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Irritation Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

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"Um... Scoot, don't you think you're taking this just a little too far?"

A common plot when a character (usually lacking in self-confidence) begins to imitate someone they look up to, down to what clothes they wear and what foods they eat. For the one being imitated, this usually gets old very, very fast after the novelty of having a fan wears off, and the rest of the episode is usually dedicated to getting the imitator to stop and rely on themself instead. However, sometimes this backfires, and rather than learn anything the imitator will just switch to a new target.

May overlap with Hero-Worshipper and Heroic Wannabe. Also a common cause (and effect) of Poser Hating. If this continues for too long it can turn into I Just Want to Be You, with the difference being that this trope is usually a temporary state of affairs and generally Played for Laughs. If a character's style becomes a widespread new fashion craze, that's You Are the New Trend.

See also Sincerest Form of Flattery, which is a meta-trope about Word of God admitting to copying from an earlier influence on their work. Contrast Copycat Mockery.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Oluo from Attack on Titan tries to copy his captain Levi's look and speaking style, much to Petra's annoyance. Levi himself never comments on this.
  • Case Closed: In one case, a woman always admired her elder sister, and bought the same clothes, the same toothbruth, same furniture, and so on. While the elder one found it cute at first, she stopped laughing about it when her sister apparently decided to fall for her boyfriend and steal him away. The truth however was that said boyfriend was the one who asked out the younger sister, and the younger sister wanted to spare her sister the humiliation that her boyfriend left her because he fell in love with someone else, so she pretended to have stolen him away. This misunderstanding out of love leads to the tragic murder of the woman by her own sister, and once the murderer learns the truth, she regretfully cries for her now dead sister.
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War:
    • Maki mentions in a bonus chapter that Kashiwagi has been imitating her ever since they were children. For the most part Maki finds it cute, though it did piss her off when Kashiwagi unknowingly stole her crush.
    • Spin-off series We Want to Talk About Kaguya revealed that Erika grew out her hair to be like Kaguya. She would have tied her hair up with a ribbon as well, but she thought it was a bit much.
  • Princess Mimina of Nurse Angel Ririka SOS is a Royal Brat who wishes she could steal the titular heroine's Magical Girl Warrior thunder. Mimina made her own costume and weapon, and can mimic Ririka's attacks, but this only gets her into sticky situations.
  • In the Alabasta Arc of One Piece, the crew meets Mr. 2 Bon Kurei a Devil Fruit user who's power lets him assume the appearance of anyone - and he's a really Large Ham. After using this ability to imitate Luffy, Zoro, Usopp, and Chopper, (who don't like it at all) he imitates Nami, and then disrobes; Nami finally slugs him (and Sanji, who was gawking).
  • Peach Girl: Sae has to one up Momo and prove herself to be better so she fights dirty behind the scenes as she pretends to be innocent. Since she wants to be better than Momo to a obsessive degree and has a inferiority complex she does things like copy her clothing and accessory style and try to steal things Momo likes, such as her boyfriends or even a bag when the two go shopping.
  • One episode of Pokémon the Series: Ruby and Sapphire has Ash and Max being asked to take care of some young starter Pokémon, so May and Brock leave behind their own starters with Ash's to take care of the younger charges. The Treecko, apparently female, instantly crushed on Ash's own Treecko, and started following the latter around, imitating him by carrying around a twig (with a flower) in her mouth.
  • One episode of Sailor Moon SuperS had a young girl named Nanako who becomes infatuated with Rei, and becomes a Miko like her and copies everything she does. At first Rei thinks it's funny, but then she gets really annoyed. It turns out Nanako doesn't take Rei's disapproval well at all, making her a good target for the Monster of the Week.
  • One character in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX used a variation by copying someone's deck and then acting like them while playing it. The same character later stole Yugi's deck when it was up on display. And started imitating Judai after the inevitable loss. Judai doesn't seem to have a problem with being imitated, but is annoyed at not being copied properly.
  • The Zekkyou Gakkyuu chapter "The Matching Classroom" features a New Transfer Student who just wants to fit in. She soon tries to assert her own style to try to impress her crush, only for her friends to follow suit. It starts off as just annoying, but it quickly turns weird and then heads into just plain creepy just as quickly.

    Comic Books 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Promise: Aang (the Last of His Kind, as the title indicates) runs into what amounts to Air Nomad fanboys, who dress up in saffron robes and get blue arrow tattoos, not realizing that these are very significant to the Air Nomads.
  • B.P.R.D.: Roger at one point starts emulating captain Daimio... by using the exact same pose while he's doing it. It comes off as creepy, since Roger is something of a Manchild imprinting on people.

    Fan Works 
  • Limpet AU: Two-year-old Ben Skywalker thinks the world of his "gampa", and the epilogue of "Meet the Skywalkers" show a recording of Ben imitating his Vader's pose and speech as the latter tries to threaten him into giving back the lightsaber he stole from him.
  • Three's A Crowd (Naruto): Downplayed with Kimura Uo, who ends up as the third member of Team Seven due to Naruto's Plot-Triggering Death. Uo does his best to mimic Sasuke's Ineffectual Loner attitude, something Kakashi chalks up to Uo being a Fanboy who admires the other's strength and skill. Of course, this does little to help their team function, given how both boys are acting as though they're superior to everyone around them...

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the early part of the Apocalypse film series movie Tribulation, young Calvin Canboro imitates young Tom Canboro up until when Tom says that Calvin has to go to the bathroom, which gets Calvin to stop imitating when he finds himself repeating what Tom said.
  • In Chicago, many women and girls start imitating Roxie Hart, the sweetest jazz killer in the city. Even Mama Morton dyes her bobbed hair blonde, to Velma's consternation. Roxie, naturally, enjoys the attention.
  • Monty Python's Life of Brian: Once people decide that Brian is the messiah, he just cannot catch a break: "You're all individuals!" — "Yes, yes, we are all individuals!" — "I'm not..."
  • The second live-action Scooby Doo film, Monsters Unleashed, had Shaggy and Scooby dress up as Freddie and Velma, respectively, when it's pointed out to them that they never do anything. The others think this is stupid from the get-go.
  • Made downright frightening in the movie Single White Female.

  • Occurs in the Baby-sitter's Little Sister novel Karen's Twin. Karen's schoolmate eats her lunch in the same order and even gives Karen new clothes so they can wear the same thing more often.
  • Chocoholic Mysteries: In Bear Burglary, Gail Hess apparently went out of her way to copy Celia Carmichal's looks. Celia, for her part, found it extremely annoying.
  • Discworld: In Making Money Cosmo Lavish tries to usurp Vetinari by becoming Vetinari, to the point of stealing his hats, boots, ring, and swordstick (only the hats actually were Vetinari's; he doesn't even have a swordstick). He ends up in the hospital - it turns out there's a whole ward full of people who think they are Havelock Vetinari. What if Havelock Vetinari isn't the real Havelock Vetinari? What if he's just better at it than the guys on the ward? That would explain the rather horrific Characterization Marches On Vetinari suffered before Pratchett got his act together.
  • In Erebos, there is one player who very obviously models his ingame character after the book's protagonist Nick, including the name. In the end, it's revealed that the player is a classmate of Nick's who has always looked up to him.
  • In the Horatio Hornblower novel The Commodore, Lieutenant Mound—captaining one of the squadron's bomb-ketches—adopts a laid-back, languid manner. After observing this for a little while, Hornblower is amused to realize that it's modeled on his own deliberate pose of nonchalance in tense situations.
  • Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey:
    • Isabella Thorpe is a reputed beauty and acknowledged as the most beautiful young woman in Bath in that season. Her younger and less attractive sisters Maria and Anne try to imitate Isabella's style and they dress like her. According to the narrator, it kind of works and they are considered passable. Isabella doesn't seem to mind. She may be even glad that she is considered a star and a leader.
    • Isabella once mentions in a letter to Catherine Morland that one girl wore a turban like her (Isabella) for one social occasion. But in her opinion, she couldn't quite pull it off. Apparently, turbans only match Isabella's beautiful face.
  • Samurai Scarecrow: Yukio's younger sister Kasha goes everywhere he goes, does everything exactly the way he does, and even dresses up like he did for Halloween, much to his annoyance.
  • In Toot & Puddle: The One and Only, a new girl named Jane (usually known as "Bubbles") comes to Opal's school and starts following her, copying everything she does and dressing like her. Toot and Puddle tell Opal that it's a compliment, but Opal doesn't like it. Then, she has to make a decision about whether or not to help the new girl.
  • Played for Laughs in The Wheel of Time, when Mat can't figure out who's teaching his kid to flirt.

    Live-Action TV 
  • It gets used in Barney & Friends, where one of the kids assigned as the librarian's assistant ends up gradually copying him until he learns a surprisingly quick Aesop about being yourself. In a later season, someone copies Barney himself. As you might expect, Hilarity Ensues.
  • Castle: In the episode "Nikki Heat", the actress who is going to play Nikki Heat in the Heat Wave movie shadows Beckett, for "character research", and becomes more and more like her as the episode progresses, causing great annoyance to Beckett.
  • In an early episode of Degrassi: The Next Generation, Liberty imitated J.T. for a class project about one's hero. Though it was meant as flattery and playfulness, J.T. is embarrassed and later confronts her about it in front of her friends. Liberty pulls this Trope as a card, and J.T. angrily replays by mocking her with something along the lines of "I'm Liberty Van Zandt. You take that back, I do too have friends! Millions of imaginary friends and stuffed animals. Oh, and sometimes, even my parents like me!" Liberty is deeply hurt by this and J.T. is labeled a 'creep' by her enraged friends.
  • The Drew Carey Show:
    • A little person who works at Winfrid-Lauder looks up to Mimi and starts dressing like her to be a "Mini Mimi".
    • A man starts taking after Drew, down to dressing like him and decorating his house to look exactly like Drew's. It creeps Drew and his friends out.
  • Happens in Flight of the Conchords, when Bret is kicked out of the band and forms "The Original Flight of the Conchords" with Demitri, who tries to copy Bret's look and moves, and even repeats everything Bret says on the microphone.
  • In the Frasier episode "The Great Crane Robbery," Frasier's new boss at KACL admires Frasier's taste in interior design and asks for help in styling his own place. To Frasier's horror he later discovers that his boss has copied his apartment down to the smallest detail, robbing Frasier's place of its uniqueness and making it look like he was the one doing the copying.
  • Friends: In some early episodes, Chandler and Joey tried to copy Monica's boyfriend Richard (Chandler grew a mustache like him and Joey started smoking his cigars). Hilarious in Hindsight when Chandler later dated Monica, and naturally felt worried he could never live up to Richard.
  • Hannibal: Franklin Froidevaux Desperately Craves Affection and fancies himself friends with Hannibal, who's his psychiatrist at the time. He eventually starts trying to copy Hannibal's mannerisms and style of dress, aping his interest in the fine arts, and trying to "psychoanalyze" a mutual acquaintance — all poorly. Though he's transparently an Abhorrent Admirer, he's at least polite enough about it — or haplessly pitiable enough — that Hannibal never targets him for it.
  • The Haunting of Hill House: Theo Hates Being Touched and keeps wearing gloves all day long because her Touch Telepathy. She also lives at her sister's house, and what is never mentioned is that her niece has started to wear gloves all day or night.
  • Kamen Rider Kabuto's Hyper Battle DVD sees Kagami attempting to imitate Tendou, but failing miserably in all regards — including cooking, being a big brother, and fighting. When Kagami gets his butt kicked in battle, Tendou steps in and tells him "Grandmother said this: There's nothing wrong with pretending to be someone else as long as it helps you find the real you." This revelation gives Kagami his own Super Mode (which only appears in this one DVD "episode").
  • This trope was played as straight as the arrow in your head in Lizzie McGuire. Right down to the imitator switching to the Alpha Bitch at the end of the episode.
  • Lucifer. In "Save Lucifer", Eve desires Lucifer so she starts imitating his love interest Detective Chloe in the belief that it will make her more desirable to him. Cue both Lucifer and Chloe watching dumbfounded as Eve is trying to play detective, right down to copying Chloe's clothes and Character Tics.
  • One episode of The Office (US) starts with Jim dressing and acting exactly like Dwight; however, though in this case, it actually is explicitly meant to irritate him, and obviously succeeds. Dwight tries to return the favor at the end of the episode, but since Jim doesn't take himself nearly as seriously, that attempt utterly fails.
    Dwight: (as Jim) Ah, Karen, my girlfriend. Do you want to have sex later?
    Jim: (to Karen) DO you?
    Karen: No thanks.
  • Reba: In the episode "Seeing Red", Barbra Jean cuts and dyes her hair to look like Reba. Reba is not pleased to say the least.
  • An episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch has Sabrina accidentally turn Valerie into a copy of herself, complete with witch's powers, when out of boredom she casts a spell to make whatever Valerie's mom wishes for after getting the long side of a wishbone come true. Valerie's mom wishes her daughter would be more upbeat and confident, just like Sabrina.
  • Scrubs: Early on in season one, JD was emulating Dr. Cox to the point of missing a date to be in surgery with him, and when Cox realized this, he mentioned that he only barely likes himself. JD took this to heart, and in a later episode described himself as wanting to be "a more successful version of Cox". In a later episode he tried dressing like him, but Cox put an end to this one pretty quickly.
  • In one episode of Sesame Street, Telly and a group of children became the "Bobketeers", dressing like Bob, following him around and doing everything he did.
  • Shake it Up: An Alpha Bitch cheerleader and her Jerk Jock brother make fun of Gunther and Tinka by imitating their accent. Gunther says this trope by name claiming to a tradition in their culture, but when the duo keep on imitating them, he eventually gets annoyed and starts shouting.
  • One episode of Smallville introduces Tina Greer, a shape-shifter who thinks Lana Lang has the perfect life, dressing up in clothes just like Lana's. Tina is so convinced that Lana has the perfect life that she eventually tries to kill the real Lana so she can take her place.
  • In an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, "Hero Worship", a child believes himself to be responsible for the deaths of all aboard his ship, and when rescued by Data, he starts imitating him. It turns out to be more of a coping method to deal with his guilt and depression, as androids don't have emotions and are never scared or sad.
  • Welcome Back, Kotter: In "Washington's Clone", Arthur, a Black and Nerdy student, starts patterning his lifestyle after Freddie "Boom-Boom" Washington, whom he idolizes and imitates. The Sweathogs attempt the Scare 'Em Straight treatment on Arthur by pretending to be tougher than they actually are.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • In Ring of Honor, Jimmy Jacobs started using an Implant DDT which was the finishing move of the target of his affection, the Lovely Lacey. She was unimpressed.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In every edition of Dungeons & Dragons except 4th and 5th, there have been temptress devils of Hell called erinyes, the Lawful counterparts of the demonic succubus. "Erinyes" happens to be another name for the Furies, which in this reality are divine punishers of godlike power. At least one source say that the devils copied the name out of admiration for the Furies and how much they were feared, although it's probable that the Furies couldn't care less. (In the 4th edition, where demons are no longer tempters, the Lawful version was renamed "succubus", while 5th Edition just changed succubi and incubi to Neutral Evil and has individuals working for either the demons or devils.)

    Video Games 
  • A very dark version shows up in Fallout: New Vegas with the relationship between Ulysses and the White Legs. Ulysses was a frumentarius (spy, assassin, agitator and negotiator) in Caesar's Legion, and was tasked with inciting the White Legs to attack New Canaan. He did so by showing them how to find and use firearms, and in return, the White Legs imitated Ulysses' dreadlocks, thinking doing so was a sign of respect. However, to Ulysses tribe, the dreadlocks were a form of language, every knot and braid having a very specific meaning, which the White Legs never understood. Ulysses describes seeing the White Legs in the firelight as "like seeing the ghosts of my people" and drove himself almost to insanity trying to read their braids, looking for meaning where there was none. In the end, he left both the White Legs and the Legion, armed with a fresh contempt for people who use symbols they don't understand.
  • A Running Gag in the Katamari Damacy series is that several of the more oddly-shaped cousins wear the exact same colors as the Prince. Each new installment of the series usually adds at least one new lookalike cousin: there was Johnson in the original, Slip, Can-Can and Odeon in We ♥ Katamari, Kenta in Me & My Katamari, Pu in Beautiful Katamari, and most recently Dangle in Katamari Forever.
  • Conrad Verner of Mass Effect takes to dressing like Shepard in the sequel, much to Shepard's annoyance. The Renegade option lets you shoot him in the foot, while the neutral option lets you knee him in the crotch. By the third game, depending on your actions he may be supporting Cerberus — a terrorist organization — just because Shepard did in the second game, unaware that Shepard left between games (and depending on the player's actions, possibly with a massive "The Reason You Suck" Speech to the boss in the process). Shepard responds appropriately. This all receives a brilliant Call-Back in the Citadel DLC when Shepard's clone claims to be better than the real thing.
    Shepard: Are you kidding me?! Conrad Verner is better at being me than you are!
  • Pokémon Sun and Moon introduce Mimikyu, a lonely Pokémon who disguises itself as Series Mascot Pikachu in order for it to get closer to people.
  • Roots Of Pacha: When Reese was younger, she used to follow Okka around and pretend to talk to animals like her. When Okka finally noticed her, she told her, "If you want to be like me, Be Yourself."
  • The Masked Koopas in the Something series. They dress up like Mario in Something and dress like Yoshi in Something Else.

  • A case that is a little different from normal played seriously and not found in a children's story or show: After completing the first Dungeon Crawl in The Order of the Stick, Elan abruptly decided that he wanted to be a wizard, in large part because of his respect for V. V is not pleased by Elan dressing like a stereotypical mage and clowning around because he takes that as Elan insulting wizards and the effort V puts into magic, and promptly blows up at Elan. The two then have to have a heart to heart in order to reconcile.

    Web Original 
  • Omega Zell from Noob is somewhere between a long-term version of this and a milder form of I Just Want to Be You. He dreams of becoming the number one player of the game and greatly admires Fantöm, the current number one. Some of the imitation includes having the same standard character class Fantöm had before unlocking the in-universe equivalent to a Prestige Class and having the same drinks as him in taverns. While the situation is long-standing, Omega Zell's imitation remains relatively innocent as he's still enough of his own person to have a personality quite different from Fantöm's.

    Western Animation 
  • Played With on Adventure Time. A bear starts imitating Finn. Finn doesn't have a problem with it until he believes the bear is trying to outright impersonate him. After hurting the bear's feelings, Finn apologizes and gives him the Enchiridion so he can be a hero all of his own. Turns out this was all a ploy so The Lich can get his hands on the Enchiridion, knowing very well that Finn couldn't ignore his selfless nature.
  • An episode of All Grown Up! had Tommy befriending a new kid at school, soon the kid starts hanging around Tommy's friends and family, dressing like him, picking up his hobbies and interests, and even carrying a screwdriver in his pocket. After Tommy confronts him on the matter, he admits that he was worried about not making friends and thought it would be easier if he acted like someone who was already good at making friends.
  • Arthur:
    • D.W. once imitated Arthur down to his clothes and use of his old glasses frames, but she too was eventually talked out of it. In this case, it was an Invoked Trope: D.W. was getting back at Arthur for a scuffle over who had dibs on the TV (his not-Superman show was on the same time as a show targeted at preschoolers, and he said everything she liked was boring).
    • An episode had Muffy writing the school's advice section but being upstaged by Molly (one of Binky's friends) as the latter was better at giving advice. In an attempt to rectify this, Muffy dresses like Molly and tries to do the things Molly normally does (skateboard, listen to rock music etc). Say the least it didn't last.
    • One episode has Arthur and Muffy teaming up on a school project, and he starts picking up her mannerisms. Lampshaded by the other characters to Arthur, who didn't see it.
    • For some reason, Buster & Arthur each decided the other had the better life and started imitating him - Arthur reading joke books and Buster complaining about D.W. all the time.
  • In The Batman:
    • Robin has to deal with the Mirror Master clone of himself repeating everything he says. He tries to get his clone to slip up by saying, "I like to smell my feet", but the clone responds, "You like to smell your feet?"
    • In the episode "The Laughing Bat", the Joker begins dressing and acting like Batman, gassing people for committing minor offenses like jaywalking and having eleven items in a ten-item grocery checkout.
  • In an episode of The Cramp Twins, the entire school started imitating Wayne when a famous photographer praised his style. Wayne originally liked it because he could mock Lucien with it, but became gradually more annoyed until it turned out that the combined number of everyone imitating him completely cleared out the junk yard he frequents. Wayne fixed it by dressing up as a girl.
  • Danger Mouse: In "There's A Penfold In My Suit," Penfold is putting on one of DM's jumpsuits, thinking if he does he'll be just as brave and heroic. Colonel K comes on the videophone and thinks he's seeing two DMs.
  • Stacy once did this to Quinn on Daria while the latter was staying at the former's house while the rest of her family was out of town. This weirds out Quinn, who opts to make a break for it soon after and ends up staying with Jane, of all people.
  • Kim Possible had this for an episode with a cousin who wanted to be as cool as her. In the end, instead of learning her lesson, her cousin moved on to idolizing her sidekick Ron, because he's a Cowardly Lion with no who never hesitates to help her in missions.
  • Recess:
    • In one episode, Mikey begins imitating Vince, the jock, due to seeing Vince as a "cool kid", but eventually admits that the persona doesn't fit him and goes back.
    • One kid gets a crush on Gretchen and says this word for word at one point.
  • The Replacements had an episode where Riley is sick of every girl in town copying the latest big fashion model, so she replaces said model with herself, thinking that nobody would want to copy someone as average as her. Of course, everybody does, and at the end of the episode, Riley's "Be Yourself" speech backfires on her when Sierra points out that it's their choice as an individual if they want to follow the trends or not.
  • Rugrats:
    • Dil started imitating Angelica, much to her annoyance.
    • Phil and Lil imitated Chuckie and Angelica respectively because their parents couldn't tell them apart.
  • The animated version of Sabrina has the title character cast a spell to help out a nerdy classmate named Norma become more well liked. It backfires, however, when the townspeople start to dress like her. They then consider Norma to not "be Norma enough" and tie her and Sabrina up before Sabrina manages to break the spell.
  • In The Simpsons, a motivational speaker encourages everyone in Springfield to act like Bart. At first, he revels in it, but is quickly annoyed by everyone imitating his "do-what-you-feel" attitude.
  • Spongebob Squarepants: Patrick once tried being just like SpongeBob after deciding he was a failure since he never got an award and wanted to be a winner like SpongeBob. He actually became moderately successful by doing it, and really was a failure whose only award was for doing nothing (though that was good enough for him to stop, all he really wanted was to win a single award). SpongeBob finds it a little creepy, but flattering, at first but soon grows more and more irritated culminating with Patrick copying his own thoughts.
    Spongebob: (thinking) At least I'm safe inside my mind.
    Patrick: (thinking) At least I'm safe inside my mind.
  • An episode of Star Trek: Prodigy has the Protostar crew run across a planet full of people who are badly imitating the crew of Kirk's USS Enterprise. It soon turns out that a Red Shirt crash-landed there and the inhabitants began to imitate the Enterprise crew based on the stories told to them.
  • Teen Titans. Robin leaves for a bit to go train with "The True Master", and the rest of the team takes to dressing up as him. By the end of the episode, the entire team and Silkie, Starfire's pet mutant moth larva, are sitting around in Robin costumes, eating pizza and calling each other Robin. Even Raven's wearing Robin's clothes; she says, "The mask makes me feel... cool." And Robin walks in just then, and everyone expects their normally high-strung leader to be annoyed at them... but he just takes a slice of pizza and says: "You know, Robins, the mask makes me feel cool too." It helps that part of the lesson was "don't take yourself so damn seriously".