Viewers are Morons

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have researched the records for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby."

H. L. Mencken"Notes on Journalism"

A common belief among TV executives is that everyone who watches TV has the intellect of Beavis and Butthead.

This belief is a root cause of Executive Meddling, especially common among shows intended for children. Kids can legitimately be said to be less knowledgeable than adults, though we all probably know a depressingly large number of exceptions. The fact that anyone supported Hitler being proof.

Of course, there is a "moron" demographic out there, and it has its members (though no-one is sure how big it is), but executives seem to believe that every person who watches TV belongs in it. This may be due to something known as the "80-20" rule in business—in this case that market-research shows 80% of money spent on television-advertised products comes from the lowest 20% in terms of education and intelligence, so show-content is naturally geared towards them.

On top of that, not only are viewers stupid, they are also intolerant of people and things unlike themselves, ignorant, hate change, need to be instantly satisfied, and have the attention span of a goldfish.

Leads to:

Interestingly enough, though, this meta-trope sounds worse than it is, at least currently; actually comparing and contrasting the entertainment of today with the entertainment of the past will show that overall, shows demand more of your mind than they used to, probably because we'd be bored if it didn't and partly because things like recorders or the Internet now make it possible to examine shows in more depth more easily than in the past (read Stephen Johnson's book Everything Bad Is Good For You for an eloquent explanation beyond the scope of this article).

Of course, all that means is that the bar for entertainment is raised even higher, and that viewers will get annoyed more and more easily if things like Info Dump happen a few times too many. Additionally, the caveat about this being what executives believe about viewers was, at least at one point, not particularly untrue. In the era of the "Big Three" networks (NBC, ABC and CBS), before VCRs and the like, shows really were literally designed to be simple and supposedly "unobjectionable" narratives, for fear of making that one third of the entire TV viewing audience tune out and tune in to one of the competitors. This is why television quickly gained the nicknames Boob Tube and Idiot Box from intellectuals who found television pandering and simple.

Note that this viewpoint is not particular to network executives. Question some point of continuity for a children's show with a sizable adult Periphery Demographic, and you are pretty much guaranteed one of the periphery adult fans will insist that it's "because it's a kid's show and they don't expect kids to notice." Ironically, kids are often far more aware of such mistakes, not because kids are per se "smarter" than we expect, but because not having things like a job, spouse, or "real life" to distract them, they tend to watch their favorites much more obsessively and with more of their minds fully devoted to analysis. (Which makes them similar to others you may be familiar with.) Consequently, children can put even the strictest editors to shame with their awkward questions.

Compare Lowest Common Denominator. For when the viewers really are morons, see Fan Dumb and Hate Dumb.

For the less common polar-opposite, see Viewers Are Geniuses. When this trope and the latter trope conflicts however, you can wind up with an Unpleasable Fanbase.

Not to be confused with Humans Are Morons.

Examples of Viewers are Morons include:


  • In any work of fiction where a thunderstorm occurs, lightning and thunder will almost always be handled in one of the following two ways (both ways assume the viewers are morons):
    • Lightning and thunder are perceived simultaneously. (In real life they are not.)
    • The lightning is seen, then a few moments later, the thunder is heard (as in real life), then, one of the characters will explain how lighting and thunder works. As if this were something the viewers would not understand unless it was explained to them.
  • On TV Tropes the trend to pothole any troper-created pun to Incredibly Lame Pun, Just for Pun, A Worldwide Punomenon, or simply Pun.
  • Also in This Wiki, people tend to link to the same trope multiple times in one example, or even to the very same trope page the reader would logically already be reading.
  • In This Wiki, a good number of tropes have had to be renamed because people have been referring to a trope by only the name and not the description, more so if it becomes a Pothole Magnet. On that same note, naming tropes after Trope Makers, Trope Codifiers and fandom terms has been going Deader Than Disco in this wiki because people outside those fandoms are left scratching their heads and wondering what the trope is simply by the name.[1]
  • See Fan Dumb and Hate Dumb for when tropers occasionally fall into this.
  • A lot of basic scientific explanations that feature in numerous movies, TV shows, books, and so on with great regularity would seem to be this by now. Even if someone didn't pay attention in every single science class in school, just by seeing a handful of movies over the years they shouldn't need to have it explained that DNA is "the building blocks of life". (Of course, sometimes like all other examples, this is accurate... some people only retain these explanations for the length of taking a test/watching a movie, and then immediately forget them.)


  • One of the truisms of advertising is that young men 15-25 are the most likely of any group to be swayed by advertising. This is partly because older people's buying choices are usually already set in stone and women tend to buy what their mothers or friends buy, but numerous studies also show that young men are actually more likely to believe an advertiser's pitch, especially if the advertiser appeals to their masculinity or ego. This leads to fifty-something advertising executives trying to use tropes they have no understanding of in a desperate attempt to attract that desirable target market, and treating viewers like morons in the process. Cue marketing fiascoes like the McDonald's "I'd Hit It" bus ads.
  • Averted in a marvelous triple-barreled-trope example from an advert for Citroën. It's against EU law to promote a car on speed in an ad. In practice that means actually showing a figure in km/h or MPH. So they pull a Loophole Abuse, saying that if quote a distance and a time we can leave it for the viewer to figure out the speed. It is presented in the form of yet another trope—namely: Conviction by Contradiction. The scene is a courtroom and the defendant's alibi is that he has a witness putting him 50 km away in under twenty minutes! As the representative for the defense remarked "Fifty kilometres in nineteen minutes in a normal saloon [sedan] -- impossible." Then the Conviction by Contradiction is subverted when the defendant is cleared and he and his representative steps outside to his car (the product) and she says "I thought you said it was a normal saloon?"
  • A Finnish commercial for a tax-free shop with "Tax free, without VAT".
    • That one's necessary for those older people who don't speak English. The words 'Tax Free' are written in English, while the rest of the advertisement is in Finnish. 'Tax Free' just sounds more trendy than the direct Finnish translation.
  • Parodied in a series of Disaronno Amaretto commercials in which the viewer is taught the oh-so-secret recipes for such obscurely named mixed drinks as "Disaronno on the rocks with lemon" (You pour Disaronno in a glass with ice, then add lemon.), "Disaronno with milk" (You pour Disaronno & milk into the same glass.), and even just "Disaronno on the rocks." (You guessed it.)
  • Head On is a placebo/homeopathic remedy, so they can't say it will relieve pain. But they can say apply to forehead, since that makes no claims about the product other than how to use it. They are not allowed to claim to cure specific medical conditions without FDA approval, but they are however allowed to make structure-function claims. Popular claims relate to boosting the immune system, removing nondescript toxins, or just whatever made-up babble seems to lead to the desired effect.

"Head On! Apply directly to the forehead! Head On! Apply directly to the forehead! Head On! Apply directly to the forehead!"

    • To be fair, the first week the ad ran, it actually just said "APPLY DIRECTLY TO THE FOREHEAD" about twice while saying it relieves headaches, which apparently brought some FDA trouble, so it ended up being shortened to the mind-numbing mystery it is now.
    • This is, of course, true of all homeopathic remedies... they're all essentially placebos designed to bilk the gullible. Books with catchy names, videos with condescending explanations, elaborate bottles (filled with, essentially, water) are all designed on the idea that the person seeing them is an idiot who can't figure out that most homeopathic remedies admit to being bunkem. The fact that homeopathic remedies have become so popular is a testament to the fact that this trope is true sometimes.
  • Video-game themed ads for Collin's College. "Can you believe we get paid to do this?" No, I can't believe you get paid to sit there mashing on a controller and misrepresenting the hours and hours of mind-numbing work that go into making the simplest games, and the marketer who put you up to it should be fired!
  • Similarly, the infamous ads for the U.S. military. A couple for the Air Force will be about piloting UAV's or engineering aircraft, but the rest will make service look like a summer camp that teaches you to twirl a rifle and then sends you off to college for free. There were even ads for the U.S. Marine Corps (now discontinued) featuring a marine battling various mythological monsters.
    • Ads for Russian military get even worse. There are a series of commercials featuring all of Russia fawning over a hauntingly beautiful recruit named Vasily which imply that if you join the Russian army, you'll earn the respect of your family and neighborhood, be reunited with your childhood friends, date gorgeous blonds, make ridiculous amounts of money and meet Santa. The commercials also really love to beat you over the head with how much cash Vasily has to throw around (did he just buy his father a Rolex?) which seems especially cynical and predatory considering how poor many Russians are. If you were/knew people who were involved in Chechnya, it will make you distinctly uncomfortable.
  • In American advertising regulations, it is required that hands be shown in toy ads operating toys. In Japan, Merchandise-Driven series based on giant robots or Tokusatsu heroes can have ads with the toys folding and merging via CG or stop-motion, but in America it has to be shown manually. America REALLY thinks their children are dumb, don't they? Then again, Asian kids know what's real and what isn't.
    • In some Japanese toy CMs, they do show sometimes show the kids doing the thing manually. An example being for the CM for Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger's DX GoJyuJin, before the CM ends, they show a kid doing it. Another was an ad for Ultra-Act Ultraman Tiga, showing the actor of the show he represents playing with the figure.
    • Similarly, in Brazil, there was some hatred towards the Barbie rip-off Susi, which had commercials animated via stop-motion. At first a little caption saying "Susi can't move on her own" appeared on the bottom. After more complaints, a long, huge, voice-acted screen reading "SUSI CAN'T MOVE ON HER OWN. SHE NEEDS YOUR IMAGINATION!" aired before each and every one of the commercials.
      • Transformers commercials of the last couple years now have a line at the bottom stating "ACTUAL CHANGE TIME MAY VARY" ...which really seems like a given since the commercials are only 15 to 30 seconds long, doesn't it?
        • This one may be mildly fair, since the commercials would otherwise imply that it was possible to do the transformation in fifteen or thirty seconds... or any time under five minutes. There was a point where Transformer change sequences had become so elaborate and counterintuitive that adults who had been playing with transforming toys all their lives were having difficulty even when using the instructions.
  • G.I. Joe was not allowed to advertise their action figures during the show, because the FTC determined that kids couldn't tell the ads were not part of the program. This is the case with all American children's programming on broadcast television; many television stations had to take an FCC fine because one mention during an ad on Pokémon that Pikachu-shaped Eggo waffles were available meant that the FCC classified it as the equivalent of an Infomercial and was an offense that threatened their license to broadcast. However they look the other way for cable because of a lack of regulatory authority of non-broadcast television, though usually Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, along with the advertisers have the good sense to regulate themselves to avoid the angry mom crowd.
  • A series of radio PSAs featuring an inept superhero (the ads note that unlike saving the world, saving a life, by giving blood, is easy). The hero chucks a meteor into space and accidentally destroys the moon. A horrified witness notes "that means no more tides" then feels the need to have them clarify "tides are created by the moon" after it. (But then again, the Sun creates tides too.)
  • An ad for for a trail of a new cosmetic product says the first 100 callers will get a free sample, it then shows in the bottom left corner a counter with "callers" and a progressively rising number. Do they honestly believe viewers think there is a dynamic, connected system for displaying that information, better yet that the number returns to zero every time the commercial airs again?
    • Sadly, this one shows some truth. As a person that has worked taking orders for 800 numbers, people seriously believe those counters and other trickery.
    • Similarly, a commercial being shown recently will display the 800 number to call, and the announcer will say "If the number is blinking, it means that lines are open." Wow! You mean the commercial actually knows if all the lines are in use or not?
    • Some radio ads use a tactic of "Callers with last names A-M may call today, all others may call tomorrow." (With this being the only version of the ad, and running it every day.) A mildly clever trick that attempts to play on the presumed arrogance and foolishness of everyone with a last name N-Z. "Ha! I bet I can get them to take my call if I call today, anyway!"
  • A UK advert for Heinz (estd. 1869) pointed out that "nobody knows what estd. means". Um, yes we do.
  • Game cards do not actually talk. Darn!
  • This is one of the reasons people hate the Play Station 3 Move commercials. The ads seem to be Sony trying to cash in on the family-gaming vein that Nintendo struck with the Wii by pushing out their own Wii (the functions are virtually identical and the only big difference in the design is that the PS 3 mote has a ridiculous glowing ping-pong ball at the end). The only problem is that the Move doesn't try to say it's better than the competition, it simply doesn't acknowledge the competition's existence and tries to sell it based on Crazy Awesome and an irritating spokesman.
    • Especially egregious when you remember how much Sony pooh-poohed the idea of motion gaming when the Wii first came out, dismissing it as a gimmicky kids toy. One of their top officers for the Play Station 3 likened it to the gaming equivalent of a lollipop, adding “I’m too old for lollipops.” Then, a few years later, they bring out their own version, with a controller that actually looks like a lollipop. So not only are they assuming viewers are morons, they also think we have short memories.
  • A kitchen appliance repair company has a radio ad that says "you wouldn't perform your own root canal, and you wouldn't change the brakes on your car, so why even try to repair your kitchen appliances? Call the pros at [...]" The italicized portion sounds like it's being said sarcastically, but nope, they're being sincere.
  • Ads for Song Poems, lyrics set to music for a fee, frequently avoided using the term "lyrics" because it was assumed that most of the audience wouldn't know what it meant. In fact, "song poem" became what music made in this manner was popularly called because it was usually the term the ads would use instead of "lyrics".

Anime and Manga

  • In the second season of Yu-Gi-Oh!, in the finals of the Battle City Tournament, the villain Marik Ishtar repeats his evil scheme and that he hides behind a decoy at least five times an episode, for about 10 Episodes, saying something like "These fools don't realise that I am Marik!"
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! in general is like this. Not only do the characters constantly tell you what their cards do, but apparently no one in the show has ever actually played the game before and must periodically binge drink in order to forget everything they learn in an episode. The first season with duel monsters is excusable because there were no actual cards until later. It gets a little grating when they constantly tell you how skilled someone is but their big strategy consists of...summoning a monster with higher attack power...I'm sure that's effective at killing that one other monster, but it's not really much of a strategy.
    • 4Kids also had the habit of making perfectly clear when a character was being brainwashed (which happens all the time in the Battle City season). They were also very creative - they would alternately add a golden border around the character, give him red or golden pupils, add an echo effect to the character's voice and went as far as to superimpose the image of the brainwasher on screen, just to make clear that said character is definitely being brainwashed. In the original Japanese version, they just got the usual Mind Control Eyes.
    • In the 4Kids dub of Yu-Gi-Oh 5D's, there's a little segment that happens during the duel sometimes when someone plays a card. This is meant to give info on the card just played. Sometimes if it's a monster, the segment will give you information on the card's attribute, level, attack and defense points. Something you can learn by looking at the card. Thanks, 4Kids.
      • Made even worse when that little segment gets the attribute WRONG like in episode 66...
  • Every episode of the Inuyasha dub has ridiculous amounts of exposition: to the point of flashing back to things in the same episode more than once and not only having the characters explain the simplest occurrences (such as a character returning from having left on a mission earlier in the episode) repeatedly to each other while it's happening. It's almost like they're all practicing to be sports announcers or something.
    • When you can recite Kikyo's last lines word for word, you're flashing back too much. And there's the dialogue:

"Sango was possessed by a salamander egg!'"
"Sango was possessed by a salamander egg?"

    • There's also the Japanese version of the anime, which shows the name of every secondary character at the bottom of the screen...every. Single. Episode, whether the character is newly introduced or not (that only happened in the broadcast version).
  • Naruto tends to do this quite often too...even in the manga. It once flashed back to an event that had occurred minutes earlier. Multiple times! In the same episode!
  • In Spirited Away, the English version has Chihiro saying early on that she saw Haku as a dragon, when in the Japanese version she just stays silent and realizes later on (through the power of True Love) that Dragon=Haku.
  • The Pokémon anime feels the need to have the characters (usually Brock) comment on almost every Pokémon, type, or move used in a battle. For some uncommon weaknesses, like maybe Bug types over Dark types, it's OK, but not when it's over types that any fan who has played the games could guess. Every single battle has a discussion like this:

Brock: "(Insert Pokémon here) is a (Insert Pokémon's type here) type."
Whoever: "That means it should be good/bad against (Insert opponent's Pokémon here), right?"
Brock: "Right. But who knows what will happen."

    • The anime doesn't really talk about more advanced concepts that more experienced players of the game use either. To be fair though Pokemon battles in the anime work on a completely different level than they do in games. Though it doesn't excuse why everyone uses the most basic moves, strategies, and type match-ups. Sometimes, the characters tend to forget or simply not know how dual-type Pokémon work in terms of weakness and resistance.
  • In the manga RIN-NE, small notes at the side tell us the purpose of whatever supernatural object is being used. Even if said object has already been used (and noted) several times in the past.
  • The author's notes for Eerie Queerie can become almost insulting by pointing out things that have already been explained numerous times over. A particular example is when Mitsuo is drawing a picture of a ghost (that only he can see) so Hasunuma can "see" what she looks like. There's an arrow pointing to Hasunuma that says "he can't see her".
  • An early episode of Claymore had Raki thinking to himself about how Claire is half-human, half-yoma. Then he immediately restates that Claire is a Half-Human Hybrid with different wording. Then he restates a third time that Claire is half-human, half-yoma, just in case the viewers didn't get it. Did we mention that Claire is a Half-Human Hybrid? Because she's half-human, half-yoma, you see. She's a yoma, but part of her is human, too.

Comic Books

  • The Action Files was created to help schoolchildren become interested in comic books. The first page informs readers that word balloons contain dialogue, and they must read panels from left to right. The last page defines words the publishers thought readers might not know, such as "accident" and "future." Apparently, 4th-8th graders can't understand the concept of a word balloon, and have not learned those words in grade school.
  • The first issue of the comic Marville decides to explain some things to help you understand jokes, including the backstories for Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man. This comic was made in 2002, where those three heroes counted as mainstream. Then it flips around and the first few pages expect you to know who Ron Perelman is and be aware of controversy around the Atlanta Braves.

Fan Works

  • Partially Kissed Hero and indeed, most of Jared Ornstead's fics (whether written under the name "Perfect Lionheart" or his better known handle of "Skysaber") are filled to the brim with the characters explaining everything going on as though the readers were idiots, and multiple Author Filibusters wherein the author waxes long and repetitively about everything going on to the point that there is little actual action to be found. With most of it barely even related to the story itself...
  • Admiral Tigerclaw manages to do this with references, bizarrely enough. Whenever one is made, he will do everything he can to drive the fact that he made a Shout-Out into your apparently thick skull, including at one point having the characters themselves comment on something being a reference in-story. None of them have really been anything remotely obscure, so it's pretty silly.

Film - Animated

Film - Live-Action

  • Jennifer's Body stars Amanda Seyfried as a plain Jane. In case the constant dialogue that about her appearance wasn't enough for the viewers to figure out that she's unattractive, the character is named Needy. Later, Needy breaks out of the insane asylum and plots to kill Low Shoulder, the Satan-worshiping band that sacrificed Jennifer to Satan. When she explains while hitchhiking that she needs to get to a concert because it's going to be the band's last show, the camera pans over to a road sign reading "Low Shoulder," just in case you didn't get it. To be fair on the first point, again, it's Amanda Seyfried as a plain Jane. If they didn't mention it at every chance they get, people would probably assume that she was supposed to be hot.
  • There's a drinking game where every time Orlando Bloom as Legolas says something unnecessary, you have a shot.
    • "So, it's a drinking game?"
    • "So, Orlando Bloom's contract specified he get a lot of dialog?"
  • A few crop up in The Matrix trilogy:
    • Complaints from higher ups that no one would understand the original purpose of The Matrix (a computer that uses the brain and nerve cells of its inhabitants) meant they had to change it to a blatantly impossible idea that they are an energy source.
    • Executives also had Neo's ending speech changed, as they figured not everyone would understand the word "chrysalis." This makes you wonder how the Architect's talk of "systemic anomalies" got through.
      • By the time a movie series gets to its third release, it's usually successful enough that the writers/directors have more leverage to fight executive meddling....alternatively, it's such a failure that the budget has been reduced to whatever the film-crew has in their pockets and the executives just don't care anymore. Obviously the second one doesn't apply here, but it does happen, from time to time.
    • And in the third film, the Oracle was recast because of the previous actress dying. The in-universe reason for the change in her appearance was explained in a dialogue in her first scene. And then the explanation was repeated every single time she appeared after that in case the audience was too thick to wrap its heads around it.
  • A variant occurs in the 1939 film adaptation of The Wizard of Oz when studio brass forced the producers to make Dorothy's adventures in Oz All Just a Dream. Apparently they thought viewers were too sophisticated to accept that a fantasy land like Oz could be real. Go figure.
  • The main plot of Men in Black was toned down to something not very logical because the original plot was about two alien species about to enter war, and the bug (a third race) was there to provoke it. The audience will obviously be confused about three alien races.
  • This conversation from Bowfinger: "That's too much for the audience to have to think about. They have to know that the guy's name is Cliff, they have to know that he's on a cliff. That the Cliff and the cliff is the same. It's too cerebral! We're trying to make a movie here, not a film!"
  • A good example of this trope causing Executive Meddling can be seen in the climax of Batman Begins. Batman exposits to Gordon that if the train carrying the MacGuffin reaches Wayne Tower, the whole city will be covered in fear toxin. Executives were convinced that audiences needed to have this information repeated to them every two minutes during the train chase, and so the action climax repeatedly cut away to water technicians repeating this information over and over.
    • This is the MacGuffin that emits magic microwave radiation which only affects liquid water. The viewer is expected not to figure out that people are mostly water and should sizzle like reheated meat when it goes off nearby. How's that for Fridge Logic?
      • We've already established that the production team assumes the audience has the memory of a goldfish, why give them credit for understanding how microwave radiation functions?
      • The MacGuffin was explicitly stated to be made for the US military for use in desert warfare. Using it on actual soldiers would constitute a war crime to any country so It would make sense it has a targeting system to avoid vaporizing soldiers. (besides if it didn't it would kill any to turn it on.)
  • Clearly the belief of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer; their movies only contain references to movies made in the past year, presumably in the belief that no one has memories past a year, and wouldn't know the reference of, say, The Smurfs.
    • They actually rely on it; their movies are hailed as rowdy comedies, but actually watching the movie demonstrates that the only people who find it funny are the sort who are finding it funny because they were told it was going to be a comedy, so well, it must be funny or they couldn't call it a comedy.
  • Something of a lampshaded subversion occurs in 24 Hour Party People, which begins with Tony Wilson crashing a hang-glider. He turns to the camera and tells us that was symbolic of what will happen to him. "I'll just say one word: 'Icarus'. If you get it, great. If you don't, that's fine too. But you should probably read more." The movie expects that most people will get the (not particularly novel or obscure) reference, but also feels the need to be really proud of the fact that it doesn't explain itself.
  • The Madness of King George is an adaptation of the play The Madness of George III. Nigel Hawthorne stated (possibly as a joke) that the change was to prevent people from thinking the film was the third in a series, but the author and the director insist that it was to make George's royalty more prominent in the advertising, especially in areas where George III isn't instantly known by that name. In America, George III of the United Kingdom is commonly known as simply "King George" (since the first two don't figure anywhere near as prominently in American history).
    • Presumably they haven't heard of the fourth, fifth and sixth King Georges either. Even though the last two were in living memory and fought a couple of minor wars. In fairness to Americans, the film is also known in Britain, where releasing it under the play's original title would have been justified, as The Madness of King George.
  • The Evil Dead was originally to be called Book of the Dead, until producer Irvin Shapiro argued that the title was too "literary": as he famously said to them, "Nobody wants to watch a movie about a book!" While that's a pretty bizarre claim (the book in question is a Tome of Eldritch Lore), series creators Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell have both agreed since that the "The Evil Dead" really has worked better.
  • The American edition of the Highlander film had the scenes at the beginning cut out because executives thought the cuts between Present Connor at and Past Connor would be too confusing. Naturally, the European and Japanese versions retained the scenes.
  • Enemy Mine was apparently forced to include subplot about their enemies operating a mine. On the basis that people wouldn't understand the title could be rephrased as "My Enemy", and would want to know where the mine was. Maybe they could have had someone step on one too.
  • The film adaptation of The Golden Compass began with an opening narration with many spoilers for the end of the series that spelled out the otherwise elegant metaphors for the soul, identity, consciousness, and individuality. Because obviously no one would understand the plot without being told "Daemons are souls!" at the beginning.
  • In the otherwise excellent Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, the deaf character's girlfriend is often shown spouting anarchist slogans and handing out pamphlets. When the factory owner kidnaps her, she tries to threaten him with claims that she's part of an anarcho-terrorist underground that will find and kill him if he messes with her. It sounds completely hollow, and he kills her anyway. At the very end, when it looks like the factory owner has come out on top of the cycle of vengeance, he's suddenly confronted by a mysterious group of toughs, who promptly murder him. In a perfectly unnecessary bit of audience hand-holding, the film repeats the girl's threats in voice-over, completely spoiling the moment.
  • The first Hellboy has this problem. The film's story was dumbed-down to the point that a lot of stuff that would have been explained no longer makes sense, and it has an annoying habit of giving us location tags even when it's obvious where the characters are. Do we really need a tag telling us they're in an abandoned subway area when we saw the same area ten minutes ago? And its location was also tagged? At one point in the movie, a character is given a vision of the Apocalypse, which the villains are trying to bring about. We see a destroyed world with hellish creatures flying about, and no trace of human life anywhere. Just in case the viewers are too thick to get the message, we also see a handy newspaper with the headline "APOCALYPSE!" on it.
  • The repeated use of location tags was parodied in Start the Revolution Without Me, a farce set during the days before the French Revolution. Several times during the first fifteen minutes, we are reminded by a stentorian narrator that the story takes place in 1789. Later the location tags run with it; "Paris, 1789", "A small country inn, 1789", "Later that same day, 1789"
  • Parodied in Dragnet movie, when the PAGAN cult's full name is shown for the first time.

Joe: (reading): People Against Goodness And Normalcy...P-A-G-A-N...PAGAN!
Pat: (sarcastically): Good, Joe.

  • In the trailers for Angels & Demons, we see the word "Illuminati". Then, it spins upside down, and turns out to be an ambigram, so it still says "Illuminati". Then, Nick Cage or somebody says "It's the Illuminati!". Inspired.
  • After a few test screenings the producers decided that the story of Super Mario Bros wasn't "tracking" too well, namely the concept of a parallel world. Numerous subplots and expanded scenes were then cut out to focus more on the story at-hand while important concepts were conveyed through exposition added by later ADR-looping every time a character was offscreen or facing the other way. Most atrociously, the animated intro was added to the beginning of the movie to explicitly explain the parallel world and its evolved dinosaurs, which otherwise would have been a surprise second act.
  • In Stardust, Michelle Pfeiffer and another witch are both hunting the same girl, Yvaine. When they meet, Michelle gets mad and puts a curse on the other woman, saying, among other things, that she will not be able to see/hear/touch the girl, and that she will not perceive her even if she's right there. Later on the witch puts a spell on Yvaine's companion, which angers her and she starts trying to hit and kick the witch. However, this does not work, and there is almost a force-field type thing around the witch. Cue the voice-over of the curse, just in case we forgot about it and were utterly confused as to why Yvaine couldn't touch her.
  • The advertising for West Is West goes out of its way to tell viewers that it's a sequel to East Is East. Because that wasn't obvious from the name.
  • Lest, with all these examples, one believes that this trope is nothing but a viewer myth perpetrated in the wrong belief that Executive Meddling is often caused by this, and people in Hollywood don't really think we're idiots, one blog writer told this (allegedly) true story on the /Film podcast: When director Paul Thomas Anderson was making his 2002 film Punch-Drunk Love, the man from the studio marketing department charged with making the film's trailer showed the finished product to Paul before release. Anderson was displeased with it, to say the very least, because the trailer was very generic and did not showcase the fact that the movie is anything but your typical romantic comedy/Adam Sandler vehicle.The marketer's response? To very condescendingly tell Paul, "Paul, Paul, you have to understand, the people watching your movies aren't very bright, so we have to tell them what to think and what to feel or they won't know what to do with the movie." Anderson demanded the marketer be removed from the project, and to this day, he has a large hand in what the trailers/marketing look like for his films. But, allegedly, the guy he fired still has a job in his field. Lovely.
  • There are a number of 1950s sci-fi B-Movies that go so far as to put definitions of words used in their exposition in the exposition. The classic example is when a scientist describes a monster growing at "an accelerated, or speeded-up, rate." This is justified (a little) by the assumption on the filmmakers' part that their primary audience would be young boys. Films that illustrate this abound on the Mystery Science Index 3000, including The Amazing Colossal Man and It Conquered the World.
  • In keeping with how the original novel was handled (see Literature, below), the American version Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, was retitled Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. This required every scene in which the term "Philosopher's Stone" was mentioned to be shot twice, with the actors changing the words to "Sorcerer's Stone". Viewers in Canada and the UK can see examples of these alternate scenes in the making-up featurettes on the DVD/Blu-ray release.
  • The American remake of Let the Right One In, Let Me In, goes out of its way to explain everything that was left subtle in the Swedish film. One of the most ridiculous examples: in the Swedish film a character leaves a letter quoting Romeo and Juliet, the American remake adds a scene right after of the character reading the play just so the viewer knows exactly where it comes from.
    • Then there is the case where the subtitle translator is a moron and doesn't know it's a quote from Romeo and Juliet, therefore mis-phrased the whole quote and lost the audiences.
  • In an example similar to Batman Begins above, the makers of There Will Be Blood apparently assumed that viewers would not remember that Daniel Plainview's plan was to cut a deal with Union Oil and lay a pipeline to the coast so that he would no longer have to pay rail-tanker fees to Standard Oil unless this fairly simple plan were explained again and again every five minutes or so for the entire length of the film.
  • The marketing for the sequels to Twilight is a bit like this. Despite the fact that all three sequels use the main characters on the posters, and the title is in the same font, it uses the handle 'The Twilight Saga' which never appears onscreen in the credit sequences.
  • In Michael Bay's Transformers, the first thing Megatron does upon being revived is to loudly announce "I am MEGATRON!!!" Just in case we hadn't figured that out.
    • Somewhat justified in-story...almost everyone at the facility had been calling him either "Mega-Man," "Ice-Man," or "N.B.E.-1" for YEARS. So he was probably trying to get it into the thick skulls of the Sector Seven staff, and not the thick skulls of the audience.
    • Played straight in Revenge of the Fallen where Agents Simmions, after contacting the US Sixth Fleet, feels the need to explain what a Rail Gun to the Navy captain he is talking to despite A) rail guns being a commonly understood technology that frequently show up in science fiction, B) actual rail guns have been designed as early as 1845, with the US Navy developing their own in the early 90s, and C) the captain should be familiar with the technology as an officer in a fleet that has one.
  • The Historical Drama Agora obviously assumed no one knows what the difference between a Socratic philosopher and an engineer is. And it's probably right, sadly.
    • Was there a difference? A lot of philosophers would have had scientific theories, and a few even did experiments. Some would have thought themselves to good to get themselves dirty which of course a professional engineer was. But specialization was not as well known.
  • Black Hawk Down: SPC John Grimes is based on a desk clerk who was sent into action as a last minute replacement - and fought very well. However, Pentagon requested his name be changed, because the guy was dishonorably discharged from the military and was sentenced to 30 years in prison for raping his underage daughter. So far, so good. However, the filmmakers obviously thought that the audience are idiots - every time Grimes appears on screen, someone calls him "Grimes" (whether it makes sense or not), the guy uses the name "Grimes" referring to himself, or is seen writing his name on his helmet, letter-by-letter - G-R-I-M-E-S.


  • The American edition of |Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was renamed to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Apparently this is because the US publisher thought American kids would reject a book that sounded as though it was about philosophy, and demanded a title that was less "misleading". This despite the fact that the Philosopher's Stone is an actual (theoretical) alchemical artifact, and is explicitly explained in the book, and that there's just no such thing as a Sorcerer's Stone at all.
  • In French the title has been changed to mean "Harry Potter at the Sorcerer School".
    • There are a number of scenes in the books where Hermione has to break down and explain rather simple concepts to Harry and Ron so they can understand it. She's not doing it because Harry and Ron are idiots, but more because the writer was afraid the kids reading might not be able to follow along without help.
  • The Frederik Pohl short story "Day Million" revolves almost entirely around this trope, as an omniscient narrator who's describing life in the 28th century grows increasingly angry with what he assumes to be the present day reader's ignorant disbelief. Your Mileage May Vary on whether the verbal abuse that ensues makes for a funny Take That or an insulting dismissal of the reader's intelligence.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events constantly spoofs this trope by having an adult character say a word, then assume that the orphans wouldn't know what the word means and try to define it for them, to which one orphan or another (usually Klaus) almost always interrupts "We know what it means." The author also often uses various words and phrases in the actual narration, then explains them in a humorous way as they apply to the situation at hand, such as describing "takes the cake" as "a phrase which here means that more horrible things had happened to them than just about anybody" in The Reptile Room. The Baudelaires are generally shown as being far more intelligent than anyone gives them credit for, and the adults of the series routinely underestimate them and never put much stock in anything they say, something which usually results in more unfortunate events.
  • The book The Design of Everyday Things was originally titled The Psychology of Everyday Things. The author, Donald A. Norman, even liked the acronym, POET. However, while the academic community like the title, the business community did not. Also bookstores would place the book in their psychology section.

Live-Action TV

  • Many game shows (Reality game shows like Survivor or not) often explain the rules of the game repeatedly to players and viewers alike because, again, they do not know which people have never seen the show before yet are playing anyways or if someone just randomly tuned in to find the game show on and they've never seen it before.
    • On some shows like The Biggest Loser, the host explains (on screen) the rules to the contestants, one of which then repeats the description, almost word for word, to the camera.
    • Justifiable in some games like The Price Is Right or Survivor where they play different challenges each game, especially if it's a new challenge or game that was added to the game.
    • Especially noticeable in the early seasons of The Amazing Race, where Phil would give viewers a Rules Spiel about the contestants having to use clues to find marked flags at the beginning of every single episode. Every. Single. Episode. This practice thankfully stopped when the show began entering double-digit season territory.
  • Documentary shows often do this, because again, they don't know whether you're a twelve year old who has never taken a physics class before in their lives or a grad student getting their Ph.D in physics. For just one example.
  • Did you forget what show you're watching despite the fact that every newer cable box or digital TV displays the title and synopsis immediately after changing the channel? Not to worry, for many networks now display the program's name on-screen either coming out of break or for the entire episode. And now with Twitter, said plug is now in "#CamelCase" with a convenient hashtag ready to go for online discussion.
  • CSI consistently insists its viewers are morons by using special effects to illustrate the events implied by the evidence. Even something as simple as a car making a turn requires a demonstration of how it happened.
  • Although perhaps not considered such at the time, a tedious explanation of DNA and forensic science can be found in some episodes of Quincy, M.E..
  • In an episode of The Weird Al Show, The Hooded Avenger mentions a bunch of impressing-sounding achievements he has, including a PhD. The network demanded that PhD be defined for kids who wouldn't understand the term (although they made no such requests for any of the other obscure/made up information), so Al explains it to Bobby...who replies with "Duh, I'm not an idiot."
  • Used in Bones, when called upon at a trial as an expert witness, Brennan goes on about the skeletal remains as though she was talking to fellow scientists, using technical jargon and hardly stopping to take a breath. The prosecution was furious with her behaviour, but she refused to talk down to the jury, believing that they could follow her. She later had a talk with her superior on the matter, who rationally explained to her that most of the world is unfamiliar with the very field she is a master of and that presenting things in a simplified manner will allow her expertise to help the case.
  • Simultaneously used and subverted in Stargate SG-1. Super-scientist Carter would often pause to lecture in Techno Babble to O'Neill, the leader and least eggheaded member of the team, about fairly basic real-world scientific principles. Not only did this make sure that less-knowledgeable audience members wouldn't be completely lost, it also provided some amusement for sci-fi fans who are already familiar with this stuff, when O'Neill would cut off Carter and have her get to the point. To paraphrase a typical example:

Carter: First, sir, we dial the Stargate out to the world orbiting the black hole, then launch it towards the star from a minimum safe distance. When it comes close enough to the star's surface, it will begin siphoning off matter from the photosphere, imbalancing...
O'Neill: Yes, yes, it'll suck away the sun's gas. Which will do what, exactly?
Carter: Make the star go boom.
O'Neill: Cool. That's what I needed to know.

    • Another example:

Carter: That might just excite the phase particles enough to bring them into our visible light spectrum.
O'Neill: Carter?
Carter: Sir, the invisibility field must operate-
O'Neill: Are you about to tell me that you can make the invisible guy visi-
Carter: Yes, sir.
O'Neill: That's all I need.

    • This trope was also reverse lampshaded in the comedy episode 200, in which Marty proposes several ridiculous ideas for a Stargate movie that rip off other science-fiction shows. Mitchell tells him off:

Mitchell: Never underestimate your audience. They're generally sensitive, intelligent people who respond positively to quality entertainment. [beat]

  • When classic Star Trek was first getting started, its first proposed pilot was rejected by executives for this reason. Said executives seemed convinced that the intelligent writing of the original pilot; "The Cage," would have been impossible for viewers to understand, and that more action was needed to draw modern viewers in. There's no telling how things might have gone, had they not done this. Presumably, Jeffrey Hunter would have been the captain of the Enterprise, as opposed to Shatner.
  • An episode of News Radio involved the use of a polygraph. The executives didn't think the average person would know what a polygraph was, so they made the writers put something in that explained it. The writers got even though, because whenever someone mentions the polygraph, Dave chimes in that a polygraph is a lie detector. Whoever he was talking to always responds, "Dave, I'm not an idiot."
  • Parodied in Arrested Development

Maeby: I know what the shape of a banana reminds you of, and I know when I say nuts it makes you giggle
College Kid: [giggles]
Maeby: But, do you have any other response to "here's a banana with nuts?"
College Kid: Whooooohohoho! [giggles]
Maeby: Why are we even going after this idiot demographic?

  • Heroes does this quite often, especially when the dubiously highly intelligent character Mohinder is involved. Complete with set-ups of characters asking questions to prompt the explanation. An example would be:

Eden: Finds a flash drive in Mohinder's father's lizard tank What's this?
Mohinder: It's a portable hard drive. My father must have stored his notes on it and then hid it here to keep it safe.
Thank you, Mohinder. Where would we be without you.

    • Actually, Mohinder asks her what it is and she is the one who says that it is a portable hard drive. Might be a Viewers are Morons moment, but not so for the character, who actually did not see the object in question.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus has a sketch all about this, where a TV executive suggests showing the last five miles of a highway; the show gets ridiculously high ratings. In the same sketch, the aforementioned executives decide to change the titles on old TV series to make them seem new (e.g. "I Married Lucy").
  • The scenes of Lost in which Daniel Faraday (or most any character) explains about time travel are slow-paced and overly pronounced with a head tilt and dramatic music ("we just don't know where we are - dum dum dum - in time!" for the millionth-time-over "explanation"). In a show where audiences are expected to believe an oft-parodied amount of wacky situations and plot lines, time travel must be thoroughly explained, lest the skeptics start wars on the internets. There's also the conversation between Miles and Hurley where Hurley seems unable to grasp that, despite the Stable Time Loop, since this isn't their past, they can still die. Thanks, show, for clearing that up.
    • The conversation was meant to parody the sort of arguments that often occur between Lost fans, and was not intended to be an explanation at all; notably, both Hurley and Miles wind up being wrong, but in different ways.
    • Also, Nestor Carbonell (Richard Alpert) got a role in Cane, on opposing network CBS. They said he wouldn't be allowed for guest spots in Lost because viewers would be confused by him being in two shows. (Cane got the axe in just one season because of the writer's strike; Carbonell returned to Lost, and in season 6 was promoted to the main cast).
    • There's also the unnatural way that some characters talk when a long forgotten plot point or character is brought back as though the writers forget that the first four seasons take place in an Extremely Short Timespan. For instance in season 4 when Michael returns and this mentioned by Ben, Sawyer immediately says "The same Michael that killed two women and betrayed us?" when its only been a couple weeks in the show's timeline.
  • Played with when Harry Hill appeared on Light Lunch as the presenter reluctantly gave the details to contact for a copy of the recipe Harry was cooking, which was Chops and Mash.
  • Probably should be invoked by Smallville, if the message boards are any indication...

Fan 1: How did the Fortress get repaired? Brainiac infected it!
Fan 2: When Brainiac was killed, the Fortress obviously slowly recovered and went back to normal.
Fan 1: ...They should just say that instead of making the fans assume that.

  • Grant Morrison claims that a planned Invisibles TV series was cancelled because an executive thought no one could understand the concept of telepathy.
  • Every American Soap Opera known to man falls under this. Any time there is a mystery, the most obvious answer is nearly always the right one and horribly blatant clues are provided to the audience to spell it out. Despite this, it doesn't stop some hardcore fans from theorizing all sorts of possibilities that make much better sense than what ends up being revealed later on, in an often quite disappointing way. This happens quite often especially on the CBS series The Young and The Restless, and The Bold And The Beautiful.
  • Played straight and subverted multiple times in NCIS. McGee, Ducky, or Abby will sometimes go off into Techno Babble while explaining what they have just found. Gibbs will either cut them off and demand the bottom line, or ask for a translation. Sometimes, they will cut themselves off.

Abby: The hair's missing a protein called -- You know what, it doesn't matter what it's called, the important thing is it's not there.

    • Played absolutely straight in spinoff NCIS: New Orleans. In an episode that deals with a technology contractor and a sub-thumbnail sized chip that can access and autonomously hack wifi networks from the victim's stomach while having enough battery power to last several days. Instead of asking anything about this wonder tech one character has to ask how big an SD card is. No, not how small this firm's super tech could make an equivalent, how small a normal (micro)SD card is and if the victim could have hid one in a (relatively large) locket. The asking character isn't super old and/or technologically illiterate, nor is it treated as an odd question to ask in 2014.
  • Those damn locational tags in Robin Hood. Presumably, the show spent a lot of money on the software that had a shooting arrow flit across the screen and display a subtitle such as "Locksley" or "Sherwood" every time there was a change of scenery, because they use them all the time. Especially irritating is when they stated the obvious, such as "Nottingham Castle" swishing across whenever there's an establishing shot of the castle; or when Kate tells Robin that Isabella wants to meet him in the meadow: cut straight to the meadow which is helpfully subtitled: "The Meadow." Thanks, show.
  • A brief moment in Fringe, specifically the episode "August" has Astrid analyzing an Observer's notebook. She points out that there are thousands of symbols and not a single one repeats even once. Peter, who is supposed to have an IQ of 190, by the way, asks what that means, and Astrid has to explain that language is based on a limited number of repeating symbols. Thanks J.J. We'll figure out all this time travel/interdimensional/genetic engineering/mind melding nonsense ourselves, but please explain to us how the alphabet works.
  • In an episode of Seinfeld called "The Butter Shave", the same NBC executives who had previously offered Jerry a pilot now offered bad comedian Kenny Banya a chance at his own pilot since he does jokes (the viewers) don't have to think about too much.
    • This trope was also used in "The Comeback" when George explains to Elaine and Jerry that he will not dumb his joke down "For some boneheaded audience", which cues everyone in the diner to look at him.
  • In Flash Forward, the audience was never trusted to remember even one of the characters' flashforwards. So every single time something happened that had to do with one, we were once again shown that flashforward, usually in its entirety.
    • This is probably more about allowing new viewers to drop into the show, than questioning the viewers' intelligence.
  • As the deleted scenes show, the Chappelle's Show skit "Black Bush" was edited to not refer to John Ashcroft and Jeb Bush by name, and instead referred to their black counterparts in the edited skit as "Black Head of the CIA" and "Some Black Dude" respectively, to remind you of their jobs. Ashcroft and "Black Dick Cheney"'s roles were likewise almost entirely cut from the skit.
  • On more than one occasion on Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Wayne Brady would make a joke about something from Shakespeare, be met with silence from the studio audience, and say: "Read a book, people!"
  • Heavily lampshaded in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, partially as a Take That from Aaron Sorkin. Whether or not it was truly averted on the show, is somewhat debatable, as characters talk about how viewers aren't morons, but other parts of it consist of Sorkin preaching to the audience.
  • Probably the reason the Power Rangers dressed in their designated ranger color when not actually in costume. That, or we're expected to believe they're morons who think no one will make the connection.
    • No, it was supposed to be us. Realize that everything they owned was their ranger color, like backpacks, and Kimberly's car was a magenta color (as close to pink as they could get.) Furthermore, in several episodes, when they were at Ernie's the cups they drank out of were their ranger color. Then in "The Wanna-Be Ranger" Yellow Ranger Trini was drinking a banana milkshake. The color coordination bordered on Anvilicious at times.
      • There are also times when someone who will become a Ranger is already wearing their soon-to-be color. The original team, for example, wore their respective colors before Zordon selected them. It's as if he assigned them power coins based on their shirts (though this does help explain why nobody caught on. If they always wore those colours anyway...). And in Power Rangers Zeo, upon receiving new Ranger colors and fighting a battle, Tommy, Rocky, and Adam are next seen in matching shirts. Did they always have those shirts or did they go to the store after the battle (as Tommy later lampshaded in Dino Thunder)?
      • Well, they picked it up from Super Sentai. And there are some good reasons: The youngest part of the target audience would largely not have fully developed the ability to discern faces. And for those who could, remember how bad television picture quality could get for those without cable? And that problem was compounded by the average TV size of the time and the recommended safe viewing distance. Because of that half the time a lot of viewers couldn't make out the faces, so the color-matching outfits came in handy. Nowadays they keep it because of tradition.
  • In Supernatural, "Weekend at Bobby's" uses this to a staggering extent. In the start Bobby threatens a demon that he'll burn a bag containing "hers", which she claims is a myth, but when he does burn it the demon is destroyed. The moderately awake will remember that ghosts can be killed by burning their bones and that demons are actually the spirits of the damned dead (a fact that is also made clear in the episode), so the bag must have contained her bones and the process works on demons. In the end Bobby threatens to burn Crowley's bones. Do you get it now? Well in case you didn't Crowley repeats the claim that it's a myth, while Bobby references the demon he destroyed at the beginning of the episode as evidence that it's not. In case you'd forgotten. Though it does at least make sense for him to bring it up again under the circumstances. But then the show proceeds to have a FLASHBACK to the starting scene, this time showing more clearly that the bag contained bones, and how the demon burned up when he destroyed them. Then Bobby specifically calls demons "ghosts with ego", just to make things absolutely clear. With all that, it's astonishing they didn't feel the need to remind everyone that ghosts can be destroyed by burning their bones. After all, it's only happened on the show about 30 times.
    • Supernatural generally has a bad case of this trope. As well as explaining the obvious, it isn't internally consistent and the writers seem to work on the assumption that nobody's going to think too hard about any of it. But there are other reasons for watching it, so it all works out fine in the end.
  • Medium - Oh my god, Medium. Has anybody ever watched that show and not been able to figure out the "surprise final twist" by thirty seconds into the show? But the writers and producers always seemed to work on the assumption that viewers didn't know exactly how it was going to end. Seriously, it hurts the brain!!
  • Amazingly averted at NBC during Sylvester L. Weaver, Jr.'s tenure as president there. Weaver believed so deeply that broadcasting should educate as well as entertain that he typically required NBC shows to include at least one sophisticated cultural reference or performance per installment. Unfortunately, this led to disputes with David Sarnoff, chairman of the board of NBC corporate parent RCA, as Sarnoff generally found Weaver's ideas to be either too expensive or too highbrow for company tastes.
  • Viewers of “The McLaughlin Group” are advised of the next topic of discussion by a full-screen title card with accompanying music. Then there is a cutaway to a close-up of John McLaughlin, now with the topic super-imposed at the bottom. Then John, just to be sure we’re all on the same page, sonorously announces the topic that his panel will now discuss.
  • The creators of the highly speculative Walking with Dinosaurs and its follow-ups faced many angry criticisms by people who feared the audience might think that the computer-animated dinosaurs in the program are real, and be "fooled" into believing that everything the Narrator says is a true, scientific fact. They replied that people aren't that dumb—they know that a lot of guesswork is involved. Sadly, many people did fall for everything, though the complementary books (which tried to justify the show's most shakiest of science) sure helped in this...
  • In The Wild Wild West episode "The Night of the Golden Cobra," the Big Bad takes Jim, Artie and the daughter of Mr. Singh (Boris Karloff) to the cellar of Mr. S's palace under which is part of the huge expanse of oil that he wants, and in which he ends up drowning and says out loud "We are in the cellar of the palace." It's moments like this that make you understand Wonder Woman always using onscreen captions.
  • The inexplicable belief that viewers would be confused and/or distressed by children growing up essentially caused the creation of the Not Allowed to Grow Up trope during the Golden Age of Television.


  • Keith Moon turned down an offer to form a band with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, saying an idea like that would go over like a "lead zeppelin." Page and Plant thought that sounded like A Good Name for a Rock Band, but decided to deliberately misspell it as "Led Zeppelin" because they assumed people would mispronounce it as "Leed" (as in "zeppelin that leads").[2]

Newspaper Comics

  • Gary Larson, regarding why he changed the caption of a Far Side cartoon from his first idea: "Of course, almost everyone knows that "ungulate" is the collective term for hoofed mammal, but then why risk confusion among a handful of illiterates?"
    • Larson also reports, in The Prehistory of the Far Side, that an editor once encouraged him to change a caption reading "Auntie Em! Auntie Em! There's no place like home!" for fear that readers would not recognize the reference to The Wizard of Oz.
  • Played for laughs in Liberty Meadows, when the genius inventor Ralph tries to explain to the idiot Leslie how his holographic machine works. Leslie asks him "could you dumb that down?" When Ralph tries to explain it in simpler terms, Leslie asks him "could you dumb that down a little more?" Ralph ends by saying "It lets you see things".
  • In Calvin and Hobbes, a raccoon was replaced with a rabbit for British readers, who apparently have no knowledge of what a raccoon is, nor the ability to look it up or infer it from context.


  • The best candidate as the Trope Codifier for the modern era would probably be the aftermath of the infamous 1938 Radio Dramatization of The War of the Worlds by Orson Welles. In the days afterward, it was not uncommon to see editorials and editorial cartoons in both regular newspapers like the New York Times and entertainment newspapers like Variety mocking the foolish and gullible radio listeners who fell for the "outlandish" production. One such cartoon showed a dimwitted listener panicking over several things he heard on the radio, including fleeing the "Martian landing" and declaring that ventriloquist's dummy Charlie McCarthy was evidence of witchcraft in action.

Video Games

  • This can happen in Video Games, too—often resulting in a Forced Tutorial (Justified Tutorial or otherwise) or the player wanting to shout, "Stop Helping Me!!" "To jump, press the jump button![3]" "Use the control stick to move around!" It's understandable with more delicate controls that involve more unusual elements, but for nearly every game that involves walking and jumping to tell you how to do it is a little insulting. This is often done because they don't know whether or not you're a four-year-old playing their very first game or a thirty year old who's played games for years. Most older games don't give you such instructions and this is a relatively new trend. One such game with plenty of examples: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
  • Especially obvious in the Pokémon games. If you're on Generation III, don't assume players don't know how to battle! Diamond and Pearl have the noticeable issue of being able to catch Pokémon before the catching tutorial.
    • Also, did you know that it's still hailing? Because I don't think you could guess that, even though the game hasn't told you that it stopped, and you're still taking damage. (Fortunately, Pokémon Black and White indicate the weather status on the side of the screen instead of directly pointing it out every turn. Combined with the faster rate at which the HP bar increases and decreases, this makes battles in Generation V less sluggish.)
      • They do this for everything. And almost everything sounds extremely excited. (Although sometimes it's a temporary effect)
    • Diamond and Pearl? It extends back to Red/Blue/Green! You can buy Poké Balls at the Poké Mart and get a team of 6, possibly with extras in the PC, before passing Old Man Weedle who then teaches you how to catch a Pokémon (except in Yellow, where he teaches you how not to catch one). Then there's the Gym advisor and type specialists who constantly like to remind you of their weaknesses. You don't have to talk to the gym advisor, and only Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum have an app on the Pokétch that allows you to figure out a Pokémon's weakness. (And then, you still have to use the Pokédex to figure out what types are what.)
    • As for the Forced Tutorial aspect, your mom in Generation II will ask you if you know how to use the Pokégear and then explain it regardless of how you answer.
      • If you know what to do in Gen IV, then she doesn't explain it to you.
  • The infamous CD-i game Hotel Mario regularly assumes that the people playing the game have no clue about how to play. This includes Breaking the Fourth Wall to tell the player to read the instruction book, or asking them if they "get the hint" when the pre-level cutscenes hint toward the level's gimmick.
  • Many gamers accuse Nintendo of treating them like idiots due to Nintendo's encouragement of using the Wii Remote Jacket, a silicone shell that cushions the remote from impact. The jacket is Nintendo's protection ever since a handful of people broke their TVs or other items by not wearing the wrist strap and letting go of the controller or swinging so hard that the strap snaps. Some of these people even tried to sue Nintendo. (These people are known in the gaming community as "wiitards")
  • When the unboxing video of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was released, Robert Bowling held up what he called "fully-functioning night vision goggles". Specifically, they're Modern Warfare 2-branded EyeClops Night Vision infrared goggles, which are made from plastic and cheaper materials than any decent pair you'd find in stores and use the technology used when first developing night vision so they're nowhere close to state of the art. Real night vision goggles that aren't actually toys cost hundreds of dollars, with military models costing well over $4,000. EyeClops was open about the item's status as a toy, while Infinity Ward was trying to pass it off as authentic tactical equipment and COD fans treated any claim that they aren't real military-grade optics as a personal attack to be met with much accusation of homosexuality that's so prevalent in console communities.
    • With MW2, a more serious example of this trope is with the developer abandoning dedicated servers, the developer console, modding ability and many other features most multiplayer shooters on PC have, with their proprietary IWNET being the only way to play online, for the sake of, they say, the 'casual gamer' who are apparently too dumb to operate those things, despite those features being in every FPS released since Quake.
      • While pandering to the more casual demographic might have been Activision's stated reason for locking down some of the more traditionally complicated elements, a more likely explanation for why they did so is in an effort to stamp out piracy of the game. Limiting piracy by removing functional features never works in the publisher's favor, however, and it did not take the modding and cracking communities long to break through and re-enable everything that was locked down, precisely because they wanted those features back. This had the effect of making the pirated version a better product than the paid version while doing little to actually stop piracy. This is still an example though, as it reflects an executive assumption that the pirates would not be knowledgeable enough to break their restrictions.
      • The one button to play a game approach is really nice and all, but having no choice was the big issue. Being able to push a button, and not have to find a server that isn't an enforced "CROUCH/SNIPERS/ETC ONLY" server was also nice, but it also means if the first server the game finds for you is filled with cheaters (which it will be), your only options are to put up with them or quit playing. Modern Warfare 3 somewhat fixed this, re-adding a server browser and developer console to the PC version, though it's still apparent that they want you to play with IWNET (dedicated servers aren't ranked, the server browser rarely actually works, etc).
  • The Okami hinting system, not content with considering the players as pre-schoolers and telling you exactly what to do the instant you're faced with a puzzle, will also repeat it a few times while you're "solving" it, interrupting you in the process.
  • Wii Sports Resort forces the first person to play to sit through a 3 minute unskippable instructional video on how to attach and detach the Wii Motion Plus, and forces you to watch the video again if you haven't played in a while.
    • That used to be the case; since then, there was a Wii update that removed the need to watch the above video more than once.
  • Joked about in Super Paper Mario, where an NPC in Flipside will, as he put it, "completely blow your mind" with completely basic knowledge like "press this button to jump!" about four or five chapters into the game. On the reverse, his equal in Flopside will tell you somewhat obscure tips about quirks in the controls that you actually may not have realized yet, and then says "Aw but you probably already knew that. I'll just be quiet."
  • Surprisingly averted in the first Golden Sun game, there's a town where everyone has been turned into a tree, you can even walk around and read the tree's minds but there's no cut-scenes nor any dialogue along the lines of "seems like everyone in the town was turned into a tree", you have to go and beat the crap out of an angry tree, after doing so the characters demand him to turn the people back to normal.
  • A lot of Samus' dialogue in Metroid: Other M is her blatantly describing how she's feeling at the moment, rather than letting the audience infer that for themselves. Granted, Samus being a bit of a blank slate was something the game was meant to change, but this makes her feel less a full character and more a parrot.
  • In Half-Life 2: Episode 2, we get this piece of developer commentary.
  • Zelda is very very concerned over the player having forgotten the sudden plot twist or their next targeted location...about 30 seconds after hearing it. And they repeat it about two or three times, just to make sure you don't forget again. Thanks Navi.
  • Based on some blue posts from the World of Warcraft forums, it seems that the developers think this trope is true. After months of several specs (such as Fire Mages, Beast Mastery/Survival Hunters and Destruction Warlocks) languishing far behind their other specs, Blizzard finally announced some buffs for patch 4.3, which ended up being rather simple number boosts with very little mechanics changes. When asked why it took so long for such simple changes, the devs replied with something along the lines of "if we accidentally make one of the weaker specs too strong, players might feel like they have to switch specs and they'll have to learn new rotations and whatnot and we don't want to confuse them". This outraged players of those specs who felt that that wasn't a valid reason for their favorite specs to be uncompetitive for half of Cataclysm. The "we don't want to add this change because it might confuse players" response has been used several times after that as well, with the same reaction from most players.
  • Taken to its logical extremes with Ehrgeiz‍'‍s Quest Mode. The guy who gives you the tutorial gives you such helpful tips as, "To avoid a monster's attack use the R1 button. Normally, you'd use you right index finger to press it." and Use the L1 button [to jump]. That will be pressed by your left index finger."

Web Comics

"lucas is adding or changing some audio cues to the blu-ray release of the original trilogy because i guess now that he’s older, he is realizing that you can’t tell a story without having characters explain every possible motivation they have directly into the camera."

  • Often times, while xkcd emphasizes Viewers Are Geniuses, it feels the need to explain the mathematic/scientific/programming joke to the audience, paradoxically creating a scenario where it can be an example of both tropes.
    • Of course, this is only an example of considering the readers morons if you think anyone who doesn't know advanced physics equations and how to create a program from scratch to doublecheck them is an idiot. A somewhat high standard for being considered of functional intelligence, even for this wiki.
  • Nerf Now presents: an illustrated guide to "what game publishers think of their customers".
  • Schlock Mercenary has this one:

TV Con: If what I just said insulted your intelligence, you should change the channel now.
Schlock: I need this guy's address, and some breacher-round reloads.

Web Original

  • Luke Mochrie discussed this trope a bit in his Oscar Retrospective, suggesting that this is what the producers behind the Oscars believe, hence the extreme dumbing down and almost schizophrenic nature the Oscars of the past few years have taken.

Western Animation

  • Parodied in Futurama in which an evil A.I. residing inside a laptop computer and three "execubots" are in charge of a television network, and describe their functions: one rolls the dice on what types of TV shows will be popular, one is programmed to like things he has seen before, and the last is programmed to underestimate Middle America.
    • In the episode "When Aliens Attack", Fry objects to the plot twist about Single-Female Lawyer (Leela) getting married with this line: "But that's not why people watch TV! Clever things make them feel stupid and unexpected things make them feel scared."
    • Considering Futurama is by the same crew as The Simpsons, a literal Lowest Common Denominator example might be involved: during the early seasons of The Simpsons, a network survey on viewers showed they didn't watch the show because of the characters or the clever jokes, but because they liked the bright colors and Homer constantly getting injured.
  • Subverted in an episode of The Transformers, "Autobot Spike", where Spike comments on Autobot X being a "real metal Frankenstein" and is asked by Bumblebee about what Frankenstein is; Spike then goes on to say it would take too long to explain. However, Wheeljack patches Teletraan into a TV station to make Spike feel better, and the first thing Spike sees is an old Frankenstein movie. Plus, Spike refers to Autobot X, and later himself as Autobot Spike, as a Frankenstein monster several times, to the point where it becomes laboured.
  • Dora the Explorer, although it is intended for toddlers... which is something most of the Periphery Hatedom forgets.
  • The Tick: Parodied in "The Tick vs. Arthur's Bank Account":

Handy: Even now, he [The Tick] sulks like Achilles in His Tent.
(everyone stares blankly at him)
Handy: Achilles?...The Iliad?...It's Homer?...
(close-up on Handy)

    • Followed up with a double-subversion in "Grandpa wore Tights"

(The Visual Eye attempts his signature attack "rocket from the sockets", i.e. shooting his eyeballs out into the air, but they simply drop unceremoniously to the floor.)
Handy: Well, that was an Oedipal moment.
(everyone stares warily at him)
Handy: Oedipus Rex?...The play by Sophocles?...
(everyone continues to stare warily...)
Handy: He gets his eyes plucked out at the end?...
(everyone gives him a look of mild exasperation)
Handy: (indignantly) READ A BOOK!

  • In the first half of the series The Batman, Batman comments every alarm of the Batwave with the words "The Batwave".
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man had Green Goblin mention that he had possession of a "portable flash drive". In fact, this seems to be a common habit of any TV character whenever a flash drive is mentioned, even when they should know the person they're talking to has more than a passing familiarity with computers.
  • Parodied in an episode of Family Guy; Peter rebuts the argument that British men are charming by saying "That's what they said about Benjamin Disraeli." Cut to Disraeli writing at his desk, then looking straight into the camera and saying "You don't even know who I am!"
  • If you want bad, try seeing an episode of the 1960s The New Adventures of Superman. Every episode has the narrator explaining everything that is happening...even if it's the simplest action which you are, at the moment, watching.
  • Cartoon Network's ill-fated "Tickle U" block of programming for preschoolers featured a ticker at the bottom of the screen with messages targeted at moms, thus simultaneously discounting the idea of anyone in the target audience being able to read and the possibility of stay-at-home fathers.
  • The vast majority of kids' cartoons have an annoying habit of having a character always read any onscreen text out-loud. Because God forbid kids should have to do any reading.
    • This was lampshaded on Sheep in The Big City. Since the creators couldn't get Cartoon Network to drop their request for all onscreen text to be read aloud, they introduced a character, a goofy little man known as "the man who likes to read things out loud." Whenever there's a sign or some text, he shows up out of nowhere, reads it out loud, then remarks about how much he enjoys doing that.
    • This is also played with in an episode of the Saturday Morning Cartoon Beetlejuice series. A group of other characters are attempting to get Beetlejuice to say a particular phrase out loud, one of whom flies a airplane overhead with a banner displaying the phrase. Beetlejuice looks up at the banner for a few seconds, then turns to the viewer and says that fortunately he knows how to read without doing so aloud.

Real Life


  • You just installed Windows on a new machine and don't have a disc burnt for Firefox or Chrome, so you go through IE to download it. Prepare to get a bunch of bits like "Information you post online may be viewed by others".
  • Anything involving Microsoft Windows Vista, which prompted almost everything in the OS with a 'you're sure you want to do this' box. Although it wasn't as bad as tech critics made it out to be, Windows 7 came with a lot more security and much fewer of these boxes. It was intentionally a "nag" dialogue box to be used when something was attempting to access a part of the computer without going through the proper channels, such as a piece of malware might do. Software developers were encouraged to alter their programs to run everything through Vista in such a way as to let the OS handle things and those boxes would not display with nearly such frequency. Unfortunately, few developers made their software fully compliant, resulting in a lot of annoyed users. Since then, Microsoft has actually established a group specifically for developer outreach efforts to ensure that such situations do occur with future versions of their operating systems.
    • A related example: Apple made one of their infamous "I'm a Mac, and I'm a PC" ads mocking these notifications, representing them by way of a large, imposing security guard asking the PC if he really wanted to do certain things (like talk to the Mac). Aside from the fact that these commercials assumed that people were too stupid to understand that the notifications were a feature, not a bug (and you could turn them off anyway if you weren't an idiot), they apparently assumed that the silly, stupid viewers would be intimidated by the idea that the PC had a massive security guard watching out for him.
  • In the mid-90's, computer makers tried to make everything simple by instead of using the basic Windows interface, overlaid it with a 'living room' look such as Packard Bell's "Navigator" and Microsoft's "Bob", and many computers in stores showed it off as the default interface. However once everyone got home and realized it was annoying to click on a bunch of 'rooms' to get to the 'stereo room' to listen to a CD when you could just click the 'CD player' icon on the desktop, it was never used again. Eventually better tutorial guides such as the "...for Dummies" came out, along with computer classes and kids who used Windows and Mac at school everyday and found it no sweat to use and taught their parents how to use it, and the 'living room' interface died a slow death as it became known as useless "crapware".
  • Most Computer Science students will, at some point in their education, hear the phrase "Users are stupid." as the reason to make code idiot-proof. And given that anyone trying to tamper with your code either knows what they're doing and won't be fazed by these, or is a complete idiot who'll break something, this is probably justified in some ways.
    • It's the truth. Ask absolutely anybody who works in tech support. But even discarding that cynicism, it at least gets you in a good habit of not making the assumption that other people know what you know. Also, it helps limit the learning curve for using your application.
  • Discussed in the computer interaction design book About Face. Developers of software only interact with people who know their software much better than any typical user would. Salespeople selling software only interact with people who are just getting their first look at the software they're selling and so naturally aren't very good with it. This sets up the fundamental conflict in software developing businesses where the developers continuously overestimate the skill of the users, salespeople continuously underestimate it, and no one pays attention to the bulk of software users who have middling proficiency.


  • Sports broadcasters now usually consistently display the name of a playoff event on the screen throughout the game just to remind us that yes, the Lakers are up 3-0 on the Oklahoma City Thunder in their best-of-seven Western Conference first round NBA playoff series airing here on TNT, where we know drama, like we didn't know that from it already being reported in the newspaper, on Sports Center, by your buddies, on sports talk radio, or by the superfans around town parading around brooms. Team colors are also displayed in the scoring graphic, in case you forgot the team in white is the home team.
    • In another vein, the NFL's need to remind viewers of opening week and holiday games, like we didn't know it was Thanksgiving already.
  • NFL broadcasters now have so much graphics technology that they feel the need to remind us of the down situation and play clock multiple ways; on the scoring banner, on the on the field graphic showing the direction of travel of the ball and where the first down line is, by the announcer saying so, on a call-out graphic (and on it goes...). Do they need to put it in so many places? Probably not. But they have to show off their whiz-bang technology somehow. On the other hand, the assumption behind these is not so much that viewers are morons as that viewers aren't paying complete attention. The stop-and-go nature of football conspires with the culture surrounding football—arguments, food, and most especially beer—to ensure that many if not most people watching the game on TV aren't always up to speed on the game; the technology proves very useful, allowing people who haven't been paying close attention to get up to speed without asking stupid questions like "who has possession", "what down is it", etc.
    • Chris Collinsworth and John Madden bleed this trope. "The team that has more points is in a better position to win the game." shit, Sherlock.
  • Scooter the Baseball and Digger the Gopher. They were designed to explain the sport they were promoting (baseball and NASCAR respectively) in a fun animated style to kids. All of the hardcore fans of each sport wanted their various corpses burned at the stake as unneeded gimmicks.
  • Any time an announcer says that "Team X has scored 24 unanswered points against Team Y", when the score is 24-0. It's pretty obvious they haven't answered back with points, folks.
  • The after-championship game interview with the losing team, where they've been lucky so far in 90 years of broadcasting that the manager or coach hasn't answered the always-asked "How do you feel?" question with an FCC-record profane tirade and/or televised murder of said questioner.
  • In the 2010 Winter Olympics coverage on NBC, nearly every distance was stated by the announcers in units of "football field," presuming that the audience wouldn't understand "meter" or even "yard."


  • Fairly recently, the traffic tickets in San Diego went up in price. The announcement in a commercial went something like this: "Ticket prices are being raised by 10%. This means that if previously, you would have gotten a ticket for $100 it will now be $110."
  • Every single political campaign.
  • This. "A Campaign spokesman said the ban might stop people confusing the Latin abbreviation e.g. with the word 'egg'." This is the last line in the article. Just to drive the point home. What's worse, another article on the same topic had someone complaining that elitists only used Latin terms to bolster their own...ego.
  • Then again, sometimes it is completely justified. Some may say that this was less audience stupidity and more awesome writing combined with a unlucky case of people coming in halfway through the show. Although there was an outcry over the show causing a panic, the panic itself was a hoax. The later coverage relied on readers believing this trope, added with New Media Are Evil.
  • Probably why YouTube is "re-introducing" bulletins, which is basically the Recent Activity text box, which originally was a replacement for bulletins. Now there are two places on the same page to send bulletins.
  • On November 9, 2011, the United States performed a test of the entire Emergency Alert System—every radio and TV station, cable channel and other mass media outlet at once. However, out of concern that someone might actually think there was a real emergency despite the traditional "this is a test" announcement, the government saw to it that the airwaves were saturated for several days in advance with news stories and Public Service Announcements in an attempt to warn the braindead and the easily-panicked that nothing bad was actually happening. And in order to give them less time to panic, the test was reduced to 30 seconds in length from the three minutes that had been originally planned.
    • Had there actually been a real emergency, no doubt some people would assume it was the test they were being warned about for the past few days.
    • See also Captain Obvious Aesop or Do Not Do This Cool Thing. Because the viewers go so far beyond being simply a Moron, they have to have whole warehouses full of movies telling them that the Holocaust was bad. Really?! Thanks, now can they get back to their fourth grade history class? Because nobody thinks the freaking Holocaust was good!
      • Actually, a Justified Trope. There ARE people in this world today who either deny that the Holocaust happened, claim that it was a good thing, or even refuse to take a moral stance and insist on moral relativism. For further examples, see... Iran.
      • Of course one might argue that the type of person with the means and will to do an atrocity is not likely to be turned aside by a movie telling him that another atrocity was bad. And that most obnoxious morons who really do say the Holocaust was good are just trying to make people mad and won't be deflected from that dubious pleasure by a movie either.
  • TV news broadcasts are famous for oversimplifying things. This is especially true on local newscasts and certain cable news channels.
    • If something happened 58 or 62 years ago, expect to be told that it happened "about 60 years ago." That extra little bit of precision is too much for most of us to handle.
    • Have you ever noticed that when TV reporters mention fractions, they rarely mention anything other than halves and quarters? Our brains are just too underdeveloped to understand thirds or eighths.
    • In a very loose sense, this is actually taught as common practice in journalism education. In most fields, especially television and radio, the entire point is to provide a quick and easily digestible summary of the events, able to be accessible to anyone who reads it. While exaggerating this is a pervasive problem which is indeed to the detriment of all involved, at its core it's a reasonable enough idea.
  • A certain best-selling British novelist was invited to write a short story for a magazine. In the story, the author wrote that the main character and a friend meet in a coffee shop and drink lattes. The editor insisted that latte be changed to cappucino, because he thought that the readership, who were mainly from the lower/working class, wouldn't know what a latte was.
  1. Which in itself may be proof of this - it apparently never crosses anybody's mind to click on the link and read the trope's description.
  2. To be fair, many people still make that mistake.
  3. Wowee, now that's what I call info.