"He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it."
or the Con Man
takes on a fake identity in order to gain something: information, money, a safe place. As time progresses, he grows to love
his new identity
and the way people treat him. His new friends
and he is struck by the contrast. He might even fall in love
with another person whom he is explicitly supposed to be taking advantage of. Either way, he wants to remain in his new identity forever.
Sometimes the friendship or relationship will dissolve
when The Mole
lets their true identity slip. For extra irony, have it happen in the process of confessing their love. ("You're so wonderful, I can't believe I was just seducing you to get the location of your secure base... whoops, Did I Just Say That Out Loud?
") The usual response to The Reveal
is "Was It All a Lie?
" Occasionally, they will test the waters with a Trial Balloon Question
A more cynical subtrope is when the person is actually the Reverse Mole
, but the temptation of The Dark Side
gradually causes them to discard their initial good cause and become everything they originally despised
. Or they grow to believe their own Masquerade
a little too
much and become a Stepford Smiler
. Can be the result of a Secret Identity Identity
Contrast Beneath the Mask
where the audience is only given a peek. Similar in style to Amnesiac Dissonance
, but without amnesia. May involve Oblivious Guilt Slinging
. Compare Secret Identity Identity
, Fake Real Turn
, and Going Native
. If the character does not even respond to his old name anymore, that is That Man Is Dead
. When a literal
mask starts to change someone's personality, it's Evil Mask
. Contrast Lost in Character
, where a character who is a professional actor lives and breathes a role. Do not confuse with Becoming the Costume
or Becoming the Boast
. Some spoilers ahead. Has overlap with The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask
because the woman's true personality be influenced or be absorbed into the queen personality, and consider as well To Know Him, I Must Become Him
when people try to figure out how someone by thinking like them.
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Anime & Manga
- Mazinger Z: Erika. She was an android built by Dr. Hell. However, she suffered from amnesia and had forgotten her origins. She genuinely believed she was a normal girl, and when she was told her true nature, she rejected it. In the end she helped The Hero Kouji and she died because of it.
- Zero from Tenchi Muyo!. She ended up fusing with the person she was emulating.
- The motivation of Captain Kuro in One Piece, who wanted to give up the life of piracy to become a normal (albeit rich) man. Not so much a Face-Heel Turn considering how he wanted to do it, though... turns into a cruel subversion when he seems to consciously invoke this trope in a confrontation with the girl he intends to kill to make her drop her weapon
- Sogeking, in the same series. This is a literal case of becoming the mask for Usopp, who undergoes a heavy personality shift when he dons the Sogeking mask. This leads to a funny exchange where the Usopp and Sogeking parts of his personality have an argument while he's trying to think of a plan.
- This series actually has a running theme of declaring oneself to be something and then using that as a source of strength to follow through. Sogeking, Luffy, Don Krieg, etcetera
- Nico Robin had originally planned to use the Straw Hats as a shield until they deemed her too dangerous to protect any longer, as she had with all of the groups she joined. However, after being accepted and loved by them as one of their own, she chose to give up her life for the sake of her crew by giving herself into the government that she had been running away from her whole life. Of course, this didn't stop the Straw Hats from trying to save her despite her claiming she wanted to die; however, upon realizing that they would stick by her no matter what, she claimed that she wanted to stay in their crew forever and sail the seas with them.
- Note that she still tried to deny, right up to the breaking point. The Straw Hats were already in the middle of The Government's stronghold (Luffy himself had personally wrecked over 1000 rank and file soldiers, Roaring Rampage of Revenge style. But then, he's Luffy. He's either in Idiot Hero mode or Roaring Rampage of Insert Emotion Here). So Robin STILL tries to talk them out of it. Luffy insists that they're going to rescue her anyway, and then she can leave the Straw Hat Pirates if she wants. And then... Tear Jerker ensues. Robin's tears, specifically, in a moment of Not So Stoic. Also, Pirate on Elite Assassin Team action.
- Nami as well. She had only intended to use Luffy for all he was worth before leaving. But the longer she stayed with them, she grew to like being part of the Straw Hats (especially compared to her experiences with Arlong). Eventually, she betrayed them and cheerfully took off with Going Merry. But when on her own, she broke down and cried.
- Mami in Sister Princess is a spy charged with disrupting the reunion of Wataru and his sisters, pretending to be another sister; at the climax of the series, she is the one who takes the action necessary to keep the family together, rejecting her own real brother — the mastermind of the scheme — to beg Wataru to come back home.
- Played with in Irresponsible Captain Tylor. Tylor finds out Harumi is a Raalgon spy early on, but makes the decision to keep it between them and trust her despite her inevitable betrayal — something that completely confuses her. It's explicitly because of this response that Harumi begins having second thoughts that leads her to an official Heel-Face Turn.
- Kurama of YuYu Hakusho was a kitsune before he died and inhabited the body of an unborn human child. He planned to run away from his human "mother" Shiori Minamino when his demonic powers returned, but realized that he loved her too much to leave.
- In Shugo Chara!, Mr. Nikaidou is a spy for Easter who infiltrates the school. While he has no compunctions with backstabbing the heroes whatsoever, he is eventually defeated, and following the ensuing Defeat Means Friendship he immediately goes back to the school, performing the role he was using as his guise with no-one the wiser.
- Subverted, deconstructed and played with in Code Geass.
- Never one to be content with mediocrity, Lelouch vi Britannia wore and became not one, but two different masks through the series' run, one being Zero and the other being Lelouch Lamperouge.
- Between the two seasons, Lelouch is brainwashed into becoming Lelouch Lamperouge, the ordinary if highly intelligent high school student. Except that he's still disaffected with society and only superficially apathetic to the dreary, distasteful reality of Britannian domination.
- Rolo, with each passing day, grows more comfortable in his role, until finally he dies for his “brother’s” sake.
- While Villetta Nu only masqueraded as Ohgi's lover shortly before shooting him (thanks to Identity Amnesia), their past relationship was used to blackmail Villetta into siding with the Black Knights in R2 in order to counter the latter, now a Baroness from keeping the then supposedly amnesiac Lelouch from continuing on as Zero, until Ohgi shielded her from one of Sayoko's kunais.
- The eighth Haruhi Suzumiya light novel:
- In D.Gray-Man, Lavi is a successor to the Bookman lineage, who only joined the Black Order to record the war. However, as the years passed, he got more and more into the role of an exorcist, and is visibly angry when Bookman tells him he's not really a part of the Order, and that he's only there because it's convenient. His issues with Becoming the Mask are actually what Little Miss Badass Road Kamelot uses to "destroy his heart".
- In Superior, the Big Bad female lead feigns hopelessness to gain the hero's trust and kill him. A few days later she realises she has a huge crush on him.
- Used quite positively in Haibane Renmei. Reki originally acted nice and supporting towards everybody solely to earn a quick salvation for her troubles, but as time went by and no Day of Flight came, it slowly became her true identity, as she finally realized in the final episode, allowing her to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence.
- Yukino Miyazawa. Her public mask which she created soon after she started school, was designed to elicit praise from those people around her. Playing the role of the perfect girl was so stressful that she had to unwind by turning into a slob at home. When Arima discovered her secret and blackmailed her, keeping her mask on became so uncomfortable that when she and Arima fell in love, she decided to throw her mask away, only to slowly discover that she acted perfect for so long that a lot of her mask persona became part of her true nature.
- Arima also wore a mask of perfection but unlike Yukino, he never took his off, because he feared that his true nature was so awful that everyone would reject him if he took it off.
- Happens to the fake Asuna, Shiori, in Mahou Sensei Negima!. While her Signum Bioregens supposedly makes her more-or-less a sleeper agent (which is in and of itself a subversion of this trope) with added control (she can apparently switch at will), Shiori is in danger of merging with Asuna's personality if she falls in love while disguised. Infiltrating a group held together by a Chick Magnet might not have been the best of ideas...
- Also appears to have happened to Governor-General Kurt Godel, who was unambiguously heroic 20 years ago. In the meantime, he infiltrated the corrupt senate, to find out more about and stop their villainy. He has since taken on many more villainous characteristics, such as being a Smug Snake and exhibiting Fantastic Racism to an incredible degree.
- Gundam 00.
- Lyle Dylandy. He joins Celestial Being mostly as a Kataron Double Agent, but in the end, he becomes a full-fledged Gundam Meister like his deceased twin brother, Neil.
- Also Anew Returner. She's The Mole, but falls in love with Lyle. In the end, she attempts to return to him and Celestial Being, but is controlled by Ribbons into attacking Lyle, forcing Setsuna to kill her.
- Flay Alster in Gundam SEED. She pretended to love Kira because she wanted to have revenge against him for her dad's death, which he caused indirectly, but ended up loving him for real.
- Katejina Loos in Victory Gundam is effectively kidnapped by the Zanscare early on. At that point, she comes up with the idea of getting close to them and becoming a spy for the League Militaire. Whether or not that would have been possible ends up being beside the point, as she slowly (or maybe a little too suddenly) becomes an actual enemy pilot and a total zealot by the end.
- Zeheart Gallette of Mobile Suit Gundam AGE enrolls in a Federation high school as part of his cover (he's a Vagan spy, but is young enough to be in high school). He does this only to maintain his cover, but finds himself forming real friendships among his classmates, most especially with Asemu Asuno and Romary Stone, which continue to affect his judgement long after he rejoins the Vagan military.
- In Ranma ½, Ryoga initially allowed Akane to cuddle and sleep with his cursed animal form, as a way to piss off her fiance Ranma. It backfired massively when Ryoga actually fell in love with Akane since she was so kind to his animal form, but had already doomed his chances by sleeping in her bed without her knowing it. Ouch.
- Contractor Shihoko from Darker Than Black started up a relationship with Huang sometime in the past as part of a Syndicate mission. While she didn't let any feelings get in the way of the original plan, they did spark some uncharacteristic pity that lead her to pull some strings and give Huang the opportunity to join the Syndicate himself as an alternative to memory erasure.
- Also the cult leader Alma in the same episode. She started out as a typically ruthless Contractor and started the Friends of the Gate as a way of hiding from Contractor-hunting humans and keeping abreast of information about the Gate. Over time, because of the faithful worshipers, she began to believe in peaceful coexistence and genuinely became the spiritual leader she pretended to be. Totally against Contractor stereotype, she was happy to bear the terrible price of using her powers (rapid aging and debilitating health) so that she could appear young before her followers, and also considered it a way to atone for her past actions.
- Sena Kobayakawa of Eyeshield 21 undergoes this, taking on such a title and becoming the "Hero of Notre Dame." The more the series progresses, the more he realizes how important that name really is and how people's dreams are relying on his lightspeed runs. And of course, this leads to problems when he meets the real Eyeshield 21...s and has to fight for his title.
- Ironically his ultimate opponent is not someone who is vying for the title, but someone whom already surpassed everyone whom has taken up that title.
- Stewart of Sonic X was a government agent assigned to investigate Sonic and the other animals. As it turned out, while he shows himself capable as an agent, he's really good at, and really likes, being a teacher. And occasionally a Badass Teacher.
- Michelle from Mobile Suit Gundam is sent to spy on the White Base. She falls for a guy in the crew, Kai, and tries to help him instead. And then, she dies.
- Pretty Cure loves this trope. Kiriya, the Kiryuu twins, Setsuna and Siren each pretended to be ordinary schoolkids in order to get close to the respective series' heroines and undermine their efforts. Inevitably, their interactions with the Cures expose them to the Power of Friendship and lead to a Heel-Face Turn by the end.
- In Tantei Gakuen Q, Ryu was supposed to be The Mole and infiltrate the DDS, but as time passed he discovered what friendship really was and grew fond of his partners for real.
- In the manhwa Aflame Inferno, creatures called Tedlars can only interact with the human world by taking over a human's body, subsequently killing the human doing so. As the Tedlars usually have to live the same life the possessed humans do to avoid detection (not to mention they have access to all the humans' memories), it's quite possible that they become the human they took over themselves. However, usually Tedlars don't stay too long in one body, avoiding this.
- In episode 18 of To Aru Majutsu no Index, the guy who was hitting on Mikoto turns out to be a shapeshifting assassin assigned to kill her. He fell in love with her for real, so he decided to protect her from his colleagues, but murder Touma and get rid of his potential romantic rival. After Touma defeats him and a steel girder falls on him, he begs Touma to protect her as well.
- Possible example in Shinigami from Soul Eater. He tells Asura that he took on his current silly appearance and demeanour to avoid scaring the children he wanted to recruit to his school, but that he 'got used' to it. The odd flashbacks depict him as far more ruthless and direct in his dealings with his enemies.
- In Naruto:
- Sai was trained as an emotionless assassin and then sent to join Team 7. Originally ordered to assassinate Sasuke and observe Naruto, he eventually became a true member of the team.
- In a darker variant, this is Kabuto's backstory. An orphan who was all but conscripted into duty as a spy, he spent most of his childhood under numerous names in different villages. By the end of it, he's not really sure who he is. When he breaks down, the village stops trusting him, he loses his only purpose in life, and ends up believing Orochimaru's insane logic.
- Tobi has a decidedly literal take on this trope, in that he has become his literal mask, ie no one. After The Reveal that he is really Obito Uchiha, he just says That Man Is Dead and the heroes can call him whatever they want.
- In Bakugan: Gundalian Invaders, Ren was sent by the Gundalians to get the Battle Brawlers to join them in the guise that they were the innocent party in their war. However, after experiencing their friendship and eventually realizing that the king he served didn't care about him, he did a Heel-Face Turn and joined the Brawlers in the battle against his own kind.
- In Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, it is revealed that Fai has secretly been working as a mole for Fei Wong in an attempt to resurrect his twin brother and has been misleading the group the entire time. However, he eventually develops a genuine affection for his comrades and undergoes a Heel-Face Turn just prior to the reveal.
- Played with in Special A. Megumi tries to distract Yahiro (the closest thing the early chapters have to a Big Bad) so that he won't interfere with Akira and Tadashi's burgeoning relationship. She does so by pretending to like him. Yahiro sees right through the mask, but goes along with it just to screw with her. In the process they end up actually falling for each other.
- Fullmetal Alchemist has this with some of the homunculi. For instance, Pride is, as true to his name, totally bereft of compassion for any human being in the world... except for his foster mother, Mrs. Bradley, who tended dearly to him after he was hit by a car (not knowing he was a homunculus, nor about the near-immortality that comes with the territory). Doesn't mean he has any hesitation to sacrificing her along with the rest of the entire country in Father's plans, of course, but at the end of it all, he's the only homunculus left - having his Philosopher's Stone eradicated, but spared from death, by Edward Elric - and he gets grow up from scratch under her care. Wrath also shows compassion for the same woman given that she's his wife, but he doesn't have to put forth quite as much of an act as Pride does.
- Yukki and Yuno in Mirai Nikki. Both of them were faking their love and using each other. Yukki used Yuno for protection and Yuno used Yukki for an emotional crutch. But over time the fake aspect became less and less fake and more like genuine love.
- Ninamori of FLCL wanted for this to happen with her family. She thought if her parents would come to the play and watch it together, and they could all act like a happy family, it would become real. That was why she loved Puss In Boots so much: It represented a lie becoming a happy truth.
- Souichi Negishi is a soft-hearted nice guy. His stage persona in Detroit Metal City, Krauser II, is a violent, foul-mouthed, vulgar Gene Simmons lookalike. Quite a few gags in the series revolve around Negishi accidentally lapsing into his Krauser II persona when he's out of costume, offending and confusing everyone around him.
- Parodied at Muteki Kanban Musume, a deconstruction of the Fighting Series Played for Laughs: Just after his Tomato in the Mirror moment, when he realizes he is not an Star Ranger, but merely a Shop Keeper who Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality, Akihiko decides that even if he is not a Star Ranger, he will be a hero and see that a little boy is not harmed by an Angry Guard Dog.
- In Ravages Of Time, Sima Yi's plan for revenge after Cao Cao has his family purged involves his assassin Liaoyuan Huo joining "a worthy lord" and using Sima Yi's money to build him up as a rival to Sima Yi's lord Cao Caonote so that Sima Yi can work his way up Cao Cao's ranks. However, Sima Yi already admits his recognition that Liaoyuan Huo has been "want(ing) to leave this dark maze" (as Zhao Yun realized during his rescue of Zhang Lei and Sima Lang during the purge of the Sima clan residencenote ) and years later, in chapters 386 and 387 Huo turns on his teacher as an assassin after the teacher and his men take Liu Bei's wives and son hostage during the Battle of Changban, having by now internalized the name that Liu Bei gave him: Zhao Yun, styled Zilong.
- Reiner Braun from Attack on Titan, in an absolutely heartbreaking deconstruction. His guilt over his crimes as The Mole, and growing attachment to his human comrades, results in him suffering dissociative episodes. He quite literally Mind Raped himself into having episodes where he genuinely believes his cover is real, since that's who he would rather be. Two a little more minor cases also occur with Annie Leonhart and Bertolt Hoover, his partners. During a rampage, Annie spares her former classmates... which eventually leads to her being exposed. And Bertolt eventually admits that not everything was a lie and he did care about his comrades during his Villainous Breakdown.
- In the second season of Ojamajo Doremi, a young wizard by the name of Akatsuki was sent by his fellow wizards to help Oyajide kidnap Hana. To do this, he adopted a friendly facade and pretended to be Doremi's friend. But after spending a lot of time with and getting to know her, he began having doubts. When The Reveal came along and exposed his duplicity, Doremi's pain at being betrayed was one of the things that helped him and his allies, Tooru, Fujio, and Leon, make a Heel-Face Turn and save Hana from the other wizards.
- Rurouni Kenshin has this as part of Kenshin's backstory: Kenshin/Battosai's first love Yukishiro Tomoe was sent to Battosai to become close to him as part of a plan to discover his weaknesses, something she was participating in because one of the samurai Battosai killed was her fiancee. However, her influence on him caused Battosai to show his kinder side to her, which resulted in her falling for him for real.
- Hinted at in Tokyo Ghoul, where Tsukiyama Shuu joins the protagonist Kaneki's Five-Man Band with the intention of eventually eating him, but begins to show instances of genuine kindness toward him. By the end of the manga, Tsukiyama is the only one who tries to stop Kaneki's Suicide Mission, and following Kaneki's death seems to fall into an Angst Coma - though this may be because he still wishes he got to eat him.
- A more abstract example is Kaneki himself, who starts out the story looking far more frightening than he really is - due to a particularly terrifying leather mask that Uta made for him. By the end, however, he suits the personality reflected by his mask much better.
- In Katanagatari, Togame really did fall in love with Shichika but due to Revenge Before Reason (at least according to them), they would have killed the latter in the end regardless.
- Batman: In the Silver Age, Batman was the mask Bruce Wayne wore, in a nod to Zorro. Bruce Wayne is now merely Batman in disguise and not the reverse, and his subconscious calls him Batman, as seen in Batman Beyond. Like everything with Batman, how much this is true varies from writer to writer.
- In some incarnations, becoming the mask may be what led Dr. Harleen Quinzel to become Harley Quinn. In her origin story, Mad Love, the possibility was brought up that she interned at Arkham Asylum to cash in on the infamy of its highly abnormal inmate body. Ultimately, she really does end up giving a damn about a certain patient.
- Played with with Superman. In the Silver Age, Clark Kent was the mask worn by Superman. Beginning with John Byrne's reboot, Superman became the mask Clark Kent wore.
- It eventually came back around to Clark Kent and Superman both being masks that he wears. Even as Clark he has to pretend and hide things about his character and nature.
- From the Marvel Universe, we have the Thunderbolts, who were originally the newest incarnation of the Masters of Evil, posing as superheroes to win the public's trust while the major superheroes were apparently dead for a year. Their leader, Baron Zemo, eventually leaked their true identities to try to avert a Heel-Face Turn before he could Take Over the World. It didn't work; the majority of the team defeated him, and tried — for various reasons — to actually become heroes. To the best of their moral abilities, anyway.
- Only the first incarnation of the Thunderbolts counts as this. During Civil War the new Thunderbolts team was no longer "Reformed villains trying to actually be the heroes they'd originally pretended to be" and was instead "a bunch of violent thugs we stuck mind control chips into so we could use them for black ops" who they put under the direction of Norman Osborn and by Dark Reign had morphed into "Norman Osborn's especially vicious group of thugs because the Dark Avengers weren't bad enough."
- The Heroic Age incarnation, on the other hand, is a specific attempt by the Avengers to induce this. They're using incarcerated supervillains to do good in the hopes that they'll start liking it, and then try to redeem themselves.
- Interestingly used in Lucifer, where a shapeshifter is trapped in the form of a grieving father (whom it had killed to assume his shape, to try (and apparently succeed) at killing his daughter) and gradually becomes more the grieving father than the ancient shapeshifter from before the universe. This doesn't seem come about entirely honestly, though — much of the father's mentality seems to be forced onto the shapeshifter by the same magic that traps it in his form.
- Walter Kovacs from Watchmen, a formerly abused but relatively normal superhero, takes on the persona of his alter ego Rorschach after an event of intense psychological trauma, becoming a Principles Zealot in the process.
- Rorschach later describes the early years of his hero career as "I wasn't Rorschach then. Then I was just Kovacs. Kovacs pretending to be Rorschach". During his bail hearing he refused to respond to anything other than "Rorschach". He also refers to his mask as his face, and once referred to removing it as "removing the skin from my head". He's kinda sensitive about it.
- "It was Kovacs who closed his eyes. It was Rorschach who opened them again." If that doesn't define this trope, nothing does.
- It was portrayed wonderfully with the art too, when the reader sees Rorschach in the past, he stands differently and looks odd compared to the Rorschach we know in the present. There's something very human about him that adds a quiet tragedy to the man we know now.
- Happened several times to the Skrull impostor(s) posing as Hank Pym during the Secret Invasion. Apparently a side-effect of the enhanced shape shifting they were using to escape detection. One issue revealed that they went through no less than 4 different Skrulls who EACH KEPT TRYING TO DEFECT once they settled into the role.
- The Vertigo version of Human Target written by Peter Milligan was all about this. The main character, Christopher Chance, was so good at imitating the people he was meant to protect that he needed post-hypnotic triggers to resume his "normal" personality. This problem largely presents itself when he's not in contact with the person he's impersonating, and especially when that person is dead. In the most advanced cases, he has literally forgotten that he was ever Christoper Chance.
- Christopher's protégé Tom McFadden actually has it even worse; he wasn't psychologically prepared for the kind of work they do, and has taken to constantly constructing new identities that he disappears into completely because he has no "real" personality anymore.
- Marvel's first Captain Marvel was a Kree soldier named Mar-vell, who came to Earth to spy out humanity. He eventually came over to Earth's side for real.
- Magica De Spell goes through this in the Donald Duck story "Date with a Munchkin" by Kari Korhonen, where she kidnaps Daisy Duck and takes her place in order to get close to Scrooge McDuck's Number One Dime. During her time as Daisy, she receives Donald's affection for Daisy and takes a liking to their romance. (It helps that she's accidentally also dosed herself with the Love Potion she's using to forestall Donald's suspicions.) It culminates in a Duckburg ball where Magica originally intended to steal the dime, but chooses not to leave Donald's side. However, Daisy has escaped her restraints and crashes the ball, confronting Magica. When Donald takes Magica's side, believing that she's the real Daisy, Magica ends her illusion and flees the scene rather than break Daisy's heart. She later reflects that although she didn't manage the theft, she has experienced "a new feeling," and maybe that's worth something.
- Magica manages it again in "A Gal For Gladstone": she hexes away Gladstone Gander's luck so he'll have to work for Uncle Scrooge, then disguises herself as a wholesome girl and seduces him to get close to the dime. She's genuinely touched by his devotion, though, and ends up giving up her chance at the dime in order to save his life.
- Punch/Counterpunch in Dreamwave's Transformers Generation One comics. Punch is an Autobot spy sent deep undercover into the Decepticon ranks as counterintelligence expert Counterpunch. However, in developing Counterpunch's "character" and establishing him as a dedicated Decepticon, Punch may have caused an entirely new personality to develop within him; Lately, he's been having blackouts as Counterpunch and is unable to account for his whereabouts or activities, though he suspects Counterpunch is asserting himself and doing his job.
- In the Sonic X comic book, Dr. Eggman disguises himself as the heroic wrestler El Gran Gordo to earn extra cash, but soon finds he likes being praised and adored by his fans. This leads him to almost pull a Heel-Face Turn, and even after going back to villainy, he later returns to being El Gran Gordo for the thrills, fame, and loving fanbase. He also pummels a wrestler about twice his size, and considering how big Eggman was to begin with, that's quite a feat.
- The Silver Age Superman had a story in which Clark Kent tries to prevent the demolition of his old home. Pete Ross assumes it's because he's afraid the workers will find something that'll give away his secret identity, but it's really because of Supes' sentimentality. Pete's last line is pretty much the trope. (Remember, this is when writers had decided that Superman was the "real" identity and Clark Kent a mere disposable mask.)
- V from V for Vendetta. Who he is under the mask is unimportant, as the mask is a symbol of what he truly is.
- In Silver and Bronze Age Superman comics, Lex Luthor initially only helped an alien race rebuild its civilization in order to gain their cooperation—but when they hailed him as a hero (even renaming their planet Lexor!), he realized he liked being considered a good guy. Lexor became his home away from home for years, until he himself accidentally destroyed the planet in a fight with Supes. This tragedy caused a major Villainous Breakdown.
- Captain Atom was originally a government agent pretending to be a superhero so as to spy on the Justice League. Eventually he found himself becoming a superhero for real, leading to his Crowning Moment Of Awesome, seen here.
- In the Fantastic Four story "This Man, This Monster," an unnamed scientist steals Ben Grimm's appearance, voice, and power in order to kill Reed Richards, whom he both envies and considers motivated solely by glory. However, in the course of working with him on a dangerous research project, the scientist becomes so convinced of Richards' selflessness that he sacrifices himself to save his life.
- An Affectionate Parody of this story, "And Men Shall Call Him...Hero" from Doom Patrol, has a villain steal Cliff Steele's robotic body in order to kill his Doom Patrol teammates, only to feel unexpected compassion when a lost, frightened blind girl instinctively clings to him. As a result, he sacrifices himself in order to prevent the Omnicidal Maniac Celestius from absorbing her life energy.
- Gentle Giant Vathek from the original W.I.T.C.H. comic begins as a villain, but is sent by Cedric to act as a The Mole among the rebels. Vathek, however, decides that Good Feels Good and ends up genuinely changing sides. (In the cartoon Vathek has a smaller role and acts as The Mole among the bad guys while being genuinely on the side of good all along.)
- Happens both ways in Judge Dredd
- On the one hand, Wally Squad Judges face a constant mental battle to avoid either becoming the criminals they're supposed to be undermining, or simply thinking too much like a normal human being. Many fail; at present, Dirty Frank is right on the precipice.
- On the other end, Serial Killer PJ Maybe stole the identity of Byron Ambrose, a wealthy philanthropist, and got himself elected Mayor of Mega-City One. In order to keep up the charade, he had to do as many good deeds as were possible for the mayor - and during this time, he gradually came to enjoy being good so much that he risked his own life and reputation in attempting to assassinate Martin Sinfield for no other reason than that he felt it was for the good of the city. (Sure, he may randomly kill people for fun, but he was still the best mayor Mega-City One has ever had... which speaks for the city).
- A long running plot-point of Strangers in Paradise was the "Parker Girl" operation, women who would assume long-term, deep-cover identities and get involved with influential men in order to manipulate politics from behind the scenes. However, when the operation collapsed after the death of Darcy Parker many Parker Girls were trapped in their cover identities, unable to extricate themselves from the lives they had established. In Echo, the next series written by author Terry Morre, there is a crossover with SiP as a character makes contact with some of the women still living their cover identities. Lieutenant Laura Higgs, who used be a Parker Girl named Stephanie who was infiltrating the US Military, asserts that she has a life now and refuses to give up the world she has built. "Stephanie's dead. I'm Laura Higgs now."
- Zachary T. Paleozogt IS Zot
- In Classic Star Wars, a set of Star Wars newspaper strips, Vader once hires an actor to pretend to be Obi-Wan in order to lure Luke into a trap. The thing was, the actor was moved◊ by how Luke respected him, and started having thoughts like "What would the real Obi-Wan do?◊" He still led Luke into the trap, but then sprung it, dying himself. From Luke's utter lack of reaction◊ before the panel at the top of the page, it's a little ambiguous whether Luke was really oblivious about what was going on.
- In Transformers: More than Meets the Eye this happened to Minimus Ambus, the current holder of the title of "Ultra Magnus". Originally a mere soldier in the Autobot army, he had long admired Ultra Magnus, for being the epitome of law and order, and aspired to be a lawman just like him. When the former holder of the title died, and Ambus was offered the chance to actually become his idol by Chief Justice Tyrest, he leapt at the opportunity, throwing himself completely into the role. He's briefly forced to take the mask off during the Remain in Light storyline when Tyrest takes away the Magnus armor and replaces Ambus with his new Enforcer Star Saber, but when he learns that the now insane Tyrest plans to use the Universal Killswitch to kill all Cybertronians who were constructed cold, Ambus announces that Ultra Magnus would never stand for that, and turns against his former boss. By the end of the storyline, he has once again become Ultra Magnus, and is even told by Ratchet that he is the true Ultra Magnus.
- Loki is on the way to this if the powers that be let him with the mask being himself. He died to be reborn as a child (Journey Int Mystery), but also left his old consciousness behind to obliterate the child and take over his body when the time is right, to basically pull a Memory Gambit. Now he is stuck between two different roles (Young Avengers), and tries very hard to become the mask (Loki: Agent of Asgard), because it's preferable to the alternative.
- Claymade's The Dark Lords Of Nerima is particularly insightful examination of this trope when a wounded Youma from Sailor Moon is taken in by the Ranma 1/2 crew.
- The Reveal in the middle of Chapter 3 of the Axis Powers Hetalia fanfic Finding Freedom. You thought that the Beta Couple's main reason for being added in the previous chapter was to give the other main character a boyfriend too or to be the cute established couple? Think again.
"Don't be stupid, although I know you can't help that. Kiku's...not my type."
Also a lie, Heracles told himself. He definitely felt something for the other man, cherished his time with him and his quirks and just... all that made him who he was. When he kissed him, it was real. By now, everything he did with Kiku was real.
- John-117 in Company0051. As such, he certainly doesn't appreciate the having to be out of armor, and to make matters worse the armor in question is kept by a scientist who seems to have a bit of a fetish for it...
- Queen Of Shadows: Thanks to Shendu trying to re-write the Book of Ages, Jade Chan ends up in an alternate reality where she has replaced the queen of an empire of Shadowkhan. Trying to fufill the role so she isn't caught out, Jade unknowingly does a better job of being the queen than the real queen. Her advisors take this more as her developing in a true leader than anything suspicious.
- Explored in the Mass Effect/Terminator crossover Drift, where Cameron has spent a couple hundred years carefully developing an entire personality construct based on her "Allison" memories, effectively becoming an otherwise indistinguishable human. It turns out that Cameron has apparently been using the Allison persona for so long that elements of her have influenced other parts of her "brain," like her combat programs - which she finds quite troubling, because she is apparently unable to actually do physical maintenance on her processors.
- In Deep Cover, a Naruto fanfic. Naruto gets sent on a mission to infiltrate the Sound village, with the idea that his behavior is so loud and obvious that nobody would suspect him hiding something. He betrays Konoha and has a romantic moment with Tayuya while watching it burn. Thinking back on how he made his decision, he realizes that at some point in the past he stopped caring about Konoha and decided that Sound was his home.
- Really, almost any Naruto fanfic that has the word 'mask' in the title.
- Likewise, in many Naruto fanfics where he uses Kage Bunshin that have to act like someone other than himself, they end up actually thinking of themselves as their adopted persona. Case in point, in The Ninth Sekirei Pillar, a pair of clones pretending to be a married couple actually start thinking of themselves as a married couple. Naruto doesn't protest their moves to prevent their dispelling since he "doesn't want memories of fucking himself".
- White Rain has Itachi Uchiha and Lucia van Alstyne; the former's motivations were only revealed long after his death, while the latter only came to realize it after being interviewed by Ibiki.
- This trope is a major part of the Teen Titans fanfic Avatar. As far as Robin's concerned, when the mask goes on he is Robin - Tim Drake (unusually for a Teen Titans fic, Robin is the Tim Drake version rather than the Dick Grayson one) doesn't exist. He deliberately wears the mask at all times, even when hanging out with the other Titans, because he considers leading the Titans a 24/7/365 job, so decided to simply stop being Tim, who he feels doesn't have what it takes to be a hero.
- The Monsters, Inc. fanfiction Angelas Pet Monster involves Randall getting adopted by a human girl. At first, he doesn't care much for her, only wanting food and warmth. However, he quickly grows to like her, which leads to his Heel-Face Turn.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic Without A Hive, by Phoenix_Dragon, a novice Changeling Infiltrator named Nictis is cut off from his Hive, and forced to pretend to be a (female) Pony named Meadow Song for many, many years, during which it has no contact with his own kind. As the years pass, the identity of Meadow becomes all too real, causing a slow change in Nictis's own loyalties and values.
- In Diaries of a Madman, Bon Bon has been away from the changeling hive and amongst ponies for so long that she's come to consider herself as a pony foremost.
- Zaysen in The Bucky O'Hare Web Series. A toad spy altered to resemble a hare named Renfield, he's placed in mammal society and very quickly becomes enamored with the freedom of expression and choice it offers, at least in comparison to that of the toads. He develops close friendships with his co-workers, and even begins dating one, and gradually starts feeling guilty for secretly betraying them the whole time. Although he faces some hurdles (a big one being that he's outed and captured), he gradually assimilates more or less perfectly, and even his boyfriend doesn't entirely mind that he's a toad.
- In Sean Bean Saves Westeros, the "real life" Sean Bean is transported into the land of Westeros of A Song of Ice and Fire. Now living as Ned Stark, not just playing him on TV, Sean Bean has a hard time not accepting Ned’s family as truly his own, especially after Sansa is rescued.
- In Dumbledore's Army and the Year of Darkness, from the perspective of Hogwarts students in 1997-8, there's no real difference between Severus Snape pretending to be evil so as not to make Voldemort suspicious, and Snape actually being evil.
Film - Animated
- In The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, Kovu is sent to ingratiate himself into Simba's pride in order to kill him. Unfortunately for his mother, Kovu's growing love for Kiara allows him to break free of his mother's conditioning, realize the evil that he is collaborating in and decide he wants no part of it.
- Experiment 626/Stitch in Lilo & Stitch. He starts out masquerading as a dog for protection, but eventually Lilo's love causes him to do a Heel-Face Turn.
- Diego in Ice Age. He is supposed to get the baby and bring it to the Big Bad, but eventually becomes its protector.
- Over the Hedge. RJ the raccoon.
- This is the central plot of Rango.
- Despicable Me has Gru pretending to be the three orphans' adoptive parent. However, he rescues the three kids from Vector and keeps that role.
- Megamind has this, but it's a subversion. He begins to like Roxanne while dating her as Bernard so much that he doesn't want to be a villain anymore. However, after Roxanne dumps him after finding out his identity, it's back to being a villain for him.
- But when Roxanne tells him she needs him, while Titan has her tied up on top of a skyscraper, he flips to "hero" mode again and stays that way.
- The danger of the unicorn's human guise in The Last Unicorn. Amalthea, the eponymous unicorn, slowly forgets who she was, as she becomes more and more human. It takes the three others protagonists (including the human she fell in love with) to put her back on her quest.
- In Treasure Planet, Silver ends up developing a bond with Jim Hawkins, despite him and his crew being the mole and simply being on the ship to steal the treasure. This serves as one of the primary conflicts of the story.
Film - Live Action
- Pretty much the entire plot of the Kevin Costner film The Postman. In a post-apocalyptic America where civilization has collapsed, Costner plays a wandering con man who poses as a postal worker of the fictional 'Restored United States of America' to deceive people into giving him food, shelter, and protection. In the process, he proceeds from pretending to deliver the mail to actually delivering the mail, and things sort of snowball from there until he eventually, entirely by accident, ends up basically creating the Restored United States of America he claimed to represent and becoming a postal worker for it.
- The whole point of the Charlie Sheen film Beyond the Law, which in turn is based on several real stories about law enforcement agents who pretend to be outlaw bikers to observe the clubs engaging in illegal activities only to realize they feel more at home as outlaws than as cops.
- Dana Carvey's character in Opportunity Knocks.
- This is more or less the entire plot of James Cameron's Avatar. The main character, who is "piloting"/"possessing" an custom-made alien body for the purpose of infiltration, even remarks in the film at one point that the situation had become reversed - "out there was reality, and in here [in his human body] was the dream." At the end of the movie, he undergoes a ceremony that permanently puts him in the avatar body, and he leaves his old human body to die in the toxic atmosphere.
- The plot of Kagemusha by Akira Kurosawa. A lower-class criminal is taught to impersonate a dying warlord as a kagemusha (shadow warrior) in order to dissuade opposing lords from attacking the newly vulnerable clan. He becomes more and more convincing after the death of the warlord, but he is revealed as in impostor after he is rejected by the horse of the warrior. However he chooses a death on battle, in a desperate search for identity.
- There are a number of stories in which the main characters pose as heroes, only to actually become real heroes by the end.
- The main point of Wedding Crashers; this one using the "fall in love" variety with both protagonists. Things go south when they're discovered, but they manage to work out a happy ending.
- Occurs for the worse in Mean Girls: Naïve Newcomer Cady joins the popular girls' clique only because her friends want her to get inside information on Queen Bee Regina so that they can knock her several pegs down the social ladder. Cady succeeds in doing this, but her experience as one of the "Plastics" causes her to become as shallow and popularity-obsessed as them, and she takes over Regina's former position. Fortunately, when she realizes what she's become (and has a Fallen Princess experience), she snaps out of it and makes amends.
- A variant appears in Dave: an actor who bears an uncanny resemblance to the President of the United States is hired by advisors to stand-in at an official function while the real President is seducing his secretary. Unfortunately, the President suffers a stroke during the act and is rendered non-responsive, forcing the actor to remain in the role indefinitely; he ends up becoming a more noble and honest President than the actual one, and falls in love with the First Lady.
- The Music Man himself, Professor Harold Hill.
- Alice in Anti Trust was originally hired to be The Mole, but ends up falling for the protagonist and refuses to betray him.
- This is the main character problem affecting Robert Downey Jr.'s character in Tropic Thunder. Specifically, he's supposed to be an Affectionate Parody of Daniel Day-Lewis.
- Inverted in the first Darkman movie. When Darkman interacts with his girlfriend Julie after nearly having been burned to death, he makes good use of his artificial skin to pretend to be the same Payton Westlake he always was. However, at the end of the movie, when the Big Bad has been defeated and Julie finally sees Darkman's face as it truly is, she tries to reassure him by telling him that she can still love him despite his horrible injuries. Darkman replies that their former relationship could never go on because, while he was wearing the mask of the old Payton (among other masks), the man behind the mask had changed into an altogether different person.
- This was the plot of the James Bond movie From Russia with Love; the Bond Girl was sent by SPECTRE (under the guise of SMERSH) to seduce him into a trap. She pretends to be a Russian cypher clerk who's fallen in love with Bond's picture, only to fall for him for real.
- In While You Were Sleeping, Lucy saves the life of the man she has a crush on and, due to a mistake at the hospital is assumed by the staff — and the man's family — to be his fiancée, whom they haven't met. A variation, however, in that Lucy isn't a villain with malicious intent; she's initially mortified by the error and tries to clear it up right away, but finds the man's warm, welcoming and immediately accepting family, in contrast to her own painfully lonely life and lack of family, a bit too hard to give up. Then she falls in love with his brother — right before the man comes out of his coma and, due to what-he-thinks-is-amnesia, is convinced that she is his fiancée...
- A variation occurs in the Woody Allen movie Zelig: the protagonist becomes the mask involuntarily, taking on the traits of whoever is around him, be they Nazis, pilots, or Greeks.
- Undercover Brother has Brother become Anton Jackson to infiltrate The Man's company. He becomes the mask due to mayonnaise and the White She-Devil. When he returns to normal, the White She-Devil goes through a similar transformation and does a Heel-Face Turn.
- The Assignment (1997). The protagonist, a naval officer with an uncanny resemblance to Carlos the Jackal, begins to take on the nature of the violent, charismatic terrorist after being trained to copy his methodology (as part of a plot to frame Carlos as a CIA informant so he'll be murdered by the KGB). The final scene shows him going to burn a spider with his cigarette as Carlos did in the opening scene, but he stops at the last second.
- Total Recall (1990) (1990) Does this quite literally (or does it?) - Our protagonist Doug Quaid is told that his true identity is actually Hauser, Cohaagen's evil sidekick: but Quaid has other ideas. As Cohaagen puts it: "I didn't want it to end this way, I wanted Hauser back, but no... you had to be Quaid!"
- Pretty much the point of Donnie Brasco, where Johnny Depp's character, an undercover cop, develops a friendship with his primary mob contact and feels guilty about betraying him.
- Heavily discussed in The Departed by Costigan, where he worries that the horrible things he has to do while undercover are actually making him more of a horrible person, which culminates in him being unable to trust the police department at all; he asks to resign rather than be reinstated after Costello's death ends his mission, and upon realizing that Sullivan is a mole he immediately goes rogue to try to deal with him rather than even considering reporting him to anyone else in the department.
- The main source of drama in Infernal Affairs, the Cantonese film The Departed is based on, was the psychological impact of the main characters' double lives as Andy Lau's character wishes to become his mask while Tony Leung Chiu-Wai's character fears he is becoming his.He eventually goes so far as to kill everybody who knew his real identity and could incriminate him, with the exception of his wife.
- Burt Lancaster's Bill Starbuck, in The Rainmaker.
- In Troop Beverly Hills we get Annie, who was sent to the title troop by Velma to to discredit their leader and get the troop disbanded. Eventually she grows a spine and gives up on the pursuit. Of course, Velma catches on to this and tries to fire her before the climactic final competition.
- In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, according to a comic book sequel, this is the origin of Judge Doom, who was originally a Toon specializing in villain parts and changing his appearance for every short, akin to a Toon Lon Chaney. After a grenade accident, the actor part of the "Actor playing a villain" slowly vanished and he never appeared out of costume/make-up, to the point that no one in Hollywood could remember what he looked like.
- In the film version of V for Vendetta, Gordon Dietrich reveals to Evey that he not only keeps a ton of contraband art, religious items, and other memorabilia in a secret room, he also has a predilection for certain government-unfriendly sexual appetites. Or rather, he had these appetites before years of having to pretend he didn't . . .
Gordon: "You wear a mask for so long, you forget who you were beneath it."
- In Batman Begins, Rachel is the one to point out Bruce is the mask, and that the man who was once Bruce Wayne has become the Batman, wearing Bruce Wayne's face as an alter ego. Alfred warns Bruce of it earlier in the movie:
Alfred: You're getting lost inside this monster of yours.
- The father of the title Lord of War was a Ukrainian who, along with his family, emigrated from the Soviet Union to America under the pretense of being Jewish. He would later on fully embrace the Jewish lifestyle, opening a store with the Star of David as part of the logo, faithfully attending synagogue services, and even obeying orthodox Jewish dietary laws, much to the annoyance of his Catholic wife.
Anatoly Orlov: I'm going to temple.
Irina Orlov: You're not going to temple! You go to temple more than the Rabbi!
- In Plunkett And Macleane, Macleane infiltrates the rich upper classes so he can rob them blind with his fellow highwayman. However he begins growing too fond of acting like he's rich and squandering money on his gambling habits.
- Subverted in Cypher when Morgan Sullivan's spy alter ego that he created for himself is ignored when Digicorp transplant him into his new identity by way of brainwashing. The next plot segment is driven by his annoyance that his new persona doesn't smoke or drink whisky. Also inverted: The spy alter ego was his true personality re-asserting itself, Morgan Sullivan was the mask he was unbecoming.
- This is the plot of Sister Act when Whoopi Goldberg's character becomes a nun. Whoopi comes to like the nuns and their work to help people in need, but she also convinces them to serve the Lord with more joy and less woe, singing passionately.
- Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and The Remake feature a reporter who stages a Rescue Romance with the main character to advance her journalist career and then falls in love with him.
- Smokin' Aces features an interesting inversion of this: after FBI Agent Freeman Heller goes undercover as Mafia Hitman Primo Sparazza, the higher-ups at the FBI became wrongfully convinced that he had become the mask, and tried to have him murdered. Heller survived the assassination, and to retaliate against the Bureau that betrayed him, really did become the mask, eventually becoming the head Mafia Don.
- A classic movie example is Humphrey Bogart's character in The Left Hand of God. He plays a mercenary in China who uses the identity of a dead priest to escape his warlord employer but that means actually acting the part of a priest at a medical mission. Luckily he's a Catholic boy so he knows the drill. He also does his best to live up to the part with predictable results.
- Point Break stars Keanu Reeves as an FBI agent who goes undercover as a surfer to get close to a suspected bank robber. The inevitable occurs.
- The Fast and the Furious series has Paul Walker's cop become a street-racing rogue like the people he infiltrates. It's basically Point Break with cars instead of surfboards.
- The Brothers Bloom. The older brother believes that "the perfect con" is one that actually becomes real. His younger brother inevitably falls in love with the heiress that he was supposed to seduce.
- When Luke Skywalker surrenders to the Imperials in Return of the Jedi, he tells Darth Vader he has accepted that he was once Anakin Skywalker, his father. Vader replies, "That name no longer has any meaning for me." Luke insists there is still good in him.
- One of the themes in Black Swan is the protagonist struggling to delve into her darkside in order to perfect her role as Odile of Swan Lake. This unfamiliar side of herself begins to devour her.
- Zig-zagging around this trope is one of the main selling points of Salt: Is she primarily a CIA operative trying to clear her name or a Soviet superspy? The theatrical version plays this straight; She did fall in love and went native. The Director's Cut goes the opposite way but manages to sneak in a twist: She's loyal to current Russia, not Orlov.
- Just Go With It is a Romantic Comedy where two people that have to pretend to be a couple actually fall in love with each other.
- Jill in The Whole Nine Yards. She was hired by Oz's wife to kill him, so she started working as his assistant, to get closer to him. She ended up liking Oz so much she couldn't go through with it, and just kept on working for him.
- Ronald Colman won his only Academy Award for doing this in A Double Life. He plays a Shakespearean stage star who is something of a method actor, immersing in and "becoming" each role. Already having (actual, but unfounded) concerns about his wife's fidelity, he then gets cast as Othello...
- Kayla Silverfox in X-Men Origins: Wolverine is blackmailed by Stryker into posing as Wolverine's lover. However, near the end, the mask has become real.
- Done to the letter in The Baker, a British comedy about an assassin with second thoughts about his profession who escapes to a tiny Welsh town and poses as the local baker to avoid attention. Turns out, he likes baking a lot more than he does killing, and a local girl captures his attention. Sure enough, he ends up as the town's baker, and gets the girl.
- In The Wild Hunt, Murtagh and his fellow Celts start playing their LARP characters for real, with bloody consequences.
- Kichi's mother begins to worry that this has literally happened to her after she dons a demonic mask in an attempt to scare her daughter straight in Onibaba.
- In Plan B, Bruno attempts to seduce his ex Laura's boyfriend Pablo as part of a convoluted plan to win Laura back, only to end up developing genuine romantic feelings for Pablo.
- Big Daddy: Sonny Koufax adopts a five-year-old boy and lies about being the kid's biological father for the completely self-serving motive of gaining respect from certain people who have criticized him for not acting his age. But he gradually comes to really love the boy, even after one part of his grand plan fails.
- The original Fright Night features washed-up horror actor Peter Vincent becoming a real vampire-hunter, and gradually growing into the role.
- Barbara "Down with Love" Novak is a best selling author who tells women that they don't need a man to be satisfied as women. It turns out there is no Barbra Novak and her real name is Nancy Brown. She has been pretending to be Barbara Novak to get Catcher Block to fall in love with her but what she didn't count on was by pretending to be Barbara Novak... she would actually "become" Barbara Novak.
- Al Di La Della Legge is about a bandit, called Cudlip, who initially becomes the sheriff of a town for his ulterior purposes but gradually grows into the role, to the point where he and his new friend, a European immigrant called Novak, kill his two partners when they try to kill Novak in an attempt to steal the gold. The film ends with him holding and looking at his badge as Novak tells him he's earned it.
- The first Addams Family movie has Gordon Craver, son of the film's antagonist, impersonating Uncle Fester to discover their fortune. He eventually starts settling in with the family and appreciating their strangeness. It turns out to be inverted, since Gordon actually is Fester with amnesia and was taken in by the antagonist.
- The Chevy Chase comedy Funny Farm has his character Andy and his wife Elizabeth moving to a small town in the country, but the odd behavior of everyone there and some personal troubles between the two lead to them to having a falling out, wanting to divorce, and hoping to both move away as soon as possible. They work together with all the inhabitants to lure in another couple into buying their house under the prospect that town is the perfect place to live in and that they are Happily Married. As they maintain the charade though Andy and Elizabeth realize that in spite of everything that's happened they still love each other and actually do love living in the town.
- Training Day: One Epileptic Tree claims that Alonzo is so dangerous precisely because being "The Wolf" does not come naturally to him - his bad guy persona is taken to the max precisely because he has to construct it.
- In Legend Of The Black Scorpion, Wu Luan and Wan have a discussion about the power of masks in theater and whether or not wearing one brings about a greater performance. This as Wan is slowly becoming one with her queenly mask.
- In We're the Millers the band of misfits actually starts turning into a family.
- In The Unknown, Alonzo the Armless really becomes armless. He decides to go with it when Cojo laughingly remarks that he forgot he has hands when he lights a cigarette with his feet.
- The East: Sarah, a corporate intelligence agent, infiltrates a bunch of eco-terrorists. Her boss tells her that a certain amount of this trope is to be expected in any long-term undercover assignment, but she goes just about all the way in.
- Back to the Future Part III: After accidentally being sent to 1885 towards the end of Part II, Doc tells Marty in his letter that he'd set himself up as a blacksmith as a cover while attempting to fix the time machine. But when he realized the damage was beyond the capacity of 1885 technology, he buried the time machine so that Marty could fix it with the help of his 1955 counterpart and go back to 1985 himself, and accepted his place as a blacksmith, content to stay in 1885.
- Sound Of My Voice: Two documentarians infiltrate a cult to expose it, but one of them starts to get swept under the charismatic leader's spell.
Live Action TV
- Star Trek:
- Taken quite literally in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Masks". Data becomes the embodiment of The Sun, Masaka, wearing her mask. Picard dons her counterpart's mask to "become" Korgano and convince "her" (Data) to sleep and end the ritual.
- Ro Laren goes undercover to infiltrate the Maquis near the end of the series, but ends up sympathizing with them so much that she sabotages Captain Picard's plan to draw them out in the open and joins them for real.
- In the Deep Space Nine episode "Soldiers of the Empire", a crew of Klingons are demoralized enough to drop their mask and let us see them as ordinary grousing soldiers just like humans. Then at the end they recover enough to put their mask on again and become a Proud Warrior Race.
- Deep Space Nine has an episode where Miles O'Brien infiltrates a crime syndicate. While doing that, he forms a genuine friendship with Liam Bilby, a local crime boss. Throughout the episode Miles becomes increasingly conflicted, and ultimately attacks his Star Fleet liaison and tries to warn Bilby that he has been compromised.
- In an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, the crew finds out that some con artists are impersonating them. One of them, the fake Tuvok, really gets into the role: he seems to sincerely admire the values of the Federation, and is awestruck when he finally meets his counterpart face to face. The real Tuvok is not impressed.
Fake Tuvok: Logic suggests that neither of us has the advantage.
Tuvok: Your logic is flawed (blinds him with a flashlight).
- One episode of Castle deals with this. A con artist dates a rich girl in order to get her money while his partner finds her way in as a servant. The guy falls in love with the rich girl, however, and tries to break off the con. His partner kills him and tries to get away with it, but Castle and Beckett trick her.
- In season 2 of Heroes, Mohinder is originally working with HRG to infiltrate the Company, but eventually switches sides and betrays him, joining the Company for good.
- It's a popular (if not obligatory) concept in Sylar/Mohinder Fan Fiction that the two became infatuated with each other while Sylar pretended to be Zane during their roadtrip to Montana. Angst ensues.
- Sylar receives an involuntary Nathan mask at the end of season 3.
- Sharon/Athena in the 2000s Battlestar Galactica is ordered by the Cylons to make Helo fall in love with her and impregnate her. She ends up falling in love with him as well, and defects to the humans. Indeed, she becomes more anti-cylon in her attitudes than many humans.
- Later, Boomer, another copy of Number 8 seduces/manipulates Tyrol to get him to help her but she hesitates to go through with it and soon regrets her actions.
- Another minor example is Kat whose real name was Sasha. In her previous life, she used to be a drug runner and a smuggler which is where her piloting experience came from. When the Colonies were nuked, she took the name and identity of another woman that she knew was dead and worked herself a fake background and all. By the time her previous life caught up with her in Season 3, she was fully immersed in the identity she built herself.
- The 1980s detective series Remington Steele. The Mole (Pierce Brosnan) initially impersonates the fictitious Steele as a place to hide, but eventually settles into the role, even marrying the woman who created the persona in the first place.
- Sawyer from LOST falls in love with the woman he is conning, and confesses to her that she was being taken advantage of. He then proceeds to carry through with the con and steal her money anyway, albeit with some apparent remorse.
- In season three, Juliet was meant to infiltrate the survivors in order to determine whether any of the survivors were pregnant, but by the end of the season she's firmly on the side of the survivors.
- Eko was guerrilla who essentially became his priest brother. He temporarily reverted to his former self twice: he killed guerrillas in self-defense in Nigeria, and when he met Ben Linus, he told him about an off screen incident in which he beat two Others to death with a rock.
- A short-lived series from the 90's called Legend (starring Richard Dean Anderson and John De Lancie) focuses on a writer in the Old West who creates a popular series of pulp novels featuring a dashing cowboy hero known as Nicodemus Legend. With the help of a pesky, but clever, scientist, the author winds up taking on the role and identity of his fictional creation. And apparently, the author, who was pretty much a drunk and a jerk, finds that the selflessness and heroism are less and less of an act as time goes on.
- Will Traveler in Traveler becomes fond of the two roommates he's setting up, and ends up sparing their lives (at great cost to him later), against the plans of his employers.
- Cole Turner (Belthazor) in Charmed was sent to kill the Charmed Ones before love redeemed him and he abandoned his demonic power. Subverted in that he eventually found himself in dire need of power to protect his loved ones and snapped back to his demonic conditioning and tried to marry Phoebe in part of a long plot to set her up as queen of Hell and effectively spawn The Antichrist.
- In Highlander, Kronos tells Methos that he's been pretending to be reformed for so long that he's started to believe it himself. When MacLeod learns about Methos' past, the resulting argument causes Methos to go back to Kronos.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- Faith began her Heel-Face Turn like this. She switched bodies with Buffy. But after living only one day as Buffy, she effectively became Buffy. Or rather, her own semi-warped sense of what Buffy was like. She even attacked Buffy-in-Faith's-Body, screaming that she was evil.
- The latter was most likely a reflection of her own pre-existing self-hatred rather than a result of becoming the mask.
- Also, she deliberately practiced what she believed to be Buffy's catchphrase, "Because it's wrong," in order to deceive Buffy's friends (and Spike), but ends up using that exact phrase when facing a group of vampires in a church. That one time, she actually means it too.
- Another Buffy example: Jenny Calendar is revealed to be Janna, a member of the clan of gypsies who cursed Angel with his soul, after he experiences 'true happiness' with Buffy and reverts to the evil Angelus. It's heavily implied that her love for Giles ("I didn't know I would fall in love with you") led to her Becoming The Mask, and after she is killed by Angelus, she's buried under her assumed name of Jenny Calendar.
- Glory has taken on more and more human traits over the years, much to her annoyance.
- An unusual example of this takes place in The Sarah Connor Chronicles episode "Allison from Palmdale." Cameron, suffering a glitch due to damage to her chip, briefly adopts the personality of Allison Young, the resistance fighter whom she was modeled after and whose personality she copied, before going off to assassinate John Connor.
- In Dexter, the title character begins the show as an utterly emotionless sociopath who must fake all of his human interactions. However, as the series continues, he finds that he no longer has to pretend in many situations, coming to genuinely care for his family, developing a sense of empathy and feeling emotions beyond bloodlust. In the final season, a psychiatrist is amazed by Dexter's development.
- In Kamen Rider Kabuto, the Scorpioworm assumed the identity of Kamishiro Tsurugi, but prior to the beginning of the series somehow came to believe himself to be Tsurugi to the point at which even he is shocked when the mask slips.
- Played out interestingly in Prison Break: T-Bag (who is someone who definitely can't redeem himself, despite being awesome) has this with his fake identity of Cole Pfeiffer, a charming top-salesman. He actually hopes to leave his past as a convict behind, because he really seems to love his role. In the end, it doesn't work.
T-Bag: "You realize what I'm giving up here? I was guaranteed 50 grand!"
Gretchen: "You're crying over 50 grand, are you serious?!"
T-Bag: "I have a job! I make money, I get mail, people call me sir."
Gretchen: "12-hour days and eating left-over lo-mein. Something tells me Theodore Bagwell wouldn't last long in this situation."
T-Bag: "Yeah, maybe. But Cole Pfeiffer would."
- Subverted in a later episode: T-Bag takes a proactive step towards being a Cole Pfeiffer-kind of guy by not killing a man he's holding hostage, who could be either an innocent Bible salesman or an evil Company agent. Turns out he was a Company agent after all. Violence ensues.
- In the original UK version of Life On Mars, Frank Morgan suggests this as the cause of Sam Tyler's condition. The series also ends on this trope with Sam willingly immersing himself into 1973, though exactly how he does this is never fully revealed.
- In season four of NCIS, Tony begins a year-long relationship with Jeanne Benoit as part of an undercover operation against her father, arms dealer La Grenouille. He genuinely falls in love with her in the process, which doesn't stop him from answering her inevitable "Was any of it real?" with a simple "No."
- The same idea was used in an episode about North Korean sleeper agents, in which one of their number turned against the rest for the sake of her American husband and baby daughter.
- Ziva also turns out to be someone who was originally sent as a spy, but grows more loyal to NCIS than her father and Mossad; so much so that she became a naturalized US Citizen so she could stay on as an official NCIS agent.
- A bittersweet version occurred on a Mother's Day episode of Saturday Night Live: The late Phil Hartman is with his mother, and he cannot get out of character. His mother calls him on it, and he realizes that he's spent so much time as other people he doesn't really know who he is. Mom knows who he is, though, so it'll be okay. sniff
- That also happened in Hartman's monologue when he first came back to host in season 21, where Hartman does his monologue in different voices and runs crying into his dressing room, realizing that he's been playing so many characters and doing so many celebrity impersonations that he doesn't know who he is anymore.
- Similarly, when he appeared on The Muppet Show, Peter Sellers informed Kermit that he had had his real self surgically removed. (See his entry under Real Life, below.)
- In My Name Is Earl, Earl at first only tried to make up for all his past bad deeds because he believed "karma" would punish him otherwise. But eventually, he starts to really care about people.
- Same with Billie, who at first hides among the Camdenites (radical Amish) while plotting revenge against Earl. However, the simple lifestyle eventually wins her over, and she joins their community, giving Earl all her money.
- This happened to Glenn too, though in the opposite direction. He was a good-natured boy scout until he was thrown in juvie for something that was Earl's fault. He had to pretend to be a badass to survive in there, but he eventually internalized it. By the time Earl met him again, he was such a psychopathic criminal that everyone else in prison was afraid of him.
- The Twilight Zone episode "The Masks" does this, quite naturally, with a Karmic Twist Ending: a dying man makes his overly-eager-for-the-inheritance relatives wear masks as a condition of inheriting. The masks are nasty caricatures of their inner selves, and they end up quite literally Becoming the Mask.
- Oz. Undercover cop Desmond Mobay, posing as a Jamaican drug dealer, gets hooked on drugs and murders a corrupt cop turned inmate who threatens to blow his cover. Another prisoner, convicted copkiller Augustus Hill, realises who Mobay is and calls him out over his hypocrisy. Mobay beats Hill unconscious, but then confesses to the murder, realising he's become one of the criminals he's supposed to be fighting.
- Jazz Hoyt turns out to have been a Harvard law student who went insane and started believing himself to be a biker, which led to him actually becoming one. This meant that technically he was no longer delusional; this and the administrators' lack of interest in his past made them oblivious to any of this for a long time.
- Shillinger arranges for Chris Keller to be Tobias's new roommate when he's introduced as part of a long ploy to ingratiate him to Tobias and eventually betray him, causing sincere emotional distress. This ultimately backfires when the new roommates fall in love and proceed to cause Shillinger grief for the remainder of the series in a cycle of revenge plots.
- The X-Files: An alien invader, infiltrated as a human baseball player, eventually decided he was a better person that way. When another alien came to execute him and ordered him to show his real face, he answered that it ''was'' his real face.. Even his poisonous blood has somehow changed human when he is killed.
- Even Scully sort of qualifies as this. The original reason for her assignment to the X Files was to spy on Mulder and discredit his work. Though in her case, the powers that be chose the wrong person for the job, since it didn't take her long to become close friends with Mulder, join him on his crusade and even eventually help expose the man who gave her the assignment in the first place, Section Chief Blevins.
- When Chuck Bartowski first became the Intersect, it was an accident, and he was forced to work as a spy and foil terrorists and other bad guys against his will; a fact he complains about constantly. The show focuses on how Chuck slowly but surely begins embracing his saving the world role without coercion. Agent Walker in particular points out that although he denies, he really is a hero. At the end of Season 2, Chuck literally becomes the Intersect, again. And this time completely by choice.
- Sarah also finds herself actually falling in love with the guy she was supposed to be fake-dating for the sake of their covers.
- A flashback scene even shows that Sarah initially considered Chuck a dateless chump and that seducing him would be a "piece of cake."
- An interesting case with a nerdy British young man who became a test subject of an experiment similar to the Intersect project, except this one involves completely replacing the subject's personality with a new one in order to create a perfect mole. Unfortunately, it ends up working a little too well. The man becomes one of the most powerful criminals in the world, being none other than Alexei Volkoff, a Magnificent Bastard.
- Although he never forsook his real loyalties, undercover fed Vincent Terranova often formed strong personal connections with the criminals he investigated on Wiseguy. His friendship with Sonny Steelgrave was so genuine, Vinny openly admitted he would have allowed the mob boss to escape, had Sonny not personally beaten a man to death in front of a hidden camera.
- Doctor Who — Being stranded on Earth, Blon Fel-Fotch Passameer-Day Slitheen got to know and enjoyed the everyday human rituals she conducted as Margaret Blaine. To the point where the Doctor has to point out that she is pleading for mercy from a dead woman's lips.
- Blon also shows signs of getting too into the part earlier when her escape plan causing destruction on a global scale is discovered by The Doctor & Co. When queried why no human authorities had noticed a nuclear power plant in the middle of the city designed to go apocalyptic?
Blon: London doesn't care — the South Wales coast could fall into the sea and they wouldn't notice? Oh? I sound like a Welshman. God help me, I've gone native!
- The Doctor himself states that his "real" name doesn't matter in "The Name of the Doctor", stating that your name is a promise you make.
- In the Hartnell-era story "The Aztecs", Barbara has been mistaken by the Aztecs as a godlike reincarnated priest and assumes God Guise to play along, in the hope of influencing the culture into abolishing human sacrifice. The Doctor rants at her in a notorious scene - "You cannot change history, Barbara, not one line!" to which Barbara replies, "Not Barbara; Yetaxa". She even refers to herself with the Royal "We" from then on.
- In Mr. Monk Joins a Cult, Monk joins a cult to investigate claims that its leader murdered an ex-member, but he actually starts to get sucked in to its teachings when he finds that they help him overcome his OCD. It's also present to a lesser extent in the episodes where he goes undercover as an office worker and a butler, only to find that those jobs suit someone with his obsessions extremely well.
- On the other hand, pretending to be a hitman who happens to look identical doesn't work out so well.
- And in Mr. Monk and the Actor, an actor playing Monk in a movie based on an earlier Monk case (Mr. Monk and the Astronaut), the actor gets so wrapped up in the part that he believes he's the real Adrian Monk.
- Angel: Lilah admits to Angel in season 3 that she became her "game face" long ago.
- Happens to Quinn in Glee - she first joins the club to spy on it for Sue, hoping Finn would lose interest in Rachel if the club disbanded. She ends up enjoying the club enough that she does a complete Heel-Face Turn, even saving the club when Sue seems successful in disbanding it. (It's debatable, though, how much Quinn would have Become The Mask if her pregnancy hadn't turned her into a Fallen Princess, though.)
- Also Santana who was also a spy at first but has admitted that Glee club is the best part of her day.
- Quinn's case is a lot more complicated than a simple straight playing of the trope. For one, it could be argued (and the show gives glimpses of this) that her previous identity as Alpha Bitch and Seemingly Wholesome '50s Girl was more of an act than her role in the Glee Club, but she didn't realize it until she got pregnant and Glee was the only thing remaining from her former life. Certain scenes suggest that Quinn was under a lot of pressure from both Sue and her parents to live up to certain expectations, whereas Glee gives her more of a chance to truly express herself. So it may be more of a Secret Identity Identity - maybe we don't always know which part is "real" and which is the mask.
- Leverage has a humorous non-evil version. Eliot has to play the part of a baseball player as part of a con, but as he tells Hardison before the con, he doesn't like baseball. However, as the con goes on, it turns out that not only is Eliot really good at baseball, but he starts to enjoy it too. He even gets a sandwich named after him. It leads to the following exchange:
Nate: All right, good news, bad news.
Tara: Good news?
Nate: The mayor's hooked. We're in the pinch.
Tara: Bad news?
Nate: I think we lost Eliot until the playoffs.
- This was also the in-show reason for Sophie's absence when Gina Bellman went on maternity leave. Sophie had worked under so many different personas as a grifter that she wasn't sure who she was anymore, and she needed time to really find herself. Sophie isn't even her real name, it is merely the name she had adopted as her primary identity.
- In Season 2 of Alias, Allison Georgia Doren, disguised as a replica of Francie Calfo, actually falls in love with Will Tippin and is visibly upset when she is forced to kill him.
- In a Season 2 episode the wife of an American mathematician (guest star Christian Slater) turns out to be a Russian agent who fell in love with him for real. It also turns out her husband was an NSA agent and knew his wife was all along.
- In one episode of Xena: Warrior Princess some random guy shows up wanting to kill Xena to build his reputation as a warrior because he wants to become a great warlord. He claims to have killed other fearsome warriors as well. While he does have the skill to back up his claims, it turns out he has never killed anyone in his life — Xena realized this when she remembers that she actually killed one of the warriors he mentioned. Xena warns him that people eventually truly become what they pretend to be after a while. At the end of the episode, the guy decides to pretend to be something he can live with and try his hand at being a hero.
- Fringe: One shapeshifter at least (maybe two) got very attached to their family.
- Another example occurs with Fauxlivia, who impersonates the real Olivia in order to gain Peter's trust and eventually begins to develop genuine feelings for him.
- A similar thing happens in the Supernatural episode All Dogs Go To Heaven. A skinwalker disguises himself as a family dog, waiting for the call to attack and turn the family. He eventually grows to love the family, and almost dies to defend them.
- In an episode of White Collar, "Forging Bonds", it's shown that Neal went with the alias Nick Halden to work for Vincent Adler. As Nick Halden he meets Kate, and he has a good life going for him, to the point where Mozzie has to keep reminding him about the con he's trying to run. He even blows off the con for Kate at the con's most pivotal moment. He only came clean when Adler conned him out of every penny he had, and that was only because the old life was the only one he had left and he wanted Kate to stay with him.
- Another episode has Peter going undercover to the point that he starts to really enjoy his fake job.
- Detective Inspector Zain Nadir of The Bill is warned of how this can occur to undercover detectives who stay in a role for too long. This somewhat happens to him too when he becomes romantically involved with a drug dealer.
- In the New Tricks episode "Only The Brave" it turns out the murderer was Reverse Mole, Knowles, who had gone native in the gang he was sent in to investigate.
- Breaking Bad: Walt creates the persona Heisenberg when dealing with the criminal underworld. As he gains more and more power, the ruthless, murderous Heisenberg becomes his new personality, and the mild-mannered pushover that was Walter White becomes the mask, to no longer existing by the time season 5 rolls around.
- Jesse has two of his junkie friends infiltrate his 12-step program to sell meth to the other addicts. They don't have much success. Later Jesse learns that his dealers are actually doing the steps for real and taking pride in their recovery.
- This is what happens to Horatio's brother Ray in CSI: Miami, while he's undercover in South America. He ends up going dirty and gets killed because of it.
- Person of Interest: "John Reese" is just a cover identity he was given when he became a government assassin. He discarded his life before that and became the new identity.
- An episode of Human Target has a man find out that his wife is a deep-cover Russian spy. When Chance exposes her, he finds out that she had gotten married as part of her cover but has actually fallen in love with the guy since then. Unfortunately, her old contacts have come back expecting her to do her job. She non-fatally shoots her husband in front of her accomplices, and Chance (who figured it out) then non-fatally shoots her in front of them. The couple then get new identities, and can live without being pursued by her former partners.
- Elementary: Moriarty seduces Sherlock into a relationship in order to get close enough to him to study him. She didn't count on actually falling in love with him. This proves her undoing when Watson correctly deduces that it has happened.
- Pennsatucky on Orange Is The New Black. Prior to her trial, she was a meth-head getting her fifth abortion. When she killed a nurse at an abortion clinic for "disrespecting her", pro-life activists assume she was one of their own and raised money to get her a good lawyer. Pennsatucky played along but eventually became a hardcore, pro-life, right-wing Christian.
- In one episode of Coupling, Jane says that she once invented a "crazy" twin sister who could do all the wild things she wouldn't normally dream of doing. That sister's name was ... Jane. This actually explains a lot; on the other hand, it's Jane, so who knows?
- The Trans-Siberian Orchestra song "Promises to Keep" contains, in reference to the "Christmas Spirit," the lines:
And if our kindness
This day is just pretending
If we pretend long enough
Never giving up
It just might be who we are
- Melanie Safka's "The Good Guys" is all about this.
You're going to play the good guys
By singing the good guys' hymn —
You're building the halls with the outer walls
But you haven't got a thing within...
Eventually, the whole facade
Becomes more than a whim.
By starting to build on the outside
You're gonna fill up the walls within.
- In the most literal sense possible in Styx's "Domo Arigato Mister Roboto" music video
The time has come at last
To throw away this mask
So everyone can see
My true identity...
I'm Kilroy! Kilroy! Kilroy! Kilroy!
(He says as he removes his mask, but rather than a human face like before, he's become Mr Roboto)
Myth and folklore
- One medieval legend is a very literal taking of the trope, that of an ugly man who for years wore a mask that made him beautiful until when he finally took it off, he found that his face had grown into the mask's shape, making him truly handsome.
- At least one variant of this story has an old enemy from before he began wearing the mask slip into a party the masked man is throwing and steal his mask, hoping to ruin his enemy. Instead the above realization occurs.
- Chris Jericho originally set out with Christian to con Trish Stratus and Lita, respectively, into sleeping with them by being lovey, helpful heroes. Along the way, though, Jericho actually developed feelings for Trish and regretted the con, trying to talk his way out of it when the women found out. Trish was already feeling betrayed and well underway with a Face-Heel Turn by the time he got around to it, though.
- Wrestling vampire Gangrel had dental surgery to give himself real fangs.
- The Craftworld Eldar of Warhammer 40,000 once created a Chaos God from their excesses, and so the survivors follow a life of strict discipline called the Path. Each Eldar focuses on one role at a time - poet, artisan, warrior, seer, etc. - and cultivates a new personality based on that vocation, which can be set aside and returned to later. In the Aspect Warriors' case, part of their training is the construction of a figurative "war mask" allowing them to fully embrace their violent tendencies when needed and avoid being consumed by them, which must be mastered before the warrior is allowed to don the actual war mask of their armor. Despite such precautions, some Eldar become trapped on their current path, so that seers become Farseers obsessed with reading and altering the future, or a warrior becomes an Exarch who lives only to battle and train others for war, forgetting their past life and taking the name of the first to wear their armor.
- The Dungeons & Dragons setting Eberron has this as the basis for one of the Changeling philosophies. Natural shapeshifters, Changelings of the Passer philosophy do their best to forsake their true nature, creating an identity of another race and adopting that as their 'true being'. While they can still shapeshift, they are very uncomfortable doing so, or even reverting back into their real form, as their 'mask' becomes their true identity. The other two philosophies are similar; Seekers aim to embrace the 'ultimate form', which they believe to be an extension of the Changeling's true form, while Becomers are similar to Passers, but assume myriad different lives and identities, all equally real to the Changeling.
- The Promethean Karma Meter represents this: the better they are at acting human, the more likely they are to internalise it. Thus, they have a higher chance of succeeding in the roll to be reborn as a human.
- This is likewise what happens when a demon Falls. They've lived a cover story in order to fulfill the will of the God-Machine, perhaps one that had a profession, friends, even a family. But they only view such things intellectually, without any true connection. Once a demon Falls, the emotional context comes flooding in, and while there may still be some disconnect, all the elements of her Cover mean something.
- Personamancers in Unknown Armies base all their magic around pretending to be other people (or screwing with other peoples's self-identification). They charge their magic through pretending to be other people. Here's the catch: to gain the power for such an act, they have to really believe they're somebody else, at least a little. And gaining recognition as themselves kills their power. One of the quickest ways to gain power is to pretend to be somebody else into a mirror for one hour. Do that every day for years and eventually, you start to buy it...
- This has been the fate of more than one Scorpion spy in Legend of the Five Rings. In fact the sourcebook "Secrets of the Scorpion" notes that the spymaster who trains these men sometimes cries quietly in the night after having portrayed a brave and noble hero, beloved by many. He assumed the role by murdering the hero and living their life for five years, during which he performed true feats of heroism to maintain the cover. He has never impersonated anyone ever since.
- In BattleTech, the Wolf's Dragoons mercenary unit was originally a scout unit from Clan Wolf sent to spy on the Inner Sphere. When the main Clan force invaded, however, the Dragoons changed sides and fought for the Successor States.
- Bertolt Brecht's Man Equals Man is made of this trope. The plot centers on harmless everyman Galy Gay, who runs into a group of British soldiers on the way home from the market. Because they don't want to be punished for losing group member Jeraiah Jip while out drinking, they ask Galy Gay to take his place for roll call. When that's done, the group leader decides to completely change Gay's personality just for the lulz. One fake elephant, staged funeral, and castration later, the new Galy Gay/Jeraiah Jip is enthusiastically leading a savage attack on rebel forces in Tibet. (In the meantime, the old Jeraiah has assumed the place of an oracle at the temple where he woke up hung over.)
- Charlie Baker from The Foreigner. By the end of the play, Charlie has become the Foreigner to the point that he remains in character around Froggy, the one character who knows he really speaks English.
- In Martin Guerre, Arnaud du Thil is initially reluctant to assume the identity of his friend Martin, but as the musical progresses he grows to love Martin's village, life, and especially his wife Bertrande. By the time he is put on trial for 16th century identity theft, he seems to really consider himself 'Martin Guerre' and even sings a reprise of Martin's song, 'I'm Martin Guerre.'
- Happens in Ever17 with Kaburaki "The Kid" Ryougo impersonating Kuranari Takeshi in Kid's (Hokuto's) routes. It's done so well that half of the plot hinges on it, but Kaburaki gets a little bit too intimate with his fake personality. A given, since he's been practicing non-stop since 2017.
- Between Tsukihime and Melty Blood, Meido Kohaku goes from sinister Chessmaster with no emotions who is planning the downfall of the Tohno family through drugging them; to really being the lovable goofball she pretends to be; who possibly makes robots and rides around on a broom in her spare time.
- Note, however, that the robots and broom-riding may have been influenced by Tatari, and she's STILL trying to play everyone like saps. She's just more...nice...about it.
- In Hisui's route it's revealed that she was becoming the mask, she just followed through on her plan anyway because she had no idea what else to do. In her own route, the mask starts to crack when Shiki pays attention to her and she reveals she honestly has no idea how she really feels anymore, so she leaves for a little while and becomes/reverts back to a very sweet, kind person.
- As part of Robbie's secret identity in Grisaia No Rakuen, he married a storekeeper's daughter and inherited their soba shop. She's actually a CIA agent who pretended to marry him as part of her cover and then grew more serious about it. Good thing too, otherwise she might never have learned what Yuuji was like after getting out from under the thumb of Heath Oslo and simply shot him.
- An interesting example occurs with Anevka in Girl Genius. After being damaged in an experiment as a young girl, her body is stuck in a nutrient tank and attached to a Clank that allows her to interact with the outside world. At least, until her brother reveals she died years ago; the Clank ended up developing its own personality and came to believe it was Anevka. In other words, the mask became her.
- The "bad" version happened in the backstory of Juvenile Diversion: Courtney "infiltrated" the cheerleaders to get revenge on them, then promptly became just as much of a bitch as them.
- There's an interesting mental disorder in Mary Sue Academy called Character Shock Syndrome Sue. It's where a Mary Sue become the character they portray. Jessica Pluto suffers this.
- In The Order of the Stick, Belkar's 'fake character development' is turning into actual character development, bit by bit, thanks to Mr. Scruffy.
- After Durkon dies and then raised as a vampire in order to save him, Belkar refuses to accept that Vampire!Durkon is just Durkon with an alignment adjustment to Lawful Evil. He cares enough about Durkon's sacrifice that he stands by this stance even when it it cost him points with the Order that he pretended to have character development in order to get. Belkar's reason for not believing is that Vampire!Durkon went from saving his life to trying to drain him dry far to fast for it to be character development.
- Kevin & Kell has a pretty mild example when Fiona chose to disguise herself as her boyfriend Rudy to avoid paparazzi. Unfortunately, she started to act like Rudy as well: moody, lazy, irresponsible. Rudy had to literally knock the disguise off her by acting responsible. Fiona later vowed to avoid this trope so much by choosing to disguise herself as someone with as much work ethic as herself. (Since she chose Lindesfarne, it works...but she starts craving bugs.)
- A shorter example was one strip where a group of predators fell into the rabbit warren, forcing them to disguise themselves as rabbits until they find a way out. At least one of them ended up spending the rest of his life there, growing old and marrying and still wearing that rabbit disguise.
- In Sticky Dilly Buns, Ruby disguises herself as the rather "sketchy" guy "Rudy" while helping Dillon with a Zany Scheme. It soon seems to do her confidence some good, and she specifically claims that "Rudy" is rubbing off on her. Even if this it serves as an excuse for her snarking at Dillon, she perhaps manages more and sharper snarking than usual — and then she uses that confidence to save a distressed Dillon from an annoying guy, at a little personal risk and despite the fact that she doesn't especially like Dillon.
- In Survival of the Fittest version three this happened to Dominica Shapiro, who initially joined the group SADD on the off chance their plan would work, with the intent on a double cross if not, but gradually became more and more part of the group properly.
- In Plague and Treachery on the Oregon Trail, it's revealed that Susan was a British spy sent to overthrow America from the inside, but she eventually came to love the family she created as a cover, and abandoned her assignment.
- Wannabe Heroine Taylor, the protagonist of Worm starts off joining the Undersiders due to a combination of looking evil and the heroes needing information on them. Over time her disillusionment with the heroes and the friendship she finds among her team complicates things, and she decides to stay with them. Interesting in that it's a hero to villain example, although most of the superheroes and supervillains have Greyand Grey Morality.
- While everybody in Suburban Knights is trying to stay in-character, several of them do so with more...commitment than others. Obscurus Lupa claims that she should be useless in battle because of her character choice, Paw Dugan tries to gather rage from everybody (including the trees), and Phelous seems to have gone right off the deep end. MarzGurl also seems to be joining the throng, what with speaking only in Japanese, scenting the air and biting the Critic on various portions of his anatomy.
- In the end, Phelous reveals he was just acting and Lupa said 'fuck it' and joined Angry Joe in shooting things with a machine gun
- Played for Drama with The Nostalgia Critic's entire running time. First intended to be a Cartman-like figure, he moved away from that quickly and started doing good things because he was desperate for people to love him. In Suburban Knights, he started to selflessly care for people and by To Boldly Flee and beyond, he's a true hero who takes every opportunity he can to care for his universe.
- A fair amount of the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanbase started out as Internet trolls who started pretending to be obsessive fans of the show just to get other people confused and/or irritated. It's My Little Pony, what teenage boy or man could possibly enjoy such a series? Well, as the trolling went on, the majority of them started to find all the little Parental Bonuses and Shout Outs, and of course, Lauren Faust's contributions to the show, making it fun to watch even for the parents of the target demographic (girls aged 5-10). The trolls started legitimately liking the show. Some even stopped their pony-themed trolling out of respect.
- Dramatic Detective of LIS_DEAD admits in the comments of an early post that he identifies himself more closely with some of his aliases than the name his own mother gave him.
- When she got turned into Vriska in We Are Our Avatars, Nichole has attempted several times to convince people she's the actual Vriska for fun, and as a result has gained a lot of Vriska's habits such as the speech quirks and the obsession with levels. However, she's astonishingly terrified of becoming a "8luh8luh Huge 8itch" like Vriska, and is constantly asking people to keep her in check to prevent her from going off the deep end.
- After Joel from Housepets! was turned into a dog named King by Pete partly to teach him a lesson and partly because Pete needed a convenient avatar for his cosmic game (of D&D), he starts off hating it and everything about it. In time though, he starts enjoying it so much (especially after falling in love with a dog called Bailey) that when offered a choice he recognises that his new life is better than his old one and decides to stay as a corgi.
- Some tribal cultures have rituals in which a mask causes the wearer to become the god or spirit it represents.
- The Edwardian Country House: The Olliff-Cooper family quickly adopts the lifestyle of the upper class despite knowing it is reality television. , , , 
- When you act out a role, it naturally becomes less and less of an act, as seen with method actors and army drill sergeants.
- Psychologist Philip Zimbardo cut short his famous Stanford Prison Experiment when he realized that he was beginning to think like the sadistic prison guards he was studying. It only took six days out of a planned two weeks for his test subjects to fully internalize their roles; of these once ordinary people, those chosen to be guards exhibited genuine sadism, and those chosen to be prisoners exhibited genuine helplessness and submission.
- A Russian Intrepid Reporter, Yaroslava Tankova, went undercover as a Gold Digger to write a series of articles about such women in 2008-2009. In the last article she admitted that she almost wanted to give up journalism and become one.
- C. S. Lewis said in the preface to "Screwtape Proposes a Toast" that while lots of people requested a sequel to The Screwtape Letters, for the longest time he refused to write one because even though the original book was the easiest thing to write that he had ever produced in his life, it was a horrific and stifling experience to have to make himself think like Screwtape and basically become a demon.
- He also said that those who are afraid that they can't "love their neighbor" should just act as if they did and the rest would take care of itself. He said that the whole point of ritual and formalised prayer was that you could 'dress up' as a saint - and thereby become one.
- In World War II, after the Italians turned against the Nazis, the Germans coached an Italian petty thief to pose as an aristocratic Italian general and convince several captured resistance fighters to spill their secrets. He set out instead to be an inspiring figure who'd help the men hold onto their information and their pride. When the Germans executed him for betraying them, he died still maintaining the false identity. This was made into a movie, General della Rovere, in 1959.
- ATF agent William Queen spent two years undercover as Billy St. John, a member of the Mongols motorcycle gang, and admits he grew to liking the gang he was in and found them kinder than many law abiding folks he knew. He felt somewhat sorry for turning them in when his job investigating and spying on the gang was over.
- Undercover agents and officers undergo extensive psychological testing, and extensive training, specifically to avert this trope. Unfortunately for Pistone, he went deep cover before any of this and had to rely on his own values.
- One of the tenets of Alcoholics Anonymous is "Fake It Till You Make It": By forcing yourself to act a certain way even if you don't like it, it eventually becomes a habit.
- If a person fakes a smile (or a frown) their mood will be affected accordingly, at least a little bit. Try smiling right now, you'll feel better!
- People who freeze their faces with anti-wrinkle chemicals such as Botox are shown to not feel as sad or as happy as other people.
- Lalla Ward once said in a Doctor Who Magazine interview that the reason she and Tom Baker got married was because they played the Doctor and Romana Like an Old Married Couple, and then mistook that for actually being in love.
- Method Acting is all about Becoming the Mask (or the character) for a role.
- Peter Sellers had said on numerous occasions "There is no 'Me'; I do not exist." As an actor, he became his role and often had a hard time shaking it off afterward.
- Robin Williams stays in character off set until the film is done. When he performed the chilling lead role in One Hour Photo, his wife was so upset she told him she would divorce him if he took another role like that.
- Hugh Laurie really did develop soreness in his back and leg from constantly limping in his role as Dr. Greg House... though this is slightly different, since it actually does stress the body to force it to move unnaturally, and especially so because House uses the cane on the wrong side. He also kept the accent even when flubbing lines.
- Christian Bale did interviews for the Batman movies in the same accent that he uses in the movies to avoid those who don't know his other works. Pretty jarring during the MTV Movie Awards when he spoke to Brandon Routh using his natural accent.
- Similarly, Bale spoke with an American accent during his infamous rant on the set of Terminator Salvation.
- Andy Kaufman was a vegan in real life but ate meat when portraying the Jerk Ass lounge singer Tony Clifton because Clifton ate meat.
- Several friends have expressed concern about Daniel Whitney, aka Larry the Cable Guy. Larry was initially just one personality in Whitney's stand-up routine, but quickly became the entire show, and has over the years Whitney has taken on more of Larry's mannerisms.
- It is quite common that actors portraying characters who are close friends will also become friends in Real Life.
- William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy are nearly as close as Captain Kirk and Commander Spock are. The were both close with DeForrest Kelley.
- Cirroc Lofton and Avery Brooks of Deep Space Nine developed a real son-father type relationship away from the set.
- The actors who play Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson always seem to end up being extremely close friends in real life. Casting for modern adaptations mainly focused on the chemistry of the two leads so they would invoke this trope.
- Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke are prime examples: Hardwicke, who played Watson from "The Empty House" onward, would try to help Brett while he was battling bipolar disorder.
- Frasier actors Kelsey Grammer and John Mahoney.
- The core cast of Boy Meets World (Ben Savage, Danielle Fishel, Rider Strong, and Will Friedle) have all become True Companions in Real Life, much as their characters (Cory, Topanga, Shawn, and Eric, respectively) did on the show.
- Christopher Reeve became to be considered as noble a man as Superman - first when he went to Chile under the tyranny of Augusto Pinochet to help some arrested actors despite the obvious risk to his life, and after he became a crusader for the disabled after his riding accident.
- The converse of this is sadly also possible. Warren Mitchell and Tony Booth, who played a feuding father- and son-in-law duo in Till Death Do Us Part came to loath each other in real life. Mitchell still cannot bring himself to refer to Booth by his first name.
- An aversion is shown in A Bright Shining Lie by Neil Sheehan. US advisor John Vann builds up ARVN officer Colonel Huynh Van Cao as a Blood Knight anti-communist tiger in the belief that this trope would come into effect. However Cao often refused to close with and destroy Viet Cong forces when he had the opportunity to do so, as President Diem had ordered casualties to be kept to a minimum, and the propaganda image the Americans had built up prevented them from acknowledging the flaws in the South Vietnamese military.
- Theodore Roosevelt: Born a sickly asthmatic at the pinnacle of privilege, he built up a persona as a rugged man of action. By the time of the Spanish-American War, he was a rugged man of action.
- A common dating tip for men who have trouble approaching women because of low self-confidence is "Pretend that you've got a lot of confidence. After a while you'll find that you don't need to fake it anymore." Similar tricks may work for socialization in general.
- A softer version of this trope is that spies and other undercover operatives often grow to enjoy the activities of their cover job. Many of the maintain links with it even after their mission has ended. It helps that a cover job is many times one they had an interest in anyway. Several retired spies who were "cultural attaches" became genuine proponents of cultural exchanges for example.
- A problem for people who operate in paramilitary and guerilla units is how hard it can be to go back to normal life from being a fighter. Once you've had to pretend to be tough to get the mission done, you'll find that you really do have it in you to be tough. This may sound nice up until that moment when you discover that you are becoming more inclined to stab people in the face when you not on duty.
- In the aftermath of World War One, the German Army sent a number of men to infiltrate the then fledgling Nazi Party as spies for the Weimar government. Among them? Future SA leader Ernst Roehm and... Yeah.