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The Mirror Shows Your True Self

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Having enough magic to completely change form but being stumped by reflective surfaces. *ding!*
Engywook: Next is the Magic Mirror Gate. Atreyu has to face his true self.
Falkor: So what? That won't be too hard for him.
Engywook: Oh, that's what everyone thinks! But kind people find out that they are cruel. Brave men discover that they are really cowards! Confronted by their true selves, most men run away screaming!

This is a trope for all the times a character's reflection in a mirror is different from what others (viewer included) see with the naked eye. In fiction, mirrors are treated as able to cause Glamour Failure in supernatural creatures, reveal Mind Control, and if the mirror is magical, reveal a character's true nature. The most common uses are revealing the true form of a Shapeshifter or soulless, and if a character is under Mind Control.

A modern variation has the true form of Glamour users revealed by a security camera, since glamour meant to fool human minds won't work on a mindless machine.

In the first case, the mirror is acting the same way for the viewer as for the characters. We're being shown the monster's true form. In Mind Control cases (specifically the "Freaky Friday" Flip, Sharing a Body, Demonic Possession, and Split Personality) we're being shown what the characters are seeing that we aren't. The mirror shows the physical body of the character, while the camera shows the character controlling the body. The characters in the show will see the mirror image, i.e. the controlled person all the time. Directors can use this to create a sense of tension by showing only the viewer a monster's reflection and keeping the other characters in the dark.

Another common variation is for the mirror to show an aspect of a person's personality. The nasty, spiteful, cruel, but beautiful girl becomes a hag in the magic mirror. Conversely, it can reveal the Reluctant Monster or forcibly transformed character to be noble and good.

A subtrope of Magic Mirror, Glamour Failure, and Lie to the Beholder. If used on a poster or cover, might utilize Juxtaposed Reflection Poster. Compare The Shadow Knows and Mirror Reveal, which is about literal transformation. Contrast Missing Reflection, where the mirror shows nothing at all. Also see Drama Panes.


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    Comic Books 
  • Caballistics, Inc.: The demon possessing Miss Simmons is visible in a reflection.
  • Dark Night: A True Batman Story tells the story of Paul Dini's traumatic mugging in the '90s and his struggle to recover afterwards. Throughout the story, the images of various members of Batman's rogues gallery appear as Anthropomorphic Personifications of Dini's hang-ups and issues. Two-Face represents his scars, both physical and mental, from the injuries he received, and his first appearance has him staring at Dini in place of his own reflection.
  • In a Disney Adventures comic of TaleSpin, the heroes discover a mirror that apparently reveals their souls. Readers do not get to see this, which may be just as well when Don Karnage peeks at it and freaks out.
  • The way The Hood found out the source of his powers was Dread Dormammu was when the demon suddenly replaced his reflection in the mirror. Later Dormammu's preferred way of communication with Parker was to replace half of his reflection in the mirror, as a metaphor of their connection.
  • Immortal Hulk: When Bruce Banner looks in a mirror, he sees the Hulk. One of the series's Arc Words is that there are "two people in every mirror: The one you see, and the one you don't want to see." It also means he can't shave much. But it does allow them to communicate.
  • Justice League of America: Inverted with Vibe. His powers also make him appear as a blur in any photographs or recordings of him, concealing his identity from cameras.
  • On the cover of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Henry Jekyll's reflection is Edward Hyde.
  • When he first showed up, Dodge from Locke & Key showed up as a corpse in mirrors. This doesn't seem to be a problem once he's out of the well, though.
  • Done in the 2013 annual of My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic. Celestia took Sunset Shimmer to a magic mirror in hopes it would show her humility. But all Sunset sees a vague image of her becoming an alicorn though if anyone saw Equestria Girls, it was more then likely showing the darkness of her true self and just amplifies her desire over it.
  • In the first volume of the comic book adaption of Saya no Uta, the last panel shows Saya and Josh (Fuminori) having sex in the mirror, showing that Saya is not a human at all, but some sort of multi-limbed abomination.
  • The Quantum Leap version is used in the IDW Star Trek Expanded Universe story "Connections" when characters from Star Trek (2009) start body-swapping with their Star Trek: The Original Series counterparts. We see Chris-Pine-in-William-Shatner's-body as Pine, the reflection shows the Shat.
  • In Supergirl (1984), Nigel uses his lighter's polished surface to show Supergirl's foe Selena that her reflection is not a beautiful red-haired woman but a living fleshless skeleton consumed by her own ambition and greed.
  • Thunderbolts: One issue of Jeff Parker's run has the team and the Avengers trapped in a strange dimension where your reflection in the water shows your supposed true self, seemingly meaning a symbolic representation of what kind of person you are. Iron Man sees himself as a child holding a model plane (symbolizing him as - ultimately - a Manchild obsessed with building and control), Captain America sees himself in his old WWII uniform (he's still the symbol of freedom he was back then), Juggernaut sees a constantly shifting image of his various costumes (symbolizing his struggle for a solid identity), and Crossbones sees himself wearing a gaudy mask of Red Skull (he's just a pale imitation of his master). Luke Cage, however, doesn't experience this and simply sees himself as normal, suggesting that he is true to himself and assuaging an identity crisis he was going through.
  • In the Usagi Yojimbo story "Village of Fear", Usagi is a guest in the home of a widowed woman, in a village being menaced by a supernatural beast. While sheathing his sword, he catches a glimpse of her reflection in the blade and realizes she is the beast.

    Film — Animated 
  • The Little Mermaid (1989): When Scuttle, still unaware that Ariel has gotten usurped, flies to the wedding boat, he peeks into the bride's chamber and sees Vanessa, the woman Prince Eric is going to marry. She soon looks in the mirror, and Scuttle is horrified to see Ursula's reflection.
    Scuttle: The Sea Witch! Oh no! She's gonna...I gotta... [flies into window] ARIEL!
  • In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls, Twilight Sparkle briefly imagines a mirror shows her pony form instead of her human one.
  • In the My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks Shorts short "My Past Is Not Today", Sunset Shimmer's reflection is of her demon self, but then she changes it back with a wave of her hand.
  • In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Legend of Everfree, the human Twilight Sparkle keeps seeing her reflection change to Midnight Sparkle.
  • The Scarecrow: Count Grisham ends up exposing Feathertop as a scarecrow while using mirrors in an attempt to force Feathertop to look at him.
  • In The Snow Queen (2012), Gerda and Kai's father made mirrors like this, and Gerda herself carries one. This is why the Snow Queen is afraid of mirrors; she can't bear to know what she has become.
  • In Turning Red, this is subverted. In the spirit realm, Sun Yee's mirror portal shows the person as they would be without their panda spirit. However, the lesson isn't that this is the person's true self, but actually them if they deny that aspect of themselves.

  • In Fighting Fantasy, the true nature of mandrakes — shapeshifters that pose as people — can only be revealed with a mirror.

  • Quadrophenia: The album cover has each of the mirrors on Jimmy's scooter showing a different face (one of each member of The Who, each representing one of his personalities).
  • Mirror of Souls by Christian progressive-power metal band Theocracy zig-zags this. The protagonist goes through a hall of mirrors that create flattering reflections of his good qualities. Later he encounters the titular Mirror of Souls, the very eyes of God, which reveals his true nature: a corpse ravaged by sin. After he pleads for salvation, the Mirror reflects Christ in his place.
  • The Blue Öyster Cult, in the title track to their Mirrors album:
    A mirror is a negative space, with a frame
    And a place for your face;
    It reveals what the rest of us see,
    It conceals what you'd like it to be

    Myths & Religion 
  • Japanese Mythology: This is usually how you can figure out if someone you know is a Kitsune as while they look normal to you, a mirror shows what they really are. However, according to some, the mirror has to be an old one.
  • Likewise, the same works for vampires, that is, because, they don't have souls, they don't have reflections unless the mirror doesn't have a silver backing.

  • The backglass for Data East Pinball's Tales from the Crypt shows a woman standing before a mirror, where the reflection reveals her to be a zombie.
  • The Who's Tommy shows the adult Tommy looking into a mirror, and seeing his innocent childhood self reflected inside.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • Dragon Magazine #50 had the magical artifact Barlithian's Mirror. Anyone who looked into it saw his or her true self, regardless of any illusions, creature powers (such as a vampire's invisibility to mirrors) or shape-changed form. In addition, a lycanthrope would see its alter ego (e.g., a werewolf in wolf form would see a human and one in human form would see a wolf).
    • The supplement Open Grave uses this trope in one picture - a beautiful noblewoman's reflection reveals her true form as a lich.
    • The Ravenloft character Gabrielle Aderre appears to be in her mid-twenties, but she sees her true age (mid-fifties) in mirrors. Despite still being very attractive, she considers her true appearance hideous.
    • White Dwarf magazine #19 article "The Fiend Factory". When a werefox is in human form, its reflection (such as in a mirror or a pool of water) shows its animal form - a fox.
  • In Magic: The Gathering, silver dispels the glamour of Innistrad's vampires. This means that mirrors (silvered glass) show vampires as they were when they were still human. Since Innistrad vampires regard themselves as a Master Race, this is supremely disturbing to them.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade:
    • The Obfuscate Discipline (which either makes the user invisible or appear to be someone else) is generally ineffective against cameras or other mechanical sensors. It works via Perception Filter and such things have no minds to deceive.
    • The Lasombra either don't leave images on cameras and mirrors, or they have a weird abnormality which means their reflection is that of what they would really look like if they weren't turned into vampires: usually a rotting corpse or a walking skeleton.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Shall We Date?: Wizardess Heart, the Persona Mirror is a Magic Mirror enchanted to reflect a person's true self. When Elias looks into it, it reveals his insecurities and his frustration about having to live up to his family's legacy. When the protagonist looks into it, however, it shows that her outward self and her inner self are exactly the same.
  • At the end of the first opening to the Tsukihime remake, as Arcueid walks away with Shiki from a pond, the camera pans down to her reflection in the pond shining under the moonlight, depicting her as her true self, Archetype: Earth.
  • In Umineko: When They Cry, this is implied (and in the seventh arc stated) to be the reason why Beatrice is repelled by mirrors. Sayo Yasuda, Beatrice's true identity, hates mirrors because mirrors don't acknowledge her make-believe appearance and remind Sayo that she's not the powerful witch she pretends to be. Thus, in the story, the camera will always show which personality of Sayo's is being depicted instead of her true appearance. Sayo's actual image is never seen in the visual novel.

    Web Animation 
  • Happy Tree Friends: In "Double Whammy Part 2", when Flippy is fighting his evil side, Fliqpy, he stumbles in front of a mirror, where he sees only his own reflection, discovering that Fliqpy was just a hallucination caused by taking too many pills, and he has been fighting himself the entire time.
  • In RWBY, Weiss Schee's Image Song "Mirror, Mirror" alludes to this trope, hinting at her insecurities and loneliness.
    Mirror, mirror, what's behind you?
    Save me from the things I see
    I can keep it from the world
    Why won't you let me hide from me?

  • In Daniel, Daniel himself is a vampire that throws a fit if he gets a look at himself in a mirror, apparently seeing something grotesque and terrifying. Mirror shards are also one of the few things that can harm him.
  • DICE: The Cube That Changes Everything:
    • Happens with Mio once she gains the A-rank ability Clarivoyance. Every time she sees her own reflection, it shows how she looked before using the Dice, to her disgust. During the amusement park date with Dongtae she refuses to check the mirror maze.
    • Sometime after the revelation that Mooyoung is currently inhabiting Taebin's body, we see Taebin standing near a broken mirror, clutching his head with both hands, seemingly in pain. His hair is white in one of the shards, just like Mooyoung's were, hinting that Mooyoung is slowly but surely taking control over him.
  • In El Goonish Shive, the mirror door can show people as though they are not enchanted with a transformation if they are under one.
  • In Godslave, the window in Sobek's office reflects his divine form rather than human.
  • In Megan Kearney's Beauty and the Beast, Beauty can see the Beast's human form reflected in the water.
  • Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic has The Mirror of True Reflection, which actually shows different aspects of the viewer's personality (resulting in several "true" reflections). This turns out to be merely the warning sign against entering the mirror to try to find the MacGuffin hidden within, as you have to fight off your inner demons given form to claim it. Fortunately, your inner virtues are there as well.
  • The Greenhouse: Even before Mica can see 'Red' properly, she can catch glimpses of the demon in reflective surfaces, standing next to her. This makes Mica a lot quicker to believe Liv when she claims Mica is possessed.

    Web Original 
  • Chris Ray Gun: The "personality" variant shows up in "Punch a Nazi"; the music video's protagonist looks in the mirror and sees themselves dressed as an SS Officer, who claims to be them, "but more honest."
  • One scene in Mystery Skulls Animated: Ghost shows the trio pass by a set of mirrors. Vivi's reflection has no eyes, Arthur's doesn't show his (prosthetic) left arm, and Mystery's mirror shatters. This actually serves as foreshadowing towards the backstory the group shares: Vivi suffered a Heroic BSoD (and quite possibly amnesia) after the death of her boyfriend and the group's fourth member, Arthur lost his arm to Demonic Possession and was the one who killed said boyfriend (unwillingly; again, Demonic Possession), and Mystery isn't a dog.
  • In the dream "True Identity" on the Nightmare Project, a mirror shows the dreamer a hideous demonic visage.
  • Petscop: The Quitter character appears to be a reflection of the game protagonist, although at one point they aren't synced and the Quitter must regain their spot.


Vampire Martin

Martin wakes up as a vampire with a purple suit and a high-collared cape.

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Main / ClassicalMovieVampire

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