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Masquerade Paradox

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"... why do the magical folk have to hide from everyone? The common excuse is that the masses would be frightened. ... And yet there's an interesting problem with this: In a great deal of these stories, magic has always existed. The societies are hidden but have been around since long ago. They're also very good at protecting themselves from non-magical creatures. ... Yet, despite all this power, power that they've had before Muggles have had firearms, ... witches and wizards are the ones in hiding. ... And that is the very strange conceit of most urban fantasies. The readers must believe that these creatures of great power have to be in hiding from humanity. ..."
— Lissauer, Gabrielle. The Tropes of Fantasy Fiction. McFarland & Company, Inc., 2015, pp. 158-161.

Often in Urban Fantasy stories, the various powerful magical beings that inhabit the modern world, including the villains and the heroes, are also very keen to hide from humanity by organizing a Masquerade, and living inside a Wainscot Society. This creates a bit of Fridge Logic: the magic-using heroes are both so powerless that they must spend their days hiding their magic from Muggles, and so powerful that they are the only ones who can save the Muggles from the monsters. The corollary is: Muggles have to be both so feeble and powerless that they cannot protect themselves from monsters and need a hero to do it, and at the same time are so powerful and violent that they will destroy both the monsters and the hero should the latter two be discovered.

To elaborate, the various magical Differently Powered Individuals and Witch Species that inhabit the world have vast powers that could cause The End of the World as We Know It. So powerful are these monsters that mortals have no chance of standing up to them. Only other, more friendly magical beings (i.e. the heroes of the story) can save these hapless mortals from certain doom.


Indeed, this course of affairs has been going on for thousands of years, since the dawn of human civilization. As The World Is Always Doomed, we only came this far because of the benevolent protection of wizards and other heroes.

So, why are the heroes hiding from the Muggles?

While it might may make sense for the monsters to remain anonymous, why would the heroes want to hide, or keep the population ignorant of the danger? After all, doctors regularly inform their patients of whatever ails them, and the government informs and educates the public on a major disaster in order to keep calm. In fact, failing to properly inform someone of a danger is often a felony, as is covering up evidence of a crime

Also, being magical does not necessarily mean being evil. After all, in many stories set in a Constructed World, magic and magical beings freely intermingle among normal humans. For example, Discworld has vampires and werewolves that are able to function among the normal populace of Ankh-Morporkh. Why in works set in our world does magic have to be hidden?


From a Doylist perspective, it's a Hand Wave that authors of Urban Fantasy who use this trope accept, lest there be no story. It allows the author to set stories in Like Reality Unless Noted. Also, like Superhero Settings, a big draw of Urban Fantasy is that the powers a character has is an expression of that character’s agency upon the world. After all, a big part of the escapist fiction is to vicariously experience power through other characters. Having that power taken away by being forced into living a double life goes takes away a characters power. As such, authors tend to downplay, if not outright ignore, the issue.

Of course, a Watsonian, in-universe explanation varies from one author to another. The most common are (along with common objections) are:

  1. Prejudice. Sharing the world has never been humanity's defining attribute, and Muggles, when they see magic, decide to just Burn the Witch! This is particularly effective in a world where Magic Is Evil, or all supers are at the risk of becoming monsters.
    • Objection: In settings where magic can be used to vastly improve people's lives, and where magical beings could use their powers to acquire wealth and influence, this becomes problematic. After all, doctors are widely respected for using their gifts and talents for saving lives.
    • Objection: While this might be a good motivator for Muggles to try and hurt magic, it says nothing about the means. As this article points out, super-powered beings are super-powered. To use an analogy, quite a few people hate the President of the United States. However, the President is very powerful and very well protected, which tends to dissuade attacks. Similarly, Differently Powered Individuals have far greater physical powers than Muggles. Muggles can hate DPIs all they want, but if there isn't any opportunity for Muggles to actually inflict any harm, then such hatred won't amount to much.
  2. The Muggles can Zerg Rush. Muggles hugely outnumber the various monsters, and the huge disparity between the would-be rulers and the would-be ruled prevents an open take-over by the former.
    • Objection: This didn't stop the Mongols from ruling the Mongol Empire, Alexander the Great from forming his empire, Hernán Cortés from conquering and ruling Mexico, or the Kim dynasty from controlling North Korea. History has shown that a small number of people can rule over far greater numbers for a lengthy period of time. As Von Clausewitz noted, its not just sheer numbers, but how those numbers are applied to defeat an enemy.
  3. The World Is Not Ready. Muggles with magic are like children with guns, lacking the competence and maturity to use it responsibly. It is possible to conceive of specific situations where some power or technology should be kept under wraps, like not teaching emotionally unstable teenagers how to build nuclear weapons.
    • Objection: It's hard to see how a magical means to cure cancer, extend life, reverse aging, or allow universal education would automatically be dangerous.
    • Objection: Failing to properly inform the public of a potential hazards is criminally negligent. When a pandemic breaks out, the government quickly informs the public so as to minimize the risk of injury and death.
    • Objection: Hiding technologies and techniques that can improve lives of the common man befits the actions of a villain. Keeping awesome superpowers from people because they are "not reaady" can be seen as an excuse for those in power who don't want to share, and who kill to keep their toys.
  4. Muggles Do It Better. While those wizards and faeries are still running around with swords and wands, modern-day humans are using guns, drones, and nukes. Magical folk hide for fear that They Would Cut You Up, especially in settings where Science Destroys Magic. After all, what's the point of having a spell for eternal youth if you can still be killed by a young punk with a gun?
    • Objection: However, it does raise the question: If muggles are so adept at investigating nature and inventing new technologies, how can they ignore any evidence of magic? If magic did exist, and was capable of being reliable studied and utilized by the heroes, then what separates magic from any other form of technology?
    • Objection: In many settings magic has been around for thousands of years. What stopped a magical takeover in Ancient Egypt, Classical Greece, or Medieval Europe? Being able to cast fireballs is a major advantage in a world where everyone is still using swords and spears. Why aren't we today living under The Magocracy?
  5. Weirdness Censor. Muggles have a pathological need not to believe in magic to the point of outright self-delusion. Magic is dismissed as a superstition or mental illness, and anyone showing magic powers would result in a Medicate the Medium. Wizards and magicians don't reveal themselves for fear they'd be dismissed as mentally ill and possibly institutionalized. The monsters may not be that powerful or good at hiding, but human self-delusion is enough maintain the Masquerade.
    • Objection: Somehow, muggle civilization is also simultaneously open-minded enough to accept such things as a round earth, heliocentrism, modern medicine, evolution, dinosaurs, quantum physics, the Internet, a man on the moon, etc. But any evidence suggesting magic or monsters is apparently dismissed. Surely, basic natural selection would have eliminated any organisms that failed to properly identify and adapt to threats to their survival.
    • Objection: Religion. The existence of real-life religions demonstrates that plenty of people in the real world are quite willing to believe in mysticism and the supernatural.
    • Objection: Many times people will often resort to magic when they feel all other means have failed. One example is the Boxer Rebellion. Another example is the Maji Maji Rebellion. Then there is the ongoing use of so-called "magical warfare technologies" in The Congo. When people are fighting to survive, then they will resort to any methods to survive. If magic is real, then why didn't these people succeed?
  6. The entire world is Anti-Magic. Our reality hates magic, and strikes down any openly operating magical person. Any magic user that operates too openly puts themselves at risk. An example of this includes Mage: The Ascension.
    • Objection: Of course, if the world is so hostile, and it is possible to operate in other planes of existence that are more amenable to magic, why would magic-folk risk coming here at all? What incentive do magical folk have to risk being in this world, when they could chill out in some Magical Land? In fact, this is what happens in many stories. For example, Celtic Mythology, the Tuatha De Danaan leave this world when the Milesians defeat them in battle.
  7. The world is in some Lotus-Eater Machine. Magic and monsters actually rule the world, and all muggle civilization is a lie to keep them docile. Basically, Descartes postulated Evil demon is true. There really is some nigh-omnipotent force that actively deceives muggles about the world.
    • Objection: If the magic folk are so powerful and dominant, then why bother going through all the trouble of hiding from muggles in the first place? Ask anyone who has lived undercover: actually living a masquerade is very stressful.
    • Objection: Constantly maintaining a masquerade it is very expensive. For example, in the United States Information Security Oversight Office issues a report in 2015 that estimated the cost to the entire U.S. federal government for keeping classified information and documents a secret from the public to be around 16 billion dollars. Why would you not just rule openly and force humans and human civilization to work for your benefit?
  8. No reason at all. It's just the way the writer set it up, hoping that the reader will just accept it without reason.

A similar Hand Wave is the Superhero Paradox, except in there magic and superhumans are openly operating in full view of the public. See also Reed Richards Is Useless, where superpowered beings also have no impact on the muggle world.

For possible solutions, take a look at how to Write a Believable Masquerade

Works that go out of their way to give reasonable explanations for the masquerade can mitigate this paradox. The general rule is: the better the explanation for the why and how of the masquerade, the better the resolution of the paradox.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Although the series never focuses on ordinary people, Dragon Ball is totally inconsistent as to the extent the various characters hide from humans. In the original series, magical martial arts were widely known to exist (albeit in a less powerful form than they would become later), and in the first two sagas of Dragon Ball Z, an alien invasion wrecks large areas of the Earth. However, after the Frieza Saga, humanity suddenly forgets about the superhuman powers of the Z-Fighters (who by now can wreck entire planets), Mr. Satan pops up with a reputation as an invincible fighter despite the fact that he'd have been a weak tournament adversary even by the standards of the original series, and nobody believes in flight or ki. The heroes largely ignore this, but a Weirdness Censor ensures that nobody credits the heroes' deeds as possible even if they should know better. Frankly, it's only thanks to the efforts of the Z-Fighters that Earth survives, yet humanity as a whole seems strangely content to ignore the planet-destroying creatures that tend to pop up on a regular basis. One would wonder why the Z-Fighters don't just ask for public funding in exchange for ensuring Earth doesn't explode, or educate the public and help prepare them for the next alien invasion.
  • In Magical Girl Raising Project, the Land of Magic enforces the masquerade by careful use of mind altering magic, as well as producing various anime and manga of the Magical Girls' daily adventures for the public. Magical Girls could probably help Earth a lot more than patrolling their areas looking for people in trouble, but few bother in part because the Magical Kingdom wants to keep The Masquerade up. Magical Daisy once suggested she could use her disintegration beam for waste disposal or to get rid of dangerous chemicals, but her proposal was rejected because it would put humans out of a job. Because employment is apparently more important than saving lives and preserving health and safety.
  • Supernatural beings in the Nasuverse (Tsukihime, Fate/stay night) have varying reasons to maintain secrecy. A shared reason is The Magic Goes Away, so while magic and gods dominated humanity in the past, Muggles Do It Better now.:
    • Systems of Magecraft draw on a limited "amount" of power, the implication being that the more followers a system has, the lower the amount an individual can actually pull out. For this reason, mages don't only keep their magic secret, but centuries-old mage families keep a Single Line of Descent.
    • The undead are not afraid of humans directly, but keep a low profile to protect from other supernatural forces—namely Church Militant mages dedicated to killing them.
  • The Roppongi Club in Speed Grapher usually covers up everything that goes awry and might expose them by either buying off people or killing them, but this starts getting harder and harder to pull off when Tatsumi Saiga enters the picture. Even the best Masquerade can fall apart under media scrutiny.

    Comic Books 
  • Doctor Strange frequently will go out of his way to prevent the world at large from learning about magic, to the extent that he will use his magic to perform Laser-Guided Amnesia on people to keep them ignorant of it. Oddly enough, most normal people believe Strange himself to be a charlatan pretending to use actual magic and finding the feats he and other sorcerers perform to be impossible despite the fact that Superpowered beings capable of feats equivalent to magic are well known to the public.
  • Fables: Fabletown insists on hiding its existence from mundane Earth people and goes to considerable lengths to do so. Each Fable lives under rules aimed at hiding their particular nature. For example, Rapunzel has to have her ever-growing hair cut every couple hours; non-human Fables have to buy magic to hide their natural forms, and if they cannot afford it, they're sent to the Farm. Any mundane who cracks the ruse and foolishly lets on that he knows about the Fables' existence often finds that death is the best they can hope for. As to why this state of affairs is necessary, little is spoken. Eventually, the end of the series sees the Masquerade broken, and human civilization seems to have accepted magic just fine.
  • Wanted. There is an interesting resolution to the Paradox. The group that maintains the Masquerade is the Fraternity, an almighty Legion of Doom of allied supervillains who exterminated all superheroes on earth in 1986, and then performed a Cosmic Retcon to the rest of the world so that everyone, including any surviving heroes, believe that superheroes are fictional. Being supervillains, the Fraternity refuse to use their vast powers to help the world, and instead spend most of the time making mountains of money through clandestine and criminal means. They often commit all sorts of crimes and atrocities for fun, but they are careful to keep their crimes limited to that which their (albeit vast) superpowers can cover-up. The Fraternity also likes to conduct raids against parallel universes for sport, but are always careful to cover their tracks. This secrecy is maintained in order to avoid attracting the attention of superheroes from parallel universes. Openly ruling could destroy everything the Fraternity has built. Thus, the how and the why are covered. Maintaining the Masquerade actually becomes a major plotpoint, with a slim majority want to maintain the masquerade, while a sizeable minority of the Fraternity's members wish to break the masquerade and rule openly.

    Fan Works 
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Supergirl crossover The Vampire of Steel, Supergirl wants to call the Justice League in and wipe all vampires off Sunnydale. Buffy talks Kara out of it, explaining the Gang needs to keep the existence of vampires a secret. A clear case of No. 2. and 4. Apparently people are willing to accept the existence of "Super-villains, criminals, alien enemies from dozens of planets", but not vampires.
  • The Discworld of A.A. Pessimal is a good example of a paradoxical Masquerade that is eventually resolved in-story. The Masquerade that prevents Wizards from marrying and remaining in the profession is sucessfully challenged when mild-mannered and nerdy Ponder Stibbons gets a girlfriend. Who later becomes Mrs Stibbons. Clear-thinking people such as Lord Downey, who feels a duty of care towards his employee and respects her right to aspire to marriage and motherhood note , point out that the issue isn't one of losing the magical flux or of hair growing in the palms of your hands (thus making it difficult to hold onto a staff). Mustrum, you just need to take care that they have no more than seven children. Older Wizards discover there are suddenly a lot more younger Wizards out there who see no reason why they should grow up into elderly embittered single misanthropes. And wizardry, in Conclave, votes to overturn the Lore as it was and to allow Wizards to get married like normal people. By the time of Strandpiel, Ponder and his Assassin wife are proud, if slightly floundering, parents of three daughters. And Ponder is still an active Wizard. note 
  • Triptych Continuum: In this setting, earth ponies have access to potent geomantic abilities (enough that a large group of earth ponies working together can raise or lower mountains or generate earthquakes that bury entire armies), but they never use their magic where the other two tribes can see, pretending that they are limited to physical enhancement and the Cournicopia Effect. They are known to alter histories to hide earth pony interference, and it's implied that the earth ponies murder anypony who discovers the Secret or threatens to expose it. It is pointed out by several characters in-story (and extensively by readers in the comments), that this Secret serves no discernible purpose, has probably cost thousands of lives even not counting those directly Killed to Uphold the Masquerade, and may be responsible for many of the atrocities in Triptych. When pressed, Applejack (the only earth pony who's been queried on the subject) has to admit that she doesn't actually know why the Secret is a secret, just that that is what earth ponies have been doing for centuries.

     Films — Animated  
  • In The Brave Little Toaster, all appliances are alive and intelligent beings. For some unexplained reason, they never want their "masters" to catch them talking or moving about, with only functionally communicating machines (such as TVs) being allowed to communicate with them, and only indirectly. This despite the fact that there is no evidence that humans are compelled to hurt sentient appliances.
  • The toys of Toy Story drop or freeze in place when humans or animals approach. This is apparently a societal more, as they treat breaking cover on Sid in the first movie as a desperation move. Perhaps they could have avoided injury if they acted sooner. Either way, the reason for the masquerade isn't explicit.
  • According to Monsters, Inc., the reason monsters hide in the closet to scare children is because their screams are used as a power source, same as electricity and gasoline. So why aren't monsters going about scaring everyone 24-7? Simple: they're afraid of us! Because "scream" is so powerful, the monsters assume that kids are toxic and that even touching one can be fatal. This even applies to items that kids come in contact with, such as toys and socks, and if one of those ends up in the monster world, it triggers a prompt response from the Child Detection Agency, who dispose of the item with extreme prejudice; there's even a code for it - 23-19. So when a child does enter the monster world by accident, it sends everyone in a panic. It's strongly implied, however, that children being toxic is just a myth; Mike and Sulley are constantly interacting with Boo and, despite a couple of freak-outs, suffer no ill effects whatsoever. Randall and Waternoose seem to be aware of this, seeing as they are plotting to kidnap children and extract their screams instead of scaring them, but are keeping this knowledge to themselves to further their agenda. The Child Detection Agency also seems to be aware of this, but keep it secret to prevent such abuses.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The film Apollo 18 has the premise that there was a secret 18th mission to the moon. Apparently, the government is aware that there are infectious aliens on the moon, and they don't want anyone to know about it, including the astronauts they sent. While keeping the secret from the public may be understandable, keeping knowledge of the dangers from the Astronauts who risk being exposed makes no sense. In addition, there are the means by which the mission was kept secret. Aside from the enormous amounts of money, resources, specialized facilities, and trained personnel such a mission would require, this would necessarily require the government to cover up the launch of a Saturn V rocket. A Saturn V can be seen from hundreds of miles away during lift off, and is detectable by seismographs even further than that. And even if they managed that, all radio communication can be eavesdropped in by radio amateurs who just turn their receivers to the moon. Exactly this happened during the real moon landings.
  • Subverted in Freddy vs. Jason. The adults of Springwood, including the sheriff and other authorities figures, have established a Masquerade for a good reason, and an effective means: concealing the existence of Freddy Krueger from the town's young people stops Freddy from causing harm. Since no one knows about Freddy, they cannot dream of him or be afraid of him, thus denying him the fear that allows him to harm people through their dreams. Those already aware of Freddy's existence are drugged with Hypnocil to prevent them from dreaming, and are confined in a mental hospital, cut off from the outside world.
  • Hellboy: magic and magical beings are hidden, for some reason, even though Hellboy, Abe Sapien, and Lizz get along with their Muggle counterparts. It's finally discarded in the sequel, when the masquerade is broken. Although it's a bit rough, the world seems to be okay, for the most part, with Hellboy & Co.
  • The Sorcerer's Apprentice. The closest thing to a justification is when Balthazar says it would be "complicated" if regular people found out about magic. It is somewhat aided by the fact that pure magic spells like energy projection are invisible to regular humans. Becky is incapable of seeing a giant fiery pentagram traced across the sky, for example. Matter manipulation, telekinesis, and similar spells, on the other hand, are fully visible, since they're acting upon visible objects. After the first couple fights, however, it's not mentioned again, and the characters don't even bother trying to hide or disguise their magic anymore.

  • In Artemis Fowl, the fairy race went into hiding underground for millennia after humans began developing. It appears they've been doing this since Ancient Egypt as Egyptian hieroglyphics were derived from the fairy language. Fairies however are technologically and magically advanced, yet still keep their presence hidden from humans. The reasons given are that they are the more advanced race and should take the burden of the less savory living conditions away from the surface, as well as wanting to avoid a war with humans. One wonders if good diplomacy, and being willing to trade some of that technology, might not have had the same effect.
  • Dresden Files is a mixture of Case 1, 2, 4, and 5. The various reasons stated in-universe are:
    • Case 1 Dresden claims that people tend to violently freak out when exposed to magic and go all Burn the Witch!. Yet, whenever we see him explaining magic and the supernatural to people, and providing evidence to support his claims, they tend to accept it (see Waldo Butters & Murphy).
    • Case 2 Dresden have mentioned that muggles are so dangerous because they can keep throwing bodies at a problem until it goes away. However, every time a scene appears where ordinary muggles go up against a serious monster, the ordinary muggles are laughably crushed. Powerful Necromancers, Vampires, and Faeries effectively control entire governments, and would have brought down all of human civilization if not for their more altruistic counterparts.
    • Case 4 Recent developments in modern technology, and knowledge of magical weaknesses have helped humans better deal with some of the lower supernatural threats like vampires, werewolves, or low skilled magic users. The various Badass Normals are pretty good evidence for this. However, many monsters would require small armies or nukes, and the more powerful monsters are completely beyond any Muggle's ability to stop. For example, a particularly powerful Necromancer was able to start World War I all on his own, resulting in the deaths of millions. In addition, such technology did not exist centuries ago, when many of monsters were quite active. What stopped them from a complete takeover is unknown.
    • Case 5 Weirdness Censor. Muggles apparently have a capacity for self-delusion so powerful that it beggar's the question of how Muggles were able to survive till today, much less develop modern science and technology. Bizarre events like hundreds of exploding chests, entire continents devolving into chaos, city-wide blackouts, and constant explosions and fires are either dismissed, or explained away as college pranks, gang wars, and terrorists. It is also applied inconsistently, as members of the Chicago Police Department as well as other Muggles have accepted magic and monsters when presented with evidence and a good argument.
  • Lisseur (quoted at the top) uses Harry Potter is a textbook example of the Paradox. The stated reasons for the masquerade are No. 3. And No. 4. Apparently, the wizarding society went into hiding when the witch hunting starts to get really bad in the fifteenth century. The masquerade is maintained because it's "more convenient" if non-wizards (Muggles) don't know about it. The paradox appears due to: 1) Before the modern era, wizards have superior firepower, including things like the Killing Curse, Avada Kedavra, which wasn't illegal at this point (Rowling, Tales of Beedle the Bard, p. 86). The ever-pedantic Hermione recounts how no actual witches or wizards were harmed by the inquisitions, as they could magically protect themselves from things like being burned. 2) Also in the pre-modern era, wizards were functioning members of society, with Muggles coming to them for help with ailments. 3) Modern-day powerful magic can effectively neutralize technology, and memory-altering magic is widely used to tamper with Muggle memories. 4) Magic is not inherently dangerous, and can be safely used to rapidly heal injuries and create wonderful devices.
  • Horus Heresy demonstrates why a Masquerade isn't always a good idea. The Emperor of Mankind kept the existence of Chaos and demons hidden from the Imperium and the primarchs. He also kept them ignorant of his plans for the Webway. The first secret just left the primarchs vulnerable to the temptations of Chaos, and the latter created feelings of resentment and abandonment among the primarchs. The Emperor might have saved Himself a lot of grief if, instead of the Masquerade, He properly educated people about Chaos and told His children why He's taking a break from the Crusade. Instead, grimdark. Poor Communication Kills indeed.
  • October Daye by Seanan McGuire: Case 4. Fairies do not go out in public without illusions in order to maintain this. According to Toby, it's because most of them fear that the humans would kill any Fae that showed themselves, as apparently happened in the past, or that Fae would be kidnapped and vivisected to learn how they tick. While certainly some faeries are evil, most just get alone fine.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel, a Spin-Off of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is either a No. 5, if not an outright 7. For example, in Season 4, a powerful demon named the Beast causes a solar eclipse that covers all Los Angeles in darkness. Vampires and other nasties run rampant and out in the open throughout the city. Apparently, this wasn't enough to break the masquerade. After a while, you get the feeling Angel could drink someone's blood on live television and ride away on a magical demon horse, and most people still wouldn't realize vampires exist.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. A solid Class 5, the entire town of Sunnydale is infested with monsters that regularly threaten innocent men, women, and children. Yet the heroes, most of whom are supernatural themselves, see no reason to inform the authorities or the public, who somehow determined to bury their heads in the sand and loudly ignore what is happening. The show does see occasional Lampshade Hanging: people on the sly mention all the "mysterious" deaths, and musician Aimee Mann says she hates playing vampire towns. A particularly large lampshade is hung at the end of season three, where the graduating class of Sunnydale High gives Buffy an award as "Class Protector", while admitting they don't usually acknowledge there's anything to be protected from. This indicates that they probably know that something odd is going on with their town, but they won't suspect anything supernatural. In season 6, a typical Sunnydale Times headline reads "Mayhem Caused: Monsters Certainly Not Involved, Officials Say". Then again, Snyder mentions lying about vampires attacking the high school in season 2, telling journalists it was a gang on PCP — which the chief of police says is the usual story. The closest thing to an in-depth explanation is this chestnut:
    Giles: People have a tendency to rationalize what they can and forget what they can't.
  • Supernatural is solidly Reason 5) Weirdness Censor. In Season 5, when Lucifer is freed from Hell and unleashes a demonic Hate Plague, the public dismiss it as Swine Flu. Most hunters, Men of Letters, and sympathetic angels and what not that spend their time protecting humans from monsters, refuse to publicize their knowledge. Justified somewhat in that some monsters like the Leviathans go out of their way to hide themselves from the public.

    Religon & Philosophy 
In real life religion and philosophy, there is deus otiosus, and the closely related deus absconditus. Basically, the issue is if there is a God, then why is such a being hidden from the world? As with similar topics, various philosophies and schools of thought offer different answers.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Deadlands is a good exploration of the paradox, and the negative consequences when there is an unjustified Masquerade. Both of the setting's dominant governments actively maintain the Masquerade. There are no supernatural safeguards to keep people in the dark, though, so basic psychology is used instead. However, the authors point out that maintaining the masquerade is actually counter-productive. The Big Bad is the Reckoners, who draw power from fear. The more people are afraid, the more the surrounding environment becomes twisted and "terrorformed" into an environment where monsters can thrive. The governments know this, and try to keep magic a secret to prevent panic and deny the Reckoners their fear. However, as the authors point out, making the supernatural monsters known to the public, as well as teaching them how to defeat said monsters, would rob the Reckoners of much of their ability to generate fear. A mysterious unknown creature that prowls the jungle and snatches people from fields is scary, but a tiger is just a dangerous but manageable threat. Furthermore, it's also been suggested that their efforts to maintain the Masquerade often lead to them causing as much fear, doubt and suspicion as the ghoulies they put down in the first place.. Overall, trying to protect the public by keeping them in the dark only puts them more at risk.
  • Geist: The Sin-Eaters, part of the New World of Darkness. In the other games of the setting, all of the supernaturals have reasons for the Masquerade, and means to carry it out - vampires have to avoid being hunted to extinction by their prey, mages because Muggles just cause magic to fall apart if they see it, Changelings are afraid that their old masters will notice and come calling, Prometheans because they cause the Torches and Pitchforks reaction by their existence, and Demons want to hide from the God-Machine. Each of these also has means of cover-up any evidence they leave behind. Geist, however, has no Masquerade-equivalent. None. There's nothing in the book even discouraging a group of Sin-Eater player characters from advertising in the Yellow Pages as a group of ghostbusters... except that perhaps no one would believe it.

    Web Comics 
  • Skin Deep. There's a whole secret culture comprised of mythical creatures, but it's kept secret from humanity, mostly out of a vague fear that The World Is Not Ready. It's an unusually low-key Masquerade. They don't go to extreme lengths to keep humans away; they just try to make their havens inconspicuous and scare off any humans who manage to find one. If a human gets past those obstacles then they're expected to keep it a secret as well but not threatened with dire consequences for breaking the Masquerade. It's a wonder there hasn't been a leak.
  • El Goonish Shive: Justified due to the nature of the magic system. In this particular setting, anyone can gain magic with sufficient study and focus once they know it exists, and spells are customized to reflect the personality of those who get them. Consequently, there is no way to make useful magic publically available, or even publically reveal the existence of magic, without putting dangerous magic in the hands of those who would most abuse it. As Mr Verres puts it after one of the comic's most powerful and depraved villains has been defeated.
    Mr. Verres: You know that man in the ambulance right now? The man capable of, and having already done, absolutely horrible things? There is NOTHING special about him. He's just an average jerk who, when younger, stumbled on a way to gain use of magic that almost anyone on the planet could use. You want a real-life, non-hypothetical example of why there's so much secrecy? It's lying in the back of that ambulance.

    Web Original 

     Western Animation 
  • Danny Phantom: The eponymous hero wants to keep his identity a secret, for reasons which are in many cases quite rational. However, he seems to have no problem with every single non-human recurring enemy retaining knowledge of his identity; few of them think to actually use this against him, for reasons which are somewhat unclear. The only one given a reason is Vlad Masters (who is also a half-ghost, under the name Vlad Plasmius); he and Danny keep each other's Secret Identities secret because if one of them revealed the other's identity, the other would return the favor. As Danny pointed, if he got exposed, his friends and family would support him, and his helping people would make him a hero to the public, so he's willing to accept it to some degree if it's absolutely unavoidable. Vlad, who has no allies and who amassed his fortune by using his powers for crime, would have no such luck. Episodes like "Reality Trip" and "Phantom Planet" prove Danny right.

     Real Life 
  • The Invention of Obstetrical Forceps. Peter Chamberlen the Elder is credited as inventing them around 1600. Once the forceps were developed, they became a family secret, and all of the family members partook of this secret for the next hundred years. They went to great lengths to keep this unknown to their contemporaries, their competitors, and to the public at large, even to the people they served. It's said that when the Chamberlens were summoned, they came in a gilded carriage and they had this gilded box covered with brocaded cloth carried into the house by servants. The sound of the instruments was muffled by the fact that there were other veils inside of the box. As soon as they confronted the woman in labor, her husband and her servants and relatives all would shoot out of the room, the woman herself was blindfolded, and then the Chamberlens went about their business of delivering her, making a lot of noise to distract what was going on and especially the sound of the forceps clanking against each other. So you heard bells, screams, and eventually you heard the cry of a baby, and that signaled to the world that another successful delivery had taken place. The family became very successful professional midwives and obstetricians. They kept the secret in part because they faced stiff competition from the female midwives as well as scorn from the medical establishment of the time, and because they didn't want to expose a financially advantageous trade secret. While such reasons may be understandable, they were effectively Withholding the Cure from all the babies and women who might have survived if such an instrument had not been kept secret.
  • The Plumbers. A covert White House Special Investigations Unit, established July 24, 1971 by then President Nixon to stop the leaking of classified information to the media. It soon became involved in spying on the Democrats and trying to win Nixon the 1972 election. The use of a secret unit directly from White House (as opposed to another agency like the CIA or FBI) was stupid, for if any of the guys were caught, it could be traced back directly to the President. Many of their activities were even more ridiculous, often done for no apparent reason other than to satisfy Nixon's paranoia. Also, all the Democratic presidential candidates had largely self-destructed on their own at this point, without the plumbers aid. In the end, the whole Masquerade was pointless. The plumbers' activities eventually led to Watergate, and the downfall of the very administration they were trying to protect. If Nixon had just played clean, he would have got what he wanted without his pointless Masquerade.
  • A real world resolution of the Masquerade Paradox is Biological Mimicry a.k.a. Masquerade. Here is a very brief explanation: First, there is a prey that evolves some type of defense (like tree frogs being poisonous) to protect itself from its predators. Then, that prey evolves a signal (like bright colours) to tell the predators about the defense, which successfully warns off predators. Then, a similar species evolves the same signal (bright colours), mimicking the original, but without the defense. The predator, seeing the signal and unable to tell the difference between the original and the mimic, leaves both of them alone. Thus, the mimic masquerades as the model. The key here is predation. It is the presence of a sufficiently dangerous predator that provides the environmental pressure to cause the evolution of the masquerade. Many Urban Fantasy settings fail to develop a predator that is believably dangerous enough to convince magic to hide behind a masquerade.

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