Idris: Are all people like this?People are rarely all that they seem at first glance. Without getting into An Aesop about books and covers and ugly ducks and swans and frogs that when kissed turn into robots, it's fairly true to say that people are mostly visually oriented, and go by first impressions. So when it turns out that The Big Guy who can bend steel bars is also a Harvard alumnus with a penchant for pontificating on the power of prose, people are justifiably taken aback. This is not so much a character type being subverted as it is getting Character Development in unexpected directions. Much like Playing Against Type, it can be something that seemingly goes against the character type, or combines two different, seemingly opposite roles or characters into one more Round Character. The talent or quirk is rarely impossible for the character to have, just unexpected: people aren't just their job or surface personality after all. The Smart Guy who's a cooking wiz because he had to take care of his younger siblings, or The Ditz who's a Black Belt because her dad wanted her to be able to defend herself are two examples. Hidden Depths can be discovered in Back Story or organically as a story progresses, but if used improperly can crop up in a Plot Tailored to the Party to give a character the necessary skills. Why did they never mention it? "You Didn't Ask". This might take a while to fill: Character type(s) and their usual Hidden depth: The Big Guy + The Smart Guy = Genius Bruiser (and the other way around for Badass Bookworm)
The Doctor: Like what?
Idris: So much bigger on the inside.
The Doctor: Like what?
Idris: So much bigger on the inside.
— Doctor Who, The Doctor's Wife
The Big Guy = Gentle Giant
The Smart Guy = Badass Bookworm
The Chick or Pollyanna = Stepford Smiler
Shrinking Violet + Beneath the Mask = Yandere
Shrinking Violet + Action Girl = Little Miss Badass
Genius Bruiser - The Worf Effect = Minored In Ass Kicking
Noble Demon = Fallen Hero
Alpha Bitch = Defrosting Ice Queen
The Fool + Badass Normal = Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass
Aliens and Monsters + Mama Bear = Monster Is a Mommy
Jerk Jock or Jerkass + Pet the Dog = Jerk with a Heart of Gold
Being A Mother + Badass = Mama Bear
Being A Father + Badass = Papa Wolf
The Cutie + Super Strength = Cute Bruiser
Crazy Cat Lady = Kindhearted Cat Lover
The Ditz + The Smart Guy = Genius Ditz (and the other way around for Ditzy Genius)
Nice Guy + Berserk Button = Beware the Nice Ones
The Quiet One + Berserk Button = Beware the Quiet Ones
Jade-Colored Glasses + Knight in Shining Armor = Knight in Sour Armor
Fake Ultimate Hero + The Munchausen = Miles Gloriosus
Children Are Innocent + Wise Beyond Their Years = Innocent Prodigy
The Stoic or Emotionless Girl + Not So Stoic = Sugar and Ice Personality
Character - Basic Skill + The Spartan Way = Fish out of Water
The Ace + Broken Bird = Broken Ace
Lovable Sex Maniac + Nice Guy = Chivalrous Pervert
The Chick + Combat Pragmatist = More Deadly Than The Male
Jerkass + Break the Cutie = Jerkass Woobie
Yamato Nadeshiko or The Ojou or Proper Lady + Action Girl = Lady of War
Proper Lady + Guile Hero or Beware the Nice Ones = Silk Hiding Steel
Of course, since these are common enough to have become a trope, they are less of a surprise than more — unusual depths. Indeed, some hidden depths are so common that making the surface and depth the same surprises the reader. In more extreme cases, a completely Flat Character becomes a Rounded Character. If the audience is aware of the depths but not all the characters are, Dramatic Irony is almost bound to occur. If it happens gradually, it's essentially Flanderization in reverse. May be demonstrated when a character catches the Smart Ball. For more examples, see the index.
open/close all folders
- Head and Shoulders shampoo has done several ads starring NFL player Troy Polamalu due to his long, full-bodied hair; an ad for "Head and Shoulders Deep" depicts him as an accomplished classical pianist. "Deep... like me."
- One of the reasons Joe Namath was picked as an "Olivetti girl" was his skill as a typist.
- Though he has an outward appearance of a typical bratty 6-year old, Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes at times displays a degree of philosophical depth and intelligence you wouldn't expect from someone his age; usually in his conversations with Hobbes.
- It's tremendously pronounced in Calvin's case; many adults aren't as intelligent as Calvin is. Calvin has repeatedly shown an intelligence of someone far older and even then, quite a few adults wouldn't be able to to make the same kinds of points that Calvin does with the same amount of articulateness or intelligence. It's even lampshaded in one of the later strips where Calvin's teacher humorously states that if he put a fraction of the energy he did into studying rather than avoiding it, he'd easily be a straight A student.
- Dykes To Watch Out For: Sparrow, described by the author as "the most cartoony of my characters," started as a fairly one-dimensional therapy-head and New Ager; she later came out as bisexual, had a child, became an atheist, and developed a grumpy side to her personality.
- X-Men: Toad, of all people, has some depth to him. While being Magneto's Butt Monkey for years, he's become quite a skilled mechanic; and while not innovative, can reproduce pretty complicated devices. He also grew a spine, led his own version of the Brotherhood, and was one of the chessmasters behind the resurrection of the reality-warping Proteus.
- Most of the kids from Runaways fit this trope one way or another, particularly Chase, Gert, Molly, and Karolina.
- Stan Lee was very fond of this
- The X-Men include Beast, a furry monster man (originally a human-ish jock type, on the surface) who is a brilliant polymath; Prof. Xavier, a guy in a wheelchair who is the most powerful telepath on Earth etc.
- In the Fantastic Four The Thing is likewise a very intelligent ex-fighter pilot. On his worst day, he's needy, pessimistic, and shovy; on his best, he out-braves Captain America. Sue is the most powerful member of her team and on her best day the Team Mom, but she's got self-esteem issues and doubts Reed's devotion to her and the family. Johnny is vapid, self-absorbed and manic—but he's also best friends with Ben no matter what, and usually the first into a fight. Reed is brilliant, but every so often he admits his deep guilt over causing the accident that made the Fantastic Four in the first place—even guilt over what happened to Victor von Doom, even though he didn't have a damn thing to do with it. Ben Grimm's depths are lampshaded in Fantastic Four vs. The X-Men, when Rogue kisses him, stealing his powers and psyche. "She expected to be kissing a toad. Instead she's touched the heart of a prince."
- Superman, Batman and many other heroes play this with their alter egoes- Clark Kent is a mild-mannered, occasionally clumsy reporter, who no one would suspect of also being the Man of Steel; Batman is a terrifying vigilante, one that many believe is actually a mythical monster and some deny the existence of entirely, while no one at all would consider linking him with shallow, lazy playboy Bruce Wayne. In many stories, though, their identities are also shown to surprise other characters-Clark is also a brilliant, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who can prove to be incorruptible and brave (evident when Supes loses his powers), while Wayne is also a highly respected philanthropist with a far cleaner business record than his playboy persona might suggest; also, while the death of his parents is public knowledge, most people don't seem to be aware of it.
- Sin City is a comic that's known for being Rated M for Manly but Frank Miller is careful to give each character a meaningful backstory. Take Marv, for instance. He's ugly and out of his mind, yet he is shown to be a very jolly drinking-buddy, a supportive friend, and is much smarter than he lets on. It was once mentioned that he fought in a war. His violent tendencies, paranoia and alcoholism could be the results of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- Geoff Johns specializes in revamping B-level villains by adding backstory and character depth to them.
- Transformers: Wings of Honor: Parodied when discussing the concept of Alt-modes. Brawl tells them that his motto is to keep the body you're born in. Blast-off points out that his motto really is "aim for the mouth so you don't have to hear them talk." Brawl responds that he has many mottos and that's what makes him deep. However, Brawl's idea of a staying the same is in contrast to his species, which is defined by their ability to change. When Deathsaurus has his team pull a Face-Heel Turn, Brawl is the only one not swayed by bribery or self doubt, Deathsaurus merely lets Brawl's own violent tendencies guide him to the Decepticons.
- Caesar in Astérix starts out as a cardboard foolish, nasty mockery target, relying on the audience to find it funny in contrast to his real personality rather than displaying contrast in the work itself. Soon, he becomes an elegant, Shakespearean, rather pompous character whose high opinion of himself is always subverted by the personal pettiness of his meanness and the lack of respect he receives from the Gauls. This is his default characterisation for a while, until he begins coming up with more nuanced schemes relying on psychological warfare rather than violence and his torment is portrayed more sympathetically (while the Gauls get more anarchic and crazy), making him more of a Worthy Opponent who has a point, much closer to his real-life personality. It culminates in a frustrated speech he gives in Asterix and the Belgians where he points out that Gaul surrendered, as a result of this surrender the Roman government is giving huge amounts of money to the chiefs including the village chief, and so the village is taking Roman money and giving nothing back. After this point, he becomes a Friendly Enemy, even throwing a banquet for the Gauls at one point.
- Cacofonix is a Dreadful Musician + Hidden Depths - for starters, he isn't actually that "dreadful" a "musician", but a very educated, creative and multitalented one who just happens to have a truly horrible singing voice (although it varies in quality). He may also be Born in the Wrong Century. He also tends to be very arrogant about his talents when people are abusing him about his music, but, as soon as anyone actually wants to hear it, he gets insecure and often starts jabbering about audiophile stuff or loses his voice from stage fright, suggesting it may be an Inferiority Superiority Complex.
- In the Jackie Chan Adventures fic Queen Of All Oni (in addition to the examples in the canon Jackie Chan Adventures post below), once Jade becomes a Fallen Hero, not only do we see her being Dangerously Genre Savvy like in canon, but she seems to become even MORE cunning. And her normal, pre-Face-Heel Turn attitude is revealed to be rooted in the Parental Neglect (bordering on abuse) she experienced growing up
- Finn and Ratso also show an example or two of being Genre Savvy at different points.
- The Hunter in With Strings Attached. He starts out as an egotistical warrior who loves killing and scaring the crap out of people. But after several days observing the four (who detest him and speak with him as little as possible), especially how they relate to one another and how they do not use their formidable power to kill, he confesses to Paul just how lonely and friendless he is, and that he really doesn't think of killing as “fun.” He also reveals that he started out as a graduate student in botany and had a fiancee who's been lost to him for 20 years now.
- Calvin and Hobbes: The Series
- Andy. Starting with Season Two onwards, he changes from The Generic Guy to the Only Sane Man, as well as the lead Deadpan Snarker.
- Dr. Brainstorm while stupid, still has his threatening moments. The heroes are always slightly unnerved when it happens. He also once gave a downplayed technobabble explanation of freezing someone in stasis, which was also lampshaded.*
- Silver Spoon in Inner Demons. It's revealed that she actually hates Diamond Tiara, and only hangs out with her because their fathers work together and expect it of them. After developing a real friendship with Apple Bloom, her patience with Diamond grows increasingly thin, until she eventually snaps after one insult towards Apple Bloom and her friends too many, and delivers a "The Reason You Suck" Speech before breaking off their "friendship".
- The Harry Potter fic To the Moon included a Crabbe and Goyle who were not only in a relationship with each other, but gave the impression of dimwittedness because Crabbe had dyslexia and Goyle spent too much time reading the textbooks to Crabbe to bother much about his own homework.
- Considering that the Tamers Forever Series is a Digimon fanfic whose author is a huge fan of Neon Genesis Evangelion, it's no surprise that every character has more to him or her than meets the eye. Bonus points for the fact that these Hidden Depths are perfectly compatible with the characters canon personalities.
- In Perfection Is Overrated, Bachiko and Meiko are planning on altering people's personalities and memories in order to set them up with their "ideal" matches as necessary. They also have to wonder whether they have done the same to themselves or each other, showing some awareness of the implications of their ability. When, however, they are dying after their defeat and the loss of their powers, it turns out that they did deeply care for each other without their powers.
- The MLP:FiM fanfic Heart of Gold, Feathers of Steel reveals there is a lot more going on with Gilda than you'd expect just from watching Griffon the Brush Off.
- Discussed in the Star Trek fanfic Heroes. Spock insists to Surak that Kirk is more than the warrior Surak insists on seeing him as.
- Necessary To Win, which can be found here, often does this with the characters.
- Takako Kubo, who's Black Forest's tankery coach in this fic, is a Drill Sergeant Nasty who uses corporeal punishment for minor mistakes. However, her discipline policy is based on the idea that those she coaches have the potential to improve, and while she has little patience for those who make mistakes, she has even less for those who simply give up.
- Anchovy is arrogant and looks down on Miho, but also has a certain amount of respect for rivals who come up with clever ideas to help advance their causes, and believes that commanders must win for the sake of those under their command.
- Mako Reizei appears to be Brilliant but Lazy at first glance, but it's also revealed that parting from her parents on bad terms before they died greatly impacted her, and she hopes that Nodoka and Hana, who are in conflict with their father and mother, respectively, over doing tankery, won't waste any time in their efforts to reconcile with their parents, lest they risk the same thing happening to them.
- Ami Chouno is a student of the Nishizumi school and a JGSDF instructor, but the teaching she gives to Miho and her teammates at Oarai is significantly different from what she got from both the Nishizumi school and the JGSDF. And as a military officer, she, by knowing the difference between tankery matches and war, keeps things in perspective, which is why she believes that Miho did the right thing when she saved the imperiled tank in the last tournament, at the cost of losing the match.
- In Riddle and the Ancient Contract everyone treated Crabbe and Goyle as dumb muscle due to their appearance, causing them to hide their intelligence and dreams for the future - for Goyle, something involving caring for animals, while Crabbe wanted to be a librarian.
- In Fist Of The Moon we discover that while she's a klutz now, Usagi has former gymnastics experience, as well as access to her ki. After Ranma reveals this and gets her confidence up there are times when she surprises even the other senshi with her competence and seriousness.
- Also, Kasumi has a deep and abiding fondness of Star Wars
- This is a big part of Heroes For Earth, as each of the main characters are not the one dimensional characters from the Captain Planet and the Planeteers cartoon. For instance, Wheeler, while a bit of a The Complainer Is Always Wrong in the cartoon, in the fanfic, he does have his womanizer, jerkish qualities, but he is also a caring old brother who works on a secret garden to honor his mother.
- Hoops and Dumbbell both. Both were jerks in the original show, and neither came off as particularly bright - but in addition to being lovers, Hoops is actually brilliant at math, and Dumbbell is great with kids, even studying to become an Elementary School teacher. It helps they have a year or two between the show and the Blog to grow.
- This trope is the point of the 2008 documentary American Teen. The documentary follows five high-school students in a very rural and average Midwestern town in Warsaw, Indiana: Hannah, Colin, Megan, Mitch, and Jake. Each of them are all meant to be some kind of person that you would have known in your own high school: the quirky and unique girl, the all-star athlete, the popular girl with everything going for her, the heartthrob, and the nerd/gamer, respectively. Hannah has a hard time fitting in with a rural town because she's so liberal and she falls into a severe depression when she's dumped in the beginning of the film, Colin's entire future is riding on getting on a basketball scholarship and his father rides him hard over this, Megan is under tremendous pressure to be accepted into the prestigious University of Notre Dame because the rest of her family went there, and Jake worries about finding a relationship that's meant to last.
The only one who doesn't seem to have any substantial depth like the others is Mitch, who, perhaps coincidentally or not, is focused on significantly less than the other four and is even left out of some posters for the film. Playing video games doesn't really cause a bunch of angst.
- The whole point of the Breakfast Club, the students reveals plenty of emotional baggage that they never showed before to their friends or family.
- Mean Girls - Gretchen confesses to Cady that she's secretly miserable as Regina's friend and has to pretend to like and not like certain things to get Regina's approval.
- Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day - Both Delysia, a ditz, and Miss Pettigrew, a governess have a lot more depth than their labels who imply.
- One could argue this is the point to Reservoir Dogs. Orange has many scenes revealing his hidden depths, Blonde turns out to have a hidden depth that was right out in the open, and White has his hidden depth come out at the end.
- Played for laughs in Black Dynamite. Randomly during the film, the Jive Turkey cast reveals they have a lot of esoteric knowledge of Greek Mythology.
- There are several instances in American Beauty such as Angela, the pretty cheerleader who is a virgin and Frank Fitts, Ricky's Marine father who wants Lester sexually. When rebuffed, he kills Lester.
- Molly in You Me And Dupree takes a liking to Dupree when she sees beyond his party boy persona and sees a kind, talented, hopeless romantic of a man.
- David from the Sabrina remake knows a lot about the family business despite spending all those years as a playboy ne'er do-well.
- Michael Keaton, in both his personas of Bruce Wayne and Batman, normally gives a subdued performance as both characters in the movie. But then, during the scene with the Joker at Vicki's apartment, Bruce Wayne, unknowingly faced with the murderer of his parents, decides to, without any warning at all during his conversation with him, get nuts. He's doing it to protect Vicki; the audience should already know the Joker is their killer, but Bruce doesn't find out until the end of the scene when the Joker gives his signature line (and shoots him in the chest). Bruce is so shaken by The Reveal that he completely drops out of his crazy act. (It's a VERY well written and well acted scene all around.)
- Max Schreck in Batman Returns, a stereotypical Corrupt Corporate Executive, is revealed to love his son and his deceased wife, and also seems to have some hidden resentments towards Bruce Wayne and the rest of the silverspoon crowd.
- Played for Laughs in Tangled with the thugs in the Snuggly Duckling; they may be criminals, but they're also florists, mimes, pianists, romantics, even singers! They even become Big Damn Heroes to break Eugene out of jail.
- Eugene casually mentions that he used to read to the other orphans at the orphanage he grew up in. Also, that he really dreamed of being a character from the books, whose wealth let him do all sorts of things, which puts a new light on his Greed.
- Col. Kessler from Battle from the Bulge seems like the perfect soldier, strong, loyal and professional. Until The Reveal that he's an Ax-Crazy Blood Knight.
- In An Extremely Goofy Movie it's revealed that PJ (a Rounded Character already), who is shown to be sensible but usually not very intelligent in the academic sense, is somewhat skilled in the field of free-verse poetry. This managed to surprise not only Bobby, but also Max, who had been friends with PJ for seven years at the time. His poem is about how people tend to overlook overweight people without noticing how interesting they can be.
- Army Daze's effeminate and seemingly un-military Kenny also runs a mean obstacle course.
- In Runaway Jury Herman Grimes is almost booted off jury duty because of his blindness, but once he threw his knowledge of the law in the judge's face, he was accepted. It was this event that caused the jury to vote him as foreman.
- In Another Time, Another Place, you could be forgiven for thinking during most of the movie that Janie isn't much more than a twenty-something stuck in the emotional mindset of a teenager who's going to get eaten alive by the big, bad world. While it's true that she's unworldly and perhaps a bit naive, she reveals herself to have some serious moral fibre when she goes to the authorities to to exonerate Luigi at a great personal expense with no hope of ever seeing him again. Luigi might be a shiftless waster but he's not a bad person, and he certainly doesn't deserve to go to jail for a crime he didn't commit. However, you get the feeling he wouldn't have been in any hurry to stick his neck out for Janie if the roles were reversed.
- Bob in The Drop. He's as silent as a sphynx, is simultaneously meek but very hard to scare. He's also capable of a lot of compassion, which is surprising since he's affiliated with the mob and killed a man in cold blood.
- In Kingsman: The Secret Service, Eggsy at first glance appears to be a typical Lower-Class Lout, however his love for his family and (possibly misguided depending on your point of view) loyalty to his friends suggest a more upstanding person underneath the exterior. Before going off the rails he was also known for a high IQ, gymnastic ability and was on course to qualify as a Royal Marine (which takes someone truly exceptional).
When Hart tries to come up with an example of a lower-class person making a radical change, Eggsy claims to have never seen Trading Places, Nikita or Pretty Woman, but has seen My Fair Lady to Hart's astonishment.
- Discussed in Tropic Thunder. Kirk Lazarus explains in his "full retard" speech that characters with mental illness only are well received if they have qualities that make them special. Tugg Speedman tried playing a character who was only severely retarded, and ended up making a flop.
- Alpa Chino himself proves he is more than a decadent rap artist. A portion he makes off of "Booty Sweat" is donated to his community not to mention his crush on Lance .
- All three of our main characters in L.A. Confidential, but especially Jack Vincennes and Bud White:
- Vincennes works Narcotics, and on the side, gets kickbacks for tipping Hush-Hush tabloid writer Sid Hudgens off to celebrity arrests that will attract readership. However, he does have a conscience and is a highly competent investigator when he can be bothered to put the work in.
- Bud is shown to be a Wife-Basher Basher. But as it turns out, his hotheadedness towards those who physically harm women stems from his father being an abusive drunk who eventually murdered Bud's mother, and Bud witnessed this. He's also a lot smarter than even he's willing to admit.
- In the early years of his career, Ricky Nelson was almost exclusively considered a pretty boy, white-bread-and-mayonaise fake rockabilly singer who hitchhiked to stardom as the son of Ozzie and Harriet. Then in 1971 he recorded Garden Party, an effective retort to the fans at a Madison Square Garden "all-star" concert who booed his updated dress and new country-rock songs mixed in with Nelson's more familiar oldies. The song was a hit, and it gained him new respect as a songwriter and an artist.
- To be fair, some reports of the Madison Square Garden concert claimed that the boos were for a police action elsewhere in the arena. Ricky's version makes for a better song.
- Nelson's newfound respect also forced a reevaluation of his 1950s music, especially the innovative guitar work of sideman James Burton.
- Duran Duran's bassist John Taylor was, by all outward appearances, a stereotypical '80s pinup boy and was often the subject of lust/crushing by many, many teenage girls. What he hid? The fact that when he was a teenager, he was a massive bespectacled nerd who was quiet and unpopular to the opposite sex and spent hours in his bedroom wargaming (yes, wargaming). Fast forward to the 2000s and John Taylor started being highly regarded for his bass playing. In fact, most of his fellow band mates had hidden depths: the weedy-looking Nick Rhodes was apparently extremely popular with the opposite gender as a teen, the complete opposite of his childhood best friend John Taylor, and lost his virginity at the tender age of 13; the heartthrob and Lothario Simon Le Bon was apparently a massive Shakespeare nerd while growing up (as a child actor and model) and spent time in an Israeli kibbutz doing lumberjack and tree surgeon duties while penning contemplative poems during his down time; and Roger Taylor, who looked like a baby-faced James Dean and had a lean appearance, had a real passion for Motown R&B and worked on the assembly line at a factory while the band were waiting for their big break.
- Marilyn Manson, for all his outward appearances and habit of causing moral outcries the world over, grew up a bullied geek. However, it's his Berserk Button to have anyone be "surprised" by his intelligence. Besides for that, despite his tendency to be highly sexual on stage and offensive to religions, he's actually quite shy and conservative in bed (his favorite fetish object apparently is "thigh-high pantyhose" and he himself describes himself as sexually conservative), and he's quite spiritual, taking aspects from many different religions into his own homebrew. He's said he hopes to be reunited with his mom after he dies, he believes in some rather weird things about dreams (namely, that you have access to all of time and space in them), uses symbolism from the Chinese I-Ching belief, has an encyclopedic knowledge of The Bible, even the most obscure history of Christianity, extra-Biblical Christian myths, the occult, and alchemy. In another universe, he could be a religious history scholar.
- Cyrano de Bergerac: This is one of the central themes of the play: not everyone is what he seems.
- Roxane the refined intellectual surprises her three suitors by proving quite the adventuress, sneaking behind enemy lines to deliver food to the French soldiers and then staying with them once the battle starts.
Roxanne (slightly annoyed): Monsieur de Bergerac, I am your cousin!
- Christian gets written off by many who haven't read the play as a male bimbo. While he's not as book smart as Cyrano or Roxane and is utterly hopeless at talking to women, he's witty enough to think of several nose-related puns on the fly when he first meets Cyrano.
- Cyrano has to delay de Guiche for fifteen minutes. What he will do? Insult him? Challenge him to a duel? Make a simple excuse? No, tell him a fantasy/science fiction tale about a trip to the moon... and de Guiche is spellbound!
- This doubles as a Shout-Out to the real Cyrano de Bergerac's most famous work.
- Given Raguenau’s status as the Butt Monkey in Act II, he could be considered a mere Plucky Comic Relief character. Then we have Act IV where Raguenau risks his life to smuggle food to the Gascon Cadets in the siege of Arras. He has proved is a brave man, but then you apply Fridge Logic and realize that Raguenau was the man who not only cooked all the food, but also found a way to occult it in Roxane’s carriage so they can fool all the check posts the Spanish Army has in the battlefield, making him not only a Supreme Chef but an Iron Chef: Someone capable of smuggling food to troops.
- Roxane the refined intellectual surprises her three suitors by proving quite the adventuress, sneaking behind enemy lines to deliver food to the French soldiers and then staying with them once the battle starts.
- Lampshaded in The Philadelphia Story.
"C.K. Dexter Haven, you have unsuspected depth!"
- Played with in Mary Mary. When Dirk calls Mary a puzzle, she tells him that she always wanted to think she was a tigress underneath, but she really isn't: "Underneath this plain, girlish exterior, there's a very plain girl."
- In Pokémon Live!, Brock knows sign language, which lets him communicate with a deaf trainer.
- Strong Sad from Homestar Runner. He started out as a depressed, bland character, but after the launch of his web blog (and the toon "The Secrets That I Keep"), he's been made more sympathetic and likeable. His voice is also much less annoying now. He has even developed a spine. Of a sort.
- Miller the Killer from an arc of the Nameless series was fairly deep, especially considering the series he appeared in. In his 11 or so minutes of total screen-time, we learn that he's a non-stereotypical homosexual who was sexually abused by his mother and impulsively murders women. This is about a billion times deeper than any other character in the series. This, combined with the fact that he's adorable, has made him fairly popular.
- Church of Red vs. Blue starts off just being angry at everything and everybody. Turns out he's actually the remains of the Alpha AI, which was tortured to fragment off parts of his mind as other AIs, leaving him with nothing left but general anger. And it turns out he's based on the Director of Project Freelancer himself...
- Raven from Questionable Content, who seems to be an all-around boy-chasing ditz, turns out to have quite the eye for interior design. It is also revealed that her parents are both quite intelligent- her father is an astrophysicist, and her mother is a nuclear physicist. Eventually we find out she's going to college to study physics.
- A lot of the characters in El Goonish Shive. Being all mysterious helps.
- Paulo from Bittersweet Candy Bowl seems like he has trouble being serious and is a Casanova, but he has deep feelings of loyalty towards his friends and, despite his skirtchasing, when he is actually given the opportunity to have sex he is reluctant to do so.
- Liriel from Drowtales is a drunk because she's trying to silence the voice of a dead drow queen in her head.
- The Jaegerkin from Girl Genius seem to be progressively acquiring/revealing more depth as the comic progresses. Introduced as little more than Plucky Comic Relief monster henchmen, the comic has since shown them to have a strong sense of loyalty and honour, be a lot more intelligent than they let on (a fact lampshaded more than once in the comic), and, unusually for a GG-verse Henchmen Race, have freewill. Add in their general likablity and the whole hat thing, which may or may not be a sort of religion and they've ended up being downright intriguing.
- Also, Higgs seems to becoming this. He's hiding something, it's just not clear what it is yet.
- Karkat initially seems like just a violent Jerk Ass with a Hair-Trigger Temper, but is later revealed to have some very astute wisdom regarding troll relationships. He is further revealed to take his role as team leader very seriously and has a strong sense of responsibility about it, despite the childish way in which he declared himself leader. It's actually this awareness of the various issues with troll psychology (including his own flaws) that makes him seem shockingly normal compared to the rest of the trolls we're introduced to.
- For the first 13 years of his life, John is convinced that his dad is a street performer with a harlequin obsession. Then, John sees the inside of Dad's room for the first time, and realizes that Dad was just an ordinary businessman, and his apparent interest in harlequins was just an attempt to bond with John.
- Similarly, Rose is convinced that her mom's extravagant gifts are actually passive-aggressive barbs. It comes as a shock to Rose when she realizes that Mom really did care for her, and wasn't playing the role of a doting mother facetiously. It's later implied that Rose and her mom shared a lot of interests, but Rose was too deep into believing passive agression to notice.
- From Darths & Droids: Darth Maul is actually one of the most well developed characters in the whole story, being a Pragmatic Hero at worst. Also, a lot of the Clone Troopers seem to be genuinely sorry when they are ordered to kill the Jedi.
- Paz from Gunnerkrigg Court initially has little characterization, and is simply a Chew Toy from Spain. However, in "A Bad Start", when Kat is reeling from a particularly nasty revelation about the Court's past, it's Paz who gives her a pep talk about changing the system from within, demonstrating a degree of level-headedness that Kat desperately needed at that moment.
- In Strays, Holland. Meela even demands, "What else are you hiding?"
- The comic TV Eye Presents: 151 Hidden Depths is built around this trope, giving every original Pokemon a different backstory.
- Schlock Mercenary did it a few times. Schlock himself is "a violent, amorphous sociopath". Also, there are a few details that pop up slowly — Schlock's species being evolved out of memory banks, can be really clever and insightful when really want to, oh, and he already was a semi-mythological figure among them even before enlisting to the company.
- Kathryn Flinders, introduced as a Parkata Urbatsu specialist with a few fairly good spy tricks up her sleeve. Sometimes talks like an officer, has tactical sense kicking in as fast as AI, more Cloak & Dagger tricks... so Ennesby figured out and she admitted being an ex-UNS officer. Schlock later called her "captain" and (again!) guessed — she was a captain in UNS intelligence, and analyst at that.
- In Shiniez Ally at first seems like a confident and successful person; but it becomes clear that she is terribly lonely and has some regrets she can't manage to overcome. Also Valerie first appears to be a condescending bigot, but in chapter three it's revealed that this was a case of Unreliable Narrator; Lisa was too caught up in her new lifestyle to see Valerie is actually concerned for her friend Lisa.
- Zack from Echo Chamber knew what After Effects was, how to use it, and may or may not have an advanced degree in art.
- Encyclopedia Dramatica states that Brian Peppers has a amazing ability to sing.
- The Large Beetle from Water-Human. He looks just like a (talking) beetle, but apparently he can feel that his friend is in danger and figure out where he is. Oh, and he has Frickin' Laser Beams.
- In the Whateley Universe, even a lot of the side characters and villains get backstory or character development. For instance, Notorious Jerk Ass Mad Scientist Belphegor turns out to have some painful backstory explaining why he doesn't handle things well. The thirty-ish Headmistress turns out to be Lady Astarte, one of the great superheroines of the age, but a woman who's really over seventy years old, and still hurting from things that happened to her decades and decades ago.
- The Nostalgia Critic reviewers:
- Ask That Guy with the Glasses is secretly a brony, a fan of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.
- The Nostalgia Critic is a giant ditz, but is talented at languages (except for spelling his own), knows a lot about economics, and can parody a long Shakespeare speech even when depressed.
- Santa Christ, the Big Good of the site, can hold a long grudge and can be a passive-aggressive dick when pushed.
- Boomstick of Death Battle possesses a surprising amount of knowledge about dinosaurs, raptors in particular.
Wizard: Wow, Boomstick. I…didn't know you knew so much about dinosaurs.
- The Autobiography of Jane Eyre: Book Jane is a talented artist who draws and paints. Webseries Jane passionately likes photography, and she's quite good at it and it makes her happy. It also represents a bond with her late friend Helen. Jane tells directly her viewers that this skill of hers might be surprising since she's generally Hopeless with Tech.
- Worm has this in spades, partly thanks to including characters from various other prototype hero stories the author had written. Every character has histories and motivations explaining their actions.
- What really marks it out are the interludes, bonus chapters from other characters' perspectives which shed light on side characters and villains. We see the view points of Knight Templar white supremacists, anti-hero bigots and the odd Eldritch Abomination and all of them appear more sympathetic or at least some kind of Tragic Monster after their Day in the Limelight.
- Cammy from A Couple of Cunts in the Countryside may act like a drunken fool and swear like a trucker, but when he's expounding on politics or religion, he reveals that he's actually very intelligent.
- From Hat Films, Smiffy used to be in a bluegrass band and is still a huge fan of the genre, having written a surprisingly sad song "Wardens", about death row inmates and their last moments. He also loves geckos and has adopted a pair, noting at the same time that he feels conflicted since he's technically endorsing captivity. A subversion later happens when the trio are playing Garry's Mod with Sips and Turpster, when Trott starts spouting some seemingly good German phrases; it later turns out that he's been looking up German words on his phone. Smiffy calls him out and lampshades the seemingly sudden fluency.