Created By: rt2012October 3, 2012 Last Edited By: rt2012July 23, 2014
Troped

Overly Stereotypical Disguise

Character goes undercover as an over-the-top stereotype

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Sometimes when a character has to use the art of disguise, they go too far. If they have to pose as a member of a certain minority group, they incorporate every stereotype of said group possible into their costume. Probably the best-known instance of this: The spy/secret agent who wears a grey trenchcoat and black hat (as an effort to "blend in" with the general populace).


Examples:

Comic Books

  • The Adventures Of Tintin: Bumbling detectives Thomson and Thompson would often attempt to go undercover by wearing ridiculously stereotypical disguises of whatever country they were in. One early book has them dress up in garish Chinese garb on a visit to Shanghai. They end up with a large crowd of pointing and laughing people following them.

Film

  • In The Hebrew Hammer, the main character and his love interest try to arrest the Big Bad at a Kmart by posing as a Gentile couple, complete with Southern accents, Christian paraphernalia, and American flags.
  • Admiral Aladeen in The Dictator dresses head to toe in the American flag posing as an American tourist during a helicopter tour scene, where he and his cohort are Mistaken For Terrorist.
    • Sasha Baron Cohen is frequently accused of abusing this trope in his films.
  • Marty's flamboyant cowboy attire in Back To The Future III, which he did lampshade, but (1950s) Doc insisted it was fine to wear. Marty switched to more reasonable clothes as soon as he could.
  • Gene Wilder's pathetic attempt to pass for African-American in the movie Silver Streak.
  • Team America World Police has a funny subversion. The main character's job is to infiltrate into a Muslim terrorist group. He simply wraps a towel around his head, superglues hair to his face, and says, "Dirka dirka Muhammed Jihad." It works.
  • In Revenge of the Pink Panther, Inspector Clouseau goes undercover in Hong Kong in Yellowface, eye makeup for slanted eyes, a Fu Manchu mustache, a rice paddy hat, and a Qipao, while all the ordinary citizens around him wear business suits.
  • In High Anxiety, Richard is wanted for murder and he and Victoria need to bypass airport security, so they disguise themselves as a loud, bickering elderly Jewish couple. Their reasoning is that the louder and more obnoxious they are, the more they'll be ignored.

Literature

  • In The Man Who Was Thursday, Lucian Gregory repeatedly tries to infiltrate non-anarchist society by disguising himself as capitalists, priests, or military men. It fails each time because he's an over-the-top anarachist stereotype of these groups.
  • Sergeant Colon does this in a downright racist manner in Jingo, to the point that onlookers assume he's a spy for a country other than the one he seems to be from, since no actual spy would be so obvious.

Live Action TV

  • The Goodies attempt to pass themselves off as Scottish is so over-the-top that the Scot they are trying to fool declares that they must be English tourists.
  • In Funky Squad, one of the square cops attempts to pass himself off a hippy by dressing as a cop's stereotype of a hippy. Not helped by the fact that he arrives driving a police car where he has crudely painted over the word 'Police' on the door so it reads 'Peace'.

Western Animation

  • In the "Honey Pot" episode of Archer, Sterling Archer attempts to seduce a gay man by dying his hair blond and wearing roller skates, skin-tight short shorts, and a shirt that says "Got Dick?"
  • Cartman goes undercover with Butters into a Chinese restaurant wearing a dǒulý, false buck teeth, and slanty eyes so that he can get secret plans for PRC world domination.
    • He also acts like a stereotype of retarded people to get into the Special Olympics.
  • Peter Griffin in Family Guy gets beat up after trying to disguise himself as a Jew, and doing this trope.
Community Feedback Replies: 42
  • October 3, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ Cartman also acts like a stereotype of retarded people to get into the Special Olympics.

    • Peter Griffin in Family Guy gets beat up after trying to disguise himself as a Jew, and doing this trope.
  • October 4, 2012
    Shnakepup
    Might want to change the name to something more clear; I thought it meant "someone who intentionally acts like a bigot as part of their disguise" (like pretending to be racist to infiltrate the KKK or something). Maybe Overly Stereotypical Disguise?
  • October 4, 2012
    SKJAM
    • The Man Who Was Thursday: Lucian Gregory repeatedly tries to infiltrate non-anarchist society by disguising himself as capitalists, priests, or military men. It fails each time because he's an over-the-top anarachist stereotype of these groups.
  • October 4, 2012
    rt2012
    Shnakepup: name has been changed
  • October 4, 2012
    LobsterMagnus
    Marty McFly's flamboyant cowboy attire in Back To The Future III
  • October 4, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ Which he did lampshade, but (1950s) Doc insisted it was fine to wear. Marty switched to more reasonable clothes as soon as he could.
  • October 4, 2012
    Lumpenprole
    Gene Wilder's pathetic attempt to pass for African-American in the movie "Silver Streak".

  • October 4, 2012
    Noaqiyeum
    SKJAM: Needs more context. :P You're thinking of Lucian Gregory's multiple attempts to disguise his anarchism by pretending to be anarchistic caricatures of capitalists, priests, and military men, right?

    Another example: Thomson and Thompson's notorious disguises throughout Tintin.
  • October 4, 2012
    SKJAM
    ^ Yes. Updated comment appropriately.
  • October 4, 2012
    nitrokitty
    The Adventures Of Tintin: Bumbling detectives Thomson and Thompson would often attempt to go undercover by wearing ridiculously stereotypical disguises of whatever country they were in. One early book has them dress up in garish Chinese garb on a visit to Shanghai. They end up with a large crowd of pointing and laughing people following them.
  • October 4, 2012
    Waterlily
    I was planning to mention Thompson and Thomson! I was thinking about this trope and was wondering if it's sometimes used because it allows the audience to laugh at offensive stereotypes and at the same time be critical of them.

    It reminds me of what somebody I know said about the movie Team America World Police in which the Arabs are a ridiculous stereotype.

    "Is it making fun of Arabs or is it making fun of people making fun of Arabs? Either way, if you're some redneck who hates Arabs, you're going to be laughing pretty hard."

    That film actually has a funny subversion. The main character's job is to infiltrate into a Muslim terrorist group. He simply wraps a towel around his head and says "Dirka dirka Muhammed Jihad." They accept him.
  • October 5, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
    • In Revenge of The Pink Panther, Inspector Clouseau goes undercover in Hong Kong in Yellowface, eye makeup for slanted eyes, a Fu Manchu mustache, a rice paddy hat, and a Qipao, while all the ordinary citizens around him wear business suits.
  • October 5, 2012
    Chabal2
    It should also be noted that Thompson and Thomson once managed to get into the wrong stereotype, wearing Greek costumes in Syldavia.
  • October 5, 2012
    Noaqiyeum
    Waterlily - that's a good point, and should be mentioned in the article.

    Chabal - actually, isn't Syldavia implied to be in the Balkans? In King Ottokar's Sceptre, for instance, it has a lot of resemblance to Serbia and Montenegro, and its history involves being conquered by the Turks. So a Greek stereotype doesn't seem too improbable.
  • October 5, 2012
    FalconPain
    Sergeant Colon does this in a downright racist manner in Jingo, to the point that onlookers assume he's a spy for a country other than the one he seems to be from, since no actual spy would be so obvious.
  • October 5, 2012
    Chabal2
    ^^ Yes, but they very much believed them to be national Syldavian costumes (when they look more like something that's hauled out once a year for a parade or other event). To the point that when the security guards who arrested them thought they were Greek, the Thom(p)sons were the most surprised to learn where their costumes were from.
  • October 18, 2012
    rt2012
    What suggestions would you make to improve this trope so it can be launched?
  • October 18, 2012
    foxley
    • The Goodies attempt to pass themselves off as Scottish is so over-the-top that the Scot they are trying to fool declares that they must be English tourists.
    • In Funky Squad, one of the square cops attempts to pass himself off a hippy by dressing as a cop's stereotype of a hippy. Not helped by the fact that he arrives driving a police car where he has crudely painted over the word 'Police' on the door so it reads 'Peace'.
  • October 19, 2012
    TonyG
    On High Anxiety, Richard is wanted for murder and he and Victoria need to bypass airport security, so they disguise themselves as a loud, bickering elderly Jewish couple. Their reasoning is that the louder and more obnoxious they are, the more they'll be ignored.
  • October 19, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
    A complaint constantly levied against Sacha Baron Cohen films.
  • October 19, 2012
    rt2012
    I have incorporated most of the above suggestions into the original post as well as an image. Please provide any feedback you may have on how I can further prepare this trope for being published.
  • October 19, 2012
    DracMonster
    Description is rather barebones, could use some more fleshing out.

    This would be a Sub Trope of Paper Thin Disguise, and also Easy Impersonation when it works.
  • October 19, 2012
    nitrokitty
    The Tintin example should be under Comics.
  • October 21, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    Western Animation

    Roger does this a lot on American Dad.
  • October 21, 2012
    Chernoskill
    The Trope description could use a generalization or an example for the probably best-known instance of this: The spy/secret agent who wears a grey trenchcoat and black hat (as an effort to "blend in" with the general populace). A picture of this would also be swell.
  • November 1, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
    • In Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the two spies pretend to be British by donning big plaid coats, deer hunter caps, smoking pipes, and calling each other "Basil". Everyone else just looks at them strange.
  • December 30, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In an episode of Soap Burt & Danny go undercover at a brothel to try to find the hookers who helped the mid-level Bad take blackmail photos of them while they were passed out. Danny goes in yellowface much as description of Cleusau in Return of the Pink Panther: Fu Manchu mustache, qipao, paddy hat, plus a fake ponytail, buckteeth and glasses (which make him blind).
  • December 30, 2012
    orangejuicer
    • The Onion played this trope for laughs in this video, titled Reporter Goes Undercover in Chinatown By Wearing Silk Robe.
  • January 3, 2013
    MetaFour
    "The spy/secret agent who wears a grey trenchcoat and black hat (as an effort to "blend in" with the general populace). A picture of this would also be swell."

    That's already covered by Conspicuous Trenchcoat.
  • January 3, 2013
    elwoz
    Obligatory Avatar The Last Airbender example: Sokka's initial attempts to disguise himself as a Fire Nation citizen ("Wang Fire") are not only hilariously stereotypical, they're hilariously old-fashioned, since the Water Tribe's idea of stereotypical Fire Nation behavior is 100 years out of date (there's been a war on, you see, nobody's had any time for tourism).
  • January 3, 2013
    Premonition45
    In Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the two Vulgarian spies dress like stereotypical Englishmen as they attempt to abduct Grandpa Potts, who they mistake for his son Carractacus.
  • January 3, 2013
    Kellor
    In Family Guy, Peter also used a stereotypical Chinese costume to spy on Meg during a date.
  • January 18, 2013
    elwoz
    Bump; does anyone want to tackle an improved description or shall I try it?
  • January 18, 2013
    rodneyAnonymous
    Rename: lose the "Overly", just Stereotypcial Disguise?

    The modifier isn't necessary. It's not like there's an Appropriately Stereotypical Disguise. That's just a Disguise.
  • June 12, 2013
    TitoMosquito
    Played straight in an episode of Supernatural where they traveled back in time to the Wild West, similar to BTTF Part III, though Dean and Sam wore authentic cowboy attire. The only oddity the people noticed is how clean they looked.
  • June 12, 2013
    MonaNaito
    Theater
    • The main characters of Anything Goes disguise themselves in stereotypical Chinese clothing at the end of the play--Reno is even masquerading as a girl called "Plum Blossom".
  • June 12, 2013
    Waterlily
    "Rename: lose the "Overly", just Stereotypcial Disguise?

    The modifier isn't necessary. It's not like there's an Appropriately Stereotypical Disguise. That's just a Disguise."

    I think it works. In these examples, the disguise is so stereotypical that it doesn't work. Some stereotypical disguises may be subtle enough that the people they are trying to fool don't notice.

    "Played straight in an episode of Supernatural where they traveled back in time to the Wild West, similar to BTTF Part III, though Dean and Sam wore authentic cowboy attire. The only oddity the people noticed is how clean they looked."

    I don't see how that is an example (or at least played straight).
  • June 12, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Literature: In Jack Vance's short story "The Moon Moth" the protagonist is assigned to be Earth's counsul on a planet where everyone wears masks denoting their status at all times. He gets a mask to wear by having an ornate mask on display in an Earth museum copied perfectly; the man he's replacing explains to him that it's a completely inappropriate mask for his status in society and he has to wear a moon moth mask, the lowest status mask there is. (For comparison, it'd be like someone visiting a Native American tribe wearing a chief's headdress rather than the single feather they'd be qualified to wear.)
  • August 28, 2013
    DAN004
    Sorry, pulling a hat. Description's not good enough yet. :/
  • August 29, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Linked Revenge of the Pink Panther to The Pink Panther since the movie doesn't have a page of its own.

    EDIT: Fixed a Red Link (Funky Squad isn't actually situated in the "series" Name Space).
  • August 29, 2013
    GeminiSparkSP
    In Metal Gear Rising Revengeance, Raiden infiltrated Mexico wearing a mariachi costume (a poncho and sombrero). Funnily, he instead attracted more attention because of his gaudy disguise. It was revealed in the outfit description that he got those clothes from a souvenir shop, and it was likely that the shopkeeper pranked him.
  • July 23, 2014
    rt2012
    What are some other ways to improve the description of this trope?

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