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Killed to Uphold the Masquerade
"I'm here because you can see me, simple as that."
Cameron Hunter, Shadownova

So, our Intrepid Reporter has discovered the world behind the Masquerade, and she refuses to uphold it, destroy it, join it or get Laser-Guided Amnesia, and in fact will go public with her discovery.

The heroes will try to reason, plead, and maybe even threaten her into not going public. She may not care that, once exposed, those hidden by the masquerade will be persecuted and killed (which may be her goal if many of those protected are evil), or that The World Is Not Ready to know, or that it would generally just be a Bad IdeaTM .

The heroes then get to work. Try to destroy the evidence? She made multiple off-site backups. Bribery? She either doesn't want money, or figures the exposť will make her rich. Blackmail? She doesn't care about her reputation. Mind-Control Device? She wears mirrored glasses.

She has to die now.

In a Crapsack World her death is pretty much guaranteed; good characters/players will probably agonize over this choice but ultimately do what they must and Shoot the Dog. If the author wants to let the heroes off the hook, then Big Damn Villains may come along and kill her for the heroes so they can avoid doing the deed, but not the guilt over having almost done it/strongly considered it. Often, this involves either faked suicide, suspicious accident, or messy murder.

If the author is particular about not wanting blood on anyone's hands, the character may simply get Put on a Bus or suffer a fatal accident through their own fault. (Not that the readers won't know what is up.) The heroes may still feel guilty for covering up the details surrounding her death.

Expect her death to either go completely unnoticed... or call the attention of The Hunter in a later episode/story.

May be an Elephant in the Living Room if this or Easy Amnesia are never brought up in a series with The Masquerade, especially one managed by good guys. A leading cause of The Masquerade Will Kill Your Dating Life.

A notable aversion would be when the reporter experiences something so horrific at the hands of the villain note  that she comes to believe that The Masquerade is necessary, and from then on helps the heroes to maintain it.

Contrast Safety In Muggles.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Depending on your Point of View, (Whether the actions of Light are good or evil) this is pretty much the crux of most of the plot points in Death Note.
  • In the first Hellsing anime, a reporter is intent on releasing footage of vampires and is 'sentenced' to death by being drained by Alucard. In Integra's defense, the reporter had stood idly by recording a sadistic vampire as he savagely fed on a human, never even trying to stop the vampire, save the victim or report the vampire to... well, anyone.
    • More than that. The reporter was the one who organized the entire thing.
  • Jumped the gun in Gantz, Gantz orders Tae dead before she even realizes she has anything on the masquerade.
  • Gunslinger Girl. Captain Raballo is reported dead in a car accident right after a scene where we saw him contacting a journalist.
    • Earlier than that, a young employee of a hotel is shot when he sees Rico after a kill. It's even worse since they had become friends earlier, but Rico is so brainwashed (or grateful for being able to walk) that she shoots him with a smile.
  • In Saint Seiya, each and every female Athena Saint had to use a mask and never let any man see her face. If one ever did she only had two options: kill him, or love him. (Some fans have joked that the true reason was that Athena couldn't stand not being the hottest chick in the whole place.)
    • To be sure, this is more upholding a LITERAL masquerade (as in, people with masks) than the figurative one this trope is about.
    • Doesn't seem to be the case in The Lost Canvas, though it's uncertain if it's canon or not.
      • This rule gets broken by Shaina and Marin several times in the series, so either Athena stopped caring, or the female saints consider it more a question of personal honor than an actual rule, or they learned to use loopholes like "I love him... as a brother". Or something like that.
  • In Code Geass, Rolo uses this as his excuse for killing Shirley.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist Maes Hughes not only figures out the masquerade LONG before there's even an inkling of a clue, but also realizes that he's about to be killed, and tells Must- Oh. Wait. Nope. Too Late.
  • Attempted by the Student Police in Rosario + Vampire, when they discover that Tsukune is human. Luckily, his violently protective friends help him out, and an Emergency Transformation turns him Empowered Badass Normal right in the middle of the confrontation. It's later revealed that, in reality, monsters are forbidden from killing humans for any reason under penalty of death, and that the Student Police only got to that point because of their leader Kuyou, an anti-human extremist and The Mole for the pro-monster/anti-human terrorist organization Fairy Tale.
  • Lots and lots of people offscreen in The Castle of Cagliostro. Look at all those corpses in the basement. Most of them were killed either for political reasons or to keep the counterfeiting operation from being exposed.
  • In Fate/stay night, the very existence of servants and the Holy Grail War is kept as a strict secret from non-magi, and any non-magus who witnesses servants or magi doing anything unusual (fighting, performing rituals, etc.) is killed to keep it a secret.
  • In Ravages Of Time, Xiao Meng — formerly an assassin for the nearly-annihilated Sima clan — attempts to avenge the clan by killing Cao Cao, the prime minister of the Han empire, Xiao Meng believing that the Sima clan heir Yi (yes ''that'' Sima Yi) had since "capitulated" to Cao Cao and given up. Unfortunately, Sima Yi was merely hiding his own continued desire for revenge... a masquerade threatened by Xiao Meng's own desire for revenge, so to avert suspicion from himself Sima Yi warned Cao Cao of the would-be assassination attempt and sends his "bedbug" Jia Kui to incite Cao Cao's troops, condemning Xiao Meng to a brutally horrific death — although ironically a glimpse of the "bedbug" actually comforted Xiao Meng, who realized that Sima Yi had not in fact given up on vengeance after all.
  • My Bride Is a Mermaid: If a human should discover the existence of mermaids for any reason, either the human who saw said mermaid or the mermaid who revealed herself has to die. When Sun saves Nagasumi from drowning, Sun's mother Ren takes advantage of a loophole by getting the two engaged, as the rule states that humans married into a mermaid family are the exception.

    Comic Books 
  • In the second arc of Fables, a reporter discovers the fables are immortal... and thinks they're vampires! Bigby assembles a team and fabricates "evidence" that he's a pedophile (don't worry, Pinocchio is Really 700 Years Old and not at all naive, though frustrated he can't grow up) and blackmails him into staying silent. Bluebeard kills him anyway on his own, alleging he's not a softy like Bigby.
  • From Marvel Comics, Elektra's latest turn to villainy involves her killing a heck of a lot of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. It turns out she was on the side of good all along...she just had to kill flunkies to maintain cover.
  • An old Judge Dredd comic written by John Byrne had Dredd blow away a fellow Judge and thus get an in with a gang of crooks. It's okay, the fellow Judge had an incurable diseases and was in on the entire plan. The crooks ended up in a new jail.
  • A Batman storyline, Bruce Wayne: The Road Home, does this. Ra's Al-Ghul learned that Vicki Vale has deduced Batman's identity (and probably that of others) and has taken up the duty of killing her to make sure his adversary's legacy isn't tarnished. Averted, in that Bruce Wayne himself is able to persuade Ra's from killing her and convinces Vicki to destroy the evidence.
  • In Doctor Strange: The Oath, a corrupt pharmaceuticals company bent on Withholding the Cure tries to prevent the release of a magic potion which can cure all diseases — by murder if necessary. The argument is that the world must never know a cure by magic is possible, and that humanity must develop at its own 'natural pace.' (The fact that this sort of thing would devastate their profit margin factors in, too). They get their comeuppance at the end, when one of Strange's allies finds the CEO's "we have to kill 'em all" memo and proceeds to fax it far and wide.
  • This is the end that Rorschach comes to in Watchmen.

    Film 
  • Chillingly portrayed in the otherwise-mostly-comical, if somewhat immensely cynical, Wag The Dog - The producer of the fake war refuses to keep quiet about it; the person he's working for gives a nod to a federal agent, and in the next scene, the producer is reported as having died of a heart attack in his estate.
  • Inverted in The Dark Knight a Wayne Enterprises lawyer discovers the resources diverted to support Batman, when he announces he's going public, The Joker tries to have him killed and Bruce Wayne saves him.
  • In Tangled, Gothel stabs Flynn so that the secrets of Repunzel's kidnapping will "die with him." There may also be shades of Revenge by Proxy, since she can't hurt Rapunzel, and Murder the Hypotenuse.
  • Defied in Underworld, Alexander Corvinus has been running a team of Cleaners to cover the existence of vampires and Lycans. It is explicitly stated that the innocent people who see anything are not harmed, the novelization indicates they are paid off.

    Literature 
  • In The Destroyer, many people have died to uphold the Masquerade. In one of the earliest instances, the Director's assistant discovers CURE, a secret organization set up by President Kennedy to defend the country by working outside the bounds of the Constitution. The assistant then goes to The Director and tells him what he has discovered, and assures him he will never tell anyone. The Director has him killed anyway.
  • Notably averted in The Dresden Files: title character Harry Dresden is in the phone book under "Wizards." Normal humans who poke their noses into the supernatural do frequently end up dead, but that's simply because supernatural beings like vampires and fairies tend to be a) very dangerous and b) jerks.
    • Lampshaded in Proven Guilty when a vampire laughs at Harry when he threatens to expose him, claiming Harry wouldn't dare reveal The Masquerade. He is horrified when Dresden informs him that anyone can look him up in the phonebook under "Wizard."
    • At first Harry is hesitant to tell Murphy or the Alphas much about the real goings-on of the supernatural world, for precisely this reason; he notes that the White Council gets real uppity about vanilla mortals, especially law enforcement, knowing anything about them. Fortunately, the White Council doesn't really learn that Murphy is aware of their existence, and they're too busy with the whole war against the vampires to terribly care.
    • A different variant occurs in Turn Coat where, regardless of the outcome, Morgan is likely to be executed so the Merlin can maintain the illusion that the White Council is still strong and united. Ultimately, Morgan dies killing the person who framed him and his death as originally planned.
  • In Raymond E. Feist's Faerie Tale, this is subverted: the guy who figures out what's going on expects to be killed, but the Ancient Tradition people tell him not to be so melodramatic and give him Laser-Guided Amnesia instead.
  • Averted realistically in the Mercy Thompson books. If you've survived a run-in with the vampires and you're human enough for them to justify killing in the name of The Masquerade, go and talk to the media. You'll be seeing psychologists for the rest of your life, but the vampires will stay away from you.
    • This is part of Charles' job in the Alpha and Omega subseries. Humans who are attacked by werewolves, survive the encounter, and don't contract lycanthropy must be killed. It's one of his most hated duties, since he knows the human is innocent but cannot risk them warning the public about the dangers behind the Masquerade. This situation arises in Cry Wolf, but fortunately he is able to Take a Third Option.
  • In Conquistador, anyone who learns of the portal to the alternate earth becomes an 'involuntary immigrant', meaning that they are forcibly sent through the portal and are never allowed to return. While this isn't lethal, the fact that they effectively vanish without a trace from our world makes them effectively dead from the perspective of anyone who knew them.
  • Elena in Women Of The Otherworld uses this as an excuse for one of the many times she ditches the pack. After killing a man who planned to auction off information on real life werewolves who couldn't be talked down, she's disgusted with herself for having made the choice to take his life so easily. This is a step up, really. In the past werewolves would kill anyone who came close to learning about them. The rest of the supernatural world seems to have long ago decided to give people a chance to keep quiet before silencing them, though.
  • A standing order in the dinosaur community of Anonymous Rex is that any humans who stumble onto the fact that humanoid dinosaurs are alive and living incognito in the modern world are to be killed for fear of backlash or persecution against the dinosaur races if mankind at large ever found out their existence. That dinosaurs are vastly outnumbered by humans gives them legitimate amount of concern, however, even the main character doesn't seem to have much of a problem with the morality of this policy.
  • The Volturi in Twilight, Their main job is to destroy vampires who attract too much attention to themselves. It was mentioned that they wiped out every vampire in Mexico when the vampire civil war there got out of hand.
  • Deconstructed in The Laundry Series. The first person the Laundry had to kill to keep knowledge of eldritch horrors from becoming known was Alan Turing, who'd discovered how to use computation to radically advance summoning. They realized soon after the only thing this had done was deny them a great source of knowledge. So from now on, they recruit anyone who looks like they're going to either do something great or do something disastrous (like Bob, the series' protagonist) - or at least offer them that option before killing them.
    • It's also noted that a government agency needing both a continued budget and a distinct lack of oversight takes a severe risk when assassinating its parent government's citizens, and doing so is usually the most expensive option in terms of both monetary and political capital.

    Live Action TV 
  • In 24 this happens a few times during season 5 by the order of President Logan. There are a couple of subversions which include the attempts on the lives of Jack Bauer and James Heller as they both survive.
  • This happens multiple times in Stargate SG-1. As the series is Backed by the Pentagon, the witnesses are never killed by the uniformed military, but the SGC's rivals are always eager to Shoot the Dog for them. They often gloat about this, saying that the though SGC agrees that secrecy is paramount, they aren't willing to "make the hard choices", and take pride in murdering witnesses on their behalf.
    • In a second season episode, a reporter threatens to go public with knowledge of the Stargate. Seconds after dismissing O'Neill in public, a passing car jumps the curb, sends him flying, and speeds away. O'Neill is fairly sure that he was Killed To Uphold The Masquerade, but General Hammond says that to his knowledge, it wasn't an assassination. The audience never finds out for sure either way.
    • A Season Six episode has a reporter discover some evidence of one of the SGC's side programs. It turns out to be an NID plot, and the reporter is left empty-handed - but alive.
    • A Season Eight episode has an entrepreneur salvage some wreckage from a fight between the Asgard and Goa'uld in Earth orbit, and produce an empty Asgard clone to the press. He was going to be killed by the shadowy conspiracy, but the SGC rescued him via Asgard beaming, sending him to explore other planets (which he was happy to do). Of course, his case for the existence of aliens was disproved.
      • This was mostly because his company went bankrupt, causing him to lose all credibility.
  • The reporter and TV news producer who stumble upon the existence of the anomalies in Primeval conveniently run off into one such anomaly and wind up trapped (and presumably eaten) in the Mesozoic.
  • In the second season of Dexter, James Doakes discovers Dexter's secret. Dexter keeps him locked in a cabin for several days while he deliberates on whether to kill him, only to have Lila do it for him.
  • UFO. It's mentioned on several occasions that SHADO is prepared to do this, though we never actually see it, presumably because for the audience it would involve crossing the Moral Event Horizon.
  • In the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, Cally Tyrol follows her husband to discover a meeting of the four Cylons who live in secret in the fleet. Tory Foster ensures that she won't live to tell anyone about it ... Which comes back to haunt her a long time later ...
    • Interestingly, Cally wasn't planning on telling anyone. She was about to step out the airlock with her baby. Tory appears to convince her they aren't evil, only to take the baby and kill Cally. To be fair-ish, Cally was in the grips of a post-partum depression and drug overuse, it's not unlikely she would have inadvertently revealed the secret or changed their mind. This was one of the characters who murders Cylon agents in cold blood out in the open.
  • In Charmed:
    • There's an entire class of demons (Libris demons) who are tasked with killing any ordinary mortals who discover that they exist.
      • Those demons are discontinued, however; after the Season 3 finale, from which the side of good lost Prue and the side of evil lost Tempus, they pool their powers to create The Cleaners, a True Neutral and extremely powerful duo designed specifically to ensure that magic remains hidden. However, that's not to say that they have any reservations about killing.
    • As part of his series of criss-crossing alignments, Cole killed a man who threatened to blackmail Phoebe (Cole's love interest) with revealing the existence of her powers. That said, he did it mostly to protect her, but he used this as his justification to her.
    • Inspector Sheridan never actually learned the Charmed Ones' identities, but she was so suspicious of their nature and motives that she continued to pursue them relentlessly. Various methods are tried to distract her or throw her off the scent, until eventually Agent Brody gets her put in a coma and locked away in an asylum; unfortunately when she comes out of this and eventually recovers her memories this only makes her even more determined to uncover the truth. In the end, the sisters are saved from having to worry about how to stop her from exposing them when her sting operation causes her to walk in on Zankou right as he's trying to gain control of the Nexus...
  • In Alias, Sydney follows orders and stabs a man to death in order to maintain her cover as an assassin named Julia Thorne.
  • In Once Upon a Time, Graham is killed moments after recovering his memories about who he really is.
  • On Person of Interest individuals whom the Machine decides are a threat to its own secrecy or existence may suffer this fate.
    • The agency in charge of the Machine also has a track record of trying to kill anyone who comes near it, which is how Reese went from CIA black ops to homeless in New York. Ironically, in one episode their attempt to eliminate an NSA analyst who asked the wrong question resulted in him being flagged as a Person of Interest for our heroes to save. Another time they target their two top agents for elimination because one of them starts asking questions about a mission. The agents were utterly loyal and did not really know anything but their boss decided to not take any risks and sends in the kill teams. They also murdered one of the people responsible for building the Machine for trying to blow the masquerade.
    • And in a coincidental example, Carter deduces the existence of the Machine and is killed for totally unrelated reasons in the next scene.
  • A variation take place in an episode of Chuck. A bad guy finds out the truth about Chuck and plans to tell his superiors. He gloats about it to Sarah, who has her gun on him. Realizing this is the only way to protect Chuck, she shoots the man in cold blood. Unfortunately for her, Chuck witnesses it.
  • On Forever Knight those few humans who witness vampire activity and prove resistant to posthypnotic suggestion are usually killed, but occasionally they become a Secret Keeper (such as Natalie and Tracy).
  • Bitten has this as the job of the Pack. They kill anyone who threatens their existence and it was enforcing this rule which drove Elena away. It is later revealed that one of the reasons for why Clay bit and turned Elena into a werewolf was because Jeremy thought that Elena saw him transform back into human form. Knowing that he could not stop Jeremy from killing Elena, Clay bit her instead hoping that against all odds Elena might survive the transformation. Elena actually saw nothing and for years thought that Clay acted for purely selfish reasons.
  • This is threatened a lot on Orphan Black, though it doesn't seem to actually happen often, due to the fact that Project DYAD needs the clones alive and (at least somewhat) cooperative in order to continue the experiment.

    Tabletop RPG 
  • This is basically "Standard Plot Complication #3" in any gameline of The World of Darkness.
    • Vampire: The Masquerade and Vampire: The Requiem in particular. Considering the former had vampires close to being wiped out during the Inquisition in Europe, and the prevalence of modern telecomunications, vampires are very aware that any slip could destroy their species... which, considering most of them, this would be a good thing for humans.
    • Usually averted in Mage: The Awakening. Even the Guardians of the Veil, the most secrecy-obsessed and Dirty Business-prone of the Pentacle orders, considers killing humans who might break the Masquerade an absolute last resort, and mages have a great number of other ways to deal with troublesome Sleepers.
    • Played with in Hunterthe Vigil. While people who see past the masquerade often become hunters, the powerful conspiracies that hunt in the darkness will often kill as a last resort to not only cover up the existence of monsters, but the dealings of the conspiracies. This is also the reason vampires and other creatures are so quick to kill to uphold the masquerade; witnesses often become hunters.
  • Averted in the Infinite Worlds setting for GURPS, though only just. The Infinity Patrol have it as an ironclad policy that they will not kill people just to protect The Secret of parachronics. They've got memory erasure drugs, they can conjure up plausible explanations, discredit witnesses, and even just ask nicely, but they won't kill. When all else fails, they'll kidnap those who Know Too Much and put them on a Prison Planet, but even that's exceptional and sometimes Dirty Business.

    Web Comics 
  • In Shadownova the Everto do this a lot. One attack on a group of people who can see through the masquerade sets the entire plot in motion. Cameron, one of the Everto, then tries to make Iris, the only survivor, feel like it's her fault everyone had to be killed because she could see through the masquerade even though the ability to do so is completely involuntary.
  • In the opening chapter of morphE the man with the glasses is killed by Amical after non-leathally losing the fight with Asia. Amical claims he would be better off dead than living in a world where he knew magic existed. He could have easily have had the man brainwashed and sent on his way, but that's not as intimidating to his new students.

    Web Original 
  • Averted in the PPC. The offending characters are either neuralysed or recruited, depending on their importance to the main story of their continuum or how easily they would merge with canon.
  • The SCP Foundation doesn't shy away from doing this when necessary, though they prefer treatment with amnesiacs when possible.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman Beyond has a sleazy reporter who has the power to become incorporeal, and who uses this power to discover Batman's identity. Nothing Bruce or Terry can say or do will convince him not to reveal Batman's identity on live television, which poses quite the problem since Batman doesn't kill people, even for his secret identity. Conveniently, the issue is settled for them when the reporter loses control of his powers, ultimately helplessly falling through the floor... and presumably continuing to fall until he reaches the Earth's core.
  • In Transformers Prime, the Decepticons are quite willing to kill any human that sees a giant space robot. The Autobots save 3 of them, and they end up as the human sidekicks, since if they want them dead anyway, they might as well be standing next to the other giant robots who can protect them.

    Video Games 
  • In Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood some of the audio files in Subject 16's data suggest this is what The Knights Templar do to people in the modern day.
    • One of the audio clips has a reporter discussing some findings about Abstergo in a car and being listened too on a hidden microphone. Some Templar agents then casually discuss eliminating him.
    • Another clip has a man finding a hidden TV channel with his bio signs and other information on it, he telephones the TV company (Abstergo) and the company sends a "technician" who breaks down the door. Call ends.
      • Made even more disturbing by the child in the background yelling, "Dad! Someone's at the door!"
    • Shaun implies that this would have been his fate if the templars instead of the assassins had found him first when Desmond asks him how he joined the assassins in Assassin's Creed II.
  • An option in Dragon Age: Origins when dealing Brother Genitivi and Andraste's Ashes, if you decide you want no one to know they really exist.
    • Ser Jory is killed when he tries to back out of the joining, after watching Daveth die, though it probably didn't help that he pulled a sword on Duncan. However, Duncan does warn, "There can be no turning back."
  • This is the logic behind Lancer killing Shirou in the opening of Fate/stay night. Granted, Shirou gets better, and it was really kinda pointless because Shirou already knew about magi and magecraft, being one himself. However, Lancer had no ability to know that, Shirou didn't try to correct him, and Lancer's master is a Card-Carrying Villain.
  • In VtM: Bloodlines, the plot starts with the vampire that Embraced the Player Character getting offed for a Masquerade Violation, and you can get at least three quests to kill someone who's threatening, or in one case has already broken, the Masquerade. You also run into someone who knew you before you were Embraced, and if you can't convince her you're not who she thinks you are, you have to kill her before she makes a phone call or receive a Masquerade Violation.
    • Smiling Jack from the tutorial summarizes the Masquerade thus: "We're living in the age of cell phone cameras; fuck-ups ain't tolerated!"
  • A subversion of this is the premise behind Daycare Nightmare. Basically, this mommy monster was about to kill a waitress who saw her child accidentally abandon its human disguise when her babysitter called to cancel on her and said waitress offered free babysitting in exchange for not being eaten.

Keeping Secrets SucksThe Secret IndexLocked Out of the Loop
Kill Me Now or Forever Stay Your HandPlotsKilling For A Tissue Sample
Kill and ReplaceSpeculative Fiction TropesKiller Robot
Killed Off ScreenDeath TropesKill 'em All

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