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Mistaken Identity
Sanji: Are you saying this is my fault!? If you don't want to look like my wanted picture then how about trying to change your hairstyle or your beard!? There are plenty of things you could just change, right!?
Duval: ....AH! So I could have done that!?
Sanji: ARE YOU ALL MORONS!?

The ploy where one person is mistaken for another and Hilarity Ensues. Truth in Television to an alarming degree.

This was a big favorite of William Shakespeare, which means it has been riffed on by a large number of others. Shakespeare, of course, cribbed it from Greek plays, the Greek playwrights cribbed it from ... who knows? Pictures on a cave wall, maybe.

Subtropes:

Not to be confused with Thoroughly Mistaken Identity.

Examples:

Anime & Manga
  • In Fairy Tail, Wendy is elated to be reunited with Jellal, who saved her as a child. Of course, since there's, like, ten Jellals running around, she's got the wrong one. It's actually a little sad, since the one she finds has amnesia, and has only been told about all the things he's done wrong in the past, so he's relieved to hear that he's been able to do good for at least one person.
  • In Natsume's Book Of Friends, it's a recurring plot point that ayakashi - not being terribly keen on the passage of time or human sex differences - regularly mistake Takashi Natsume for his grandmother Reiko. This usually doesn't work out well for him, as most ayakashi are looking for Reiko to settle a score with her.
  • Muteki Kanban Musume: Given her constant depression, her Face of a Thug and her physical appearance, everyone takes Kayahara Sensei for an Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl onryo bent on revenge on the living. Given her enormous Guilt Complex, Bitch in Sheep's Clothing Megumi will always take her for one.
  • In Kamisama Kiss Tomoe ends up confusing Nanami and Yukiji.
  • This trope shows up in One Piece: Duval was originally a small-time crook until Sanji got his Wanted Poster. Through a series of unlucky accidents, the Marines couldn't get a good picture of Sanji, so they instead resorted to using a crudely drawn picture instead, much to Sanji's dismay. Because Duval looks exactly like the wanted poster picture, Marines and bounty hunters alike mistook him for Sanji and started hunting him. This led Duval to hate Sanji's guts, believing he ruined his life (Though still, as quoted above, Duval isn't exactly the sharpest tool in the shed). The problem is eventually solved when Sanji kicks Duval's face hard and repeatedly, which permanently alters his facial structures and makes him look like a Bishōnen. This pleases Duval so much that he immediately forgets his grudge towards Sanji to the point of actually calling him "Young Master", and has a Heel-Face Turn.
  • In Axis Powers Hetalia Canada is frequently mistaken for America. That is, when anyone even notices him to begin with.
  • Trigun has a pretty hilarious one in the first episode: notorious outlaw Vash the Stampede is cornered by a bounty hunter who wants the price on his head. Then a second bounty hunter shows up and mistakes the first one for Vash, followed by a coincidence making the first guy think the second is Vash - all the while the real Vash is watching the whole thing from the sidelines, still sitting where the first bounty hunter left him tied up and looking not the least bit amused.
    Vash: Uh, did I miss something...?
  • Fullmetal Alchemist has Al often being mistaken as the titular character due to him being a suit of armor and Ed's codename.
    • Even lampshaded in 2003 anime series episode, "The Other Brothers Elric".
    Ed: No, you dolt! I'm Ed! Why does everyone think that?!

Comic Books
  • Flash Thompson has a tendency to dress up as Spider-Man, and end up mistaken for him by his enemies.
  • In Titans, the revived Osiris mistakes Killer Croc for Sobek.
  • In The Avengers, The Falcon ditched his 90's costume after Namor mistook him for a D-list hero named Stingray.

Fanfiction
  • The Cult of Bya no Kuei Arc in One Piece: Parallel Works is all about Wolfgang being mistaken for the royal prince of the island, who looks exactly like Wolfgang, save for his eye color. It gets Played for Drama when the Capricorns end up discovering the corpse of Wolfgang's doppleganger and mistake him for Wolfgang.
  • In The New Retcons John Patterson mistakes Claire Thompson as a lawyer hired either by his son's mother in law or the owners of the business he invested in to attempt to force him to give up his shares in said business. He takes it much worse when Anthony accidentally reveals that she's actually his wife's illegitimate daughter and attacks his wife in response.
  • Becoming Ponies has a weird twist on this. People are waking up as the characters of MLP:FIM... except they are sharing their minds with the characters, who never wake up in control. So, that's not Pinkie Pie, even though it is...
  • Sepia Tock: Adventures of the Ponyville Clockmaker is based around the premise that the titular character keeps getting mistaken for a certain fictional time-traveling hero. He is somewhat resentful of this.
  • In Kenshin's New Look Sano mistakes Kenshin for Kaoru because Kenshin is dressed up as Kaoru. (Despite the fact that Kaoru doesn't have red hair while Kenshin does.)

Film
  • A common theme in Alfred Hitchcock movies such as North by Northwest.
  • The German movie Kleine Haie is about some guys who want to be accepted at an actors' school. One of them in fact starts out as a worker who just had to deliver a chair to the school, gets mistaken for another wannabe actor, but the teachers mistake his behavior "Hey, I just want to deliver this chair!" for improvised acting. He gets the hang of it.
  • The premise of Top Hat is that Dale Tremont mistakes Jerry Travis for Horace Hardwick, her friend's husband. They met when she was disturbed by his loud dancing, they hit it off and the next day she asks the hotel staff who was in the room above, they give Mr Hardwick's name (due to an error Jerry had to share his room) and point out Jerry when he comes to return the keys. Throughout the rest of the film, Dale is struggling with being wooed with her friend's husband, so she thinks... it gets even funnier since Mrs Hardwick was planning on introducing Dale to Jerry in hopes they would hit it off.
  • A group of nihilists rough up The Dude. They do this because they're looking for one Jeff Lebowski, who The Dude has the same name as. A long stretch of strange events ensues.
  • In A Song Is Born, Frisbee mistakenly thinks gangster Tony Snow is Honey Swanson's father, because she calls him by the slang term, "daddy."
  • In Le Million, Michel goes to find petty thief Grandpa Tulip because Tulip is in possession of a very important coat of Michel's. The cops wind up arresting Michel, thinking that he is Tulip. Hilarity Ensues.

Literature
  • Happens twice in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The first time is intentional - two con men show up at the home of a recently deceased man, claiming to be his brothers who live in England. This fools the foolish townspeople for some time, until the real brothers show up. The second plays the trope much straighter: Huck just happens to unknowingly show up at the house of Tom Sawyer's aunt hundreds of miles from home, who just happens to be expecting Tom for a visit. Luckily, when Tom shows up, he plays along and poses as Sid Sawyer, Tom's own younger brother.
    • Well, younger cousin; Sid's mother is Tom's Aunt Polly - the one he's visiting is his Aunt Sally who has never seen either of her nephews. So when a preteen boy shows up at her house she automatically assumes it's the one she's expecting. Tom being Tom, he thinks this is a great joke/adventure, and turns it into a game in which he makes up all the rules.
  • Poor Nick Carter. In Year Zero, he is mistaken for both the Backstreet Boy and the founding partner of his law firm.
  • Caster, AKA Gilles de Rais/Bluebeard, of Fate/Zero thinks Saber is Joan Of Arc, and kinda flips out when she tells him otherwise. He assumes that she's lost her memory and decides to commit mass murders to 'restore' his beloved Jeanne d'Arc.
  • In Cornell Woolrich's novel "I Married A Dead Man", two pregnant women (one happily married traveling with her rich husband and the other unmarried and running away in shame) visit a bathroom on the train. The married woman nearly drops her heirloom wedding ring down the sink so she puts it on the other woman's finger for safekeeping while she washes up. The train derails, the married couple are both killed and the single woman is mistaken for the other woman. She only finds this out in the hospital after giving birth and plans to tell the truth but finds herself in an increasingly complex web of lies, leading to blackmail and murder.

Live-Action TV
  • An episode of House featured a sort of "torn from the headlines" mystery in which they spent the entire episode treating a woman who survived a building collapse but horribly maimed and unable to communicate. They keep finding inconsistency after inconsistency with her condition, medical records, and patient history (as provided by her fiance and mother) but assume that House's "everybody lies" motto explains things one way or another. In the end, House realizes the woman was misidentified, they figure out who she really is, and they save her life just in time using the correct medical history.
  • In the Leonardo episode "The Betrothal Ball", set at a Masquerade Ball, Lisa and Angelina, daughter of the Duke of Pisa, are wearing identical dresses and masks. Lorenzo has insisted he and Leo wear matching outfits, and at one point they swap masks. Every possible point of confusion is covered, first Played for Laughs (as Mac agonises to "Lorenzo" about how Lisa loves Leo, and Leo asks "Lisa" about it) and then Played for Drama (when Lisa gets kidnapped instead of Angelica.)
  • The entire premise of Princess Returning Pearl. Xia Zi Wei is a long lost illegitimate daughter of the Emperor Qian Long who comes to Beijing to find her father. To get to her father, she must climb a cliff to get to where he is hunting outside the palace one day, but since she was too weak to climb the cliff, she entrusted her story and objects proving her identity to her sworn sister Xiao Yan Zi, asking her to relay the message on her behalf. Xiao Yan Zi manages to get into the hunting ground but before she could speak to the emperor, she was accidentally shot with an arrow by one of his sons...The emperor seeing the objects on her, immediately assumes she is his daughter instead and a whole lot of mixups ensues, leading to a whole complicated plot.
  • Happens a lot in Power Rangers, it seems. The plot goes like this: the current Big Bad wants the Monster of the Week to ambush and kidnap one of the heroes, but it just so happens that said hero has arranged for a friend or current love interest to meet with him or her somewhere, and when the monster shows up, guess what happens? (Of course, you could probably blame the Big Bad for this more, for simply not giving a better description.) The first time would probably have been when Madame Woe grabbed Billy's girlfriend Maude when Rita intended her to grab Billy, but it wouldn't be the last time.
  • An interesting twist in "Secret Admirer'; Frasier mistakes himself for the object of Maris' affections when it is actually Niles who is supposed to receive the gifts.
  • In the Pilot of Supernatural, there is a non comedic example. Mary mistakes the man next to her son's crib for her husband, only to walk downstairs and find her husband asleep in front of the television.

Newspaper Comics
  • This Garfield strip has Garfield mistaking an actual bear cub for his stuffed bear.

Theatre
  • Shakespeare's plays:
    • The Merchant of Venice — Explores the differences between outer appearance and inner reality, putting almost every character in a disguise at one point or another.
    • As You Like It — Shakespeare had a lot of fun with utterly changing the meaning of the dialog by letting the audience in on who was really speaking, but leaving the characters unaware.
    • Twelfth Night — Malvolio, Orsino, and Olivia all find themselves doing things they wouldn't ordinarily, by trying to act as the person they are mistaken for.
    • Measure for Measure — The Duke uses disguise to reveal the truth about Angelo's character. This also provides comedy when Lucio speaks of the Duke to the Duke while unaware of the Duke's identity.
    • The Comedy of Errors — The entire play is built around the chaos two pairs of long-separated identical twins cause when they coincidentally end up in the same town.
    • Julius Caesar — Following Antony's effective speech, an Angry Mob forms up to find and kill Caesar's murderers. They run into a poet named Cinna, the same name as one of the conspirators, and beat him to death despite his loud and repeated protests that they have the wrong man.
  • The Lieutenant of Inishmore reveals at the very end that that cat shown dead — definitely dead — on stage at the beginning was not Wee Thomas, but a random stray. The thought of Wee Thomas having been killed is what sparked off the plot.
  • In The Most Happy Fella, Tony mails Rosabella a photograph of his handsome young foreman Joe. Rosabella is shocked to discover on her wedding day that "Tony" is actually Joe and she's marrying an old man, but she goes through with the wedding anyway because she has nothing else to fall back on.

Video Games
  • A funny meta example, fans of Yume Nikki stumble onto this Youtube channel, thinking it's the same Kikiyama who made this game.
  • Happens in Chrono Trigger near the start of the game when Marle goes to the past and is mistaken for her ancestor, Queen Leene.
  • Forms a major plot point in the final battle in Hellsinker as Garland mistakes the protagonists as Amber's owner.
  • The plot of Napple Tale begins with a novice Grim Reaper accidentally collecting the heroine, Pōchi, when he was actually set for...a kitty named Pōshe. Pōchi then has to go on an adventure to get back home.
  • In Final Fantasy X-2, Yuna and her friends initially mistake a recording of Shuyin for one of Tidus because they look so similar. Shuyin mistakes Yuna for his dead lover Lenne because she's wearing Lenne's old clothes that house her sleeping spirit. Later, Yuna tries to pretend to be Lenne to get Shuyin to stand down, but he sees through the attempt and goes berserk.
  • God of War: Ghost of Sparta: This game reveals a prophecy that a "marked warrior" will bring about the downfall of Olympus; when Kratos was a child, Athena and Ares thought that Kratos' brother Deimos was the warrior in the prophecy because of his strange birthmarks. In reality, the marked warrior is Kratos himself, the mark in question being the ashes of his family that are permanently affixed to his skin.
  • Kirby Triple Deluxe: Taranza mistakenly believes that King Dedede, not Kirby, is the hero of Dream Land simply because Dedede is the king. He only finds out his blunder after Kirby defeats him.

Web Comics

Western Animation
  • In the Garfield and Friends episode "Mistakes Will Happen", Garfield and Odie are watching the intentionally mistake-filled episode of Garfield And Friends itself, Mistake Will Happen. At one point in it, Garfield and Odie overhear Jon planning to scare them using a ghost costume as punishment for walking in the woods alone. However, an escaped convict sees him after he bumps into a tree, and is worried that there might be people, so he uses the costume to scare away any people. Garfield and Odie spot him thinking he's Jon, and Hilarity Ensues.
  • Dan gets mistaken for a homeless guy. In front of a Shakespeare dinner theater, no less.
  • The Simpsons
    • Homer got mistaken for a pilot after he was found drinking at a bar where that was required. He flips a switch on the plane and it smashes into the runway.
    Homer: But I keep telling you I'm not a pilot!
    Man: And I keep telling you you fly boys crack me up!
    • When waiting by his car in "The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson" a man drops off some change. Homer tells him he isn't a bum. More people give him change so Homer decides to just accept it. When he then asks a woman for spare change she ignores him, causing Homer to call her a cheapskate.
  • The Powerpuff Girls mistake the Professor's brother with a sasquatch.
  • Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja: In Bash Johnson: 11th Grade Ninja'', Bash is mistaken for the ninja and gets all the adulation and is almost killed by McFist's robo-apes.
    • During Randy's fiest run-in with Catfish Booray, Randy introduced himself as "Reginald Bagel", leading Booray to believe that to be the Ninja's true identity. It's revealed in a later episode there is a boy named Reginald Bagel and the Ninja has to protect him from McFist.

Real Life
  • People often don't realize how huge a problem eyewitness mistaken identification is. If there is one criminal in a population of 5000, and a witness is 99% reliable, that still results in 50 false positives.
  • This problem is somewhat more recognized in medical practice. False positives from an apparently reliable test for a rare disease will swamp the actual afflicted ones, unless some kind of pre-screening removes most of the healthy. If the disease affects one in a thousand tested persons, and the test is 99% reliable in rejecting healthy persons, then the false positives will outnumber the diseased persons at least ten to one.
  • This happens every time you think you see an acquaintance who actually turns out to be a complete stranger. Can be embarrassing at parties.
    • Or if you mistake a stranger for a celebrity... That can be very awkward.
  • One particular example occurred in Beijing during the 2008 Olympics, when Steve Parry, a British former Olympic swimmer then reporting for the BBC, was mistaken for Michael Phelps, an American Olympic swimmer in Beijing who had beaten the record for most gold medals won in a single Olympics that year. Hilarity did indeed ensue.
  • Brazilian engineer Jean Charles de Mendez, resident in Britain at the time, was mistaken for a wanted terrorist on the 22nd of July 2005. The Metropolitan Police chased him through the Underground, dragged him off the train, pinned him down and shot him in the head execution-style. It was two weeks after the July 7th bombings, and the police had a "shoot to kill" mentality.

Louis CypherIdentity IndexMultilayer Façade
Mistaken for TerroristMistaken for IndexMistaken Message
Mistaken for BadassNarrative Devices'Mister Sandman" Sequence
Mission from GodOlder Than FeudalismModesty Bedsheet
Introduction by HookupRecognition TropesNarrowed It Down to the Guy I Recognize

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