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Hidden Depths

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Idris: Are all people like this?
The Doctor: Like what?
Idris: So much bigger on the inside.

People are rarely all that they seem at first glance. Without getting into An Aesop about books and covers and ugly ducks and swans and frogs that when kissed turn into robots, it's fairly true to say that people are mostly visually oriented, and go by first impressions. So when it turns out that The Big Guy who can bend steel bars is also a Harvard alumnus with a penchant for pontificating on the power of prose, people are justifiably taken aback.

This is not so much a character type being subverted as it is getting Character Development in unexpected directions. Much like Playing Against Type, it can be something that seemingly goes against the character type, or combines two different, seemingly opposite roles or characters into one more Round Character. The talent or quirk is rarely impossible for the character to have, just unexpected: people aren't just their job or surface personality after all. The Smart Guy who's a cooking wiz because he had to take care of his younger siblings, or The Ditz who's a Black Belt because her dad wanted her to be able to defend herself are two examples. Hidden Depths can be discovered in Back Story or organically as a story progresses, but if used improperly can crop up in a Plot Tailored to the Party to give a character the necessary skills. Why did they never mention it? "You Didn't Ask".


    Character type(s) and their usual Hidden depth 

This Rebus Bubble list might take a while to fill.

Of course, since these are common enough to have become a trope, they are less of a surprise than more — unusual depths. Indeed, some hidden depths are so common that making the surface and depth the same surprises the reader. In more extreme cases, a completely Flat Character becomes a Rounded Character.

If the audience is aware of the depths but not all the characters are, Dramatic Irony is almost bound to occur. If it happens gradually, it's essentially Flanderization in reverse. May be demonstrated when a character catches the Smart Ball.

For more examples, see the index.



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  • Head and Shoulders shampoo has done several ads starring NFL player Troy Polamalu due to his long, full-bodied hair; an ad for "Head and Shoulders Deep" depicts him as an accomplished classical pianist. "Deep... like me."
  • One of the reasons Joe Namath was picked as an "Olivetti girl" was his skill as a typist.

    Comic Strips 
  • Dykes to Watch Out For: Sparrow, described by the author as "the most cartoony of my characters," started as a fairly one-dimensional therapy-head and New Ager; she later came out as bisexual, had a child, became an atheist, and developed a grumpy side to her
  • Though he has an outward appearance of a typical bratty 6-year old, Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes at times displays a degree of philosophical depth and intelligence you wouldn't expect from someone his age; usually in his conversations with Hobbes. It's tremendously pronounced in Calvin's case; many adults aren't as intelligent as Calvin is. Calvin has repeatedly shown an intelligence of someone far older and even then, quite a few adults wouldn't be able to to make the same kinds of points that Calvin does with the same amount of articulateness or intelligence. It's even lampshaded in one of the later strips where Calvin's teacher humorously states that if he put a fraction of the energy he did into studying rather than avoiding it, he'd easily be a straight A student.
  • The Italian strip Lupo Alberto has Enrico La Talpa. He's usually just an obnoxious Jerk with a Heart of Gold, most infamous among the fans for his patently false war stories and overestimating his own abilities... And then, once in a while, he reveals some hidden skill, such as reading hieroglyphs (not as well as he thinks, but the fact he can do it at all and without any book to consult is already a lot), and a huge knowledge of trivia that few people can match. Best shown when he once jokingly compared the rainy weather to the summer of Cherrapunji and left almost the entire farm, in stunned silence wondering just what Cherrapunji was because nobody else was familiar with the place (the series of strip ended with Alcide, the local intellectual, trying to get the reaction from Enrico, not knowing it had been him to introduce the saying to the farm, only for Enrico to make him scream by replying "You can say it's the spring of Cherrapunji).

    Films — Animation 
  • Tangled:
    • Played for Laughs with the thugs in the Snuggly Duckling; they may be criminals, but they're also florists, mimes, pianists, romantics, even singers! They even become Big Damn Heroes to break Eugene out of jail.
    • Eugene casually mentions that he used to read to the other orphans at the orphanage he grew up in. Also, that he really dreamed of being a character from the books, whose wealth let him do all sorts of things, which puts a new light on his Greed.
  • In An Extremely Goofy Movie it's revealed that PJ (a Rounded Character already), who is shown to be sensible but usually not very intelligent in the academic sense, is somewhat skilled in the field of free-verse poetry. This managed to surprise not only Bobby, but also Max, who had been friends with PJ for seven years at the time. His poem is about how people tend to overlook overweight people without noticing how interesting they can be.
  • The studio's elephant mascot from Cats Don't Dance is a talented pianist. In fact, it's arguably part of the plot that their depths have to be hidden because of the prejudice in Hollywood; all of them are remarkably skilled in some way (for example, the goat and the fish are actually extraordinarily skilled tango dancers), but Hollywood won't give them a fair shot, forcing them to play bit-part and/or demeaning roles to make ends meet.
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks: Sunset Shimmer reveals that she can shred out a pretty good guitar solo at the end of the film.
  • Trolls:
    • Poppy is perpetually optimistic to the point of naiveté, but she's also very resourceful, as shown during a musical sequence in which she survives multiple dangers in the forest even before Branch joins her. Also, the reason Branch joins her is because Poppy came up with a plan to drive him out of his bunker by inviting all the other Trolls, banking on the knowledge that Branch will prefer a dangerous mission than be at a perpetual party.
    • Branch also has hidden depths, revealing a rather poetic and romantic side when secretly feeding lines to help Bridget on her date.
  • Zootopia: Chief Bogo seems like your typical tough guy chief, but some of the comments he makes imply he's more aware of the broken system than is readily apparent.
    Chief Bogo: The world has always been broken. That's why we need good cops.
  • Ralph Breaks the Internet: When Vanellope meets the Disney Princesses, they all reveal that they're not as "perfect" as they're made up to be in the worlds of their respective movies. Notably, Jasmine's allergic to cats, Snow White needs glasses to see, and no one can understand Merida due to her thick Gaelic accent. It's also revealed that the Princesses themselves don't know anything about modern fashion until they meet Vanellope.
  • Batman Mystery Of The Batwoman:
    • Mafia Princess Kathy Duquesne is a painter, something she learned from her mother, and plays lots of sports like tennis and marathons.
    • Rocky is a bit of a Gamer Chick and quickly befriends Tim helping him beat a level.
    • No-nonsense police detective Sonia Alcana also took art classes in the past, which is how she met Kathy and recruited her to become part of her vigilante Collective Identity.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • This trope is the point of the 2008 documentary American Teen. The documentary follows five high-school students in a very rural and average Midwestern town in Warsaw, Indiana: Hannah, Colin, Megan, Mitch, and Jake. Each of them are all meant to be some kind of person that you would have known in your own high school: the quirky and unique girl, the all-star athlete, the popular girl with everything going for her, the heartthrob, and the nerd/gamer, respectively. Hannah has a hard time fitting in with a rural town because she's so liberal and she falls into a severe depression when she's dumped in the beginning of the film, Colin's entire future is riding on getting on a basketball scholarship and his father rides him hard over this, Megan is under tremendous pressure to be accepted into the prestigious University of Notre Dame because the rest of her family went there, and Jake worries about finding a relationship that's meant to last.

    The only one who doesn't seem to have any substantial depth like the others is Mitch, who, perhaps coincidentally or not, is focused on significantly less than the other four and is even left out of some posters for the film. Playing video games doesn't really cause a bunch of angst.
  • Deconstructed in Apocalypse Now with the playmates. Beneath the first impression of being a couple of pretty, braindead bimbos, one of them shows true enthusiasm for ornithology and the other has a deeply complicated and troubled personality... None of which the soldiers care about, as they're so tired, desperate and horny they'd much rather let the playmates babble about their lives while they dispassionately have sex with them.
  • The whole point of The Breakfast Club, the students reveals plenty of emotional baggage that they never showed before to their friends or family.
  • Mean Girls - Gretchen confesses to Cady that she's secretly miserable as Regina's friend and has to pretend to like and not like certain things to get Regina's approval.
  • Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day - Both Delysia, a ditz, and Miss Pettigrew, a governess have a lot more depth than their labels who imply.
  • One could argue this is the point to Reservoir Dogs. Orange has many scenes revealing his hidden depths, Blonde turns out to have a hidden depth that was right out in the open, and White has his hidden depth come out at the end.
  • Played for laughs in Black Dynamite. Randomly during the film, the Jive Turkey cast reveals they have a lot of esoteric knowledge of Greek Mythology.
  • There are several instances in American Beauty such as Angela, the pretty cheerleader who is a virgin and Frank Fitts, Ricky's Marine father who wants Lester sexually. When rebuffed, he kills Lester.
  • Molly in You, Me and Dupree takes a liking to Dupree when she sees beyond his party boy persona and sees a kind, talented, hopeless romantic of a man.
  • David from the Sabrina remake knows a lot about the family business despite spending all those years as a playboy ne'er do-well.
  • Batman
    • Michael Keaton, in both his personas of Bruce Wayne and Batman, normally gives a subdued performance as both characters in Batman (1989). But then, during the scene with the Joker at Vicki's apartment, Bruce Wayne, unknowingly faced with the murderer of his parents, decides to, without any warning at all during his conversation with him, get nuts. He's doing it to protect Vicki; the audience should already know the Joker is their killer, but Bruce doesn't find out until the end of the scene when the Joker gives his signature line (and shoots him in the chest). Bruce is so shaken by The Reveal that he completely drops out of his crazy act. (It's a VERY well written and well acted scene all around.)
    • Max Schreck in Batman Returns, a stereotypical Corrupt Corporate Executive, is revealed to love his son and his deceased wife, and also seems to have some hidden resentments towards Bruce Wayne and the rest of the silverspoon crowd.
  • Col. Kessler from Battle of the Bulge seems like the perfect soldier, strong, loyal and professional. Until The Reveal that he's an Ax-Crazy Blood Knight.
  • Army Daze's effeminate and seemingly un-military Kenny also runs a mean obstacle course.
  • In Runaway Jury Herman Grimes is almost booted off jury duty because of his blindness, but once he threw his knowledge of the law in the judge's face, he was accepted. It was this event that caused the jury to vote him as foreman.
  • In Another Time, Another Place, you could be forgiven for thinking during most of the movie that Janie isn't much more than a twenty-something stuck in the emotional mindset of a teenager who's going to get eaten alive by the big, bad world. While it's true that she's unworldly and perhaps a bit naive, she reveals herself to have some serious moral fibre when she goes to the authorities to to exonerate Luigi at a great personal expense with no hope of ever seeing him again. Luigi might be a shiftless waster but he's not a bad person, and he certainly doesn't deserve to go to jail for a crime he didn't commit. However, you get the feeling he wouldn't have been in any hurry to stick his neck out for Janie if the roles were reversed.
  • Bob in The Drop. He's as silent as a sphynx, is simultaneously meek but very hard to scare. He's also capable of a lot of compassion, which is surprising since he's affiliated with the mob and killed a man in cold blood.
  • In Kingsman: The Secret Service, Eggsy at first glance appears to be a typical Lower-Class Lout, however his love for his family and (possibly misguided depending on your point of view) loyalty to his friends suggest a more upstanding person underneath the exterior. Before going off the rails he was also known for a high IQ, gymnastic ability and was on course to qualify as a Royal Marine (which takes someone truly exceptional).

    When Hart tries to come up with an example of a lower-class person making a radical change, Eggsy claims to have never seen Trading Places, Nikita or Pretty Woman, but has seen My Fair Lady, to Hart's astonishment.
  • Discussed in Tropic Thunder. Kirk Lazarus explains in his "full retard" speech that characters with mental illness only are well received if they have qualities that make them special. Tugg Speedman tried playing a character who was only severely retarded, and ended up making a flop.
  • All three of our main characters in L.A. Confidential, but especially Jack Vincennes and Bud White:
    • Vincennes works Narcotics, and on the side, gets kickbacks for tipping Hush-Hush tabloid writer Sid Hudgens off to celebrity arrests that will attract readership. However, he does have a conscience and is a highly competent investigator when he can be bothered to put the work in.
    • Bud is shown to be a Wife-Basher Basher. But as it turns out, his hotheadedness towards those who physically harm women stems from his father being an abusive drunk who eventually murdered Bud's mother, and Bud witnessed this. He's also a lot smarter than even he's willing to admit.
  • Bats: Sheriff Kimsey turns out to be a fan of opera. He even lampshades that it'd make him lose points as a badass if anybody else in town knew it.
  • Blade Runner 2049: Luv debatably may be trying to save the child of Deckard from both Wallace and K. She is visibly horrified when Wallace murders a Replicant in cold blood and also possesses the ability to lie, which most other Replicants don't possess. Also from Luv's point of view, K is merely a killer of his own kind and was given the assignment to kill the child. She is however killed by K before we can truly know her motives.
  • In Cold Pursuit, Mustang is Viking's personal bodyguard and driver, and is assumed by most people to be Dumb Muscle. However, several scenes indicate that he is much smarter (although not educated) than most people give him credit for. Additionally, he has developed a deep affection for Viking's young son, and has acquired an appreciation for classical music because of the boy's love of it.
  • In The Butchers, Daisy—who, up to this point, has appeared to be nothing more than a dutiful housewife—surprises Simon by revealing that she has a masters in psychology, and wrote her thesis on religious mania.
  • In Good Satan, when God has Michael send Jesus away, Michael is uncharacteristically emotional about it, clearly seeing Jesus as a true friend.
  • In The Gatling Gun, Tin Pot appears to be the half-baked Camp Cook (and is played by classic 'hick' actor Pat Buttram), but then demonstrates an encyclopedic knowledge of the history and operation of the Gatling gun, and shows himself to be quite the Mr. Fixit.

  • In the early years of his career, Ricky Nelson was almost exclusively considered a pretty boy, white-bread-and-mayonaise fake rockabilly singer who hitchhiked to stardom as the son of Ozzie and Harriet. Then in 1971 he recorded Garden Party, an effective retort to the fans at a Madison Square Garden "all-star" concert who booed his updated dress and new country-rock songs mixed in with Nelson's more familiar oldies. The song was a hit, and it gained him new respect as a songwriter and an artist.
    • Nelson's newfound respect also forced a reevaluation of his 1950s music, especially the innovative guitar work of sideman James Burton.
  • Duran Duran's bassist John Taylor was, by all outward appearances, a stereotypical '80s pinup boy and was often the subject of lust/crushing by many, many teenage girls. What he hid? The fact that when he was a teenager, he was a massive bespectacled nerd who was quiet and unpopular to the opposite sex and spent hours in his bedroom wargaming (yes, wargaming). Fast forward to the 2000s and John Taylor started being highly regarded for his bass playing. In fact, most of his fellow band mates had hidden depths: the weedy-looking Nick Rhodes was apparently extremely popular with the opposite gender as a teen, the complete opposite of his childhood best friend John Taylor, and lost his virginity at the tender age of 13; the heartthrob and Lothario Simon Le Bon was apparently a massive Shakespeare nerd while growing up (as a child actor and model) and spent time in an Israeli kibbutz doing lumberjack and tree surgeon duties while penning contemplative poems during his down time; and Roger Taylor, who looked like a baby-faced James Dean and had a lean appearance, had a real passion for Motown R&B and worked on the assembly line at a factory while the band were waiting for their big break.
  • Marilyn Manson, for all his outward appearances and habit of causing moral outcries the world over, grew up a bullied geek. However, it's his Berserk Button to have anyone be "surprised" by his intelligence. Besides for that, despite his tendency to be highly sexual on stage and offensive to religions, he's actually quite shy and conservative in bed (his favorite fetish object apparently is "thigh-high pantyhose" and he himself describes himself as sexually conservative), and he's quite spiritual, taking aspects from many different religions into his own homebrew. He's said he hopes to be reunited with his mom after he dies, he believes in some rather weird things about dreams (namely, that you have access to all of time and space in them), uses symbolism from the Chinese I-Ching belief, has an encyclopedic knowledge of The Bible, even the most obscure history of Christianity, extra-Biblical Christian myths, the occult, and alchemy. In another universe, he could be a religious history scholar.
  • Have you seen the pretzels Ken Ashcorp baked?
  • Blind Boy Boat Club of the Music/Rubberbandits recently got his Masters degree from Limerick University in Social Practice and the Creative Environment, and his late-night phone conversations on RTÉ2 show serious insight into current events, such as Ireland's relationship with England and its monarchy, the Baltimore riots and the ethics of the death penalty, despite the Rubberbandits' music generally being humorous and/or surreal.
  • Wesley Willis was known for writing a number of songs with vulgar titles and lyrics, such as "Suck My Dog's Dick" and "Lick A Donkey's Ass". The reason he did that wasn't because he thought it was funny in a sophomoric way, but because he was schizophrenic, and he wrote and performed the songs as a way to make the voices in his head to go away.

  • Each character in the Cool Kids Table game Bloody Mooney has a hidden talent. JT is a good dancer, Jessica is a skilled cook, and Keri is great at fighting.
  • Brought up by GM Shannon in Sequinox. According to Sargas' character notes, he has a little garden that he tends to despite also being an omnicidal star.
  • Episode two of Mystery Show revolves around a picture of Britney Spears carrying a book written by the episode's client. Halfway through, Starlee investigates what other books Britney had been pictured with and she and her client are surprised by the amount and the titles, including Pride and Prejudice, Candide and One Hundred Years of Solitude.

    Pro Wrestling 

  • Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues:
    • Hyeon at first seems to be a shallow delinquent with the emotional depth of a rock. However, his genuine concern for his friend Amy when she disappears, along with the tender way that he treats Carlie after she's shot, shows that there's a more compassionate side of him. To say nothing of his frequent Pet the Dog moments with his recently adopted pet squirrel.
    • Fesxis is an eldritch shadow spirit that possesses Sebastian during the Mass Super-Empowering Event and acts as his advisor- with most of her advice involving murder to some degree. Despite all of the above, she's actually rather temperate, with a liking for audiobooks and Bon Jovi.
    • Lenore's goth/punk aesthetic doesn't immediately convey that she's a very relaxed person with a passion for photography and Dungeons & Dragons.

  • Cyrano de Bergerac: This is one of the central themes of the play: not everyone is what he seems.
    • Roxane the refined intellectual surprises her three suitors by proving quite the adventuress, sneaking behind enemy lines to deliver food to the French soldiers and then staying with them once the battle starts.
      Roxanne (slightly annoyed): Monsieur de Bergerac, I am your cousin!
    • Christian gets written off by many who haven't read the play as a male bimbo. While he's not as book smart as Cyrano or Roxane and is utterly hopeless at talking to women, he's witty enough to think of several nose-related puns on the fly when he first meets Cyrano (not to mention the Brass Balls to say them to Cyrano's face).
    • Cyrano has to delay de Guiche for fifteen minutes. What he will do? Insult him? Challenge him to a duel? Make a simple excuse? No, tell him a fantasy/science fiction tale about a trip to the moon... and de Guiche is spellbound!
      • This doubles as a Shout-Out to the real Cyrano de Bergerac's most famous work.
    • Given Raguenau’s status as the Butt-Monkey in Act II, he could be considered a mere Plucky Comic Relief character. Then we have Act IV where Raguenau risks his life to smuggle food to the Gascon Cadets in the siege of Arras. He has proved is a brave man, but then you apply Fridge Logic and realize that Raguenau was the man who not only cooked all the food, but also found a way to occult it in Roxane’s carriage so they can fool all the check posts the Spanish Army has in the battlefield, making him not only a Supreme Chef but an Chef of Iron: Someone capable of smuggling food to troops.
  • Lampshaded in The Philadelphia Story.
    "C.K. Dexter Haven, you have unsuspected depth!"
  • Played with in Mary Mary. When Dirk calls Mary a puzzle, she tells him that she always wanted to think she was a tigress underneath, but she really isn't: "Underneath this plain, girlish exterior, there's a very plain girl."
  • In Pokémon Live!, Brock knows sign language, which lets him communicate with a deaf trainer.

    Web Animation 
  • Camp Camp:
    • On the surface, Max is just a cynical and uncaring little Jerkass who hates the camp with a passion. But underneath his harsh exterior is a boy lashing out due to his uncaring parents, dumping him at the camp without even bothering to sign him up for any camp activities, just so they wouldn't have to deal with him. Also, while he generally hates participating in camp activities, he has picked up some useful skills from them, like knitting.
    • David at first seems to be just an idealistic and overly optimistic idiot, foolishly thinking he could help others, while being blind to the cynical and harsh world he's in and the fact that Camp Campbell and the man who founded it, aren't as great as he thinks they are. Then comes the season one finale, where David finally confesses he's well aware that no one else at the camp—the campers, his co-workers, or even its founder (his hero)— cares for the place, but he feels he has to keep trying against all the negativity alone because no one else tries for themselves, placing all the burden on himself.
      • When he discovers in the Season 2 finale that Max's parents don't give a crap about him and that underneath all that anger lurks a lonely kid, he's self-aware enough to realize that that pretending that everything is okay when it's really not doesn't help anybody.
    • Gwen, despite clearly not caring about her job, honestly cares about the campers and David, trying to make them feel better about being shipped to a camp they didn't want.
    • The camp bully, Nurf, is surprisingly eloquent and observant, when he wants to be. At one point, he gives a surprisingly long and detailed speech, criticizing David for assuming he is just a bad kid, when for all David knows, Nurf could have been shaped into a bully by circumstances out of his control... then stabs David in the hand, calling into question how much of that speech was genuine or if Nurf was just messing with David.
    • Space Kid is generally The Ditz in almost every other subject, but he actually does know a lot when it comes to space, at one point even correcting David, who was reading out of an outdated text book.
  • Boomstick of Death Battle is a lot smarter and more cultured than his redneck persona gives away. His point on Clark Kenting was pretty profound, he can accurately explain the difference between robots and Power Armor, he likes Tschaikovsky's 1812 Overture (and can actually pronounce his name), has in depth knowledge of anything from dinosaurs to firearms to ecology, can instantly figure out the exact worth of a solid gold Chain Chomp just from hearing its measurements and earned a degree in Poultry Science, specializing in frying.
  • DSBT InsaniT: Killdra's secret talent is singing, something nobody else had any idea of. She is very passionate about it too.
    • Not only does Dave have a very deep passion for sports, he runs a sports equipment store too.
  • Magnus of If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device appears to be an Insufferable Genius most of the time, but finally admits that he's not all-knowing, made a stupid decision and had no idea whose side he was on back in Heresy days, or what the sides even were. He also seems rather uncertain and confused of his current situation.
  • Miller the Killer from an arc of the Nameless series was fairly deep, especially considering the series he appeared in. In his 11 or so minutes of total screen-time, we learn that he's a non-stereotypical homosexual who was sexually abused by his mother and impulsively murders women. This is about a billion times deeper than any other character in the series. This, combined with the fact that he's adorable, has made him fairly popular.
  • Red vs. Blue:
  • RWBY:
    • Yang. At first she just seems like a short-tempered, laid back, thrill-seeking brawler who's very protective of Ruby. Then in Volume 2, we find out that her mother left her not long after she was born, and that searching obsessively for answers to why nearly cost her and her toddler sister her life. She still is looking for her mother and for answers, but she's promised herself that she will never let that search control her.
    • Jaune at first appears to just be a lovable idiot who's there for comic relief, but later events show him as deeply troubled at his lack of skill, desperately seeking to be a great warrior despite not having the training for it, and hating the fact that he doesn't measure up to his teammates and friends. He's also revealed to know how to play the guitar and is a skilled dancer (he grew up with seven sisters, apparently).
    • Professor Peter Port is a braggart of a man who comes across as trying too hard to be funny and interesting to be either. Beneath the blustering exterior, however, he's a profoundly perceptive and insightful person.
  • The Large Beetle from Water-Human. He looks just like a (talking) beetle, but apparently he can feel that his friend is in danger and figure out where he is. Oh, and he has Frickin' Laser Beams.
  • In Smash King, Lots of the Nintendo characters have this, but Link is probably the most memorable.
    • Dedede is shown to be perverse, and a bit of a womanizer... But he's also fairly good-hearted, and incredibly perceptive, going into detail about Bowser's fight with Donkey Kong.
    • Ganondorf, surprisingly. Although he's the Big Bad, this tribute video (made both as a tribute to the character and his original VA Lioncourt) paints Ganon in a more sympathetic light.

  • Questionable Content seems to like this trope:
    • Raven, who seems to be an all-around boy-chasing ditz, turns out to have quite the eye for interior design. It is also revealed that her parents are both quite intelligent — her father is an astrophysicist, and her mother is a nuclear physicist. Eventually we find out she's going to college to study physics.
    • Pintsize, in spite of basically being 4chan's /b-board given physical form, takes his duties as a companion A.I. to Marten very seriously, and is more than capable of eloquently explaining the rationale behind his wackiness. "Pintsize has hidden depths. Unfortunately they are all full of porn."
    • Emily resents that other people consider her weird and use that as an excuse to not take anything she says or does seriously, but she also rejects this trope because, no, she has no "hidden depths", she really is weird, through and through, but that's no excuse for other people to just sort her into some shallow "funny weirdo" demographic and then treat her like she hasn't got her own fair deal of serious thoughts and problems.
  • A lot of the characters in El Goonish Shive. Being all mysterious helps.
  • Paulo from Bittersweet Candy Bowl seems like he has trouble being serious and is a Casanova, but he has deep feelings of loyalty towards his friends and, despite his skirtchasing, when he is actually given the opportunity to have sex he is reluctant to do so.
  • Liriel from Drowtales is a drunk because she's trying to silence the voice of a dead drow queen in her head.
  • Girl Genius:
    • The Jaegerkin seem to be progressively acquiring/revealing more depth as the comic progresses. Introduced as little more than Plucky Comic Relief monster henchmen, the comic has since shown them to have a strong sense of loyalty and honour, be a lot more intelligent than they let on (a fact lampshaded more than once in the comic), and, unusually for a GG-verse Henchmen Race, have free will. Add in their general likability and the whole hat thing, which may or may not be a sort of religion and they've ended up being downright intriguing.
    • Also, Higgs seems to becoming this. He's hiding something, it's just not clear what it is. It transpires that he's the 'hidden' Jager general, the one who sticks around in the background and manipulates events from an Almighty Janitor position.
    • Violetta is, as introduced, a Smoke Knight and Tarvek's tightly-wound cousin, but as is pointed out by a fellow knight, "Being a Smoke Knight is what I do, not who I am!" So she plays the gambia, and has an encyclopedic knowledge of fashion. Oh, and reads poetry about cheese.
  • Homestuck:
    • Karkat initially seems like just a violent Jerkass with a Hair-Trigger Temper, but is later revealed to have some very astute wisdom regarding troll relationships. He is further revealed to take his role as team leader very seriously and has a strong sense of responsibility about it, despite the childish way in which he declared himself leader. It's actually this awareness of the various issues with troll psychology (including his own flaws) that makes him seem shockingly normal compared to the rest of the trolls we're introduced to.
    • For the first 13 years of his life, John is convinced that his dad is a street performer with a harlequin obsession. Then, John sees the inside of Dad's room for the first time, and realizes that Dad was just an ordinary businessman, and his apparent interest in harlequins was just an attempt to bond with John.
    • Similarly, Rose is convinced that her mom's extravagant gifts are actually passive-aggressive barbs. It comes as a shock to Rose when she realizes that Mom really did care for her, and wasn't playing the role of a doting mother facetiously. It's later implied that Rose and her mom shared a lot of interests, but Rose was too deep into believing passive aggression to notice.
  • From Darths & Droids:
    • Darth Maul is actually one of the most well developed characters in the whole story, being a Pragmatic Hero at worst. Also, a lot of the Clone Troopers seem to be genuinely sorry when they are ordered to kill the Jedi.
    • This applies to some of the players, too. Jim acts like an idiot, but he's actually a geophysicist; it's just that we always see him in his off-hours when he "turns his brain off" to relax. Likewise, Pete is the group's Munchkin but occasionally drops hints of having an interesting career involving suits and speeches, leading up to the reveal that the resident Rules Lawyer is an actual criminal defense lawyer. And when pressed about taking the side of criminals, he talks about how he wants to make sure the process is done by the book so that the government isn't abusing their power.
  • Paz from Gunnerkrigg Court initially has little characterization, and is simply a Chew Toy from Spain. However, in "A Bad Start", when Kat is reeling from a particularly nasty revelation about the Court's past, it's Paz who gives her a pep talk about changing the system from within, demonstrating a degree of level-headedness that Kat desperately needed at that moment.
  • In Sidekicks we have Darkslug. He's initially portrayed as a complete jerkass of a master to his sidekicks and a person who only cares about his public image and his next bottle of wine. Opinions of him begin to change when we get a flashback of Darkslug picking his newest sidekick, when he chooses Lamia over Olivia despite the latter being an all-round better candidate. By the end of the season, Darkslug is shed in a completely different light to when we first saw him.
  • In Strays, Holland. Meela even demands, "What else are you hiding?"
  • The comic TV Eye Presents: 151 Hidden Depths is built around this trope, giving every original Pokemon a different backstory.
  • Schlock Mercenary did it a few times. Schlock himself is "a violent, amorphous sociopath". Also, there are a few details that pop up slowly — Schlock's species being evolved out of memory banks, can be really clever and insightful when really want to, oh, and he already was a semi-mythological figure among them even before enlisting to the company.
  • In Sunstone, Ally at first seems like a confident and successful person; but it becomes clear that she is terribly lonely and has some regrets she can't manage to overcome. Also Valerie first appears to be a condescending bigot, but in chapter three it's revealed that this was a case of Unreliable Narrator; Lisa was too caught up in her new lifestyle to see Valerie is actually concerned for her friend Lisa.
  • Larisa from Sandra and Woo is, despite her best efforts to come across as nothing but a somewhat shallow rebellious Fille Fatale with pyromantic tendencies, by no means a flat character. That said, we sometimes get some indications that beneath the depths she's covering up, there are even deeper depths we're not privy to.
  • Generally, in Ménage à 3 and its spin-off Sticky Dilly Buns, what you see is what you get from the characters — but secondary character Jung seems to exist to prove otherwise. He's generally taken for a plump, snarky, food-loving geek, because that's what he is. When he turned out to be a talented costume designer and maker, that just looked like a minor eccentricity, while his flashes of helpful sensitivity were rare, if real. But then it turned out that he had not only recently gained a girlfriend, he had taught himself to be an excellent, thoughtful lover, from scratch, by the time it was needed.
  • In A Tale of Two Rulers, the Hot-Blooded warlord Ganondorf reveals that countless Past-Life Memories have given him exhaustive expertise on pregnancy and childbirth, even noticing Zelda's pregnancy well before she had any inkling of it.
  • The Order of the Stick: When the Token Evil Teammate Belkar — an id-driven Heroic Comedic Sociopath whose worst impulses are barely kept in check by the rest of the Order — briefly falls prey to a Lotus-Eater Machine, the readers catch a glimpse of the idealized world it creates for him: one where he's happily cooking fish for his pet cat and the cat's former Cool Old Guy owner.
  • Fur Will Fly: Brad initially comes off as a total Cloud Cuckoo Lander, with an odd sense of humour and happy-go-lucky to a fault attitude, but later story arcs show he's much more than that: He's extremely loyal to his friends, a Friend to All Children, and when it actually matters he can be both surprisingly insightful and a hell of a motivational speaker.

    Web Original 
  • Smash King is a king at doing this to its' cast (pun intended), but Link is probably the most memorable with how it deconstructs the chosen one role and what that pressure can do to a person, Another case is Dedede, who is shown to be perverse, and a bit of a womanizer... But he's also fairly good-hearted, and incredibly perceptive, going into detail about Bowser's fight with Donkey Kong. Even Ganondorf surprisingly has this. Although he's the Big Bad, this tribute video (made both as a tribute to the character and his original VA Lioncourt) paints Ganon in a more sympathetic light.
  • Touch (2017) makes some of its best moments of this trope, largely attributable to the thought the author seems to place in each of the individual characters. A standout thus far in the series is the beginning of the third arc, when Tasha, the archetypical tough girl and tomboy, turns around to give her friend a heartfelt word on why his experiences with abuse don't make him any less of a person, because she knows they didn't break him.
  • In the Whateley Universe, even a lot of the side characters and villains get backstory or character development. For instance, Notorious Jerkass Mad Scientist Belphegor turns out to have some painful backstory explaining why he doesn't handle things well. The thirty-ish Headmistress turns out to be Lady Astarte, one of the great superheroines of the age, but a woman who's really over seventy years old, and still hurting from things that happened to her decades and decades ago.
  • Worm has this in spades, partly thanks to including characters from various other prototype hero stories the author had written. Every character has histories and motivations explaining their actions. What really marks it out are the interludes, bonus chapters from other characters' perspectives which shed light on side characters and villains. We see the view points of Knight Templar white supremacists, anti-hero bigots and the odd Eldritch Abomination and all of them appear more sympathetic or at least some kind of Tragic Monster after their Day in the Limelight.
  • In Void Domain, Catherine is introduced as a typical succubus. Later, she's revealed to be such an expert in Ritual Magic circles that Devon swallows his Fantastic Racism and collaborates with her. She's also a Closet Geek for MMORPGs and, unlike almost all demons, is ambitious and driven to attain new power.

    Web Videos 
  • In Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Penny thinks her new boyfriend Captain Hammer is really sweet deep down, even if he is a bit full of himself, and tells Billy that sometimes people will surprise you because they're layered like that.
    Billy: Sometimes, there's a third, even deeper, level, and that one's the same as the top surface one.
    Penny: Huh?
    Billy: Like with pie.
  • Zack from Echo Chamber knows what After Effects is, how to use it, and may or may not have an advanced degree in art.
  • The Nostalgia Critic reviewers:
  • The Autobiography of Jane Eyre: Book Jane is a talented artist who draws and paints. Webseries Jane passionately likes photography, and she's quite good at it and it makes her happy. It also represents a bond with her late friend Helen. Jane tells directly her viewers that this skill of hers might be surprising since she's generally Hopeless with Tech.
  • Cammy from A Couple Of Cunts In The Countryside may act like a drunken fool and swear like a trucker, but when he's expounding on politics or religion, he reveals that he's actually very intelligent.
  • From Hat Films, Smiffy used to be in a bluegrass band and is still a huge fan of the genre, having written a surprisingly sad song "Wardens", about death row inmates and their last moments. He also loves geckos and has adopted a pair, noting at the same time that he feels conflicted since he's technically endorsing captivity. A subversion later happens when the trio are playing Garry's Mod with Sips and Turpster, when Trott starts spouting some seemingly good German phrases; it later turns out that he's been looking up German words on his phone. Smiffy calls him out and lampshades the seemingly sudden fluency.
  • Urinating Tree absolutely hates the Pittsburgh Steelers... or does he? Though he took them to task with his Professional Football's Pharisee rant, he's more or less admitted since then that a part of him, no matter how small, is still attached to and roots for the franchise, despite the fact that on the whole he abhors not only them but their fanbase as well. He rejoices when the team succeed and lashes out when they lose, more strongly in fact than for any other franchise he covers. Whether he lashes out at or with the team depends on whether he feels they lost because they got in their own way.
  • Life of Boris: Boris likes to present himself as the most lowbrow gopnik thug of lowbrow gopnik thugs, but digging a little on his channel reveals the following:
    • He has a college degree in programming, and worked as a programmer before going full-time Youtuber.
    • He is an excellent cook, and has posted cooking videos of himself making some pretty complex things like kulebyaka, sausages and black bread from scratch.
    • He has a good eye for graphic design and designs his own merch.
    • He is good enough with textiles to design and make a cat-sized ushanka because... no reason.
    • He has made some pretty insightful commentary about cultural differences and traditions, and how they can colour peoples' interactions, especially in the long term.
    • He freely gives good and reasonable advice to prospective youtubers on life in the video-on demand business.


Video Example(s):


Feminist Knuckles

The usually Dumb Muscle Knuckles, reveals his insightful views on feminism, with a comment that leaves his friends speechless.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / HiddenDepths

Media sources:

Main / HiddenDepths