Oh, hello there. Were you looking for the trope But He Sounds Handsome? Well, that's definitely not me. Sounds like a pretty great idea for a trope though!
If I were But He Sounds Handsome, I would be a trope about characters secretly complimenting themselves... while disguised as someone else. I might also be about giving compliments to a mysterious person (who is, of course, me), or hearing insults/compliments about my normal identity while in disguise. It's pretty much a stock gag/joke for anyone in disguise.
Often I... I mean But He Sounds Handsome is used as part of a Paper-Thin Disguise.
The trope is frequently inverted by a character trying to deflect suspicion by insulting their other identity. What a dumb idea for a trope that is; I'm glad I'm not that trope. Or its inversion.
Hang on, he's actually telling me right now...yes? What is it? Oh, okay. He says this occasionally overlaps with the trope Holding Both Sides of the Conversation, where one person pretends to be two people at once. It also applies to cases where a member of Group X in disguise defends Group X—a Sweet Polly Oliver objecting to an insult to women, for instance, or an undercover spy speaking up for his home country. At least, I'm sure that's what But He Sounds Handsome would say. What a great trope. However, I've heard—I'm not speaking from direct experience, of course—that But He Sounds Handsome is only slightly related to a common joke wherein a character makes a joke of complimenting his Doppleganger, his Ridiculously Successful Future Self or his otherwise pathetic past self, his Identical Stranger, or just his plain ordinary identical twin for being remarkably handsome.
What? No, those aren't my examples of But He Sounds Handsome. I'm just... holding on to them for But He Sounds Handsome. So, ah, feel free to look at or add to them. But they're definitely not examples of me. Definitely.
During an episode of Sailor Moon, Moon fakes having a fight with the other senshi to lure out the villains. Naru mentions the rumour to Usagi who claims "Sailor Moon is too nice and sweet and would never have a fight with the other sailor Senshi!"
Lupin III: the titular character is a Master of Disguise, and indulges in this while walking through an area where the authorities are looking for him.
In Hetalia, America comes in early and draws all the Allies and Axis on the chalkboard. When the others arrive and wonder who drew them all so badly, America feigns ignorance, but can't help "disparaging" the cute, pop art-inspired New York-style art.
Ranma: While you were standing, you never had one tiny opening in your defense. But once, when that incredibly graceful, beautiful girl hit a volleyball to you, and you crouched to hit it back, you were open! Which means... Ryoga: Of course! That girl was YOU!
Also happens much earlier in the story, when Ranma (in girl form) beats up Kuno (in response to an insult to his manhood, ironically), and quickly covers with the below when he realizes that Kuno is still oblivious:
Ranma: I'll have you know Ranma Saotome's even stronger than me!
Uncle Negi from Anpanman will happily comment on how handsome and amazing his Zorro-esque alter ego Naganegiman is. Whenever Naganegiman leaves the scene, Uncle Negi pops up nearby, commenting on him. When people talk about Naganegiman's awesomeness around Uncle Negi, he has a tendency to just melt...and everyone else wonders what the heck he's doing.
I've never seen Comics, but he sounds handsome.
This was used pretty frequently in The Flash, with him out of disguise saying something along the lines of "Now now, we can't all be The Flash". Come to think of it, pretty much every superhero uses this one at some point. Except the ones with no secret identity.
A couple of FoxTrot arcs had Jason disguised as "Iguanoman", a reptilian alien (really Jason wearing his dad's overcoat and balancing Quincy on his head) mostly to annoy Paige. Whenever she calls him Jason, he usually replies with this trope, though it did backfire once:
"Iguanoman": This "Jason" must be really smart and handsome for you to keep confusing me with him. Paige: You look exactly alike! "Iguanoman":(loading a dart gun under his coat) Give me a moment to consider that answer.
The Chameleon played it straight in one panel and inverted it in the next when he came after Mary-Jane, disguised as Spider-Man: starting off with "He's one of the toughest foes I've ever faced" and then calling himself a "strait-jacketed loser".
Donald Duck does this sometimes in stories where he acts as his Secret Identity Paperinik. It goes both ways even. Paperinik will insist that Donald is a good and honest man, while Donald throws fits of rage when someone dares insult Paperinik in his presence.
"Thor": Come now! I heard Hercules was far handsomer.
"Hercules": And I always thought Thor stank less.
"Thor": Hey, below the belt...
In a Dilbert comic, the company's lawyer demonstrates what the other side might say in court: "Liar! Why is your attorney so handsome?"
I'm totally not Films — Animation!
In An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, while using a mouse puppet Cat R. Waul describes himself to the other mice as an "enlightened, intelligent, sophisticated, charming, non-narcissistic, debonair, suave, dashing renaissance cat". The puppet dangles while he's boasting.
Megamind: while under the guise of Bernard, Megamind pretends to be fighting himself in front of Roxanne. He constantly spouts praise towards Megamind ("You're so strong and charismatic!") and finally tells Roxanne he did his best, but Megamind is just too fantastic!
In Sinbad the Sailor, when Sinbad (who is, unbeknownst to most, also Prince Ahmed of Dariabar) is told by the barber Melik that assassins are out to kill Ahmed, he replies, "Why? I understand he's a splendid fellow!"
Going back to Spider-Man, Peter Parker and MJ get into a conversation about Spider-Man, and it seems Peter can't help himself. Subtle enough to be passed off as Peter just trying to look like an average guy.
Peter: No, no, I understand. He is extremely cool. MJ: But do you think it's true, all the terrible things they say about him? Peter: No, no. Not Spider-Man. Not a chance in the world.
Inverted in Batman Begins, where Bruce Wayne openly makes fun of Batman while trying to develop a reputation as an idiot playboy. Continued in The Dark Knight, when he questions who appointed Batman and what gives him the right to take the law into his own hands.
Bruce: A guy who dresses up like a bat clearly has issues.
Pretty muggle waitress: "Harry Potter"? Who's Harry Potter? Harry: No one. Bit of a tosser, really.
In The Mask of Zorro, Elena goes to confession to confess her recent bouts of misbehavior with Zorro. Of course, Zorro is sitting in the priest section. He prompts her that the masked man must have been "ruggedly handsome", but Elena points out that he was wearing a mask, so she doesn't know. Zorro looks deflated.
Inverted earlier when he's pretending to be a young nobleman at a ball. When the conversation turns to Zorro, he speculates that he probably wears the mask "to cover his bald head and unsightly features."
In Inception, Saito sees Browning, who he assumes to be Eames in disguise. He walks right up to him and says, "I see you've changed." Browning gives him an odd look and Saito sees Eames behind him. Saito quickly says, "I mistook you for a friend of mine." Browning smirks and says, "Must be a good-looking fella."
Inverted in The Shop Around the Corner, where Jimmy Stewart's character has been having a secret pen-pal romance with a co-worker he despises, only to fall in love with her. He figures it out before she does and insults his alter-ego, saying that he met him earlier and found that he was overweight, a plagiarist, and had a weird last name.
Similarly done in The RemakeYou've Got Mail, where Joe doesn't pretend to know the pen pal, but tells Kathleen that's he's probably fat, ugly, married and generally unpleasant.
"God Bless the Scarlet Pimpernel, whomever he may be. Surely he must be an angel in disguise!"
In Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine has a line that's something of a variant of this trope. When Count Dooku confronts Obi-Wan and Anakin in the opening rescue sequence, Palpatine says to them "Get help, you're not match for him. He's a Sith Lord."
Played for drama in Captain Clegg, where Parson Blyss (Peter Cushing) subtly admires the achievements the supposedly-dead pirate of the film's title, so it's really not hard to figure out that Blyss is Clegg long before it's explicitly spelled-out. Tellingly, when he's explaining the circumstances surrounding Clegg's betrayal and arrest, he becomes morally indignant on Clegg's behalf.
Clegg was bad, but he was never a coward or a traitor.
Diamonds Are Forever – James Bond, posing as smuggler Peter Franks, kills the real Franks and switches wallets with him. When Tiffany Case discovers he's "killed James Bond" he feigns surprise and comments "It just goes to show you, no one's indestructible!"
Inverted in Super Mario Bros.. When Mario and Luigi meet up with their "attorney," the attorney tells them that they don't want to meet President Koopa, describing him as "one evil, egg-sucking son of a snake." When it is revealed that Koopa was the person who acted as their attorney, Luigi expresses shock, to which Koopa then repeats the above description and asks "Did I lie?"
Literature is over there, not here.
In the Vorkosigan Saga novel Brothers in Arms, Miles Vorkosigan does quite a bit of this with his alter-ego Admiral Naismith. (Although Admiral Naismith considers Miles Vorkosigan to be boring and stupid in return.)
Another notable case was when one of Naismith's rescue victims was advising Lieutenant Vorkosigan to "stay away from the bunch of clowns called the Dendarii Mercenaries." Nettled, Miles snapped "Why? They got you back alive, didn't they?"
Although not exactly in one piece.
Inverted in The Hobgoblin's Hat, one of The Moomins books. Said artifact transforms Moomintroll into a different being without him noticing, so when his friends wonder who he are he thinks they are just playing and plays along. Among other things, he talks badly about himself, which convinces his friends "the stranger" is up to no good.
Inverted in an entirely different way in the Codex Alera. Tavi and Max are extravagantly praising the mysterious person who attacked a slaver and freed the slaves, only for both of them to be quite shocked to discover that it was not the other one who did it.
Inverted in Murder Must Advertise, in which Lord Peter Wimsey, encountering two people who have met him in disguise, takes the opportunity to blacken the name of his supposed lookalike cousin.
I'm not Live-Action TV, but I'll let him know what you think
Happens in Red Dwarf, even without a disguise: Holly, the ship's computer, appears on a recording Holly doesn't remember making (the crew's memories were erased). Initially, he comments, "Nice-looking bloke," and then when the recorded Holly tells them to pause the recording, he does so, because he "Knows what he's talking about, that dude."
How I Met Your Mother, "Moving Day": in the midst of moving in with Robin, the van with Ted's stuff is stolen, and the culprit calls Ted and gives him instructions on how to get them back. Of course, Ted knows exactly who it is.
Ted: Barney... Barney: I'm not Barney! But I hear that guy's awesome.
It then gets an Ironic Echo when Ted finds the van and takes it back, with Barney and his date inside:
Ted: Enjoying the ride? Barney: Ted? Ted, you let us out of here! Let us out of here this instant! Ted: This isn't Ted, but I hear that guy's awesome.
Barney does this again later when pretending to be his own doppleganger. He can't help but defend himself (and his blog) when being interrogated by Lily.
Barney also does this in his video resume, where despite evidence to the contrary, he claims it's not him singing the song, but "one of the many admirers who think that guy's awesome!"
In the episode "Duet", one-off character Lieutenant Cadman is trapped in McKay's body. At one point he falls asleep and she gets control of the body; when she/he goes to Doctor Beckett, they claim that it's "damn lucky it was her" that McKay was merged with.
While the team is traveling through alternate universes, they are rescued from aliens by a squadron of F-302s commanded by an alternate version of Sheppard. When they hail him on the radio to thank him, Sheppard doesn't tell his alternate who they are, but says, "You're obviously a man of great integrity, a dedicated commander, and a skilled pilot." Meanwhile, the other characters roll their eyes. Alt-Sheppard responds, "Well, that's funny. I was just going to say the same to you."
Supernatural: Dean is looking for Sam, who's been kidnapped. The cop he goes to looks Sam up in her computer and mentions that Sam's brother was recently reported dead and had been wanted for murder. He replies, "Yeah, Dean was always the black sheep of the family. Handsome, though."
Played straight on an episode of Modern Family, Cam, dressed as his clown alter ego Fitzbo, encounters his nephew Luke and the following exchange occurs:
Luke: Wow, is that you, Uncle Cam? Cam: Well, no, I'm Fitzbo the Clown! I don't know who this "Uncle Cam" is, but he sure sounds handsome, doesn't he?
Inverted in Robin of Sherwood; Robert of Huntingdon explains that his horse and sword were stolen by somebody of roughly the same height and hair colour as him - who then apparently went on to rob from the rich and give to the poor. When he is then asked "So this person could have been mistaken for you?" He answers "Certainly not! He was a peasant!"
Percy: The Scarlet Pimpernel. Surely you've heard of him? Gabrielle: That ridiculous name means nothing to me. Percy: The man's a legend. Elusive, daring, resourceful beyond belief, a poisonous thorn in the side of the Republic... Andrew: ...and altogether too big for his boots.
Person of Interest: Reese indulges in this while discussing 'the man in the suit' with an investigative reporter.
Reese: He sounds like quite a guy.
In the Charmed episode "The Power of Three Blondes", three other witches do a spell to impersonate the Charmed Ones. In the process, they murder a random vacuum cleaner salesman; when Chris asks them about the murder weapon, they react this way:
Mitzy: We believe that athame belongs to witches. Margo: Really smart, pretty witches.
Inverted by James Myers, who in the 1970s was a PE teacher in Michigan and wrestled in New York in the summer as George "The Animal" Steele. On the rare occasion when one of his students pointed out his resemblance to some WWF wrestler they saw in a magazine, he'd reply "do you really think I'm that ugly?"
Religion and Mythology is definitely a great fellow.
In Roman mythology (as described by Ovid in his Metamorphoses) Vertumnus, the god of season, plant growth, and change, used this trick to praise himself disguised as an old woman and win the heart of Pomona, a wood nymph and a goddess of fruits and gardening. This makes the trope Older Than Print.
Role-Playing Games sure sound like a lot of fun.
In Dino Attack RPG, when discussing The Mole, Spy described him as a "master at the art of infiltrating" and a "skilled master of spies". This immediately caused Sgt. Ronald Army to suspect that Spy was really talking about himself. Hewasn't.
Ronald Army: "Spy was obviously the spy! He gave himself away! Oh, he thought he was so tricky and smart, speaking in third-person, but no one would show so much respect towards a cowardly murderer unless that cowardly murderer was himself!"
Theater is such a great folder.
Inverted in Much Ado About Nothing, where Beatrice bad-mouths Benedick to himself while he's in disguise at a party (usually played as though she knows it's him all along).
In Twelfth Night, Orsino claims that no woman could possibly love as truly as he does. Viola, disguised as a man and also hopelessly in love with him, begs to differ.
Viola: We men may say more, swear more: but indeed Our shows are more than will; for still we prove Much in our vows, but little in our love.
In Henry IV Part 1, Falstaff, playing the role of Hal's father the King, tells Hal about this wonderful fellow he's heard of called Falstaff. Hal, playing his father, says he's heard this Falstaff guy is a drunken knave. It's in this scene that it finally sinks it for Hal that he's going to need to stop hanging around with Falstaff.
And again in Measure for Measure, where Lucio starts badmouthing the absent Duke to a monk, not realizing that the monk is the Duke in disguise. The monk replies to Lucio with a surprisingly minor version of this trope: he always heard the Duke pretty highly spoken-of. Becomes hilarious in the final scene, when Lucio tells the returned Duke about meeting a monk who said the most awful, slanderous things about him.
My other twin, Video Games, is such a drag.
In the adventure game Nelly Cootalot: Spoonbeaks Ahoy, the titular heroine at one point tells a society of Dignified Ladies that the pilot they'd hired to fly their poorly-built aircraft around the world wasn't coming. Later, she must disguise herself as the pilot; when the ladies tell Nelly-as-the-pilot what Nelly had said earlier, she replies "Damn that gorgeous liar!"
The game of Spider-Man 2 has this exchange between the web-slinger and Quentin Beck:
Spider-Man: I don't like people making a career out of badmouthing me, Beck. Quentin Beck: What about that editor at the Bugle, Jameson? Spider-Man: J.J? He just has a knack for hiring good photographers.
On the road back from completing your first major quest in Baldur's Gate, the player has the option to do this:
Traveler: You been down south recently? You see them heroes everyone is talking about? Protagonist: Well, I did hear about them. Supposedly real brave, and damn good looking too.
Also, in Baldur's Gate II, Edwin accidentally transforms himself into a woman while trying to unlock the secrets of a magical scroll. While this is initially upsetting for him, it turns out to be advantageous later on when a wizard tasked with hunting him down and killing him doesn't realize who he is and lets him go. However, the other wizard soon figures out that something's not right, tracks the party down again, and accuses the female wizard of being Edwin in disguise. The response?
Edwin: Er...I am no Edwin, as you claim. I know him not. He sounds like a worthy mage of distinction, and I am probably weaker having not made his acquaintance. My name is...Celisa of Waterdeep. Yes, daughter of...Kur..Kurdall Al....Ale...Kurdall Aleconnor, a wealthy mead-maker and owner of a chain of festhalls. No Edwin in our midst I'm most sorry to say. Only Celisa Aleconnor. You'd best be off to capture this Edwin. He sounds like a formidable foe.
In Team Fortress 2, if you dominate an enemy Spy while playing as a Spy yourself, your Spy may remark "I'll see you in Hell, you handsome rogue!" Keep in mind that the two Spies look identical except for their colors, so he is secretly complementing himself. Oddly enough, this happens during one of the few times you won't be disguised, since attacking will remove it.
Subverted in the "Meet the Spy" video. When the BLU Spy is making out the RED Spy to be some sort of nigh-unstoppable death god, the Soldier assumes he's actually the RED Spy in disguise and blows his head off. He's wrong. The RED Spy was actually disguised as the Scout, and proceeds to backstab him.
Used in Psychonauts, when the identity of the Phantom is revealed.
Jasper: WHAT? How dare you accuse me of being the rugged and romantic Phantom, who has captivated audiences for months on end?
A variation occurs in Dragon Age II. The entire storyline is presented as Varric telling Hawke's tale after the fact. At one point in the game, Varric mows down wave after wave of surprisingly easy enemies, and then his brother Bartrand starts going on about how jealous he is of Varric for being "strong and handsome, and so very smart". During this speech, the scene shifts to Varric telling the story, making it clear that he's started making things up because he doesn't want to think about what actually happened.
Thief uses another variation when you are given the opportunity to spy on an imposter.
Garrett: So, that's the famous Garrett. Guess he's not as good-looking as I heard.
Narbonic: Madblood is disguised as Dave, and Helen (who figured it out immediately) is messing with him by claiming she and Dave are lovers. Madblood tries to keep his cover, but he can't help saying things like, "But what of Madblood? I thought you found him dashing and brilliant!"
Suzaku: "Who knew they'd put the death of Clover's murder on that stupid One guy?"
Lelouch: "That One guy sounds like A REALLY AWESOME DUDE!"
Invoked on Reddit, where anytime someone posts something complimentary (e.g. "It's obvious your mother did a great job raising you") someone is likely to comment "Nice try, Veronica's mom." Frequently quoted as "Nice try, Company X PR Department."
...so let me state for the record that I had nothing to do with any of the immature examples of retaliation you will soon read about in this article. I can't imagine who might be responsible.
Someone handsome and witty, I'd guess, and with just a hint of Spider-Man-like qualities.
In Worm, when Taylor is visiting her father and his friends during Chapter 16.7, she ends up in a debate about whether the villains taking control of the town are a force for good — one of said villains being Skitter i.e. Taylor.
In The Nostalgia Critic's review of Baby Geniuses 2, he spends most of the episode in a fake coma. At one point, guest stars Brentalfloss and Uncle Yo have to pull an Of Corpse He's Alive routine for a convention Q&A, and when asked which review the Nostalgia Critic preferred, they immediately nominated the ones they themselves participated in, described themselves as "devilishly handsome", and eventually got into a slap fight.
At one point, one of Paul Twister's few friends disparages the technological research work one of his alter-egos is doing. Paul defends him, saying that he's actually met the guy, and his work is producing results that help people in ways that his friend hadn't considered.
Western Animation is such a brilliant fellow, yes?
In "Toilet Paper", the kids are discussing a recent TP-ing, and Cartman, one of the perpetrators, comments, "Well, I understand the people who did it weren't caught, so it looks like nobody will ever know the geniuses who masterminded that perfect crime."
When Cartman attempts to trick Butters by pretending to be AWESOM-O the robot, Butters talks about the things Cartman does to him, which results in "AWESOM-O" commenting that Cartman sounds pretty smart.
Inverted / Played With in "The Coon:" Cartman disparages the Coon as a "menace," but suddenly defends him when Kyle calls superheroing "faggy." When Kyle asks why Cartman would care he explains that "fag" is a hate word and it's insensitive to butt pirates. Later, as the Coon, he gets defensive when Mysterion calls Cartman fat.
The Simpsons: When Bart was infiltrating Shelbyville and Springfield moved against them: "Curse those handsome devils!"
In Clone High, Joan of Arc tries to use this on Abe while "disguised" as John D'Arc, to get him to like her while badmouthing Abe's girlfriend Cleo; it doesn't work, and Abe assumes that John is trying to steal Cleo for himself.
Danny at one point tells the students he recruited to free adults from a flying pirate ship (It Makes Sense in Context) that he saved the life of Danny Fenton. He then says to Paulina "You should totally make out with him".
Vlad Masters does it in "Eye for an Eye" as well when he is referring to his split Plasmius clone in public: "Oh, dear, it's a clearly evil, yet devastatingly handsome, ghost villain!"
Leela, in disguise as "Lee Lemon", asks Fry about his girl back home and says, "Aww, she sounds sweet."
In another episode, Bender pretends to be "Coilette" to compete in women's Olympic events, as he wasn't good enough for the men's. After winning his sixth gold, "Coilette" proclaims that all men can shove it, "except that guy Bender, he's really somthin'!"
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic had three of the Mane Six characters sitting around talking and complimenting the town's newest hero The Mysterious Mare Do Well. What they say could have easily tipped off Rainbow Dash on the heroine's identity(ies) and why she suddenly needed to appear (Twilight pointing out the Mare's magic required heavy studying, Fluttershy remarking on her compassion, and Rarity being complimentary her fashion sense and Applejack saying above all The Mare Do Well was humble) had she not been blind with jealousy at the time.
Note how this is completely the opposite of the lesson they were trying to teach her, and they were doing is specifically to make her feel bad, making them even worse.
Kim Possible: Hego, in his civilian guise as a Bueno Nacho manager, refers to his Team Go identity as "that brave superhero".
A character in the minigolf episode of Fillmore! at one point appears in front of the Safety Patrol to deliver a rant about how the mysterious culprit leading the minigolf corruption ring was clearly really smart and badass and they should be afraid of him, shortly after they had confirmed that this particular fellow was the bad guy. Somehow, the Safety Patrol didn't immediately take him in, even though his speech was better evidence than most signed confessions.
In the Teen Titans episode "Trust", Madam Rogue takes the form of Robin when trying to catch Hotspot. When Hotspot questions how they are going to stop Rouge as she's practically unstoppable, "Robin" replies, "Indeed.... I mean, yeah she is impressive but we're Titans."
Invader Zim has a subtle one: Dib is visited by a beat-up doppleganger claiming to be himself from a few hours in the future, thrown backwards in time after losing a battle with Zim. "But his incredible power was too much for me!" is thrown into a different light when Future Dib is revealed to be a robot Zim made to lure the real Dib into a trap.
Oh No! It's an Alien Invasion: In "The Spandexter", Louis adopters a secret identy as the costumed Spandexter. When Nate invites the Spandexter back to their headquarters to meet Louis as they are both into science, the Spandexter says that Louis sounds "really, really, really cool. And handsome".
Nope, still not But He Sounds Handsome. That was a great trope though, huh?...Er...I mean it would be. Would be a great trope. Also a handsome one. *whistles*