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Not An Act

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A character performs an action that should be against their true nature/self-interest (such as getting angry at an ally, making a declaration of love, appearing to go crazy), until The Reveal that it's not an act: they really are that angry/in love/insane/etc. Sometimes the character is an impersonator, with their action being entirely in-character for both personas.

May cause My God, You Are Serious in onlookers.


Compare Not Brainwashed, If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten. See also Enforced Method Acting, where actors produce the right reactions by being put in the same conditions as their characters, and Hidden Disdain Reveal, which may be a consequence of this.

As this is often The Reveal, beware spoilers.


Comic Books

  • Calvin and Hobbes: One arc begins with Calvin willingly leaving for school and acting disturbingly nice to his mother. She's left in complete confusion, while the reader learns that Calvin has used his cardboard box to make a pure good(y-two-shoes) clone of himself.


  • Harry Potter:
    • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Mad-Eye Moody is famously averse to Death Eaters who avoided prison, as his job is to arrest them and his face is covered in scars from those who resisted. The Moody Harry meets during his fourth year was impersonated by a Death Eater who did go to prison (and is trying to revive Voldemort), and understandably hates those who claimed they'd been mind-controlled to avoid punishment, hence his punishing Malfoy by turning him into a ferret and passive-aggressive attitude towards Karkaroff (the son of a "reformed" Death Eater and one who sold out the others to save his skin, respectively).
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    • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: When suspected of being a Double Agent by Bellatrix, Snape has a long speech where he patiently takes apart her arguments, including one where he belittles Harry as a mediocre wizard who needs his friends' help to get anywhere. As we see in the last book, most of what he told Bellatrix was a lie and he was always against Voldemort, but his contempt for Harry was genuine, using very similar terms when speaking to Dumbledore about him.
  • The Judge Dee Fan Sequel "Chinese Medicine For Murderers" has the judge look for a way to catch an incompetent doctor in the act. He sends his wife to complain of a headache, oblivious to her grouchy attitude, sour expression and the fact that she keeps massaging her temples. When she returns (having narrowly avoided being killed by the doctor's brilliant idea to treat a dozen people by burning huge amounts of rat poison in a stuffy room), the judge congratulates her on her idea of faking a headache. She returns to her room before the temptation to murder him becomes too strong.
  • For most of the first volume of The Hunger Games, Katniss believes Peeta is pretending to be in love with her as part of a plan to manipulate the sympathies of the audience to help them earn sponsors that might let them survive the game. It's only near the end of the book that it finally sinks in that every single thing Peeta ever said about loving her ever since the first day they met was entirely true.
    • Later in the series, Finick Odair tells Katniss that he sympathises with her need to maintain the facade of being in love with Peeta since all his so-called "lovers" are actually patrons he's being prostituted to by President Snow. But after he saw how Katniss nearly lost her mind with panic when Peeta walked into an electrical hazard and his heart briefly stopped, he realised that Katniss really did love Peeta too, possibly even before she did herself.

Live-Action TV

  • Blackadder: In the second season, Blackadder has had a man executed prematurely without anyone knowing, but the man's wife begs the queen for one last meeting. Blackadder is forced to impersonate him lest he get the chop, and does so with a bag over his head, insisting on Baldrick only allowing them two minutes. Blackadder manages to impersonate the husband to the point where she starts to go down on him, which of course is the moment an unusually-competent Baldrick comes in to declare that their time's up. Blackadder's "No it isn't" is entirely heartfelt.
  • Constantly brought up in Canada's Worst Driver by the fact that these are real drivers.

Web Original

  • In Homestuck, Mom Lalonde is so ridiculously over-the-top in the way that she expresses her love for her daughter Rose that Rose assumes that she's just pretending to care as a means of Passive-Aggressive Kombat. It takes some Character Development for Rose to realize that her mother is being completely sincere and is just a naturally excessive person.

Western Animation

  • The Legend of Korra: Mako and Bolin are held captive by Bolin's sort-of fiancee Eska and her brother Desna as Unalaq fuses with the evil spirit Vaatu. Bolin starts blubbering that he and Eska will never be together if the world is destroyed, prompting Eska to kiss and release him (as Mako and Desna share an "are you seeing this too?" look). As Mako and Bolin escape, Mako congratulates Bolin on his acting skills. Bolin mumbles something like "yeah... acting..." and sheds a Single Tear.

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