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Devil in Plain Sight

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"And when the cops came through, me and Dre stood next to a burnt-down house
With a can full of gas and a hand full of matches, and still weren't found out."
Eminem, "Forgot About Dre"

A Devil in Plain Sight is someone who is so obviously up to no good that the one character who seems aware of it is shocked no one else seems to notice. Everyone else, especially those with a tendency to be Horrible Judges of Character, may just consider them a little quirky and wonder what the observant character's problem is.

Sometimes this can be a villain hiding as a lesser immoral person. For example, no one would be the least bit surprised to find out that any given politician is a slimy scheming Jerkass, and thus they manage to hide their greater villainy as the simple pettiness of your every day scumbag.

This trope mainly exists due to Rule of Perception: not every story benefits from a Hidden Villain, and so the audience needs to know who the villain is even when the other characters don't. Whether or not this trope is addressed in-story varies: it may manifest through Coconut Superpowers, or simply be Hand Waved as a form of Refuge in Audacity.

Less extreme than the Villain with Good Publicity and Bitch in Sheep's Clothing, who is thought of highly by most people; the Devil In Plain Sight is mostly met with inattentive indifference. Might also be a case of Notice This (for the audience only).

Too Dumb to Fool can be their most dangerous enemies.

Compare with It Was Here, I Swear!, Not-So-Imaginary Friend, Mama Didn't Raise No Criminal, Mistaken for an Imposter. Contrast They Look Just Like Everyone Else!, Face of a Thug, Weirdness Censor, Most Definitely Not a Villain. For when the Devil In Plain Sight is actually the big D-man himself, see Louis Cypher. Often crosses over with Obviously Evil. If it's treated unsuccessfully as a surprise twist, that's Obvious Judas.

See Hidden in Plain Sight for when a MacGuffin does this.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • An odd example: Mephisto Pheles of Blue Exorcist seems to be playing with this. It's difficult to tell at this point, but his first entrance drew immediate suspicion. He dressed extravagantly, wore all white, had dramatic mannerisms, and his looks made it obvious that he was a demon of some sort. Heck, even his name is an obvious pun on that of a famous demon. But then this was subverted as it turned out that a lot of people have demon blood in the series, and some of them are exorcists. Then it turns out that he is another one of Satan's sons - the second eldest, actually. Then again, the main character is also a son of Satan. So, Mephisto could still go either way at this point. He plays loads of "tricks" on his students, such as letting high-level demons on campus to challenge the potential exorcists (particularly Rin) which, he implies, is for the purpose of making them all stronger. But then he may have... some other reasons. The fandom suspicion only mounts the more "tricks" he plays, but there's still too much evidence to support the idea that he may genuinely want to bring peace to Assiah and Gehenna. He was in fact friends with Rin's adoptive father, and was responsible for sealing Rin's demon soul inside the demon sword when Rin was born. Really, he is pretty much the most mysterious character in the series at this point. It's highly possible that he is a Devil In Plain Sight but he may very well be a subversion of the trope. The fandom will have to wait and see.
  • Schneizel el Britannia from Code Geass can be considered one of these. He may be one of Britannia's most prominent royal figures, but masks his true intentions with apparently conciliatory actions, making him appear to be a Princely Young Man, managing to fool most everyone he comes across. Lelouch and Xingke are two notable exceptions. Of course, both have specific and personal reasons not to trust him. In addition, his father knows his real nature, and Suzaku just seems to assume that he's planning on killing his father, now that Zero is dead. Which he was indeed considering.
    • On the other hand, we've got Cecile and Euphemia who just seem to completely gloss over the fact that Schneizel's first appearance was him ordering their close friend and Euphemia's love interest and Knight, Suzaku, in holding down the main character while he fires deadly lasers at the both of them, with the expectation that Suzaku would die, after some shameless flattery towards the angry Cecile, as well as saying that he was sure that Suzaku would "somehow" survive, and Euphemia has other important things to worry about. Schneizel, himself, smiles and says that Suzaku shouldn't worry - he's not going to court-martial him. For not being killed by him. You have to wonder just how Schneizel can be this blatant, and not seem evil. I'm sure there is something kind of unacceptable about asking someone else's direct subordinates to die - for anyone other than the Emperor, at least.
    • During the grand finale, Schneizel is the bonus boss after Lelouch successfully killed his psycho parents, because he's in control of an entire army that should hate his guts but is unquestioning towards his orders, while commanding a giant floating airbase with a primary weapon system that fires Freya NUKES at infantry units, and nobody seems to care that even though his opponent is/seems like a tyrant, he's basically the frickin' demon lord. Schneizel reveals his grand plan to Cornelia: take over the world by nuking everything that resists or keeps fighting in civil wars, with the black knights basically prohibiting freedom in the name of justice. She's absolutely disgusted by this and his previous nuking of his own capital to silence any hope of evidence of Lelouch's Geass, but his second-in-command and media director are in awe and worship of this.
    • Similarly, Clovis, despite his very short appearance. His public face and his actual ethics are very different. Not that any of his immediate subordinates care.
  • Izaya Orihara from Durarara!! is the ultimate Diabolical Mastermind of Ikebukuro who loves nothing more than to screw with people, to the point where he started a city-wide war between three different street gangs, a Mad Scientist facility and six former Members of The Mafiya, to name a few parties. Nobody sees that a certain Knowledge Broker might be behind this. Well... except for the guy who's Too Dumb to Fool who happens to be Shizuo Heiwajima. Granted, this is because Shizuo has hated Izaya for years and thinks he's responsible for everything that goes wrong in Ikebukuro, but seeing as Izaya usually is responsible for everything that goes wrong in Ikebukuro, you'd think other people would've caught on.
  • Hiruma from Eyeshield 21 plays with this trope; he's a conniving, scheming, trigger-happy Magnificent Bastard and doesn't care who knows it (his name can even be read as "devil in broad daylight"). Also, he avoids repercussions for his actions not by avoiding or sucking up to authority figures, but by blackmailing them. And he looks pretty devilish, to boot.
  • Gankutsuou: Let's see, the Count has long, sharp nails, pointed ears, fangs, his picture doesn't develop if he's photographed, has moments of cruel and disturbing behavior, oh yeah, and he's blue. Only one character ever calls attention to his odd features, and Albert can't understand why his friends could possibly suggest that the Count is evil. Of course in The Count of Monte Cristo, people calling the Count a vampire is a continuously running joke. Even though he isn't blue.
  • In Part 1 of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Jonathan Joestar learns very soon after meeting Dio Brando that he's bad news, but very good at faking otherwise, thus winning his father's approval and alienating his friends. It's not until several years later when Jonathan finds evidence of Dio poisoning his father (plus bringing Speedwagon along, since he can tell just by smell a person's true nature) that he brings Dio's evil nature to light.
  • Kumiko-san from Kamisama Kazoku plays this trope LITERALLY. Only Tenko gets to see her true face, and her stories are so outrageous that no-one believes her - least of all Kazoku.
  • Monster: To Nina, seeing Johan is like seeing pure evil. To everyone else, it's just seeing a blond pretty boy. At least until they see the light...
  • In My Hero Academia, Izuku and Mirio come across Eri, a girl wearing a raggedy dress and bandaged arms, who is clearly afraid of her "father" Overhaul, a guy with a beak-mask who's entire looks just screams "I am a Supervillain." What do they do? They let them go. Granted, they knew something was off, and they also knew that Overhaul was a Yakuza leader. But they were under strict instructions from Sir Nighteye to not do anything that would tip Overhaul off that he was under investigation. (This allows the trope to produce tension in an unusual way, as they're blatantly in the area as hero trainees and so have to judge whether leaving an apparent abusive situation alone would be just such a tip-off. Ultimately they judge he's shown himself to be so dangerous that smart trainees really would back off even if they suspected him, to report.)
  • Nobody in My-Otome except for Chie seems to suspect anything of #2 Coral Tomoe, even though the latter's sarcastic tone of voice (and occasional smirk, even in front of the teachers) is often blatantly obvious.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Subverted in the manga version; Asuka is always nice to all the NERV staff, but with Shinji, Rei, Toji and Kensuke she is her usual, bitchy self. She keeps up this act for a while until, during a party, she punches out Toji in front of Misato after he starts revealing all her past angry outbursts. Misato then admits that they always knew that Asuka was faking her more amiable personality, prompting her to go ballistic... on Shinji. And then there's Gendo Ikari, the Trope Codifier for Scary Shiny Glasses and Finger-Tenting.
  • One Piece:
    • Ceasar Clown of the Punk Hazard arc is an Obviously Evil (he even has horns) Mad Scientist who specializes in weapons of mass destruction and regularly performs experiments on kidnapped children and his own subordinates. He has had nearly everyone around him convinced he's a paragon of virtue using a poorly executed combination of transparent lies, fake concern, and Crocodile Tears.
    • The third movie has the main villain Count Butler. He even wears a coat that has the Kanji for EVIL written on his back, all while claiming he isn't evil.
  • Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt: Scanty and Kneesocks, quite literally. Not even the red skin, horns, devil tails or the fact they were actually called ''The Demon Sisters'' rang any bells with Panty and Stocking regarding the obvious truth about them.
  • Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei: Parodied with Mitama Mayo, who is evil, but because she also looks evil everyone who sees her decides not to prejudge and assumes she's not evil. Eventually, even Itoshiki gets pulled into it and decides there's nothing wrong with her.
  • Xellos of Slayers. Even though the whole party knows he's a demon, no one seems to mind him much - and that's despite his gruesome Kick the Dog record.
    • Slightly averted as, once they know he's evil, they only keep him around because he's so strong and regularly helps them out, when it overlaps with his goals/ is bored.
    • Also the fact he's so strong there isn't much they can do about him, short of risking blowing up the universe. That it's Xellos' eventual goal and Lina can do it may be part of the reason he likes hanging with her.
    • Lampshaded: That Xellos is both incredibly strong and evil is terribly obvious to the viewer, but Lina and co. don't figure out he's a Mazoku until quite a ways into Next when it's practically shoved in their faces. The only one who figured it out beforehand? Gourry, who didn't say anything because he thought it was so obvious.
    • No-one ever trusted him to begin with, and indeed Xellos never seemed to actually try to be trustworthy either, introducing himself as "Xellos, the mysterious priest." As the characters note, "Who introduces THEMSELVES as 'the mysterious priest'?" It's just that being a rather more literal devil in plain sight never occurred to anyone but Gourry.
  • Thriller Restaurant: In Episode 14, Anko's wart takes over her body and mind. The only ones who seem to notice anything wrong with her are her dog Kicchomu and Shou. Her parents actually become impressed by her personality makeover and maturity.

  • The Last Supper: Judas is covered in shadows, actively leaning away from Jesus, and spilling salt (an evil omen) all over the table, yet no one else at the Last Supper even begins to recognize Judas as the traitor Jesus has just revealed is in their midst.

    Comic Books 
  • Doctor Doom makes frequent attempts to take over the world that would be considered acts of war by real-world standards, and most governments in the world just ignore him. No wonder he feels he is better suited to rule the world. This may count as Fridge Brilliance though: maybe world leaders have gotten the clue that all Doom wants is to keep having his little tiff with Reed Richards, so they just lay low and let the Fantastic Four deal with him to avoid getting targeted and devastated by Doom rather than just battered a bit in the crossfire.
  • I Luv Halloween: A Black Comedy of the darkest kind. About a group of amoral trick-or-treaters who want their Halloween candy even in the midst of an alien invasion and zombie apocalypse. One of the characters is Devil-lad, a hooded young boy wearing a devil's mask who patiently goes along with the group's crazy hijinks. The other trick-or-treaters note he smells like sulfur. Proven in the second volume, when he nonchalantly rises from a crater after being in the middle of a nuclear explosion.
  • Iznogoud: Comically inverted; Iznogoud looks, acts and IS definitely Obviously Evil, and people of Baghdad are perfectly aware of his desire to overthrow the Caliph... but the Caliph himself never suspects a thing, instead seeing Iznogoud as a devoted, good, trustworthy friend. He even once admitted he often received anonymous letters trying to warn him about it but never believed them. Ironically, the Caliph is the only person Iznogoud bothers acting good with.
  • Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: The title character commits ridiculously over-the-top mass murder and even he himself seems puzzled why he hasn't been caught. It is later revealed that the reason why Johnny doesn't get caught is that he is a "waste-lock", a person created to watch over focal points of residue left over from negative human energy. This is revealed to him by none other than the Devil. It is implied, in the comic "I Feel Sick," that when the accumulated human waste acquires a mind of its own, it can allow a person to do whatever they want, even kill, without being caught. The doll tries to tempt Devi with this devil's deal.
  • Count Kasino in Les Légendaires. He's a young arrogant man who hires two assassins as his bodyguards, has a typical evil aristocrat face and attitude and is known by everyone to be a ruthless dictator on his own territory. He even has an evil grin when learning he has his chance to become king of Orchidia instead of his cousins Jadina and Tenebris. Yet, Vangelis actually seems surprised when learning it was him who attempted to kill Jadina and the Legendaries in the Gamera Mines. Partially subverted/inverted later however, as it turns out Kasino was actually nothing more than an Unwitting Pawn and the actual villain was Vangelis.
  • Lex Luthor: Post-Crisis Lex has been depicted as a Corrupt Corporate Executive and/or President Evil.
  • As most muggles in the Marvel Universe are Too Dumb to Live, none of Norman Osborn's previous actions prevent him from doing whatever he wants.
  • Nobody outside of people he has come in direct contact with (most of the people anyway) seem to notice that Roark Jr. from the Sin City story "That Yellow Bastard" is a psychopathic Serial Killer who has raped, tortured and killed a vast number of little girls (that may be because his father is a United States Senator and no one on the force dares to try to bring him down — at least until John Hartigan gets involved). It's implied that it was a public secret; everybody knew, nobody dared to act.
  • Spider-Man: Aunt May can't seem to understand why the police would want to arrest the nice Dr. Otto Octavius.
  • W.I.T.C.H.:
    • Before his Heel–Face Turn, Vathek was able to go around Heatherfield without nobody noticing, and that's with him looking like an ogre (Justified because he would go around with Cedric, who knows how to disguise people. After becoming good and losing Cedric's support he has a much more difficult time getting around).
    • Also, Cedric himself: being a shape-shifter and a very good actor he was able to become an acquaintance of the Guardians for months. The only reason they find out is that he reveals himself right before locking them in a painting where their powers won't work, and that was only because he didn't expect them to work out how to get out.

    Fan Works 
  • The Khanate in Legionnaire believes that Equestrian Princesses are not women, but demons in human form. Considering just how terrifyingly powerful an alicorn is compared to everything else in the setting, this isn't too hard to understand.
  • Played for Laughs in PokeRole with Critical Chaos: Lee's Roselia, Harper, is a cold-blooded psychopath who is poisons opponents as painfully as possible and is constantly scheming against everyone around them, humans included. Everyone is aware of this except Lee, who believes Harper is a precious little child who needs protecting from the big scary world.

    Films — Animated 
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2: Chester V isn't fooling anyone in the audience.
    Chester V: Now we can keep an eye on him. He has no idea of our real plan!
  • Disney Animated Canon:
    • The cats Si and Am in Lady and the Tramp.
      "We are Siamese if you please/We are Siamese if you don't please" as they try to knock off vases and get in the crib...
    • Jafar from Aladdin is a lean, shifty, diabolical sorcerer dressed predominantly in red and black colors with a penchant for hypnotizing Agrabah's sultan, yet nobody seems to regard him as anything more than a disfavored servant at worst. He's so obviously diabolical the movie actually pokes fun at it numerous times with the Sultan's... less-than-stellar judge of character:
      Sultan: (responding to Jafar walking in like into a room like this) Ah, Jafar, my most trusted advisor!
    • Hercules: Hades is an obvious villain from the moment he appears on screen, but none of the other gods realize he's trying to overthrow Zeus. In the animated series, he hatches multiple plots to overthrow Zeus or trick the other gods, and they still keep falling for his tricks.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • American Psycho: Patrick Bateman — despite the fact that he directly tells his friends that he is a sadistic serial killer. Subverted given the ending, in that Patrick Bateman may have never killed anyone, and he's actually no worse than the company he keeps. And while Patrick is by no means a nice person - he is homophobic, racist, misogynistic, and tries to kill someone because their business card is nicer than his - his friends differ only in that they don't appear to be serial killers (though it would surprise no one if they were), making this less Devil in Plain Sight and more the Devil is Everyone.
  • Avengers: Endgame hangs a huge lampshade on this trope for Sitwell and Rumlow all the way back to in-universe 2012, when time-traveling Tony & Scott meet them — Scott for the first time:
    Scott: Who are these guys?
    Tony: They are SHIELD... Well, actually Hydra. But, we didn't know that yet.
    Scott: Seriously, you didn't? I mean... they look like bad guys.
  • Rhoda Penmark in The Bad Seed (1956) personifies this trope as does her remade update Rachel Penmark in The Bad Seed (1985).
  • Batman:
  • The Black Hole: Dr. Reinhardt. Even though the "heroes" suspect, they don't suspect hard enough. What makes it even more jarring is Reinhardt's explicitly evil robot Dragon Maximilian, who manages to stir up little additional suspicion. (The title of this trope is justified by this movie's Gainax Ending, by the way.)
  • Cape Fear: This trope is the whole point of the film. It's even more obvious in the remake. At least in this case the local police did actually believe the protagonist's accusations, but were powerless anyway due to the antagonist being pretty cunning with regards to legal tricks he can use.
  • In The Devil's Advocate, John Milton knows that his unassuming looks are his greatest weapon:
    John Milton: I'm the hand up Mona Lisa's skirt. I'm a surprise, Kevin. They don't see me coming: that's what you're missing.
    • Later on, he describes an encounter with one of his victims:
      John Milton: There's this beautiful girl just fucked me 40 ways from Sunday... we're done, she's walking to the bathroom, she's trying to walk, she turns... she looks... it's me. Not the Trojan army just fucked her. Little ol' me. She gets this look on her face like: "How the hell did that happen?"
  • Godzilla vs. Kong: When Godzilla attacks Pensacola, he only focuses his destruction on Apex Cybernetics' local facility (something which a national TV report observes), and he causes very few deaths for a Titan of his power before departing. And yet no-one in the world except for Team Godzilla thinks they should actually be subjecting Apex to scrutiny and work out why Godzilla targeted their factory, when the much wilder and less rational assumption on the table is that Godzilla has turned evil for no reason (bear in mind that previous movies in the MonsterVerse continuity made it clear that this Godzilla always has a reason for attacking) and he's now attacking all of humanity. Worse yet, the fact it's obvious to anyone with half a brain that Godzilla had something against Apex's factory specifically doesn't stop Monarch from partnering up with Apex to try and take Godzilla down, by following a plan that Apex themselves set forth. Really, humanity has no-one but themselves to blame for how much death and destruction in this movie could have been avoided but wasn't.
  • The Good Son: Henry's robot voice makes even his bogus innocent act seem... well, bogus. But, of course, even his parents can't see this...
  • Tom Riddle comes across as completely creepy and obviously sinister in both Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, but he's completely trusted and well-liked by the teachers, especially by Slughorn. His creepiness in the films contrasts with the books, where he's stated and shown to be very charming as a young man and very good at presenting himself well.
  • Hot Fuzz: Simon Skinner, owner of the local supermarket. He often behaves extraordinarily creepy around Sergeant Nick Angel, having a bit of a Psychotic Smirk, making puns about killing and showing up around the murder scenes. The fact that the murders committed lead Angel to believe that Skinner is responsible in order to get more land for his supermarket doesn't help either (though that wasn't the true nature. Turns out Angel's only part right.)
    • Then there's the wonderful scene where Skinner drives up to a burnt down house with a song about fire playing loudly on his car radio.
    • In fact, every time Skinner turns up there's a song that's related to the murder. His drive past the scene of the "traffic collision" features Romeo and Juliet by Dire Straits.
  • In the Italian film Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, the title character murders his girlfriend. Because he's a police chief, no one else in the police department suspects him, even though he does very little to hide his tracks. One of the reasons he murders the woman is that she insists the police are so corrupt that he could get away with murder. He becomes increasingly frustrated as it becomes clear that she was right.
  • Knives Out: It turns out Ransom, who was the most antagonistic, cruel, and distant towards the family, is the true killer. He also had the most obvious motive — wanting the money out of his old man and keeping it out of the hands of the rest of the family — on top of being highly obvious in exiting and leaving the party the night before the murder happened. Even disregarding all that, he had a very loud argument the night of the murder and it's implied the family knew for years he wasn't happy with where the money was going.
  • The entire town in Little Sweetheart isn't just holding the Idiot Ball, they're firmly grasping the Idiot Ball. John Hurt's character, Robert Burger, practically has idiot ball hot glue gunned to him. His mistress, Dorothea, on the other hand, can tell that Thelma is not sweet, innocent, kind or anything but evil.
  • The Omen (2006). Unlike the original, where Damien's angelic look was in a striking contrast to his infernal nature, the new Damien is constantly frowning, glouting, is generally creepy and has an "I-hate-you-all-and-hope-you-will-burn-for-all-eternity" look at all times.
  • In The Paperboy Ms. Rosemont tells Cammie that Johnny is this.
  • Red Eye: Jackson Rippner is, although nice, a bit too interested in Lisa. And let's face it, if a name like Jackson Rippner doesn't tip you off, you're probably Too Dumb to Live anyway.
  • Done brilliantly in Scream to Meta Twist the viewers. Billy Loomis is obviously the killer. So very obviously the killer. However, in slasher films the killer is never the suspicious guy who obviously is the killer. So imagine everyone's surprise when the killer is revealed, and sure enough it's Billy. Well, it's Billy and Stu Macher, but Billy's clearly the one in charge.
  • There Will Be Blood: The main character is clearly one of these, complete with the Meaningful Name of Daniel Plainview. How much better his enemies the Sundays are is up to debate. At least until the bodies begin piling up.
  • This Is the End: Jay Baruchel can tell Jonah Hill hates him with a passion, but nobody believes him and think Jonah is a total saint. Jay is proven right when Jonah has a Prayer of Malice to God for Jay's death — though this ends up backfiring big time when he goes through a Demonic Possession.
    Jay: (to Seth) Nobody is that nice. Serial killers are that nice.
  • Wonder Woman: It's easy to suspect that a monster like Ludendorff is Ares, and that's just what Ares wants Diana to think. In reality, his true identity is in even plainer sight, that of Sir Patrick Morgan, a British politician who appears to be an old man who needs a cane to walk. And Steve's superior, who sent him and Diana on the mission to begin with. But who could ever have suspected that the leading advocate of a negotiated peace could the God of War? That's exactly what Ares was counting on.

  • In The Bad Seed, Rhoda Penmark appears to be a nice and polite eight-year-old. She wears pretty dresses, has her hair in braids, and can tap along on the sidewalk to make your heart melt. But she's also a multiple murderer at the age of eight. Because she also will push people down stairs, set people on fire, and let boys drown after they fell off a pier in an argument.
  • Smerdyakov in The Brothers Karamazov is really just thought of as a scullion who has airs of intellectualism about him, and who carries blasphemous notions about religion. He's also thought of as pathetic to others because he suffers from epileptic seizures. The idea of him being the murderer is absurd to everyone in town for these reasons, yet he is. Only the protagonist seems to have any deep misgivings about him. I mean come on, he even flashes Psychotic Smirks whenever given the chance.
  • In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the Bucket family, especially the grandparents, is dismayed to learn that each of the first four Golden Ticket finders is repulsive in their own way (in order — gluttonous, greedy, proud/rude, slothful). Yet they are all indulged by their parents and acclaimed and celebrated for their luck, which isn't even really luck in Veruca's case, by the rest of the world. The four kids get a very rude awakening to their own faults once they're in the factory, because — while he may not show it at first — Willy Wonka, to say nothing of his Oompa-Loompas, does recognize them for who they are and has No Sympathy for what happens to them when they give in to their vices and meet dreadful fates.
  • The Dead Zone: Greg Stillson is obviously a nut-case to most of the characters, the press, and most intelligent people who are paying attention, leaving them baffled why he wins elections. On a smaller scale, for security at rallies Stillson uses bikers wielding sawed-off pool cues; when Johnny points them out to a fan, he shrugs it off and says they're just for show, despite there being a history of people getting hurt at Stillson's rallies.
  • Played for all its worth by Sinistrad in The Death Gate Cycle. As a young man, he knew he was getting a reputation among other mysteriarchs for being an Evil Sorcerer, so instead of trying to hide his behavior he played it up (to the point of changing his name to "Sinistrad") to such a level that he was dismissed as merely a harmless eccentric (he also seduced and married a beautiful, idealistic young sorceress to add to the impression that he really wasn't so bad underneath his "cliché evil wizard" schtick). That allowed him to quietly build up his power and finally take over as head mysteriarch before anyone quite processed that yes, he really was that dangerous after all.
  • The Demon Princes: The titular villains from Jack Vance's series, despite being infamous pirate lords and criminal bosses, value their anonymity and are essentially this. One has a position at a prestigious university, and on one occasion the hero Kirth Gersen gets into a bar fight with a Demon Prince without knowing. Often, the most difficult thing for Gersen is just figuring out who the Demon Prince is.
  • Reacher Gilt in Going Postal remarks on the fact that he actually tells people he's one of these and they just laugh. For extra effect, he dresses up like a stereotypical pirate, complete with a parrot on his shoulder.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Harry is utterly convinced that Snape is a terrible villain, but nobody believes him except his friends. Eventually, even they stop believing him. This continues until Snape kills Dumbledore, but is then subverted again when it is revealed that this was a pre-arranged killing; Dumbledore was suffering under a terrible, incurable and fatal curse but, upon realising Voldemort had ordered Draco to kill him as a test of loyalty, he comes up with a plan to kill a few birds with one stone: by having Snape kill him, it spares him a torturous death, saves Draco's soul, and reinforces Voldemort's trust in Snape.
    • Played straight with Draco Malfoy in Half-Blood Prince. That is, nobody thinks he's a good guy, but everybody except Harry stubbornly refuse to believe that a son of the enemy second-in-command might've actually followed in his daddy's steps. There's also a strong element of "What would Voldemort want with Draco?" Draco is just too pathetic to be an actual villain.
  • Everyone in Krabat should recognize Pumphutt for his big hat immediately, but they never do until he tells them who he is. Can be explained with A Wizard Did It.
  • Literally the case in the Left Behind book series.
  • Outcast of Redwall: Reversed with Veil Sixclaw. Everyone except his foster-mother Bryony realises that he's a delinquent and guess that it was him when an Abbeydweller is nearly killed. Ironically, it's heavily implied that if they'd treated him as if he was normal, he'd have grown up okay. But then they are mice trying to raise a ferret.
  • Count Olaf of A Series of Unfortunate Events. Though the Baudelaire orphans always see through his flimsy disguises, none of the adults ever believe them.
  • Sherlock Holmes: Professor Moriarty. Three layers there: his obscurity, his charm, and his crack legal team. The brass tacks are pretty much reserved for the normal course of business in that massive criminal empire he's running, until Holmes manages to get him into a bind.
  • The Silence of the Lambs: Dr. Hannibal Lecter qualifies, being a well-known psychiatrist, cook, and supporter of the arts. Nobody suspected he was the depraved and thoroughly insane serial killer known as "The Chesapeake Ripper." His arrest and outing as a cannibal resulted in a scandal.
  • Sauron becomes this at one point in The Silmarillion when he becomes a Dragon with an Agenda to Ar-Pharazôn the Golden, the last king of Numenór.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • How anyone in Westeros could ever find it in themselves to trust Roose Bolton, lord of the Dreadfort, is, frankly, shocking. The man's sigil is a flayed man because he comes from a family with a long-standing tradition of skinning their enemies alive and wearing their skins in battle; he always speaks in a Creepy Monotone, is a Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette with godsdamned Creepy Blue Eyes and his favorite pastime is getting leeched. Granted, everyone finds him a little unsettling but still, he's relied upon to perform extremely important roles several times. Trusting him never, ever turns out well.
    • Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish is obviously up to no good from the moment he appears in A Game Of Thrones. He even flat-out tells Ned Stark not to trust him. When Ned does inexplicably trust him, cue backstab... to nobody's surprise, except Ned's. In the next two novels, where Littlefinger interacts with the Lannisters/the Decadent Court, mostly everyone seems to think that he is just some ambitious commoner who wants to be a lord, and, apart from the keeping-fairly-mum-about-it Varys, only Tyrion gets how much of a ruthless and dangerous backstabber he really is, or so he thinks. Even Tyrion never imagined that Littlefinger was essentially the Big Bad who deliberately engineered the civil war engulfing the continent, and orchestrated the murder of Jon Arryn that kicked off the plot. He still doesn't know that, in fact — Baelish only confessed it in a Motive Rant to his hostage/protege Sansa Stark, adding that he is doing it for the sake of power, and is well on his way to becoming the most powerful man in the realm. He's probably holding stuff back from her, too.
    • As it turns out, trusting a random, dodgy commoner who looks like a Rummage Sale Reject, smells worse, goes by the name of Reek and always suggests courses of action that should really set alarm bells off happens — if you're Theon Greyjoy. Seriously, Theon? Ramsay just had to show how much like his dad he can be when he puts his mind to it...
    • Euron Greyjoy returns to the Iron Islands on a blood-red ship crewed by deformed mutes and sorcerers, his lips stained an unnatural blue and a stereotypical pirate eyepatch over one eye, the day after his brother, King Balon, fell to his death in a "freak accident". His personal emblem is essentially the Eye of Sauron with added Creepy Crows, and he brings with him sorcerous artifacts that incinerate those who try to use them from the inside out. The Ironborn elect him as the new king immediately once he starts handing out treasure. Only his niece and youngest brother realize just how monumentally screwed they are.
  • Duke Roger in Song of the Lioness. He's quite charming, but Alanna thinks he's a little off and he has a habit of goading Jon to do dangerous things or engineer danger for him (like a plague or a Uriah Gambit) along with sending a couple of Animal Assassins after Alanna... but everyone else adores him, including Jon. We learn at the end of the second book that Roger has magically protected himself from suspicion. The loophole to the spell is that it only worked on those he created simulacra of. People who were unknown to him like George and Thom were unaffected.
  • In Michael Kurland's The Unicorn Girl, Michael visits a universe where most of the people literally cannot see naked people, which leads to much confusion when some naked thieves begin to steal from people at a dinner party. Michael watches dumbfounded as his hosts are robbed right in front of his eyes, and when he tries to point it out, he ends up getting blamed for the crime himself. Fortunately, he realizes there's an obvious way to escape...

    Live Action TV 
  • Mr. Morden in Babylon 5. In his first appearance, he's faultlessly polite and even does an unasked-for favor for Ambassador Mollari ...and yet he's got an unsettling and even sinister air about him that clearly marks him as "evil". Only Kosh and Delenn recognize him for what he is that first time (and it takes a moment for Delenn), and by "The Coming of Shadows" in Season 2, Vir has also realized that Morden is trouble (relatively quickly, as Vir didn't even know about Morden until the last episode of season 1).
  • Battlestar Galactica: Count Iblis in the original is this... literally.
  • Subverted and parodied in the Blackadder Goes Forth episode "General Hospital"; a German spy has infiltrated a nearby field hospital and Blackadder is assigned to find out who it is. In the field hospital, he meets a wounded man with a German accent so thick it could be spread on bread ("My name... eeeees Meeeiiiister... Smeeeeth.") who's always skulking around acting suspiciously. Turns out he is a spy... a British spy, who's been undercover in Germany so long he's picked up "a teensy bit of an accent", and was even the one who informed Melchett there was a spy there in the first place. Blackadder even lampshades how ludicrous it would be for the Germans to place in a British field hospital a spy with a thick German accent. This doesn't stop Darling from humiliating himself by trying to arrest him, however, or George from blithely asking him whether he had seen any spies in the hospital (and this was not George being clever enough to realise that the man with a strong accent couldn't be a spy, he was simply too thick to notice it).
    • Also done literally in the The Black Adder episode, Witchsmeller Pursuivant. When Prince Edmund is accused by the titular Witchsmeller of being a witch, during his trial, he calls a random peasant woman to testify against Edmund, and who claims she bore his son, which the Witchsmeller claims is "the son of Satan." He then asks the people watching the trial if they can "see this son of Satan anywhere in this room?" When the camera shows the people looking at the person next to them to see who it is, it shows what clearly looks like a Devil at 2:04, but no-one apparently realises this.
  • In Breaking Bad, this is the modus operandi for many of the major players in the drug industry.
    • Saul Goodman, the Amoral Attorney of the industry, places cheesy adverts on benches and TV channels, appearing as a cheap and unscrupulous Ambulance Chaser instead of the hyper-competent law-breaker he is.
    • Gustavo Fring, the biggest boss in the Albuquerque-area drug trade, raises money and galas for his adversaries in the Drug Enforcement Administration, is a very public pillar of the community, and is commonly seen at his (legitimate) businesses overseeing operations as a Benevolent Boss.
    • The protagonist, Walter White himself, keeps his job as a high school teacher and continues hanging out with his DEA brother-in-law, despite getting deeper into the drug trade.
  • Brimstone: The Devil is shown at the local hot dog stand and jogging.
  • Dexter works in the homicide department of the Miami police department by day, and kills by night. Despite this, he stays well under everyone else's "something's not right with him" radar, except for Doakes. Dexter comments at one point about being in a room full of police officers and Doakes being the only one who has any sort of sense of something wrong about him.
    • Done again in Season 3 with Miguel Prada, the local DA, who only Dexter suspects of sinister urges. It turns out that Dexter underestimates the degree of his sociopathy and has to kill him.
  • Dollhouse: Laurence Dominic. In episode 5, he tries to kill Echo. In episode 9, he is revealed to be the mole. Note that at the time of the episode's airing, the Dollhouse WMG page had eight guesses as to the identity of the mole, only one of which was a repeat, and yet no one had bothered to guess that it was Dominic. Because we won't fall for such an obvious Red Herring...yeah. And then it turns out he wasn't so much a "devil;" he saw himself as protecting the Dollhouse AND protecting the world from the technology it used. His negative convictions turned out to be right. Nobody important in the House figured that out until too late.
  • Megan on Drake & Josh, to the point where it's not funny anymore.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Sansa ignores most of Joffrey Baratheon faults because she is love with him in Season 1. She wakes up to what sort of person he is once he has her father executed.
    • Littlefinger, as noted in Literature, was already an example in the books, but the series increase the Obviously Evil factor by making him even more slimy and visibly smug.
    • Among the Northern lords, Roose Bolton sticks out like a sore thumb. While every other Northern lord has a beard, he is almost clean-shaven (before Season 4, anyway). They have rough Northern English accents, he has a vague upper-class Irish accent. They are brash and in-your-face, he is cold and subtle. They suggest a quick death, he suggests flaying people alive for information. The man's sigil is a flayed man and he shows absolutely zero emotion or sympathy while giving Robb nightmarish news.
  • The TV series Hannibal expands on this aspect of Dr. Hannibal Lecter by initially taking place in the years before his incarceration and elaborating on the backstory and relationships in Red Dragon. Here, Lecter is seen by the world at large as an esteemed psychiatrist, a lover of art and culture, an accomplished gourmet chef and occasionally a helpful professional consultant for the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit.
  • Patricia in House of Anubis- At least when she becomes a sinner. She tricked the others into believing the sinner was KT, while her out of character attitude should have suggested otherwise. A lot of the other villains seem to fall under this as well, such as Rufus- who wore all black and was basically stalking Patricia for a few episodes before they met.
  • The '80s sitcom It's Your Move starred Jason Bateman as a manipulative teenaged con artist whose single mom was (initially, at least) blissfully unaware of his intrigues. The first dozen or so episodes dealt with his efforts to prevent the mother's equally devious boyfriend from exposing him. When she finally got wise to him, the show's whole comedic premise was effectively retooled (and, arguably, ruined).
  • Kamen Rider Saber: It's obvious from the beginning that Storious is up to more than he lets on, yet his allies for the most part don't pay much mind to what he's plotting while the heroes would rather focus on fighting more direct threats. And then he swoops in and becomes the Big Bad. Bonus points for his monster form resembling a Big Red Devil.
  • Villanelle from Killing Eve is a very skilled assassin who enjoys killing people but she’s able to blend in pretty seamlessly as just another twenty-something woman. This was intentional on the creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s part as she wants to show that there are monsters walking amongst us that you’d never be able to discern.
  • Leave It to Beaver: The iconic television DiPS: Eddie Haskell. Prim and polite to adults, a bullying troublemaker to everyone else. Ward Cleaver to June: "There's something odd about that boy." Beaver to Eddie: "Even Wally doesn't like you, Eddie, and he's your best friend."
    • The Film of the Series revealed that Mrs. Cleaver knew about Eddie all along.
      • The film? She had him pegged from day one: "I just don't trust a thirteen-year-old boy who's that polite."
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Halbrand is cryptic about his mysterious past, warns Galadriel he's not the hero she's looking for and that he's done terrible things before. He's great at manipulating people and even gives her a lesson on mastering other people by giving them a way to master their fear. It grew so obvious that most assumed it had to be a Red Herring. Turns out he is indeed the Dark Lord Sauron in disguise. Galadriel was just too focused on plowing forward against all obstacles that she never stopped to suspect about her new companion. When Galadriel finally does have a moment of rest, she figures it out quickly.
  • A literal example as Lucifer (2016) has the title character making no secret of how he is the Devil come to Earth to anyone he meets...and no one ever believes him unless they see his "devil face" or are a fellow celestial.
    Chloe: I'm going to figure out your secret.
    Lucifer: It's not a secret when I'm telling you!
  • From Merlin, Agravaine, who waltzes around Camelot in a forbidding all-black outfit and Severus Snape's hairstyle, frequently flashing Psychotic Smirks when nobody's looking and popping off to visit Morgana at regular intervals. Merlin and Gaius quickly peg him as a villain, but can't say anything due to him being Arthur's uncle and chief advisor, and therefore above reproach without serious evidence.
  • Patrick Warburton played a self-described evil businessman on a few NewsRadio episodes. Despite his transparent and self-professed villainy, no one but Dave clues in that he's there to take over the station. At one point he leaves the room and can plainly be heard laughing maniacally in the next room; everyone but Dave assumes he's crying. He finally reveals the truth when their boss is about to go to jail and everyone is honestly shocked when Dave sighs that "it's all his evil plan. You know, the evil plan I've been warning you about for weeks?"
  • Once Upon a Time: For all her pretense of acting nice, it's absurd that nobody notices Zelena's giant emerald brooch and occasional black cloak and hat when she's in Storybrooke.
  • Oddly enough, the Devil in Reaper frequently exemplifies this trope.
  • Charlotte Wills, a minor antagonist in Torchwood: Miracle Day, is a CIA watch analyst who's also working as The Mole for The Omniscient Council of Vagueness known as the Three Families. From her shifty mannerisms and openly nervous behavior when her colleagues try to figure out who among them is a traitor right down to her choice of bold, red clothing, it's clear she does very little to hide the fact that she's up to something. Naturally, no one catches on until the last moments of the finale.

  • Eminem contributes these lines to Dr. Dre's "Forgot About Dre":
    And when the cops came through, me and Dre stood next to a burnt-down house
    With a can full of gas and a hand full of matches, and still weren't found out
  • Oingo Boingo's "Only a Lad": "Johnny was bad / Even as a child / Everybody could tell..." Unfortunately, no one ever suspected just how bad he was.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed: Al-Mualim. Despite every target telling Altair he's lying or using him, and the lack of any explanations for anything, everyone pretends to be surprised when he turns out to be the Big Bad.
  • In Baldur's Gate III, at the start of the game you can find an exsanguinated boar. If Token Evil Teammate Astarion is in the party, he'll try to shift attention away from it. When pressed, he'll say something along the lines of "This boar's been fed on by a vampire. But fear not! Your most trusted friend Astarion, the pale-skinned, pointy-toothed elf with the strange bite scar on his neck, whom you met yesterday while trying to kill you, will absolutely take night watch so no dastardly vampires feed on you!" The Player Character ends up kicking themselves for not realizing sooner once he tries feeding on them in their sleep.
  • Gary Smith in Bully. Despite how often he's told lies in the past, everyone still takes his word for it, apart from Jimmy and Pete.
  • From Custom Robo for the Gamecube, there is Evil, a flamboyantly overdressed nemesis to the player and the Steel Hearts...he seems more like a Smug Snake who exists to beat the Steel Hearts to all the good jobs, at first. While it stuns the cast when he declares his true intentions, it's no surprise to the player when he defects to the Z Syndicate with a Robo that will destroy the world to try and gain favor with the Z-twins. Love Makes You Stupid Evil.
  • The scientist, Kindjal of Custom Robo Arena. She was so obviously a villain the second you saw her sprite.
  • In Chapter 3 of Digimon Survive, a suspicious human woman appears before the group in the Digital World and offers to be their guide. Jerk with a Heart of Gold Kaito is the only one who sees through the act and outright says she's a Digimon pretending to be human with her pulling an obvious Wounded Gazelle Gambit in response. The group then has a protracted debate over who to believe, with everyone except potentially the Player Character siding against Kaito, and not too long after she reveals herself to be an Arukenimon plotting to kill them all.
  • Dragon Age:
    • Dragon Age: Origins: Teyrn Loghain was painfully obvious, though everyone trusts him because he placed the blame on the Grey Wardens and was also a national hero for freeing the kingdom from decades of foreign occupation. The former can also be said of Arl Howe.
      • Arl Howe was voiced by Tim Curry. Other than being voiced by Curry, though, you probably wouldn't be expecting him to be a bad guy. At first.
    • In Dragon Age II, Mother Petrice. Tell me you didn't look at that cold, piercing gaze and at least predict she'd be a Smug Snake.
      • Also Bartrand. Listening to him, you wonder why anyone works for him, why Varric hasn't abandoned him, and why Hawke and the rest of the group don't just shoot him on sight. It would have saved them a lot of trouble.
  • Zola Dane from Drakan: The Ancient Gates. Bad foreshadowing, gesticulations, and voice acting (not to mention if you actually talk to him before going to the Shadowmire) make it an Un Reveal when you have to kick his butt the first time.
  • In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, one of the missions you can do for the local assassins' guild involves you, around a half-dozen of poor saps who become your victims, and a house locked from the outside. Funny thing is, you have the choice of telling one of your victims that you are the assassin right before you off everyone (though she just laughs it off).
  • Fallout 3: Roy Phillips is extremely rude to the Lone Wanderer, wears his hatred for humans on his sleeve, is hideous even by the standards of a skinless mutant, (quite hypocritically) has no compassion whatsoever for feral ghouls, and openly plans to murder everyone in Tenpenny Tower even if his situation is initially resolved completely peacefully.
  • F.E.A.R. 3: The experiments (and abusive parenting) turn Point Man into a killer with a conscience and Fettel into a complete homicidal psychopath. Only one female scientist realizes that they've created a monster out of Fettel and a hero out of Point Man, while every other brainiac on the project outright worships Fettel for being "godlike" and "the next paragon of the human race" and call Point Man a failure for never reaching the bar, in spite of constant self-improvement.
  • Michelle in Grand Theft Auto IV. From the newly bought furniture to her not really answering Niko's questions as to what she does to her near-constant questions asking if Niko and friends are involved in crime, it's pretty obvious that she's really an undercover government agent...well, obvious to everyone except for the in-game characters. Although Niko does occasionally comment "There's something strange about that girl..." right after they have sex.
  • Investi-Gator: The Case of the Big Crime: Insti-Gator is obviously a criminal, from his name to his shifty behavior, to hiding evidence of his crimes right in front of Investi-Gator with Suspiciously Specific Denials. But Investi-Gator is blissfully unaware of this and sees Insti-Gator as his beloved brother.
  • Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep: Master Xehanort might as well be carrying a neon sign reading "I am evil, nyahahaha". Nobody, other than Yen Sid, seems to notice, not even the guy who fought him once before in a battle of light against darkness.
  • Kreia from Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. A unique example in that everyone except the Player Character notices, except if you have the right stats you can get her to admit to being a former Sith Lord although they let her stick around regardless.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • Ocarina of Time gives us Ganondorf. Despite the various red flags this guy gives off (has a constant smug grin, spiky armor, is known to be causing trouble for the various races of Hyrule, is the King of Thieves) the King of Hyrule places all his trust in this guy...which will lead to Hyrule's downfall and Ganondorf's ascension to power as the Great King of Evil.
    • The third line of dialogue from Chancellor Cole in Spirit Tracks includes an ominous prediction while he stares at you with an insane evil smile. If you are still surprised when he shows himself as the Big Bad of the game five minutes later, you should start getting worried.
  • Mass Effect gives us more than a few examples.
    • Saren in the first game - he has glowing, robotic eyes, an arm grafted on from one of the evil robot enemies of the setting, no tattoos in a race where that's considered a sign of distrustfulness, a bunch of weird tubes coming out of his face, and... well, look at the guy, basically. It's often theorized that he was supposed to start out looking fairly normal and then progress to more and more robotic looks as the game went on (for instance, Shepard reacts with shock in a scene after Saren gets some particularly heavy implants, even though he looks no different at all), which would explain why the Council is so doubtful that the guy who has Reaper tech coming out of his face could possibly be a turncoat.
    Kilian: "Council, if I was evil, I would hide it. Currently, I both look and sound evil."
    • Of note is The Illusive Man, who is Commander Shepard's boss in the second game, and ends up as one of the villains of the third game. It helps that his organization, Cerberus, was openly villainous in the first game. The only reason Shepard is working for him in the second game is that the Reapers are a much bigger threat to both of them.
    • In Mass Effect 3, Councilor Udina turns out to be allied with Cerberus when up to this point he was merely a smug self-serving politician. Ironically, the third game largely makes him more sympathetic and cooperative to Shepard than he ever was in the previous games, up until The Reveal.
    • In the background for Mass Effect: Andromeda, the angara were taken in by the kett at first contact, despite the kett universally speaking in deep voices, going around in sinister dark green ships, and making vague statements about the angara's destiny. Then they betrayed them.
  • In Master Detective Archives: Rain Code, Makoto Kagutsuchi is repeatedly pointed out as being suspicious, and their polite demeanor just emanates concealment and contempt for others that it should be no surprise that he is the CEO of the enemy faction, the Amaterasu Corporation, and that he's also the overall Big Bad.
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain has an interesting variation in the form of the game's Metal Gear, ST-84 Sahelanthropus. It is a walking bipedal weapon, so anyone who saw it would know it was dangerous. However, it only has conventional weapons, and so wouldn't be subject to any nuclear treaties. But, thanks to the metallic arachea making up its body, it can become a nuclear bomb. note 
  • The New Order: Last Days of Europe does this with an entire country. If the Black League unifies western Siberia and becomes visible on the world stage, they intentionally conceal their Ultranationalist ideology underneath an appearance of defensive militarism. They even give themselves a non-descript regional name, the "West Siberian Provisional Authority", and the stat screen lists their ideology as "Military Junta", a variant of Despotism. But make no mistake, they're still the same old war-hawks and maniacs plotting an apocalyptic, genocidal Great Trial against Nazi Germany.
  • Octopath Traveler:
    • Cyrus' boss, Yvon, has red eyes, and everyone In-Universe knows he's a jerk. However, nobody suspects him of being truly evil until Cyrus uncovers his culpability in the theft of the tome From the Far Reaches of Hell, at which point Yvon tries to kill both him and his pupil Therese for knowing too much.
    • Lyblac does little to hide her evil personality, what with the red eyes, black dress and creepy monologues. Somehow, the only character In-Universe who foresaw the full depths of her evil before it was too late is Werner of all people.
  • Persona 3: Tanaka is much like this, particularly with the fact that he is represented as the Devil Arcana.
  • The Boss in the Saints Row series, given the impossibility of keeping The Boss dead or in jail.
  • Shin Megami Tensei gave us Louis Cypher. We all know about that one, though.
  • Sword of Mana shows us that people will readily follow and have no problem with a guy who names himself Dark Lord.
  • In Syndicate (2012), application of "datascape camouflage" allows you to walk around secure places without anyone batting an eye at the sinister masked man in the black coat. Naturally, it fails at the worst possible times.
  • Played with in Until Dawn. Josh predicted he would be the very first suspect in the killings since they are obviously motivated by the deaths of Beth and his sister Hannah, and so he fakes his death very early in the story to remove himself as a suspect and be able to freely move in his Psycho persona. Meanwhile, The Stranger is very obviously the bad guy and yet, while a massive jerk, he's actually a pretty good guy. The Wendigos play this trope very very straight though.
  • Jan Rosencrantz in Vagrant Story. Everyone knows he's a traitor and an all-around bastard. It's just that no one cares. He turns out to be more powerful and ambitious than the characters had anticipated. And many times more ruthless.
  • In Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures: The Last Resort, Ms. Flit's cutesy dogs Poodgie-Woo and Tinkie-Wee are quickly revealed to be ill-tempered, mischievous mongrels with a collective mean streak twice as long as your arm.
  • In World of Warcraft, Onyxia posed as Lady Katrana Prestor in order to give the very young king Anduin Wrynn bad advice that kept Stormwind weak.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Double Homework, the protagonist is the only one who notices on the first day of summer school that Dennis is more sinister than your average nerd.
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Manfred von Karma. The thing most characters in-game focus on when discussing him is his incredible record as a prosecutor, but... frankly, the guy may as well have 'evil' stamped across his forehead. And then he talks, and it just gets worse.
    • Damon Gant, Morgan Fey and Kristoph Gavin are better disguised versions, but still obviously bad people.
    • And Matt Engarde is a much better-disguised version. Also his butler, aka Shelly De Killer.
    • Most culprits have a bad habit of turning into this as the trial goes on, suffering Freak Outs when Phoenix has them on the ropes and openly gloating when they have the upper hand, to the point that, if they were being judged by a real-life jury, most of them would probably be convicted just by how suspicious they're acting. It's implied this very thing might have happened at the end of case 4-4 to Kristoph Gavin, as the new (or, in North America, revived) Jurist System was a key part of that trial.


    Web Original 
  • Exaggerated in To Boldly Flee. Mechakara is this from the start: his voice noticeably synthesized and he acts completely differently from Linkara. Then he assimilates the Nostalgia Chick, and she looks like Seven of Nine, her voice is even more synthesized, and she starts using Robo Speak. And then he assimilates Todd, who becomes Robocop. Most of them still don't notice.
  • The Cinema Snob:
    • Snob is particularly irritated by The Driller Killer's lack of subtlety with regard to who the slasher is.
    • A Running Gag in the Pieces review.
      Kendall: [innocently] But I don't know the killer!
      Snob: Sure you do! It's THE DEAN!
  • Philosophy Tube: Inverted with the character of the Traveling Salesman, AKA the Arsonist, from "Steve Bannon". He's charming, witty, and often directly calls the audience clever, brave or special, in order to sway them to his side. He talks a lot about how people, him included, often get accused of being arsonists for simply lighting a cigarette, and paints the people accusing them of arson as oversensitive and not worth listening to... all the while mentioning arson attacks that just so happened to occur wherever he goes. Towards the end of the video, the camera slowly pans out to show him leaning on a gas tank, and in the final segment, the Salesman questions the true intentions of firefighters, while ordering several tanks of propane and making a Molotov cocktail out of a bottle of booze, before putting a cigarette in his mouth and directly asking the viewer for a match. The point of the character is to gradually show the viewer how fascist talking points can be hidden in plain sight while slowly gaining the trust of its target audience.
    Abigail Thorn: So, fire is a metaphor for fascism, obvs — the point of the Travelling Salesman is to show that villains like him aren't always obvious. All the techniques I talk about in the video, he then uses — he's very charming, he makes you feel special, (...) he appeals to traditional values like trust and freedom — and all the while he is the Arsonist.
  • Played for Laughs in one video of The Spoony Experiment where Dr. Insano ran for president... and won.
    Dr. Insano: My advisor was Fu Manchu for God's sake, how can you be this STUPID!?! (insane giggling laughter)
  • In A Very Potter Musical, Quirrell/Voldemort are played by two people standing back-to-back in the same set of robes. Quirrel's turban covers Voldemort's head, but it looks exactly like what it is: a second head, covered by a turban. Also, the turban occasionally sneezes. Needless to say, this is played for laughs.
  • Whateley Universe: Don Sebastiano — that's his chosen codename. I mean, he's known as 'The Don', he turned two teenagers into mindslaves last year, and he's still walking around campus as the head of the Alphas. Yet no one in the school administration seems to realize how badly he needs to be stopped. It's later revealed that they DO know - even the Headmistress is fully aware. But they're keeping him on because he is the only link they have to the real as-of-yet-unknown mastermind behind his actions....
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series: Bakura is this to a huge degree. His introduction scene is complete with Ominous Latin Chanting and when asked to show his favourite card, he whips out a picture of Sephiroth before hastily replacing it.
    • And Alex Brisbane, Mr "I'm Most Definitely Not a Villain". Fortunately, he only has to trick Tristan, Tea, Joey, and Yugi, which isn't exactly difficult.
    • And then there's Marik Ishtar "Malik Blishtar"...
      Joey: (thinking) I still think there's something fishy about that guy...
      Marik: Wahahaha! Destroy you all!
      Joey: (thinking) Man, if I could only put my finger on it...

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time has Ricardio The Heart Guy. Finn can automatically tell that he's evil due to his appearance, but no one believes him. Jake thinks he is not evil, he just looks like he is.
  • "The Precious, Wonderful, Adorable, Loveable Duckling" from the Courage the Cowardly Dog episode of the same name.
  • The Fairly OddParents!: Vicky is constantly left in charge of Timmy despite obviously being a malicious monster. Inverted in that Timmy's parents are the only ones who don't notice that Vicky is evil. They eventually do find out she's evil, but it gets Reset Buttoned because it's that kind of show.
    Dad: Now Chip Skylark's hit song "Icky Vicky" finally makes sense!
    Doug Dimmadome: Well, what did you think that song was about? Pumpkins?!
    Dad: .....Yes!
  • Stewie on Family Guy, during its early episodes. It probably helped that no one expects an infant to be an Evil Overlord wannabe.
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: "Everyone Knows It's Bendy" revolves around a new friend, Bendy, who goes around making trouble, blaming it on others, and getting away with it by playing on the sympathies of Mr. Herriman and Frankie in a painfully melodramatic fashion.
  • G.I. Joe: Renegades: The newest incarnation of Cobra has the ruthless terrorist organization posing as a benevolent corporation providing essentials such as defense technology, pharmaceuticals, retail outlets, and apple pie. Their corporate logo not only bares a casual resemblance to the classic "hooded cobra" symbol of the original, but it also closely resembles the Greek letter "Omega". Add to that, the CEO "Adam Decobray" has never been seen in public, and even putting on his best nice-guy voice in video conferences, he still sounds like the creepiest, most sinister man that ever lived (as opposed the to horror it really is) thanks to Charlie Adler's fiendishly subtle acting.
  • Zim in Invader ZIM.
    • Dib has apparently cried wolf so many times that the rest of the class seems to ignore the obvious signs to spite him (also because their world is full of ridiculous people like Old Kid and because everyone is remarkably stupid). This is one of the primary reasons for fans of the show Rooting for the Empire. It's hard to support the human race when they are - almost completely - Too Dumb to Live and the prime example of the show's Crapsack World.
      • "It's like they want to be destroyed!"
    • The only other person who knows Zim for what he truly is, is Dib's scary sister, Gaz. But she doesn't lift a finger since she believes Zim is too stupid for his schemes to work. And most of the time she's right.
  • Vertex in Rollbots. In one episode, he is in a disguise (which is about as sinister as when undisguised) and directly has a conversation with Pounder and Aria of all people, right in front of Spin, the one person who knows the truth about him.
  • Angelica of Rugrats, though occasionally she did get caught. Her role was eventually trumped by Savannah Shane in both Rugrats Preschool Daze and All Grown Up!. However, unlike Angelica, she has yet to receive any real comeuppance or consequences.
  • Jessica Lovejoy from The Simpsons episode "Bart's Girlfriend". Her parents (the local minister and his wife) know that she's a troublemaker, but consistently look the other way because they do not want to bring disgrace upon the Lovejoy family. This allows Jessica to be both this trope and a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing - and to frame innocent boyfriends (in this case, Bart) for her many misdeeds.
  • South Park.:
    • Eric Cartman. In many ways, this trope is averted: after all, most of the characters know just how horrible he is. That said, Stan and Kyle oftentimes get punished right alongside him, despite being generally good kids who are usually trying to stop whatever evil scheme he has going. This becomes especially painful (not to mention a Downer Ending) in "Toilet Paper," in which they're given much harsher punishments despite being genuinely apologetic—unlike Cartman, who only apologized so they would get most of the blame. The best example, which is lampshaded, is the episode "Cartman's Incredible Gift". In the episode, Cartman pretends to have psychic powers and the police blindly listen to whatever he says, ignoring important evidence. Kyle suspects a disturbed man to be a vicious serial killer (he is) and tries to tell the police about him but they are completely blind to the killer's suspicious behavior and mannerisms and make no attempt to bring him in for questioning.
    • A better example would be the one-time character Hat McCulloch, a murderer of 23 babies who has a very large following of fans who believe his innocence. At the end, when they do get him released from jail, the man seems to blurt out "Kill the innocent" and "Rape the virgins", and then finally asks for a baby, who the townspeople promptly hand over.
  • Remember how bad Palpatine was at hiding his evil-ness in the Prequels? Well in Star Wars: The Clone Wars he's even worse. He nigh constantly wears a huge, smug, blatantly evil smile and when he's not smiling he's scowling which just makes him look more evil. Add on to this his laugh and his general lack of concern when it comes to dangerous situations and it's ridiculous that nobody caught on sooner.
  • In Thunder Cats 2011, Catfolk Grune is an ambitious and rapidly rising military man who quite blatantly drops conversational hints to his friend and fellow soldier Panthro that he hopes to become The Usurper of Thundera:
    Grune: Look at us, Panthro, soon we'll run this entire kingdom.
    Panthro: You planning on becoming a lion?
    Grune: No, I'm planning on becoming king.
  • The Golden Eagle Twins in El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera. Two twins who take advantage of their superhero fame to scam the locals into getting whatever they want. Only Manny and Frida are aware of this.
  • Total Drama:
  • Transformers: Animated:
    • Soundwave definitely qualifies in his premiere episode. Bulkhead spends half the episode trying to convince everyone else that the robot is evil. Guess who was right.
    • Longarm also fits, given that he was hinted the entirety of "Autoboot Camp" to be The Mole. The fact that he was actually Shockwave in disguise, we didn't see coming.
  • Ultimate Spider-Man (2012): Spider-Man had no idea that Norman Osborn is the one who put a price on his head and is obsessed with capturing him. In which case, there were some Flashback Cuts showing him too busy hanging out with Harry and is oblivious to Norman destroying pictures of Spidey who is right in front of him.


Video Example(s):


"Dogura, Servant of Justice"

Dogura is able to successfully present himself as a hero to a group of children, who don't seem at all suspicious of the fact that he's a skull-faced demon.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / DevilInPlainSight

Media sources: