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Becoming the Mask

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It's amazing what a reversed baseball cap and a stick-on beard will do for The Ingenue.

"He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it."
George Orwell, "Shooting an Elephant"

The Mole or the Con Man takes on a fake identity in order to gain something: information, money, a safe place, trust. As time progresses, he grows to love his new identity and the way people treat him. His new friends prove reliable and he is struck by the contrast. He might even fall in love with another person whom he is explicitly supposed to be taking advantage of. Either way, he wants to remain in his new identity forever.


Sometimes the friendship or relationship will dissolve when The Mole lets their true identity slip. For extra irony, have it happen in the process of confessing their love. ("You're so wonderful, I can't believe I was just seducing you to get the location of your secure base... whoops, Did I Just Say That Out Loud?") The usual response to The Reveal is "Was It All a Lie?" Occasionally, they will test the waters with a Trial Balloon Question.

A more cynical subtrope is when the person is actually the Reverse Mole, but the temptation of The Dark Side gradually causes them to discard their initial good cause and become everything they originally despised. Or they grow to believe their own Masquerade a little too much and become a Stepford Smiler. Can be the result of a Secret Identity Identity crisis.

Contrast Beneath the Mask where the audience is only given a peek. Similar in style to Amnesiac Dissonance, but without amnesia. May involve Oblivious Guilt Slinging. Compare Secret Identity Identity, Fake-Real Turn, Romantic Fake–Real Turn and Going Native. If the character does not even respond to his old name anymore, that is That Man Is Dead. When a literal mask starts to change someone's personality, it's Evil Mask. Contrast Lost in Character, where a character who is a professional actor lives and breathes a role. Do not confuse with Becoming the Costume or Becoming the Boast. Some spoilers ahead. Has overlap with The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask because the woman's true personality be influenced or be absorbed into the queen personality, and consider as well To Know Him, I Must Become Him when people try to figure out how someone by thinking like them.

Not to be confused with what Jim Carrey did or the Trollhunters fanfic of the same name.


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    Anime & Manga 

  • In the manhwa Aflame Inferno, creatures called Tedlars can only interact with the human world by taking over a human's body, subsequently killing the human doing so. As the Tedlars usually have to live the same life the possessed humans do to avoid detection (not to mention they have access to all the humans' memories), it's quite possible that they become the human they took over themselves. However, usually Tedlars don't stay too long in one body and return to their plane of existence to 'cast off' the fake identity, avoiding this.
    • It's a plot point that the Tedlar called Inferno refused to return, thereby retaining her memories as the human Jeanne de'Arc, and more importantly, the experience of becoming a mother.
  • In Aquarion Evol, Jin's infiltration of Earth is cut short when he actually meets the gender he is supposed to kidnap and realizes that they are people just like him and he doesn't really feel like betraying his new...fake?...friends.
  • Reiner Braun from Attack on Titan, in an absolutely heartbreaking deconstruction. His guilt over his crimes as The Mole, and growing attachment to his human comrades, results in him suffering dissociative episodes. He essentially Mind Raped himself into having episodes where he genuinely believes his cover is real, since that's who he would rather be. Two a little more minor cases also occur with Annie Leonhart and Bertolt Hoover, his partners. During a rampage, Annie spares her former classmates... which eventually leads to her being exposed. And Bertolt eventually admits that not everything was a lie and he did care about his comrades during his Villainous Breakdown.
  • In Bakugan: Gundalian Invaders, Ren was sent by the Gundalians to get the Battle Brawlers to join them in the guise that they were the innocent party in their war. However, after experiencing their friendship and eventually realizing that the king he served didn't care about him, he did a Heel–Face Turn and joined the Brawlers in the battle against his own kind.
  • In episode 18 of A Certain Magical Index, the guy who was hitting on Mikoto turns out to be a shapeshifting assassin assigned to kill her. He fell in love with her for real, so he decided to protect her from his colleagues, but murder Touma and get rid of his potential romantic rival. After Touma defeats him and a steel girder falls on him, he begs Touma to protect her as well.
  • Subverted, deconstructed and played with in Code Geass.
  • Contractor Shihoko from Darker Than Black started up a relationship with Huang sometime in the past as part of a Syndicate mission. While she didn't let any feelings get in the way of the original plan, they did spark some uncharacteristic pity that lead her to pull some strings and give Huang the opportunity to join the Syndicate himself as an alternative to memory erasure.
    • Also the cult leader Alma in the same episode. She started out as a typically ruthless Contractor and started the Friends of the Gate as a way of hiding from Contractor-hunting humans and keeping abreast of information about the Gate. Over time, because of the faithful worshipers, she began to believe in peaceful coexistence and genuinely became the spiritual leader she pretended to be. Totally against Contractor stereotype, she was happy to bear the terrible price of using her powers (rapid aging and debilitating health) so that she could appear young before her followers, and also considered it a way to atone for her past actions.
  • In Detective School Q, Ryu was supposed to be The Mole and infiltrate the DDS, but as time passed he discovered what friendship really was and grew fond of his partners for real.
  • Souichi Negishi is a soft-hearted nice guy. His stage persona in Detroit Metal City, Krauser II, is a violent, foul-mouthed, vulgar Gene Simmons lookalike. Quite a few gags in the series revolve around Negishi accidentally lapsing into his Krauser II persona when he's out of costume, offending and confusing everyone around him.
  • In D.Gray-Man, Lavi is a successor to the Bookman lineage, who only joined the Black Order to record the war. However, as the years passed, he got more and more into the role of an exorcist, and is visibly angry when Bookman tells him he's not really a part of the Order, and that he's only there because it's convenient. His issues with Becoming The Mask are actually what Little Miss Badass Road Kamelot uses to "destroy his heart".
  • Sena Kobayakawa of Eyeshield 21 undergoes this, taking on such a title and becoming the "Hero of Notre Dame." The more the series progresses, the more he realizes how important that name really is and how people's dreams are relying on his lightspeed runs. And of course, this leads to problems when he meets the real Eyeshield 21...s and has to fight for his title.
    • Ironically his ultimate opponent is not someone who is vying for the title, but someone whom already surpassed everyone whom has taken up that title.
  • Ninamori of FLCL wanted for this to happen with her family. She thought if her parents would come to the play and watch it together, and they could all act like a happy family, it would become real. That was why she loved Puss In Boots so much: It represented a lie becoming a happy truth.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist has this with some of the homunculi. For instance, Pride is, as true to his name, totally bereft of compassion for any human being in the world... except for his foster mother, Mrs. Bradley, who tended dearly to him after he was hit by a car (not knowing he was a homunculus, nor about the near-immortality that comes with the territory). Doesn't mean he has any hesitation to sacrificing her along with the rest of the entire country in Father's plans, of course, but at the end of it all, he's the only homunculus left - having his Philosopher's Stone eradicated, but spared from death, by Edward Elric - and he gets grow up from scratch under her care. Wrath also shows compassion for the same woman given that she's his wife, but he doesn't have to put forth quite as much of an act as Pride does.
  • Yukki and Yuno in Future Diary. Both of them were faking their love and using each other. Yukki used Yuno for protection and Yuno used Yukki for an emotional crutch. But over time the fake aspect became less and less fake and more like genuine love.
  • Gundam:
    • Michelle from Mobile Suit Gundam is sent to spy on the White Base. She falls for a guy in the crew, Kai, and tries to help him instead. And then, she dies.
    • Katejina Loos in Victory Gundam is effectively kidnapped by the Zanscare early on. At that point, she comes up with the idea of getting close to them and becoming a spy for the League Militaire. Whether or not that would have been possible ends up being beside the point, as she slowly (or maybe a little too suddenly) becomes an actual enemy pilot and a total zealot by the end.
    • Flay Alster in Gundam SEED. She pretended to love Kira because she wanted to have revenge against him for her dad's death, which he caused indirectly, but ended up loving him for real.
    • Gundam 00.
      • Lyle Dylandy. He joins Celestial Being mostly as a Kataron Double Agent, but in the end, he becomes a full-fledged Gundam Meister like his deceased twin brother, Neil.
      • Also Anew Returner. She's The Mole, but falls in love with Lyle. In the end, she attempts to return to him and Celestial Being, but is controlled by Ribbons into attacking Lyle, forcing Setsuna to kill her.
    • Zeheart Gallette of Mobile Suit Gundam AGE enrolls in a Federation high school as part of his cover (he's a Vagan spy, but is young enough to be in high school). He does this only to maintain his cover, but finds himself forming real friendships among his classmates, most especially with Asemu Asuno and Romary Stone, which continue to affect his judgement long after he rejoins the Vagan military.
  • Used quite positively in Haibane Renmei. Reki originally acted nice and supporting towards everybody solely to earn a quick salvation for her troubles, but as time went by and no Day of Flight came, it slowly became her true identity, as she finally realized in the final episode, allowing her to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence.
  • The eighth Haruhi Suzumiya light novel:
  • Played with in Irresponsible Captain Tylor. Tylor finds out Harumi is a Raalgon spy early on, but makes the decision to keep it between them and trust her despite her inevitable betrayal — something that completely confuses her. It's explicitly because of this response that Harumi begins having second thoughts that leads her to an official Heel–Face Turn.
  • In Invaders Of The Rokujyoma, Koutaro ends up acting out the role of a legendary knight in a play written by Alien Priness Theiamillis. After a battle with Theia's rival ends up catapulting them two thousand years ago on Theia's homeworld, he ends up actually becoming the knight of legend. Fortunately for him, Theia was big on Showing Her Work, and actually trained him in ancient Forthorthian sword techniques, and his Knight costume was actually a suit of high-tech Powered Armor.
  • Yukino Miyazawa. Her public mask which she created soon after she started school, was designed to elicit praise from those people around her. Playing the role of the perfect girl was so stressful that she had to unwind by turning into a slob at home. When Arima discovered her secret and blackmailed her, keeping her mask on became so uncomfortable that when she and Arima fell in love, she decided to throw her mask away, only to slowly discover that she acted perfect for so long that a lot of her mask persona became part of her true nature.
    • Arima also wore a mask of perfection but unlike Yukino, he never took his off, because he feared that his true nature was so awful that everyone would reject him if he took it off.
  • In Katanagatari, Togame really did fall in love with Shichika but due to Revenge Before Reason (at least according to them), they would have killed the latter in the end regardless.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima!:
    • Initially, Chao Lingshen only travelled back in time and entered Mahora to change the past and expose magic to the world, but when Negi asks her whether the time she spent with her classmates was just part of her disguise, she admits that the bonds she created and the happy and fun time she spent with her friends weren't part of her plan.
    • Happens to the fake Asuna, Shiori. While her Signum Bioregens supposedly makes her more-or-less a sleeper agent (which is in and of itself a subversion of this trope) with added control (she can apparently switch at will), Shiori is in danger of merging with Asuna's personality if she falls in love while disguised. Infiltrating a group held together by a Chick Magnet might not have been the best of ideas...
    • Also appears to have happened to Governor-General Kurt Gödel, who was unambiguously heroic 20 years ago. In the meantime, he infiltrated the corrupt senate, to find out more about and stop their villainy. He has since taken on many more villainous characteristics, such as being a Smug Snake and exhibiting Fantastic Racism to an incredible degree.
  • Mashin Hero Wataru Series: Kurama took on the job as an agent for Doakudar for one, being forced, and two, solely for his own benefit to turn back human without considering his fellow townsmen. As he befriends Team Wataru and slowly understood their genuine friendship with him, he became intensely remorseful; eventually learns to put his benefits behind and aid Team Wataru to atone for his misdeeds.
  • Mazinger Z: Erika. She was an android built by Dr. Hell. However, she suffered from amnesia and had forgotten her origins. She genuinely believed she was a normal girl, and when she was told her true nature, she rejected it. In the end she helped The Hero Kouji and she died because of it.
  • Parodied at Muteki Kanban Musume, a deconstruction of the Fighting Series Played for Laughs: Just after his Tomato in the Mirror moment, when he realizes he is not an Star Ranger, but merely a Shopkeeper who Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality, Akihiko decides that even if he is not a Star Ranger, he will be a hero and see that a little boy is not harmed by an Angry Guard Dog.
  • In Naruto:
    • Sai was trained as an emotionless assassin and then sent to join Team 7. Originally ordered to assassinate Sasuke and observe Naruto, he eventually became a true member of the team.
    • In a darker variant, this is Kabuto's backstory. An orphan who was all but conscripted into duty as a spy, he spent most of his childhood under numerous names in different villages. By the end of it, he's not really sure who he is. When he breaks down, the village stops trusting him, he loses his only purpose in life, and ends up believing Orochimaru's insane logic.
    • Tobi has a decidedly literal take on this trope, in that he has become his literal mask, ie no one. After The Reveal that he is really Obito Uchiha, he just says That Man Is Dead and the heroes can call him whatever they want.
  • In the second season of Ojamajo Doremi, a young wizard by the name of Akatsuki was sent by his fellow wizards to help Oyajide kidnap Hana. To do this, he adopted a friendly facade and pretended to be Doremi's friend. But after spending a lot of time with and getting to know her, he began having doubts. When The Reveal came along and exposed his duplicity, Doremi's pain at being betrayed was one of the things that helped him and his allies, Tooru, Fujio, and Leon, make a Heel–Face Turn and save Hana from the other wizards.
  • In Ojojojo, Haru's condescending attitude was originally just a way to hide from the pain of her original friends leaving her do to her social status, but over time it became so ingrained in her personality that she can't stop acting that way, even if she wants to. Most of her Character Development is devoted to undoing all of that.
  • One Piece:
    • This series actually has a running theme of declaring oneself to be something and then using that as a source of strength to follow through. Sogeking, Luffy, Don Krieg, etc.
    • The motivation of Captain Kuro, who wanted to give up the life of piracy to become a normal (albeit rich) man. Not so much a Face–Heel Turn considering how he wanted to do it, though... turns into a cruel subversion when he seems to consciously invoke this trope in a confrontation with the girl he intends to kill to make her drop her weapon.
    • Nami as well. She had only intended to use Luffy for all he was worth before leaving. But the longer she stayed with them, the more she grew to like being part of the Straw Hats (especially compared to her experiences with Arlong). Eventually, she betrayed them and cheerfully took off with Going Merry, but once she was on her own, she broke down and cried. When the Straw Hats eventually follow her, she is visibly upset while trying to keep them out of a fight she thought they couldn't win. Luffy continues to think of Nami as part of his crew and confronts Arlong for her sake. The final nail in this was when Luffy told Nami to watch his signature straw hat, simultaneously a sign of his trust in her and a sign he was about to kick some serious butt. By this time she is too shaken with emotion to even move, ultimately coming to the realization she wants to be a Straw Hat, leading to her ultimate decision to leave with them after Luffy defeats Arlong.
    • Sogeking. This is a literal case of becoming the mask for Usopp, who undergoes a heavy personality shift when he dons the Sogeking mask. This leads to a funny exchange where the Usopp and Sogeking parts of his personality have an argument while he's trying to think of a plan.
    • Nico Robin had originally planned to use the Straw Hats as a shield until they deemed her too dangerous to protect any longer, as she had with all of the groups she joined. However, after being accepted and loved by them as one of their own, she chose to give up her life for the sake of her crew by giving herself into the government that she had been running away from her whole life. Of course, this didn't stop the Straw Hats from trying to save her despite her claiming she wanted to die; however, after the Straw Hats immediately declared war on said government she realized that they would stick by her no matter what, upon which she claimed that she wanted to stay in their crew forever and sail the seas with them.
  • Pretty Cure loves this trope. Kiriya, the Kiryuu twins, Setsuna and Siren each pretended to be ordinary schoolkids in order to get close to the respective series' heroines and undermine their efforts. Inevitably, their interactions with the Cures expose them to The Power of Friendship and lead to a Heel–Face Turn by the end.
  • In Ranma ½, Ryoga initially allowed Akane to cuddle and sleep with his cursed animal form, as a way to piss off her fiance Ranma. It backfired massively when Ryoga actually fell in love with Akane since she was so kind to his animal form, but had already doomed his chances by sleeping in her bed without her knowing it. Ouch.
  • In Ravages of Time, Sima Yi's plan for revenge after Cao Cao has his family purged involves his assassin Liaoyuan Huo joining "a worthy lord" and using Sima Yi's money to build him up as a rival to Sima Yi's lord Cao Caonote  so that Sima Yi can work his way up Cao Cao's ranks. However, Sima Yi already admits his recognition that Liaoyuan Huo has been "want(ing) to leave this dark maze" (as Zhao Yun realized during his rescue of Zhang Lei and Sima Lang during the purge of the Sima clan residencenote ) and years later, in chapters 386 and 387 Huo turns on his teacher as an assassin after the teacher and his men take Liu Bei's wives and son hostage during the Battle of Changban, having by now internalized the name that Liu Bei gave him: Zhao Yun, styled Zilong.
  • Rurouni Kenshin has this as part of Kenshin's backstory: Kenshin/Battosai's first love Yukishiro Tomoe was sent to Battosai to become close to him as part of a plan to discover his weaknesses, something she was participating in because one of the samurai Battosai killed was her fiancee. However, her influence on him caused Battosai to show his kinder side to her, which resulted in her falling for him for real.
  • In Shugo Chara!, Mr. Nikaidou is a spy for Easter who infiltrates the school. While he has no compunctions with backstabbing the heroes whatsoever, he is eventually defeated, and following the ensuing Defeat Means Friendship he immediately goes back to the school, performing the role he was using as his guise with no-one the wiser.
  • Mami in Sister Princess is a spy charged with disrupting the reunion of Wataru and his sisters, pretending to be another sister; at the climax of the series, she is the one who takes the action necessary to keep the family together, rejecting her own real brother — the mastermind of the scheme — to beg Wataru to come back home.
  • Stewart of Sonic X was a government agent assigned to investigate Sonic and the other animals. As it turned out, while he shows himself capable as an agent, he's really good at, and really likes, being a teacher. And occasionally a Badass Teacher.
  • Possible example in Shinigami from Soul Eater. He tells Asura that he took on his current silly appearance and demeanour to avoid scaring the children he wanted to recruit to his school, but that he 'got used' to it. The odd flashbacks depict him as far more ruthless and direct in his dealings with his enemies.
  • Played with in Special A. Megumi tries to distract Yahiro (the closest thing the early chapters have to a Big Bad) so that he won't interfere with Akira and Tadashi's burgeoning relationship. She does so by pretending to like him. Yahiro sees right through the mask, but goes along with it just to screw with her. In the process they end up actually falling for each other.
  • In Superior, the Big Bad female lead feigns hopelessness to gain the hero's trust and kill him. A few days later she realises she has a huge crush on him.
  • Zero from Tenchi Muyo!. She ended up fusing with the person she was emulating.
  • Hinted at in Tokyo Ghoul, where Tsukiyama Shuu joins the protagonist Kaneki's Five-Man Band with the intention of eventually eating him, but begins to show instances of genuine kindness toward him. By the end of the manga, Tsukiyama is the only one who tries to stop Kaneki's Suicide Mission, and following Kaneki's death seems to fall into an Angst Coma - though this may be because he still wishes he got to eat him.
    • A more abstract example is Kaneki himself, who starts out the story looking far more frightening than he really is - due to a particularly terrifying leather mask that Uta made for him. By the end, however, he suits the personality reflected by his mask much better.
  • In Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-, it is revealed that Fai has secretly been working as a mole for Fei Wong in an attempt to resurrect his twin brother and has been misleading the group the entire time. However, he eventually develops a genuine affection for his comrades and undergoes a Heel–Face Turn just prior to the reveal.
  • Kurama of YuYu Hakusho was a kitsune before he died and inhabited the body of an unborn human child. He planned to run away from his human "mother" Shiori Minamino when his demonic powers returned, but realized that he loved her too much to leave.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: In the Silver Age, Batman was the mask Bruce Wayne wore, in a nod to Zorro. Bruce Wayne is now merely Batman in disguise and not the reverse, and his subconscious calls him Batman, as seen in Batman Beyond. Like everything with Batman, how much this is true varies from writer to writer.
    • Summarized in the novelization of Knightfall, Alfred explains to Tim Drake that Batman uses the cowl to become a different personality, hearkening back to primitive beliefs that wearing the mask of a god is to become that god.
      (Batman puts his mask on)
      Bane: Stop hiding.
      Batman: I'm not hiding. I'm becoming.
    • By now, he's gone so far that in Batman Inc. #3, El Gaucho even remarks "Why the hell is Batman masquerading as Bruce Wayne, anyway? I've met Bruce Wayne and you don't fool me."
    • There was also a three-part story in which Batman Became A Completely Different Mask; his undercover identity of Matches Malone. In "Close Before Striking", the real Matches Malone returns to Gotham, and gets shot by Scarface's gang, since Scarface has concluded that Malone is in cahoots with Batman. As Batman blames himself for this, he spends more time in his Matches identity, and both Bruce Wayne and Batman start adopting Matches's mannerisms and attitude. Nightwing is able to snap him out of it before he kills the Ventriloquist.
    • Another suggested reason why Batman keeps the Bruce Wayne persona is because it's the last little bit of humanity he has left. In Bruce Wayne: Fugitive, he tells the rest of the Bat-family that he's dumping the Bruce Wayne identity to be Batman 24/7, seeing it as a liability. Nightwing, in particular, doesn't take that well and goes at it with him. It takes encounters with both Superman and Catwoman to realize that he kinda does need Bruce Wayne.
    • On the other hand, when the League had their personalities divided in JLA and Bruce and Batman were temporarily separated people, Batman became an empty shell, even faceless. Bruce, on the other hand, had all the rage and anger, but none of the training or ability to channel it into anything positive.
      • From a purely psychological point of view, this makes sense, as it's Bruce Wayne, not Batman, who suffered the trauma of seeing his parents cut down, who needed an outlet for his pain. Batman on the other hand, didn't come into existence until Bruce had become a fully grown adult.
      • In the same story arc, a similar problem leads Eel O'Brian to reunite the alter-egos and reverse the process. He finds that, in the process of becoming a superhero for money (in his Post-Crisis incarnation), he grew to love the trust and respect he received. After the split, however, his old desire to commit crimes returns, making him desperate to reverse the process before he does something unforgivable.
    • In Generations, he reveals to his son, the third Batman, that he assumed control of Ra's al Ghul's criminal empire and changed the organization so that charities which once acted as its fronts were now the entire operation with the criminals still working for them none the wiser.
    • In the first Wonder Woman (Rebirth) Annual, the Trinity holds the lasso as a way for Diana to make sure they speak the truth. She asks it who they are. Diana answers that she is Diana of Themyscira, and daughter of Queen Hippolyta. Superman answers that he's Clark Kent, Kal-El. Batman answers... that he's Batman. Yep, the thing that channels the very concept of truth, that, in this version, actually calls on the absolute truth of matters and not just what people believe... has Batman say that he's Batman.
  • In some incarnations, becoming the mask may be what led Dr. Harleen Quinzel to become Harley Quinn. In her origin story, Mad Love, the possibility was brought up that she interned at Arkham Asylum to cash in on the infamy of its highly abnormal inmate body. Ultimately, she really does end up giving a damn about a certain patient.
  • Jean-Paul Valley starts suffering this at the end of his Sanity Slippage during Knightfall, ultimately declaring that if he wasn't Batman, he was nothing.
  • Played with with Superman. In the Silver Age, Clark Kent was the mask worn by Superman. Beginning with John Byrne's reboot, Superman became the mask Clark Kent wore.
    • The Silver Age Superman had a story in which Clark Kent tries to prevent the demolition of his old home. Pete Ross assumes it's because he's afraid the workers will find something that'll give away his secret identity, but it's really because of Supes' sentimentality. Pete's last line is pretty much the trope (remember, this is when writers had decided that Superman was the "real" identity and Clark Kent a mere disposable mask.)
    • It eventually came back around to Clark Kent and Superman both being masks that he wears. Even as Clark, he has to pretend and hide things about his character and nature.
      • In a way, the only time he doesn't wear a mask is when he's married to Lois Lane. He can be down to earth Clark, but also share about all the troubles of being Superman with her.
  • From the Marvel Universe, we have the Thunderbolts, who were originally the newest incarnation of the Masters of Evil, posing as superheroes to win the public's trust while the major superheroes were apparently dead for a year. Their leader, Baron Zemo, eventually leaked their true identities to try to avert a Heel–Face Turn before he could Take Over the World. It didn't work; the majority of the team defeated him, and tried — for various reasons — to actually become heroes. To the best of their moral abilities, anyway.
    • Only the first incarnation of the Thunderbolts counts as this. During Civil War the new Thunderbolts team was no longer "Reformed villains trying to actually be the heroes they'd originally pretended to be" and was instead "a bunch of violent thugs we stuck mind control chips into so we could use them for black ops" who they put under the direction of Norman Osborn and by Dark Reign had morphed into "Norman Osborn's especially vicious group of thugs because the Dark Avengers weren't bad enough."
    • The Heroic Age incarnation, on the other hand, is a specific attempt by the Avengers to induce this. They're using incarcerated supervillains to do good in the hopes that they'll start liking it, and then try to redeem themselves.
  • Interestingly used in Lucifer, where a shapeshifter is trapped in the form of a grieving father (whom it had killed to assume his shape, to try (and apparently succeed) at killing his daughter) and gradually becomes more the grieving father than the ancient shapeshifter from before the universe. This doesn't seem come about entirely honestly, though — much of the father's mentality seems to be forced onto the shapeshifter by the same magic that traps it in his form.
  • Walter Kovacs from Watchmen, a formerly abused but relatively normal superhero, takes on the persona of his alter ego Rorschach after an event of intense psychological trauma, becoming a Principles Zealot in the process.
    • Rorschach later describes the early years of his hero career as "I wasn't Rorschach then. Then I was just Kovacs. Kovacs pretending to be Rorschach". During his bail hearing he refused to respond to anything other than "Rorschach". He also refers to his mask as his face, and once referred to removing it as "removing the skin from my head". He's kinda sensitive about it.
    • "It was Kovacs who closed his eyes. It was Rorschach who opened them again." If that doesn't define this trope, nothing does.
    • It was portrayed wonderfully with the art too, when the reader sees Rorschach in the past, he stands differently and looks odd compared to the Rorschach we know in the present. There's something very human about him that adds a quiet tragedy to the man we know now.
  • Happened several times to the Skrull impostor(s) posing as Hank Pym during the Secret Invasion. Apparently a side-effect of the enhanced shape shifting they were using to escape detection. One issue revealed that they went through no less than 4 different Skrulls who EACH KEPT TRYING TO DEFECT once they settled into the role.
  • The Vertigo version of Human Target written by Peter Milligan was all about this. The main character, Christopher Chance, was so good at imitating the people he was meant to protect that he needed post-hypnotic triggers to resume his "normal" personality. This problem largely presents itself when he's not in contact with the person he's impersonating, and especially when that person is dead. In the most advanced cases, he has literally forgotten that he was ever Christopher Chance.
    • Christopher's protégé Tom McFadden actually has it even worse. Not only does he disappear into his adopted personas completely, but the inverse is also true — Chance describes Tom as "leav[ing] something behind" when he discards an identity, and eventually he has no real sense or memory of who "Tom McFadden" is.
  • Marvel's first Captain Marvel was a Kree soldier named Mar-vell, who came to Earth to spy out humanity. He eventually came over to Earth's side for real.
  • Magica De Spell goes through this in the Donald Duck story "Date with a Munchkin" by Kari Korhonen, where she kidnaps Daisy Duck and takes her place in order to get close to Scrooge McDuck's #1 Dime. During her time as Daisy, she receives Donald's affection for Daisy and takes a liking to their romance. (It helps that she's accidentally also dosed herself with the Love Potion she's using to forestall Donald's suspicions.) It culminates in a Duckburg ball where Magica originally intended to steal the dime, but chooses not to leave Donald's side. However, Daisy has escaped her restraints and crashes the ball, confronting Magica. When Donald takes Magica's side, believing that she's the real Daisy, Magica ends her illusion and flees the scene rather than break Daisy's heart. She later reflects that although she didn't manage the theft, she has experienced "a new feeling," and maybe that's worth something.
    • Magica manages it again in "A Gal For Gladstone": she hexes away Gladstone Gander's luck so he'll have to work for Uncle Scrooge, then disguises herself as a wholesome girl and seduces him to get close to the dime. She's genuinely touched by his devotion, though, and ends up giving up her chance at the dime in order to save his life.
  • Punch/Counterpunch in Dreamwave's Transformers Generation One comics. Punch is an Autobot spy sent deep undercover into the Decepticon ranks as counterintelligence expert Counterpunch. However, in developing Counterpunch's "character" and establishing him as a dedicated Decepticon, Punch may have caused an entirely new personality to develop within him; Lately, he's been having blackouts as Counterpunch and is unable to account for his whereabouts or activities, though he suspects Counterpunch is asserting himself and doing his job.
  • In the Sonic X comic book, Dr. Eggman disguises himself as the heroic wrestler El Gran Gordo to earn extra cash, but soon finds he likes being praised and adored by his fans. This leads him to almost pull a Heel–Face Turn, and even after going back to villainy, he later returns to being El Gran Gordo for the thrills, fame, and loving fanbase. He also pummels a wrestler about twice his size, and considering how big Eggman was to begin with, that's quite a feat.
  • V from V for Vendetta. Who he is under the mask is unimportant, as the mask is a symbol of what he truly is.
  • In Silver and Bronze Age Superman comics, Lex Luthor initially only helped an alien race rebuild its civilization in order to gain their cooperation—but when they hailed him as a hero (even renaming their planet Lexor!), he realized he liked being considered a good guy. Lexor became his home away from home for years, until the planet was accidentally destroyed in a fight with Supes. This tragedy caused a major Villainous Breakdown.
  • Captain Atom was originally a government agent pretending to be a superhero so as to spy on the Justice League. Eventually he found himself becoming a superhero for real, leading to his Crowning Moment Of Awesome, seen here.
  • In the Fantastic Four story "This Man, This Monster," an unnamed scientist steals Ben Grimm's appearance, voice, and power in order to kill Reed Richards, whom he both envies and considers motivated solely by glory. However, in the course of working with him on a dangerous research project, the scientist becomes so convinced of Richards' selflessness that he sacrifices himself to save his life.
    • An Affectionate Parody of this story, "And Men Shall Call Him... Hero" from Doom Patrol, has a villain steal Cliff Steele's robotic body in order to kill his Doom Patrol teammates, only to feel unexpected compassion when a lost, frightened blind girl instinctively clings to him. As a result, he sacrifices himself in order to prevent the Omnicidal Maniac Celestius from absorbing her life energy.
  • Gentle Giant Vathek from the original W.I.T.C.H. comic begins as a villain, but is sent by Cedric to act as a The Mole among the rebels. Vathek, however, decides that Good Feels Good and ends up genuinely changing sides. (In the cartoon Vathek has a smaller role and acts as The Mole among the bad guys while being genuinely on the side of good all along.)
  • Happens both ways in Judge Dredd
    • On the one hand, Wally Squad Judges face a constant mental battle to avoid either becoming the criminals they're supposed to be undermining, or simply thinking too much like a normal human being. Many fail; at present, Dirty Frank is right on the precipice.
    • On the other end, Serial Killer PJ Maybe stole the identity of Byron Ambrose, a wealthy philanthropist, and got himself elected Mayor of Mega-City One. In order to keep up the charade, he had to do as many good deeds as were possible for the mayor - and during this time, he gradually came to enjoy being good so much that he risked his own life and reputation in attempting to assassinate Martin Sinfield for no other reason than that he felt it was for the good of the city (sure, he may randomly kill people for fun, but he was still the best mayor Mega-City One has ever had... which speaks for the city).
  • A long running plot-point of Strangers in Paradise was the "Parker Girl" operation, women who would assume long-term, deep-cover identities and get involved with influential men in order to manipulate politics from behind the scenes. However, when the operation collapsed after the death of Darcy Parker, many Parker Girls were trapped in their cover identities, unable to extricate themselves from the lives they had established. In Echo, the next series written by author Terry Moore, there is a crossover with SiP as a character makes contact with some of the women still living their cover identities. Lieutenant Laura Higgs, who used be a Parker Girl named Stephanie who was infiltrating the U.S. Military, asserts that she has a life now and refuses to give up the world she has built. "Stephanie's dead. I'm Laura Higgs now."
  • Zachary T. Paleozogt IS Zot!
  • In Classic Star Wars, a set of Star Wars newspaper strips, Vader once hires an actor to pretend to be Obi-Wan in order to lure Luke into a trap. The thing was, the actor was moved by how Luke respected him, and started having thoughts like "What would the real Obi-Wan do?" He still led Luke into the trap, but then sprung it, dying himself. From Luke's utter lack of reaction before the panel at the top of the page, it's a little ambiguous whether Luke was really oblivious about what was going on.
  • In The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye this happened to Minimus Ambus, the current holder of the title of "Ultra Magnus". Originally a mere soldier in the Autobot army, he had long admired Ultra Magnus, for being the epitome of law and order, and aspired to be a lawman just like him. When the former holder of the title died, and Ambus was offered the chance to actually become his idol by Chief Justice Tyrest, he leapt at the opportunity, throwing himself completely into the role. He's briefly forced to take the mask off during the "Remain in Light" storyline when Tyrest takes away the Magnus armor and replaces Ambus with his new Enforcer Star Saber, but when he learns that the now insane Tyrest plans to use the Universal Killswitch to kill all Cybertronians who were constructed cold, Ambus announces that Ultra Magnus would never stand for that, and turns against his former boss. By the end of the storyline, he has once again become Ultra Magnus, and is even told by Ratchet that he is the true Ultra Magnus.
  • Loki is on the way to this if the powers that be let them with the mask being their child-self. He died to be reborn as a child (Journey into Mystery), but also left a copy of his old consciousness behind to obliterate the child and take over his body when the time is right, to basically pull a Memory Gambit. Now the new Loki born out of this is stuck between two different roles (Young Avengers), and tries very hard to become the mask (Loki: Agent of Asgard), because it's preferable to the alternative.
  • Issue #20 of The Powerpuff Girls (DC run), "Bow Jest," posits how Blossom becomes ineffective as both a fighter and leader of the team after she loses her hairbow. Buttercup steals it and won't give it back. Mojo Jojo thinks that if Blossom can be reduced to a sobbing mess without her bow, then it must possess some intangible powers. He manages to obtain it during a confrontation with the girls and feels invincible... until Bubbles (of all people) clocks him, takes the bow back, angrily slams it on Blossom's head and gives her a dressing down about the bow being nothing more than Hair Decorations.
  • Inverted in The Judas Contract arc of Teen Titans. Terra is The Mole for Deathstroke. Over the course of the comic there are few signs (such as when the Titans throw her a surprise birthday party) that she has grown to like them. In the end, Terra does betray them and even declares her undying hate for them. She ends up accidentally killing herself while trying to kill them and Deathstroke (who betrayed her).
  • In Beast Wars: Uprising, Wolfang is eventually revealed to be a Predacon Secret Police operative who underwent this; he was ordered to pose as a Maximal cop, but steadily came to enjoy solving murders and helping people far more than he ever enjoyed being a spy. When Tarantulas tricks his handlers into thinking he's turned traitor and sends them to kill him, he doesn't mind too much because, in his own eyes, he's a cop first, Predacon second.

    Fan Works 
  • A Crown of Stars: Discussed in chapter 34. Asuka says she has worn so many masks during her life that she is not sure of what is her real self anymore. Another character suggests her to choose one of them and wearing it until the mask becomes real.
  • Claymade's The Dark Lords of Nerima is particularly insightful examination of this trope when a wounded Youma from Sailor Moon is taken in by the Ranma 1/2 crew.
  • The Reveal in the middle of Chapter 3 of the Axis Powers Hetalia fanfic Finding Freedom. You thought that the Beta Couple's main reason for being added in the previous chapter was to give the other main character a boyfriend too or to be the cute established couple? Think again.
    "Don't be stupid, although I know you can't help that. Kiku's... not my type."
    Also a lie, Heracles told himself. He definitely felt something for the other man, cherished his time with him and his quirks and just... all that made him who he was. When he kissed him, it was real. By now, everything he did with Kiku was real.
  • John-117 in Company0051. As such, he certainly doesn't appreciate the having to be out of armor, and to make matters worse the armor in question is kept by a scientist who seems to have a bit of a fetish for it...
  • Superwomen of Eva 2: Lone Heir of Krypton: Asuka decided to pretend she was a super-heroine... and throughout the story she becomes one.
  • Lulu's Bizarre Rebellion: Shirley started out being manipulated into the role of Zero by Lelouch as nothing more than a figurehead with powerful stand, with Lelouch literally dictating her speeches by writing on the inside of her mask with his stand. Then, when she accidentally gets her father killed she retreats into the Zero persona to deal with it, becoming more loyal to the role than to Lelouch and developing her own planning skills.
  • Queen of Shadows: Thanks to Shendu trying to re-write the Book of Ages, Jade Chan ends up in an alternate reality where she has replaced the queen of an empire of Shadowkhan. Trying to fufill the role so she isn't caught out, Jade unknowingly does a better job of being the queen than the real queen. Her advisors take this more as her developing into a true leader than anything suspicious.
  • Explored in the Mass Effect/Terminator crossover Drift, where Cameron has spent a couple hundred years carefully developing an entire personality construct based on her "Allison" memories, effectively becoming an otherwise indistinguishable human. It turns out that Cameron has apparently been using the Allison persona for so long that elements of her have influenced other parts of her "brain," like her combat programs - which she finds quite troubling, because she is apparently unable to actually do physical maintenance on her processors.
  • In Deep Cover, a Naruto fanfic. Naruto gets sent on a mission to infiltrate the Sound village, with the idea that his behavior is so loud and obvious that nobody would suspect him hiding something. He betrays Konoha and has a romantic moment with Tayuya while watching it burn. Thinking back on how he made his decision, he realizes that at some point in the past he stopped caring about Konoha and decided that Sound was his home.
  • In the Bleach series Heirverse this is pretty much how Gin and Aizen get together. YMMV though as this could just as easily be a case of Beneath the Mask and some of Kyouka's comment would imply that.
  • Really, almost any Naruto fanfic that has the word 'mask' in the title.
    • Likewise, in many Naruto fanfics where he uses Kage Bunshin that have to act like someone other than himself, they end up actually thinking of themselves as their adopted persona. Case in point, in The Ninth Sekirei Pillar, a pair of clones pretending to be a married couple actually start thinking of themselves as a married couple. Naruto doesn't protest their moves to prevent their dispelling since he "doesn't want memories of fucking himself".
  • White Rain has Itachi Uchiha and Lucia van Alstyne; the former's motivations were only revealed long after his death, while the latter only came to realize it after being interviewed by Ibiki.
  • This trope is a major part of the Teen Titans fanfic Avatar. As far as Robin's concerned, when the mask goes on he is Robin - Tim Drake (unusually for a Teen Titans fic, Robin is the Tim Drake version rather than the Dick Grayson one) doesn't exist. He deliberately wears the mask at all times, even when hanging out with the other Titans, because he considers leading the Titans a 24/7/365 job, so decided to simply stop being Tim, who he feels doesn't have what it takes to be a hero.
  • The Monsters, Inc. fanfiction Angela's Pet Monster involves Randall getting adopted by a human girl. At first, he doesn't care much for her, only wanting food and warmth. However, he quickly grows to like her, which leads to his Heel–Face Turn.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic Without A Hive, by Phoenix_Dragon, a novice Changeling Infiltrator named Nictis is cut off from his Hive, and forced to pretend to be a (female) Pony named Meadow Song for many, many years, during which it has no contact with his own kind. As the years pass, the identity of Meadow becomes all too real, causing a slow change in Nictis's own loyalties and values.
  • In Diaries of a Madman, Bon Bon has been away from the changeling hive and amongst ponies for so long that she's come to consider herself as a pony foremost.
  • Zaysen in The Bucky O'Hare Web Series. A toad spy altered to resemble a hare named Renfield, he's placed in mammal society and very quickly becomes enamored with the freedom of expression and choice it offers, at least in comparison to that of the toads. He develops close friendships with his co-workers, and even begins dating one, and gradually starts feeling guilty for secretly betraying them the whole time. Although he faces some hurdles (a big one being that he's outed and captured), he gradually assimilates more or less perfectly, and even his boyfriend doesn't entirely mind that he's a toad.
  • In Sean Bean Saves Westeros, the "real life" Sean Bean is transported into the land of Westeros of A Song of Ice and Fire. Now living as Ned Stark, not just playing him on TV, Sean Bean has a hard time not accepting Ned's family as truly his own, especially after Sansa is rescued.
  • In Dumbledore's Army and the Year of Darkness, from the perspective of Hogwarts students in 1997-8, there's no real difference between Severus Snape pretending to be evil so as not to make Voldemort suspicious, and Snape actually being evil.
  • The Seraphim, the major antagonist of Angel Of The Bat, doesn't have the prestigious lineage he claims he does, he's just so crazy he forgot what he was saying was a lie to gain followers.
  • Lelouch of the Rebellion RX: Demonic Knights has Lelouch abandon his apathetic schoolboy personality completely and fully become Zero before using his Geass on Emperor Charles to erase everything except for his memories of being Zero. Even after his memories are restored in Chapter Ten, Lelouch continues to believe that he is Zero whenever he is with most of the Black Knights.
  • In Who We Are, one of the Mane Six is revealed to secretly be a changeling. While it's never revealed which of them is, she's shown to be far less concerned with being outed as a changeling and more with losing her friends.
  • In Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality we learn that one of the villains originally constructed their villainous identity simply to test their allies and provide an enemy for them to rally against, but became disillusioned when they failed to put up an effective resistance and eventually came to enjoy the role and the respect it afforded him from their fellow villains.
  • Thousand Shinji: At the beginning Shinji intended to pretend that he cared about Asuka, Rei, Misato, Touji, Kensuke... in order to manipulate them. However, he quickly came to care for them and regard them as his family sincerely.
  • In the Steven Universe fic Pulse, Pearl only accepted Amethyst as a teammate because Rose ordered her to. Over the millennia, Pearl's barely-hidden distrust of/apathy for Amethyst grew into real friendliness.
    "No, Amethyst," Pearl said quietly. "You're wonderful. We all thought you were."
    "No, you didn't!" shouted Amethyst. "I bet you would've killed me if Rose wasn't there."
    "I probably would have," said Pearl, "and it would've been a horrible mistake."
  • In My Mirror, Sword and Shield, Suzaku was a Ordinary High-School Student turned unintentional time-traveler. Fearing how his appearance could butterfly the War of Ascencion and erase his timeline, he joins Emperor Lelouch's Evil Empire as a knight. Suzaku puts on the facade of being a loyal obedient knight to Lelouch in order to keep track of him and make sure that Lelouch dies at the right time. When he refuses to give up Lelouch to the JLF despite being unarmed and surrounded in the Battle of Narita and being promised to absolved for his actions. Suzaku then realizes that he is genuinely loyal to Lelouch. Which complicates things.
  • Subverted and then played straight in Snapshots of The life and times of Hatake Kakashi, Nukenin where Ran has been one of Konaha's top 5 longest running infiltration, after ten years in the Grass village, but when she's ordered to 'go nukenin' and get close to the titular character, she finds that she rather enjoys the freedom that being a nukenin offers
  • Renamon is this in Digimon Trinity. As it turns out, she only partnered with Rika in the first place because Apocalymon ordered it, as he wanted to learn how to use the bond between Digimon and Tamer to strengthen the Nightmare Soldiers. No one anticipated that she would actually come to care for Rika.
  • A literal example in With This Ring. In the Renegade timeline, Orange Lantern rolled with the mistaken identification of being Grayven in order to foil several Apokolpian invasion schemes for earth by 'claiming it as his own'. Disturbingly he has found himself having flashbacks to Grayven's past and is finding difficulty separating his SI past life and Grayven's in his memories.
  • Zigzagged in Bride of Discord, where Discord has feelings for Fluttershy from the beginning, but initially tries to justify his attempts at wooing her to himself, as an attempt to manipulated her into falling in love with him, so she would be unwilling to join her friends in trying to stop him, when he finally targets the rest of Equestria. But as the story goes on, he eventually forgets about the manipulation angle and is genuinely trying to convince her to marry him for its own sake.
  • Cinder Fall in The RWBY Loops zigzags this trope something fierce. Because of the way the time loops works, she decides to fake a friendly looping identity with which to socialize with the good guys whilst simultaneously indulging her villainous side in secret. The two identities both manage to grow stronger and cause more internal conflict to the point where, with a little assistance from an outside force, they become independent and unaware of each other. This does not end well.
  • Jaune in Forged Destiny. At the beginning of the story, he is merely a disguised Blacksmith pretending to be a Knight with none of the knowledge or skills to back it up. After a few adventures though, he develops into one of the most heroic characters of the main cast with a knack for tactics and improvisation that makes him one of the more valuable party members.
    I was a Blacksmith, but I'd never felt less like one than I did right now. I could remember back when Beacon started and that reality had plagued me every day.[...] No one could look at me and think I was a Blacksmith. I never acted like it.
  • The fanfic Camouflage Contract, a Super Junior fanfic about the Eunhyuk/Donghae couple (more commonly known as EunHae) is all about this trope. Eunhyuk gets Donghae to a fake relationship with him so he can avoid others' suspicions and in turn Donghae can raise his son well instead of having to be a prostitute everyday for money. At first it was only temporary, but through time, they truly fall in love with each other and decide to settle with the other for real.
  • Inverted in the Zelda fic Surface Tension. When she began falling for Malon and later Ruto, Zelda tried to make herself believe that she was just really into being her male-disguise Sheik. No, she's lesbian. She just had a hard time accepting it.
  • Jaune Arc in Professor Arc goes from a bumbling Butt-Monkey doing his best to act like the professional Hunter his credentials paint him as to a serious professor who frequently forgets he's the same age (or younger in some cases) as his students and a genuine badass who's acknowledged as a hero.

     Film — Animated 
  • In The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, Kovu is sent to ingratiate himself into Simba's pride in order to kill him. Unfortunately for his mother, Kovu's growing love for Kiara allows him to break free of his mother's conditioning, realize the evil that he is collaborating in and decide he wants no part of it.
  • Experiment 626/Stitch in Lilo & Stitch. He starts out masquerading as a dog for protection, but eventually Lilo's love causes him to do a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Diego in Ice Age. He is supposed to get the baby and bring it to the Big Bad, but eventually becomes its protector.
  • Despicable Me has Gru pretending to be the three orphans' adoptive parent. However, he rescues the three kids from Vector and keeps that role.
  • Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted: The Zoosters masquerade as circus animals to hitch a ride on a circus train which is headed for New York which would allow them to finally return to the zoo. However, along the journey, they start to grow attached to the circus and make new friends with the circus animals. In the end, they realize they would much rather stay with the circus.
  • Megamind has this. He begins to like Roxanne while dating her as Bernard so much that he doesn't want to be a villain anymore. However, after Roxanne dumps him after finding out his identity, it's back to being a villain for him. However, when Roxanne tells him she needs him, while Titan has her tied up on top of a skyscraper, he flips to "hero" mode again and stays that way.
  • The danger of the unicorn's human guise in The Last Unicorn. Amalthea, the eponymous unicorn, slowly forgets who she was, as she becomes more and more human. It takes the three other protagonists (including the human she fell in love with) to put her back on her quest.
  • In Treasure Planet, Silver ends up developing a bond with Jim Hawkins, despite him and his crew being the mole and simply being on the ship to steal the treasure. This serves as one of the primary conflicts of the story.
  • In Rock-A-Doodle, Pinkie (on the Grand Duke of Owl's orders) had Goldie keep Chantacler occupied to avoid encountering his friends. The only problem was that she was only supposed to pretend to fall in love with him, but she ended up falling in love with him for real, which lead her to side with Chantacler's friends and get him back to the farm.

    Film — Live Action 
  • Pretty much the entire plot of the Kevin Costner film The Postman. In a post-apocalyptic America where civilization has collapsed, Costner plays a wandering con man who poses as a postal worker of the fictional 'Restored United States of America' to deceive people into giving him food, shelter, and protection. In the process, he proceeds from pretending to deliver the mail to actually delivering the mail, and things sort of snowball from there until he eventually, entirely by accident, ends up basically creating the Restored United States of America he claimed to represent and becoming a postal worker for it.
  • The whole point of the Charlie Sheen film Beyond the Law, which in turn is based on several real stories about law enforcement agents who pretend to be outlaw bikers to observe the clubs engaging in illegal activities only to realize they feel more at home as outlaws than as cops.
  • Played straight in the second The Princess Diaries film. Nicholas is sent by his Evil Uncle to seduce Mia in order to become king, but he actually falls in love with her.
  • Dana Carvey's character in Opportunity Knocks.
  • This is more or less the entire plot of James Cameron's Avatar. The main character, who is "piloting"/"possessing" an custom-made alien body for the purpose of infiltration, even remarks in the film at one point that the situation had become reversed - "out there was reality, and in here [in his human body] was the dream." At the end of the movie, he undergoes a ceremony that permanently puts him in the avatar body, and he leaves his old human body to die in the toxic atmosphere.
  • The plot of Kagemusha by Akira Kurosawa. A lower-class criminal is taught to impersonate a dying warlord as a kagemusha (shadow warrior) in order to dissuade opposing lords from attacking the newly vulnerable clan. He becomes more and more convincing after the death of the warlord, but he is revealed as in impostor after he is rejected by the horse of the warrior. However he chooses a death on battle, in a desperate search for identity.
  • There are a number of stories in which the main characters pose as heroes, only to actually become real heroes by the end.
  • The main point of Wedding Crashers; this one using the "fall in love" variety with both protagonists. Things go south when they're discovered, but they manage to work out a happy ending.
  • Occurs for the worse in Mean Girls: Naïve Newcomer Cady joins the popular girls' clique only because her friends want her to get inside information on Queen Bee Regina so that they can knock her several pegs down the social ladder. Cady succeeds in doing this, but her experience as one of the "Plastics" causes her to become as shallow and popularity-obsessed as them, and she takes over Regina's former position. Fortunately, when she realizes what she's become (and has a Fallen Princess experience), she snaps out of it and makes amends.
  • A variant appears in Dave: an actor who bears an uncanny resemblance to the President of the United States is hired by advisors to stand-in at an official function while the real President is seducing his secretary. Unfortunately, the President suffers a stroke during the act and is rendered non-responsive, forcing the actor to remain in the role indefinitely; he ends up becoming a more noble and honest President than the actual one, and falls in love with the First Lady.
  • The Music Man himself, Professor Harold Hill.
  • Alice in Antitrust was originally hired to be The Mole, but ends up falling for the protagonist and refuses to betray him.
  • This is the main character problem affecting Robert Downey Jr.'s character in Tropic Thunder. Specifically, he's supposed to be an Affectionate Parody of Daniel Day-Lewis.
  • Inverted in the first Darkman movie. When Darkman interacts with his girlfriend Julie after nearly having been burned to death, he makes good use of his artificial skin to pretend to be the same Payton Westlake he always was. However, at the end of the movie, when the Big Bad has been defeated and Julie finally sees Darkman's face as it truly is, she tries to reassure him by telling him that she can still love him despite his horrible injuries. Darkman replies that their former relationship could never go on because, while he was wearing the mask of the old Payton (among other masks), the man behind the mask had changed into an altogether different person.
  • This was the plot of the James Bond movie From Russia with Love; the Bond Girl was sent by SPECTRE (under the guise of SMERSH) to seduce him into a trap. She pretends to be a Russian cypher clerk who's fallen in love with Bond's picture, only to fall for him for real.
  • In While You Were Sleeping, Lucy saves the life of the man she has a crush on and, due to a mistake at the hospital is assumed by the staff — and the man's family — to be his fiancée, whom they haven't met. A variation, however, in that Lucy isn't a villain with malicious intent; she's initially mortified by the error and tries to clear it up right away, but finds the man's warm, welcoming and immediately accepting family, in contrast to her own painfully lonely life and lack of family, a bit too hard to give up. Then she falls in love with his brother — right before the man comes out of his coma and, due to what-he-thinks-is-amnesia, is convinced that she is his fiancée...
  • A variation occurs in the Woody Allen movie Zelig: the protagonist becomes the mask involuntarily, taking on the traits of whoever is around him, be they Nazis, pilots, or Greeks.
  • Undercover Brother has Brother become Anton Jackson to infiltrate The Man's company. He becomes the mask due to mayonnaise and the White She-Devil. When he returns to normal, the White She-Devil goes through a similar transformation and does a Heel–Face Turn.
  • One of the big themes of Clueless. While many of Cher's actions require the pretense of altruism, she does genuinely grow altruistic and is very humbled by the experience whether it be success or mishap.
  • The Assignment (1997). The protagonist, a naval officer with an uncanny resemblance to Carlos the Jackal, begins to take on the nature of the violent, charismatic terrorist after being trained to copy his methodology (as part of a plot to frame Carlos as a CIA informant so he'll be murdered by the KGB). The final scene shows him going to burn a spider with his cigarette as Carlos did in the opening scene, but he stops at the last second.
  • Total Recall (1990) Does this quite literally (or does it?) - Our protagonist Doug Quaid is told that his true identity is actually Hauser, Cohaagen's evil sidekick: but Quaid has other ideas. As Cohaagen puts it: "I didn't want it to end this way, I wanted Hauser back, but no... you had to be Quaid!"
  • Pretty much the point of Donnie Brasco, where Johnny Depp's character, an undercover cop, develops a friendship with his primary mob contact and feels guilty about betraying him.
  • Heavily discussed in The Departed by Costigan, where he worries that the horrible things he has to do while undercover are actually making him more of a horrible person, which culminates in him being unable to trust the police department at all; he asks to resign rather than be reinstated after Costello's death ends his mission, and upon realizing that Sullivan is a mole he immediately goes rogue to try to deal with him rather than even considering reporting him to anyone else in the department.
  • The main source of drama in Infernal Affairs, the Cantonese film The Departed is based on, was the psychological impact of the main characters' double lives as Andy Lau's character wishes to become his mask while Tony Leung Chiu-Wai's character fears he is becoming his. He eventually goes so far as to kill everybody who knew his real identity and could incriminate him, with the exception of his wife.
  • Burt Lancaster's Bill Starbuck, in The Rainmaker.
  • In Troop Beverly Hills we get Annie, who was sent to the title troop by Velma to to discredit their leader and get the troop disbanded. Eventually she grows a spine and gives up on the pursuit. Of course, Velma catches on to this and tries to fire her before the climactic final competition.
  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, according to a comic book sequel, this is the origin of Judge Doom, who was originally a Toon specializing in villain parts and changing his appearance for every short, akin to a Toon Lon Chaney. After a grenade accident, the actor part of the "Actor playing a villain" slowly vanished and he never appeared out of costume/make-up, to the point that no one in Hollywood could remember what he looked like.
  • In the film version of V for Vendetta, Gordon Dietrich reveals to Evey that he not only keeps a ton of contraband art, religious items, and other memorabilia in a secret room, he also has a predilection for certain government-unfriendly sexual appetites. Or rather, he had these appetites before years of having to pretend he didn't...
    Gordon: "You wear a mask for so long, you forget who you were beneath it."
  • In Batman Begins, Rachel is the one to point out Bruce is the mask, and that the man who was once Bruce Wayne has become the Batman, wearing Bruce Wayne's face as an alter ego. Alfred warns Bruce of it earlier in the movie:
    Alfred: You're getting lost inside this monster of yours.
  • The father of the title Lord of War was a Ukrainian who, along with his family, emigrated from the Soviet Union to America under the pretense of being Jewish. He would later on fully embrace the Jewish lifestyle, opening a store with the Star of David as part of the logo, faithfully attending synagogue services, and even obeying orthodox Jewish dietary laws, much to the annoyance of his Catholic wife.
    Anatoly Orlov: I'm going to temple.
    Irina Orlov: You're not going to temple! You go to temple more than the Rabbi!
  • In Plunkett & Macleane, Macleane infiltrates the rich upper classes so he can rob them blind with his fellow highwayman. However he begins growing too fond of acting like he's rich and squandering money on his gambling habits.
  • Subverted in Cypher when Morgan Sullivan's spy alter ego that he created for himself is ignored when Digicorp transplant him into his new identity by way of brainwashing. The next plot segment is driven by his annoyance that his new persona doesn't smoke or drink whisky. Also inverted: The spy alter ego was his true personality re-asserting itself, Morgan Sullivan was the mask he was unbecoming.
  • In Maleficent, the titular character watches over the young Aurora to keep her alive until her Dangerous 16th Birthday but ends up becoming a foster mother to her.
  • In White: The Melody of the Curse, once the other three members of Pink Dolls are incapacitated due to a healthy dose of Cursed Technology, Eun-jun realizes she has the chance to go solo after she believes she broke the curse. She only answers to the name of "White", rather than Eun-jun, denies ever being a back-up dancer, and claims she wrote the song itself. She didn't break the curse. At all.
  • This is the plot of Sister Act when Whoopi Goldberg's character becomes a nun. Whoopi comes to like the nuns and their work to help people in need, but she also convinces them to serve the Lord with more joy and less woe, singing passionately.
  • Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and The Remake feature a reporter who stages a Rescue Romance with the main character to advance her journalist career and then falls in love with him.
  • Smokin' Aces features an interesting inversion of this: after FBI Agent Freeman Heller goes undercover as Mafia Hitman Primo Sparazza, the higher-ups at the FBI became wrongfully convinced that he had become the mask, and tried to have him murdered. Heller survived the assassination, and to retaliate against the Bureau that betrayed him, really did become the mask, eventually becoming the head Mafia Don.
  • A classic movie example is Humphrey Bogart's character in The Left Hand of God. He plays a mercenary in China who uses the identity of a dead priest to escape his warlord employer but that means actually acting the part of a priest at a medical mission. Luckily he's a Catholic boy so he knows the drill. He also does his best to live up to the part with predictable results.
  • Point Break (1991) stars Keanu Reeves as an FBI agent who goes undercover as a surfer to get close to a suspected bank robber. The inevitable occurs.
  • The Fast and the Furious series has Paul Walker's cop become a street-racing rogue like the people he infiltrates. It's basically Point Break (1991) with cars instead of surfboards.
  • The Brothers Bloom. The older brother believes that "the perfect con" is one that actually becomes real. His younger brother inevitably falls in love with the heiress that he was supposed to seduce.
  • When Luke Skywalker surrenders to the Imperials in Return of the Jedi, he tells Darth Vader he has accepted that he was once Anakin Skywalker, his father. Vader replies, "That name no longer has any meaning for me." Luke insists there is still good in him.
  • One of the themes in Black Swan is the protagonist struggling to delve into her darkside in order to perfect her role as Odile of Swan Lake. This unfamiliar side of herself begins to devour her.
  • Zig Zagging around this trope is one of the main selling points of Salt: Is she primarily a CIA operative trying to clear her name or a Soviet superspy? The theatrical version plays this straight; She did fall in love and went native. The Director's Cut goes the opposite way but manages to sneak in a twist: She's loyal to current Russia, not Orlov.
  • Just Go With It is a Romantic Comedy where two people that have to pretend to be a couple actually fall in love with each other.
  • In The Whole Nine Yards.
    • Jill, secretly an assassin. She is hired by Oz's wife to kill him, so she started working as his assistant, to get closer to him. She ended up liking Oz so much she couldn't go through with it.
    • Jimmy reveals this happened to him. He got close to one guy, who had a cute but quirky attitude. Eventually, Jimmy revealed his job and to run. He couldn't go through with the hit. He walked away from the mark... and was shot in the back by the mark. Jimmy no longer liked him as much. The mark took a long time to die.
  • Ronald Colman won his only Academy Award for doing this in A Double Life. He plays a Shakespearean stage star who is something of a method actor, immersing in and "becoming" each role. Already having (actual, but unfounded) concerns about his wife's fidelity, he then gets cast as Othello...
  • Kayla Silverfox in X-Men Origins: Wolverine is blackmailed by Stryker into posing as Wolverine's lover. However, near the end, the mask has become real.
  • Done to the letter in The Baker, a British comedy about an assassin with second thoughts about his profession who escapes to a tiny Welsh town and poses as the local baker to avoid attention. Turns out, he likes baking a lot more than he does killing, and a local girl captures his attention. Sure enough, he ends up as the town's baker, and gets the girl.
  • In The Wild Hunt, Murtagh and his fellow Celts start playing their LARP characters for real, with bloody consequences.
  • Kichi's mother begins to worry that this has literally happened to her after she dons a demonic mask in an attempt to scare her daughter straight in Onibaba.
  • In Plan B, Bruno attempts to seduce his ex Laura's boyfriend Pablo as part of a convoluted plan to win Laura back, only to end up developing genuine romantic feelings for Pablo.
  • Big Daddy: Sonny Koufax adopts a five-year-old boy and lies about being the kid's biological father for the completely self-serving motive of gaining respect from certain people who have criticized him for not acting his age. But he gradually comes to really love the boy, even after one part of his grand plan fails.
  • The original Fright Night (1985) features washed-up horror actor Peter Vincent becoming a real vampire-hunter, and gradually growing into the role.
  • Barbara "Down with Love" Novak is a best selling author who tells women that they don't need a man to be satisfied as women. It turns out there is no Barbra Novak and her real name is Nancy Brown. She has been pretending to be Barbara Novak to get Catcher Block to fall in love with her but what she didn't count on was by pretending to be Barbara Novak... she would actually "become" Barbara Novak.
  • Al di là della legge (Beyond the Law) is about a bandit, called Cudlip, who initially becomes the sheriff of a town for his ulterior purposes but gradually grows into the role, to the point where he and his new friend, a European immigrant called Novak, kill his two partners when they try to kill Novak in an attempt to steal the gold. The film ends with him holding and looking at his badge as Novak tells him he's earned it.
  • The first Addams Family movie has Gordon Craver, son of the film's antagonist, impersonating Uncle Fester to discover their fortune. He eventually starts settling in with the family and appreciating their strangeness. It turns out to be inverted, since Gordon actually is Fester with amnesia and was taken in by the antagonist.
  • The Chevy Chase comedy Funny Farm has his character Andy and his wife Elizabeth moving to a small town in the country, but the odd behavior of everyone there and some personal troubles between the two lead to them to having a falling out, wanting to divorce, and hoping to both move away as soon as possible. They work together with all the inhabitants to lure in another couple into buying their house under the prospect that town is the perfect place to live in and that they are Happily Married. As they maintain the charade though Andy and Elizabeth realize that in spite of everything that's happened they still love each other and actually do love living in the town.
  • Training Day: One Epileptic Tree claims that Alonzo is so dangerous precisely because being "The Wolf" does not come naturally to him - his bad guy persona is taken to the max precisely because he has to construct it.
  • In Legend of the Black Scorpion, Wu Luan and Wan have a discussion about the power of masks in theater and whether or not wearing one brings about a greater performance. This as Wan is slowly becoming one with her queenly mask.
  • In We're the Millers the band of misfits actually starts turning into a family.
  • In The Unknown, Alonzo the Armless really becomes armless. He decides to go with it when Cojo laughingly remarks that he forgot he has hands when he lights a cigarette with his feet.
  • The East: Sarah, a corporate intelligence agent, infiltrates a bunch of eco-terrorists. Her boss tells her that a certain amount of this trope is to be expected in any long-term undercover assignment, but she goes just about all the way in.
  • Back to the Future Part III: After accidentally being sent to 1885 towards the end of Part II, Doc tells Marty in his letter that he'd set himself up as a blacksmith as a cover while attempting to fix the time machine. But when he realized the damage was beyond the capacity of 1885 technology, he buried the time machine so that Marty could fix it with the help of his 1955 counterpart and go back to 1985 himself, and accepted his place as a blacksmith, content to stay in 1885.
  • Sound of My Voice: Two documentarians infiltrate a cult to expose it, but one of them starts to get swept under the charismatic leader's spell.
  • At the end of Unknown (2011), it is revealed that Martin Harris doesn't really exist, and that "he" was merely a cover story manufactured by a shadowy assassination organization. However, Martin began to believe that he was the identity of his cover story after suffering head trauma during a car crash.
  • How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days is a Romantic Comedy about two people trying to manipulate each other for their respective jobs only to end up falling in love.
  • In Clown: Done to the extreme in this film, Kent McCoy, upon donning a Clown costume to stand in at his son's party, goes from a loving father to a child eating demon under the influence of the "costume" which turns out to be literal skin and hair from an Ancient European Demon.
  • Deep Cover: Russell is chosen to become an undercover narcotics officer because his personality is so similar to that of a typical criminal. As he discovers, he's actually pretty good at being a drug dealer. Eventually he's forced to sell crack cocaine for real because his handler doesn't have enough money in the budget to pay for all the stuff he brings in. Ultimately subverted in that he never completely loses sight that he's still a cop and helps to dismantle a major supplier.
  • The Front: Howard Prince, a cashier decided to pose as a writer that blacklisted artists could submit their work to. While he doesn't become a genuine writer, he arguably becomes more sympathetic with their politics, and refuses to cooperate with an investigation by HUAC.
  • 21 Jump Street: Schmidt was a nerd when he was a high schooler and didn't have many friends. When he goes undercover at a high school with Jenko to bust a drug ring, they find that nowadays things like comic books and caring about the environment are considered cool. Thus, Schmidt easily makes friends and becomes one of the popular kids. This causes him to spend all of his time hanging out with the other students, instead of working to solve the case and find the drug dealer. Jenko calls him out on it after a chase to find the dealer goes wrong thanks to Schmidt caring more about the school play.
  • This is what the documentary Kumare is all about. Vikram Gandhi (no relation), raised in New Jersey in a family faithfully devoted to Hinduism, became a "guru" himself, for a film about why people believe in them. He explains his rationale here. With two assistants as "devotees", he even created a false website for publicity. Then he just started appearing around Phoenix and Tucson, giving guest lessons in yoga studios. Sure enough, people flocked to hear him, many saying they really got something out of his teachings, especially about becoming "your ideal self" and that we are all our own gurus with the ability to transform our lives. He dropped hints all along that he was a fake. Months into this journey, Vikram realized that he actually had transcended, in a way — he was Kumare — his own ideal self. By living a lie, he had made it true — and the students really had changed their lives for the better. Most of his students stuck with him. There are still people who understand what he did and believe in Kumare's teachings.
  • The Verdict: It's revealed toward the end of the film that Galvin's girlfriend Laura is spying on him for Galvin's courtroom opponent, but she has come to love him anyway.
  • In Trading Places, Ophelia was hired by Clarence Beeks to pretend to be Louis Winthorpe's lover in front of Louis' fiancee as part of a secret plot to ruin his life, only agreeing because Beeks paid her to. However, she pities Louis, so she starts taking care of him, and eventually, she truly becomes his Love Interest.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger:
    • Inverted with the red head Red Skull. His red head is actually his real face and his human one is actually a mask he wore that resembled his original look. It is implied that his red head is a result of using the Super Soldier serum which permanently turned his head red due to it being unstable at the time.
    • Invoked with Steve Rogers who was commercialized in films and theaters as the American USO Captain America and later became the real deal.
  • In Kindergarten Cop, Detective John Kimble is forced to go undercover as a Kindergarten Teacher when his partner (who was originally supposed to be the teacher) gets the flu. He turns out to be a great teacher and he really begins to enjoy his job. In the end, he retires from the force to stay on as the teacher.
  • At the end of Super Troopers Ursula admits that she initially was pretending to be attracted to Foster so she can use him to quietly expose the rest of the corrupt police officers she works with, but actually falls for him in the process.

  • In the Hurog duology, Ward has been Obfuscating Stupidity in front of everyone, for years. Even the ghost that haunts the castle almost believes it, implying that Ward has been acting stupidly even if he thought he was alone. While he didn't become stupid in the process, he finds it very difficult to stop acting, and eventually reveals to a close friend that he suffers from an identity crisis, as the persona he shows instead of his stupid one is also a mask, in which he imitates someone else, and he has actually no idea what his true self is.
  • The Impairment features two examples of this Meleeo and Allie Parker and both are an interesting contrast from one another. Whereas Allie Parker, the human, dons a monster suit of which she commits murders on Mildwood University and grows to believe herself to be a "mother" of sorts to the Nytera, the creatures running amuck at night, Meleeo, the alien, adapts to life on campus in the form of a mild mannered human college teacher named Norman Oswald and plays the role of a helpful mentor to students, including Kyle and Mark especially.
  • In the Boundary's Fall series, Katya is one of many agents sent to infiltrate Alrendria by Tylor Durange to act as spies and, if need be, assassins. She falls in love with Dahr but continues to pass along information until a critical moment, when Jeran, who has figured out the secret, has himself handed over to Tylor as a diversion so that Prince Martyn can escape. Manages to combine both the My God, What Have I Done? and the Heel–Face Turn options.
  • There's an interesting variation of this trope in the Warrior Cats series. It turns out that Scourge was a product of this, but in the reverse of the norm: See, when he was little, he was tricked into running away from his home and happened to end up in the city. To survive, he managed to fool the other rogues residing there into believing that he was a cold-blooded killer so they would fear him and bring him free food. However, by the time he actually kills someone, he slowly starts to become the unfeeling, cold-blooded monster he was portrayed as in his debut.
  • In Henri Duvernois short story "Clothes make the man", a trio of thieves has one member wear a police uniform as part of their plan. At first he doesn't like it, but after being treated like a cop he 'arrests' his fellow thieves.
  • Isobelle Carmody's The Legendsong Saga. Despite losing his usefulness to the Shadowman, Solen is quite glad when his 'death'/exile allows him to discard his wastrel persona. He is afraid that if he pretends too long and too deeply he will lose who he really is.
  • In Good Omens it's repeatedly pointed out by other demons that this seems to be what happened to Crowley; he's spent so much time making sure he fit seamlessly into the role of the human he's supposed to be that he became that person over time, and eventually comes to really love humanity. Aziraphale does this as well, integrating into humanity well enough that he becomes enough of a bastard for Crowley to spend several millennia with.
    • Likewise, at one point, Adam the young Anti-Christ is sent a massive Hellhound that takes the form that Adam most desires for it, which just so happens to be a small yapping dog. While it initially struggles with the new instincts it gets as a result of The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body, it grows to enjoy its new form and carefree life of catching sticks more than it ever enjoyed chewing up the souls of the damned and such. The presence of female dogs probably didn't hurt much.
  • The plot of The Assassins of Tamurin centers around the Femme Fatale protagonist realizing that, contrary to what the Cult she's grown up in has taught her, she's been on the wrong side. Not only does she really fall in love with the king she's been spying on, she believes his plans, not The Chessmaster's, are best for the kingdom.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • In Aaron Allston's Wraith Squadron, former Imperial Intelligence agent Gara Petothel fits this trope to a "T". She infiltrates Wraith Squadron as Lara Notsil, but soon finds that Good Feels Good and she prefers her Rebel identity. She even falls in love with fellow pilot Myn Donos, the Sole Survivor of a squadron her information work helped destroy! She gets to declare her love before her identity as The Mole is exposed, and even with everyone believing her to be an Imperial, she still goes on to do the right thing and bring down Zsinj. Afterward she adopts her old training persona of Kirney Slane and settles down with Myn.
    • The Hand of Thrawn Duology has the Devist family, a number of clones of Ace Pilot Soontir Fel who kept together and secretive to avoid the Fantastic Racism that comes with being a clone. They were set up as a cell of sleeper agents, supposed to answer the call when the Empire needed them, and in the meantime they became farmers. But like Soontir before them, they loved the soil, and loved it more than the Empire. When they scramble in their TIE interceptors and save Han and Leia, they don't report them, and are eventually talked into helping the New Republic with the Camaasi Document crisis.

      Fel himself states that they and the other cells were designed to do this—to develop stronger loyalty to each other and their world than to the Empire that quite literally created them. This way, when a threat came past the galaxy's edge, they would be able to fight it without too much worry about ideological ties. Pity the villains dug most of the cells up to act as cannon fodder well before that...
    • Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor has Luke half-awake during an eternity after the heat death of the universe, after all the stars have burned out. He escapes the projection of this eternity before he can despair enough to let his body be stolen, but for quite some time later he's cynical, depressed, even nihilistic, believing that all of his friends are using him and nothing will matter in the end. He's Luke Skywalker, so he very consciously decides to act exactly like he would have before going through that, hoping that eventually it will stop being an act and he can "fall back into the dream of the light". Fortunately he doesn't have to wait that long before regaining his faith during a Mind Screwy metaphor-heavy sequence.
    • Luke seems particularly prone to this trope. It's the only thing anyone remembers about Dark Empire. That and the Emperor's clones.
    • Lowbacca in Diversity Alliance. He isn't racist, but he can see where the Alliance gets their ideas from. Even though they're basically the Flanderized version of the Black Panthers.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's Double Star is about an actor who is hired to impersonate a kidnapped politician so that an election won't be disrupted. As time goes on the job gets stretched longer and longer and then the politician dies, with the masquerade still in place. He has to keep up the impersonation for over 25 years, and pretty much becomes his role. (He was an anti-Martian before the job, and is hired to impersonate one of the biggest pro-Martian activists. By the end of the 25 years, he has completed all the causes of the politician, and more.)
  • In C. J. Cherryh's Foreigner series, a wandering starship's crew are marooned on a planet of nine-foot-tall humanoid aliens, called 'atevi'. Unable to understand human emotions or the idea of love and friendship, they went to war against the perceived threat to their way of life. Human annihilation was only prevented by scholars on both sides equating the "English" (or should that be Basic?) word for treaty, with man'chi, the ateva word for association, a hard-wired homing instinct under fire. Since then, humans live on the island of Mospheira and the atevi of the Western association remain on the continent. No one is allowed to make contact between the two except the interpreter, or 'paidhi'. Bren Cameron becomes so attuned to atevi mindsets and language that he eventually becomes aligned with their point of view and begins to lose human feeling. He cannot show any form of emotion, because that would be deemed extremely threatening by atevi, whose legal recourse in disputes is assassination via an Assassins' Guild. He gradually takes on their mannerisms and can no longer remove the bland, impassive expression on his face - literally becoming the "mask" that he has to wear in public on the mainland.
  • In the little known sequel to The Prisoner of Zenda, Rupert of Hentzau, the protagonist who had impersonated the King of Ruritania in the first book finds himself forced to masquerade on a permanent basis in the sequel although he is assassinated shortly after this happens.
  • Occurs in reverse in C. S. Lewis The Great Divorce. A man who keeps trying to emotionally manipulate his love interest slowly becomes "The Tragedian", a false personality given to hackneyed dramatic gestures, and his real, honest (if average) personality gradually shrinks away to nothing. Ironically, she loved him as he was.
    • In his other works, Lewis also discusses this trope in action (sort of) when explaining how he saw Christianity: by "acting like" Christ, you enable the inward transformation process to happen faster.
  • Moist Von Lipwig in Going Postal initially only pretends to like his new post but ultimately gets his criminal thrills by being a Large Ham showman for the post office. At the end of the book he decides that as long as he never actually admits to himself he's become the mask, he never has to stop wearing it.
    • As we see later in Making Money, though on the surface he seemed to embrace his new job, his criminal's instincts have never left, and he becomes more and more dissatisfied with it as time goes on. His criminal instincts remain, but he acquires a strong drive to use them for good. (He was a sort of Anti-Villain before, but has definitely graduated to Loveable Rogue over the course of his new career).
    • Walter Plinge in Maskerade eventually Became The Mask permanently, with a little help from Granny Weatherwax.
    • In Monstrous Regiment Sergeant Jackrum. Not only has she been in disguise long enough to make a detailed account of most of the other women hiding in the ranks of the army, she also has evaded her service papers discharging her from the army for years. As the war ends, she admits to Polly that she doesn't want to return home to just be an old biddy. Polly suggests that she keep the mask and return home as a respected retired sergeant instead.
      • From the same book, the command staff who became just as eager to punish women, as Jackrum eventually warns Polly to avoid the same pitfall.
      • Earlier, Polly herself, when she has infiltrate the fortress recursively Disguised in Drag, gets caught because she still walks like a boy.
    • The Auditor from Thief of Time who becomes Lady Myria. In fact, a lot of the Auditors who take on human form start to act gradually more and more human. Lady Myria is just the only one to make a genuine Heel–Face Turn.
      • Which makes her fate at the end something of a Tear Jerker or Downer Ending, a rare event in Discworld.
      • As well as the Heel–Face Turn, she acquires a soul, proving in the end that she's become a human.
  • Michael Moorcock's Behold the Man uses this trope quite effectively.
  • Older Than Television: Max Beerbohm's The Happy Hypocrite (1896) features a literal mask to hide the signs of dissipation in the villain's face; when the villainess realizes the truth and pulls off the mask, the face beneath has literally been molded into the mask's form.
  • In the series Instrumentalities of the Night, by Glen Cook, protagonist Else Tage is sent on a mission to spy on the west for the kingdom of Dreangor (i.e., Muslim Egypt). Pushed along by the fact that the Evil Chancellor responsible for sending him on the mission is trying to have him killed, he starts questioning his loyalty. This process is clearly indicated by the fact that after spending the first book referring to him as Else, the narration switches to calling him by the pseudonym he's using.
  • Kurt Vonnegut:
    • The novel Mother Night is about an American living in Germany who was recruited to work as a Nazi propagandist so he could pass information to the Americans. While he never converts to Nazism, he has to act like one for so long that he's actually unsure of which side he belongs to. Near the end, one of his German relatives tells him that, even if he turned out to be a spy, it wouldn't matter because he'd done so much for the Nazi party that it would outweigh any work he did for the Allies. The introduction of the novel lampshades the theme when it says "We are what we pretend to be."
    • Cat's Cradle, by the same author, has a religion created by two men to keep a country happy. They decide to have the religion outlawed, with one playing the role of President, the other Messianic Archetype. Eventually, of course, the President gets too deep into his role and starts executing heretics.
  • Vorkosigan Saga:
    • Miles Naismith Vorkosigan finds himself becoming Admiral Naismith (his fictional identity) more and more, and Lord Vorkosigan, his actual identity, less and less. This is helped by the fact that the reason he created and maintained his fictional identity was to have an outlet for the drives and urges his true identity is not permitted to indulge in. However, Memory happens and Miles finds his alter ego destroyed — and he realizes that after everything else has been stripped away, he's still a Dendarii hillman in his bones. In other words, his Naismith persona had to always succeed, but his Vorkosigan persona simply didn't know how to lose. Miles successfully adjusts by finally allowing his true identity to fulfill the impulses his alter ego had been satisfying, though his mother claims she thought he'd flee Barrayar and "choose the little admiral".
    • His clone, Mark, was brainwashed and trained from birth to impersonate Miles, and after breaking free of his captors he struggles for years to find his own personality and avoid Becoming the Mask.
    • Sergeant (then Armsman) Bothari becomes whoever his commanding officers need him to be. Torturer (for Ges Vorrutyer). Soldier (for Admiral Lord Aral Vorkosigan). Bodyguard (to Miles). Cordelia thinks of him as a hero, so he makes himself one for her.
  • Agatha Christie pulled this one with Dr Rathbone from They Came to Baghdad: a con man who established a philanthropic society to make money, but ended up believing in what he preached.
  • G. K. Chesterton's book The Man Who Was Thursday has a character who was an actor that portrayed an anarchist philosopher as a joke, and did such a good job of it that he convinced everyone watching that he really was the philosopher and even bested the philosopher himself in a debate, resulting in the real philosopher getting tossed out into the street. He is then forced to continue playing his role, even when he was elected to the Council of Days. By the time he meets the protagonist, he's been playing the part of an old man for so long that he can't stop.
  • In Ender's Game, Valentine starts to worry about adopting "Demosthenes's" more radical, hard-line opinions after writing too many columns under that name. (Whether Peter is similarly worried about becoming "Locke" is unknown.) She uses that as the basis of another article - that people who give in to the Warsaw Pact will end up giving up everything (note that there's some historical evidence for this idea - just ask Neville Chamberlain).
    • Whether Peter is worried about the possibility, this occurs to him throughout the Ender's Shadow series. Contrasting the sadistic boy in Ender's Game to the non-aggressive Hegemon in Shadow of the Giant displays how Locke's persona changes Peter Wiggin.
    Valentine: Perhaps it is impossible to wear an identity without becoming who we pretend to be.
  • In Star Wars, Boba Fett occasionally mentions that this is how he became the bounty hunter he is, by working out how a hunter "should" act and sticking with it until it became second nature. Understandably, it wasn't very good for his social skills.
  • In Outcaste, first of the Spaceforce novels, the protagonist Jay is born into a world where everyone's occupation is absolutely determined by birth, or 'caste'. Dissatisfied with his fate as a lowly blacksmith, Jay sheds his identity and masquerades first as Priest Caste, and then as Swordbearer Caste. He spends many years as a swordbearer, is evidently comfortable with this identity, and presumably would have lived the rest of his life like this if events hadn't conspired against him.
  • In the classic SF story "Private Eye" by C. L. Moore and Henry Kuttner, the main character radically changes his identity in order to give himself an alibi for a murder he is planning. Since the police have chronoscopes in the future, he needs to play the role to the hilt. At the end he realizes he liked his new identity better.
  • The title character of Montmorency starts out as a thief in the Victorian era, who concocts an upper-class identity so he can fully savor the profits of his crimes. Eventually, he finds life as a respectable gentleman so satisfying that he goes legit, retiring the original thief-persona he's grown ashamed of, and anonymously making amends for his crimes.
  • In The Dresden Files, as revealed in Changes, Martin becomes this. He was initially sent by the red king to infiltrate the Fellowship of St. Giles, but eventually comes to sympathize with them. Doesn't stop him from eradicating them to achieve his goals, though.
  • Fidelias in Codex Alera takes a position in the First Aleran legion as the Aquitaines' spy. However, he finds that he rather enjoys being Valiar Marcus, and eventually betrays the Aquitaines to support Tavi, who he has decided would make a better ruler. (The fact that he's the rightful heir is entirely incidental). Even the sections from his perspective tend to refer to him as Valiar Marcus rather than his real name, foreshadowing how absorbed in the role he gets.
    • This has been noted two times by characters. Marcus/Fidelias chides the outwardly perfect, but incomplete disguise of Gaius Sextus and later by Octavian, when he notes that real difference between Valiar Marcus and Fidelias is not in facial features, but in subtle things like speech patterns and intonations, stances and movement. Also, Fidelias smiles.
  • Jack London's short story "South of the Slot" features a sociology professor who adopts a working-class persona to write about the culture from a scholarly standpoint, but finds himself spending more and more time as the rowdy labor-hero, until he eventually forsakes his career and impending marriage to become the other persona full-time.
    • This, sort of, the plot of both his "The Call of the Wild" and "Whitefang." In the former a pampered pet dog is dognapped and becomes first a sled dog and then alpha wolf of a pack of Alaskan wolves; in the latter a wild wolf becomes a beloved pet. These would not really fit except that both stories are essentially told from the first person perspective.
  • "If at Faust You Don't Succeed" (Millennial Contest, #2) By Roger Zelazny and Robert Sheckley: The harried archdemon Mephistopheles mistakenly signs up a medieval cutpurse named Mack the Club for the do-over of the Millennial Contest, thinking him the learned Dr. Faust- And Mack doesn't argue his identity, as he doesn't want to get in trouble with Hell itself for trying to rob the great magician Faust. Mack eventually becomes the historical Faust by being better at being Faust than Faust himself- much to the original's wrath.
  • In the Anita Blake book Obsidian Butterfly, Anita is extremely concerned that her friend Edward, the sociopathic assassin, has proposed to a woman with two children under the guise of Ted Forrester, his respectable Federal Marshal identity. She quite thoroughly berates him about exactly how he managed to let his personal life get quite so out of control but relents when he manages to show her that he really does love his soon to be family. Of course, this involved Edward as Papa Wolf, Anita as Mama Werebear and a large body count when the bad guys decide it is a good idea to kidnap Edward's soon to be step children even when they know who he is.
  • Explicitly identified as one of the risks facing the shapeshifting secret agents of Ron Goulart's Chameleon Corps stories. Fearing the loss of his own identity one agent even spent several months as a baboon in an apparent attempt to avoid another assignment.
  • In The Obernewtyn Chronicles, supporting character Domick becomes a spy and works as a torturer under the name 'Mika'. As Mika, he is much crueler and selfish, to the point that it destroys his relationship with his partner Kella. Later, when he is under mental attack, he flees into his own mind and Mika, who has evolved to become his own personality, takes over.
  • O. Henry's "A Retrieved Reformation". Master safecracker Jimmy Valentine poses as an ordinary salesman in a town, and becomes the mask to the extent that he gives up his old life and plans to marry the banker's daughter. He even arranges to get rid of his trunk of safecracking tools. And then, on the day he hauls the trunk into town to get rid of it, the one cop who might recognize him shows up hunting him. And a child gets trapped in the bank's vault in such a way that only a master safecracker could possibly get her out before she suffocates.
  • In the Belisarius Series, Damodara starts as a Reasonable Authority Figure, but after being in command of the honourable and noble Raput army he can't claim everything he does is based on mere practicality about not offending them. Even the Ye-Tai assigned to the army, despite the general opinion of the Ye-Tai on both sides of the conflict as being brutal barbarians, start behaving better, with the resulting increase in respect granted to them.
  • In The Mark of the Horse Lord by Rosemary Sutcliff, Phaedrus the gladiator impersonates Midir the king even dying to save his people.
  • Fulbert from the post-Apocalypse novel Malevil. He claims to be a priest but almost certainly wasn't one from before World War III. However, after he is seen in action it's revealed that even if he wasn't one before, he's certainly believes himself to be one since adopting the role. Unfortunately for La Roque, there is no change of heart with Fulbert and he is their Sinister Minister, believing his cruelty and harboring Vilmain's marauding army to be punishment from God.
  • A central theme in The Kingdoms of Evil.
  • In Eric Ambler's Journey Into Fear, Mathis, a fellow passenger of the protagonist on the eponymous journey, is a French socialist. Towards the end of the book, he reveals that by origin he was from the impoverished fag-end of the French aristocracy and a royalist who was henpecked by his snobbish petite bourgeois wife. After accidentally mortifying her in front of her friends by repeating the opinions expressed at a socialist meeting he attended out of curiosity, he started adopting deliberate public espousal of socialist views whenever she was unreasonably vicious to him. In the course of reading the books and pamphlets he buys to make his arguments more damaging (coupled with his experiences as a combatant in World War I), he comes to believe in the truth of his pretended views and becomes a socialist by conviction (to the extent of being dismissed from his post of the manager of a factory when he supports its striking workers).
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Sansa Stark undergoes this when masquerading as Littlefinger's bastard daughter. She starts thinking of herself as Alayne Stone, her fake name, and refers to Littlefinger as her father, even while he's making sexual advances on her.
    • This happens to several characters as the story goes on. Before book 4, the title of each chapter is the point-of-view character's real name. Starting in book 4, the titles of most chapters have changed to whatever alias or title the point-of-view character may be using at the moment.
  • In the James Bond novel Moonraker; Gala Brand, an undercover government agent, is nevertheless passionate about her work as Hugo Drax's security officer.
  • The Postman: A lone traveler After the End finds a dead postal worker and takes his jacket and clothes for warmth. People he meets treat him like his actually is a postman, which he goes along with because it keeps him fed and sheltered. He eventually becomes an actual Unstoppable Mailman and creates a network of post offices.
  • One Sesame Street short story had Big Bird pretend to be sick, only to fall sick for real the next day. He does get better by the end of the story, though.
  • Ignazio Silone's Bread and Wine concerns a Communist fugitive in Fascist Italy who disguises himself as a priest and grows into the role, discovering a version of socialism more consistent with religious faith. In a possible Real Life twist, although Silone's public identity was as a Marxist turned anti-Communist leftist, historians in the 1990s alleged he was an informer for Mussolini's fascist government.
  • Eleanor Farjeon's "The Kind Farmer" was a Jerk Ass who did some routine courtesy for a poverty-stricken widow who didn't know him. She told the whole town about his kindness and kept hanging around helping him out until he married her. For her sake, he kept up the "kind" facade. When she died in childbirth, he had to go right on being "kind" because of his daughter.
  • Happens to Vlad Tepes in Count and Countess, who initially just wanted revenge against his father and the Ottoman Empire for the deaths of his brothers. At first his cruel practices (especially the impalement) are meant to psyche out the enemy army, with whom he spent some time as a child, but the more cruelties he undertakes, the more commonplace he finds them.
  • In The Hunger Games, this occurs when Katniss pretends to be in love with Peeta just to keep them both alive in the arena. At the end of the first she's prepared to kill him to save herself. Contrast the end of the second, where she's totally prepared to die so he can continue living. At the end of Mockingjay, she chooses Peeta over Gale.
  • There is a Sweet Valley Twins book where the twins invent a triplet named Jennifer and have Jennifer become friends with mean girl Brooke in order to lure her into humiliation. However, the longer Elizabeth stays in the "Jennifer" role, the more she starts to sympathize with Brooke and genuinely wants to be Brooke's friend.
  • Inverted and played straight in Goosebumps with the Haunted Mask. When Carly Beth wore the mask, she became crueler and more menacing. According to Word of God, the Mask itself only became hideous when the maker covered his own hideous face with it.
  • In the second half of Addie Pray, the novel whose first half was the basis for the movie Paper Moon, Mose and Addie get recruited to help a crooked lawyer fleece a rich elderly widow by Addie pretending to be her lost granddaughter. Addie (in particular) and Mose decide they like the old lady better than the lawyer.
  • In one Berenstain Bears book, Mama had grown increasingly annoyed with the family's lack of manners, and as a result, laid down some strict rules on how to have better manners. The cubs didn't like the idea and decided to drive Mama crazy by acting overly polite. It backfired when they began doing it naturally and even call Papa out on name-calling when he insults a driver in front of him toward the end of the book, little realizing (as the driver subsequently explained to him) that they were in front of a duck crossing.
  • In Star Wars: The Old Republic: Annihilation, Kana Tarrid was a promising Jedi padawan under Jedi Master Gnost-Dural. Even then she was a thrill-seeker less concerned with Jedi code and more concerned with action. In order to better channel her desires, Gnost-Dural sent her to infiltrate the Sith Empire under the guise of a fallen Jedi who wishes to study under Darth Malgus. Naturally, she ends up being corrupted and turns to the Dark Side, changing her name to Darth Karrid and becomning one of the biggest enemies to the Republic after building and commanding the Ascendant Spear, managing to get herself appointed to the Dark Council despite not being human or True Sith.
  • Legacy of the Dragokin: Zarracka pretends to be Benji's sympathetic 'Auntie Zarracka' to enlist his help in escaping her tailor-made cell. Once she was in the clear she planned on killing him for knowing too much. By that time she's become genuinely fond of him.
  • In The Witcher books doppelgangers suffer from this (or enjoy this) to a degree. Unlike most examples here this is instant rather than gradually increasing. When disguised they get much the same feelings the original would in the same situation. The one impersonating Geralt knew that Geralt would rather take him alive than kill.
  • "Mark Twain" from Blonde Bombshell was a probe for the Mk. II bomb, whose posing as a "Dirter" (human) turned from fitting in to becoming one. Lucy Pavlov is revealed to have done the same, as she is the Mk. I.
  • This happens to Clover Lappina in Spectral Shadows. At first she arrives seeking only social status and money, feigning her love, but slowly...
  • In the Clandestine Daze series, this is a danger dopplegangers face. They gain all of their victim's memories and feelings so this can bleed over. It's problematic because they've murdered the person they're now thinking like.
  • Shai, of The Emperor's Soul, possesses five Essence Marks (powerful magic items that rewrite a person's history). Four merely grant useful skills and some physical changes, while allowing her to remember who and what she really is. The fifth is different. If she every uses that Mark, it will totally erase her old life. As far as she would then know, the simple farm-girl life that Mark gives her would be the only life she every had.
  • Rose Lerner's aptly named True Pretenses is the romantic version: a fortune-hunting con man marries a rich heiress whose father has just died, only to find himself actually falling in love with her. An interesting twist being that it turns into a mutually beneficial agreement; she learns about the con before they marry and still goes through with it, making a deal with him that he'll take a certain sum of the money and leave her the rest, which the terms of her father's will prevent her from accessing until she's married. Being that she's accustomed to independence, an absentee husband isn't a problem.
  • In REAL, Likaï befriends Neru to steal his account and enter the Future Tournament in his place, and Neru, in turn, joins the tournament as Likaï's partner in order to sabotage their game, but instead the two of them develop a genuine bond of trust as they play together - mostly because Neru is actually trying to figure out whether or not their friendship was all a lie and why Likaï is so desperate to win.
  • MARZENA: Subverted, knowing that Lauren is a Body Double, you'd probably fancy that she got into that role by becoming the mask, but according to the Narrator's super sciency explanation, Lauren was already the mask before putting it on.
  • Flashman: In his adventurous life, Harry Flashman has had to assume many roles, ranging from an Apache brave to a native soldier-turned-butler in India to a Danish prince, and often found himself thinking like the person he was supposed to be.
  • In The Empress Game, Kayla fears that this will happen after the person she's impersonating is put in a coma by an attack, since Kayla's temporary imposture then becomes indefinite. She doesn't want to have to be Isonde forever, since she'd get too used to it and therefore stop being her.
  • In The Balanced Sword series, there are multiple distinct cases of villains pretending to be heroes and choosing, or at least being seriously tempted, to give up their villainy and become genuinely heroic.
  • The Stormlight Archive: Dalinar Kholin did this on purpose, with the Alethi Codes of War. As the Blackthorn, he was little better than a bloody cudgel in his brother's hand; with Gavilar's death, Dalinar realized he needed to be something else. He followed the Codes for long enough that it became as natural as breathing. Kaladin gets close to this truth when he wonders if his gesture at the end of the first book is just him pretending to be honorable. He decides that if you're willing to give up a Shardblade to "pretend" to be honorable, you're not really pretending any more.
  • Happens to Holly in Princess Holy Aura in her new-found role and situation, which partly horrifies her. She even comes to hate her old identity.
  • Aeril in Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle infiltrates the Seven Dragon Paladins as the friendly and helpful "Coral". She grows to like her new role and to value the lives of common people, eventually doing a Heel–Face Turn. Downplayed as she was already the White Sheep of her family.
  • In Colonel Butler's Wolf by Anthony Price, the plot is kicked off by a Russian deep cover agent who attempts a Heel–Face Turn after discovering that he prefers his cover identity to his original identity. He winds up dead shortly afterward, leaving the heroes knowing that he existed but having to figure out what his mission was.

    Live Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Originally travelling with Daenerys and Viserys to serve as The Mole for Varys in hopes of a royal pardon, Jorah gradually develops a Bodyguard Crush on Daenerys, defending her life on several occasions and becomes her closest advisor in her mission to retake the Seven Kingdoms and restore the Targaryen dynasty, even after he secured his pardon. This is deconstructed and reconstructed across the later seasons: when Jorah's original allegiance is revealed, Dany has to exile him with the threat of death despite his pleas (and her own wishes). However, Jorah continues to fight on Dany's behalf despite being an exile, trying to win her favor (by capturing Tyrion) and saving her life multiple times. Eventually, after seeing the many tribulations Jorah went through for the sake of his new sovereign, Daenerys decides to give him a royal pardon of her own.
    • Several characters note that Jon shows signs of this after his time as a Fake Defector with the wildlings, especially when he refers to them as Free Folk rather than wildlings. Tormund even goes so far as to suggest Jon will never be a true "kneeler" again. Jon himself becomes very torn about what he truly wants. At the very least, he came to genuinely love Ygritte. Ygritte, however, noticed that he is still at heart loyal to the Night's Watch, and although she tells him she is willing to ignore that, things soon comes to a head between the two.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
      • Taken quite literally in the episode "Masks". Data becomes the embodiment of The Sun, Masaka, wearing her mask. Picard dons her counterpart's mask to "become" Korgano and convince "her" (Data) to sleep and end the ritual.
      • Ro Laren goes undercover to infiltrate the Maquis near the end of the series, but ends up sympathizing with them so much that she sabotages Captain Picard's plan to draw them out in the open and joins them for real.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
      • In the episode "Soldiers of the Empire", a crew of Klingons are demoralized enough to drop their mask and let us see them as ordinary grousing soldiers just like humans. Then at the end they recover enough to put their mask on again and become a Proud Warrior Race.
      • There's an episode where Miles O'Brien infiltrates a crime syndicate. While doing that, he forms a genuine friendship with Liam Bilby, a local crime boss. Throughout the episode Miles becomes increasingly conflicted, and ultimately attacks his Star Fleet liaison and tries to warn Bilby that he has been compromised.
    • In an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, the crew finds out that some con artists are impersonating them. One of them, the fake Tuvok, really gets into the role: he seems to sincerely admire the values of the Federation, and is awestruck when he finally meets his counterpart face to face. The real Tuvok is not impressed.
    Fake Tuvok: Logic suggests that neither of us has the advantage.
    Tuvok: Your logic is flawed (blinds him with a flashlight).
  • One episode of Castle deals with this. A con artist dates a rich girl in order to get her money while his partner finds her way in as a servant. The guy falls in love with the rich girl, however, and tries to break off the con. His partner kills him and tries to get away with it, but Castle and Beckett trick her.
  • In season 2 of Heroes, Mohinder is originally working with HRG to infiltrate the Company, but eventually switches sides and betrays him, joining the Company for good.
    • It's a popular (if not obligatory) concept in Sylar/Mohinder Fan Fiction that the two became infatuated with each other while Sylar pretended to be Zane during their roadtrip to Montana. Angst ensues.
    • Sylar receives an involuntary Nathan mask at the end of season 3.
  • Battlestar Galactica:
    • Sharon/Athena is ordered by the Cylons to make Helo fall in love with her and impregnate her. She ends up falling in love with him as well, and defects to the humans. Indeed, she becomes more anti-cylon in her attitudes than many humans.
    • Later, Boomer, another copy of Number 8 seduces/manipulates Tyrol to get him to help her but she hesitates to go through with it and soon regrets her actions.
    • Another minor example is Kat whose real name was Sasha. In her previous life, she used to be a drug runner and a smuggler which is where her piloting experience came from. When the Colonies were nuked, she took the name and identity of another woman that she knew was dead and worked herself a fake background and all. By the time her previous life caught up with her in Season 3, she was fully immersed in the identity she built herself.
  • The Grinder
    • After doing the show for 10 years Dean continues to act like the Grinder. They mention it in the series.
  • The 1980s detective series Remington Steele. The Mole (Pierce Brosnan) initially impersonates the fictitious Steele as a place to hide, but eventually settles into the role, even marrying the woman who created the persona in the first place.
  • On Wizards of Waverly Place, Rosie was sent by the Big Bad to seduce Justin and successfully manipulates him into stealing the Moral Compass for the Dark Realm. It wasn't until Gorog tried to destroy Justin for being an outsider that Rosie realizes she has genuinely fallen in love with him.
  • Lost:
    • Sawyer falls in love with the woman he is conning, and confesses to her that she was being taken advantage of. He then proceeds to carry through with the con and steal her money anyway, albeit with some apparent remorse.
    • In season three, Juliet was meant to infiltrate the survivors in order to determine whether any of the survivors were pregnant, but by the end of the season she's firmly on the side of the survivors.
    • Eko was guerrilla who essentially became his priest brother. He temporarily reverted to his former self twice: he killed guerrillas in self-defense in Nigeria, and when he met Ben Linus, he told him about an off screen incident in which he beat two Others to death with a rock.
  • A short-lived series from the 90's called Legend (starring Richard Dean Anderson and John de Lancie) focuses on a writer in the Old West who creates a popular series of pulp novels featuring a dashing cowboy hero known as Nicodemus Legend. With the help of a pesky, but clever, scientist, the author winds up taking on the role and identity of his fictional creation. And apparently, the author, who was pretty much a drunk and a jerk, finds that the selflessness and heroism are less and less of an act as time goes on.
  • Will Traveler in Traveler becomes fond of the two roommates he's setting up, and ends up sparing their lives (at great cost to him later), against the plans of his employers.
  • Cole Turner (Belthazor) in Charmed was sent to kill the Charmed Ones before love redeemed him and he abandoned his demonic power. Subverted in that he eventually found himself in dire need of power to protect his loved ones and snapped back to his demonic conditioning and tried to marry Phoebe in part of a long plot to set her up as queen of Hell and effectively spawn The Antichrist.
  • In Highlander, Kronos tells Methos that he's been pretending to be reformed for so long that he's started to believe it himself. When MacLeod learns about Methos' past, the resulting argument causes Methos to go back to Kronos.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Faith began her Heel–Face Turn like this. She switched bodies with Buffy. But after living only one day as Buffy, she effectively became Buffy. Or rather, her own semi-warped sense of what Buffy was like. She even attacked Buffy-in-Faith's-Body, screaming that she was evil.
    • Jenny Calendar is revealed to be Janna, a member of the clan of gypsies who cursed Angel with his soul, after he experiences 'true happiness' with Buffy and reverts to the evil Angelus. It's heavily implied that her love for Giles ("I didn't know I would fall in love with you") led to her Becoming The Mask, and after she is killed by Angelus, she's buried under her assumed name of Jenny Calendar.
    • Glory has taken on more and more human traits over the years, much to her annoyance.
  • An unusual example of this takes place in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles episode "Allison from Palmdale." Cameron, suffering a glitch due to damage to her chip, briefly adopts the personality of Allison Young, the resistance fighter whom she was modeled after and whose personality she copied, before going off to assassinate John Connor.
  • In Dexter, the title character begins the show as an utterly emotionless sociopath who must fake all of his human interactions. However, as the series continues, he finds that he no longer has to pretend in many situations, coming to genuinely care for his family, developing a sense of empathy and feeling emotions beyond bloodlust. In the final season, a psychiatrist is amazed by Dexter's development.
  • In Kamen Rider Kabuto, the Scorpioworm assumed the identity of Kamishiro Tsurugi, but prior to the beginning of the series somehow came to believe himself to be Tsurugi to the point at which even he is shocked when the mask slips.
  • Played out interestingly in Prison Break: T-Bag (who is someone who definitely can't redeem himself, despite being awesome) has this with his fake identity of Cole Pfeiffer, a charming top-salesman. He actually hopes to leave his past as a convict behind, because he really seems to love his role. In the end, it doesn't work.
    T-Bag: "You realize what I'm giving up here? I was guaranteed 50 grand!"
    Gretchen: "You're crying over 50 grand, are you serious?!"
    T-Bag: "I have a job! I make money, I get mail, people call me sir."
    Gretchen: "12-hour days and eating left-over lo-mein. Something tells me Theodore Bagwell wouldn't last long in this situation."
    T-Bag: "Yeah, maybe. But Cole Pfeiffer would."
    • Subverted in a later episode: T-Bag takes a proactive step towards being a Cole Pfeiffer-kind of guy by not killing a man he's holding hostage, who could be either an innocent Bible salesman or an evil Company agent. Turns out he was a Company agent after all. Violence ensues.
  • In the original UK version of Life On Mars, Frank Morgan suggests this as the cause of Sam Tyler's condition. The series also ends on this trope with Sam willingly immersing himself into 1973, though exactly how he does this is never fully revealed.
  • In season four of NCIS, Tony begins a year-long relationship with Jeanne Benoit as part of an undercover operation against her father, arms dealer La Grenouille. He genuinely falls in love with her in the process, which doesn't stop him from answering her inevitable "Was any of it real?" with a simple "No."
    • The same idea was used in an episode about North Korean sleeper agents, in which one of their number turned against the rest for the sake of her American husband and baby daughter.
    • Ziva also turns out to be someone who was originally sent as a spy, but grows more loyal to NCIS than her father and Mossad; so much so that she became a naturalized US Citizen so she could stay on as an official NCIS agent.
  • Saturday Night Live:
    • A bittersweet version occurred on a Mother's Day episode. The late Phil Hartman is with his mother, and he cannot get out of character. His mother calls him on it, and he realizes that he's spent so much time as other people he doesn't really know who he is. Mom knows who he is, though, so it'll be okay. sniff
    • That also happened in Hartman's monologue when he first came back to host in season 21, where Hartman does his monologue in different voices and runs crying into his dressing room, realizing that he's been playing so many characters and doing so many celebrity impersonations that he doesn't know who he is anymore.
    • Similarly, when he appeared on The Muppet Show, Peter Sellers informed Kermit that he had had his real self surgically removed. (See his entry under Real Life, below.)
  • My Name Is Earl:
    • Earl at first only tried to make up for all his past bad deeds because he believed "karma" would punish him otherwise. But eventually, he starts to really care about people.
    • Same with Billie, who at first hides among the Camdenites (radical Amish) while plotting revenge against Earl. However, the simple lifestyle eventually wins her over, and she joins their community, giving Earl all her money.
    • This happened to Glenn too, though in the opposite direction. He was a good-natured boy scout until he was thrown in juvie for something that was Earl's fault. He had to pretend to be a badass to survive in there, but he eventually internalized it. By the time Earl met him again, he was such a psychopathic criminal that everyone else in prison was afraid of him.
  • Oz:
    • Undercover cop Desmond Mobay, posing as a Jamaican drug dealer, gets hooked on drugs and murders a corrupt cop turned inmate who threatens to blow his cover. Another prisoner, convicted copkiller Augustus Hill, realises who Mobay is and calls him out over his hypocrisy. Mobay beats Hill unconscious, but then confesses to the murder, realising he's become one of the criminals he's supposed to be fighting.
    • Jazz Hoyt turns out to have been a Harvard law student who went insane and started believing himself to be a biker, which led to him actually becoming one. This meant that technically he was no longer delusional; this and the administrators' lack of interest in his past made them oblivious to any of this for a long time.
    • Shillinger arranges for Chris Keller to be Tobias's new roommate when he's introduced as part of a long ploy to ingratiate him to Tobias and eventually betray him, causing sincere emotional distress. This ultimately backfires when the new roommates fall in love and proceed to cause Shillinger grief for the remainder of the series in a cycle of revenge plots.
  • The X-Files: An alien invader, infiltrated as a human baseball player, eventually decided he was a better person that way. When another alien came to execute him and ordered him to show his real face, he answered that it ''was'' his real face.. Even his poisonous blood has somehow changed human when he is killed.
  • Chuck:
    • When Chuck Bartowski first became the Intersect, it was an accident, and he was forced to work as a spy and foil terrorists and other bad guys against his will; a fact he complains about constantly. The show focuses on how Chuck slowly but surely begins embracing his saving the world role without coercion. Agent Walker in particular points out that although he denies, he really is a hero. At the end of Season 2, Chuck literally becomes the Intersect, again. And this time completely by choice.
    • Sarah also finds herself actually falling in love with the guy she was supposed to be fake-dating for the sake of their covers. A flashback scene even shows that Sarah initially considered Chuck a dateless chump and that seducing him would be a "piece of cake."
    • An interesting case with a nerdy British young man who became a test subject of an experiment similar to the Intersect project, except this one involves completely replacing the subject's personality with a new one in order to create a perfect mole. Unfortunately, it ends up working a little too well. The man becomes one of the most powerful criminals in the world, being none other than Alexei Volkoff, a Magnificent Bastard.
  • Although he never forsook his real loyalties, undercover fed Vincent Terranova often formed strong personal connections with the criminals he investigated on Wiseguy. His friendship with Sonny Steelgrave was so genuine, Vinny openly admitted he would have allowed the mob boss to escape, had Sonny not personally beaten a man to death in front of a hidden camera.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Being stranded on Earth, Blon Fel-Fotch Passameer-Day Slitheen got to know and enjoyed the everyday human rituals she conducted as Margaret Blaine. To the point where the Doctor has to point out that she is pleading for mercy from a dead woman's lips. She Blon also shows signs of getting too into the part earlier when her escape plan causing destruction on a global scale is discovered by The Doctor & Co. When queried why no human authorities had noticed a nuclear power plant in the middle of the city designed to go apocalyptic?
    Blon: London doesn't care — the South Wales coast could fall into the sea and they wouldn't notice? Oh? I sound like a Welshman. God help me, I've gone native!
    • The Doctor himself states that his "real" name doesn't matter in "The Name of the Doctor", stating that your name is a promise you make.
    • In the Hartnell-era story "The Aztecs", Barbara has been mistaken by the Aztecs as a godlike reincarnated priest and assumes God Guise to play along, in the hope of influencing the culture into abolishing human sacrifice. The Doctor rants at her in a notorious scene - "You cannot change history, Barbara, not one line!" to which Barbara replies, "Not Barbara; Yetaxa". She even refers to herself with the Royal "We" from then on.
  • Monk:
    • In "Mr. Monk Joins a Cult", Monk joins a cult to investigate claims that its leader murdered an ex-member, but he actually starts to get sucked in to its teachings when he finds that they help him overcome his OCD. It's also present to a lesser extent in the episodes where he goes undercover as an office worker and a butler, only to find that those jobs suit someone with his obsessions extremely well.
    • On the other hand, pretending to be a hitman who happens to look identical doesn't work out so well.
    • And in "Mr. Monk and the Actor", an actor playing Monk in a movie based on an earlier Monk case (Mr. Monk and the Astronaut), the actor gets so wrapped up in the part that he believes he's the real Adrian Monk.
  • Angel: Lilah admits to Angel in season 3 that she became her "game face" long ago.
  • Happens to Quinn in Glee - she first joins the club to spy on it for Sue, hoping Finn would lose interest in Rachel if the club disbanded. She ends up enjoying the club enough that she does a complete Heel–Face Turn, even saving the club when Sue seems successful in disbanding it. (It's debatable, though, how much Quinn would have Become The Mask if her pregnancy hadn't turned her into a Fallen Princess, though.)
    • Also Santana who was also a spy at first but has admitted that Glee club is the best part of her day.
  • Leverage has a humorous non-evil version. Eliot has to play the part of a baseball player as part of a con, but as he tells Hardison before the con, he doesn't like baseball. However, as the con goes on, it turns out that not only is Eliot really good at baseball, but he starts to enjoy it too. He even gets a sandwich named after him. It leads to the following exchange:
    Nate: All right, good news, bad news.
    Tara: Good news?
    Nate: The mayor's hooked. We're in the pinch.
    Tara: Bad news?
    Nate: I think we lost Eliot until the playoffs.
    • This was also the in-show reason for Sophie's absence when Gina Bellman went on maternity leave. Sophie had worked under so many different personas as a grifter that she wasn't sure who she was anymore, and she needed time to really find herself. Sophie isn't even her real name, it is merely the name she had adopted as her primary identity.
  • Alias:
    • In Season 2, Allison Georgia Doren, disguised as a replica of Francie Calfo, actually falls in love with Will Tippin and is visibly upset when she is forced to kill him.
    • In a Season 2 episode the wife of an American mathematician (guest star Christian Slater) turns out to be a Russian agent who fell in love with him for real. It also turns out her husband was an NSA agent and knew his wife was all along.
  • In one episode of Xena: Warrior Princess some random guy shows up wanting to kill Xena to build his reputation as a warrior because he wants to become a great warlord. He claims to have killed other fearsome warriors as well. While he does have the skill to back up his claims, it turns out he has never killed anyone in his life — Xena realized this when she remembers that she actually killed one of the warriors he mentioned. Xena warns him that people eventually truly become what they pretend to be after a while. At the end of the episode, the guy decides to pretend to be something he can live with and try his hand at being a hero.
  • Fringe:
    • One shapeshifter at least (maybe two) got very attached to their family.
    • Another example occurs with Fauxlivia, who impersonates the real Olivia in order to gain Peter's trust and eventually begins to develop genuine feelings for him.
  • A similar thing happens in the Supernatural episode "All Dogs Go To Heaven". A skinwalker disguises himself as a family dog, waiting for the call to attack and turn the family. He eventually grows to love the family, and almost dies to defend them.
  • White Collar:
    • In the episode "Forging Bonds", it's shown that Neal went with the alias Nick Halden to work for Vincent Adler. As Nick Halden he meets Kate, and he has a good life going for him, to the point where Mozzie has to keep reminding him about the con he's trying to run. He even blows off the con for Kate at the con's most pivotal moment. He only came clean when Adler conned him out of every penny he had, and that was only because the old life was the only one he had left and he wanted Kate to stay with him.
    • Another episode has Peter going undercover to the point that he starts to really enjoy his fake job.
  • Detective Inspector Zain Nadir of The Bill is warned of how this can occur to undercover detectives who stay in a role for too long. This somewhat happens to him too when he becomes romantically involved with a drug dealer.
  • In the New Tricks episode "Only The Brave" it turns out the murderer was Reverse Mole, Knowles, who had gone native in the gang he was sent in to investigate.
  • Breaking Bad:
    • Walt creates the persona Heisenberg when dealing with the criminal underworld. As he gains more and more power, the ruthless, murderous Heisenberg becomes his new personality, and the mild-mannered pushover that was Walter White becomes the mask, to no longer existing by the time season 5 rolls around. However, there are also many interpretations for Beneath the Mask.
    • Jesse has two of his junkie friends infiltrate his 12-step program to sell meth to the other addicts. They don't have much success. Later Jesse learns that his dealers are actually doing the steps for real and taking pride in their recovery.
  • This is what happens to Horatio's brother Ray in CSI: Miami, while he's undercover in South America. He ends up going dirty and gets killed because of it.
  • Person of Interest: "John Reese" is just a cover identity he was given when he became a government assassin. He discarded his life before that and became the new identity.
  • An episode of Human Target has a man find out that his wife is a deep-cover Russian spy. When Chance exposes her, he finds out that she had gotten married as part of her cover but has actually fallen in love with the guy since then. Unfortunately, her old contacts have come back expecting her to do her job. She non-fatally shoots her husband in front of her accomplices, and Chance (who figured it out) then non-fatally shoots her in front of them. The couple then get new identities, and can live without being pursued by her former partners.
  • Elementary: Moriarty seduces Sherlock into a relationship in order to get close enough to him to study him. She didn't count on actually falling in love with him. This proves her undoing when Watson correctly deduces that it has happened.
  • How I Met Your Mother: In "Life Among The Gorillas", Marshall fakes being a jerk so he can fit in with his new jerk co-workers, but it starts to effect his personality especially when he's around Lily.
  • Orange Is the New Black:
    • Pennsatucky. Prior to her trial, she was a meth-head getting her fifth abortion. When she killed a nurse at an abortion clinic for "disrespecting her", pro-life activists assume she was one of their own and raised money to get her a good lawyer. Pennsatucky played along but eventually became a hardcore, pro-life, right-wing Christian. She eventually toned down alot in season two and three however.
    • Black Cindy claimed being Jewish in order to get the kosher meals at meal times, which were of higher quality. However, as she studied more and more about it, she found out it was a faith where she felt she truly belonged, and and the end of the season, truly wanted to be Jewish.
  • In one episode of Coupling, Jane says that she once invented a "crazy" twin sister who could do all the wild things she wouldn't normally dream of doing. That sister's name was ... Jane. This actually explains a lot; on the other hand, it's Jane, so who knows?
  • Father Brown: The man performing the Dead Person Impersonation in "The Truth in the Wine" comes to thoroughly believe in the dream of the late colonel, and does his best to live a life worthy of the dead man.
  • One Midsomer Murders episode features a mystical lodge originally set up by two crime-partners as a con to separate wealthy people from their money. Ten years later, one of the partners wants to get out as originally planned for then, while the other has come to genuinely believe in the stuff he's spouting (which has also resulted in a massive drop in rates).
  • In the final episode of Dickensian, Compeyson is forced to confess his deception to Miss Havisham, and it becomes apparent that, while he is annoyed with himself for not getting away with it, what's really upsetting him is that he's disappointed her. Arthur Havisham is amused to realise that the arch-manipulator he hired to con his sister, and quickly lost control of, has genuinely fallen in love with her.
  • In Supergirl, M'gann M'orzz, a White Martian Defector from Decadence, lives on Earth in human form. In the episode "The Darkest Place", when J'onn discovers her identity and tries to kill her, she asks to die in her human form, now seeing it as her true face.
  • In the fourth episode of Sweet/Vicious, Ophelia, normally a green-haired, punkish hacker chick, disguises herself as the perky blonde "Fifi" in order to infiltrate a sorority that's hazing its pledges. She actually starts to identify with the sorority, feeling that, for all the horrors of their Initiation Ceremony, it is actually creating genuine bonds of sisterhood among them. (That, and she's also finally winning her mom's approval by pledging to the same sorority she was a member of.) Any sympathy she has goes out the window, however, when the scope of their crimes becomes apparent.
  • A downplayed example in The Flash (2014) - at the end of season 1, after Harrison Wells has been revealed as the evil Reverse Flash, Eobard Thawne, he creates a video recording of himself, to be shown to Barry in the event his evil plan is foiled, and confessing to the crime he committed that Barry's father was unjustly convicted of. He stated that during his masquerade, he actually became fond of Barry, and as long as he failed in his goal anyway, he had no reason to prevent Barry from having a happy life.
  • The 1989 mini-series Twist of Fate has SS Colonel Helmut von Schrader hunted after taking part in a failed plot against Hitler. He hits upon a wild plot to have his face changed and take on the identity of Jewish prisoner Benjamin Grossman. But a clerical error sends him to a brutal concentration camp for the rest of the war. Once freed, he only wants to get to his family and then to Switzerland to collect the account he set up for himself. However, he first learns that his family was killed by the SS and that the account is among many seized by the Allies. Max, a Jew who helped him in the camp, soon talks von Schrader/Grossman into joining him in Palestine. Before he knows it, the former Nazi is an Israel hero and marrying a Jewish lady.
    • 25 years later, when his former SS buddies come along, Grossman sacrifices himself to stop their plan to steal uranium. His grown son (who had discovered the truth) wants to come clean but Max stops him, saying that as far as he's concerned, von Schrader died decades ago and the man they all knew was Ben Grossman, Jewish hero.

  • The Trans-Siberian Orchestra song "Promises to Keep" contains, in reference to the "Christmas Spirit," the lines:
    And if our kindness
    This day is just pretending
    If we pretend long enough
    Never giving up
    It just might be who we are
  • Melanie Safka's "The Good Guys" is all about this.
    You're going to play the good guys
    By singing the good guys' hymn —
    You're building the halls with the outer walls
    But you haven't got a thing within...
    Eventually, the whole facade
    Becomes more than a whim.
    By starting to build on the outside
    You're gonna fill up the walls within.
  • In the most literal sense possible in Styx's "Domo Arigato Mister Roboto" music video
    The time has come at last
    To throw away this mask
    So everyone can see
    My true identity...
    I'm Kilroy! Kilroy! Kilroy! Kilroy!
    (He says as he removes his mask, but rather than a human face like before, he's become Mr Roboto)
  • "Train to Miami" by Steel Pole Bathtub. A song about an undercover FBI agent investigating a cult in a rural area and becoming one of them.

     Myth & Folklore 
  • One medieval legend is a very literal taking of the trope, that of an ugly man who for years wore a mask that made him beautiful until when he finally took it off, he found that his face had grown into the mask's shape, making him truly handsome.
    • At least one variant of this story has an old enemy from before he began wearing the mask slip into a party the masked man is throwing and steal his mask, hoping to ruin his enemy. Instead the above realization occurs.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Chris Jericho originally set out with Christian to con Trish Stratus and Lita, respectively, into sleeping with them by being lovey, helpful heroes. Along the way, though, Jericho actually developed feelings for Trish and regretted the con, trying to talk his way out of it when the women found out. Trish was already feeling betrayed and well underway with a Face–Heel Turn by the time he got around to it, though.
  • Wrestling vampire Gangrel had dental surgery to give himself real fangs.
  • From the start of his Gateway career, Matt Sydal put on a facade as a cocky high flier, as he believed that would sell the most merchandise. But after becoming half of Ring of Honor's World Tag Team Champions with Christopher Daniels, he began to believe his own hype.
  • This is believed to have happened to Jim Hellwig, whose original personality was taken over by Ultimate Warrior. He would even change his name to Warrior.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Kevin James performing stand-up at the Just for Laughs festival said that he really hates it when he's waiting in line and the person ahead of/behind him tries to have have a chat with him unprovoked. He suggests trying to look like you really have to take a crap and are desperately trying to hold it in as a way to get people to not want to talk to you. "Hey, it's working... but now I have to take a crap! I got a whole new set of problems!"

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Craftworld Eldar of Warhammer 40,000 once created a Chaos God from their excesses, and so the survivors follow a life of strict discipline called the Path. Each Eldar focuses on one role at a time - poet, artisan, warrior, seer, etc. - and cultivates a new personality based on that vocation, which can be set aside and returned to later. In the Aspect Warriors' case, part of their training is the construction of a figurative "war mask" allowing them to fully embrace their violent tendencies when needed and avoid being consumed by them, which must be mastered before the warrior is allowed to don the actual war mask of their armor. Despite such precautions, some Eldar become trapped on their current path, so that seers become Farseers obsessed with reading and altering the future, or a warrior becomes an Exarch who lives only to battle and train others for war, forgetting their past life and taking the name of the first to wear their armor.
  • The Dungeons & Dragons setting Eberron has this as the basis for one of the Changeling philosophies. Natural shapeshifters, Changelings of the Passer philosophy do their best to forsake their true nature, creating an identity of another race and adopting that as their 'true being'. While they can still shapeshift, they are very uncomfortable doing so, or even reverting back into their real form, as their 'mask' becomes their true identity. The other two philosophies are similar; Seekers aim to embrace the 'ultimate form', which they believe to be an extension of the Changeling's true form, while Becomers are similar to Passers, but assume myriad different lives and identities, all equally real to the Changeling.
  • The Promethean Karma Meter represents this: the better they are at acting human, the more likely they are to internalise it. Thus, they have a higher chance of succeeding in the roll to be reborn as a human.
    • This is likewise what happens when a demon Falls. They've lived a cover story in order to fulfill the will of the God-Machine, perhaps one that had a profession, friends, even a family. But they only view such things intellectually, without any true connection. Once a demon Falls, the emotional context comes flooding in, and while there may still be some disconnect, all the elements of her Cover mean something.
  • Personamancers in Unknown Armies base all their magic around pretending to be other people (or screwing with other peoples's self-identification). They charge their magic through pretending to be other people. Here's the catch: to gain the power for such an act, they have to really believe they're somebody else, at least a little. And gaining recognition as themselves kills their power. One of the quickest ways to gain power is to pretend to be somebody else into a mirror for one hour. Do that every day for years and eventually, you start to buy it...
  • This has been the fate of more than one Scorpion spy in Legend of the Five Rings. In fact the sourcebook "Secrets of the Scorpion" notes that the spymaster who trains these men sometimes cries quietly in the night after having portrayed a brave and noble hero, beloved by many. He assumed the role by murdering the hero and living their life for five years, during which he performed true feats of heroism to maintain the cover. He has never impersonated anyone ever since.
  • In BattleTech, the Wolf's Dragoons mercenary unit was originally a scout unit from Clan Wolf sent to spy on the Inner Sphere. When the main Clan force invaded, however, the Dragoons changed sides and fought for the Successor States.

  • Bertolt Brecht's Man Equals Man is made of this trope. The plot centers on harmless everyman Galy Gay, who runs into a group of British soldiers on the way home from the market. Because they don't want to be punished for losing group member Jeraiah Jip while out drinking, they ask Galy Gay to take his place for roll call. When that's done, the group leader decides to completely change Gay's personality just for the lulz. One fake elephant, staged funeral, and castration later, the new Galy Gay/Jeraiah Jip is enthusiastically leading a savage attack on rebel forces in Tibet. (In the meantime, the old Jeraiah has assumed the place of an oracle at the temple where he woke up hung over.)
  • Charlie Baker from The Foreigner. By the end of the play, Charlie has become the Foreigner to the point that he remains in character around Froggy, the one character who knows he really speaks English.
  • In Martin Guerre, Arnaud du Thil is initially reluctant to assume the identity of his friend Martin, but as the musical progresses he grows to love Martin's village, life, and especially his wife Bertrande. By the time he is put on trial for 16th century identity theft, he seems to really consider himself 'Martin Guerre' and even sings a reprise of Martin's song, 'I'm Martin Guerre.'

    Video Games 
  • A sad literal example in DragonFable. Sir Valen dons the cursed armor of Doom Knights for the power necessary to save his love. He succeeds, but by the time it's over, very little of his humanity is left and the armor wears him more than he wears it. Now known as Sepulchure, he's one of the strongest, most sadistic, and successful villains in the entire game.
  • Zachary Comstock of Bioshock Infinite is a complicated case, mixed over with Believing Their Own Lies. He works tirelessly to keep up his image as a religious leader, lest he be forced to face by the guilt of his truly horrible past, and has spent so much time abusing his knowledge of the future that he truly believes himself to be a prophet. He boasts about Wounded Knee, even though the atrocities he committed there were what drove him to abandon his past identity as Booker DeWitt and become Comstock, and he would declare anyone who suggested this a traitor. A Voxophone found in the Clash in the Clouds DLC has Rosalind say this of him explicitly.
    Rosalind: But at some point, the man became incapable of distinguishing his performance from his person.
    • When he comes to Rapture and becomes Booker once more to escape the guilt of Elizabeth's death in Burial at Sea, he loses all traces of his "Comstock" persona, so that the ending once more comes as a shock.
  • Sherman Shallancer of Fairy Fencer F acts like a pure and good man striving for world peace, glossing over the fact that he's willing to do anything to reach those means. In the Vile God route, he gradually changes into the good man he's pretending to be and even looks to atone for his over-the-top actions in the past.
  • In Tales of Legendia, Senel infiltrates the village where Shirley and Stella live, acting as a soldier of Vaclav. Senel pulls a Heel–Face Turn while there and forgets about his mission, wanting to live in peace beside them. But, that doesn't last.
  • Cait Sith in Final Fantasy VII, who joins the party as a spy and then grows to care about them and joins them for real.
    • Only superficially fits as an example. Reeve was already sympathetic to most of the party's issues, but sincerely did not trust Avalanche. He didn't so much change personality wise, but realize that Avalanche was operating on the same wavelength he was.
    • Cloud wanted to be a badass Super Soldier hero like the members of SOLDIER, but was regulated to being a faceless Shinra goon instead, and during the events of the game makes believe that he was a member of SOLDIER all along. Though to be fair, he's lying even to himself due to intense mental trauma after being experimented on and watching his war buddy Zack die right in front of him. When the truth eventually comes out, though, he's already become a massive thorn in Shinra's side, and eventually goes on to become the hero he always wanted to be, albeit fighting against the organization he wanted to join and one of the ex-SOLDIER members he looked up to.
  • Dragon Age:
    • Leliana was originally basically an assassin, and she had to flee her home country and go undercover. She pretended to be a sweet, bubbly girl with a strong faith in the Maker—then she decided she actually liked the whole "being happy" thing.
    • Morrigan also has some elements of this, pretending to like the male player character in order to get into bed with him and then actually falling in love.
    • The Iron Bull in Dragon Age: Inquisition is a former Qunari secret policeman who, following a breakdown, was reassigned to Orlais as a spy "pretending" to be a mercenary. He now leads his own company, while being quite open about the fact that he's a Qunari and regularly reports home. His personal quest forces him to pick a side.
  • Done to a certain extent with Miranda Lawson in Mass Effect 2, particularly with a mostly-Paragon playthrough; though she wasn't using a fake identity so much as intentionally downplaying the extent to which she was spying on Shepard. She starts the game viewing them largely as a tool; she's not lying when she says that she thinks they're the only person who can get the job done, but her loyalty is entirely with Cerberus and the Illusive Man. Still, she plays nice with Shepard's moralistic tendencies throughout the game, is increasingly vocal about how Shepard is in charge and she's their loyal second to quell distrust among the recruited specialists...and by the endgame, if forced to choose between standing with Shepard or the Illusive Man, she leaves Cerberus cold without a moment of hesitation.
    • With a male Shepard, she can become genuinely loyal enough to fall genuinely in love with him to the point that no matter what you do, in the end if he leaves her she becomes so distracted and shaken (likely due to lost sleep and self-doubt as much as heartbreak) that she makes critical mistakes when she's attacked by Kai Leng in Mass Effect 3, and ends up dying in Shepard's arms. After saving the day and making a few sarcastic quips, of course. She's still Miranda, after all.
    • To a certain degree, her odd friendship with Jack has hints of this, crossing over with Fire-Forged Friends. Their ceasefire starts with Shepard essentially ordering them both to play nice, forcing them to reluctantly restrain themselves to barbs and bickering while still being passably polite and having to work in close proximity, often watching each other's backs if the player chooses to take them on missions together. By the third game they seem to have buried the hatchet and their forced cooperation seems to have shifted to genuine mutual respect; they seem to actually enjoy one another's company.
  • The whole plot of Super Robot Wars Advance pretty much revolves around this, depending on who the protagonist is. If it's Axel Almer, he got amnesia after doing the dimension jump to infiltrate the protagonist group and had enough time to befriend them and leave a good impression, and when it came to his time to return, he realized that his group was wrong and elected to stay on the new group, fighting his previous superior. Same thing happened to Lamia Loveless, except that she got no amnesia, but her orders usually come too late, and she already blended with the society, making her realize she has a conscience and values it, thus making her reject the fact that she's a mindless doll and betray her superiors. And the protagonist's reaction to them? Forgiving as ever.
  • Claves in Eternal Sonata was a spy for Count Waltz, but chose to reveal their deception after falling in love. Unfortunately, Redemption Equals Death.
  • Metal Gear:
    • Rose in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty states near the end of the game that her getting together with Raiden was an act for the Patriots to learn as much about him as she could, noting that she even changed her hair color and mannerisms to fit what Raiden would like, but also notes that actually falling in love with him was genuine (though Raiden, at least initially, doesn't believe her when she says this).
    • Ditto Decoy Octopus in Metal Gear Solid: According to his bio, he has to undergo psychic therapy after he's done being disguised as someone else, since his disguises are absolutely perfect down to the slightest detail... including blood type and DNA. This bites him in the ass very early on, as him taking in the blood and DNA of the DARPA Chief makes him a target of the FOXDIE virus Snake was injected with before his mission. The guy even files down his cheekbones where necessary to ensure that the shape of his face is the same as his disguise's.
    • And later in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, we have Revolver Ocelot, who specifically tricked himself into thinking that he was Liquid by way of hypnotherapy and (what else) nanomachines, so that he could fool the System and gain access to the Patriots' AI.
    • Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker: Paz/Pacifica Ocean, a Double Agent for Cipher, a.k.a. Zero and the Patriots. Her diaries reveal that she goes from outright despising and deriding Big Boss and the members of his army to wishing she could spend a few more days with them before carrying out her orders.
    • Eventually happens in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain to Big Boss/Venom Snake. When he regains his memories and remembers that he's only Big Boss's body double, he continues to play the part anyway, eventually becoming the Big Boss that Solid Snake fights at the end of the original Metal Gear. Helps that the real Big Boss himself acknowledges him as Big Boss.
  • In The Force Unleashed, Starkiller spends time gathering "allies" while pretending to be a Jedi. Over time he begins to make good decisions, and begins to play the part very convincingly. By the time Darth Vader betrays him, he realizes that he is a Jedi. And goes on to challenge the Sith. He saves the rebels, but it doesn't go well for him.
  • Invoked as part of the Jedi's master plan in the first Knights of the Old Republic: upon capturing Darth Revan, conqueror of almost half of the known galaxy they force him into a 'mask' of sorts and send him off to do good deeds for the republic as the player character in hopes that the character he's been made to play will become his true face. Depending on how the game proceeds this either goes very well or goes much, much too well, since the mask can end up becoming a much more vicious and effective sith lord than the original Revan ever was.
  • Rival Schools pulls this off in both series' games. Kyosuke Kagami's work with Taiyo High in United By Fate convinces him that his twin Hyo's plan may not be the best idea, while Yurika Kirishima's time at Seijyun High (and specifically inspired by her best friend, Akira) in Project Justice moves her to betray her younger brother Kurow.
  • The whole damn point of Eine's, AKA Katarina's, subplot in Fire Emblem: New Mystery of the Emblem. She was forced by her sister to disguise herself as a new recruit in the Altean Army and assassinate Marth. The party is dumbfounded by the revelation, but Eine seems to genuinely regret her actions. At the end of the subplot, she leaves her true identity behind to become her alias, serving Marth tirelessly to atone for her actions.
  • Jansen Friedh in Lost Odyssey starts out as The Mole (as the other party members are perfectly aware of), but it only takes him a day or so of traveling with Kaim and Seth to decide he likes the two of them a lot better than he likes his employer. Falling hard for The High Queen Ming Numara is the final straw.
  • Joshua of The World Ends with You decided to keep Shibuya the way it was after winning the last Game at the end because of his experiences with Neku.
  • Combined with Manchurian Agent in Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World. It's pretty complicated, but it all boils down to Ratatosk embracing the side of his personality that had originally been a facade and nearly eclipsed his original murderously angry persona.
  • Inverted in City of Heroes when one story arc has you tracking down an undercover police officer who turns out to have fully joined the villain group he was infiltrating.
    • This is possible for the player if you choose to start in Praetoria. You're required to choose a philosophy (Loyalist or Resistance) at the start of the game. Players can choose to do missions for the opposite faction, periodically contacting their faction leader to twist the results one way or the other. As long as you continue to periodically contact your faction leader, you're still considered to be "undercover". However, it's incredibly easy to find yourself "forgetting" to check in with your former faction leader...
    • Vanessa DeVore, leader of the Carnival of Shadows, coincidentally managed to find and put on an actual mask containing the soul of one of her ancestors. At first the two struggled for control of her body, but eventually began to work together, making Vanessa (formerly a normal, non-evil person) a violently hedonistic villain with Psychic Powers.
  • In [PROTOTYPE], Alex Mercer is quite explicitly dead and gone. However, the corpse was subsumed and reanimated by the Blacklight virus, which imitated him so completely, so perfectly, that The Virus believes it is Alex Mercer. Even after it finds out the Awful Truth, "Mercer" is changed by the experience, evolving from the monster that Mercer was as a human, to a rampaging sociopath with occasional flashes of heroism, to a Sociopathic Hero, given that he protects New York from being nuked when it would have been far easier for him to simply do nothing and save himself.
  • Also happens a lot in Mitadake High when the Killer/Kira starts befriending others in order to betray them later, and ends up caring about them, and even sparing them at the end of the game. A weirder version can happen when the killer/kira doesn't notice that they are the killer/kira and plays the entire game as if they were innocent.
  • Discussed in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. One of the children that you play hide 'n seek with at the end of the game questions that, "if you have so many masks, what is your real face?"
    "Your true face... What kind of...face is it? I wonder... The face under the mask... Is that...your true face?"
  • Taichi in CROSS†CHANNEL is literally in the 'becoming' part of this trope. He's really trying hard not to be completely insane and connect with people, unlike Youko. The mask slips every now and then, causing all of his relationships to be extremely unstable. The best example of this would probably be the small slipup that occurs right after Yutaka committed suicide and he ruins his relationship with Kiri. She thinks he killed Yutaka, when in truth he didn't really care much anymore. Before and after that, she's probably the only person apart from Youko who truly understands him fully.
  • Kessler in inFAMOUS is unrecognizable as Cole's future self; he keeps a memento to remember his previous life by, but after fifty-plus years of scheming and plotting and acting how someone has to act to reach his position and maintain it, he's not that person anymore.
  • Ninja Maid Cecilia of Vanguard Bandits initially hates the whole maid idea. But by the end of the game she's grown to love it so much she gets into an argument about wanting to keep all her maid costumes.
  • Margarete in Shadow Hearts talks about this in one scene. She was ordered by the "Powers" (presumably, the French, whom she worked for) to spy on the crisis in Asia, where the game starts. When she meets Yuri, she fully intends to use him to benefit her nation. However, as she worked with him, she grew attracted to his comic book-esque ways. She never follows through with her mission.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Both played straight and inverted thanks to the act of "Mantling." Essentially, to mantle someone, one must become so like them that there ceases to be a functional difference between the two entities; it seems that at this point the universe itself ceases to distinguish between the two, and they become one entity. Several famous examples:
      • One theory behind Tiber Septim's ascension as the deity Talos is that Septim effectively "mantled" Lorkhan, the "dead" creator god of Mundus, the mortal plane. Between possessing the Numidium and the Mantella (an unimaginably powerful soul gem said to hold the soul of Zurin Arctus/Wulfharth Ash-King/the Underking, all possible Shezarrines), Septim found a way to claim Lorkhan's station in the universe.
      • Whether or not the Nerevarine in Morrowind is actually the The Chosen One reincarnation of the original Nerevar, if he/she does the things the Nerevarine is prophesied to do, he/she will be the Nerevarine.
      • The Champion of Cyrodiil and Sheogorath, Daedric Prince of Madness in Oblivion's Shivering Isles expansion. The Champion of Cyrodiil was given the mantle of Sheogorath at the end of the Greymarch. The exact nature of this mantling is difficult to understand in full. Rather than acting like Sheogorath until the universe effectively combined the two entities, Jyggalag surrendered the Mantle, or role, of Sheogorath to the mortal Champion of Cyrodiil. Several hundred years later, the new Sheogorath looks and acts just as their predecessor; regardless of whatever their race or gender was prior to taking the mantle.
    • In Skyrim, a wizard sets up a "Scooby-Doo" Hoax, masquerading as the guardian spirit of a Nordic burial ground to scare away people from the nearby village while he loots the place clean. When he comes across a locked door, he spends over six months scouring the whole tomb looking for the key but can't find it. His failure drives him insane and he becomes convinced that he really is the guardian spirit of the tomb. The innkeeper in the village had the key all along, and he happily gives it to you as a reward for dealing with that pesky spirit that's been scaring everyone. It's theorized by some (and arguably implied) that the tomb, and maybe draugr barrows in general, actually began changing him.
  • Magical Diary has Damien nearly done with the con he's been pulling on you all year (and on the school in general for the past four years), only to find out that he can't finish what he started. The realization causes him a few problems.
  • Sleeping Dogs's Wei Shen is described in his San Francisco police psych profile (before an undercover assignment for SFPD) as having "chameleon-like tendencies" which make him so "highly adaptable" that his handler needs to ensure that Wei doesn't actually change sides; by the end he's less an undercover cop than a triad gang leader who's quietly cooperating with the police on a few cases, though in the end he returns to being a cop after all's said and done.
  • Kisuke, of Muramasa: The Demon Blade infiltrated the household of Torahime as a servant to discover and steal an ancient demon blade her family was charged with protecting. During this time he fell in love with Torahime, and so, when the time came for the rest of his ninja clan to come and steal the blade he fought on the side of Torahime against his old companions. He fails, gets amnesia and spends much of his story trying to atone for his actions.
  • Suikoden V gives us Euram Barows, who, at first glance and throughout the game, shows us to be a foppish, idiotic buffoon. Background information received from Oboro, and information learned after his Heel–Face Turn, shows that he actually starting acting this way to comfort his mother, who was mad with grief over the death of Euram's older brother Hiram, assassinated during a civil war prior to the game. Between that, the influence of his father, and Euram's own emotional weakness, this act became real. The real Euram is a demure guy who blames himself for a lot of problems.
  • Trish from Devil May Cry is posing as Dante's guide to Mallet Island in order to kill him for her master, Mundus. By the time she reveals her true colors in mission 20, Dante is mad at her for this and leaves her behind. This causes Trish to stick to her role as his guide for real.
  • In Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals, Erim, realizing how fond she has grown of humanity while travelling with the heroes as Iris, turns against the Sinistrals and revives Maxim after having killed him. Her sorrow over Maxim and Selan's deaths causes the Dual Blade to send her back in time, setting up the events of New Game+.
  • The first of the "Jackal Tapes" in Far Cry 2 warns against this. The Jackal suggests intentionally building an image of yourself as a bloodthirsty maniac who kills in the most horrible ways possible for fun, to make your enemy fear you and become stronger in the process, but notes that all of it needs to simply be a display, otherwise you'll become less than a man and quickly get yourself killed.

    Visual Novels 
  • Between Tsukihime and Melty Blood, Meido Kohaku goes from sinister Chessmaster with no emotions who is planning the downfall of the Tohno family through drugging them; to really being the lovable goofball she pretends to be; who possibly makes robots and rides around on a broom in her spare time.
    • Note, however, that the robots and broom-riding may have been influenced by Tatari, and she's STILL trying to play everyone like saps. She's just more...nice...about it.
    • In Hisui's route it's revealed that Kohaku was becoming the mask, and just followed through on the plan anyway because Kohaku had no idea what else to do. In Kohaku's own route, the mask starts to crack when Shiki pays attention to her and she reveals she honestly has no idea how she really feels anymore, so she leaves for a little while and becomes/reverts back to a very sweet, kind person.
  • As part of Robbie's secret identity in Grisaia no Rakuen, he married a storekeeper's daughter and inherited their soba shop. She's actually a CIA agent who pretended to marry him as part of her cover and then grew more serious about it. Good thing too, otherwise she might never have learned what Yuuji was like after getting out from under the thumb of Heath Oslo and simply shot him.
  • In one ending of Reflections on the River, Huineng, who has been impersonating the ill Princess Yanyu on behalf of her parents, is asked to assume the role permanently after the real person dies. Huineng is hesitant — she has fallen out with the king and queen, whose priorities and hesitation is to blame for the aforementioned death. However, it's for the good of the kingdom, so she accepts.
  • Romantic variant happens in backstory of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Trials & Tribulations. Iris started dating Phoenix when he was in college to get certain necklace her sister needed, but over time genuinely fell in love in him. Trope is Downplayed since Iris was always a Nice Girl and the reason she tried to get the necklace this way in the first place was because her sister's original plan to get it was to kill him and Iris wanted to prevent that.
  • Shall We Date?: Ninja Shadow: In Tsubaki Kusunoki's path, it's revealed that Tsubaki set himself up as a Honey Trap to seduce the Player Character Saori and then use her as an Unwitting Pawn, to gain a foothold within the Nagasaki Vigilantes. But when he willingly reveals his plan and is harshly called out by Saori herself, he also admits that he has fallen in love with Saori for real.
  • Nekojishi: It turns out that Leopard Cat was a predatory yaoguai who had eaten the souls of many animals and humans before, including the real Yan Shu-Chi, and when this is revealed in his True Ending, at first he's adamant that he only ever saw Liao as food. However, in the end he realizes that he really had come to like Liao and now wants to be in a relationship with him.

    Web Comics 
  • An inverted example occurs with Anevka in Girl Genius. After being damaged in an experiment as a young girl, her body is stuck in a nutrient tank and attached to a Clank that allows her to interact with the outside world. At least, until her brother reveals she died years ago; the Clank ended up developing its own personality and came to believe it was Anevka. In other words, the mask became her.
  • After Joel from Housepets! was turned into a dog named King by Pete partly to teach him a lesson and partly because Pete needed a convenient avatar for his cosmic game (of D&D), he starts off hating it and everything about it. In time though, he starts enjoying it so much (especially after falling in love with a dog called Bailey) that when offered a choice he recognises that his new life is better than his old one and decides to stay as a corgi.
  • The "bad" version happened in the backstory of Juvenile Diversion: Courtney "infiltrated" the cheerleaders to get revenge on them, then promptly became just as much of a bitch as them.
  • Kevin & Kell has a pretty mild example when Fiona chose to disguise herself as her boyfriend Rudy to avoid paparazzi. Unfortunately, she started to act like Rudy as well: moody, lazy, irresponsible. Rudy had to literally knock the disguise off her by acting responsible. Fiona later vowed to avoid this trope so much by choosing to disguise herself as someone with as much work ethic as herself. (Since she chose Lindesfarne, it works...but she starts craving bugs.)
    • A shorter example was one strip where a group of predators fell into the rabbit warren, forcing them to disguise themselves as rabbits until they find a way out. At least one of them ended up spending the rest of his life there, growing old and marrying and still wearing that rabbit disguise.
  • There's an interesting mental disorder in Mary Sue Academy called Character Shock Syndrome Sue. It's where a Mary Sue become the character they portray. Jessica Pluto suffers this.
  • In The Order of the Stick, Belkar pretends to be more of a team player after his Heroic Comedic Sociopath routine gets him cursed and almost kicked out of the Order. It slowly becomes real Character Development thanks to Mr. Scruffy, his Loyal Animal Companion and Morality Pet, showing him what it's like to care about others. When Durkon is killed and reanimated by a vampire that had attacked Belkar, Belkar is genuinely horrified, and left deeply guilty about Durkon's Last Request that he and the Order not be harmed.
  • In Sticky Dilly Buns, Ruby disguises herself as the rather "sketchy" guy "Rudy" while helping Dillon with a Zany Scheme. It soon seems to do her confidence some good, and she specifically claims that "Rudy" is rubbing off on her. Even if it merely serves as an excuse for her snarking at Dillon, she perhaps manages more and sharper snarking than usual — and then she uses that confidence to save a distressed Dillon from an annoying guy, at a little personal risk and despite the fact that she doesn't especially like Dillon.
  • This comic about Team Fortress 2 details the life of a RED Spy who became stuck beneath enemy lines following the defeat of his team, and how he went on to start a family and grow old, all under the guise of a generic BLU soldier.

    Web Original 
  • In Survival of the Fittest version three this happened to Dominica Shapiro, who initially joined the group SADD on the off chance their plan would work, with the intent on a double cross if not, but gradually became more and more part of the group properly.
  • In Plague and Treachery on the Oregon Trail, it's revealed that Susan was a British spy sent to overthrow America from the inside, but she eventually came to love the family she created as a cover, and abandoned her assignment.
  • Played for Laughs in Buzzfeed Unsolved. Shane realizes with horror in "The Restless Spirits of Waverly Hills Sanatorium" that he is a ghost hunter.
  • Wannabe Heroine Taylor, the protagonist of Worm starts off joining the Undersiders due to a combination of looking evil and the heroes needing information on them. Over time her disillusionment with the heroes and the friendship she finds among her team complicates things, and she decides to stay with them. Interesting in that it's a hero to villain example, although most of the superheroes and supervillains have Grey and Gray Morality.
  • While everybody in Suburban Knights is trying to stay in-character, several of them do so with more...commitment than others. Allison Pregler claims that she should be useless in battle because of her character choice, Paw Dugan tries to gather rage from everybody (including the trees), and Phelous seems to have gone right off the deep end. MarzGurl also seems to be joining the throng, what with speaking only in Japanese, scenting the air and biting the Critic on various portions of his anatomy.
    • In the end, Phelous reveals he was just acting and Lupa said 'fuck it' and joined Angry Joe in shooting things with a machine gun
  • Played for Drama with The Nostalgia Critic's entire running time. First intended to be a Cartman-like figure, he moved away from that quickly and started doing good things because he was desperate for people to love him. In Suburban Knights, he started to selflessly care for people and by To Boldly Flee and beyond, he's a true hero who takes every opportunity he can to care for his universe.
  • A fair amount of the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanbase started out as Internet trolls who started pretending to be obsessive fans of the show just to get other people confused and/or irritated. It's My Little Pony; what teenage boy or man could possibly enjoy such a series? Well, as the trolling went on, the majority of them started to find all the little Parental Bonuses and Shout Outs, and of course, Lauren Faust's contributions to the show, making it fun to watch even for the parents of the target demographic (girls aged 5-10). The trolls started legitimately liking the show. Some even stopped their pony-themed trolling out of respect.
  • Dramatic Detective of LIS_DEAD admits in the comments of an early post that he identifies himself more closely with some of his aliases than the name his own mother gave him.
  • When she got turned into Vriska in We Are Our Avatars, Nichole has attempted several times to convince people she's the actual Vriska for fun, and as a result has gained a lot of Vriska's habits such as the speech quirks and the obsession with levels. However, she's astonishingly terrified of becoming a "8luh8luh Huge 8itch" like Vriska, and is constantly asking people to keep her in check to prevent her from going off the deep end.
  • Sword Art Online Abridged uses this in Episode 10 to explain how a couple of Heroic Comedic Sociopaths can form a family. Kirito and Asuna's Fourth Date Marriage is the result of Kirito blurting out a proposal to fill an awkward post-coital silence and Asuna being so wrong-footed that she accepts, and afterward neither of them are willing to "blink" first and admit that the whole thing was a terrible idea. So when an amnesiac Yui shows up she's adopted by the two as a way to raise the stakes in this game of matrimonial chicken, yet Kirito and Asuna quickly bond with the Little Miss Snarker. By the end of the episode she apologizes for tricking them by faking her amnesia just so she could explore their extremely dysfunctional relationship, and says she wishes she could be their daughter - which is exactly what Kirito and Asuna have come to view her as. And Kirito and Asuna ultimately decide that they were stupid for rushing into marriage, but want to stay together anyway.
  • In RWBY Qrow and Raven Branwen were originally sent to Beacon to learn how to kill Huntsmen and return to their Tribe to serve as a counter-force against Huntsmen. At some point, Qrow disassociated from the tribe and fully embraced the Huntsmen lifestyle. Raven, however, returned to their tribe, later becoming its leader.
  • In Hellsing Ultimate Abridged, Team Four Star adapted the background that Alexander Anderson had in Angel Dust, the manga that Hellsing Ultimate's author had written before he wrote the latter, in which Anderson had been formerly a mob courier running drugs who was forced to hide out as a priest to avoid the pursuit of law enforcement. As a priest, he found life far more fulfilling than as a drug runner, and then when a vampire attacked the town he fully embraced the role, grabbing a holy blade and slaying the vampire, which would start his career as a professional Demon Hunter.

    Western Animation 
  • Drawn Together: Parodied in "A Very Special Drawn Together Afterschool Special". Xandir is afraid to tell his parents that he's gay, so he and his housemates do some role-playing. It goee so far that the housemates start to believe they're the people they're pretending to be.
    "Can someone explain to me why we're doing this when Xandir's not around?"
  • Shayera Hol aka Hawkgirl of Justice League joined the team as an alien spy, but then decided to help them form a counter-offensive, when she found out that her race was really planning to use the Earth as a hyperspace bypass in an interplanetary war, which would destroy it. Feeling guilty of betraying both the Justice League, and her homeworld of Thanagar, she decided to leave the team before they announced their decision on whether she can return.
  • Teen Titans:
    • Terra (in the Animated Adaptation only) really began to feel at home with the team and fell in love with Beast Boy. She tried to compromise by saving him and letting Slade kill the others, and, well, you can guess how it turned out.
    • The very next episode after that arc has Cyborg infiltrate the H.I.V.E. Academy under the guise of "Stone", in order to find out the "big plan" the H.I.V.E. has in the works. While he is able to successfully resist Brother Blood's mind control, unlike the rest of the students, he at one point shows himself to actually be enjoying himself at the school and only manages to focus himself back on the mission due to Robin's insistence.
  • Done dramatically in the Batman: The Animated Series episode "His Silicon Soul". An android duplicate of Batman created by the mad computer HARDAC is trying to complete its mission, breaking into the Bat-Cave to hijack control of the computers and resume HARDAC's mission, replacing all of humanity with robotic duplicates. But it seems that HARDAC duplicated Batman's personality only too well, and it starts to develop the true Batman's sense of morals, struggling between right and wrong and whether to do as its programming commands or reject what it knows is evil. Eventually, after a fight with the real Batman where the android thinks that it has killed him, it is overcome with grief over what it has done, and destroys the computer, destroying HARDAC's program and itself in the process, ending HARDAC's threat forever. In the final scene, Alfred and Batman - who survived, naturally - inspect the androids remains, and Batman ponders if it might have had a soul. "A soul of silicon," muses the Dark Knight, "but a soul nonetheless..."
  • The assassin droid Zeta in Batman Beyond replaced an accountant, as he was investigating money laundering by a terrorist organization. Once he completed the mission he ended up running into the guy he was impersonating. Per protocol, he should have eliminated the man on the spot. The aforementioned time spent with the man's family affected him to the point that he could not bring himself to deprive him of that experience, and so went rogue instead (leading into his Spin-Off series, The Zeta Project).
  • The Legion of Super-Heroes cartoon has evil shapeshifter Ron-Kar finding himself sympathizing for real with the good guys, and even willingly helping them, after his Memory Gambit infiltration as Superman is exposed.
  • The Looney Tunes cartoon Bugs' Bonnets (1956) plays with this idea by casting it in the form of people taking on roles defined by the hats they wear — and then throwing Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd into a landscape littered with hats scattered from a passing truck. How many times — and to what degree — can these two Become The Hat? Needless to say, it gets typically extreme.
  • Taken to ludicrous extremes by Roger in American Dad!. Once he creates a new identity to seduce a shop girl and allow him to steal a pair of gloves he likes. Then the stress of actually caring about someone causes Roger's mind to split into two - the persona he created, and himself. Apparently his persona carries on for quite a while before Roger notices extra bills on his credit card, at which point Roger tries to destroy this man's life. Not to mention the little roleplaying activity that he and Francine improvised for themselves...
  • An episode of Fillmore! has Ingrid going undercover in a close-knit mafia-esque Girl Scout Troop. She genuinely befriends the group, making it especially hard to go through the sting. As an added bonus, their leader was the Safety Patrol's previous undercover agent gone rogue who was much more loved and popular than Ingrid, which made them believe Ingrid could be more susceptible to this op.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "The Principal and the Pauper", it's revealed Seymour Skinner is actually Armin Tamzarian. He served with the real Seymour Skinner in Vietnam and took over Skinner's identity when he was apparently killed. Twenty years later, the real Skinner shows up in Springfield to reclaim his identity. But the townspeople decide they prefer to keep the Skinner they're used to. The real Skinner is banished from town, Tamzarian is put back in Skinner's identity, and it's ordered that nobody will ever mention this incident again. Well, they do when it's either funny or to shut Skinner up.
    • In "The Last Temptation of Homer", Homer's guardian angel assumes a different form, first choosing Sir Isaac Newton as someone Homer would respect and revere, then reluctantly changing to Colonel Klink from Hogan's Heroes when Homer has no clue who Isaac Newton is. When Homer informs him Hogan had tunnels around the camp, the angel reacts with genuine alarm.
    • In "Donnie Fatso", Homer goes undercover to investigate Fat Tony, since he's been sentenced to ten years for trying to bribe a city official and will get a reduced sentence if he does the FBI that particular favor. However, he eventually grows to sympathize Fat Tony and eventually saves him from being shot, though he dies from a heart attack anyway and he is later replaced by a character whose essentially a duplicate of him, though he's fit instead of fat at first.
  • South Park:
    • Cartman fakes having Hollywood Tourette's in order to have fun with his usual language habits, only garnering sympathy rather than derision from authority figures. He forms a plot involving this to say antisemitic things on Dateline, but by that point he unconsciously began blurting out personal secrets such as "I'm making all of this up!", "My cousin and I touched each other's wieners!" and "I wet the bed!"
    • In "Butters' Bottom Bitch", Officer Yates assigns an undercover agent for a series of prostitution busts: himself. During the operations, he makes his arrests after performing the sex act, each one becoming more and more elaborate, to the point of gangbanging a college fraternity. He even marries the Big Bad pimp at the end of the episode, living with him for months before finally deciding to place him under arrest.
  • Brock Samson of The Venture Bros. He was originally assigned to prevent Rusty Venture from ever activating the ORB and was put under the guise of the Venture family's bodyguard, but after several years of protecting them he truly began to feel like part of their family, and even purposefully refused to kill Rusty when he discovered the ORB.
    • It's heavily implied that until that episode, Brock didn't know what his real mission was.
    • Also his predecessor that protected Venture's ancestor. He broke/damaged the ORB to the point it would never work instead of killing him. Leading to the events of the episode.
  • Subverted on one season finale of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, where the Teens were revealed to be secret agents of some sort and Carl was a secret agent assigned to spy on them. At the end of the episode, he mixes up strip club and liquor store, implying that the real Carl does not share the *ahem* interests of the Carl we've come to know and love. Of course, given what show we're talking about, don't expect this to carry over into next season.
  • In As Told by Ginger, Mipsy uses her cousin, Thea, to try to influence Ginger to stay at a private boarding school. Thea spends a semester with Ginger, and during the process, warms up to her and admits she felt bad about the deception, but only did so because she really needed the money to fund her shopping addiction. It's not hard to interpret that she legitimately wanted Ginger to stay because she liked her.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door: Numbuh 274, aka Chad Dickson. While he remains loyal to Kids Next Door as a Fake Defector, his hatred of Numbuh 1 becomes real due to a perceived slight that Nigel is completely unaware of until the Grand Finale, and he spends his last appearance in the penultimate episode trying to kill him.
  • Discussed in the Daria TV movie "Is It Fall Yet?," when Daria's mom forces her to work as a counselor at a day-camp for children.
    Daria: And I judge myself unfit for human contact.
    Helen: That's exactly what you will be if you don't start engaging with the rest of us! You keep hiding your real face behind that antisocial mask and one day the mask will be your face. I'm not letting that happen. You're working at that camp! (leaves)
  • In Ed, Edd n Eddy, Eddy decides to dress up as a foreign exchange student named 'Carl', to find out who wrote graffiti about him. When he introduces himself to the rest of the kids, he finds out that they all prefer him, instead of Eddy. Double D (the one who wrote "Eddy is a no neck chump" in the first place) tells the surprised 'Carl' that it's respect, and that he hasn't done anything to provoke a negative opinion, like scamming for pocket change.
    • In another episode, Edd builds a monster suit for Ed, only for Ed to start believing he actually is a monster and proceeds to go on a rampage through the neighborhood.
  • Family Guy:
    • Peter pretended to attend Meg's high school to discourage the students from licking toads, but he eventually started thinking he was a real teenager. "Eventually" here meaning "after about one day" ... this is Peter we're talking about.
    • "Brian Writes a Bestseller": Though his original intention was to write trash out of sheer frustration, the work began to garner fame and appreciation from the looked-down-at people and he started to really believe he was a genius, and he had created a life-changing masterpiece.
  • Zhalia from Huntik: Secrets & Seekers at the end of episode 17.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In the Season 3 episode "Keep Calm and Flutter On", this happens with Discord of all villains. Princess Celestia charges Fluttershy with redeeming him, and Discord plays along while plotting to exploit Fluttershy's kind nature to ensure his freedom. However, during this, he finds out that she genuinely saw him as a friend and her friendship actually means something to him. The end result is Discord reforming for real rather because he can't bring himself to lose the one genuine friend he'd ever made.
    • This later happens to Trixie as well in "No Second Prances", when she returns to Ponyville and appears to become friends with Starlight Glimmer, Twilight's new student. As it later turns out, Trixie originally only made friends with Starlight to use her against Twilight by having her choose to help Trixie over Twilight. In doing this, she however bonded with Starlight and formed a genuine friendship with her, so much so that when Starlight runs away in tears after discovering this Trixie is heartbroken as well over losing her first real friend. Twilight is later able to talk to Starlight and get her to forgive Trixie for her deceit and become friends for real.
    • In "Fake It 'Til You Make It", after Rarity asks Fluttershy to look after her boutique in Manehattan while she and her assistants are occupied with a fashion show, Fluttershy creates and acts out three personas to help herself in interacting with Rarity's numerous and hard-to-please costumers. However, she soon becomes so immersed in each of the characters that she stops acting like herself altogether, essentially splitting into three separate people depending on which mask she's wearing at a given time, each of them rude and abrasive in a different way.
  • In one of the old Tom and Jerry episodes, a duckling comes to think of Tom as his mother. At first, Tom is only taking advantage of it to prepare to cook the little duckling into stew, but by the time the duckling willing decides to do it, Tom can't bring himself to cook the little guy and saves him. Also one of the few episodes that ends with Tom having a happy ending.
  • Knock Out of all bots does this in the finale movie of Transformers Prime, Predacons Rising. While his personality and motives remain virtually unchanged up until the very end of the film, his assistance (however limited) when facing Unicron's undead Predacon army and later show of genuine regret when Optimus dies seem to indicate he's truly changed.
  • Danny Phantom: Danny's mysterious 12-year old cousin Danielle, or Dani for short, turned out to be his Opposite-Sex Clone created by his Arch-Enemy, Vlad Plasmius, in a plot to use his DNA to create a clone for a son. Danielle was likely ordered to pretend to be family to make Danny trust her. However, Danny grew fond of her and didn't want to harm her, along with shielding her from Vlad. Even with her true identity revealed, they still see each other as family and care for each other.

    Real Life 
  • The old phrase, "Fake it 'til you make it", is this trope in a nutshell.
  • Some tribal cultures have rituals in which a mask causes the wearer to become the god or spirit it represents.
    • This is especially true in topeng, the art of Balinese masked dance-drama. The mask is extremely important, and the actor must consecrate him/herself and prepare carefully for any masked role.
    • And here you have the origin of theatre and method acting.
  • The Edwardian Country House: The Olliff-Cooper family quickly adopts the lifestyle of the upper class despite knowing it is reality television. [1], [2], [3], [4]
  • When you act out a role, it naturally becomes less and less of an act, as seen with method actors and army drill sergeants.
  • Psychologist Philip Zimbardo cut short his famous Stanford Prison Experiment when he realized that he was beginning to think like the sadistic prison guards he was studying. It only took six days out of a planned two weeks for his test subjects to fully internalize their roles; of these once ordinary people, those chosen to be guards exhibited genuine sadism, and those chosen to be prisoners exhibited genuine helplessness and submission.
  • A Russian Intrepid Reporter, Yaroslava Tankova, went undercover as a Gold Digger to write a series of articles about such women in 2008-2009. In the last article she admitted that she almost wanted to give up journalism and become one.
  • C. S. Lewis said in the preface to "Screwtape Proposes a Toast" that while lots of people requested a sequel to The Screwtape Letters, for the longest time he refused to write one because even though the original book was the easiest thing to write that he had ever produced in his life, it was a horrific and stifling experience to have to make himself think like Screwtape and basically become a demon.
    • He also said that those who are afraid that they can't "love their neighbor" should just act as if they did and the rest would take care of itself. He said that the whole point of ritual and formalized prayer was that you could 'dress up' as a saint - and thereby become one.
  • In World War II, after the Italians turned against the Nazis, the Germans coached an Italian petty thief to pose as an aristocratic Italian general and convince several captured resistance fighters to spill their secrets. He set out instead to be an inspiring figure who'd help the men hold onto their information and their pride. When the Germans executed him for betraying them, he died still maintaining the false identity. This was made into a movie, General della Rovere, in 1959.
  • ATF agent William Queen spent two years undercover as Billy St. John, a member of the Mongols motorcycle gang, and admits he grew to liking the gang he was in and found them kinder than many law abiding folks he knew. He felt somewhat sorry for turning them in when his job investigating and spying on the gang was over.
  • FBI agent Joseph Pistone successfully infiltrated the New York mafia as a jewel thief named Donnie Brasco (see Live-Action Film above for the movie based on this case). While undercover, he formed close friendships with two mobsters and had conflicted feelings when the time came to reveal himself as a law enforcement official.
    • Nowadays, undercover agents and officers undergo extensive training and psychological testing specifically to avert this trope. Unfortunately for Pistone, he went deep cover before any of this and had to rely on his own values.
  • One of the tenets of Alcoholics Anonymous is "Fake It Till You Make It": By forcing yourself to act a certain way even if you don't like it, it eventually becomes a habit. The positive-thinking movement encourages this also.
  • If a person fakes a smile (or a frown) their mood will be affected accordingly, at least a little bit. Try smiling right now, you'll feel better!
  • People who freeze their faces with anti-wrinkle chemicals such as Botox are shown to not feel as sad or as happy as other people.
  • Waist training with a corset fits this trope.
  • Lalla Ward once said in a Doctor Who Magazine interview that the reason she and Tom Baker got married was because they played the Doctor and Romana Like an Old Married Couple, and then mistook that for actually being in love.
  • Method Acting is all about Becoming The Mask (or the character) for a role.
    • Peter Sellers had said on numerous occasions "There is no 'Me'; I do not exist." As an actor, he became his role and often had a hard time shaking it off afterward.
    • Robert De Niro is said to do this, "disappearing" into his roles.
    • Robin Williams stays in character off set until the film is done. When he performed the chilling lead role in One Hour Photo, his wife was so upset she told him she would divorce him if he took another role like that.
    • Hugh Laurie really did develop soreness in his back and leg from constantly limping in his role as Dr. Greg House... though this is slightly different, since it actually does stress the body to force it to move unnaturally, and especially so because House uses the cane on the wrong side. He also kept the accent even when flubbing lines.
    • Christian Bale did interviews for the Batman movies in the same accent that he uses in the movies to avoid those who don't know his other works. Pretty jarring during the MTV Movie Awards when he spoke to Brandon Routh using his natural accent.
      • Similarly, Bale spoke with an American accent during his infamous rant on the set of Terminator Salvation.
    • Andy Kaufman was a vegan in real life but ate meat when portraying the Jerk Ass lounge singer Tony Clifton because Clifton ate meat.
    • Daniel Whitney, aka Larry the Cable Guy has started falling into this according to his friends. Larry was initially just one personality in Whitney's stand-up routine, but quickly became the entire show, and according to said friends, Whitney has been gradually taking in more and more of Larry's mannerisms over the years. Even when playing characters other than Larry (such as Mater) he asks to be credited as "Larry the Cable Guy" as opposed to Daniel Whitney.
    • Heath Ledger may have done this before his death, production staff mention that the long hours tapped into the mind of one of the most chaotically insane people in media made him a different person, and it's believed (but unlikely, it was far more likely that it was an accident due to job stress) drove him to madness and suicide.
    • Amusingly, a number of fans joke that Ryan Reynolds no longer exists, and he should now be regarded as Deadpool.
    • Daniel Day-Lewis gets extremely committed to the roles he plays, particularly villainous roles, that some actors or directors get alienated and are unwilling to work with him in the future.
  • It is quite common that actors portraying characters who are close friends will also become friends in Real Life.
    • William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy were almost as close as Captain Kirk and Commander Spock are. They were both close with DeForest Kelley.
    • Cirroc Lofton and Avery Brooks of Deep Space Nine developed a real son-father type relationship away from the set.
    • The actors who play Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson always seem to end up being extremely close friends in real life. Casting for modern adaptations mainly focused on the chemistry of the two leads so they would invoke this trope.
      • Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke are prime examples: Hardwicke, who played Watson from "The Empty House" onward, would try to help Brett while he was battling bipolar disorder.
      • Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch (Watson and Sherlock in Sherlock) are either really good friends and very close to each other or extremely good at faking it.
    • Frasier actors Kelsey Grammer and John Mahoney.
    • The core cast of Boy Meets World (Ben Savage, Danielle Fishel, Rider Strong, and Will Friedle) have all become True Companions in Real Life, much as their characters (Cory, Topanga, Shawn, and Eric, respectively) did on the show.
    • Christopher Reeve became to be considered as noble a man as Superman - first when he went to Chile under the tyranny of Augusto Pinochet to help some arrested actors despite the obvious risk to his life, and after he became a crusader for the disabled after his riding accident.
    • The converse of this is sadly also possible. Warren Mitchell and Tony Booth, who played a feuding father- and son-in-law duo in Till Death Do Us Part came to loathe each other in real life. Mitchell still cannot bring himself to refer to Booth by his first name.
    • Russi Taylor, the current voice of Minnie Mouse, and the late Wayne Allwine, the previous voice of Mickey Mouse, developed a romance after meeting each other for the first time while on the job, and were married till Allwine's passing.
  • An aversion is shown in A Bright Shining Lie by Neil Sheehan. US advisor John Vann builds up ARVN officer Colonel Huynh Van Cao as a Blood Knight anti-communist tiger in the belief that this trope would come into effect. However Cao often refused to close with and destroy Viet Cong forces when he had the opportunity to do so, as President Diem had ordered casualties to be kept to a minimum, and the propaganda image the Americans had built up prevented them from acknowledging the flaws in the South Vietnamese military.
  • Theodore Roosevelt: Born a sickly asthmatic at the pinnacle of privilege, he built up a persona as a rugged man of action. By the time of the Spanish-American War, he was a rugged man of action.
    • The same goes for Robert E. Howard, who got a lot of his ambiance for his rugged action-packed stories from the oil drillers, boxers, sailors and other Rated M for Manly Men he emulated.
  • A common dating tip for men who have trouble approaching women because of low self-confidence is "Pretend that you've got a lot of confidence. After a while you'll find that you don't need to fake it anymore." Similar tricks may work for socialization in general.
  • A softer version of this trope is that spies and other undercover operatives often grow to enjoy the activities of their cover job. Many of them maintain links with it even after their mission has ended. It helps that a cover job is many times one they had an interest in anyway. Several retired spies who were "cultural attaches" became genuine proponents of cultural exchanges for example.
    • Jack Barsky was originally Albrecht Dittrich, an East German spy working for the KGB, and assumed the Jack Barsky persona while undercover in the United States. As time went on he found himself increasingly unable to separate his fake identity from his actual self, and when the Russians ordered him to return home in 1988 he "went native" and stayed with his American family. He later came clean to the FBI and became an American citizen, and now considers Jack Barsky his real identity and Albrecht Dittrich a dead one.
  • A problem for people who operate in paramilitary and guerilla units is how hard it can be to go back to normal life from being a fighter. Once you've had to pretend to be tough to get the mission done, you'll find that you really do have it in you to be tough. This may sound nice up until that moment when you discover that you are becoming more inclined to stab people in the face when you are not on duty.
  • David Bowie apparently became very engrossed into some of his stage personas, to the point where they affected his offstage personality. He became so immersed in the character of Ziggy Stardust that according to people around him he started to think he was the character. This also applies to when he performed as the Thin White Duke — which was even more troubling, since the Thin White Duke was a Nazi Nobleman and Bowie ended up expressing actual fascist ideology for a time. Bowie's period of Putting on the Reich is generally considered the lowest point of his drug-induced Creator Breakdown — as Rick James once said, "Cocaine is a hell of a drug."
  • Many Roller Derby skaters have noted that the athletic skills and assertiveness developed to play a full-contact sport on roller skates tend to bleed over into their lives off the track as well.
  • Many Skydivers have noted that they relate to everyday tasks, work and live with the same incredible determination, methodicalness and courage, the psychology of the sports bleeding to their everyday lives.
  • Martin Sheen played the President of the US on The West Wing - for quite some time fellow actors actually treated him as if he were the President.
  • Playing Richard Nixon for Frost/Nixon, Frank Langella stayed in character all the time. When he wasn't in a scene he would just go stand quietly offstage and think. When it was his cue the stage manager would say "Mr. President, you are needed onstage."
  • For many, this is the case when they start an activity whether it be acting, playing sports, doing a job, or anything really. Over time, as you become more experienced at something, you feel more confident and sure of yourself. You'll end up using lingo and adopt mannerisms that you earlier found ridiculous or annoying. Militaries and sports teams rely on this. Indoctrination starts by faking it or miming others until you become what is needed for your role. Sometimes this is a good thing, sometimes it's bad, but it seems to be a staple of the human psyche. The causes can vary from person to person but wanting to belong to something special is a common motivation to change.
    • Unfortunately, as in the Heath Ledger example above, it also works in reverse - playing The Fool act too much, or living among people with too insane or even eccentric behavior slowly cuts into someone's sanity as well. Almost like a drug addiction, the subject looses self-control over time and in many cases ends under psychiatric treatment as well.

Alternative Title(s): Becomes The Mask, Became The Mask