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Paper-Thin Disguise
"Mr. Burns, it was naive of you to think I'd mistake this town's most prominent 104-year-old man for one of my elementary school students."
Principal Skinner, The Simpsons

The opposite of Latex Perfection, and often a special case of Wig, Dress, Accent. A character that the other characters should recognize (or at least recognize as out of place) dons a disguise and is treated as neither recognizable nor conspicuous. This disguise is so completely transparent that the audience wants to shout "For the love of God, it's him!"

The external reason for the flimsy disguise may be that the creators want to signal the presence of a disguise to the audience before the other characters catch on (a sort of Reverse Whodunnit). Sometimes, the character may also be a Special Guest the director wants to get their money out of.

All the same, you often get The Reveal staged in such a way to make it clear that the director really thought you wouldn't have worked it out by now. For the more perceptive viewers, it's a case of The Untwist.

This trope differs from the general case of Wig, Dress, Accent in that a Wig, Dress, Accent disguise is always plausible. Paper-Thin Disguise also includes the element of being staged as if the disguise really is convincing, which is not generally present in Wig, Dress, Accent.

While this is not quite a Discredited Trope, these days Paper Thin Disguises are parodied as often as they are used seriously. The trope is still an important dramatic convention in live theater and opera productions — where a really good disguise would render the character unidentifiable from the cheap sets...and be beyond the scope of the prop budget to boot — but is usually employed along with some kind of nod to audience acknowledging the absurdity. Children's shows still employ this trope regularly without any parody element.

This can sometimes be exaggerated for comedic effect. For example, you can wear bunny ears and become indistinguishable from a real rabbit, or pretend to be an ancient statue by simply standing still in a specific pose.

Also See Conspicuous Trenchcoat, Not a Zombie, Newspaper Thin Disguise, Clark Kenting, Mr. Smith, Hugh Mann, Holding Both Sides of the Conversation, Charlie Brown from Outta Town, and Most Definitely Not a Villain. Can overlap with Hijacked by Ganon from time to time. Contrast with Full Body Disguise.


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alternative title(s): Strangely Effective Disguise
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