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Paper Thin Disguise / Live-Action TV

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"I'm the master of disguise! I can vanish from your eyes!"
  • An episode of Adventures in Wonderland titled "The Queen Who Came in from the Cold" featured the Queen of Hearts—a heavyset black woman with a fondness for wearing all-red outfits—upset about receiving a number of anonymous letters complaining about her newest taxes. To find out who the letter writers are, she assumes a disguise—a crimson dress, her hair partially over her face, and a large red hat—and speaks in a half-whisper, which makes her look remarkably like...a heavyset black woman with a fondness for wearing all-red outfits. It fools everyone but the Cheshire Cat—and the characters interact with the Queen on a daily basis! What makes it even funnier is that there are no other women, African-American or otherwise, in Wonderland, and yet everyone is completely unable to recognize her.
    • The show also occasionally spoofed this idea with the Mad Hatter. In "Christmas in Wonderland," the gang meets to plan a holiday surprise for the Queen of Hearts. Tweedledee points out that, since the gift is a surprise, it should be a secret meeting—if the Queen spots them, the plan will be ruined. The Hatter announces "Only if she recognized us!", and provides everyone, including preteen Alice, with the same disguise—a large white Santa Claus beard.
  • Played straight in Alias when Sydney literally uses wrapping paper as a skirt. This and a cheap convenience store wig are enough to fool the valley-girl clique she is attempting to infiltrate.
  • From 'Allo 'Allo!, there is the character of Monsieur Roger LeClerc, "Man of a thousand faces - every one the same." Most episodes see him donning a completely useless disguise and conspiratorially whispering "It is I, Le Clerc!"
    • Subverted: A 'Duck Seller' enters the café approaches the bar and identifies as Le Clerc, but Le Clerc pops up and outs the Seller as an impostor. It is in fact Mme. Edith in a very convincing disguise.
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    • In Leclerc's case, Rene almost always recognises him immediately. However, when events like the Colonel and the Captain being trapped as British POWs in a Stalag Luft, and examined closely by their own General, or Herr Flick posing as a temporary typist, Gruber or the airmen (complete with large handlebar moustaches) posing as nuns, and going completely unrecognised, the trope is played much straighter.
    • As mentioned, Gruber's disguises are usually pathetic, but one episode features him disguised as a nurse so convincingly that most viewers don't realise it's him until he speaks. Judging from the explosion of laughter, the studio audience didn't recognise him either.
    • In another case, Michelle of the Resistance comes in dressed as a very old lady. Though the identity of the person under the disguise may not be immediately apparent, it is quite obvious that it is a disguise due to the fact that her skin is very young looking apart from the false nose... and the fact that when she sits down a pair of decidedly not old lady legs emerge from the coat.
  • Spoofed in the Nickelodeon series All That, where the local superhero Superdude encounters an impersonator robbing the bank. Said impersonator is a little girl. Despite the fact that Superdude is played by the heavily built African-American teenager Kenan Thompson, and the impersonator is played by the thin Caucasian preteen Amanda Bynes, the Too Dumb to Live townspeople are completely unable to tell the difference between the two, even after Superdude bends a metal bar in a knot and the impersonator simply rips a piece of paper (which the citizens are convinced is a form of Super Strength).
    • Another recurring sketch, "Cheeseburger Doyle", also spoofed this trope. The main character was a talking cheeseburger with eyes that ran a detective agency—and not a human-sized burger either, but an actual four-inch sandwich puppet. Upon being hired to solve a mystery, Doyle would infiltrate the scene of the crime wearing a disguise, usually a phony mustache or small hat; when questioned if he was a cheeseburger, he'd deny it, making up a generic name ("Oh, no...I'm Al"). After catching the culprit red-handed, he would proceed to dramatically reveal himself: "AHA! I'm not REALLY a construction worker named Al!" He'd then (literally) shake off the disguise, and the suspect would gasp in over-the-top shock ("CHEESEBURGER DOYLE!"), while others reacted in amazement at Doyle actually being a cheeseburger.
  • Angel:
    • Lorne's overcoat and a trilby, which looks dashing in a Humphrey Bogart-sort of way, but about as inconspicuous as a Ninja Turtle.
    • A baseball cap and sunglasses are enough to disguise him in broad daylight.
  • Beautiful subversion on Arrested Development, where Tobias steals the plot of Mrs. Doubtfire and dresses himself up as a British nanny in order to try to get closer to his daughter - complete with Mary Poppins-style song-and-dance numbers and Tobias' own total lack of competence at housework. The other characters, apparently far more Genre Savvy than Tobias himself, recognize Tobias right away, as well as the movie he took it from, and their trying to deal with this without breaking Tobias' heart create some of the show's most hilariously painful scenes.
    • The best part is that in order to impersonate a woman, David Cross had to shave off his signature mustache - thus, whenever Tobias reappears as himself, he's wearing a painfully fake mustache.
  • Austin & Ally: Austin disguises himself as a lumberjack so he can secretly perform at a karaoke parlor without being caught by Jimmy, who has banned Austin from ever performing again. Ally was the first to recognize him in his poorly made disguise. Unfortunately for Austin, his beard gets knocked off, exposing his identity and ruining his chance at impressing Jimmy.
  • On Babylon 5, Londo needs to sneak Na'Toth off Centauri Prime. Londo's solution? Put a dress on her, partially conceal her face, and then act slobberingly drunk as he very publicly walks her to the spaceport, reasoning that everyone would go out of their way to ignore such an act.
    • Played with in "Sic Transit Vir", when the Earth Alliance officers discover that the name of the Centauri associated with the death of thousands of Narns is "Abrahamo Lincolni". The Centauri wouldn't necessarily pick up on the name of a historical figure of Earth, but Sheridan and Ivanova (of course) recognize the reference immediately. It turns out that Vir, from his ambassadorial office on Minbar, created the fake noble, and has been using that identity to smuggle those Narns to other worlds, declaring them "dead" so that no Centauri would inquire. Vir is eventually forced to confess the scheme to Londo, but since "Lincolni" himself was never revealed to the Centauri, Ivanova continues using the name in hopes of saving more Narn lives.
  • Common on Batman, where the citizens of Gotham City are remarkably unobservant when it comes to recognizing Special Guest Villains. On at least two occasions, The Joker is able to successfully impersonate someone else — not by wearing makeup to hide his distinctive features, or even by changing clothes, but by simply wearing a hat (though he did manage a halfway-convincing Texas accent).
    • Averted in the film of the series where Penguin disguises himself as the Commodore he and his team have kidnapped. Batman and Robin are not fooled for a minute.
  • Subverted in The Big Bang Theory Season 4. Leonard tries to pick up women in an Apple Store by wearing a T-shirt. When that fails, Howard tells him it doesn't work going back with a false moustache.
    • A non-human example: one episode has Howard discovering a letter from his Disappeared Dad hidden in the back of a closet. He can't decide if he wants to know what his father wrote, so the rest of the group all read it, then take turns describing what the letter said (meaning that one of them is telling the truth). Bernadette, Amy, Raj, Penny, and Leonard all give heartfelt answers, but Sheldon, being Sheldon, describes the plot of The Goonies instead. He later tries again by changing the names of the characters and claiming it's completely different, but no one is fooled.
  • The Blackadder Goes Forth episode "General Hospital" features Blackadder trying to find a German spy in the field hospital. One of the men recovering there has a very thick German accent, introduces himself simply as "Smith" and behaves rather suspiciously...Subverted in that as Blackadder points out, not even the Germans are stupid enough to send a man with such a pitiful disguise to be a spy; he's actually a British spy who's been in Germany for so long he's developed an accent.
    • Similarly, George's suggestion that they find the German spy by going to the hospital and looking for the person whose name begins with "von" receives understandably short shrift from Blackadder.
    • Similarly, in "Major Star", Private "Bob" Parkhurst is just a woman dressed up in men's clothing, without any facial disguising at all, and yet she is able to fool the General into thinking she is a man, to the point where he is repulsed by her "disgusting drag act" when she gives a cabaret performance (as opposed to earlier, when he thought George's actual drag act so real, he tried to date "Georgina"). Edmund, on the other hand is not fooled for a second, telling "Bob" "You're a girl with as much talent for disguise as a giraffe in dark glasses trying to get into a "Polar Bears Only" golf club."
    • "Bob"'s ancestor, Kate (which she says is short for Bob), does something similar in Blackadder II. Everybody is actually fooled by it, though Edmund falls for her and is worried that he might be gay. It's only when she shows Blackadder her breasts that he realises that she’s a woman (this is a Shout-Out to various Shakespeare comedies involving disguises of this sort, particularly A Comedy Of Errors)
    • In Blackadder The Third, the Prince of Wales and his butler exchange clothes and fool everyone, even their Igor, Baldrick or the King, the Prince's father.
    • In "The Witch-Smeller Pursuivant" in Blackadder I, Blackadder goes King Incognito to avoid detection while he consults a wise woman. His disguise consists of a leather strap across his face. However he is recognised by a Peasant, despite people referring to him as 'Stranger'.
    • In "The Archbishop", Blackadder is chased by a pair of crusaders and he, Baldrick, and Percy disguise themselves as nuns to shake them off. The disguises not only work fine, but the crusaders subsequently decide to put on similar disguises as well in order to fool Blackadder and his company. They follow with a short discussion, neither side realizing the truth - even though one of the crusaders has a beard! - until they accidentally thank one another without a high pitch.
  • Subverted on Black Lightning. At first, it seems odd that Jefferson Pierce isn't recognized as his "disguise" as Lightning is basically a pair of goggles. That comes up when he's confronted by best friend, cop Billy and even his own daughters when he rescues them. However, it's stated by characters that something about Lightning's electrical aura "makes it hurt to look at him directly", which allows him to get away with it.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy gets rather miffed that her friends thought the Buffybot was really her going through grief. Also Played for Laughs at the beginning of Season 6 when it goes to Parent-Teacher Day and no one notices the difference. In a Fridge Logic moment, the Buffybot is able to impersonate Buffy well enough to fool Glory, despite the fact that Willow was unable to get the same result after months of tweaking during the summer.
  • Subverted in Chappelle's Show, when Tyrone Biggums is tricked into an intervention with his friends. One of them, Rhonda, recalls the time that he carjacked her. He tried to hide his identity simply by pulling his red hat over his head like a ski mask, but Rhonda instantly recognized him anyway:
    Tyrone: Get out the car!
    Rhonda: Tyrone, what are you doing?
    Tyrone: Who's Tyrone? Huh? I don't know Tyrone!
    Rhonda: No, it's you with your crusty-ass lips.
    Tyrone: Stop playin', and get out the car! Get out the car! I don't know no Tyrone.
  • In Charmed (1998), the sisters fake their deaths at the end of season 7. In season 8 they pretend to be their own "cousins" and continue living in the same house, raising Piper and Leo's kids. They do change their appearance using glamors (though they also change the glamor multiple times). At one point Piper's glamored appearance turns out to have been copied from someone wrongfully accused of murder, and she's imprisoned. This doesn't seem to raise any questions about why the other two were letting this woman live there, pretending to be related to them. Muggles get a pass for not guessing the truth, but this subterfuge should have fooled demons for about half a second.
  • Le Cœur a ses Raisons uses that quite often, but the most outrageous example would be when Brett disguised as his sister Brenda by solely sticking a name tag reading "Brenda" on his suit. And of course, given the nature of the show, it worked splendidly.
  • Cory in the House:
    • In order to find an anniversary present for the First Lady, Cory sneaks the President into the mall disguised in nothing but a fake mustache. Not only does it manage to fool everyone in the mall, but he also ends up mistaken for an Identical Stranger.
    • Cory later disguises himself as his sister Raven to present new uniforms for the White House (the real Raven cannot attend because she is being hunted down for harrassing the President, who is unaware of her being Cory's sister). His disguise merely consists of dressing in Raven's clothes, putting on makeup, wearing a wig, and conceling balloons inside his top to look like boobs. It also doesn't help that he is badly hiding his masculine voice. Meena even comments on the " resemblance" that "Raven" has to Cory.
    • After Sophie quits Cory's scam to raise money for a ski trip, Cory improvises by dressing up Meena as Sophie and turns off the lights so the tourists won't recognize Meena. It fails when Sophie turns the lights back on.
  • Deliberately invoked and subverted in The Cosby Show episode "Theo and the Real World." As the title suggests, the episode features Theo boasting that he'll be extremely successful as an adult in the "real world." To test this theory, the rest of the family convert their brownstone into the "Real World Apartments," and pose as various people that Theo might experience while trying to rent an apartment, find a job, buy furniture, and get a bank loan. They change roles by assuming simple costumes and props—Cliff's "landlord" outfit, for instance, is simply turning a baseball cap backwards and putting a cigar into his mouth. The subversion comes in as the family isn't trying to trick Theo; the disguises are simply to indicate that they're different individuals, like costumes in a play.
    • It does seem to be deliberately invoked in one case, though—Theo and Cockroach head through the family kitchen (which was earlier established as "Millie's Chuck Wagon", a restaurant) and encounter Denise, who's wearing what appear to be her regular clothes. She says that she is Denise and refers to Theo by name. The boys are happy to get a break from the roleplaying and decide to have some lunch. As they eat, Denise comes over and pulls out a pad to charge the pair for the meal, explaining that she's Denise Farquar, Millie's daughter and a waitress at the restaurant.
  • Invoked totally in The Count of Monte Cristo with Gérard Depardieu, where the disguises of the Count often involve no more than a larger nose than Gérard's normal one (although it should be noted that most of the people he disguised himself for were old friends/enemies of Edmond Dantes who would not have seen him for over twenty years and would have every reason to believe he was dead).
  • On CSI, in the episode "Living Legend", a series of murders are committed, ostensibly by separate people. All of the killers look amazingly alike (including the one who's supposed to be black and female). All of the killers use names that are obviously cribbed from horror movies. None of the killers try to hide their identities, which don't lead back to any real people. Any viewer with half a brain cell will have figured out by the fifteen-minute mark that all the killers (plus a few other characters) are played by special guest star Roger Daltrey, but it takes the well trained and highly intelligent police until the 48 minute mark to even figure out that any one of the killers is actually using a disguise and fake name, let alone figure out that they're all the same person.
  • Invoked in Dad's Army when, on a training exercise, Captain Mainwaring decides to dress some sheep in tin hats to make it look as though they were his men dressed as sheep. Meanwhile Corporal Jones poses as a log using a pantomime costume. It gets funnier.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Master, whose skills involve being a master of disguise, disguised himself frequently during Roger Delgado's tenure with a pair of glasses. Anthony Ainley also adopted paper-thin disguises in "Castrovalva" and "Time-Flight" (in the latter case, they actually intended to fool someone, as Ainley even used a pseudonym in the credits). The Master also hides behind obviously pseudonyms like "Colonel Masters", "Mr. Magister", "Dr. Masterly", etc. In the new series, he hides behind an unintentionally Significant Anagram.
      • To be fair, in most cases the Master was trying to fool ordinary people who at that point had no idea who he was or what was going on (often his schemes involved infiltrating organizations under false identities), and his pseudonyms are probably intended to be bad as a mockery of a species he looks down on. In fact most of the time whenever the Master appears in disguise to the Doctor or someone who actually knows who he is they see right through his disguise immediately (and he probably wouldn't have it any other way).
      • His "Harold Saxon" guise zigzags this somewhat. In this case, the Master actually did bother to create a fictional backstory for himself, and even generated a few photographs. However, he also went out of his way to make it as obvious as possible that he had appeared out of nowhere eighteen months ago. For instance, all the obviously photoshopped pictures of him as a University student don't look any younger than his current appearance, and he had no paper trail despite getting a first at Oxford and being a former rugby champion. Then he deliberately became one of the most visible people in the world by founding his own political party, leading it to an electoral landslide and becoming Prime Minister of Great Britain, to put the eyes of the world on him when he brings the Toclafane in. Thanks to the Archangel network, he's got the populace under subtle mind control that prevents anyone looking too closely...well, 98% to 99% at most, and being able to fool a planet full of stupid humans without even trying probably appealed to the Troll in him.
      • In "The End of Time", he lampshades this tendency by referring to himself as "the Master of disguise" to two homeless men who recognize his resemblance to Harold Saxon.
      • Averted in "World Enough and Time", when his disguise as Mr. Razor is extremely elaborate, including a full mask, wig and false teeth, as well as a fake voice and a 24/7 act as an eccentric hospital caretaker. Justified since he's hiding from an entire city that wants him dead, and he can't risk Bill recognising him as Harold Saxon.
    • In "The Visitation", the villain travels to London wrapped up in a huge cloak. Seeing as he's a lizard-like alien with nothing covering his large green snout, this disguise is particularly unconvincing.
    • In the Eighth Doctor Adventures, Sabbath demonstrates just what a Suspiciously Similar Substitute of the Master he is, with a dreadful pseudonym (Mr. Holiday) and a disguise which, being Bigger on the Inside, makes him very slightly thinner than he actually is. The Doctor is thrown off, while the readers wonder if the Doctor recognizes people who've been on a diet.
    • Madame Vastra is a Silurian living in Victorian London. Despite her only cover being a transparent black net veil over her head, nobody seems to notice that she's got green scaly skin and bone frills unless she specifically lifts the veil to show them.
  • Inverted in the Drake & Josh episode "The Theater Thug". Because Josh keeps getting attacked because he looks a lot like a wanted criminal, he decides to put on a heavy trenchcoat and hat. Everyone recognized him instantly.
  • Used in the Farscape episode "Coup by Clam". A female character has disguised herself as a man by covering up her breasts in spite of the fact that her face is completely unchanged. She manages somehow to fool the guard she works with (possibly justified by the guard being an idiot as well as a misogynist dickhead) but Chiana sees straight through it. Also used again in that episode with John dressing up amusingly as one of the least convincing women ever, in order to enter a club where all the male clients are known.
  • Happens a few times on The Flash (2014):
    • In the Flashpoint timeline, Barry finds that there is another Flash who isn't him. One day, said Flash gets knocked down, and a curious Barry takes off his mask and is surprised to find out that he's actually Wally. This is despite the fact that unlike Barry's outfit, Wally's outfit leaves his hair exposed, and Barry should have easily been able to guess it was him, though in fairness Wally was seen vibrating his face and vocal chords earlier.
    • When Cisco finally suits up, all he has as a disguise is his Cool Shades, and he leaves his long hair down. While most people in Central City wouldn't know him, you'd think that some people would be able to recognise that hairstyle. In one episode, when a fellow metahuman is asking whey she should trust the team, he takes off his shades while Barry unmasks himself, even though the shades don't do much to hide his face.
    • Similarly, no one in Central City seems to recognise Caitlin as a brown-haired brown-eyed version of Killer Frost, who is seen as enough of a threat to be mentioned in the local news, and later enough of a hero to get a drink at a coffee shop named after her.
  • Game of Thrones: "Robert Strong", the newest, mysterious, helmed and mute member of the Kingsguard introduced in the season 5 finale. Despite wearing full plate armor that covers everything but his eyes and never speaking, his true identity (Gregor Clegane) should be obvious to anyone who sees him due to his great size. In Season 6, Qyburn and the other Small Council members drop the pretense in private. In the books, it's narrated from Kevan's sole POV that other Kingsguards have never seen Robert Strong eat/drink or use the privy, and Qyburn had previously ordered a suit of armor for Strong so large/heavy/thick that the smith voiced his belief that no man could move and fight in it. While not directly confirmed it's Ser Gregor in the books, many suspect it and most readers presume it to the point it would be more shocking if it wasn't him. Also, the Martells asked for Gregor's head and therefore most people kept quiet about Strong being obviously Gregor. In the show there is no real reason to hide it since the Martells are gone.
  • In Glee, the kids switch names to screw with the substitute teacher. What name does the blonde, female Brittany choose? Mike Chang.
  • In the Greg the Bunny episode "The Singing Mailman", when Dottie convinces the others to pretend they like the actor playing the mailman, Greg decides to wear a disguise, which includes a sombrerro, pancho, and mustache. It doesn't seem to fool anyone, but when he removes his mustache, Tardy Turtle reacts with surprise, "Hey! That French man is Greg!"
  • Hannah Montana has the title character, who is able to complete conceal her identity by simply wearing a blonde wig; in one episode, she dramatically removes the wig to reveal herself to her boyfriend, and he's totally shocked, despite the fact that "Hannah" didn't change her clothes, make-up, or facial features in the slightest. Other characters suffer from this too, including Robbie Ray, who's apparently disguising himself with a (thin) mustache; however, this might be a subversion, as Robbie isn't trying to conceal his identity as much as his daughter.
    • It's lampshaded when Miley reveals herself to the world as Hannah and genius neighbor Rico nearly has a breakdown figuring out how he couldn't see through such a lame disguise.
  • Supervillain Sylar on Heroes has an uncanny, entirely non-superpowered ability to convince other people that he's someone he's not, mostly by using a variety of fake accents combined with acting like he's supposed to be there. Once he gains the power to generate actual illusions, he quickly manages to bluff his way into becoming President of the United States.
  • Many episodes of I Love Lucy have Lucy and Ethel dressing up in paper-thin disguises to fool their husbands in some scheme. Depending on what the plot demands, Ricky and Fred either are completely fooled or recognize their wives right away.
    • Tennessee Ernie Ford doesn't recognize the Wicked City Woman trying to seduce him (just Lucy in a black wig).
  • In the Crossover special between iCarly and Victorious, in order to infiltrtate a party in Hollywood without being identified as internet celebrities, Carly, Sam and Freddie all get pretty convincing makeup by an ex-girlfriend of Spencer. When Gibby says he needs a disguise too, she simply gives him a beauty mark. Subverted later in the episode; the moment Gibby loses his beauty mark, everyone immediately recognizes him "Hey, you're that guy from iCarly!"
  • On It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Frank often uses this kind of disguise to help the gang with whatever scheme they're trying to pull off. Keep in mind that Frank is played by Danny DeVito, who's about five feet tall and has a distinctively round shape. Despite that, his tricks often work:
    • One episode has Frank infiltrating an art gallery to convince the owner to come to Paddy's Pub for a show Mac plans to put on. Frank agrees—after promising to "keep it subtle"—by putting on a black turtleneck and pants, horn-rimmed glasses, and a white Andy Warhol-like wig. He proceeds to call himself "Ongo Gablogian, the art collector," and marches around the gallery declaring that various works are "derivative" and claiming that the building's air conditioner is a beautiful statement on the human condition. The owner is successfully fooled.
    • In one episode, Frank commandeers a tourist boat full of East Asian people visiting Philadelphia by doing nothing more than saying he's Captain Frank and claiming that the previous captain was a junkie. It works.
    • Frank's not above recruiting other people to do this for him. In "The Gang Gets Whacked," a handsome Latino man wearing a sports jacket approaches Dennis at a country club. He explains that he's a "gentleman companion" to wealthy older women, convincing Dennis that he should try the same to raise some much-needed cash. The man then returns to the kitchen, takes off the coat...and hands it back to Frank, who promptly pays him. He's actually a dishwasher at the club, and Frank recruited him to convince Dennis to become a male prostitute. It's particularly egregious because Dennis saw Frank wearing the jacket earlier.
    • Charlie has occasionally passed himself off as a wealthy oil baron using nothing more than a cowboy hat and Texas accent.
    • Dee occasionally tries to pull these off with her various "characters," such as an leprechaun, male fisherman, or Latina newscaster. They're always horrifically racist and offensive and don't convince anyone.
  • One episode of The Jack Benny Program had Jack appearing on You Bet Your Life, using a toupee, mustache and sideburns. Groucho can see his ruse however, and manages to blow his cover by asking him about his true age.
  • This was practically a Running Gag in Kamen Rider Den-O, as giant friendly Tengu rubber-suit monster Deneb would routinely stroll through the streets next to the main characters wearing no more of a disguise than... say, a hat.
    • Kamen Rider BLACK plays it painfully straight with the main character. Now, while a suit that covers one's entire body is good for hiding one's features, Kotaro has a habit (shared with pretty much every Rider ever, actually) of using his Rider-motif bike in civilian identity. He gets a new bike as Black, and rides it in civilian form, too. Establishment shots frequently have it parked outside in plain view. He never tries to pretend to not be hunting down whatever Golgom is up to, or ever make an excuse for running off. Somehow, nobody notices.
    • Inverted in Kamen Rider Double in that, while Shoutarou rides around on the same bike that Double uses, the Fuuto Police Department inspector believes that Shoutarou is a 'friend' of Double. One could assume that he also told the inspector that Double gave him a duplicate bike and that the public simply also believes this.
  • Played with on Knight Squad. Ciara is the Princess of Astoria whose father refuses to let her become a knight. So she uses a magical ring to transform herself for training. Given that the ring just changes her clothes and hair and Ciara looks and sounds the same, it's hard to believe so many (including her own father) could fail to see the truth. However, it's indicated the magic spell prevents people from seeing the details (Arc only found out as he saw her transform).
    • Later in the series, teammates Prudence and Warwick discover the truth and both amazed they didn't see it before.
    • In the series finale, Ciara reveals herself to the entire kingdom with everyone shocked. However, the king reveals he's known the entire time as "what father doesn't know his own daughter?"
  • In LazyTown, no one ever realises the person causing trouble who looks like Robbie Rotten in a silly outfit is, in fact, Robbie Rotten in a silly outfit. This is especially hilarious because his cover is blown at the end of every episode, yet the townspeople will still fall for his paper-thin disguise in the next episode. (And yet, Robbie Rotten himself thinks his disguises are amazingly awesome and calls himself "The Master of Disguise".)
    • If he actually is fooling everyone, then he's probably on to something.
    • Taken to the extreme in "Play Day" where his hat falls off and not one person yells "Robbie Rotten!" like they usually do.
    • Subverted in the episode "Defeeted" where the mayor recognises Robbie straight away, even though the villain is wearing one of his better disguises: a superhero outfit. The characters have fallen for lesser disguises in the past.
    • It's also worth noting that there are exactly three male adults in the town—the mayor (who's Ambiguously Brown and heavyset), Sportacus (a Caucasian muscular man), and Robbie (who, while Caucasian, is much slenderer than Sportacus), which severely limits the number of people who the Birthday Fairy/manners teacher/scoutmaster/etc. could be... and yet no one ever catches on.
  • The League of Gentlemen contains a rare effective example. It's obviously the same actor with different makeup and hair, but because that actor plays about a third of the characters on the show, you'll never guess. Saying which two characters are the same person would be telling.
  • Naturally, Lois & Clark used this with Clark simply slicking back his hair as Superman. A famous bit has villain Tempus revealing the truth to Lois and how people in the future ask "How dumb was she?"
    • In one episode, Lois gets super-powers and becomes the masked heroine Ultra Woman. She's amazed at how a domino mask is all that keeps Perry White and Jimmy Olsen from recognizing her, ranting about how they can't see the truth of someone they work with every day...and stops when Clark smirks at her.
  • Played for Laughs in Luke Cage season 2. Luke is being sued by Cockroach for assaulting him, and being repped by Foggy Nelson, Matt Murdock's former law partner. Foggy suggests that Luke consider wearing a mask to hide his identity, since that's what Matt did. Luke shoots it down on account that his height and being bulletproof make him identifiable, mask or no mask.
    Foggy Nelson: Given my history on the subject, I can't believe I'm even gonna say this, but... if you're gonna fight crime, have you considered wearing a mask?
    Luke Cage: I'm 6'3", black, and bulletproof. You really think that wearing a Lone Ranger mask is gonna keep people from figuring out who I am?
  • Someone handed MacGyver the Idiot Ball in the episode "Cleo Rocks". Despite clues so obvious that a child could work it out, it takes Mac most of the episode to realize that his old nemesis Murdoc is back, even though his disguise is so thin that it's obvious who he is the first time we see him. From behind. In the dark. And he's only halfway in the frame. They clearly thought it was working, too, since even after the first reveal where Murdoc appears undisguised, it's only after we get a second reveal that anyone realizes that he's been in disguise all along.
    • More like the producers expected the audience to be carrying the idiot ball. Since it was airing on USA network at the time, they were probably right.
  • While MadTV's Smith Comma John looks completely human, his disguise is rendered paper thin by his loudly announcing to anyone that will listen that he's not an alien. For example, he can use a 3-way light bulb, and sit near a dog. Could an alien do that? Apparently not.
  • Subverted in an episode of M*A*S*H where Colonel Flagg comes into Radar's office wearing a pretty absurd disguise, and Radar recognizes him quickly. When Flagg sternly asks him how he recognized him, Radar nervously said that Flagg was so good at not looking like himself that he guessed that someone who looked so much not-like him must be him. (However, when Flagg then walked into Colonel Potter's office, it didn't fool Potter either.)
  • The same kind of economy casting is used on The Mighty Boosh. But it didn't make Howard and Vince's attempts to masquerade as old ladies in the Bingo Hall seem any less feeble. Howard in particular should really have considered doing something about his moustache...
  • Parodied in a Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch, where "Mr. Hilter" and his associates, "Ron Vibbentrop" and "Heimlich Bimmler", campaign for the National Bocialist Party in Minehead, England. Nobody recognizes them, despite wearing Nazi uniforms, speaking in thick German accents, and denying that they're Nazis rather unconvincingly.
    Heinrich "Bimmler": I am retired vindow cleaner und pacifist, without doing war crimes.
  • In the Cloris Leachman episode of The Muppet Show, pigs take over the show and fill all the roles. Cloris comes out on stage while "Kermit the Pig" is making an introduction and states her belief that he's not Kermit the Frog, despite being green (not easy for a pig) and having the collar. What changes her mind? "Ribbit!" He didn't even have to hide his ears or snout.
    • Any role played by Gonzo fits, as the mask has to fit that unique nose of his.
      Gonzo: (As the Black Knight) The world will forever wonder who I am!
      Kermit: Though some may harbor suspicions...
    • Beaker once donned a lampshade to hide from testing Dr. Bunsen Honeydew's invention. This worked well, until Beauregard plugged him in.
    • Bunsen takes a turn while being harassed by multiple clones of Beaker, trying to hide his identity using a Conspicuous Trenchcoat, a hat and a plastic glasses/nose/'stache arrangement. It fools Kermit but works for all of thirty seconds before the Beakers find him.
    • In the episode with Milton Berle, Fozzie is afraid of meeting his idol and hides throughout the show. At one point, Fozzie wears a disguise, which is merely a pair of glasses with a fake nose and large beard attached. At first Scooter appears to be fooled, but then it's revealed he isn't.
    • In Tales Of the Tinkerdee, a pre-Muppet Show Jim Henson production, Taminella Grindenfall, witchiest witch of them all, is able to disguise herself as a Santa Claus, the princess, the kingdom prime minister, and an artist by wearing different wigs and hats.
    • Zigzagged in the Muppet special Hey Cinderella!. As the King plans a masked ball, Prince Arthur Charming meets Cinderella while gardening and, after realizing she doesn't recognize him as the prince, says he's the gardener. He arranges for everybody to be invited to the ball so she can go, but since it's a masked ball they arrange to each wear a geranium so they'll recognize each other, unaware that the King plans to give each guest a geranium. They end up spending the whole time at the ball dancing together without knowing it—but the masks they're wearing only cover the eye area of their faces, to say nothing of the fact that they'd spoken to each other at length and thus should have recognized each other's voices. Sort of justified in that they also dressed differently from how they expected each other to dress (Arthur thought Cinderella was going to wear a crummy dress, Cinderella doesn't know Arthur is the prince) and had only met each other once (though they do recognize each other when they next see each other three months later, and Cinderella initially doesn't notice Arthur in prince clothes at first).
    • Additionally, the only time Cinderella uses her mask as a disguise is when she's near her stepmother and stepsisters. It works, but is justified in that they don't expect her to have such a nice-looking dress. And when the Fairy Godmother encounters Splurge at the dance, she says that she initially didn't recognize him with his mask on. Keep in mind Splurge is a big purple monster and his mask is a Lone Rangers mask.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 subject The Rebel Set features one of the most bizarre examples of all time: the mastermind of an armored car robbery goes incognito on a train to bump off his henchmen (all of whom have spent a lot of time with him) and keep the money for himself. His disguise? A priest's collar. The MST3k guys have said that the first time they saw the film, it took them all quite a while to realize it was even supposed to be a disguise.
  • An episode of Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide had Ned infiltrating on Missy's club (ripping off the titular guide) by donning a blond wig and mustache alongside a pair of sunglasses. Missy catches him immediately however, and Ned is soon dragged off the room
    • Later in the episode, one of Loomer's cronies uses a similar guise to avoid being noticed on sewing class—He succeeds, and he didn't even disguise properly.
  • The Butterfield Detective Agency sketch from The Peter Serafinowicz Show, in which most of Butterfield's disguises consist of hats or simple props.
  • In the infamous "pizza episode" of Power Rangers Turbo, Porto comes into the pizza parlor to pick up an order, wearing a dress and large woman's hat to disguise himself. (Given his natural shape, which resembles a man in a bulky spacesuit, it's not very convincing.) Not a completely straight example of the Trope, because the clerk does seem to notice something odd about him, and when Porto notices that the Rangers are there (in their civilian identities), he leaves quickly before they see him.
  • On Robin Hood, all the outlaws had to do to render themselves invisible was to put on their hoods. In any given crowd of people, there would always be a little group of people that had their hoods obscuring their faces - this was never considered suspicious.
    • An especially strange example is when Will Scarlett and Allan-a-Dale put on their hoods after a guard has stormed past and told them to get out of his way.
    • Funny hats also did the trick, as did a fancy dress for Djaq. Guy of Gisborne stops her as she infiltrates the castle, only for him to give her some orders, thinking she's a serving girl. Just for the record, Djaq was a Saracen woman. I guess Guy sees a lot of them around Nottingham...
  • Played for laughs on Saved By the Bell: The New Class. Realizing too late that they don't have dates for the big school dance, Katie and Maria both get Eric to go along with them. He wears an idiotic wig as he pretends to be his "cousin" with one girl and then himself with another. From the looks he gets from other students, it's obvious no one is buying this at all. This comes up in the middle of the dance as the wig is knocked off. Maria and Katie put on a show of being "shocked" that Eric is pretending to be his own cousin "just so he could date the two of us!" Eric just walks off, yelling to never do this to him again or at least get a better wig as everyone laughs.
  • Saturday Night Live: One sketch parodying Undercover Boss has Kylo Ren going undercover as "Matt the Radar Technician". It'd probably have worked a bit better if Ren hadn't tried praising his own shrededness, and using the Force to strangle people who insulted him. As it turns out, pretty much everyone knew he was Kylo Ren before that anyway.
  • Naturally, Count Olaf in A Series of Unfortunate Events (2017). Actually pulled off "better" than in the film, where the "Stefano" disguise was almost unrecognizable as Olaf to most viewers - here, "Stefano" is just Olaf with a bald wig and fake beard.
    • Unlike in the books, where the orphans rarely figure out their disguises, Olaf's henchmen also fall into this. For example, in "The Reptile Room" the Hook-Handed Man puts on a pair of obvious prosthetic hands over his hooks. Mr. Poe is, of course, oblivious.
  • Usually averted whenever it happens on Sesame Street, when other characters see through the paper-thin disguises. Justified as it is an educational show for children. Some examples include:
    • In one sketch, Ernie gets a disguise kit and uses it to fool Bert, who is not fooled at all, especially since Ernie left his pirate beard on when he dressed up as Little Red Riding Hood. However, when a wolf shows up, Bert thinks it is Ernie.
    • In another sketch, Cookie Monster dresses as "The Cookie Bunny", and "corrects" Ernie whenever he refers to Cookie as Cookie Monster.
    • In a street scene of one episode, Big Bird and Alan bake birdseed cookies for Granny Bird. When Cookie Monster finds out, he dresses as Granny Bird. Big Bird and Alan know that it's Cookie Monster all along but play along with it.
    • In another episode, Abby thinks Oscar might really be a prince and wants to kiss him, which Oscar wants to avoid. At one point Oscar dons a disguise (Groucho Marx glasses) which doesn't work.
    • One "Word of the Day" sketch features Jack Black and Elmo defining the word "disguise," so as might be expected, Paper-Thin Disguises came into play. Jack claims to be a "master of disguise," and tries to prove it by putting on various outfits to conceal his identity. The first is a large sombrero and a pair of sunglasses; the second is a rainbow clown wig and...another pair of sunglasses. Elmo instantly sees through both disguises, which makes Jack sad. He leaves, and a few moments later, a Muppet chicken enters. In a subversion of the trope, Elmo asks if the chicken has seen Jack Black...three guesses as to who the chicken really is.
    • In the "Smart Cookies" segments introduced in the 46th season, The Crumb, a villainous chef, is always able to fool Cookie Monster with these kinds of disguises.
    • In an episode of The Furchester, "Don't Eat the Guest", a talking cookie comes to the hotel, on a day when the hotel is out of cookies. In an attempt to keep Cookie Monster from eating the guest, the staff puts a fake mustache on him so Cookie won't know that he's a cookie. Sort of works, though Cookie Monster does say that he thought it was a cookie at first ("But whoever heard of cookie with mustache?").
    • In a viral video, Abby looks for Elmo, who disguises himself wearing only a pair of Groucho Marx glasses. She is actually fooled, even when Elmo says "Elmo hasn't seen your friend Elmo anywhere".
  • Happens in Sherlock. In "The Empty Hearse", Sherlock disguises himself as a French waiter by stealing a black bowtie, horn-rimmed glasses, scribbling on a fake mustache, and talking in a French accent when attempting to reveal that he's still alive to John. And John is so distracted that it still takes him a few minutes to realize that he's been talking to Sherlock.
  • Sonny with a Chance: "That's So Sunny", a Mythology Gag of That's So Raven, features Raven as Amber, the President of Chad's fan club, investigating Nico and Grady while in disguise as a jazz guy and investigating dressed as an Indian masseuse named Maia Babouti with a a very odd accent.
    • Sonny pulls this too and in one scene, Demi Lovato states that she pulled many of these in a reference to her former show.
  • Zigzagged in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Enterprise Incident". Kirk has McCoy use a type of plastic surgery on him so he can infiltrate the Romulan ship and steal the cloaking device technology. While the surgery does give Kirk the features of a Romulan, it's still obviously him. However, because he doesn't come into contact with any Romulans who knows what James T. Kirk looks like, he still succeeds.
  • A Running Joke on The Steam Video Company where every week an exasperated cast member would express dismay at the shoddiness of Bob Todd's disguise.
  • Taken Up to Eleven in the Studio C sketch "Death Bed Repentance", where the audience doesn't even realize that Jeremy is even wearing a disguise until he takes off the fake mustache and wig, revealing his identical mustache and hair, to prove that he is actually Jose Delgado.
  • Nicely used on Supergirl when James Olson decides to fight crime as the Guardian. He wears a uniform covering him head to toe and even lined with lead. It's a good disguise so that it takes having him unmasked for Kara (who knows James well) to figure out it's him. When James rescues Cat Grant from an attack, he and Winn are both stunned when she automatically thanks him as "James".
    James: I'm... Guardian.
    Cat: Oh, honey, I can see your eyes through the slit.
    • In season 1, Kara needs Lucy's help to free a friend from jail. At her apartment, Kara pulls off her glasses and opens her shirt to reveal her uniform under it. After an initial shock, Lucy openly asks how she could possibly not see it before.
    • In fact, Kara's entire "disguise" is nicely mocked in season 2 as Alex is thrown when girlfriend Maggie relates she's figured out Supergirl is Kara due to how Alex is so worried for her.
      Maggie: Plus, the glasses really don't help.
      Alex: I always said that too, it's kind of ridiculous.
    • Played straight with Reign and Kara and Alex are unable to look past a Domino Mask and see how Reign is the same height, build, voice and hair of their good friend Sam. Then again, even Sam herself is unaware of her evil alter ego (and it's mentioned the suit blocks Kara's X-Ray vision so she can't see past the mask).
    • Nicely justified in season three when, to protect the secret, Alex allows J'onn to erase all memory of Kara being Supergirl from her mind. At first, it seems crazy that Alex, of all people, can't notice Supergirl is just her sister without glasses but it's made clear that the mindwipe also has adjusted Alex's perception so she literally can't put two and two together. It takes watching Supergirl being nearly beaten to death by Red Daughter for the conditioning to break and Alex remembers everything.
  • In the Supernatural episode "What Is and What Should Never Be" (S02, Ep20), Dean believes changing the car's license plate and getting new credit cards should be a sufficient disguise. They continue to drive a 1967 Impala and do not alter their appearance, despite having recently escaped from prison and having arrest warrants in at least five states.
  • In the costume party episode of Taxi, Jim apparently fools everyone by going just wearing his usual outfit. However Alex notices and he puts on a pair of novelty glasses.
  • That's So Raven: Raven has frequently disguised herself, sometimes even as old men, despite looking nothing like a man, and sounding exactly as a teenage girl, albeit speaking in a false deep voice.
  • Terryin Al Murray's Time, Gentlemen, Please! is frequently able to pass himself off for someone else just by wearing different clothes, an obviously fake moustache and in some cases simply saying he's not Terry. This doesn't last for long however since Terry is known to be 'very gassy'. He is however hailed as a master of disguise by everyone he fools.
  • In Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters, villain Enter is made of data and can change his clothes in the blink of an eye, but for some reason never bothers with the rest of the disguise, and maintains his appearance and signature goggles every time.
  • Subversion: On Top Gear, the presenters occasionally switch out James "Captain Slow" May for their "tame racing driver", a masked man known only as The Stig. The whole disguise is The Stig wearing one of May's iconic shirts (a ghastly purple-and-pink striped number) over his white racing suit. Mysteriously, no one finds it convincing.
    May: Some say I was bound and gagged in locker room...
    • Also played with during the Hammerhead i-Eagle Thrust challenge when the "independent tester" was clearly May with a gaffer-tape mustache and his hair tied back.
    • And in the "Three Wise Men" special, when Clarkson and Hammond dress up in niqab. For one thing, Clarksons is six foot five.
      Hammond: It is I!
  • In an episode of the UK version of Who Wants to Be a Superhero?, after one of Dr. Dark's henchmen steals the secret identity files of their superheroes, they are forced to don disguises and create distractions in an attempt to take them back off him. Most of the heroes' disguises were paper thin and if anything would make them stick out like a sore thumb. Fortunately the henchman was fooled until he saw some of the superheroes taking the files from under his snout.
  • On The Wild Wild West, Artemus Gordon was supposed to be a Master of Disguise, but most of his disguises involve little more than a fake scar or cheap mustache. They make "paper thin" seem unnecessarily complimentary. This was because the network heads complained whenever he wore a disguise that actually worked, fearing it would confuse the audience, and required that all of his disguises be paper thin. The actor and the make-up people are on record complaining about this.
    • Unintentionally averted in "The Night of the Avaricious Actuary", when Artie is disguised as a gas company meter man; he broke his leg during filming of the episode so he was replaced for part of the climax by a stand-in (who looks nothing like Ross Martin).
    • In the film version, however, it's much much worse. Gordon is introduced disguised as a saloon girl... and despite looking rather obviously like a man, and sounding very little like a woman, his disguise fools the living Hell out of everyone. Yet, even this is topped when James West dons an awkward harem costume and interrupts the villain's inaugural Nebulous Evil Organisation meeting by doing a Little Egypt dance, which despite being membrane-thin and a grossly obvious diversion tactic, somehow gains the rapt attention of every bad guy in the scene.
      • Of course, the movie also played it perfect with Gordon's spot-on Ulysses S. Grant impression. (The fact that Grant was played by Kevin Kline as well helped a bit, too.) He still can't fool West, however.
      • In fairness, Artie was also occasionally disguised as a woman on the original show as well ("The Night of the Freebooters" and "The Night of the Green Terror") but never to that extent.
  • Wonder Woman: Wonder Woman has multiples:
    • The glasses disguise for her Secret Identity that fools everyone else is literally broken by aliens using a projector in "Mind Stealers from Outer Space". He takes a picture of Diana Prince and overlays it with a picture of Wonder Woman.
    Alien Leader: Undoubtedly the same human
    • In the pilot, "The New Original Wonder Woman", the Amazons on Paradise Island wore masks during the competition to determine who would become Wonder Woman. Diana's mother, Hippolyta, forbade her from competing, but somehow couldn't recognize her in her mask.
    • In "The Feminum Mystique", the Nazis mistake Wonder Girl for Wonder Woman repeatedly. The first time is almost reasonable since they knew nothing of Paradise Island or other Amazons, both wore a red and blue Leotard of Power, and had the same super powers. It goes Up to Eleven when they can't tell the difference between two entirely different women after conquering Paradise Island itself!
  • The 2005 Canadian series Young Blades was notorious for this. The best example was Jacqueline - a female Musketeer masquerading as a man - who used to conceal her femininity by tying back her (waist-length) hair, assuming a bizarre guttural voice and frowning a lot. In some episodes she sported a highly amusing fake goatee, which only made things worse. And yet no one penetrated her disguise, ever, even when she let her hair down, put on a dress and started pretending to be her own twin sister. It was absurd!
    • In fact, most of the characters seemed to think that if they just put on a mask that covered their eyes they would be instantly unrecognizable even to their closest friends. They were usually right...
    • Notably averted in the episode "The Chameleon," where the villain had the ability to shapeshift at will. Though of course, given the good guys' track record for recognizing impostors, an eyepatch and a cigar might have served him just as well.
      • Also inverted in "The Chameleon", where the Chameleon disguises himself as Jacques, and D'Artagnan claims the disguise was paper thin to him because "Jacques" acted like a man, not like a woman disguised as a man.
  • Eric van Helsing from Young Dracula who doesn't even shave his beard off when disguising himself as a woman.
  • In You're the Worst, whenever Jimmy wants to be incognito, he wears a hat and a fake mustache that make him look like Mario.
  • Logan tries to pass for Chase in Zoey 101 while trying to join the secret school society. Nobody is fooled by his Afro wig.
  • The Tick (2016): Arthur's superhero disguise consists of translucent goggles that mildly obscure his face and has the same reasonably distinctive mannerisms in both guises, although the biggest problem is that due to panicking when first asked, his superhero name is just his own first name.


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