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[[quoteright:300:[[Film/{{Spaceballs}} http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/darkhelmetbright_2306.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:300:"[[InsistentTerminology They're not dolls. They're]] '''[[LessEmbarrassingTerm action figures]]'''!"]]

This villain comes across as really imposing. And he probably (but not necessarily) has real power to back it up. However, he's really nerdy underneath.

He's hiding it, or trying to hide it, behind a tough façade. So it's a big surprise when he's revealed for the nerd he is. This surprise can come to other characters, the audience or both.

The classical façade to hide behind is a literal helmet. But it can be something else.

Note that being a nerd does ''not'' equal being a wimp. Not a total one at least. However, the villain might exploit such stereotypes and pull a WoundedGazelleGambit or similar after his nerdy side has been revealed, even if he actually is a badass.

For a genuinely intelligent villain see EvilGenius. Contrast BitchInSheepsClothing. Compare ''and'' contrast EvilIsSexy. Can be the same kind of dissonance as VillainsOutShopping.



[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* The Major, the BigBad of ''Manga/{{Hellsing}}'' has been described by the mangaka as an "otaku", and he is a stereotypical fat, bespectacled geek. Despite being absolutely obsessed by and in love with war, he's personally pathetically useless at combat - at one point he opens fire on a minion who [[YouHaveFailedMe failed]] at point-blank range with at least five guns attached to his chair... and '''misses'''.
* Darth Vulcan, from Fanfic/TheRiseOfDarthVulcan, was a full-core cosplaying, roleplaying, comic book fan geek, who abandoned all his fandoms and deliberately began roleplaying as a "cool kid"/jerk in order to survive high school. Then he found the Alicorn Amulet and everything went downhill from there...
[[folder:Films -- Animation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/TheIncredibles'': Syndrome starts out as a superhero fanboy, then ascends to supervillain after being (sort of) rejected by his idol. Syndrome is more of an inversion -- Evil in a Nerds' Helmet. He is clearly a PsychopathicManchild with a serious LackOfEmpathy who even murders children without batting an eyelid, and there is little to indicate that, beneath it all, he was all that much different when he was a kid (eg. he doesn't seem to notice or care when one of his stunts nearly causes a train crash). Most important and scarily, though, Syndrome thinks he is ''the hero'', when he actually just a very, very bad case of HeroismAddict and is willing to kill dozens of heroes and endanger thousands of lives because he is a GloryHound.
%%* Vector from ''WesternAnimation/DespicableMe''.

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* Dark Helmet in ''Film/{{Spaceballs}}''. The surprise comes to the audience only, since his staff already knew him (and was used to pretending they don't know he's playing with dolls).
* Ogre in the ''Film/RevengeOfTheNerds'' series is revealed to be this at the end of the second movie. Then, [[spoiler:at the end of the third film, Stan (who led the JerkJock fraternity in the first film) does a HeelFaceTurn and reveals that he is a closet nerd, too, dropping the evil scheme he was bullied into trying.]]
* In ''Film/MacheteKills'', Luther Voz is one of the few villains who can fight on par with Machete. He's also a guy totally obsessed with Star Wars and Star Trek.
* Kylo Ren from ''Film/TheForceAwakens'' publicly dresses and acts like DarthWiki/DarthVader, but underneath that helmet? A pale, gangly guy who [[TheyLookJustLikeEveryoneElse doesn't look threatening in the least]]. Moreover, in private, he shows a fanboyish obsession with Vader (which explains [[DarthVaderClone his fashion choices]]) and [[PsychopathicManchild behaves like an angsty teenager]]. ''Series/SaturdayNightLive'' had a field day with this ([[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaOSCASqLsE "Star Wars Undercover Boss: Starkiller Base"]]), as did the "{{Emo|Teen}} Kylo Ren" [[https://twitter.com/kylor3n page]] on Website/{{Twitter}}. In ''Film/TheLastJedi'', he starts moving out of the shadow of his influences, but is still very dorky. Note, however, that his nerdiness does ''not'' make him any less dangerous.
* Donald Pierce from ''Film/{{Logan}}'' is a ruthless PsychoForHire who also happens to be a fan of ComicBook/{{Wolverine}} and the comics he was featured in.
-->'''Donald''' (''sheepishly''): By the way, I'm a fan.

* In Creator/NeilGaiman's ''Literature/AmericanGods'', the "technology kid" acts tough, and does a lot of things which ''should'' be intimidating, but are so clearly rehearsed other characters can see it and find it kind of pitiful.
* ''Anime/TransformersCybertron'': The textstory "Force of Habit" had Hardtop, top Decepticon sniper, and comic book collector. He collects comics [[KlingonsLoveShakespeare from Earth]] and other organic planets. While he insists on calling them Graphic Novels, he's quite open about his habits, and quite particular about not letting them get damaged. At the end of the story, all the Cons are marooned on a planet waiting for rescue, Hardtop lets all of the other Decepticons read his comics, but continues to insist that they be careful with them.
* Inverted in ''Literature/TheRulesOfSupervillainy'' as, despite his intimidating attire, everyone assumes Merciless is a dorky everyman within five minutes of meeting him. [[NotSoHarmless Then he proceeds to trash much-much more powerful villains than himself and often leave a large trail of bodies behind him.]]

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* In ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'' season six, the trio desperately tried to be this trope. Sometimes they pulled it off for a little while in the eyes of various characters, but never the audience. Well, Warren came close, insofar as he was the only one who was actually ''evil'', being a genuine ManipulativeBastard who DoesNotLikeWomen and actually kills one of the hero characters whilst putting Buffy in the hospital, even though that earned him a painful death. [[spoiler:Though since he CameBackWrong in the sequel comics, he's even worse than before.]] Unfortunately for him, he's still a SmugSnake BigBadWannabe, and the fact that he's a total bastard makes him far less likeable, but not much scarier.
* Arcane, [[spoiler:revealed to be Clyde Randolph]] in the ''Series/{{Dollhouse}}'' episode "The Attic".
* Luke Rattigan from the ''Series/DoctorWho'' episodes [[Recap/DoctorWhoS30E4TheSontaranStratagem "The Sontaran Stratagem"]] and [[Recap/DoctorWhoS30E5ThePoisonSky "The Poison Sky"]] is a self-proclaimed TeenGenius who considers himself smarter than everyone else... but he's actually just a pathetic douchebag. [[spoiler:Until his HeroicSacrifice, that is.]]
* The ''Series/SaturdayNightLive'' sketch mentioned in the {{Film}} section above ([[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaOSCASqLsE "Star Wars Undercover Boss: Starkiller Base"]]) riffs on Kylo Ren's dorkiness in ''Film/TheForceAwakens''.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* In ''VideoGame/MaxPayne 2'', Max has to [[EscortMission escort]] gangster boss Vinnie Gognitti, who has a bomb strapped to his head. Vinnie suggests that they head back to his place, where Max discovers that he has a room full of merchandise from the popular SaturdayMorningCartoon, ''Captain Baseball-bat Boy''.
-->'''Vinnie:''' What? I'm a collector! There's nothin' nerdy about it, I'm a collector! Lots of tough guys are into this stuff!
** Funnily enough, [[RunningGag he's actually right about that]].
* Zant, the EvilSorcerer who nearly conquers Hyrule in ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaTwilightPrincess'', is a tall figure dressed in black robes with a creepy chameleon-shaped helmet. But once he removes the scary helmet, you see why he usually keeps it on -- he's no more imposing than your average Twili, and a PsychopathicManchild to boot.
* The BigBad from ''VideoGame/RatchetAndClankFullFrontalAssault'' hides his real face behind a mask to keep it hidden that [[spoiler:he's the Qwark Fanboy from a side mission in ''[[VideoGame/RatchetAndClankGoingCommando Going Commando]]'']].
* [[spoiler:Hyness]] from ''VideoGame/KirbyStarAllies'' is revealed to be this [[spoiler:after his hood falls off, where he's revealed to be some sort of creature with bulging eyes and a massive nose. His personality certainly doesn't help him in this case.]]

[[folder:Web Animation]]
* Dark Dragon in ''WebAnimation/TheFlashTub'' cartoon ''Platform Hero''.

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* [[http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0723.html General Tarquin]] in ''Webcomic/TheOrderOfTheStick''. The surprise came to the readers as well as the characters. Despite being a ruthless tyrant and [[TheChessmaster Chessmaster]], he's also just as drama-obsessed as his do-gooder, {{Cloudcuckoolander}} son Elan. Given the nature of the world they live in, that only makes him more dangerous.
* Dark Smoke Puncher from ''Webcomic/TheAdventuresOfDrMcNinja''. After seeing how his parents practically disowned his older brother for pursuing a medical degree, Sean [=McNinja=] took on a wannabe-gangsta persona and his current name to hide his intelligence and interest in robotics.
* ''Webcomic/{{Krakow}}'' Brings us Kia's father. An intimidating man in a red cloak with glowing red eyes and horns. Under the hood, he's a standard businessman and BumblingDad with glasses, and horns.
* ''Webcomic/{{Homestuck}}'': Both [[SmugSnake Vriska Serket]] and [[KnightOfCerebus Eridan Ampora]] are dedicated F{{LARP}}ers -- though in [[DeathWorld Alternia]], mutually advantageous teammwork in Fatal Live Action Roleplaying leads to the both of them racking up a pretty impressive death count.
* ''Webcomic/TheGlassScientists'' has a new, interesting take on [[Literature/TheStrangeCaseOfDrJekyllAndMrHyde Edward Hyde.]] In Hyde's original book, Dr. Jekyll was so obsessed with maintaining the image of a proper British gentleman that he invented the potion that made him into Hyde so he could go out into the night to strip clubs, gamble, and generally cut loose. In the webcomic, those Jekyll still cares deeply about his reputation and Hyde still spends the nights with debauchery [[BiTheWay (with an even more fluid sexuality)]], but Jekyll's pride shines out as Hyde's SmallNameBigEgo. He's a CardCarryingVillain, but he's always [[BigBadWannabe wishing that he could be more intimidating.]]
--> '''Rachel Pidgley:'' Oh, it's just you, Master Hyde! For a moment there I thought that I was in real danger!
--> '''Hyde:''' Who says you're not? What could a little maid like you know of my dark ocean of depravity?
--> '''Rachel:''' [giggles]
--> '''Hyde:''' There is no giggling in the depravity ocean!

[[folder:Web Original]]
* In the ''Roleplay/GlobalGuardiansPBEMUniverse'', the heroes fought the schemes of a DiabolicalMastermind who called himself "Brainchild" for ''years'' before they were finally able to catch him. When he was caught, he turned out to be a disgruntled computer genius modeled after actor Creator/EddieDeezen.
* The fan-made ''Film/RevengeOfTheSith'' parody ''Episode III: A Lost Hope'' plays up Anakin Skywalker's whiny personality from the prequels. The first scene has Palpatine putting Darth Vader into his iconic armor, only to have Vader/Anakin immediately pull off the helmet and whine, "This helmet is totally chaffing my eyebrows! I swear!" Later, there is a fight between Vader and Mace Windu where Windu breaks Vader's prop lightsaber, to which Vader/Anakin whines, "You swing too hard, ass! I swear!"

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* The first episodes of ''WesternAnimation/{{Bonkers}}'' deal with the Collector, a {{toon}} with a creepy mishmash appearance. He collects other toons by sealing them in plastic with a device called "the Laminator". However, when his glove is ripped off, it turns out he has ''five'' fingers [[FourFingeredHands instead of four]], and when his mask comes off afterward, he is fully outed as a geeky-looking human.
* Played with in an episode of ''WesternAnimation/GarfieldAndFriends'' has the Masked Mauler, a pro wrestler so bloodthirsty that nobody will wrestle him because he never follows the scripts. When he roped Jon into a match against him, Garfield saved Jon by discovering that [[WeaksauceWeakness the Masked Mauler was allergic to cat hair]], making him sneeze so hard that his mask flew off, revealing his "nerdy" face. But he doesn't act like a nerd, so...
* Dark Vegan on ''WesternAnimation/JohnnyTest'' comes off as a parody of this.
* Elmer Fudd in ''WesternAnimation/WhatsOperaDoc'', wearing a magic helmet instead of his usual hunter cap.
** Likewise, one of the New Looney Toons shorts in the ''WesternAnimation/TheLooneyTunesShow'' invokes this and is a music video of Daffy Duck imagining himself as an all-powerful EvilSorceror, although in that case its more nerd fantasising himself in evil's helmet.
* An episode of ''WesternAnimation/CowAndChicken'' had this. The new bully in town turned out to be a wimpy kid in an inflatable suit. [[MindScrew (Along with everyone else.)]]
* Similar to the ''WesternAnimation/CowAndChicken'' example, one episode of ''WesternAnimation/JohnnyBravo'' has Johnny accidentally replacing the captain of a ''Franchise/StarTrek''-esque ship, where he ends up encountering and making an enemy of a hulking, menacing galactic warlord, who facially resembles [[{{Nerd}} Carl]], and is implied to be some sort of genetic ancestor to said character. When Johnny meets him in battle on a nearby planet, the warlord removes his armor... and is revealed to be just as weak and wimpy as his earthly descendant underneath.
* Two instances in ''WesternAnimation/MyLifeAsATeenageRobot'', in "This Time with Feeling", Jenny battles a knockoff named Himcules voiced by Creator/BruceCampbell who also happened to be a sexist PoliticallyIncorrectVillain that grew stronger from others' pain. After beating the robot to a pulp (because she had installed a robot nerve system that was accidentally switched to feeling excruciating pain), Jenny switches to "tickle" and reduces Himcules to a "90-pound weakling" when Jenny and the town's laughter drain his power. In "Ear No Evil", Jenny (who had enormously large robotic ears installed to impress a group of {{Rich Bitch}}es but only caused her intense humiliation) battles the "Lancer", a large imposing knight who steals everything in the city. After destroying his armor and weapons, Lancer is revealed to be a tiny elf-like man with ears comically larger than Jenny's.
* ''WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender''
** Prince Zuko is genuinely handsome (despite his prominent scar) and skilled at fighting, giving orders, and anything that doesn't involve casual social interaction. But sit down and have a conversation with the guy and you'll discover his {{adorkable}} side pretty quickly. [[spoiler:He does join the good guys in the third season, but his dorkiness stays.]]
** Similarly, [[DaddysLittleVillain his sister Azula]] is a frighteningly competent ManipulativeBastard, but when she tries to [[VillainsOutShopping act normal]], she [[CrowningMomentOfFunny fails spectacularly]].
* ''WesternAnimation/SouthPark''
** On several occasions, Butters has adopted the alter-ego of the supervillain Professor Chaos. But given that this is ''Butters'' we're talking about, Professor Chaos is a pretty {{harmless|Villain}} and pathetic baddie whose idea of "evil" falls squarely under PokeThePoodle.
** The episode "Make Love, Not Warcraft" has the boys fighting a {{griefer}} who keeps killing them in ''VideoGame/WorldOfWarcraft'' . He's an imposing foe in the game, but in real life... well, [[http://3.images.southparkstudios.com/images/shows/south-park/clip-thumbnails/season-10/1008/south-park-s10e08c05-the-slaughter-16x9.jpg?quality=0.8 just take a look at this picture.]]
* Xanatos from ''WesternAnimation/{{Gargoyles}}'' has shades of this one.
** Under normal circumstances he's a suave, composed, AffablyEvil MagnificentBastard. When his plans call for him to act like the stereotypical CardCarryingVillain, however, he'll show a ''much'' nerdier side as well. Quoth Xanatos after helping bring the Frankenstein's Monster-esque Coldstone to life.
--> '''Xanatos''': "It's alive, ALIVE! You know, IAlwaysWantedToSayThat."
** The whole reason he's involved in the plot is because he believed a magical story he read in a thousand-year-old book. Of course he's a nerd at heart.
** And when he ''finally gets'' Elisa and Co. stuck in a genuine DeathTrap, he casually asks, "It's my first real stab at cliche'd villainy. How am doing so far?"
* Obligatory example from ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'': in "WesternAnimation/TreehouseOfHorror X", the second segment takes this trope to its logical extreme by having Comic Book Guy turn into a literal superhero-comicbook-esque supervillain, The Collector, whose main gimmick is based on collecting ''people''.
* Lord Dominator from ''WesternAnimation/WanderOverYonder''. When her helmet's faceplate is down and her armor is up, she [[TopHeavyGuy looks]] and [[EvilSoundsDeep sounds]] like a fairly typical GalacticConquerer. Underneath, however, is an excitable GreenSkinnedSpaceBabe who'll gush over her how cool her latest villainous acts were as soon as she's alone. However, the trope is played with in that Lord Dominator is still a complete sociopath, even when she's in private.