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Nice Character, Mean Actor
There's an actor who is well-known for playing brave and courageous characters who are as good as it gets, or an actress whose characters are sweet and easy-going. But off-camera, it turns out that these people are not as nice as they appear to be when they start yelling at the rest of the cast, snapping at the director (in the sort of language their characters would never dare use), and proclaiming that they alone have the talent. When meeting with fans, they'll usually take on their nice character persona, but when alone they'll complain loudly about how much they hate their annoying fans. Hell, they might actually be genuinely nice, but the biz tends to bring out the worst in people pretty fast. And at the wrong time, too.

This is often used to give a message of not worshiping idols and raising false hopes. It is used to show the weaknesses and frivolities of show business and, funnily enough, considering the source, that just makes the message more interesting. People like to consider it knowledge from people who know what happens behind the curtain and take it as a knowing wink from the other side. Even if they're not really talking about their section of the industry.

Related to Hates the Job, Loves the Limelight and the Depraved Kids' Show Host; subtrope of Bitch in Sheep's Clothing and The Prima Donna. The opposite of Mean Character, Nice Actor. Compare Funny Character, Boring Actor. Also compare Small Name, Big Ego.

There are numerous gossip magazines and websites that delve into this exact thing, and celebrities are held to higher standards of "nice" than normal people; having a short temper on a stressful day of work can be spun into making one sound like the most colossal bitch/douchebag on the planet.


In-Universe Examples Only

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • The infamous Juicy Fruit commercial set in the recording of a children's program has an actress trying to lip-sync the singalong song, only to lose it when her mascot-esque friend swipes the gum from her overalls!

    Anime and Manga 
  • Bubblegum Crisis: Vision may apear to be a calm, soft hearted Idol Singer, but offstage, she is a ruthless mecha driving terrorist on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge!
  • Sho of Skip Beat! is kind and sweet to his fans . . . and a ruthless, cruel jerk the rest of the time.
  • Akira Kogami in Lucky Star, but only in the anime.
  • Arguably, Tobi / Madara in Naruto Shippuuden are this in-universe.
    • Yukie Fujikaze from the first movie is a straighter example, actually being a movie star. She gives a powerful and moving performance while on film, but is cold and bitchy everywhere else. She got better.
  • Some victims of in Detective Conan are this trope.
  • Pop idol Glitter in Hamtaro. On the stage, she's a nice, bubbly Genki Girl. Off the stage, she's a nasty, possessive bitch. Glitter's hamster Sparkle is the same way, though unlike Glitter, Sparkle eventually gets better.
  • Megumi, Magical Angel Creamy Mami's rival. Though she too gets better by the end of the series.
  • Kiriri, the middle school voice actor from The World of Narue plays the bubbly and heroic Magical Girl Number 4, but outside of that, is a shallow jerk who tries to break Kazuto and Narue up.
  • As a riff on female celebrities who put on a kawaiiko persona, a Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei chapter/episode has Maria attacking people identified as a boke and when she goes to bop a seemingly ditzy female star identified as a "natural boke", said star flashes a Game Face at Maria and throws her to the ground- and then reverts to her cutesy persona in front of the camera.
  • Raymond Spume of the Ace Attorney manga plays the heroic Sparklestar for Sparkle Land, but makes snide comments about his fellow employees and yells at his assistant Julie for biting her nails. It turns out that he's quite attached to the role and doesn't want anyone else ruining Sparklestar, so he kills Flip Chambers when Flip is set to replace him.
    • In the Ace Attorney Investigations manga, Emi St. Cloud follows in this tradition, yelling at her assistant Kara when she only did what she was told and generally acting selfish and petty when she isn't putting on a good face for the press and as her role in the movie Othello Detectives. She ends up being murdered, and is an Asshole Victim, but it isn't over anything she did; the killer simply wanted to stop the film from being released.
  • In episode 10 of Ore No Imōto Ga Konna Ni Kawaii Wake Ga Nai, Kanako is quite upset that Ayase and Kyousuke tricked her into a cosplay contest. However, during the event, she gives it her all, and does such an outstanding job at playing an adorably cutesy Magical Girl that she wins the contest, and her friend in the audience, Kirino, didn't even realize it was her. Afterward, backstage, she gives off a very vicious attitude which causes one of the younger cosplay contestants to run out of the room crying.
  • In Yuru-Yuri, Chinatsu is sometimes forced to cosplay as Mirakurun, the main character of the Show Within a Show that Kyouko likes. She will often put on a cutesy display when entertaining a younger child, but then either break character the moment said child disappears (but is still within earshot, such as going to another room in a house), or does/says something that breaks said child's illusion/depiction of Mirakurun as a hero.
  • Soji, Reina's uncle in Yandere Kanojo. It's kinda downplayed that he's actually just a Mood-Swinger than actually malicious.

    Comicbooks 
  • British girls' comic Mandy ran a strip in which a TV actress famous for playing a loving mother in a soap opera is in fact horrible to her stepdaughter behind closed doors.
  • In Fables (fairytale characters living in the real world), the Big Bad cast includes Geppetto, Goldilocks, Hansel, and the Three Little Pigs.

    Fan Fiction 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Death to Smoochy focused on the sordid private lives of children's TV performers. Most of the drama comes from most of the characters trying to prove that Smoochy is just as bad as the rest.
  • Neil Patrick Harris portrayed himself in the Harold & Kumar movies as an insane lunatic with an insatiable appetite for drugs and hookers when off-screen. To be fair, he's a much more reasonable person when the drugs wear off.
  • Americas Sweethearts was built around this trope. Gwen and Eddie always played sweethearts in the movies (see the film's title). In real life, Gwen left Eddie for another man, treated her sister/assistant like garbage, and was a general bitch to most people she met. And she was actually considered nicer when she was overweight.
  • My Name Is Bruce, where Bruce Campbell plays himself as this type of actor, mostly being compared to Ash.
  • Played brilliantly for comic effect in Pee Wees Big Adventure when child actor Kevin Morton (played by actual Nice Guy child actor Jason Hervey) acts like an arrogant prick toward the cast and crew in between takes on a film where he plays an orphan that all of the nuns and fellow orphans love dearly.
    "Doesn't it look like I'm ready? I am ALWAYS ready! I have BEEN ready since first call! I AM READY! Roll!"
    • One of the actresses playing one of the nuns so resents Morton's attitude that she threatens to quit.
  • Lina Lamont in Singin' in the Rain. She plays all sorts of glamorous princesses and whatnot (in silent films), but when she actually opens her mouth, you find out she sounds awful and has the personality to match.
  • Andy Griffith carries this off beautifully in 1957's A Face in the Crowd where he comes off as a folksy home-spun philosopher who somehow becomes a media success. Of course his downfall comes when his disillusioned girlfriend deliberately broadcasts what he really thinks of his audience during the closing credits of his TV program.
  • Neville Sinclair in The Rocketeer, an Errol-Flynn-style '30s action hero actor who turns out to be a jerkass primadonna who "accidentally" stabs one of his costars for upstaging him. Even worse, he turns out to be a Nazi spy, kills multiple people (enemy and ally alike) in his quest to steal the jetpack for his Nazi superiors so they can take over the world. This is based on real world accusations, but never confirmed, that Errol Flynn was himself a Nazi sympathizer.
  • In What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Jane was a cutesy Shirley Temple-esque child star who became a horrible spoiled brat offstage. Her career was ended when her fans witnessed her throwing a tantrum outside the theatre.
  • The Purple Rose of Cairo.
  • Peter Sellers plays the primary Villain Protagonist of Your Past is Showing and is a variant on The Krusty/Depraved Kids' Show Host. The public knows him as a kind Fun Personified variety show host, but in reality, he's cold and cynical and has made money by investing in/being the landlord of slum housing.
  • In Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure, Amber Lee Adams at first seems like she's quite a nice person. However, as the movie goes on, it turns out that Amber is planning to have the 'best friend' written out of the show. In doing so, she hires Sharpay as (unknown to Sharpay) her maid by making her do Amber's dirty work, so that she'll 'help' Sharpay's dog, Boi, get the role as the 'best friend' in the show. Of course, Amber's karma catches up with her when she is exposed as a jerkass onstage at dress rehearsal, and right in front of her own fanclub, too!
  • Floop from Spy Kids, though it's played with. His heart ultimately isn't in evil, and his softness allows his Dragon, Minion, to usurp him and become the Big Bad instead.
  • Sally Field's character in the soap opera parody Soapdish. On-screen, she's "America's Sweetheart" but off-screen, she's a conniving diva.

    Literature 
  • One of the Just William stories featured William sneaking into a hotel so he could meet the actress playing "Princess Goldilocks" in the pantomime currently running at the local theatre. He discovers that she's grumpy, rude and much older than she looks on stage.
  • In High Society by Ben Elton, a drug-addled rock star who became famous via an American Idol-style reality show confesses to an affair with a fellow contestant, who had projected a cutesy family-friendly image on the show but was really a coke-snorting nymphomaniac off screen.
  • A Sweet Valley Twins book, The Curse of the Ruby Necklace, where the twins are cast as extras in a movie. They meet the lead actress, who is a complete bitch but also an amazing actress who can turn on the sweetness in nothing flat.
  • In the Thursday Next universe, there's something really wrong with David Copperfield: he actually killed his first wife.
  • Animorphs had Jeremy Jason McCole in "The Reaction". The girls were fangirling all over the place for him and then they found out he was a jerk for real.
  • In the Wildlife trilogy by Todd Strasser, Oscar Roginoff gets worse and worse with each new book. As the keyboardist (and composer) for the Coming Attractions, he has an amazing knack for connecting with the crowd. But the audience never sees his behind-the-scenes prima-donna antics at least until the titular book, when the band appears on an MTV segment following the last show of their final tour. Then it all goes downhill at least for him.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will ends up in a fist fight with a Barney-esque mascot when the actor inside assaults him, and is subsequently called out on it since no one knows the actor was a jerk and attacked Will first.
  • Wayne Brady's infamous sketch on Chappelle's Show had him making fun of himself and his likable, good-natured reputation as a complete mask for his true self, a violent, murderous pimp.
  • Pancake Buffalo, from Hannah Montana, his puppeteer may have him act sweet and kind on TV, but she is skitzlefrantic to the bone. An Expy of Batman's Ventriloquist.
    • A more recurring example is Mikayla, who acts as a sweet and innocent little girl in her performances but is really a conniving, jealous bitch.
  • One episode of The Goodies had a game show host who was all charm and warmth on screen, but the moment the cameras were turned off he became a total bastard.
  • Pierre Chang of LOST seems to act like this, as he's quick to anger whenever something interrupts one of his recording sessions for another DHARMA initiation video.
    • By the end of season 5, it's clear that Pierre isn't a bad guy at all, really.
  • An episode of Family Matters has Carl forced to arrest an actor who plays a genial sitcom dad for assaulting him.
  • Done in iCarly with Wade Collins. Turns out that he made up that whole 'my mother needs surgery' thing to gain sympathy from the audience. He's really an insensitive, nasty hobknocker! He's also a racist.
    • As seen in iBloop, Miranda Cosgrove is really nothing like her character, Carly Shay, who is a nice girl; she's a hardass boss, at least toward Jerry Trainor, who plays her brother/guardian Spencer.
    • Amanda Tate from "iCarly saves TV".
  • The Victorious episode "Beck's Big Break" has Melinda Murray, whom Tori was a fan of before she met her and discovered what a major Alpha Bitch she was. When Beck was hired for a bit part in a movie that Melinda was the star in, Tori corrected her on a line and Melinda unjustly had Beck fired simply because he was Tori's friend. When Tori attempted to reason with her later, Melinda just kept on being rude and ended up getting shot through the hand with a crossbow bolt when she unintentionally shouted a cue for a stagehand to do so, resulting in her role in the movie being recast. Cue And There Was Much Rejoicing because everyone on set hated her, with everyone praising Tori for it.
  • Slings and Arrows plays this straight and subverts it. Neither of which are surprising, as it's a show about actors.
  • Debbie in Psychoville may count towards this: a pantomime actress playing Snow White who, offstage, is a self-confessed porn addict and mean enough to trick a fellow cast member into posing nude in front of the rest of the cast by pretending she wanted to act out a sexual fantasy with him.
  • Aaron Echolls in Veronica Mars is an actor playing action heroes, and family men. In reality he's an abusive parent, philandering husband, and he murdered Lilly Kane.
  • The Boy Meets World Show Within The Show "Kid Gets Acquainted with the Universe." Its lead actor is shown to be abusive to a fellow actor who plays the antagonist.
  • There was an episode of Special Unit 2 where they were investigating a Barney Expy and his TV Show. The Barney expy was great with kids and very nice, but turned out to be a brainwashing demon that fed on fear. It ended similarly to the Fresh Prince example above.
  • An episode of Gimme A Break, Joey is a fan of a kids show host played by Paul Williams. Nell discovers that the guy is a total racist!
  • An episode of Drake & Josh had Josh act as a caretaker for a child star. While on screen she's a sweet little girl, she's really a demanding brat in real life.
  • One episode of Growing Pains had Ben meeting a nice, clean-cut rock star he idolized. Said rock star later turned out to be a total two-faced jerk who was cheating on his wife.
  • Mio Kuroki in Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon appears to be a sweet, bubbly idol. However, she's really a total witch (and a shadow of a psychotic sorceress). Usagi, ever naive, thinks Mio is her friend.
  • Father Ted had a parody of Irish singer Daniel O'Donnell. Like O'Donnell, Eoin McLove is a "Housewives' Favourite" who performs quietly pleasant acoustic songs. Unlike O'Donnell, he's actually a Psychopathic Manchild.
  • In one episode of Cybill, Cybill's car gets towed away when she parked on Betty White's parking place. Reason: "In real life, Betty White actually isn't such a nice person."
    • The show used this trope quite a bit. Especially towards child actors. And Cybill herself doesn't get off too well herself.
  • Pulaski: The TV Detective: Character Pulaski is an upright private detective. His actor Larry Summers is a womanizing alcoholic.
  • Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show was the charming, sweet, homebody host of The Happy Homemaker. Almost immediately after the cameras stopped rolling, she showed herself as a nymphomaniac and something of a bitch.
  • Extras revolved around this trope, with virtually every well-known actor being portrayed, behind the scenes, as either racist, deluded, self-obsessed, drug addicted or sex-crazed.
  • The premise of Life's Too Short, where Warwick Davis plays a fictionalised version of himself who pretends to be nice but is really an arrogant, manipulative jerk.
  • In Power Rangers Dino Thunder Kira interned for "The Funky Fisherman", a kids' TV show host, who, off-camera, was demanding, pushy, and arrogant.
  • One episode of Garo: Makai Senki featured "Juran", a celebrity making his acting debut as the noble hero of a stage play. His fangirls are unaware that he is a rude, obnoxious jerk offstage. He is then devoured by a Horror and the role is taken over by its host, who charms the audiences while they have no idea that he is actually a soul-sucking demon and killed a fan who came to visit him backstage.
  • Synclaire has to deal with a star of this type during her TV job as a clown on Living Single
  • DJ Sagara of Kamen Rider Gaim seems like a nice Large Ham on his show, but is secretly one of the villains who acts condescending to his boss and spreads propaganda.
  • One episode of Inside No. 9 involves a charity (an obvious parody of the Make-a-Wish Foundation) sending a famous pop star to visit a terminally ill child on her birthday. He seems genial and charming, and is kind to the dying girl, yet doesn't bother to remember her name. After he dies suddenly from an aneurysm while blowing up a balloon for her, his assistant reveals that the guy was actually horrible to work for: rude, demanding, and complained about being asked to visit a sick child.

    Videogames 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Matt Engarde from Justice For All. Even before all his horrific actions in the last case of the second game, he dumped Celeste over no particular reason, then leaked his past relationship with her to her fiance and his rival, Juan Corrida, causing Juan to break up with Celeste, who then committed suicide. Particularly ironic, since Will Powers, his mentor/predecessor, was the epitome of Badass Character, Nice Actor.
    • Juan Corrida wasn't a saint either, having both rejected Celeste and faked her suicide note due to a petty rivalry with Matt.
    • The Pink Princess and Pink Badger, aka Wendy Oldbag from Investigations.
  • In a rare robot example, Five Nights at Freddy's features animatronics of beloved characters Freddie Fazbear, Bonnie and Chica (and Foxy, who may or may not be intended as a foe to the other three). At night, all four have one thing on their minds - killing the security guard. The sequel (or, more accurately, the prequel), however, says that during the day the four new animatronics are just fine around children, but stare aggresively at adults.
  • Gerry Romero in Mega Man Star Force 2 is a total jerk most of the time, but when the cameras are rolling he's just the nicest guy ever...until he has the footage, at which point he disappears as quickly as possible.
  • Kenshi and the protagonist in Love Letter From Thief X are fans of actress Nahomi Sahara. They are both dismayed to learn that, in contrast to her nice-girl roles, the actress herself is a terrible person who used underhanded means to gain ownership of a priceless jeweled ring after its elderly owner died.
  • In Mass Effect 3, the Citadel DLC reveals that the hanar actor who plays Blasto is a major primma donna in real life, compared to the smooth action hero he plays on the silverscreen. Not only does he refuse to share top-billing with Shepard or Javik - who've been conned into appearing in the film - but he's rude and dismissive towards both of them, despite the former being the hero responsible for most of the real events that "Blasto" is fictionally credited for. His rudeness is also rather jarring considering that that one of the hanar's most famous hats is their unfailing politeness, especially towards Javik, since the hanar revere the Protheans as their Gods.

    Webcomics 
  • Subverted in this XKCD strip, where Mr. Rogers is caught on tape while fighting with his wife. As it turns out, he really is that nice all the time.
  • Sebastian Beauregard Constantine III in YU+ME: dream , who played Jake, Fiona's best friend in the first half of the comic is rather stuck-up and, in Fiona's words, "such a douche."

    Web Originals 

    Western Animation 
  • Darla Dimple, the villain of Cats Don't Dance
  • Baby Herman of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. When the cameras stop rolling, he turns from a cute baby to a foul-mouthed, cigar-smoking, womanizing Jerk Ass. We later learn he is actually a Jerk with a Heart of Gold when he offers to hire Eddie Valiant to clear Roger's name, explaining that he and Roger are actually close friends. In all fairness, he is stricken with a "fifty-year-old lust and a three-year-old dinky."
  • In Kangaroo Jack: G'Day U.S.A.!, the star of a children's zoology show is actually a smuggler of exotic animals.
  • One episode of Rugrats featured a children's show hostess who absolutely hated her target audience. Angelica overheard her swearing, which led to Angelica repeating it on the show and getting the hostess fired.
  • Similar to the above example, an episode of Family Guy involved Stewie's desire to move to Great Britain so he could live with Mother Maggie, the host of his favorite children's show. He gets to meet her and learns that the fantasy world of Mother Maggie is nothing but a stage, and Mother Maggie herself absolutely hates children.
  • Gabbo from The Simpsons says that his audience are "all SOBs." Made more amusing since he's a puppet and the ventriloquist operating him repeatedly begs him to stop, apparently having become Lost in Character. The incident was based on a rumor wherein a host of a children's show said "That ought to hold the little bastards for another week" without realizing that the camera was still rolling.
    • Krusty himself is sometimes this kind of gruff kids show host archetype.
    • Sideshow Bob is a flat out villain.
      • ...Only to Bart. (The Selma issue's moot.) When he addresses the public he's incredibly persuasive & charismatic, such as in his campaign for mayor. In fact, he pushed the right buttons in getting his parole. (e.g. "Die Bart Die" is really German!)
  • One episode of Sushi Pack featured Sugar Jimmy, the host of a Romper Room-like kids' show. On screen he was a sugary sweet nine-year-old, but off he threw tantrums about everything, hated the chocolate bar he was hocking, and happened to be 22.
  • In the DuckTales episode "Where No Duck Has Gone Before", Huey, Dewey, and Louie idol worship Captain Courage, hero of the TV show "Courage of the Cosmos." Uncle Scrooge owns the show and has Gyro redo it to make it more realistic. The boys go on the show and are blind to the fact that their hero is just a vain, egotistical actor. They also don't realize that Gyro made their set an actual spaceship and it launches into outer space. When they realize where they are and real aliens have captured them, Courage panics, and the boys see what a coward he really is ("real heroes just do their jobs!").
  • On an episode of Cyberchase, Digit gets to be on his favorite show the Fearless Chef, a cross between Iron Chef and The Amazing Race. The host of the show, the fearless chef, is kidnapped by Hacker. When Jackie and Inez go to rescue him they realize that the so-called Fearless Chef is really a complete coward.
  • Stinky Pete the Prospector from Toy Story 2. He is actually based on the loyal friend to Sheriff Woody in an old children's show called Woody's Roundup, but the toy version of him is very evil (and second only to Lotso). He hates other toys because he is constantly sealed within a cardboard box, and as a result he wants to remain in the box forever, and therefore he also wants other toys to be contained within their boxes as well. He ultimately gets his comeuppance by being stuffed inside a backpack full of painted Barbie dolls, and is later revealed to have liked being painted like said dolls.
  • In Kappa Mikey's Show Within a Show, Lilymu!, female lead Lily is to act as a warm, caring, Implied Love Interest to our titular Mikey. When the cameras stop rolling, she goes back to being her Jerkass Attention Whore who hates the main character for stealing her thunder as Japan's most famous anime star. By the same token, Mikey Simon plays the heroic and totally competent Kappa Mikey, but is in fact a total well-meaning but inept Cloud Cuckoolander who's inability to effectively meld into Japanese society drives most of the show's plot.
  • Subverted in the Hey Arnold! episode "Eugene Goes Bad." Eugene is obsessed with TV superhero The Abdicator, but things go sour when he visits the set and sees the actor acting like a spoiled diva ("Where is mah ahpreecot joose?"). After calling the guy out, Eugene decides there's no reason to be good anymore and starts to misbehave. Meanwhile, Maurice, the actor, has his own personal crisis as he can't stop feeling guilty about the incident and letting his fans down. Eventually he helps snap Eugene out of his rebellious phase.
  • Rocket Power also did this in the episode "The Wrath of Don." Otto Rocket idolizes the 12-year-old skateboarding "Skate Wars" movie star, Donnie Lightning. Donnie appears to be an excellent skater on screen and rather friendly, but once they come to film a "Skate Wars" movie in Ocean Shores, Otto is dismayed to learn that Donnie is a major jerk that doesn't even do his own stunts.
  • The Littles featured a variation of this in the Very Special Episode "A Little Drunk," but the movie star Kurt Corwin would only be like this because he is an alcoholic.
  • Baby Doll teeter-totters between this and Mean Character, Nice Actor in Batman: The Animated Series. Unlike most actors, whose excuses were drugs and scandals, she was a very sympathetic character. She was born with a rare disorder that made her look much younger than she was. She starred as a the titular Baby Doll, a five-ish year old character in her 20s. Despite being a talented actress, she couldn't move on because no one could look past her looks and later started off the plot to recapture the cast due to it being the only happy time in her life, switching between her adut self and the persona she had. However some things she does tend to cause sympathy levels to teeter totter. Although one of her co-stars that she kidnapped mentioned she was difficult to work with on the set, always making extreme demands and throwing tantrums if she didn't get her way.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures: How I Spent My Vacation had a Johnny Depp parody (Johnny Pew the skunk) who turned out to be much less friendly than his screen presence would suggest.
  • Mom from Futurama has the public image of a sweet, kindly old grandmother, but offstage is a malevolent Corrupt Corporate Executive who routinely beats her three sons into submission.
  • In Barbie in A Christmas Carol, Eden acts nice and cheerful on stage, and as soon as the curtain closes, she throws some flowers and declares she hates Christmas.
  • South Park: Mickey Mouse is a Corrupt Corporate Executive nothing like the Nice Guy he's portrayed as in his cartoons. Also he's a giant fire-breathing Kaiju from Valhalla.

Bitch in Sheep's ClothingHidden EvilFace of an Angel, Mind of a Demon
Mean Character, Nice ActorA Polite IndexMellow Fellow
Network to the RescueShow BusinessNo Budget
Narrowed It Down to the Guy I RecognizeCharacters and CastingNon-Actor Vehicle
Mean Character, Nice ActorThe Jerk IndexThe Neidermeyer
Nerds Are SexyAdministrivia/In-Universe Examples Only"No. Just... No" Reaction
NepotismAdministrivia/No Real Life Examples, Please!Nice Guy
Nepharious PharaohVillainsNo Antagonist

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