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Sheep in Sheep's Clothing
"Mr. Rogers projected an air of genuine, unwavering, almost saintly pure-hearted decency. But when you look deeper, at the person behind the image ... that's exactly what you find there, too. He's exactly what he appears to be."

This trope happens when you meet her. In any kind of fiction, she is likely to be your rival (professional or otherwise). In family pictures, she's most often a would-be stepmother. In thrillers, she's testifying in a murder case and may even be suspected. Whatever incarnation of this demon you encounter, it doesn't matter, really, because when you see her, you'll just know. From the moment you'll meet, you'll start feeling something is off. She's not jealous of you, even if you try to take the attention from her. She's never angry, even when you try setting her perfect hair on fire. She's always kind to you and she never takes off that radiant smile.

But you've been on TV Tropes. You know what it means. She's a Stepford Smiler, and certainly not a type A. She's obviously a Femme Fatale Gold Digger Starfish Alien who wants to take over the world, take your job and dad and friends away from you and humiliate you at prom... And Your Little Dog Too... because of... reasons...

Except no. As everyone could have told you, and as you should have known, she is really nice, and you, my dear Conspiracy Theorist Know-Nothing Know-It-All, should Take. Your. Freaking. Meds. Right. NOW ! Unless you're being a Clingy Jealous Girl or this is your Ambition Is Evil Start of Darkness story. In which case, *gasp!*

This trope happens when the story sets up suspicions of Bitch in Sheep's Clothing, but subverts it, either by making the character be the nice person they appear to be, or by revealing that they played another kind of nice than the usual one, but are ultimately just as decent as they appeared, if they weren't better.

Often delivers a lesson about how Evil Cannot Comprehend Good when the villain tries to Hannibal Lecture and thinks that he has found something evil in the hero, but there isn't anything evil to find and the hero proves them wrong. Sometimes used as an Aesop to the Audience Surrogate against believing certain stereotypes, causing shared audience guilt, as in children films nowadays, in which this happens to stepparents to the extent that they can do no wrong.

Compare/contrast Jerk with a Heart of Jerk, when suspicions of kindness about an usually Jerkass-like character are wrong.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Crush has a spoiler which it is certainly better not to highlight since this makes up for the entire resolution, and a few others, all quite unexpected:
    • Scott's dad is actually sweet and understanding and he is really not controling or smothering as his son thinks he secretly is. He lets him play again.
    • Jules is a Good Bad Girl Cloud Cuckoo Lander and leaves it at that, though her methods make you wonder if she's not hiding a psycho side early on.
    • Jeffrey is actually just a bit Creepy Good and geniuely in love with Bess.
    • Now, for the real spoiler: Bess herself is just a romantic girl who lives next the male lead, reads his facebook posts and sometimes picks up the wonderful drawings he throws away and tries to encorage him to reveal his true nature. She's aware that her behavior is obsessive, has a My God, What Have I Done? when she thinks he actually is angry for the few things she did, and gets over him pretty quickly.
  • In The Dark Knight (and given further detail in its novelization), Harvey Dent is presented as a awesome and incorruptible crusader for justice, and is a romantic rival to Bruce Wayne. Especially since everyone knows he becomes Two Face, the obviously assumption would be that he's hiding a dark, corrupt side to his character. Turns out... he isn't. He really was the great guy he seemed to be (at least until he was Driven to Villainy).
  • Mansfield Park has Fanny Price, in-universe. She refuses to marry the young, rich and charming Henry Crawford, causing him a heartbreak and robbing Sir Thomas Bertram, the baronet who brought her up since she was ten, from a lot of connections and honors, something she was expected to do as a thank you. Fanny (whose thoughts are conveyed by the narrator without comment) starts wondering if she is mean, willful and self-involved... but when reading what follows, it is very clear that she is just sane. Henry Crawford is a flirt who started a relationship with her engaged cousin, and she doesn't feel she should marry him to please him.
  • In My Best Friends Wedding, Julianne falls in love with her best friend only to learn to her dismay that he's planning to marry a wealthy girl named Kimberly who he's only known for a short amount of time. Kimberly comes across as a sweet if somewhat ditzy girl, but it's obvious that she's going to be eventually exposed as the Romantic False Lead who either has a hidden mean streak or doesn't really love Michael the way Julianne loves him because that's the way it works in all romantic comedies... except that she isn't. She really is every bit as sweet and as deeply in love with Michael as she appears to be and loses her temper only when Julianne goes way too far with her petty determination to find or make up something about her that she can use to make her look bad to Michael, and Julianne actually concedes defeat to her in the end.

    Fan Works 
  • Shows up in the crossover fanfic Stardust, where a great deal of the plot focuses on Twilight Sparkle earning the trust of the XCOM staff, and proving that she's not spying on or manipulating them — she just wants to make friends and get home, and is every bit as nice as she seems.

    Literature 
  • Discworld has a few examples.
    • Commander Vimes. Nobles assume (or just like to think) he's a jumped up copper who married his wife for money. Since he's a perspective character in several books, it's very clear that he loves his wife and hates the money.
    • Vimes's subordinate Captain Carrot also has people wonder if his Incorruptible Pure Pureness isn't just a front (it isn't, to the point where it's actually quite annoying to some characters).
    • Lord Vetinari, the Patrician of the city, often frustrates the ruling classes by honestly having no vices they can use to exploit him (although unlike Carrot, he's much more of a Magnificent Bastard, just not a selfish one).
  • Jane Fairfax from Emma is an Older Than Radio example. She was just a Shrinking Violet well-known as a sweet and innocent person secretly trying to keep her secret engagement, well, secret. Too bad a nosy, charming, and manipulative heroine came and almost ruined it all by beginning to flirt with her fiance and asking him what he thought she was hiding, because of her Inferiority Superiority Complex. Said fiance felt "forced" to play along to keep the engagement a secret, began to give her whatever "leads" came to his mind, then to flirt back, then to toy with Jane's feelings. Guilty and disgusted, Jane took the very classy decision to try to break up with him and to resign herself to a life as a poor governess, but he finally went back to her.
  • John Cheever's short story "The Worm in the Apple" describes in great detail a family who is so sickeningly perfect that their jealous neighbors are utterly convinced that they have to be hiding some dark and horrible secret or that they will inevitably experience some terrible misfortune down the line. They never do.
  • Elene from the Night Angel Trilogy is this trope personified. She is repeatedly shown to be a truly kindhearted soul, which is even more apparent when you consider the corruption and cruelty she grew up surrounded by.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In an episode of Angel, Fred's parents come looking for her (Fred had been lost in another dimension for five years). They seem like the nicest, sweetest people you've ever seen, barring a couple moments when they whisper ominously to each other, and Fred freaks out and runs when she sees them. Turns out they really are that sweet. Fred panicked because she didn't want them to see her after she'd been traumatized, and their whispers were because they thought Angel and company were suspicious — which is a very fair point.
  • On Castle, Beckett's future Romantic False Lead Detective Demming was introduced as a Nice Guy, then came under suspicion by the team that he was a Dirty Cop and the Killer of the Week. Turned out that not only did he have an alibi, it consisted of coaching an underprivileged youth basketball league.
  • Sefa from Merlin. Gwen imagines her to be a traitor bent on revenge who wants to destroy Camelot and hides it behind a sweet composure, like her old friend Morgana. It is quickly made painfully clear that she just innocently gave information to her father, not imagining to which extent he would want to harm Camelot. Her motivation was simply to help her beloved father to get the respect he deserves, as she thinks everyone should, from a ruler who attacked their pacific people by mistake in the past. Even before knowing her father's plan, she feels sorry because the Queen (who, as far as she knows, would condemn her to death if she knew where she was born) was kind to her and encouraged her to pursue her crush, and let her eat her sit at her table.
  • Once Upon a Time:
    • After they began watching, many viewers expected the poor Kathryn Nolan to be a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing version of the Royal Brat Abigail, the person she was before being under the curse. Actually, Abigail was just a Hate Sink (she simply wasn't thrilled at the idea of an arranged marriage to Prince Charming and chastized him for taking a bumpy road) Jerk with a Heart of Gold Broken Bird trying to cope with her at-the-time probable case of The Lost Lenore and Kathryn was just another version of her, made even nicer and a bit more unstable by the curse who ended up pulling I Want My Beloved to Be Happy hours after discovering that her husband may have cheated on her.
    • Snow White was expected to be a Princess Classic. Here, she is a snarky and blunt Robin Hoodesque character who robs a girl and punches her fiance in her second appearance. She is just bitter because of her prejudice against politicians like them got her in exile and so poor and defenseless that she needs to steal to survive. Later, she owns that the queen never lied about her crime : she did cause her great harm. Unintentionally. When she was twelve. She ends up becoming the Big Good anyway.
  • Justified has Billy St. Cyr, a silver-tongue preacher who arrives in Harlan and charms the local population with his preaching and snake handling. It is easy to suspect him of being a Sinister Minister who cons the poor out of their money and whose true motives might be even more evil. However, he truly believes in what he preaches and only accepts enough money in donations to keep his ministry going. He helps drug addicts stop using drugs and helps a prostitute regain her self respect and quit her former life. His only flaw is that he is a tad too fanatical in his beliefs and believes that God will never let any harm come to him. This leads to Boyd being able to talk him into handling a wild snake which kills him with its poison.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In The Old World of Darkness, the vampire clan Salubri are generally considered the "good" vampires. And they are. Their disciplines center on healing, they embrace few progeny, and their clan weakness limits them to feeding only from willing hosts. They were so openly virtuous that in the past, it was very easy for the up-in-coming clan Tremere to paint them as soul-stealing monsters in need of systematic extermination; most vampires were already suspicious of them to begin with. Surely no vampires could really be that good, right?

    Video Games 
  • In Undertale, Toriel is a seemingly benign and motherly figure who saves you from being killed by the first monster you encounter. From that point on she dotes on you, literally holding your hand through puzzles and even baking you a pie, though she hastily changes the subject if you ask her to show you the way out. It's easy for Genre Savvy players to draw exactly the wrong conclusions about her, but in the end... she actually is as benign and motherly as she appears, and her reluctance to let you leave is born of a genuine concern that you'll die if she lets you go out into the Underworld — just like all the others that came before you.

    Visual Novels 
  • Hinted Trope at least in the final case of Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth. The character Colias Paeleno cooperates in nearly every way that they can with your investigation of crime scenes, a behavior which the franchise generaly uses for guilty parts. In the end, it turns out that they were using expectations from the player, and the person really is just that helpful, which may be a first for the franchise.
  • Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney introduces Klavier Gavin as the new prosecutor. Given that every single previous prosector in this series has started out as arrogant Amoral Attorneys at best and turned out to be murderous at worst, you'll naturally expect him to be hiding something rotten underneath his charming and friendly exterior especially considering that you've just seen his older brother be exposed as a murdering Bitch in Sheep's Clothing. This appears to be confirmed when you learn that he had a hand in stripping Phoenix of his badge. However, it turns out that Klavier really is a genuinely kind and decent person who initially didn't know of his brother's true nature, suffered from massive guilt about his role in Phoenix's disbarral, and is willing to turn against his own bandmates and brother to see justice done.

    Web Comics 
  • xkcd presents Fred Rogers as a Sheep in Sheep's Clothing. It announces that a recording was found of him arguing with his wife. He acknowledges that he is sometimes angry at her, then tells her he is glad to have her!

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In W.I.T.C.H., Will's would-be stepmother is not Nerissa in disguise. Just a genuinely nice person who fell in love with her father after he and he mother divorced. Granted, her name sounded a lot like Nerissa's, but she puts up with her stepdaughter's accusations of being an evil witch and lying about her name very well.
  • In the first "Treehouse of Horror" episode of The Simpsons, mankind is visited by aliens in a deliberate parody of the classic The Twilight Zone episode "To Serve Man". Like in the original story, the aliens are suspiciously nice, but only Lisa is skeptical. Later, when the family is brought aboard the alien ship, Lisa discovers horrifying evidence that the aliens plan to eat her family (like in the original story). Except... they weren't. It was all a huge misunderstanding on Lisa's part, and the aliens are so angry at being accused that they leave the family.
  • In an episode of The Fairly OddParents, Timmy summons a pop star, hoping that he will be a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing and that forcing him to marry his babysitter will be a way to torture her. However, he is very nice, and things go well.
  • Asami Sato in The Legend of Korra seems too good to be true in her first appearance, as after a Crash into Hello Meet Cute with one of the male protagonists, she immediately offers to sponsor him and his brother with her father's vast wealth. Many fans immediately suspected she would turn out to be a Rich Bitch, and it was also quickly theorized that she was really an Equalist spy. However, Asami turns out to be Spoiled Sweet and just as good of a person as she appears. There's also a Red Herring in her appearance, as she looks like a Femme Fatale and wears red and black, but she's really just a case of Raven Hair, Ivory Skin wearing her culture's favored dress.
  • In Fish Hooks, Angela, in her debut episode, begins dating Oscar. Thing is, they're also debate team rivals, and Oscar soon begins suspecting that she is going behind his back and trying to sabotage his debate when he notices her sneaking around and taking photographs. It turns out that she is an avid scrapbooker and really does enjoy their time together. They leave the debate as a couple.
  • Transformers Prime: Many of Team Prime suspected that the arrival of Smokescreen was too good to be true, mostly due having problems with spies like Makeshift in the past. Not until he faces down Starscream in his Apex Armor with the Phase Shifter do they realize that he's not a Decepticon spy.

    Real Life 
  • The Falaise castle in Normandy has an interactive tour guide where images of historical characters who owned the castle are projected on a wall to tell you the museum's version of their story. Almost all of them try to justify what they did (but they ultimately fail), from the last ones, like Alienor of Aquitaine (who here tries to claim that she believes everything that she caused happened Because Destiny Says So and because her family was money-crazy, but later gives up on the pretense and relishes in being The Vamp and an Evil Matriarch) and Emperess Matilda (this incarnation introduces herself as the only competent and sane member of the family but shows a terrifying Lack of Empathy because she is an Evil Overlord) to the first ones, William the Cute and Psycho Boisterous Bruiser and William's son The Resenter with No Sympathy. Then comes the matriarch of the family, Matilda of Flandres, who quietly explains how she ruled in the place of her husband in Normandy. She tells you how she disliked war, prefered to help the Church, and how guilty she felt when her marriage was declared invalid. And just when you expect a delicious, terrifying twist, this last comment comes :
    Matilda: And the archbishop of Cantorberry came on my burial ground, and he spoke to the crowd. And he said this, that William had defeated his enemies through war, whereas I defeated them with peace. He was wrong (looks up and really smiles for the first time) for I never had enemies.


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