Created By: Lorialet on October 13, 2012 Last Edited By: Lorialet on August 5, 2013
Nuked

Sheep In Sheep's Clothing

A character seems kind, but...actually is.

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Trope
Mr Rogers projected an air of genuine, unwavering... almost saintly pure-hearted decency, but when you look at the person behind the image... that's exactly what you find too., xkcd

This trope happens when a character is really sweet, polite, and very nice. Too nice.

We, modern viewers, know it is almost impossible for a fictional hero to remain something more than a Jerk with a Heart of Gold in this day and age, if not something worse...

The Genre Savvy protagonist knows that the nice character can only have very low chances of being a hero and avoid brooding, and even less if they find themselves going so far as to be kind (and the audience wholeheartedly agrees) ! So nobody is really shocked when an investigation is launched and The Lancer starts Perp Sweating them out of nowhere. This kind of character must be hiding something, for old suspense's sake, at least a detail like being The Mole, a Gold Digger, or something worse... except they aren't.

This happens when the story sets up suspicions of Bitch in Sheep's Clothing, but subverts it, either by making the character be the nice person they appear to be, either by revealing that they played another kind of nice than the usual one, but are ultimately just as decent as they appeared, if they weren't better.

Compare/contrast Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk, when suspicitions of kindness about an usually Jerkass-like character are wrong. Often delivers a lesson about how Evil Cannot Comprehend Good when the villain tries to Hannibal Lecture and thinks that he has found something evil in the hero, but there isn't anything evil to find and the hero proves them wrong.

Litterature
  • Discworld has a few examples;
    • Commander Vimes. Nobles assume (or just like to think) he's a jumped up copper who married his wife for money. Since he's a perspective character in several books, it's very clear that he loves his wife and hates the money.
    • Vimes's subordinate Captain Carrot also has people wonder if his Incorruptible Pure Pureness isn't just a front (it isn't, to the point where it's actually quite annoying to some characters).
    • Lord Vetinari, the Patrician of the city, often frustrates the ruling classes by honestly having no vices they can use to exploit him (although unlike Carrot, he's much more of a Magnificent Bastard, just not a selfish one).
  • Jane Fairfax from Emma is an Older Than Radio example. She was just a Shrinking Violet well-known as a sweet and innocent person secretely trying to keep her secret engagement, well, secret. Too bad a nosy, charming, and manipulative heroine came and almost ruined it all by beginning to flirt with her fiance and asking him what he thought she was hiding, because of her Inferiority Superiority Complex. Said fiance felt "forced" to play along to keep the engagement a secret, began to give her whatever "leads" came to his mind, then to flirt back, then to toy with Jane's feelings. Guilty and disgusted, Jane took the very classy decision to try to break up with him and to resign herself to a life as a poor governess, but he finally went back to her.

Live Action Movies
  • Mansfield Park has Fanny Price, in-universe. She refuses to marry the young, rich and charming Henry Crawford, causing him a heartbreak and robbing Sir Thomas Bertram, the baronnet who brought her up since she was ten, from a lot of connections and honnors, something she was expected to do as a thank you. Fanny (whose thoughts are conveyed by the narrator without comment) starts wondering if she is mean, willfull and self-involved... but when reading what follows, it is very clear that she is just sane. Henry Crawford is a flirt who started a relationship with her engaged cousin, and she doesn't feel she should marry him to please him.
  • It happens to all new stepparents in family movies nowadays.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit has Baby Hermann. He is apparently a joyful and innocent baby who is very kind. But wait, he is actually a grumpy man who even has a love life... and is very kind.

Live Action TV
  • On Castle, Beckett's future Romantic False Lead Detective Demming was introduced as a Nice Guy, then came under suspicion by the team that he was a Dirty Cop and the Killer of the Week. Turned out that not only did he have an alibi, it consisted of coaching an underprivileged youth basketball league.
  • Sefa from Merlin. Gwen imagines her to be a traitor bent on revenge who wants to destroy Camelot and hides it behind a sweet composure, like her old friend Morgana. It is quickly made painfully clear that she just innocently gave information to her father, not imagining to which extent he would want to harm Camelot. Her motivation was simply to help her beloved father to get the respect he desserves, as she thinks everyone should, from a ruler who attacked their pacific people by mistake in the past. Even before knowing her father's plan, she feels sorry because the Queen (who, as far as she knows, would condemn her to death if she knew where she was born) was kind to her and encouraged her to pursue her crush, and let her eat her sit at her table.
  • After they began watching Once Upon a Time, many viewers expected the poor Kathryn Nolan to be a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing version of the Royal Brat Abigail, the person she was before being under the curse. Actually, Abigail was just a Hate Sink (she simply wasn't thrilled at the idea of an arranged marriage to Prince Charming and chastized him for taking a bumpy road) Jerk with a Heart of Gold Broken Bird trying to cope with her at-the-time probable case of The Lost Lenore and Kathryn was just another version of her, made even nicer and a bit more unstable by the curse who ended up pulling I Want My Beloved to Be Happy hours after discovering that her husband may have cheated on her.
    • To a minor, Not So Different-at-least-by-actions degree, in the third episode, when asked if she really spoiled the queen's life by her prince, Snow White bluntly answers she did, and spends the episodes stealing people. It is her only mean of survival, and hurting the Queen was unintentional. Then, in episode 16, she tries to kill the Queen, but she is saved from the spell which pushed her into this.

Other
  • The Falaise castle in Normandy has an interactive tour guide where images of historical characters who owned the castle are projected on a wall to tell you the museum's version of their story. Almost all of them try to justify what they did but ultimately fail, from the last ones, like Alienor of Aquitaine (who here tries to claim that she believes everything that she caused happened Because Destiny Says So and because her family was money-crazy, but later gives up on the pretense and relishes in being The Vamp and an Evil Matriarch) and Emperess Matilda (this incarnation introduces herself as the only competent and sane member of the family but shows a terrifying Lack of Empathy because she is an Evil Overlord) to the first ones, William the Cute and Psycho Boisterous Bruiser and William's son The Resenter with No Sympathy. Then comes the matriarch of the family, Matilda of Flandres, who quietly explains how she ruled in the place of her husband in Normandy. She tells you how she disliked war, prefered to help the Church, and how guilty she felt when her marriage was declared invalid. And just when you expect a delicious, terrifying twist, this comes :
    Matilda: And the archbishop of Cantorberry came on my burial ground, and he spoke to the crowd. And he said this, that William had defeated his enemies through war, whereas I defeated them with peace. He was wrong (looks up and really smiles for the first time) for I never had enemies.

Web Original

Western Animation

  • In W.I.T.C.H, Will's would-be stepmother is not Nerissa in disguise. Just a geniuely nice person who fell in love with her father after he and he mother divorced. Granted, her name sounded a lot like Nerissa's, but she puts up with her stepdaughter's accusations of being an evil witch and lying about her name very well.
  • In Fairly OddParents, Timmy summons a popstar, hoping that he will be a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing and that forcing huim to marry his babysitter will be a way to torture her. However, he is very nice, and things go well.

Web Comics
  • xkcd presents Fred Rogers as a Sheep In Sheep's Clothing. It announces that a recording was found of him arguing with his wife. He acknowledges that he is sometimes angry at her, then tells her he is glad to have her !
Community Feedback Replies: 23
  • October 16, 2012
    KarjamP
  • October 16, 2012
    TheHandle
    Everything is worse with bad snowclones, but this seems like a good snow-clone. Of course, nothing stops you from suggesting an alternate title, but the concept itself is sound, and we don't have it yet.
  • October 18, 2012
    McKathlin
    I suggest we change the laconic to define this trope for what it is, rather than as the opposite of another trope. How about this: "A character seems nice, but...actually is."
  • October 18, 2012
    TompaDompa
    I concur with McKathlin; that laconic would be better.
  • October 18, 2012
    TheHandle
    Oh, Mr. Rogers from Mister Rogers Neighborhood, famously.
  • October 19, 2012
    shimaspawn
    <Mod Hat>

    Most of the examples you have so far ignore characters who actually did terrible things in the story. You're causing trope decay before the trope is even made. As such there is now a motion to discard.
  • October 19, 2012
    acrobox
    what if the name was Too Good To Be False, as a play on too good to be true. I

    It seems what this trope is getting at is characters that act are so good to everyone and at everything that it arouses suspicious that they are somehow cheating the system, covering up a deep dark secret, or have an ulterior motive that will selfishly help them in the long run.

    But it turns out even after investigation or a big reveal they are just genuinely good people who like to do good. or they have a Freudian Excuse that makes their commitment to doing good all the more genuine. Or simply have a tearjerker of a back story that makes them all the more endearing.

    may deliver an aesop about trusting peoples motives, or an Evil Cannot Comprehend Good sort of thing as it gets the character who suspected to do-gooder as being secretly bad, to wonder about if they are bad themselves, or bad for thinking so.
  • October 19, 2012
    DracMonster
    Hmm, I like Too Good To Be False. or maybe Too Good To Be Fake might be more accurate.

    I imagine this has some overlap with Sitcom Arch Nemesis.
  • October 19, 2012
    shimaspawn
    I am going to point out that listing characters like Regina, who callously murdered a man by crushing his heart in her hand, is probably not what you're going for with this trope.
  • October 20, 2012
    acrobox
    it could just be a bad example but I'm sure I've seen other ones

    maybe Too Good To Not Be True ?
  • October 21, 2012
    Bisected8
    • Discworld has a few examples;
      • Commander Vimes. Nobles assume (or just like to think) he's a jumped up copper who married his wife for money. Since he's a perspective character in several books, it's very clear that he loves his wife and hates the money.
      • Vimes's subordinate Captain Carrot also has people wonder if his Incorruptible Pure Pureness isn't just a front (it isn't, to the point where it's actually quite annoying to some characters).
      • Lord Vetinari, the Patrician of the city, often frustrates the ruling classes by honestly having no vices they can use to exploit him (although unlike Carrot, he's much more of a Magnificent Bastard, just not a selfish one).
  • October 21, 2012
    captainpat
    The description needs to be rewriting as well. See Example As A Thesis. Avoid using an example to explain your trope, examples are what the example section is for.
  • October 23, 2012
    StarSword
    TV:
    • On Castle, Beckett's future Romantic False Lead Detective Demming was introduced as a Nice Guy, then came under suspicion by the team that he was a Dirty Cop and the Killer of the Week. Turned out that not only did he have an alibi, it consisted of coaching an underprivileged youth basketball league.
  • October 23, 2012
    TompaDompa
    Here's that xkcd strip.

    Maybe it can be used as the page image?
  • October 24, 2012
    AnEditor
    From the description and the examples, I suppose you want:

    • the cast to suspect the character in-universe, or
    • the audience to suspect the character out-of-universe.

    Right?

    Fanny from Mansfield Park doesn't seem to match either of these requirements. Noone suspects that she is faking her niceness. Or did I miss something in the definition of the trope?
  • October 24, 2012
    DracMonster
    Maybe Too Nice To Be False, to be more clear this isnt talking about forged documents.
  • October 24, 2012
    TompaDompa
    That's a great idea, DracMonster.
  • October 25, 2012
    MorganWick
    I think the part of the xkcd strip that best exemplifies the trope is the Alt Text, actually. Maybe that could be the page quote?
  • November 15, 2012
    Premonition45
    Does Ned Flanders pre-Flanderization count?
  • November 15, 2012
    tustin2121
    This feels like it should simply be listed as an aversion to another trope... I mean, A Wolf In Sheeps Clothing is one of those ubiquitous tropes, does its aversion need its own separate page?

    Tell me I'm wrong if there's other page pairs that do this already.
  • November 15, 2012
    MorganWick
    I think this is best described as a subversion of it. "A nice character who is a nice character" is People Sit On Chairs.
  • November 16, 2012
    tustin2121
    This has been launched? To where??
  • November 17, 2012
    Telcontar
    Tustin: It was discarded; there's no wiki page and it's not in the YKTTW system any more. The "launched" message at the bottom is a flaw.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=wb706dr22ojqzl552vy29obc&trope=DiscardedYKTTW