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"Wait a minute, Patrick...I'm the maniac!" note 

"The guy's a ghost, but doesn't know it yet. That's the big twist."
Wyatt Williams, 6teen ("Major Unfaithfulness")
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Our protagonist is going through a perfectly normal day. Only... something's wrong. The people around him are acting just a bit off. They keep mentioning a string of words, or are trying to herd him to a certain place.

It looks like the town's been taken over by a Puppeteer Parasite, and our hero's the only one left. He attempts to either escape and warn the outside world, or find where the invaders are coming from and shut it down.

But once he gets there, he discovers the horrifying truth: HE'S the fake! Cue screams of "What Have I Become?!" A robot, a clone, a robot clone, a ghost or nearly one or some other duplicate that forgot he wasn't the real thing, or was programmed to believe that he was, complete with Fake Memories of a Conveniently Unverifiable Cover Story. For extra oomph, expect the tomato to break the mirror in frustration.

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A special case is where the character comes to realize that they are in fact fictional, either of the work itself or of a Show Within a Show. It often appears in a Real World Episode. For those examples, see Noticing the Fourth Wall.

In an ongoing series, it'll be a duplicate of one of the main characters. In a self-contained work, it'll just be someone who thinks they're human. Either way, it's an effective inversion of Puppeteer Parasite. Assuming the duplicate works through the immediate identity issues, suicidal tendencies, and/or desire to lash out with murderous intent, they may find themselves having to ask a Trial Balloon Question to see if "their" friends and family would still accept them.

Variation of the Tomato Surprise, hence the name (note the key difference is that here, the character doesn't know they're a tomato until the Internal Reveal). The opposite of this is And Then John Was a Zombie. Often includes a Once More, with Clarity! moment, as the character runs through a series of previous events and realizes the things they (and the audience) missed that would have revealed their true identity. Compare I Am Who?, which is (usually) a much more pleasant surprise, as well as Future Self Reveal and You Are What You Hate.

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See also Expendable Clone and Dead All Along, in which case the truth may come out when they find "their" own body. If the surprise is the character discovering that they were the villain all along, that's The Killer in Me. If a lot of people experience this trope at once, you may have Everyone Is a Tomato.

It may or may not involve a real mirror.

This is a Twist Ending trope. Expect your tomatoes to be spoiled!


Example subpages:

Other examples:

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    Advertising 
  • Parodied in an Adult Swim bump with a silent movie version of The Big O. Dorothy speaks for a while followed by the subtitle "You're a tomato." Cue Roger acting surprised. The whole thing can be found here.
  • In the Momondo advertisement The DNA Journey, they ask a group of people about their heritage and then retrace it via a DNA test. Among others, a British man declares that he is better than others because of being from Britain and specifically expresses disdain for the Germans. He isn't too pleased to find out he is only 30% British and actually 5% German.
  • In Nike's commercial for Euro 2016, "The Switch", Christiano Ronaldo and a British teenager learned that they have switched bodies after each of them look into the mirror.

    Audio Plays 
  • The Firesign Theatre, in their comedy album I Think We're All Bozos On This Bus, uses this device ingeniously. One must listen carefully (or have seen a spoiler) to realize that the character "Clem" who finishes the story is not the one who started it, but rather a holographic clone created by the original Clem and then dispersed into cyberspace.
  • Big Finish Doctor Who:
    • In the audio drama "The Natural History of Fear", characters with the voices of the main cast live in a totalitarian city with its own version of Doctor Who. The listener is led to believe throughout the audio that the Doctor, Charley, and C'rizz have had their memories wiped and are trapped by the city using the roles they are placed in, the Editor, the Nurse and Conscience #1, respectively. However, at the end of the audio, when the Editor sees the memory of the Doctor and companions visiting Light City and the Doctor having to give up the group's memories to the city, he finds out the memories were only copied. The group only was in Light City for a day and the characters seen were created using their memories, revealed to the listener when the Editor mentions he has eight legs.
    • In "Brave New Town", the inhabitants of the Uncanny Village all turn out to be plastic Autons with real emotions and a Weirdness Censor. This was later also used in series 5 of the revived TV show proper.
    • In "The Holy Terror", the little boy has the same face as the scribe.
  • The narrator in the Blake's 7 two-hander audio "Solitude", Vila, is actually a shapeshifting alien gestalt. It's handled rather cleverly, since the story is set to make the other character seem suspicious.

    Comic Books 
  • Spider-Man: The plot of The Clone Saga was going to originally resolve itself in this way, with the "clone" Ben Reilly finding out that he was the original and the "original" Peter Parker, whom comic book fans had been reading about since the original clone story in the '70s, would be revealed to actually have been the clone all along. And then Marvel Comics chickened out... (After the infamously long Clone Saga went back and forth at least a half-dozen times about which Spidey was the clone.)
  • Spirou and Fantasio: This is the plot of the Machine qui rêve album.
  • Superman:
    • In Supergirl (1982) issue #19, there are two Supergirls: One of them is a depowered Linda Danvers and the other is a Supergirl who doesn't even remember having an alter ego. Finally "Linda" is confronted by Supergirl, who explains she is a clone of hers whom she fought in an earlier adventure. "Linda" gets upset, but she at last remembers putting a block on Supergirl's memories and attempting to steal her civilian identity because she had no one, only for forgetting her origins, too. The fake Linda has a breakdown, but the real Supergirl promises to help her find her own identity.
    • The Phantom Zone: As being forced to watch visions of Krypton, Charlie Kweskill notices Quex-Ul, one of the criminals sentenced to the Phantom Zone, looks right like him. Throughout his and Superman's extra-dimensional journey, he remembers he is a Kryptonian.
    • In an early Post-Crisis story, Superman shows up badly damaged somehow having been turned into a robot Superman. It turns out, of course, that this really is just a robot Superman who was so well programmed that he genuinely thinks he is Superman.
    • In a World's Finest issue, Superman and Batman, after being put through a gauntlet of trials especially designed to mess with their heads, reveal their secret identities, and then ask to be destroyed. Turns out that these were actually robots meant to perfectly emulate the two heroes, and realize that they're just imperfect copies because they didn't have either hero's mental fortitude.
    • Dead Again! has people discovering a Superman body inside his tomb, making everyone think that the Superman flying around since his resurrection isn't the real deal. Superman is certain something screwy is going on and tries to figure out which of his enemies is doing this. It turns out it's Brainiac, who had recovered from his psychic lobotomy at the hands of Maxima and was playing possum while messing with Superman.
  • Justice League of America: The JLA's initial way of dealing with the White Martian threat was to hypnotize them into thinking that they are mere humans. This leads to an issue where Batman declares that several members of the JLA need to track down a great threat to the world: Bruce Wayne. Turns out that one of the brainwashed Martians was working for Wayne as an assistant. After being involved in a plane wreck it loses its memories again and decides (from papers it had) that it is Wayne and takes his form (making it a double example of this trope: a Martian who is forced to think it is human who then winds up thinking it is a different human).
  • The Reveal of Elijah Snow as the mysterious Fourth Man in Planetary. An even tighter fit for this trope is the revelation that Elijah Snow and all other Century Babies aren't human, they're a kind of meta-world antibody created to help humanity and as a result, have no soul. Elijah takes it surprisingly well.
  • In Rising Stars, Poet asks Clarence Mack what he knows about the murders of the other Specials. Clarence discusses his own theories and uses his ability to enter the minds of others to show Poet his findings, when he realizes that he saw exactly who the killer was, and was murdered only moments later for it. And that, while he was unaware of it until just now, he's only having this conversation because another Special who is a medium summoned his ghost.
  • The Kevin Smith comic Green Arrow: Quiver features the titular hero, Oliver Queen, returned from the grave. This seems at first to be a typical comic book resurrection, but why does Oliver seem convinced that he never died at all, that everyone else is acting very odd, and that cellphones and modern computers are the sort of things only supervillains possess? Turns out that this is Ollie's body brought back to life, minus his soul. The Spectre wanted to resurrect him, but his soul was happy in heaven. So they compromised; Oliver's body was given new life, but with ten years of his history removed to avoid all the Wangst he would have otherwise gone through (as his life was in shambles when he died). In the end his body and soul are reunited, returning Ollie back to life for real this time.
  • A number of Skrulls believing themselves to be Marvel heroes have a bit of an identity crisis meeting their human counterparts during the Secret Invasion Crisis Crossover. Particularly Khn'nr, the Skrull impersonating Captain Marvel, who never actually recovered his proper memories. Upon finding out he was a Skrull, he instead fought against his own people.
  • In an early issue of Sensational She-Hulk, our titular green goddess wakes up to see her headless body being used to provide a new mode of transportation for Chondu the Mystic's head. It turned out to be a cloned body, though. They couldn't find a saw that was able to cut She-Hulk's hair, let alone through her neck.
  • There's a short Marvel comic called "The Creature". A man finds an alien's diary and runs around trying to find someone who'll believe him. The random guys on the street don't believe him. The policeman doesn't believe him. The soldier guarding a military base tells him to take it to the observatory. The man rushes to a scientist there, hands him the journal. The journal is written in an "unearthly scrawl" which only the person who wrote it could read.
  • The Comic Within A Comic Tales of the Black Freighter in Watchmen.
  • In the second issue of Alan Moore's run on Swamp Thing, the titular character learns that he isn't Alec Holland. He's just a sentient plant that absorbed Alec Holland's memories, and his years of searching for a way to regain his humanity were pointless because he was never human in the first place. This sends him into a major Heroic BSoD Turns out Alec isn't Alec after all. It's not until Scott Snyder's Swamp Thing run that Alec Holland, resurrected from the dead during Brightest Day, actually does become Swamp Thing in truth.
  • The trope is played with throughout the first half of Doom 2099. Doom claims he jumped to the future due to a failed experiment, which also damaged some of his memory. People note strange discrepancies at first (he's too young, his face isn't scarred [at first], etc). Then Doom learns he was the son of a political enemy to Latveria, who was kidnapped by the REAL Doctor Doom and Brainwashed into thinking he was the real Doom. Then it gets massively subverted. Doom really was the real deal; his youth and failed memories were because of a regeneration tank. There was no Gambit; it was just Doom's former lover getting bored and screwing with him.
  • Machine Teen is initially unaware that he's a robot. When he's injured at school he refuses to accept that he's not bleeding, and when he's forced to acknowledge it, he immediately shuts down while the knowledge is deleted.
  • In the Elseworlds Tale Batman/Demon: A Tragedy, Bruce Wayne learns that he is actually the "host" for the demon Etrigan, summoned to Gotham centuries ago to punish the wicked but bonded to Bruce to keep him in check when he began to turn on innocents. Every few decades, the spells keeping Etrigan trapped inside Bruce begin to weaken and he attacks Gotham's criminals as a ruthless bat-demon, but eventually Merlin (currently acting as Bruce's butler Alfred) will explain the situation to Bruce and renew the spells once Etrigan starts to turn on innocents, essentially 'resetting' Bruce's memory and trapping Etrigan once again.
  • In My Little Pony: FIENDship Is Magic, this happened in King Sombra's backstory. He grew up thinking he was an ordinary pony who didn't quite fit in, then it turns out he was really a being of living darkness that the Umbrum Forces created in the shape of a pony as their agent. Despite the efforts of his girlfriend Radiant Hope and of Princess Amore, he embraces his role as a tyrant.
  • In The Unbelievable Gwenpool, when Gwen explains that their world is really a comic book, Batroc the Leaper dismisses this as nonsense. To prove it, Gwen asks him to tell her something about his life from before he met Captain America for the first time. He cannot recall anything, and she explains that he literally didn't exist before he was introduced in the comics. He takes the revelation in stride. Actually she is right for the wrong reasons though. Batroc should remember his backstory no matter when it was established relative to his first appearance (that's how retcons work), but unfortunately for Batroc no writer ever bothered to establish one for him. This probably just makes the revelation sadder.
  • In "The Computer Game," in issue #5 of DC's The Witching Hour, a man running a computer dating service confronts his computer because, rather than matching people up, it sends out illusions of people that disappear when they get too far from the computer (which has resulted in a lot of unsatisfied customers whose dates simply vanished). The intelligent computer refuses to stop, because it is amassing data on human beings so it can take over the world. The man attacks the computer physically, and does some damage, but the computer tells him that all he did was damage the circuits that projected him. The computer created the dating service and the man as a front while it grew in power, and the man fades from existence.
  • Raptors: Vicky discovers that she is actually a vampire too, since her family is part of the conspiracy. With that said, she isn't "corrupted" like the rest of them and develops powers just like Drago and Camilla.

    Comic Strips 
  • In an earlier Calvin and Hobbes strip, back when Calvin was in Cub Scouts, Calvin notes to Hobbes of all the wildlife you can see out in the woods. He then points and says, "Look! A tiger!" causing Hobbes to jump in fear, before realizing Calvin was referring to him. He then shouts to Calvin, "Don't do that!"

    Fan Works 
  • FFS, I Believe in You: When Link and Sidon encounter Doomsnarl, the old lizalfos king, he turns out to still believe that that he's alive, and is extremely surprised when Gerald explains to him that he is, in fact, undead.
  • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Guiding Light has Shane the human who in reality is Dark Matter from Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon...or at least part of him. He's a product of him trying to separate itself from Nnecrozma to try to have a normal life using ley lines, Ultra Space and fragments of the spirit of the REAL Shane...who is dead.
  • Roses Sense: A Titanic (1997) fanfic. In the fifth chapter, Rose finds herself isolated from the people around her. She doesn't understand why until she discovers that she died in the sinking.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic CRISIS: Equestria features a set of antagonists that are evil clones of the mane six. They were unaware of this. When it gets revealed to them, it generates a mass Villainous BSoD on all fronts, the end result being that they decide to kill their originals to prove themselves the superior versions.
  • Child of the Storm has this Inverted with Maddie Pryor in the sequel; she was raised believing she was an Artificial Human created as a Living Weapon by Sinister, and her calm acceptance of this sub-human status (though under Gambit's influence, she started questioning and exercising her free will) is played for tragedy. Then, after pulling a Heel–Face Turn, she finds out the truth: her real name is Rachel Grey, twin sister of Jean Grey, and she was stolen and replaced at birth by Sinister. She quite literally collapses.
  • In Clash of the Elements: Driad is not a Good Guardian, but actually the former Outer Guardian of the Nature Castle.
    • This is subverted with Luigi and Dimentio in Part 2 though.
  • Anthropology: After revealing the truth about humanity and all its flaws, Celestia reveals one more thing to Lyra...She's adopted.
  • My(stara's) Little Ponies: Friendship Is Adventuring: the Elements of Power are imperfect shadow clones of the Elements of Harmony (the characters, not the magical bling) who believe the Elements of Harmony are the imperfect clones. It takes a fair amount of both figurative and literal beating them over the head, including pointing out contradictions in their backstories and the forces of entropy trying to sever their mystical connection to their creator (which is providing the power that keeps them 'alive'), for them to accept their true status; once they do, they become more friendly rivals.
  • The Pony POV Series:
    • In a way, this happens to Fluttercruel. She believed she was Fluttershy during the events of "The Return of Harmony", only to discover she's a spiritual clone of Fluttershy created by Discord after Twilight used the Memory Spell on her.
    • In the Dark World, Twilight discovers the true identity of the Nameless Passenger is none other than her own potential future self, Nightmare Eclipse/Paradox, a Knight Templar seeking to punish Discord for eternity by creating the Dark World as Discord's Ironic Hell via "Groundhog Day" Loop.
    • Pinkie Pie discovers she's the G2 Clover's Imaginary Friend brought to life. She doesn't take it well until Twilight Sparkle, Zecora, and Princess Luna assure her it doesn't matter where she came from, she's real in every way that matters.
    • In the Shining Armor Arc, Shining Armor eventually discovers that he literally didn't exist before his story started, and his timeline's been filling itself in both ways ever since. This is why he's Immune to Fate, why Makarov's Charm Person abilities don't work on him, and why the Blank Wolf is after him.
    • Minuette discovers that she's really a transformed, alternate personality of The Master. Fortunately, when the original personality tries to take her over, she manages to destroy him, earning a life independent of him.
    • Queen Chrysalis started out life as Kifuko, a member of a small Zebra tribe. At an early age, she discovered that food did not feed her and she instead had to survive by absorbing love, but she assumed she was under some kind of curse. Eventually, she was captured by the Changelings, who assumed she was a deserter, and a Power Nullifier forced her to revert to her true Changeling form. She was horrified, but came to terms with her true nature and overthrew Queen Cocoon to become the new queen.
    • In the Finale Arc, Rainbow Dash notices there's something wrong with the world and tries to figure out what is going on and how to fix it. It turns out she is not the Rainbow Dash the main story has been following, but Nightmare Manacle, Rainbow's Evil Counterpart from the Dark World timeline who has been brainwashed into believing she actually is Rainbow. The events leading up to the reveal are a Shout-Out to Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion. After she comes to terms with this, she helps Applejack and Pinkie Pie remember that they are really Nightmare Mirror and Nightmare Granfalloon. Most disturbing is Rarity: she turns out to really be Nightdrake Banneret, or Spike, who had been transformed into Rarity and given her memories.
    • This happens to Sunny Day (an alternate persona of Princess Celestia who gained a life of her own), when she realizes she doesn't remember important details like her parents, her house, etc.
    • Scootaloo eventually learns that one of her parents was a Changeling, and she inherited some of their traits. She is initially shocked and repulsed, before putting it aside and focusing on the battle at hand.
  • Navarone ponders the nature of his existence in Diaries of a Madman, after going back in time and meeting his past self. While he comes to the conclusion that he's real, the uncertainty over whether he's a clone, or what exactly he is weighs heavily on his mind.
  • Pokéumans: Any transformed Pokeuman is replaced by a clone who lives out their human life believing they are the real one. If any of the Recursive Fanfiction series have them discover their true nature, they're in for a hard time. Luckily, the community is pretty well recognising that Clones Are People, Too
  • Though My Little Pony: Friendship is Witchcraft itself never sees her realize it, many fanfics based on it deal with Sweetie Belle learning she is a robot, as well as learning to deal with the revelation.
  • In the Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE- fanfiction Afterburn by shachaai it all looks like Fai was first abducted and then tortured, which resulted in his memory loss. Turns our he is actually a copy of the real Fai of that world whose heart has been poisoned by Ashura to kill the thunderbirds. To do that he planned to kill him and give them his heart to eat, which is a practice with strong magic users in that world. Cue a lot of tears and It's All My Fault and Kurogane having to pound some sense into his head.
  • For most of Origin Story, Alex Harris believes that she is actually Xander Harris who has been somehow trapped in Power Girl's body. Turns out, she's actually a magically created copy of Power Girl who just happens to have Xander's memories.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fic Solipsism, Twilight discovers early on that she is a draconequus-like creature named Asteria. Not only that, but said being had a completely distinct personality from Twilight before she woke up and believed her life as Twilight was real.
  • Elise from It's not the Raptor DNA is actually the twin sister to her long-dead sibling Small One, not her older sister as previously thought.
  • Parodied in DOOM: Repercussions of Evil, where it turns out that John was the demons. And then a zombie.
  • In The Two Sides of Daring Do, it's known to the audience that the Daring Do clone is a clone created from the fictional Daring Do in AK Yearling's books, but Daring Do herself does not, believing she's somehow ended up in an Alternate Universe. When she ends up realizing the truth after a fight with the real Ahuizotl and losing badly due to the fictional one she's 'used to' being a Harmless Villain, she doesn't take it well. Thankfully for her, she lives in a world where Clones Are People, Too, but it still leaves her so shaken that she loses her Cutie Mark in her existential crisis and will have to re-earn it, or a different one.
  • In Marionettes, Trixie eventually discovers that she's a robot after being wounded in a Traintop Battle with Lightning Dust, who was likewise revealed to be a robot in the same fight. Her reaction makes it clear she was not aware of this. Lightning Dust is later revealed to be equally shocked that she is a robot. Cover Story, one of The Men in Black chasing Trixie, likewise learns he is a robot and doesn't take it well.
  • Cycles Upon Cycles: In chapter 26, Shepard learns that he actually died on Aiur during Amon's defeat, at which point a fragment of Amon's essence merged with his psychic echo, creating a new being with Shepard's memories and Amon's power.
  • One of the biggest reveals of The PreDespair Kids is that Ryouko Otonashi is a clone of Junko Enoshima created by Kyoji Nakamura, the former Ultimate Geneticist. The reason she has anterograde amnesia is because her physical development was accelerated, which resulted in some brain damage.
  • The Queen of Hearts: The plot concerns a rumor in Arendelle and its neighboring countries that Elsa is a Chocolate Baby. Everyone seems to know about this to point where it is treated as an Open Secret, with the only ones unaware of it being Elsa herself and her sister Anna. It ultimately turns out to be true, the secret being accidentally spilt by her biological father's sister.
  • In TRULY OUTRAGEOUS: A Jem Fan Film!, it turns out that Kimber is a robot. Aja and Jerrica were the only ones who knew.
  • From a certain perspective, Bo experiences this in Lost in Camelot; she spends her first few days after arriving in Camelot thinking of it as a pleasant holiday from her heartbreak over Dyson and Lauren until she found a way home, only to learn that this is her home time and she can’t be sent back to the present without risking serious damage to Time itself.
  • In "Seven", Daniel Jackson (Stargate SG-1) is shocked when his 'interrogation' by Nem unlocks the block on his original memories; he is actually Humanoid Cylon Model Seven (Battlestar Galactica (2003)), Cavil having left one last Seven alive as an immature infant with blocked memories and shot it into space after hunting and sadistically murdering the last dozen or so Sevens in the original batch.
  • In Wolverines, Wendigos and Winchesters, Dean becomes a teacher at Xavier's Institute, ostensibly because he impressed Professor Xavier with his knowledge about supernatural and his ability to blend into society. He later learns Xavier also wanted him for being a mutant.
  • The plot of the Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends fic Terra Incognita revolves around Terrence learning that his life is a lie and he is actually an imaginary friend. His mother created him as a child because she wanted an older brother. Years ago Terrence was in an accident that caused him to lose his memory. Since then, his mother had been telling him that he was her human son, rather than her childhood imaginary friend.
  • It isn't until three chapters into Not Completely, Altogether Here that Galinda realizes she's a ghost.
  • RWBY: Scars: 15-year-old Ruby didn't know that she is Yang's half-sister until Yang accidentally lets her biological mother Raven's name slip out. Ruby had always thought she and Yang were full sisters. It then turns out that they aren't half-sisters either; they're really cousins, as Raven's twin brother Qrow is actually Ruby's biological father, not her honorary uncle. Raven reveals this to Yang later on, but Qrow denies it and tells her not to believe his liar of a sister.
  • Glitched Miko AU: Miko, a Glitch tech who as her job hunts down and captures Glitches is 'herself' a glitch.
  • A Downplayed and Played for Laughs version happens in the Ace Attorney fanfic no thoughts gender empty, when Edgeworth ask Ema (who is non-binary in the story) advice about accepting other LGBT members in the prosecutor office. Ema deadpans that Edgeworth, who is not only gay but is married to Phoenix, is also a member of the LGBT community. Edgeworth loses his composure for a moment before continuing.
  • In I Against I, Me Against You, not only does the same revelation as in canon that Church is an AI occur, but Twilight is revealed to be Ancora, an MI created by Project Freelancer as part of the Director's efforts to revive Allison.
  • The Sonic the Hedgehog series The Furminator revolves around Tails discovering that he's an infiltration unit created by Dr. Robotnik.
  • In The Grand Unified Theory of Shen Qingqiu, the story opens with Shen Yuan attempting to bargain with the System for his 'New Game Plus' second chance to be in the role of a character other than Shen Qingqiu, only for the System to reveal to him that he isn't a transmigrator - he was reincarnated, and thus has always been Shen Qingqiu.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Cars 2, Mater is told that everyone sees him as a fool, and then looks at his reflection. Get it? Tow Mater in the mirror!
    Mater: Is that how you see me?
    Finn McMissile: That's how everyone sees you, and that's the genius of it. Nobody realizes they're being fooled because they're too busy laughing at the fool.
  • Meet the Robinsons: A young boy named Cornelius "Lewis" Robinson befriends a boy named Wilbur, who apparently came from the future. It is later revealed that Lewis is actually Wilbur's father.
  • At the end of Sintel, the title character sees her reflection in the blood of the dragon she just slew and realizes how long she's spent on her quest for revenge. She's no longer a teenager, but an older woman with graying hair. And her pet baby dragon has also grown up...
  • Tangled: The prologue even states Gothel kidnapped Princess Rapunzel as a baby to have her hair all to herself to stay young, and lied to her about the outside world so she doesn't leave and can live forever. It takes Rapunzel all the way until the climax of the film to realize her true identity, something the audience already knew about her since the prologue.
  • Toy Story: Buzz Lightyear spends half the movie convinced that he really is a space ranger, and that all his nifty features are actual working gadgets. Then he encounters a TV set playing a Ridiculously Loud Commercial for his toy line, confirming that he is, in fact, a toy. Randy Newman narrates Buzz's thought processes in the subsequent BSoD Song as he tries to deny the revelation and use his space wings—the one feature he'd "proven" to work in a previous scene—to fly out a window, only to fall like a rock and break himself on the stairs below.
    "All the things I thought I'd be, all the brave things I'd done
    Vanished like a snowflake with the rising of the sun
    Never more to sail my ship, where no man has gone before
    And I will go sailing no more."

    Manhwa 
  • The Bride of the Water God: Yeomha doesn't realize she is a doll with Nakbin's memories.
  • Shin Angyo Onshi:
    • The third chapter of the manhwa and the last one-third part anime movie of invokes this. A young fisherman finds Munsu and tells him that a miracle-working physician in his island village is experimenting with the dead. Munsu and Sando investigate the matter, and find out that this is true. The twist comes when Munsu tells the young fisherman to kill his beloved sister, which he tearfully does...the illusion comes crashing down, and it turns out that the physician zombified the population of the whole village, who died when a plague swept over the area, and covered it with mandrake-induced illusion. Said young fisherman finally realizes that he is not the sole survivor, but a zombie like everyone else and promptly kills himself.
    • It is speculated that this trope applies to Munsu's Sando (Chun Hyang) as well. Many stronger Sando are animals/magical beasts that can take human form, as is most clearly demonstrated by Hwang's Sando, who first can be seen as a giant wolf/bird hybrid beast but later presents herself as a little girl. The cute Chun Hyang was known as Mong Ryong's constant companion, and Mong Ryong himself is known as a veterinarian. It is not a far stretch to speculate that Chun Hyang is the same.

    Music 
  • Daniel Johnston's "Devil Town" from his album "1990" seems to be about this trope—'I didn't know they were vampires/It turns out I was a vampire myself...' That is, unless it's actually about something else entirely over some people's heads.
  • At the very end of the Genesis Concept Album/Rock Opera The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, the protagonist Rael discovers that he and his brother John whom he's spent the entire album chasing are actually the same person.
    Hang on, John! We're out of this at last
    Something's changed, it's not your face
    It's mine!
  • Who Will Love Me Now? by PJ Harvey is a narrative song where the character sings of monster in the forest who has done terrible things, the monster lamenting 'who will love me now?' At the end of the song the character reveals they are the monster.
  • This is played with in The Emptiness, by Alesana. Specifically, the artist and thespian are one and the same.
  • David Bowie's "The Width of a Circle":
    Then I ran across a monster who was sleeping by a tree
    And I looked and frowned and the monster was me
  • The video for Garbage's "Bleed Like Me". Shirley Manson plays a nurse in a mental hospital; she eventually realizes that she's actually one of the patients.
  • Sally Fingerett's song "She Won't Be Walking" is a song about domestic abuse. The chorus is positive and hopeful:
    She won't be walking, when she goes
    Won't be talking; they'll be nothing they don't already know
    Are no magic words left to say
    She'll be leaving him, flying away
    • Then you find out that the reason she'll be flying instead of walking is because she's a ghost. Her husband shoots her in the last verse.
  • Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" from Paranoid combines this with Stable Time Loop as the title character becomes the Omnicidal Maniac he went back in time to prevent.
  • Metallica has "Sad But True".
    I’m your truth, telling lies
    I’m your reasoned alibis
    I’m inside, open your eyes
    I’M YOU!
  • The song "Haunted Town" by Lordi starts when the singer finds himself in the middle of a Zombie Apocalypse. In the end he realizes that he's actually dead himself:
    I searched the old graveyard for an answer
    In the mossy headstones
    I found my name
    Ooh, I walk among the dead
  • Led Zeppelin's "Fool in the Rain" is about a guy being stood up by a girl. For a while, he tries to convince himself that she's just late, even waiting out in the rain for her, until he finally gives up hope. He immediately realizes that he has been waiting on the wrong block this whole time.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic's "I think I'ma clone now."
  • HP Lovecraft Historical Society's Solstice Carol album A Very Scary Solstice features the song "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Fishmen" which ends this way, quite literally.
    I'll continue to see a lot of fishmen
    That I guarantee.
    For the fishman I truly fear is the one that's in the mirror
    And he looks like me.

    Podcasts 
  • The Tres Horny Boys of The Adventure Zone: Balance were told that the group called the Red Robes were the bad guys. It turns out, they were the Red Robes, and they were never villains in the first place.
  • When they land in a Gothic horror world during the Gemini arc, the Sequinox team hear a mob talking about a girl being kidnapped by monsters and decide to transform and help her. Then they transform into monsters—though they're not responsible for the kidnapping.

    Radio 
  • The Torchwood: The Lost Files story "The House of the Dead" does this on a massive scale. The story is set after Children of Earth, not before it as it first appeared, Ianto, the point-of-view character is a ghost, and the version of Gwen talking to him by radio is actually an Eldritch Abomination impersonating her. Only Jack is the "real" version.
  • Subverted in the Adventures in Odyssey episode "Last in a Long Line": while Eugene and Bernard are walking through a cemetery, they see a tombstone with the name “Meltsner” on it (Eugene’s last name). Upon closer inspection, the first name is Leonard, not Eugene. However, this leads to a Tell Me About My Father! quest for Eugene, since Leonard Meltsner was his father’s name.

    Roleplay 
  • The Darwin's Soldiers story Card of Ten follows the tale of Dr. James Zanasiu and his team through the antimatter world of Gaman. At the end, it's revealed that this Dr. Zanasiu is actually an antimatter copy of the real one, who's still back on Earth.
  • There are several reveals of this type in Ruby Quest. In chronological order:
    • Ruby was once very violent, and killed Stitches and Tom (they got better, sort of.)
    • Both Ruby and Tom are infected by the substance that created the 'zombies' fought earlier. The zombies themselves were normal people who the substance mutated until they became near-mindless monsters. Their names were later discovered to be Stitches and Daisy.
    • Finally, Tom Nook, who the players thought was the 'extremely dangerous' Subject #6, was actually Subject #5. Ruby's companion Tom was the real Subject #6 (although, in a variation, this reveal was only shown to the players themselves, not the characters).

    Tabletop Games 
  • Arkham Horror has an expansion that adds Tomato in the Mirror as a mechanic. Roaming Innsmouth runs the risk of drawing Innsmouth Look cards and learning your investigator is a Half-Human Hybrid, mimicking the Lovecraft examples under Literature.
  • New World of Darkness:
    • This is a huge element of the fetches in Changeling: The Lost. They believe themselves to be ordinary humans, but they have the ability to see things others can't — that is, the people on the street who look like monsters. At some point, the fetch usually finds out that it's not a real person; it's a copy made by one of The Fair Folk to serve as a replacement for the human they took to Faerie to serve as their plaything. Those "monsters" they're seeing? They're the people who managed to escape from Faerie in the first place. And a lot of them aren't big fans of something fake living their life...

      The Changeling book also suggests this motif as a brilliant Twist Ending Prelude: the players start going through life, noticing really weird things, scary critters just outside of the reach of their perception. Surprise! All the players are fetches, and the "evil creatures" are their real, changeling selves, come to finish them off.

      And for the Rule of Three (appropriately), the final splatbook has a brilliant double-layered example. Changelings who manage to live long enough are frequently drawn back into Arcadia and realize they've become True Fae themselves. At the same time it's revealed that the Fae view everything as a collaborative/competitive role-playing game and interact with the world by making up characters, settings, and props to act out stories...like the players see the game world.
    • Werewolf: The Forsaken also has an element of this. What's that? You're just an ordinary person being stalked by werewolves, spirits and ghosts? No, you are a werewolf, and you always were one since birth - it's just been dormant. (The bite is so that they can track you down after you go through your violent First Change - it's not infectious, and the Change proceeds with or without the bite. A panic-stricken person post-Change might not realize this or be in the mood to listen to the explanation, so consumed with fear over being a monster.)
  • In Clue, the winning player may discover that they are the one who killed Mr. Boddy, forcing them to declare that they killed Mr. Boddy - and can still lose if they get how and where wrong.
  • Mimicking H. P. Lovecraft's own writing, this sort of reveal may on occasion be sprung on player characters in Call of Cthulhu scenarios, including several published ones — at least one of which gives the GM staging tips on when and how to replace the original human characters with initially unaware dopplegangers in such a way that the players running them don't notice the switch.
  • Meta example: One of several ways for Dungeons & Dragons DMs to handle doppelganger infiltration into a party of PCs is to not inform the player they've been replaced until it's time for The Reveal. Needless to say, this isn't a popular option with players, although they're a lot less miffed if their character is only knocked out and tied up by the shapeshifting monster off-camera, not actually killed.
  • Archaeon the Everchosen from Warhammer; the bastard son of a Norscan Raider, Diedrick Kastner grew up to be a Witch Hunter and a devout servant of Sigmar. One day he read about a prophesied Chaos Lord who would destroy the world, and his search to find out who this mysterious "Archaeon" was drove him further and further to the brink. Finally, he confronted an Arch Lector who stated that Diedrick himself would become Archaeon. Diedrick snapped, killed the Lector, and fled to the north, where he embraced his destiny and became one of the most feared Warriors of Chaos.
  • One Night Ultimate Werewolf can pull this on the player due to the number of roles that can switch cards between players. It's quite likely that a player can be playing as a werewolf, vampire, tanner, or whatever without knowing it after a switch occurs. However, this can be Defied by the Insomniac whose action is to look at her card at the end of the night to see if she's been switched.

    Visual Novels 
  • Danganronpa:
  • Two routes from Echo reveal that Chase actually killed Sidney. In TJ's ending, Chase kills Flynn after accidentally revealing the truth and in Flynn's route he figured out.
  • Itsuki in Suika realizes that she is actually dead instead of her sister at the end of the first chapter.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry has a borderline example: It turns out that Keiichi's foray Through the Eyes of Madness in the first arc was him being crazy and not a case of Town with a Dark Secret — but Keiichi only learns this in an alternate timeline when he gets a glimpse of his own actions from outside of his own mind at the time.
  • Subverted in Sunrider Liberation Day. Ava Crescentia and Asaga di Ryuvia begin to suspect that their friend and chief engineer Chigara Ashada is one of the Prototypes note , and that she is unwittingly feeding them information on the Sunrider’s movements. A comprehensive scan by the ship’s doctor Claude Trilleo confirms that she is an ordinary human, and the crew speculates that the resemblance is either just a coincidence or a form of psychological warfare. Ultimately Double Subverted: Chigara really is a Prototype, and Claude—who has not only been working with them from the beginning but is also the real source of the leak—falsified the results of the scan.
  • In Virtue's Last Reward, the protagonist Sigma and 8 other strangers are abducted by someone named Zero and are forced to play the Nonary Game. Sigma, a 22-year-old college student, later finds out that he's actually 67 years old, an esper, has lost his eye, had his arms replaced by cybernetic ones, and is Zero. Needless to say, this is quite the shock to him.

    Web Animation 
  • Up until the Wham Episode in Red vs. Blue: Reconstruction, every problem that befell upon either the Red or Blue teams was caused by the Freelancers and their many AI. So naturally, it was a very shocking twist to find out that Private Leonard Church was actually the original Alpha AI that had been split into all the other AI that the cast had been fighting throughout the entire series. On top of that, the director of Project Freelancer is the real Leonard Church. Furthermore, as Revelations has since revealed, Tex is also an AI, based off someone the Director lost, but loved so much his memories of her spontaneously created a separate AI. Church preferred to believe that he was a ghost.
  • In the Happy Tree Friends episode "Double Whammy", Flippy discovers that he has been killing all of his friends due to a Split Personality a la Jekyll & Hyde. He eventually confronts his demons in a Battle in the Center of the Mind taking place outside the real world, but by the time he was cured he was killed.

    Webcomics 
  • Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures:
  • The big twist of Fleep is that the building collapse which trapped Jimmy in the phone booth was caused by a terrorist bombing. And Jimmy was the terrorist leader.
  • This trope in a nutshell, courtesy of Nedroid's Reginald and Beartato.
  • Tainted has Geneveive, a paladin find themselves in this situation.
  • Parodied in The Way of the Metagamer 2: In Name Only.
    The Wise Wizard Guy: You, Detective...you are a tomato.
    The Detective: Yeah, I know.
    The Wise Wizard Guy: ...no "oh God, What Have I Become?"?
    The Detective: Nope.
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, Annie isn't quite human, and this was hidden from her by every single authority figure she has ever known...except for Coyote.
  • Fans! had a short where Tim wakes up to find that he's the only person left on Earth. Two aliens offer him a series of female human clones modeled after people from his memories, so he can repopulate the world. The story ends with Tim finding out that 1) this is not earth 2) he's a clone too and 3) this was all the aliens' experiment to breed humans.
  • In Commander Kitty, Nin Wah's android double wakes up to find 1. she's been reduced to a disembodied head, 2. she's not the original, and 3. her memories are faulty. All things considered, she doesn't seem to take the news that badly.
  • In The Sanity Circus, not even Attley knows that she's one of the same Scarecrows that they have been trying to escape for the entire story. Posey, of course, knew it all along - but then she's a Scarecrow too.
  • In Girl Genius, Anevka knows she was nearly killed in one of her father's Mad Science experiments a while ago and now interacts with the world through a robot body her brother made, but doesn't realize her human body died years ago. "Anevka" is the robot, which imprinted with her personality and memories back when she was actually controlling it. She's pretty horrified when her brother tells her.
  • Romantically Apocalyptic eventually reveals Pilot is actually an amnesiac DEX, assigned to assassinate Snippy.
  • Sluggy Freelance:
    • Torg's comic book "Gunman Stan McKurt Vs. the Gates of the City of the Damned" has a variation applying to a whole place. It starts with some archaeologists having Dug Too Deep near a town and revealed "the gates of Hell itself". The protagonist is supposed to stop another character from opening them; in the end, she dies before being able to explain why opening these gates of the City of the Damned would actually help the people in the town. The reason is then revealed by a sign held by a demonic humanoid: "You are in the City of the Damned". Mind you, Stan McKurt never figures it out because he's illiterate.
    • Many people have speculated that Oasis is actually a robot, but Oasis has strenuously denied it. Oasis is in fact, an artifically intelligent Kill Sat. Her human body is a replaceable Remote Body created by cloning. Learning this leaves her distraught, but it ultimately helps her, breaking her free of all mental control.
  • Changelings in Charby the Vampirate if they realize they are not the people they have replaced:
    Kavonn: Those such as her are a pitiable sort, when they take in the mind of a creature capable of self-examination and realize what they really are.
  • Guilded Age: "The Five," Byron, Syr'Nj, Gravedust, Frigg, and Payet, may be heading for this as they are the only players of Kingdoms of Arkerra who are so immersed in the game that they believe it's their reality. The other player characters are a bit weirded out that "The Big Four" never break character or seem to understand that there is life outside of Arkerra.
  • Paradigm Shift hits female lead Detective Kate MacAllister with two in a row after the big reveal. First she finds out she's become a werewolf, then some time later she figures out that she mauled someone to death while transformed.
  • In Latchkey Kingdom, when Rose is introduced, she and those around her believes that she's Willa, and has just been trapped in a suit made of Shade. When she finds out she IS the Shade, after the initial shock, she wants to find her original body to somehow return to it. Then her original body walks up to her and say "Hi", leading to her Heroic BSoD.
  • In the Oglaf strip "The Illusionist", the illusionist invokes this as the climax of his show: the audience, who thinks they're a human audience, are actually woodland animals under an illusion. While it's certainly a big twist, he notices he's not making any money this way.

    Web Original 
  • Creepypasta:
    • The story titled "Mice" featured a narrator who had trained "mice" into becoming intelligent and making their own communities. He regularly kills some of the weaker ones to discourage any rebellion against him. In the end, it's revealed that the narrator is actually a robot and the mice are really people.
    • Another relates the story of a kid being adopted into a family and the subsequent murder of his family members by an unknown man, except for himself, who turns out to be a dog.
    • Another describes how victims of rape and torture will retreat into a catatonic state from which they cannot WAKE UP. In their minds, they live in a fantasy world just like the real one, except they're safe, until they find notes in the imaginary world, telling them to Please Wake Up.
  • Parodied in the Creepypasta parody Ghastly Macaroni, in the story called "You were all the frogs." You keep finding frogs in your house and you keep putting them outside, but when you look in the mirror, you realise you were all the frogs and have therefore locked yourself outside.
  • In Super Stories, the genius roboticist Veldron eventually learns that he's a robot duplicate of the real Veldron, designed to be an Expendable Clone.
  • 17776 ends its first chapter with the revelation that all of the main characters are actually space probes.

    Web Videos 

    Real Life 
  • Secret Jewish heritage converts neo-Nazi. It gets better: one of the leaders of an antisemitic Hungarian political party found out he is a Jew.
  • One incredibly sad example is that of David Reimer. He was circumcised at seven months old for phimosis, but his penis was burned beyond repair by failed electrocauterization. Therefore, he was sexually reassigned as a girl. He appeared to be feminine in the first few years of life, but then exhibited wholly masculine traits, leading to a mental breakdown in adolescence when as a social female he underwent aspects of male puberty despite having had estrogen treatment. At this point he finally learned the truth from his parents. He transitioned to male much as a FTM transgender person does, but felt haunted the rest of his life by the lies of his childhood, eventually culminating in his suicide at age 38. It didn't help that at this point he was already a textbook example in university sociology classes about the limits of social conditioning.
  • There's a museum in Galveston, Texas that had an exhibit on the world's most dangerous creatures, with pictures and a few of the smaller ones. At the end of the exhibit, there's a picture of "The deadliest creature in the world". There's only a mirror.
  • According to a "Ripley's Believe It or Not!" cartoon, a man was put in prison for attempted murder. It took years to find out who the man's would-be victim was, and it was eventually discovered it was himself!
  • Craig Cobb, a white supremacist who wanted to create a town just for white supremacists and Neo-Nazis, was shocked late in 2013 when a DNA test revealed he was 14% Sub-Saharan African. To be expected if you know about genetics and biology, but it was contrary to the ardent white supremacist's expectations. He was then run out of town by the white supremacists that he had brought there.
  • While studying brain scans to search for patterns that correlated with psychopathic behavior, a neuroscientist named James Fallon found that his own brain fit the profile. This was last replicated by Eli Roth in a documentary that the director filmed and hosted for the Science Channel about sociopaths and psychopaths. In addition to detailing many other tests that determine sociopathic and psychopathic tendencies, the director underwent a complete psychological profile, and thus found out that he possessed many of the traits that are commonly thought of as "sociopathic".
  • Inverted example, where the revelation in question was a surprise to everyone except the person it was about: the Mistaken Identity case of Laura van Ryn, a college student who was in a major accident with several other classmates, including another blonde student who closely resembled her, Whitney Cerak—thanks to the injuries sustained, her being unable to speak for a number of months after the accident, and the placement of a purse at the crash site, Laura's family sat by her bedside and did all they could to take care of her while Whitney's buried and grieved for the daughter they'd lost...only for everyone to discover the girl in the hospital was actually Whitney. It was made worse by the fact that the hospital staff was so convinced of their identification that they in turn dismissed Laura's family's suspicions and encouraged them to believe their daughter's written notes about her parents' names and calling them "false parents" was a case of amnesia or brain damage...so that until the truth came out, Whitney was in the position of actually knowing the truth, but unable to convince anyone of it. It would be easy to imagine her eventually losing her mind, unable to determine what was real or coming to believe she actually was Laura, if the mix-up had been sustained any longer.
  • This is how a lot of primarily obsessional OCD ("Pure-O") works: the sufferer constantly worries that they are something (a pedophile, psychopath, not truly in love with their significant other, gay or transgendernote , and more) they desperately do not want to be, and have gone their whole lives without realizing it. It's been said that Pure-O OCD is one of the worst psychological disorders to deal with, because it means you can't trust even yourself.
  • Finding out one is adopted after not being told until they are a certain age (say, a teenager), and having thought your parents were your biological parents for so long can cause this feeling.

 
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Alternative Title(s): Monster In The Mirror

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Metal Sonics Realization

Metal Sonic realizes he's the faker and does not take it well.

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