Audience-Alienating Premise

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"I simply don't care a damn what happens in Nebraska, no matter who writes about it."
A now-forgotten critic on the book O Pioneers!

While some shows fail just because they're bad, or because they weren't marketed much and people didn't know they existed, there are some that don't stand a chance in the first place. Not because they're terrible or badly done, and in fact they may be even fantastically done for what they are, but because the very concept scared people away.

It could be because of Squick. For example, An American Crime is a movie based on the real life torture and murder of a teenage girl at the hands of her foster mother and their children. Sound like fun? Most people don't think so, even if the movie is genuinely well-made.

Other times, it's because the Premise is unique, but in a way that scares away audiences rather than grows them. For example, Avatar: The Last Airbender, about kids and young teens going on adventures to save a fantasy world, is a hit with both kids and adults, due to the generally light tone and the complexity of the story, and a theme that has broad appeal. On the other hand, Fox's Peter Pan and the Pirates was by comparison a failure and was cancelled in less than 2 years. It featured young children going on adventures in a fantasy world, had complex characterization for the time, and took itself seriously and got quite dark at times. But instead of growing its audience, it shrunk it. Older kids think Peter Pan is beneath them, while younger kids would find the cartoon scary or intimidating (and it did have its share of Nightmare Fuel).

Other times, it's because the Dancing Bear the creators used to sell the work is seen as inappropriate or clashes horribly with the original intention. Sometimes, trying to invoke Sex Sells backfires.

This is the Audience-Alienating Premise. An idea that could be cool and could even make a fantastic show, book, movie, video game or comic, and may very well have, but which instead dooms the work from the very start due to the mere concept alone being totally unapproachable to most people. Sadly, due to merely how it "sounds", many people won't try it out. In some cases, it might become much more popular in another country due to differences in tastes and sometimes values.

See also One-Episode Wonder, which is what happens to many of these. Can overlap with Public Medium Ignorance, as works with that suffer from this have a strong tendency to be audience alienating. Could also overlap with Necessary Weasel, and Anthropic Principle. Contrast Dancing Bear, which is when the unusual elements attract the audience instead of driving it off.

WARNING! There are unmarked Spoilers ahead. Beware.

Examples of Audience-Alienating Premise include:

Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan. Bear with us here: an angel comes back in time to repeatedly and brutally murder (and promptly reanimate) a junior high student, in order to stop him from creating a 'pedophile's world' where all females don't age past 12 years old. And it's a COMEDY!
  • Elfen Lied actually poses thought-provoking questions about nature vs nurture and unethical science. To anyone walking in, however, it's just a gory series about little girls being tortured. You're lucky if they don't think of you as a sadistic pedophile.
  • Koi Kaze is about a man in his late 20s and a teenage girl 12 years younger who fall in love. What's the alienating part? They're brother and sister and haven't seen each other in a long time. Also depending on the person, the idea of an adult and a high schooler falling in love can be Squick material. Actually, it's a quite thoughtful and realistic examination of such a situation, but the mere premise sounds like coming from a incest-themed hentai, and the series lack of any type of fanservice doesn't even get the people looking for prurient material a reason for reading.
  • Lyrical Nanoha. A Magical Girl series aimed specifically at young adult males. While this unique approach may work in Japan, it's a different matter in the west. Most adult male anime fans in the U.S. would take one good look at the cutesy imagery on Nanoha's DVD and run for cover. As it stands, the licensors have passed on bringing anymore of Nanoha to American shores... and it looks like it'll stay that way for the foreseeable future. Maybe if they used a different type of cover, it'd be more acceptable considering Nanoha is less "Magical Girl series" and more "Action packed, mecha series disguised as a cute Magical Girl series".
  • Maria Holic. The series is about a sadistic double-faced crossdresser who torments and abuses a perverted lesbian teenager at an all girls school. It hasn't fared well with many people, especially in the U.S. and other countries, due to the homophobic sounding premise.
  • Spice and Wolf. It's about medieval economics, and stars a traveling merchant and his love interest who is a 500 year old pagan wolf deity. You try getting people to watch it. The way they did try to sell it was emphasizing the initial nakedness of said love interest, which had the side effect of making it look (to anime fans) like a Magical Girlfriend series à la To LOVE-Ru for furries, which it isn't.
  • Madoka Magica exploited this trope by starting off disguised as a mostly normal-looking cutesy Magical Girl show, causing many people to stop watching it in disgust before the real, much darker premise took shape. But, of course, once everyone learned what the show was actually about, the trope got played straight, since some of the people who actually like cutesy magical-girl shows didn't have any interest in watching a brutally deconstructed version.
  • Suicide Island: The title itself will probably scare away a number of people. The premise goes like this: the Japanese government has lost big chunks of money due to hospitals being crowded with people attempting to commit suicide. In response to this, the government gives these people the choice of trying to live on or die. If these people choose to die, they will then sign papers, they will be rendered unconscious (nicely), and they will wake up to find themselves on the titular Suicide Island. They are declared UnPersons and they can do whatever they want on the island, as long as they don't try to leave...but there are really no means (and likely not even desire) to leave anyway. The premise itself will probably scare a number of people off, because they might think it's just a story where they get to watch people commit suicide. While some of the characters do, it ends up scaring the other characters into trying to live on and make the best of their situation. The story could be compared to Lord of the Flies on some levels. Also, the story examines the minds of these characters, to help the reader understand why they would want to die in the first place. The examination reveals some dark stuff about Japanese culture, like the Hikikomori, pressures of society, There Are No Therapists (actually, there are in this story, but it doesn't seem to be working), the stigma of shame, and so on. Indeed, the story seems to be a critique of how Japanese society has something fundamentally wrong with it, and is causing people to not really live. It's likely that this story did not sell well in Japan, and it's hard to say how well it would have sold in other countries, since there is no way to sugar-coat this story!
  • Wandering Son portrays puberty and LGBT issues - especially transgender ones - quite seriously. This puts off many people (mostly cis heterosexuals) since it's outside of their comfort zone or they're so used to comedies about the subject. And even people wanting to read the story for its transgender themes get turned off by the revelation near the end that one of the transgender characters actually isn't trans.
  • The manga Lotte no Omocha is a story about a strapping young man who is tricked by elves into moving to another world, specifically so a 10-year-old succubus can have sex with him for the rest of his life. Trying to talk about it generally goes like this: "It's a story about a man becoming a surrogate father—" "Wait. Isn't that the one with the ten-year-old succubus?" "Yeah, but–" "Ten-year-old. Succubus."
  • Kodomo no Jikan is about a pre-pubescent girl who falls in love with her teacher, and acts overtly sexual to get his attention, which you wouldn't expect to do well in the US. It didn't get a chance to — it was canceled when the licensing company learned how bookstores and distributors would react: by canceling orders. Outside of Japan, owning something like this could theoretically get you thrown in jail. The US release was also slated to have the audience-alienating title of "Nymphet", which was requested by the author since Seven Seas couldn't use the original [translated] title of "A Child's Time". It launched a Kickstarter campaign that successfully got the amount needed to release a printing run of the manga, and then some.
  • Basically the reason it took a decade to get Dennou Coil released in America. It's a sci-fi series about transhumanism with cyberpunk themes (with a plot point about Augmented Reality for ludical purposes that predates Pokémon GO and similar games), but the story is starred by (and geared towards) preteens, and the narrative style is very Slice of Life.
  • Similarly Heat Guy J suffered for it. It's looks like a sci-fi action filled cop series, it's actually a quite serious drama.
  • Mysterious Girlfriend X is the story of a boy that falls in love with the New Transfer Student after becoming addict to her saliva. That he fist tasted from the pool of drool she left in her desktop. Are you interested already?
  • Houou Gakuen Misoragumi: the story of a girl who is sent by her mother to an all-male boarding school with the hope the girl doesn't become a childless lesbian, an school where the girl is basically treated like trash. The plot expect us to side with the mom. Oh, and the Cure Your Gays only applies to the heroine, the male Ho Yay runs aplenty. Forget the fact that the American editorial who attempted to bring this series has to drop it after just one volume due to protests over its homophobic premise and Double Standard execution, the fact that they attempted to bring it in the first place is the real surprising thing.
  • Transformers Kiss Players. Even before the sensationalist, gorn-filled way the story was shown, the silliness of "Transformers get powered by being kissed by teenagers" was making the story pretty tough to sell.
  • While Assassination Classroom is actually quite popular and regularly appears in the bestselling Graphic Novels lists, American publishers were squeamish to publish in first place because the premise of "armed students went all out to murder their teacher (who is a omnicidal alien teaching them their killing ways)" didn't feel adequate in an post-Columbine atmosphere.
  • The widespread opinion on why One Piece hasn't gotten much acceptation in western markets (including the ones that were not marred by the way 4Kids legendarily mismanaged the franchise), unlike their reputation as THE post-Dragon Ball shounen phenomenon in Asia: it's a series about pirates (a genre that itself is very hit and miss in the West) which is drawn with western cartoon-like aesthetics and it's animated with Looney Tunes physics. Anime fans are, generally, more attracted by series with a more Japanese style, tropes and themes, like Ninjas or Samurais. Its acceptation has gotten better once it become broadcast uncensored by Funimation and directed to the same kind of public that enjoys Cowboy Bebop and The Big O, but it may never get the popularity of Naruto or Bleach.
  • Similarly to the above, Detective Conan/Case Closed cannot find a market in America due to a mix of this and the different cultural expectations for children entertainment. It has the same kind of bloody cases of, say, CSI or Law and Order, but it's drawn and narrated in a way that make those accesible and appealing to elementary school kids. Adults don't want their children exposed to such bloodshed; teenage and young adult anime fans will find either the art style or the narrative childish.
  • Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai, the quintessential Brother-Sister Incest franchise. Not helped that the author actually went there in the novels, unlike the anime that only leaved it in subtext.
    • The same author went on to create the equally upsetting Eromanga Sensei. On one side, the incest theme is less squeamish due to the protagonists being Not Blood Siblings. On the other side, the squick factor remains high due to the protagonists being a 15-year old porn writer and his stepsister the 12-year old porn artist, which has been in the business since she was ten. Oh, and the Unwanted Harem the guy attracts is filled with girls where the oldest is 14 at most.
  • Go ahead, try to explain the plot of Those Who Hunt Elves to someone not in the know. "There are these three people Trapped in Another World who had to disrobe elf chicks to find the fragments of the spell that will return them to their worl— It's not a porno, I swear!" It's actually a good comedy, and it's also very light on the fanservice, but people who heard the phrase "disrobe women" will either dislike the premise or find themselves disappointed with the lack of exposed flesh.
  • Keijo!!!!!!!! is actually a pretty entertaining sport series, with decent character development. Problem is that the sport depicted on it involves pretty women in bikinis fighting on water-floating platforms, trying to incapacitate each other by only using their breasts and butts.
  • Magical Girls series are prone to this:
    • Princess Tutu: It's an anime about a duck that transforms herself in a human ballerina that fight enemies with the power of interpretative dance. It's also an extremely meta series about the power of narratives. People who watch it ends loving it, but you have to physically restrain them to make them watch it in the first place.
    • Sugar Sugar Rune, despite its irregular narrative has very interesting points about femininity and gender roles, but it's still about two Cute Witches doing a Magical Girl Queenliness Test that consist on which one of them gets more male followers.
    • Wedding Peach, due to their wedding motifs. It was successful in Japan due to western-style weddings having an upsurge of popularity at the time, but in the West it was immediately flagged as a Sailor Moon ripoff and ignored.
  • Every Mon series not named Pokémon. Granted, Digimon and Yo-Kai Watch eventually found a public, but the screams of "plagiarism!" gets in the ear of every executive trying to bring any new shiny franchise of collectible toys.
    • And even Pokémon doesn't escape from it: older fans cannot engage with the Status Quo Is God aspect of the franchise over Ash never getting to become Champion and never getting to his 11th birthday; and the ones that just accepted the former got thrown off their feet by the Sun and Moon season, which genre shifted to Slice of Life and put Ash in a school setting.
  • Most series with Moe aesthetics, specially the ones who are slice of life affairs. And specially more the ones that are not:
    • Lucky Star, the quintessential otaku-oriented widget series. There is no plot (or at least not a visible one); the episodes are the Seinfeldian Conversations of a group of high school girls that range from weird things no actual teen would talk about (like how to eat foodstuffs), to breast sizes, yaoi, and kidnapping. All of this, with aesthetics that looked like out from Nick Jr.
    • Popotan. If you want a sex-joke filled comedy starred by cutesy drawn characters, all of them looking underage and half of them actually being underage, see no further.
    • School-Live!. It's a gruesome and quite realistic (in the psychological aspect) take on the Zombie Apocalypse. It's also drawn in a Puni Plush art style and has a cast of characters that seem out from any of the other series published in the Kirara family of magazines. It's basically the thing that causes you to go to the other manga of its magazine to heal.
    • Made in Abyss, which went to the "Madoka Magica School of Pulling Punches". Don't get fooled by its art and its saccharine beginning, it soon turns into a gore and body horror-filled mystery.
    • Hanamaru Kindergarten. It is cute and sugary, but the premise at first glance seemed "Kodomo no Jikan, only with preschoolers". The tone of the manga is in a weird otaku-oriented nostalgia.
    • Bottle Fairy. Aggressively cute, in a way that gives otaku fuzzy feelings but makes western viewers quite uncomfortable.
  • Oyasumi Punpun, the most depressing slice or life this side of Grave of the Fireflies and AIR. The art dissonance where the titular Punpun (and only him) is drawn as a crude bird caricature doesn't help either.
  • Grave of the Fireflies also has it running on. The plot can be resumed in "Two siblings became orphans in the II World War devastated Japan , and then It Gets Worse". Like Precious below and other adaptations of Misery Lit, it can get extremely uncomfortable to watch, specially since its Take That, Audience! tone and its infamous Downer Ending has entered It Was His Sled territory among anime fans and movie buffs. The highest irony is that it was premiered in a double feature with the much Lighter and Softer film My Neighbor Totoro... as a way to help Totoro find an audience.[1]
  • Love Hina, for anyone who entered in fandom after 2003. To put it simple, due to changing perceptions on abuse, a bunch of girls constantly hitting and mistreating The Chew Toy of a main male character over and over doesn't read as funny today as it was at the late nineties and the early years of the Turn of the Millennium. Heck, even back then there were people who didn't found it that funny to begin with, due to the moments when the abuse went beyond Comedic Sociopathy and into uncomfortable territory.
  • Sankarea, the story of a boy with a zombie fetish and a suicidal girl who dies, is revived with an experimental serum of his creation, and becomes his girlfriend. Yeeep...
  • kiss×sis, an over the top harem series that pushed the limit on how much fanservice can you squeeze in a regular shonen magazine. How much, you ask? There is so much fanservice and pandering to the fetishes (including Toilet Humour played for sexiness) that the premise, about two girls who lust over their stepbrother and do anything on their power to attract his attention, is probably the least alienating part.
  • Otoyomegatari (by the creator of Victorian Romance Emma) is a seinen manga full of Scenery Porn, following the lives of nomadic tribes of Middle Asia in the late XIX century. The main plot of the initial storyarc, however, revolves around the Perfectly Arranged Marriage between a 20 year old woman and a 12 year old boy, which is treated with historical accuracy.
  • Dragon Pink is the poster girl of the problems inherent of Porn with Plot. People looking for something to fap to have the intricate fantasy world plot interfering; people who gets caught with the story and the world building is jarred by the abundant scenes of hardcore sex. It says something when, despite the protests of its author that he wants to finish the story someday, the manga has been in hiatus since 1994.
  • Soul Eater Not!, for more or less the same reason Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force failed. It's an Slice of Life spin-off to Soul Eater, which was a supernatural comedy-action series. It was unappealing to long-time Soul Eater fans for both its themes and being starred by new characters with little to no connection to established characters, but fans of the Slice of Life genre weren't interested in such a spin-off of an action shounen.
  • Zero no Tsukaima actually evolved into this trope, due to the Flanderization of its main characters from "Ordinary High School Student Trapped in Another World" and "Tsundere-ish Cute Witch" into "Perverted Jerkass" and "Psychopathic Sadistic Tsundere" respectively.
  • Ai Ore! is an absolutely typical Mayu Shinjo Shoujo story with maybe less Bastard Boyfriend than usual... with the premise that a Bifauxnen girl gets a boyfriend that looks like the stereotypical Uke. It visually looks like a Yaoi manga when it is not, which can confusse and alienate fans of the Boys Love Genre (other fans can be alienated by the common tropes of Mayu Shinjo's works).
  • Tokyo Akazukin, an extremely dark, gore-filled manga whose premise is that a young gorl that self identifies as Little Red Riding Hood goes finding her true love Mr. Molf by partaking in sexual acts with numerous pedophiles and then grusomely killing them when they fail to devour her. The amount of Lolicon is such that it simply can be licensed anywhere outside Japan.

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld: A Magical Girl maxiseries created during early 80's? It didn't stand a chance, so DC killed the series by making the main character evil and blowing up her homeworld. Of course, if they had the foresight to allow the property to live until the 90s, they could have had a hot product on their hands...
    • They tried to relaunch it in 2012, written by the creator of Jem. It was cancelled after its 8th number because the series was written as a Game of Thrones-like starring girls with magical gems (featuring a gang rape attempt in the very first number!), while promoting the series with kid-friendly ads in Cartoon Network.
  • Power Pack (the original 1980s comic): Kid superheroes, except that instead of featuring wacky antics and dumb adult villains, the theme was played totally straight. In other words, the story took itself seriously and was meant to be seen as such, but many people wrote it off because it was about kids. Kids who wanted to see wacky antics probably ended up disappointed. Most other people dismissed it out of hand, because they assumed a story about children would just be wacky and stupid. It's probably no coincidence that most of the letters to the editor came from adults and the occasional 12-year-old who was surprised at the quality of the storytelling.
  • Yeah! by Peter Bagge and Gilbert Hernandez is a girls' comic about three girls in a rock band who are trying to make it big but can only get fans in outer space. It was intended to resemble the girls' comics of the sixties, and it is to comic books what a disco album by Iron Maiden would be to the world of music: It doesn't contain any of the stuff that their fans like, and it belongs to a genre that nobody's been interested in for decades. It was cancelled after nine poorly-selling issues, and the fact that it's a fun comic with good writing and nice artwork didn't really make a difference.
  • Chick Tracts are fundamentalist Protestant Christian cartoons that aim to convert others to Fundamentalist Protestantism. The problem? Their potential public are incredibly alienated by its content (which includes denouncing "evils" of the Catholic Church that don't align with the actual bad things done by said institution, comparing people who accept evolution theories to Nazis, and promoting the most fundamentalist branch of Christianty, which is seen as the "Stop Having Fun!" Guys among christian churches), and the people who would agree with them won't read them because they aren't meant to them.
  • Batman: Fortunate Son, a comic whose plot revels on the evils of Rock and Roll. Published in the Nineties, when that kind of plot was on its way to be a Dead Horse Trope.
  • Archie Meets The Punisher. Their respective readers demographics simply don't intersect at all. It says something when Archie vs. Predator actually fared better.
  • Every attempt to make an established superhero a Legacy Character. Even in the cases where it worked, there was a lot of protests. It becomes worse if it's done as an Affirmative Action Legacy, because it's unanimously derided as an attempt of the writers and the editorial to show off their "progressiveness".
  • The Hanna-Barbera Beyond line. It's DC Comics attempt to pull IDW and Image Comics-like comics using Hanna-Barbera proprieties. Of the lot, only Future Quest, a multi-crossover of the action-adventure franchises of H-B primarily focusing in Jonny Quest, Birdman and Space Ghost, is the only one who has gotten universal acclaim, as it's the only one who plays its premise straight instead of for Darker and Edgier points. The one who got hit the most by this trope was Wacky Raceland, wich reimagined Wacky Races as a Mad Max dystopic extravaganza and tried to pass it under Rule of Cool; it folded after 6 numbers. The comic reboot of The Flintstones (which while still quite close to its original satirical roots, traded its comedic bent by serious explorations of modern issues in a Stone Punk setting), the one of The Jetsons (wich along with losing the sitcom comedy went with the Ascended Fanon of the planet surface having been devastated by an ecological catastrophe as the reason people living in floating cities), Scooby Apocalypse (yet another Scooby-Doo saga, this time redesigned and in an After the End setting), and the wackiest of the crossover titles (Suicide Squad and The Banana Splits? Really?) had also failed to find wider audiences.

Fan Works[edit | hide]

Film – Animated[edit | hide]

  • This trope describes what is usually called "The Unholy Trinity of Cute Animals Films That are Not Appropriate for Children":
    • The animated movie Felidae is a film noir with blood, murder, sex, and a cult. Starring cats. Its look made many people think it was a Disney-type movie, but the actual content is not kid-friendly, thus it scared away adult audiences while not attracting kid audiences.
    • Watership Down. It's a movie about rabbits! What could be objectionable about it? Well, the fact that it's based in a novel that shows pretty well the cruel realities of nature, and the movie is quite faithful to the book in that respect. It is a film for kids, but between that the fight scenes are way too intense for the younger ones, and that adults dismiss the bunny theme as way below what could interest their children, it's actually rarely seen by its real target public.
    • The Plague Dogs. It is a somber film on both art and narrative style about animal testing, starred by talking dogs.
  • At its time of release, Yellow Submarine. An animated film for adults, released at the highest point of the Animation Age Ghetto in the 1960's. It became later Vindicated by History, as the film was eventually deemed to be appropriate for children since it doesn't contain the usual type of objectionable content, and then when it became acceptable for adults to watch animation.
  • Foodfight!. A children film whose plot could be described as "an homage to Casablanca but with fart jokes, starred by company mascots". And that's before the eye-gouging art style and their troubled backstory comes out to light.
  • A mix of this trope and being Screwed By the Studio is what doomed Frankenweenie in 2012's Fall season. A child comedy about death and reanimation, filmed in black and white stop-motion, and topped by a violent climax is a tough sell with current families. Then it was sandwiched in the release calendar between Hotel Transylvania, which as the most accessible one got most of the public, and the similarly quirky but sightly less alienating ParaNorman, who due to having released first (and being an actual original story and not a remake of an early short) got the main share of critical praise.
  • Before release, Sausage Party was seen as this: an R-rated CGI-animated film starring Anthropomorphic Food, full of raunchiness, crude jokes, offensive stereotypes, and inappropriate visual puns. It became a critical and commercial success, unexpectedly.
  • The Emoji Movie. A film about the smiley face symbols you use when you text from your cellphone. This concept could have worked, had Sony Animation (the studio that made it) not filled the story with assloads of Product Placement, a Cliche Storm that could sustain the whole Animation Age Ghetto for decades by itself, an absolute Critical Research Failure on its main subject, and a profound contempt towards its stated public.
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls, the High School AU for My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic had bronies foaming before the premiere. The mere concept irked them due to both being an "Human AU" and going against the spirit of the original producer Lauren Faust's plans for the show. People have since warmed for it and the concept, but the Broken Base remains. Furthering it was when a sequel, Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks was announced, reviving the controversy yet again, only to ease it when it proved to be a Surprisingly Improved Sequel.
  • The double whammy of Titanic: The Legend Goes On and The Legend of the Titanic. Because the only thing more baffling that one Italian producer thinking "well, what better idea for a kiddie film that ripping off that movie about the most famous sinking in history?" and going ahead with such a plan is that two Italian producers independently had the same idea and went ahead accordingly.

Film – Live Action[edit | hide]

  • As mentioned above, An American Crime. People interested in real life crime or with knowledge of the actual case may want to watch it, but between the theme and the title, very few else would want to.
  • Basically every movie set during the second Gulf War has been a box office bomb, The Kingdom, The Green Zone, In The Valley Of Elah, and most notably, Best Picture Winner The Hurt Locker. The war itself is so politically charged that any depiction of it risks alienating large chunks of the audience based on its perceived politics. And it is too current to be escapism.
  • Alegria, the dramatic film inspired by the Cirque Du Soleil show, is a fable that entwines the story of a street mime and a circus singer falling in Love At First Sight with that of unwanted children being forced to tend and sell flowers for a cruel taskmaster. It's too dark and mature thematically for children—the story kicks off with the mime and his child friend both literally wanting to die, a supporting character is a lovelorn old alcoholic, etc. But how many teens or adults want to watch a movie about whimsical circus people helping to realize a World Half Full? The film only made it to theaters in Canada and a few European countries.
  • This is one reason Newsies bombed in 1992: A drama about an 1899 newsboys' strike! And it's a musical! At the time Disney was having great success with animated musicals and some executives thought they may as well revive the live-action musical, a genre that has become dead in the sixties and every attempt to revive were equally doomed. Newsies eventually got Vindicated By Video, but only after its cast of then relative unknowns got their Star-Making Roles soon after it.
  • Funny Games presents itself as a Gorn film that deconstructs the genre and makes the viewer question why they watch gorn films to start with. The problem here is that gorn fans don't appreciate being told they're sick bastards by the films they're watching, and non-fans aren't going to watch it in the first place.
  • The Human Centipede: As an experiment, three people are sewn to one another as part of a single digestive tract. Somehow, this film managed to get sequels, whose respective premise are "The Human Centipede meets Misaimed Fandom as a deranged fanboy of the first film repeats the experiment with even less standards" and "The Human Centipede meets Misaimed Fandom goes Up to Eleven as somebody sews 500 hundred persons in an human millipede to solve a penitentiary crisis"
  • Lawn Dogs. Now here's an audience killer. A 10-year-old girl and a 21-year-old man become close friends. It's rated R. Their relationship is mostly platonic, but there are strong hints that the girl has feelings for the man. Not many people want to watch a movie about this, though those that have tend to consider the film to be excellent.
  • Milk Money: A lighthearted comedy about three young boys trying to see a prostitute naked. Then it gets even crazier when the prostitute is introduced to the father of one of the boys as a potential love interest. Many critics were Squicked out by the premise at the time and criticized it as such.
  • The Postman: It was, um, difficult for the marketing to explain the movie's premise. Apparently, it involves a man rebuilding America After the End by... delivering the mail? It's really a good film and the premise gets actually well explained and explored, but none of the actually interesting parts of it ended being shown in the promotional efforts and the film flopped as the result.
  • Precious, a story about a 16-year-old illiterate obese girl having the baby resulting from her father's rapes while dealing with an abusive mother? That's something the Oscars might think went too far. It Gets Worse, the baby has Down's Syndrome, a second incest-rape baby is on the way, her mother is also sexually abusive, and at the end she finds out her father is dead. From HIV. That she also has. And she's only sixteen (though fortunately for Precious, she gets a few hopeful moments by the end: she can read and write, her kids are HIV-negative, and she's finally escaped her parents). While these elements are typically Hollywood poison, they're extremely popular with Lit Fic. Being The Film of the Book of the critically acclaimed Push, the film already had the buzz of a hot literary property, plus the support of superstars like Tyler Perry and Oprah. Precious made $62 million and earned two Oscars for Best Supporting Actress (Mo'Nique as Precious' mother Mary) and Best Adapted Screenplay.
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World failed to find an audience due to combining too many niches together: comic books, indie rock and video games from the 80s. Its audience would have to be a particular breed of hipster that appreciates all three. The fact that Michael Cera lacks drawing power, and that at the time of the film release he had been typecast into the same Cool Loser role too many times for the audience sympathy also didn't help.
  • A Serbian Film. The plot is about a former porn actor that is forced out of retirement to film a series of acts seemly designed to upstage Salo or the 120 Days of Sodom, in what may or may not be an allegory of Serbia's recent history. It's basically 90 minutes of intentionally shocking and violent sex, capped off with newborn porn!
  • Tideland is about a 10-year-old girl who spends several weeks in an abandoned house with her father's bloating corpse. To pass the time, she has increasingly bizarre daydreams about her Barbie heads and befriends a mentally handicapped man, with whom she practices kissing. The DVD automatically plays an introduction by director Terry Gilliam, who admits that the viewer might very well hate the film.
  • Trash Humpers: Grainy, camcorder footage of a trio of crazed elderly people that kill people and mutilate baby dolls. Basically, all of Harmony Korine's work can be deemed at this - even Spring Breakers, his most accessible one.
  • Vulgar, a film financed by Kevin Smith and written and directed by his friend Bryan Johnson, recounted the story of a kind, but struggling, children's party clown who is viciously raped by a Complete Monster father and his brain-dead sons. Sound like fun?
  • Some audiences were turned off by the titular character in John Carter because of him being a Confederate soldier, pretty much any movie set in the distant past with a pro-south viewpoint is going to have a hard time finding any kind of audience.
    • To counterpoint, nearly every Civil War movie in the past 50 years has had a pro-South viewpoint. You could likely count the number of Civil War movies with a pro-North viewpoint with one hand.
    • The other thing that alienated the film was that they couldn't use the title of the book they were adapting, A Princess of Mars, due to the association of "Princess" with "girly film", and the full title of the book series, "John Carter of Mars" was deemed as too pulpy. So they had to use as a title which name of the main character, which when added to the "generic" feel of the story in trailers didn't inspire interest in the wider public.
  • Dick, a comedy set in the 1970's about two teenage girls who develop a crush on Richard Nixon and end up becoming one of the major figures in the Watergate scandal. Teens weren't interested in a comedy based around 1970's nostalgia while adults weren't interested in the revisionist history concept (the film also depicts Woodward and Bernstein as a pair of morons) so the film died a quick death at the box office. However, it has become a cult film over the years.
  • Martin Scorcese's Hugo, the adaptation of the YA novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret. It's a loving homage to the early era of cinema, but the main character and its intended public are children. No wonder a comedy site made a doctored poster or it, retitling it "Marketing Nightmare".
  • Freddy Got Fingered, made by absurdist comedian Tom Green, it's about the misadventures of an apparently retarded man and its intentionally offensive and extremely gross antics, that at some point tries to retaliate against his father by accusing him of sexually abusing his younger brother. All of those were obfuscated by innocent enough trailers that toned down the film to mere Gross-Out Show. The only person that paid something approaching a compliment to this film was Roger Ebert (yes, the same who said that this film shouldn't be mentioned in any phrase related with barrels), who compared it to the surrealist masterpiece Un Chien Andalou ... a film that drove people out of theaters at the time and even today is extremely upsetting to watch.
  • The Princess Bride title counts for a male audience. The fact is that's a very accessible and funny adventure film that actually isn't that much focused in romance or targeted towards women isn't enough for certain people to overcame its Romance Novel-sounding title.
  • One of the reasons The Day the Clown Cried will never be released. Would you watch a film about a down of his luck clown who entertains doomed children at concentrations camps? Note that the film that comes close to this premise that actually got released, Life Is Beautiful, despite it's comedy, it's a more personal drama about a funny man who tries to shield his child from the horrors of the camp.
  • So imagine that you are a director who makes a film about being of mixed race and how it can affect personal identity. You are releasing the film in the 2010's, an era where merely the mentions of still existent racism can make people twitch no matter where in the political spectrum they are. Why oh why you think that titling it Dear White People is going to sit it well, especially with white viewers? Claiming that you didn't intend to make it political and that the film it's intended as a satire doesn't fly when you give such a title to your movie and accompany it with a trailer that pushes the buttons of all your potential public.
  • Sucker Punch, mostly for its Indecisive Parody tone, unable to decide if it was a Deconstruction of fanservice-laden media or if it was unironically engaging on it. Predictably no one like it: the mainstream public (women especially) were turned off by its apparent sexism, while the geeky public took offense to the alleged Take That at them.
  • The makers of Philadelphia realized that making a film about how AIDS patients are still people was going to alienate the public of 1993 who was still under the prejudice, so they solved the problem by hiring A-list actor Tom Hanks to play the main character, a gay man with AIDS.
  • Similarly, the makers of The Deer Hunter realized that a 3-hour film about three war prisoners being tortured and forced to play Russian Roulette by the Viet Cong, released less than three years after the end of the conflict, was going to be a tough sell, so they arranged a private screening for members of the Academy, in the hopes that an Oscar nomination would attract reluctant public. On the plus side, the gambit worked, as the film became profitable, won an Oscar for Best Film and became a classic. On the minus side, the event marked the beginning of the current breed of Oscar Bait movies and the disconnect between "films that get nominated to the Academy Awards" and "Films that people actually watch and like".
  • The 2015 version of Fantastic Four. So the studio solution for the low success of the earlier films was to ditch campiness and make them Darker and Edgier. They also ditched all the fantastic elements and everything that seemed like camaraderie between the titular characters. Not even the comic fans that liked the very gritty Ultimate Fantastic Four, on which this film was allegedly based, liked the film , and claimed Adaptation Decay the minute it premiered. The result was a film that flopped even harder than Rise of the Silver Surfer and was harder to watch than that unreleased TV film.
  • Get Out turned out to be a subversion. People were reticent to watch a horror film about a black man being targeted to be killed by white people, until the previews got out and revealed that the film attacked the Positive Discrimination brand of disguised racism by wealthy liberals as well as the obvious xenophobic one, which eased people worried about anvil-sized preachiness. It became one of the most successful films of 2017.
  • Sony Pictures has spent the last decade releasing an unhealthy amount of these:
    • Ghostbusters, the 2016 version. A Remake/Continuity Reboot of a beloved classic, only Gender Flipped. The sad thing is that the film could have found a public big enough to saving it from flopping, had the studio not used gender identity politics to promote it. Turns out that threatening everybody who criticized the premise or the badly put thorough trailers by calling all of them misogynists doesn't endear your film with its potential public. And in an aversion of No Such Thing as Bad Publicity, people were so tainted for the controversy that avoided the film entirely.
    • The Seth Rogen and James Franco collaboration The Interview. It's a comedy about two journalists infiltrating North Korea to kill Kim Jong-il. Turns out that a film that advocates for the killing of a world leader, no matter how much of an actual despot the individual is, it's not going to sit well with anyone. There was also an excessive use of gorn for black comedy that wouldn't have sit well with American audiences. Sony wisely pulled it out of release it in theaters worldwide, but the real question is how the film was greenlighted in the first place.
    • The 2016 film Passengers. Trailers depicted it as an standard romantic comedy about a man and a woman that awaken from their cryogenic asleep during a centuries-long interstellar travel and fell in love with each other. Then critics watched the film in preview and discovered that the actual plot was that the man awoke first, went to select the asleep passenger that appealed to him, the most, and awoke her, just to not stay alone in the ship. And not only this was still depicted in romantic comedy fashion, the man was treated sympathetically and got free of any plot punishment, despite him ruining the life of an innocent woman for selfish reasons. Critics were so appalled that they all spoiled the film in their reviews and pleaded the readers to no go to watch such a misogynistic piece of crap.
    • The American adaptation of the famous novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo isn't really that alienating of a premise, but the choice of releasing this R-rated thriller with a lot of rape and murder on Christmas Day (when the public prefer lighter films) definitely was.
    • Adam Sandler's 2012 flick That's My Boy, about a loser trying to reconnect with his estranged son... which was conceived by a Teacher-Student Romance statutory rape when he was twelve. Add that people at this point was beginning to get tired of Sandler's shtick, and you get a film that flopped hard.
    • Also by Sandler's, the much-maligned 2015 film Pixels was a perfect storm of audience-alienating points: the plot being based in references to games from the 1980's (which young people may not recognize, and older people may associate with the stereotype of Video Game Movies Sucking), the characters being an assortment of obnoxious gamer stereotypes, and Sandler's brand of comedy being now extremely despised. This film is the reason why now all films by Sandler are distributed by Netflix.
    • The 2018 adaptation of Peter Rabbit took a classic book character and transformed him in an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist. It also rebooted the original plot and replaced what Beatrix Potter put to make the character lovable with cheap pop culture gags. Somehow it managed to avoid being a flop, but it's still marred by the controversy surrounding a scene where the Designated Villain is deliberately assaulted with stuff he is deathly allergic to by the titular character.
    • The 2018 film version of Venom. Sony decided to pull a Catwoman and made a film about one of Spider-Man most emblematic enemies, in a way that completely removes Spider-Man involvement on the character (for the ones not in the know, in the comics Spider-man is completely vital in the birth of Venom). In a subversion, the film managed to be somewhat successful, albeit mostly because the people ignored Sony marketing the film as a horror take on superheroism and took it as a dark comedy buddy film between a man and his killer alien symbiotic thing that combine into a killer antihero.
  • The Producers has it both in and out universe. The plot is about greedy producers deliberately engineering a musical who alienates public so much so they can pocket their overshare, only to be thwarted by the public taking the show as a parody. In real life, the distributors were very hesitant on a film that dealt with both Nazis and greedy Jewish corrupt theater producers and underpromoted it. As a result the film only recovered costs, but gave Mel Brooks an Academy Award for Best Original Script that opened him the doors to a long and successful career, and the story itself got a second, better chance for success when it was adapted into a Broadway musical (which was recursively adapted in a film)

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Lolita is a prime example of this, to the extent that it's mostly known in the general public as "that novel about pedophilia". Fortunately, its status as a modern classic prevents it from becoming too neglected, but most people unaware of why it's considered so great are likely to pass it up due to the premise. There are also the ones to go to read it for the prurient content, all thanks to the films of the book that age up Dolores and play up her Fille Fatale tendencies while playing down Humbert's predatory ones.
  • Stephen King withheld Pet Sematary from publication for several years because he felt the subject matter made the book unpublishable.
  • Warrior Cats. It's about cute, fluffy cats, living in a very violent fantasy 'verse. It has a public, but it's not composed of the small children that could appreciate cute cats in bloody fights but are turned off by the continuity and the complexity of the verse, nor by the older children and teenagers that could be drawn by the fantasy drama but are turned off by the fluffy cats starring it.
  • Save The Pearls: Revealing Eden. It's a YA novel taking place in a dystopian future where white people are enslaved by evil black people. Ah, and it turns out that blackface is integral to the plot.
  • The article's opening quote refers to one of the books by Willa Cather, a prominent female writer for the first half of the XX century. She wrote a lot about Nebraska, one of the least densely-populated and featured of the United States, due to living in and loving the place.
  • There was a line of novels for the Monster High line of toys, that flopped after a few volumes. It's not difficult to see why: the novels tackled themes way too heavy and indulged in too much fanservice for being acceptable for the younger kids, older readers that could have liked them were aghast reading anything associated with a toyline directed towards little girls, and the fans of the franchise were appalled that the novels didn't follow the official lore and were a In Name Only effort.

Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Heil Honey I'm Home!: A 1990 British sitcom starring caricatures of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun who live in matrimonial bliss until they become neighbors to a Jewish couple. Being a satire didn't help much, nor the fact that the only joke the show had was that the main characters are Hitler and Eva. An argument could be made that the show was a Deconstruction of the sitcom format itself, not only in that it could turn the most evil man in the world not just into a supposedly cuddly sitcom character, but also the conventions of the sitcom format forced what could be a brilliant Black Comedy into yet another unfunny formulaic sitcom. However, that's probably giving the creators of the show too much credit.
  • Lone Star was supposed to be the big show of 2010 for its network, but the premise turned off audiences so badly it was canceled after two episodes. Unlike shows like Leverage or Hustle, the conman protagonist was not stealing just from Jerkasses but was also cheating nice, hard-working people. The Heel Face Turn that was supposed to set him up on the road to redemption (and audience sympathy) turned out to be just a way for him to marry two different women and maintain a double life. When the audience finds no redeeming qualities in the main character and wants him thrown in jail as soon as possible, the premise just doesn't work.
  • Profit featured a Villain Protagonist before other shows dabbled with the concept. It didn't last a single season.
  • As a rule, series with morally gray protagonists tend to do awfully when broadcast in network channels, but fare better in cable (as the threshold for audiences and renovation is way lower in the latter). Just compare how fared NBC's Hannibal (where the titular character wasn't the Villain Protagonist but the main antagonist, despite ads to the contrary) versus HBO's Dexter. Leverage has a very successful run in TNT, while other heist-based series in network came and went.
  • Not nearly as severe as other examples, but some viewers find themselves put off by the fact that Friday Night Lights is "about football". It kind of is, but interest in football isn't (necessarily) a requirement to enjoy the show at all, any more than an interest in ghosts is required to enjoy Ghostbusters. It's just a good and interesting small-town/family drama.
    • And the flipside was that NBC also targeted football fans, promoting it heavily during Sunday Night Football telecasts, only that those fans found too little football and passed, and everyone else who passed on it thought "too much football."
      • That the football in question is the American variety didn't help it overseas; in Britain, ITV4 only aired the first season.
  • Even pro-capitalist viewers have reported difficulties with the show House of Lies. It's about taking money from rich business owners... and giving it to rich management consultants instead. This wouldn't be so bad if the consultants in question didn't Kick the Dog every episode, or act in some hypocritical fashion that makes it difficult to take the characters seriously.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series was this in the southern states of America, due to their racially diverse cast.
  • Community was one of those rare cases where the alienating thing wasn't the premise ("Jerkass is discovered to have faked his college education, so he has to return to school and gets involved with a bunch of weirdos that teach him friendship", a ripe source for standard sitcom material), but the execution, full of obscure jokes and shout-outs, Continuity Lock Outs, numerous one-of-genre episodes, and a penchant on insulting their very network.
  • Arrested Development, via a combination of a very dense plot which touches subjects on finances and stock markets that most ordinary people knows nothing about; said plot being driven by a Big Screwed-Up Family filled with egotistical yuppies where the only person close to decency is the Butt Monkey Only Sane Man protagonist, the rest of the clan being conformed by Corrupt Corporate Executives, eccentric weirdos, self-centered jerkasses, lazy assholes, and ordinary people driven mad by the chaos; and a good amount of the jokes revolving around Incest Subtext. While it was a critical darling while it aired, it didn't translate into ratings and was canceled after its third season. It became Vindicated by History and revived by Netflix, when it turned out that the series was better enjoyed in binge watching.
  • TV Musicals have a hard time. Only Fame, Smash and Glee were the ones that weren't killed after their first season, and only because of those taking place in settings where the characters sudden burst into singing were justified, and, in the latter, ramping up the camp factor. The most infamous of failed TV musicals series were Cop Rock and Viva Laughlin, musical comedy-drama series about policemen and crime — and the latter was an American adaptation of the British series Blackpool which was better received despite also being a crime mystery musical (British Brevity may have helped).
  • Birds of Prey tried to aim to both the comic geeks and the Dawson's Creek fans. Predicatively, it failed: the geeks were flabbergasted by the pointless drama, and the teenyboopers were very confused by the constant barrage of obscure and not-so-obscure reference to comics. They also had bad timing of release (early 2000's, just when the Superhero boom was barely beginning) and being relatively unknown characters by the general public. Nearly a decade later, Arrow, a series based in the Green Arrow comics that has the same premise and objective public than Birds of Prey, actually found success, mostly because it benefited of comic superheroes now being mainstream and the character having been introduced in the very popular Smallville.
  • The premise of Dollhouse is that there is a stash of people whose minds are repeatedly wiped, who then get implanted false personalities that let them act as whenever they are needed to be (from prostitutes to killers to anything in between). Even when the situation is depicted negatively in universe, the whole concept is deeply uncomfortable to watch, and also doesn't let the audience to get close to and follow any character due to the fact that their personality changes from episode to episode. This one was the least successful of Joss Whedon shows, not even gaining a cult fanbase.
  • Carnivàle. It's probably the most original series of the Oughties, but the premise is "the ultimate supernatural showdown happened within an itinerant carnival troupe while touring a dust bowl during the Depression", and the plot is filled with such of amount of internal and external references to mythology, most of them laid in the most obscure way possible, made many people unable to get caught in. There is a reason this series is called "Twin Peaks, but less accesible".
  • Vidas Robadas, an extremely dense Argentinian Telenovela about human traffiking, whose heroine is a woman that was kidnapped and forced into prostitution. And also was pittied in the Argentinian equivalent of the Friday Night Death Slot. It got a cult fanbase and the status of Acclaimed Flop after earning several prizes.

Music[edit | hide]

  • Mahler's Kindertotenlieder. That's right, "Songs on the Death of Children". Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. A dissonant, avant-garde ballet about the ritual sacrifice of a virgin in prehistoric times to ensue a good spring. Sounds lovely enough to you? The audience rioted during the premiere of this one.
  • Double albums in general. Way too many artists went into self-indulgent navel gazing when doing so, now the whole medium is poisoned.
  • The musical merits of U2's album Songs of Innocence are debatible, but the utterly reprehensible way Apple automatically added the album to millions of people libraries (which in many cases meant automatic and unwilling download of it) definitely is not up to discussion, and actually poisoned people against listening to it. Apple had to create a dedicated page on their website to allow users to delete the album from their iTunes accounts to deal with the ensuing controversy.
  • Frank Zappa's entire career. The man has embraced Genre Roulette as his musical style, and in consequence, his mainstream commercial success has been low. His songs are considered Cult Classic and his fans are actually very devoted, however.

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • FATAL's premise is "What if, instead of playing in a sanitized Dungeons & Dragons-style fantasy world, you had one with all the negative traits of Ancient Rome and The Dung Ages rolled into one?" Even if FATAL had been a masterwork of mechanical genius (which, um, it isn't), with a premise like that, it wouldn't have made it big anyway. One of the most well-known memes about the "game" is "Roll for anal circumference!" That single line right there tells you all you need to know about this "game".
  • Bunnies and Burrows, who provides this page image. Mechanically and thematically, one of the most interesting games in the genre. The premise, however, is that your player characters are intelligent bunnies trying to survive being preyed upon. People see the cover and think "My Little Bunny" or something equally fluffy; people who manage to read the lore realize that they actually would end playing Watership Down; the few people who overcome the themes or actually are interested in the premise realize that the game lacks magic systems and its mechanics discourage Munchkinism and several popular ways to play tabletop RPGs.
  • The execrable Racial Holy War, whose title says it all. To the ones who require further explanation: the premise it's that in the future, the melanin-rich humans now dominate the earth so the heroically oppressed white player characters must fight against their Jewish overlords. The game is also so execrably written (with rules that make the allegedly superior white race weak to the smell of black people and laughably easy to bribe) that, had we didn't know that the author wrote it in total sincerity, could be mistaken as a parody of self-important racists that want minorities incorporated into the D&D monster book.
  • White Wolf, the company that prides itself of being the Darker and Edgier/"Realistic" company among those who dedicate to the Tabletop role-playing environment, has been bitten more than once by their constant embrace of grimdarkness:
    • Wraith: The Oblivion. Your character is already dead, chained to their primal impulse; Eldritch abominations command hordes of souls that are looking stray wraiths for prey; the underworld looks like something out of a second-rate H.G. Giger BSMD parody; and the possibility of any restful afterlife is denied from the get-go. Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy doesn't even begin to cover it.
    • Changeling: The Dreaming has the opposite problem of Wraith, as it came as too whimsical and bright since your playable characters are faeries (the cutesy post-Victorian incarnation, not The Fair Folk) in a book filled with glurge-worthy illustration. That's it, until you actually read the lore and discovered that the plot of the game is that the changelings are fighting an increasingly lost battle against the death of imagination. People who went to this book looking for a fluffier take to the Old World of Darkness discovered that the fluff matted at the touch.
    • Promethean: The Created one of the first game for the New World of Darkness. The aim of the game is playing Frankenstein's Monster-like Golems who want to Become a Real Boy, but the lore is prone to invoke Wangst due to the counterintuitivity of the end goal and the status of the player characters as Walking Wastelands, the system is very punishing and prone to railroading, and the whole game needs a particular combination of well-communicating player and storyteller due to the psychological depts the plots can get.
  • Ironclaw is a good game, with an interesting setting and a system that allows several types of gameplay and a lot of freedom to the players. Problem is, the game ditches the standard fantasy races for Funny Animals. 1d4chan called it "a game made by Furries, for furries and about furries" and "Furcadia: The Roleplaying Game", and it's very difficult to get over that sort of stigma.

Videogames[edit | hide]

  • The Binding of Isaac could be considered one. You are a young boy named Isaac. Your mother was commanded by God to kill you to prove her loyalty, so you escape into the basement...which happens to be filled with demons, mutants, undead fetuses, and the occasional Horseman of the Apocalypse or incarnation of one of the Seven Deadly Sins. And you have to fight them off using only your tears. And sometimes your urine. Or your blood
    • Subverted in that it's done very well for itself, selling half a million copies, and the "Wrath of the lamb" expansion was in the top sellers list on steam when released.
  • JFK: Reloaded: A simulation game where you fire the fateful shot that kills John F. Kennedy, scoring you based on how well you were able to recreate the actual assassination. It's actually pretty educational and developed with the noble goal of disproving the Conspiracy Theories surrounding the shooting, but... yeah.
  • Monster Girl Quest: Lose and the Girls Rape You. It's a deep and engaging story deconstructing half the tropes in existence and parodying the rest, involving a race war that goes back to the dawn of the world... but that doesn't change the fact that the battle mechanic is the hero fighting off the monster girls who are trying to rape him..
  • Rance: It's a text heavy Eastern RPG series where the protagonist is a Heroic Comedic Sociopath serial rapist. It averts Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil hard while playing with all other Rape Tropes. That being said, it is one of the Video Game Long Runners for a reason.
  • The Unholy War is a great game which combined fast paced combat with very slow paced turn-based strategy, not targeting any of those two genres' audiences. Action-oriented gamers are scared by the "slow and meticulous" chess-like gameplay while the strategy-oriented gamers are scared by the "quick and dumb" action gameplay.
  • PETA's infamous flash games that satirize famous characters and transform it in animal-hating villains. The people who agree with PETA naturally won't play those games, and the fans of the parodied characters will feel offended and insulted.
  • Super Columbine Massacre RPG!, a satirical RPG Maker game where you play as the Columbine shooters, first while doing the massacre, then while they are in hell and end as minions of the South Park version of Satan. Given that the original event is still very controversial almost 20 years later, the mere fact that this game exists can be off-putting.
  • The infamous Rapelay. It's a rape simulator, which even in the world of rape-themed eroges fails for having a simplistic mechanic that consist on "Hold down button, watch bar fill". People who are not into rape scenarios will avoid the game like the plague, people who are find the game boring and trite.
  • Papers, Please has a very engaging story about the perils of living in a totalitarian government and having to take hard moral choices while working as a immigration worker. The gameplay, however, amounts to a "paperwork simulator" that can drive people off.
  • Any game franchise that has fanservice as a selling point:
    • Death Smiles, a side scrolling Shoot 'em Up by CAVE, who received flack by its Gothic Lolita aesthetic and the suspiciously sensual way the female characters act towards each other in the cut scenes.
    • Otomedius, a Gradius self-parody, where the "ships" and the enemies are pretty girls in variable states of undress.
    • All the Cho Aniki franchise, featuring an ever increasing amount of buff men in speedos witch each installment, and high amounts of homosexual innuendo and references.
    • The Ar tonelico franchise, where in exchange for an interesting magic game system, an intriguing meta-plot about a planet so scarred is trying to commit suicide, and some of the best soundtracks ever committed to JRPGs, we have a gameplay where we have to get inside the psyche of mentally scarred and terribly vulnerable young female magic users, with each stage featuring them in increasingly fetishistic costumes or, as in the third game, in ever increasing states of undress.
    • Senran Kagura, a Beat 'em up/Hack and Slash about rival ninja schools whose plot is simultaneously light and dark, with a cast full of busty ninja ladies that get Clothing Damage constantly.
    • Dead or Alive is a really good fighting game, but its creators are so unabashed about the fanservice that they even created an spinoff series centered in the very good looking female characters playing volleyball while in increasingly scant swimsuits and playing the Jiggle Physics for all its Gainaxing potential.
  • Yo-Kai Watch status as a semi-flop in the West despite being a Cash Cow Franchise in Japan is due to this, as the game goes into the concept of Yokai everywhere, even in a mundane modern city. Since "Yokai" is a very Japanese concept difficult to culturally translate, players outside that cultural sphere cannot see the appeal.
  • Custer's Revenge. You know, that pornographic Atari 2600 game about the General Custer raping a tied up Native American woman? Leaving besides that fact that the blocky graphics are not particularly arousing, the very repetitive and oudated mechanics (even for its era) and the horrifically racist and misogynist premise made it unsuitable for anything with normal sensibilities. Whatever numbers it sold, it was more due to Bile Fascination than anything else.
  • Kantai Collection ended up being a subversion. The game, whose premise revolves around Anthropomorphized versions of World War II Axis warships fighting thinly version of the Allies ships and being cutesy waifus in general, does not sit well with Western and Asian audiences, but ended being a surprise hit on China, of all places, which if you know how China fared during that historical period makes the place the last country where such a game could have a success. The game ended up inspiring a lot of Chinese programmers, who released an array of games very clearly inspired by KanColle, from blatant ripoffs, to a rehash of the concept titled Girls Frontline starring anthropomorphized guns.
  • The whole Drakengard franchise. Crapsack World doesn't even begin to start to describe its universe, and in two of the games you end up playing straight up Villain Protagonists. Your party members can include cannibals, serial murderers, sex maniacs, and pedophiles. And in case you are actually interested to play to follow the story, the gameplay is monotonous and grinding, and the controls for flying the dragons is probably one of the worst in the industry. Despite being the shinning example of Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy, it has an small cove of fans who love the game precisely because is extremely different to the Final Fantasies and Dragon Quests and Tales of... that dominate the JRPG landscape

Visual Novels[edit | hide]

  • Hatoful Boyfriend is a dating game where the potential mates are pigeons, which are represented by actual photographs of birds. By the way, your player character is human. It was originally conceived as a parody of the genre, if that helps to explain it.
  • Katawa Shoujo is a cripple Eroge Visual Novel where all the heroines are Disabled Love Interests... that manages to be avert both Disabled Means Helpless and Inspirationally Disadvantaged and treats the characters as people. Not to mention that it's good enough to become a Gateway Series despite the premise. It is still undeniably a cripple Eroge Visual Novel ... so yeah.
    • It's so well-made that it made Anonymous, of all people, have what they call "the feels".
    • The other point of contention with KS is that it was created from a a idea birthed by 4chan. Most people thought it was a troll game playing the concept for shock value due to the board's infamy.
  • Doki Doki Literature Club!, for being the Madoka Magica of the genre. At first glance is a cute, lighthearted game, with only a vague disclaimer presaging that things are not what it seems and that the game switches genres to horror mid game. After several in-game episodes of romantic shannenigans, there is a shocking scene that changes perceptions on the characters and its 'verse; after that point, the game becomes a psychological horror-flavored deconstructive take on dating sims. Needless to say, neither VN fans nor horror fans are willing to commit to the gaming incarnation of Bait and Switch.
  • Diabolik Lovers is an Otome game that centers on how all the love interests of the heroine are sadistic vampire brothers, that end abusing her in all the routes. And this is played for fanservice. Even people into Bastard Boyfriends scenarios were uncomfortable with the way the game handled it. This is claimed as the reason why the anime adaptation flopped.
  • The premise of Arithmetic's otome mobile game Bidding for Love is that an ordinary office lady (the player character) is set-up into being auctioned and sold to a rich man, who immediately asserts himself by having dubiously consensual sex with her. It's eventually revealed that the company she used to work were the ones who set up her and went so far into erasing her existence and her ties with them. And then she begins to fall in love with the man that bought her. If it wasn't played for romance it would be the plot for one episode of a crime procedural.
  • Dies Irae. Either for the Nazi themes that kickstart the plot, or that the story intends to focus in the present day characters while keeping the Nazi themes and crimes as a under-developed background, take your choice on what alienates people more.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: It's a musical about a wannabe Mad Scientist who aspires to join an Villain association. And the thing is mostly narrated via the main character video blogs. Note that at the time of release the term "blog" have a particular set of connotations that left many people even more wary of the concept.
  • Brows Held High. A review show dedicated to artsy films (you know, the ones that are usually lumped into Le Film Artistique stereotype) in the vein of humoristic reviewers like The Nostalgia Critic. And created with the intention to encourage Gen Z and millenials into looking at those movies.
  • Stuart Ashen's entire shtick. So we have this highly educated British bloke and let him review things from the depth of the bargain bin, from weird toys to execrable videogames to those weird food cans from the back of the supermarket fridge. While Ashen's videos are very popular, it's less because of the premise and more on the fascination with the downright bizarre stuff he introduces to camera.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Fox's Peter Pan and The Pirates was a cartoon with some great writing and storytelling, that was surprisingly gothic at times (with its share of Nightmare Fuel!). Why didn't it do well? Well, it's about Peter Pan, and yet it takes itself dead seriously and has more mature storytelling than you'd expect given the source material. Hence, little kids who might be drawn in by Peter Pan got scared away, and older kids who'd enjoy the story took one look at who it's about and decided it was kiddy. Note that the original novel was very dark in its way, as well (at the end, Tinkerbell is dead, and Peter is too childlike to remember, or care, who she was, for example). But, thanks to Disneyfication, anything that returns to the spirit of the original alienates everyone.
  • The Critic: An adult cartoon about a film critic that is portrayed as a fat, bald, whiny loser - who actually is the sympathetic character, because, when compared with the rest of the cast, he is the one who actually has morals and integrity, as he is contrasted with the dredge of popular culture and Anti-Intellectualism represented by his boss. The second season was Lighter and Softer (without losing humor quality), and the protagonist gained a Love Interest in the bargain, but everybody knew the show was Too Good to Last: it clashed with the family comedies of its original network ABC, and then Channel Hopped to FOX, Killer Network extraordinaire.
  • Big Mouth is about a group of teens going thorough puberty and first exploring their sexuality, portraying the issue with such extreme, in-your-face frankness, many people claimed it was bordering child pornography. The creators were aware of it, as the art style used is deliberately ugly, probably chosen to dissuade ephebophiles. Critics who saw it actually liked it, but other people may be appalled by either the subject or the art style, and it's not very likely that the show gets watched by actual teens ongoing puberty since they would feel the series is too close to home.
  • Allen Gregory is the story of an over-pampered home-schooled 7-year old that, after his gay parents file bankruptcy, gets into regular schooling. The alienating part here was that the premise was explored in a way filled of all the Unfortunate Implications they could stuff on it: one of the gay fathers is an unrepentant jerkass that basically blackmailed the other father into a relationship with him despite the man being already married to a woman (there was restraining orders involved at some point), the rest of adults are portrayed as spineless at best (and that includes the daughter character who is an unfunny expy of Meg), and the titular character is similarly an spoiled jerk that refuses to adapt. There is also the ongoing subplot of the titular character having a crush in the septuagenarian director of his school, which is played too sexually to dismiss it as a mere Precocious Crush. No wonder the show was axed after 7 episodes.
  • Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain, it's what happens when you decide to retool a popular series by injecting the least liked character of Tiny Toon Adventures. All the staff and even the producers knew it was a bad idea but, as expressed by the theme song, ""It's what the network wants, why bother to complain?". 13 episodes were ordered and produced, with a reception so abysmal it marked the death of the series.
  • Every My Little Pony series that came after the 1980's original (not that a franchise about cutesy colorful magical ponies have a lot of mainstream appeal in the first place):
  • Pelswick has too much going on to actually have a chance of attract public. It's starred by a paraplegic kid, written in such a way to not have it define his entire character, that receives advice from a Guardian Angel that only he can see. Any of those things could have sustained a show by itself; together, they were too much. The humor of the show was also filled with quite adult references and jabs towards political correctness, while also having an "Aesop of the Day" structure that many older fans could find trite. The art style was quite unusual and a bit off-putting. The series lasted only 26 episodes.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door was very successful, but many people was weirded by the series having a wacky premise that takes itself seriously. Remember, this is a series about a secret association of children fighting against a cabal of child-hating adults, where the classical things children hate (discipline, homework, veggies, etc.) are actual weapons against kids. The weird art style and the Continuity Lock Out didn't help much either.
  • SheZow: a Australian-Canadian cartoon about a Wholesome Crossdresser child superhero. It's a cult classic, but it should be obvious why it didn't got a second season and had a small run.
  • Ren and Stimpy's Adult Party Cartoon. It tried to simultaneously being a drama and a tasteless shock gross-out cartoon, and failed on both accounts, as that the drama was very forced and the shocking content was, on top of distracting too much of the dramatic content, either too tasteless or too lame.
  • MTV's Clone High was given a fast death due to this. It was a show about the clones of famous historical figures, whose personalities ranged from flanderizations of its originals to radically opposite of those, in a way that rendered them Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonists. In special, it's portrayal of Clone!Mahatma Gandhi as a jerkass party animal sparked protest in India, as there Gandhi is a very revered figure.
  • Teen Titans Go!, for fans of the original Teen Titans. Instead of a super-hero action show, is a Denser and Wackier comedy reimagination where the Titans are both flanderized and turned into Jerk Asses. Even people who aren't fans of the original series or even comic fans can become predisposed aganst the series due to its high reliance on non-sequitur humor and constant mean-spiritedness. The creators also have extremely thin skins, as proven by the unusually high number episodes dedicated exclusively to be Take That, Critics!. It fares somewhat well with its stated public of small children that doesn't know about the original, but even they can tire of the series easily due to Cartoon Network constant marathoning of it.

  1. It made sort of sense in context, as GotF was based in a famous book while Totoro was a riskier film with no precedent at all, but it still feels jarring. It's like if Pixar made a faithful adaptation of Pedro Paramo to go in a double function with Coco