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Loves My Alter Ego

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The man of Lois Lane's dreams is closer than she thinks.

"I am tired of being my own rival!"
Christian, Cyrano de Bergerac, Act IV

Often, Clark Kenting leads to a Two-Person Love Triangle.

The main love interest of the Part-Time Hero. The problem: she won't give him a second glance because she's in love with someone else. The complication: that someone else just happens to be the hero's Secret Identity. He wouldn't dare tell her and burden her with all the risks that come with being a Secret-Keeper, which, quite frankly, is moot since she automatically seems to be a magnet for Monster of the Week attacks anyway when she isn't running towards them.

This trope may overlap with Secret-Identity Identity: the love interest reacts differently to the "super" and "normal" personas of the hero. Eventually, she may even begin showing affection to the persona that she'd been uninterested in originally (wonderful wish-fulfillment fantasy fodder, this).

In the best-case scenario, she'll discover the truth by pure accident, which somehow makes it more okay than if the hero had told her (or not, expect fireworks at being Locked Out of the Loop). In the worst-case scenario, after the masquerade-maintaining It's Not You, It's Me, she'll eventually hook up with some other civilian besides the hero, who just wants his beloved to be happy. Is it any wonder The Masquerade Will Kill Your Dating Life?

How come love can't always be as simple as Dating Catwoman?

Compare Hates My Secret Identity, for non-romantic cases of people reacting differently to the two identities. See also Likes Clark Kent, Hates Superman, which is when a character has positive feelings to a person but negative ones to their alter ego / secret identity. This scenario can lead to Mutual Pining in the sense that it brings up the question of whether one person can still love the other if they find out what's Beneath the Mask.


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    Asian Animation 

    Comic Strips 
  • The Phantom: Averted. It's complicated, but the Phantom doesnt strictly have a secret identity, not in the traditional sense. He's the latest in a line of crimefighters dating back centuries who have all used the Phantom identity. His birth name is Christopher Walker, which is also what he uses when travelling incognito but in his private life he's still the Phantom, he even wears his costume at home with his wife and kids. He never made his second identity a secret to his wife, and it was eventually Retconned that they had met as children.
  • During the "Blue Dudes" story arc from Drabble, Norman tries to propose to the girl he's been dating, Norma. She rejects him as she's in love with someone else. He's so crushed that he eventually quits the Blue Dudes in the middle of the next game they attend. At that point, he not only finds out the "someone else" Norma was in love with was his Blue Dudes alter ego, but his previous love, Wendy, was as well.
  • MAD: Deconstructed in Harvey Kurtzman's Superduperman! parody. Lois Pain rejects Clark Bent after he reveals that he and Superduperman are the same person. This was a spoof of the sexist assumption that girls should be seduced by charismatic personas but ultimately settle for the dull "real guy" who they ignore:
    Lois Pain: Once a creep, always a creep!

    Fairy Tales 
  • In some versions of "Beauty and the Beast", Beauty is haunted by dreams of a handsome prince who begs her to find him, and this is why she rejects the beast's advances. It isn't until she leaves the castle and stops having the dreams that she realizes that she loves the beast, who of course turns into the prince from her dreams when she agrees to marry him.
  • In Andrew Lang's The Enchanted Snake, the king promises the heroine she can marry the prince if only she saves him. Recovered, the prince nevertheless refuses because he has promised himself elsewhere; the heroine, delighted, reveals that she is that woman.
  • In The Little Mermaid, the Prince says that he won't marry the Princess to whom he's betrothed, because he already had Love at First Sight with the woman who found him after he nearly drowned. Then he meets the Princess, and it turns out she is the woman who found him! It's a Perfectly Arranged Marriage...except that the protagonist of this story is the Little Mermaid. Who will suffer magical death if the Prince marries anybody but her, but is unable to tell him that. Kind of counts double, in that regard: he wants to marry "the girl who saved him," but since he was blacked out, he just assumes that he washed up on shore and was found by the Princess, not that the Little Mermaid kept him from drowning in the first place.

    Films — Animation 
  • In The Little Mermaid, Eric has vowed to marry the girl who rescued him but since the only thing he clearly remembers about her is her beautiful voice, he assumes that the mute girl he finds on the beach soon after can't possibly be her and is thus reluctant to kiss her even though he's clearly attracted to her from the start. He actually decides after Grimsby's advice that he prefers the flesh-and-blood girl to a "dream girl" who might not even exist, but then Ursula shows up in disguise pretending to be his actual dream girl...
  • Megamind has this with Roxanne falling for the eponymous character impersonating Bernard.
  • In Superman: Doomsday, Superman and Lois are actively dating and outright lovers, and he still hasn't revealed his secret identity to her. The normal trope is subverted in that she knows who he really is and makes it clear that she knows; she's just waiting for him to admit to it and stop the pointless denial "for her safety", seeing it as the last blockage of any real commitment between them. He finally does in the last scene.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Batman Forever, Dr. Chase Meridian first has an obsession with Batman, and then falls in love with Bruce Wayne. After Chase breaks up with Batman because she loves Bruce, Batman grins widely once he's out of her sight.
  • The Batman (2022):
    • Selina Kyle hasn't met Bruce Wayne, but she dismisses him as one of the "privileged white people" that let Gotham fall into ruin, and is clearly not very fond of him. However, she ends up falling in love with Batman as they work together.
    • Edward Nashton hates Bruce Wayne for growing up privileged while he was poor. However, he idolizes Batman and was inspired to take on his Ridder persona by him.
  • A variation occurs in A Cinderella Story, where Austin falls for Sam whilst in her Cinderella disguise. When he finds out her true identity, he is less than enthusiastic about it. Ultimately averted, as he comes to genuinely love Sam for who she really is.
  • Inverted in, of all places, Death Wish II. Unusually for a plain clothes adventurer of 1970's and 1980's film, Paul Kersey did in fact maintain a dual identity/alter ego, since the general public did not know that Paul Kersey acted as the vigilante and Kersey continued his work as an architect while acting as a vigilante. In Death Wish 2, Paul Kersey gave an engagement ring to radio announcer Geri Nichols, and they had scheduled their marriage and honeymoon in Acapulco. Nichols did not initially know that Kersey acted as the vigilante, and she strongly opposed the death penalty and unlimited punishment of criminals. When she discovered that Kersey acted as the vigilante, she left the engagement ring behind for him, since his actions as the vigilante clashed with her code of ethics.
  • In The Legend of Zorro, Joaquin idolizes Zorro, but thinks his father is a loser.
  • The Mask. Tina falls in love with the Mask (while Stanley's wearing it), but eventually realizes she loves Stanley for himself.
  • Roxanne, mirroring the Cyrano example below.
  • Parodied in Spider-Plant Man. Jane-Mary is enamoured with Spider-Plant Man, but considers Peter Piper a total creep. Because she never changes her opinion, he decides to keep wearing the spandex even after they're married.
  • Mary Jane loves Spider-Man, but eventually loves Peter Parker instead.
  • Supergirl (1984): Ethan falls in love with Linda Lee and is merely grateful and respectful to Supergirl after being rescued by her. He eventually learns they are one and the same.
  • In Vertigo, Judy loves Scottie but he's too hung up on Madeleine — the dead woman she impersonated as part of Gavin's scheme — for her attempts to make him love her true self to work, and she ultimately agrees to be "Madeleine" for him. It doesn't work out well for anyone involved.
  • Addressed in Youth in Revolt, but subverted by the end.
    Nick: I can feel in my heart that Sheeni is in love with me, not with some fantasy lover in a French romantic novel but me, Nick Twisp. It's funny, after all that, Nick Twisp was enough.

  • In Rude Tales of Magic, Cordelia develops a crush on Blaine despite not having any interest in Ivan Gretsky. When the group is given the choice between sparing Ivan's life and receiving their payment, she even goes so far as to ask how often he's Blaine.

  • Older Than Television: in the play Cyrano de Bergerac, both Warrior Poet Cyrano and Book Dumb but so very handsome Christian are in love with Roxanne. Since Cyrano thinks he doesn't stand a chance with her anyway because of that big nose issue, he uses his gift for poetry to help Christian woo her so at least he can know they'll both be happy together, which backfires because it tears them both up for years to know Roxanne's really in love with Cyrano but thinks she's in love with Christian. There's also the fact that Christian is killed later and Cyrano still Cannot Spit It Out to not break Roxanne's heart... and keeps denying that the letters are his until his death.
  • Margot Bonvalet in the operetta The Desert Song.
  • Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest has its own version of this, with Jack's ward Cecily falling in love with his alter ego and "Bunbury", Ernest. Not having met him, though, she doesn't know the first thing about him, making it possible for Jack's friend Algernon to pose as Ernest to woo her. Of course, the traditional Loves My Alter Ego is not quite there, but that is somewhat thanks to Algernon who takes on the role of Ernest. Meanwhile, Jack's — who goes by the name Ernest in the city — Love Interest Gwendolyn is convinced that Jack is Ernest, eventually leading Cecily and Gwendolyn to briefly think they're in love with the same man, until it turns out that no one is Ernest.
  • Polly falls in love with Bobby's "alter ego" in the play Crazy for You.


    Real Life 
  • In a non-fantasy vein, this is certainly true of "ordinary" people who idolize celebrities. The "real person" more often than not is nowhere near as glamorous once you get to meet them. See Loving a Shadow for more details.
    • In particular, Marilyn Monroe was able to go out in public and not be harassed due to some Clark Kenting, much to the shock of a reporter doing an interview with her. She demonstrated the difference by turning on her charm and fluffing her hair out a bit, causing everyone else to recognize her instantly.
  • Miley Cyrus once stated in an interview that, while she and her little sister Noah didn't get along, Noah was a big fan of Miley's TV alter-ego Hannah Montana.
  • This can happen with online dating, especially on web platforms that allow you to go by a pseudonym and not reveal personal information. There are many cases where the internet allows people to either only show the best parts of themselves or create a different personality entirely.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): The Lois Lane


Persia's Transformation

Persia Hayami is an 11 year old girl, but thanks to the headband given to her by the Fairy Princess, she turns into an older girl who also has longer hair and magical superpowers. In her magical girl form, she works to collect Love Energy and save the fairy world from thawing over.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / OlderAlterEgo

Media sources: