Characters who gain the power of invisibility have a startling tendency to become jerks, if not outright homicidal maniacs, within fairly short order. Sometimes this is a result of power that makes the character invisible but more often it seems to be a natural side effect of invisibility itself. After all, you can't be punished for your actions if nobody even knows you're there.
Such invisible people must beware of animals who rely more on scent and hearing than they do sight such as large implacable guard dogs. Such creatures would still know, perfectly well, that somebody was there. In some works, over-confident invisibility has come to grief because of inconvenient rottweilers.
Not related to the trope What You Are in the Dark, but related to the saying it comes from. See also Time-Traveling Jerkass, Time-Freeze Trolling Spree, Villain Teleportation, and Invisible Streaker. See GIFT for the equivalent result when applied to anonymity on the internet. See also Power Perversion Potential for other things you can use invisibility to get away with. Contrast Invisible Introvert.
- Bleach has Guenael Lee aka Sternritter V — The Vanishing Point. Not only can he turn invisible, he can also erase people's memories of his existence. He enjoys screwing with people by popping in and out of their sight and memories several times in a row, then eventually stabbing them in the back with his knife.
- Charlotte has Nao Tomori, who has the special ability to prevent one person from seeing or hearing her. Despite generally being a good person, Nao has abused this power in the past, such as turning invisible and beating someone up when they can't see her and thus can't avoid her attacks or fight back.
- Nobita from Doraemon when he exaggerates in using Doraemon's gadgets that make him invisible.
- Lucy makes use of this in Fairy Tail. Though initially just looking for help undoing the invisibility magic on her, when she hears the guild joking about her behind her back she proceeds to make them all fight one another.
- In an early chapter/episode of Heaven's Lost Property, Sakurai Tomoki asks Ikaros to make him invisible. He then used his invisibility to sneak into the home of his friend Sohara while she was changing and "punished" her by groping her breasts.
- One Piece: Absalom uses his Devil Fruit-given invisibility to peep on and molest Nami while she's in a bathhouse, and it's strongly implied he's done this before. When Sanji learns this, he's furious not just for Absalom's misdeeds but because someone else ate the Devil Fruit he always wanted—and does a very bad job concealing that he also dreamed of using it for voyeurism.
- Rowan Atkinson has a sketch where he is the victim of an invisible prankster but eventually turns the tables on him. Done entirely in mime no less.
- Milo Manara's Butterscotch is a porn comic, so you can probably guess what the invisible man in it uses his power for. That's right, to watch a beautiful woman he's been in love with since they were children but was too shy to ever contact; and he gets quite indignant at the suggestion that he may abuse his power to peek at her in the shower or something like that; he just wants to be near her. His Secret-Keeper, a woman named Honey (who keeps appearing in other Manara comics) calls him a "poor wimp" because "any real man who found out how to be invisible would have gone out and robbed a bank, laid all the most gorgeous chicks..." and eventually he ends up going nuts, stripping innocent women for no reason, and relaying his voyeuristic experiences. And then another invisible man shows up to rape Honey. Yeah, everyone is a complete jerk in that comic.
- If you believe that "Not Me" of The Family Circus is a real being and not an imaginary scapegoat for the children's misbehavior, it might qualify as an invisible being who takes advantage of its invisibility to do mean things.
- In Hotel Transylvania, the Invisible Man does use his invisibility to play practical jokes, but like all the "monsters" (and there are plenty), he's a good guy.
- Randall Boggs's Establishing Character Moment in Monsters, Inc. is to use his ability to blend into the background to frighten Mike. It only gets worse from there...
- Spoofed in Amazon Women on the Moon in which the Son of the Invisible Man states that he's taken the invisibility potion despite the fact that it turned his father into a raving madman. He then proves this by running around with no clothes on, playing tricks on unimpressed patrons at his hotel, unaware that he's not invisible at all.
- Hollow Man spells this trope out: "You know what, Matt? It's amazing what you can do... when you don't have to look at yourself in the mirror anymore." It is heavily hinted in the film that the procedure itself turns subjects psychotic, as with the gorilla in the beginning. Though it's also made pretty clear Sebastian Cane wasn't a particularly moral person before, and the power may have had as much to do with his deteriorating mental state as the serum.
- The Invisible Man:
- In the Universal Horror version of The Invisible Man, Griffin is driven insane as a side effect of the invisibility serum, and he progresses from playing pranks and smashing dishes to murdering a police officer and wrecking a passenger train.
- Played darkly in The Invisible Man (2020). Adrian Griffin goes from "just" being a controlling, abusive boyfriend to a gaslighter and murderer when he becomes invisible. His brother Tom graduates from sleazy lawyer to a criminal accomplice when he gets the ability himself. And at the end, the protagonist Cecilia resorts to using Adrian's own invisibility against him and making him slit his own throat once she sees there's no other way to bring him to justice.
- The film adaptation of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, where the new Invisible Man (Rodney Skinner) is a thief who stole the invisibility formula solely to become a better thief. He's the most obvious suspect as The Mole and is shown spying on the other members of the League. However, it turns out that he was spying to learn who the real mole is. He also has his moments of heroism toward the end of the film.note
- Michele in Il Ragazzo Invisibile wastes no time getting revenge on the bullies who picked on him.
- Discussed in SHAZAM!. Freddy tells Billy about a poll they did asking people whether they would choose Super-Strength or Invisibility. When their names were attached to the results, most people chose strength, because it's a hero power, but when the answers were given anonymously, most people chose invisibility, because it's a villain power.
- Richard Laymon's "Beware" contains an especially evil example. Invisible man is a sociopathic, sadistic serial killer and rapist. Although it's pretty clear that he became such a heinous person long before his invisibility transformation, which only allowed him to commit more crimes with impunity.
- In Harry Potter, Harry usually uses his Invisibility Cloak for good; for example, to sneak around Hogwarts and solve the current mystery. In the third book, however, he uses it to sneak into Hogsmeade village without permission, and at one point he decides to take revenge on Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle for their constant taunting, and throws mud and sticks and trips them while invisible. He's later chastised by Lupin for such behavior, claiming Harry's parents wouldn't want him "gambling their sacrifice for a bag of magic tricks". He has a point; since Harry was supposedly being pursued by a murderer at the time, the danger makes his actions not only jerkish but pretty stupid. Since his father used the cloak for stealing food from the kitchens, he wouldn't have room to talk.
- Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man analyzes this in a different way. He isn't literally transparent; it's simply that, as a black man, no one cares about him. He even attacks a man at random, knowing that the only thing his target will remember will be his ethnicity.
- H. G. Wells' The Invisible Man deconstructs this trope showing us the real implications of invisibility and how they could affect an individual. To cite Jorge Luis Borges "A postulation of reality" the invisible man...
That character, a solitary student of chemistry at the desperate winter of London — finishes recognizing that the invisible state privileges do not cover the drawbacks. He has to go barefoot and naked because an overcoat and boots rushed autonomous could disturb the entire city. A revolver in his transparent hand makes concealment impossible. Before being assimilated, so does the food swallowed by him. From dawn, his nominal eyelids cannot stop light, and he should get used to sleeping with open eyes. Useless is also take his ghostly arm over his eyes. On the street, traffic accidents always prefer him and he always lives in fear of being crushed. He has to flee London. He has to take refuge in wigs, in smoked spectacles, faked noses like those used in carnivals, in suspicious beards, in gloves, so they do not see that he is invisible. Discovered, he begins in a village inland a miserable Reign of Terror. He wounds, to inspire respect, a man. Then the sheriff organizes a pack of hounds to track him, cornered him near the station, and kill him.
- It's also subverted: considering he was willing to experiment on yowling cats and despised his landowner, Griffin was likely a prick from the start.
- Journey to Chaos: Invisibility spells make Eric more comfortable with expressing his inner trickster. Even if someone realized an invisible person was present, they would instead blame Tasio.
- In The Lord of the Rings
- when Gollum first acquired the Ring, he used it to sneak around his village, listening to secrets, and stealing things.
- Bilbo has elements of this in The Hobbit, once he gets the Ring, nicking food from the Elvenking and making a Running Gag out of sneaking past guards only to snark at them for not seeing him. His cheap trick at his birthday party in The Lord of the Rings counts too.
- And of course in both instances, the Ring eventually turns its master into an utterly vile ghoul, or threatens to. Admittedly, this has more to do with the Ring itself being Made of Evil than the invisibility power it grants, but symbolically it still fits the mold.
- In Diana Wynne Jones's The Ogre Downstairs, one of the boys in a blended family turns himself invisible during an extremely tense period with his stepfather, and fairly shortly he goes over the line from angry to homicidal. The stepfather suggests that it's the effect of becoming "all thoughts."
- In The Republic by Plato, Glaucon tells a tale about Gyges, a shepherd of Lydia who found a ring that made its wearer invisible, and who used this power to seduce the queen, murder the king, and make himself king. Glaucon follows with a philosophical point that it did not matter whether Gyges was a just or unjust person when he found the ring because nobody would continue to act justly if he had the option to act unjustly without fear of retribution or social stigma. In fact (Glaucon claims), if someone had the power to become invisible and would not use it to do something forbidden, people, though they might not admit so, would think that person to be an idiot. Socrates then counters Glaucon by claiming that there is reason to be just besides fear of reprisal, if only because Good Feels Good.
- Averted in the obscure Swedish YA novel Trollstenen. The magic stone in the title has a failsafe spell on it which means it stops working if used for selfish ends. How it determines what is selfish is not revealed.
- The Boys (2019): Translucent nearly kills Hughie when he won't tell him why he placed a bug in The Seven's boardroom before Billy intervenes. Translucent also has a habit of hanging around places where he can spy on women in states of undress, like Seven Tower's bathroom and gynecologist offices.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- For Marcie in "Out of Mind, Out of Sight", it's a case of Go Mad from the Isolation; everyone treated her like she was invisible, so the Hellmouth made her invisible and thereby empowered her to get revenge on others.
- The episode "Gone" involves a Jerkass moment from Buffy herself. The point was that she had so much stress and depression going on at the time that she felt trapped and powerless. The invisibility let her get away with doing the things she wanted to do anyway, without having to take any responsibility for her actions—as Spike points out, she's pretending that she isn't really "there" as she does it.
- Henry Danger: Brad in the aptly titled "Invisible Brad". Brad was made invisible years earlier as a bystander when a shot meant to make Captain Man invisible instead hit Brad. It is unknown whether Brad was a jerk before he became invisible, but Captain Man is annoyed that he comes by. He tries to get Henry to quit after Captain Man agreed to make Brad his sidekick if Henry quits.
- Claude Rains (named for the actor who starred in The Invisible Man movie) on Heroes is an invisible Jerk with a Heart of Gold, being rude and misanthropic yet at the same time willing to mentor Peter Petrelli and unwilling to let Manhattan get nuked.
- The main character from The Invisible Man has to deal with the nasty side effect that overusing his invisibility gland would trigger a homicidal rage. However, even under normal circumstances, he isn't especially scrupulous about how he uses his invisibility, from spying on his co-workers to making his legs invisible so he could park in a disabled spot. Of course, he was a thief even before he got his powers, so those are probably more his personality than anything.
- Averted in the 1970s series The Invisible Man starring David McCallum. The title character maintains his composure and sense of ethics throughout the show.
- One episode of LazyTown has Robbie Rotten steal an invisibility helmet and spend the whole episode bullying Sportacus while invisible, making the kids think there's something wrong with him.
- Zigzagged in an episode of Power Rangers Turbo where Bulk and Skull are turned invisible. While they do play some pranks on people and steal food, they also make money by entertaining with a magic show. (But also using their "skill" to discipline a heckler.) Of course, seeing as they had spent most of the season turned into monkeys, maybe they deserved to have a little fun.
- Mocked, as was everything else, in the Stargate SG-1 episode "200". In a flashback (not seen in the previous episodes), O'Neill becomes invisible due to an alien device. His subsequent pranks include leaving the room so that Carter is left talking to an empty chair, falling asleep and snoring in a room where Daniel is having a meeting, driving up to the base entrance and placing his dog behind the wheel to confuse the soldiers, and spying on Carter when she takes a shower.
- In the "Wishing Well" episode of Supernatural, a boy wishes to become invisible so he can spy on women in the shower. It fails, due to the kid's lack of reflex and agility.
- The Twilight Zone (1985): In the episode "To See the Invisible Man", Mitchell Chaplin is punished by being given an implant that means others have to ignore him and act as if he was not there. He initially does things like walking into a women's changing room. It's a punishment because he soon starts going crazy from loneliness due to nobody talking to him, and everybody ignores him when he gets hit by a car (he survives in agony).
- The X-Files: In the episode "Je Souhaite", a guy is talking to a genie about what he wants for his last wish, and it's pretty clear that he's going to be an invisible jerkass. He's flattened by a truck in a crosswalk because the driver couldn't see him.
Anson Stokes: I wish that I could turn invisible... at will.
Jenn: You're kidding.
Anson Stokes: No, no. This is perfect. Yeah, I could have an advantage that nobody else on earth can have. I can, um, you know, spy and learn secret information, pick up stock tips.
Jenn: Sneak into a women's locker room.
Anson Stokes: Not just that, okay? I'm talking about James Bond type stuff. You know?
- Clay Aiken's "Invisible" is explicit about how the singer would use the power of invisibility to stalk the person he is addressing.
- Queen's song "Invisible Man" is from the point of view of the invisible man himself, who sounds frankly terrifying.
I'm in your room
And I'm in your bed
And I'm in your life
And I'm in your head
- Episode 178 of the radio show This American Life notes that in an informal survey, most people who would choose the power of invisibility over flight would use it to commit crimes or other mischief they think it would help them get away with. It also says that some people who choose flight may be lying because of this fact.
- In Das Rheingold, the dwarf Alberich has stolen the Rheingold and forced the other dwarves to forge it into magical objects. One of them is the Tarnhelm, an enchanted helmet that grants the wearer the powers of invisibility, shapeshifting, and teleportation. The first thing Alberich does upon turning invisible is beat up his brother Mime.
- Fake Happy End: In Karin's backstory, when she realized that staying out of the tower didn't reverse the the fact that it made her invisible to normal people, she started using her invisibility to hurt people in the vain hope of getting attention, though she currently regrets it.
- Reading some interoffice e-mail in Fallout: New Vegas reveals that this happened at the REPCONN test site, which accidentally received a shipment of Stealth Boys: "In light of yesterday's upsetting events, all employees are hereby directed to give a thorough reading to REPCONN's sexual harassment and workplace behavior policies. Also, while it is not explicitly stated in the Employee Handbook, unauthorized use of military hardware against fellow employees is ground for immediate termination."
- Fortnite: Save the World had a seasonal "Blockbuster" questline that's all about homaging superhero movies, and one mission involves recruiting more heroes if they have superpowers. One pitch mentions invisible heroes but also specifies "no jerks".
- While she obviously can't do this herself, Marina in Splatoon 2 mentions some perks of invisibility during the "Flight vs. Invisibility" Splatfest as "spy[ing] on others while they're... inking their Splat Zone" and "walk[ing] into a bank and... make sure the money's still there".
- In Team Fortress 2, we have the Spy, with an invisibility watch that he uses to get behind enemy lines and wreak havoc. This, combined with his ability to disguise as the enemy, and his insta-kill backstab makes for a very deadly combination. However, he's a jerkass even without the watch. Players can enact this trope in other ways, such as standing invisibly on the edge of a drop and, as you can't pass through non-teammates, trick other players into falling to their deaths.
- Wild ARMs 4: One member of the villainous organization attacking the protagonists supposedly had the power of invisibility, but was executed by his commanding officer prior to the start of the game for abusing it. Given how said commanding officer is a psycho it must have been a serious abuse.
- Homestar Runner: Strong Bad claims in one Strong Bad Email that, if he were invisible, he'd do the same sort of stuff he already does: Stealing snacks from Bubs, punching Homestar, and eating junk food while watching TV. Being Strong Bad, his point is undermined in that of the activities listed, the last one is the only one we see Strong Bad doing with any frequency outside this cartoon.
- Grif of Red vs. Blue is already a Jerkass, so his greatest ambition involving invisibility is to apply it to his slacking and take uninterruptible naps on a whim.
Grif: I would be completely unstoppable.
Simmons: Actually, you would be the exact opposite of that.
Grif: Totally stoppable. Already stopped.
Simmons: [nervous] No man should have that kind of power.
- Claudia from the SCP Foundation is a kleptomaniac woman who is permanently invisible like the classic Invisible Man. She's more of a Jerk with a Heart of Gold than anything and is amicable enough with the Foundation personnel, but struggles with depression and a fiery temper due to trauma, abuse, and homelessness she went through after her powers manifested. She usually doesn't do anything too serious aside from the occasional pickpocketing or prank, though she also Really Gets Around and has used sex to get out of her containment room a few times.
- In the Vox Machina season of Critical Role, Vax would often annoy his twin sister Vex whenever he was invisible including pulling faces and playing with her hair. This is made much funnier by the actors sitting next to each other and Liam doing it to Laura in character.
- During season 8 of the Hermitcraft Server, a glitch ends up rendering Grian undetectable to other players. He proceeds to prank Mumbo when the latter comes over to his base by placing ominous signs while his back is turned, setting up end crystals, pelting him with eggs, and finally making a bunch of partially constructed withers. It's only after he accidentally summons a complete wither in the middle of Boatem Town that he realizes he's gone too far (especially since Mumbo was playing as a Technical Pacifist for the season and thus couldn't help him fight it).
- In Archie's Weird Mysteries, Reggie makes use of this.
- A dark example from the Batman: The Animated Series episode "See No Evil". An ex-con steals invisibility fabric to rob people. He also uses it to see his daughter (who he is legally prohibited to contact) as her imaginary friend "Mojo", and later tries to kidnap her.
- Classic Disney Shorts: In the 1942 Donald Duck cartoon "The Vanishing Private", Sergeant Pete knocks Donald into a barrel of invisible paint; once the now-invisible Donald gives Pete the slip, he decides to have some fun. When Pete is trying to explain to the confused General why he is skipping around and singing "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush" while throwing flower petals (he is trying to reveal Donald's whereabouts), Donald uses a pair of tongs to drop a cactus down the back of Pete's trousers. When Pete sees a half-eaten pie floating in midair, Donald smashes it into his face and skips off with a jump rope while singing "Mulberry Bush". Pete chases him around a tank, and Donald ties the rope to a ladder as a makeshift trip wire to send Pete flying. Finally, when Pete grabs a double armload of hand grenades from the base's arsenal and the alarmed General tries to talk him down, Donald sneaks up behind his CO, unsheathes his sword, and stabs Pete in the backside with it, making him drop the grenades and blow himself and the General sky high.
- Danny Phantom
- Danny has been known to use his invisibility/intangibility to spy in the girls' locker room, cheat at bowling/mini-golf, and spy on Sam while she was on dates with a Hungarian exchange student.
- Tucker briefly gained ghost powers and mostly used them to play pranks (pictured).
- One Donkey Kong Country episode had Diddy Kong becoming invisible thanks to the Crystal Coconut's power. He immediately uses his new invisibility to play pranks, most of which get blamed on DK, the only other ape to know what's going on.
Diddy: I'm having fun with everyone when I disappear! Playing tricks on people while pretending I'm not there!
- The Fairly OddParents!: In the episode "Timvisible", Timmy Turner once wishes to be invisible to avoid being beaten up, but then goes on to scare everyone in the school.
- Peanuts: Downplayed with Charlie Brown in It's Magic, Charlie Brown. After being turned invisible, he doesn't like it all, feeling like a "lost soul" and constantly falling over because he can't see his feet. However, while he never truly becomes a "jerk", he does manage to sneak up on Lucy and kick the football once.
- Mr. Cat was already a jerk, but in some episodes when he gets turned invisible he's even worse, and he does things like kick Kaeloo and hit Quack Quack with mallets while constantly moving so they can't get back at him.
- When Stumpy is turned into a ghost in Episode 123, he tries to sneak into the bathroom to watch Pretty take a bath. Kaeloo stops him before he can do it.
- The Powerpuff Girls (1998): Patches, an imaginary friend, was invisible to anyone except the boy who created him. He was using this state to bully all of the kid's friends.
- The Replacements: One of the last episodes had Todd finding a hat that rendered him (but not his clothes) invisible, and he used it to get Revenge for an embarrassing
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- The Robot Chicken sketch "Bring a Sidekick to Work Day" has Martian Boyhunter turn out to be a real sidekick and not just an imaginary friend Martian Manhunter made up to compensate for not having a sidekick of his own, simply staying invisible for most of the skit so he could get away with using the Justice League Watchtower's teleporter to kill the other sidekicks while his mentor gets blamed for it.
- One episode of Rugrats had Angelica covering herself in Vanishing Cream, thinking she'll be invisible. It only "works" because Drew is ignoring her at Didi's insistence. However, when Angelica can't get the cream off of her, she quickly changes her tune.
- SpongeBob SquarePants: In "Pranks a Lot", SpongeBob and Patrick bought invisible paint for a prank. After accidentally getting it all over themselves, they decide to scare everybody else in Bikini Bottom by pretending to be ghosts.
- In the Tom and Jerry cartoon "The Invisible Mouse", Jerry dips himself in invisible ink and continues to torment Tom. But then again, what else is new? This plot was used twice more, in "The Vanishing Duck" and "Of Feline Bondage". In the former, Tom claimed a victory against Jerry this time around.
- Miraculous Ladybug: Sabrina, when akumatized, turns permanently invisible. Until Ladybug and Chat Noir come on the scene, she uses her powers to play tricks on Chloé, who was responsible for her akumatization in the first place.
- In the Al Brodax Popeye short "Going... Boing‥ Gone", Wimpy becomes this after covering himself with drugstore vanishing cream to escape an irate Brutus. While invisible, Wimpy attacks Brutus on the street and later, to Popeye's amusement, eats two of Brutus' hamburgers at the diner. When Wimpy decides to eat the other hamburgers, Popeye says he's going too far.
- Papa Smurf becomes this to his little Smurfs in The Smurfs episode "Where's Papa Smurf" when he sees that his little Smurfs have taken the day off to play games without his permission.
- Zeke's Pad: In "Family Portrait", Zeke decides he needs a little space from his family...like the whole house. So he draws himself invisible and goes about scaring the heck out of his family.