretation whether she was really insane all along.

Video Games
  • In Alan Wake, most everyone turns out to be at least partially insane. It is questionable as to whether the titular protagonist is partially hallucinating some of what goes on.

Visual Novels
  • In Dangan Ronpa, Junko Enoshima at first appears to be just another victim, but it turns out she faked her death via a Twin Switch and is not only the true mastermind, but an unstable multiple personality who gets off on people's despair - including her own. The sequel features Nagito Komaeda, who appears perfectly sane and helpful at first, but during the first school trial, it comes out that he believes that the best and only way he can help the "Super High School-Level" students he so envies is to kick off Monobear's murder game himself.
Community Feedback Replies: 17
  • May 14, 2013
    Tuckerscreator
    The murderer of And Then There Were None, Judge Wargrave, is a very collected and logical man in public but reveals himself to his last victim to be a ranting madman instead.
  • May 14, 2013
    Marz1200
    • When Charles finds out how Leo has been treating his pack in Alpha and Omega he assumes that Leo has gone "age-crazy," where a werewolf who is Really Seven Hundred Years Old goes insane as the world changes so much that it has become unrecignizabke from the one they were born into. It turns out Leo has not gone age-crazy, but his mate Isabelle did. Leo was just covering up for her.
  • May 14, 2013
    Koveras
    Contrast Obfuscating Insanity. Compare Mask Of Sanity--which this needs to be distinguished from.
  • May 14, 2013
    CardsOfWar
    Video Games

    In Alan Wake, most everyone turns out to be at least partially insane. it is questionable to whether the titular protagonist is partially hallucinating some of what goes on.
  • May 14, 2013
    Marz1200
    • On one episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer the titular character hallucinates being in a mental hospital. According to the doctors there, her memories of being the Slayer and all of her supernatural adventures are the hallucinations. At the end of the episode it is up for interpretation whether she was really Insane All Along.
  • May 14, 2013
    Larkmarn
    This seems effectively indistinguishable with Mask Of Sanity. It's just "When the Mask Of Sanity is broken" which isn't distinguishable.
  • May 14, 2013
    Ryusui
    • In Dangan Ronpa, Junko Enoshima at first appears to be just another victim, but it turns out she faked her death via a Twin Switch and is not only the true mastermind, but an unstable multiple personality who gets off on people's despair - including her own. The sequel features Nagito Komaeda, who appears perfectly sane and helpful at first, but during the first school trial, it comes out that he believes that the best and only way he can help the "Super High School-Level" students he so envies is to kick off Monobear's murder game himself.
  • May 14, 2013
    JusticeReaper
    Larkman: Mask Of Sanity is when a character is hiding the fact that he/she is insane. This trope is when it's revealed that a person has been insane all along instead of some other assumption. It's pretty straightforward to me.
  • May 14, 2013
    Larkmarn
    A: The description just describes Mask Of Sanity. There's no focus on The Reveal aspect.

    B: ... this is still just the Mask Of Sanity breaking, which is kind of a given of the other trope. In terms of tropes, that's not distinct. It's like making a separate trope for Xanatos Gambit and one for someone putting a gambit into action. Yes, they're not exactly the same thing but they're functionally similar and one follows the other.
  • May 14, 2013
    JusticeReaper
    Well, what would you call what happens in the Kenichi example, for instance?
  • May 14, 2013
    xanderiskander
    Kenichi's example would still be covered by Mask Of Sanity IMO because the character still feigns sanity, very effectively until the thing with the phone happens. Mask Of Sanity doesn't really work unless it's assumed the character is revealed to be insane at some point. Because how would the audience know that trope is in effect unless they know he's crazy?

    I'd say just change the second sentence on the Mask Of Sanity page to say:

    "Then there's the character who's Revealed to be insane and shows almost no signs of being crazy until that point....at least not publicly". So that it's more clear.

    In fact I'll go edit that now.
  • May 15, 2013
    JusticeReaper
    I still think Mask Of Sanity refers to the facade itself, while this trope I'm trying to develop refers to how the whole dynamic changes when the insanity is revealed.

    Besides which, IMHO, the "...All Along" tropes I have seen have merit as revelation tropes, both in-universe and out, so why not this one? We have Dead All Along, as is the case with The Sixth Sense and The Others; Good All Along, as is the case with Uchiha Itachi; and we have the very similar tropes Secretly Dying and You See Im Dying. Therefore, while this one may seem similar to Mask Of Sanity, as explained before, it isn't (not the way I see it, at least).
  • May 15, 2013
    xanderiskander
    That's another thing. The name is a snowclone, and Everythings Worse With Snowclones. "Insane All Along" doesn't make me think of someone revealed to be crazy. It makes me think of a character who the audience clearly knows is crazy "all along".

    Those other "all along" tropes don't have a character facade trope so closely related to it like Mask Of Sanity is to this. I think it would just be easier to make Mask Of Sanity broader to cover reveals since it requires a reveal to work anyway like I said earlier, and move the examples that are applicable to there. Having both of these would just be confusing since the descriptions are already so similar.

    Half of the examples don't belong here also. As a couple of examples the Buffy The Vampire slayer example belongs on All Therapists Are Muggles, because it's not a reveal that she's crazy. it's therapists thinking she's insane because she's involved with the supernatural. The And Then There Were None example and many others could also easily just be moved to Mask Of Sanity, because that example has the character clearly hiding it.
  • May 16, 2013
    Marz1200
    ^ The Buffy example is not All Therapists Are Muggles. Buffy hallucinated that she was in a mental hospital the entire time and had never come to Sunnydale at all. Eventually, her friends convince her that Sunnydale is the real one, but at the end of the episode they show her catatonic in the hospital making it up for interpretation whether or not the mental hospital is the real world and Buffy is actually insane.
  • May 16, 2013
    Larkmarn
    The Buffy example is Through The Eyes Of Madness, though it's ambiguous about which world is the madness.

    The issue with this and Mask Of Sanity is that the Mask Of Sanity facade, by definition, has to fall at some point. If not, then the audience wouldn't even know if a character's insane. Thus this trope is inherently covered by that one.
  • May 16, 2013
    zarpaulus
    Webcomics
    • Joel of Concession always seemed rather sociopathic, but later it turns out he's delusional as well. Sure, his twin sister Miranda's ghost is real, but his brother Julian doesn't have any Psychic Powers, he just imagined it. He may have hallucinated Julian killing Miranda when they were babies as well.
  • May 16, 2013
    JusticeReaper
    Xanderiskander: I must disagree with what you say about this trope-attempt seeming (to you) to suggest that the audience knows all along that the character is crazy. The intention is that the character is revealed to be crazy, whether in-universe or to the audience. Saying that the audience already knows it would be (to me) also saying that, in the case of Dead All Along or Good All Along, the audience knew all along that the character was dead/a good guy, which, as the above examples I have given in my last post should indicate, is NOT the case. Anybody watching those two movies for the first time would not have any reason to suspect until The Reveal that Bruce Willis's character or Nicole Kidman and her entire household were dead, nor would anybody reading the Naruto series suspect that Itachi was always a good guy prior to the manga's revelation of the fact.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

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