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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. Cracks in the Icy Façade are hinted at by Hidden Depths.

For more examples, see the index.


    open/close all folders 

  • 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 
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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 plus Alberto in stunned silence wondering just what Cherrapunji was because nobody else but the doctor 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 
  • Barbie as the Princess and the Pauper: For a Bumbling Henchman Duo, Nick and Nack are surprisingly good background dancers and apparently managed to work and empty an entire goldmine by themselves.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Beauty and the Beast: Gaston is a villainous example. While he's initially depicted as an arrogant meathead dismissive of any education, he eventually makes references that indicate he's decently educated (able to quote Shakespeare and use complex terminology), as well as manipulate the entire town to his own ends.
  • Brave: The sequence where both Merida and her mother "talk to each other" shows that she's fully aware of the repercussions for her Rebellious Princess attitude (namely that said action is an open invitation for a clan war), she's just genuinely unprepared emotionally for what she will eventually have to become and is at something of a loss for how she should go about it all.
  • Coco:
    • When Héctor is first introduced, he's a silly conman cross dressing as Frida Kahlo so he can get across the marigold bridge like everyone else. He seems to hate music and musicians almost as much as Miguel's own family, saying that Ernesto and other musicians are like monkeys performing for strangers. Then come to find out that he's actually bereaved and desperate over the impending loss of contact with his daughter. Not only that, he's a brilliant musician whose works were so good that they made another man insanely rich.
    • In the ending, Primo Abel and Prima Rosa are shown to be proficient musicians despite having learned to play for only a year after the music ban is lifted.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Scottish accent. It's also revealed that the Princesses themselves don't know anything about modern fashion until they meet Vanellope.
    • Ralph is shown to be a skilled entertainer, as he is able to make videos of roughly every current trend on Buzzztube and became a web sensation.
  • Scooby-Doo! and the Legend of the Vampire: Despite being characterized as surly and competitive Punk Rock musicians, the Bad Omens abandon the contest offscreen in exchange for all-expenses-paid diving trips to the Great Barrier Reef, and are apparently thrilled by the offer.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Turning Red:
    • Through most of the movie, Ming is presented as simply a somewhat extreme example of an Education Mama and helicopter parent. There are a couple of hints about some terrible event in her past, something to do with her panda, but they're extremely vague and easy to miss. Not until Mei meets her mother on the astral plane and hears Ming's anguished confession is there even a hint that Ming's attitude has a real, solid, believable explanation beyond "that's just the way she is".
    • Jin secretly loves 4*Town as shown by the film's post-credits scene.
    • A Freeze-Frame Bonus at the concert shows that Devon is also a fan of 4*Town, and it's possible he was working his job to pay for his ticket.
    • Grandmother Wu is established as the family matriarch, a hard, stern woman who adheres rigidly to custom and tolerates no dissension. Furthermore, she comes from a culture that was strongly bound by tradition. Such personalities are rarely open to the possibility of change of any kind. This makes it all the more surprising when Wu is the first of the Lee family women to accept Mei's decision about keeping her red panda spirit.
  • 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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A Classic Horror Story: Sofia, a young woman, is revealed to have her own startup business in which she makes 3D printed jewelry. She shows off her heart ring and states that she made it herself.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In About a Boy, initially subverted early in the film, prior to his Character Development:
    Christine: I just thought you had hidden depths.
    Will: No. No. You've always had that wrong. I really am this shallow.
  • 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.
  • Played for Laughs in Ant-Man, with Luis, a criminal (who later reforms and becomes a security specialist) who enjoys going to wine tastings and fine art exhibits between heists. While recounting stories to his friends, he frequently goes on tangents about these events, like commenting that he prefers neo-cubism over abstract impressionism.
  • 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.
  • Army Daze's effeminate and seemingly un-military Kenny also runs a mean obstacle course.
  • Back to the Future: Happens throughout the series.
    • In the first film, Marty McFly learns that as a teenager in 1955, his father George was a science fiction fan, writing his own stories that he was scared of sharing with others.
    • In Part III, at the Hill Valley Festival in 1885, Marty is surprised when he sees Doc Brown dancing with Clara Clayton, softly remarking "The Doc can dance?".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The whole point of The Breakfast Club, the students reveal plenty of emotional baggage that they never showed before to their friends or family. Throughout the film they discover that the labels they all carry obscure the fact that they have more in common than they thought and might've been friends if they weren't beholden to their shallow high school social strata.
  • 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.
  • Citizen Kane: While W.P. Thatcher comes off as stoic and distant as Kane's adoptive father, he does genuinely care for Kane throughout his life, even bailing him out during the great depression and allowing him to keep the majority of control over the Inquirer. Kane may lament the loss of his mother, but it's not an enormous leap to recognize that Thatcher was an infinitely better father figure than Kane's actual father would have been.
  • 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.
  • Sir Lancelot Spratt from the Doctor... Series is known for being brash and gruff, so it comes as a great surprise in Doctor in Distress (1963) when it is revealed that he is skilled on the piano, owns a butterfly collection, and is skilled in Judo.
  • 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.
  • Fired Up!: During a Dirty Coward rant after being punched, Alpha Bitch Gwyneth mentions that she doesn't really care about cheerleading and wants to be a paralegal after college.
  • Freaky:
    • Intro-Only Point of View character Ginny comes across as a tough-talking, confident rich girl, but it's mentioned that she's another victim of Alpha Bitch Ryler's bullying and Malicious Slander.
    • While it doesn't detract from his Hate Sink status, Jerk Jock Phil is a surprisingly good woodworking student. He and his friends also organize a massive private, unofficial homecoming dance in a very short amount of time.
  • 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 Good Satan, when God has Michael send Jesus away, Michael is uncharacteristically emotional about it, clearly seeing Jesus as a true friend.
  • In Hostile Waters, Captain Britanov is surprised to learn that Security Officer Pshenishny, a member of the KGB, plays chess.
  • A deposed King Arthur in Kaamelott: Premier Volet. Despite his bluntness and general assholery, he genuinly holds the ideals of the Round Table (that all knights, no matter their origin, status or title, sit as equals around the table) in high regards, so much so that one of the few scenes not Played for Laughs in the movie is when he sees the makeshift Round Table that some members of La Résistance made and insists that he and the ones present sit at it and introduce each other formally without a hint of irony or sarcasm.
  • 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.
  • In My Country: Anna is surprised to find out that her demure mother once went to a poetry conference in Paris and met Langston Hughes.
  • In The Knowledge, Chris has low self-esteem and confidence, but he passes the legendarily difficult exam of the knowledge of London, faced by London taxi drivers. His girlfriend Janet is constantly berating him, but has a kind heart.
  • 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.
  • The Martian: Commander Lewis is a hard-charging, no-nonsense leader, who also has a borderline obsessive interest in '70s culture, to the point that she brings an exhaustive collection of disco music and '70s TV shows (including but not limited to the entire run of Happy Days) to Mars.
  • Marvin's Room: When Hank is about to get tested for Bessie's bone marrow transplant, he quietly asks her to stay with him during the procedure — proving that, despite his delinquent nature, he's still a scared 17-year-old kid. Notably, his brother Charlie, who's seven years younger, didn't ask Bessie to stay by his side when he got tested.
  • 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.
  • My Cousin Vinny: The prosecutor reveals that he used to be a high-powered defense attorney, before he grew disillusioned with the job and retired. The reason he is so keen to get Bill and Stan convicted is that he genuinely thinks they're guilty, and his previous career soured him on criminals getting Off on a Technicality.
  • My Spy: Carlos states that his husband Todd (a classic example of The Quiet One) is a therapist who is great at getting patients to open up to him. This revelation visibly surprises Kate. Subverted with the reveal that Todd and Carlos are undercover mercenaries.
  • Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight: While they're waiting for Daniel to return at the lake, Aniela and Bartek confide some personal things to each other.
    • Aniela is aware that most people see her as an easy lay, and secretly wishes for true love.
    • Bartek is Closet Gay, and is afraid of how his father would take it. Despite this, his father is VERY oblivious to some of the more obvious clues to this. He thinks his son patting a "male friend" on the buttocks is some kind of friend thing.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • David from the Sabrina remake knows a lot about the family business despite spending all those years as a playboy ne'er do-well.
  • In The School for Good and Evil (2022), Tedros seems set up to be a Prince Charmless who is only focused on beauty, but since his parents were King Arthur and Guinevere he's well aware that looks aren't everything, and despite an initial attraction to Sophie he ultimately falls for Action Girl Agatha after she saves him.
  • Sharkenstein: Madge is revealed to know every Universal Horror and Hammer Horror Frankenstein movie in existence. She also knows that the original novel ended differently from the movie.
  • Snowball Express: Shifty banker Martin Ridgeway is a champion snowmobile racer.
  • In Tombstone Rashomon, saloon keeper Colonel Roderick Hafford laments on how supplying alcohol to violent men is a poor profession for a man like him, and then expounds on how his true passion is ornithology and proudly explains how he has catalogued more than 200 specimens in his personal collection.
  • 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.
  • George from Twice Round the Daffodils seems to be a simple country farmer, but has some brains that none of the other patients know about:
    John: What's a "Stakhanovite"?
    George: It's a name they give a bloke in Russia who digs a lotta coal.
    Henry: How do you know?
    George: I'm not daft, Henry.
  • In Two Hands, Pando is the brutish crime boss who rules Kings Cross, but also knows origami and is an expert Scrabble and chess player.
  • 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.
  • Please Turn Over: Despite Gladys' outgoing personality, she is actually quite shy underneath it all and considers herself a "jolly good fraud".

  • 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.
  • Episode 2 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.
  • 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.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • The House of Truth's first Ring of Honor incarnation had the "Hoopla Hotties", servants of Truth Martini who explicitly existed to be without pants. They ran from any potential confrontation and were all butt monkeys, with Seleziya Sparx literally standing out for frequent booty popping and accidental injury. Yet she did not actually fear contact and had much greater knowledge of wrestling than her fellow minions but tried to imitate them out of desire to belong to a group. She increasingly saved HOT top prospect Matt Taven from crushing defeats against vastly superior opponents, including former and future world champions Eddie Edwards and Adam Cole, by catching them unaware with brutal high impact maneuvers while escaping the referees and invoking Wouldn't Hit a Girl with the more honorable baby faces. Showing up when the relationship with SHIMMER was winding down and visa issues when was ROH establishing its own women's division kept most of her depths hidden in ROH, unfortunately.
  • UltraMantis Black is one of the better brawlers to come out of CHIKARA, not a promotion known for that style. At IWA Deep South Carnage Cup 2007, December 1, 2007, he was in a Three-Way Barbed Wire Boards and Tables match against Scotty Vortekz and Sexxxy Eddy. While Vortekz won, Mantis made a good enough showing that the commentators said that he could be a deathmatch wrestler.
  • Crossed with Real Men Wear Pink: According to "Surfer" Ray Odyssey, who rode with Tommy Dreamer and The Tazmaniac in their ICW/IWCCW (New England) days, Taz would force them to be quiet when Extreme's "More Than Words" came on the radio.
  • Roddy Piper was, on top of being good to excellent in the ring and one of the best mic-men in the business, a good singer and reasonably skilled amateur pianist. And yes, he was the one who played the bagpipes when you saw him with them.
  • On the August 5, 2020 episode of AEW Dynamite, Chris Jericho invited him to a public debate between them (chaired by Eric Bischoff), in between questions about their wrestling characters and abilities, a totally random question came up about rising sea levels as a result of global warming. After a flabbergasted Jericho asked what the hell that had to do with anything and told Bischoff to move on to the next question, Orange Cassidy (who up to this point hadn't said a single word) delivered a short, calm and very erudite speech about the threat rising sea levels will pose to coastal cities in particular if carbon emissions aren't curbed, leaving Jericho with his mouth hanging open.

  • That Gosh Darn Hippie Show: For a little kid, Anthony knows a lot about old music. He recognized a rare Beatles record for what it was, and picked nearly the entire show’s playlist.

  • 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.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Transhuman Space: Personnel Files 5: School Days, the descriptions of the schoolkids includes their impressions of all the others. Most of them see Catherine as a shallow ditz because she's just interested in fashion and trends, although a couple think there's a bit more to her than that. However, it starts with her write-up, which shows her as fairly smart and a bit socially awkard with an intense interest in following through on things. She studied what's "cool" in order to fit in with the other kids, and became fascinated with the processes involved even after she learned the other kids weren't interested in that stuff. Similarly, the others all see Ian Chakrabarti as an arrogant twerp who probably looks down on them all because he's an Ishtar upgrade ... which isn't entirely wrong, but misses his genuine sense of loyalty to the group.

  • 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.
  • 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."
  • Lampshaded in The Philadelphia Story.
    "C.K. Dexter Haven, you have unsuspected depth!"
  • In Pokémon Live!, Brock is normally girl-crazy and a little flight but also knows sign language, which lets him communicate with a deaf trainer.
  • One of the main messages in Six is that the six wives of Henry VIII have more to them than history has given them credit for.
    • Catherine of Aragon is portrayed as the devoted first wife, remaining faithful and composed throughout her marriage. Underneath it all, she's fully aware of her husband's infidelities but bites her tongue out of a sense of duty- until he demands a divorce, at which point she lets him have it.
    • Anne Boleyn is portrayed as a ditzy homewrecker throughout the show, but at the end comments on how comparing the queens only serves to uphold a patriarchal system.
    • Jane Seymour is often seen as the demure one, and even admits she lacks the fire of some of the other queens. But she's shown to have a surprising amount of inner strength due to the depth of her love for Henry and then Edward. She's also shown to not be above losing her temper, as Catherine of Aragon finds out when she tries to use Mary to score sympathy point.
    • Anne of Cleaves gets little more than being seen as the ugly one in regards to history. Her hidden depths in the show are that she knows how to make the most of being the divorced fourth wife, and she sticks it to Henry by hanging up the offending picture of her where everyone can see it.
    • Katherine Howard is often seen as the young seductress. The musical points out how history tends to forget how young (As young as thirteen), highlighting how she was actually sexually exploited by the men around her through most of her teenage years. She's also shown to be musically gifted, and knows who Henry IV's wife was.
    • Catherine Parr outright states her resentment over simply being seen as "the one who survived", and is quick to point out she wrote numerous books and promoted women's education.
  • In Sonic: Live in Sydney, Sally displays impressive singing abilities which Sonic and Tails use to find her and which she uses to sing her song "Thank You for Being You". Even Sonic and Tails comment on it.
  • Wicked has An Aesop that you shouldn't immediately judge another person. A ditzy, popular, girly girl like Glinda might turn out to be a good, loyal friend, not a complete bitch, and a Soapbox Sadie like Elphaba might not be a pretentious hipster, but instead a brave woman who is actually willing to go out and fight for what she believes in. Elphaba and Glind aboth eventually realize they judged each other too quickly and become close friends.

    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.
  • Being an illiterate african savage and a stray jackall, who would have expected the protagonists of Indigen to be able to read and understand a digital counter?
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Demonseed Redux: Chico's initial pregnancy fetish is later shown to be related to his wish to have a large family, and later he commits to the relationship with Dee, focusing on protecting the babies.
  • Liriel from Drowtales is a drunk because she's trying to silence the voice of a dead drow queen in her head.
  • A lot of the characters in El Goonish Shive. Being all mysterious helps.
  • Freefall: Sam Starfall initially seems to be mostly just a nuisance with big ambitions but nothing to show for it beyond petty crime and low-grade mooching. As the strip goes on, he turns out to be surprisingly well-read in both his home culture's myths and human history, has strong ethical views that sometimes line up with human culture on Planet Jean and sometimes don't, has enough Species Loyalty to take steps to ensure his species has somewhere to reach for in the galaxy despite humanity's expansion, produces compelling philosophical arguments regarding crime's role in society and the value of chaos in ensuring room for change...and engages in petty crime and low-grade mooching.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • One side-story reveals that Franz the dragon has a Dragon Hoard, but what he values most in his hoard isn't all of the gold, but rather old, rare books.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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?"
  • 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.
  • 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.

    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 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.
  • 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.

    Web Videos 
  • All About Meep: "Nunya and Pita Play Wii with the Bitty Twins" shows Nunya to be good with technology, as she was able to fix the Wii after Pita broke it.
  • Atop the Fourth Wall: The Movie: '90's Kid, of all people, reveals that he isn't as stupid as he seems when he gives a very heartfelt speech to Obscurus Lupa about how it's easy for people to underestimate him because of the way he acts and that his love of the '90s extends to how the era was defined by the endless and fun possibilities the decade brought, and he thinks people could use more fun these days.
  • 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.
  • Escape the Night has JC, The Stoner, who turns out to be a math genius and Tana, seemingly a Brainless Beauty who can read backwards. Despite the two of them showing their unique skills which helps the team solve the puzzle, they both end up dying at the end of the episode.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • While Skawo seems to just be e level programmer for Newer Super Mario Bros. Wii and a let's player, according to the The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening let's play Skawo knows how to fish in real life
  • The Nostalgia Critic reviewers:
  • UrinatingTree 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.
  • Oxventure: Prudence is a Chaotic Evil tiefling warlock who actively revels in her demonic heritage and power, and whose solution to most problems involves Eldritch Blast and the face of whatever annoys her. However, she is also by far the most emotionally intelligent member of the crew. She (no stranger to Abusive Parents), not Merilwen or Dob, is the one who comforts Corazon after his falling-out with his father.


Frieren's Hobby

Frieren collects all sorts of bizarre magic and items. At first, it seems like a silly hobby by her companions, but it's revealed she does it because it made her old friends happy during her previous journey.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / CollectorOfTheStrange

Media sources: