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Ringer Ploy

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There's a bully or bad guy who is making the hero's life miserable.

The hero finally decides to drive the bad guy over the edge. How?

Call in the ringers! They will either enlist friends to wear disguises and costumes that make them look like the beleaguered party, or the beleaguered party will call up their relatives with Uncanny Family Resemblance since they're all indistinguishable from one another.

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Once gathered, the hero will use them to overwhelm the bad guy with lookalikes or close-enough-for-horseshoes-alikes. Over and over, Serial Escalation.

Primarily a cartoon trope, though it frequently appears in other media as well.

If the hero must use magic or Applied Phlebotinum to pull off the "many of one person" effect, it's Me's a Crowd. If the hero is cloning himself, it may result in Cloning Blues. If it's a bunch of non-identical-looking people all claiming to be the hero despite having no common appearance, you are looking at I Am Spartacus. Related to Lost in a Crowd. See also Shell Game. Doing this with objects rather than humans is a Needle in a Stack of Needles.

The most common outcomes for the trope are:

  • The villain never finds out, and the hero thanks his helpers once the villain has left the scene.
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  • The villain finds out and is not happy to have been duped.

Compare I Am Spartacus. Contrast Actually a Doombot.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In an episode of the anime adaptation of Eyeshield 21, this is used to conceal Eyeshield 21's true identity from some delinquents; just as Sena is about to out himself as Eyeshield to save Mamori, a bunch of his fellow Devil Bats show up dressed as Eyeshield, all claiming to be the real one. They all manage to fool them (except Kurita, whose identity is blindingly obvious).

    Film 
  • ¡Three Amigos!!. The title characters dress everyone in the village of Santo Poco as themselves to trick and defeat El Guapo.
  • A brilliant example in The Thomas Crown Affair (1999). When the titular character returns to the art museum to 'return' a painting he stole, he draws attention in the lobby to his clothes, and then moves into the crowds. First he switches his case with an identically-dressed man's...then four more appear, before the penny finally drops and the security team realises the museum is crawling with men in grey suits and bowler hats. See the whole scene.
  • Done toward the end of V for Vendetta, with everyone in the city donning capes and Guy Fawkes masks.

    Folklore 
  • A Chinese folktale features 10 brothers, each with a different power. One is sentenced to be executed, but switches out with another brothers whose power makes him immune that the day's form of execution (one is fireproof and can't be burned, one can stretch his neck and can't drown, one eats rocks and can't be Buried Alive, etc.) until finally the execution is cancelled.
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    Literature 
  • Gaia Moore of Fearless once did this to confuse her father, who was following her. (long story). Interestingly, the people Gaia recruited were not friends or relatives, but the resident Lovable Alpha Bitch and her Girl Posse. (The members of which think that Gaia is a loser, but as said Lovable Alpha Bitch notes, also secretly want to be like her.)
  • In Gray Lensman the Radelix patrol base at one point has men entering and leaving who all more-or-less resemble Kinnison. The purpose is to confuse the local Boskonian agent so that he attempts to abduct Kinnison, in his identity as a dock-walloper, in order to learn what is going on.

    Live Action TV 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Alpha Legion, which specializes in misdirection, uses surgery to make all its members look like its twin Primarchs, Alpharius and/or Omegon. The fact that the Primarchs were fifteen feet tall (as opposed to the regular Space Marines, who are a mere seven feet tall) is rarely if ever mentioned, since Alpharius (or possibly Omegon) are believed dead.
    • The Dark Eldar Archon Vhane Kyharc forces all the Trueborn members of his Kabal to get their faces surgically modified into his (the lower orders wear masks of his face), ostensibly to thwart assassination attempts, but really he's that much of a narcissist (he once released a virus on a planet that mutated every living organism's face into a copy of his own).

    Western Animation 
  • Tom and Jerry: Jerry, overwhelmed by bullying Tom sends a distress call out to all his relatives, who all look exactly like him. They are onscreen simultaneously and Tom is freaked out trying to deal with them.
  • On Punkin' Puss and Mushmouse, Mushmouse does the same thing with all his identical cousins to confound villain Punkin' Puss.
  • Kick Buttowski: Kick enlists the entire neighborhood to dress up and behave like Kick to confound the neighborhood tattletale. They're all onscreen at the same time doing Kick-related mayhem and Ms. Chickorelli's logic fails when the real Kick emerges from his home, having been cleaning his room the whole time. Cue the unmasking sequence with the neighborhood kids (and some of the adults) taking off Kick helmets.
  • Played With in My Life as a Teenage Robot: Jenny takes different battle forms to fight Megawatt. At the end she defeats him by having Brad, Wakeman and Tucker dress up as the other battle forms besides the one she's currently using herself.
  • This trope was a favorite of cartoon creator Tex Avery, who directed both:
    • "Tortoise Beats Hare", a Looney Tunes short in which Cecil Turtle calls up all his identical relatives to beat Bugs Bunny in the fabled tortoise-hare race.
    • Northwest Hounded Police a Droopy short with the punchline:
      Wolf: Say, I wonder if there were more than one of them little guys?
      Dozens of Droopys: What do you think, brother?
  • The same joke was used on a Huckleberry Hound short.
  • The Batman used it once on Mr. Freeze.
  • In the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The Headband," Aang hosts a dance party in a cave for Fire Nation kids. When the headmaster of the school arrives and tries to get Aang in trouble, all the Fire Nation kids gradually put headbands on so that the headmaster is tripped up with ringers for long enough that Aang can leave.
  • In The Smurfs episode "All The Smurf's A Stage", Actor mimics various Smurfs that are involved in the production of Poet's play, even to the point of copying their voices, in order to show his acting talent.
  • Wander over Yonder inverts this in "The Tourist"; the pair meets Trudi Traveler, who is more well-traveled in the universe than Wander, and awakens in the fuzzy alien a competitive urge to see the most of the universe. Once Wander realizes that the competition is taking the joy out of the travel, he gives up. And we discover that Trudi is one of several dozen little old Trudi Traveler aliens who only beat Wander because they cheated, and he never knew.
  • In the Sonic Boom episode, "Blue With Envy", Swifty the Shrew actually manages to beat Sonic himself in a race around the village, resulting in Sonic getting banished. It is later revealed that Swifty is a robot created by Dr. Eggman, and Eggman used an army of identical robots to help Swifty win the race as part of his plan to take over the village.

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