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Playing With / Stepford Smiler

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Basic Trope: A character puts up a cheerful appearance to hide their true insanity/depression.

  • Straight: Alice seems to be happy, but she turns out to be deeply depressed or psychopathic behind the mask of cheerfulness.
  • Exaggerated:
  • Downplayed:
    • Alice never stops smiling, even when she's upset, because she is a genuinely cheerful person who isn't used to experiencing negative emotions.
    • While Alice isn't on the verge of breaking down and murdering anyone, she does have some issues that need addressing.
    • Alice does have severe psychological issues beneath the surface, but the joy she presents is, at least in part, genuine.
  • Justified:
    • Alice is a villain who is completely insane but who operates more or less secretly, and would likely be locked up in an asylum if she showed her real nature, so she pretends to be happy and polite.
    • Alice is a hero who is completely sad and depressed, with little or negative self-esteem, but to help her friends and everyone she cares for, or to hide her insecurities, she pretends to be happy and cheerful.
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    • Alice is in denial about something that deeply disturbs her, and constantly tries to ignore it.
    • Alice's teammates have gone through some pretty traumatic experiences themselves and came out none the worse for wear. She feels like the odd one out because of this, so she reasons that mirrioring their reactions will have the same effect on her.
  • Inverted:
    • Alice is unable to smile, even when she is incredibly happy.
    • Alice forces herself to act grim even when everything is great out of concern that she won't be taken seriously if she lets her happiness show.
    • Alice isn't masking anything: her cheery attitude is legitimately how she processes sadness, so when she starts smiling, everyone immediately knows what's wrong. Her emotional responses are a bit different from the rest of the group, making her hard to understand if you're not around her for long.
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  • Subverted: It looks like Alice may be hiding a dark true nature, but then we find out it's all a lie, and they really are happy.
  • Double Subverted: Oh wait, Alice really isn't depressed at all... and then we learn that instead, their mask is hiding their insanity.
  • Parodied:
    • Alice constantly switches between Ax-Crazy and tasting like diabetes, without dropping the smile. Played for Laughs. The other characters openly discuss what the heck is with her.
    • Alice's facade in incredibly transparent, with her ear to ear grin being obviously forced, and her constant remarks about "perfectly happy" become clearly a lie.
    • Alice is so peppy that everyone expects something to be wrong with her, constanly pressing her for tragic backstories or checking for signs of mental instability so they can help her through it. Because of their actions over the course of the series, Alice's cheerfulness really does become a mask... to hide her annoyance.
  • Zig Zagged:
    • The character seems to smile a lot and has been hiding some amount of depression, but his mask cracks and slips so often one must begin to wonder what is really happening inside the character's head.
    • Alice is a Mood-Swinger who always smiles, but sometimes it's real, sometimes it's not.
  • Averted: Cheerful characters are unironically cheerful, and aren't hiding any dark inner feelings at all. Depressed, hollow, and insane characters look and act unironically depressed, hollow, or insane.
  • Enforced: ”The series has taken a turn for the Darker and Edgier, and now Alice looks really out of place, but putting them on a bus wouldn't work... I guess we'll have to give them some secret angst or madness to let them fit in.”
  • Lampshaded:
    • "I alway knew Alice was hiding something! That perpetual cheerfullness isn't a natural thing!"
    • "I know I seem happy and cheerful, but in actuality I hate my life and want to die!"
    • "You're so happy and cheerful, I love it!" "That's just the surface, sweetie. Inside, I'm dead!"
  • Invoked: "Uh-oh, Alice seems oddly happy. I betcha she's actually depressed or crazy- let's try to learn more about her past."
  • Exploited: Alice is asocial and hates people, so she uses a creepy smile to drive people away so she can be alone.
  • Defied: Alice , after being broken, refuses to try seeming happy anymore and chooses to appear just as angsty as they are.
  • Discussed: "You aren't hiding something bad inside Alice, are you?"
  • Conversed: "You know how all those characters who seem happy are secretly depressed, or insane, or both... That creeps me out, man."
  • Implied: Alice stops smiling when alone.
  • Deconstructed:
    • Alice narrates the story, with their internal desperation and madness overwhelming the effect of their external serenity from the start of the narrative.
    • Hiding all their problems behind a smile slowly takes a toll on Alice's probably already fragile sanity. Finally, something happens and this character snaps, either in tears or into a homicidal rage.
    • Despite her trying to put up a happy demeanor, it's clear to those around that something is off and they keep their distance, both alienating and giving her a sense of loneliness that she also represses.
  • Reconstructed: And despite all the characterization, Alice is still a hollow, empty shell of a human being.

Oh, want to go back to Stepford Smiler...that's just...great! It's great! No, no really! I'm thrilled! I'm fine, everything's fine! I'!

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