There is a creature without any malicious intentions. It just wants a quiet, peaceful life, maybe a few friends. But the problem is: it is enormous and looks monstrous. Thus, the people are afraid of it and run at it from sight, or grab their Torches and Pitchforks to fight it. The poor Gentle Giant or Reluctant Monster can try and convince the people to not be afraid, but its efforts are fruitless. So sometimes, it decides to give the people exactly what they want: a gigantic, fearsome, bloodthirsty beast. It might chase after people with a Mighty Roar and cause some property damage, but it is all just an act.
The reasons why a monster can do this can vary. Maybe it got tired of people responding with fear and Took a Level in Cynic. Maybe it is afraid of people, so it keeps up the terrifying image to protect itself. Maybe it's putting on a show to help a friend or an accomplice (for example, to pull a Monster Protection Racket). Maybe someone pays them to put on the act. Maybe it simply prefers solitude. More often than not, there will be a good-hearted character who sees through the monstrous act, learn that the monster is Not Evil, Just Misunderstood and befriend it, delivering An Aesop about not judging a book by its cover. You still have to Beware the Nice Ones, of course.
The trope shares some similarities with Scarecrow Solution: in both times, someone harmless pretends to be something terrifying. The main difference is that in a Scarecrow Solution, the monstrous bluff is created by a small, weak character to scare someone stronger than them, whereas a creature putting on a Monster Facade is actually strong and would be capable of hurting its victims, it just prefers not to.
Compare Hidden Heart of Gold, where a human pretends to be meaner than they really are and doesn't want anyone to know about his true, nice nature, and Mean Character, Nice Actor, when the monstrous act is the part of a show. Compare and contrast "Scooby-Doo" Hoax, where a human with malicious intentions pretends to be a monster. Also compare Then Let Me Be Evil, when the creature goes one step beyond, and actually becomes a monster after constantly being treated like one. As The Reveal that the monstrous behavior was just an act is often near the end, beware of spoilers!
Anime and Manga
- A Certain Magical Index: Accelerator tries to do this, but is horrifically bad at it due to a combination of poor social intelligence and the automatic nature of his Attack Reflector powers. Eventually he decides that the only way other people will treat him normally is if he becomes so strong that everyone will be too scared to challenge him, and agrees to an experiment in boosting his powers by fighting emotionless clones to the death... but out of uneasiness, he kills them in the most monstrous and nightmarish ways he can think of, hoping that one of them will beg for mercy so that he can use it as an excuse to stop. Somewhere in the middle of all this he is discovered by Touma, who defeats him and gets the experiment shut down... at which point Accelerator discovers that not only were the thousands of clones he killed real people, but the whole thing was an elaborate sham which the scientists had planned to abort as soon as he objected. This leads him to spend the rest of the series consumed with self-loathing, believing that he really was a monster all along.
Film - Animated
- This is the whole premise of Monsters, Inc.: the monsters pretend to be vicious and scary because it is their paid job, as the screams of terrified children are their main source of energy. Ironically, the monsters themselves are far more terrified of the children.
- The title character of Shrek does this in the beginning of his first movie. He's a grumpy, cynical ogre who grew tired of people screaming at his sight and attacking him with Torches and Pitchforks, so he chases them away from his swamp. Donkey sees through his act and befriends him.
- The titular creature of The Reluctant Dragon only wants to frolic and write poetry, but because of his terrifying appearance, the people of the nearby village hire a knight to slay him. The knight, who is also a poet himself, befriends the dragon, but the two decide to stage a fight to give the people what they want, where the dragon is, seemingly, slain.
- Implied with the gorilla in the circus parade scene from Dumbo, who shakes the bars of his cage ferociously, but when he accidentally breaks one of them, he tries to screw it back to its place with a sheepish expression.
Film - Live-Action
- The dragon from Dragonheart pretends to menace a farming village so that his accomplice, a Knight Errant, can charge them a fee to slay the monster. Played for Laughs when the felled dragon cannot sink into a lake deep enough to preclude being mobbed and discovered to be unharmed. "I can't, it doesn't get any deeper." he snarls to Bowen in a Stage Whisper.
- The Cowardly Lion from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (and The Film of the Book, The Wizard of Oz) is afraid of almost everything, but once he realized that every creature in the forest ran from him because they assumed he was a ferocious lion, he ran with the facade in the hopes that no one would actually call his bluff and challenge him.
- Redwall: Sollertree (formerly named Skyspike) is a simple-minded gigantic hedgehog. When confronted with vermin his tactic is to rear up to his impressive full height and starts roaring the most bloodthirsty threats at them, which sends them running... and leaves him sprawled on the ground and gasping for breath.
- The protagonist of Süsü, a sárkány, a gentle, childish dragon, does it in two different episodes. First, he stages a fight against the Prince, which the Prince is supposed to lose so that Süsü can kidnap the princess and no longer be alone. Second, to save the kingdom from financial trouble, he sits in a cage and acts monstrous, so that the tourists can pay to see a terrifying dragon. Both times, Süsü blows the cover and reveals his gentle nature.
- Enforced in Touhou. In the setting, youkai requires human fear to exist, and the Human Village is their main source of fear in Gensokyo. Because of this, while the youkai need to make the villagers fear them, they are not allowed to actually harm the villagers. This restriction doesn't apply to non-villager humans, though.
- Armaldo in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers is responsible for the scary reputation of the dungeon where he lives, and acts the part of a dangerous monster, but turns out to be just pretending and is kind to Igglybuff when he's not afraid of him after all. It turns out that he actually is a criminal, though, and his reputation also doubles as ensuring he won't get arrested.
- The Bloody Baron from My Life as a Background Slytherin is an amicable Friendly Ghost who often engages in intellectual conversation with Emily, but he wails and rattles his chains at first-year Hufflepuffs to uphold the "dark" image of his house.
- The eponymous giant gorilla from the Babar episode "Conga the Terrible" lives by himself on an island, and has a fearsome reputation. When Babar and his friends get shipwrecked on his island, the ape menaces them several times. Eventually, Cornelius stands up to him and learns that he's really a Gentle Giant who acts scary because he believes people will always see him as a monster, and to drive away people who may want to capture him.
- The title creatures in The Dreamstone episode "Wottles" are actually timid reclusive elf like beings that live underground as means of helping the Wuts. However due to being Shrouded in Myth, the villains are convinced they are actually ferocious carnivores. The Wottles use this to their advantage and scare them away when their current scheme has them mine through their home.
- DuckTales (2017):
- In the episode "The Spear of Selene", Webby and Dewey encounter a tentacled Sea Monster as they are searching for the Spear of Selene in the temple of Ithaquack. The monster grabs them and threatens to devour them, until he mentions that he is guarding a different artifact, the Spear of Poseidon. Once they clear up the misunderstanding, the monster releases them and politely shows them the way to the Spear of Selene, and even accepts Dewey's apology for calling him hideous earlier.
- In the episode "McMystery at McDuck McManor", Blackarts Beagle summons a scary-looking demon that, after throwing out its master, chases after the triplets. After they end up in Scrooge's hiding place, the demon reveals itself to be the ghost of Duckworth, working for Scrooge all along. He explains his behavior by having a "flair for the dramatic" - basically just trolling the triplets.
- In Legend of the Three Caballeros, the titular trio is taken by Xandra, the Goddess of Adventure, to the Labyrinth of Crete, where they encounter a minotaur. After José accidentally insults the beast, it attacks the Caballeros and chases them until they manage to wrangle him with some bullfighting skills. As the Caballeros are congratulated by Xandra, the minotaur shows up again and fist-bumps her, admitting that he was just testing the trio (and having a lot of fun while doing so).