Created By: Ironeye on February 23, 2013 Last Edited By: MacronNotes on June 27, 2013
Troped

Duality Motif

Mismatched elements of apperance foreshadow/reinforce a dual nature.

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Trope
[Please edit changes into the main draft.]

If a character has an element of duality to their nature, such as a Superpowered Evil Side, mixed-species ancestry, a Split Personality, or even something as simple as a Tsundere's two distinct moods, this duality can be foreshadowed or visually reinforced by introducing a dual nature to their visual design. Whether it's two-tone clothes, mismatched eyes, or hair that changes color at the part, the two sides of their character come out in their appearance.

This aesthetic link can be a rule of the universe, such as all werewolves having a brown eye and a blue eye, or a fortuitous in-universe coincidence. Not every case of duality in appearance is part of a greater motif for the character--and would thus not be this trope--but if attention is drawn to both the outward and inward sides, particularly if by another character, then there's little doubt that the former is there to draw emphasis to the latter.

A Duality Motif is inherently limited to single characters, with many other tropes covering visual contrast between characters. The one exception is that when two people from form The Dividual--including Single-Minded Twins--the contrast between the two bodies can highlight contrast in the shared personality.

See Peek-a-Bangs and Skunk Stripe for visual designs that can be--but are not always--used for this effect.


Examples

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[[folder:Anime & Manga]] [[/folder]]

[[folder:Comic Books]]
  • Duo Damsel in Legion of Super Heroes can split into two people, and in some versions has two eyes of different colors. This is strange since 1) she had the ability to split into three before one body was killed, but didn't have three eyes, 2) it's a planetary power and other people from the planet don't have this, and 3) when she splits, each body has two of the same color eyes, making it impossible for her to pretend to not be split when she is.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film -- Live-Action]]
  • In The Unborn, the 2009 film, one of Casey's eyes starts changing color to match that of her unborn twin brother around the time his soul--which is attached to hers--starts killing people.
  • The Shining uses a lot of this, with mirror reflections and symmetrical items such as double-doors, to reinforce the dual-nature of the hotel (which is practically a character itself) as well as Jack Torrance with his inner demons.
  • In District 9 the iris of Wikus's left eye turns gold (and huge) at around the seventy-second hour of his transformation into a Prawn. By the end of the movie, his eyes match again due to his complete transformation.
  • In Don't Look Back, the characters' appearances slowly change over the course of the movie. Characters who are midway through their transformations often have mismatched eyes.
  • Lucie has them in Livid. Her heterochromia is described by another character as a sign of her having two souls.
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[[folder:Literature]]
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe: Villainess Ysanne Isard, main antagonist of the X-Wing books has mismatched eyes. The right is blue, and the left is red. They're often symbolically attached to the cold efficiency (her nickname is Iceheart) and fiery anger she's known for.
  • In the Roger Zelazny book This Immortal, protagonist narrator Conrad Nomikos has Mismatched Eyes, among other odd features. But then he is probably a mutant and is definitely hundreds of years old. His unique appearance is an important plot point.
    I glare at people through the cold blue one on the right side when I want to intimidate them; the brown one is for Glances Sincere and Honest.
  • In Jostein Gaarder's philosophical novel Maya, the character Laura has one brown eye and one green eye. The narrator thinks of this as somehow connected to her dual nature - one side of her seems to care for all living things and the planet as a whole, while the other side seems to care about everything in the world except human beings.
  • Hnick from Dmitri Yemets's book series Methodius Buslaev has one blue eye and one black eye according to Book 3. His body is stitched from at last two different corpses.
  • In Stardust, the protagonist Tristran's mismatched ears (one ordinary, one pointed) indicate his mixed human and magical parentage and resulting dual nature, which the reader knows about but Tristran does not.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
  • In an episode of Get Smart Max visits a circus which has a half-man/half-woman, who dresses half in a tuxedo and half in a Pimped-Out Dress. He/She moves his/her head to profile whichever of his/her two halves are speaking at a given time, and occasionally argues with him/herself.
  • Lieutenant Aiden Ford of Stargate Atlantis has one eye turn completely black due to an accident during a Wraith attack on the city. This same accident also got him hopped up on and addicted to Wraith enzyme, causing him to go AWOL and hunt down the Wraith on his own.
  • In the WKRP in Cincinnati episode "Dr. Fever and Mr. Tide" Johnny Fever gets a job as a TV DJ spinning disco records. He doesn't want to do disco so he invents an alternate persona named "Rip Tide" for the TV gig. He dyes his blond hair dark for the part, but only the part of his hair not covered by his beret. This duality of hair color reflects the duality of "Johnny" and "Rip," who starts to take him over a la Jekyll & Hyde.
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[[folder:Video Games]]
  • The Drawn to Life games has Heather. a little girl whose face is half covered in shadows. She is Mike's sister in the real world
  • Yuna from Final Fantasy X has heterochromia to indicate that she's half Al-Bhed. She has a green eye and a blue one.
  • The vampire sisters in Castlevania: Portrait Of Ruin have heterochromia to indicate they aren't full vampires yet. Each of them has one eye of the other's normal colour, creating a creepy impression that they've switched eyes.
  • Levi Tolar, on-again off-again Dragon, originally from Super Robot Wars Alpha, has one red and one golden eye, to match her mecha Judecca. Her eye color changes fairly regularly though, depending on game and whether her Levi personality or her Mai Kobayashi personality is dominant.
  • Ragna the Bloodedge of BlazBlue has these to indicate that he is half-Vampire. However, this only applies in one particular instance of the Stable Time Loop: in all others, including the one covered by the story, his changed eye, the red one, is linked to the function of his arm, the fake Azure Grimoire. When it stops working, so does his arm.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Visual Novels]]
  • Ace Attorney:
    • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney DS, Angel Starr has differently colored eyes, but it's hard to tell because the eyes are tiny and we only see one eye at a time. (When the hair covers the right side of her face, she looks nice, but when she's angry it covers the left, so we never see them both at once.) According to the creators, it's because she wears colored contacts, and is thus Invoked
    • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice For All: Matt Engarde's Peek-a-Bangs represent two different sides of his personality. When his bangs are covering the right side of his face, he acts like a happy-go-lucky Surfer Dude who can be pretty slow at times. But when he slicks his hair back He reveals his true self; a Manipulative Bastard who believes people are only there to be used and thrown away.

[[/folder]]

[[folder:Web Comics]]
  • Most of the Val'Sullisin'rune family in Drowtales have mismatched eyes, a fact that is commonly known in the setting and referred to as "devil eyes" in the case of the Ill'haress Ash'waren. It is not clear that they have any sort of "dual nature" aside from the case Ash's daughter Faen: the dual personality Blue = Innocent / Purple = Mysterious or Badass fits.
  • Kade from Eerie Cuties has a yellow/gold left eye and a blue right eye. Of course, he is a Werecat...
  • The chimera boy Archie from Ellen's second life dreams in El Goonish Shive, although he hasn't been drawn in colour yet, appears to have heterochromia, given that one of his eyes is filled, and the other has a pupil and a gap between the pupil and the outline of the iris.
  • Homestuck: Sollux has one eye that's completely red and one that's completely blue, thus making him an example of both Mismatched Eyes and Monochromatic Eyes. However, this wasn't immediately obvious because he wears a pair of red-and-blue 3D glasses almost all the time. This duality is symbolic of his bipolar disorder. It continues after he "half-dies" (he's got two dreamselves): he gets one white eye (from his dead self in the dream bubbles) and one black eye for his blinded realself. The "half-alive" Sollux with Aradia has the same eyes but reversed.
  • Sudoku (Jigsaw's sister) in Last Res0rt also has heterochromia, with no special explanation attached other than her father (Cypher) having green eyes and her mother (Meridian) having blue. She's the only one in the family with this trait though.
  • Tsukiko from The Order of the Stick has one dark blue eye and one light blue eye. This represents her status as a Mystic Theurge who can cast both divine and arcane spells. The magic that emanates from each of her hands is the same color as the eye on the opposite side, and when she casts Dominate Person, the victim gains her heterochromia as well. She's also from a country built on East Asian stereotypes, so it's possible that the trope's presence in anime was a factor in character design (and her otherwise East Asian coloring makes the mismatched blue eyes particularly striking). Her slippers also match her eye color. Apparently she's just decided to go with it.
  • Charlie of The Zombie Hunters, a Half-Human Hybrid Zombie. has one normal, pale blue right eye, while the left eye has a black sclera and a glowing white iris, like those of most other Zombies. He easily conceals it with a special contact lens.
  • Berri in Fiyora Nya has one red eye and one green eye. Though they apparently change colors due to her other souls.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Web Original]]
  • In Survival of the Fittest, Dominica Shapiro , who was dual in nature (displaying both a thoroughly villainous and surprisingly heroic side), has mismatched eyes.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
  • In Batman: The Animated Series, as in many of the other works in which he appears, half of Two-Face's face has been scarred by acid, his hair changes color at the mid-line of his head, and his eye on the scarred side has been stained yellow. In this particular incarnation of the character, he wears two-tone black and white suits that further have each clothing element switch color along the mid-line of his body (i.e. Black jacket, white shirt, black tie switches to white jacket, black shirt, white tie.) He is torn between the noble personality of Harvey Dent and the violent 'Big Bad Harv', settles choices with a coin flip, and is obsessed with duality, taking the trope to its logical extreme.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Zuko's scar covers almost the entire left side of his face, incidentally making one eye look smaller than the other. His internal struggle is heavily emphasized.
[[/folder]]


Community Feedback Replies: 24
  • February 23, 2013
    Ironeye
    The examples are mainly focused on eyes since they are being split off Mismatched Eyes as per the Appearance Tropes Cleanup. A few of them might not be fully up to snuff for the new trope, so a second set of eyes would be nice.

    Additionally, help getting examples relating to hair, clothing, and other visual elements would be greatly appreciated.
  • February 24, 2013
    SKJAM
    Comics: Batman villain Two-Face's two sides, law-abiding District Attorney and lawbreaking criminal, are visually represented by having half his face be horrifically scarred, complete with different hair colors and one eye with no lid. He often supplements this with suits that are split down the middle between conservative and "loud" Some versions of Two-Face give him a full split personalty. All in all, he's a poster boy for duality motifs.
  • April 2, 2013
    XFllo
    I think that might be a lot of common ground with Twin Tropes. I'll have a look and see what could be moved or incorporated.
  • April 6, 2013
    Generality
    Peek A Bangs could also be a subtrope.
  • April 6, 2013
    capsaicinfinity
    In Stardust, the protagonist Tristran's mismatched ears (one ordinary, one pointed) indicate his mixed human and magical parentage and resulting dual nature, which the reader knows about but Tristran does not.
  • April 6, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    This might be a Missing Supertrope to conflicted characters with a visual cue. There are plenty of Mismatched Eyes examples already. Skunk Stripe is often used for this purpose: Alexandra Cabot has one in the comic books, because she's a teen witch. The Two-Face example for full-body splits (trope name?) might extend to cyborgs. Long John Silver from Treasure Planet alternates between ruthless pirate and decent father figure. The "odd" feature becomes the cue that this character has something "extra" going on. Yup, supertrope.
  • April 9, 2013
    Ironeye
    Yep, this was made to patch the Missing Supertrope hole. It came out of a discussion on Mismatched Eyes, which is why >95% of the examples talk about eyes.

    Anyway, thank you to everyone who's adding examples directly to the description.
  • April 10, 2013
    bulmabriefs144
    Seed in Rogue Galaxy has the motif (black and white clothing, including a mask). His personality doesn't really fit though as he's one of the bad guys, except if you count that he usually spares the party and his reason for being is to solve a certain puzzle, after failing he's discarded like a cheap toy.
  • April 17, 2013
    MissKitten
    Bump.
  • April 25, 2013
    Misskitten
    YKTTW Bump.
  • June 12, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In the WKRP In Cincinnati episode "Dr. Fever and Mr. Tide" Johnny Fever gets a job as a TV DJ spinning disco records. He doesn't want to do disco so he invents an alternate persona named "Rip Tide" for the TV gig. He dyes his blond hair dark for the part, but only the part of his hair not covered by his beret. This duality of hair color reflects the duality of "Johnny" and "Rip," who starts to take him over a la Jekyll & Hyde.
  • June 13, 2013
    DracMonster
    • The Shining uses a lot of this, with mirror reflections and symmetrical items such as double-doors, to reinforce the dual-nature of the hotel (which is practically a character itself) as well as Jack Torrance with his inner demons.
  • June 13, 2013
    arromdee
    Duo Damsel in Legion Of Super Heroes can split into two people, and in some versions has two eyes of different colors. This is strange since 1) she had the ability to split into three before one body was killed, but didn't have three eyes, 2) it's a planetary power and other people from the planet don't have this, and 3) when she splits, each body has two of the same color eyes, making it impossible for her to pretend to not be split when she is.
  • June 14, 2013
    MorningStar1337
    The Drawn To Life games has Heather. a little girl whose face is half covered in shadows. She is Mike's sister in the real world
  • June 16, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Two-Face (from Batman's Rogues Gallery) should be listed under comic books as well as Western Animation.

    • In an episode of Get Smart Max visits a circus which has a half-man/half-woman, who dresses half in a tuxedo and half in a Pimped Out Dress. He/She moves his/her head to profile whichever of his/her two halves are speaking at a given time, and occasionally argues with him/herself.
  • June 17, 2013
    ArcadesSabboth
    What's the relation to a mixed-species person (half-human or otherwise) having a physical appearance that's a mix of traits from both species?

    Can it include visually obvious cyborgs who have a personality duality?
  • June 20, 2013
    MacronNotes
    ^ I would say both of those examples count.
  • June 21, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Anime And Manga
  • June 27, 2013
    MacronNotes
    I'm going to go ahead and launch this tonight or tomorrow.
  • June 27, 2013
    MorningStar1337
    ^That would be a bad move, This YKTTW only has 3 hats. That makes it likely to be unlaunched or forced through YKTTW again.
  • June 27, 2013
    macronnotes
    ^ Actually, you don't necessarily need 5 hats to launch a draft (it's just recommended to have 5). There's no reason for this draft to be sent in YKTTW again because it's well written and has plenty of examples. This YKTTW is almost 5 months old and hasn't accumulated any more than 3 hats during that time. Also, there is a cleaning project for appearance tropes waiting for it to launch so that it can move to other projects.
  • June 27, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Yeah, this is easily Just Launch It Already material.
  • June 27, 2013
    MorningStar1337
    Well you have my hat.
  • June 27, 2013
    captainpat
    This is definitely ready to launch.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=c5ghl7y4tvczuznmpz0azifl&trope=DualityMotif