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Secret Identity Apathy
Spinnerette: I'm curious, Dr. Universe. Why didn't you remove my mask when I was unconscious? Aren't you curious who I really am?
Dr. Universe: I know exactly who you are. You're Spinnerette.

In most cases, a villain's standard plot is to try and figure out the hero's Secret Identity, usually so he can capture the hero's family for blackmail and so on.

Sometimes, however, the villain doesn't care. To him, his enemy is the superhero; any civilian identity is irrelevant to their contest. The extreme end of this involves the villain actually discovering the hero's identity, and either ignoring it completely or even actively helping cover it up.

Heroes who try to bring masked criminals to justice are sometimes faced with a Dramatic Unmask moment, as well. They should, according to law, share the information they've learned with the police. But even the heroes can find a Worthy Opponent, or begin Dating Catwoman, and find themselves unable to betray their enemy's secret. The hero must still dismiss the possibility of sharing the revelation of their foe's Secret Identity for it to qualify as an example.

See also Secret Identity Identity, for when the hero starts confusing which is the "real" them.

Related to Dramatic Unmask. This trope tends to defy Anti-Climactic Unmasking. Can also be related to The Only One Allowed to Defeat You.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • Batman/The Joker:
    • In Death Of The Family, Joker starts dropping hints that he knows who Batman really is, and Bruce realises there was a time when he could have figured it out. However he also realises Joker would have rejected the opportunity, because he doesn't want to think of Batman as being anyone but Batman.
    • The Joker, as revamped by Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams in Batman #251 is the Trope Maker. prior to that story, the Joker had occasionally tried to learn Batman's secret; O'Neil and Adams, however, had the Joker ambush and knock out Batman by chance, only to refuse to kill or unmask him because that wasn't the perfect end to the conflict between them.
    • Another Joker example, possibly a page quote, from Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth:
      Black Mask: I say we take off his mask. I want to see his real face.
      The Joker: Oh, don't be so predictable, for christ's sake. That is his real face. And I want to go much deeper than that.
    • The Joker also threatened a mob boss who'd tried to buy Batman's secret identity from Hugo Strange, declaring that learning the truth of Batman's identity would ruin all his fun.
  • In post-Crisis continuity, Lex Luthor refuses to believe Superman even has a secret identity. The idea that someone with all that power would pretend to be a normal person just doesn't make sense!
  • An interesting variant happens in several different SilverAge issues of Amazing Spider-Man, where the police consistently refuse to unmask a captured or unconscious Spider-Man regardless of the public's demands...well, J. Jonah Jameson's demands, anyway.
  • In Ultimate Spider-Man, Deadpool doesn't want to unmask Spider-Man when he's kidnapped the young hero, since he respects masks.

    Film 
  • In The Dark Knight, the Joker starts out demanding Batman remove his mask, but eventually decides that would be boring, and puts a hit out on a man who threatens to reveal Bruce's identity.
  • In Spider-Man, Norman Osborn (AKA the Green Goblin) honestly doesn't care that much about Spidey's secret identity. At first he just wants to work with him. He isn't even trying to find him when he accidentally learns his identity and then only goes after him because his son's feelings were hurt.

    Live Action TV 
  • Doctor Who. The conclusion of the classic serial "Silver Nemesis" has Lady Peinforte (who has managed to divine "Who" the Doctor really is) try and blackmail him by threatening to reveal that info to recurring villains the Cybermen. But the Cybermen say they simply do not care about that.

    Video Games 
  • In Batman: Arkham City, Batman is unconscious and in the Joker's custody, but he keeps Harley Quinn from unmasking him.
    Harley: But I wanna know who he is, sweetie!
    Joker: Where's the fun in that?

    Web Comics 
  • Spinnerette
    • Alexis Woodrow (a.k.a. "Evil Spinnerette") manages to figure out Spinny's secret identity. She uses this information to force Spinny fight her, while one of her minions gets the whole thing on tape. After beating Spinny, however, Alexis just ties her to a tree, which leads to the following conversation:
      Evil Spinnerette: I'm leaving this city. I doubt we'll meet again. Don't worry, your secret identity is safe with me.
      Spinnerette: [koff] Why? Why did you bother fighting me, if you're not going to kill me? Why not reveal my identity and ruin me?
      Evil Spinnerette: Why does Gary Kasparov choose to fight Deep Blue at chess when he could simply pull its plug?
    • Another supervillain, Dr. Universe, later captures Spinnerette and uses his genetic infusion device to save her life, leading to this exchange:
      Spinnerette: I'm curious, Dr. Universe. Why didn't you remove my mask when I was unconscious? Aren't you curious who I really am?
      Dr. Universe: I know exactly who you are. You're Spinnerette.
  • In A Modest Destiny, there's actually a company rule in Team Evil against unmasking KO'd heroes. Besides...
    Gilbert: Maybe he wears a mask because he's grotesquely deformed like you?
    Hechter: Oh...that's a good point. Don't want to get nightmares...

    Western Animation 
  • In The Batman, Joker drives Wrath and Scorn insane with Joker gas when they threaten to reveal Batman's identity to Gotham's criminal community, because if anyone's going to bring about Batsy's downfall, it's got to be Joker.
  • In Danny Phantom, most of Danny's villains already know his secret identity from the start; he's well-known in the Ghost Zone for being half-ghost. However, in the episode Flirting With Disaster, Technus warns Danny against transforming and battling him in the open by motioning to a security camera, saying that Danny has a secret identity to protect. Technus is already taking advantage of Danny's civilian identity in this episode, so his reasons for stopping Danny from fighting is to screw with him and his new girlfriend Valerie.
  • In Dragon Booster, near the season 3 finale Artha and his racing rival Moordryd both discover each other's super identity as the Dragon Booster and Shadow Booster, respectively, but both agree to keep it a secret between them (and their respective companions, of course) since that knowledge could get them kicked out of a racing competition for the city's prestigious racing academy, and each of them have made enemies in their super identities.
  • Another Joker example. In Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Joker has gained reality warping powers and has Batman at his mercy. Harley asks him if he's going to take off his mask, but Joker refuses, saying that he doesn't want to "reduce [his] primal enemy to a mere man".

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