Informed Ability

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We are assured, again and again, that she had a remarkably original in mind, that she was a genius, and "conscious of her originality," and she was fortunate enough to have a lover who was also a genius and a man of "most original mind."

A subtrope of Informed Attribute: A character's skill and abilities are frequently mentioned by the cast, but are nonexistent in practice.

Though the motivations for allowing this are similar to the motivations for allowing Informed Attributes in general, there is much less of an excuse for it. Believably getting it across that, say, someone is compassionate is difficult stuff; it's the mark of a good author to pull that kind of thing off. Skills and abilities are a much simpler deal: Is someone a master locksmith? Have them pick a lock now and then. Are they combat experts? Have them take the fight to their opponents whenever they can and gain the upper hand.

What often deters writers from going through with the above plan is the fact that, well, Most Writers Are Writers. They're writing a character who's supposed to be a musician, but they don't know the particulars of meters or chords. They have a character who is a military expert, but they don't know how long an infantry division can fight until it needs to be resupplied. They have a character who's a genius, but they haven't a clue what kind of problem only a genius would be able to work through, or how. If they actually attempt to show the ability in action they take a very real risk of the portrayal falling completely flat.

One choice the writer has is to go ahead and show the supposed "ability". But if they don't do the research, this leads to such laughable characters as the scientist who spouts Hollywood Science, the tactician who comes up with the sort of tactics a five-year-old would think of and the "genius" who is only a genius because they're the only one coming up with any plan at all, and everyone else is downright stupid. Lack of convincing detail means the reader does not believe, whether it is fixing an engine or presenting the actual philosophy of a character purported to be wise, and can make the readers long for the informed ability.

It's much easier for the writer to just stay away from showing that character's expertise at all. After all, how can the portrayal possibly live up to the hype? And since the audience has to know about this expertise some way or the other, this inevitably leads to telling the reader about it instead of showing it to them.

There are, fortunately, ways around this.

  1. The hard way is doing the necessary research, and lots of it.
  2. The easier way is to have the character act out their expertise without going into technical details. The military leader arrives at the war room, going from briefing to briefing, gives out commands over the radio and the tide of battle turns. The master composer comes up with the hook for a popular singer's upcoming single, and a week later we hear that it is topping the charts. The character can display their skills without showing their work directly- it's only an informed ability if there is no meaningful evidence they have it, or, worse, evidence they don't have it at all.

This trope can be Played for Laughs - a character might find increasingly bizarre and unlikely reasons to not use their alleged abilities in situations where they would prove useful, or that one time where they actually put it to use may be a Noodle Incident that goes on being mentioned at random, or they may display their skill, but in a manner conspicuously offscreen while the other characters exclaim "Look at them go!". If they finally, at one point, go ahead and prove that they are every bit as capable as their reputation suggests, that's Let's Get Dangerous.

See also Faux Action Girl, where "competent fighter" becomes an Informed Ability. A Necessary Weasel in Video Games, where often you'll be playing someone supposedly very competent, but how well they actually perform is up to you, and often they'll go through tutorials teaching them the basics of their supposed area of expertise for the player's sake. Compare Character Shilling or, in particularly bad examples, Creator's Pet.

No Real Life Examples, Please.

Examples of Informed Ability include:


Note: If the particulars of a character's skills are intentionally hidden from the audience for dramatic effect, but the skill itself does come into play, that's another trope.

Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Fubuki is said to be one of the top duelists of the school and is even lauded as the best duelist they have left after Kaiser graduates. The one duel he has as his true self ends in a loss. (His duels as Nightshroud involved either Judai or Hell Kaiser Ryo.) In the manga, he more than lives up to his reputation.
    • In the manga, his sister Asuka is said to be as good as Manjoume, but did not win any of her three shown duels, although she won enough duels to qualify for the finals, and Seika Kohinata, a fellow Obelisk Blue duelist, knows she has no chance against her.
    • Yuma, of Yu-Gi-Oh ZEXAL. We're told by characters he's gotten better, but in practice he still can't do anything without Astral telling him what to do and often forgets the effects of his own cards.
  • Bleach:
    • Retsu Unohana sends minor Soul Reapers running for the hills at her presence, has well-established Soul Reaper badasses Shunsui Kyoraku and Jushiro Ukitake fearing her wrath, and even is established in the series' guidebook as the third-most powerful Soul Reaper captain in Soul Society - and has yet to actually be shown in a fight. While this is mostly due to her friendly, motherly demeanor and her role as Soul Society's head White Magician Girl the few times that could potentially show off her power are dashed due to the plot.
    • 9th Espada, Aaroniero Arruruerie claims to have copied the abilities of over 36000 Hollows. Before he's killed, we see him use at most three of them.
    • Taken to an extreme with Chojiro Sasakibe. His funeral reveals he possessed bankai but had always refused to use it. Justified, however, in that the manga has long introduced us to the concept of shinigami who hide their zanpakutou abilities for personal reasons; Aizen, Gin, Ikkaku and Yumichika are the most well-known examples. Choujirou therefore just slotted into an existing story concept. His case isn't helped by the fact that the one time we see him enter a fight, at the end of the Soul Society arc, Ichigo knocks him out with one punch.
  • Shinra from They Are My Noble Masters is supposed to be a world-famous, talented conductor. Yet all we see her do is waving her staff around in a very unprofessional manner and answering stupid questions from her musicians. The music that results from her conducting is also not really noteworthy.
  • Yukito from AIR supposedly managed to support himself for years by performing tricks with his magic doll, but in the TV series and manga he hardly makes a single yen with his act. He fares a bit better in The Movie, though.
  • Gates, the villain of the second season of Full Metal Panic!!, is supposedly an extremely skilled and dangerous Humongous Mecha pilot who leads a team of specially trained hunter-killers for Amalgam, all of whom are equipped with extremely powerful BlackBox mecha (for a comparison, one such mecha in the hands of a lower-standing member of the organization fought Sousuke to a standstill three times, killed several redshirts and mortally wounded a Mauve Shirt during the first season). Alas, five minutes after actually entering combat and proving his 'fearsomeness' by killing an overstrained and mentally unstable girl who was using an inferior machine, he and his entire team are bowled over by Sousuke in one go like so many Mooks.
    • Gates is a good pilot, but Sousuke is one of the best in series; once he got his mech's Lambda driver working properly, it took away the one advantage that Gates had over him.
  • Code Geass:
    • Tohdoh is described as a great general (having beat Knightmare Frames during the invasion without any of his own), only to have disaster strike whenever he is put in a leadership position, the most obvious instance being the season finale where he manages to get nearly his entire army either killed or captured. Code Geass was quite big on informing of someone's genius outside of Lelouch.
    • The Knights Of Round. Most of them are killed by Suzaku with ease, and Luciano Bradley and 4 of his subordinates, together, manage to defeat a sniper in melee, but even the ones who live don't show impressive ability. Anya's greatest skill is using her Knightmare's giant cannon, to blow stuff up. And with a cannon that big, I'd be shocked if she missed. Gino is the only one who shows actual skill, and he's left in the dust by Knight of Seven, Suzaku Kururugi - so much that he's not even a challenge. At least he can go toe to toe with every other pilot in the series... Except, you know, the Black Knights' own ace, Kallen. But that's not unexpected, so that's... a 2 out of 7?
  • Punie from Dai Mahou Touge is supposed to have nigh-infallible submission techniques to bring down her opponents, but everybody who knows a bit about martial arts should see that it's a bit silly. Most opponents don't even defend against her approaches—and when they fall down they don't even try to get up anymore, making it all too easy for Punie to perform a lock on them.
  • Naruto:
    • The Chunin examinees are said to be the best Genin in the world, but all nine of the rookies fresh out of the Konoha academy, as well as Team Guy, whose members have been ninjas for a little over a year, all make it to the finals while many more experienced ninja fail although in Kabuto's case, he did it on purpose to gather intelligence on the competitors.
    • Shikamaru's supposed IQ of 200 is often joked about on Japanese boards. It only gets strained applications that come off as hokey at best, not to mention isn't integral to his character (though he is the Guile Hero of the group). Same with Sakura's supposed smarts; intelligence might be the worst trait to have in the series.
    • Kakashi Hatake is said to have "over a thousand" different abilities he has copied from people over the years. Unfortunately we only see about six of them over the course of hundreds of episodes.
    • Kakashi is better off than Sarutobi Asuma or especially Yuuhi Kurenai. Asuma is supposedly one of the most powerful guys in Naruto, and besides defeating cannon fodder Sound nins, he is schooled by two different Akatsuki teams; the second time he ended up dead. Kurenai... jeez girl, what did Kishimoto DO to you? You're a jounin! You should know better than using a genjutsu against an Uchiha, especially Itachi! (Doesn't help that the only thing she really does in the plot afterwards is get knocked up by Asuma shortly before he died.)
    • The worst offender, however, goes to the ANBU. They're sent on all the most dangerous missions, any Badass main character has spent time in the ANBU, and overall, supposed to be the SEALs of the ninja world. When they actually get into a fight, they're degraded to Mook status, those formerly Badass masks now cementing their status as Cannon Fodder. The fact that they're anonymous but allegedly elite makes them custom-made for The Worf Effect.
    • Hanzou, leader of the Village Hidden in the Rain, also suffers from this. The audience is told of his almost unstoppable power and skills but we never actually see him in combat. This is then mixed with The Worf Effect when Hanzou's assassination is used to hype up Pain's own power, emphasized even more by the fact that Jiraiya, Tsunade, and Orochimaru all lost to Hanzou during the war. Both of these tropes are eventually averted for Pain when he proceeds to kill Jiraiya and blow up Konoha proving that the rumors of his abilities are no exaggeration.
    • Naruto himself became a victim of this trope throughout the first half of Shippuden. Practically every mention of him was accompanied by a comment over how strong he is and how much he has improved, yet the only improvement he ever really showed was a bigger rasengan, and the constant need to get bailed out of any dangerous situation by his teammates. Thankfully, he got better as the series went on.
    • The newest victim of this trope is the 2nd Hokage. Despite doing all of nothing in the one fight he has on-panel in the series, much, much later chapters have revealed several capabilities of his that have never been seen, including creating the Edo Tensei technique, which allows the user to use golems of dead people to fight their opponent, and being a master of Space/Time techniques, the same techniques used by Madara and Minato Namikaze, the Fourth Hokage, which make them Nigh Invulnerable.
    • Sasuke has actually flirted with this trope from time to time, While he's without a doubt very skilled, when you actually take a closer look at his Win/Lose ratio Sasuke doesn't put up the best performances. A good majority of Sasuke's victories have been a result of Worf Had the Flu; Naruto specifically held back at the end during their battle at the Valley of the End, he ambushed Orochimaru when he was on a sick bed, Itachi was nearly blind, and Danzo specifically held back to deal with Madara.
    • Hayate Gekko, the Chunin Examiner was heavily implied to be pretty tough judging by the fact that he's got the job he does. However, he gets offed while listening in on two villains, one of which, the Sand Ninja Jonin was his killer.
  • In Hitohira, Nono is supposed to be able to beat up all of the karate club on her own, even though later she is shown to have her hands full fighting only one person, namely her female fellow club member Risaki—which even results in a tie.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima:
    • The Canis Niger group of bounty hunters, who were made out to be an incredibly strong group of mages. We see them capture Nodoka (a total noncombatant) and her group of treasure hunters (who we've never seen fight), before Negi shows up and wipes them all out single handedly. The only real thing of note that they pull off successfully is luring Setsuna and Kaede into a trap.
    • In an in-universe example, Nagi Springfield the Thousand Master's legend says he knows 1000 spells. In truth, he knows 6. To his credit, though, most of the other rumors tend to be true. It turns out that those 6 spells are all he needs.
    • Any given monster or non-humanoid creature generally fits, most notably the Sealed Evil in a Can Ryoman Sukuna no Kami, who was overwhelmed by an even more evil being Evangeline the Dark Evangel (among her many titles). Also odd was a massive black dragon which Ninja Kaede defeated while blind-folded.
  • One Piece: The Sea Kings are supposedly very powerful, and serve as a means of dissuading sailors from entering the Calm Belt, but they only demonstrate how deadly they are when the Lord of the Coast eats Higuma the Bear in Luffy's past, and then eats Shanks' arm. They mostly serve to show how powerful certain characters are by falling in battle against them.
    • There is, however, immense variance in size and power among Sea Kings. The latest arc has appearances by Sea Kings like Stripey who are bigger than good-sized islands; Lord of the Coast is probably about the size of one of their teeth. These uber-Sea Kings also, unlike previous smaller ones, demonstrate human-level intelligence.
  • Reportedly Asuka of Neon Genesis Evangelion was a prodigy who graduated from a German University by the age of 13, and though this emphasizes the competitiveness of her character, she never displays the education level she should have. Further, accelerated admission to higher learning in Germany is as much dependent on emotional maturity of the student, but her temperament doesn't suggest someone who'd be considered for Gymnasium early, much less Universitat, or even someone who'd been immersed in mature peer group, academic or otherwise.
  • Lampshaded in The Prince of Tennis 40.5 databook. Aragaki, a character whose sole contribution was to lose a doubles match the author didn't even bother showing, is given a bio something like: "In order to hold his own on such a formidable team, he must have awesome tennis powers ... well, he should..."
  • Saint Seiya spends hours of footage telling us that Bronze Saints can reach the speed of sound, Gold Saints can reach the speed of light, and so forth. But when any of them need to get anywhere in a certain limit in time (read: once per arc), they run more-or-less as fast as a normal person (even slower).
  • Several Examples from Rave Master. The first is Mega Unit, described as The Alcatraz... while the person talking about it is looking at it in ruins after the Big Bad broke out. The next is Miltz, who's supposed to be one of the most powerful sorcerers in the world. It takes, at most, one spell to knock him down, and he never cast a single effective spell in battle either. The final one is Beryl, supposedly the strongest of the Oracion Six generals, all other six (as there were really seven) were quite a feat to beat, if beaten at all, and one later took down a demon lord. Beryl took only one hit.
  • The Mobile Suits suffer from this in Mobile Suit Gundam 00. They generally have a knack for using weapons once or twice (e.g. Exia only uses its wrist vulcans twice in 25 episodes. But blink and you'll miss it!) But supplementary materials make things worse. For example, did you know the GN-007 Arios Gundam in season 2 had a beam shield? According to the official file it does, but it has never been animated. The Model Kits are another offender as well. The Special Editions do add footage of some weapons in use, but these are only glimpses in action packed sequences.
  • The Royal Knights from Digimon Data Squad. Not a one of them is remotely tough, always getting taken down within an episode. Even worse, it's continually talked about how powerful they are. In fact, when they join the good guys, they don't even really help, they just kind of take a back seat.
  • Mitsuko Kongou from To Aru Kagaku no Railgun. She's a Level 4 and worthy rival to teleporter Kuroko Shirai, and boasts about her powers to anyone who will listen (including those she's about to fight). Despite this, the first few times she appears in onscreen battles, she loses before even having a chance to use her ability.
  • Touka in Saki is supposedly a great Mahjong player. However, every match she's in, she manages to lose horribly. Offscreen she does fine though.
  • Konata from Lucky Star is said to be a good martial artist, but aside from that Street Fighter parody, we have yet to see her fight for real.
  • Lorelei Wang from Love is in the Bag never passes the opportunity to tell everyone that she is a genius, but even the rest of the cast is in doubt of that status.
  • Infinite Stratos manages to give society an Informed Attribute. Since only women can pilot the title robots, women are the dominant gender in the series. Except we never see anything of this (Save for maybe the IS' creator being a woman). It's so bad, this fact isn't mentioned on the Lecture as Exposition like everything else and is instead awkwardly shoved into just-barely-related dialogue once in the first episode, then never brought up again.
  • In the Excel Saga manga, Elgala and Hyatt claim to be a master swordsman and marksman respectively. Elgala is seen holding a sword on a cover, once brandishes a stick like an Iaijutsu Practitioner, and claims to have gone on a real-life The Legend of Zelda adventure for treasure. Hyatt died trying to throw a rock the only time she's attempted "combat".
  • Yoshii from Holyland is said to know how to use a knife properly, but apart from slashing some random guy once, he gets promptly demolished by Masaki when he tries to do so.
  • Character sketches describes Literature Girl from Daily Lives of High School Boys as an otherwise sociable, popular girl in Sanada West High... When not trying to re-enact her Romance Novel's Meet Cute by lounging next to Hidenori—which is nearly the only case when she appears.
  • Rando from "Yu Yu Hakusho" is said to have 99 Techniques, but we only see him use seven.


Comic Book[edit | hide]

  • Green Lantern's ring. The two most used descriptions for it are "the most powerful weapon in the universe" and "it can do anything you will it to". However, what this really translates to is "you can make glowy items with it". Any time a Green Lantern does something besides making glowy items with the ring that can, remember, do anything, other people react with shock, and it's generally a huge story point.

CGI Geoffrey Rush: --your ring allows you to conjure up any object you desire. The only limit to a Green Lantern’s power is his imagination.
Ryan Reynolds: Okay, I imagine a world without evil.
CGI Geoffrey Rush: The only limit to a Green Lantern’s power is the screenwriter’s imagination.
Ryan Reynolds: Oh. Look, I made swords and guns!

    • Later comics try to fix this, mostly because a glowy item may be the best solution for a problem.
    • Kyle Rayner's ring was explained to be different, that his ring could "create anything that he wills it to." This may have been to go back on the concept of "can do anything you will it to do, but you will only make glowing boxing gloves with it". Or possibly to highlight his background as an artist and thus will create giant mechs, video game characters, robots, and other fun things that were not glowing boxing gloves. (Except in that one instance.)
    • In Geoff Johns' Rebirth series, it's revealed that using the ring for anything requires a huge amount of stamina and willpower. When Green Arrow used it to make a glowy arrow he felt like a total wreck afterwards. When he asked Kyle if that's what using the ring feels like, Kyle answered "Every time". Using the ring for anything grander than a glowy item would probably leave the Lantern badly weakened. OTOH, since this particular trait hasn't been seen before or since, it comes off as an Informed Flaw. It also doesn't help that "willpower" and "imagination" aren't the same things.
  • Batman comics repeatedly refer to the character of David Cain as "the greatest assassin on the planet". Yet Cain has never actually succeeded in an assassination he was hired for while on-panel.
    • Cain did have one impressive achievement: murdering Vesper Fairchilde and framing Bruce Wayne for it (all off-panel). It took the Bat-Family a lot of time and effort to disentangle that mess. True, Cain had Lex Luthor backing him with the orchestration, but Luthor didn't know Bruce Wayne's secret identity, so Cain still gets credit for the planning.
    • To top it off, Cain planted evidence deep enough that the police wouldn't find it but Batman's proteges would that made it look like Vesper was killed because she discovered Bruce is Batman which really threw some doubt on the situation.
    • Furthermore, the majority of Cain's appearances in Bat-Comics are as a retired assassin, so he generally shows up in the story for reasons other than being hired to do a hit on-panel—usually because he's the biological father of Batgirl III (Cassandra Cain) and part of her ongoing family drama. So the reason he never 'succeeds' is because he's not actually trying to. Even the Vesper Fairchild job was specifically him coming out of retirement for one last job.
  • Due to the Loads and Loads of Characters the X-Men have mounted over the decades and the Popularity Power, Pandering to the Base, and Running the Asylum factors that guide the course of the story, many mutants suffer from poorly expanded or very limited use of their powers. It's more common to see these characters stating what they could do instead of actually doing it. Some don't even get their powers listed until after they're dead and the Marvel Handbook fills in the blanks.
    • The most prominent examples are the Omega Level mutants; originally, it simply referred to the highest class of observed mutant powers such as Physical Gods and Reality Warpers such as Jean Grey and Franklin Richards but now refers to any number of mutants with specific skill sets (Iceman, Elixir) who are confirmed to have the genetic potential to transcend either the laws of physics with their powers (way more than most mutants) or some ill-defined "limitations" on mutant stamina and power usage which themselves are only in effect Depending on the Writer. While Elixir, Vulcan, Legion, and X-Man have at least shown a little of their magnificent powers, many confirmed Omegas are too self-conscious or inexperienced with their powers and have not come close to achieving the level of power or skill to surpass the feats of other non-Omega mutants, while other "proven" Omegas have gotten their asses kicked by non-Omegas to demonstrate An Aesop about how skill trumps raw power. The only thing the writers can agree on is that "Omega" means "unlimited" in some manner.
    • Storm's leadership qualifications can fall short in practice. Everyone hails her as a legendary leader, despite her tenures tend to result in the worst setbacks in X-Men history. Before M-Day, more team members died (or appeared to have) than any other's. Lost Rachel? Who cares. Wolvie's MIA. He can take care of himself. Psylocke dead? Twice. Abandon the X-Men's mission to hide in the Outback? Sure why not? Use that time to take lethal action against foes like the Reavers and Marauders? Absolutely. Berating Wolverine when he does exactly the same thing? Priceless.
  • Tim Drake's Robin is supposed to be a brilliant leader on par with his predecessor Nightwing in the Teen Titans comics. Except that his team mostly does what they want, when they want. And they keep quitting because he and Wonder Girl are both assholes. Indeed, Robin's leadership is mostly shown only as him shouting "You, fight him! You, fight her! The rest of you, fight the rest of them! Go!"
  • Megatron from All Hail Megatron claims to be an amazing tactical genius, but his abilities do not even come close to living up to the hype.
  • The Marvel villain Siena Blaze was said to be especially sociopathic because she kept on using her powers without reservation even though every time she used them there was a chance they'd accidentally destroy the world. Needless to say, this was never actually put into practice.
  • Justice League of America: ex-hero-turned-villain Triumph had numerous ones but unlike most examples, it wasn't for a lack of trying; he was quoting New Powers as the Plot Demands in practically every panel he appeared in. His powers revolved around complete manipulation of the electromagnetic spectrum and among his stated-but-never-seen powers: generating a microwave pulse, perceiving radio/satellite signals and being able to kill Superman by sucking the solar energy from his body . He also claimed to have other powers the heroes "didn't even have names for" so his list of informed abilities was potentially endless.
  • Carlie Cooper from Spider-Man. All those amazing qualities of hers are never shown, most likely becuase she hasn't been published long enough.
    • Carlie is possibly an odd combination of Informed Ability and Composite Character. Those things that are supposed to make her great? Nerds Are Sexy, Beautiful All Along, falling for "Peter, not Spider-Man" and having a Dark and Troubled Past involving her dad? Deb Whitman, Gwen Stacy, and Mary-Jane Watson would like to have a word with you. Writers think we're going to like her becuase she's an odd mash-up of former love intrests' good qualities, except all those qualities are told not shown due to said short publishing time she's had (All those others? At least a decade of publishing each, movie appearances for two of them, and at least one animated series).
    • It also doesn't help that she's a poor substitute for Spider-Man's wife who the publisher supposedly hates.
  • Wolverine can sometimes fall into this category in regards to his martial arts training. He's said to be one of the most formidable fighters in the Marvel universe but 90% of his attacks involve simply jumping at his opponents and slashing him/her with his claws: a move anyone with two legs and claws can perform. He often lacks the finesse of other comic martial artists such as Captain America (comics) or Batman. It doesn't help that, due to his Healing Factor, he is much more likely to get shot, stabbed, and otherwise mutiliated by common Mooks. Sure, he gets better almost immediately but it can make him look less skilled than his peers who rarely even get touched by mooks.
    • Fridge Brilliance: it is notably easier to hit your opponent if you're willing to let yourself get hit in return, like a stop-hit in fencing. When your superpower is the ability to not die however badly wounded you get, it actually makes sense for you to design your martial arts style around all-out offense and no concern to defense.
    • Also, its not really an informed ability if they actually show it on-panel often enough to establish its not a fluke, and Wolverine regularly gets the occasional issue—or at least he used to in the 80s and 90s—devoted to showing that he is indeed a legitimate ninja master and classically trained martial artist. He just usually doesn't bother using it because with his superpowers and cyborg implants, unless he's facing some specific martial arts challenge that can shut down his normal berserker rush its much easier to just charge straight in and cut his opponent in half.

Fan Fiction[edit | hide]

  • In Naruto Veangance Revelaitons, Ronan is supposedly a great musician, but thee songs that we hear him sing are terrible. ("AAAHHHHHHHHHHHH MY DICK IS LIKE A BIG FAT ROCKET AND UR PUSSYS LIKE A HOLE AND I FUCK U HARD AND IV GOT A HUGE POLE"). His son Ekaj supposedly inherited Ronan and Naruto's abilities, but never uses either, and the only proof of him being powerful is his having won all his fights (which are against Mooks alongside Ronan, but he's better off than most of the canon characters here, who suffered Badass Decay, and the original villains).


Film[edit | hide]

  • Played for laughs in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: "(Brody) has friends in every village from here to the Sudan. He speaks a dozen languages, knows every local custom. He'll blend in, disappear. You'll never see him again. With any luck, he has the Grail already." Just as you're thinking, "That doesn't sound like him at all," we get a Gilligan Cut to confirm that it was all a bluff. Indy even says that Marcus once got lost in his own museum.
  • In Ever After, Danielle uses this to her advantage. She tells her captor that she is a good swordswoman without ever actually fighting with a sword. This is actually a subversion - she's bluffing, and very convincingly too. (We know she's bluffing because she tells him that her father taught her to swordfight; her father died when she was eight. Even if he did teach her, it's not as though she's had much opportunity to keep her skills up in the ten years since.)
  • Not Another Teen Movie parodies this in that Janey is supposed to be a great artist but is clearly only capable of drawing the same stick figures over and over. It also parodies Hollywood Homely, which is a sub-trope of Informed Ability.
  • In Star Wars:
    • Obi-Wan notes, "Only Imperial Stormtroopers are so precise," yet throughout the rest of the series, stormtroopers hardly ever hit what they're aiming at.
      • Although throughout the series, stormtroopers remain consistently good at killing anything not a main character or otherwise protected by Plot Armor... which admittedly rules out 90% of everything we see screen time actually devoted to having them shoot at it. And in the prequel trilogy they're even better marksmen, giving even experienced Jedi Masters a hard time in sufficient #'s.
    • General Grievous is said to be a fearsome combatant that has personally killed dozens of Jedi, and such an effective and brutal tactician that he replaces Count Dooku as the greatest threat to the Republic during the Clone Wars, yet in the prequel film, he spends most of his screen time running away and getting his butt kicked. This is somewhat explained in Star Wars: Clone Wars. Both seasons demonstrate Grievous as a serious threat, even when confronted by multiple Jedi at once. At the end of the second season, however, his chest gets force-crushed, explaining his hunchbacked, hacking wimpiness in the film. His strategic brilliance remains undemonstrated, though most strategy in Star Wars seems to look like Zerg Rushes anyway.
      • To be fair in Revenge Of The Sith when he is finally cornered into a battle, he proves more than a match, with Obi Wan clearly on the ropes before finally managing to damage his armor and slay him.
  • In The Great Race, while in Boracho, TX, Professor Fate & Max hear of a man named Texas Jack who is described as the roughest, toughest man they know of. When Jack shows up, everyone clears the way for him and even the sherrif backs down. But once a bar brawl breaks out, Jack isn't shown to be better at fighting than anyone else.
  • The main character of I Know Who Killed Me is supposed to be a great writer and piano player. Supposed to be.
  • The Riddler's "Box" invention from Batman Forever allegedly makes him smarter, until by the climax he's a supergenius. Actually, all he does as the film progresses is keep acting like Jim Carrey, only more so. In fact, he seemed like a fairly competent scientist in the beginning. The smarter he gets, the dumber he seems to act, though this is somewhat explained by fact that the box also drives him insane.
  • According to his profile on the official Kung Fu Panda website, Master Crane is the "mother hen" of the group and prefers to avoid conflict, neither of which was actually shown in the film. However, this was hinted in the first movie when Crane carried all his injured teammates away from a losing battle, even though most of them are heavier than him as deadweights to ensure their safety.
  • Rocco in The Boondock Saints is nicknamed "The Funny Man" by his fellow mobsters. He only tells one joke in the whole movie, and only when ordered by a patronizing Mob boss. He seems to have earned the nickname from mobsters who like to laugh at him.
  • In Stranger Than Fiction, Emma Thompson's character is supposed to be a great writer, yet the few examples of her writing we're given aren't exactly stunning prose.
  • Save the Last Dance would have us believe that the character played by Julia Stiles is an amazing dancer, who is auditioning for a prestigious dance school. Unfortunately, Stiles has very minimal ballet training, and it shows. Stiles was not at all believable as a high level dancer who had any realistic shot at her goal. It's particularly apparent when she's in a dance class scene, where she should be at least as good as if not better than the other dancers—when in fact, she is visibly struggling to even keep up. (For those not in the loop about ballet, the clearest example of this is her extension, meaning hip flexibility and how high she can raise her leg. The angle of her leg is noticeably lower than those around her, even to the untrained eye.) Obviously, given the type of story this is, the character is successful in her audition... which is entirely unbelievable, given how severely Stiles's limited ballet experience shows in every scene where she does her own dancing.
  • In Reality Bites, we are expected to sympathize with Winona Ryder's character because she finds herself unemployable after graduation, despite having been valedictorian in journalism at her college. Things go downhill pretty fast when she loses a page from her valedictorian speech and utterly fails to improvise. After graduation, she flunks a job interview with an editor because she cannot define the word 'irony' to any coherent degree, and later fails an interview with a fast-food manager because she cannot add $0.85 and $0.55 in her head. This might be intentional, due to her scene with Troy in which he easily supplies her with a succinct definition and implies that she's not living up to her level of education.
  • Played for Laughs with brave, brave, brave, brave Sir Robin of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (as well as the stage adaptation), who was not in the least bit scared to be mashed into a pulp. Or to have his eyes gouged out, and his elbows broken. We never saw him have the chance to not be afraid as such acts were imposed on him, though we did see him "bravely beat a brave retreat" as his bard narrated. Sir Bedevere the Wise also cocks up a battle plan. Sir Galahad the Chaste is remarkably keen to sample the perils of Castle Anthrax. Even 'Sir Not Appearing In This Film' appears in the credits.
    • Also Sir Robin's introduction includes him having nearly fought the Dragon of Angnor, nearly stood up against the Chicken of Bristol, and personally wet himself on the Battle of Badon Hill. Those three things were never really mentioned in the movie.
  • Goes both ways in The Phantom of the Opera (The Movie):
    • Workers in the opera house are seen stuffing cotton into their ears while Carlotta is singing. Her singing is actually legit, and only employs some contrived scoops to make her sound bad. This is a case of Informed Flaw. Maybe they just really hate her for being the Evil Diva.
    • The singing ability of the Phantom himself is described by Christine as transcendentally beautiful and a reason to believe he is the Angel of Music. In the film, Gerard Butler's singing ability is debatable, but few would describe it as transcendent.
    • Basically the main reason why people adore Christine is for her lovely opera singing voice, and Emmy Rossum doesn't even almost fit the description. She keeps scooping, she can't enunciate while singing higher notes and they even had to change the end of "Think of Me" because she couldn't sing the operatic bit. And still the characters go around talking about how you're bound to love her when you hear her wonderful opera voice...
    • This is also true of the 1989 version of Phantom, while not a musical version, Christine does sing a fair amount on screen and even to an untrained ear, it's painful obvious that she's a completely untrained singer.
  • Deckard in Blade Runner is, or was, supposed to be one of the best Bladerunners in the business; however, he spends most of the film getting beaten black and blue by the NEXUS 6 replicants. He ends up shooting one in the back while she was fleeing, has to be saved by his love interest when at the mercy of another, barely manages to shoot the other female replicant while getting his head kicked in, and simply lucks out when the final replicant drops dead. This is somewhat justified when you consider that the job seems to be a mix of INS agent and high-tech polygraph operator. Deckard does prove himself to be a good detective and is able to truthfully identify the most advanced replicants on the market. Also, Deckard has never been up against NEXUS 6 replicants before, which are top of the line and led by Super Soldier Roy Batty. The only other Bladerunner we see in action fares much worse than Deckard.
  • Anne Bancroft plays a great ballerina past her prime in The Turning Point. Herbert Ross, the director, wisely keeps Bancroft's "dancing" to a few shots (e.g., brief barre work), but even so, Bancroft fails to either look or move like a dancer, nearing retirement or otherwise.
  • In The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Tuco nicknames Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name "Blondie", and interrogates other characters as to his whereabouts by asking for a 'tall blond man'. Angel Eyes goes so far as to gush over Blondie's beautiful blond hair, calling him a 'blond-haired angel'. His hair is light brown. This is particularly bizarre because the part was almost certainly written for Eastwood. The reason is a failed Woolseyism - the original Italian script had Tuco nickname the Man With No Name "Biondo", which technically means "blond" but can be used to mean someone with fair colouring. The novelization, more closely based on the Italian script, refers to the character as 'Whitey'.
  • Played with in Pirates of the Caribbean, to the point of several characters lampshading it. Jack Sparrow is touted to be the best pirate ever, yet he is mutinied after being captain for a year, in the first movie is captured twice and saved twice (first by Will, then Elizabeth), gets knocked out from behind twice, and his Plan almost fails. In the second movie another one fails after Norrington discovers his Bait and Switch and pulls a switch of his own, setting into place the events of the third movie, where everything finally seems to go his way. The characters themselves can't seem to figure out if he's a bumbling quirk or an unlucky Magnificent Bastard whose plans/Indy Ploys keep getting spanned. (One character at least calls him the worst pirate he's ever heard of.)
    • Jack himself has a retort to anyone who challenges his claim: "But you have heard of me." Pirates have a short life expectance and being famous draws more attention. Being famous and alive is impressive.
  • It's hard to imagine that Fred Astaire's dancing could be an Informed Ability. But in Shall We Dance, Astaire's character is supposed to be a successful ballet dancer. A convincing ballet dancer, Astaire is not.
  • In Finding Forrester, the writing of both Forrester and Jamal is said to be brilliant, but given that it's a movie, not a book, there wasn't really any time to show the audience this. This is obviously because if the screenwriters themselves were capable of creating brilliant work, they wouldn't be writing Finding Forrester.
  • In The Lost World heroine Sarah is said to be an expert field biologist. In the film, she can't help but pet a wild stegosaur cub, then snaps pictures from about three feet away like a tourist (she then rants at Ian, as if he was a misogynist for coming to save her, when five minutes earlier, she started a freakin' stampede!). Then, after frequent lectures that her expedition had to "leave no trace", she does the logical thing; take an injured baby tyrannosaur to their camp and splint its leg, causing the parents to come and wreck it and kill a party member. Then she walks around in the forest wearing a blood-soaked shirt (after both mentioning that it wasn't drying and that the T. Rex had the greatest sense of smell ever), leading the parents to again wreck an encampment.
  • The eponymous members of the bad movie The Genius Club. They are gathered together, explicitly because they have abnormally high IQ's. However, through the movie's dialogue they are twice shown unable to answer very simple (and well known) riddles. And all their arguments are extremely shallow. They're supposed to be geniuses, and they're in a hostage situation. Why can't they form complex arguments or express themselves above a junior high-school reading level?
  • The premise of the Alvinandthe Chipmunks movies is that the chipmunks are talented singers, or at least insanely popular. This is confusing to anyone who finds their squeaky voices annoying and not something you would choose to listen to in a million years. Nevertheless, they did have some pop hits in the real world.
  • According to supplementary materials for Blade, the pureblood vampires have all kinds of abilities like sorcery, the ability to turn into fireballs, etc. None of them are ever seen in the actual film, even when it would have been pretty helpful in stopping Frost from killing them. Frost himself became La Magra yet never displayed either the aforementioned powers he took from the purebloods or the One-Winged Angel form of La Magra (they filmed it but test audiences balked at seeing Stephen Dorff turn into a giant blood fog).
  • The Quick and the Dead: Lampshaded by the Gene Hackman character in his duel with Lance Henriksen's Ace Hanlon, who was previously played up as a sureshot trickshot artist, but whom Hackman exposes as a fraud. By shooting him. It is also revealed that Hackman had previously killed a man that Ace falsely laid claim to.
  • The Dude from The Big Lebowski is supposed to be a very good bowler but we never see him bowling. This was probably intentional as Rule of Funny.
  • In the Miramax cut of The Thief and the Cobbler, when Princess YumYum is attempting to convince her father, King Nod, that she is the best candidate for venturing into the desert, she argues that she is, apparently, "smarter than any man in this city and faster than your clumsy henchman," when there has been no evidence of these claims up to this point; quite literally all she has done in the film is sing, as displayed in the "I Want" Song "More Than This" (along with her impressive ability to sway back and forth and spin a lot) and the Distant Duet "Am I Feeling Love?" This inconsistency is most likely due to the particularly lazy rehashing of the script.
  • In Strange Days, Jeriko One is supposed to be the most popular rapper in America, and his fiery lyrics are supposed to be so good that they threaten to ignite riots and rebellion from the disenfranchised black community. However, the one song we hear from Jeriko barely qualifies as music, much less the best hip hop around.
  • The first X-Men film talks about but never shows the mental aspect of Rogue's power where she picks up memories and personality fragments from a person she touches in addition to the person's strength/ability. At a closing scene, Jean says she picked up some of Logan's personality traits but they're gone by the next scene. In the later films, Rogue seems to gain some measure of control over her powers, which might explain why she doesn't fear losing her mind anymore.
  • In Rounders, Teddy KGB is supposedly a devastatingly effective Poker player who can eat the protagonist Mike McDermott alive. He is shown playing exactly two games of poker in the film. The first gane he wins by luck: it doesn't exactly take a lot of skill to slowplay pocket aces that turn into trips and then the nut full house, especially when the other guy happens to have two pair and then the lower full house and will gleefully bet into you for all his chips. The second he loses because he has an incredibly obvious tell, starts playing irrationally when it's pointed out to him, and then falls victim a simple trick: McDermott feigns a drawing hand when in fact he has a made hand. Makes you wonder if he only got such a great reputation because people were afraid to bring their A game against a high-ranking Russian mobster.
  • Parodied in Mystery Team. Jason is a Master of Disguise, Duncan is a "Boy Genius", and Charlie is apparently the strongest kid in town. Not only do they fail to demonstrate any proficiency in these areas, it's proven time and time again that they are actually completely inadequate. They even get called out on it early on. As one example, Jason "disguises" himself as his own father by putting on a mustache and speaking in a low voice. His guidance counselor says that he's not fooled, and Jason acts like the counselor is a Worthy Opponent for having figured it out.
  • In Good Will Hunting, Will is said to be a mathematical genius by almost every character in the film who learns about it - his teacher, his psychiatrist, his friends...everyone. Yet, there is little to no evidence of his skills in action, and every time we see an example of Will's work, it's either been completed beforehand (with the teachers just seeing the end result) or mentioned in passing. Justifiable in that general audiences likely wouldn't understand the equations anyway, so they were kept to a minimum.
  • Purposely invoked in Trail of the Screaming Forehead. According to the "science" of the movie, the forehead, not the brain, is the seat of thought. Andrew Park's character allows himself to be injected with "foreheadazine," which will supposedly turn him into a super-genius. In spite of some truly horrific transformations that turn his entire head into a forehead, and his own lamentations on how his incredible intellect has given him no measure of happiness, no evidence is given at any point of his actual intelligence. This was most likely intentional on the part of the writer, since the movie was made as a parody of cheesy B movies.
  • Quentin Tarantino apparently enjoys this when it comes to his Badass characters:
    • The thieves in Reservoir Dogs are never shown robbing the bank. Instead, when see the events leading up to the heist and directly following the heist. Even then, considering how quickly the heist escalated into bloody violence, the fact that they allied themselves with an unstable psychopath, and the fact that they allowed an undercover cop to infiltrate them, it doesn't seem as though they are particularly good at being "proffesionals". To drive the point home, in the end everyone is more than likely dead.
    • In Pulp Fiction, Vincent and Jules are professional hitmen and considered valuable to Wallace's orgnaization. Vincent makes many stupid mistakes, such as killing Marvin by accident and leaving his gun on the kitchen counter while he goes to the bathroom. Jules is only shown to kill a couple of unarmed opponents and both hitmen get lucky when a target pops out of a bathroom and unloads a full clip at near point-blank-range and manages not to hit them.
    • Inglorious Basterds features a select group of soldier who go behind enemy lines to kill Nazis. Apparently they are good enough to confound Adolf Hitler himself but the closest thing we see is the aftermath of a battle. There is a shootout toward the end in which they follow the plan of a civilian double agent, which basically gets the remaining Basterds killed or captured. The captured Basterds live and the plan to kill Hitler succeeds due to the actions of the Big Bad and Shoshana.
  • In Johnny Mnemonic, Jane's bionic implants are said to give her quick reflexes and other enhanced abilities, but nothing she does in the movie would suggest that she has enhancements. She even has to be pushed out of the way of a falling, exploding car that she otherwise wouldn't have noticed, despite her quick reflexes.
  • In Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, the narrator gives a short monologue about Ed's nigh-superhuman ability to read the reactions of other people, especially in card games. Ed then proceeds to not demonstrate any capacity whatsoever for reading other people's reactions, most especially in the card game that sets up the plot, in which he utterly fails to notice his main rival reacting to the information being secretly fed to him about Ed's hands.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • In Heart of Darkness the enigmatic Kurtz is worshipped, feared, and adored by everyone who meets him. The characters have no lack of superlatives for his incredible genius and vision. Even Marlow, who feels contempt for his African cult, considers Kurtz a genius. The problem is that Kurtz himself barely appears in the story. By the time Marlow finds him he is weak and pathetic. About the only impressive thing Marlow does actually see is an amazing painting Kurtz made at one point.
  • In The Windup Girl by Paulo Bacigalupi, Doctor Chan informs the reader that Hok Seng is good and kind, yet throughout the book he is two-faced, lying, cheating, thieving, swindling, bigoted, manipulative, exploitative and generally psychopathic.
  • Thufir Hawat, from Dune, alleged Master of Assassins, fails repeatedly to thwart assassination attempts: 1: (Duke Leto Atreides' father) 2: (the assassination of Duke Leto's first born son because of a Harkonnen spy he allowed to sneak inside Caladan), 3: (not being able to stop Baron Vladimir Harkonnen from killing Duke Leto at the first Dune book), 4: (Rabban's hunter-seeker and its controller infiltrating Paul's room after having more than adequate opportunity to sweep the palace.). He also fails to goad Feyd into assassinating and supplanting good ole Uncle Vladimir. However, it is insinuated that Thufier is past his prime.
  • Robert Langdon, of The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, is supposedly a Harvard professor of "symbology" (the closest real-life discipline is semiotics, a subfield of linguistics and anthropology) and expert in religions. However, in Angels, he mistranslates "Novus Ordo Seclorum" as "New Secular Order", when any high school Latin student would know that it means "New Order of the Ages". This guy is supposed to be this huge expert on Da Vinci, but he misses the simple "it's written backwards" code, which Da Vinci famously used in all of his personal notes. As a supposed scholar of European history, his inability to read Latin, French, or Italian makes doing first-hand research difficult.
    • "HE is an expert in the works of Leonardo! SHE is a world-class cryptanalyst! IN A WORLD where the reader is presented with a facsimile of the document they're examining, it takes them several pages to deduce that they're looking at a page of mirror writing!"
    • His students are even worth taking as merely "informed". All the flashbacks of students he has in the classrooms seem to be of Stock Character students who have questions and answers so naive that you wonder how on earth they could have possibly scored high enough to get into Harvard - or even get out of high school in the first place.
      • Not to mention they are "informed" as having believed him when he told them early Judaism included sex rituals.
  • One of Magnus's powers includes "supernatural cunning", which he never demonstrates. He demonstrates knowledge, yes, but he is two thousand years old. In fact he walks into an ambush obliviously. Likewise, a scanner reveals that Iscarius Alchemy has an I.Q. of 666, and yet never demonstrates it.
  • Left Behind has a few:
    • Cameron "Buck" Williams is supposed to be the "greatest investigative reporter of all time", with such amazing prose as this: "To say the Israelis were taken by surprise is like saying the Great Wall of China is long." Yeah, that's deserving of a Pulitzer, all right. Then again, we don't really see him doing much journalism or writing in the series, so maybe he just threw it all together just before the deadline.
    • Similarly, Nicholae Carpathia's amazing oration is illustrated by a speech in which he rattles off a very long list of trivial details about the people in attendance and the agencies of the UN, and at one point reciting the names of all the member countries in alphabetical order. Actually listening to this speech would grow tedious very quickly, and also be a thorough waste of time.
    • This trope is part of Slacktivist's funny critique of the novel.
  • The Inheritance Cycle somehow manages to combine Instant Expert with Informed Ability. We are told at various points that Eragon is the Greatest Swordsman Ever. Except that he's not. At all. One particularly dreadful example is when Yoda Oromis tells him he has already mastered the art just pages after he handed Eragon's ass to him in a spar. It's funny when you think if it in terms like this exchange from Discworld:

Granny Weatherwax: We taught her everything she knows.
Nanny Ogg: Yeah...you think we ought to have taught her everything we know?

    • We are also told that the Varden is a group of intricate political intrigue, and partisan politics. However, they always seem to be acting in a more-or-less unified manner. Likewise, Arya warns Eragon that the elves are a complex people who are quite alien to a human perspective, whose centuries-long lifespan means that they take a long view of political maneuverings, with their every action possibly being a single step in a strategy spanning decades, and that they will use this to manipulate Eragon. Yet the actual elves we see act in a fairly simplistic manner, don't seem particularly different from humans (with the exception of their veganism and atheism, and even those are a stretch), never seem to have any kind of longterm plan going, and for the most part are cordial and respecting of Eragon. In essence, Paolini wants to tell us that the politics of his world are complex, but is unable to actually show it in any way which would present a problem for his Mary Sue protagonist. And if you believe the other characters, Eragon is also an amazing poet; yet the only sample of his poetry we actually see is horrible.
      • This is what happens when you try to give your characters traits you don't possess yourself.
  • We're told repeatedly that Alastor "Mad Eye" Moody from Harry Potter is the most badass Auror to ever live, but in the two battles we see him fight, he's knocked out almost immediately in the first and outright killed in the second.
    • Though, to be fair, he's been retired for several years at this point. Besides missing a leg and a good chunk of his face, he's quite old and is apparently senile enough that no one noticed anything amiss when he was being impersonated for eight months by a curse-addled PTSD-suffering psychopath who tried to sacrifice a child's life in a Dark ritual.
    • To a lesser degree, Ginny Weasley (master of the unseen Bat Bogey Hex, which doesn't even sound all that formidable) also suffered this. Book 6 had Slughorn praising her for her powerful magic, but the reader never actually sees it in practice.
    • Played for Laughs with Dawlish. The first time we meet him, Dumbledore comments that he is an excellent Auror (got all O's on his exams!), but manages to knock him and his accomplishes out. Later, he's the member of the team that fails to capture Hagrid. The next book, Dumbledore tells Harry that he caught Dawlish spying on him, and knocked him out again. In the final book he's sent after a little old lady and gets beat up again. Word of God implies that he is, in fact, a competent Auror, but simply has the misfortune of constantly being Overshadowed by Awesome.
      • To offer a bit of explanation for those unfamiliar with Harry Potter: No matter how good Dawlish may be, Dumbledore is the single greatest wizard alive, so of course Dawlish will get his ass handed to him. When he goes against Hagrid, he and the other Aurors are trying to stun him rather than kill him. Problem is, Hagrid is half-giant, and giants are nearly impervious to stunning. The little old lady who beats him up is Neville's grandmother, a woman so formidable that even Dumbledore would hesitate to piss her off without a compelling need.
    • Even Lord Voldemort falls victim to this as he becomes more integral to the series. He's the Evil Overlord, The Evil Genius, leader of the Death Eaters, who's so frightening that even the mention of his name sends people into panic. It is true that Voldemort is extremely powerful, to the point where the only person in the series to fight him evenly is Dumbledore. But also throughout the series he's constantly holding the Villain Ball. He does things like hiding his Soul Jars in places connected to his past, and frequently using a killing spell against his archenemy even though it consistently failed to kill him in the past.
      • Also, in regard to the Soul Jar, they are a branch of magic so obscure (and deliberately kept so; among the few magic books that even mention them, they don't go beyond mentioning the name) that he had to go to great lengths to even find out what they are. He probably saw the protections he placed around them as secondary, since odds were small anyone even knew they existed. Dumbledore himself had to go to great lengths to even confirm his theory that Voldemort had created them.
        • Unless Voldemort believed that Dumbledore had never bothered to speak to Professor Slughorn—who he originally got the knowledge of Horcrux creation from in the first place—at any time in the past fifty years[1] he had no reason for assuming that his opponents were ignorant of the existence of horcruxes. Sure, that knowledge wasn't in general circulation, but Voldemort's problem ain't what the general public might know, its what Dumbledore might know.
    • Dumbledore is reported to hold the position of, essentially, the Head of the Supreme Court of magical Britain. Yet he never uses his authority to resolve any of the occurring cases when innocent people are being accused by the incredibly flawed wizardry judicial system. Though, possible a subversion. In Prisonerof Azkaban it's hinted that the magical supreme court is corrupt. When Dumbledore does use his influence, he's immediately villianized by the other politicians and kicked out of office.
      • However, Dumbledore then proves an adroit enough politician and lawyer that even after being kicked out of office he can still entirely derail Harry's railroaded underage magic trial, in fifteen minutes flat, with one surprise witness and no prepared script. In light of that performance the mind boggles at what he could have done from the bench... if he'd ever exerted himself.
  • In Maximum Ride, Fang is supposed to be silent and expressionless. He's described as a "brick wall" multiple times. However, he is no less talkative than the other characters, and expresses emotion normally most of the time. In the few cases he doesn't, the narrator doesn't fail to point it out.
  • In Vampirates, Grace is constantly described as the smart twin, yet her brother figures out that she's on the ship with the eponymous creatures before she does even though he's never seen them.
  • Alistair MacLean's (actually John Denis) Air Force One Is Down goes to great detail describing master thief (now secret agent) Sabrina and how good she is, then portrays her as a classic Damsel in Distress throughout the rest of the book. Most notably in a scene where Sabrina can't lie to the Big Bad because she can't keep her thoughts off her face (and she's supposed to be a former criminal???)
  • Twilight
    • Bella apparently read all of Chaucer and Shakespeare and countless more classics back in Arizona. But she displays no particular understanding of these works, and is Comically Missing the Point in Romeo and Juliet and Wuthering Heights.
    • Bella is also incapable of remembering even the smallest piece of information. For example, when Jacob tells her in New Moon that the vampires are dangerous and she should stay away from them, Bella goes into instant denial that vampires exist. She somehow fails to remember that Jacob was the one who told her the Quileute legend of "the Cold Ones" in the previous book.
    • Bella is said to be more mature than people her own age several times by several different people. Her mother even says that she was born middle-aged. This is the same girl who cries at the drop of a hat, is so hormonally-driven that she practically jumps her boyfriend more than once (and after he's already told her that he wants to wait), wanders off alone in a place she doesn't know well when it's getting dark, is so attached to her boyfriend-of-less-than-a-year that she completely shuts down when he leaves her, routinely lies to her parents even when she doesn't have a good reason, spends an ungodly amount of time complaining about everything, plans a long car trip with a boy she barely knows who has treated her like crap since the day she met him (and lies to her father about it so if Edward tried anything he wouldn't know), stomps her foot like a two-year-old when arguing with Jacob, etc.
    • Edward is described as being the epitome of a loving boyfriend, but his actions make him seem more creepily possessive and controlling.
    • To an extent, the Volturi. The characters go on about how ruthless they are and that they have no tolerance for lawbreakers. However, every time the Cullens do something that breaks the law, the Volturi always go very easy on them.
    • Jessica and her group, with the exception of Angela, are described quite differently than what they are. Bella says they're shallow, annoying, clingy, and rude. Not once can Jessica or Lauren, the biggest offenders, can be seen as this, unless you count Midnight Sun, in which the personalities don't suit their previous counterparts.
    • Bella's supposed to be a selfless, kind, caring, person who doesn't look down on others, yet she says that Jessica and her group are shallow, annoying, clingy and rude without much to back it up; she never does anything kind without ulterior motives, which rules out selfless; and she never seems to care that she is hurting people with her actions and lack of communication.
    • Jacob. He's supposed to represent devilish temptations, like premarital sex, but he was, in the first book, the only well-written character and was a pretty Nice Guy... until New Moon.
  • The eponymous protagonist of The Jackal Of Nar, Prince Richius Vantran, is a clear example of this trope. From being boldly described as "the best general of the Emperor of Nar" right on the book description, to having pretty much having the author attempt to have all signs pointing that the holder of that somewhat prestigious-sounding title(should be) is a badass, clever, war-savvy, fearsome character.... only to have him actually showcase the maturity of a 13 years-old along with matching leadership capabilities, cringe-worthy emotional stability, not to mention how he also acts dumbly and boorishly , ditching his army in face of his men's doom to go whoring or blowing his disguise in ten different ways when he has to act stealthily....(to those that have read the book: note the adverbs, teehee) In any case, it goes well with the lackluster discovery that what sounded like a warfare-centric novel actually had whole kingdoms going at war and invading each other with armies totaling around fifty dudes...
  • Marguerite, in The Scarlet Pimpernel. We are told at length how "brilliant" she is, and she is repeatedly referred to as "the cleverest woman in Europe" by her peers. In practice, however, while she doesn't seem excessively dumb, her intelligence rarely seems more than average. She is consistently taken in by the Pimpernel's ploys, and the audience is almost certain to guess his identity before she does, even though she lives with him. This is probably partly a product of the portrayal of women at the time (even though the author was also female) and more importantly a product of the suspense narrative—since a lot of the drama would be lost if the narrator guessed things instantly. Regardless of the reasons, though, we are told in the descriptive passages that Marguerite has intellectual skills that she doesn't really demonstrate in the narrative.
  • Thrawn in the Star Wars Expanded Universe is a good example of why this happens. He's supposed to be a brilliant tactician, but most of those writing him aren't tactical experts, so they must either leave his abilities vague, show him outwitting the protagonist in nontactical ways, or give his opponents an Idiot Ball.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's Thuvia, Maid of Mars, we hear Cathoris declaiming on his inventions, which are marvellous. He never shows any mechanical aptitude on stage, or even any interest in machinery.
  • In Hereticus, part of the Eisenhorn series, Glaw's daemonhost is supposed to be more powerful than Cherubael because of being less bound, but Cherubael kicks its ass anyway, later making some comment about being quite nasty.
    • Possibly justified in that power does not equal intelligence - and Cherubael is very very clever. He might well have outsmarted Glaw's daemonhost. After all his track record in The Plan department is pretty impressive, what with engineering the events of the first two books as a way to free himself from Quixos.
  • Rare example of something not being bad enough: Vogon poetry. Yes, Jeltz's poem sucks, but it's clearly shown as being actually painful to listen to. Which it isn't. The implication seems to be that it would be if we knew what all those untranslated Vogon words meant.
    • Or if you were strapped to that chair...
    • Or if you weren't a member of a species who have produced the galaxy's very worst ever poetry, and were not therefore immune to the physical effects of terrible poetry in a way the rest of the galaxy is not. In most versions of the scene Ford is in agony while Arthur, the only human present, is merely confused.
  • Nearly every major character in Dostoevsky's Demons is obsessed, to one degree or another, with Nikolai Stavrogin. Each one has had some sort of profoundly moving experience with him—all of which took place, not only before the events of the novel, but even outside the country—and he exerts a lasting, though in most cases unintended and unpredictable, influence over each of them. Yet almost nothing we see him do justifies why they hold him in such regard.
  • Richard A. Knaak wastes no opportunity to remind everyone that Vereesa Windrunner is an expert marksman and a powerful hero in her own right... but her grand contributions to the plot of any book she appears in is to lose her bow in chapter 1, get kidnapped, fall in love with Knaak's Mary Sue pet hero, and getting married to Rhonin. Just like her husband, she goes from being an adventurer to suddenly leading the largest faction of high elves (mages in her husband's case) without any explanation at all.
  • Used to be a very common in the romance genre. Most typically, the heroine would be described in the first chapter by the author as intelligent, assertive, strong-willed and independent, but her dialogue, actions, etc. throughout the entire book portray her as a week, hollow shell of a woman with the mind of a tuna sandwich.
  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: Author Stieg Larsson repeatedly says that the hero Mikael Blomkvist is a wildly talented journalist and exceptional writer; the not-so-easily-impressed Lisbeth Salander is certainly taken with his prose, even before meeting him. This is generally a harmless case through most of the book, as Blomkvist shows real skill with public records and investigative techniques. However, the little bit of his prose we actually see is...not bad, exactly, but it's hardly very good.
  • Sherlock Holmes: Professor Moriarty is a huge example of this. Sherlock tells Watson (i.e. Doyle tells us) that Moriarty is the greatest criminal mastermind of all time, but we never get to see any masterminding. Furthermore, Holmes tells us about his cat and mouse game with the good Professor, but never shows or even explains either side of it, leaving us having to take his word for the brilliance on both sides. Add to that the fact that the vast majority of Holmes' mysteries were of a nature that no outside source could possibly care, be aware of, or benefit from, it makes Holmes' claims that Moriarty was behind nearly all the crimes he'd ever investigated look odd. He is a pretty paper thin archnemesis.

(In many adaptations Professor Moriarty has a stronger role—he is a classic Breakout Villain.)

    • The (non-Doyle written) Seven Percent Solution takes this idea and runs with it, explaining that Moriarty is a perfectly harmless fellow (and Holmes' former math teacher), who Holmes merely perceives as a villain as a side effect of his cocaine addiction.
    • Then again, consider Moriarty's inspiration. If one assumes that Holmes was indulging in a bit of hyperbole about "most of the crimes [he] ever solved," one may still assume he was a deeply dangerous man behind the really heinous ones.
    • There's also the fact that Watson states many times that the cases he publishes are only the ones that he thinks best illustrate Holmes' remarkable skill as a detective. He also names many cases that are never described, only tantalizingly hinted at. Many of them sound high-profile and more likely the kind of thing Moriarty would have a hand in.
  • In the Babysitters Club books, the reader is informed in every book that Claudia is a fantastic artist. This is something of a Justified Trope, however, since it's very difficult to show that in a literary format.
  • In the Sweet Valley High series, Elizabeth is said to be a brilliant writer and wants to become a journalist. We are almost never shown examples of her writing, and the few which do somehow make their way into the story are quite average.
  • In Robert E. Howard's "Queen of the Black Coast", we are told that Belit and Conan the Barbarian form a Brains and Brawn—but all the brain we see from Belit is deciding to go somewhere, and Conan does most of the thinking that is done.
  • This is a large premise of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Though the scarecrow has no brain and the tin man has no heart, neither character behaves in a way that reflects this, with the scarecrow actually being quite intelligent and the tin man quite kind. When they finally "receive" these skills later in the book, the remedies are obvious placebos.
  • There's one children's book that's called "Three Smart Pals" or something like it. It's about a trio of kids who are said to be very smart. On their way to an outing they see a shopkeeper that they know getting a sign ready. They "help" him make the sign "better" by taking out various phrases. Taking out a few words makes the sign funny, taking out every word but "Fish" makes the three mad because it's apparently implying that they're either blind or stupid. They finally make him make the sign blank, and call it "perfect!" When they come back, the guy hasn't sold anything due to his blank sign. Then they pretty much have him rewrite the sign exactly as it was before they got there, and suddenly it's a huge success. Wouldn't it have just turned out that way if they hadn't stopped to "help"?
  • The Voice of Freedom, prequel novel to the video game Home Front, presents a particularly blatant example of this trope. Ben, the novel's protagonist, is described throughout the novel as a smart reporter whose talents were wasted on celebrities and pop culture before the US was invaded by an implausibly reunified Korea, and then as an inspiring public speaker after the invasion, using his rousing patriotic speeches to raise morale among Americans and infuriate the Koreans. The problem is that he is a terrible writer (coincidentally, so are the novel's two co-authors) and his "rousing speeches" on the radio are vacuous crap. Seriously, one of them ends with him shouting "Hell yeah!" repeatedly. Um... yeah...
  • The Dorothy Parker quote above comes from her review of a largely forgotten novel called Debonair by G. B. Stern. The title "debonair" supposedly refers to the "charming" lead character, whose debonair charm seems to consist solely of speaking in a cutesy accent. As Parker continues:

"Debonair" may be her lover's word for her, but "God-awful" will ever be her nickname with me.

The Subterraneans are "hip without being slick, they are intelligent without being corny, they are intellectual as hell and know about Pound without being pretentious or talking too much about it, they are very quiet, they are very Christlike." So those are the Subterraneans. The only point in the summary with which I can agree is that they are hip; or, as Grandma used to say, hep.

  • Ivy, protagonist of The Magicians And Mrs Quent, is repeatedly said to be "quite intelligent", but she asks a lot of stupid questions, is slow on the uptake, and never does anything especially smart.
  • While the eponymous character of Septimus Heap is supposed to have amazing Magykal abilities, they do not quite show up anywhere.
  • Played as an important plot point in The Dresden Files series book Blood Rites, where Lord Raith, the patriarch of the White Court sex vampire clan, is supposed to be impossibly powerful due to the irresistible desire he arouses in his victims, whom he feeds on. This ability is never shown in the book, however, and through a series of clues Harry cottons onto the fact that Raith had his vampiric powers sealed decades ago by a curse.
  • The Career tributes were trained since birth to compete in The Hunger Games. Despite this, none of them know how to treat wasp stings. They also form risky alliances with people they don't have anything to gain from, use weapons they're not competent with, and decide that flushing Katniss out of a tree with fire is not as good an idea as just sitting under it and waiting until she drops a wasp nest on them.
    • Fridge Brilliance: the people training the career tributes have a vested interest in not producing students with the skills to be truly effective guerrilla warriors and tacticians, given that the existence of such people is a potential threat to a totalitarian state. The career tributes are being trained to beat up on dumb kids who are inferior to them in physical conditioning and weapons training. This training fails them when they run up against a smart kid who is able to keep up.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • In the classic Star Trek episode "Court Martial", Samuel T. Cogley is, based on his actions in the episode, an idiotic Luddite who would have spectacularly lost Kirk's case without the timely interference of Spock. But everyone spends the whole episode talking about what a brilliant lawyer Cogley is.
  • Guinan probably really was a good listener. They weren't going to bring Whoopi Goldberg in to just nod her head; and for dramatic reasons the countless hours of listening to people's problems was omitted from the series. But for someone who was famous for listening, who even bragged about her powers of listening, mostly what she actually did was talk.
  • Okona from the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Outrageous Okona". Obviously meant to be a Han Solo-pastiche (particularly because he is dressed exactly like Han Solo), the smirking Okona comes across as an overgrown fratboy with a sense of privilege that would stagger an emperor. Riker and Wesley both gush over him, and he got a fair bit of tail on the Enterprise.
  • Deep Space Nine has a Running Gag in which Morn is described by others as talkative, eloquent, humorous, and even an accomplished fighter. And yet, we hardly see him doing anything but sit on the same seat in Quark's Bar, drinking and never speaking.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise: Johnathan Archer is stated to be a trained diplomat in "A Night in Sickbay." That same episode shows him doing everything a diplomat should never do.
  • In one episode of Fringe, a computer programmer is repeatedly described as being lightyears ahead of his colleagues or revolutionary in his thinking, shown to be capable of developing a program that can hypnotize and ultimately liquefy the brains of victims, but when shown in person the programmer appears and acts like a deadbeat simpleton whose almost-childish motives for murder make his involvement clear to the FBI very quickly, though he could simply be a case of being a Idiot Savant.
  • Played for laughs in The Mighty Boosh with Kirk, a shaman who looks like a normal boy but is apparently a menacing interdimensional being. We never see him do anything, but the other shamans accuse him of being "a vehicular menace," and "an erotic adventurer of the most deranged kind," which he does not deny. They also say that he also has a far greater capacity for narcotics than the other shamans.
  • Annie on So Weird is supposed to be a great singer, and they manage to work in a song of hers in nearly every episode of the third season. But the actress who plays her (although she has gotten quite a bit better with age) was above-average at best.
  • In Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, writers Matt Albie and Danny Tripp are brought in by TV exec Jordan McDeere to save the supposedly-tanking Show Within a Show of the same name. Their first sketch after coming back on the air with new material (in the episode following the pilot) is a boring and monotonous parody of The Pirates of Penzance - and the sketches don't get any better from there. This is despite the fact that Matt and Danny are frequently referred to as brilliant and visionary by everyone around them. It doesn't help matters that, of the few times we get to hear about "Peripheral Vision Man" (which, judging from the pilot, was a cartoon animated in the style of Robert Smigel's TV Funhouse), it's more amusing to hear than anything featured in the so-called "superior" sketches.
  • In Hex, it is repeatedly stated that the ghost Thelma will pass through anything living that she touches and thus can't get physical with Cassie outside of dreams. This is never actually shown at any point in the series, nor do they spend any time talking about the fact that she can handle inanimate objects (as she frequently does) without breaking the rules. An Informed Inability.
  • In the Monk episode "Mr. Monk Paints His Masterpiece", we're repeatedly told that Monk is a terrible artist, which is probably true from an artistic standpoint but not from a technical one. They were essentially 2-D figures made from perfect geometric shapes/lines that took incredible skill and discipline to produce and represented Monk's vision of a perfectly ordered and straight world but were devoid of any individuality or creative genius. Of course, his teacher's preferred entry was blatantly plagarizing The Scream.
    • In short, Monk may be a poor artist but he's an incredible draftsman and illustrator.
  • In The Office, Dwight Shrute is hailed as their number one salesman and apparently has the numbers to back it up. While we occasionally see flashes of a polished hard-sell, he usually comes across as abrasive and threatening when on screen, quickly driving away his potential customers. This is especially obvious in the episode where he quits and goes to work for Staples. He immediately breaks records by selling two printers in his first day (off screen), but when we see him, he's chasing off a customer by insulting her printer paper choice. In contrast Michael, likewise touted as an excellent salesman, has been repeatedly shown winning over customers on-screen.
  • Josh in The West Wing is supposed to be a political savant. He certainly comes off as absurdly smart, if thoroughly arrogant. But in terms of actually playing politics and running campaigns, he screws up. Frequently. His crowning moment as a political operative is taking Jimmy Smits and making him president, but that's more a result of Smits' character taking steps that fly in the face of Josh's advice.
  • In the second half of Power Rangers SPD, each episode's alien criminal was said to have committed crimes that were more and more outlandish, until virtually nobody hadn't singlehandedly devastated dozens of planets. Then they come to Earth... alone, with barely effective energy blasts and a Humongous Mecha (typically recently bought from the arms-dealing recurring villain, meaning they didn't have it when they wiped out fifty planets) that's quickly taken out. Especially jarring because earlier in the season, they weren't nearly as ridiculous about this. So the powerful enemy who commanded an army destroyed nine planets... and the powerless enemy with nothing but zappy claws destroyed a hundred. Suuuuuure, we buy that.
    • The original version, Dekaranger, is a little better about it. Usually the only Alienizers that have done any planet-destroying are the ones that practically kill the Dekarangers before they're put down. Most of the rest have often committed quite a few crimes, but they're usually just related to the Alienizer's modus operandi. (Possessing people, stealing stuff, destroying property on a car-to-city scale, putting people on the other side of mirrors, things like that.) The Alienizers also usually arrive in their Kaijuki, rather than buying it from the monstrous sarariman arms dealer, so it's a bit more believable that they pulled off whatever they were doing.
  • The Musical Episode of That's So Raven has everyone act as though Raven put on the best musical performance of anyone. While Raven is a good singer, Annelise Van Der Pol is a Broadway powerhouse whose voice outshines the entire cast without any electronic enhancement, yet her talent isn't even acknowledged.
  • Adric in Doctor Who is supposed to be a genius, but of all the TARDIS crew travelling at the time, it is inevitably Adric who will somehow screw up the Doctor's latest plan to defeat the bad guy by doing something stupid, or will be gullible enough to be suckered into helping the villain's evil plan regardless of how transparently evil it is. For a supposedly smart person, the character doesn't come across as being particularly smart; and what makes it worse is that Adric is insufferably arrogant about skills that he is rarely demonstrated to actually possess.
    • Jamie, a piper, rarely, if ever, actually played the bagpipes. Probably for the best.
    • Rose pretty much becomes the centre of the universe without actually doing all that much, yet the Doctor and other characters go on and on about her being special. In fact, she only starts kicking arse and taking names after she's been separated from the Doctor. And we barely see Martha using her doctoring skills. All the skills these characters were supposed to have had were mostly ignored in favour of Chickification.
    • The Weeping Angels are always described as being supernaturally fast, to the point where simply taking a fraction of a second to blink is enough for them to sneak up on you and kill you. However, any time we see them, people will turn away for several seconds, and they never seem to move more than a few feet at a time. It's always explained as they're starving and weak to the point of death, but even after they've fed on something they don't exactly speed up.
  • Smallville 's Lana got a scholarship to an art school in Paris. We've never seen any of her artwork, and that was the only time she's even shown some interest in art.
  • Violet on Saved by the Bell is a really amazing singer, so much so that the Glee Club never mentioned before or since manages to finish in third in a singing contest by having her sing solo. But the audience can hear that her amazing singing amounts to being able to carry a tune.
    • Violet was chosen because they went through all the girls and Violet was the only decent singer so she was chosen as the soloist.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer is mentioned to be able to sense vampires with her Slayer instincts. She never, ever does. It was likely just just an element of the Myth Arc that was dropped early on.
    • Possibly justified, as she was shown to be not all that interested in the mystical applications of her powers, just the violence against the monsters threatening the people she loves. After season five, when she tries to have Giles train her in this, however, she has no excuse.
      • Possibly an excuse: season five is when her subconscious Death Seeker impulse kicks in, as lampshaded by Spike, season 6 is Buffy having a prolonged nervous breakdown, and in season 7 the Hellmouth is literally drenching the town in so much evil vibes that eventually even the mundane population of the town is so overwhelmed that they can do nothing except flee the area. Not the best conditions for trying to develop and use any subtle mystic senses.
  • In Angel with the character of Drogyn. A mystical, thousand-year-old immortal warrior who Angel says could kill Spike. He proceeds to never do anything but get his ass handed to him over and over, and then die. This is probably because because he was created last minute as a replacement for Giles when Anthony Stewart Head couldn't make it for filming. The only time he got into anything resembling a fight on-screen was with Hamilton. He did get badly wounded in an off-screen battle with a mook, but that mook did apparently outclass Spike.
  • One CSI episode had murders taking place at a comedy club, whose native-son star attracted huge crowds even though he was a Jerkass. The few moments of him actually performing were... disappointing.
    • Which was of course one of the reasons he was murdered by a fellow comic who was so infuriated by him and jealous. When the crowd fails to respond to his own act he mockingly apes the terrible act of the dead guy (which includes randomly spitting water at them) and they lap it up. If he hadn't been led away at that point there probably would have been a massacre.
    • CSI also has a character with an informed hair color. The writers are aware of the fact that Marg Helgenberger is a natural redhead; they occasionally seem to forget that her character, Catherine Willows, really isn't, causing her to be referred to in dialogue as "the redhead."
  • In The Outer Limits episode "Falling Star", the heroine's music is supposed to have such amazing influence that if she lives and succeeds as a pop star, the future will become a Utopia. The heroine is played (and presumably, her music composed) by Sheena Easton.
  • Alan Shore from The Practice and Boston Legal is introduced as one of the best anti-trust lawyers in Massachusetts, and references to that being his real area of expertise are frequently made. Over the years, he is seen practicing criminal law, tort law, administrative law, constitutional law, procedural law, evidence law and many others. He is never actually seen practicing anti-trust law. Paradoxically, he is introduced as having little-to-no criminal law experience, yet ends up spending most of his time representing criminal defendants.
  • Neatly averted in a third-season episode of Married... with Children where Kelly is forced to join the school tap-dancing class, gets some extra coaching from neighbor Steve, and finally does an erotic dance with her would-be boyfriend. As Christina Applegate, David Garrison, and the actor who played the boyfriend were all trained dancers themselves, it wasn't much of a stretch for their characters to do it.
    • Played straight (most of the time) with Jefferson's CIA past. Despite various hints that he was an agent, he's never shown to live up to it. Except in one episode, where he meets with Fidel Castro.
  • Lost: His name is Sayid Jarrah, and he is a torturer. Or so he informs us, and so Kelvin Inman, the US soldier who taught Sayid to torture informed him. But the only time we are even *informed* that he succesfully tortured someone is in a flashback, and it is almost all offscreen. This among numerous failed attempts.
  • The character of Kate in the latest series of Robin Hood is described on the official website as an "indispensable" member of the team, whose weapon of choice is "her imagination." The former claim is strange enough considering she's entirely useless, but the latter is even more incomprehensible. Thus far the heights of her "imagination" involve her secretly palming an arrowhead into Robin's hand and using a sword to pull a key close enough for her to pick it up. Hardly a test of ingenuity.
    • It becomes even less impressive when you realise she's the Replacement Scrappy of a character who once successfully disguised the outlaws' weapons as musical instruments in order to sneak them into the castle.
    • She's also lauded as "compassionate" in the same episode that she a) breaks Much's heart by asking him to help her hook up with Robin, b) demands that Robin leave Isabella to be raped and strangled by her abusive husband, and c) acts like a spoilt six-year old because nobody's paying her enough attention. Honestly, were the writers even watching this show?
  • Rory Gilmore of Gilmore Girls fame is repeatedly described as a brilliant writing prodigy who can make the most mundane story come to life with scintillating prose and profound insight. In the rare instances her articles and speeches are actually read aloud they never rise at all above what any high school student could do.
    • Also, she's constantly referred to as a great success story, having accomplished so much. But all she ever does is get things handed to her. Her grandparents paid for her expensive private school. Then her grandparents paid for Yale, until such a time as her father started paying for Yale instead. Also, she started dating a really rich guy and got to live in a penthouse apartment instead of staying in a dorm. Throughout the entire run of the series, other than being a reasonably good student, Rory doesn't accomplish or earn anything (though, in all fairness, just getting into those expensive schools, which obviously require the character to be intelligent, and her long-shown wit in conversation, contribute to this merely being an understated ability, rather than an Informed one).
  • Arguably, the Venjix Virus, the antagonist of Power Rangers RPM. This virus took down the entire planet but cannot take down the last city on Earth.
    • Considering this is the most heavily armed city on Earth, this is not a surprise.
  • Soap Opera example: in One Life to Live, Matthew was basically Sam Weir until he was paralyzed in a car accident in March 2009. Since then, his pre-disability athletic exploits have grown to the point where the yearbook shows him on the 9th grade interscholastic team in every fall and winter sport.
  • Glee casts a cute guy who's never sung before in the role of a cute guy who's never sung before. Good choice, he plays the part well, and has obvious talent and potential. However, the other characters heap praises on him as if he's superior to the other (gay and disabled) boys in the club, who are played by (and sound like) trained singers with lots of experience.
    • This is a recurring problem with Glee, in that every single performance is so polished that the audience needs to be told things like when a performance is "bad" and who has the best singing voice. For example, the club's flawless performance in "Sectionals" is stated by a judge to be "good" but "not that rehearsed".
    • Kurt's voice is another example. Will calls it unique and tells him he can do things no one else can - but never gives him a solo to sing. After Kurt transfers to Dalton and joins The Warblers, the cast often makes remarks how Warblers "have Kurt now" - but Blaine is the only soloist we ever see and Kurt is just a background singer, alongside about 10-15 other guys.
      • The above may not count as an Informed Attribute proper since Kurt sings frequently in the show - just not in in-show competitions - and his countertenor voice is quite real and just as unique as Will claims. The failure of both groups to utilise his voice properly could also be considered justified in-universe (and out) as it's almost a century since countertenor voices were commonly used in popular music, as opposed to opera, so it's realistic that neither group would understand how to integrate him effectively into their arrangements. However, since the one time Kurt has a competition solo (in 2x16) the Warblers lose the competition due to the judges' inability to look past the fact of two boys singing a duet, the idea that Kurt's voice is in and of itself special enough to win competitions for groups (as asserted by Rachel in 2x04 and then ignored by all and sundry in 2x21 and 2x22) counts as an Informed Attribute. For show choir, at any rate, as it was good enough to bag Nationals for the Cheerios...
    • Rachel's dancing may also count. Rachel tells the rest of the cast (and the audience) constantly that she's a good dancer, but a quick comparison with not just Brittany and Santana, but also Tina and Quinn, shows that although she can keep a beat and cope with some footwork, she's at best average. And her ballet, shown on-screen in "Laryngitis", is frankly poor - although she's supposedly been having lessons since she was a small child, she can't even get properly up onto her pointes.
  • Susan Meyer of Desperate Housewives, a character who even her actress has called a 'clumsy idiot' and who has certainly never displayed any academic qualities was casually mentioned as having been valedictorian at her high school.
  • In Survivor, Kelly in Samoa was supposedly a huge threat to Russell that he had to get her out as fast as possible - however, because the producers forgot there was actually another tribe in the game, and that said other tribe actually consisted of more than Shambo, a lot of people were wondering just what made her a huge threat to Russell - The first person voted out at the merge of Galu was at least understandable. (He had an immunity idol) But Kelly? Who is this girl other than the girl in dreadlocks?
    • Stephanie LaGrossa falls into this too.
    • As does James, a gravedigger who would obviously be good at physical challenges...yet wound up being evacuated/voted off due to weaknesses.
  • Supernatural does this a few times when it comes to describing people as intelligent. Besides the odd character like Sam and Ash, who demonstrate that they are especially knowledgeable in certain fields, often the writers will just throw in a toss away line that explains that the character in question reads/owns a lot of complicated books so they must be smart, despite often making horribly poor decisions and never doing or saying anything that might demonstrate said intelligence.
    • In a highly unexpected subversion of this trope - notable for how rarely a show successfully pulls it off, the season 2 episode "Crossroad Blues" features a man who sells his soul in order to become a great artist. They do actually show a number of his artworks, all of which are interesting and emotive. How great they actually are still remains a matter of opinion, of course, and the writers acknowledge this by having the character create artworks that he pours his heart into, but never actually manages to sell.
    • Played straight with Gordon Walker, a hunter who specializes in vampires. He's supposed to be among the best at tracking and killing them, but two of the three vampires we see him fight manage to get the upper hand. The first time, he's bailed out by Sam and Dean. The second, however, he's not so lucky.
  • On Heroes, Mohinder is theoretically a geneticist with some idea of how the superpowers work. But he's constantly having plot points and technobabble explained to him by other characters, such as Bennet and Sylar.
    • Granted, Sylar's superpower is intuitive aptitude ("knowing how things work"), and Bennet's been at the game for decades, and is or was one of the Company's top agents.
  • On Jonathan Creek Joey is initially introduced as Jonathan's intellectual equal, described on a television show as "someone whose powers of deduction and truly phenomenal flair for solving seemingly impossibly puzzles are beyond cool." Yet apart from ascertaining that the Nightmare Room is inescapable and discovering a clue that Jonathan misses (one which ends up being a false lead), she doesn't solve any part of the mystery, and eventually admits: "I'm out of my depth here."
  • Brian, the marketing genius of Queer as Folk, is really more of a one trick pony; No matter if he's selling booze, a steakhouse or a mayor candidate, he works the sex angle, and only the sex angle.
  • Jane from Coupling is "the one with the breasts." Now the actress Gina Bellman is a very attractive woman but she is not exceptionally buxom. Although it is partly in comparison to the other two female members of the cast, however.
  • This trope is the basis for comedian Bob Einstein's character Super Dave Osborne. Super Dave is continually lauded as one of the world's most daring and amazing stuntmen, whose death-defying feats are "astronomically sensational", to quote one such hyperbole. Of course, when we actually see Super Dave performs a stunt, it backfires spectacularly and he's horrifically maimed, twisted, or crushed in some way. See Epic Fail.
  • Sonny With a Chance inverts this. The Show Within a Show That's so Random's informed ability is that it sucks and no-one watches it. Not even the main character's mother.
    • Their opponent show Mackenzie Falls plays it straight. In-universe the actors and show is far more popular than So Random, even though it's basically just a lot of melodrama. Both cases justified by Rule of Funny.
  • Chuck's love of music. It's mentioned in the pilot. And in season two. And in season three. Other than that, he doesn't even seem to listen to music.
    • He did show impeccable taste in choosing a Nina Simone record to play for Sarah in "Chuck Versus the Honeymooners".
  • Dan Humphrey of Gossip Girl is constantly praised for his fantastic talent as a writer, but we are virtually never treated to any examples. In one episode, a story of his is glimpsed briefly, and it's comically bad - no doubt because it was written by the props team.
    • Same goes for Vanessa and her supposed talent for film making and script writing. Some would also say that Jenny's talents as a designer fall under this.
  • Lampshaded and played for laughs on The Red Green Show when Possum Lodge acquires a collection of tubas. One segment has Red seemingly playing the show's theme song on the tuba, and he's pretty good at it. When he's done and the studio audience applauds, the song starts up again before Red kicks the person who's really playing the tuba.
  • Lily Aldrin of How I Met Your Mother is said to be a talented painter, but the paintings we see are more of a middle school art class quality. Yet Barney is willing to pay thousands of dollars for her to paint him in the nude after seeing another of her portraits.
    • Don, Robin's boyfriend in season 5, also falls into this trope. Marshall and Lily insist to Robin that he's an amazing guy (despite not really knowing anything about him), though to the audience, all we know is that at first he didn't care about his career and didn't wear pants, and now he does. Wear pants, that is.
    • In Lily's case, it is heavily implied that everyone who praised her painting ability was lying to make her feel good. One Epileptic Trees theory is that Barney allowed himself to be bamboozled by Lily and Marshall in order to pay for their honeymoon.
      • Her paintings are shown to hypnotize dogs and drive birds to a furious rage. That's got to count for something.
    • Again with Lily, her Chessmaster abilities are very much an informed ability. To the point where actual Chessmaster Barney sings the praises of her abilities. Her every Batman Gambit has either been incredibly simple (all of her breakups of Ted in the past), or backfired badly (her breakups of Ted and Barney with Robin).
      • Since we only see Ted's memories, perhaps her greatest schemes are only told to less-morally-severe Barney. Or maybe he's the only one smart enough to realise what's genuine and what's one of her schemes...
  • Inverted on Friends in the episode "The One With The Fake Monica" when Monica, Rachel, and Phoebe end up in a tap-dancing class. While Monica and Phoebe struggle to keep up, without any buildup Rachel is able to perform the routine flawlessly. When the other girls look at her in amazement, Rachel simply shrugs and says that it's easy to keep up-all you have to do is tap when the rest of the class taps. Of course, being played by trained dancer Jennifer Aniston tends to make this sort of thing a lot easier.
  • Sam Beckett on Quantum Leap: we are informed that he "Has an IQ of 197 and graduated from high school at 16. Completed four years worth of classes at MIT in two years. Has seven doctoral degrees and speaks 11 languages." But precious little of this comes through on the show, where he typically arrives at the solution to the Problem of the Week via his intuition more than anything else (and he certainly never speaks any language other than English-yes the Swiss Cheese effect might explain part but not all of that).
    • He is shown to at least understand foreign languages in one episode where he's in the body of a WWII veteran who brings his Japanese wife home with him.
  • The quality of the titular web show on iCarly is greatly exaggerated. The characters on the show eat it up and it has become an internet phenomenon so well known it's been hit up for ideas for TV on the show on two separate occasions.
    • Sam's supposed 'tech' ability. Part of her Brilliant but Lazy character build includes references in several character blogs to her having ability with computers that she's never used on the show itself.
  • Two or three teams do this to themselves every season on The Amazing Race. They talk up their abilities before the race starts, only to fall flat on their faces once they're on the course, such as brain dead lawyer Lance in Season 15.
    • An Inversion occurred when a contestant described Boston Rob as "dumb as a rock". The only way this makes sense is if you assume the guy thought rocks were smart. Sure enough, Rob found a way to scheme his way past a food-eating challenge, convince a couple of other teams to forfeit it as well, and won the very next round.
  • Every Kamen Rider has an All There in the Manual description full of powers and features that never even come up shown in the show, for obvious reasons. Fans may never know what happens if they got the chance to cut loose.
    • Some of the claims get truly outsize, as higher levels (such as Ultimate Kuuga) could supposedly destroy the world. A Rider's actual power level is best described as "As strong as it takes to have trouble with but eventually beat the Monster of the Week." And then you have first-appearance beef-ups, where a character or power will be utterly invincible the first time and then never, ever again. Biggest offender here is Double.[2] Outside of power levels, there's Kamen Rider OOO's "full combos can drive you nuts" thing, which has never been seen to happen (unless it's Putotyra, the feral, dinosaur-based mode, which is always uncontrollable, but that activates on its own when Eiji's under enough duress) and yet using one is still treated as being so dangerous you'd rather take your chances with a monster who overpowers you than risk using one.
    • However, the Greeed in that series being able to 'devour the Earth' turns out to not be an idle boast.
  • Played with in Castle; while Richard Castle is a bestselling novelist, which implies some skill, several of the characters make somewhat snarky reference to the fact that his novels aren't exactly the greatest works of English literature ever (the phrase "not exactly Shakespeare" crops up more than once). This means that on the few occasions his prose does show up, the viewers are primed to not necessarily to expect the most awesomely mind-blowing and wonderful prose ever.
  • Played with and Subverted on Spaced in which three characters all work in creative professions, but we are never told if they're particularly good. Brian praises his former partner Vulva as a brilliant performance artist when her work is bizarre and incomprehensible, but exactly what someone like Brian (Wangsty, pretentious) would speak highly of. Daisy is a writer but is mostly too lazy to get any work done, and Tim is a comic book artist. His sketches were done by real-life comic book artist Simon Bisley (who Tim's named after), and might even count as an inversion; other characters frequently tend to discuss his work dismissively, usually by describing them as 'cartoons' ("It's a bit more complicated than that.") but when we see them they're actually quite good.
  • On The Secret Life of the American Teenager, any talent or vocation of the main cast that doesn't relate to sex or sexual prowess is talked about but never shown. The most obvious one is Amy and Ricky being members of the school marching band. They're never shown practicing and don't possess any instruments at their homes. The closest Amy gets to touching an instrument while in a marching band is a scene from a flashback episode from band camp where she's tripping over herself because of seeing Ricky for the first time.
  • On Outsourced (TV series), Todd is regarded in-universe as an Everyman trying his best to handle being in a different culture. Out of universe, he's regarded as a culturally insensitive clod who constantly grabs onto the Idiot Ball in order to ensure Culture Clash hijinks.
  • In one episode of QI, Stephen introduces the shoes of a 19th-century entertainer known as "Little Titch", whom he says was one of the greatest comedians of all time, and a huge inspiration on Chaplin. He goes on to say that in 200 years, when the names of Stephen Fry and the panelists on the show are forgotten, Little Titch's name will remain. The panelists point out that his name is already forgotten since no one there (including the audience) recognized him. When a video of Little Titch is run, showing him doing a skit with elongated shoes that allow him to lean forward without falling over, the panelists point out that he's not even that funny.
  • Full House pulls an inversion similar to the Friends example above. Jesse, who is genuinely horrible on ice expresses apprehension to Danny who himself says he feels like he'll probably be rusty too. Then Danny skates expertly out into the rink and performs a triple lutz landing backwards with his leg extended like a figure skater. He's just as rusty as he feared.
  • Pete Hutter has a nasty reputation. It's repeatedly said that "no one touches Pete's piece", in tones of horror that suggest what does happen to someone who touches Pete's gun. In practice, lots of people (or at least, Brisco, repeatedly) touch Pete's piece, and all Pete does about it is sit there, gibbering in shock that someone was mad enough to touch his piece.
  • Hannah Montana has the titular character's singing praised in multiple episodes. One in particular has Miley use a microphone to give her voice to her best friend to use in a singing contest. Everyone gushes on how amazing "Lily"'s voice is, but it's all too easy to wonder how much they're being paid to say that.
  • Survivor. In Nicaragua, Season 21, Brenda and Sash are frequently referred to as being dangerous strategic masterminds who need to be watched. This is despite neither of them doing anything remotely strategic the entire season. In fact, Brenda fails to do anything to save herself when it is clear that she may go home, since she "doesn't want to be seen as scrambling." This may have been emphasized in editing to compensate for the season's lack of strong strategists, even as the viewing public was clamoring for more strategists in the vein of Russell Hantz.
  • Big Brother US: Rachel is apparently very good at the game; yet she somehow has to rely on a blatantly contrived twist the second she started to fall behind. She also apparently is likable, yet almost all the time, the editors love to show her constantly crying and having to be calmed down by Brendon.
  • Being Human (UK): George is described several times as a genius and claims to have an IQ in the 150s. We never see him exhibit any high level of intelligence or knowledge. The smartest thing we see him do is teach basic English to ESL students. He mentions his ability to speak a number of languages, but never does so on camera. He admits to not knowing any Hebrew and can't remember all six words of the Shema prayer.
  • All the ADA's who came after Alex Cabot on Law and Order Special Victims Unit had to endure a bit of time in the Replacement Scrappy box because of how popular she was with fans, but Kim Greylek's contribution to the show was pretty much nothing but Informed Ability, to the point that she introduced herself as "The Crusader" and although we never saw it, she was also a highly aggressive and competent lawyer from big important D.C. and taking cases in little ol' Manhattan to further her political aspirations (that we're told she has). Fans of the show didn't tolerate her very well, and she didn't even last a whole season.

Newspaper Comics[edit | hide]

  • In For Better or For Worse:
    • Mike is supposed to be a brilliant best-selling novelist who sold his first book on his first try with no editing needed. Yet the excerpts from his first novel, as featured in the character's letters, are filled with implausible and maudlin situations, and insightful lines like "The living buried the dead."
    • Liz's parents and friends are constantly telling her how successful, smart, funny, and great Anthony is. However, he only got his job through connections, never says anything witty, and isn't even shown at the astronomy club, his only social outlet.
  • Charlie Brown in Peanuts claims that everyone hates him and he has no friends, even though Schroeder and Linus are clearly his friends, and although Lucy insults him, she also hangs around with him an awful lot. Also, all the neighborhood kids let him be manager and captain of the baseball team. Of course, this makes more sense when you know that the creator Charles M. Schulz, even when he had a wife, five children, and millions of fans, still complained of being anxious and lonely.
    • Depends on the strip: sometimes even Linus and Schroeder belittle him, and not in a Vitriolic Best Buds way. It's also been stated in the strip that Charlie Brown is the manager of the team because he's the only person who really cares about it that much (to the extent that he'd rather manage than eat).
  • Dennis the Menace US, despite being regarded as such by his parents and neighbors, is hardly ever shown misbehaving at all anymore, no doubt due to parents complaining about him being a "bad example" or the fear thereof. But he was a real terror in the early days.
    • Bart Simpson was created specifically because Matt Groening remembered how disappointed he was with Dennis the Menace US, and wanted to create one whose trouble making wasn't an Informed Ability.
    • It got even worse in the Dennis sitcom and cartoon, where the kid wasn't actually allowed to do anything bad. Instead, he was written as an innocent well-meaning lad who always got into trouble by accident. A better title might have been "Dennis the Unlucky." On the other hand, this qualified as Adaptation Distillation to those kids who found the good-natured Dennis to be a much more likable character than the nasty Bratty Half-Pint from the early comics.
  • In Calvin and Hobbes, this is used for comedic effect. Calvin's imaginary alter ego Spaceman Spiff is constantly described as a tremendous pilot, superb marksman and all round brilliant space explorer, but pretty much every story about him begins as his ship is crashing and/or he's captured by aliens. Same with Stupendous Man; after yet another blunder, Hobbes asks Calvin if Stupendous Man ever won any battle. Calvin replies they are all "moral victories."
    • Spaceman Spiff's piloting is also lampshaded in one strip (paraphrased from memory): "Spaceman Spiff has crashed on an alien planet, which, he reluctantly admits, seems to happen an awful lot."
  • In Dick Tracy, the Iceman is described as being in the top elite of hitmen, has pulled off a dozen killings without even getting a criminal record. No-one is ever a match for Tracy, of course, but even before he encounters Tracy, the first killing we actually see the Iceman commit is a real amateur affair. He not only leaves his disguise behind where the police easily find it, he allows himself to be seen committing the crime.
  • Dilbert is supposed to be a brilliant engineer, thus explaining his constant frustration with his idiot-run workplace. While early strips did show him as a fairly talented (albeit eccentric) inventor, this has been gradually phased out as the comic focused entirely on office humor, giving readers little evidence of his over-qualifications.
    • Alice is an even stronger example. While Dilbert can lay claim to getting one or two strips per year where he's working on a specific project, Alice has 14 patents and was the highest paid engineer at the workplace but all she ever does on-panel is use her Fist of Death on hapless co-workers.


Professional Wrestling[edit | hide]

  • Often happens when the commentators have to shill a Creator's Pet, and moreso when they're simply trying get a new act "over". Jobbers and journeymen are made to seem like extremely talented athletes all the time—a good example of a Justified Trope in this instance. It's pretty much the announcers' job to do this.
  • Similarly, wrestlers are often verbally boosted even if they're higher up the rankings. Triple H is a wrestler who was rather good, but not exactly a technical mastermind (he kicked and punched a lot, and stuck to only some basic submissions or wear-down holds). And the extent of his planning was usually "lure opponent down to ringside, then hit with a sledgehammer". The announcers played him up as not only the best technical wrestler alive, but the "Cerebral Assassin", noted for his brilliant planning.
    • Similarly, although maybe a little more methodical is Randy Orton, who although would be a little unnerving to actually have to deal with, his "psychological torture" of his opponents usually extends as far as extending submissions, moving slowly, hitting them, and giving a few evil-looking stares. Has an evil air, but not exactly a super villain.
  • Subverted with Hulk Hogan. Commentators often talk about how exceptional he is despite most of his technical performances being average. He actually was an, at a minimum, better than average technical wrestler, which is more obvious if you see his performances when he was less well known. As he became more popular, he dialed down the technical aspect of his performances to minimize the chance of injury. Effectively, the audience was being informed of his technical abilities, which virtually none of them would ever see, despite the fact he was, at least to some extent, a better wrestler than his performances indicated. Maybe not as exceptional as the commentators would have you believe, but good enough that he didn't as completely rely on mic skills as many of his critics would indicate.


Religion[edit | hide]

  • Satan, from The Bible. The New Testament calls him evil a lot, when it mentions him, but it never really shows him doing much of anything evil except in Revelation (most of which is apparently set sometime in our future). It's generally believed that he's the source of all temptation, so it's more a case of your acts being the evil deeds and him being merely the inspiration for them. In The Old Testament, Satan is more like mankind's prosecuting attorney, whose harsh criticisms are a part of his job rather than evil.
    • In Hebrew, the word satan (note the lowercase) actually means accusation, opposition, obstruction, or prosecution. It was only later in the Bible, when the source of all temptation and opposition to mankind came to be known as (The) Satan, that the word gained the meaning it has today. The original connotation has been Lost in Translation to most people.
  • King Solomon. God grants him the gift of boundless wisdom in a dream that was only witnessed by Solomon himself. The text gives exactly one specific demonstration of this wisdom. He also allegedly wrote three deeply philosophical books of the Bible, but one has reason to suspect some ghost-writing from translators and scribes: the aforementioned books contain loanwords from other languages that according to many historians weren't known to the Israelites until centuries later. The Queen of Sheba also found his wisdom appealing enough to make a very lucrative business deal with him, but the text doesn't recount what exactly he told her. Moreover, in his old age he turned his back on God and imported some idols to worship (despite having personally conversed with God more than once), this being one of the gravest sins in the eyes of the ancient Hebrews and a sure way to lose divine favor.
    • Any wisdom he may have had also failed to rub off on His son and successor Rehoboam, whose listening to bad advice from his peers convinced him not to alleviate the high taxes his father had levied on the Israelites, and to threaten them with even harsher treatment instead. Only after ten tribes revolted and seceded, permanently splitting the kingdom, did he start paying closer attention to the God he was supposed to serve and being an effective ruler, and by then the damage was done. Eventually, both kingdoms went corrupt and God sent the Assyrians and Babylonians to destroy and enslave them.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Happens often in tabletop RPGs, where a character might have a lot of points in charisma, intelligence, or wisdom, but will still be played like a boorish nincompoop because of player incompetence.
    • In GURPS it's possible to take the advantage "Common Sense" to avoid this. The description says that if you do something outrageously stupid (like having your charismatic rogue urinate in the King's face) the GM has to mention it and let you decide on a different course of action.
    • Some Dungeons & Dragons rulebooks will discuss this as well - a character may have fantastic intelligence, wisdom, or charisma, but the player will have nothing of the sort. This is inevitable when playing a wizard or cleric, whose intelligence or wisdom is very likely to reach officially superhuman levels. In that case, it's acceptable to just stick with ability checks in lieu of roleplaying. Or a DM can do what many D&D CRPGs do, nudging a mentally-endowed character appropriately toward correct solutions and insights, or warning them away from stupendous mistakes.
    • Tier-Induced Scrappy classes and races can lead to this. A high level fighter (a low tier class) is described as a warrior without peer, and a truly terrifying sight to behold; the fact that a mid-level caster can probably destroy him from several football fields away will go unremarked upon. Likewise, elves are supposed to be master wizards, using their centuries long lifespans to discover arcane secrets beyond comprehension. In actuality, they take 8d6 (8 to 48) years longer than a human to achieve first level wizardry, have a penalty to a very important stat, and their racial abilities are subpar.
  • It is interesting to read the original AD&D Dragonlance adventures and compare them with how the characters act in the novels. Laurana for instance is given an Intelligence score of 15, higher than anyone else other than Raistlin (in the books she's smart enough but not the near-genius this would make her). Conversely Flint has an Int of 7 (very stupid in AD&D terms, and certainly far dimmer than the character in the novels). Raistlin, the epitome of the sickly Squishy Wizard is given a Constitution of 10 - perfectly average.
    • Laurana was shown to be very intelligent in the novels. In particular she proved to be a military genius, personally developing the innovative strategies that won the battles of Icewall Castle, the High Clerist's Tower and the Vingaard Campaign. That said her D&D assigned Wisdom score of 12 is way too high for her given some of the foolish decisions she made such as trusting Kitiara.
    • Fridge Logic: The characters and adventures in the books are all based on an actual campaign the writers played. The stats therefore are probably the results of random rolls, and the way they're presented in the books is probably more consistent with how the Players played their PCs, rather than their actual stats.
      • Word of God, according to an afterword in one book, is that Raistlin's poor health came about because the guy playing the character spoke in a rasping voice when he was speaking as Raistlin.
  • Some Ravenloft Modules by their very nature cause Rudolph Van Richten to fall under this trope, considering a good number of the Quests involves the man getting tricked by any number of evil entities far more often than the 'Land's Premier Expert on Undead and Other Evil Horrors' really should be. It takes a skilled GM to not turn Van Richten into an unintentional Miles Gloriosus.
    • Later justified in that he is under a Vistani curse which keeps him alive as everyone he loves dies for most of his life. He disappears shortly after the curse is broken.
  • In Warhammer 40,000 most of the lore you'll run into makes the Space Marines out to be the biggest badasses in the history of ever, but ingame in terms of stats and abilities they're pretty much the baseline army. This is due to Gameplay and Story Segregation - if the various armies were as ridiculously over-the-top as they are in the fluff, the game would be unplayable.

Theatre[edit | hide]

  • In Sondheim's Sunday in The Park With George, Act II George is supposed to be an innovative artist (or "inventor-sculptor" as he thinks of himself), but all we see of his artwork is a stage prop that breaks down when he tries to activate it. But the point of Act II George is that he's worried his art is beginning to grow stale, as shown in his conversation with the art critic and the song "Lesson #8."
    • Of course, given that this musical is about Geprges Seurat, and that he really was an innovative artist, perhaps it is assumed that the audience will already be aware of the artist's work.
  • In the musical In the Heights, the main character Nina is supposed to be the smartest, brightest, and overall "best" in her community. As far as the audience can tell, the only thing she ever accomplished was getting into Stanford, where she promptly lost her scholarship due to poor academic performance.
    • Though it is mentioned in-story that the bad grades weren't necessarily due to her intelligence or lack thereof; she mentions having to work three jobs just to pay for her books and other expenses, which can definitely conflict with getting schoolwork done. Of course, why she didn't go to the dean or other avenues that could help her before the situation came to a head calls her grasp of common sense into question.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Most video games themselves are an example. Think about it - how many times have you played a game that casts you as the greatest hero of the universe, only for you to fail spectacularly on your first few plays?
    • Averted in the Mass Effect franchise. Your character is repeatedly lauded as the most skilled soldier currently serving in human space, and the greatest hero of the galaxy. And throughout the game, you... consistently succeed at odds ranging from ludicrous to insane, and the few occasions you fail at are under circumstances where even Superman with a fistful of Green Lantern rings would have found things to be rough going.
  • Mario and Luigi. In the games themselves, not to mention most of the associated media (except for a certain live-action spinoff), despite their manner of dress and going through pipes, are they ever shown doing any actual plumbing? This was pointed out in There Will Be Brawl.
    • They were finally shown doing plumbing in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga. Granted, they were forced to do it as part of a Plan by Cackletta to unlock the Beanstar from its cage
    • The basis of the original Mario Bros.. game indicates that they were engaged in plumbing when the monsters are shown coming out of the pipes that they have to get rid of.
  • Gordon Freeman from Half-Life is a theoretical physicist... yet the most technically advanced things he does in the series is push a cart, flip switches, and plug in equipment. Lampshaded by Barney Calhoun in the 2nd game when he says "Good job hitting that switch. I can see that MIT education really pays for itself."
    • He also supposedly can talk, but you would never guess that from playing the games.
    • He apparently picked up some mechanical knowledge at least, picking up any weapon and figuring out the controls quickly, even alien ones like the overwatch pulse rifle, successfully subverting Unusable Enemy Equipment.
  • Of comparable informed ability status is Isaac Clarke, the protagonist of Dead Space. He is said to be known for original and innovative engineering solutions, yet he never displays any knowledge of engineering through the first game.
    • Averted in Dead Space 2; the first things Isaac does is flaunt his engineering degree by combining a medical laser and a flashlight to make a plasma cutter, and then going about manually rewiring electronics.
  • Metal Gear Solid:
    • Metal Gear RAY's ability to take down Metal Gear REX and its clones is either an informed ability, or in-universe false advertising. Raiden can take down multiple RAYs on foot with a rocket launcher in the same time it took Solid Snake to take out a single REX, then went on to throw a RAY into the air and hack it to pieces in the trailer for Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. When REX and RAY finally square off in MGS4, REX can take it down without too much difficulty. And this is a brand-new RAY[3] fighting a damaged REX after the latter was blown up, left in a freezing cold warehouse for almost a decade, and then had a major structural component removed without much thought for how the rest was going to balance without it, leaving it a wonder the REX in question can even stand upright.
    • In Peace Walker, the Pupa is supposed to be amphibious, but we only see it doing kickflips on a perfectly dry circular base built like a giant half pipe, and its amphibious capabilities are never relevant to or mentioned in the story (unlike Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty's RAY, which is fought on land but has the swimming ability to destroy the Discovery).
  • In Star Control 3, you are told over and over again how powerful The Eternal Ones are, and yet, you never actually fight them, even when you get to the end, expecting to at least be able to fight the big baddy in The Very Definitely Final Dungeon. Instead, you meet up with the secretary of The Eternal Ones, who lost to the last secretary, and somehow have never been defeated before. Of course, this is found out after you defeat them with a single ship and no losses.
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Godot apparently can do an excellent impression of a previous witness, but seeing as the games are text based all that happens is that his Leitmotif changes.
      • Godot gets to perform impressions of two witnesses. When he's impressioning a female witness, the speaking-beeps switch to the higher pitched female ones too.
      • Godot is constantly feared by police and other prosecutors alike for being a powerful attorney. He's the least successful prosecutor in the entire series. He never wins a case, both on-screen or off, where as Winston Payne is at least noted for being undefeated up until his trial against Mia. It's justified only so far with him being a defense attorney, but he uses tricks and plots that pretty much revoke that.
      • Godot's prowess as a prosecutor is brought up before you meet him: Gumshoe talks about how he's never been defeated. This turns out to be entirely true; the case where you meet him is his first one as a prosecutor.
    • Averted in a clever way with Lamiroir in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. She is considered a world-class singer, with an angelic voice. How do they put this on a DS game? They don't record vocals, and instead give her voice as a musical tone. The effect works, her voice sounds brilliant, but it isn't quite Show, Don't Tell, as it's clear each of those tones represents her voice.
  • Fallout 3:
    • Your stats do have an impact on your interaction with the world outside the vault. In the tutorial in the vault, however, Butch (strength 5 out of maximum 10 according to the construction kit) will always attempt to bully, even if logic dictates that if you are stronger than him he is going to get his ass kicked if he provokes you. Neither will your charisma score affect your interactions with other vault dwellers in the slightest: even if you have 10 in Charisma, Amata will still be the only one in your age group that actually likes you, all others being hostile or indifferent. High Skills do offer some extra conversation paths however.
      • This is fixed to a degree in the sequel Fallout: New Vegas, where you get additional speech paths based on your skills and abilities.
    • Protectrion Robots are implied to be extremely fast and efficient factory workers, so much so that a Factory variant exists (yet still comes equipped with a built in laser pistol), however in gameplay, Protectrons are clunky, stiff, bulky, noisy, and slow. They also suffer from limited movement abilities due to their design (so tasks as simple as using a shovel are impossible). Even if they've gone without maintenance for 200 years, one can only wonder how such a machine could actually outperform a human.
      • Because they can work 24 hours per day, seven days a week, minus some minimal downtime for regular maintenance. On top of that, factory workers don't usually have to move around much (so the slow speed is not a major issue) and many factory tasks require quick analysis and a long attention span, not rapid physical movement. They also don't need to be paid. IOW, all the same reasons that real-world factory automation is useful and cost-effective.
  • Used for a gag in Mega Man Battle Network 2; when a villain is captured, he expresses disbelief at how two kids could beat him, future head of Gospel (note: ego), with an IQ of 170. Chaud informs him "Your IQ of 170 didn't help you this time."
    • In 3, Tora constantly mentions "strategy" and "thinking several moves ahead" and is even introduced in the N1 as a "master strategist". His navi, KingMan is one of the cheapest bosses in the entire series, its "strategy" consisting of staying in back row while a bunch of autonomous chess pieces continually harass the player.
      • Although, you could argue on the basis that he had thought of that being an effective method when designing the navi, seeing as his is one of the only ones to put the navi in the back row and have objects do all the fighting. From a practical standpoint it is very effective in a netbattle.
  • Alan Wake from Alan Wake is supposedly an excellent horror writer who's been having some problems with writer's block lately (read: 2 years). All of the pages that you collect don't sound like they're written by a best selling author. His narrating doesn't really help, either.
    • This may also count as Fridge Brilliance: His writing is bad because he's writing under stress and not inspiration; the pages you find show he's still trying to work through his block.
  • Leon Silverberg of Suikoden II is supposed to be perhaps the greatest strategists to ever live. Except we only see brilliance from his former student Shu, who is so terrified of Leon's unbeatable brilliance that he nearly kills himself to bring Leon down. Never mind that we never see Leon do anything all that special. Considering the mind-boggling brilliance of some of the strategists in the series, Leon is an extreme case of this trope.
  • Ramirez in Skies of Arcadia is referred to as a brilliant strategist and tactician. However his strategies tend to simply be bombarding stationary or slow-moving targets into submission from afar. He's never actually seen to command a battle (occasionally just hanging back while his own ships or troops are destroyed and then either bombarding from afar or wading in and single-handedly taking down the heroes' party. He doesn't even take part in either of the game's climactic large-scale ship battles.
  • The wingmen you fly with in the Wing Commander games are all supposed to be truly Badass veteran pilots, but with a relative few exceptions... well, they aren't.
    • Knight rarely seems to make it back with any kills, or indeed his fighter, even though he has an impressive service record prior to the start of the campaign. Lampshaded in the movie, where he dies spectacularly.
    • In Maniac's case, the stunts he pulls while flying as a wingman are in-character for him.
  • In Viva Pinata, it is mentioned that the Eaglair "has earned respect through its natural nobility, tempered strength, and thumping great talons." Somehow that 'respect' doesn't seem to stop larger Pinatas from walking over it, and it's 'talons' are somewhat nonexistent due to the Eaglair's legs and feet being a pair of stumps.
  • In Monster Rancher Battle Card: Episode 2, you're allowed to lose as many times as you want because you're always wagering a "Critical" card, which Cue has a massive stack of. Every NPC seems quite interested in getting this card for themselves, going so far as betting fifteen other cards or one Monster Card (...and more skill cards) against it. Critical, however, isn't that good a card—it takes two GUTS to use, and adds two points to another attack (which can still be dodged or blocked). A lot of attacks have better GUTS-to-damage ratios, so it's often better to replace Critical with... just about any other card.
  • A lot of Pokémon have an Informed Ability in their Pokédex entry, which we never actually see, especially not after catching them. While many Ghost-type Pokémon are able to steal souls, some Psychic-types are hyper-intelligent and empathic and able to rip apart time and space. Also, some legendaries are stated to be able to travel through time, wipe people's memories, permanently paralyze, them or even kill them by merely looking in their eyes. In the end, all that's really impressive about them are their stats in battle... if you train them properly.
    • Granted, Cyrus in Diamond/Pearl explains legendary Pokémon lose part of their powers when they are trapped in a Poké Ball the first time, and that's why he gives you a Master Ball free of charge and leaves to steal Dialga/Palkia's powers by himself.
    • Ghost-type attacks in Generation I were supposed to be super-effective against Psychic-type Pokémon but possibly due to a programming oversight, Ghost-type moves cannot hit Psychics, leaving a major hole in the Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors formula and resulting in the Psychic type becoming a major Game Breaker until later generations fixed it. By sheer coincidence, the same is true of the anime's first season; Ash brings a Haunter to fight Sabrina's Kadabra because Ghost hurts Psychic. But the Haunter in question never uses any Ghost attacks, instead using humor to make Kadabra laugh.
  • In Pokémon Black and White your two rivals are the ditzy Bianca who admits she isn't very good and the analytical Cheren who is focused on nothing but becoming the champion. In your fights with them however, while Bianca isn't a particularlly hard fight, she is still harder than Cheren who has an abyssmal set up for his team.[4]
  • Averted in Boktai. Master Otenko is the representation of The Sun, and a guardian of the Solar System... but he makes it clear to Django in the first game that he can't fight. Indeed, Otenko does get his leafy stem handed to him on a regular basis.
  • In Soul Calibur IV, Angol Fear, the "King of Terror" is said to weigh 1.44 tons, and be 14800 years old. Given that, you would think that she would be super strong, unjugglable, and more of a threat than all of the fighters in the game considering the knowledge she should have amassed. The character is Seong Mina. Not Shin Seong Mina or Seong Mina with a speed boost or a health boost or extra combos or power armor or juggle resistance or any discernible advantage whatsoever. It's just Seong Mina. Actually a little worse, because her weapon is slightly shorter than Seong Mina's, meaning that in a scant few cases, she doesn't have the range that Mina has.
  • In Lunar, one of the main characters is loved by her entire village for her singing voice. Unfortunately, they gave her a voice actress who doesn't measure up to the apparent reverence and occasionally hits a sour note.
  • João Franco playing the lute in Uncharted Waters: New Horizons. Although his Leitmotif is called "Caprice for Lute".
  • Touhou characters possess a vast array of magical abilities, ranging from control of insects to being an intense luck charm to manipulation of wind to absolute mastery of borders, however as the genre of the games is Bullet Hell those abilities never appear in gameplay, which a few exceptions (like Utsuho throwing miniature suns at the player). This is given an in-story explanation with the implementation of the spell card rules, both providing the weaker denizens of Gensokyo a reasonable chance of success and preventing the stronger denizens from simply vaporising their opponents.
  • In BlazBlue, Iron Tager is supposedly around 550 kg, as Teach me, Ms. Litchi! tells us, but you wouldn't know that from the way pretty much everyone else lighter than him can still toss him around. Admittedly, it would be unbalanced to make him immovable to others' attacks.
  • Dunkoro in Guild Wars is supposed to be a good planner, but doesn't actually get to show this much in game. (Partly because a lot of the story consists of reacting to things, though when Dunkoro does give advice, it is often quite basic.)
  • For those unfamiliar with the books, a number of NPCs from The Lord of the Rings Online can be seen like this. One of the most jarring examples is Samwise Gamgee: The Guardian class (a tank class who is described as protectors of those in need) is partly based on him and how protective he was of Frodo in the books, and higher-level players are sent to Sam as part of their training. Imagine the surprise when learning that the "guardian of unmatched skill" is a nervous hobbit who says things like "We are in quite a pickle, aren't we, Samwise old boy?" It's even more noticeable if you're playing as a hobbit yourself, who by then should have a good number of heroic deeds behind them.
  • To quote an LP of the Chzo Mythos: "In case you haven't noticed, John is even worse at psychiatry than Trilby is at stealing. There is not a single instance in the entire series of a protagonist actually demonstrating a skill we're supposed to believe they have." Note that this is referring to the Chzo Mythos series, which doesn't include Trilby: The Art of Theft.
  • In StarCraft II, General Warfield is supposed to be this badass general, and yet his entire career over the course of the game involves him screwing up the attack on Char and handing over command to Raynor, who lampshades it prior to touchdown.

You can't plan for the zerg, general. They won't fit into your nice, clean timetable.

  • Sam and Max:
    • In Sam and Max Hit The Road, Conroy Bumpus is supposed to be an incredibly highly-rated country-western singer. When we hear him sing his Villain Song, his voice is clearly a pretty good attempt at singing, but pretty shaky. Lampshaded in that Max calls Bumpus's singing 'atonal warbling', and possibly Justified Trope in that Conroy is massively overrated and doesn't even like his own music, except that it 'pays the bills'.
    • Also, a lot is discussed about Trixie's singing, yet we never actually hear her sing even once in the game. Particularly noticeable since she's part of Conroy's backing band, yet plays tambourine instead of the song's female backing vocals.
    • In Telltale Games's Sam and Max games, Sam's singing/banjo playing is supposed to be horrible, to the point where Girl Stinky claims Poison Control insists she has a CD of him singing to use as an emetic. Other than a bit of contrived Hollywood Tone Deaf doggish howling, his singing voice is actually pretty good.
  • Welkin, who the game tells us is a genius. Mostly, he's just Lieutenant Obvious who happens to pay more attention to the environment because he's a biology geek. The one time he's ever seriously pressed for a solution to a crisis, he flubs it. When the problem is solved by means he doesn't like, he can't argue with the logic behind it or come up with a better solution, so he just socks Faldio in the face. Further, Isara's death occurs when Welkin apparently thought it was cool to have the army camp out in an open field for tank repairs without cover, or even posting watch.
  • Garland from Final Fantasy I is supposed to be a great warrior that no force in Corneria was able to stop once he turned to evil. His reputation for being quite easy to beat by the Light Warriors has become legendary (as well as creating the second-greatest meme in the franchise's history).
    • He does turn out to be the Big Bad though.
  • Garrosh Hellscream from World of Warcraft is constantly regarded as being a "Tactical Genius", even from Major NPCs like Cairne Bloodhoof and Thrall, and even from the Blizzard Team themselves, but anyone who actually did the quests and events that involves him would know right off the bat that he is lightyears from being remotely regarded as this:
    • The Burning Crusade introduces us to Garrosh, who at the time was sooo wangsty about his father's legacy and the deteriorating health of the Greatmother, he never lifted a finger to help with the numerous issues plaguing his clan the Mag'har. You, the player character, end up covering his ass so much that upon the climax of the storyline, he was even willing to turn over leadership of the entire Mag'har clan to you so he can go die in a corner because he realized how much of a loser he was in comparison to you.
    • Fast forward one expansion, now we are in Wrath of the Lich King and Garrosh does a complete 180 turn of his personality, instead of the mopey crybaby, we're now treated to his trademark Jerkass persona. And during the early questlines of one of the first Northrend zones Horde players will enter, players witness firsthand that Garrosh is as impatient and reckless as his father (One of the reason he was so depressed in the previous expansion by the way), and was more interested in eliminating the Alliance forces on the opposite side of the zone than dealing with the numerous issues just outside his fortress. Later, when scout requested reinforcements to take out a Necromancer and his small army, Garrosh scoffs and sends only the player, who would have been promptly captured and zombified had resident Badass Saurfang not seen the stupidity himself and personally came to the rescue. Garrosh also had some followers in later zones who were as stupid and jerkass as he is, one of them even got herself killed by the player because of her own zeal and stupidity.
      • The player character is actually brought on to help her sister kill her in a fight to the death, because Gorgonna (the sister) knew all of Conquest Hold was about one more tyrannical decision from Krenna (the follower) before riots broke out.
    • Fast forward another expansion, now we're in Cataclysm, and our boy has grown up and is now THE leader of the Horde. Naturally, this proved disastrous. He immediately breaks treaties and wages open war on the Alliance against the other leader's advice (effectively undoing EVERYTHING Thrall spent years trying to avoid), alienates three of the four other Horde leaders and their people from Orgrimmar, and his stupidity and hotheadedness results in getting the fourth leader killed in a duel. This is well after he was told by Thrall to LISTEN to his advisers.
    • There's also the Stonetalon incident, in which Krom'Gar, a corrupt general of his, burns down half the zone and blows up the other half. Which result in Garrosh "dismissing" Krom'Gar after giving him a lecture on honor. Which some of his few fans would consider both a Crowning Moment of Awesome and a Pet the Dog moment - Until you realize that Garrosh was the one who put Krom'gar in charge of that expedition in the first place, (and failed to check on him until it was far too late), and thus is the one ultimately responsible for the whole mess. OOPS!
    • Last but certainly not least. In the Twilight Highland quests, you witness an epic display of his monumental incompetence from the get-go: In his usual impatience, he orders his goblin engineers to build a fleet of zeppelins to protect his supply carriers from the Black Dragonflight with little time or resource to actually complete them. When the ships are deployed, they can't even stay in flight, and one of them actually crashes. And then Garrosh spots an Alliance navy fleet and immediately orders his attacking ship to make a beeline for them, which would leave all the remaining supply and transport ship completely undefended, a Goblin Captain even questions who'd be stupid enough to do this, but gets punched by one of Garrosh's loyalists for protesting - who remarks that a "Winner" would do so. The Horde fleet attacks and defeats the alliance, however this leaves the carriers completely helpless, as expected the Twilight Dragonflight shows up shortly after and takes out just about every single carrier. Leaving Garrosh, the player, and a few survivors to be washed on shore after.
    • A good example would also be Sylvanas Windrunner. Seeing how she is implied to be super threatening and intelligent despite her tendency of keeping potential traitors close to her AND having the "super brilliant" strategy of bombing everything with plague. She also gets her rotting ass handed to her on several occasions by other major characters - often having to resort in her underhanded tactics in the first place. She also gets killed by a single bullet through the chest by one of the said "potential traitors" just after ransoming another NPC.
    • The 7th Legion, basically Stormwind's ultimate, elite soldiers. When fighting them, Undercity basically says that they're in serious trouble, that every major battle the Alliance has ever fought has had the 7th Legion behind the scenes secretly winning it for them, they even wiped out two Forsaken camps full of elites. When you fight them, the majority of them are level 13 and 14 non-elites, and their "terrifying" leader, Pietro Zaren is a level 15 non-elite who is only slightly harder to kill than the rest of them. While the 7th Legion was in Northrend, and were tough there, none of their stronger soldiers are present in Gilneas at all. They're also Too Dumb to Live, as they wiped out two entire Forsaken outposts, except for the leader of one of them. Considering the type of work they were doing, leaving a witness who could tell what happened basically negates your work—as the witness tells the player what happened and sends the player to wipe them all out.
    • We're informed, in the tie-in novel The Shattering Prelude to Cataclysm, that Aggra is an exemplary shaman in her own right. As far as she's actually written, however? She's Thrall's Shallow Love Interest and eventual babymama, but little else.
  • In Kingdom Hearts, Luxord of Organization XIII is stated to have time-based powers, which pretty much extends to putting a "Time Limit" in his boss battle that really just ends up being "Hit Luxord a lot" and fights more with his cards.
  • La Volpe from Assassin's Creed II and Assassin's Creed Brotherhood is said to have violet eyes. In-game, however, they're perfectly normal.
  • In Fate Stay Night, Gilgamesh, the Big Bad of one route and The Dragon of another apparently has such a high charisma (A+ rank) that his goes beyond "Can be said to have achieved the greatest level of popularity as a human being" (which is A rank). However, you never, never see him doing anything remotely charismatic. Quite the opposite, actually. He spends his whole time being a Jerkass, Smug Snake, Social Darwinist verging on Complete Monster who tries to rape Saber.
    • Then again Archer is also known for not bothering to use his full abilities and so prideful he regards everyone else as vermin and/or possessions. Even if "The King" is able to be personable why should he bother if he doesn't want to?
  • In Final Fantasy VII, Cloud is supposed to be a SOLDIER, yet he isn't that much better at fighting than other characters. However; this is actually justified by a case of Unreliable Narrator as Cloud was never actually in SOLDIER; he just thought he was Zack Fair, who was a first class SOLDIER.
  • Judging by his reputation, Amoral Attorney Igland of the Swift Sword in Neverwinter Nights is a very talented lawyer. Judging by his actual performance in the game, if this is true it is a dire statement on Neverwinter's legal system, since Igland's idea of a compelling case in a murder trial is "the defendant is a dirty savage and therefore we should hang him". One wonders how much of his reputation for having never lost a case involved passing Exhibit M, a large sack of money, to each juror.
  • Sonic's speed is sometimes this relative to the other main characters, especially in the older games before the characters' abilities had speciated as much. For instance, some of the earlier games contain situations where Knuckles, Tails, and even Robotnik can run as fast as Sonic. Tails can still fly as fast as Sonic runs, but they make sure it looks like he's flying. Not running.
  • Tales of the Abyss, Van is stated to have taught Tear the Fonic Hyms, but in actual battles he doesn't use them. though is implied to have used them off-screen after his first defeat.
  • In God of War, Kratos was stated to have a large amount of success as a general in the Spartan army, which would be more passable if not for the fact the sequels depict as being Too Dumb to Live.
    • Not only that, his strategy seems to be 'hit it. If that fails, hit it harder...' Which may be Fridge Brilliance, if the other Spartans are HALF as badass as him...he may have just run roughshod over ambushes.
    • He's also the son of Zeus himself and as strong as Hercules, which helps a lot.
  • Most commander characters in Command & Conquer have bios stating how smart they are, but fail live up in the game's plot, apart from Slavik and Mc Niel in Tiberian Sun, but only because they're the player characters.
  • In Final Fantasy X, Tidus is a famous blitzball player, which implies some degree of skill, but in the actual blitzball minigame he starts out fairly mediocre - at the start he's the best shooter on the team, sure, but that team is the Besaid Aurochs, who start out with the overall blitzball competence of a spoon.
    • To be fair, you could accuse the Luca Goers, who had apparently won the championship for several years running, of the exact same thing. And the blitzball minigame is rife with Gameplay and Story Segregation.
  • Vagrant Story has Lady Samantha and Callo Merlose. Samantha is a Catholic-schoolgirl-styled, doe-eyed ingenue who we're told is a captain of the Crimson Blades; Callo Merlose is a VKP Inquisitor who spends the entire game as a hostage who is supposedly capable of defending herself (but chooses not to, because she's a psychic spy and her captors were the ones she was supposed to be investigating). Either way, we don't get to see them do much of the stuff they're supposedly able to do.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Dr. Narbon's mad science skills in Narbonic. Another character brings this up eventually.

Dave: She used your death ray, the conspiracy's teleporter...doesn't she invent anything of her own?
Dr. Narbon's clone: She made me.
Dave: ...okay, she's a one trick pony.

  • Least I Could Do features Rayne, supposedly a master at picking up chicks. Yet virtually every strip featuring him hitting on a girl shows his asinine pick-up lines, childish behavior, and utter shoot-downs from the girls. 95% of the time, his hook-ups are only shown AFTER they've already happened. Sure, Rayne's supposed to be good-looking, but it's more than a little obvious the writer doesn't really know how a master pick-up artist works.
  • Misho, a Solar Exalted from Keychain of Creation supposedly has high awareness. The only way you'd know this is by the other characters reminding him he's supposed to have high awareness when he misses important (and sometimes obvious) details.
  • In Sonichu, Chris has given descriptions to each of the female characters' personalities, ranging from "smart and quick-wit" to "generic high-school girl personality." Of course, we never actually see any of this, since every female character is either interchangeable or useless.
  • In Homestuck, the Kids share a skill with their Guardian, but not as well: John is always bested in prank wars by Dad, Rose falls short of Mom's insane passive-aggression, and Dave is just not as cool, fast, or ironic as Bro. They still try to build up these abilities as part of their core personalities.
    • Subverted when the Kids meet; Rose acknowledges that she "cannot hope to defeat [John] in a prank-off. He is simply the best there is." Rose also acknowledges how amazingly cool Dave is when he shows off his audio gear and some of his mixes.
  • Gemel from Tony TH is supposed to be very powerful, but always gets Curb-Stomped whenever he appears. This is actually justified though, for two reasons: A) while Gemel has a lot of power, he really can't take a hit, and B) he always fights alone against groups of good guys. The end result is that the heroes spend the entire battle blindsiding him whenever he tries to make an attack, making it less of a battle and more of a game of tennis with Gemel as the ball. During the few times he fights one-on-one or as part of a group, he actually lives up to his reputation.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Susan's magical powers, which are seen exactly once and then aren't visible for many arcs. Then Susan explains that Nanase's powers are of a different order than hers ("Awakened" vs. "Dreaming") without going into detail—until much later, when Susan explained her magical abilities with a big Flash Back. And she is properly "Awakened."


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • In Tales of MU, Amaranth seems to border on having Informed Flaws. Word of God is that if the author had wanted to write a Mary Sue, it would have been Amaranth without the flaws. The problem is that while Amaranth's perspective on some matters is clearly skewed, her actual effect on the storyline is always extremely positive.
    • Indeed, even her informed flaws are that she's not quite perfect. She's not quite as genius-level smart as she thinks she is, she's not quite perfectly adjusted, and she's not quite as sensitive and empathetic as someone perfect would be. Saying Amaranth has flaws is like saying that an M&M is less chocolatey than a Hershey's Kiss.
  • In Lonelygirl15, the main characters have a strange tendency to panic whenever they see Lucy show up. As a sunglasses-wearing Order operative, there is reason to consider her dangerous by default, but she is treated as if she were the single deadliest person that could be thrown at them. She gets nastily proactive toward the end of the series, but before that point, her greatest known feat was physically restraining a smallish teenage girl.
    • The behind-the-scenes InsideLG15 videos do include non-canon clips of Lucy shooting Danielbeast in the crotch and shooting P. Monkey in the head.
  • Adonis Zorba of Survival of the Fittest is played up as a awesome fighter, excelling in multiple fighting disciplines, however in his brief fight with plain-old boxer Bobby Jacks (admittedly a hulking Scary Black Man) Adonis came very close to getting his ass kicked. Notable also is that previously (in a pregame tournament) Bobby was defeated with relative ease by an opponent with far less 'fighting ability' than Adonis is touted to have.
    • Dan Brent, of V3, is a decent example of this, as his every attempt to score kills fell horribly flat.
  • In Red vs. Blue Reconstruction, Washington concluded that Church was the Alpha partially based on the fact that he always agreed with Delta (read: the logic aspect of the AI in question). The singular time Delta made a conclusion in Church's presence that he ever commented on.
    • That sounds less like an Informed Ability and more like Jumping Wildly To Conclusions. Wouldn't be the first time it's happened in the series.
  • Laura, as in "legolas by", has apparently "got a power and she can distoy us all the bad guys". She never actually uses this power, even when she's imprisoned and tortured by the orcs, or during the big important final battle, and what the power is supposed to be or do is never actually described.
  • Played for Laughs with Dr. Tran. The audience is constantly told about how he's a badass secret agent who has a PhD in kicking your ass and once killed his mother with a broken lawn chair. In reality, he's just a very confused Chinese boy who's constantly harassed by the narrator.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Inverted in Metalocalypse; Toki Wartooth, Dethklok's rhythm guitarist and almost-literal second-fiddle to Skwisgaar Skwigelf, has an entire episode devoted to his inability to play the guitar. However, the only time we actually hear him play during the episode, he's upstaging Skwisgaar during a concert and doing a good enough job of it to threaten his confidence. The rest of the time, he's not as good as Skwisgaar and there is considerable distance between them in terms of skill, but he's still the world's second-fastest guitarist.
    • The general implication throughout the series seems to be that Toki plays the guitar entirely by instinct and muscle memory. If he actually is forced to THINK about it, say, by being handed some sheet music (which he cannot read) or by being called out on his skills by others, then he falls apart and can't play. He plays guitar by not thinking about playing guitar.
    • In an interview, Skwisgaar says that Toki was given the title Second-Fastest Guitarist as a booby prize after he was declared World's Fastest, though whether or not that's just Skwisgaar being a primadonna and an asshole is up for debate.
    • Brendon Small has said that Skwisgaar is supposed to represent the Yngwie Malmsteen-esque, blazing fast lead guitarist with perfect Baroque-inspired technique, while Toki is supposed to be the Iron Maiden-like, play-by-feel, sloppier blues-based player.
  • Professor Dementor from Kim Possible is said to be such a great villain that compared to him Dr. Drakken is even more of a joke. (Though at least Dementor invents his own doomsday devices.) But in the end he's foiled just as easily as Drakken, sometimes even more easily.
    • It's also possible that since Kim hasn't confronted Dementor nearly as often as she confronts Drakken, he can just claim he's a greater villain. Drakken can't, because Kim knows him much too well.
  • The Robotboy equivalent of Dr. Dementor is General Yakitori, who is supposed to be a greater villain than Big Bad Dr. Kamikazi. He won the "Evil Genius of the Year" award six times in a row, yet we've never seen him do much evil. Or much genius, for that matter.
  • Total Drama Island characters have tons of these since most characters don't get much screen time but their character bios reveal many abilities that the fans have yet to see in action, for example:
    • Ezekiel is apparently rather intelligent, since his bio mentions him speaking eight languages and winning the National Spelling Bee.
    • Cody and Lindsay are actually rich - this has never been mentioned within the show, although it explains why neither of them are that determined to win the prize money.
    • Gwen is said to love her family very deeply and apparently become "Soft as a marshmallow" around them, but she never mentions them, despite being away from her family far longer than most of the campers were.
    • Trent apparently loves motorbikes to such an extent that it even overshadows his love of music and spends almost all his time working on them. He never even says motorbike on-screen, though his love of music comes up often.
  • Inversion in Home Movies. Especially in the last season, everyone criticizes the main character's movies as being horrible, but they're actually pretty good, even by adult standards - and the characters doing them are pre-teens.
  • Parodied in Family Guy during the episode "Peterotica", where Peter writes pornographic novels. Everyone absolutely loves them, and they become a major hit, which would normally leave the audience wondering how Peter could possibly write anything halfway readable; however, the episode takes every possible opportunity to read excerpts from Peter's work, confirming that his writing is, in fact, downright abysmal.
  • Raven from Teen Titans, the Emotionless Girl, was said to have to be emotionless to prevent her powers from going out of control. This was shown precisely twice, with most of the series showing her expressing varying degrees of emotion (and even falling in love in one episode) with no apparent problem. She did become a more developed character for it, albeit by ignoring the limitation instead of finding ways to work around it.
  • Ben 10 devoted two episodes to his future persona Ben 10,000, who was established as having obtained that many alien forms on the Omnitrix. Between the two episodes, he and his son use fewer than twenty of them total, and only three couldn't be found on Ben's watch in the present day. And that's ignoring Alien Force...
  • In an episode of Rocko's Modern Life, Rocko and Heffer have to watch over Filburt's pet myna bird Turdy, whom he claims has a beautiful singing voice. We see no evidence of this throughout the episode, as all he does is squawk.
  • That was sort of the point. Filburt loved that bird, despite it being an obvious pest.
  • Played for laughs in Futurama, where the window wipers of the car from Knight Rider were the most evil window wipers in the world. It just didn't come up much in the show.
    • Wonderfully parodied with Zapp Brannigan. He is constantly praised as a brilliant military leader and a brave fighter but all the main characters know that he is in fact deeply stupid, cowardly and incompetent as well as being a major jerkass who takes credit for others' work.
  • Also played for laughs in The Simpsons episode, "Lisa's Wedding" where we meet Lisa's first love (or at least, first fiancée), in which Hibbert comments of Maggie, "She's quite a hellion but she does have an incredible voice." The closest thing she ever got to saying anything on screen was when Marge interrupted her when she spoke with her mouth full. (Or for that matter, immediately after Hibbert's quote, where said fiancée cuts her off when she's asked to sing.)
    • "Will that girl ever shut up?"
  • Winx Club, 4Kids dub: In one of the S1 episodes, Musa talks to two background students Ortensia and Priscilla about having to work together to save Alfea, letting drop that Ortensia has the best counterspell skills and that no one can fly as fast as Priscilla. Which would be nice for the final battle, except that, well, they're background characters. (In the original version, she's only discusses how everyone has a part, without any abilities being mentioned.)
    • If we're mentioning Musa, might as well also let drop that in another S1 ep has Flora mention before an exam that Musa gets the best grades out of the Winx.[5] It's a break from the usual expectation of having the tech whiz be the straight A student, but not only do the writers never use this fact, at least one scene actually seems to be inconsistent with it (read main post, then 2nd reply).[6] Point is, the writers have never done anything that would require Musa to really show off her smarts.
  • South Park:
    • One or two episodes have kids mention Stan's mom having large breasts. The way she's animated, she actually looks completely flat-chested most of the time.
    • Another episode has Butters make construction paper models of the main cast which, unsurprisingly, look exactly like them. Kyle then comments that they were slightly inaccurate, as his nose is shaped differently (neither he nor the model have a visible nose) and Stan's eyes are blue (each have black dots for pupils).
    • There are several other episodes where they play with this. In "The List," for example, Gerald says Kyle has his mother's nose; again, he has no visible nose, yet acts horrified since his mother's nose is somewhat large and ugly. "The Coon" would probably count as another example, merely because the characters can tell Mysterion's face apart from anybody else's while the audience can't.
    • Ugly Bob in "Terrance and Phillip in Not Without My Anus" apparently has a face which looks as if "somebody tried to put out a forest fire with a screwdriver" though he's animated to look like every other Canadian. A later episode makes it clear that Americans can't tell the difference, while other Canadians (and Saddam Hussein) can.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1987, Shredder's ally Krang had a massive mobile fortress called the Technodrome, supposedly one of the most powerful weapons in the universe. It was largely reduced to McGuffin status, with occasional plots to recover it from wherever the hell it ended up after their previous attempt to get it to the surface of the Earth. Due to the short episodes, it typically took less than five minutes to be defeated the handful of times it actually got there; since "powering the Technodrome" was Shredder's default motive for doing anything, this was often five minutes after an entire series of trying to get it moving.
  • A running gag in King of the Hill is for characters to make note of Boomhauer's suave and charming way with words. This is never apparent to the viewers, as Boomhauer speaks in unintelligible mumbles.
  • According to supplementary materials for Transformers Animated, Grimlock is equal in power to Megatron. While Megatron is portrayed as a huge Badass that even Optimus can't fight directly at first, Grimlock is frequently tossed around by lesser opponents. There was actually going to be a scene in the first season finale where the two met face-to-face, and Megatron mopped the floor with Grimlock. (It ended up being cut due to bad animation and the realization Grimlock fans wouldn't like it.) Though power does not necessarily equate skill. Megatron is a several million year old war general in an army where Asskicking Equals Authority, while Grimlock has a very underdeveloped mind and is only a few months old.
  • In Generator Rex Providence's Redshirt Army gets a whole episode about how each officer is put through Training from Hell in order to be top class officers to fight the EVOs that are infesting the world. Problem is the officers of Providence have largely been shown throughout the series as useless with in dealing with any EVO by themselves without the help of the superpowered Rex or Badass Normal Six.
    • To be fair, it's implied in that episode that on the fights big enough to need Rex they're really just there to provide a distraction with More Dakka so Rex and/or Six can do their thing. It's also implied that there are plenty of fights that weren't bad enough to need Rex (but since he's our protagonist we don't see those) where the Redshirt Army does fine.
    • It's also lampshaded in-episode since Rex wonders how hard the training for the people who all he sees do is shoot stuff can really be so hard.
  • An inversion on SpongeBob SquarePants, Squidward is said to be horrible at playing the clarinet but he's halfway decent sometimes and even quite good at it.
  • Col. Stinkmeaner on The Boondocks is an inversion: he's a blind man who can drive a car perfectly parallel to the road, detect objects in front of him (even while in the car), beat up Granddad and experiences no inconvenience as a result of his blindness, which Huey attributed to him having the Disability Superpower of radar-vision. Then he's revealed to not have any such ability; he just got lucky during his fight with Granddad who beats him in a rematch, accidentally killing him. and no credible explanation is given for how he could drive regularly without attracting any police attention. Unfortunately, he learns Kung-Fu in Hell and it turns out he hung out with a Badass Crew of Evil Old Folks.
  • The Redakai TV series seems to be relying on its website to give us our characterisation, one of which is that the character Zane, is the only one capable of defeating the hero Ky in straight combat. It hasn't happened yet and the character biography is so far the only indicator this could happen. The sheer amount of ignoring Show, Don't Tell in this show is just one of it's many shortcomings.
  • Played for laughs on Adventure Time when Marceline's dad, the local Eldritch Abomination, states that the Ice King's pet penguin Gunter is the most evil creature he's ever encountered. Gunter is, of course, just a normal penguin, and it's even been implied that the Ice King can't tell his penguins apart and just calls whichever one's closest to him Gunter.
  1. Which would be an entirely absurd assumption given that Slughorn was a co-worker of Dumbledore's for decades.
  2. Remember world-destroying Ultimate Kuuga - who never got to show that kind of power, but did prove he could be a Destructive Savior at least once or twice, unlike most of these examples, at non-Ultimate forms? Well, here's three words that should leave you in the need for clean trousers: RISING Ultimate Kuuga. Rising Ultimate Kuuga and the also-potentially-apocalyptic Kamen Rider Decade are being utterly schooled by Shadow Moon - himself grossly overpowered here as he was always about evenly matched with his own non-godlike rival Kamen Rider Black - and Shadow Moon is easily kabong'd by Kamen Rider Double. If this scene is taken at face value, then Double is strong enough to curbstomp the entire cast of Dragonball Z while beating up Silver Age Superman for his lunch money. We never see him as such in his own series, and it could be argued that his enemies are just the strongest ever - until you see he's also normal-Rider-strength the next time he and Decade team up. Surprise, surprise.
  3. no, it's not the prototype stolen by Ocelot in MGS2, since it lacks the original's long tail
  4. His two Pokémon that differ from hers are both physical based glass cannons. Knowing this he decides that both should use sets that depend on them surviving an attack o and the second should run a set with no physical moves. While he tries to give one a set up so he will always critical, he doesn't actually complete it and deletes the move needed to pull it off by the time he has put the other pieces toggether
  5. (Her exact words differ slightly... Original: "Give us a break, we all know you're a straight A student." 4K: "I'm sure you'll be fine. You've got the best grades out of all of us.")
  6. (The part with Musa attending Griselda's class. Incidentally, the 4Kids dub of the scene in question doesn't have this problem, as the dialog goes: "I competed in the All-Realm Magic Games. In fact, I was the first female black belt gold medalist." "And what year was that?" "It was 20 years ago, but I can still fight like a champion!")