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Not What It Looks Like

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"It's not what you think! I know it looks like we're cleaning dishes, but actually we're having sex."
Gregory House, House

A common trope in romantic comedies is the humorous misunderstanding, or the Not What It Looks Like.

A couple teetering between Will They or Won't They? has gradually started to slide toward "they will". But wait! The girl sees the guy's old crush/ex-girlfriend/other person who's previously expressed a romantic interest in him (or vice versa) go into his apartment/a hotel room/etc., and stay for a suspicious length of time.

The girl is convinced that he and the other woman have gotten together, and goes through intense doubt about her own relationship with the guy. However, she'll hardly ever confront him about it, instead preferring to stew in her own insecurity or make veiled mean comments to the guy, who's usually completely clueless as to what's going on because the other woman just wanted something completely banal, like someone to vent to after her latest boyfriend dumped her. The scales even out, the status quo (i.e., Unresolved Sexual Tension) is restored, and the fans tear their hair out and scream at the writers for some progress, dammit! note 


Often the other woman will catch on to what's happened after a while and tell the girl what really went on, clearing the way for a slide toward "they will" again. In most of these situations, the other woman is a relative, "proving" to the girl that nothing untoward was happening.

This can also apply to non-romantic situations, such as one person thinking another person has committed (or is planning to commit) some heinous act, or misinterpreting a harmless situation into something scandalous. Mistaken murderers involving accidents with sharp utensils and bottles of tomato sauce are surprisingly common.

The name of the trope comes from what is usually the first line the guy says afterward, often followed by, "I Can Explain!" This line is also the first line uttered by an Accidental Pervert.

Can provide the grounds for a Second-Act Breakup or Third-Act Misunderstanding. See Innocent Innuendo for a more sexual-related variant of this trope, and Abuse Mistake for a more violent variant. If the whole thing could be cleared up by one simple statement that nobody ever thinks to say, it's probably an Idiot Plot.



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  • This series of Ameriquest ads:
    • The first one, in the trope image, depicts a man preparing dinner for himself and his wife. While the man is chopping vegetables, his cat drops a pot of red soup the man was cooking. The man frantically picks up the cat... without putting his knife down, making it appear that he was trying to kill his cat.
    • The second one in the compilation depicts a father driving his daughter and some of her friends to an event. The daughter wants to buy some gum, so they pull over to go to a convenience store. The father tries to give the daughter money from inside the car so that she could buy the gum she wants, but the way the daughter bends over to take the money leads some cops to believe that the father was soliciting a prostitute.
    • The third one has a man accidentally dropping his chocolate near his dog as the dog gets excited. When he picks up the chocolate to eat it, a girl and her grandmother mistake him for eating dog poop.
    • The fourth one has a woman in an airplane trying to cross sleeping passengers in order to go to the restroom, but she accidentally trips over a man, waking him up. She ends up falling on top of him, into a position that, to all the onlookers who also woke up, looked like they were joining the Mile-High Club.
    • The fifth one has a man lying in a hospital bed with two doctors watching him. The man's wife and daughter have come to visit. An annoying fly buzzes around the room, and one of the doctors manage to shock the fly to death, saying that "that killed him (the fly)". However, the man's family walks in right as he says the line, making it sound like the man was accidentally killed by the doctors.
  • The punchline in this Trojans commercial double-inverts the trope.
  • This This is SportsCenter ad. Explanation: Jorge Posada is a catcher for the New York Yankees. Catchers don't normally wear the traditional baseball caps due to them wearing full face masks. David "Big Papi" Ortiz is a designated hitter for the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees' arch rival. Ortiz is wearing a Yankees cap, just as Wally the Green Monster, the Red Sox mascot, is walking by.
  • One advertisement series pushed this Up to Eleven with various scenes, including one where a man is trying to track down his daughter who stormed out mad because he wouldn't give her the money to buy a CD. He decides he was wrong and goes out after her, where he finds her walking along a street, stops her and says that he changed his mind, here's the money. Cut to scene where police car, behind him, sees a man in a car handing money to a young lady who stopped when he called out to her, and she's leaning through the window.
  • A commercial featured a man meeting a woman who just moved into his apartment complex. A little later, he decides to tape a note to her door offering to help her move. But all he has is duct tape, and he has to use a knife to cut off a square. Cut to the woman opening her door and seeing the man right outside holding a knife and a long strip of duct tape.
  • Invoked by a Canadian broadcaster promoting audio described programming for the vision impaired; the ad starts off blurry, looking like something, but then the scene is revealed to be something else, with the justification that without described video, someone vision impaired wouldn't know the scene was the other thing (i.e. sounding like a woman giving birth in a hospital, but actually a couple unsuccessfully trying to cram a sofa into an elevator)

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Ranma ½ this leads to Mistaken for Cheating more than a few times. It's never what it looks like.
    • Yes, but he probably shouldn't have shouted "Now give it up!" while leaning over a very buxom teacher and grabbing at her breast. Or tried to do the same thing several times over the next week....
    • Also in one episode, Akane burns herself while trying simulate a strong battle aura for Ranma's training with gloves on fire; the fire has burned off her top so she's left in her bra, and Ranma gives her his shirt to cover herself. Ryôga comes across this — and thinks Ranma tried to rape her. For once, though, Akane's the one trying to explain it isn't what it looks like, while Ranma plays along with Ryoga's misunderstanding because he actually wants Ryoga angry at him.
    • Akane finds Ryoga on top of a female Ranma in bed, right after Ryoga forced open Ranma's shirt. Ranma himself assumed the case the wrong way. Because while Ryoga was only checking to see if Ranma had a weird mark, our lovesick hero was merely waiting for the love-making to begin.
    • During the final story Shampoo has been mind controlled, Akane almost died but is now a dehydrated doll, Saffron is about to rise to full power and entire Jusenkyo is at the risk of being destroyed. And Mousse and Ryoga (with the Jusenkyo guide and Plum) lost Ranma after a previous fight. He's eventually found in the room next door by his voice asking to see Shampoo's hot, naked body, to their shock. And after smashing the wall they find them lying on the floor, Shampoo partially naked, with Ranma grabbing her "two round beauties" with his mouth. IT'S NOT WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE!
  • Full Metal Panic!:
    • Kaname is first introduced to Sousuke's CO Teletha Testarossa, a 16-year old girl, coming out of the shower in his apartment. Since she is unaware that Tessa is his CO, Kaname's immediate (and justifiable) assumption is that she's his girlfriend — an assumption only encouraged by Tessa, who's too pleased to be taken for Sousuke's girlfriend to want to clear things up. It's only when things turn really serious that she drops that facade.
    • However, when Tessa actually climbs into bed with Sousuke in an episode of Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu, Kaname — by this point well aware that he's a hopeless case — replies to Sousuke's panicky "It's not what it looks like!" with an irritable, "yes, yes," and proceeds to get on Tessa's case for breaking their mutual agreement not to go into Sousuke's room.
    • Before the first meeting with Tessa, there is an episode where Sousuke notices a thief sneaking up to Kaname's balcony and goes to stop him. It turns out to be Shinji Kazama, a classmate of theirs forced to steal a pair of Kaname's panties by upperclassmen who are holding something of his hostage. Shinji's also a military Otaku, so he and Sousuke start having a lively conversation. So Kaname steps out onto the balcony just in time to see the two of them chatting away — and worse, when Sousuke starts to explain, he raises his hand and accidentally shows the panties he grabbed from Shinji earlier. Batter Up!!
  • Maison Ikkoku: Made up almost entirely of a long string of Not What It Looks Like incidents for the major characters. In the beginning they tend to end in apparent Snap Backs, amplified by pathological levels of Cannot Spit It Out. But as the show progresses they have long-lasting repercussions and increasingly force Godai and Kyoko to talk to each other and learn to trust each other. Particularly notable examples:
    • Godai and Asuna (Mitaka's sort-of fiancée) open Mitaka's door to find him on the floor on top of Kyoko. He actually fell on her after passing out from his fear of dogs, but Godai and Asuna both look like they've been clocked with a brick and leave before Kyoko can catch them to explain. It was nice to see the tables turned on Kyoko for once, and have Godai be the jealous one.
    • Subverted when Godai's student Yagami gets her friends to lock him in a storage closet with her. She's wearing only bloomers and a bra, and threatens to scream rape if he doesn't stay and talk to her. She grabs him when he tries to leave, the struggle results in a fall, and Godai thinks his life is over when the principal opens the window with Kyoko standing behind her... while he's kneeling over a half-naked Yagami, with his hand on her breast. Luckily for him, they've been listening long enough to know he's not at fault.
    • Quadrupled, subverted, averted, and inverted when Mitaka takes Kyoko on a date that turns out to actually be, 1. an omiai cooked up with the help of Kyoko's mother. Kyoko calls Godai and asks him to come help her, but when he gets there Mitaka tells Godai that he's reserved a hotel room for them before whisking her away to dinner before Godai can see her. Kyoko is notably anxious — Mitaka asks if she called Godai, then "speculates" that, 2. he must not have cared enough to come. When Kyoko's father shows up at Ikkoku late that night and she's not back, he freaks out and tries to hunt the city for them; Godai goes with him (mostly to keep him calm). When they get back and she's still not home, he keeps telling him to have faith in his daughter 3. despite appearances. When Kyoko does get home (after turning Mitaka down) and finds out they've been looking for her, she blows up at her father for overreacting. So he claims that he had faith in her, and 4. makes it look like it was all Godai's idea. This alone may establish Rumiko Takahashi as the Queen of Not What It Looks Like.
    • Mitaka gets drunk and can't remember what happened between him and Asuna, except that he woke up in the morning in bed without his clothes on. He asks what happened, and she, thinking he is talking about their kiss, confirms they "did something". As if that isn't enough, Asuna's dog and Mitaka's dog did do What It Looks Like that night — he misunderstands when she tells him about "the pregnancy," and promises to "take responsibility". Now this is all classic comedy, and you're just waiting for the Snap Back, but by the time Mitaka learns the truth it's too late and he's committed to marrying her. He was rather unhappy about it too. At first, at least.
    • Godai has to go to a love hotel to cover the bill for a drunken housemate (Akemi) whose date had abandoned her, and walks out with her just in time to run into his nominal girlfriend Kozue — who then immediately runs to Kyoko for advice. But it turns out that Akemi had engineered the whole thing in order to give Kozue the impression that Godai was seeing other women, so that she would break up with Godai, so he could get together with Kyoko. And it works, too. Now doubtful about Godai, Kozue accepts the marriage proposal she had received from someone else, tells Godai, who admits he really wanted someone else (just not Akemi). When Kyoko asks Akemi about Godai, Akemi is careful to word her answers so Kyoko ends up with exactly the wrong impression. This time, the only way Godai can account for his actions is by confessing his love to Kyoko, and they (almost) sleep together that night after over years of UST.
  • Mazinger Z: It happened sometimes in the original series, but the Shin Mazinger Zero spin-off gave a particularly hilarious example. In a chapter Kouji and Minerva-X are together inside the cockpit. During the battle Mazinger moves a lot and Minerva lands on Kouji on a very awkward and embarrassing position (face-down and on top of Kouji, with her head hovering above his groin and Kouji's head stood between her legs). Sayaka -who had just arrived and destroyed three Mechanical Beasts in a fit of jealous rage- sees them, and they -after displaying tremendously comical Oh, Crap! stares- try to explain it is not what it looks like, and Minerva was not human but she actually is a Super Robot created by The Professor Dr. Kabuto to be Mazinger-Z's Battle Couple. Sayaka's reaction was an incredulous Flat "What." before trying to kill them.
  • In REC (Not the Spanish horror film), Aka notes that Fumihiko never comes home after going out drinking with an old crush whose boyfriend had just broken up with her. He'd carried her back to her apartment after she'd passed out drinking, then she'd woken up and wanted to continue drinking with him through the night.
  • In Nodame Cantabile, Chiaki's ex-girlfriend Saiko comes to see him so she can complain about being passed over for the lead role in a concert. Nodame sees them together and spirals into comic depression. Slightly different in that Saiko (after a few drinks) does try to get back together with Chiaki, but he refuses.
  • Your Lie in April:
    • Kousei trying to take a picture of Kaori while performing with the children, only for him to accidentally take the photo at the exact moment Kaori sees him and the wind blows her skirt up.
    • After jumping in the river, Kousei lets Kaori change into his dry clothes at his house. Kaori, in a fit of rage, slams open the windows in the piano room... and Tsubaki, who lives next door, sees the two of them through her window at that moment. Of course, Tsubaki gives Kousei a good beating.
  • School Rumble:
    • In the Beach Episode, Kenji Harima ends up naked and grappling with the bikini-clad Eri Sawachika when their classmate Akira Takano walks in. Even worse than the usual Not What It Looks Like because it looks like he's about to rape her, including to Eri herself. Akira is immediately able to discern (and explain in detail to Eri) exactly how they got into that position, rather than jumping to the obvious conclusion. This only serves to further cement Akira's position as the only Genre Savvy person in a series that parodies Genre Blindness.
      Akira: Ah, let me guess. Eri walked in on you while you were changing, and you, in your infinite wisdom, decided to grab her to keep her from screaming. Don't worry Harima, I don't think you're a pervert, but you are a great big idiot.
    • It gets better — the reason he panics and grabs Eri is because he's afraid it'll lead to another misunderstanding with Tenma, his love interest. Before the beginning of the series, he rescued her from a thug and carried her back to his apartment since she was unconscious. When he leaned in for the traditional Dude, She's Like, in a Coma! kiss, she woke up and thought he was about to molest her (or already had). Unluckily for him, Akira wasn't present to explain.
    • The release of School Rumble in the U.S. invoked this trope in all of the promotional material, especially with the tagline: "It's not what you think! It's hilarious!"
  • Love Hina: It usually ends up with either Naru or Motoko attacking Keitaro.
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima!, the next series by Ken Akamatsu. It's often subverted by the fact that most of the characters are often fully aware that it isn't what it looks like. This doesn't stop these types of moments from happening often. The worst is probably this, which could very easily be construed as a sexual encounter if one was not aware of the context (NSFW, obviously. Also, spoilers).
  • Ai Yori Aoshi averts this: despite having so many situations where it's Not What It Looks Like, as the girls listen to Kaoru's explanations and actually believe him. Sometimes, he doesn't even need to explain anything. Except for his first encounter with Miyabi. He'd gotten out of the tub in an unsuccessful attempt to keep Aoi from coming in. Then he slipped and fell on top of her. So Miyabi enters and sees Kaoru, naked, kneeling between Aoi's legs ... with his hands firmly planted on her breasts. It was perfectly natural for Miyabi to throw him across the room and start trying to stomp him to death. <snicker>
  • Haruhi Suzumiya
    • When the Student Council demands that the SOS Brigade produce a book of short stories if they want to continue using the Literature Club Room, Kyon is forced to write a romantic short story. He refuses to give Haruhi the last page, and she attacks him, holding him in a wrestling position. Enter Mikuru, who knows about Kyon and Haruhi's love for each other and the Belligerent Sexual Tension. She sees them in this position, and...
    • Taniguchi jumps to the obvious conclusion after seeing Kyon kneeling over Yuki in an empty classroom. Actually, she was on the floor because she had just saved Kyon from a rogue Data Entity, and was trying to recover from the wounds she took in her fight with it before she could get back up and they could finish fixing the damage. While it wasn't what it looked like, Kyon couldn't exactly explain.
    • In Disappearance, Kyon has been losing it all through the beginning when it seems like Haruhi and Koizumi have been erased, Mikuru and Tsuruya don't recognize him, and Asakura has returned. Then he finds Yuki. she recognizes him, which gets his hopes up for a second, but doesn't remember Haruhi or any of the things they've been through. He finally snaps and eventually pins her against a wall in a way that looks like assault. Once he finally comes back to his senses, he realizes about how easily this scene can be misconstrued if someone were to walk in and backs off.
  • The Familiar of Zero:
    • Played... oddly in season 3 when the ridiculously busty Tiffania asks Saito to feel her breasts, because she's trying to understand why everyone keeps asking her whether they're real. Saito, rather stupidly (considering his past track record) agrees to check them out and is predictably caught by Louise and Siesta in bed with Tiffania, enthusiastically groping her. Played straight in Tiffania's case, but almost certainly inverted in Saito's case.
    • Also averted and played straight simultaneously in the first episode of the second season. Saito tries (and fails) several times to kiss Princess Henrietta. Unfortunately, the head guard, Agnes, sees this, but decides to forgive him of "his shameless act". More unfortunately, Louise goes absolutely berserk, whipping Saito until the sun rises the next morning, which is when Agnes barges into the room to report. Saito is on the floor, almost completely nude, covered in numerous bruises and cuts. Louise is straddling him, blouse open, skirt pulled up, stockings torn, and out of breath. It actually is what it looks like, but this is not sexual in the least.
    • Saito and Agnes spar with wooden swords, and Saito gets his ass kicked. Eventually, Saito manages to knock her down and pin her. At that moment, Louise walks in to find Saito on top of Agnes with them both panting and sweaty...
  • Welcome to the N.H.K. features a comedic example. Misaki spills hot sauce on Setou's lap, and jumps in to wipe it off. Cue Yamazaki walking in, with Misaki's back to him.
  • Blown out of all possible proportions in Daily Lives of High School Boys: the obsessive-in-hindsight Literary Girl chases Hidenori (who runs for his life, scared of how she looked running at him) to the next town over just to explain she wasn't on a date and was just walking with a classmate. Cue Hidenori not having any idea what she's on about.
  • In Ah! My Goddess, it's a common occurrence for someone to pull Keiichi into a compromising situation, but Belldandy always believes him when Keiichi explains that it's Not What It Looks Like.
    • On one occasion, he doesn't even need to explain — when she finds her sister Urd naked in the bath with him, her immediate response is "Why didn't you tell me so I could join you?", prompting another character to say that Belldandy must be stupid to trust Keiichi so blindly. But considering that Keiichi can't even make moves on the eminently-willing Belldandy, it's quite reasonable.
    • Belldandy once defended her K1 from a manufactured compromising situation by saying "It's true! He doesn't have the guts to do that!" She realized how bad that sounded and tried to correct herself, but just made it worse. Specifically, she corrected herself by saying, "My Keiichi... isn't enough of a man to-" This results in the unsound effect of "Digging the hole deeper."
    • When they were under attack, Urd manipulated Keiichi into groping another woman in front of Belldandy. Belldandy subconsciously channels her jealousy into explosions, powerful enough to defeat the attacker.
    • Belldandy has flat-out stated that she will always believe Keiichi — even if he's lying.
  • In an episode of InuYasha, Inuyasha has been wounded, and Kagome tries to administer first aid (not knowing about his demonic Healing Factor). In order to do this, she must remove his clothes, which leads to the two of them on the ground, her on top, struggling to pull open his robe, and loudly ordering him to undress. At the time Kaede is Right Behind Her, along with some children who take the scene the wrong way.
  • Nearly every episode of Chobits. Poor Hideki is always found in compromising situations... especially when it comes to Chii's "power button".
  • In Mai-Otome, after Shizuru discovers a secret about Akira (that she's disguised herself as a boy and is impersonating Prince Takumi), Arika walks by and sees the two of them in a suggestive pose with Shizuru's face behind Akira's.
  • Early in Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch, Lucia, looking for Rina to make friends with her, finds her on the roof apparently cutting class to kiss Kaito. In actuality, Rina was harassing the poor boy instead, as she mistook him for the Big Bad in disguise.
  • Happens all the time in Girls Bravo. Quite a lot of episodes start with Miharu ending up naked or near-naked in front of Yukinari, during which Kirie will probably walk in and beat the shit out of him before bothering to hear an explanation.
  • To Love-Ru:
    • Rito constantly ends up in ridiculously suggestive situations with Lala in front of Haruna, the girl he has a crush on. Some of the situations he's had to attempt to explain his way out of include him and Lala popping out of a locker in the girl's locker room while naked, and running into Haruna in a lingerie store, just in time for Lala to emerge from the changing room wearing only a bra and panties and ask Rito what he thinks of it.
    • Then there's this incident involving Yui. Her brother just so happens to walk in during a Thanks for the Mammary moment after she falls out of bed onto Rito.
    • Later, Rito grabs one of the devices Lala has made as she's searching through things. Somehow, he and Haruna activate it. It ends up being the device that transports a person without their clothes. Eventually they are found by the school nurse, who's response is, naturally, to leave them alone to get back to what they were doing.
  • In the first episode of Karin, Kenta witnesses Karin embracing an older man in a park and jumps to the conclusion that she is a prostitute (conveniently failing to notice that she is, in fact, biting the man's neck). Later on, he sees her in a similar position with his own mother. Hilarity Ensues.
  • The second season of Hidamari Sketch has Yuno walking in on Sae posed on all fours over Hiro and starts freaking out. Turns out the two were practicing for the school play, with Sae being the criminal. I wonder what the crime was. Oddly, this scene is depicted in the OP for the first season, making it Bait-and-Switch Credits at the time.
  • In the Beach Episode of SHUFFLE!, Sia catches Rin carrying a half-naked Asa to the washroom and jumps to the wrong conclusion; unbeknownst to Sia, Asa's bikini top was washed away by a large wave.
  • Near the beginning of the Bount Arc in Bleach, Ichigo suspects Renji may be one of the mod souls which are kidnapping their friends. He decides to test it by jumping on him outside the classroom screaming at him to "Take it off!" ("it" being the artificial body which allows him to interact with the "real world", but the rest of the class didn't know that).
  • In Candy Boy, there is a roll call just when twins Kanade and Yukino are fighting over control of a mobile phone, which makes them end up on the bed in a very suggestive position. After an awkward pause the student checking on them simply declares that the "shameless couple" is in and leaves.
  • In Someday's Dreamers II: Sora, Seiichirou sees how Sora seemingly gets seduced by her teacher. In reality she is having a heart attack, after which the series becomes much darker in nature.
  • This happens several times in the hospital episode of Get Backers to Ginji and Himiko. Himiko was not amused.
  • Yumeria: After her first battle in the dream world, Mizuki rushes to Tomokazu's room to see if he had the same dream. His cousin Nanase finds them with Mizuki kneeling between his legs (bonus points because Mone slipped between Mizuki's legs and has her head poking out from under Mizuki's skirt). Tomokazu twists this, deliberately making it seem it is what it looks like with a shy expression and a whispered "Please be gentle." Mizuki's face gets redder than is physically possible, and she wails, "It's a misunderstanding!"
  • Elfen Lied:
    • Subverted: Kouta is most definitely groping Nyu, who as local Innocent Fanservice Girl made him do so because she... uh, liked the sensation. While he has an excuse, it's pretty clear what was going on.
    • There was later another scene where it happened again (but with the Nyuu and Kouta naked) that Mayu sees, and walks off before Kouta can even try to explain.
    • Played straight however when Yuuka opens the screen door just as Kouta pulls the wet underwear off Nyuu who's lying back on the tatami, because she can't change her own clothes.
  • Although played straight briefly at the beginning in Mx0, the presence of openly lecherous Ise and Kuzumi's past attempts to stop Ise's schemes quickly teaches the girls to give Kuzumi a chance to explain himself. At one point Kuzumi ends up in the woman's pool time as a girl not only do they create a believable lie for him to use they don't even make him leave. Saving half dozen of them from drowning may have helped though.
  • Kannagi: The final scene in the last episode.
    Jin: Tsugumi! Wait!
  • In All Rounder Meguru, Meguru's sister finds him practicing his ground grappling techniques on a cloth doll in his bedroom. She's entirely sympathetic.
    "Don't worry, I totally understand. If you don't practice now, you might mess up and end up getting dumped."
  • Princess Tutu has a somewhat more innocent variation. Episode 20 opens up with a beautiful woman sneaking up behind Perpetual Frowner Fakir and giving him a kiss on the cheek. Later, it shows him out buying flowers with her and smiling. Ahiru and her friends see them together and automatically assume that they're dating, but the woman later happily informs Ahiru that she and Fakir are Like Brother and Sister.
  • Inverted in Fushigi Yuugi. Taka and Tasuki are napping together (with absolutely no overtones at all, no sir). When they wake up, Taka realizes he can't see himself in the mirror, leading him to experience a minor Heroic BSoD, which he begs Tasuki to keep a secret because it will upset Miaka. Miaka herself promptly walks in, sees them all rumpled and uncomfortable looking, and wants to know what's going on. Taka comes up with the excuse that "Tasuki can't sleep unless someone is hugging him," vaguely suggesting it is what it looks like (and you can't tell me Yuu Watase didn't know some fans would really get a kick out of it).
  • Ouran High School Host Club:
    • Tamaki trips and falls onto Haruhi as he and the Host Club visit her apartment on her day off. In walks Haruhi's dad...
    • In another case, during a storm, Tamaki attempts to help Haruhi overcome her fear of thunder and lightning by blindfolding her and plugging her ears. While Tamaki may have good intentions, in walks the remainder of the Host Club ready to accuse him of being an S&M loving pervert.
  • Serge in Kaze to Ki no Uta says these exact words when Sebastien enters his room to find him with a very naked (and partially unconscious) Gilbert on top of him.
  • In Gintama, while Gintoki and Hattori are staying at the hospital, the latter gets a lit candle shoved into his butt by Sacchan, which he later asks the former to remove. He reluctantly agrees to do so, just in time for everyone to pay him a visit and catch him while he's in the act.
  • In Soul Eater Not!, Anya wakes up one morning to find Meme in bed with Tsugumi, who is tied up with rope, all for non-sexual reasons. Naturally, she assumes something kinky was going on.
  • Wonderfully subverted in Bitter Virgin, despite one character's efforts to make it seem exactly what it looked like. Yandere Kazuki attempts to seduce the male lead Daisuke, going so far as to unbutton her shirt and threaten to cry rape if he leaves the room. Right then walks in female lead Hinako, a Shrinking Violet who Does Not Like Men and has only managed to open up to Daisuke. Kazuki keeps her word and tells Hinako Daisuke tried to rape her. Hinako's response: "Liar. Suwa-kun would never do that." The final nail in Kazuki's coffin is when a third party, Daisuke's sister, appears and suggests going to the police to prove her claims.
  • Change 123: in chapter 29 (volume 6) this happens.
  • In Darker Than Black Hei learns the hard way that, when purchasing clothes and undergarments for a Doll that you're sheltering from the Yakuza, it's generally a good idea to not go alone, lest you run into the target of your UST and be forced to explain that the wig and bra you're buying aren't for yourself.
  • In Harukanaru Toki no Naka de - Hachiyou Shou, Akane is visited by Dragon God's messenger spirit and tries to follow him as he starts to leave; Yorihisa, who is guarding her outside the door, rushes into the room, and the two of them end up on the floor on top of each other just as a court lady walks in to inform them of the return of the house owner. Cue Yorihisa hastily apologizing to Akane and yelling to the court lady not to leave without a word as she walks away chuckling.
  • In World Embryo Riku's father comes home unexpectedly after a business trip. As he arrives, he notices Shizuru acts weird and seems to try to prevent him from entering part of the house. However, he has an urgent need to go to the toilet. He manages to get past her, opens the restroom door, and finds his son crouching down in front of the toilet, holding down the underpants of a pre-pubescent girl sitting on the toilet who closely resembles Shizuru's sister Amane when she was a kid. Cue "It's a misunderstanding!" from Riku.
  • My Bride is a Mermaid has an epic one after Lunar spills water on herself, causing her to revert to her mermaid form. Nagasumi tries to dry her off, only for her to revert to her human form at the worst possible time: her father enters the room as Nagasumi is rubbing Lunar's butt with a towel. He nearly gets killed/forced into marrying Lunar over it. It's worth mentioning that Lunar's father is the Terminator, and Nagasumi was already on thin ice just by existing.
  • Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu has a straight romantic misunderstanding version of this, but there's also several times when Haruka's prying sister/father mistake innocuous activities for sex.
  • In Please Twins! Karen faints and falls face first into Maiku's lap. And then the other two girls walk in the door.
  • During the story about Sakuya's birthday in Hayate the Combat Butler, a little teasing by Sakuya ends in a little scuffle between her and Wataru which ends with him sprawled on top of her. Naturally, Wataru's crush Isumi walks in and misinterprets the whole thing. Then again, she might not be misinterpreting anything regarding Sakuya.
  • Karakuridouji Ultimo does this in chapter 3. Ultimo, has been seriously injured and, for some reason Yamato thinks that a robot boy is comparable to a fairytale princess. So Yamato decides a kiss is the only way to wake Ultimo up (why he felt the need to strip to his boxers and straddle him is beyond us), but doesn't actually have to go through with it, since Ultimo wakes up just in time. Sayama walks in just in time to see a half naked Yamato on top of a very young looking boy who's crying (He was just happy Yamato was trying to help him). She jumped to the obvious conclusion.
  • Subverted in Omamori Himari when water spirit Shizuku shows up in Yuuto's bathtub. He lifts her out of the water before realizing she has the form of a preteen girl. His cry of surprise brings Rinko running in, only to see him holding Shizuku with his hands on her breasts. Shizuku's "drowned girl" appearance, however, causes Rinko to think Yuuto has discovered a corpse rather than that he's doing anything lewd. There's also the fact that he cried out in shock.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • During the Mariah sequence in Stardust Crusaders, Joseph and Avdol wind up not only getting magnetized by Bast, but stuck to each other's sides. In order to be able to chase her down, they first have to detach from each other. They quickly figure out that their heads are opposite poles, and likewise their feet. That means to detach, all that has to be done is for one of them to get his head down to the other's feet. However, when they're starting this, some children are looking on (note that this is in Egypt, where man-man romance is... not encouraged). They manage to explain it away by saying that they're practicing a dance. Once the kids are gone, it's back to detachment preparation. Unfortunately, by the time Avdol's head is level with Joseph's hips, the kids are back — with friends. Even worse, so is the old woman who crushed on Joseph earlier in the day. That crush inverts fast... which turns out to be a good thing. Not just because Joseph no longer has to worry about her, but because the drubbing she subjects him to detaches him from Avdol by itself.
    • In Part 4, Diamond is Unbreakable, con man Tamami Kobayashi cons people by using his Stand, the Lock, to inflame feelings of guilt in his targets until they pay him off. When his initial attempt to hustle Koichi fails, he goes to Koichi's home and applies the Lock to his mother and sister and makes it appear as if Koichi robbed him. Koichi is able to stand up to him and one of Kobayashi's attempts to fight back is to stab himself and then throw the knife to Koichi just as his mother and sister re-enter the room, making it appear as if he had stabbed Kobayashi. This magnifies Koichi's mother's guilt to the point she nearly commits suicide before Koichi is able to convince her to believe in him.
  • Baby Steps: Straight-laced protagonist Eiichirou vehemently protests his innocence after being labelled a "perverted stalker" when he was caught secretly watching his classmate, Natsu, practice for her tennis club. To be fair, he was watching her out in the open at first, but ducked for cover out of embarrassment when she started to look his way.
  • In Beauty Pop, Narumi thinks he sees Ochiai and Kiri kissing. Ochiai is actually getting a bug out of her hair, and it's only the angle at which Narumi sees them that makes it look like a kiss.
  • Early in Dusk Maiden of Amnesia, a girl walks in on a situation where Yuuko has fallen on top of Teiichi (she'd put on his glasses for a joke, and they really screwed up her vision and balance) and then started getting flirtatious. Teiichi promptly yelps that "It's not what it looks like!" ... forgetting that Yuuko is a ghost, and the new girl can't see her, so it didn't look like anything naughty to her.
  • Late in the second season of Code Geass, Kallen walks in on C.C. telling Lelouch "Please take off your clothes, I will do my best" in a very uncharacteristically timid voice. This ends up being less hilarious and flaily than it could have been, given the fact that Lelouch is in the middle of a Heroic BSoD thanks to the previous episode. It's also pretty quickly resolved when Lelouch explains to Kallen that C.C.'s suffering Laser-Guided Amnesia and has reverted to a childlike state. And yes, the whole thing is innocent, if rather unorthodox: Lelouch thinks his sister is dead, and C.C. wants to bandage him, mistakenly thinking his pain is physical rather than mental and emotional.
  • This happens in Heart no Kuni no Alice when Peter, the devoted crush, walks in to find Alice held down by Ace and Boris, who are simply trying to hear the sound of her heart because neither actually have one.
  • In an early episode of Rosario + Vampire, Yukari Sendo creates a voodoo doll of Tsukune to try and drive Moka away from him, and uses it to make him feel up Kurumu when she comes to visit him in the sick-bay. Moka walks in on them, with Tsukune panicking and Kurumu in ecstasy, then Yukari forces him to trip and pull Kurumu's panties off. Kurumu certainly doesn't mind.
    • This happens again in the second volume of the manga. Tsukune's shirt get's messy and Kurumu offers to wash it. By the time the rest of the harem arrive, it looks like she's forcing herself on him.
  • Poor Tsubame has this happen to her in an early chapter of Samurai Harem: Asu no Yoichi. To be fair, it's a direct result of holding a loaf of cream bread before having a bout of bad luck.
  • In the manga of Brigadoon: Marin and Melan, someone walks in on Marin and Aloma half-dressed and very close together. They had changed their clothes because of a heavy rainfall, and Aloma was trying to interrogate Marin, but that's sure not what it looked like.
  • In A Certain Magical Index, Touma has this happen to him at the end of every arc without fail.
  • This is a common theme in Ai Ore! Love Me!.
  • In one chapter of D.N.Angel when everyone was on a field trip, Disuke goes to Risa's room to give her some medicine, thinking she's sick. Riku comes in, prompting him and Risa to hide quickly in a closet. Riku leaves, Daisuke and Risa try and get out of the closet and fall... with them both landing on the bed with Daisuke in a compromising position on top of Risa. Guess when Riku comes back in because she forgot something?
  • Happens in Naruto Shippuden episode 185 when Kotetsu and Izumo are Mistaken for Gay by Tsunade.
  • Wandering Son:
    • In an early chapter Nitori's sister walks in on her undressing with a girl in her room. Nitori is transgender and had been caught by Saori wearing girls clothes. Maho then proceeds to think that her sibling was doing something "dirty" and tells their mom.
    • In a later chapter, set when Nitori is a high school freshman, Maho catches her with her girlfriend and once again thinks she was doing something naughty. In reality Anna was just massaging Nitori and she got a Raging Stiffie by accident.
  • One scene of Family Compo revolves around this. Sora is arguing with his editor about how There Is Only One Bed at a remonstrant. Their argument sounds like his editor wants to have an affair with him but Sora is protesting her advances.
  • Invoked in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny when Meer Campbell sneaks into Athrun's roomExplanation , and then answers his door while wearing a very slinky baby doll. It helps that the person at the door is Lunamaria, who has something of a crush on Athrun herself. Eventually Athrun realizes that trying to explain isn't going to do a damn bit of good and just gives up.
  • Variation in a phone call in Axis Powers Hetalia; Italy calls Germany, screaming in pain, claiming that his brother's "in bed" and "it won't come out". Germany assumes Romano is raping Italy and runs to help, only to find that the two are actually stuck together by their entangled Idiot Hair.
  • Happens in ½ Prince Prince finds Gui, who is technically straight but makes an exception for Prince, and Wicked, who knows Prince is really a girl and has had a crush on her for years on top of each other in their hotel room.
  • In The Pet Girl of Sakurasou Sorata is in a lot of these thanks to Mashiro. Often in those situations she will also say things either out of context, or out of order, to imply things done between her and Sorata.
  • The titular characters of Horimiya are sent to get everyone's drinks. They end up taking a long time, and everyone, especially Ishikawa, begins to assume the worse, which is only made worse when Miyamura tries to apologize for doing something (dropping Ishikawa's coke) and Ishikawa takes it the wrong way.
  • In Haiyore! Nyarko-san, Mahiro is attempting to get Pretty Freeloaders Nyarko and Cuuko out of the house before his mother returns from her honeymoon. Just as she steps in the door, the trio falls into the foyer from the living room, with Nyarko on her back, Mahiro on top of her (and between her legs) and Cuuko clinging to his back. Thankfully, Mahiro's mother actually does let him explain things, though we don't see the explanation thanks to the opening credits.
    • Of course, Nyarko absolutely loves invoking this trope (as well as Not What It Sounds Like); on at least two occasions, she's gasped and moaned "Oh, Mahiro..." into a phone to make the person on the other end think they're in the middle of "something". Even better, the first time she did it was when Mahiro was on the phone with his mother...
  • A darker variation happens in Bokurano. At the end of the second episode (chapter eleven of the manga) Jun appears to push Waku off the Humongous Mecha everyone is standing on. Whether it was intentional or accidental isn't certain at the moment, especially due to Jun's Jerk Ass nature so far and his "You're embarrassing us" line. Eventually we learn it would have happened no matter what. The pilots die after they finish using the mecha. Waku happened to die at that moment and fell due to that.
  • In Sekainohate De Aimashou recent Gender Bender Ryouma is horrified that people will assume he's engaging in Man, I Feel Like a Woman when he's interrupted closely examining his newly feminized body with far more practical considerations (such as "how do I go to the bathroom?") in mind.
  • In Love So Life, Shiharu responds with this whenever someone thinks she's Oeji's girlfriend, since with the twins they're often mistaken for a young family.
  • In episode 7 of Is the Order a Rabbit?, two girls enter Chiya's cafe. One of them has a Brown Bag Mask, while the other is openly displaying a pistol. She immediately assumes she's being robbed until Cocoa, who was holding the pistol, reveals why they had those things on them.
  • Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun:
    • Mikoshiba forcefully volunteered to be Miyako's shirtless model. Nozaki and Sakura came when he was stripping and shouting "Take a good look!".
    • Sakura and Hori act out Nozaki's script, and Mikoshiba comes just in time to hear the part where Hori's character shamelessly admits that he's in love with other girls than Sakura's character.
    • Nozaki imagines taking pictures at the beach and being mistaken for a peeping tom.
    • Miyako's college friends are perhaps not the brightest given that they doggedly stick with the assumption that Miyako's odd behavior is because she has a boyfriend in highschool, namely Nozaki. They also think she has an incredibly shady job because whenever they ask her what she actually does she just laughs, leaving them with the assumption that it's some dirty job performed at night. Hmmm...
      • The first time it comes up, one of her friends is convinced that they're going through a messy breakup with both of them being incredibly unfaithful while the tiny Sakura sits back watching with highly malicious entertainment at the drama. The reader knows that they're actually just talking about possible costumes for their characters.
      • When Ryousuke tries to check out what's going on, he thinks Miyako and Nozaki are talking about cosplay with Nozaki not being satisfied with anything, so at the end of the chapter he helpfully informs her that he would love to see her as a bunny girl.
  • Angel Densetsu': This pretty much describes Kitano's entire life. Due to several physical factors, his Uncanny Valley face is basically locked in Death Glare mode, and it's not helped by the fact that he unintentionally Kubrick Stares everyone he meets. So every time he shows up, everyone thinks he's a delinquent or Serial Killer, and things go downhill from there. In one instance, the teacher he was talking to cut herself on a broken mug, cue the witnesses going around convinced Kitano stabbed a teacher.
  • In Sengoku Otome, Nobunaga feeds an unconscious Hideyoshi medicine via a kiss. Mitsuhide, who is in love with Nobunaga, witnesses this and thinks they have gotten intimate, becoming insanely jealous. The misunderstanding is never cleared up.
  • My Monster Secret: Rin hugs Asahi at every opportunity, feeds him, and even spends an entire day riding around on his shoulders. It's actually a rather cute grandfather/grand-daughter relationship, but it doesn't look like that from the outside.
  • In The Testament of Sister New Devil, Basara is often caught up in situations like these with Mio.
  • In the OVA Sekkaroku of Hakuouki, Hijikata runs into this when he was trying to extricate Chizuru from her brief mission of being a spy at a geisha house. A bystander at the gate believes Hijikata is trying to kidnap or elope with her. Trying to explain goes nowhere and Hijikata loses his temper, announcing himself as the vice captain of the Shinsengumi and that Chizuru is under his protection. Hilarity Ensues as rumors quickly spread that the vice-commander of the Shinsengumi has eloped with a cute geisha.
  • Fairy Tail: Now, I know what you're thinking...
  • In Kids on the Slope, Kaoru finds his friend shirtless with a girl at school. He assumes they're doing something sexual but it turns out that Sentaro is modelling for a painting.
  • In Dragon Ball Super, Gohan gets roped into being a stuntman in a Great Saiyaman movienote , and Videl pisses off the star Barry Kahn by not fawning over him when he tries to impress her. In revenge, he tries to make it look like Gohan is having an affair with the film's leading lady, who Barry blackmailed into helping him. When Barry shows up with photos of Gohan leaving the actress's apartment (and getting a thank-you kiss for helping her memorize her lines), Gohan starts to say something like this...but Videl just tears up the photos and reveals that she instantly saw through the trick; she knows Gohan well enough to realize he'd never cheat, and she calls Barry pathetic for trying to destroy their marriage just because she didn't stroke his ego.
  • This is a running gag with Miko in Kaguya-sama: Love Is War after she joins the student council, walking in at the worst possible time on things that are far more innocent in context (like Shirogane and Ishigami forcibly taping Fujiwara's mouth shut to keep her from spoiling a manga, or Kaguya running out in tears while calling Shirogane a manwhore because she thought he wore boxers). This results in her coming to some very interesting conclusions about what happens when she isn't present.
  • My Hero Academia has an example very much like the page image—when Izuku first meets Gran Torino, the latter appears to be lying dead on the floor in a pool of blood. Then he gets up, and explains that he tripped while carrying tomato sauce. Given his personality, he may have done this deliberately.
    • A G-rated version happens in the movie. When Melissa and Midoriya are exploring the expo together—they unexpectedly run into Ochako, who has a brief Heroic BSoD while Midoriya frantically tries to explain to her, Jiro, and Yaoyorozu that he and Melissa are not on a date.

    Comic Books 
  • Subverted in Y: The Last Man when Yorick walks in on Allison Mann and 355 having sex. 355 blurts out "This isn't what it looks like!" much to the annoyance of her lesbian lover who doesn't see what they have to be embarrassed about. Moments later they encounter Australian spy Rose who's trying to explain why she's just stabbed a woman to death, by using exactly the same line. This situation, as it turns out, is a bit more complicated.
  • In one issue of Teen Titans, Robin (Tim Drake) returns to his room one night and sits on his bed, only to have a naked and extremely drunk Ravager (Rose Wilson) wrap her arms around him and try to seduce him. Robin's completely not interested but, knowing Ravager can be a bit hard to dissuade, pins her down on the bed and starts to handcuff her hands behind her. Then Kid Devil walks in.
    Kid Devil: Hot damn!
    Robin: This isn't what it looks like.
    Ravager: Yes it is.
  • Likely the intended result in X-23's famous lesbian scene. Jubilee grabs Laura while the both make 'special' facial expressions and pulls her towards herself.
  • Ultimate Spider-Man:
    • Subverted when Spidey gets caught by a guard in the security room of the Kingpin's tower:
      Spider-Man: Hey! Listen — this isn't what it looks like — unless it looks like that costumed freak Spider-Man punching your friend in the face so he can break into your boss's security system. Because if that's what it looks like... that's actually right.
    • Subversion at a different part of the trope later on. After Ultimatum Spidey stops Mysterio from robbing a gold reserve, but when the police arrive, it's just him. He starts off with "Wait, this is not what it looks like!", but they hear him out, and believe him.
  • In Batman Bruce Wayne was talking to social services worker about Jason Todd, when Cassandra Cain showed up in a dressing gown. Given Wayne's reputation and uncooperativeness about Jason and Cassandra being underage, he went away with the apparent impression that Bruce Wayne is a pedophile who probably abused and murdered his ward. At this point, Cass WASN'T his ward, so it looked as though Bruce frequently preyed on children.
  • Hilariously mocked by Seanbaby in his "Aquaman SUCKS!" parody comic, where Aquaman takes off his shirt and starts trying to molest Aqualad... only to be caught in the act by Seagull.
  • Supergirl:
    • In Supergirl's first book this happened twice in a single issue when a friend of Linda thought wrongly that she was flirting with a professor.
    • One time, Superboy and Supergirl have an argument and brawl, only for Wonder Girl (Cassandra Sandsmark) to walk in and assume Superboy is cheating on her and that the two are engaging in foreplay. She attacks Supergirl and loses, but the misunderstanding is cleared up. Cassie didn't even stop to consider that Superboy is the son/clone of Superman, Supergirl's cousin.
    • Elseworld's Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl: The Joker says this when Batgirl sees him holding a sick Supergirl in his arms. Joker -who has deluded himself into thinking that Batgirl is actually interested in him as opposed to hating him- quickly spouts that it is not what looks like and he was just trying to kill her.
      Joker: This — us — it's not what you think! She means nothing to me! She's just... just the victim!
  • In Spider-Man, Black Panther walks in on Peter Parker sitting with two beautiful Wakandan women wearing nothing but a bikini, who have their fingers in his hair.
    Spider-Man: It's not what it looks like.
    Black Panther: They're not braiding your hair?
    Spider-Man: I guess it is what it looks like.
    • Black Panther seems particularly prone to this trope. In an issue of Fantastic Four when he and Storm were subbing for Reed and Sue, Ben asked Ororo if her hair was weave. Taking offense, she invited him to lift her by her hair to show that it is indeed real. Cue T'Challa walking in on Ben holding his wife by the hair.
  • Two examples from the German comic Lula und Yankee: Yankee just rubs some lotion on a guy's back (it's against back pain), but the artist deliberately drew it to look like gay sex (and the other guy is even moaning!) A similar scene happens later: Yankee's standing there and urging Lula to go on because people could see them, and her answer sounding as if she had something in her mouth — actually, it's just the cap of a magic marker, which she uses to draw their names on the Eiffel Tower.
  • In Megalex, Ram wakes up to find a naked Adamâ sleeping on top of him. She wakes up and angrily tells him to turn around so she can get dressed, and not to get any ideas because "it's not what you think."
  • In an issue of Superior Foes of Spider-Man, The Incredible Hercules walks in on a robbery. After seeing a group of Bound and Gagged hostages, he wonders if he's witnessing a heist, or has simply wandered into a consensual bondage club by mistake.
  • In one Archie Comics story, Archie's car gets stuck in a lake. He and Betty decide to go to a motel to warm up. They end up in their underwear covered in blankets. When Betty's parents come over they get the idea that they had sex and try to force them to get married.
  • In an issue of All-New Wolverine, Deadpool and Gabby are investigating an animal testing facility, and find it's full of undead test subjects. Laura / Wolverine II tracks them down and finds Deadpool with four zombie squirrels skewered on each katana.
    Deadpool: It's not what it looks like.
    Wolverine: It looks like you've made squirrel kebabs.
    Deadpool: That's about right, actually.

    Fan Works 
  • Axis Powers Hetalia fanfic Gankona, Unnachgiebig, Unità: When Italy says he sleeps with Germany and Japan, he really did mean he just slept in their beds with them and nothing else. Until later...
  • The One I Love Is: In chapter 9 Shinji and Asuka argue as riding an elevator. Asuka loses her temper for a second and slaps him. Shinji falls on his back and Asuka gets horrified and kneels down. Shinji stands and reaches a hand down to help her up when the elevator stops and Maya walks in on them. She blushes and Shinji does not want to know what she thought was happening.
  • The Second Try: Shinji and Asuka don't want people suspecting that they are timetravelers and Happily Married. They try and pretend that they are not together but they are lousy actors, and every time they are caught making out or believe they have been caught or let slip that they are together they swear that "this is not what it looks like" and "it is not what you are thinking".
    • In chapter 5:
      "Uh... Mi... Misato!" he stuttered, trying to get the surprisingly calm redhead off him. "It... it's not what it looks like!"
    • And in the sequel Aki-chan's Life it got subverted. Yes Touji, yes Hikari, that little girl who just answered the door of your friend's apartment is Shinji and Asuka's kid. It's a long story.
  • Shinji and Warhammer 40k: In chapter 24 Shinji and his father are alone in a room and Shinji punches himself to get his father in trouble. When Misato stormed into the place and saw Shinji bleeding Gendo tried to explain what this was not what it looked like... and then he shut up because he realized that NOBODY would believe him.
  • In This Time As A Namikaze The Sandaime and Hyuuga Hiashi knock on Naruto's door. A sleepy Naruto sans jacket answers. Cue Hinata (also sleepy) walking in saying "Naruto-kun. Come back to bed. You over-exerted yourself last night." wearing nothing but his jacket. The explanation is that Naruto was masquerading as a missing-nin the previous night and got roughed up escaping from ANBU prison in a big storm only to get back to his apartment to see a soaking wet Hinata inside. He offers her his jacket to keep her warm and out of wet clothes then passes out in his bed where they end up cuddling. Hiashi has a fit.
  • In the Kingdom Hearts fic Sex on the Beach, this is inverted and played straight both — inverted first, when Kairi mistakes Sora and Riku engaging in the eponymous activity for a Nobody attack. The "played straight" comes later when the three of them are congratulating each other on a struggle to escape being discovered by their parents... and Kairi's father walks in the door just in time to observe what appears to be a threesome.
  • Subverted in the Haruhi Suzumiya/TV Tropes crossover Kyon: Big Damn Hero. Kyon is found in a compromising position just to be photographed and teased a little. He still says the line though.
  • In the End has two if these; one with Lelouch's dead body and also when Nunnally finds out who Zero is and Suzaku tries to reassure her.
  • Once More with Feeling: In a chapter, Misato caught Asuka leaving Shinjis' room at the morning. Asuka has to explain that is not what it looks like, she had been not acting untoward towards Shinji and had a good reason for she sleeping in his room. The reason being he had nightmares and she was trying to comfort him.
    "It had taken some fast talking in the living room and not a little angry indignation to convince Misato that nothing untoward had happened between her and Shinji last night."
    "And that she did have a good reason to be sleeping in Shinji's bedroom."
    "In his bed."
    "With him in said bed, at the same time."
    "Not that in her opinion it was any of Misato's business what she and Shinji chose to do -or not do- together"
  • The title of Stars Above's fifth chapter is this. Kagami says it when Tsukasa misinterprets seeing her lying in Homura's lap.
  • In Shadow Snark, Shadow has Uma (who is female at the time) knocked out inside a sack It Makes Sense in Context.
  • Double Subverted in the Daria fan fiction series Esteem Roller. Jane and Sandi walk in on a half-naked Daria giving a nude Stacy a massage, and both assert that the massage was purely medicinal (Stacy having pulled a muscle) and the nudity was pragmatic (the massage oil involved was rather pungent and difficult to get out of clothing). And immediately after their denials, they learned that they were both closeted lesbians who were attracted to each other, meaning the prior setup had been intentional on both parts.
  • Inverted in Sophistication and Betrayal, where an encounter between the protagonist and Rarity was exactly what it looked like. Pinkie Pie however mistakes this for "a big hug", and accepts a Blatant Lies excuse of Rarity being excited over her recent business success.
  • In Overlady, Louise walks in on her sister Cattleya in a compromising position with one of her maids.
    Cattleya: It’s not what it looks like!”
    Louise severely doubted that. She was almost certain it was exactly what it looked like. Her sister had her head between the wide-open legs of another girl, who had her skirt rolled up to her waist. The girl – a maid by the looks of it – was slack-jawed and vacant-eyed. And there were fluids smearing her sister’s jaw.
    No, whatever Cattleya might say, it was exactly what it looked like.
    Her sister had certainly sunk her fangs into the thigh of the other woman and had been drinking her blood.
  • In Chapter 14 of Arad's Stardust, Lana walks in on Matt cuddling Twilight Sparkle (he's comforting her, somewhat involuntarily — she hugged him first, he's under orders not to touch her without her permission — over her Chryssalid-related issues). Naturally, she can't resist teasing him about it.
  • In the RWBY fic Massages, Jaune gives Yang a massage, but her screams of pleasure cause their friends to think they're having sex. After explaining the situation, the other girls make Jaune give them massages. Soon, their screams of pleasure convince everyone in Beacon that Jaune is sleeping with them all. Jaune is not happy about this, because all the boys get jealous and try to beat him up.
  • In the Worm/Exalted crossover She Who Skitters In Shadows, Tattletale gives Skitter her phone number after meeting her in a restaurant. Of course, the real reason Tattletale gave her that note was so they could discuss the Abyssal Exaltation lodged in Skitter's soul, but Skitter can't tell them that. Cue the Wards joking about how Skitter's 'a player'.
    • Before that, there's the scene of Skitter drinking Panacea's blood to heal herself, which everyone misinterprets.
  • Inverted and mixed with Sarcastic Confession in Thousand Shinji. Misato walks in on Shinji and Asuka on top of each other with a broken chair nearby.
    Shinji: "This is exactly what it looks like. Asuka and I were making out so hot and heavy, we broke a chair."
    Misato: "Damnit. If you're going to fight, at least don't break the furniture."
  • Lelouch inverts this in Lelouch of Britannia after his bodyguards walk in on Kallen trying to assassinate him. Since he thinks she's a Stalker with a Crush and they're lying on top of each other (her half-naked, him completely naked), he calmly assures his bodyguards that it's exactly what it looks like and tells them to make sure they're not interrupted.
  • In A Voice Among the Strangers, Ebony says this when Twilight and Spike walk in on her tickling Jessica on the couch.
  • In the Pokémon Send Your OCs fanfic Pokémon: Take Two, Nurse Joy walks in on Ry on top of Alex on a bed. Ry was bringing a board game for them to play but tripped.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series fanfic Insontis, the Security team finds a video of McCoy threatening Spock; it turns out to be the two of them playing superhero with kid!Kirk.
  • In Tales Of Ponyville, Trixie needs to use a memory-transfer spell to show Raindrops something. Unfortunately, for Luna alone knows what reason, the spell requires that you kiss the pony you want to give memories to. With tongue. Naturally, Cherilee (who, incidentally, is under the mistaken impression that Trixie is not only a virgin (which she is), but totally ignorant with regards to sex) walks in at just the wrong moment.
  • In the Pokémon fanfic Travels of the Trifecta, Paul jumps to the conclusion that Reggie was having sex with Maylene because Reggie is tired the day after Maylene stayed at their house (while Paul was staying with Conway), and starts a fight with Reggie over it. In reality, Reggie was tired because he was having nightmares that were keeping him awake, but Paul doesn't believe this at first.
  • Parodied in chapter 19 of Children of an Elder God. Shinji and Asuka are caught when they were about to make love in the base's lockers and Shinji automatically says what it is not what their friends think:
    Anna peeked into the boys' dressing room just in time to see her friend straddled atop Shinji, both wearing their plugsuits, though the way they were kissing, she had to wonder if the plugsuits were going to come off again. At Touji's outburst, the two lovebirds paused a moment and looked up, then quickly stood up and straightened themselves out.
    "Aaagh!" screamed Touji. "It's true! You've turned kraut!"
    "I-it's not what you think!" replied Shinji desperately. They all stared at him. He smiled weakly. "Okay, so it was what you think."
  • Measurements, part of Jay-The-Brony's Friends with Everybody continuity, has this little exchange:
    Flash Sentry: "Sunset! This... this isn't what it looks like!"
    Sunset Shimmer: "Well, it looks like Rarity was having some neck pains and you were being a good friend and helping her out with it." (I.e., giving her a neck massage.)
    Flash Sentry (truthfully): "Um... in that case... it's exactly what it looks like."
  • At one point in Retired to Equestria, Damien walks in on Gilda, Pinkie Pie, and Twilight Sparkle in a pile covered in batter and with their faces near each other's crotches. He assumes their anger at each other gave way to lust.
  • Parodied in Of Flame and Shadow with the Sirens' habit of feeling up the other students.
    Aria: "If we want to, we sirens can see into another's memories through physical contact. That's how we knew about what Sunset Shimmer did here at the school before we talked to her in that hallway. What? Did you really think that we would run our hands and fingers over the other students just help seduce them?"
    Sonata: "Wait, we weren't?"
  • In Tangled Up In You, Marinette and Adrien end up on her bedroom floor in a compromising position after she knocks him backwards off his chair while trying to steal his phone (again). Sabine walks in on it but is more amused than anything else, calmly telling them when dinner will be ready.
  • In the Digimon Frontier fanfic Mistaken, Kouji discovers his twin brother Kouichi has what looks like blood caked on his wrist and promptly starts freaking out with worry. Later he discovers, to his mixed relief and embarrassment, that it was just paint from Kouichi painting sets for the drama club; Kouichi does admit that the paint that caused Kouji's original Freak Out! was for an extremely bloody murder scene and that it was formulated to look the exact color of real blood so Kouji's jump of logic wasn't completely unjustified.
    • A Little Teary Eyed, by the same author, has Kouichi answering the door in tears, to Kouji's clear worry, but has him then start teasing his brother after he reveals he was chopping onions.
  • In This Means War by Jeconais, there is an attempt to break Harry and Ginny up by convincing Cho Harry loves her and arrange for her to kiss him right as Ginny arrives. Ginny does see it, launches a punch, then we get a lengthy flashback to her older brothers teaching her to punch properly... cut to the present, and Ginny hits Cho right in the jaw - she knows Harry well enough that the situation looks exactly as it is to her.
  • In the Miraculous Ladybug fic Phase Eight, Nino catches Ladybug and Chat Noir making out on the fire escape outside Adrien and Marinette's apartment, right when they're about to change back.
    Adrien: This isn’t what it looks like.
    Nino: It looks like you and Marinette are Chat Noir and Ladybug.
    Adrien: Okay, this is exactly what it looks like. Sorry M’lady. I guess the cat’s out of the bag.
    Marinette: You used that line three years ago, you got to come up with better material.
  • The Pieces Lie Where They Fell:
    • The sequel Picking Up the Pieces has a case of "Not what it sounds like" - Hot Rod arrives at the Luna Guards' headquarters and asks to see their captain, saying that the other night he was sleeping with his wife Sound Mind but missed having Sweet in bed. The Luna Guards' lieutenant assumes he's having an affair with her as a result. When the truth comes out that all three (Hot Rod, Sweet Surprise and Sound Mind) are actually married, Lieutenant Even Hoof and the rest of the guards are utterly stunned.
    • A non-romantic version in chapter 15 - when Memorizing mentions that he knows how far his fellow Captain Violet Lulamoon is into writing her next book, Blazen Sun gives him a disapproving look, and Memorizing hastily explains that no, he's not going through their personal affairs; he knows about this piece of information because one of his Guards had fetched and delivered the folder holding the draft in question to Captain Lulamoon on her way out of the office the other day, at her request, and had been told what it was; the Guard had then, per standard protocol, included the information in his end-of-day report.
  • In Pokemon: The Final Saga, Ash and Dawn accidentally get themselves locked in a janitor's closet. When Nando opens the door and sees them in a compromising position (because they were trying to find a way out), he assumes he caught them trying to have some "alone time", apologizes for bothering them, and closes the door. The chapter ends with Ash and Dawn shouting for him to come back and get them out.
  • The Bridge: Rodan abruptly walks up to Rainbow Dash and presses their foreheads together so that she can join the telepathic conversation he is having with Mothra Lea. When it is over, they look up to find Rodan's kinda love interest Phoenix Flamez jealous and the other bystanders, including Rainbow's parents, thinking they were getting intimate. They frantically try to explain it's not what they think.
  • Mr and Mrs Gold: During her interrogation of August, Rose took an axe to his leg to test it as wooden. Eventually someone called Emma who - since she does not believe the curse exists yet - sees Rose holding a bloody axe with a wounded August in her cabin. Subverted, as Rose puts up no fight and even tells her husband not to pay her bail, relying on August’s cooperation.
  • In A Sunny Day in DC, Xander stops an attempted rape only to learn it was a couple roleplaying when the rapist uses a safeword and tells his "victim" that he didn't agree to a threesome.
  • Totally Played for Drama in the The Loud House fanfic Happy Mother's Day. What the Louds and the Mc Bride fathers think happened is that Clyde went on a panty raid in Lori's dresser and was on A Date with Rosie Palms. What actually happened was that Lynn Jr. was skating in the hallway and bumped into Clyde, which knocked him dizzy and sent him staggering into the nearest room, which happened to be Lori and Leni's, and he grabbed at the nearest solid object, which happened to be the aforementioned dresser; by sheer awful luck, he ended up with a pair of Lori's panties in his hand and the "moan of pleasure" that was heard was him groaning in pain. Lisa clears up the confusion when she gets home and checks her security footage but by then, Clyde's gone missing, kidnapped by his psychotic birth mother.
  • A Running Gag in White Sheep is someone walking in an apparent sexual situation and told "it's not what it looks like" only for them to come to the correct conclusion. For example, after Emerald is hit by a bucket of paint meant for Jaune he lets her use his shower and borrow some of his clothing since hers are ruined. Cue Weiss walking in to see an unknown girl wearing her partner's clothes. Emerald insists it's not what it looks like but since she's carrying her ruined clothes, Weiss had already figured out what actually happened.
  • In Hero's Harem, Silverfang sees Captain Mizuki running in fright from a pair of monsters and moves to dispatch them. In reality, the two monsters are friends of hers and the whole thing was mostly harmless teasing. Luckily, both injured monsters recover from their injuries.
  • In Fire And Shadow it's a case of "Not What It Smells Like". When Firefang comes back reeking of RiverClan cats, Yellowfang gets the idea that he slept with a RiverClan cat. Firefang was hanging around RiverClan cats because he rescued Mistyfoot's kits, and he did have a less-than-platonic cuddle with Mistyfoot, but he didn't mate with her.

    Films — Animation 
  • When Fiona pulls the arrow out of Shrek's butt in the first Shrek film, she ends up on top of him, just in time for Donkey to walk in and take things the wrong way. Cue Shrek jumping up and saying, "Nothing Happened!" Shrek trying to explain what happened distracts him long enough for Fiona to pull out the arrow.
  • Mirage tells Bob his family survived Syndrome's missiles in The Incredibles, and Bob is so grateful for the news that he gives Mirage a great big hug — and right at that moment, Helen, who fears Bob was having an affair, walks in to rescue him.
  • In Frozen, Anna's first meeting with Hans ends up with him ending up on a top of her in a rowboat:
    Hans: Oh, boy! Uh...
    Anna: This is awkward. Not you're awkward, but just because we're... I'm awkward— you're gorgeous. Wait, what?

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery: Austin Powers disables a bunch of "fembots" by doing a striptease. Immediately afterwards, his girlfriend walks in and sees him in his underwear with what appear to be scantily dressed beautiful women. He tells her it's Not What It Looks Like and starts babbling; she cuts him off, laughs, and says "I believe you."
  • In Monster-in-Law, the title character sends the ex-girlfriend up to the room where her son is getting dressed in order to try to break up his engagement to a girl she thinks is not good enough for him. So his fiancée walks in on him, half dressed, with his ex-girlfriend practically pasted on him.
  • Inverted the third The Naked Gun movie, Frank secretly does some undercover work for the police, even though he's promised his wife he's out of the force for good. When his wife discovers scratches on his back, she immediately figures out what's going on, and he says "No, it's another woman, I swear!"
  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Jessica (a toon) barges in to Eddie's office/apartment while he's getting dressed. A few minutes later, Eddie's love interest walks in on them, producing one of the more original gotcha lines ever: "Dabbling in watercolors, Eddie?"
  • Averted in State and Main. At first Joe goes to some length to keep Ann from finding out that a nude Claire is in his room (against his will), thinking that the trope will play out. Then when she suddenly walks back in and catches Claire, Joe immediately explains what's going on, and Ann believes him.
    Joe: Wait, you believe that? But it's insane!
    Ann: So's our electoral system but we still vote.
  • In Steve Martin's The Pink Panther (2006), this trope occurs twice. The second time is a particularly funny scene where Detective Ponton walks into Clouseau's apartment and it appears that he is having sex with his secretary, Nicole. In reality, she was choking on an egg and he rushed to perform the Heimlich. What makes the scene particularly amusing is that the two of them don't think that Ponton took it the wrong way and have the following conversation, which piques Ponton's interest:
    Nicole: You are so good! Where did you learn that?
    Clouseau: You know... I practiced on mannequins...
  • When Shondra gets caught in a compromising position with kidnapee B-Rad in Malibu's Most Wanted, her boyfriend makes it quite clear that: "I use that line all the time, and you know it's always what it looks like!!!" (Though in fact, it wasn't what it looked like. She was merely trying to extract a bullet from his foot, and her face ended up on his crotch. Easy enough to explain.)
  • In Titanic (1997), Jack saves Rose from falling off the back of the ship and pulls her to safety, accidentally falling on top of her in the process. Her clothes are torn and she's visibly terrified from the ordeal. At that moment, the crewmembers walk in and see them.
  • In Lucky Number Slevin, Slevin walks into his bedroom to find a strange man having sex with his girlfriend doggy style.
    Girlfriend: This isn't what it looks like!
    Slevin: Oh right, so, he tripped and then you fell?
  • In Iron Man, this, along with the following "I can explain," is subverted when Tony Stark is discovered, in his battlesuit, apparently being molested by robots. His response? "Let's face it, this is not the worst thing you've caught me doing." The bullet holes, however, are a bit bad.
  • In American Pie, Jim says exactly this during the famous pie scene.
  • American Wedding:
    • Stifler and Jim are in the room with the cake that was made to celebrate Jim's engagement to Michelle. Jim catches Stifler rearranging the letters to read "Congratulation Jism!", and the two get in an argument that ends with both of them getting cake all over their pants. Jim starts to take off his pants to clean them, while Stifler gets knocked to the floor by a dog, who starts licking the cake off his crotch. Jim, with his pants around his ankles, gets behind the dog and tries to pull it off of Stifler. Jim and Michelle's families then walk into the room and catch what looks like Jim and Stifler raping a dog. Stifler even blurts out the line "It's not what it looks like!"
    • This happens again with Stifler in the same movie. Jim's grandmother had been locked in the closet by some of his friends so that she wouldn't cause a fuss at the wedding (she objected to the fact that her Jewish grandson Jim was marrying Michelle, a gentile). Meanwhile, Cadence, Michelle's hot sister, had arranged with Stifler for the two to meet in that same closet to have sex. Cut to Stifler getting busted having sex with a granny.
  • In Independence Day, Will Smith's wingman is down on one knee to demonstrate proper ass-kissing technique when Smith drops a box. The wingman dismisses Smith's assertion that it's nothing by remarking "This is a wedding ring." At which point another pilot walks by, holds up his hands in a "Don't mind me" pose, and quickly backtracks.
  • In Working Girl, the main character walks in on her boyfriend stark naked and having sex with another woman (also stark naked). "This is not what it looks like! (beat) Okay, this is what it looks like. But I can explain! Well, not exactly explain... Come on, Tess! I'm sorry! I really am! I love you!"
  • In DOA: Dead or Alive, Bass Armstrong walks in on his daughter Tina sleeping in the same bed with Christie, and mistakenly believes they are lovers. He constantly insists he is supportive of their relationship, despite Tina's protests that there is nothing going on. He later makes a similar assumption upon seeing Tina and Kasumi together.
  • Played with in The Sweetest Thing. Christina Walters (Cameron Diaz) and Courtney Rockcliffe (Christina Applegate), in underwear, on a car. The latter (who's driving) drops her lipstick, the former decides to search for it. A biker sees the thing, thinks it's something else... and Courtney decides to play along and pretend it is what it looked like! Then the biker crashes.
  • Bend It Like Beckham:
    • When Jess and her friend Jules are walking along overwhelmed with laughter, they have to hold onto each other to keep from falling. The parents of Jess's sister's boyfriend think they're making out. They also mistake Jules for a boy due to her short hair.
    • In another scene, Jules' mother thinks her daughter and Jess are in a lesbian relationship when she hears them arguing in Jules' room (they were actually arguing about their coach Joe, who they have a crush on).
      • Made even worse when they kiss during their excitement over being recruited for a college team.
  • In Double Wedding, Charles and Irene are practicing a torrid love scene from his The Sheik-esque film, when Margit walks in and thinks that Charles is seducing Irene.
  • In Red Eye, the flight attendants are under the impression that the heroine Lisa and the antagonist Rippner were in the Mile-High Club when they both exit a lavatory together, unaware that Rippner was really choking Lisa for lying to him following one of her attempts to thwart his assassination plot.
    Older Flight Attendant: Excuse me, this isn't a motel.
    Rippner: Sure.
  • In Shanghai Knights, we get one of these when Roy O'cannon (Owen Wilson) walks in on Chon Wang (Jackie Chan) adjusting a prostitute's back.
    Roy: Chon, you decadent philistine!
  • In Captain America: The First Avenger, Peggy Carter walked in on Steve kissing a blond secretary and assumed he had become a womanizer. What she didn't see before was Steve trying to turn down the secretary's aggressive advances and being pulled into the kiss.
    • Initially turning her down, at least. By the time Peggy showed up, Cap didn't look to be resisting that much...
  • In Fierce Creatures, its a Running Gag that John Cleese's character is constantly being caught with women (or animals!) in compromising positions with implausible explanations.
  • In American Dreamer, after Alan brings a wet and drunk "Rebecca" to his room, his date sees them together and then storms off.
  • In Hellfighters, Tish, who is about 20, is on the phone at an oil fire in Venezuela when she hears that her estranged parents are going to remarry after having divorced when she was 5. She hangs up the phone, and sits down, excited, and tells the oilworkers there, "My father is finally going to marry my mother, isn't that great?" One of the men, who has no idea that she means they're getting remarried, says, "That must be very nice." and everyone else there, realizing the guy has completely misunderstood what she meant, break up in laughter.
  • Every encounter between the bike cop and the heroes of Wild Hogs is exactly that. It doesn't help that whenever he spots or overhears them, they tend to be discussing such matters as "being ridden so hard by Woody" or taking naked baths together, as seen here.
  • In Bad Boys II, Mike and Marcus head into a side room at an electronics store to have a private talk about the fact that Mike had accidentally shot Marcus in the ass earlier in the film. Unfortunately, there is an active camcorder in the room, which transmits their talk to the entire store. Without context, everybody in the store thinks that Mike and Marcus are gay. As they step out of the room, they get accosted by a Madea-esque woman telling them that they "need Jesus".
  • In Tango & Cash when Tango goes to hide out in his sister Katherine's house he sees her apparently having sex with Cash, (he sees her on top of the couch thrusting back and forth), she's actually giving him a massage to fix a slipped disc, it doesn't help with their dialogue, their moaning and grunting, and the fact that both are wearing very little clothing. However in an aversion of this trope, Katherine refuses to explain what she was doing to troll her brother.
  • We're the Millers:
  • Played for Drama in Welcome to the Punch (2013). Cowboy Cop Max Lewinsky is forced to take London crook Jacob Sternwood to the hospital to see his son; Sternwood is holding a gun in his pocket. As they're leaving the hospital they encounter another detective helping wheel a sheet-covered body into the morgue. Lewsinsky starts to explain that his being with a wanted criminal isn't what it looks like, but unknown to him the body is that of his female partner and Lewsinsky has been framed for her murder, so the detective isn't interested in his explanation.
  • One Night at McCool's: Late in the film, Jewel arranges a "date" with both Carl and Dehling at the same time without their knowledge. At Jewel's request Carl gets into a submissive S&M outfit, while Dehling goes to meet her in his police uniform. When Dehling later finds Carl in the house he restrains the apparent stranger on the kitchen table. At this point Carl's cousin Randy walks in and asks them what the heck is going on.
  • In Pretty Cool, Howard's sister walks in on him, Chuck and Miss Parker in a rather suggestive position.
  • The 1939 film Bachelor Mother starts with Polly seeing a woman abandoning a baby at the steps of an orphanage. When she tries to help the baby she is mistaken for the mother and is reprimanded for trying to abandon him. No one believes Polly when she says she isn't the childs mother.
  • Frantic:
    • Played for Drama when a concierge tells Walker he saw his missing wife leave with another man who was holding his arm around her. Walker fails to convince the US embassy staff that the man was doing this because he has a gun in her ribs.
    • Walker runs into some friends at the airport when he goes with Michelle to recover the suitcase. It's obvious what they think he's up to with a young trashy-looking French girl.
  • Stroker Ace: The morning following a romantic evening, Lugs finds Pembrook crying at the hotel. The only word she gets out is Stroker's name, so Lugs tracks down Stroker and busts him in the face, believing that Stroker had sex with her. Neither one of them gets the chance to explain that Pembrook passed out from the champagne and Stroker didn't have the heart to take advantage of her like that.
  • One sequence in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen features the King and Queen of the Moon, who have detachable heads. At one point, the Queen's disembodied head begins making suggestive noises and expressions, prompting the Baron to awkwardly tell his Kid Sidekick that the King is tickling her feet in bed. Amazingly, that isn't an example of Lies to Children: the King is literally tickling the Queen's feet in bed.
  • In Enchanted, Giselle in only a Modesty Towel falls out of the bathroom and on top of Robert just as Robert's girlfriend walks into the apartment. What makes it worse is that Giselle innocently doesn't help Robert clear up the misunderstanding because she herself doesn't understand the implications.
  • Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil: The entire premise of the film. Tucker and Dale are two Good Ol' Boys whose well-meaning actions unintentionally make them look a bunch of psycho hillbillies to the students camping in the area, who proceed to treat them as such. A particular highlight is Tucker and Dale trying to explain to the local Sheriff how the college kids ended up killing themselves on their property, only to end up Digging Themselves Deeper when Dale mentions that he (accidentally!) knocked out Allison with a shovel and put her unconscious body in his bedroom.
  • The Illusionist: Invoked and inverted in-story not by The Protagonist, but by the man investigating him, of all things; who tells the protagonist that "while others may assume that a discreet carriage ride (with the Duchess and future empress) was what it looked like (a sexual encounter), I am willing to find out what it actually was." (As it turns out, a conversation between childhood friends.) It's also possibly subverted as the man is clearly skeptical of his explanation and warns him others will be even moreso.

  • A penguin is out driving in the desert when he hears a pop and his tire goes flat. He manages to pull into a gas station to have the mechanic check it out. As he's waiting, he notices the convenience store is selling some ice cream, and he decides he could do with some good cold ice cream. He goes in and buys his favorite flavor, vanilla, then goes out and sits on the curb to eat it. Being a penguin and lacking opposable thumbs, he has a lot of trouble scooping it out with his flippers, and being in the middle of the desert, the ice cream melts very quickly. Eventually, he's almost completely covered in white, sticky goop. The mechanic comes out at that point, looks at him, and informs him, "Well, looks like you blew a seal." The penguin cries indignantly "It's vanilla ice cream, dammit!"
  • A most sombre cowboy enters a bar, orders several shots and starts gulping them down. The concerned barman inquires if something is wrong. The cowboy replies: "there are times, Bill, when words are useless. This morning I went to the barn to milk the cow, but that lousy creature kept kicking and toppling the bucket over. I got some rope and strapped her legs to the poles, but then it swinged its tail and toppled the bucket again, and I was out of rope, so I pulled the belt out of my pants and strapped its tail up. My pants fell down, and right then my wife came into the barn... there are times when words are useless."
  • A man went into a job interview and his eye winked through the whole process. The interviewer said "Look, you are well qualified, but I'm afraid that facial tic will throw off clients." The man replied - "Funny you mention that, because all I have to do is take aspirin and the winking goes away - watch" and the man began dumping out his pockets looking for aspirin. In most of his pockets, however, were condoms. Finally, once a pile of condom packages of every sort piled up on the desk the man found two aspirin, took them, and the wink totally stopped. "Well, that worked," the interviewer admitted, "but why do you have all the condoms? We don't want our clients to think you're a womanizer!" "It's quite simple sir," the guy said, "have you ever walked into a drugstore, winking like crazy, and asked for aspirin?"

  • In chapter 11 of this story [1], in a dispute over payment when it came to buying liquor, Neesha had her husband, Soem, threaten Toki into giving it to them for free, which led to him grabbing her and her pulling away, tearing her dress in the process. Of course, when she calls the police and they come, they seem him standing over her, while her dress is torn, and, well, it doesn't take any guesses as to what happens next.
    Spin: "Did he try to take advantage of you?"
    Toki: "No, but the police saw otherwise."

  • Arc of Fire: Raine protests to Myrren that he didn't leave her for Leah. She doesn't believe him. Eventually they make up, though he and Leah had fallen in love.
  • Happens in one of the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson books where Georgia's love interest (Robbie) and enemy (Lindsay) come across her while she is kissing another boy at a party. She is so startled that she falls over backwards, causing her skirt to ride up - and is aware from their expressions that they've taken it the wrong way.
  • Discworld:
    • Inverted in Moving Pictures, when Victor hesitates to stay in Ginger's room for fear of sullying her reputation. Ginger dismisses his concern, saying that her landlady would never suspect he's there to watch over her in case she gets possessed by supernatural forces: "She'll just think we're having sex." Indeed, that's just what she does suspect. And heartily approves.
    • Used in Making Money. Moist and Adora arrive back at the bank to find that Gladys is standing over the stove stirring a pot that's boiling over, and Mr. Fusspot is missing. Since Gladys has unrequited love for Moist, this comes off as a reference to the bunny boiling scene in Fatal Attraction (and not just to readers; Moist and Adora become quite Wrong Genre Savvy about it) but Mr. Fusspot is all right, he just got himself locked in another room of the bank and Gladys is just cooking what Adora actually ordered for dinner.
  • In Dragon Bones, Ward has several such moments. After Obfuscating Stupidity, for seven years, the reason for it is gone and he wants to reveal that he's in fact quite intelligent. He gets into a few situations where he involuntarily looks stupid, such as being seen talking to Oreg, the local Friendly Ghost and Genius Loci of castle Hurog. No one except Ward can see Oreg, so that looks as if he's talking to himself. Later on, there is a situation where he summons Oreg (who is not only bound to the castle, but also to a ring that Ward wears), and Oreg clings to his leg, sobbing and begging. Ward's brother Tosten is horrified and wants to know what the hell Ward did do to the poor guy. Ward did nothing, and that was the problem; Oreg suffers if separated from his current owner, and leaving him behind was an accident in the first place.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Poor Harry Dresden. In Proven Guilty, he has the misfortune to have a friend's daughter stopping by the hotel room he was using as a workspace for a shower at exactly the time her overprotective mother comes in to find him. As he points out, if she'd come ten seconds early, he wouldn't have gotten clobbered. At least the family priest who was present understood.
      • At the same time, it might not have been as innocent as Harry thought it was, as it's entirely possible that said friend's daughter (who has a crush on Harry) was trying to seduce him.
    • Happened to him again in the short story "Day Off". This one was even worse, involving two werewolves mid-coitus, his topless, unconscious apprentice, his basement on fire, smoke and flashing lights, and... Harry giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to said topless apprentice. His thoroughly amused girlfriend responds with, "I cannot for the life of me imagine what it does appear to be," and insists to know how this happened. For those not familiar with the series, Harry's apprentice is the above-mentioned friend's daughter.
    • Even after Molly's apprenticeship ends, their friendship still has a strong air of this. She's an attractive younger woman who's pledged Undying Loyalty to Harry, often works with him, and shares his apartment. All of that has an explanation, but on the outside it looks rather suspicious.
      • And since Molly is heavily in love with Harry (though it's not reciprocated), this may be intentional on her side of things.
    • It's gotten to the point where even Molly's father (Harry's friend) Michael suspects that their relationship isn't wholly platonic. As a testament to his faith in Harry, Michael isn't too upset by the possibility.
  • In The Gatekeeper, George Green has to explain to his boss what happened with Lynn in the Men's restroom:
    Dr. Sign: Okay George, let's hear it.
    George: Lynn and I went to the cafeteria to eat. I told her to wait a minute, I had to use the bathroom. I went in and used the urinal as someone else came into the bathroom. When I turned around I discovered that she was the someone else. She proceeded to make various cooing sounds and I attempted to tell her this was inappropriate. She unzipped my fly, removed my penis from my pants and got on her knees. I put my hands on her shoulders in an attempt to push her away. At that moment the [campus police] officer came into the bathroom." I smiled a little. "I'm sorry, Dr. Sign, I shouldn't be smiling about this. I know this is serious, but I got a mental picture in my head of what he saw and trying to explain to him it wasn't what he thought it was. I looked at what was happening. I said to the officer that I wasn't going to say a word to him, if I was him and I told him what I know, I wouldn't have believed it either.
  • In Gone with the Wind, Ashley is hugging Scarlett to comfort her as she cries, when they are caught by his sister India (who despises Scarlett). Ironically, despite Scarlett's love for Ashley and the numerous times she has thrown herself at him, the one time that they are caught, their embrace is completely innocent.
  • Subverted in Gorky Park. Chief Investigator Arkady Renko is hiding Irina in his apartment, as she's a witness that someone wants dead. A drunken friend turns up and draws the wrong conclusion. After Renko ushers him out, he realises that his friend is right — he's not really interested in solving the murder, he just wants to jump Irina's bones. Coitus Ensues.
  • In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry, Ron, and Hermione exit the boys' dormitory with Harry wearing the Invisibility Cloak and run into Lavender, who Ron is dating. Lavender, only seeing Ron and Hermione leaving his dormitory together, jumps to conclusions about them being together, putting another nail in the coffin of that doomed relationship. This actually helps put Ron and Hermione's relationship back into "they will" territory, not him and Lavender.
  • More "not what it sounds like" in this example: after Catti-Brie loots a Talking Weapon in the Legacy of the Drow Series, the blade takes over her mind and body temporarily to try to convince Drizzt that he should have the sword instead, since this is what the sword wants. This results in a partly hilarious/partly creepy scene where its psychic hold over Catti-Brie causes her to say to Drizzt the words that the sword wants to say to him: "Take me!" (Artist's rendering here.) Since the two of them are only friends at the time, Drizzt is pretty shocked. Fortunately, she follows that up with "Wield me!", making it clear to Drizzt that she isn't talking about sex and is possessed by the sword.
  • The Longing of Shiina Ryo: Now, just because Shin-tsu kicked you out when the teacher came over during the night doesn't mean that anything improper was happening! Honest!
  • In Les Misérables, Marius Pontmercy starts staying away from home days at a time. The rest of his family assumes that he is having a romantic affair, when in fact he is visiting the grave of his father.
    • Happens again with Marius when he is following the criminal Thenardier, in order to find out more about the latest crime planned. Some of his friends see him and assume that he is following a girl that he has a crush on, only to see that it's a man.
  • Nancy Drew, of all people, gets caught in this several times. In several instances, when the boyfriend of a friend has given her hug for a completely innocent reason—happiness, gratitude—the girlfriend has walked in and assumed the worst.
    • In the book Smile And Say Murder, Nancy’s boyfriend Ned becomes involved with another girl, yet implausibly insists “It’s not what you think” every time she confronts him about it.
  • Outlander: In Drums of Autumn, Claire has the misfortune to walk in on her husband Jamie and a male friend (previously incredibly surprised to see her) embracing. While said friend has a, ah, less than chaste look on his face. No, it's not what it looks like. (They kissed earlier thank you very much. And yes, John's gay. Jamie's just very understanding.)
  • The pranks of Fat Marcus The Moneylender and his frat buddies in The Pale King.
  • In Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, the heroine, Elinor, talks to a man, and is watched from the opposite side of the room. Both look very emotional, and finally the man kisses Elinor's hand. The witness immediately assumes that she saw a marriage proposal, but that is not the case, the relationship between the two is just platonic friendship, and she misunderstood some sentences.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Not played for laughs in A Game of Thrones when Eddard Stark recalled seeing Jaime Lannister sitting the Iron Throne after killing the Mad King. It convinces him that it's a Lannister power play. It's not until A Storm of Swords that we learn the rest of the story.
  • One of the The Ultra Violets' biggest plot points is The Kiss That Changed Everything, when Opaline caught Cheri kissing Albert Feinstein—though the latter was actually the one who initiated it.
  • The Unexplored Summon://Blood-Sign:
    • Volume 2 begins with Aika walking into her apartment to find Kyousuke and Lu Niang Lan lying together on the sofa, panting heavily. When she demands to know what happened, they both point at the other and blame them, which only makes her more suspicious. It turns out they'd just been running from a battle at the airport.
    • Similarly, in Volume 7, Renge spots Kyousuke and Biondetta approaching her family shrine. Both of them smell of the same kind of soap, and Biondetta is also red-faced and panting with exhaustion. Unlike the previous example, the reader is already aware of the innocent explanation (they'd stopped at a hotel to bathe, having gotten sweaty in a fierce battle).
  • In The Wheel of Time, several scenes before Perrin and Faile get together she is trying to restrain him from going out and overexerting himself after not having sufficiently recovered from his wounds, and ends up having him pinned on the kitchen floor... right when Mistress al'Vere walks in.
  • Wings of Fire: Clay was told from a young age that he was some sort of Enfant Terrible because he attacked his friends when they were still in their eggs. This confused him because he's anything but violent. As it turns out, this is a cross-cultural misunderstanding. Firstborn MudWing dragons have a natural Big Brother Instinct and help hatch their siblings. Clay, being the first to hatch, was trying to help his surrogate siblings out of their eggs. The adults, not understanding how MudWings behave, thought he was trying to kill them.
  • In The Year of the Rat, one of the heroes (a notorious Chivalrous Pervert) is spotted through a window of a brothel, pinning a half-naked woman to her bed, his hands on her breasts. The heroine immediately jumps to the conclusion that is obviously right. Only it isn't: the guy was in the process of questioning a hired assassin, and moreover, her masquerade as a prostitute hadn't fooled him for a single moment.
  • In "The Yellow Dwarf", Princess Toutebelle sees her fiancé, the King of the Gold Mines, accompanying a beautiful woman to a castle from her prison. She assumes that the King is taking advantage of her captivity to be unfaithful to her. In reality, the beautiful woman is one of her enemies, the Fairy of the Desert, under a glamour, and the King tricked her into taking him to her castle in the hopes that he would be in a better position to free her.
  • Young Wizards by Diane Duane: In Deep Wizardry, Nita's mother is understandably concerned when her 13-year-old daughter claims to be doing "adult stuff" with her male best friend Kit. Nita means "adult stuff" like saving the world.
  • In the Robin Cook novel Vital Signs, a woman walks in on her husband and his secretary. He of course insists, "This is not what you are thinking!", but she storms out.

  • Mocked in the song "Such Horrible Things" by Creature Feature. The song catalogs a list of horrible things done by the narrator at various ages. The chorus?
    But it's not quite what it seems
    (Not quite what he seems)
    Not quite what I seem
    Ah, Hell
    It's exactly what it seems
  • The story behind The Everly Brothers song "Wake Up, Little Susie". The singer is trying to wake up his girlfriend and take her home from the drive-in, continually pointing out that nobody (especially not her parents) is going to be believe that the reason she's coming home six hours after her curfew is because the movie was so boring that they both fell asleep.
    Well, what are we gonna tell your mama?
    What are we gonna tell your pa?
    What are we gonna tell our friends
    When they say "Ooh la la"?


    Newspaper Comics 

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Used in WWE, when Triple H was teaching Trish Stratus how to escape a hammerlock just as his wife Stephanie walked in... though if that particular escape technique has ever actually happened in wrestling, it's been a very, very, VERY rare example...
    • Given a Call-Back of sorts during RAW's 1000th episode, with Trish teaching Trips some moves from her yoga videos, just as the rest of D-Generation X walked in. Cue awkwardness.
  • John Cena tried this when a grateful Eve Torres kissed him for saving her from Kane and Zack Ryder walked in and was enraged.
  • Vince McMahon walked in on Vickie Guerrero, Hornswoggle, and Great Khali in an "interesting" position in 2012.

  • Big Finish Doctor Who: Used to humorous extent in the Fifth Doctor audio Iterations of I; the Doctor and his companion Adric have just discovered the dead body of the member of a cult when they themselves are discovered by a woman searching for the cult, the Doctor protesting that he always says that this isn't what it looks like, but in this case it doesn't even look like what it looks like as the body has clearly been dead for months rather than someone who only just died.
  • Inverted in one episode of Hamish and Dougal, when Hamish and Dougal are in the lavatory together. Mrs. Naughtie knocks on the door.
    Hamish: Don't worry, Mrs. Naughtie, it's not what it seems!
    Mrs. Naughtie: ...You mean it isn't a completely innocent misunderstanding?

  • During Evil Dead: The Musical, Jake, Ed and Annie walk in to find Ash sawing Shelly's head off with a chainsaw. Coupled with everything else that's happened, and the room covered in blood and gore, all Ash can say to them is "this isn't as bad as it looks." Smash to Black for intermission.
  • The Gilbert and Sullivan operetta Iolanthe contains the version of this trope involving the main character's mother (who is a fairy, and therefore looks deceptively young). This is probably a Shout-Out to a similar scene in The Marriage of Figaro, involving Figaro and his mother (who, until she discovered that she was his mother, was trying to get him to marry her in order to pay off a debt).
  • In The Producers, Leo wants to turn Max and himself in and hand their doctored record books over to the police. Max is kneeling, clutching the books to his chest and refusing to let go...while Leo stands behind him, arms wrapped around him, trying to wrestle the books away, all the while shouting "GIVE IT TO ME!" Then the Camp Gay director and his common-law assistant walk in...
    "Now that's what I call celebrating!"
  • Older Than Steam: Commonly occurs, usually with the genders reversed, in William Shakespeare plays.
  • The painter Cavaradossi, fiancé of the title character from the opera Tosca begins the opera by helping hide an escaped political prisoner and old friend. Tosca realises he's hiding something and, after finding a misplaced fan in the church were Cavaradossi is working, assumes he is cheating on her. Much drama, blood and death ensues.

    Video Games 
  • A rather dramatic example in Devil May Cry 4. When the older brother of Nero's love interest, Credo, challenges Nero to a fight and reveals himself to be a part of a growing conspiracy, Nero naturally is forced to beat him into submission. Trouble arises when said love interest, Kyrie, stumbles on the scene to see her brother Credo on the ground thoroughly bruised and Nero standing over him seemingly about to finish him off with his demon arm (revealing him to be part demon, which is very bad as they are all part of a religious Order that hunts and kills demons). Nero instantly recognizes what it must look like to her, and before he could try to helplessly explain, yet another character shows up, blatantly lying to make Nero even look more like the villain. And then renders the whole point moot by threatening to kill her if Nero doesn't do what he says, turning into a bug-like demon, and flying away with her. It's unsure she could tell who the bad guy was at that point.
  • Used in Yoshine's route in Brass Restoration. Subverted once you find out that Yoshine set the whole thing up in order to get a major romantic rival out of the way.
  • If the Chosen One of Fallout 2 has sex with either Miria or Davin, when they are caught, they can insist that it isn't what it looks like — they are actually a doctor. Which is true. You need 50% (pretty good) doctor skill to pull this off, so you're pretty much a doctor. You're still sleeping with him/her, however.
  • Dragon Age: Origins, in the "Mage Origin" story quest: when the PC gets busted with Jowan and Lily coming out of the repository by Greagor, one of the responses available is This is not what it looks like.
    • Whilst rescuing Queen Anora who's been kidnapped, the player is caught by Ser Cauthrien, who has come to arrest the Warden for murdering their way through Arl Howe's estate. They attempt to explain the situation and point out the disguised Queen Anora beside them, however Anora decides to claim that the Warden was the one attempting to kidnap her! The Warden can decide to either fight their way out or surrender peacefully, but not before having the option to call Anora a "traitorous bitch" first!
    • The option to say "Uh Oh!" is also available.
    • In Awakening, Anders first appears in the middle of blasting a darkspawn, in a room full of corpses that include his templar guards. He then notices the approaching PC. "Er... I didn't do it."
  • Can be seen in A Dance with Rogues if the Princess begins a romance with Bran. In one of the first stages of the romance she's given the option to offer Bran they both cuddle in the same sleeping bag to keep warm, since at this point the party's mostly camping in underground caves and the Princess is starting to feel very cold. Nothing happens between them as, even if the Princess attempts to get too intimate with him at this stage, he'll refuse. In the next morning Bran's sister Norah will see them like this and immediately grins at Bran who will briefly explain the situation and tell her it's not what she thinks. Norah won't believe him, especially if the Princess decided to sleep naked.
  • Persona 3:
    • Fuuka, nervous about wearing a swimsuit during her upcoming trip to the beach, decides to try a (noisy) ab-toning machine... which tickles horribly and won't come off. Mitsuru naturally knocks on the door to ask a favor, but stops when she hears a loud vibrating noise and Fuuka giggling.
      Fuuka: C-c-coming...!
      Mitsuru: Oh, um, never mind. C-carry on.
    • Also, in P3P, Aigis's introduction (also at the beach) comes out completely different for the female protagonist. After rebuffing Junpei and Akihiko, who were hitting on her, they soon find her...tightly hugging the protagonist and gushing about how happy she is to find her.
    • The predicament when the guys get caught in the Kyoto hot springs by the women, Akihiko tries to explain that it's a misunderstanding. Mitsuru doesn't let him finish.
      Mitsuru: Silence! I'm going to execute you all!
    • A meta-example — One FAQ for Persona 4 laid the games conversation choices out with only the lead in question. The last question for Yukiko's girlfriend social link, the point where they're in an intimate relationship, was given solely as "So... the couch, or the futon?". Play through it, and they're just talking about sitting.
    • In Persona 5, the Phantom Thieves' first encounter with Yusuke is mistaking him for stalking and attempting to accost Ann. But actually, he was trying to approach her so she could model for his artwork.
  • In Hijikata's route of Hakuouki Zuisoroku, and its OVA adaptation Sekkaroku, when Chizuru's brief stint of posing as a maiko to eavesdrop at Sumiya ends in chaos, Hijikata grabs her and makes a run for it. They're stopped at the front gate by a well-meaning bystander who takes Chizuru for the geisha she's dressed as and assumes that Hijikata is either kidnapping her or trying to elope without resolving her debt. Trying to explain goes nowhere fast; Hijikata loses his temper and ends up loudly announcing that he's the vice-commander of The Shinsengumi and Chizuru is under his protection. It apparently takes him a while afterwards to live down the rumors.
  • In Mio's route in Little Busters!, she ends up running away from Riki who chases after her and, when she stumbles, they fall onto the ground with Riki on top of her, one hand on her chest. Of course, soon afterwards Kurugaya comes along and accuses Riki of being a pervert. He rushes to explain himself...and she believes him immediately, because after everything she's done to him so far, she'd have known if he was the type to do something like that.
    • Of course, the reason Mio was running away in the first place is because Kyousuke was brushing lint off Riki, and she (being a Boys Love fangirl) immediately assumed they were having an intimate moment. Riki is completely clueless to this fact.
    • Also in "Visual Novel/Little Busters", on Komari's route, she falls fast asleep on the rooftop, leaving her clothing in a state of general disarray. If Riki tries to straighten her clothes up, she (predictably) wakes up while Riki is liftimg her shirt, and proceeds to go into hilarious freakout mode, while Riki fervently tries to explain himself.
  • Played for Drama in Mass Effect 3. During a terrorist attack orchestrated by a group Commander Shepard acknowledged working with in the past, Shepard bursts through a door with their gun raised on Councilor Udina, the human representative in the galactic government. It's actually because Udina is working with Cerberus to orchestrate the attack. If Shepard and the Virmire survivor haven't repaired their relationship to the point Shepard can convince him/her of what's really going on, Shepard or a squadmate will have to kill them.
  • An odd version of this occurs in Higurashi: When They Cry, because what it looks like is not sex, but murder. Keiichi finds Rika's body being pecked by crows, and in the process of fending them off, he drops his axe into her blood covering it with her blood and his fingerprints, though in this case it really isn't as it seems. He ends up Mistaken for Murderer by Satoko.
  • World of Warcraft: Legion: In a Suramar questline, you and the Nightfallen Arcanist Valtrois travel to Azsuna to redirect energy from ley lines to feed mana starved refugees. Immediately upon arrival, you're accosted by Stellagosa of the Blue Dragonflight, who isn't about to let Nightfallen once again try to tap into the ley lines. She only refrains from attacking Valtrois because of your presence. Valtrois initially tries to claim this trope, only to realize mid-sentence that, in fact, it's exactly what it looks like. Fortunately, Stellagosa is reasonable and eventually agrees to help your cause.

    Web Comics 
  • The Spanish webcomic 1 Millón de Monos. One of the characters says that "It's just what it looks like!" (Only, it's unclear what exactly it looks like.)
  • Near the start of Nineteen, Twenty-One, Dong-whi follows a cat by climbing up a wall and Yong-whi happens to see. He then attempts to explain to her that he isn't a burgler, but she wasn't thinking that in the first place.
  • Kroenen says this to Rasputin in Abe & Kroenen when he catches Abe holding Kroenen as they are about to escape the Ringwraiths. Unfortunately, not only does Rasputin have a rare moment of sense and realize that Kroenen and Abe are together, Kroenen has also inadvertently let slip that he can talk. Ironically, Rasputin's more upset about him hiding the latter than the former.
  • AO Range: Subverted amusingly (complete with reference to Three's Company) here.
  • In Comic Rantz, a splinter removal look like something else, not that those involved notice.
  • In Commander Kitty, MOUSE engineers one of these with the help of a conveniently timed fruit basket.
  • Ctrl+Alt+Del shows us a particularly Genre Savvy example, as Lucas asks if it's what it looks like.
  • In the middle of the dance hall from Ears for Elves, Tanna shouts at Rolan for what he did earlier.
    Tanna: You pushed me to the ground!
    Various elven ladies: Did she just say-
    Oh my gods...
    She didn't. I can't believe he'd-
    Did they really?

    Tanna: Oh come on. What are you? A bunch of gossiping barmaids? It's not like that at all.
  • Eerie Cuties:
    Brooke: (mortified) "I... I think I'm going to die of embarrassment for reals this time!"
    Layla: "Somebody, just stake me now!"
  • Hookie Dookie Panic has the scene which Wilcow insists "It's not what it looks like". Probably you won't even want to try and make sense out of what it looks like.
  • El Goonish Shive:
    • Subverted during one of the Fourth-Wall Mail Slot Q&A sessions regarding Time Travel, where the two hypothetical copies of Lisa start kissing each other, they freely admit that it is exactly what it looks like.
    • Played straight during the non-canon Pokemon parody arc when trainer Charlotte comes across Nanase and Justin hiding in the bushes naked. The audience, having read the previous comics, knows that Justin's Gracemander is drying everyone's wet clothes with her fire breath, but Charlotte draws the obvious conclusion. Either Nanase or Justin (it's unclear as the dialogue comes from off panel) says, "There are so many reasons this isn't whatever it looks like!" Unusually, they actually get a chance to explain themselves.
  • Plays itself out in Greg, as Greg is trying to yank off Ted's jeans.
  • In Hang in There, Kogasa-san, during the Anime Boston arc, Kogasa walks into her hosts' hotel room and sees Yoshika tied up on the bed shibari-style...but subverts this trope by not flipping out and just rolling with it, to everyone's relief.
    • Even better, since the comic is autobiographical, this actually happened; author Mizuki Hitoshi said in his commentary that he figured it wasn't anything inappropriate because "Yoshika" was still fully dressed, and the Danbooru members who were Hitoshi's hosts explained that "Yoshika" had agreed to pose as an artists' model for a livestream they were recording.
  • Irma. It's Norwegian, but who needs translation?
  • Towards the end of It's Walky!, Danny avoids this trope via Genre Savvy. He's talking with his ex-girlfriend and just mentioned that he was planning to propose to his current one. He flat-out refuses to show Sal the ring because if he does, Billie will end up walking around the corner and seeing them.
  • League of Super Redundant Heroes has this gem.
  • In the second Life of Maid Christmas Special, Rinnosuke takes on the role of Santa Claus for the year, but after being spotted by Marisa, he's forced to use a combo of Giving Them the Strip and Ninja Log in a bid to get the hell away from her so she doesn't steal the presents he's been hired to deliver like she did with Youki last year. It works, but when he heads to Yuyuko's place to deliver her present, Youmu enters Yuyuko's room to leave her own present for her and walks in on Rinnosuke standing over a sleeping Yuyuko in his underwear while breathing hard (due to having just gotten away from Marisa and delivered Yuyuko's present). The obvious conclusions about Rinnosuke's intentions are jumped to and swords are drawn, with painful results for him.
  • Hilariously done with Cyber Punk relish in Lizzy. Found here.
  • At one point in MegaTokyo Robot Girl Ping answers Piro's door in her underwear. Kimiko was not amused. And it didn't help matters that Ping has the body of a seventeen-year-old girl. Well, a malleable artificial body that can pass for almost anything between late middle-school and senior high school ages. Unfortunately that scene gave Kimiko an impression of the former.
    • This sort of thing happens constantly. Largo and Erika come out of a room half-undressed with Largo raving about how "soft" her body is...nope, they were building computers, and Largo's paranoid about static electricity, so they had to wear minimal clothing. Kimiko spends the night sleeping on top of Piro...but nothing else happens. Kimiko comes home to find an underwear-clad Erika, who yanks Kimiko's clothes off, and then Piro shows up and Erika makes him disrobe, too... so he can help fix her computer. Miho wanders to Piro's apartment and spends the night, then they go to a bathhouse and bathe together... but Piro was in jail all night, and they hardly even look at each other in the bathhouse.
  • Ménage à 3 uses the trope for gags:
    • An epic instance arises when geek and (at the time) virgin Gary has new character Yuki sit astride his face and then get handcuffed to him. That part isn't his fault; admittedly, he does then deliberately grope her breast while she's unconscious, but he's honestly convinced that she must be a figment of his imagination at the time. Then he finds himself lying on top of her, panting (actually from exhaustion), just as she recovers consciousness. Much of this happens in public, but the real problem is that Yuki is a violent androphobe, and this incident almost gets Gary killed. Funnily enough he and Yuki end up dating for a while, much later.
    • Another spectacular case occurs in the strip #671 (November 13, 2012, NSFW). When Chanelle walks into a room to discover Amber and Gary both naked, and Dillon also present (but dressed), she instantly concludes that Amber must have got back into her past career in porn. (Don't ask about the absence of cameras or film crew.) This probably wouldn't matter much, if she didn't also instantly volunteer to serve as Gary's fluffer, and start acting on the offer.
    • Later again, the trope is played with when Matt and Peggy encounter DiDi and Kiley in a motel corridor. Kiley and Matt are sort of in a relationship of sorts, and Kiley and DiDi were both previously regarded as probably straight, but to be fair, everyone has an excuse of sorts at this point. Still, despite Kiley's Motor Mouth blathering, the fact is, everything is almost exactly what it looks like.
  • Misfile:
  • Mountain Time had a rather... odd example of this trope. But then, it's Mountain Time.
  • Nerf NOW!!, and by extension, Mass Effect has another variation.
    • Also inverted in this strip.
  • No Rest for the Wicked:
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Played with in strip #269, when Celia recalls finding out her boyfriend "slipping the wood" to a dryad. He says it's not what it looks, but it's unsure what it looks like in the first place....
    • Subverted when Nale seduces Haley in order to betray and kill her, only to be stopped when his enraged girlfriend Sabine arrives. She realizes what's going on immediately, but wanted to kill Haley herself:
      Nale: It's not what it looks like.
      Nale: [simultaneous] I was going to KILL her.
      Sabine: [simultaneous] YOU WERE GOING TO KILL HER!
    Since Sabine knew Nale wasn't trying to have sex with Haley (and, as a succubus, wouldn't even be mad if he had been), Nale then has to explain that, despite what it looks like, he wasn't going to kill Haley without Sabine. It's never made clear whether his explanation is legit.
    • In the Prequel story Uncivil Servant, Belkar sees what seem to be criminals extorting money from a man, but after he kills them it is revealed that they were actually the police and fire department asking for donations.
  • Played for Drama in Peter Is the Wolf, where the titular character's girlfriend walks in on him tied to a bed, with a gag in his mouth about to be raped by his longtime stalker and mistakes it for him cheating on her. She promptly slaps him and breaks up with him on the spot. She learns awhile later she just abandoned the man she loves for nearly being raped and is completely horrified with herself.
  • Questionable Content:
    • In this strip, when caught in an inadvertently compromising situation, Marten remarks, "I'd say 'it's not what you think!' only I'm not even sure what I think this is." In a humorous subversion, Faye realizes that, considering Marten's track record with women, it obviously couldn't be what it looks like.
    • Used almost word-for-word here.
    • And again, although this time, as Dora says, it sort of is what it looks like.
    • Oh lord.
  • In Red String, Reika walks in on Eiji's brother's fiancée all over him (against his expressed wishes). Her reaction so far is typical for this trope, even though they aren't dating. To be specific, she runs out and slaps Eiji when he tries to stop her. Then she asks angrily and accusingly what they would have been doing further if she hadn't walked in with Eiji's brother.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal
    • In general, especially early on, the comic constantly created situations in which what was happening was not what it appeared to be to the reader at first, usually revealed by the caption — how closely they fit this trope varies. Naturally this also combined it sometimes with Subverted Trope when what it looked like was a trope. (Like a guy shouting to his kid "I Have No Son" — and the kid was actually his daughter, so it wasn't the trope so much as a Non Sequitur.)
    • It might also be done differently than usually: A mother uses a whip to knock a soda can out of her son's hand, and it's not what it looks like because she was aiming at him, not the can.
    • The comic would also subvert the trope Not What It Looks Like as well, more than once.
    • The strip for 2006-08-09 goes through four layers:
    (Pictured: a guy dressed as king pointing to a silhouette of a hanged man in the background and saying it's an lesson to all who won't kneel in deference.)
    First caption: "Many of us felt Henry had overstepped his authority as prom king."
    Second caption: "For example, he brought in this silhouette of a hanged man. To a prom!"
    Third caption: "Or there was the time when he hanged that guy for not kneeling in deference. What is this, middle school?"
    Panel in cave painting has character saying: "Pag killed mammoth."
    Caption in cave painting: "Pag had not killed mammoth."
    Actual caption: "Prehistoric single panel comics were a lot less predictable."
    • One strip contains an entirely implausible appeal to this trope: "It's not what it looks like! In fact, you're cheating on me!"
  • This strip of Scandinavia and the World.
  • Sexy Losers contains a number of parodies of this. Unfortunately, the comic's less safe for work than a copy of Hustler, so a link might not be prudent.
  • Split Screen: The night Jan left for college (never to see her best friend, Jeremy, for a decade). She was going to meet him, to finally confess her feelings to him once and for all. She sees him waiting for her in the diner, with his girlfriend, Natalie. She runs off rather than confess her love in front of his girlfriend. Turns out; Natalie was A) A lesbian, B) Was only Jeremy's girlfriend so she could act as a buffer between Jeremy and Jan and C) was only there to make sure Jeremy stopped ducking Jan and confessed his feelings. It's twelve years before Jan finds this out.
  • Superbitch: One of Quinn's experiments.
  • In Think Before You Think, Brian tries to help Julia after she passes out, and Becky catches them in this position.
  • TwoKinds:
  • In Wapsi Square, Kevin walks in the room, and sees this.
  • The Wretched Ones: Nicky says this once he is discovered burying two dead bodies with Jack. He can explain.

    Web Original 
  • AJCO: AJ visits Egg in her room to inform her of the fact that she will be punished for Nights' prior misbehavior, only to see that the bed has been converted into a double and Kube is hiding in the corner looking awkward.
    <Facilitator A_J> Really now, Prosecutor.
    <Facilitator A_J> I hardly thought you the sort.
    • They had been sleeping together, but only in the most innocent sense of the phrase.
  • In the Cartoon Hooligans episode "The Rumors About Spider-Man and Deadpool", when Captain America and Iron Man happen upon Spider-Man and Deadpool after Deadpool accidentally removes Spidey's leggings, Spidey frantically says "No, no, no! It's not what it looks like!".
  • Said word for word in Darwin's Soldiers by a system admin after Montgomery walks in on him trying to delete a bunch of porn popups on his computer. A virus had hit his computer.
  • In the Whateley Universe, it's happened at least twice so far. One time, it was Phase, standing with pants down and an erection, while Hot Scientist Bunny Cormick knelt down to get a 3-D model of said privates (for something else Phase is planning). So Bunny's roomie walks in just then. And brings back Phase's girlfriend, among others. It took a while to explain.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Gender Flip episode of Adventure Time, the Ice Queen has disguised herself as Prince Gumball and taken Fionna up to the prince's bedroom, where the real Gumball is trapped in ice on the ceiling. Fionna fights off the Ice Queen but Cake, hearing Fionna shout, rushes upstairs to find Fionna and Gumball standing by his bed, Fionna's dress ripped from the fight. Cake jumps to the wrong conclusion, screams "Don't you touch her!" and attacks him.
  • In American Dad! episode "I Am the Walrus", Stan makes sure that Steve sees him and Francine having sex, then talks to him afterwards...where he completely destroys this trope, listing off several normal excuses (like the Heimlich Maneuver or "giving her a lying-down hug") and then saying "It was none of those things. I was having sex with her. I was plowing her" and so forth.
  • Batman: The Animated Series:
    • In "Cat Scratch Fever", Selina looks for Isis after the cat leaves through an open window, and witnesses two thugs snatching up cats in a bag. Realizing they probably kidnapped her, she attacks them. Officer Montoya breaks up the commotion, and thinks she was assaulting volunteers for an animal shelter, and arrests her.
    • In "Christmas with the Joker", Batman swings into action when he spots a young man running to catch a middle-aged woman. Before he moves in, the man tells the woman that she left a package behind and he's chasing her to give it back.
  • Parodied in one episode of The Boondocks, where Robert tries to go on a date, only to have to leave his date waiting in the living room to take care of something. When she finally gets impatient and comes upstairs to see what's keeping him, she walks in on Robert, Huey and Riley standing around a stripped-down-to-his-underwear-and-tied-to-a-bed Tom, while Uncle Ruckus is dressed as a priest and whipping him. She immediately comes to the (correct) conclusion that they're all performing an exorcism, but is still offended enough to call off the date anyway.
  • Code Lyoko:
    • An early episode has Yumi (really a clone sent by XANA) blatantly coming onto Jeremie, who, for several reasons, isn't interested in her and naturally starts freaking out. Ulrich (who has a crush on Yumi but Cannot Spit It Out) and Odd walk in on what appears to be them about to kiss, complete with her having removed his glasses. Ulrich storms out and Jeremie runs after him, claiming this trope.
    • "XANA's Kiss" features a XANA-sent specter going around pretending to be members of the heroes and kissing people deliberately chosen to stir up trouble. All of those accused claim this trope and when Ulrich, after refusing to believe both Jeremie and Yumi's claims that they didn't kiss the people he saw them kissing, tries it, saying "I did not kiss Sissi!", Jeremie snidely snaps "But I SAW you.", exactly what Ulrich had been saying to both him and Yumi.
  • From Dilbert: Dilbert video tapes himself while he's taking a bath because he ultimately gets all his engineering ideas in the bathtub. During one recording session he drops his soap and is reaching between his legs and says the unfortunate line "It's so small I can hardly feel it." When Dogbert ultimately distributes the tape to Dilbert's coworkers nobody thinks he's talking about soap.
  • Family Guy:
    • In one gag, Peter's golf ball flies into a china shop where a bull is browsing. The ball bounces around, leaving the bull surrounded by shattered merchandise when the owner bursts in.
      Bull: I know what you're thinking!
    • Inverted in the episode "Sibling Rivalry": after being discovered embracing bags of Lois' liposuctioned fat with his pants down, Peter says "'s exactly what it looks like."
    • In "The Tan Aquatic with Steve Zissou", Stewie gains an obsession with tanning, but Brian forgets to let him out and Stewie is so badly burned he can barely get up. Brian retrieves some lotion as Stewie manages to get up to his knees, and he squirts it from the bottle from hip level onto Stewie's chest as Mr. Furley (from Three's Company) enters and hurriedly says he'll come back later, while Brian can do nothing but say this trope (in the uncut version on [adult swim] and the DVD; the FOX version cuts off before Brian can say the line).
    • "Go Stewie Go" had Lois trying to screw Meg's boyfriend, and when Meg catches Lois on top of the boy, Lois lamely says "Um...rape?"
    • When Peter takes Cleveland to audition for the Bachelorette...
      Cleveland: Peter, I can't do this. I'm too nervous. I gotta go.
      Peter: No, no, Cleveland, I'm not going to let you do this. I'll tie you down if I have to. [ties his hands to the chair]
      Cleveland: Peter, this is only making it worse. Oh, God, my claustrophobia is setting in!
      Peter: It's all right, it's all right, it's okay. It's all right. It's the fabric. It's the fabric. It's your clothes. All right, let's get your clothes off. [takes Cleveland's clothes off]
      Cleveland: Peter! Peter, what's wrong with you? I'm naked!
      Peter: Oh, God, you're self-conscious. I'm sorry. Here, you know what? Look, look. Cleveland. Look. See? See? Now you're not alone. You're not alone, Cleveland. [takes his clothes off]
      Cleveland: Let me out of here! I need to get out of here!
      Peter: Cleveland, no. No, you're staying. This, this for your own good. This is for your own good. [presses against Cleveland to keep him in the chair]
      Executive: [opening door] Oh, my God!
      Peter: Hi, we're here for the interview.
    • There's also the episode where OJ Simpson stays with the Griffins. Simpson spills lasagna all over the floor and Lois slips in it and lands in an awkward position, and at that moment Brian walks in and begins screaming, believing that Simpson killed Lois.
  • Futurama: Happens in the episode "Why Must I Be a Crustacean in Love" with Fry when Zoidberg walks in on both Fry and Edna who is kissing him on her sofa.
    Zoidberg: Edna, I couldn't stand it any longer. I— Gasp! Fry!
    Fry: Dr. Zoidberg, it's not how it looks!
    Zoidberg: Her caviar is on your neck!
  • Generator Rex: In "Robo Bobo", Holiday walks into Rex's room to find Rex kneeling on the floor with his face seemingly pressed up against Bobo's butt. Her "i'll come back later" is priceless.
  • In G.I. Joe when Cobra Commander spots Destro and Baroness making out.
    Destro: S-She had something in her eye, Cobra Commander!
    Cobra Commander: My eye, she did!
  • Happens to Johnny Test three times in the episode "Sleepover at Johnny's" with Jillian Vegan as her evil villain Overprotective Dad Dark Vegan catches them. In order to hide Jillian from Susan (who wants to kill Jillian for getting Gil's attention), Johnny pulls Jillian into the closet. Then, when trying to convince Jillian to leave, he spins a bottle as substitute for a coin flip. And finally, after a fall, Jillian ends up smudging her lipstick on Johnny.
  • Kim Possible:
    • In the episode "Homecoming Upset". Bonnie forces Ron into a kiss just as Kim arrives on the scene. After getting over the shock of the sight, a very pissed off Kim has to be reassured by Ron that Bonnie forced the kiss onto him unwillingly. Turns out, Kim is well aware of this, but she's still angry all the same.
      Ron: Hey, I was the "kissee" here, not the "kisser"!
      Kim: No kidding! It took ya twelve stinkin' years to kiss me!
    • "Ill Suited", where Ron is trying to explain why he stole Kim's battlesuit.
      Ron: Wait wait! It's not what you think!
      Kim: Oh? So you're not a cheater, a liar and a thief?!
      Ron: ... OK, it is what you think.
  • King of the Hill:
    • In one of the stranger episodes ("Hank's Dirty Laundry"), Hank Hill needs to watch pornographic videos to prove to a video clerk that the porno video he allegedly rented and didn't return doesn't exist, so he can clear his credit and buy a new washing machine. When Peggy sees him from behind, crouched over (presumably masturbating, but actually taking notes to find clues), she freaks out and tells Bobby to leave the house. The original scene (which can be seen on the complete second season DVD) had Hank shaking his pen after it dried up, making the illusion of masturbation more obvious (naturally, the FOX censors wouldn't allow this).
    • And in "Strangeness On A Train", Hank pulls the train's emergency brake, the sudden screeching halt throwing everyone to the floor in a heap. The conductor (already in a sour mood) assumes they're engaged in an orgy and kicks them off the train.
    • Spoofed in another episode where Peggy and Bobby start grilling with charcoal; when Hank finds a briquette in the kitchen, Peggy quickly insists that it's drugs (considering how Hank gets about his propane, drugs would probably be preferable).
  • Looney Tunes:
    • The Sylvester & Tweety short "'Tweet and Sour"' has Sylvester, who had been warned by Granny that he'd be sent to a violin factory if he laid one paw on Tweety, spend the majority of the short trying to retrieve Tweety after he had been captured by another cat. After getting the other cat out of the way (via a stick of dynamite attached to a balloon), Granny walks in just as Sylvester's putting Tweety back in the cage. After briefly attempting to explain, the cartoon ends with Sylvester giving up and saying "Ah, what's the use? She'll never believe me."
    • The shorts with Sylvester as Porky Pig's pet sometimes had these moments; in cases where Porky does notice the constant deathtraps he's getting into, circumstances will usually convince him that his cat is at fault. For instance, Claws for Alarm has a sleeping Porky getting his neck caught in an overhead noose that Sylvester cuts off with a straight razor, and he wakes up to see Sylvester holding it up.
      Porky: S-S-Sylvester, w-w-what are you doing w-w-with that rope? And t-that razor?
  • In Miraculous Ladybug episode "Prime Queen", Nadja Chamack questions Ladybug on her supposed relationship with Cat Noir, and shows some pictures taken from past episodes as evidence, starting with the infamous Big Damn Kiss from "Dark Cupid. Naturally, Ladybug insists that He Is Not My Boyfriend, and that the photos are just taken out of context.
    Ladybug: (To Cat) I was saving you, not kissing you!
  • Subverted in the Mission Hill episode "Porno for Pyro": Kevin is pleasuring himself to pornography in a public bathroom and accidentally commits arson trying to hide it, but no-one ever suspects him of any wrongdoing.
  • In the The New Adventures of the Wonder Twins short Be Kind, Rewind the twins are at a video store when they spot Marvin and Wendy, now adults. They try to evade Marvin and end up going into the basement of the store, which is the pornographic section. Marvin notices them and follows them. As they're in the Adult section he gets the wrong idea that they are either incestuous or they watch porn together.
  • In a Robot Chicken sketch, a man finds his wife in bed with another man. The woman pretends they were playing a role playing game and the husband asks if he can also play. In a later sketch, the man is in bed with another woman. He explains that they were role playing and the wife says she knows.
  • South Park "Good Times with Weapons": At the end, Kenny, Kyle and Stan thought the townspeople were angry with them for what happened to Butters, only to learn that they were really angry at Cartman for his nudity, not the weapon. The boys come to the conclusion that just as long the adults are worried about nudity, weapons are okay.
  • In an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, as Sandy slides down a mountain on a snowboard so fast she burns the clothes off a skiing couple, one is dressed as you'd expect, while the other turns out to have been wearing a young boys outfit, a lollipop, and a whole tricycle beneath his clothes. What does he have to say?
    Skii Fish: Uuuh...I can explain.
  • Steven Universe: In "Made of Honour", Bismuth sees the Burning Room, the place in the Gem Temple where the Crystal Gems keep all of the bubbled Corrupted Gems they've captured, and assumes the Gems, many of whom she knew, to have been bubbled for disagreeing with Rose Quartz like she was. She doesn't realize otherwise, despite Steven's warnings, until she unbubbles a Corrupted Gem and sees it for herself.
  • In the TRON: Uprising episode "Rendezvous", Tron walks in on Beck repeatedly replaying his memories of Paige, whereupon Beck explains that it's "not what it looks like" and that he's "gauging [his] opponent". Tron doesn't buy it (whilst refering to Beck and Paige's meeting as a date).
  • The Venture Bros. gives an example in the episode "Dr. Quymn, Medicine Woman", when the nature-loving Dr. Quymn stumbles upon Brock & the boys training an Orangutan to box as part of one of Rusty's schemes:
    Rusty: No, noooo, this isn't how it looks!
    Dean: Yeah it is.
  • In the third season of Winx Club, this happens in episode 21 after Layla caught Nabu having snuck on the ship. While Flora was filming a message for Helia, Musa was putting shackles on Nabu. The camera angles made it look like Musa was kissing Nabu, and Riven saw the message and got the wrong idea. The misunderstanding was quickly cleared up in the next episode after a brief fight between Riven and Nabu, and seeing that Riven really cared about her, Musa decided not to break up with him.
  • Wolverine and the X-Men: Happens during a training session between Iceman and Shadowcat, with both rolling in each others arms as Angel walks on them.

    Real Life 
  • There are various viral videos of bull elephant seals doing really inappropriate looking things with motor vehicles. They're actually trying to beat up the vehicles.
  • Surprisingly, a really common example of this is when dogs mount other dogs they know — regardless of the gender of either dog — in a way that humans usually assume is at least an attempt to have sex. Dogs, weirdly enough, don't actually mate in 'doggy-style' — if the one on top actually penetrates the other, they twist round until they're rear-to-rear. The motivation for climbing on another dog's back without seemingly intending to enter him/her is obscure, but seems to be an expression of superior status.
    • Another animal example is rattlesnakes. Since they're snakes, and have no legs, male rattlesnakes fight by wrapping their tails around each other and butting heads. When people see them, they frequently assume the snakes are mating, not fighting. (A mated pair of snakes are entwined, but lie on the ground; a fighting pair usually rear up.)
  • An Alford plea is basically this. "I'm entering a guilty plea because I know it looks like I committed the crime, and there's plenty of evidence, but I swear, I didn't really do it."
  • The Activision Decathlon was an early Sports Game whose gameplay was based on wiggling the joystick back and forth. Players quickly found that an effective way to stabilize the Atari 2600 joystick was to hold it between their thighs. The sight of a room full of young men playing this way inspired some off-color nicknames for the game.