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Easy Impersonation

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Nailed it.

Oh no! The Cape's reputation is in jeopardy! All of a sudden, he's being accused of crimes he's never committed, and the police are after him! He knows that he never committed such vile deeds. Surely this must be the work of an evil Doppelgänger!

After trying to clear his name, the hero finally finds his impersonator, who... doesn't really look that much like him. For starters, his insignia looks like it was made of cardboard, his costume is black, and, of course, he has that goatee. And don't even get started on how he renders the hero's catch phrase.

In a nutshell, this is when the hero's Evil Twin or other evil lookalike doesn't look that much like their duplicate at all. It seems that the only reason anyone could possibly have mistaken one for the other is because the entire populace had just been handed the Idiot Ball. In extreme cases, the doppelganger never actually intended to fool anyone: they just looked vaguely similar, so people mistook one for the other anyway.

This trope is often used for comedy. When played seriously, this can be a case of Viewers Are Morons: While subtle differences in appearance are both expected and useful for the viewer, it can be insulting when the similarities between them are few and far between. If you have to ask yourself, "Wait, how could you have possibly mistaken one for the other?" then it's probably this trope.

Compare Paper-Thin Disguise. See also Costume Copycat and Alleged Lookalikes. See Hugh Mann when a non-human impersonates a human with too much ease.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Di Gi Charat (1999): In one episode, Dejiko is accused of various misdeeds by the other members of the cast. Though she insists she's innocent, no-one believes her. She attempts to bribe the other characters into forgiving her with some Dejiko Candy, which happens to draw out her imitator, which is simply a blob with a Dejiko hat.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) has the Other Brothers Elric. Though they're not evil, they do cause trouble for Ed and Al. And vice versa, actually. For example, the fake Elrics get arrested when a warrant goes out for the real one. Now, the fake Elrics do look somewhat like the real ones did before they lost or maimed their bodies, but no-one who saw them since would be fooled. Ed has Artificial Limbs, and Al is Animated Armor. Part of this is just that nobody who hasn't seen them before seems to know what they look like, and just assumes it's them based on the height difference and blonde hair. It's part of the same gag for why people mistake Al for Ed.
  • One Piece:
    • After the Time Skip, the Straw Hats return to Sabaody to learn that a bunch of imitators are trying to use their reputation to bluff and bully other people. The fakes' disguises are poor, to say the least (for example, Fake Luffy and Sogeking are overweight and bearded, and Fake Chopper is a fox), but everyone assumes the "Straw Hats" must have changed in the two years since they were last seen. The real Straw Hats don't seem to care either way, (except for when the dumber crewmates fall for the ploy), and are willing to let their impersonators suffer the inevitable consequences of pretending to be world-class criminals.
    • Duval suffers from an interesting variation. When the Marines' photographer failed to get a picture of Sanji, they made a crude drawing for his wanted poster that only vaguely resembles Sanji. But the drawing looks exactly like Duval, forcing the man to go on the run from Marines and hide his face with an iron mask. All is forgiven when Sanji gives him a face lift, though.
  • Pokémon: The Series: Team Rocket does this a lot with their Paper-Thin Disguise schticks and manage to fool the cast most of the time. At one point, as part of a distraction scheme, Team Rocket made their disguises deliberately look forced and fake to let people know that they are just imposters.

    Comic Books 
  • Dark Avengers: Venom poses as Spider-Man, leading Spider-Man to get a bad reputation for murdering people and eating squirrels. Strangely, the new "Spider-Man" is wearing the black suit, while the other one is wearing the ol' red and blue, coupled with the fact that Venom usually has a big toothy mouth and a giant tongue, and is about twice Spidey's size. Suffice to say, New York citizens of Earth-616 tend to be thick-skulled.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe:
    • One-shot villain Perfidus was initially mistaken for the superhero Paperinik. Justified as their costumes look similar at distance and nobody got a good look at Perfidus until Paperinik's car crashed into his.
    • In another occasion, a thief wearing a copy of Fantomius' costume was mistaken for Paperinik due the hero's costume being a variation of his' (Paperinik's first costume in fact was Fantomius' original costume).

    Films — Animated 
  • In The Bad Guys (2022), this is Mr. Shark's gimmick. Despite being an anthropomorphic great white shark whose disguises consist of a wig, a fake nose and/or facial hair, and a changed pitch in voice, everyone not in on the con falls for it.
  • Batman: Mask of the Phantasm: Batman is initially blamed for the Phantasm killings. Justified in that they both use similar stealth tactics, preventing people from getting a good look at either of them and thus making it easy to mistake the newcomer for the (relatively) familiar one.
  • The Toy Story short "Small Fry" has a small happy meal-esque toy of Buzz Lightyear trying to replace the real Buzz. Everyone can see he's an impostor, because he's about three inches tall, has a huge head, a squeaky voice and has wheels on his feet. Everyone, that is, except for Rex.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Dark Knight: Batman has to deal with a number of impostors who, upon close examination, barely resemble him (one's overweight). Leads to the "hockey pads" line. Of course, since Batman is essentially an American Ninja, few people ever get a closer look at him. It's also worth noting that the Scarecrow—the one guy in this scene who had fought Batman before—recognized that these Batmen were impostors, mostly because they used guns.
  • Help!: While the Beatles are at Scotland Yard, the bad guys telephone for them. The Inspector plays Ringo, bragging at being "a bit of a mimic, you know, James Cagney..." and proceeds with a ludicrous impression peppered with 'gear, fab'... George smirks "Not a bit like Cagney!"
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: The pirate who has been impersonating Captain Jack Sparrow (and very convincingly, at that) turns out to be a girl.

    Live-Action TV 
  • American Vandal: The season 1 finale heavily implies a fairly downplayed, realistic version of this.
    Peter: Van and Dylan are both 5'10" Caucasian males with wide builds. Alex Trimboli claimed he saw Dylan wearing a hoodie, but maybe he didn't get that clear of a look. It's not crazy to think that Trimboli saw Van Delorey instead.
  • The A-Team: In "Showdown," all the members of the fake A-Team are distinct from the originals, but B.A.'s imposter is especially noteworthy, as he is shorter, skinnier, and has a different haircut than B.A. However, most people have never actually seen the A-Team, so he can get away with it.
  • All That: In a Superdude skit, Superdude (Kenan Thompson) was baffled that an impostor (Amanda Bynes) had all the people fooled. He even lampshaded the fact that a small white girl looks nothing like a larger black guy and that she didn't even have superpowers.
  • Broad City: In "Co-op," Abbi impersonates Ilana to cover her shift at the co-op, even though they look and act nothing alike.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In "Intervention", when the Scoobies mistake the Buffybot for Buffy, she gets very angry that they cannot tell the difference. To be fair, the 'Bot does really look like her....until it opens its mouth, of course.
  • Doctor Who: In "Rose", the first episode of the revived series, Mickey is replaced by an Auton duplicate (still played by Noel Clarke, but with very obvious Auton makeup). Rose doesn't notice a thing.
  • Luke Cage (2016): The villainous Diamondback frames Luke Cage for killing a cop by... putting on a hoodie, committing the deed in broad daylight, and yelling "I'm Luke Cage!" as he walks away from the scene of the crime. Although they are half-brothers and Diamondback is deliberately exploiting the racist sentiment that black Americans all look the same to white people, they really do not look (or sound) much alike at all. Nevertheless, it somehow works.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: During the episode "Hobgoblins", the Satellite of Love crew creates cardboard cut-outs of themselves and plays a generic tape recording. This fools Pearl and Bobo. Brain Guy can see through the disguise, but has trouble convincing the others until Mike's cut-out falls down and he enters the frame to right it.
  • Starsky & Hutch: One episode revolves around an attempt to discredit Starsky and Hutch by having impersonators commit crimes. While the impostors bear a fair general resemblance, it's nowhere near good enough to justify having a woman who knows the real cops on sight get a good look at both pairs, five minutes apart, and be unable to tell the difference.
  • Wonder Woman: In "Stolen Faces", the main plot revolves around the bad guys impersonating Steve Trevor with a perfect mask and impersonating Wonder Woman with...a random woman hired through the classifieds. The impersonator doesn't even come close to Lynda Carter's physique.
  • Ultraman: This is Alien Zarab's hat, the ability to imperfectly duplicate the Ultra hero of whatever series he appears in. Despite the inclusion of otherwise-absent black stripes and glowing pointy red eyes, the Japanese public are always fooled. Interestingly, in Shin Ultraman this is played with and averted for the first time in the franchise. Zarab's disguise still has slightly pointier eyes but is otherwise near-perfect, making it more believable that he could be mistaken for Ultraman- and yet, Ultraman's True Companions are still able to tell the difference.

    Video Games 
  • In Sonic Adventure 2, Sonic is imprisoned for crimes committed by the recently un-Sealed Badass in a Can, Shadow the Hedgehog. Where this trope comes into play is the fact that Shadow has a different coloration, different spike patterns, and otherwise only has the slightest of similarities. While an argument can be mounted that Shadow made his attack in the dead of night while moving too quick to get a clear view, later a reporter puts up very clear footage of Shadow and claiming him to be Sonic. This also falls under the "Not even trying to fool anyone" clause; when they finally meet, each claims that the other is their fake. This would have made more sense with an alpha design of Shadow, who looked more like a buffer Sonic with darker fur, but this design was likely scrapped for being too similar to Sonic.
    • And of course, the scene where Amy, Sonic's stalker, mistakes Shadow for him, despite her approaching him in broad daylight while he's having a non-hostile conversation with Dr. Robotnik. She quickly realises her mistake after she hugs him.
    • Amy has also mistaken Silver the Hedgehog for Sonic (again, different spike patterns and color) in Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), and in Sonic Unleashed she glomped Sonic himself without noticing that he had been transformed into a hedgehog-werewolf (Ironically, once she did notice, she actually thought she had the wrong guy until Sonic saves her later in spite of the Werehog being pretty recognizable as Sonic, in spite of the changes). Theory has it that Amy is near-sighted though both examples occurring during the night may also play a role in her confusion.
  • In Super Mario RPG, Valentina manages to convince the people of Nimbus Land, a race of puffy cloud people, that her giant, overweight bird partner Dodo is their missing prince.
  • In the opening act of Super Mario Sunshine, Mario is sent to Kangaroo Court and imprisoned based on his resemblance to a rough police sketch of the perpetrator: Shadow Mario, whose eyes and skin are the wrong colour (red and dark blue respectively).
    • Made especially stupid when even a casual observer would have noticed that Mario had only been in the country for a matter of minutes when he was arrested, making it impossible for him to have committed the crimes that had been happening over the past week.
  • Played hilariously straight, along with a Lampshade Hanging, in this comic accompanying the WAR! Update in Team Fortress 2.
    RED Demoman: *Bzzt* "I-will-kill-the-Soldier." *Bzzt* *Bzzt* "He-is-a-bad-friend." *Bzzt*
    BLU Soldier: "Ahhhh, but damnit - it doesn't matter what he said in that weird robot voice I've never heard him talk in before."
    • Not to mention the in-game disguise ability of the Spy class. While the spy looks like the intended class to everyone on the opposite team, everyone on the Spy's team sees them as they are, wearing a paper mask of the intended target.
  • Guilty Gear XX plays it straight in its first rendition. Robo-Ky is mistaken for Ky by many people, though some persons such as Anji and Baiken or Johnny see through it. A bunch of lampshades are hung by Ky.
    Ky: I am astonished.
    Robo-Ky: Hmm?
    Ky: To think that people would mistake me and you...
  • Subverted in Paper Mario, where a group of Duplighosts put themselves in disguise pretending to be Kooper. While they all claim to be Kooper (a young Koopa Troopa), they take the appearances of Goompa (an elderly Goomba), Kolorado (a middle-aged Koopa Troopa dressed like a 19th-century expeditionist), Koopa Koot (an elderly Koopa Troopa with a cane), and Luigi (Mario's human brother). Kooper lampshades this complaining about the Duplighosts' stupidity and the ease of determining who the real Kooper is. If Mario attacks the real Kooper, he'll lampshade it further, accusing Mario of hitting him on purpose.
  • Ultima VII: There's a fake avatar who, prior to your arrival, has been taking advantage of your good name and reputation in order to get free stuff and services. He looks nothing like the Avatar. Especially hilarious if you play as a woman. Justified in that you've been gone for two centuries and nobody expected you to return, but there are supposedly paintings of you...
  • Exaggerated in Shantae and the Pirate's Curse, when you enter a certain temple you are mistaken for the resident princess, and forbidden to leave (because the princess has to be safe). Fair enough, so far. Then it turns out that your friends and allies are also mistaken for the princess: Sky, who has big yellow feathers on top of her head; Risky, a purple-skinned skull-clad pirate; and Rottytops, a green-skinned zombie. Of course they look nothing like one another either, and there was only one princess to begin with. After a long level, the real princess finally shows up and looks absolutely nothing like any of the above.
  • In a rare case of this being Played for Drama, Resident Evil: Survivor gives us protagonist Ark Thompson flying to Sheena Island and merely introducing himself as Vincent Goldman, the main villain, in order to do undercover work. Everyone on the island takes this at face value (except for Lott Klein), and in the case of one character, Andy Holland, it also makes Ark the target of several assassination attempts, as well as confusing Ark's identity when he suffers amnesia at the beginning of the game.

    Visual Novels 
  • Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair: The Ultimate Imposter is able to perfectly replicate the person they're impersonating, down to copying the person's personality, appearance, voice and even talent. However, when it comes to appearance, the Imposter's incredibly fat body shape doesn't change and it's the most blatant detail to distinguish the Imposter from the original. The Imposter's obsession with food also tends to blend over the real person's personality in some situations. The disguise still works very effectively, since they are able to fool anyone who hasn't seen or met the real person.
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Furio Tigre impersonates Phoenix Wright at one point during Trials and Tribulations, purely because they have similar hair. Note that Tigre is buff, has a completely different disposition, and is orange. Oh, and his attorney's badge is made of cardboard. At least the writers had the decency to lampshade the sheer stupidity required on the part of everyone involved in the case to not recognize that it wasn't him. According to the defendant, everyone in the courtroom was pretty confused. She implies that no one spoke out because it was all basically an Elephant in the Room. That doesn't really explain how no one questioned Furio Tigre's cover story that his skin was orange because he caught a tan while vacationing in Hawaii. It's also lampshaded in a later case, when Edgeworth, upon hearing that a cardboard defense attorney badge fooled the courtroom, wonders how the hell the country's judiciary system fell so far.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: Subverted in the episode "In Your Footsteps". A bear dresses up like Finn, wearing unfitting clothes and a crude mask and appears to have everyone fooled when he's dancing with Princess Bubblegum at the party, but it turns out they were just playing along because they thought it was one of Finn's pranks.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: When Bobert tries to replace Gumball, he perfectly replicates his voices but visually all he does is put a crude drawing of Gumball over himself, yet everyone falls for it.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes has a Skrull impersonating Captain America for the first few episodes of the second season. The Skrull wears Ultimate Captain America's suit, even though the real Cap has the costume from the main Marvel Universe. He did wear the normal costume when capturing Cap, and while viewers know that the Skrull pulled off this charade for two months, they don't know exactly how much time passed until he changed his clothes. This might justify the fact the Avengers never questioned the costume change onscreen.
  • In the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode, "Game Over for Owlman!", Batman is framed for crimes committed by his evil counterpart from a mirror universe. Said double is wearing a costume with pointier ears and a darker color scheme—admittedly, it's a costume that the real Batman did wear in the past. Still, it's odd that Batman's superhero allies all fall for the ruse, and the Joker is the only person who figures out it's an impostor.
  • Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers:
    • One episode has Dale picking up a meteorite fragment that gives him the ability to stretch and expand his body. He adopts the Secret Identity of "Rubber Bando" and leaves the rest of the Rangers feeling inadequate. Unfortunately, a bigger chunk of the meteorite has fallen into the hands of a sleazy travel agent named Seymour, who begins abusing its power to steal entire monuments. Naturally, his shenanigans are blamed on Dale, even though Seymour is quite obviously several times bigger. Though that might be just a tiny bit justified given the nature of their powers.
    • Another episode involves Fat Cat's gang kidnapping TV star Flash the Wonder Dog, then engaging in a crime spree while wearing "Flash" masks. Since Fat Cat's gang consists of two cats note , a rat, a mole and a lizard, none of them look anything like Flash, even with the masks, and they don't sound like him either. Despite this, Flash still gets blamed for all the trouble, with even the producer of Flash's TV show fooled by the disguises, and the Rangers must clear Flash's name and save his reputation.
  • In Gummi Bears, while not abused as such, Cubbi's alter ego of the Crimson Avenger ends up wrapped in so much legend that no one bats an eye when someone who is most obviously not the diminutive bear shows up in costume claiming to be the Zorro-esque (or perhaps more appropriately, Red Whirlwind-esque) hero.
  • One episode of Johnny Bravo has him wind up in the jungle and gets mistaken for local superhero Jungle Boy because he's wearing the same loincloth. He reaps the benefits of Jungle Boy's reputation with the Funny Animal locals until the real Jungle Boy shows up, when the wildlife get horribly confused about which one is the real one. Bear in mind that Johnny is a full-size adult with huge muscles, always wears sunglasses, and has a deep voice, whereas Jungle Boy actually is a little kid barely up to Johnny's waist, has a scrawny physique and no headgear, and sounds the way a little boy would sound like.
    • An earlier cartoon had the evil King Raymond do this on purpose to try and destroy Jungle Boy's reputation. Again, the wildlife couldn't tell the difference between a small child in a loincloth and a shaved gorilla in a loincloth and wig, until Raymond decided to "prove" himself by singing opera, triggering a rockslide that knocked off his wig and exposing the deception.
  • Kablam: This happens in an Action League Now segment. The Flesh is replaced with an evil robot double, who while he does look like the Flesh, also speaks in a monotone voice and has bolts sticking out everywhere. The robot ultimately fools everybody, even the Action League. Stinky Diver is only able to tell them apart by shouting out "Hey, Stupid!" The real Flesh looks over and says, "Yes?"
  • One episode of The Powerpuff Girls (1998) had a trio of burglars get into Powerpuff Girls Halloween costumes and claim to be the Powerpuff Girls. Despite being about three times taller than the girls, with masculine voices and hairier legs and fingers, everyone except Ms. Bellum actually believed that they were the Powerpuff Girls, and the girls got in trouble for everything the crooks did.
    • During their climactic showdown even the girls and their impersonators had trouble telling which was which, until the real Blossom told them all they should only fight their counterparts.
  • In an episode of Sabrina's Secret Life, Sabrina and Cassandra conjure a pair of doppelgangers in order to take their place during Broom Volleyball trainings while they're at a party. Sabrina's doppelganger is evil and later messes a lot around (with the Cassandra one, who is good instead, being forced to follow her)... and everyone thinks they're the real ones, when not only they have magic symbols on their foreheads, but also their hairdos are slightly different to the original ones in order to make the aforemented symbols more visible.
  • The Simpsons: Played for Laughs in the episode "Burns' Heir". Mr. Burns tries to convince Bart that his family doesn't want him around by showing him "hidden camera footage" of the Simpsons at home saying things like "I don't miss Bart at all" in incredibly stiff, forced voices. Bart suspects something is up when Homer drops his sandwich and says "B'oh!", prompting Burns to sneak off to the sound stage where the actors are and yell at them. When he returns, he shows Bart footage of fake!Homer saying "Duh-oh!", which convinces a heartbroken Bart that it's real.
  • Deconstructed in The Spectacular Spider-Man. When Chameleon impersonates Spider-Man, his impersonation is bad enough that the audience, who constantly sees the wall crawler in action, clearly know it's a fake, but to people in the actual world, most of whom have never seen anything more than a photograph, he's close enough to convince them. Captain Stacey is familiar enough with the web head to immediately know he's a fake. It's later played ridiculously straight when Venom tries to frame Spider-Man, and nobody (except Stacey) notices that he's two feet taller, built like a brick, fights completely differently, and has razor sharp teeth and a salivating tongue. Oh, and his costume is black. They're practically twins!
  • Played for Laughs in SpongeBob SquarePants in that the duplicate of Mr. Krabs made by Plankton was horrendously fake and Squidward sees right through it (but played along when the duplicate gave him the rest of the day off). However, Spongebob still couldn't tell the difference, despite the fake talking in a Creepy Monotone, having an obviously metal body, and shooting lasers.
    SpongeBob: Wow, Mr. Krabs, I didn't know you had heat vision!
  • In Street Sharks, the Big Bad is able to use poorly-constructed disguises and robotic duplicates to frame the sharks for various crimes. The only reason he gets away with it is because the people of the town are generally really stupid. There's also a point in the episode where footage of Slash and Slobster robbing a bank is passed off as the sharks committing the crime. Their names are only cleared when Leena calls the police and tells them that the sharks were allegedly attacking somewhere else at exactly that same time, so they can't be in two places at once. Never mind that the footage is of a mutant lobster and marlin and not, y'know, sharks!
  • In an episode of Sushi Pack, four members of the Pack are framed for robbing a bus, and are sentenced to house arrest, despite surveillance video showing the real culprits are simply the members of The Legion of Lowtide painted to be the right colors.
  • In the 1980s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, Shredder sends mutant frogs on a crime spree, and the Turtles get blamed. When the two groups finally confront each other, Donatello lampshades this by saying "I am so insulted. How could they mistake these things for turtles?"
    • In an earlier episode, Shredder trains a group of karate students and sends them on a crime spree wearing bad turtle costumes and calling themselves "the Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang". Naturally, Channel 6 News eats it right up, since its boss and one of the reporters hates the turtles anyway.
  • The Tick:
    • A hilarious example when criminals stole Tick and Arthur's arms and went on a crime spree. (The only part of them that even slightly resembled Tick and Arthur were... their arms. Despite that, everybody was fooled.)
    • Another example: An alien creates a clone of Arthur, which is noticeably green, deformed, and can only say "I... Arthur." When the clone and the real Arthur try to prove to The Tick who's the real deal, Arthur tells about a deeply personal event they had earlier and that no one else would know about... while the clone just says "I... Arthur." The Tick's response? Well, both of those statements are true, so he can't tell for sure.
  • Underdog was once jailed for crimes committed by Tap-Tap the Chiseler. Despite being a cigar smoker, Tap-Tap fooled everyone with his Underdog costume.