Need a specific kind of character from books, movies, folk-tales, etc.
November 17, 2016 9:01 PM   Subscribe

HIVEMIND! I'm looking for a character from some domain of culture who pretends not to be human to convince other people that they have special powers. For example, a person might pretend to be an alien to convince other people that they can read minds, or something of that sort. The more classic and well-known the example, the better (although it doesn't have to be). Thanks!
posted by mrmanvir to Society & Culture (19 answers total)
The "Spaceman from Pluto" in Back to the Future.
posted by praemunire at 9:13 PM on November 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

The TVTropes entries for God Guise and Scooby Doo Hoax offer numerous examples that could qualify.
posted by Wobbuffet at 9:23 PM on November 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Owen Glendower
posted by moonlight on vermont at 9:33 PM on November 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Man Facing Southeast, an Argentinian movie from 1987. Though whether the main character is faking it, crazy or truly an alien is left open.
posted by ipsative at 9:50 PM on November 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

K-PAX is a movie about a mental patient who is convinced he is an alien. IIRC, he gets a bit vague about the "special powers" part.

The Wizard of Oz didn't claim to be "an alien" but he did claim to be a wizard with tremendous magical powers. I can think of a few cases of time travelers claiming to be wizards but can't remember details.

I'm trying to think of examples of claims of being a werewolf or vampire; they're not coming to mind, but I don't read much in those genres.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:18 PM on November 17, 2016

This scene from Back to the Future. Marty pretends he is Darth Vader from the future.
posted by stellathon at 10:45 PM on November 17, 2016

He wasn't an alien per se, but Matt Frewer's Berlinghoff Rasmussen did memorably pass himself off as a time traveler.
posted by lumensimus at 11:47 PM on November 17, 2016

Owen Glendower

While it's not as good an example this reminds me that a lot of medieval dynasties had interesting "origin stories." My favorite is the Angevins (ancestors of the Plantagenets) being by tradition descended from Satan. Though only on their mothers' side. To be clear, this is was a family tradition of sorts, *not* one invented by their enemies.
posted by mark k at 11:52 PM on November 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt, and other rulers around the world in history, pretended to be living gods whose activities were essential to the proper functioning of the world.

By a similar token, in many cases rulers would claim to be descended from gods, and hence inherently superior, without any particular special powers; see for example the impossibly long reigns of figures named in the Sumerian Kings List.
posted by XMLicious at 2:46 AM on November 18, 2016

The Wizard of Oz
posted by amtho at 5:28 AM on November 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Some "squibs" in Harry Potter pretend to have magical powers to fit in with their wizard family/friends, but I can't find a specific example right now. I don't want to search too hard because I started running into spoilers from Cursed Child which I haven't seen/read yet!
posted by easternblot at 5:41 AM on November 18, 2016

The dubious John Cusack movie Martian Child is about a kid who does this.
posted by vogon_poet at 6:23 AM on November 18, 2016

In The Road to El Dorado, a rogue and a bard show up in South America and are initially thought to be gods. They roll with it, obvs, and for awhile, it kind of works? The movie itself wasn't solid, plot-wise, but Miguel and Tulio have one of the greatest bromances I've ever seen on film, so there's some redeeming qualities there.

The shows Psych and iZombie both kind of roll on the premise that the main character is somehow psychic and can use their powers to solve crimes. With Psych, the dude just has like Sherlockian levels of acuity of his surroundings, but in iZombie, the character is actually a zombie and her "psychic flashes" are memory remnants from the brains she consumes to stay sentient.

Not sure if those were exactly what you were looking for, but iZombie is a really good show anyway. :)
posted by helloimjennsco at 6:28 AM on November 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Along similar lines, The Man Who Would Be King also features white guys who are quite happy to be mistaken for gods.
posted by Quietgal at 6:40 AM on November 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

In the play The Foreigner, the main character pretends to be a foreigner from an unspecified country, and fakes mystical powers to save the day.
posted by moonmilk at 6:53 AM on November 18, 2016

The scene where Threepio (with assistance from Luke) buffaloes the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi was my childhood introduction to Impersonating A Deity For Fun And Profit.
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:54 AM on November 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Obligatory Star Trek answer: Devil's Due, from ST:TNG, about a con artist who claims to be a planet's version of The Devil collecting on a debt owed by an entire race.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 7:30 AM on November 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also, Scientology
posted by moonlight on vermont at 8:32 AM on November 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

In Paul Zindel's book Harry and Hortense at Hormone High, the two main characters befriend a new student named Jason, who claims to be Icarus.
posted by SisterHavana at 1:21 PM on November 18, 2016

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