Beneath the Mask
Virtually everyone has to wear a public mask in order to be accepted by others. That's a simple fact of human psychology. When circumstances (such as anonymity, strong emotion, or sufficient power) allow a character to take off that mask and act in complete accord with their inclinations, they reveal what's Beneath the Mask.
The secrets this mask hides are varied and are not always dark. A villain, for example, might be hiding a soft spot.
Sometimes a person may never know they had a hidden self before the mask comes off. The change is even a surprise to them. Other times the person is well aware of their hidden self and are determined to keep it hidden. This hidden self that people don't show to others is what Beneath the Mask is about.
This hidden self is sometimes portrayed as "the real self". Occasionally the person actually wants someone to see their hidden side (the "real me") but for some reason can never get people to see it. More complex works might argue that the hidden self is just a part of the real self, and that the public self is also part of the real self.
Related to GIFT and What You Are in the Dark. Often used in conjunction with Jerk with a Heart of Gold, Jerkass Facade, Bitch in Sheep's Clothing, Sugar and Ice Personality, and The Proud Elite. Obfuscating Stupidity and Obfuscating Insanity can be subtropes, as can A Darker Me. Not to be confused with Hidden Depths or Rich Idiot With No Day Job, which are about skills and roles rather than personality. Compare and contrast Becoming the Mask, where the facade itself actually becomes part of the character's personality.
- Magical Project S: Misao Amano's normal self is that of a stereotypical Shrinking Violet friendless, blue-haired Ill Girl. However, this persona falls away when she's transformed into Pixy Misa, the manifestation of her deeply repressed id: an egomaniacal Chaotic Evil jealous Dark Magical Girl trickster.
- Death Note: an Alternate Character Interpretation for Light Yagami. The Death Note only showed his true colors. And conversely, even in full-blown Kira mode, he still realizes that he cares a lot for his little sister.
- Sakura from Naruto is a perfect example: her inner side shows us what she actually thinks about something but is not willing to say or do. Although Inner Sakura hasn't been seen since the timeskip, and Sakura is now more willing to say what's really on her mind. A bit of a cross between Becoming the Mask and Character Development.
- One theory is that Sakura broke out of her Stepford Smiler attitude and embraced "Inner Sakura" after it helped her break out of Ino's body switch jutsu during the Chuunin Exam.
- Meditating at the Waterfall of Truth reveals the depths beneath Naruto's own Stepford Smiler habit. He had truly hated and despised the villagers who treated him poorly, but he buried those feelings deep down. Due to the Kyuubi's presence, they coalesced to form a split personality who would feel all the negative emotions Naruto refused.
- This aspect of Naruto was hinted at early on when Karin encountered him and got a feel of his chakra. To her surprise, his chakra had three layers: a) Bright, Warm, and Comforting; b) Dark, Cold and Overwhelming; c) Corrosive, Chaotic and Sinister. The last one is from Kyuubi's; the first two polar opposites were Naruto's.
- Code Geass plays with this trope. Lelouch Lamperouge is a Brilliant but Lazy highschool student living in Area 11, a Britannia-occupied territory formerly known as Japan. When we first see him, he's skipping class in order to do some high-stakes gambling. He seems to regard everything with indifference or disdain, and as we get to know him, it becomes clear that he has a strong sense of justice but has come to accept that there's nothing he can do to fix his government's deep-seated corruption and institutionalized racism. Then he gets superpowers. He maintains his Rich Idiot With No Day Job facade to avoid suspicion, but secretly becomes Zero, a masked freedom fighter dedicated to dismantling the most powerful government in the world. The series heavily contemplates identity and character, and repeatedly addresses the irony that Lelouch needs to put on a literal mask in order to take off his metaphorical one.
- It should also be mentioned that in his conversations with CC Lelouch strongly implies that he was planing to overthrow Britannia since he was a child, gaining the Geass simply meant that he could start much earlier and move much quicker than he otherwise would have been able to. As such one can say that his hidden personality was already simmering in the depths of his lazy life before the story kicks in.
- His father's ultimate plan? To remove all "masks" via an Assimilation Plot.
- The manga version of Neon Genesis Evangelion pulled off a Type C with Asuka: she acted like the stereotypical good girl around Misato and Kaji while being a total jerk to everyone else. Once Misato revealed that she knows Asuka's true personality and she doesn't have to hide it, Asuka became a full-blown Tsundere with an extra helping of Hair-Trigger Temper.
- Essentially everyone in Princess Tutu, but particularly:
- Fakir, initially portrayed as a selfish, manipulative Jerkass, accidentally reveals himself to be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold when Ahiru is briefly stuck as a duck and he falls under the influence of Cuteness Proximity.
- Kraehe is initially portrayed as doing things just For the Evulz, but by the end, it's revealed that she only wanted to be loved.
- Beet the Vandel Buster has Grineed, who actually wears a literal mask (more like an extra outer skin) to keep himself calm and composed, instead of the raging beast that is underneath. Needless to say, Beet and the squad bust it out of him pretty quick.
- In Kare Kano, Arima is insanely scared of what's beneath his.
- Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl has the protagonist who gradually feels more and more free to act more feminine.
- Seems to be a theme in Durarara!!, where pretty much everyone involved, up to and including the district of Ikebukero, has a hidden second side beneath the personalities they show to the world.
- Kurei from Flame of Recca personifies this trope, he even wears a mask! He may seem like one of the most cruel, heartless and sadistic characters in the series, but most of his actions are driven by his love for people he cares about.
- Higurashi no Naku Koro ni sort of plays around with this, where in first and last arc of the anime's first season the characters discuss social masks and not speaking about things they don't want to speak about, such as in the first arc, both Keiichi's and Rena's hiding their respective Dark and Troubled Pasts, and in the last arc, Keiichi hiding that he killed Rena and Mion in the first arc.
- However, it's played more straight with Rika in the second season, where although everyone knows about her place in the Furude family, she acts like a child usually would at her age. At least, the age everyone thinks she is. However, when she's seen alone with Hanyuu, she acts much more like a stoic, or even a Determined Defeatist.
- Barnaby Brooks Jr. from Tiger and Bunny has two masks superimposed on one another. The first is the guise of a charming, skilled ace that hides a rude, untrusting Ice King beneath it. The rude, untrusting Ice King mask in turn hides a traumatized, lonely man who doesn't know what to do with his life beyond getting revenge on the organization that assassinated his family.
- The second cour, as well as Word of God, proves that Kotetsu also wears a mask. Thanks to an almost pathological fear of sharing his burdens with others and a reluctance to make himself vulnerable, quite a bit of his doofy, Idiot Hero behavior is something he exaggerates to lower peoples' opinions of him so they won't bother with (and therefore worry about) him.
- Ivan Karelin is another example. As the hero Origami Cyclone, he's loud, brash, and over-the-top. As Ivan, he's an awkward, insecure Shrinking Violet.
- Haruhi Suzumiya: Sometimes the only way to determine that Kyon has leaked a comment instead of internally snarking it is when another character responds to it. In addition the title character does not know that he's leading a conspiracy to keep her from her true abilities and so sees the silent snarking as silent support.
- Also, Itsuki Koizumi is implied to have much more going on under his always-smiling, friendly, easy-going exterior than meets the eye, especially in those few moments when he slips up and lets a little of his anger, stress, or loneliness show. Confirmed in Volume 11 when he goescompletely ballistic at Fujiwara for trying to kill Haruhi. Also, Haruhi takes him as her ever-loyal ally without realizing he is The Chessmaster behind much of what goes on.
- In Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, Fai's personality change following the events of Acid Tokyo is a powerful example of this trope.
- Several characters in Life are like this, typically to mask their Jerkass side.
- In Kimi no Iru Machi when Haruto first meets Eba Rin he wonders how such a level headed person could be related to Yuzuki, even if only as step-sisters. Eventually Rin gets tired enough of the mask that she completely discards it with Haruto, in fact she is more honest with herself around Haruto and eventually Yuzuki that she doesn't put it back on around them, leading her to change just a little bit.
- The way Black Butler is going, every single character is going to turn out to wear a mask or several. For example Ciel, being a Villain Protagonist Kuudere, has a cold, ruthless side masking a warm side, underneath which lies a deeply traumatized child side. Later on Ciel learns to adds the mask of a cheerful, social boy on top of everything, to be used when necessary. You can even say that Behind the Mask counts as a Central Theme.
- The Sentry, though he pretends to be a Lawful Good hero, has a dark side that manifests against his will.
- Jean Grey's Phoenix persona was retconned to be her actual innermost personality, not a separate entity. It is very different from her public persona.
- Black Adam of Captain Marvel was chosen as a champion of justice, but when he received superpowers he didn't react as his patrons expected him to.
- Inverted by Jack O'Lantern in Ultimate Spider-Woman: Change With The Light. Although he wears a public mask to be accepted by his fellow citizens, he also begins wearing a ghoulish pumpkin-headed costume and committing increasingly deadly crimes to reveal his true personality. He is well aware of the irony in wearing a mask to reveal his true face, but he considers himself superior to the pathetic, mindless sheep and cattle that make up most of the rest of society because he's willing to embrace just what he really is.
- In DC Nation, Fauna lampshades this when it comes to Nightwing. After seeing him as Dick Grayson, she wrote in her Character Blog that not many people put a mask on when they want to be themselves.
- Played straight in a Danny Phantom Fanfic called Masks. It is unusual in that Danny is actually wearing three masks to hide his true self. A surprisingly good read.
- In Bridesmaids Helen is the typical Alpha Bitch. At least that's what it appears on the surface. But when she breaks down crying, she reveals she's in a loveless marriage, and just gets invited to weddings because she's good at organizing events.
- Enter The Dragon: In reference to Han, the villain, whose martial-arts tournament is a front for a really nasty operation: "You must remember... the enemy has only images and illusions, behind which he hides his true motives. Destroy the image, and you will break the enemy."
- The basic premise of The Mask is that putting on the mask unleashes your Id, not only making you act like you've always wanted to, but do anything you want, cartoon physics and all.
"It's like it brings your innermost desires to life. If deep down you're a little repressed, and a hopeless romantic, you become some kind of love-crazy wild man."
- In Pirates of the Caribbean Tia Dalma initially helps and even cares for Jack Sparrow, but in the third movie it is revealed that she is actually Calypso, a sea goddess. When she regains her full powers she becomes a destructive force of nature who doesn't care much about the various factions' petty struggles.
- Shows up in An Education.
- Jackson Rippner eventually doesn't even bother holding up the mask.
- In the film version of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the darkness tempts the main characters, showing their hidden desires.
- The knights' elaborate, mask-like helmets in the John Boorman film, 'Excalibur,' show the real personae of the wearers.
- A major theme of Wild Things. Sam appears to be an honest, upstanding educator, but he's really a sleazy, exploitative pervert. Kelly appears to be an all-American teenage girl next door, but she's actually an angry, sexually confused cokehead who hates her family. Ray appears to be an honest if overzealous cop, but he's actually a Dirty Cop who enjoys prostitutes and is quite willing to murder anyone who pisses him off. Suzie appears to be a white-trash loser, but she's actually a brilliantly calculating Chessmaster who manipulates everyone else.
Lampshaded by Ray, although in reference to another character.
Ray: People aren't always what they appear to be, Jimmy. Don't forget that.
- In Twilight, Rosalie Cullen. Though she acts cold to Bella at first, it is revealed that she actually envies Bella and is sad on the inside because of her inability to get pregnant.
- In The Dresden Files, wizards have two major abilities related to this.
- A Soulgaze is a one time per person link. When initiated by the wizard staring into someone's eyes for a few seconds, each sees the other's True Self.
- The Sight shows the essence of how things are—magical workings and their aftereffects are visible, people's mental and emotional trauma and strengths, etc. Anything seen with the Sight is permanently etched into the wizard's brain.
- The entirety of the Ciaphas Cain novels is about a HERO OF THE IMPERIUM who secretly regards himself as a Dirty Coward whose every action was motivated by self-interest. Whether or not you believe that depends very much on how you interpret his true character.
- In Elias Canetti's book Crowds and Power, he speaks in detail about masks and hiding of a true-self in relation to power. For Canetti everyone wears a mask and for this reason a ruler is never able to truly trust in anyone, which is a cause of paranoia regardingbetrayal. For Canetti the "unmasking" is crucial in the movements of power.
- John Le Carre takes a very dark look at this in the Karla trilogy. The protagonist, George Smiley, appears to be a slightly myopic, helpless, and generally tragic old man who is genuinely sick of all the betrayals and lies that constitute his profession and that has wrecked his personal life. Only occasionally do we see why he's still in the Circus: he is brilliant and very, very good at what he does, i.e., the betrayals and lies that constitutes the intelligence life. His opponent, Karla, appears to be an iron-willed fanatic for whom taking advantage of the opposition's humanity is part of the job. It is not until Smiley's People that we see the crack in his mask: his love for his illegitimate daughter, Tatiana, who is driven insane by her inability to recognize the spymaster as her father. The ending of Smiley's People implies that beneath their masks, Smiley and Karla are Not So Different - a revelation that drives Smiley to retire for good.
- In Hugh Laurie's novel The Gun Seller, the protagonist notes that a certain revolutionary leader puts on a different mask for every member of the cell. To one true believer, he's a fiery and passionate Che type; to the Southern hick, he's a rock and roll adventurer; to another, he's a philosophical seeker after truth. His true self is only hinted at when he instinctively strikes a small child on an airplane.
- Patrick Bateman in Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho wears the mask of a sociable, high-flying yuppie to hide his murderous desires.
- In The Pale King, Meredith Rand is so gorgeous that no one realizes how many issues she's hiding. That is, until she starts talking...
- In Beachwalker, the titular character spends much of the book pretending to everyone, including herself, that she can handle everything. Underneath, it's starting to take its toll.
- Double Subverted in Deep Space Nine Soldiers of the Empire. Klingons underneath their swagger are lonely overworked soldiers grumbling about their lot just as much as human soldiers do. But when inspired they put on their mask again and go into battle as a true Proud Warrior Race.
- Major Zod in Smallville pretended to be an ally to Clark and a caring leader until he received his superpowers, revealing his hidden lust for power. "Better to rule in hell than to serve in heaven."
- Lana Lang once received Clark's superpowers, using them to try to kill Lex, steal his secrets, and discredit him in the media.
- There was an episode with a flower that made people act out their secret desires. There was also the red kryptonite for Clark.
- Niska in Firefly is fond of quoting the mad Chinese philosopher Shan Yu, who once said "Live with a man for fifty years, share meals, spend every waking hour with him. Then one day take him and dangle him over a volcano's edge, and on that day, you will finally meet the man."
- House certainly thinks that this is humanity's natural state, given his famous quote "...Everybody lies".
- This is a premise of the show too , as all the main cast including the patients are not always what they seem to be, in the case of the patients their lies often complicate the medical procedures of the team , while House himself dedicates his time to discover the secrets of his co-workers.
- Lizzie McGuire displays the title character's duality with an animated version of Lizzie saying whatever Lizzie is really thinking.
- The Doctor, in Doctor Who. Yes, he wears celery, offers people jelly babies, and has a fascination with Cool Hats; seems like another harmless eccentric fellow, right? Yeah - that "harmless eccentric fellow" can quite literally tear the heavens asunder and reshape reality if he really feels like it. Still want to piss him off?
- In iCarly, Nevel is a polite, nice kid when within his mom's vicinity, but is a complete Jerkass outside of it.
- Pretty much the entire basis of Hannah Montana.
- Odyssey 5 has Kurt occasionally show a much kinder side than his usual persona.
- Effectively everyone of any importance on Babylon 5, as summed up by G'Kar's word of warning to Catharine Sakai: "No one here is exactly what he appears. Not Mollari, not Delenn, not Sinclair... and not me."
- In Deep Space Nine: Soldiers of the Empire we go aboard a Klingon ship for a routine patrol and see that beneath their boasting they are grumbling soldiers Not So Different from humans. When they are finally rallied they put their mask back on. Which come to think of it is also Not So Different from humans.
- Lady Gaga's song "Poker Face" is about this; the title refers to how it's customary to mask emotions as much as possible when playing poker to avoid giving anything away.
- Electric Six has stated that they play disco dance music because it's "exactly what we are not."
- Pink Floyd sang of this trope in their song In the Flesh: "So ya, thought ya might like to go to the show/To feel the warm thrill of confusion--that space cadet glow/Tell me, is something eluding you, sunshine? Is this not what you expected to see?/If you wanna find out what's behind these cold eyes, you'll just have to claw your way through this disguise!"
- Britney Spears's "If U Seek Amy" video shows off how conflicting public and private selves can lead to confusion in the media. How certain people put on an act to maintain a fanbase or a group of supporters.
- The song "True Colors" from Cyndi Lauper. Makes a mention to this trope.
- The song "Mr Roboto" by Styx uses this trope. "I am the Modren man/Who hides behind a mask/So no one else can see/My true identity."
- Billy Joel's "The Stranger" is about what a person is beneath the mask. "We all have a face, that we hide away forever / And we take them out and show ourselves when everyone has gone..."
- He gets pretty cynical about it. The song is about how no matter how close you are to a lover, there are some secrets you never tell, and you shouldn't be surprised if they're hiding their nature from you - because you're doing the same to them.
- Adding the qualifier: "We may never understand how the Stranger is inspired / But he is not always evil, and he is not always wrong."
- The Beatles' "I'm a Loser" : "Although I laugh and I act like a clown / Beneath this mask I am wearing a frown"
- Explored deeply in Jekyll and Hyde, most notably with the song Facade and its numerous reprises.
There's a face that we wear in the cold light of day/ It's society's mask, it's societies way/ And the truth is... That it's all a facade.
- Fiyero in Wicked pretends to be a carefree, "brainless" playboy, but there's more to him than meets the eye, as Elphaba reveals after they rescue the Lion cub. Cue the beginnings of Character Development.
Elphaba: You could have just walked away back there.
Elphaba: So no matter how shallow and self-absorbed you pretend to be--
Fiyero: Excuse me! There's no pretense here. I happen to be genuinely self-absorbed and deeply shallow.
Elphaba: No, you're not. Otherwise you wouldn't be so unhappy.
- A classic case is Squall from Final Fantasy VIII. On the outside: cold, cynical, mean, rude, and very much a Determinator. On the inside, he is collapsing: constantly questioning himself and why he continues to do what he does, and cripplingly insecure about how other people perceive him. He uses his anti-social exterior to hold others at arm's length rather than risk the pain of rejection or loss because such feelings devastate him.
- Zolku-Azolku, an NPC in Final Fantasy XI, discusses the concept:
We all wear masks because deep down inside we are nothing but beasts. The question I ask you is, to which do you submit--the mask, or the beast?
- In the Ace Attorney series, we have Dahlia Hawthorne. She seems so sweet and innocent. She even dated Phoenix in college. She actually has the most intended murder victims, at seven. One of which was Phoenix himself. She is a very nasty.
- In Halo 3 the normally calm Prophet of Truth shows his true colors as a mad alien willing to kill his fellow prophets and an entire race of aliens while trying to reach godhood. This is a result of Becoming the Mask; in Contact Harvest, Truth doesn't come off as particularly pious and initiates the human-Covenant war to conceal humanity's status as 'Reclaimers' and gain control of the Covenant. He's been lying for so long and with such conviction that by the time he dies, even he believes his lies.
- Both Guilty Spark and Medicant Bias hid their true intentions until their betrayals due to rampancy.
- Gravemind acts as a calm, pragmatic, smooth-talking individiual with a high love for poetry, but when Master Chief is penetrating the Flood's defences at High Charity, Gravemind slowly shows himself as the ragefilled, angry, ruthless, hot tempered, screaming, murderous monster he actually is.
- Modern Warfare 2: General Shepherd betrayed Task Force 141 and killed them, revealing himself to be a Well-Intentioned Extremist. Very hard for Price and Soap to bear, though not too hard to believe.
- The Karma Meter system in In Famous (and really, any Video Game that allows you to act like a complete asshole) is built around this trope, and deals with what you would do if you suddenly gained superpowers. Do you honestly care about rebuilding the city and protecting its inhabitants? Or are you really just a selfish Jerkass who only cares about having control over everyone else?
- This trope is a staple of the Persona series (including Persona 2 and Persona 3), right down to the title: it comes from the Latin word for "mask".
- Persona 4 in particular is all about what we have behind the mask and facing it.
- Zevran in Dragon Age: Origins appears to be a smartmouthed skirt-chaser, but closer inspection reveals a mess of homesickness and guilt.
- Isabela in Dragon Age 2 has got an honorable side buried under all the greed and selfishness, and under her carefree sex-without-attachment persona she just wants to be loved.
- Implied with Aveline and her tough-as-nails guardswoman persona. She's a very private woman who refuses to elaborate on her feelings and regrets after losing her husband, and has a similar attitude towards the party after she remarries.
- A bittersweet one for King's Quest: despite his return to Daventry, his rank of prince, and his joy of being a free man with a loving family, Alexander considers that identity as "a cloak." Expanded Universe material establishes that he still considers himself to be "Gwydion," the name he had as Mannanan's slave. In the series guide, he makes a concession to both identities by signing his name Alexander-Gwydion.
- Heavy Rain has Lt. Blake and his boss, Captain Perry, liking By-The-Book Cop Norman Jayden. However, their true selves revealed that they don't like him.
- Laharl from Disgaea tries his very best to be completely perceived as an evil demon, but his more positive qualities, like his forgiving, noble and strangely kind nature, is regularly provoked to the surface throughout the game.
- Zelos from Tales of Symphonia at first appears to be a Skirt Chasing pervert who uses his rank as the Chosen to bring Ladies to his bedroom and simply just relishes the limelight. Inside, he's really a calculating individual who suffers from self-loathing due to an EXTREMELY messed up childhood, which involves his mother telling him "I Wish You've Never Been Born" just before she dies.
- Tales of Legendia: Grune starts of as an Amnesiac who is basically the teams personal Cloudcuckoolander. Later on, even though she tries to hide it when she figures it out, it is revealed that Grune is really a goddess of time whose only purpose is to battle with her evil counterpart in order to determine the fate of the world.
- Tales of Vesperia. After his Face Heel Turn and subequent redemption we get to see the person behind Raven's sleazy-selfish-pervert mask. After revealing, he does return to the mask though, because he much prefers that persona.
- Several characters in Liberty's Crusade would discuss what Mengsk could be like under the mask - as Kerrigan points out, he's unreadable. When Raynor calls him out on sacrificing Kerrigan, he engages in his well known tirade prompting Liberty to remark that Mengsk has finally shown his true face: that of a power crazed madman.
- Lesteena in Eien no Aselia isn't sure whether her normal personality or the one she pretends to be when she gets a chance to relax is the real one. The answer seems to be both and neither.
- Tohsaka in Fate Stay Night is a bit of a funny example. She acts like a perfect and kind student, but beneath that she's irritable, dishonest about her feelings, Not a Morning Person, selfish and something of a troll. However, beneath that is something she doesn't seem entirely aware of: She values people's lives a great deal, will die for others, values fair play and honesty and is actually rather kind. Nor is she as ruthless as she thinks she is.
- Doctor Horribles Sing Along Blog has elements of this in both the Hero Antagonist, who looks like The Cape (trope) but is really an arrogant bully; and the Villain Protagonist, who's trying to woo the girl of his dreams as Billy, but is also trying to Take Over the World. Both masks come off at the end, with tragic results.
- Both Dr. Horrible and Captain Hammer actually have three layers to them. On the surface, Billy is just Billy, leading a normal life, trying to woo Penny, underneath that he's the power-hungry Dr. Horrible, but even deeper down he's just Billy. As Penny mentioned, she first thought Hammer was just a big jerk, but he became really sweet later on. However, he really is just a Jerk with a Heart of Jerk.
- In Neopets: Xandra in the "Faerie's Ruin" plot initially has a facade of a helpful and nerdy innocent appearance with anger issues (even using glasses to appear more innocent pictured here. However she is revealed to be a Well-Intentioned Extremist with a completely "machiavellian" and egomaniacal personality pictured here.
- Ask That Guy With The Glasses is a nicely layered version of the trope. The "mask" is a distinguished gentleman, underneath that is a bastard who likes playing with people, underneath that is an invoked Complete Monster, and underneath that is a cesspool of self-loathing and damage.
- In Ears for Elves, Luero calls out Tanna on her near-constant smiling. He goes on to say "Masking your emotions may be necessary for dealing with most people.".
- El Goonish Shive acquired a running gag about this, once Susan began to summon a fairy doll replica that acts on her subconscious desires. When it is first summoned, Sarah and Grace have a field day interpreting how its actions show things that Susan tries so hard to hide. Also, Susan's aversion to being touched evidently does not work by proxy (even though she does receive some tactile feedback). It took her some time to learn "manual control", but when she isn't paying attention, the doll still gives her away.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Admiral Zhao, though at first considered merely Lawful Evil, was revealed in the season finale to be completely insane, even killing the moon spirit.
- Toph Bei Fong pretends to be a weak well-mannered girl in front of her parents, but is a very powerful Earthbender and much more informal with her friends. Sometimes Played for Laughs.
- Princess Azula infamously pretended to be a secure, strong, cold woman. It was revealed in the last episode that she was a lonely woman that wanted someone to trust, but lost her friends and didn't have anyone to confide in, and was crazy and sad because she wanted her mother's approval. It wasn't a coincidence that when she became more powerful thanks to nearly becoming the new Firelord and getting a power upgrade that it became too much for her to handle.
- Prince Zuko as well, especially in season one. He is introduced as a ruthless, conceited bully of a prince who only cares about himself and seemingly looks down on everyone, including his superiors. In reality, he's just a good-natured kid who wants his father to be proud of him. Over the next two seasons, this facade begins to gradually break and by the final episode it has disappeared completely.
- Helga from Hey Arnold! expressed her true feelings for Arnold when alone.
- Trixie Tang from The Fairly OddParents is secretly a tomboy that likes comic books and disguises herself as a boy because she has fear of being judged and rejected due to the fact that she is a popular girl and the Alpha Bitch of her school.
- In Phineas and Ferb, there are numerous examples:
- Candace Flynn is secretly a fan of a series called Duckie Momo (a parody of both Hello Kitty and Pokemon). She used to wear a costume in order to hide her love of the series from her friends, going as far as lying to both her boyfriend and her best friend.
- Isabella has a hidden crush with Phineas, something both Ferb and Candace are aware of. However, in front of him she pretends to be Just Friends.
- Perry the Platypus acts as a non-sapient animal (where it is not uncommon for someone to claim. that because he is a platypus, he doesn't do much), but in reality he is a very skilled and smart secret agent.
- Suzy, the sister of Jeremy, pretends to be a dumb innocent girl, but in reality she is very smart, and cruel to whoever threatens her relationship with Jeremy.
- In Teen Titans Raven keeps her emotions largely in check, rarely expressing any sentiment more passionate than a sarcastic quip. Then the episode "Nevermore" gave her a Journey to the Center of the Mind, where we got to see all the different sides of her personality. One side is perpetually depressed and endlessly apologizes for all the mean things she's said. Another side is a Blood Knight who just loves to fight. Another is a gigantic demon made of pure rage. And, most disturbing of all: a perky, giggling Raven who loves the color pink and thinks Beast Boy is funny (something Raven would normally rather swallow her own tongue than admit to).
- In Danny Phantom there are several cases:
- Vlad Plasmius has a facade of being a nice guy in front of the Fenton family (except Maddie) and the general public by being a well-known billionaire and later mayor.
- Danny Fenton had a facade of indifference and naivety over his secret identity in front of his sister and his parents. This was mainly to protect them.
- Dash's best friend, Kwan, has a facade in other to be accepted among the popular crowd. Deep down, he is insecure and unsure about the things he does (bullying and whatnot).
- Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas seems to have shades of this trope. To the citizens of Halloweentown, he's the charismatic, self-confident, terrifying Pumpkin King. What they don't know is that Jack is very unhappy and bored about doing the same thing every year and longs for something different. Then he discovers Christmastown . . .
- In Tangled, Gothel appears to be a loving though overprotective mother towards Rapunzel. But when Rapzunel finds out she was the lost princess and Gothel had kidnapped her all along, she reveals her true greedy nature that she would do anything to keep Rapunzel's power to herself even murder.
- Flynn's daring, thieving personality is also a mask. As well as everyone at The Snuggly Duckling.
- In Beauty and the Beast, Gaston is not as nice as he seems to be (see also Villain with Good Publicity).
- The Flash in Justice League.
- Megamind thought Titan would be a lot more heroic than he turns out to be.
- Fiona at beginning of Shrek acts like an stereotypical Disney Princess, before slowly revealing herself as an Action Girl.
- Shrek hides a soft spot too, particularly over his need of love.
- Artemis in Young Justice definitely has a facade, as Red Arrow points out. She is even willing to let a villain escape because of it.
- As does Impulse. His personality during his introductory episode is more or less an act that he uses to hide the fact that he comes from a Bad Future.
- Kevin Spencer, in his confrontation with Love Interest Shawna, states that beneath all her sociopathic, murderous tendencies, she's really a popularity-obsessed bitch.
- Casper The Friendly Ghost, in one of the older cartoons, Fright from Wrong, is force-fed a huge jar of "Mean Pills" by his mean uncles, who want him to be a mean ghost to humans. But Casper spends the rest of the short putting them through the wringer (both literally and figuratively). It would appear that this example wouldn't count since Casper was drugged to act like that, right? Ehhh, not so much... he reveals at the very end that he never took the pills; all the cartoonish brutality he'd unleashed on his uncles was all him just trying to teach them a lesson! The little Friendly Ghost has a vicious side hidden under the "friendly".
- In ThunderCats (2011) Rascally Rabbit the Drifter is an always smiling, Brilliant but Lazy man who's facade is one of carefree, perpetual mild amusement. In actuality, he's deeply depressed and grieving a personal loss, to the point of fixatedly attempting to save others from duplicating his mistakes by delivering Adventure Rebuffs and an unending stream of unsolicited advice, all the while peppering his speech with his insistant "I don't care."