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You Can See Me?

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George: Who the hell are you?!
Annie: [looks behind her] ...wha?
George: Who the hell are you?
Annie: Shit, can you see me?
George: Of course. Who are you?
Annie: You can see me! ...Can you see me do that? [flaps arms]
Being Human (UK), pilot episode

Someone is invisible or otherwise magically disguised. At some point, they notice they're attracting an unexpected amount of attention for someone who shouldn't be attracting any. "You Can See Me?" The standard response is some variant of "Why wouldn't I be able to see you?" or, more succinctly, "Well, duh."

Usually happens one of three ways. An invisible character, either despondent of being invisible or overconfident in same, runs into someone who can perceive them in some way or another (infrared sight, anti-magic glasses, etc.). Another involves supernaturals under some kind of glamour, or simply Invisible to Normals, and saying this when they experience Glamour Failure at the hands eyes of someone who can see through their deception. The last way, almost always Played for Laughs, is that the person was never invisible or disguised in the first place; they just thought they were (or alternatively, they were invisible, but the effect wore off and they didn't realize).

In any case, it is pretty much inevitable that any character in this situation will say this line (instead of, say, figuring that if the person is talking to them and looking at them they can probably see them) even though it makes them sound ridiculous and ruins any attempt to pretend to be normal. Savvier invisible people will actually phrase the question such that they aren't asking if but how. If one of The Fair Folk asks you "Which eye do you see me with?" be assured whatever eye you say is going to be rendered blind.

If the invisible person can only be seen under unusual circumstances, it could be a case of By the Eyes of the Blind. Also compare I See Them, Too and I See Dead People. Often overlaps with Tragic Intangibility. Now, if this happens in combat the invisible person is much likelier to say "Oh, Crap!."

Not related to John Cena's Catchphrase ("You Can't See Me"). Although people can see him, obviously.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Bleach:
    • Rukia's reaction when Ichigo addresses her in the first chapter of the manga. Ichigo takes this a step further, and kicks her when she apparently tries to break into his home.
    • And in a slightly stranger example, Ichigo's reaction when Tatsuki asks what his "Deputy Soul Reaper" badge is, which was stated to be Invisible to Normals.
    • In the Turn Back The Pendulum arc, Aizen has this reaction when Shinji disables the spell Aizen was using to keep himself hidden and eavesdrop on his conversation with Kisuke.
  • In Charger Girl, Charger Girls use a cloaking system to hide themselves from the populace of Earth (normally, they're transparent, but can still be seen). This system also makes them intangible. However, for some reason, this cloaking system has absolutely no effect on Sento. Which Plug discovers via a baseball bat to the head when she assumes Sento can't possibly be referring to her. Alastar makes the same discovery in a similar manner.
  • The way Cain and Riff first met in Count Cain. Cain wasn't actually invisible — it's just all the household servants had been given strict orders to act as if he was all his life, and he hadn't been allowed out much. Inventive of Alexis, no? Turns out the reason Riff hadn't been given the same instructions wasn't because he was not-exactly-a-servant, but because Alexis was setting him up to become Cain's number-one person in the world, so he could take him away again by activating his suppressed evil personality from before he was a zombie. Just to screw with the kid.
  • Ryuk in Death Note says this to a criminal who inadvertently touched a piece of the title Artifact of Doom as one of Light's gambits, which enables the criminal to see the Death Note's shinigami prior owner and causes him to freak out.
  • In Granblue Fantasy: The Animation, Ferry was invisible and unable to make herself noticed until Lyria came along and touched her shoulder, which made her visible to everyone else as well. "You can see me?" are literally the first words she speaks. A bit of a tragic variation as well as from her perspective, it's the first time anyone has noticed her existence in over a hundred years.
  • In Honey Crush, this is said by the ghost Mitsu when she discovers that Kyouko has the ability to see ghosts.
  • Happens in Inuyasha with invisibility magic that wears off without the user noticing. Sango asks the trope when Miroku begs her to please say something or hit him instead of just glaring at him. Shippo, on the other hand, starts playing pranks on Inuyasha, and gets smacked into a pond for his trouble.
  • Sgt. Frog starts with Natsumi pointing a hidden Keroro out to Fuyuki, prompting Keroro to drop his disguise and ask this. Doubly funny because she didn't see him; she was just pointing in a random direction that Keroro happened to be in. Hilarity (and a whole show) Ensues.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2016), Luda can see Midna in Link's shadow, to their mutual surprise.
  • In the first episode of A Little Snow Fairy Sugar, Sugar has this reaction when she notices Saga staring intensely at her.
  • Also applies to the overall reaction Sayo has when someone sees her in Negima! Magister Negi Magi. Especially the first time.
  • The first episode of Ninja Nonsense has Shinobu attempting to sneak into Kaede's house by making herself invisible. She fails miserably. Twice.
  • In Okko's Inn Suzuki, Uribe and Miyo are ecstatic that Okko can see them, and it's one of the reasons they prefer her inn over Matsuki's.
  • Amidamaru to Ryu in Shaman King when discovering his shaman abilities.
  • Ushio and Tora:
    • One arc has the Big Bad send his minions to eat everyone's memories of the protagonist Ushio: his friends and the people he's saved have zero clue who he is, leading to the most heartening moments in the series when it turns out Tora wasn't affected.
  • Utawarerumono: Kamyu can chant herself invisible. She sneaks into Hakuoro's bedroom to take a nap and the invisibility spell wears off. When she wakes up Hakuoro is there just staring right at her. She asks: "Can you by any chance see Kamyu?" When Hakuoro confirms that Kamyu panics and quickly chants herself invisible again but due to her panic the spell wears off immediately. She doesn't notice anyway until Hakuoro quips in complete deadpan: "I can still see you."
  • Happens early in YuYu Hakusho, right before Botan reveals herself to Yusuke the second time. Yusuke caught a little demon bare-handed, and this was his general reaction.

    Comic Books 
  • Subverted in The Books of Magic, where the answer to that question was, "Of course I can't see you. I can't hear you either." He wasn't lying. Tim Hunter and The Phantom Stranger have gone back in time, invisibly, to meet an Atlantean sorcerer. The sorcerer can't detect them directly in any way, but his magic tells him they're there, and what they say.
  • Played with in Identity Crisis (2004): in one scene, Flash is vibrating rapidly so he can sit in on a meeting unseen, but Hawkman can still see him (because "his eyes can see a hummingbird's wings flap"). Green Arrow then asks Green Lantern to come out too, and when GL asks how GA could see him, GA says he just guessed.
  • In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Mr. Hyde reveals his ability to see by way of heat signatures to The Invisible Man (but not the audience, who knew since their first meeting) shortly before Hyde rapes him to death.
  • Supergirl:
    • In Supergirl (2005) storyline Girl Power, a villain called Calculator is monitoring Kara under Lex Luthor's orders. At one point, Supergirl glares straight in the direction of the Calculator's camera, which is enough for him to freak out in a Spit Take because he realizes that she can see him even though it was supposedly impossible.
    • In Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot, Deadman is shocked when Kara greets him. He does not figure out, though, that she can see and hear him because she is also a ghost.
      Deadman: "What—? You can see me...?"
      Kara: ''"Obviously."
  • Young Justice: In the "Sins of Youth" crossover, Deadman (now de-aged to about 10) can be seen by Secret (now aged to mid-twenties).
  • Blackest Night: At the end of the story, Deadman is freaked out to learn that everyone can see him — because he's not dead anymore.
  • In Kingdom Come, the Spectre has brought Norman to witness a Justice League meeting. They're in the astral plane, and thus nominally invisible to the heroes — except for the Flash, whose permanent vibrations mean he sees several layers of reality at once.
  • The Dead Boy Detectives: Charles is surprised when a storeowner catches them sneaking around his store, commenting that he'd thought only children could see them. Edwin replies that supernaturally sensitive adults can likely see them.

    Comic Strips 
  • The Wizard of Id takes an invisibility potion that wears off just as he is making a face at the King.

    Fan Works 
  • Canada of Hetalia: Axis Powers does this in nearly any fic that has him as the romantic counterpart to any more prominent character.
  • Ranma not only says this whenever anyone reveals they can see his cursed form in the Ranma ½ fanfic A Different Curse, he also hastily covers "his" breasts and crotch. Given that in this fanfic, he is nude in his cursed form (a female spirit, not only Invisible to Normals, but intangible to any non-living material), this reaction is probably justified.
  • Heroes of the New World; the Vestiges of One for All can be seen by anyone with sufficient skill in Observation Haki. Unfortunately, they realize this when Kaido has Izuku in his sights while Izuku is trying to pickpocket him, and it's only thanks to a timely intervention by Yamato that Kaido doesn't kill Izuku then and there.
  • In Kyon: Big Damn Hero, Hanyuu is surprised when Yuki can not only see but also touch her.
  • In the first chapter of the Rise of the Guardians fic, How to Make a Believer Believe, this is used rather humorously.
  • In Pokémon Black & White: Tale of a Legend, Victini follows Volantes around mostly undetected -but the young man, spiritual successor to Victini's old friend, the White Hero, notices somebody else has joined the party.
  • In Harry Potter and Libromancy, Harry happens to be wearing a copy of Aladdin's Ring of Thievery, which turns the wearer invisible.
    Sarah: Why are we whispering?
    Harry: Because we're sneaking... wait you can see me?
    Sarah: Ah, well yeah, I can see invisible creatures. I'm a blade master, a nymph, and a witch. If I couldn't see invisible creatures, I wouldn't be very good at my job, species, or religion, now would I?

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Abbott & Costello Meet the Invisible Man, when a shower is turned on, the invisible man can be seen enough to be stabbed by a thrown knife.
  • Lydia to the Maitlands in Beetlejuice.
  • Harry Potter in Epic Movie: "You can't see me. I'm invisible."
  • In Erik the Viking, Erik charges into battle with a rag on his head, which he had previously used to make himself invisible to his lover's father. What he doesn't realize is that the rag only makes him invisible to that one guy. So instead of an invisible warrior, he's actually an unnervingly confident guy with a dishcloth on his head. After winning the battle single-handedly he discovers he was visible the whole time, and promptly faints.
  • In Ghost Town, this is the ghosts' initial reaction to Pincus.
  • In Grandma's Boy (2006), JP attempts to hide against a wall behind his trenchcoat, unsuccessfully, after talking.
    JP: [Robot Voice to Alex walking away] I hate your face.
    Alex: [pauses, turns around] Did you say something?
    [JP hides behind his coat]
    Alex: You're fuckin' weird.
    JP: …How did he see me?
  • A female troll says this to Hellboy et al. when they see through her glamor using magical lenses. However, the audience can also only see her as nonhuman when someone's looking through the lenses — leading to a rather amusing scene of Hellboy punching an old woman across the room.
  • In Susie Q, only Zach can see Susie, a ghost who died forty years earlier, because he's in possession of the bracelet she wore when she died.
  • In the "Son of the Invisible Man" segment of Amazon Women on the Moon, Ed Begley Jr. is running around naked while the jaded villagers just humor him.
  • Played for drama (if not horror) in Justice League: A freshly-resurrected Superman is intent on killing Batman. Wonder Woman and Aquaman both rush up to stop him, the Flash runs up behind... and as he approaches in slo-mo Bullet Time, we see Superman's tracking him. Cut back to Flash's look of horror, cut back to Superman turning to face Flash, still in Bullet Time.
  • A similar situation happens in Dark Phoenix when Quicksilver realizes that a Phoenix force-empowered Jean Grey can see him even when he uses his Super-Speed.
  • Played for Laughs in Avengers: Infinity War: Drax is convinced that he learned how to turn invisible. A shame the fellow Guardians don't share his conviction.
  • Upstream Color: The Sampler uses the mental links created by the mysterious substance to spy on people. When he does this, he appears to stand nearby and observe them without being seen. When he spies on Kris, she eventually turns and levels a Death Glare directly at him, revealing that she knows he's spying on her, and he's fallen into her trap.
  • Spirited (2022): The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future prepare for their annual haunts by turning invisible and spying on their target. However, when preparing to haunt Clint Briggs, Present finds himself smitten with his assistant Kimberly and unconsciously makes himself visible to her.

  • In Allison Croggon's The Books of Pellinor series, the main characters meet in the first chapter like this. The male lead Cadvan, a bard, is hiding under a glimmer spell that is supposed to make him invisible. He tries to find shelter in a stable at a slave settlement to rest, but the protagonist Mearad sees him because she too is a bard. Her having the Voice is the main reason she is taken with him when he leaves.
  • In Shaman of the Undead this happens twice when Ida, a medium, talks with ghosts. In first case they were both surprised and reaction was something like "Nobody else can?!", but in second, when she's already trained, her only reaction is a shrug and "Sure I can."
  • In Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf, the Wolf thinks he's made himself invisible and has tested it by acting outrageously in public. Naturally, people have been shocked by the mysterious sounds coming from nowhere... right? Polly eventually persuades him he is visible, and he sneaks away in shame without eating her.
  • Also, in the Star Wars Expanded Universe novel Dark Apprentice, when Luke is turned into an invisible Force Ghost, only his (toddler) niece and nephew can see him.
  • Happens a lot in Discworld, especially when Death is seen by children (who lack a Weirdness Censor). And the wizards, who are specially trained to see what is really there.
    • Played for humor in Mort.
      Mort tapped the stallholder in the small of the back. "Can you see me?" he demanded. The stallholder squinted critically at him. "I reckon so," he said, "or someone very much like you." "Thank you," said Mort, immensely relieved. "Don't mention it. I see lots of people every day, no charge. Want to buy some bootlaces?"
    • In Wyrd Sisters, the Weirdness Censor breaks down under the overriding power of Clap Your Hands If You Believe. Death ends up taking the stage in place of an actor whose role was Death. So the hundred or so live audience members watching the stage all expect to see Death appear, and consequently, they all see him. Death is so unnerved by this that he gets stage fright.
  • In On a Pale Horse, the newly-appointed Incarnation of Death is surprised to find some mortals can see him for who he is — usually those who are sincerely religious, or who have a deep connection to the one about to die. Most people see and hear something else when Death is there.
  • Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn:
    • The Unicorn goes almost unrecognized in her travels, as decades of unbelief cause people to see her as a horse. Only a handful of marginalized people, those who are themselves more than they seem, can truly see her — and of course King Haggard and his Red Bull, who are not subject to illusions.
    • The unicorn's companions, especially Schmendrick, also appear as less than they really are. Captain Cully and the people of Hagsgate have the opposite problem. Prince Lir, on the other hand, always looks exactly like what he is — and yet, being The Hero, he's more guided by myth than any of the others.
  • Happens several times with the various ghosts in The Mediator series by Meg Cabot. As evidenced by Suze's nonchalant and highly uninterested reaction when Jesse pulls this, this happens a lot.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Percy's quite surprised when Rachael can see both his sword and the skeletal warriors chasing him. Though the line is more "You can see them?"
  • In Things Not Seen by Andrew Clements, the main character Bobby does one of these towards the end of the book.
  • Sword of Truth series:
    • Kahlan's first encounter with the Pristinely Ungifted after the Chainfire Event. She may not have said it, but she was certainly surprised. Further, the spell in question was corrupted by the Chimes, so some normal people weren't affected. Jagang realized this, and to find those people, has her walk naked through his camp. The people who saw the beautiful, naked women and tried to grab her were caught by Jagang's troops and conscripted to guard Kahlan.
    • In a curious inversion, Adie is blind but sees using magic. She encounters a pristinely ungifted person, and she hears them but can't see them, and is thoroughly disturbed.
  • Ciaphas Cain once encounters a psyker assassin who can turn invisible. However, he got his powers recently through Applied Phlebotinum, so he doesn't master them enough to avoid Invisibility Flicker, and thus Cain can still defend against him. Instead of the usual reaction, the assassin is more whiny that his power trip is interrupted than disturbed, not helped by Cain snarking until Jurgen arrives.
  • The third Myst book, The Book of D'ni, has an interesting inversion, with a character from distant offshoot of the D'ni asking if he could see our protagonists. Turns out his society is built on massive amounts of slave labor and they have conditioned themselves to not see the slaves anymore. He wasn't sure if Atrus and co. were slaves.
  • Toms Midnight Garden: When Tom travels back in time and enters the garden, at first it seems that nobody from the past can see him, because they completely ignore him; but suddenly Hatty sticks her tongue out at him. Abel the gardener also suddenly reveals that he can see Tom, having pretended previously that he cannot, because he believes Tom is the Devil.
  • In the Towers Trilogy, the ghost Shai is surprised when Wen can see her, not realizing that Wen is also a ghost.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Being Human:
    • Annie is so astonished to be seen, she asks twice and waves her arms around for good measure.
    • Subverted in Series 1, Episode 4: a woman replies to what she says, which triggers the question. Subverted in that the woman is blind, thus can't technically see Annie. But she seems to hear her just fine, which most people can't either.
    • Happens again when Annie meets a psychic in Series 2, Episode 6.
    • Likewise, the U.S.remake has the first episode of Sally mocking her roommates until she realizes they can actually see and hear her. She goes into honest laughter at finally being able to communicate with people.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • A silent version in "Killed by Death". Der Kinderstood can only be seen by those with a fever, so Buffy deliberately makes herself sick to do so. When she sees him searching the children's ward, he apparently senses it and turns to look at her. He chuckles, tips his hat to her, and walks off.
    • Xander in the 4th season Halloween episode, "Fear Itself", on becoming visible/audible again, asks not only "You can see me?" but "You can hear me?" too.
  • The Bureau of Magical Things: Magical creatures can only be seen by humans if they want to be seen by humans, but the glamor doesn't work on other magical creatures. The fact that Kyra saw Lily after getting zapped by her and Imogen's magic is the first sign that she's no longer a normal human.
  • Ghosts in Charmed (1998) can only be seen by supernatural beings (outside of certain circumstances), leading to a few who have this reaction upon meeting the seemingly-normal Halliwell sisters.
  • Dead Like Me: After her death in the Pilot, George spends some time as an Invisible to Normals ghost with the outwardly-human Grim Reapers before being reincarnated as a Reaper herself. She only realizes that it's already taken effect when the waitress at their Local Hangout impatiently asks for her order.
  • Subverted in the Doctor Who episode "Blink". Sally is shocked when the Doctor appears to be responding to her from a recording made in 1969. He can't actually see or hear her; he's reading from a transcript made of the conversation when Sally had the conversation forty years later.
  • Occurs at least once in Due South with Fraser and his father. Possibly twice, because Fraser discovered two other people who could see Bob-Bob's best friend Buck Frobisher and Ben's half sister/Bob's daughter Maggie.
  • A ghost woman in some episode of Farscape is surprised that Stark can see her, as she was desperately trying to interact with people. Stark quickly points out that he's the only one on board with this ability.
  • Played with on Ghost Whisperer:
    • Sometimes, a ghost (usually a newly dead one) will have this reaction when they realize Melinda can hear them. However, for the most part, ghosts can somehow tell Melinda is simply special to be able to communicate with them and don't question how.
    • The first season finale has Andrea realize they're dead when it sinks in Melinda is the only one reacting to her just as they hear she was on a crashed plane.
    • A woman is haunted by her late husband who's convinced she killed him. Melinda is present as the pair begin a raging argument...only for them to stop as it hits them both the woman can see him. With a sigh, Melinda gets the woman to realize she accidentally electrocuted herself smashing up an office and is now a ghost herself.
  • Both Ghosts (UK) and its American remake have the ghosts stunned when, thanks to a blow to the head, one of their new homeowners is able to see and hear them.
  • In Grimm, many Wesen have a serious Oh, Crap! moment when they realize that Nick is capable of noticing their Glamour Failure, since the Grimm are the monsters that they tell their kids scary stories about.
  • The Haunted Hathaways:
    • In Haunted Thundermans, Louie (ghosts can't be seen or heard except by their friends) walks out past the Thundermans, unaware that Nora, Billy and Phoebe are tracking his movement. Then Nora speaks to him and he freaks out, which get Miles involved and then Billy immediately waves hello. All superhumans can see ghosts.
    • After an accident with a ghostbusting staff, Meadow gains this ability and triggers another Louie freak-out when she asks who he is.
  • Heroes: Claude's introduction to Peter. "YUH CAN SEE MEH?!" He even gets personal about it. "NO ONE SEES ME!"
  • Another short-lived sitcom, Jennifer Slept Here, was about the ghost of an old-time movie star who is visible to the son of the family who moves into her house. She decides she's here to turn him from Geek To Chic.
  • Love and Redemption: Teng She makes himself invisible before sneaking into Si Ming Hall. When someone speaks to him it takes him a minute to realise he's supposed to be invisible. He angrily exclaims, "You can see me?" then is reminded that spells of deceit don't work in Si Ming Hall.
  • The short-lived sitcom Nearly Departed, about a couple haunting their old house. The pilot has the husband mocking the home's new residents relentlessly, as they can't see him. When he's left alone in the main room with the elderly grandfather, he continues to mock the man until Grandpa yells at him to shut up. After delivering the stock phrase of this trope, Grandpa explains he didn't mention to the rest of the family because "at my age, when you start seeing things they put you in a home".
  • In the series Psych, Juliet O'Hara receives a phone call from 'psychic' Shawn Spencer. He teases her by listing every detail about what she was doing, before revealing that he was simply sitting in the Chief's office, a mere twenty feet away. Somewhat referenced by Shawn in that he says, "Notice how no one ever looks in here? What is it that you're afraid of?" Also contains I Can See You.
  • Quantum Leap:
    • Children and the mentally ill can see Al. He never says the trope name, but his Oh, Crap! looks are definitely this trope.
    • Also one episode with a Scrooge-like character who for some strange coincidence could see Al (his brainwaves were similar to the main character's or some bunk). Obviously, this leads to some confusion, and also to the visit of the three ghosts of Christmas...
    • "It's a Wonderful Leap" has Sam and Al startled when Angelita talks of "the devil in the red suit" meaning Al. She claims it's because she's an angel, while both men naturally assume it's because she's nuts. The ending leaves it up in the air who's right.
  • Both versions of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) has this when someone could see Marty, as he is a ghost who can usually only be seen by his partner Jeff. For example, when the psychic Mrs. Pleasance spots him in "For the Girl Who Has Everything".
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch: Sabrina once turned a classmate invisible and spent most of the rest of the episode trying to find his exact spot to turn him visible again. He'd pretty much gotten used to invisibility when she finally succeeded and Zelda saw him. When he said the phrase, she replied, "Yes, and I can see that you're not wearing pants."
  • The above twist was also used in Seven Days, when Frank becomes invisible but can be heard by a Blind Black Guy.
  • Burt Campbell in Soap thought he could become invisible for a while. At one point he tried to show his wife but she could still see him; he decided that was because he was wet (they were in the bathtub together).
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • Occurs in the episode "Crystal Skull", in which Daniel Jackson has been turned invisible by one of the phlebotinum skulls. Daniel's grandfather, Nick, can see him because of an encounter he had with a skull, but dismisses Daniel as a hallucination. It's not until well into the episode that Daniel realizes he's visible to Nick and uses him to communicate with the rest of the SG-1 team.
    • Occurs again in a later season when Cam, trapped in another dimension, is talking to Teal'c, who has just used an alien device that makes the user invisible. Teal'c takes it in stride, always ready for combat, as Cam struggles with the revelation.
    • Despite seemingly recycling plots in such a manner throughout the series, the writers were always quick to hang a lampshade and reference the earlier episodes' events, often even using Cam's memorization of mission reports. The show even lampshaded this itself in its lampshade-heavy fanservice 200th episode.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation. In "The Next Phase", the episode where Geordi LaForge and Ensign Ro are made "out of phase" by an accident on board a Romulan Warbird, Ro enters a room and is surprised to see a Romulan pointing a disrupter at her. She automatically turns to look behind her (as only Geordi had been able to see her until now) but the Romulan says, "Yes, I can see you." It turns out he too is out of phase.
    • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Flashback", Janeway enters into a mind meld with Tuvok to help him process a repressed memory. Since it's his memories they're exploring, she's not supposed to exist to anyone but him, but at one point towards the end of the episode, Tuvok suddenly tells Janeway that something's gone wrong with the meld. It doesn't take them long to find out what that means.
      Captain Sulu: [to Janeway] Who the hell are you?
    • In the Star Trek: Discovery episode That Hope Is You, Part 2, this happens to Gray when Adira enters a highly sophisticated holographic simulation that somehow detects his presence and renders him as a hologram both Hugh and Saru can see and physically interact with, to heartwarming effect. It eventually gets Played for Drama near the end when they need to turn off the simulation in order to escape and Gray breaks down upon realizing that he'll go back to being invisible and intangible to everyone except Adira, only for Hugh to promise that they'll find a way to replicate this.
  • Another Marty had a similar reaction, for similar reasons, in Teen Angel when he met an old lady who could see him because she was soon to die.
  • The "Weird Superheroes" game on Whose Line Is It Anyway? throws out the name "Think's He's Invisible Man". And gives it to Tony Slattery. Hilarity guaranteed to ensue.
  • Played with in Battlestar Galactica (2003). Baltar can occasionally see an "invisible" Cylon Six. In Six Degrees of Separation, he encounters a real Cylon Six on Galactica and mistakes her for the invisible one. When he realizes that everyone can see her, he repeatedly says "You can see her?" and Colonel Tigh deadpans "she's standing right next to you."
    • Happens again in the final season when one of the Sixes who's been seeing an invisible Baltar in the same fashion has a mutual reaction of this with the real Baltar when it turns out each can see and hear the other's invisible companion.
  • In one episode of Get Smart, K.A.O.S. was carrying out a scheme to (falsely) convince Max they had access to an Invisibility Ray. In the end they capture him, and Max "uses" the ray on himself. The K.A.O.S. agents go along with it briefly to maintain the ruse, but then 99 is brought in having no idea what is going on, and Max confuses himself about who can see what.
  • In the Sliders episode "Gillian of the Spirits", one of the main characters is stuck on another dimensional plane and rendering himself invisible to everyone but a girl named Gillian, who has the ability to see supernatural phenomena.
  • Done as a prank on NYPD Blue. The perp has visited a Santaria priest to get a spell where he becomes invisible to police. Martinez and Medevoy pretend they can't see him in the interview room, so he starts to sneak out. Then Martinez stops him.
  • Supernatural. Played for a Hope Spot in "Party On, Garth". After a number of odd events, Sam and Dean have a long discussion over whether the ghost of Bobby Singer is helping them. They eventually conclude it's wishful thinking on their part and leave the room. Then camera then pans over to reveal Bobby's ghost. Suddenly Dean says Hey, Wait! and rushes back inside.
    Dean: [looking directly at Bobby] There you are!
    [Bobby smiles... until Dean picks up a hip flask he left behind and walks out]
    Bobby: I'm right here, you idgit!
  • The Magicians has a mutual example in "Be The Penny" when two people who are trapped on the Astral Plane meet each other and both say this.
  • At the 2006 Academy Awards, Ben Stiller presented the award for visual effects while wearing a green morph suit, seemingly oblivious to the fact that there was no green screen and everyone in the theater and at home could see him. Avoided in that he never noticed that he was visible.

    Tabletop Games 
  • This is also true in White Wolf's Changeling: The Dreaming. Children generally believe anything they see, whereas adults rationalize and have a Weirdness Censor. And the mentally ill/insane's Weirdness Censor is broken or gone.
  • Geist: The Sin-Eaters: Sin-Eaters hear this one a lot. Not only can they see dead people, ghosts will quickly ping to the fact that they're being observed and know that it's the Sin-Eater doing it. Sometimes Sin-Eaters have to suppress their ghost sight if they want to make it down the street undisturbed.
  • And in Vampire: The Masquerade the vampiric discipline "Obfuscate" is a subversion, the subversion being a quirk of the ability that both characters and players themselves may not be aware of. Obfuscate does indeed make one invisible to anyone looking at you (unless they have Auspex or other supernatural means of detecting someone) but it's not actual invisibility, it's a mind trick. Also it's harder to use if you're actively being watched. Cameras and such will still capture images of someone under Obfuscate. This encourages players to perform the old "Turn a corner and when they follow, I'm not there" trick.

    Video Games 
  • Fairies in Dragon Quest V can normally only seen by innocent children. As a child, the fairy named Honey takes you to solve her world's problem because nobody else could see her. When you're an adult and are heading into a fairy wood, you can no longer see any fairies. It's your two kids that locate them. Once you're actually in their realm you can see them just fine, though.
  • The College Of Winterhold in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has Drevis Neloren, an instructor in and the master trainer of the Illusion school of magic, where you can find the invisibility spell. The player character's first interaction with him has Drevis asking if you can see him, and you can answer either yes or no. If you say no, he mentions that you still shouldn't be able to hear him, and that there's something wrong with his spell. The silence and invisibility effects are separated in-game, though, so possibly he was trying to combine the two.
  • In Rune Factory Oceans, Aden ends up sharing his body with the consciousness of his childhood friend Sonja, since she was thrown out of her body when they got transported to Fenith Island. People can hear Sonja, but not see her... except for Joe, whose love events reveal that he was able to see Sonja and admits that he fell for her.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • In Medieval II: Total War, select an enemy assassin sometime and see what they have to say. Namely, north-eastern European nations (such as Denmark) and their associated assassins. "What do you mean you can see me?"
  • In the Mega Man Star Force games, the world is full of invisible Wave Beings, and Geo's Visualizer makes him the only human who can see them. Naturally, they tend to be surprised when he addresses them.
  • A variant happens in Portal 2. Wheatley, who normally speaks with a British accent, somehow got the idea that GLaDOS can't hear him if he speaks with an exaggerated American accent; she disillusions him.
    Wheatley: Hey, buddy! I'm speakin' in an accent that is beyond her range of hearin'. I know I'm early but we have to go right now! Walk casually towards my position and we'll go shut her down.
    GLaDOS: [audibly exasperated] Look, metal ball... I can hear you.
    Wheatley: [in his normal voice] Run! I don't need to do the voice, RUN!
  • The Thief series begins with a young Garrett (the player character) trying to pickpocket a Keeper. The Keeper notes that it's not easy to see a Keeper, especially one who does not wish to be seen. This gets a Book End later in the series.
  • A not uncommon phrase uttered by Rogue players (and by extension presumably stealthed cat form druids) in World of Warcraft when discovered by other players. Most common on RP severs.
  • In Trace Memory, when Ashley first meets D, he asks her whether she can actually see him. When she insists that she can, he's not so much surprised as he is delighted: she's the first person who's been able to see him in 57 years, and he believes she can help him recover his memories so he can move on.
  • Mandrakes in Dawn of War: Soulstorm have two variations: they can hiss "Now you see me!" when told to attack or or panic "They see us!" when their morale is broken.
  • Murdered: Soul Suspect: When the recently dead Ronan catches up with Joy, he tries to use his possess/mind read trick on her to find out more information on his killer. He's more than a bit surprised when Joy resists and starts yelling at him for it; the two trade barbs for a few seconds until Ronan's brain (or whatever it is that make ghosts tick) catches up with his mouth and realizes that she can see and hear him.
    Ronan: Holy shit, you're a medium.
  • Bayonetta 2: Loki is surprised that Bayonetta can see him. She explains to him that they are both in Purgatorio, which is why they are able to see each other.
  • In Dark Souls, Quelana asks this to you when you speak to her for the first time, and with good reason, since you can't see her without a Pyromancy Flame upgraded to at least +10. Sadly, this is why Laurentius ends up going Hollow when you point him towards her, as his Flame is only at +8, which means he just wandered aimlessly around the area for Gwyn knows how long, unable to see her despite being practically right next to her, until he eventually lost the will to keep going.
  • Said more or less word for word early in the Shadowbringers expansion of Final Fantasy XIV, when the Warrior of Light, recently arrived on the alternate world of the First encounters the shade of Ardbert, who had been wandering what was left of the First for 100 years, invisible, inaudiable, and intangible, after being defeated and talked down from disrupting the Source at the Ascians' behest. He originally surmises that the Warrior can see him beause they both have the Echo, which is plausible as it had been previously established that those with the Echo can perceive bodiless Ascians when others cannot. As it turns out the actual reason is that the Warrior of Light and Ardbert are Alternate Selves of each other, derived from the same Ancient soul.

    Web Animation 
  • DEATH BATTLE!: At the start of the "Madara vs. Aizen" fight, Aizen, who is Invisible to Normals as a shinigami, is surprised to learn that Madara can see him, unaware Madara can do so thanks to his Sharingan.
  • Dreamscape: In "Over and Under", Jenna's Skull Snake spots CHEN and Dylan's invisibility cloak due to its thermal vision. Dylan and CHEN try to fake it by standing still, but the jig is up when Jenna grabs Dylan and gets thrown backwards by CHEN.

  • In The Adventures of Shan Shan, both the lion and Julius comment on it.
  • Bob and George. All the time. In fact, it almost becomes a running gag that invisible characters can't be seen by their friends, but can be seen by their enemies.
  • Com'c has Block, a Fourth-Wall Observer who cannot be noticed by those who aren't. He utters the trope name when one of the main characters (who normally shouldn't be able to notice him) not only sees him, but straight-up flirts with him. Sadly for Block, she's actually the author playing a mean prank on him.
  • Ito, God of Trust and Betrayal from A Moment of Peace, is thrown off his game when Evi's worm-companion George catches Ito stealing her dreams.
  • The Order of the Stick has it, with Roy as a ghost and the kobold oracle, who makes a remark concerning Roy's mother. After Roy asks why he hadn't told him before, the oracle answers, "I don't know, because I don't like you?"
  • In Spare Keys for Strange Doors, when Andrew Cole meets Toby Hathaway, the ghost expresses surprise that he's visible to the other man.
  • Played with in Girl Genius. During a mid-adventure tea break with Zeetha, Bangladesh DuPree can't see the hidden Smoke Knight Violetta, but she sure can tell she's here, on the seemingly empty chair.
    Bang: That's really amazing — but whatever it is you're doing, knock it off.
    Violetta: Whoa. You could see me?
    Bang: No. And it was giving me a headache.
  • Children of Eldair: While watching the ceremony granting the girls the Goddess' blessing as an Astral Projection, Koe is surprised when the Goddess turns to him and offers him her blessing as well.
  • Questionable Content: In her first encounter with Internet-enabled Robot Girl Momo, May, who at the time was an Augmented Reality construct displayed in Dale's Google Glasses, is surprised that Momo can see her too, which means her avatar and location are public rather than restricted to Dale's Google account.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Adventure Time episode "Beyond This Earthly Realm", Finn gets trapped in the "spirit realm" by a magical lamb statue and has to rely on the help of the Ice King, who with his "wizard eyes" is the only one who can see or hear Finn.
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force (or rather, the Dr. Weird segment before an episode of the show proper) pulls this off to rather hilarious effect:
    Dr. Weird: AM I NOT INVISIBLE?!?!
    Steve: … Uh, no sir.
    Dr. Weird: WHY NOT?!?!?!
  • A variation in Invader Zim: Zim gets a "Megadoomer" mech (by mistake), and stomps over to Dib's house; the Megadoomer makes itself invisible, but...
    Zim: I've put up with you long enough, Dib! Now, fight me, an enemy you cannot see!
    Dib: You're right there!
    Zim: What?!
    Dib: There! Your mighty Irken cloaking device cloaks the robot but not you!
    Zim: Lies! Now, behold the doom cannon!
    Dib: I can't, it's invisible!
    Zim: But you can see me?
    Dib: That's what I said.
    Zim: Oh, that's stupid!
    Dib: Really stupid!
    Zim: You dare agree with me?! Prepare to meet your horrible doom!
  • Jackie Chan Adventures:
    • Happens twice in an episode, after an incident causes the talismans to lose their magical powers (by transferring them into Jade's body). Both Captain Black and Daolon Wong are holding the snake talisman while attempting to show off its invisibility power to their peers ("Am I over here? Or maybe over here?"). Then they notice that they're still being watched and discover it's because they're still perfectly visible.
    • There's an interesting variation in another episode where they're dealing with a vampire that is blind and can only detect people through smell. At one point Jackie is trying to hide from him by holding his breath, only for the vampire to reveal that he has absorbed enough people's life forces to gain sight. Jackie quotes this trope verbatim.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • Foghorn Leghorn rubs vanishing cream (which is just skin moisturizer) onto the naïve Chickenhawk, who heads over to the doghouse and starts gloating that "you can't fight what you can't see!" to the dog. The dog pulls out a mirror. Whoops.
    • Similarly, in Cheese It, The Cat, Ralph Crumden uses "invisible ink" on Norton which actually doesn't make him invisible, but Ralph makes Norton think he is. The cat can see him but is baffled by Norton's flippancy and nonchalance. Ralph decides to try it, thinking he's invisible, and subsequently gets mauled by the cat.
  • In the episode of Monster Allergy where Elena can finally see monsters, she pretends that she can't see Magnacat in order to save Zick. Of course, Zick and Magnacat are unaware that Elena can see the latter. She knocks Magnacat and tells Zick that she can now see monsters.
  • In the Rugrats episode "Mega Diaper Babies", Lil plays "Dotted-Line Girl", a parody of The Invisible Woman. At one point, attempting to sneak into Angelitron's (Angelica as a giant robot bad guy) fortress, she's spotted and Lil gasps out "But how can you see me? I'm just a dotted-line!" Angelitron's response? "Any idiot can see a dotted-line."
  • South Park:
    • After Cartman does something especially greedy, all the other children agree to ignore him, acting like he's not there. Nobody told Butters, though, so he speaks normally to Cartman. Some other misunderstandings combine to make Cartman thinks he's a ghost, and Butters is the only one that can see him.
    • In another episode, the boys are roleplaying as ninjas. Cartman's power is to have any power that he wants, so he can also turn invisible — except for his clothing. He removes his clothing and attempts to sidle across a stage in the middle of an auction, noticing after a while that the auction has entirely stopped and all eyes are on him... and his nakedness. Cartman claims it was simply a Wardrobe Malfunction.
  • Sponge Bob Square Pants: One episode had SpongeBob and Patrick turn invisible and play pranks at the Krusty Krab, pretending to be ghosts. Eventually it wears off and Patrick has to warn SpongeBob that Mr. Krabs can see them.
  • The titular character of Elena of Avalor can see ghosts on the Day of the Dead. The ghosts tend to have this reaction when they learn it.

    Real Life 
  • The classic psychology paper Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments cites a newspaper story about a bank robber who believed lemon juice made him invisible to security cameras.note  Naturally, America's Dumbest Criminals has the actual film footage. Amusingly the guy was taking his sweet time, including taking out a shopping cart as if it was just a normal trip to the store. Formally known as the Dunning-Kruger effect, after the psychologists who conducted the study.
  • Some people apparently believe that a magic ritual can turn them invisible, despite all evidence to the contrary.
  • Colorblind people were considered useful as sentries or spotters in the early days of camouflage, as camouflage patterns that were based on color stood out to them (due to the shapes not matching with their surroundings), where a person with normal vision might not notice them. Colorblind people also tend to have sharper vision at a distance than non-colorblind people to begin with.


Video Example(s):


Ghostly Detectives

Charles and Edwin, who are ghosts, assume that the Doom Patrol can't hear or see them and freely trash-talk them. They are surprised when Larry and Dorothy bluntly point out that they are perfectly visible.

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Example of:

Main / YouCanSeeMe

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