Ambiguously Brown

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Don't even ask.

"One's a baby, and the other's -- black. I think. At least part black. Or Hispanic. I think you know, there's possibly some Filipino in there. Yeah, possibly some Filipino. I mean, if he's--if he's black, it's definitely diluted. I mean, one of his parents must be white. What the hell is Jessica Alba for that matter? If I were 40 years younger, I would plow that until next July..."
Don LaFontaine, Family Guy, spoof trailer from a movie starring Stewie and Dwayne Johnson

A Trope very common in animation. In order to keep casts from looking completely the same, animators will try diversifying the setting by throwing in characters of differing skintones. But for some characters, you have no clue what ethnicity or race they are just by looking at them. Are they a light-skinned black person? Hispanic? Arab? Italian? Greek? Indian? American Indian? Malaysian? A really tanned Japanese person? Their facial features don't correspond to any particular race either, be it artistic license or limitation. So we don't know. They're just... brown.

Since dark-skinned characters are already uncommon for a number of reasons, fans may be confused whether its a true example of a random and common appearance, a non-specific visual shorthand the creators liked or perhaps a clarified attempt to actually portray a real ethnicity. Or even if the design is supposed to visually inspired by something totally different rather than having a basis in real life.

Note this is generally a fandom issue and happens whether or not the debate is even relevant to the character. Expect a lot of assumptions of how ethnicities only look a particular way. You can pretty much give up all hope of identifying their backgrounds if they're in a fantasy world, especially one that goes light on recognizable cultural counterparts.

Compare Mukokuseki: in principle Anime characters are supposed to be "stateless". The Dark-Skinned Blond and Dark-Skinned Redhead will commonly fall under this as well. See also Amazing Technicolor Population for a more colorful way of making you ask, "What ethnicity are they, anyway?" See also But Not Too Foreign, of which this is a sub-trope.

In Real Life this trope overlaps with Plays Great Ethnics.

Examples of Ambiguously Brown include:

Anime & Manga

  • Urd and Hild from Ah! My Goddess might have this trait, though it seems otherwise rare in the series. This more than likely has its roots in ganguro imagery (Urd is simply the "sexy" sister).
  • Pick a guy, any guy, from Tokyo Mew Mew (except Keiichirou, any of the aliens, and the Blue Knight/Deep Blue). They're all incredibly tanned. Even if they're not plot-important, they're incredibly tanned for supposedly Japanese characters. What's more, Ryou's mother was white.
  • Bleach:
    • Yoruichi, pictured above. The Edit War over her ethnicity at The Other Wiki was to the point that they finally threw their hands up and described her as "dark-skinned". Her ethnicity is not actually relevant to the series (early on she can turn into a cat, so it may be a simple case of "notice this character"), but the fact that Chad's half-Mexican ancestry is specifically referenced in a subplot helped spark the early discussions. At this point Yoruichi's ethnicity seems to have been a Red Herring, and even that may be pushing it.
    • Tousen appears to be less ambiguously of African descent, but he is a Twofer Token Minority.
    • Love Aikawa appears this this way, and a recent Japanese character guide shows that the previous Kenpachi, whom the current Kenpachi killed and whose role he usurped, was also this.
    • Mayuri Kurotsuchi appears this way without his makeup. Even stranger is that his Opposite Gender Clone Nemu doesn't share his skintone.
  • Kojiro Hyuga/Mark Lenders from Captain Tsubasa. Spanish fans use to joke saying that Lenders was the first/only Japanese Gipsy.
  • Akio and Anthy from Revolutionary Girl Utena. Some believe that they're from India due to the forehead marking, though the fact that they may be ancient gods or something very similar makes things moot.
  • Berserk has Casca, Guts' primary Love Interest, and for years fans have been trying to classify her as either A. Black. B. Mixed. C. Arab D. East Indian. In reality Kentaro Miura probably just decided that he liked the design. Also worth noting that in the Berserk universe, there are the East Indian-based people called the Kushans, who typically have brown skin. Casca had mentioned living by the border and does have the same skin tone as the aforementioned people, so it is possible that she is from the Kushan Empire, which would definitively make her of East Indian-equivalent descent.
  • Sailor Pluto in Sailor Moon has significantly darker skin than her comrades, and Word of God has said Sailor Pluto is part Romani, itself based on the quasi-european stereotype that Romani and Spaniards in shoujo manga are dark-skinned.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima:
    • Jack Rakan. Justified as he seems to be from the Magic World.
    • There's also Misora's partner Cocone, who's later revealed to have also come from the Magic World.
    • Also Zazie, and her sister, who turn out to be demons.
    • And Dynamis. Like Cocone, he seems to be from the Magic World as well.
  • One Piece has a few characters like this, though if you look at the original designs the "darkness" of some of the characters seem to come from the designers of the anime taking liberties.
    • In the main cast, there's Usopp, who also has kinky black hair and drawn lips (which most characters lack), and Oda said that if the Straw Hats were from the real world he would be from Africa, so he is most likely intended to be black.
    • Kuma.
    • Mr. 5.
    • Nojiko.
    • There's also Robin as a borderline example, whose skin looks slightly darker than most of the other Straw Hats but looks slightly tanned at most. However, Oda stated in the SBS that if the if the straw hats lived in the real world Robin would be from Russia. As of the Time Skip, there isn't any Ambiguously Brown anymore. Her tanned skin is gone.
    • Before his death Brook fit this trope, and even as a skeleton he still has an awesome afro.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh:
    • Tyranno Kenzan from Yu-Gi-Oh GX, who has light brown skin and black dreadlocks.
    • Also Hiroto Honda/Tristan Taylor, Kemo, and Ryota Kajiki/Mako Tsunami from the main series.
  • Wapourif, among others, from Simoun. They're not on Earth (not to mention that everyone on this planet is born female and chooses a gender later in life) but he still appears to be a different ethnicity than most of the main cast.
  • Kidomaru in Naruto. In the cover for Volume 24, his skin is even darker than it is in the anime (despite it being almost completely white in the regular pages, but that's a frequent occurrence). Later, several characters from the Cloud Village are shown to be unambiguously black.
    • Also Kakuzu, a dark-skinned figure who harvests the hearts of the victims he kills, and the only way to kill him is to detsroy all his hearts. He was killed by Naruto and Kakashi, but later resurrected by Kabuto's Edo Tensei spell.
  • Kaolla Su from Love Hina. Her origins aren't revealed until towards the final chapters (she's from a fictional country on the International Date Line), but her appearance was actually relevant to a subplot involving Keitaro assuming she as from India (which she denied)
  • Fakir in Princess Tutu has tan skin and dark green (almost black!) hair, in a town that appears to be set in Germany. Fanon states he has some Middle-Eastern blood in him (because of his name and appearances), but the creator tends to dodge the subject when a question is asked about it.
  • Johann Trinity in Mobile Suit Gundam 00. Further complicated by the fact he's brown with dark hair, his brother is white with blue hair, and his sister is white and freckly with red hair. Probably explained by the fact that they're artificial humans.
  • Kirin Suwabe from the Yuri Hentai Shoujo Sect. She's clearly darker than the other girls and she sometimes wear a bindi, but she's explicitly said to only wear it because she likes how it looks and that she doesn't have any actual Indian heritage. She's also referred to in her character notes as "an illegitimate child" which raises all sorts of possibilities.
  • Miya from the Hentai Slave Market.
  • Maria from Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei. She's an illegal immigrant, but her country of origin was never specified. It's possibly intentional, since the series has another character who's also a generic foreigner (of a different variety). Considering her brown skin color, Hispanicized real first name, illegal immigrant status, war-torn past, lack of formal education, and stereotypically genki personality, along with the fact that she's still supposed to be from "Asia", it is most likely that she is actually Filipina, which would make sense considering the historical relationship and geographical proximity between the Philippines and Japan.
  • Brock/Takeshi from Pokémon, but not in the games.
    • Also Iris, who's even darker in her game artwork.
    • To a lesser extent, Ash. In the early season, his skin was barely tanner than Misty's but after the change to computer-drawn episodes his skin has become noticeably darker. He seems to be Japanese though.
    • Skyla was given a tan in the anime, making her even darker than in her official artwork.
  • Raven from Earl and Fairy is the Heroic Bastard half-brother of a clearly white Ermine, meaning that he's half British, and his other half is eventually revealed to be demon. His appearance is also used to show the discrimination obviously non-Anglo people in Victorian England faced.
  • Turn a Gundam is chock full of characters like this. Darkskinned Blonde lead Loran has curious platinum hair that's sometimes drawn fairly straight, sometimes looking more like dreads. He doesn't really look like anything, but expect lots of jokes about "Black History Month" every February on /m/, anyway (it helps that he spends most of the first episode dressed up as Hoke). Guin Rhineford is fairly dark-skinned, too, but judging by his facial features and hair, he's probably just a white guy with a really deep tan. Meshy/Meshie/Miashe/Mia-Shay Kune/Kyuun(/Coo- whoah, let's not go with that romanization!) Is yet another Darkskinned Blonde, but her facial features are pretty "black"-looking (very prominent lips for an anime character, for one). Her hair and complexion, along with the fact that her very white, hick-ish father is a minor character suggests she's supposed to be a mulatto, though we never see her mom IIRC. The Moonrace is considerably whiter (a few Asians, too), but Evil Chancellor Agrippa looks like he's supposed to be But Not Too Black.
  • Victory Gundam has Shakti Kareen. This particular Gundam actually features a good number of dark-skinned characters, but Shakti is a bit odd considering her mother is extremely white, living in a society (Zanscare) of predominantly white-skinned people. No explanation for this is ever given (her father is never shown).
  • Enrico Pucci from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure looks black, but it's actually an important plot point that he's not. His parents are both white as snow. This is never commented on or explained.
  • Rally Vincent in Gunsmith Cats. Her mother was British and her father is either Indian or Pakistani, although his already very dark tone suggests South Indian heritage.
  • Jan Valentine from Hellsing is pretty dark skinned. However, it becomes really ambiguous in light of his brother, who is whiter than this page background. Sir (Lady) Integra and Father Andersen are both Dark-Skinned Blond, though in the anime tv series, it is directly implied that Integra's mother is actually Indian, as she was both darker-skinned than her husband and wearing a sari in the family photo taken when Integra was a baby.
  • Pancho Poncho from Galactic Cyclone Braiger
  • The English version of Bakugan Battle Brawlers has Julie Makimoto, a girl from Eagle Land who has dark skin and white hair. While her build and face seem to imply African, when compared to Komba (who is confirmed African) and considering her last name is Japanese, it's surprisingly open to interpretation. In the original Japanese, she is Australian (implied to be Aboriginal) and her last name is Hayward.
  • Code Geass:
    • Villetta Nu is from the Britannian Empire, but since it geographically covers not only the USA but all of Central and South America as well it could account for the wide variety of skin tones among its members.
    • Dorothea Ernst is slightly darker than Villetta and is killed off after only a few minutes of screen time.
    • Dalque in Nightmare of Nunnally is from one of the numbered areas, but it's never revealed which one.
  • Goemon Ishikawa and Inspector Zenigata of Lupin III went back and forth on this one in the early years.
    • Goemon was portrayed with tan skin early on for the original manga series and the pilot, had pale skin for the first TV series, and then went tan again for the first Lupin movie, The Secret of Mamo, which was based on the original manga art. The second TV series returned to the pale tone, and he has kept it ever since. The argument would be because Goemon's nationality (Japanese) is the only one known of the gang and so it makes him stand out more ethnically. Except...
    • Zenigata is also Japanese and was was pale for the pilot, but got noticeably tan in the first TV series, the opposite of Goemon. He also has a slightly ruddy complexion in The Castleof Cagliostro, but since then has also evened out to paler tones.
  • Tom Tanaka from Durarara!! not only has noticeably darker skin than most characters but also has dreadlocks, and this combined with his first name raise the possibility that he has some non-Japanese ancestry. That, or he's just really tanned and has odd style habits.
  • In Samurai Champloo- technically, everyone is Japanese except for those explicitly designated as foreigners, but as part of the hip hip style, there's a lot of darker skinned characters (often mooks) who often look black or Hispanic. In contrast, higher class characters have paler skin. Mugen looks Ambiguously Brown compared to the other main characters, which might be Truth in Television, since he's from the Ryuku Islands, and it's traditional to draw Okinawans darker, and there has for decades been contention about whether they are to be recognized as a racial minority or not, and in the time the show is set, the king of Ryukyu was still paying tribute to the emperors of Japan and China as a subect state.
  • Master samurai Kambei & Gorobei from Samurai 7. Word of God says that Kambei was originally intended to be deliberately distinctly African-looking in appearance but ended up being Southeast/Southwest Asian/Latin American. His original design was then used for Gorobei.
  • Almost all the characters in Haré+Guu have dark skin. In fact lighter skin characters are a little rare in the series. Justified as it takes in a Jungle, likely somewhere in South Asia, though oddly enough Weda came from "the city", to where Hare goes later and, guess what, more or less everybody is white-ish. She still have the exact same appearance of the other inhabitants of the jungle. So... that was some lucky choice for a placed to be banned.
  • Heiji Hattori from Detective Conan has a dark skin tone. Episode 221 specifically states he gets the skin color from his grandfather, so it's definitely real in-story. In #263. his girlfriend recognizes that a person in a mask is not him because his skin is too pale.
  • Kenji Harima from School Rumble has significantly darker skin than most of his classmates. Lara, from Class 2-D gets away with it due to being explicitly stated to be Mexican, though somehow she has a Russian accent in the English dub.
  • Psy from Heroman, who might be either Mexican or African-American.
  • Edrear from Bizenghast is Ambiguously Screentoned in the manga, but is given the same skintone as his siblings in official art.
  • Zafira and Cypha of the Lyrical Nanoha series. Then again, they're both Human Aliens.
  • Rita from Words Worth, who is one of the few dark skinned characters shown to be in the Light Tribe. In a world where human/horse hybrids, demons, animated skeletons, and cat-girls walk around, have sex, and in some cases even breed with "normal" looking humans, a darker shade of skin is barely even noticeable.
  • Endemic in Michiko to Hatchin, which is to be expected, considering the series takes place in a fictional version of Southern America.
  • In Eureka Seven, we have Matthieu, Hilda and Gidget. Their skin colors are actually slightly different shades.
  • Seychelles from Axis Powers Hetalia. While we know she's, well, Seychelloise, the diverse population of the country along with her straight dark hair and light brown skin, if she's not just But Not Too Black, she's this.
  • Anime (and anime-based game) only Lucy Liberty of F-Zero Falcon Densetsu/GP Legend is this. She shares roughly the same skin color that Kate Alen has (who is black in the core games) in the series, but her hair color is a fairly pinkish shade of red.
  • In Gurren Lagann, Lord Genome is noticeably more olive-toned than other human characters. His facial features and clothes suggest he's Middle Eastern, although this may just be the result of his Non-Standard Character Design, and when he was a child he looked exactly like his daughter Nia. There's also one recurring background member of Team Dai-Gurren (the wiki calls him "Old Coco") who is like this, although his skin tone is closer to a black person's than Lord Genome's is.
  • In Virgin Love, Daigo's mother is Japanese and his father is American. Though his father's ethnicity is never specified, both he and Daigo are ambiguously brown.
  • Used deliberately in Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water to underscore Nadia's mysterious origins. Nadia's brown skin, straight hair, green eyes, and "stateless" anime heroine looks all stand in marked contrast to the rest of the Nautilus' multinational crew, who all have recognizably European, African, Indian or Asian features.
  • Claire Forrest from Red Garden is definitely one. Her race is really unclear, mostly because both she and her brother have darker skin tones, while her father doesn't. Also, her brother incidentally has blonde cornrows. Most fans assume that she is potentially bi-racial, as she's had that color since she was a child. To add to the debate, in a later episode Claire seems to get noticeably more upset and hesitant when she sees a picture of the caucasian man they have to kill standing next to his black wife although the reason could have more to do with her parents' past relationship than their races.
  • Rose in the 2003 anime version of Fullmetal Alchemist. She's the Token Minority, but her skin tone isn't the same as the manga and Brotherhood, and Noa, her counterpart in The Movie, is Romani. There are also several characters who are Ambiguously Asian in the manga, and Paninya counts as Ambiguously Brown. There's also Jerso, who happens to be a toad chimera and clearly black, and great variety in the skin tones of background characters.
  • So many characters in Cowboy Bebop, that it almost qualifies as the show's artistic hook.
  • A significant number of people in the Trigun manga, which (brownness and its ambiguity) makes sense given the setting, though Nightow switches to greyscale skintones for dramatic effect so often it's hard to tell what's significant.
  • Kenta Nakamura from Initial D is fairly dark-skinned in the manga, anime, and video games. Nobody finds anything unusual about this, and his ethnicity isn't addressed even once.
  • Aomine Daiki of Kuroko no Basuke. He's dark enough it can't just be explained away with him exercising outside a lot. Especially when he combines it with blue hair.


  • Comedian Russell Peters once commented that we live in a multicultural society and that in a matter of time, there will be no black, white, or yellow people, but that everyone's going to be beige.

Comic Books

  • Western artist Kevin J. Taylor also loves this trope as colorized or not, there are only two racially distinct characters, Blue (White) and Jesse James (Black with tan-tipped dreadlocks.) His main character, Girl/Jaliera Dane, originally looked Pacific Islander, then possibly Mexican, then almost the complexion of DCAU Lex Luthor during a cameo, and finally temporarily Indian for a special based on the Kama Sutra. Girl's friend, Jill is even more ambiguous as she's got green eyes, apparently natural orange-caramel skin, matching straight hair and while narrating her story, mentions the races of the men she's with without identifying herself with one or the other. Lastly, Marty (a girl) is similar to Storm with shorter, but still white hair.
  • Generation X and X Factor member Monet is the daughter of a dark-skinned French father and mother of Algerian citizenship and indeterminate ethnicity. She is always depicted as brown-skinned, with the precise hue varying [dead link] from [dead link] issue to issue. Whenever it gets too light, there's an outcry that Marvel is trying to make her "less black" for nefarious purposes, and when it gets too dark, there are cries that she was never black in the first place, but it was never stated that she is or isn't. She and her siblings (who are more consistently dark-skinned, the few times we see Emplate's human form) are most likely mixed, though colorists should settle on a tone and stick to it.
    • Obvious Fridge Logic answer: Her healing factor causes her to both tan rapidly, and lose that tan when it's no longer needed.
  • Sistah Spooky from Empowered. She's probably supposed to be black, but it's hard to tell with the art style. Though given her backstory it makes sense that she'd try to downplay her ethnicity.
  • British girls' comic Nikki had a strip called The Comp about a Good Old British Comp, which featured a vaguely Asian-looking character named Aisha, whose ethnic background was never elaborated upon. The trope was abandoned when the strip moved to Bunty, who re-named the character Kiko and made her Japanese.
  • DC Comics's time-travelling hero Walker Gabriel, aka Chronos (not be confused with the villain of the same name) was adopted as a baby, and never knew his parents or his ethnic background, though he clearly wasn't white. He eventually met his father, who was Chinese, and learned that thanks to said father being a time traveller, his mother was an ancient Mayan.
  • Inverted by Eric Henderson of Quantum and Woody. Though his father was black and his mother was white, he is drawn with unambiguously African-American traits (most notably his hair, nose, and skin tone).
  • Connor Hawke, the second Green Arrow, is half white (Ollie's genetics), a quarter African-American, and a quarter Korean. He has his dad's blonde hair and green eyes, but anything else is Depending on the Artist.
  • Storm of the X-Men is from Africa, but has light brown skin, white hair, blue eyes and ambiguous facial features. In the movies, she is played by the also ambiguous-looking Halle Berry.
  • Voodoo from the Wildstorm universe, even though she's technically half-alien. After the character was relaunched in the DC Universe, it was finally established that she was supposed to be half-African American and half-white.


  • Because of her comparatively dark coloration, this has one of several (ponies are quite abstract, after all) default looks for the fan-human version of the Human!Twilight Sparkle. Many artists indeed choose it for simple variety or for the color combination (versus, say, a canonical Zebra character intended to literally be African)

Film -- Animated

  • Pocahontas was modeled after the voice actress, who is of Inuit and Métis descent, and Métis people are generally defined as having ancestors from several different places. People who don't know this occasionally accuse the movie of this trope.
  • Prince Naveen from The Princess and the Frog, who hails from the racially ambiguous country of Maldonia (and is descended from two separate royal lines). He has dark olive skin, curly hair, a Lantern Jaw of Justice, an Indian name, a Brazilian voice actor, and a Spanish/French/Middle Eastern accent.
  • Wybie was this for some viewers on the first viewing of the movie, especially if you don't know that his actor is black. He turns out to be African-American, as evidenced by his grandmother and a line from a deleted scene ("Your grandma's Black, right?"), but before The Reveal it can be hard to tell, and with blue-skinned Bobinsky setting a precedent, the average viewer doesn't expect the cast's features to be serious visual cues for ethnicity.
  • The Muses in Disney's Hercules. The context suggests that they are supposed to look like Greeks with a tan, but their musical numbers clearly evoke the image of black gospel singers.
  • Most non-Caucasian lead females (whether if they're Arab, Native American, Chinese, African-American, or even Polynesian) created by Disney often tend to have brown eyes, which is Truth in Television since it is the most common human eye color, but occasionally, a non-Caucasian female appearing in an animated Disney movie will actually have either green (if she's a Gypsy) or blue eyes (if she's an Atlantean) instead. As a result, Esmeralda from The Hunchback of Notre Dame has Green Eyes, and Kida from Atlantis: The Lost Empire has Blue Eyes.
    • Truth in Television: Dark skin and green eyes is actually a common appearance in the Roma people, or at least Spanish Gitanos.
    • Kida having blue eyes may be because she has white hair.

Film -- Live-Action

  • In Super Troopers, no one seems to know Arcot Ramathorn's ethnicity. People think he's either African-American, Mexican, or Arab-American. He is actually Indian-American.
  • Doctor Gonzo in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is either Samoan (what Thompson introduces him as) or Mexican (what everyone else mistakes him for). Justified in that he was based on a real Mexican-American attorney, who Thompson was using as a source for a story, and the whole point of going to Vegas was to keep quiet that he was talking to Thompson.
  • Paxton in the first Hostel film. Played by Mexican-American Jay Hernandez, the character's Ambiguously Brown status goes unremarked-on until he is about to be tortured to death (by someone who's paid a lot of money to torture and kill an American): "Look at me! I'm not a fucking American!" But then the torturer is shown Paxton's U.S. passport...
  • Two characters in Satan Claus, due to the extremely poor lighting, as one review pointed out (referring to them as "ambiguously ethnic").


  • Rue and Thresh in "The Hunger Games" are described as having dark brown skin and brown hair. However, since Panem is a dystopian future America, what all exactly is in their blood is up for grabs. On the other hand, Suzanne Collins has said that Rue is African-American, so take that as you will.
  • Lampshaded in American Gods. The undertakers Mr. Ibis (Thoth) and Mr. Jackal (Anubis) note that they can pass for "white" or "black" with their Egyptian looks. Shadow agrees that he's seen both "white" and "black" people who look like them.
    • For that matter, Shadow himself. He is mistaken for every ethnicity under the sun throughout the book, and always replies that he doesn't really know his ancestry.
    • You can narrow down that Shadow is some variety of Black on his mother's side from references to her having sickle cell anemia. By the end of the book we know that he is Scandinavian on his father's side.
  • In Diana Wynne Jones' The Lives of Christopher Chant, Tacroy/Mordecai Roberts is described as having very curly light brown hair and light brown skin. He is later revealed to come from a different world, and may not even really be human.
  • In Little Men by Louisa May Alcott, the character Dan is described with black eyes, black hair, and, at several points where his skin is mentioned, brown skin. But it's unclear as to whether this is racial, tanned, or just dirty. Everyone else in the book seems to be Caucasian (several are specifically blond Germans) except for a Black cook,[1] but Dan just seems like the odd boy out.
    • In Little Women, the last chapter makes mention of a "merry little quadroon", who might be Dan. Then again, considering said quadroon acts nothing like the taciturn Dan, Alcott may have had a different boy in mind (possibly Nat, due to the child's "sweetest voice of all"), or she might have radically changed his characterization between books.
  • Friday, the eponymous protagonist of the Robert A. Heinlein novel, is some shade of brown. Justified in that she's an Artificial Human, genetically engineered with genes from around the world. Her mentor even remarks that she couldn't be racist, as she'd be shooting herself in the foot.
  • In Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep, all humans living in the Beyond are said to descend from Nyjora, one of ancient Earth's colonies. They are all described as being black-haired and brown-skinned, but what cultural markers Nyjora has are Scandinavian. Pham Nuwen's red hair and slanted eyes engender much comment, as he's obviously a different race.
    • Given that the Vikings are known to have considered foreign women hot & would import exotic-looking women, nothing that a Scandinavian-derived gene pool might produce ought to surprise terribly. It's actually rather curious that they don't have more variety now.
  • Deconstructed in Hero by Perry Moore. Golden Boy is a speedster and sidekick to Silver Bullet (a Flash Expy); he grew up in an orphanage and he himself doesn't know what race he is. This has kept him from being adopted since "The blacks thought I was Hispanic, the Hispanics thought I was Arab, and the whites didn't want any questions." The patronizing nature of his codename isn't lost on him either, but Silver Bullet is the closest thing he has to a father, so he just goes with it.
  • Louis Wu, from Larry Niven's Known Space is described as having (when he's not using cosmetic drugs that change his skin, hair, and eye colors), "black hair, brown eyes with no discernable slant and yellow-brown skin". By the year 2850, Ambiguously Brown has become the dominant natural skin-tone on Earth due to the fusion of all of the ethnic races.
    • Two of Louis's parents (his genetic father, Carlos Wu, and his mother, Sharrol Janss) and his sister Tanya had similar coloration. Beowulf Schaeffer, his adoptive father (and the father of Louis' stepsister Jeena) was an albino. Jeena Wu had the same skin color as Louis, but was naturally blue-eyed and blonde-haired.
  • The Erdlings in the Green-Sky Trilogy are darker-skinned, darker-haired, and "sturdier" compared to their willowy, pale Kindar counterparts. This is explained somewhat by the fact the only places the Erdlings are able to gather food are places where the tree cover has been cleared away, exposing them to direct sunlight (and a tan) whereas the Kindar are almost always shaded by the leaves of their tree-cities.
  • Johnny in The Outsiders, despite being played by Italian-American Ralph Macchio in the movie, has a "dark tan" and is too dark-skinned to look okay with blond hair. Some fans of the book consider Johnny to be Native American.
  • Vlad Tepes' family in Count and Countess.
  • In Animorphs, Ax's human morph is described this way. He's a Mix-and-Match Man derived from the four human Animorphs: Jake and Rachel (white), Cassie (black) and Marco (half-white, half-Hispanic).
  • The Big Bad of The Stand, Randall Flagg, is able to mix with terrorists of every colour to further his agendas, from the Ku Klux Klan to the Symbionese Liberation Army ('no one disputed his claim to be a black man, although his skin was very light'). Given who he is, he could just be hypnotising people, but in any case his appearance is kept vague, and he really could be of any race.
  • The Kabra family in The 39 Clues is described as having dark skin. London's large population of Indian-Brits may make the skin color of Ian and Natalie, the children, less ambiguous, but that doesn't explain why their mother (whose maiden name was Vesper-Hollingsworth, which doesn't hint at anything) also has "coffee-colored" skin.

Live-Action TV

  • Teyla and Ronon in Stargate Atlantis. Well, okay, this doesn't quite apply to them considering they aren't from Earth and wouldn't have Earthen ethnicities anyway, but they are both dark-skinned while looking ethnically ambiguous (both actors are multiracial). Teyla complicates the issue further with the red hair.
  • Tyr Anasazi in Andromeda; since the Nietzscheans are genetically engineered, the implication probably is that his genes have been cherry-picked from the best all of humanity has to offer. Note, however, that "Anasazi" is the name of an ancient culture of the American Southwest.
    • He identifies only as a Nietzschean of Kodiak Pride, and with their cultural obsession with selective breeding that's probably as close as he comes to having a "race" at all.
  • Trauma hangs kind of a weird lampshade on this one in an episode concerning the ethnicity of Cliff Curtis' character, Rabbit.[2]

Marisa: My cousin saw you on the news and she thinks you're super hot. And Mexican.
Rabbit: Not Mexican.
Marisa: He's not Mexican. (On the phone) Ugh, don't make me ask him that. (Back to Rabbit.) OK, so what are you then?
Rabbit: I'm, uh, not going tonight.

In a later episode his father is also Ambiguously Brown while Rabbit as a child (flashback) looks more Ambiguously White. Go figure.
    • Cliff Curtis is famous for playing a wide range of ethnicities. He's been Maori (his actual ethnicity), Mexican (Training Day), Colombian (Blow), Iraqi (Three Kings), Cuban (Runaway Jury), Afro-Hispanic (Die Hard 4.0) and ambiguous (Sunshine), to name a few.
  • As an intentional casting effect Burn Notice has Sixth Ranger Jesse played by the bi-racial Coby Bell. This allows Jesse to use a claim to be any ethnicity for a cover ID. See here.
  • Leverage beat Burn Notice to the punch with Sophie Devereaux. Sophie in British, but as a con woman has convincingly portrayed multiple characters from around the world.
  • That '70s Show: Where was Fez from again?
  • Parodied on Seinfeld in the season 9 episode "The Wizard". Elaine has a new boyfriend who Jerry thinks is black, even though the actor playing him is pretty lightly-skinned (I always thought he looked like Jared from the Subway commercials). Elaine spends the episode trying to figure out his race and gets pretty conflicting answers, but concludes he is black when he says that they are an interracial couple. In the end of the episode when Elaine tells him she thinks he's black, the boyfriend reveals he thought Elaine was Hispanic. Realizing they're both a couple of white people and not an interracial couple, they decide to take a trip to The Gap.
  • Carmen Chao, a rival reporter to Avery in 30 Rock.

Jack: Carmen Chao is relentless, like a bloodhound. Perhaps literally. We still don't know her genetic background.

  • Lampshaded slightly in reference to Jai (played by Chicago native of Indian descent Sendhil Ramamurthy) on Covert Affairs: his father is white and his mother's ethnicity has not been elaborated upon, and Annie's sister calls him "the George Clooney of...wherever he's from!"
  • The Cosby Show had a whole episode revolving around this trope, wherein one of the kids got a new teacher who asked her pupils to guess her ethnicity. It was a mix of several: African-American, one specific European nation, and one specific Native American tribe. While she obviously had much fun with her own ambiguousness, Cliff also told a story about a boy he knew, who got upset with everyone wondering about his ethnicity, and one day decided just to answer every inquiring with: "I am an Arachne."
  • Rashida Jones is of black and Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, and her ambiguous appearance has been lampshaded of her character on both The Office and its "sister show" Parks and Recreation.
    • In The Office, Jones' character Karen Filippelli has an Italian last name (and admits to Italian ancestry), but the character also speaks some French and Chinese and it's also speculated whether she might have Filipino ancestry. At one point, Michael tactlessly tells her she looks very exotic and inquires whether her father was a G.I.
    • In Parks and Recreation, the season 4 finale has it commented of Jones' character Ann Perkins, "I’ve said this to you before and I know it makes you uncomfortable, but you’re thoughtful and you’re brilliant. And your ambiguous ethnic blend perfectly represents the dream of the American melting pot." There's also an earlier episode where Tom (Aziz Ansari) tries to set up a dirty joke by asking if Ann has any Indian in her.

Newspaper Comics

  • The Human Aliens of Mongo in Flash Gordon are normally depicted as having a yellowish complexion -— not just Ming, who's clearly meant to look Asian, but also his red-haired daughter Aura, and Prince Barin whose appearance is based on Robin Hood.
  • For Better or For Worse: Michael's best friend the one who comes out of the closet is implied/revealed to be the result of his mother's relationship with a dark-skinned man during an extended stay in a tropical location. At first he was colored white/pink, but when society began accepting mixed-race people he got a tan. Later ran into some Unfortunate Implications when a recolored strip has the now-dark-skinned friend urging Michael to shoplift a present for his (Michael's) mom.

Tabletop Games


  • In the American Girls Collection of dolls, none of the "tan" Just Like You dolls are given a specific race, and can generally be whatever the purchaser chooses. The tan dolls now actually have more facial diversity than the light ones. Sometimes this happens with the dolls that are given a specific race. For example, the face template used for the Girl of the Year doll Sonali, who is Indian, is not too different from the template for Addy, who is African-American.

Video Games

  • Dahlia from Pokémon Platinum, HeartGold, and SoulSilver. Pokémon Special's canon seems to be leaning toward some type of Latina, with her Gratuitous Spanish.
    • Iris of Pokémon Black and White might be black, Hispanic, or something else. She's from Unova, which is an Expy of the very diverse New York. Presumably, the same applies for Lenora and Marshal, who are both even darker-skinned than she is (with the latter also being a Dark-Skinned Blond for good measure).
    • Phoebe from Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire is Ambiguously Brown. Some think she's Hawaiian due to her clothing but others think she's a South East Asian.
    • Brock. In the games he doesn't show signs of this but in the anime he's darker. He could easily be Asian but many people see him as Ambiguously Brown.
  • Ashley Williams and Kaidan Alenko from Mass Effect, as well as a few other characters like Ambassador Udina. Ashley is indeed Hispanic, but there's no clue in the game itself, but Kaidan may (emphasis may) be Southeast Asian, as the game suggests he was one of the in utero babies exposed to an eezo spill in Singapore. He also has family in Vancouver, so "ambiguous" is definitely the right descriptive.
    • The novels establish that racial and ethnic divisions have largely dissapeared on Earth thanks to increased globalisation in the twenty-first and twenty-second centuries: Kahlee Sanders, one of the protagonists of the novels, is noted for being a natural blonde, an increased rarity. In the games themselves this isn't made clear at all, and in some cases is the exact opposite.
    • Captain Anderson also counts: he's at least part black African, and in the prequel novel Revelation, the narrator notes that he has traces of possible Native American and central European ancestry. For bonus points, it's established that despite being born and raised in London, Anderson has no British accent.
    • It's possible to make Commander Shepard into an example of this trope, as well, thanks to the way that the game handles character customization.
  • Dragon Age Origins is full of these. One of the default character models is of a somewhat tan person with brown eyes and dark red hair, and you see quite a lot of similar characters walking around various locations as extras. As for major characters, there's the rather Middle Eastern-looking Duncan and the (non-human) Dark-Skinned Blond Zevran, who speaks with a Spanish accent.
    • The sequel has Isabela, who, like Duncan, is of Rivaini ancestry and dark-skinned.
  • Jade from Beyond Good and Evil actually started a lot of Fan Wank a while back, because no two people could agree if she was black, white, Oriental, Asian, Hispanic, etc. Her pals Hahn and Double H are similarly ambiguously tan.
  • Final Fantasy VI:
    • General Leo is particularly ambiguous. Although his battle sprite has the same fair skin tone as most characters in the game, his portrait and conceptual art portray him with fairly dark skin, in addition to facial features one would expect of someone African or Middle Eastern in origin. (Though neither of those continents exist in this world.) His chibi makes him look like he might be Native American or African; but also carries some Unfortunate Implications.
  • Final Fantasy X:
    • Jecht. His son being blond, blue-eyed, but otherwise Asianesque doesn't help, although Tidus' hair is dyed (he has brown hair as a child in flashbacks).
    • Party member Wakka counts as well, though the Fandom is agreed that Wakka is Polynesian or the Spiran equivalent.
    • It helps to keep in mind that Tidus, Jecht, and Wakka are all blitzball players and it's safe to assume that they practiced out in the sun often. That could explain how they're a bit darker than some of the other characters. Many other blitzball players tend to be darker-skinned as well. Just look at the Besaid Aurochs, the very team Wakka's captain of, for a quick example.
  • While on the subject of Final Fantasy, Minwu from Final Fantasy II. Also the hero, Firion.
  • Oerba Yun Fang from Final Fantasy XIII. She's definitely darker than the rest of the party, apart from Sazh Katzroy. However, her sandals and makeup suggest an Egyptian influence while her sari denotes Indian, not to mention that Hollywood Cockney/Australian accent, and the 'Oerba' similar to Vanille shows that they are from the same village.
  • Not to mention the Costa Del Sol women in Final Fantasy VII. Are they supposed to be black? Hispanic? Really, really tan?
  • There has also been much debate in the Final Fantasy VII fandom about Rude's nationality. Depending on the lighting, he can appear as anything from a tanned white man to a pale Latino man to a light-skinned black man.
  • Fran - and all the viera - from Final Fantasy XII are debatable. They are all ambiguously brown, but also a race of playboy bunnies with white hair and red eyes, leading some fans to wonder whether they 'count' as black characters.
  • Alyx in Half-Life 2 is practically impossible to pin down at first. Shortly after meeting her, you learn that her father is black and a picture in his lab shows her mother to have be Asian (her name is "Azian"). Note that like most (all?) main characters, Alyx's face was modeled after a real person.
  • Chell of Portal has a tanned skin tone, dark hair and blue-gray eyes, and given that she never speaks no concrete word on her ethnicity is ever given. The person she was modeled after, Alesia Glidewell, is of Brazilian and Japanese descent. In Portal 2 she's gotten lighter (and noticeably younger) for some reason.
  • First-time players of The Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker often started out believing that Tetra must be a Gerudo with pointy ears, due to her being dark-skinned and a female pirate, and the Gerudo themselves have a distinctly Arab flavor. However, it's confirmed latter in the game that she's Hylian. She's the only character with Hylian ancestry in the game with dark skin like that, not even the other members of her crew or her own mother come close to match her tan. It might just be a tan...if she didn't seem to get a lighter skin tone when she is revealed to be Zelda. Likewise, Sheik's skin tone is somewhat tanned while Zelda is white, white, white. So...whenever Zelda needs a disguise, she turns brown?
    • In some scrapped concept art for the game, Tetra also had the distinct red eyes of a Sheikah, so her darker skin tone is probably a Call Back to Sheik. And speaking of Sheikah, Impa from Skyward Sword also counts as this trope.
  • Kingdom Hearts has Xemnas/Xehanort/"Ansem" (actually Xehanort's Heartless), all three being permutations of the same man, who is a White-Haired Pretty Boy with orange/brown/it varies eyes and dark skin. Xehanort himself is a result of Terra's body being stolen by the original Xehanort in Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep. Both the original Xehanort and Terra had brown skin (although Xehanort's was darker), and besides the fact that Terra was constantly tempted by darkness, he was a good guy at heart, negating the Unfortunate Implications of having the two dark skinned characters be associated with evil.
  • Kiesha Phillips of Backyard Sports. Unlike, say, Ernie, you cannot tell if Kiesha is African-American or not.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Devdan/Danved in FireEmblem 9 & 10 has been identified by some players as the first black character in the series. It's not clear that he was meant that way.
    • Fiona is sometimes considered black, too.
  • The SCV driver from StarCraft. It doesn't help that the picture's damn tiny, but he is kind of dark-ish looking. However, the campaign-only "Civilian" unit, who is completely white, and the SCV have Stop Poking Me lines which imply they're the same person, who gets drafted into the military as a worker.
  • Much like it has (very nearly) Purely Aesthetic Gender, The Sims series features Ambiguously Brown characters, although it also features Ambiguously White characters because there are no real-world ethnicities; everyone is Simlish. If you want to set up a character as from a real place, it's as simple as naming them right, but NPC names often do have mismatches between first and last name or between name and appearance.
  • In Ace Attorney, Godot and Juan Corrida were Ambiguously Brown in Japan, although they were made Hispanic in the American translation. The jury's still out on Damon Gant and Colias Palaeno, although given the former is an ardent swimmer and the latter is a different color from even his countrymen, they're probably just tanned.
    • Both Zak and Magnifi Gramarye as well. Made more ambiguous by the fact that Magnifi's daughter is clearly white, and his grandchildren (one of whom is Zak's child) are even whiter. Fans speculate that the Gramaryes are Roma.
  • Venom and Potemkin from Guilty Gear. Venom is British, but fans have theorized that he's of Egyptian descent, probably judging from the imagery involved in his character design and attacks. It's also worth noting that in the first game, Potemkin was a slave.
  • Harvest Moon:
    • Denny, from Harvest Moon: Island of Happiness. Is he black, or just tan from fishing so much? Who knows.
    • Harvest Moon 64 and its related games also have Kai, who practically defines this trope.
    • Kai's expy in Magical Melody, Dan, is similar. However he seems to be Indian from his voice and looks.
    • Selena from Tree of Tranquility and Animal Parade'. She's a belly dancer, her artwork is darker then the other character but her model isn't much darker then anyone else in the game, and her Japanese name (Sheila) isn't much help. Her child with Luke in the latter game also has a darker skin tone then the other children.
  • Hawke from Advance Wars 2 - His white hair certainly doesn't help.
  • Lapis, Pandra, and Medoute of Blaze Union.
  • While Yggdra Union's cast tends to have easy-to-identify "ethnicity", Ortega is a notable offender; it's hard to tell whether he's supposed to be black or Hispanic. For the English version, he is cast as an unflatteringly stereotypical Mexican, complete with a whiny voice that doesn't fit his Boisterous Bruiser personality and appearance.
  • Dudley from Street Fighter is English in nationality, but his racial makeup is far less distinct, as there is some debate over whether he is of Indian or African descent. It's Dudley's hair that throws people off. More than likely, Dudley is an African-British, as there are over 1 million Black people in the UK and many of the top Heavyweight boxers to come from the UK (David Haye and Lennox Lewis specifically) have been Black. In fact, the only British Heavyweight that wasn't Black to win the world title was Bob Fitzsimmons.
    • Elena, on the other hand, nicely averts the Trope, as her facial features are distinctly African despite having bleached white hair. Although it wasn't until Street Fighter III: Third Strike that her skintone matched those features.
    • C. Viper is considerably darker then a lot of characters, especially the girls from her game. It's been speculated that she's mixed-race or Latina.
  • Chordia from Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party has light brown skin; Gliss and Sharp are in the same range, but they look more obviously tanned. The game has much darker black characters too, so it's not just But Not Too Black.
  • Jade from Mortal Kombat. It seemed like she was black (dark skinned model/recolor), but in the film Mortal Kombat Annihilation, she was portrayed by a Russian woman. Now speculation ranges from black, to latina, to Filipino, the whole gamut. Tanya falls under this speculation too, under a lesser extent. She's generally speculated to be black.
    • To further add to the speculation, the original casting call for Mortal Kombat 9, asks for Jade to be voiced by an African-American or Middle Eastern woman.
    • There is also the widely overlooked example of Darrius from Deception. He's Seidan like Hotaru (who is clearly Caucasian) and Dairou (who looks more Eurasian, if not straight-up Japanese), yet is obviously Black. It's possible that Edenia, Seido, and the other realms independent of Earthrealm don't even have ethnic differentiation, though.
    • Judging by the wardrobe, Edenia seems vaguely Middle Eastern-inspired so calling Jade Black/Indian/Middle Eastern could all fit.
  • Escher from Chaos Rings. He has dark skin but blue or grey eyes and is a White-Haired Pretty Boy.
  • Nine Hours Nine Persons Nine Doors has Seven.
  • Carver/Hassan from Dragon Quest VI.
  • Ethian humans in Rift have prominent, high-bridged noses, almond eyes in a wide range of colors, skin tones that range from light olive to bitter-chocolate, and more reddish hair colors than anything else.
  • Christy Monteiro from the Tekken series has a pretty divided fanbase on what ethnicity she actually is (see the Brazil entry in Real Life below). When they were casting an actress for the live action movie, cue complaints about Christy being black, hispanic, Italian and even Asian. The character was modelled after Tyra Banks and has a grandfather with Asian features.
  • During the Nintendo64 era, Princess Daisy had a tan, even in her official artwork. She was like this even in her skin for Super Smash Bros. Melee, and her trophy. She went back to her original light tone later on though.
  • Little Mac in the remake of Punch-Out!!. In previous games he was either Asian or White depending on the game and artwork, but in the Wii game he has a noticeable tan.
  • The sorceress and the paladin in Diablo II.
  • Katawa Shoujo has two ambiguously brown characters in the classroom scene. Hilariously, when the characters are finally given small profiles (with names, clubs and disabilities), one of the brown girls (Molly) has her defining feature as being Indian rather then legless.
  • Since almost all the peoples of Golden Sun games are Fantasy Counterpart Cultures, this trope is mostly avoided. By learning what their home culture is based on, you can figure out anybody's race. The only known exception to date is Sheba, who is a foundling of unknown origin (widely speculated to be Anemos) raised in an Egypt-counterpart (so it might just be a tan).
  • Minecraft's default character skin Steve? is a light brownish, but the boxy, pixelated nature of the game's graphics make it impossible to deduct anything from his facial structure.
  • Desmond Miles' ethnicity isn't immediately apparant on looking at him, but this was intentional, allowing him to have Middle Eastern, Italian, and even Native American ancestors. For the record, Desmond's face model, Francisco Randez, has a Spanish background.
  • Orchid from Killer Instinct.
  • Raven from Tales of Vesperia has darker skin than the other party members, not to mention, many other people on Terca Lumeris. It's never really established why though.


Gary: Oh hey, you're Asian.
Paul: So?
Gary: Can you guess what ethnicity I am? Nobody ever can.
Paul: Brown... ish?

To add to the absurdity, the webcomic is in black and white. Gary is drawn white as milk; we can only tell he's non-Caucasian from context.
  • Tony from Real Life Comics is a webcomic example, though a nigh-indistinguishable one. This at least has the reasoning that nobody knows what the real Tony is, either.
  • Questionable Content falls into this partly because the art style makes everyone look Caucasian-ish and partly because its darker-skinned characters are generally no darker than the image that used to be up there. Some characters have non-Western names, like Amir, but they still look just sort of generically brown. Word of God states that one character, Dale, is African-American.
    • A later introduced character is Padma. Her appearance (dark skin, straight hair), combined with her name might strongly suggest an Indian descent.
    • Someone asked the creator what race Tai was, to which he responded, "Tan."
  • Maree-Celee from The Princess 99 has dark red hair, red eyes, and brown skin but then it's later revealed that her father Docteur Haypenny has pale skin, red eyes, and Skunk Stripe hair to add to the confusion. Admittedly, Skye has dark skin and multicolored hair but this is made moot with the fact that she's an alien. The entire novel tends to fall into this Trope when you consider that the setting is based of 1920s New Orleans but isn't set on Earth.
  • Order of the Stick has the medium-brown Durkon and Sabine, in contrast to the obviously black Roy. It's not set on Earth and neither of them are human (they're a dwarf and a succubus who usually takes human form), so perhaps they're not supposed to correspond to any particular real-world ethnic groups. It's not as if the art style lends any clues, either. (Although Sabine does have curly hair, so maybe she's meant to look like a lighter-skinned variety of black than Roy.) For her especially, it may just be a mismatch of whatever Nale thinks is hot.
    • Sabine is also an interesting case in that, even though she's a shapeshifter, all of the forms she has taken have kept the same skin tone.
  • Tajel in PHD Comics fell into this trope for a long time, but the series of strips surrounding her wedding introduced her parents: an English father and an Indian mother.
  • The Ciem Webcomic Series' Candi Levens is stated in supplemental materials to be part-Indian, part-Mulatto. Her grandfather Dwayne, however, is a rapist descended from a long line of Scary Black Men, from which her mother Shalia (and herself and sisters by extension) developed their (initially) insatiable sexual appetites. Outside of this role, Candi's ethnicity is kept mostly ambiguous and is moreover mostly ignored. The only discrimination she ever seems to face (outside of being a Flippo child) seems to instead center around others' speculations about her lifestyle, with their perceptions fraught with errors.
  • Hanna Is Not a Boy's Name:
    • In a variation on this Trope, {...} is ambiguously Asianish. He has almond-shaped eyes, black hair, high cheekbones, a nose that looks a little Asian if you want it to, and a sentimental attachment to paper cranes for reasons not even he knows. He's also, at present, green. If he is Asian, he'd be an Inscrutable Oriental too...
    • There's also Casimiro, who definitely fits. He is noticeably brown, which is weird for a vampire since all the other specimens thus far have been portrayed as pale white. Word of God has Cas claiming that he was just sporting a "nice tan" before he died. Considering his Italian origins, this seems to make sense.
  • A number of Templar, Arizona characters are described by the comic's creator as "Templar brownish", that being the default ethnicity of characters whose race hasn't been pinned down specifically. Because, in her words, "It's dumb to care, if it's not going to be an element of the story."
  • In El Goonish Shive, Grace has darker skin than any of the main cast, but her human ethnicity (and her "father's") has yet to be officially determined.
    • Sensei Greg, on the other hand, is almost universally agreed by the Fandom to be African-American and a throwback to the 70s, even though he's only as stereotypically black as Justin is stereotypically gay.
  • The two title characters of Gastrophobia. Their skin is a very dark brown, and their hair and facial features would both suggest that they're black, but they're from Ancient Greece. Who knows?
  • In the now-defunct Life of Riley, Cowkitty is an interesting case, as it's not clear if she has dark skin or simply light brown fur.
  • "Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal" has plenty examples of this trope. What's funny about this is that there are rarely straight dark characters (think Samuel L. Jackson), but there's an ambiguously brown person or two in nearly every comic.
  • Harold, the main character in My Roommate Is an Elf has brown skin.
  • Petunia's entire family in Todd Allison and The Petunia Violet presently falls under this trope, as well as Meredith. Later chapters may change this, however.

Web Original

J: He's a walking rainbow of racism and the main reason he gets away with it is because nobody knows what he is.

  • Julian Avery of Survival of the Fittest, at least in his artwork, is coloured a vagueish brown colour that's not quite black. Justified somewhat in that his profile describes him as being half African American.
  • Todd in the Shadows, when not sitting in the dark, keeps half of his face covered at all times. From what we can see, his skin is fairly dark, but his exact race (black? Asian? Hispanic?) is something of a Running Gag.
    • In Suburban Knights you can see that the skin of his face is dark, but the skin of his torso is white.
  • In The Nostalgia Chick's review of Pocahontas (see above) she notes that the title character doesn't look particularly Native American, but more like "an a-ethnic mush of unparalleled hotness."
    • She also uses that word to describe Tommy Wiseau. He's clearly white, but that accent makes figuring out his exact ethnicity...difficult.
  • Sasha from Gaia Online was originally an Islander, wearing a sarong, a lei, and a hibiscus in her hair, but then her Valley Girl tendencies took over, and after her makeover her Islander traits are absent, leaving her Ambiguously Brown. She's also been drawn in some non-canon work as a gyaru (the Japanese take on Valley Girl culture), further confusing the issue.

Western Animation

  • Alex from Totally Spies!
  • An interesting example is Gaia from Captain Planet and the Planeteers. Justified in the fact that Gaia is supposed to be the spirit of the earth, and was drawn to embody the four most common ethnicities: dark skin, long, wavy dark hair most common amongst Latin Americans, high cheekbones common in Asians, and blue eyes most prevalent in Caucasians.
  • Piper from Storm Hawks
  • Word Girl gets double points for being a generically-brown girl adopted by a different-color-of generically-brown (a redder shade) family, nothing about whom seems ethnic in any specific way (last name being Botsford), and possibly another half-point for actually being a Human Alien foundling.
  • Doug. Many characters seem to have brown skin color, but it's never known if that springs out of a real ethnicity when most are far weirder colors.
  • Kim Possible:
    • Bonnie Rockwaller, though it's implied she's just a white tanning addict based on her vanity and her family members.
    • The Seniors (Sr. and Jr.) are dark and have Spanish accents, but are only stated to be from "Europe". Junior is canonically a tanning addict; in his first scene he's under a tanning lamp the size of a hot air balloon.
  • A lot of characters are like this in X-Men: Evolution.
    • That incarnation of Amanda Sefton is brown-skinned, and her also-brown family. Her father appears to be of African decent while her mother looks ... I don't know, Ambiguously Olive? A browner shade of green maybe? Your guess is as good as mine.. In the comics she's blond, and her mother is a Roma.
    • Heck, even Wolverine's clone is like this, despite Wolverine himself being clearly Caucasian.
  • Good luck telling what most of the many race lifted characters in The Spectacular Spider-Man are supposed to be (except for Ned Lee and Kenny Kong, who are clearly Asian). Race lifted Liz Allan is at least part Latina, though her exact background is somewhat complicated (to explain why she has a typically British last name despite her ethnicity and slight Puerto Rican accent). Word of God says that Liz is half-Puerto Rican (and half white?) For another example, the Warren brothers are supposed to be Indian.
  • Melissa (and her dad Eric) and, oddly, Josie, from Home Movies. Probably justified in Josie's case because she is adopted.
  • Lex Luthor in Superman: The Animated Series. He is slightly darker than many other characters, but he has fuller lips, a more prominent brow, and a voice that to many sounded like it had African-American accent (his voice actor, Clancy Brown, is white). He was supposed to look like Telly Savalas, a Greek-American actor. In Justice League, he was given a lighter skin tone to rectify the confusion, which led some viewers to think he'd been given a Race Lift.
  • The same goes for Batman the Animated Series' version of Two-Face, who looks very much like a black man. Apparently, he was supposed to be Italian-American and appears to be based on actor Humphrey Bogart.
  • Parodied in an episode of Family Guy. A Cutaway Gag of a trailer for a movie starring Stewie and the Rock is derailed when the narrator starts questioning the Rock's race.
    • Also 'The Hot Chick Who Was Italian or Maybe Some Kind of Spanish'.
  • Many, many characters in The Pirates of Dark Water. Doesn't help that there's a smattering of Dark Skinned Blonds. Justified, since after all, Mer is an alien planet with its own ethnicies. Ioz is human, and his skin is gray. Bloth is sort of a disgusting pale green. And Ren himself doesn't look so much tanned as orange.
  • Athena in the latest Dennis & Gnasher animated series. It's not made clear whether she's half black or heavily tanned. All we know about her ethnicity is her father is white.
  • In Gargoyles:
    • When the main characters are temporarily turned into humans, Goliath becomes Ambiguously Brown. This is because the gargoyles' human forms were designed to resemble their voice actors, but it wouldn't have made sense to make Goliath African-American like Keith David, since the rest of his clan were caucasian.
    • Also, Xanatos himself is darker than most of the other caucasian characters, though he's confirmed as being ethnically Greek.
    • Also Eliza comes off as this before her family is explored. (Her father is Native American, her mother is black.)
  • Winx Club's Nabu looks like he could be black, white with a tan, or Hispanic. Similar to The Princess and the Frog, this may have been done to avoid controversy since he'd be marrying Princess Layla, the token dark-skinned fairy.
  • Henry from KaBlam!. He's tan...ish, with green hair.
  • The Rocket siblings from Rocket Power. Their skin tone is on a similar level as their tan Hispanic friends, and it doesn't appear to be a suntan, but their dad is white. It is suggested that their late mother was of Hawaiian descent; in The Movie their dad even got remarried to an old flame from Hawaii who was her best friend.
  • The Water Tribes from Avatar: The Last Airbender. Are they Inuit? Pacific islander? Native American? Aborigine? After one of the most common traits of all of them are round blue eyes.Then again, seeing as it's a fantasy world perhaps it's best not to overthink it...
    • Most the people from the other nations can end up looking like this in-universe, such as Piandao and some of the Earth Kingdom extras. While the Royal Family of the Fire Nation tend towards Eyes of Gold and dark hair, other Fire Nation characters like Ty Lee can have lighter colored hair and brown or even grey eyes, which has led to a fair amount of Wild Mass Guessing considering that grey eyes are associated with the Airbenders.
  • Quite a few characters on Total Drama, though Word of God has cleared up some of the confusion: Courtney is Hispanic, Noah is Indian, Justin is native Hawaiian and Katie is Caucasian (with a tan). Sierra remains unidentified, although it's been stated that she has German family members.
    • Mostly averted with the new cast, where the ethnicities of the various minority characters are pretty obvious - With the exception of Mike.
  • Ursula of George of the Jungle has brownish skin and greenish eyes.
  • John Blackstar was originally going to be black, but the network chickened out and wouldn't let Filmation make a cartoon with a black hero. So John ended up just sort of brownish with straight hair. Fanon holds that he's Native American.
  • Sari and her adoptive father from Transformers Animated, though they're probably Indian.
  • Billy Jukes from Peter Pan and The Pirates. The taller twin from the Lost boys as well.
  • Kiva Andrews from Megas XLR, who doubles as Dark-Skinned Redhead.
  • Molly from Bubble Guppies.
  • The time-traveling immigrants from the future in South Park.
  • Johnny and Rolf from Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy, though Johnny might be black.
  • Jasper the elf from Pearlie.
  • Lisa's rarely seen anymore friend Janey on The Simpsons.
  • Bliss, the "fourth" Powerpuff Girl from the TV movie The Powerpuff Girls the Power of Four. It's never explicitly stated that she's black or Hispanic, but her skin tone - darker than the three "regular" heroines' - was clearly noticed by fans.

Real Life

  • Very much in America where immigrants from all around the world come together in a "Melting Pot" so unless someone tells you where their ancestors came from, it's usually inaccurate to just guess.
  • In Brazil you really can't tell a person's ancestry by the look. Genetic studies has shown that some people who considered themselves black and looked very African were genetically 70% European, while others were very European looking but had 30% or more of African or Native ancestry. Actually, it's not only impossible to tell one's ancestry by the looks, but also it's considered a bit rude applying racial definitions to other persons, except when they're overwhelmingly black or white. No contest, Pele is Black, Gisele Bundchen is white, but Ronaldo is whatever he says. Some mixed or just dark-skinned people consider themselves white, some black, others just brown - but it's a private matter.
    • Same in Venezuela. Some years ago, some scientist made a lot of DNA test and discovered that 98% of the population was mixed, and that only very small percentages were pure race. This means that there are a lot of light-skinned direct descendants of seemingly black people, with siblings who look like asians and kids that appear to be Norwegian.
    • It's a little bit the same in most South America really, even in countries that supposedly are of white majority, like Argentina. That's because the Conquista included a lot of ethnic mixing, sometimes not the "funny" type, and then immigration from all over came, and with it, more mixing.
  • Like America, Israel is home to Jews from all over the world (Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, the Americas, Ethiopia, India, etc.), and intermarriage between communities is becoming increasingly common.
  • Oh, boy. The Philippines. This one blows both America, Israel and a lot of all the other Real Life examples out of the water. The Filipihos are known for intermarrying with various other ethnicities/nationalities, namely (but not limited to): American, Japanese, Spanish—the first three being colonizers, and there are also the Arabs, Chinese, other Malays, the list goes on and on...
    • The Philippine national hero Jose Rizal is reported to have over six different ethnicities (specifically, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, and three different flavors of Filipino) -- rumors of fathering children on his studies abroad notwithstanding.
  • In Cape Verde in Africa, which was a former Portuguese colony you get many people with blonde hair and dark skin. or lighter skin, blue eyes.
  • In the Middle East it is also not easy to tell as you can get blonde Iranians, very dark Indians or very light Indians. Makes sense since all those areas were at one point invaded by tribes from the Asian Steppes who had members from all over the continent, including members from Europe to China. Genghis Khan was said to have red hair and green eyes, and tombs of tribe leaders have revealed that one leader had a queen who could pass for a Swede.
  • A pre-fame Vin Diesel (who's half-African-American and half-Italian) made a short film called Multi-Facial about being an ambiguously brown actor.
  • Dwayne Johnson's ethnicity is not immediately apparent.
  • Mr. Clean, the mascot used by the Procter & Gamble line of cleaning products of the same name, is ambiguously brown. He appears to be too dark to be plainly white, but his white hair would be unusual for even a light-skinned black person. The earring in his ear has lead some to speculate that he is Arabian.
  • Many immediately bi-racial or multi-racial people are seen in this fashion. This is due to things such as combinations of recessive genes, leading to green eyes and brown skin or other variations of unusual combinations. Also many multi-racial people take it into offence when they are immediately labelled as a certain race, due to the fact that to some of them this means discounting their other races. This means that unless they are referred to as multi-racial or by each individual race they may be, they are a literal version of being ambiguously brown.
  • At the start of one of his shows, Indian-Canadian Russell Peters said "That's right, I'm Indian folks. I don't want you sitting there trying to figure it out."
  1. and, given some hints in the narrative, possibly another Black character in the background
  2. Curtis himself is Maori.