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Uniformity Exception

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You get one guess at which one is the main character's best friend.
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Riddle me this: When is a Faceless Goon not a faceless goon? This trope is about characters who look similar to the resident Redshirts, Mooks, Henchmen Race or other such group of hard-to-distinguish characters, but have some characteristic which makes them easy to pick out. This can be as simple as giving them the same outfit minus a mask or Nice Hat, but there are other alternatives (e.g., one of the identical-looking Rubber Forehead Aliens who's picked up a Rugged Scar, or a Mecha-Mook with a fancy paintjob).

This can come in two flavours depending on the exact effect the exception has:

  • It only makes that one character unique and somehow different from, but still connected to, the rest. This is a common costume/design choice for a Reverse Mole (or the result of a Mook–Face Turn), who wears the enemy's colours by necessity. The Token Heroic Orc (if the other "orcs" look the same), Mook Lieutenant (if he doesn't have his own uniform or looks completely different from his subordinates), and someone using an Ace Custom can also sport this look.
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  • The character is a proxy for all the other members of his group. They humanise the rest by reminding the audience that they're all individuals under the masks (while avoiding the expense of making every single Rubber-Forehead Alien look unique). Often the result of an Anti-Climactic Unmasking (the generic mook's just a generic mook, who knew?) and coinciding with Helmets Are Hardly Heroic, Nominal Importance and Breakout Mook Character.

Sister trope to Identical Twin ID Tag (who all get a unique look out of the deal), Odd Name Out (where something similar is done with names), King Mook (when they're distinguished because they're more powerful) and Mauve Shirt (another "generic" character who gets a bit more development). Supertrope to Custom Uniform. Contrast Nonuniform Uniform (where everyone in the group looks at least slightly different), Unique Enemy (which lacks any comparable mooks) and Underground Monkey (where a slight variation is itself another group of mooks).

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Examples:

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     Anime and Manga  

  • In the second Ghost in the Shell movie, Innocence, Batou invades a manufactory ship that is making illicit gynoids. When the gynoids swarm him, Major Kusanagi takes over one of them to lend a hand. He puts his jacket on her shoulders, a technically pointless gesture that serves both as a Call-Back to the previous film and to easily distinguish Kusanagi from the dozens of gynoids that she is fighting.

     Comic Books  

  • In GI Joe A Real American Hero, Dr. Venom has a courier known as "Scar-Face". With his mask on, he looks like any other Cobra infantry trooper except for the two scars running down the visible portion of his face, forming a "V".

     Film  

  • In AVP: Alien vs. Predator, one Xenomorph gets a distinctive scar over its face early on. No points for guessing which Xenomorph mook is the hardest to kill.
  • In Mirrormask, there are a tribe of "monkeybirds", basically gibbons with conical blue beaks, who can only speak their own name. All of them are named Bob, except for one, Malcolm, who has an orange beak and is more helpful to the protagonists than the rest.
  • In WALL•E, after scanning the plant specimen, EVE develops a blinking green "plant" light on her chassis, making it easy for Wall-E to distinguish her from the dozen or so other EVE pods on the exploration shuttle. Later, the robots in the robot repair bay place a red reset button on her, accomplishing the same purpose.
  • Star Wars examples:
    • In A New Hope Luke-disguised-as-a-Stormtrooper is noticeably shorter than the average Stormtrooper - Leia remarks upon it before he takes his helmet off and tries to rescue her.
    • In Attack of the Clones C-3PO is pushed into a battle droid assembly plant on Geonosis where his head is soon attached to a battle droid's body. C-3PO becomes part of the battalion of 'bots that are sent into the arena to fight the Jedi Knights. He's not really up to the task.
    C-3PO: What's that noise? A battle? Oh, there's been a horrible mistake! I'm programmed for etiquette, not destruction!
    • In The Force Awakens, before we get to see Finn (formerly FN-2187) unmasked, one of his dying comrades leaves a Bloody Handprint on his helmet so we can tell him apart from the other stormtroopers during the massacre on the Jakku village.
  • All of the Series VI robots from I, Robot are manufactured as identical and undifferentiated ... except Sonny, the one Detective Spooner suspects killed his designer, Doctor Lanning. Sonny looks exactly like any other Series VI robot, but he has a second "brain" in his thorax, which is not accessible by the central control computer V.I.K.I.. This is a critical difference when all the other Series VI robots take the Three Laws of Robotics much too literally (and distinguish themselves from Sonny by glowing red when they turn hostile).
    • He's also the only robot to have blue eyes - all the others have yellow.

     Live Action TV  

  • Doctor Who, presumably for budgetary reasons (so they only have to make one alien face):
    • The Judoon are all helmeted, but one removes his helmet so we can see what they look like (humanoid rhinos, basically). After that, every time they show up there is one unhelmeted and the other two are helmeted.
    • Sontarans also all wear helmets except one takes his off.
    • Hordes of New Series Silurians are shown wearing metal face-masks, but main character Silurians (the three named/speaking characters in "Cold Blood" and Madame Vastra) don't.
    • The Cybermen usually have one leader unit who has some portion of their costume painted black (usually their "handlebars" or the "helmet"). In the new series, this also includes the top portion of their "helmet" being see-through, leaving the brain visible.

     Music  

     Video Games  
  • Kirby:
    • Kirby Super Star:
      • Helpers appear as unique Palette Swaps of the Mook (or Mini-Boss, for Hammer or Suplex) that the Copy Ability comes from. Wheelies are given saddles instead.
      • A Waddle Dee is set apart from the rest by his sailor hat. He's later given the (unsurprising) name "Sailor Waddle Dee" in Kirby: Planet Robobot.
    • The Ensemble Dark Horse Bandana Waddle Dee can be told apart from the other Waddle Dees by the fact that he always wears his trademark blue bandana and has a body with slightly different shade of red or orange. Possibly because of this trope, Bandana Waddle Dee has since gone onto being a recurrent playable character and ally of Kirby in most recent games of the series.
  • In Half-Life 2, a mook who seems to be about to torture Gordon asks for some privacy...and pulls of his mask to reveal Barney (as a nod to the fact he was based on the generic security guards from the first game). He continues to wear his civil protection uniform (sans mask after the rebellion begins) for the rest of the game.
    "So...[removes mask]...how about that beer I owe ya?"
  • Beyond Good & Evil's Double H was a member of the Hylian Army, and still wears his armour despite his fellows being subservient to the villains.
  • In Crisis Core, while riding on a helicopter, Zack bonds with one of the faceless soldiers over being from the same hometown. He removes his helmet to reveal Cloud; the protagonist of the main FFVII. Naturally he's still just another Shinra grunt for now and spends the rest of the game in his uniform.
  • The characters Laguna Loire, Ward Zabak and Kiros Seagill from Final Fantasy VIII initially serve in the Galbadian army (which is the game's go-to source of mooks). They wear the uniforms, but without the helmets, making their faces visible.
  • You can tell Cream the Rabbit's Chao partner Cheese from Sonic the Hedgehog apart from any other neutral Chao by the fact that he wears a red bow tie.
  • Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? plays with this by making the main character one of the disposable Mascot Mook prinnies whose wearing a red scarf. However there's nothing special about said Prinny; when they die, the player's next "life" is another prinny wearing the scarf.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Many games in the franchise do this concerning Toad and other important members of his kind (Toadsworth's mustache, Toadette's braid-cap). If he has to show up where other Toads are present, he tends to wear the classic red spots/blue vest combo while the others have one color for both.
      • The best example of this is in Super Mario Galaxy where Captain Toad is the leader of a group called the Toad Brigade and differentiates himself from the other Toads by wearing a headlamp and a backpack. Other Toads in the group also display differentiating features, such as Hint Toad's glasses. Captain Toad became so loved that he even got his own title, and the entire brigade got new uniforms from then on.
    • All the party members from the Paper Mario games that are members of the various mook races Mario usually encounters on his adventures (or, in one case, a baby Yoshi) all have some sort of identifiable feature that'll allow one to tell who they are, like Goombario's blue hat, Goombella's exploration outfit (and the fact that she's pink), Watt's dummy, Bombette's ponytail-like fuse, Yoshi's underwear, etc.
  • The incarnation of Link from Hyrule Warriors starts the game as a common foot soldier in the Hyrulian army. Because of this he initially wears the same uniform as the other Hyrule Soldiers, instead of his signature green tunic. He's also the only soldier to have a unique face (resembling the face of his other incarnations) and the only soldier seen without his helmet, allowing you to tell who he is. His standard issue sword and shield are also modified for left-handed use of the sword as he is left-handed unlike his right-handed fellow soldiers.
    • He's also told apart from other Links across the Zelda series (of which two other incarnations appear as separate playable characters in the game) by his blue scarf.
  • In the Fire Emblem games in general, if an enemy looks different from others within the character class, then he or she is either a boss or recruitable.

     Web Comics 

     Western Animation  

  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, in the part 1 episode of the Northern Water Tribe war, Zuko disguises himself as one of Zhao's Faceless Goons. Thing is, Zuko's eyes are visible through the mask's eyepiece, whereas the other goons have their eyes concealed.
  • In the early 1990s cartoon Conan the Adventurer, one of the main characters is the daughter of a human mother and one of Set's serpentmen mooks. (Apparently the only good one.) When old Dad returns to Earth with the rest of Set's horde, he's a slightly different color from the rest of the mooks, and thus stands out and is easily identifiable.
  • All of the Imperial troopers in George Lucas' Star Wars: The Clone Wars series are clones of Jango Fett. A sergeant or lieutenant will often sport a peculiar haircut or tattoo, especially if they speak with Obi-Wan Kenobi or Anakin Skywalker. This is mentioned in supplemental material to be a mechanism for humanizing these troopers; they are meant to be seen as Red Shirts rather than mooks, assisting the Jedi in preserving law and order. Their Moral Event Horizon wasn't something of their choosing, rather it was foisted on them by the Chessmaster Palpatine as part of his Evil Plan to eradicate the Jedi Knights.
  • A couple of Daffy Duck cartoons start with Daffy along with a flock of ducks migrating or paddling in a lake. All the other ducks look more or less realistic, whereas Daffy looks like Daffy. "Kind of stick out in a crowd, don't I?"


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