"My swashbuckling fop cannot take the flaw Dark Secret: Not Gay.
Some characters that just have some dark terrible secret in their pasts that they don't want anyone to know. Sometimes they killed someone close to them. Sometimes they're secretly a double agent. Sometimes they took the last cookie from the cookie jar
. It doesn't matter how big or small the secret is, it just matters that the person keeping it thinks that it's vitally important that it stay hidden.
There are two standard reactions to these coming out. Either everyone involved is shocked and horrified and lives are ruined. Or it's almost an anticlimax either because they've known all along
, or it just wasn't as dark a secret as the keeper thought it was.
When it's a whole town that's doing this it's a Town with a Dark Secret
. When you get even bigger in scale you get an Empire with a Dark Secret
. My Greatest Failure
is a particularly common type of Dark Secret, and it is often an element of a Dark and Troubled Past
or a Mysterious Past
and revealed in a Troubled Backstory Flashback
. Related to They're Called Personal Issues For A Reason
. See Open Secret
for when your secret is not so secret. When they cause you to be suspected of unrelated crimes they become the Big Secret
This being a trope about secrets there will be Spoilers
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Anime and Manga
- How Tsume got his scar in Wolf's Rain. When his old pack was attacked by humans, he ran away, leaving his friends to die because he was afraid. He was exiled, and in the process he got his scar.
- Soubi in Loveless never tells Ritsuka anything about his past, especially the parts of it that involve Seimei. There's a reason for that. A twelve year old kid doesn't need to know that his beloved older brother was a sociopath who physically and emotionally abused his best friend/mentor/partner.
- The dark secret held by Hime in Happiness Charge Pretty Cure is the main drive of the entire series: she opened the Axia Box, releasing the Phantom Empire.
- In Death Of The Family, Joker claims that Batman has a secret that he has hidden from the entire Batfamily. It remains to be seen if Batman does have one or if it's just a bluff.
- In the second story-arc of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW) Nightmare Moon II claims that Rarity has one, which is part of why she choose her to be her new vessel.
- In Justice League of America (2013), Amanda Waller knows who Stargirl's biological father is and will have him answer for his actions if Stargirl does not comply.
- There are more than a few dark secrets in The Lion King Adventures:
- Hago is Nala's father. He actually covered this up by altering Sarafina's memory, leading her to believe that a lion called Muerto was her actual father. He doesn't reveal it to his daughter until The Return of Hago.
- Zazu reveals that he inadvertently caused his father's death in Darkness Falls.
- Haiba certainly keeps his murder of Tama quite a secret. He comes clean in The Message, only to be rewarded with permanent scars from Simba.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fan story "Fluttershy Is Free", Fluttershy is half-Changeling, and has the Changeling powers of emotivory and empathy. She tries to tell Rainbow Dash, but RD doesn't believe her.
- The movie I Know What You Did Last Summer is built on a dark secret shared by a group of friends after they accidentally kill someone with their car.
- A similar secret is kept by the protagonists of Urban Legend, involving the invocation of an urban legend to scare someone, leading to a fatal car crash.
- In the movie The Watcher in the Woods, a group of friends have kept the secret of Karen's disappearance since they were children, and are haunted by it.
- One Missed Call has Munchausen's By Proxy as the dark secret of one character.
- A Nightmare on Elm Street's Dark Secret is the decision by the parents of Elm Street to take the law into their own hands and kill Freddy Krueger, who was known back then as the "Springwood Slasher" and liked to kill children.
- In X-Men: Days of Future Past, by 1973, Charles had never revealed to anyone—not even Raven, Erik or Hank—that as a nine-year-old kid, he thought he was going insane after his telepathy became active, and he didn't learn until he was twelve that he could in fact read other people's minds.
Live Action TV
- In the Cold Case episode The Hen House the victim was killed for discovering that her murderer was really a Nazi pretending to be a Dutch Jew.
- An episode of CSI: New York had the Nazi pretending to be a Jew. Unfortunately for him he married a Jewish woman and raised his own son as a devout Jew to keep his cover story up.
- An episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation has an episode where a school boy with neo-Nazi beliefs is murdered. He was growing out of racism after making friends with the school's black janitor. The suspects were other neo-Nazis who not only found out, but for some reason concluded he was also in a homosexual relationship with the janitor. The boy was murdered because he discovered an even darker secret: his new friend was actually a leader in the Rwandan genocide.
- Power Rangers Dino Thunder: Trent, the White Dino Ranger, is the son of Anton Mercer, a.k.a. Mesogog. When the Rangers find this, they're a bit amused.
- The whole premise of Dexter. His secret is quite dark indeed...
- Babylon 5, with Ivanova secretly being A rogue telepath. Sheridan also has a secret, in that he's a member of a military conspiracy to overthrow President Clark. Then there's Delenn... you know, with Babylon 5 being a Space Station Of Spies, it's safe to say that there are many people with dark secrets.
- In Stephen King's Storm Of The Century, many of the residents of Little Tall island have Dark Secrets. The Big Bad, being a mind reading demonic sorcerer, lets them know that he knows just to freak them out. He also reveals some of these secrets to the other residents for kicks.
- In the Community episode "Mixology Certification" the group learns that Shirley had been hiding the fact she was a barfly during a more troubled time of her life.
- In Switched at Birth, Regina knew about the switch and had a private investigator keep tabs on Bay for some time.
- Tara's attempts to hide her part-demon-ness in Buffy almost result in her friends being killed. Still, they stand up for her anyway and eventually determine that Tara's family lied to her about her heritage.
- In The Mentalist, J.J. La Roche has a Tupperware container hidden in a safe, which is later stolen and retrieved, as the contents of the plastic container would ruin his career and reputation. It's the tongue of his mother's rapist.
- Played for Laughs in Downton Abbey, where the butler Mr Carson has a deep dark secret that will lose him Lord Grantham's respect, which turns out to be....that he used to be a song-and-dance stage performer when he was young. When he confesses this in anguish, loudly curses himself for being worthless, and declares that he will resign in disgrace, Lord Grantham merely sighs and says "Oh do stop being so melodramatic, you're not playing Sydney Carton now, are you?"
- GURPS has a Disadvantage called Secret. If it's revealed, the character loses the Secret, but gains Disadvantage(s) (or loses Advantages) worth twice as many points as the Secret.
- The Old World of Darkness had a one point flaw called Dark Secret. That it's only worth one point tells a lot about the setting.
- The GURPS Disadvantage was inspired by Champions and its system of Disadvantages. The current edition has Social Limitations that include things like Guilty Secret, Dark Secret, Embarrassing Secret, and so on.
- Similar to the GURPS example; the BattleTech RPG A Time of War has the negative trait "Dark Secret". These can range from things that could harm the character socially up to something that could trigger an interstellar conflict. Should it be discovered the PC can expect to gain Enemy, negative Repuation and Bloodmarked traits.
- Fading Suns has the Dark Secret disadvantage, in three levels depending on the severity of the secret. It also has the Secret advantage, which (among other things) may mean you know someone else's Dark Secret.
- Almost everyone in Warhammer 40,000 has their own dark secret, the Dark Angels Space Marine Chapter was they sat out the war in the Horus Heresy choosing to align themselves to the faction that won.
- Starcraft II
- Tychus Findlay. The Dark Secret in question is his deal with Mengsk: he kills Kerrigan, he's free. As he says in the end of the game:
- In the secret mission "Piercing The Shroud", it is discovered that the Dominion is behind the Zerg-Protoss Hybrids, which play a very important part in Zeratul's missions. Yep, that's right: it seems that the Dominion (with some dirty help) wants to bring The End Of The Universe As We Know It.
- Mengsk's other dark secret is his role in the fall of Confederacy, namely that his hand was on the button that murdered eight billion humans and toppled their government, leaving him free to take over what was left. Given the magnitude of the crime, he's understandably kept it under tight wraps since becoming Emperor. Raynor's Raiders, naturally, have an opportunity to blow it wide open.
- Ace Attorney has a number of these. Figuring out what they are is the whole point of the game.
- The sequences with Psyche-Locks involve a person's secrets/lies being locked up with spiritual locks and chains when confronted with a statement or question the person refuses to answer and may go to great lengths to keep that secret hidden. The more locks that appear, the more desperate the person wants to hide their secret. Phoenix can see the locks due to the Magatama item he carries and presenting the right pieces of evidence when questioning the person gets them to "unlock" themselves and reveal the truth. While a typical Psyche-Lock is colored red and can easily be broken, there's two occasions where the locks are black and can't be broken by normal means. Phoenix first sees the black locks during Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney when he asks Kristoph Gavin why he killed Shadi Smith, Kristoph refuses to answer and 5 black Psyche-Locks appear, which Phoenix describes as cold and dark and probably cannot be unlocked. The black locks appear again in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies when Athena is accused of killing her own mother several years ago and the suppressed memory of the event causes her to throw up 5 black Psyche-Locks. Phoenix finds out from Pearl that the black locks mean that someone has a secret buried so deep within their hearts that they are not consciously aware of it and if the Magatama user tries to brute force the locks open (not approaching the topic gently in other words), the person's spirit can become broken beyond repair and they are traumatized for life. Luckily, Phoenix gets past Athena's locks without any damage to her mental state.
- Sword of the Stars II: Lords of Winter reveals that the Liir have been harboring a dark secret: the Suul'ka are really Liir Elders who have refused to die and became Drunk with Power. The bit about the Liir killing all Suul'ka with a bio-engineered plague is complete bull.
- The Dark Secret of Nathan Drake, the Badass Normal treasure-hunting descendant of Sir Francis Drake, is revealed in Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception: he was never an heir of Sir Francis, merely a ward of the state with a history obsession and a Changeling Fantasy. Not even his Parental Substitute or his fiance knew, but the desire to prove himself as Sir Francis' heir is Nate's driving motivation for the first and third games.
- In Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, there's Keiichi's habit of shooting kids with a BB gun, Rena's psychotic episode, Satoko's unwitting murder of her parents, the Sonozaki family's complete lack of a Dark Secret, despite all their posturing, and the fact that Rika is stuck in a "Groundhog Day" Loop. The entire series being based on The Power of Friendship, all of these are eventually revealed and Easily Forgiven.
- In Dangan Ronpa, Monobear threatens to reveal Dark Secrets for every character to the public unless there is a murder.