[[quoteright:250:[[ComicBook/CaptainAmerica http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/e7322e25362ba93d0de0ab9236e31d3b.jpg]]]]

->'''Lex Luthor:''' ''[standing in front of a mirror in the Flash's body]'' If nothing else, I can at least learn the Flash's secret identity...\\
''[removes mask, stares at the face for a few seconds]''\\
'''Lex Luthor:''' ...I have no idea who this is.
-->-- ''WesternAnimation/JusticeLeague Unlimited''

Someone [[DramaticUnmask rips off another character's mask or costume]] and reveals...

...an average, completely unremarkable joe.

Well, that was completely pointless. The guy under that super suit could be the same guy bagging your groceries at Walmart. He could be your kid's soccer coach. He could be the President's niece's boyfriend. He's just one of a billion average faces amongst the entire human race.

When an {{Everyman}} hero is subject to this trope, it turns out that, in addition to his mask, The Hero has something much more powerful protecting his SecretIdentity: [[RidiculouslyAverageGuy obscurity.]]

Please note, however, that this doesn't mean that the mask is ''useless''. All it would take is enough people getting a good look at his face (such as in print, on television, or--worse yet--on the internet) and the hero's identity is blown for good. The mask helps keep the face beneath it obscure enough to keep him HiddenInPlainSight.

Do not confuse with TheyLookJustLikeEveryoneElse, when the villain has no alter ego and is simply too plain to distinguish from ordinary people, or TheUnreveal, when taking away one mask simply reveals another. This can overlap with StrangerBehindTheMask, if the audience has never seen the unmasked party before. But this trope emphasizes that it's a stranger to the in-universe ''characters''. SecretIdentityApathy tends to defy this.



[[folder: Anime and Manga]]
* In the second season of ''Anime/JubeiChan'', Mikage pulls off the face mask on the mysterious [[DarkMagicalGirl antagonistic swordswoman]] who is threatening Jiyu. This tells her nothing because Freesia [[OlderAlterEgo ages up]] when she transforms and her older face isn't similar enough to her child face.

[[folder: Comics ]]
* In one ''Marvel Knights ComicBook/SpiderMan'' comic, the Vulture abducts a battered Spider-Man from a hospital bed and finally gets a good look at his face. He's dismayed to realize that his archenemy, who he'd assumed was someone famous, could be stacking shelves or pumping gas for a living. "You could be anybody . . ." he says, disheartened. "Geeze, this is depressing...all those years of getting beaten by a nobody."
** An early issue of ''Comicbook/UltimateSpiderMan'' had Peter get unmasked by the Kingpin and his thugs, but not know who he was. When Spidey starts fighting smarter and proves he's an actual threat, this comes back to bite them - all they have to go on is "[[SuspectIsHatless teenage white boy]]".
** Creator/SteveDitko did this even earlier in ''Spider-Man'' with Electro's first appearance. Spidey defeats him, and unmasks Electro but sees a stranger and remarks that he shouldn't have been surprised that the new villain turned out to be just some guy he'd never met.
** The same thing happened when he learnt who Crime Master was. According to some versions, one of the reasons Creator/SteveDitko quit was because he wanted the same anti-climax with the Green Goblin, but Creator/StanLee felt they'd been building the mystery of the Goblin's real identity up for long enough that the fans would revolt.
** A relatively common reaction from villains who manage to see Spidey's face is to lament how average or unimpressive-looking he is.
** Another story had Spidey thoroughly beaten... when one of the paramedics objects to removing his mask, a more experienced paramedic literally tells him to grow up and cuts him out of the mask. However, he was so beaten and bruised that he wouldn't be recognizable even to people who did know him.
** In what may be a MythologyGag, ''ComicBook/SuperiorSpiderMan'' ends with Peter (back in his own body) unmasking the Goblin King. He expects Osborn, but finds Mason Banks, who Peter has never met in his life. "Banks" [[SubvertedTrope then claims]] he ''is'' Osborn, post-MagicPlasticSurgery.
** Nor is Peter [[ComicBook/MilesMorales the only Spider-Man]] to have this happen. When ComicBook/BlackCat and Hammerhead capture and unmask Miles Morales, they have no idea who he is. Given the level of technology available they try using facial recognition software, only to discover that all record of his identity has been erased. Which leaves them still with no clue as to who Miles is, but since only ComicBook/{{SHIELD}} could've pulled off such a trick [[RevealingCoverup it tells them that he's considered way more important than a rookie hero ought to be]].
* This is OlderThanTheyThink, since this situation first occurred in a Golden Age Green Lantern story. The thugs didn't recognize an unmasked Alan Scott, since he wasn't anybody particularly prominent, but [[spoiler: his buddy Doiby Dickles DID]].
* Deconstructed (like [[DeconstructorFleet many other things]]) in ''Comicbook/{{Watchmen}}''. [[spoiler:Long before Rorschach is unmasked, his alter ego is shown on-page many times as a random kook with a sign that reads "the end is near". Because the character was not notable at all, it was easy for readers to dismiss him as being an extra.]]
* In ''Comicbook/{{Empowered}}'', when some villains unmask the eponymous heroine and are surprised not to recognize her, she stalls for time by trying to convince everyone that she's really a cross-dressing man (despite her ultra-skin-tight costume), and so are ''all'' the other members of her super-team. This works, and she's rescued, but the story turns up on the news the next day.
* In ''Astonishing ComicBook/XMen'' as written by Creator/WarrenEllis, the X-Men spend the better part of a story arc hunting down a man named Kaga who is using dead X-Men, Brood and Sentinels to try and kill them. Kaga turns out to be [[spoiler: an old cripple in a wheelchair.]] Even better, his motivation for trying to kill them is anticlimatic in itself, amounting to [[spoiler: hatred of them for being gorgeous, picturesque mutants, rather than like him, a deformed old freak whose more mundane mutation was a result of Hiroshima.]] Kaga himself {{lampshade|Hanging}}s this, sneering "What were you expecting? A master plan? A scheme to turn off the sun? [[ThisIsReality This is the real world]]. Hatred and disgust are good enough reasons to want to kill people."
* The long-running Scourge of the Underworld storyline in the Franchise/MarvelUniverse ended when Comicbook/CaptainAmerica caught and unmasked Scourge, only to discover that he was no one we'd ever seen before, and claimed to be the previously unmentioned brother of one of the villains killed by Scourge. Naturally, this turned out to be [[spoiler: a lie used by Scourge operatives when captured (the use of a vaguely credible backstory tying them to one of their victims)]] and the real mastermind was [[spoiler: [[UsefulNotes/TheGoldenAgeOfComicBooks Golden Age]] hero the Angel, who financed and oversaw the villain-killing outfit]]. Admittedly this was as much a [[FaceHeelTurn left-field reveal]] as the original unmasking, doubly so, since it occurred seven years after the first reveal.
* In a [[UsefulNotes/TheSilverAgeOfComicBooks Silver Age]] issue of ''Franchise/TheFlash'', Heat Wave manages to unmask the Flash and is disappointed to find that he's a total stranger. It was still a cause for concern for Barry, since Heat Wave could've identified him if he ever ran across Barry in his civilian life, but by the time Heat Wave put two and two together he'd already reformed.
** In another story, Barry has a psychic teenage stalker who draws him to her and makes him unmask himself...and then rejects him and leaves, let down that he looks so "ordinary". Barry can't help but feel a little insulted.
* In her first appearance, non-''ComicBook/PaperinikNewAdventures'' Paperinik villain Zafire hypnotizes our hero into committing a caper, and he later gives her the loot in his secret identity of DonaldDuck... But, being from out of town, she has no idea of who Donald Duck is. Knowing Paperinik's fondness for [[LaserGuidedAmnesia wiping the memory of anyone who finds out his secret identity]] and that she's captured immediately after, we can guess she never got a chance to find out (and in fact in her next appearance the point doesn't come up).
* ''ComicBook/TransformersMoreThanMeetsTheEye'': When [[TheAtoner Megatron]] [[spoiler:kills the [[ExaltedTorturer Decepticon]] [[TortureTechnician Justice]] [[KnightTemplar Division]] with dark matter]] he reveals their [[DyingAsYourself original names as he does it]] and when he goes for [[spoiler:Tarn, Megatron removes his [[SigilSpam Decepticon insignia mask]] (which Tarn earlier said was his true face) and... it looks like any random Cybertonian face, however it's istantly said that he was [[TheDogWasTheMastermind Glitch.]]]]
* In one issue of ''ComicBook/MarshalLaw'', a gang of JerkAss supers ambush Law while he's trying to get something done and rip his mask off. They then let him go in disappointment when he doesn't turn out to be a celebrity.
* Defied in ''ComicBook/IdentityCrisis'', during the DarkerAndEdgier retelling of a story where the Injustice Gang swapped minds with the Justice League. While the villains didn't know ''exactly'' who the heroes are, they had enough forethought to take a camera along, so they could analyze the heroes' secret identities at leisure.

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* In ''Film/{{Halloween 1978}}'', Michael is unmasked while struggling with Laurie, and he is revealed to be a normal looking 20-something. The most unusual thing about his appearance is the injury that Laurie inflicted to his left eye in the previous scene. This just makes him even more terrifying.
* In ''Film/SpiderMan2'', Spider-Man's mask is removed after he saves a train full of innocent civilians. They take a glance at him and realize that he could be anyone. One guy even states that Peter Parker looks a lot like his own son.
* Played with in the 2009 ''Film/SpeedRacer'' movie. Right after the Monte Cristo 5000 race, Speed and Racer X meet on an empty track. When Speed claims that X is his older brother, X removes his mask to show that he is just some guy--not Speed's older brother, Rex Racer. [[spoiler:This turns out to be a ruse pulled off thanks to MagicPlasticSurgery, because as we all know, Racer X is Speed's older brother, Rex Racer]].
* Quietly played straight in ''Film/KickAss''. Our hero is beaten down by thugs early into the film and stripped of his costume by the paramedics. They toss the suit out and never tell his father. Later, when Kick-Ass becomes all the rage, it seems no one remembers that geeky kid who was just one more random mugging victim.
* Combined with StrangerBehindTheMask during the ending to ''Film/EightMM'': When Creator/NicolasCage takes the mask off [[TheDragon Machine]], he's just a bald fat guy who "does it because he enjoys it". Machine even makes a speech about the fact his unmasking was inevitably going to be anti-climactic.
-->'''Machine:''' What'd you expect? The monster? [puts on a thick set of glasses] My name's [[SpecialPersonNormalName George]].
* Played with at the start of ''Film/TheEvilThatMenDo''. A TortureTechnician in a black hood is demonstrating the use of ElectricTorture. When he takes off the hood, he's a white-haired, distinguished-looking doctor.
* ''Film/TheForceAwakens'': When Rey calls Kylo Ren a "creature in a mask", he takes his helmet off to show her that he's entirely normal-looking. It's not covering a deformity, concealing his identity (at least not from her), or serving a practical purpose, it's just part of his obsession with emulating Darth Vader. His intention, which is to unnerve her, pays off, as Rey realizes that [[TheyLookJustLikeEveryoneElse she could've passed him in the street and not realized who he was]]. Shortly into ''Film/TheLastJedi'', he abandons the mask entirely.

[[folder: Literature]]
* In the ''Literature/{{Relativity}}'' story "Candy Corn", Overcast is captured by a pair of [[StupidCrooks idiot bad guys]] named the Buffalo Brothers. He taunts them for not removing his mask while he was helpless, so [[NiceJobBreakingItHero they immediately remove it.]] They're rather disappointed to discover that under the mask he's "just some guy".

[[folder: Live Action TV]]
* In ''Series/{{Graceland}}'', after FBIAgent Briggs shoots the infamous [[TheCartel Cartel]] [[ProfessionalKiller assassin]] known as Jangles, (who always wears a mask and played a major role in ruining Briggs' life years earlier) Briggs removes the mask and then scolds himself for being disappointed to find an ordinary man he doesn't recognize. [[spoiler: This is subverted because the man Briggs unmasked was really InspectorAntagonist Agent Badillo, who was attempting an ill-conceived scheme to prove that Briggs is a DirtyCop which included posing as Jangles. Later, this is DoubleSubverted when the real Jangles is revealed to be a different but still ordinary man who Briggs also doesn't recognize.]]
* In the first version of ''Series/TheFlash1990'', the Trickster explicitly invokes this trope when refusing to unmask the captured Flash. Without the mask, the Flash is "just some guy".
** When 1950s villain the Ghost captures and unmasks Nightshade, he's nonplussed to discover his old adversary is an African-American, and he certainly has no clue who he is.

[[folder: ProfessionalWrestling]]
* Feeling that Wrestling/{{Sting}} and Wrestling/RicFlair needed a break from feuding, WCW started an angle around a new "Black Scorpion" gimmick, to give Sting a new opponent. The problem here being that the Black Scorpion was supposed to be a figure from Sting's past, so when Wrestling/UltimateWarrior and Ole Anderson both ended up unavailable, WCW ended up in a corner. It could be no one other than Ric Flair!
* Wrestling/ReyMysterioJr when unmasked in Wrestling/{{WCW}} was a short babyfaced guy, and whilst his athletic ability was certainly intact, he no longer looked like a superhero, which was part of his appeal. Wrestling/{{CMLL}} initially forced him to stay unmasked, as per lucha libre tradition, but the reactions from the crowd to unmasked Rey Misterio Jr were ''so'' negative and nobody really liked WCW forcing the switch on him anyway (they apparently either didn't understand or just didn't care how big a deal unmasking is to a luchador) that the Wrestling Y Box Commission allowed Rey to remask on the grounds he was no longer Rey Misterio Jr but in fact taking up the identity of the original Rey Misterio.

[[folder: Theatre ]]
* Played with in ''The Mystery of Irma Vep''. Since all the characters are played by only two actors, when [[spoiler:Jane the CreepyHousekeeper]] is unmasked, for a moment, the other character thinks it's actually [[spoiler:her husband]].

[[folder: Video Games]]
* Much like the quote [[Quotes/AntiClimacticUnmasking here]], ComicBook/TheJoker defies this trope in ''VideoGame/BatmanArkhamCity'' when Harley Quinn tries to remove Franchise/{{Batman}}'s mask.
-->'''Joker''': Get ''back here'', Harley.\\
'''Harley Quinn''': But I wanna know who he is, sweetie.\\
'''Joker''': No one's who you think they are, my dear. Why spoil the fun?
** And in ''Videogame/BatmanArkhamKnight'', [[spoiler:when Commissioner Gordon unmasks Batman on live [=TV=], Scarecrow (who held Robin at gunpoint to force Gordon to unmask Batman) only expresses mild surprise at Batman's SecretIdentity. [[JustifiedTrope Justified]], as Dr. Jonathan Crane doesn't have any personal grudge against Bruce Wayne.]]
** In a ''ComicBook/BatmanRebirth'' issue, Bruce came to The Joker's cell, essentially revealing he was Batman. The Joker looked past him like he didn't exist; if he wasn't wearing the Batman outfit, he didn't ''see'' him.
* In ''[[VideoGame/KnightsOfTheOldRepublic Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords]]'', Visas Marr decides to look under the mask of [[EldritchAbomination Darth Nihilus]]. His face isn't revealed to us, but when asked what she saw she replies: "Just a man. Nothing more."
* Choosing to unmask Killbane in ''Videogame/SaintsRowTheThird'' will reveal that Eddie Pryor is just an average-looking, middle-aged man with receding, buzzed-short blond hair.
-->'''Bobby''': We have seen the face of the Walking Apocalypse and to be honest, it's a man with a receding hairline.

[[folder: Western Animation ]]
* In an episode of ''WesternAnimation/AmericanDad'', Roger uses one of his personas to cover his antics although everyone knows it's him. At the end when he's defeated he pulls off the disguise and says "It was me, Roger, all along." Duh.
* ''WesternAnimation/BatmanTheAnimatedSeries''
** Batman's unmasking of Bane reveals not Venom-twisted monstrosity, but simply a vaguely handsome, boyish face with nothing really remarkable about it.
** Done in a real {{Tearjerker}} fashion with Calendar Girl. She spends [[Recap/TheNewBatmanAdventuresE13MeanSeasons the whole episode]] obsessing about how no-one can see her face, leading us to think that it's some hideous botched plastic surgery she got after being forced out of modeling. Instead she looks perfectly normal, but can only see the tiny flaws from her aging.
* {{Defied|Trope}} in ''WesternAnimation/BatmanTheBraveAndTheBold'' (see [[Quotes/AnticlimacticUnmasking here]])--ComicBook/TheJoker doesn't ''want'' to unmask Batman because it's Batman he's obsessed with. Finding the person under the hood would [[SecretIdentityApathy just ruin the fun]].
* ''WesternAnimation/BatmanBeyondReturnOfTheJoker'' had the Joker find out who Batman was, and was disappointed it was just Bruce Wayne.
-->'''The Joker:''' It's true, Batsy! I know everything. And kinda like the kid who peeks at his Christmas presents, I must admit, it's sadly anti-climactic. [[TheReasonYouSuckSpeech Behind all the sturm and batarangs,]] [[{{Deconstruction}} you're just a little boy in a playsuit, crying for mommy and daddy]]! It'd be funny if it weren't so pathetic[[{{Beat}} ...]] Oh, what the heck, I'll laugh anyway! AH-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAAAH!!
* In ''WesternAnimation/HulkAndTheAgentsOfSmash'', The Collector pulls off Spider-Man's mask and angrily rants that he's so ordinary looking that it's a wonder why he would bother concealing his face.
* ''WesternAnimation/JusticeLeague'':
** ComicBook/LexLuthor has [[FreakyFridayFlip swapped bodies]] with Franchise/TheFlash. As he's being chased through the Watchtower by the rest of the League, he stops in a bathroom and muses that at the very least, he has the opportunity to learn Flash's secret identity.
--->'''Lex Luthor:''' If nothing else I can at least learn the Flash's secret identity... ''[removes mask]'' ...I have no idea who this is.
** The director's commentary for this episode reveals that they'd been wanting to do this joke for a while, since [[RealityEnsues there's no way that Lex would know everyone in the entire world]]. Wally West is neither from the same area nor remotely famous, and that would be the case for most masked heroes. Very few superheroes are celebrities like billionaire Bruce Wayne or award-winning journalist Clark Kent in their civilian lives.
* ''WesternAnimation/MenInBlackTheSeries'': Frank is an alien who spends most of his time disguised as a dog. When he reveals himself without the suit to J after teasing it for an episode, it turns out Frank looks like the same dog with blue skin and antenna. J isn't impressed.
* In ''WesternAnimation/SpiderManTheAnimatedSeries'', Peter is BroughtDownToNormal and is facing off against the Insidious Six because they realized the dude who was always taking Spider-Man's pictures might have a connection to him, and kidnapped Aunt May. Because Peter lacks most of his powers and is facing off against six super-powered foes, he is quickly beaten and unmasked before the Kingpin and dissatisfied members of his criminal empire like Silvermane... only for Doctor Octopus to declare that Peter Parker could not be Spider-Man as Peter did not have any powers. This pisses off Silvermane and he accuses the Kingpin of kidnapping an old woman and strong-arming her desperate nephew to play along.
* ''WesternAnimation/WildWestCOWBoysOfMooMesa'': When Shock Holiday was captured and unmasked, the characters witnessing the unmasking were disappointed by the lack of any special features at his face. Then again, it was overshadowed by the previous unmasking of the criminal's impersonator. (Marshall Moo Montana and Sheriff Terribull made a bet over who captures Shock Holiday and agreed the loser would leave Cow Town).