Beneath the Mask
aka: The Pixy Misa Theory
Be careful around this girl, she will kick your butt because looks aren't everything...
"We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes."
— Paul Laurence Dunbar
"Everbody wears the mask, but how long will it last?"
Virtually everyone has to wear a public mask in order to be accepted by others. That's a simple fact of human psychology. When circumstances (such as anonymity, strong emotion, or sufficient power) allow a character to take off that mask and act in complete accord with their inclinations, they reveal what's beneath the mask.
The secrets this mask hides are varied and are not always dark. A villain, for example, might be hiding a soft spot
Sometimes a person may never know they had a hidden self before the mask comes off. The change is even a surprise to them. Other times the person is well aware of their hidden self and are determined to keep it hidden. This hidden self that people don't show to others is what Beneath the Mask is about.
This hidden self is sometimes portrayed as "the real self". Occasionally the person actually wants someone to see their hidden side (the "real me") but for some reason can never get people to see it. More complex works might argue that the hidden self is just a part of the real self, and that the public self is also part of the real self.
The concept in Western philosophy originated with Carl Jung
, who referred to the mask people wear in public as the "persona", and their hidden desires as their "shadow."
Related to GIFT
and What You Are in the Dark
. Often used in conjunction with Jerk with a Heart of Gold
, Jerkass Façade
, Bitch in Sheep's Clothing
, Sugar and Ice Personality
, and The Proud Elite
. Obfuscating Stupidity
and Obfuscating Insanity
can be subtropes, as can A Darker Me
Not to be confused with Hidden Depths
or Rich Idiot with No Day Job
, which are about skills and roles rather than personality. Compare and contrast Becoming the Mask
, where the facade itself actually becomes part of the character's personality.
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Anime and Manga
- Magical Project S: Misao Amano's normal self is that of a stereotypical Shrinking Violet friendless, blue-haired Ill Girl. However, this persona falls away when she's transformed into Pixy Misa, the manifestation of her deeply repressed id: an egomaniacal Chaotic Evil jealous Dark Magical Girl trickster.
- Death Note: An Alternate Character Interpretation for Light Yagami. The Death Note only showed his true colors. And conversely, even in full-blown Kira mode, he still realizes that he cares a lot for his little sister.
- Sakura is a perfect example: her inner side shows us what she actually thinks about something but is not willing to say or do. Although Inner Sakura hasn't been seen since the timeskip, and Sakura is now more willing to say what's really on her mind. A bit of a cross between Becoming the Mask and Character Development.
- One theory is that Sakura broke out of her Stepford Smiler attitude and embraced "Inner Sakura" after it helped her break out of Ino's body switch jutsu during the Chuunin Exam.
- Meditating at the Waterfall of Truth reveals the depths beneath Naruto's own Stepford Smiler habit. He had truly hated and despised the villagers who treated him poorly, and questioned the sincerity of their change of heart regarding him, but he buried those feelings deep down. Due to the Nine-Tailed Fox's presence, they coalesced to form a split personality who would feel all the negative emotions Naruto refused.
- This aspect of Naruto was hinted at early on when Karin encountered him and got a feel of his chakra. To her surprise, his chakra had three layers: Bright, warm, and comforting; dark, cold and overwhelming; and corrosive, chaotic and sinister. The last one is from the Nine-Tailed Fox's; the first two polar opposites were Naruto's.
- Played with in Itachi: The first time the mask "slips", he's crazily taunting his brother and showing obsession with power. It later turns out this was him trying to goad Sasuke into killing him, and doesn't resemble his real personality at all. It really turns out that he's an extremely Tragic Villain who despises himself for his Necessarily Evil actions and loves his brother more than anything else in the world, even the love for his village that forced him into destroying the Uchiha clan. The Stoic personality, however, is just who he is; apparently he was born without the ability to express emotion.
- Later, in the Ten-Tails Revival Arc, Naruto calls Obito out on this after their chakras link and Naruto learns of Obito's entire past and his true emotions. Obito never truly let go of the Will of Fire he always cherished as a child, but to go forth with the Moon's Eye Plan, Obito convinced himself that he doesn't care about anything anymore, even his Team Minato, when in reality, they meant the world to him.
- Grings Kodai from the Pokémon Movie Pokémon: Zoroark: Master of Illusions seems at first to be a friendly businessman who cares for his own city...it turns out he's actually trying to destroy said city's ecosystem so that he can renew his ability to see the future and is also horribly abusive towards Pokémon.
- Code Geass plays with this trope. Lelouch Lamperouge is a Brilliant but Lazy highschool student living in Area 11, a Britannia-occupied territory formerly known as Japan. When we first see him, he's skipping class in order to do some high-stakes gambling. He seems to regard everything with indifference or disdain, and as we get to know him, it becomes clear that he has a strong sense of justice but has come to accept that there's nothing he can do to fix his government's deep-seated corruption and institutionalized racism. Then he gets superpowers. He maintains his Rich Idiot with No Day Job facade to avoid suspicion, but secretly becomes Zero, a masked freedom fighter dedicated to dismantling the most powerful government in the world. The series heavily contemplates identity and character, and repeatedly addresses the irony that Lelouch needs to put on a literal mask in order to take off his metaphorical one.
- It should also be mentioned that in his conversations with CC Lelouch strongly implies that he was planing to overthrow Britannia since he was a child, gaining the Geass simply meant that he could start much earlier and move much quicker than he otherwise would have been able to. As such one can say that his hidden personality was already simmering in the depths of his lazy life before the story kicks in.
- His father's ultimate plan? To remove all "masks" via an Assimilation Plot.
- Also happens to be the case with Mao, who we first see as a Wicked Cultured Manipulative Bastard with mind-reading powers. It's only after he Mind Rapes Shirley, beats Lelouch at chessnote , and sets up a Batman Gambit to get the two of them to kill each other (which nearly works) that we discover he's really a deeply-hurt Psychopathic Manchild with a very good Freudian Excuse.
- The manga version of Neon Genesis Evangelion pulled off a Type C with Asuka: she acted like the stereotypical good girl around Misato and Kaji while being a total jerk to everyone else. Once Misato revealed that she knows Asuka's true personality and she doesn't have to hide it, Asuka became a full-blown Tsundere with an extra helping of Hair-Trigger Temper.
- In the anime, this is what Rei actually is, though initially, it appears she is simply an Emotionless Girl.
- Essentially everyone in Princess Tutu, but particularly:
- Fakir, initially portrayed as a selfish, manipulative jerkass, accidentally reveals himself to be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold when Ahiru is briefly stuck as a duck and he falls under the influence of Cuteness Proximity.
- Kraehe is initially portrayed as doing things just For the Evulz, but by the end, it's revealed that she only wanted to be loved.
- Gundam Build Fighters has Aila Jyrkiäinen, who appears to be an Emotionless Girl with an icy, detached view of the world. Episode 10, however, reveals her Cuteness Proximity and excitable emotions when it comes to food. In the end of Episode 21, she abandons her stoic masquerade entirely.
- Beet the Vandel Buster has Grineed, who actually wears a literal mask (more like an extra outer skin) to keep himself calm and composed, instead of the raging beast that is underneath. Needless to say, Beet and the squad bust it out of him pretty quick.
- In Kare Kano, Arima is insanely scared of what's beneath his.
- Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl has the protagonist who gradually feels more and more free to act more feminine.
- Seems to be a theme in Durarara!!, where pretty much everyone involved, up to and including the district of Ikebukero, has a hidden second side beneath the personalities they show to the world.
- Kurei from Flame of Recca personifies this trope, he even wears a mask! He may seem like one of the most cruel, heartless and sadistic characters in the series, but most of his actions are driven by his love for people he cares about.
- Higurashi no Naku Koro ni sort of plays around with this, where in first and last arc of the anime's first season the characters discuss social masks and not speaking about things they don't want to speak about, such as in the first arc, both Keiichi's and Rena's hiding their respective Dark and Troubled Pasts, and in the last arc, Keiichi hiding that he killed Rena and Mion in the first arc.
- However, it's played more straight with Rika in the second season, where although everyone knows about her place in the Furude family, she acts like a child usually would at her age. At least, the age everyone thinks she is. However, when she's seen alone with Hanyuu, she acts much more like a stoic, or even a Determined Defeatist.
- Barnaby Brooks Jr. from Tiger & Bunny has two masks superimposed on one another. The first is the guise of a charming, skilled ace that hides a rude, untrusting Ice King beneath it. The rude, untrusting Ice King mask in turn hides a traumatized, lonely man who doesn't know what to do with his life beyond getting revenge on the organization that assassinated his family.
- Haruhi Suzumiya: Sometimes the only way to determine that Kyon has leaked a comment instead of internally snarking it is when another character responds to it. In addition the title character does not know that he's leading a conspiracy to keep her from her true abilities and so sees the silent snarking as silent support.
- Also, Itsuki Koizumi is implied to have much more going on under his always-smiling, friendly, easy-going exterior than meets the eye, especially in those few moments when he slips up and lets a little of his anger, stress, or loneliness show. Confirmed in Volume 11 when he goes completely ballistic at Fujiwara for trying to kill Haruhi. Also, Haruhi takes him as her ever-loyal ally without realizing he is The Chessmaster behind much of what goes on.
- In Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, Fai's personality change following the events of Acid Tokyo is a powerful example of this trope.
- Several characters in Life are like this, typically to mask their Jerk Ass side.
- In Kimi No Iru Machi when Haruto first meets Eba Rin he wonders how such a level headed person could be related to Yuzuki, even if only as step-sisters. Eventually Rin gets tired enough of the mask that she completely discards it with Haruto, in fact she is more honest with herself around Haruto and eventually Yuzuki that she doesn't put it back on around them, leading her to change just a little bit.
- Maho Nishizumi of Girls und Panzer typically acts as an Aloof Big Sister to Miho. However, beneath that mask lies a kinder individual, who gets along well with her family maids, is willing to lend Mako her team's helicopter to help her visit her grandmother in the hospital, and strives to live up to being Nishizumi heir mainly so that Miho can live and do tankery the way she wishes.
- In Toradora! Ami is, to her classmates, a cute, sweet, fresh-faced model that's a bit of an idiot. But to the people that know her well, she's stubborn, sometimes bitchy and actually quite manipulative. It's mentioned several times that she genuinely wishes people would accept her "true" self, but is afraid of how people would react.
- Sasame from Prétear is outwardly flirty, cheerful and quick to offer up a listening ear, but is secretly struggling with bitterness and depression due to unrequited love. In the anime his mask eventually comes off after he more or less has an emotional breakdown, while in the manga his mask slips off occasionally, but he continues to try to keep up the act until the end.
- During the Soul Society arc, Byakuya goes to considerable lengths (like, nearly-letting-his-adopted-sister-get-executed lengths) to maintain the mask of the perfect, stoic Seireitei noble, bound by two conflicting vows that could not be resolved until Ichigo intervened. The end of the arc reveals that he really wants nothing more than to protect Rukia. And while he still puts some importance on keeping up appearances in later arcs, we also get to see a much more three-dimensional underlying personality: a Hot-Blooded Bratty Half-Pint with a Hair-Trigger Temper who learns to keep his cool and grows up to be a Father to His Men. He even discovers he enjoys a fight for the sake of a fight.
- Ryuuken also has a stoic Proud Elite persona that obscures his gentle, protective, and intensely caring inner self. The unique aspect to Ryuuken's lifelong mask, however, is that he has completely reversed it while maintaining the masquerade. In his teens, as heir to a powerful bloodline, he was expected to behave as an example for all Quincies and tended to disguise his true intentions behind a facade of rigid adherence to tradition. At some point during the last 20 years, this flipped to a facade of completely disowning his family heritage, while still hiding the same softer intentions. Uryuu believes his father to be a hypocritical, intolerant, money-obsessed Dr. Jerk who refuses to use his power and hates his son...a conclusion Ryuuken's actively encouraging. Only Isshin seems to know Ryuuken's true intentions, and considers him a trustworthy friend.
- Sailor Moon has Minako Aino. She's always nice and ditzy, a boy-crazy prankster apparently harmless... And yet it's made clear that a large part of this is a well-constructed act: if circumstances require her to act mature she'll show a surprising wisdom and empathy, if you manage to see through the mask and tell her she's more than willing to admit it (and if she doesn't trust you, you're better start begging before she kills you), and if you piss her off, you're dead. What she'll never do is show her chronic depression (and boy, she has good reasons to be depressed...).
- The whole point of Shugo Chara!.
- Kobeni's older sister in Engaged to the Unidentified is a model straight-A student at their school, is the Student Council President, and is famous not only for her industriousness at campus, but for her community work outside of it as well. She has many open admirers among the male and female segments of the student body. However this is a well-constructed facade — at home or with her family, Benio true personality surfaces: a laid back and outright teasing teenager who dotes on her younger sister a little too much, and currently fixates on her much-younger prospective sister-in-law Mashiro.
- In Attack on Titan, quite a few characters have built up public masks to hide portions of their true personalities or characters, with some even Becoming the Mask as a result.
- Krista hides her true insecurities by very purposefully acting as The Pollyanna, something that she's repeatedly called out on by her closest friend, Ymir. Ironically, Ymir herself has built up a very intentional Jerkass Façade to keep others at arm's length and conceal her true kindness.
- Commanding officers such as Erwin, Pixis, and Levi build up a public persona in order to function in a professional manner. For Erwin and Levi, their cold and unemotional masks keep their very human vulnerabilities hidden from public view, while Pixis often behaves like a foolish old man to hide his true cunning and ruthlessness.
- Annie's cold and aloof demeanor keeps most people at bay, though Eren and Armin both state that she's a much kinder person than she wants people to realize. When her mask finally does slip away, it's particularly unnerving and tragic at the same time.
- Reiner hides his extensive issues beneath a cheerful and reassuring mask, always playing the reliable big brother so that others will feel more confident. Bertolt, his childhood friend, keeps his emotions hidden beneath a soft-spoken and stoic demeanor. When he finally does reveal his emotions and speaks up for himself, it startles everyone — characters and audience alike. Justified, in that both are Titan spies living in deep cover. Reiner's mask hides a ruthless and deeply pessimistic person, while Bertolt's disguises his true kindness in order to cope with his actions.
- The Sentry, though he pretends to be a Lawful Good hero, has a dark side that manifests against his will.
- Jean Grey's Phoenix persona was retconned to be her actual innermost personality, not a separate entity. It is very different from her public persona.
- The notion that it was a separate entity was itself a Retcon, and Phoenix was always supposed to be Jean Grey's more passionate, "dark" side. Mastermind's messing with her head was originally what made the "superpowered side" evil.
- Black Adam of Captain Marvel was chosen as a champion of justice, but when he received superpowers he didn't react as his patrons expected him to.
- Anya's Ghost is largely about hiding behind masks. Anya goes to great lengths to hide her nationality and blend in at school, while Elizabeth hides her knowledge about her boyfriend Sean's wandering love life to maintain the illusion (and delusion) that her relationship is an envious one, and Emily hides her nature as a Yandere (and murderer) so that she can live through Anya vicariously.
- Outwardly, X-23 is The Stoic bordering on an outright Emotionless Girl, and many characters (even people who are ostensibly her friends) treat her like she's nothing but a cold, unfeeling killing machine. Underneath he cold facade, however, she's a confused and suicidally depressed jumble of loneliness, heartbreak, and rage. Her detached persona is there entirely because she doesn't know how to handle what she feels, and to protect others from her anger.
- Deadpool is known as the Merc with a mouth due to his wit and constant and often nonsensical talking. This carefree and jovial nature is actually a mask under which is severe depression and self-loathing resulting from the many, many tragedies and tortures he has endured. It has compounded more so in recent issues with the death of his former love interest and the possible death of their daughter.
- Cenotaph plays this in an interesting way. Taylor is already very emotionally remote, due to the abuse she suffered at Emma, Sophia, and Madison's hands. When she wakes up from her coma in Calling Card 1.5, she reflects that she should feel more sadness than she does. After all her father was just murdered because of her, her BSOD fugue lasts until she visits her mother's grave, when she finally breaks down. This theme is repeated in Coordination 4.2, during the funeral.
- Seen in a Danny Phantom Fan Fic called Masks In which Danny's double life has caused Mr Lancer to keep him in school for the entire weekend with Jack and Maddie's blessing in order to find out why he is slipping up so badly. One notable thing that the author does to expand on the superhero masks is that Danny is actually wearing three masks to hide who he is.
- In DC Nation, Fauna lampshades this when it comes to Nightwing. After seeing him as Dick Grayson, she wrote in her Character Blog that not many people put a mask on when they want to be themselves.
- Inverted by Jack O'Lantern in Ultimate Spider-Woman: Change With The Light. Although he wears a public mask to be accepted by his fellow citizens, he also begins wearing a ghoulish pumpkin-headed costume and committing increasingly deadly crimes to reveal his true personality. He is well aware of the irony in wearing a mask to reveal his true face, but he considers himself superior to the pathetic, mindless sheep and cattle that make up most of the rest of society because he's willing to embrace just what he really is.
- You Obey is built around this trope, and is all the more chilling for it.
- In the Legend of Zelda high school AU fic Break My Fall, Vaati has been in love with Green for years, and is using intimidation as a means to cover up his insecurities. Not only that, but he was friends with Blue in grade school, making Blue the only person who has even an inkling to what he's really like.
- In Out Of The Dead Land, Bucky initially wears the mask of the person he wants to be (i.e. the old, non-traumatized Bucky that Steve remembers), then the mask of the empty, unfeeling Winter Soldier when the first mask is torn off. His true self ends up being somewhere in between these two extremes.
- Tangled Adventures In Arendelle: Elsa has this perhaps the most. Her training and her whole "conceal, don't feel" business has her still putting on masks of indifference or composure in order to keep her true feelings from showing. Trying to project an appearance of control and composure even in the worst of times, and to maintain her newfound control over her powers. However, by the time Frozen's movie plot is over, her more private persona is given more exploration whenever she's around Anna or the Fitzherberts. It's fairly apparent that she's a rather insecure, sad ruler, but also with a lot of passion for her family, and a great desire to move on from the worst of times.
- Referenced in the Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie: Rebellion doujinshi Matataki no Aida ni. Madoka has always seen Homura as this cool, collected girl; she's surprised to find that Homura doesn't agree.
I'm not composed. Ever. [...] When I'm talking to you
, I'm always a bit nervous.
Films — Animated
- In Beauty and the Beast, Gaston is not as nice as he seems to be (see also Villain with Good Publicity).
- Megamind thought Titan would be a lot more heroic than he turns out to be.
- Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas seems to have shades of this trope. To the citizens of Halloween Town, he's the charismatic, self-confident, terrifying Pumpkin King. What they don't know is that Jack is very unhappy and bored about doing the same thing every year and longs for something different. Then he discovers Christmastown . . .
- At the beginning Fiona acts like an stereotypical Disney Princess, before slowly revealing herself as an Action Girl.
- Shrek hides a soft spot too, particularly over his need of love.
- Gothel appears to be a loving though overprotective mother towards Rapunzel. But when Rapzunel finds out she was the lost princess and Gothel had kidnapped her all along, she reveals her true greedy nature that she would do anything to keep Rapunzel's power to herself even murder.
- Flynn's daring, thieving personality is also a mask. As well as everyone at The Snuggly Duckling.
- Elsa is the queen who represses all her emotions to keep her from endangering her own kingdom and her family. After running away from her kingdom after her powers are displayed publically, she sings the musical number 'Let it Go', which is this entire trope personified. It contrasts from her regal and repressed behaviour earlier and her much more open behaviour after this point in the film.
Films — Live-Action
- In Bridesmaids Helen is the typical Alpha Bitch. At least that's what it appears on the surface. But when she breaks down crying, she reveals she's in a loveless marriage, and just gets invited to weddings because she's good at organizing events.
- Enter the Dragon: In reference to Han, the villain, whose martial-arts tournament is a front for a really nasty operation: "You must remember... the enemy has only images and illusions, behind which he hides his true motives. Destroy the image, and you will break the enemy."
- The basic premise of The Mask is that putting on the mask unleashes your id, not only making you act like you've always wanted to, but do anything you want, cartoon physics and all.
"It's like it brings your innermost desires to life. If deep down you're a little repressed, and a hopeless romantic, you become some kind of love-crazy wild man."
- When Stanley puts on the Mask, he loses his inhibitions and acts the way he always wanted. When Dorian puts it on, though, he loses his pretenses of being an old-school Mafioso and goes straight demonic.
- In Pirates of the Caribbean Tia Dalma initially helps and even cares for Jack Sparrow, but in the third movie it is revealed that she is actually Calypso, a sea goddess. When she regains her full powers she becomes a destructive force of nature who doesn't care much about the various factions' petty struggles.
- Shows up in An Education.
- Red Eye: Jackson Rippner eventually doesn't even bother holding up the mask.
- In the film version of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the darkness tempts the main characters, showing their hidden desires.
- The knights' elaborate, mask-like helmets in the John Boorman film, Excalibur, show the real personae of the wearers.
- A major theme of Wild Things. Sam appears to be an honest, upstanding educator, but he's really a sleazy, exploitative pervert. Kelly appears to be an all-American teenage girl next door, but she's actually an angry, sexually confused cokehead who hates her family. Ray appears to be an honest if overzealous cop, but he's actually a Dirty Cop who enjoys prostitutes and is quite willing to murder anyone who pisses him off. Suzie appears to be a white-trash loser, but she's actually a brilliantly calculating Chessmaster who manipulates everyone else.
Lampshaded by Ray, although in reference to another character.
Ray: People aren't always what they appear to be, Jimmy. Don't forget that.
- Psycho - everyone, the hard working secretary who isn't, the local cop who pulls over a woman for speeding, but really they are role-playing for a more intimate encounter, everyone. Especially, of course Norman, who is really only a more extreme case.
- The World's End talks about how adults often hide their unhappiness behind outward success, houses, money, etc., as the characters reveal the problems in their seemingly successful lives. Then there's Gary, whose outward facade of cheer and energy cannot hide his depressive state.
- In Dragon Bones, Ward has been Obfuscating Stupidity for the past seven years, but that is not the only mask he wears. He eventually tells Oreg that he has been imitating a famous ancestor when acting as leader, and his father while fighting, and doesn't even know what his own true self is. Oreg says he knows Ward's true self. To the reader, it is rather obvious, as Ward instinctively saves his enemy, (little surprise, as saving people is a habit of his), and also when he consents to kill Oreg, something which Oreg counted on him to do. It Makes Sense In Context. He acts rather consistent over the course of the novel, in his actions, if not in his words and feelings. Ward's younger brother Tosten was a bit creeped out when Ward took a break from acting like a mentally retarded Gentle Giant, in order to stop Tosten from committing suicide, the one time Ward broke out of the mask prior to his father's death. (He did the pretending in order to make his father consider him harmless and not try to kill him again.)
- In Twilight, Rosalie Hale. Though she seems superior, emotionless and shallow to Bella at first, it is revealed that she actually envies Bella and is very much capable of deep feelings, loving her family, and being sad on the inside because of her inability to get pregnant.
- In The Dresden Files, wizards have two major abilities related to this.
- A Soulgaze is a one time per person link. When initiated by the wizard staring into someone's eyes for a few seconds, each sees the other's True Self.
- The Sight shows the essence of how things are — magical workings and their aftereffects are visible, people's mental and emotional trauma and strengths, etc. Anything seen with the Sight is permanently etched into the wizard's brain.
- Sherlock Holmes may be a jerk, but the one time he shows his softer side is when Watson is wounded.
- Ironically, he's not hiding his jerky side or whatever, but he does deeply care for Watson. The only time when Watson sees it, however, is when he's wounded.
- The entirety of the Ciaphas Cain novels is about a HERO OF THE IMPERIUM who secretly regards himself as a Dirty Coward whose every action was motivated by self-interest. Whether or not you believe that depends very much on how you interpret his true character.
- Inverted, in a fashion, for most of 40K's xenos races. In Cain's stories, we see these races as they would appear to someone who can't get inside their heads. We Terrans see the Orks as comic loonies because we can see through their eyes, but Cain sees them as ravening barbaric brutes. We see the Necrons as Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds because we know what their lives look like from the inside, but Cain sees them as omnicidal eldritch abominations. In short, Cain's stories allow us to see what 40K looks like when you can't see Beneath the Mask.
- In the Incarnations of Immortality novel Under a Velvet Cloak, we see Nox (the Mistress of Secrets) automatically knows EVERYONE's secrets, such as how God has tuned out of the mortal world, or even how Satan is at heart a good man who honors his agreements to the letter (twisted though that letter may be), despite being highly effective at his job as an Incarnation. Nox also has the power to reveal anyone's secrets which she uses very rarely.
- In Elias Canetti's book Crowds and Power, he speaks in detail about masks and hiding of a true-self in relation to power. For Canetti everyone wears a mask and for this reason a ruler is never able to truly trust in anyone, which is a cause of paranoia regarding betrayal. For Canetti the "unmasking" is crucial in the movements of power.
- John le Carré takes a very dark look at this in the Karla trilogy. The protagonist, George Smiley, appears to be a slightly myopic, helpless, and generally tragic old man who is genuinely sick of all the betrayals and lies that constitute his profession and that has wrecked his personal life. Only occasionally do we see why he's still in the Circus: he is brilliant and very, very good at what he does, i.e., the betrayals and lies that constitutes the intelligence life. His opponent, Karla, appears to be an iron-willed fanatic for whom taking advantage of the opposition's humanity is part of the job. It is not until Smiley's People that we see the crack in his mask: his love for his illegitimate daughter, Tatiana, who is driven insane by her inability to recognize the spymaster as her father. The ending of Smiley's People implies that beneath their masks, Smiley and Karla are Not So Different - a revelation that drives Smiley to retire for good.
- In The Gun Seller, the protagonist notes that a certain revolutionary leader puts on a different mask for every member of the cell. To one true believer, he's a fiery and passionate Che type; to the Southern hick, he's a rock and roll adventurer; to another, he's a philosophical seeker after truth. His true self is only hinted at when he instinctively strikes a small child on an airplane.
- Patrick Bateman in Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho wears the mask of a sociable, high-flying yuppie to hide his murderous desires.
- In The Pale King, Meredith Rand is so gorgeous that no one realizes how many issues she's hiding. That is, until she starts talking...
- In Beachwalker, the titular character spends much of the book pretending to everyone, including herself, that she can handle everything. Underneath, it's starting to take its toll.
- Double Subverted in Deep Space Nine Soldiers of the Empire. Klingons underneath their swagger are lonely overworked soldiers grumbling about their lot just as much as human soldiers do. But when inspired they put on their mask again and go into battle as a true Proud Warrior Race.
- Joan Foster muses on this in Lady Oracle by Margaret Atwood: having reinvented herself several times in her life, she's not particularly interested in seeing what's beneath the facades of the people she encounters, having decided that "facades were just as truthful" as what they hide.
- This is where the title comes from in Yukio Mishima's Confessions Of A Mask. One of the biggest themes is how the main character tries to appear normal in Word War II Japan and the reader is the only one to see his inner workings.
- In The Legendsong Saga Solen realises that one of the dangers of Glynn's muteness is that he talks to her as though to himself, risking lifting his mask and exposing the fact that his personality as a wastrel is just an act.
- Particularly in the Citadel, it is said that courtiers just wear layer upon layer of masks. The protagonists' allies are notable for having the fewest masks, and liking them the least.
- The Reynard Cycle: Reynard is, outwardly, a Deadpan Snarker, who likes to trade Witty Banter with his foes while engaging in dramatic swordplay. When he loses his cool however . . .
- In Words of Radiance, we get to see, just for an eyeblink, Shallan Davar's true face:
An image formed in front of her, born of Stormlight, created by instinct. She hadn't needed to draw this image first, for she knew it too well.
The image was of herself. Shallan, as she should be. Curled in a huddle on the bed, unable to weep for she had long since run out of tears. This girl... not a woman, a girl... flinched whenever spoken to. She expected everyone to shout at her. She could not laugh, for laughter had been squeezed from her by a childhood of darkness and pain.
That was the real Shallan. She knew it as surely as she knew her own name. The person she had become instead was a lie, one she had fabricated in the name of survival.
Live Action TV
- Lady Gaga's song "Poker Face" is about this; the title refers to how it's customary to mask emotions as much as possible when playing poker to avoid giving anything away.
- Electric Six has stated that they play disco dance music because it's "exactly what we are not."
- Pink Floyd sang of this trope in their song In the Flesh: "So ya, thought ya might like to go to the show/To feel the warm thrill of confusion—that space cadet glow/Tell me, is something eluding you, sunshine? Is this not what you expected to see?/If you wanna find out what's behind these cold eyes, you'll just have to claw your way through this disguise!"
- Britney Spears' "If U Seek Amy" video shows off how conflicting public and private selves can lead to confusion in the media. How certain people put on an act to maintain a fanbase or a group of supporters.
- The song "True Colors" from Cyndi Lauper. Makes a mention to this trope.
- The song "Mr Roboto" by Styx uses this trope. "I am the Modren man/Who hides behind a mask/So no one else can see/My true identity."
- Billy Joel's "The Stranger" is about what a person is beneath the mask. "We all have a face, that we hide away forever / And we take them out and show ourselves when everyone has gone..."
- He gets pretty cynical about it. The song is about how no matter how close you are to a lover, there are some secrets you never tell, and you shouldn't be surprised if they're hiding their nature from you - because you're doing the same to them.
- Adding the qualifier: "We may never understand how the Stranger is inspired / But he is not always evil, and he is not always wrong."
- The Beatles' "I'm a Loser" : "Although I laugh and I act like a clown / Beneath this mask I am wearing a frown"
- Boyce Avenue "More Things to Say" : "All we know is the mask and not your face"
- The track "The Mask" by The Fugees on The Score is about people pretending to be somebody or something else behind a mask.
- Explored deeply in Jekyll & Hyde, most notably with the song Facade and its numerous reprises.
There's a face that we wear in the cold light of day/ It's society's mask, it's societies way/ And the truth is... That it's all a facade.
- Fiyero in Wicked pretends to be a carefree, "brainless" playboy, but there's more to him than meets the eye, as Elphaba reveals after they rescue the Lion cub. Cue the beginnings of Character Development.
Elphaba: You could have just walked away back there.
Elphaba: So no matter how shallow and self-absorbed you pretend to be—
Fiyero: Excuse me! There's no pretense here. I happen to be genuinely self-absorbed and deeply shallow.
Elphaba: No, you're not. Otherwise you wouldn't be so unhappy.
- Ace Attorney:
- Dahlia Hawthorne. She seems so sweet and innocent. She actually has the most intended murder victims, at seven. One of which was Phoenix himself. She is a very nasty person.
- We also have Phantom from Dual Destinies. Beneath the mask of a cheery, hammy detective lies more masks. And beneath those masks, each coated with sociopathy and ruthlessness, there's nothing.
- Lesteena in Eien no Aselia isn't sure whether her normal personality or the one she pretends to be when she gets a chance to relax is the real one. The answer seems to be both and neither.
- Tohsaka in Fate/stay night is a bit of a funny example. She acts like a perfect and kind student, but beneath that she's irritable, dishonest about her feelings, Not a Morning Person, selfish and something of a troll. However, beneath that is something she doesn't seem entirely aware of: She values people's lives a great deal, will die for others, values fair play and honesty and is actually rather kind. Nor is she as ruthless as she thinks she is.
- Almost every character in Hatoful Boyfriend is putting on a front of some kind. All the main characters appear to be dating sim stereotypes - the Childhood Friend, the Rich Kid, the Popular Kid et cetera. They're all hiding facets of themselves that the player can discover slowly. The Childhood Friend is struggling with questions of lifespan, the Rich Kid cares less for his family's wealth and more for talents he's been forbidden to develop, the Popular Kid is a Teen Super Spy and a Stepford Smiler and The Atoner.
- In Sunstone a recurring theme of the webcomic is masks and how despite the fact these characters use persona in their BDSM, beneath these masks they are all perfectly normal (and in Ally's case Adorkable) people.
- Tower of God: Lero-Ro. He is actually quite angry about some of the decisions his boss Yu Han-Sung makes and how things work in Evankhell anyway, but manages to hold his criticism back and presents himself in a calm demeanor.
- Rachel. She acts like she still is Baam's friend, but in truth she already sold him out for her own dreams.
- To the new characters introduced in Season 2, Baam. He acts like an emotionless sociopath who won't hesitate to kill or fail everyone to pass the floor tests but that's because if he fails any of these tests, one of his friends will be killed by FUG. And he'll only know how many of his friends survived when he reaches the top. Which makes it even sadder because while the readers know that at least some of his friends are still alive, for all he knows, they could already have been killed (by the fierce competition in the Tower or by FUG) and he's doing everything for nothing.
- Vriska in Homestuck tries with all her might to live up to the example of her famous ancestor, Marquise Spinneret Mindfang, preferring that everyone view her as the Spider8itch than risk showing a hint of weakness. Even she doesn't realise this until she kills Tavros, and either sadly or happily depending on your opinion of the character, it's too late.
- In Ears for Elves, Luero calls out Tanna on her near-constant smiling. He goes on to say "Masking your emotions may be necessary for dealing with most people.".
- "Wastelanders Anonymous": Felix literally where's a mask and when he takes the mask off, his personality changes dramatically. The mask is part of his attempt to gain acceptance among the other plague doctors.
- Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog has elements of this in both the Hero Antagonist, who looks like The Cape but is really an arrogant bully; and the Villain Protagonist, who's trying to woo the girl of his dreams as Billy, but is also trying to Take Over the World. Both masks come off at the end, with tragic results.
- Both Dr. Horrible and Captain Hammer actually have three layers to them. On the surface, Billy is just Billy, leading a normal life, trying to woo Penny, underneath that he's the power-hungry Dr. Horrible, but even deeper down he's just Billy. As Penny mentioned, she first thought Hammer was just a big jerk, but he became really sweet later on. However, he really is just a Jerk with a Heart of Jerk.
- In Neopets: Xandra in the "Faerie's Ruin" plot initially has a facade of a helpful and nerdy innocent appearance with anger issues (even using glasses to appear more innocent pictured here◊. However she is revealed to be a Well-Intentioned Extremist with a completely "machiavellian" and egomaniacal personality pictured here.
- Ask That Guy with the Glasses is a nicely layered version of the trope. The "mask" is a distinguished gentleman, underneath that is a bastard who likes playing with people, underneath that is an invoked Complete Monster, and underneath that is a cesspool of self-loathing and damage.
- Iron Star of the Whateley Universe. He's a hero in the Future Superheroes of America club at Superhero School Whateley Academy. He's really a massive jerk who is in the superhero game for what he can get out of it. He's already stringing along three different girls in the Future Superheroes of America club and who knows how many elsewhere.
- In Worm, Rachel Lindt, also known as the supervillain Bitch, is about as violently antisocial as a human being can get ... because her powers have overwritten her ability to parse normal human interactions with canine social instincts. As her Interlude reveals, given the choice, she actually wants to have friends — she just doesn't know how.
- Parodied by The Onion, reporting a study that found that the average person becomes an unhinged psychotic when alone at home.
- The RWBY song "Dream Come True" is narrated from the perspective of minor character Pyrrha Nikos. It shows her to be significantly more snippy about Jaune than her in-show dialogue would otherwise suggest.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Admiral Zhao, though at first considered merely Lawful Evil, was revealed in the season finale to be completely insane, even killing the moon spirit.
- Toph Bei Fong pretends to be a weak well-mannered girl in front of her parents, but is a very powerful Earthbender and much more informal with her friends. Sometimes Played for Laughs.
- Princess Azula infamously pretended to be a secure, strong, cold woman. It was revealed in the last episode that she was a lonely woman that wanted someone to trust, but lost her friends and didn't have anyone to confide in, and was crazy and sad because she wanted her mother's approval. It wasn't a coincidence that when she became more powerful thanks to nearly becoming the new Firelord and getting a power upgrade that it became too much for her to handle.
- Prince Zuko as well, especially in season one. He is introduced as a ruthless, conceited bully of a prince who only cares about himself and seemingly looks down on everyone, including his superiors. In reality, he's just a good-natured kid who wants his father to be proud of him. Over the next two seasons, this facade begins to gradually break and by the final episode it has disappeared completely.
- Helga from Hey Arnold! expressed her true feelings for Arnold when alone.
- Before Flanderization kicked in, Trixie Tang from The Fairly OddParents was secretly a tomboy that liked comic books and disguised herself as a boy because she had fear of being judged and rejected due to the fact that she is a popular girl and the Alpha Bitch of her school.
- In Phineas and Ferb, there are numerous examples:
- Candace Flynn is secretly a fan of a series called Duckie Momo (a parody of both Hello Kitty and Pokemon). She used to wear a costume in order to hide her love of the series from her friends, going as far as lying to both her boyfriend and her best friend.
- Isabella has a hidden crush with Phineas, something both Ferb and Candace are aware of. However, in front of him she pretends to be Just Friends.
- Perry the Platypus acts as a non-sapient animal (where it is not uncommon for someone to claim. that because he is a platypus, he doesn't do much), but in reality he is a very skilled and smart secret agent.
- Suzy, the sister of Jeremy, pretends to be a dumb innocent girl, but in reality she is very smart, and cruel to whoever threatens her relationship with Jeremy.
- In Teen Titans Raven keeps her emotions largely in check, rarely expressing any sentiment more passionate than a sarcastic quip. Then the episode "Nevermore" gave her a Journey to the Center of the Mind, where we got to see all the different sides of her personality. One side is perpetually depressed and endlessly apologizes for all the mean things she's said. Another side is a Blood Knight who just loves to fight. Another is a gigantic demon made of pure rage. And, most disturbing of all: a perky, giggling Raven who loves the color pink and thinks Beast Boy is funny (something Raven would normally rather swallow her own tongue than admit to).
- In Danny Phantom there are several cases:
- Vlad Plasmius has a facade of being a nice guy in front of the Fenton family (except Maddie) and the general public by being a well-known billionaire and later mayor.
- Danny Fenton had a facade of indifference and naivety over his secret identity in front of his sister and his parents. This was mainly to protect them.
- Dash's best friend, Kwan, has a facade in other to be accepted among the popular crowd. Deep down, he is insecure and unsure about the things he does (bullying and whatnot).
- The Flash in Justice League is about the only character who wears a literal mask, but not a metaphorical one. He's the same fun-loving guy whether in or out of his civilian identity.
- Artemis in Young Justice definitely has a facade, as Red Arrow points out. She is even willing to let a villain escape because of it.
- As does Impulse. His personality during his introductory episode is more or less an act that he uses to hide the fact that he comes from a Bad Future.
- Kevin Spencer, in his confrontation with Love Interest Shawna, states that beneath all her sociopathic, murderous tendencies, she's really a popularity-obsessed bitch.
- Casper the Friendly Ghost, in one of the older cartoons, Fright from Wrong, is force-fed a huge jar of "Mean Pills" by his mean uncles, who want him to be a mean ghost to humans. But Casper spends the rest of the short putting them through the wringer (both literally and figuratively). It would appear that this example wouldn't count since Casper was drugged to act like that, right? Ehhh, not so much... he reveals at the very end that he never took the pills; all the cartoonish brutality he'd unleashed on his uncles was all him just trying to teach them a lesson! The little Friendly Ghost has a vicious side hidden under the "friendly".
- In ThunderCats (2011) Rascally Rabbit the Drifter is an always smiling, Brilliant but Lazy man who's facade is one of carefree, perpetual mild amusement. In actuality, he's deeply depressed and grieving a personal loss, to the point of fixatedly attempting to save others from duplicating his mistakes by delivering Adventure Rebuffs and an unending stream of unsolicited advice, all the while peppering his speech with his insistant "I don't care."
- The Rorschach test is an old test that psychologists used to use to find insights into an individual's personality through their interpretations of ink spot patterns. Indeed, this is/was the whole aim of psychoanalysis.
- Naturally, internet predators.
- All Stepford Smilers, naturally.
- In astrology, Your Rising sign (determined by where the sun is on the horizon when you are born) represents how people perceive you. Your Sun sign (determined by time of year, which can be determined through any newspaper horoscope) represents how you relate to people (your persona). Your Moon sign represents who you are when you are alone (your shadow).
- This concept is widespread in East Asian cultures, where it's referred to as one's "face", meaning their dignity, pride, etc. Causing someone to "lose face" by embarrassing them is a big faux pas, since it destroys their social standing.
- Many people today are jaded from the harshness of life, especially recently. The simple fact is that if we were to get worked up over everything that went wrong, we'd drive ourselves insane. Because society demands certain behaviors in certain situations, these people have to fake emotional responses such as fear, shock or outrage if only to not be seen as callous at best or a sociopath at worst.