Follow TV Tropes


Playing With / Paper-Thin Disguise

Go To

Basic Trope: A character manages to hide his identity with a disguise that shouldn't have fooled anyone.

  • Straight: Bob wants to spy on Dan, the Corrupt Corporate Executive. Although they know each other, once Bob puts on a pair of sunglasses and a suit, Dan doesn't recognize him and tells Bob his plan.
  • Exaggerated:
    • Bob picks up a pen and becomes unrecognisable.
    • Dan doesn't recognize Bob because he's carrying a briefcase.
    • Advertisement:
    • Bob puts on his sunglasses and suit and nobody recognizes him.
    • Dan can identify everyone else on the planet (including the people he never met) even if they had put on elaborate disguises. Of course, the only one he can't identify is Bob, even without a disguise himself.
    • Bob messes up his hair a bit. No one recognizes him.
    • Bob's disguise consists of nothing more than insisting that he isn't Bob.
    • In addition to an obvious disguise, Bob uses than alias that clearly gives away his identity, e.g. Robert McNot Bob.
  • Downplayed:
    • Dan is somewhat suspicious of the disguise, but ultimately decides he's being paranoid.
    • Bob is sometimes identified, sometimes not.
    • Dan is blind, so it makes sense that Bob disguising his voice is enough.
  • Justified:
    • Dan has only met Bob in person once.
    • Dan is The Ditz. Anyone else would see through the disguise, but Dan is just too stupid.
    • Advertisement:
    • Bob is a very good actor, so a simple change in clothing, accompanied by a change in mannerisms, can make him seem like a totally different person.
  • Inverted:
  • Subverted:
    • Bob only thought he'd fooled Dan. Actually, Dan was feeding him false information and laughing at him behind his back.
    • The disguise, by coincidence or design, actually does resemble an actual other person.
    • It was never Bob. It was an Identical Stranger who looks like Bob with a mustache. The reveal happens when Bob passes by the stranger, so they must be two different people.
    • It was never Bob. It was somebody else using a Latex Perfection disguise that only looked like Bob using a paper-thin disguise.
    • Advertisement:
    • Bob is a public figure. His objective wasn't to fool Dan, but to obscure his true identity just enough that casual viewers won't make the connection.
  • Double Subverted:
    • At first, Dan felt sure it was Bob. But now he's not so sure.
    • The disguise, by coincidence or design, actually does resemble an actual other person — but Dan doesn't recognize Bob as that other person, either.
    • It was never Bob. While Dan laughed about the obvious "Bob", the real Bob was standing two feet away with a fake mustache and elevator shoes, pretending to laugh with Dan.
  • Parodied:
    • Bob puts on a T-shirt reading "I am not Bob." Dan takes the T-shirt at its word.
    • Bob doesn't even wear a disguise, but Dan still doesn't even know who he is.
    • Bob walks in undisguised, and Dan recognizes him. Bob puts on a fake mustache right in front of Dan, and suddenly Dan doesn't recognize Bob at all.
    • Bob always wears a Hachimaki, but after he takes it off nobody recognizes him.
    • Bob can take off his clothes, and people will act as if he is invisible.
    • Bob can hide his identity by walking backwards.
    • Bob's literally paper-thin disguise consists of cutting the eyes and nose out of a picture of somebody else's face and taping it onto his own. Bonus points if some combination of the following applies: the subject of the original picture is famous, has a distinctly different skin tone from Bob, the picture is clearly drawn, or in black and white.
    • One person points out that Bob is present, but nobody listens.
    • Bob putting on a fake mustache fools even himself, convinced that he's someone else until the mustache falls off.
  • Zig Zagged: Bob constantly switches between a Paper-Thin Disguise and a convincing one.
  • Averted:
    • Bob puts on a convincing Wig, Dress, Accent disguise.
    • Bob doesn't disguise himself or try to fool Dan at all.
    • The best disguise is the one that totally hides identity, not thin coverings and other stuff like that.
  • Enforced: "We want to make sure the audience knows it's still Bob, so let's just give him a pair of sunglasses."
  • Lampshaded:
    • "I should have known! He looked just like Bob, only wearing a cowboy hat!"
    • "They didn't recognize me because I was wearing sunglasses and a suit? What a bunch of idiots."
  • Invoked: Bob puts on the sunglasses and expects Dan not to recognize him.
  • Exploited: Dan doesn't see through the disguise, but someone else does and says "Hello there, Not Bob."
  • Defied:
    • Dan knows he's easily fooled by pathetic disguises, so he has everyone fingerprinted before entering his presence.
    • Bob actually puts effort into his disguise to the point that not even the audience can recognize him.
  • Discussed: "Just because nobody recognized Clark Kent in glasses and a suit doesn't mean they won't recognize you, Bob."
  • Conversed: "These kids' shows are just shameless. Even my three-year-old, Alice, can see through that disguise."
  • Implied: Bob's Paper-Thin Disguise is mentioned, but not seen.
  • Deconstructed:
    • Bob comes from an extremely superficial society in which people recognize one another not by any fundamental traits but by surface physical appearance. The author uses the success of Bob's ridiculous "disguise" to comment on human superficiality.
    • Reality Ensues: Dave isn't fooled for a second and has Bob ...Taken care of.
  • Reconstructed: If someone were to figure out his identity, or Bob were to tell someone his identity, it will inspire a new wave of free thought and creativity.
  • Played for Laughs: Bob puts on a pair of bunny ears. Dan, taking him for a rabbit, ignores him.
  • Intended Audience Reaction / Painting the Medium: The disguise only seems obvious to the audience. When Bob looks into the mirror, the audience gets a peek at how his disguise actually looks to himself and other characters.

Back to Paper-Thin Disguise

Example of: