• Before making a single edit, Tropedia EXPECTS our site policy and manual of style to be followed. Failure to do so may result in deletion of contributions and blocks of users who refuse to learn to do so. Our policies can be reviewed here.
  • All images MUST now have proper attribution, those who neglect to assign at least the "fair use" licensing to an image may have it deleted. All new pages should use the preloadable templates feature on the edit page to add the appropriate basic page markup. Pages that don't do this will be subject to deletion, with or without explanation.
  • All new trope pages will be made with the "Trope Workshop" found on the "Troper Tools" menu and worked on until they have at least three examples. The Trope workshop specific templates can then be removed and it will be regarded as a regular trope page after being moved to the Main namespace. THIS SHOULD BE WORKING NOW, REPORT ANY ISSUES TO Janna2000, SelfCloak or RRabbit42. DON'T MAKE PAGES MANUALLY UNLESS A TEMPLATE IS BROKEN, AND REPORT IT THAT IS THE CASE. PAGES WILL BE DELETED OTHERWISE IF THEY ARE MISSING BASIC MARKUP.


WikEd fancyquotes.pngQuotesBug-silk.pngHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extension.gifPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifier.pngAnalysisPhoto link.pngImage LinksHaiku-wide-icon.pngHaikuLaconic
A character who tries casting himself as the Brave Peasant Lad Who Outwits The Troll may find that he is actually one of the Twenty Poor Peasants Eaten Before The Knight Comes Along. Or even the Devious Little Human Squashed By The Troll Hero. (Troll fairy-stories are not very subtle.)
GURPS Discworld, on the dangers of playing with the Theory of Narrative Causality.

Sometimes, you can take being Genre Savvy too far, and wind up just as Genre Blind as the poor idiots who split up in a haunted house where one of you is a murderer.

If a character in a series that has a Fourth Wall thinks mainly in terms of tropes, you've probably got a character who's Wrong Genre Savvy. Even if you're correct about being in a story, it's possible for you to guess wrong about your role in the story, the genre of the story, or where on the various sliding scales your story is. Any way you spin it, it's still a common way of subverting Genre Savviness.

See Heroic Wannabe, Wide-Eyed Idealist, Grumpy Bear, Prince Charming Wannabe, and Lord Error-Prone for characters with this trait and Genre Savvy for when characters get it right. Death by Genre Savviness is a related trope. See also This Is Reality, Hero of Another Story, Entertainingly Wrong. May be confused with Too Dumb to Live.

Examples of Wrong Genre Savvy include:

Anime and Manga

  • Vegeta's whole complex in Dragonball Z is how he views himself as the Hero or even the Chosen One, and so constantly gets mad when Goku and Gohan continue to take center stage. It takes him until the fight with Kid Buu to accept his role as Goku's lancer.
    • It also means that he realizes that as Goku is the hero, Goku's philosophy of being pure-hearted is right and his Type-V anti-heroics weren't. That, plus his love for his family eventually bumps him up the niceness scale to a Type III.
  • Mazinger Z: Baron Ashura and Count Brocken hated each other. Big Bad Dr. Hell thought it would be a good thing, since they would surely try to destroy Mazinger-Z harder to upstage each other. Or course, what happened was many operations and schemes went by the wayside because they constantly fought and got in the each other's way, and they were were unable to work together, ruining many joined missions, too. Hell's mistake was born of him believing he and his troops were a Five-Man Band instead of a Five-Bad Band.
    • In another episode, Count Brocken have one in which he used hostages, and cheap tricks to defeat Koji, expecting Koji to be a straight, heroic and honorable hero like pretty much most tv shows protagonist. This could have(and at times actualy) work well if not for the fact that this is Koji were talking about. In fact, Brocken does mention it by complained about Koji's fans will cry because of that. Koji's reaction? Take it like a man.
  • Sanji from One Piece seems to think he's in a Shojo anime (such as in the Enies Lobby arc and Filler) and completely fails to get the girl at all times.
    • Very, very ironic when you consider that early on, he actually was popular with (non plot-relevant) women. This trait seems to have been eased out of his characterization, probably when the artist realized Sanji was a little too perfect and needed to be funnier and more over the top.
    • Luffy seems to be affected for the one moment he attempts being Genre Savvy, assuming that Chopper's scope attack will in fact be a beam, a la Dragon Ball. ("BEAM, BEAM! IT'S GONNA BE A BEAM!")
      • He's got the genre down, One Piece just happens to be rather non-traditional.
      • He and Chopper are both (in) appropriately enthusiastic when they witness Bartholomew Kuma lookalike PX-4's beam attack
    • More traditionally, Donquixote Doflamingo, whose steadfast belief in a world without dreams runs contrary to... basically everything about One Piece.
    • Blackbeard seems to be under the impression that he's the main character.
      • Either that, or he thinks he's the Big Bad (which he's got a good chance of being right about) in a story where The Bad Guy Wins (which he has absolutely no chance of being right about).
  • Konata from Lucky Star plays so much Eroge to think that she's living in one-- despite this is a Slice of Life Schoolgirl Series..
  • Most of the characters in Genshiken are major, major Otaku and therefore genre savvy, but share Konata's affliction of being unable to tell exactly what kind of anime they're in. Madarame seems to visualize life as a Dating Sim, and beats himself up about it when he realizes it.
  • The eponymous character of Suzumiya Haruhi hopes to meet aliens, time-travelers and espers, experience super-natural mysteries and expose ancient conspiracies. Since she is a Reality Warper, it actually does happen all around her, but she doesn't notice. One could put it so that she makes herself an accurate Genre Savvy.
    • Example: She expects a student president who runs the school and all the clubs like a dictator. There isn't one, so Itsuki hires some guy to play the part of a jerkass president. He's a jerkass in a different way entirely, though. Of course, since this is Haruhi he starts having trouble differentiating himself from the role he is playing, and will possibly end up exactly as Haruhi thinks he is. Wrong Genre Savvy -> Genre Savvy!
    • She does wind up Wrong Genre Savvy in the positions she thinks the other members of the Brigade have. She views Itsuki as The Lancer, Kyon as The Big Guy, Yuki as The Smart Guy, and Mikuru as The Chick. In reality, Kyon is The Hero, Itsuki is The Lancer, Yuki takes the position of both The Smart Guy and The Big Guy, and Mikuru.... is still The Chick.
  • Gai Daigouji and the Jovians in Martian Successor Nadesico spent too much time watching ultra-idealistic Super Robot anime in the vein of the original Getter Robo, and failed to realize they were in a much more conspiracy-filled, morally grey, and lethal Real Robot series.
    • In the Super Robot Wars games, he sometimes gets to actually be genre savvy — for example, in the Super Robot Wars W stage where Voltron Golion is introduced, the cast is shocked when the lions combine... except for Gai, whose reaction is something along the lines of "Yeah, OF course they were gonna do that."
      • Amusingly enough, this is probably why he survives in Super Robot Wars despite being swiftly killed off in his own series.
  • Noboru Yamaguchi from Cromartie High School acts as though the world around him follows the rules of traditional (read: old) styles of comedy, despite the world of Cromartie being one of the most surreal places ever.
  • Edo Phoenix of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX thinks he's The Hero. In fact, he practically thinks he's Batman... in a Shonen anime. He intially sets out to defeat Judai, thinking he's the enemy. Then when Judai is getting ready to defeat the Big Bad, Edo rushes off to fight him, believing he will win because of a promise he made, not realizing he is not The Only One Allowed to Defeat You.
  • Cancer Deathmask, of Saint Seiya. He decides to serve the corrupt Pope because Utopia Justifies the Means and Right Makes Might, and points out that winners write the history books, which is technically true. Unfortunately, he's in a Shonen Jump series, so he is bound to pay dearly for that remark.
  • Berserk is a Seinen fantasy manga that contains orgies of violence and sex, of both the consensual and non-consensual types. Despite this, Isidro seems to have convinced himself that he's not only in a Shonen manga (which are generally idealistic and where good always triumphs over evil), but thinks he's the main character. Suffice to say, if it weren't for the fact he's the Plucky Comic Relief, he probably would've died a long time ago.
  • Naga in Slayers believes that she is The Rival when she's actually more of a Sidekick. Lina often corrects her when presenting themselves to a new character. In the TV series, Amelia tries desperately to uphold Justice in a slapstick fantasy world.
  • In Puni Puni Poemi the eponymous character is convinced (apparently correctly) that she is the main character — and her voice actress. In the final scene the show's director (who is also a character) reveals that the main character is apparently her love interest.
  • Asuka in Neon Genesis Evangelion arguably thinks of herself as a Action Girl. However, she doesn't realize in what kind of Anime this particular Action Girl appears.
    • She also seems very convinced that she is the main character and that Shinji is The Rival and is crushed when she is confronted with the fact that she isn't.
  • Yuka Sugimoto from The Twelve Kingdoms anime even manages to get her genre right. Unfortunately, she leaps to the immediate assumption that being transported into a fantasy realm means she is The Chosen One, even though all signs point to her classmate Youko Nakajima. In the original novels, Yuka never even reached the Twelve Kingdoms in the first place, which should put things in perspective.
  • In G Gundam, young Maria Louise from Neo France is a Rebellious Princess with a crush on the local Knight in Shining Armor, George de Sand. She's depressed because he doesn't fight for her, but for her country. So, if she stages her own kidnapping and recruits Domon Kasshu, a rival that George spurned, he'll fight for her honor, right? WRONG! The far more Genre Savvy George does come for her, but delivers a What the Hell, Hero? speech on how he's much more likely to be absorbed into fighting Domon than on Maria's honor. Domon's partner Rain has to bail Maria out, and she's Put on a Bus until the second part of the series.
  • Haruka Akashi of Kamen Tantei is a huge mystery buff and aspiring mystery author who keeps running into mysteries. So far, so good. Unfortunately, she's a "fair play" mystery fan trying to apply "the rules" of such to a world where psychic powers, ghosts, All Just a Dream endings and fictional characters come to life are regular occurrences.
  • Pretty much everyone in Hayate the Combat Butler. Nagi thinks she's in a shounen manga in a case of First Girl Wins. Most of the rest of the cast thinks they're in a genuine action series instead of a parody. Sakuya comes the closest by realizing she's in a comedy series, but even she has the style of humor wrong.
  • Would-be hard-boiled private eye Guy Kurosawa in Darker Than Black either doesn't know or refuses to admit that he's in a Speculative Fiction series. When a cat yells at him from two feet away, he looks in the opposite direction and says, "Who's there?" He happens to stumble on the real plot a couple of times through sheer dumb luck, and only makes it out alive because he's too dense to figure out that he's in a story where an elaborate revenge plot is much less likely than industrial espionage.
    • His Genki Girl secretary Kiko appears to be completely convinced that she lives in a Shojo comedy. She doesn't. It also gets sort of turned around in the OVA, since it parodies the main series; Mayu has exactly the same ideas as Kiko about what genre she's living in, and starts stalking Hei because she thinks of him as a romantic hero. Hei and company spend so much time dealing with crazy Spy-Versus-Spy plots and counterplots that it never occurs to them that Mayu might be following him due to nothing more than a huge crush and start speculating that another, previously unknown organization is after them, briefly making them Wrong Genre Savvy.
  • In the third episode of Ouran High School Host Club, Tamaki identifies the show as a high-school romance anime, calling himself and Haruhi the main pair destined to be together - not too far off the mark so far, but then he identifies the rest of the club as "the homosexual supporting cast". This last remark inspires Kyouya to show him up by coming up with a better plan to save Haruhi from being exposed by the physical exam and saying "I just don't think I'm supporting cast, homosexual or not."
  • The protagonist Sugisaki Ken from Seitokai no Ichizon is this. He seriously believes that he is inside a H-game, always says that the student council is his harem, always getting downplayed by Kurimu: "This is not a harem, it's the student council!".
    • " Don't be ridiculous. I don't think I'm in a dating sim. In a dating sim I get all the girls! Have you ever seen me with a girl?" Yep, that'll show her. Still spends too much time looking for flag events though.
  • Code Geass: Poor, poor Shirley Fennette. She seems to think she's in a shoujo series, when it's anything but, and things just keep getting worse until the bottom falls out for the poor girl. Just two episodes after her proclamation of The Power of Love, and right after she seemingly consummates her one true love or it looks like she has a better chance than the other girls in the story... she gets mercilessly killed off for trusting the wrong person. A boy who also has interest in the guy she loves. Sorta.. All the more tragically ironic in that said power also had just earlier inspired Lelouch as Zero to make his inspiring speech about the Power of Passion after he and the Black Knights liberated China, and may have also saved Lelouch from falling into madness, and his eventual self-induced demise via Zero Requiem, if not for Shirley's murder.
  • Minor example from the second episode of the 2005 Gaiking series. The main character fires off his Rocket Punch, expecting it to fly back to him afterwards. It doesn't, and he even screams out "But don't these things usually come back?!"
    • Notably played with when the protagonist /starts off/ a fight after freshly receiving an upgrade by using his rocket punch...and missing terribly. The villain laughs at him for his stupidity, leaving them wide open for the fist to fly back towards him and drill a hole straight through, coming back to rest on Gaiking's arm once again.
  • Haruka and Michiru of Sailor Moon, otherwise known as Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune, seem to think they are in a much more cynical series than they are. Therefore, though they are both very competent fighters who can certainly get the job done, they don't seem to understand that Sailor Moon could have the problem solved in half the time with twice the number of happy endings and tend to do things that make the ultimate situation worse. See the series' Grand Finale for more details.
  • From Super Robot Wars Original Generation Divine Wars. During a live-fire training, Ryusei Date believes it's impossible for tanks to outmaneuver and down a mecha. His mech's disabled and shot down in a matter of minutes. He's actually figure the genre right, except this show is hybrid and "Super" part doesn't kick in until much later.
  • Rotton in Black Lagoon seems to believe he lives in a much more idealistic series. One that allows In the Name of the Moon speeches. He actually does have genuine genre savviness to go with it, though, but even this is only about 50% effective. Wearing a bullet proof vest: Good idea. Basing all your fighting on trying to be cool: Bad idea. You're not supposed to try.
  • Winner in Karin thinks he's the star of a Shounen vampire hunter series. Unfortunately for him, he's a side character in a Rom Com.
  • Matt in Death Note:

 Matt: You got me, I'm part of this whole kidnapping incident. That means you'll have a lot of questions to ask. You won't shoot--

(The bodyguards of kidnapped start firing)

  • Tatewaki Kuno sees himself as an almighty Samurai, loved by all and God's gift to women. In reality, he's nothing but a major pain in the ass.
  • Kumojacky of Heartcatch Pretty Cure is an outrageously hammy and Hot-Blooded character who believes in the power of his own inner strength and loudly declares that any problem can be solved through the sheer grit and determination of your own burning spirit. He also thinks that the only kind of friendship worth having is the kind forged through mutual respect of the other person's strength. In short, he's the kind of guy who would fit in perfectly with any group of Shonen action heroes or anime bookshop owners... But he's stuck in a Magical Girl show that more or less runs on the Power of Friendship/Power of Love, and thus his clashing ideals default him directly to a villain role.
  • In Naruto, the title character is told multiple times by several different people that he is the kind of person who could never be the main character in a story.
    • Danzo believes that he is the one destined to bring peace to the world. His belief in this is so strong that he begins to take measures to sabotage Naruto and his allies under the idea that they'll just make things worse. Too bad the story is named Naruto.
  • Rossiu Adai in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is a rare case in that he thinks he lives in a much more cynical world than he actually does, when it's usually the opposite. Sorry, Rossiu, but this isn't Neon Genesis Evangelion or Bokurano: here we solve all our problems with Hot Blood Spiral Energy.
  • In Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei, the character Mayo Mitama is an "evil looking girl" who likes to commit acts of ultra-violence. However, even when she does these things in front of/to people, they refuse to suspect her due to Wrong Genre Savvy. Going by the logic of detective stories and most anime using Face of a Thug, she can't be evil because "no one who looks so obviously evil could actually be evil" (because it wouldn't make for an interesting story). The problem is, Mayo's name means "exactly as she looks", and she's really is an example of Obviously Evil.
  • In Nana to Kaoru, the student council president complains that the main character's "got a secondary character's face!" The poor guy doesn't realize he's in an Ecchi, Ugly Guy, Hot Wife comedy. He's also absolutely dumbfounded at Kaoru's sad, depressed resignation about Nana being way outside of his league, expecting some form of argument or fight.
  • Shinzen from Speed Grapher is a very Genre Savvy villainess who is perfectly aware that her handsome and ruthless Dragon, Suitengu, views her as a Meal Ticket. So she tries to use her knowledge to try keeping him under control and outgambit him. Where does she go WGS? In that she accepted to marry him... not seeing that he'd try to kill her as soon as he could. Which he did.
  • Taikoubou of Houshin Engi zig zags between this and Dangerously Genre Savvy. At the beginning of the story he tries to skip the traditional Sorting Algorithm of Evil and goes straight for the Big Bag. Too bad Dakki is an even more Magnificent Bastard Chessmaster than he is and the plot fails horrifically. Later, Taikoubou tries to invoke Defeat Means Friendship on Nataku, who is out and out trying to kill him (Nataku does eventually join Team Taikoubou, but not for this reason). However, just as many of Taikoubou's insane plans succeed because he seems to be aware of what kind of series he's in.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Everyone.
  • All the generals in Irresponsible Captain Tylor seem to think hard nosed militarism and taking your enemy down with you are the most important aspects to winning a war. They are completely unaware that the show is a wacky sitcom/space opera hybrid where stuff will occur just because it's funny. Or just out of sheer luck.
    • There is also the possibility though that they actually ARE genre savvy and Tylor is just a much better tactician than everybody else.
  • Peorth in Ah! My Goddess manages to pick up that she's in a Magical Girlfriend series, but initially fails to realize that she's not the main love interest, and at one point seemed under the impression she was in Hentai manga.
  • Musashi Tomoe in the Getter Robo manga clearly thinks he is in the Lighter and Softer anime adaptation.
  • Midori from Mai-HiME seems to think she's in a Sentai series. She's not, and her forcibly assembled team of Magical Girls ends up wallowing in a mess of conflicting personalities. She does, however, set in motion the plan for the girls to Take a Third Option against the Big Bad.
  • Drosselmeyer in Princess Tutu manages to guess his genre wrong despite being the "author" character, since he has no understanding of Post Modernism. He writes the story as a conventional tragedy, viewing himself as the guiding hand rather than a character in his own right, not realizing until the very end just how thin the fourth wall really is.
  • Eren Yeager from Attack on Titan finds out the hard way (very, very hard) that he doesn't live in a shonen series where guts and determination are all you need to take out giant Lightning Bruiser man-eating titans. AOT is a shonen series, yeah, but it's FAR Bloodier and Gorier than you'd expect.
  • The Literature Girl in Daily Lives of High School Boys is trying to reenact her own romantic novel in a Slice of Life comedy. It completely weirded out Hidenori.
  • Sogiita Gunha from To Aru Majutsu no Index thinks he's the hero of a Sentai anime. Not only is this series much more mature and complicated than that, he's not even a main character.
    • A Certain Scientific Railgun: Therestina Kihara Lifeline seems thoroughly convinced she lives in a Crapsack World where everyone is a lab rat and there is deep darkness in people who don't even have Mikoto Misaka's status. Considering many low-level people (such as Touma, Uiharu and Saten) are perfectly happy with their mundane lives and Academy City is generally shown to be a pretty nice place to live, this couldn't be further from the truth.
  • Combined with Aliens Steal Cable in Rinne no Lagrange - one of Human Aliens in one episode watches a samurai movie and mistakes it's events for some Earth tradition he then tries to repeat to challenge Madoka for a duel. Surprisingly things works exactly like he is expecting them to, but for different reasons and he accidentally convinces girls at Madoka's school that he is her boyfriend.
  • One of Hibiki's friends from Senki Zesshou Symphogear likes to point out when people act like anime characters, which she treats as unusual, because she doesn't realize she actually is in an anime.
  • Keima in The World God Only Knows gets all his Genre Savvy from galges, so he falls into this when he gets into situations outside his experience. For example, Haqua is a Tsundere who is obviously in love with him. But in galges, the girl pursuing the boy is a trap for a Bad End, and must be avoided at all costs, so he barely even notices.
  • Mild example from Ouran High School Host Club: Tamaki believes himself to be the club's Team Dad and Kyoya to be the Team Mom, when it's actually the other way round; Tamaki's an emotional and nurturing leader figure while Kyoya is the stern disciplinarian.

Comic Books

  • In the second volume of The Invisibles, a redneck in a diner is giving Lord Fanny, the Brazilian transvestite shaman, a hard time. In response, King Mob grabs the man's groin (and not in a good way) and gives us the speech shown above. At first the redneck apologizes, but then he decides to attack King Mob anyway, and thus we get to witness the other trope invoked by King Mob in his little speech.
  • In a Judge Dredd comic, a perp tries to escape from Dredd by jumping into what he assumes to be a laundry chute, but ends up being a waste disposal unit.
  • In the Donald Duck comic book "Sheriff of Bullet Valley", Donald keeps comparing the present situation to various Western movies he's seen, resulting in his getting everything backward and inadvertently helping the villains.
    • In one European comics Pete and Commisoner O'Hara are forced to join forces to make it clear to former's wife and latters superior, that they don't live in the world of Cowboy Cop action movies.
  • Garth Ennis: Crossed features many characters thinking like a "normal" zombie or invasion movie, not realizing it's a Garth Ennis comic and the butt rape zombies will get you no matter how clever you try to be.
  • In Ennis' earlier Hitman story, "Zombie Night at Gotham Aquarium," Hacken also thinks he's in a "normal" zombie movie, and thus takes swift, decisive action after a bite from a zombified animal, hackin' off his arm to avoid infection. Unfortunately for Hacken, this particular branch of DC Universe Weird Science does not work that way, so it turns out that Hacken cut off his own arm for no good reason.
  • Yet another Garth Ennis example: the Preacher (Comic Book) spin-off The Good Old Boys features Cal, who thinks that he's an Action Hero, and that he has Belligerent Sexual Tension with the female lead that will eventually lead to a Love Epiphany. Turns out he's actually the Butt Monkey of a Black Comedy with two villain protagonists.
  • There were two Batman villains who went by the name "film freak", and both were defeated (and in the case of the first one, killed) because they thought life would play out like a movie. Of course, it was a comic book.
  • In Fun Home, Alison considered herself the heroine of a Coming Out Story, until she finds out about her father and realizes she's only the comic relief to his tragedy.
  • In the weekly series Fifty Two Renee Montoya is hired by The Question to surveil an old abandoned warehouse. As a veteran of the Major Crimes Unit of the Gotham City Police Department she is very familiar with the process of surveillance and Gotham crime, and is not even surprised when the old warehouse turns out to have a trap door hidden inside...and then she finds the nightmarish alien thing beyond the trap door and the crates full of laser weaponry. Those she did not see coming.
  • When he is guest starring in more optimistic comics like Spider-Man, The Punisher clearly thinks he is still in his own series, which is far more on the cynical side of Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism. Which is why he usually ends up as a villain. On the other hand many super heroes appearing in his comics also seem to think that they are still in their own series and often end up humiliated in various ways.
  • In one Dilbert strip, Dogbert finds a magic lamp and summons the Genie in a Bottle. He expects it to grant him three wishes but the Genie says they don't have a contract and turns him into a wiener.
    • At least it was an experience he could relish.
  • A Garfield strip has Jon Arbuckle catch the cat strenuously shaking a can of soda pop. He deduces correctly that Garfield was planning for him to open the can and get sprayed in the face, so instead he turns the can so that it is aimed directly at Garfield and then pulls open the tab - and the fizz in the shaken soda can backfires, sending him crashing backward into a wall.
  • This is ultimately what dooms psychiatrist Dr. Wolper (who decided to study the Joker's mind) in The Dark Knight Returns. He assumes that the Joker isn't evil and is just misunderstood, and that the Batman is a villain who has a hero complex. But as it turns out, the Batman has every reason to fight against the Joker, starting with the Joker slitting Wolper's throat (after what he had done for him, no less) and joking about it.
  • Early in Fables there was a journalist who discovered that certain New York residents seem to have been living for centuries without aging. He believed them to be vampires. Residents of Fabletown decided to play along and convinced him he was mind-controlled by them and forced to have sex with a little boy (in reality they knocked him out and took some suggestive photos with him and Pinnochio) and if he tells anybody their secret, they will send the evidence to the police.
  • In Irredeemable Plutonian, being Captain Ersatz of Superman, was expecting things to turn out in his life like they do in your average Superhero comics. The problem is that he is not in your average superhero comics, but a Deconstruction of one. This actually plays a part in what leads to his Face Heel Turn, after which he becomes Dangerously Genre Savvy.
    • Max Damage has similiar problem - he is Genre Savvy enough to realize that the best thing to keep reformed supervillain like himself from sliding back to his old ways is to get a Morality Pet, so he gathers several people who serve him as those. However, he doesn't realize that he is in a deconstruction either, so most of his new friends gets broken in one way or another.
    • Gilgamos had become this, when he killed Survivor. He presented perfectly reasonable explanation why he did it that proved he knows tropes of the world he lives in very well, but was not savvy enough to consider that Cary and his siblings may not share the same power, but his power - by killing him, he just depowered his brother, instead of empowering him.

Fan Fiction



Phanphy: Wait! I saw this on TV once! I know the answer! Is it a Hoennese Swellow or an Orrean Swellow?

Skeleton: HOENNESE.

Phanphy: No, you were supposed to say you didn't know, then fall off a cliff.


  • In the Naruto fic "A Few Angry Words" Pain seems to think he's Julius Caesar marching into Rome. He's more like the Antichrist marching into the Jezreel Valley.
  • It's still not entirely certain who's right Genre Savvy in Harry Potter and The Methods of Rationality, but we know Draco isn't the Chessmaster he thinks he is, and Hermione does not in fact seem to be in a romantic comedy. Smart money's on Dumbledore's being wrong that it's a fantasy, and Harry may not actually be right that it's sci-fi (at least not the sort of sci-fi he thinks it is.)
  • In the Invader Zim fanfic Irken Invasion, the human OC Faye, though like Dib willing to believe that Zim is an alien, believes that Zim is an Innocent Alien who has no intention of conquering Earth. Though to be fair, considering how Gir doesn't typically act evil and Zim is bad at conquering Earth, she isn't too far off.
  • Otaku Three, Eva Revolution by Jared "Skysaber" Ornstead features a protagonist who deliberately uses Wrong Genre Savvy (along with a lot of information no one else has and a good dose of Mary Sue-ishness) as a weapon to un-deconstruct the Humongous Mecha genre in a Neon Genesis Evangelion timeline.
  • We Just Want to Help You by Jeanne Hedge is a fic where a random fan of Bubblegum Crisis finds herself in the Tokyo of 2035, hurries over to offer to help Ms. Stingray... and gets tranked and sent to the loony bin when it turns out she's not actually in Bubblegum Crisis, but a relatively close (but significantly divergent) Alternate Dimension.
  • In the Glee fic Hunting the Unicorn, the Warblers call Kurt and Blaine a fairy tale couple when they're a Deconstruction of one. Blaine's attempt to be Kurt's Knight in Shining Armor is the result of a Wide-Eyed Idealist meeting the Wrong Guy First and just having a shitty life in general. And Alex thinks he's the Dogged Nice Guy who'll end up with Blaine after he breaks up with his selfish, demanding tyrant of a boyfriend, but Kurt is Blaine's Second Love while Alex is the stalker they don't even know about.
  • In the Firefly fanfic Forward, a pirate gang that attacks Serenity includes an Arrogant Kung Fu Guy who, upon seeing River, thinks that she is the Worthy Opponent suitable to test his skills against, like in most martial arts stories. His mistake becomes apparent when River shoots him twice in the head.
    • Later on, the crew goes to help a village that is being attacked by amoral mercenaries. The entire scenario seems like a classic Western tale where the heroes protect the helpless against an enemy with overwhelming firepower. In reality, they're in a psychic horror story involving a Town with a Dark Secret where everyone is being mind-controlled by an unstable telepath.


  • Sonny Burch from Ant-Man and the Wasp mostly behaves himself as if he's in the "Netflix" part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Unfortunately, Sonny is in the "Cinematic" part, meaning Sonny's "gritty and realistic" crime lord tactics are no match for two Size Shifters who can (in addition to themselves being able to grow as tall as a building) shrink Sonny to the size of a flea, and a woman with phasing power .
  • Lady in the Water has a scene where the hero, Cleveland Heep, consults the movie critic in order to identify the tenants who fill in the roles of Story's helpers. However, when their plan goes awry and Story is attacked and injured, Cleveland realizes that he incorrectly identified himself. Note that the movie critic was more or less right in his ideas of who the tenants would be, but Cleveland merely interpreted the clues incorrectly.
    • Not to mention the scene where the same movie critic is confronted by the monster, and instead of running away he goes on spiel about how the movie has had no violence, deaths, lewd acts, or nudity and deduces that he is going to live with just a wound because of these factors. He must've forgotten about the female lead being naked for all her screentime.
  • In the Star Wars prequels, Obi-Wan is extremely Genre Savvy when he tells Anakin that Aristocrats Are Evil if they are politicians. Too bad he's applying this trope — and that of God Save Us From the Queen — to Padme as well as Palpatine, because they aren't anything alike. Padme is in fact an example of The High Queen and debatably the most moral character in the whole Star Wars universe. Obi Wan specifically warns Anakin to be cautious of Padme because she is a politician, and although he specifically includes Palpatine in that general categorization, against Anakin's more naive trust, the point still stands. Her being an aristocrat technically doesn't come into it but it is a variant in a way since aristocrats often are politicians in the Star Wars universe.

 Anakin Skywalker: "... and besides, you're generalizing. The Chancellor doesn't appear to be corrupt."

Obi-Wan Kenobi: "Palpatine is a politician. I've observed that he is very clever at following the passions and prejudices of the Senators."

    • Obi-Wan's problem is that he believes he's living in a naturalistic universe rather than a fantastical one. He's a cynic who believes that all politicians are corrupt and self-serving. He doesn't believe that any of them could be effective, let alone really dangerous: the worst they can do is take advantage of a crisis to serve their own ends. It never occurs to him to think that one of these politicians is actually a devious puppet master who is engineering a crisis in a bid to bring the entire political system down. Ironically, his status as the Only Sane Man works against him: if he'd realized he was in a universe where there actually is an Ancient Conspiracy working behind the scenes, he might have spotted Palpatine sooner.
    • The entire Jedi Order during the last days of the Old Republic have this problem too: they see themselves as the stalwart protectors of a noble old order (and perhaps they really were at one point). In reality they're the arrogant and hidebound old masters whose inflexibility and strict adherence to tradition almost directly leads to the fall of their most powerful member and their complete destruction at his hands.
      • In Matt Stover's novelization of Revenge of the Sith, Yoda realizes this the moment he and Palpatine's lightsabers clash. Skill and power were irrelevant — the Sith had already won because they had become something new while the Jedi had remained the same. The Jedi had been preparing for the wrong kind of war.
  • In Arsenic and Old Lace, the theater critic describes in great detail and mocks what happens to the stupid unsuspecting victim characters in a play that he had just seen, inadvertently giving the Big Bad ideas.
  • The unease audiences feel toward Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs is heightened by his seemingly unsavvy placement in the structure of the story. Genre conventions would make him the villain. But the story's villain is Buffalo Bill. "Hannibal the Cannibal" is actually the Trickster Mentor. He is Yoda to Clarice's Luke, the shadow counterpart of her FBI academy instructor. Other characters call him a monster, but Clarice addresses him as she would a teacher and he is among those who congratulate her when she graduates. His function in the story places him much closer to the main character than we would expect him to be, and far too close for comfort. With his breakout at the end of the film, this genre-savvy character sheds the mentor role and assumes a more conventional role as villain. In a sense, his act signals a return to order.
  • Last Action Hero: Child hero Danny rides his bicycle head-on to play chicken with the main villain's car, reasoning that it has to work because he's the hero in a non-R rated movie where the kid would never die. Then it dawns on him that he's the Plucky Comic Relief instead, and is vulnerable. Cue ET visual gag.
    • The second half of the movie deals heavily with how badly Jack Slater's Genre Savvy as an Action Hero fails him in the gritty, real world until he learns the new rules whereas Benedict becomes Dangerously Genre Savvy right out of the gate instead.
  • Pixar's Toy Story 2: Through much of the film Pete the Prospector plays the role of Sage, dispensing advice to other characters. But a glimpse of Woody's Roundup, the TV show that represents his origin, shows Pete playing a self-sabotaging buffoon. The glimpse hints that his sagely nuggets of wisdom may actually be fool's gold. By the end of the film his true role is revealed.
    • Buzz Lightyear (or one of his duplicates) goes through this in varying degrees in all three movies.
  • A positive example: Guy from Galaxy Quest, though for the most part Genre Savvy, goes through the events of the film in a depressed and terrified state, because he is convinced that he is nothing more than a designated Red Shirt among the Show Within a Show's stars. In the end, he is told that he has a promising future as the Plucky Comic Relief.
    • In fact, everyone in that movie who acts like it's a movie is proven wrong, and everyone who acts like it's real is proven just as wrong.
    • For even bigger payoff, pay attention during the shootout on the bridge. Everybody except Guy gets shot.
  • Jack Burton of Big Trouble in Little China thinks he's a sort of western-style hero who takes charge and beats the bad guys with guts and bravado. However, he doesn't know anything about all the eastern mysticism going on. His best friend Wang has to explain everything to him. It's Wang who is actually the hero, out to rescue his girlfriend. Jack is actually the sidekick, just tagging along and trying to recover his lost truck.
  • Near the end of The Madness of King George, Lord Chancellor Thurlow wastes time announcing the king's return to health by bemoaning the messenger in King Lear who arrives too late to save Cordelia. The whole film is an averted Lear — something the king seems to recognize, even if Thurlow doesn't.
  • Chad and Lynda from Burn After Reading both start acting like they're in a Spy Drama after they find a disc with the financial records of a former CIA analyst, acting all mysterious around the analyst and refusing to give their real names. However, they're in a Black Comedy, so Hilarity Ensues.
  • In Megamind, Megamind thinks that Hal will be the perfect person to train as a hero once he's seen him: he thinks he's a complete nobody who can realize his true heroic potential with his help. Unfortunately, Hal fits a different set of tropes...
  • In the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie, when the Kraken is taking down a ship full of Red Shirts, one of the merchants runs forward, bravely offering what they had previously thought was the dress of a ghost who was haunting their ship. That would have worked out a lot better for him if he had been in a ghost story, and if that ghost story was actually about him.
  • In The Man Who Knew Too Little, the "hero" thinks he's in a huge role-play featuring acted danger and spying.
  • An exchange from Detroit Rock City, about whether or not some road-tripping stoners should pick up a hitchhiker:

 Jam: It's a teenage girl walking along the side of the highway. They make scary movies that start out like that!

Trip: But they make porno movies that start out like that too, man!

  • Park Chang-yi in The Good, the Bad and the Weird is basically a melodramatic and serious Shonen anime villain stuck in a goofy Korean parody of Spaghetti westerns.
  • Stranger Than Fiction is a unique case, where the main character realizes he's in a story after he starts hearing his own narration. He seeks out help to try and become Genre Savvy, and correctly deduces that in the context of his narrator's story, he's in a tragedy, which is ironically Wrong Genre Savvy as the meta-story (the movie about the story about a man who hears his own narrator, i.e. the movie you're watching) is actually a comedy.
  • The hostages in From Dusk till Dawn, particularly Scott Fuller, have all the Genre Savvy needed to survive in a heist film or hostage-taking film. Scott even lampshades this by telling his father, "I've seen this on TV, Dad!" Pity for them the bar the Gecko Brothers choose to stop at is full of Fricking Vampire Strippers!
  • Return of the Living Dead: When confronted with a reanimated cadaver, a group of characters put a pick axe through its brain based on what they know about zombies from seeing Night of the Living Dead. It has no effect.

 Burt: I thought you said if we destroyed the brain, it'd die!

Frank: It worked in the movie!

Burt: Well, it ain't workin' now, Frank!

Fred: You mean the movie lied?

    • Ironically, the idea of zombies who are smart enough to repeatedly moan "Brains" and/or who explicitly feel overpowering hunger instead of mindlessly eating, comes from this trilogy, not the original series.
      • Or even care about brains; the originals seemed to show a distinct preference for liver.
  • The college kids from Tucker and Dale vs. Evil believe they are in a typical Hillbilly Horrors-style horror film after two rednecks announce that they "have" one of their friends and they start dying one by one. In actuality, they're in a comedy and the two hillbillies saved the girl from drowning. All the deaths are a result of the "victims" being Too Dumb to Live.
  • In the little-known Alien ripoff Creature, someone says they remember seeing an old movie (specifically, The Thing From Another Planet) where they tried to stop the monster from killing everyone with an electrified forcefield. Not too effective against this monster.
    • Also how they tried to stop Godzilla.
  • The camp Disney flick Condorman features a comic book artist as its protagonist, who dreams of being a comic book action hero. He gets his chance when he persuades his CIA buddy to let him take a courier mission, but then proceeds to ham it up as the most ludicrously obvious Cloak and Dagger spy ever — which causes the Soviet agent he's meeting with to fall in love with him and defect. In a weird way, his Wrong Genre Savviness actually twists the story until he is a superhero in a spy movie.
  • The knights in Monty Python and The Holy Grail tend to act like they are in a standard Arthurian romance, without realising they are in anything from 1) A very low budget Arthurian Romance, 2) A realistic depiction of the dark ages 5) 3) A musical or 4) A modern day Police Procedural.
  • In the 2009 Star Trek, the "new" Kirk assumes that a Romulan from The Future would know what the Enterprise crew will do, so they should be unpredictable. His Vulcan shipmate more accurately recognizes that the Romulan and his ship are a Timeline-Altering MacGuffin, causing a new chain of events (though nonetheless failing to prevent the assemblage of the same Enterprise crew). Later, old-Spock takes advantage of Kirk's ignorance to falsely "imply" that Never the Selves Shall Meet is a rule of this particular Timey-Wimey Ball.
  • My Name Is Bruce has this from two angles: Jeff kidnaps Bruce Campbell, expecting him to be a real-life Badass like Ash, and hoping that he can cure Gold Lick's monster problem. Bruce, on the other hand, is oblivious to the horror because he thinks that the whole thing's a prank.
  • In the opening part of The Dark Knight during the robbery pulled by The Joker's accomplices, we see each individual robber are being killed by a teammate once their job is done. With only two of the robbers left one of them, Grumpy, pulled a gun on his only surviving teammate, Bozo (who turned out to be the Joker himself), telling him that he's probably been told by the Joker to kill him right after he loaded the cash. Bozo corrected him by saying that he was supposed to kill the bus driver. The confused Grumpy demanded, "What Bus Driver?" right before he was killed by an incoming bus running through the bank. It turns out Grumpy was right about him was being killed next, he's just wrong on who would do it.
  • Sam in Tron: Legacy holds the lightcycle baton like a lightsaber.

 Sam: "What's this? What do I do with this?"

Jarvis: "I'll give you a hint ... Not that."

  • Tom in Five Hundred Days of Summer thinks that he's in a romantic comedy where everyone gets their happy endings, you can stand up to people hitting on your girlfriend and knock them out with one punch (when he tries this, the guy gets up right away and kicks his ass), etc. Justified because he's grown up on romantic comedies and confused them with reality (and missed the point of The Graduate). He's in a Deconstruction of a love story.
    • Actually, he is right to believe he is in a romantic comedy. He is just wrong about the girl.
  • Another positive example: what keeps the plot of Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below from being a Tear Jerker is Asuna, who's almost always happy and vigilant despite the relatively large amount whams coming in even early on. Remember that this is coming from the same person who made 5 Centimeters Per Second.
  • Queen Narissa, the antagonist of Enchanted, singlehandedly puts the "decon" in the film's Decon Recon Switch of fairy-tale movies, but fails to recognize the "recon". The one character she can easily handle is Edward, who besides Pip is the only one who lacks Hidden Depths beyond what would be expected of the genre.
  • The priest from Outlander mistakes the moorwen for a demon and tries to exorcise it. The morwren mauls him in the middle of his chant.
  • The Stranger from The Big Lebowski is convinced that he is in a western, and narrates the film as if it were one.


  • Older Than Steam: Don Quixote's madness is a version of this.
  • Sansa Stark begins A Song of Ice and Fire thinking of heroic ballads as the way of the world in a world where it's a wonder they came up with a concept of heroism to write the ballads about. Yeah, the results weren't pretty.
    • Quentyn Martell similarly believes that he's in a straight Heroic Fantasy story, with the added bonus that he thinks he's The Protagonist as well. Viserion and Rhaegal disabuse him of the notion when he tries to heroically tame them and gets burned to death for his trouble.
    • Eddard Stark died due to this.
  • Catherine Morland from Jane Austen's novel Northanger Abbey. She admires a sinister-looking old mansion and, inspired by her Gothic novels, gets the idea that her host has killed his wife. Actually she's in a Regency romance and her love interest, the son of the man she suspects, isn't pleased about her thoughts.
  • Henry Crawford of Austen's Mansfield Park honestly seems to believe he's the Prince Charming character who will marry the Cinderella-esque heroine and rescue her from her depressing life with her neglectful family. Thus, he feels completely confident after she rejects his proposal that they'll still inevitably be married, and both he and his sister still consider the marriage a sure thing. Unfortunately, he's actually the Handsome Lech character who only passes himself off as Prince Charming to seduce women for fun, which he can't give up even after supposedly falling in love with Fanny Price. He came so close to being the romantic hero he wanted to be... and he blew it.
  • Illuminatus! has 00005, a Captain Ersatz for James Bond who's highly genre-savvy for a spy novel, except that he's not in a spy novel but a Cosmic Horror Story instead. And yet somehow manages to be one of the few (only?) characters to have things mostly figured out by the end.
  • Abby Normal in Christopher Moore's You Suck appears to be thoroughly aware that she's in a vampire novel. The problem is that she appears to believe that the aforementioned vampire novel is Twilight.
  • Being a science fiction author, the protagonist of Inferno by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle is completely prepared to deal with an artificial world created and inhabited by Sufficiently Advanced Aliens who have resurrected humans for an elaborate Sadist Show (in a possible Take That at Farmer's Riverworld)... but not exactly prepared to deal with a mythical, supernatural Ironic Hell, which is where he really is.
  • Sir Apropos of Nothing (from the book of the same name by Peter David) is convinced that he is in a heroic tale, and works to seize the protagonistship by sheer force of will. The very idea of an Anti-Hero, and that he's been the protagonist all along, would come as a shock to him. However, the instant he realizes it's his place in life to be the useless sidekick to the local hero-to-be who is fated to receive all good things, he proceeds to heft a rock at the proto-hero's head and take his place.
  • Christopher in Everworld initially seems to believe that not just the fantasy world the heroes have landed in but the real world as well works according to the rules of action movies, and spends a lot of time calculating whether a given person will survive the current crisis. The others all consider him a bit nuts, and he learns better pretty soon.
  • Sybil in The Picture of Dorian Gray believes in the tropes she's learned from Theater, and thinks she is a peasant girl of a fairy tale who gets swept off her feet by Prince Charming and lives Happily Ever After. Unfortunately for her, she's actually the lower class character who gets seduced and abandoned by the evil lord of the manor.
  • Overlapping with Death by Genre Savviness, the Villain Protagonist of Malice Aforethought is knowledgeable of mystery stories and real-life spousal murderers, and aims to commit the perfect murder. What he overlooks, is that everyone else who tried to do this has failed. He also buys into the stereotype of the police as morons, which while often true in Genteel Interbellum Setting fiction, isn't true of the police inspector he encounters.
    • The villain of the Lord Peter Wimsey novel Whose Body? has a similar goal of perfect murder and gets the benefit of dumb police. However, as is lampshaded by the incompetent Inspector Lestrade at the end, brilliant murderers still invariably end up getting caught in mystery novels.
  • Gustave Flaubert's Emma Bovary expects her life to conform to the romance stories she's read. Unfortunately for her, the novel she's in is realistic and rather cynical.
  • In The Turn of the Screw, A. N. Wilson's A Jealous Ghost features an American Ph.D. candidate who decides to pick up some extra cash by working as a wealthy lawyer's nanny. She convinces herself that she's in James' story, which leads to unfortunate results.
  • The Hoard of the Gibbelins by Lord Dunsany, is noteworthy for being a partial case — for instance, the main character manages to convince a dragon to surrender by asking it if it's ever heard of a dragon that won a battle against a hero. When he errs is when, realizing that everyone who's tried a logical plan for robbing the Gibbelins has been defeated, he tries to make a plan that's Crazy Enough to Work, instead getting one that's simply crazy. Final line: "This is one of those stories that do not have a happy ending."
    • Some modern stories, like Dealing With Dragons, Lampshade this by introducing dragons who also only remember their own heroic victories over knights, losses conveniently forgotten.
  • Princess Vivenna of Warbreaker thinks she's The Hero who has to rescue her younger sister Siri from an arranged marriage to an Evil Overlord in a world with Black and White Morality. In fact, she's one major character in what is largely a political intrigue story where Rousseau Is Right but not almost everyone has a hidden agenda of some sort.
  • Featured a number of times in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. The Disc literally runs on stories (and an element called "Narrativium"), and a few characters are at least dimly aware of this, but it's also shown that some types of stories can be hard to tell apart, and even the most deeply-entrenched stories can be warped, twisted, and changed.
  • Miles Vorkosigan falls into this in the novel A Civil Campaign. Throughout the series, he's a masterful Guile Hero who always succeeds through is cleverness, but then he attempts to apply his military strategy to wooing his love interest, despite all of his family and friends trying to warn him that this is a terrible idea. Sure enough, when he proposes, she feels emotionally manipulated and walks out on him.
  • The entire cast of The Westing Game seems to think they're in a murder mystery story with a fabulous inheritance as the prize to the winner. Only Turtle ever realizes they're not.[1]. To be fair to them, they're actively misled about which genre they're operating in in-story.
  • This is actually the basis of the plot in Charles Stross's The Jennifer Morgue, where the Dangerously Genre Savvy villain actually has a magical device that forces the events of his plot to conform to the literary conventions of an Ian Fleming novel. The heroes use this against him; both the villain and the main character assume that the main character is the Bond Expy, when in fact he's been set up as the Bond girl that gets caught in the Bond villain's Evil Lair and must be rescued by the second Agent, the (female) Bond, blindsiding the villain.
    • Furthermore, the villain comes down with a severe case of Genre Blind by the end. The main reason he set up the Bond geas was so that he could smash it at the point where no other outside intelligence could interfere, thus leaving him in full control of his faculties and the elite superspy just another outnumbered foreign agent. But by the end, when he's got his captives held hostage and is monologuing at them rather than just shooting them, he still thinks he's in control.
  • In the Wild Cards novel Card Sharks, Harvey Melmouth, an Ace known as The Librarian, viewed his participation in the Iranian hostage crisis rescue mission as bad adventure fiction, and was thus certain that he wouldn't die. Unfortunately, he turned out to be part of a gritty spy thriller. On the positive side, his failure to take things seriously lead him to cross a street standing straight rather than hunched over like his fellow team member, Jay Ackroyd. As a result, he was the taller target and was thus the guy who got shot in an ambush, ensuring that the mission critical teleporter wasn't taken out and thereby saving most of the remaining team when things went completely FUBAR.
  • Centerburg Tales: More Adventures of Homer Price by Robert McCloskey includes a story about a mysterious old man who has spent twenty years alone in the mountains inventing a humane musical mousetrap. The Centerburg residents are impressed with his similarity to a storybook character and, once the librarians determine the most fitting one, refer to him patronizingly as Rip Van Winkle. It isn't until all the children in Centerburg are following his musical mousetrap out of town that they realize he's a lot more like The Pied Piper of Hamelin.
  • In John Hemry's A Just Determination, Jen warns Paul against this, because he's obviously read too many books about a Knight in Shining Armor.
  • In Dorothy L. Sayers's Have His Carcase, Harriet notes that in all the detective novels, the villain tells the victim to bring the letter with him, to ensure (from the villain's POV) that it's destroyed, and (from the author's POV) that it's not completely destroyed and right there for the hero to find. They conclude that the murderers must have said that because the books do — and it serves the same purpose, because they didn't realize why the authors did it.
  • The Saga of Darren Shan: In the first book, after Madame Octa bites Steve Leonard, Darren Shan attempts to obtain the antidote from Larten Crepsley. When he refuses, Darren threatens him with a cross and holy water. That's when he learns that these vampires are a far cry from the ones he's read so much about, which Crepsley brutally lampshades.

Crepsley: You know what I love? I love people who watch lots of horror movies and read horror books. Because they believe what they read and hear, and come packing silly things like crosses and holy water, instead of weapons which could do some damage, like guns and hand grenades.


Crepsley: You know what I love? I love people who watch lots of horror movies and read horror books. Because they believe what they read and hear, and come packing silly things like crosses and holy water, instead of weapons which could do some damage, like guns and hand grenades.

Crepsley: You know what I love? I love people who watch lots of horror movies and read horror books. Because they believe what they read and hear, and come packing silly things like crosses and holy water, instead of weapons which could do some damage, like guns and hand grenades.

  • The root of Sophie's major problems in Howl's Moving Castle is that she thinks she is genre savvy enough to know that being the eldest of three children she will be doomed to a boring life without glamour or success. As such she completely fails to see that she is an extremely potent witch with the ability to ensure a happy ending for herself as well as everyone around her.
  • The Dragaera novel Athyra is told from the perspective of Savn, a Teckla peasant training to be a "physicker". Savn is definitely aware of narrative conventions, as part of a physicker's job is knowing stories to tell patients to distract them from the pain of medical treatment. From Savn's perspective, Vlad is the stock fantasy mentor character, a mysterious and kind of strange character who shows up in the hero's backwater town and introduces them to adventure. Unfortunately for Savn, he's not a character in a straight Heroic Fantasy: he's in a Black and Gray Morality Dungeon Punk series, and Vlad's the protagonist, not him. Needless to say, Savn doesn't get a happy ending.
  • Done hilariously in a short story from The Dresden Files. Harry is trying to deal with a great deal of hilarity which is in the process of ensuing when a group of teenagers show up at his house in goth clothes and Slytherin scarves. Their leader informs Harry that he, Harry Dresden, has earned their wrath for removing a curse they put on some old lady and to prepare himself to suffer the consequences. Harry informs them he didn't even notice the curse and just did the exorcism to make her feel better, then pulls a gun on them.
    • Arguably, in a story in Side Jobs, Billy the Werewolf thought he was the protagonist in a 'werewolf action story' in dealing with John Marcone, only to discover he was in fact a Worf. Marcone was unimpressed by his werewolf powers and made it clear that he would either sit down and shut up, or die. He wasn't bluffing.
      • Arguably, in the early The Dresden Files stories, Karrin Murphy thought she was the star of a police procedural that happened to include magical phenomena, when she was in fact the Wizards's Plucky Sidekick.
      • Harry's eventual apprentice Molly Carpenter seems to think she's the plucky young heroine who can get away with anything on her wit and natural talents. Harry has to forcibly remind her on several occasions that she's in an Anyone Can Die horror series, and he is not the kindly, easily-forgiving mentor she thinks he is before she gets the picture. She also thinks that she's in a Rescue Romance. Harry pours some cold water on that idea. Literally.
    • In Proven Guilty, Harry meets a vampire, and they immediately start trading veiled threats. At one point, Harry threatens to expose the vampire, who laughs in his face. He assumes that he's in a typical Urban Fantasy where The Masquerade must be upheld at all costs, and Harry wouldn't dare telling "vanilla" mortals about vampires. He is rather deflated when Harry points out that he's listed in the Yellow Pages under "Wizards."
  • In the Agatha Christie novel Easy to Kill, one of the female characters, Brigit, wanders off on her own. When Luke, the main character, finds her, he warns her to be more careful because he doesn't want her to get killed. Brigit says that it's okay, because the heroine is never killed in these types of stories. Luke objects, not because This Is Reality, but because he doesn't believe that Brigit is the heroine. She is. Luke is the one who was Wrong Genre Savvy.. A similar example occurs in another Christie mystery, Crooked House, where a young girl tries to fake a near death experience by setting up a statue to fall on her head when she walked through a certain door. When one of the other characters says that she could have easily been killed for real, the detective points out that it probably didn't occur to her because she thought she was the heroine, and the heroine never dies.
    • Another Agatha Christie novel 'The ABC Murders' features characters who fail to solve the mystery because they believe they're in a serial killer novel. They're not. The killer is a regular killer who killed his brother for the inheritance..and killed a few more people to make it look like a serial killer
  • A Ruth Rendell short story featured an old woman who thought she was in a Little Old Lady Investigates story. She was right in that she was in a crime story, wrong in that Ruth Rendell does not write that sort of crime story.
  • In Three Bags Full, a detective story which features a flock of anthropomorphic Irish sheep out to solve the murder of their shepherd, Heidi and other sheep are convicted that they are in a romance novel. Of course, the only thing they know about humans is the novels that their shepherd used to read them, so it's not quite surprising from them.
  • The Witcher Saga is full of people who think the world works like in more conventional fantasy or fairy tale — and they are proven to be very wrong. Some of the early stories for example featured a party gathered to hunt a dragon, which included a Knight in Shining Armor acting pretty much as though he were in classic fairy tales where pure heart and honor always prevail and the world is defined by Black and White morality but people like wizards and witches can always abandon their vile ways, a wizard who wanted to protect monsters because they are rare, dying species and a shoemaker who thought this is classic Polish fairy tale of shoemaker killing a dragon with poisoned stuffed lamb, and he is the main character. The story ended badly or at least humiliating for all of them. One of later novels has a young, idealistic boy who enlists because he believed in propaganda proclaiming upcoming war to be "Great War to End All Wars" (compare with Real Life example about World War One below). Before he even started to learn that War Is Hell, he got mocked pretty hard by everybody. Someone even showed him a fat prostitute and said that yes, this is a whore, and yes, she is big, maybe even great, but she certainly is not Great Whore to End All Whores.
    • Dandelion. In one story he summoned a Genie in a Bottle and immediately started saying his wishes, only to find out that he does not meet the requirements necessary to have a genie grant you a wish, and that genies hate to be bossed around and try to kill anybody who tries to make a wish, even if he cannot force them to grant it. In another he heard about a prince and mermaid who had fallen in love and expected things to turn out like in a poem he wanted to write, that was exactly like Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid. When the mermaid in question objected upon being turned into a human because if prince really loved her then why he won't change into a triton, Dandelion decided to ignore this and write that his version happened and when she changed her mind and turned into human a her first words were to call Dandelion an idiot for thinking she lost her voice.
    • Geralt himself has his moments. In the first novel he is advocating keeping True Neutral stance in a conflict between humans and elves only to get shown how wrong he is and admitting it himself. In fact, this is how he bonded his destiny with Ciri's - he helped a cursed knight to undo his curse and marry the princess he was promised to on the basis of fairty tale-like deal with her father. Geral joked that in return he demands from knight something he already has but don't know about it. Then they both found out that princess carry knight's child, which is now promised to Geralt. And when he decided to break the deal and not take the kid, things went down pretty badly.
  • In Avalon High, Ellie thinks she's The Lady of Shalott (since the kid's names seemed to mirror their Arthurian counterparts), but she's actually the Lady of the Lake.

Live Action TV

  • Alex Drake from Ashes to Ashes is an especially interesting case: having been aware of Sam Tyler's experience, she thinks she's starring in Life On Mars. Of course since Ashes To Ashes is the sequel to Life on Mars some of what she thinks is right, and some isn't.
  • In the American version of The Office, Michael Scott often attempts to be Genre Savvy about real life, much to the confusion of the rational people around him.
    • Dwight Shrute often treats real life as if it were a different genre of fiction. He treats the threat of layoffs as if he were participating in a competitive reality TV show like Survivor, keeps hidden weapons as though violent attacks were imminent, and a robbery plan that would be Genre Savvy if he existed in a crime thriller.
      • Also, he uses the vampire tropes when he thinks Jim was bitten by a bat (sharpened stake,etc). In fact, Jim's pranks use this a lot, like the way he recruited Dwight to the CIA.

 Jim: I discovered that Dwight placed a listening bug in the wooden duck he gave me. I think that if I play my cards right, I can have him replay the plot of National Treasure.

    • Michael usually goes with comedy or romantic wrong genre tropes, such as muttering something under his breath so that the microphone picks up while the other characters don't hear it. They always hear it and call him out on whatever he just muttered. When he has to do anything resembling spy or infiltration movies (such as spying on a competing paper company), he assumes a thinly-veiled variation on his own name such as "Michael Scotch" or his recurring "Agent Michael Scarn" character.
  • In the Torchwood episode "Countrycide," the team investigates a series of killings by predatory aliens. They don't know that aliens had nothing to do it. A clan of cannibalistic Serial Killers committed the murders.
  • Arthur in Merlin believes that he is the main character, any Monster of the Week can be defeated with his sword, Merlin is just his dumb sidekick, and his Knight Templar father has the right idea overall in trying to eliminate all wizards and witches.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus occasionally features an army colonel who comes so very close to being genuinely Genre Savvy. He knows he's in a comedy sketch show all right. Unfortunately he doesn't realise which one, and so he thinks that sketches should have clearly-defined jokes in them, with vaguely plausible premises, and punchlines. As a result he calls an end to many a sketch which he considers to be far too silly, generally to provide at least some kind of closure to a sketch that is, frankly, totally off the rails by the time he appears with no stopping place in sight.
  • In the It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode "The Gang Solves the Gas Crisis," the characters try to figure out a Five-Man Band configuration which, if they stick to it, will lead to their inevitable success. This being Sunny, it obviously fails miserably.
  • Maxwell Smart once did this in an episode of Get Smart. He was kidnapped by KAOS and hypnotised to kill the Chief, put in a cell, and left to escape. Every time the KAOS agents tried to help him, he misinterpreted it as an attempt to kill him.
  • In an episode of Friends, Joey receives a visit from an unhinged, obsessed fan. Anticipating violence, he grabs a frying pan. Chandler suggests that he comes up with a backup plan in case she isn't a cartoon character.

 Joey: I'm not Drake.

Ross: That's right, he's not Drake, he's Hans Remore, Drake's evil twin.

Erika Ford (Stalker): Is this true?

Rachel: Yes, yes it is true. And I know this because... because he pretended to be Drake too, to sleep with me.

[Rachel throws water in his face]

Monica: And then he told me he would run away with me, and he didn't.

[Monica throws water in his face]

Chandler: And you left the toilet seat up, you bastard.

[Chandler throws water in his face]

  • Flight of the Conchords had a weird example when Bret tried to woo a woman with techniques he'd seen in a sitcom. Now, Bret is in a sitcom, but he did stuff that never works even in sitcoms. At one point, Jemaine asks whether what Bret is planning on doing worked in the sitcom he saw it in. Bret says that it didn't, but as this is real life, his chances are better.
  • In the last episode of Firefly, Wash gives us this exchange:

 Wash: Psychic, though? That sounds like something out of science fiction.

Zoe: You live in a spaceship, dear.

Wash: So?

    • Crow was convinced that he was the recurring Dragon to Niska, who would face the heroes as a recurring enemy. Nope.
  • Lost: Although Hurley usually fills the role of the Genre Savvy, he sometimes ends up wrong as well. Early on, he feared a body he was burying would rise as a zombie, killing him first because he weighed too much to run quickly. He was wrong. Years later, one of his friends did rise from the dead, and many others visited him as ghosts, but by that time, the show itself has shifted genres.
  • In the short-lived NBC series Something Is Out There, the female alien Ta'Ra is constantly puzzled by her human partner saying things like "Where's the Self-Destruct Mechanism on this spaceship?" and "Can't you set that raygun on stun?"
  • Contestants on Hells Kitchen will use the usual Reality Show tropes such as alliances, sabotage, and backstabbing... while apparently forgetting that the man they're trying to please is Gordon Ramsay, who has repeatedly ignored the "standard" rules and eliminated whoever he felt like despite all the Survivor-style plotting, usually while reprimanding the perpetrators for thinking they're clever.
  • Likewise, in The Apprentice contestants will often try to rig the boardroom in their favor by bringing back the person that they intend to get fired, along with whoever was the strongest person on their team — or even someone that has immunity from being fired — in an attempt to manipulate the boss into firing the other person. This strategy almost never works.
    • In The Celebrity Apprentice 2, Scott Hamilton actually told Donald Trump that he had brought back Tom Green, who he wanted to be fired, and Herschel Walker because he thought that Walker probably wouldn't be fired and would support him in getting rid of Green. Honesty was most definitely not the best policy here though, as this revelation led pretty much directly to Hamilton's firing.
    • This strategy actually did work for Ivana in the second regular season of The Apprentice, albeit in a completely different manner to what she intended. She brought back Stacie, who was her intended victim, along with Bradford and Jennifer, who had been the best two salespeople in the task, thinking that this would result in Stacie's firing. Her original strategy failed, because Trump didn't think Stacie had caused the team to lose, but Ivana was saved by the fact that Bradford had stupidly decided to surrender his immunity (which he claimed he didn't need) earlier in the boardroom, resulting in Trump firing him instead.
  • Castle: While Richard Castle's Genre Savvy skills are often an asset to his crime fighting, he also likes to play with being Wrong Genre Savvy. In one recent example, he acts as though he's in a vampire show instead of a They Fight Crime procedural:

 Castle: Whoa, whoa, whoa!

Lanie: What is wrong?

Castle: If he's a vampire and you pull that [stake] out, he comes back to life!

Lanie: If he does, then we can all go home early.

  • When Sisko was trying to catch the rogue officer Eddington in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, he realised that Eddington saw himself as a heroic figure for the Maquis, which Eddington pretty much confirmed by likening himself to Jean Valjean in Les Misérables. Sisko ended up having to become genre savvy himself and forced Eddington to become a martyr for his beliefs.
    • Edith Keeler thinks she's on a utopian, anti-war science fiction show. Unfortunately, her episode was guest written by Harlan Ellison, and applying Star Trek ideals there doesn't work.
      • The in-universe explanation is that she had the right idea with her utopian, anti-war ideals... but in the wrong time, leading to it all going horribly wrong.
  • Ant, a moderately good singer, brought his brother, Seb, an utterly hopeless singer to the pre-auditions of The X Factor, with Seb's terrible performance ensuring they'd get to the actual judges. The duo hoped that the judges would just put through Ant, as they had often done with groups with only one good singer; unfortunately that year the show started only putting through groups as a whole and not individual members, stopping the plan dead in its tracks.
  • On an episode of The Avengers, a famous bullfighter sees a cart rolling toward him and, assuming that his skills are being tested, whips out his cape. It turns out he's right that the cart was sent against him by the villain but wrong about how it's going to kill him.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Musical Episode "Once More With Feeling". The person who tries to change the town's genre to a happy musical. Turns out people are dancing themselves to death. Oops.
    • Relatedly, when Jonathan turns himself into the main character, actually forcing the show itself to shift from a horror-spoof to an over the top action-spoof at the same time. This means that he actively chose to be Wrong Genre Savvy, then forced the genre to change to suit him. Surprisingly, it works out for most of the episode, before he has to give it up to stop the monster of the week.
    • Anya says to Xander (paraphrased) "If you're ever thinking of leaving me, I want it to be like one of those movies where the bomb is counting down, and at one second to go I cut the wire and you don't leave." Wrong genre savvy since this is a Joss Whedon production, so the 'bomb' goes off at the most tragic possible time.
    • In a season 4 episode, Willow falls out with Buffy when Buffy attempts to instruct her on the course of action, claiming "I'm not your Sidekick!" despite her clearly being so.
    • The Trio are an example of this trope; they attempt to be stereotypical comic book supervillains inside a story that's more nuanced and mature than that. The season 7 episode "Storyteller" is about confronting Andrew with this fact.
    • In a conversation with Angel, Spike once mentions "the old Anne Rice routine" — telling a woman you're a vampire, convincing her you're a tortured soul who only wants to overcome your curse and be good, then eating her when she lets her guard down.
  • The eponymous Remington Steele is a classic movie buff, and every case he and Laura Holt solve together reminds him of a classic movie. Often the wrong one...
  • A recurring sketch in The Armstrong And Miller Show features a butler who thinks he's in a Jeeves and Wooster-esque Edwardian comedy of manners, except that his Upperclass Twit boss is less of a Dogged Nice Guy getting into amusing misunderstandings, and more of a Soap Opera-style Magnificent Bastard who needs someone to hide the bodies.
  • In the Stargate SG-1 episode "Bad Guys", SG-1 accidentally take a bunch of hostages in an alien museum, and find themselves having to continue playing the role of terrorists until they can get the Stargate open again. Unfortunately, they also end up convincing the incompetent night watchman that he's just become the hero of a Die Hard on an X movie...
  • On the reality show Chef Academy, the chefs can be "eliminated" if they fail three tests over the course of the academy. It's made clear that it's perfectly possible that the entire class could graduate. Unfortunately, some of the chefs have seen too much reality TV, leading them to inexplicably act like they're on a competitive elimination show (a la Hell's Kitchen). At one point, one of the chefs actually says, "It's like I'm the only one who understands that this is a competition!" It's really not.
  • Abed, usually anything but this trope, but in the Community episode English as a Second Language he thinks Troy's subplot is inspired by Good Will Hunting. It isn't; it's a parody of Good Will Hunting.
  • Magnum, P.I.: An old enemy of Higgins has a habit of setting up complicated schemes based on classic movies, so Magnum spends most of the episode trying to figure out what movie he's supposed to be in, eventually settling on the 40s serial Perils Of Nyoka. The viewers knew it was Raiders of the Lost Ark from the very first scene. This whole episode was an Actor Allusion to Tom Selleck being Spielberg and Lucas's first choice for playing Indiana Jones, but he had to turn it down because of his commitment to do Magnum.
    • A clip from Tom Selleck's audition is included in the special features of the Raiders of the Lost Ark boxset, proving that Selleck would have made a damn fine Indiana Jones.
  • On Heroes, Hiro Nakamura lives his life as though he lives in The Silver Age of Comic Books. Unfortunately, the world he lives in is much, much closer to The Dark Age of Comic Books. As a result, the single most powerful character in the show spends much of each season holding the Idiot Ball.
  • Clark Kent spends the first few seasons of Smallville thinking he's in a teen drama when he's really a superhero.
  • Sansa Stark of Game of Thrones. If she really lived in an idealized fairytale romance, she'd be just fine. But she actually lives in a Crapsack World with Black and Grey Morality where Anyone Can Die, and her inability to see that leads to her father's death.
  • In Primeval a zoo keeper who has secretly raised a Smilodon, thought that the crew from Home Office cloned it and are trying kill it. But they are there to capture the beast, and try to put it back from where it came. She ends getting killed by it when she though it won't attack her, as it would view her as its mother.
  • Who Wants to Be a Superhero: Harder to be a superhero than it looks, isn't it?
  • Supernatural the Winchesters are protecting a family in a house from a lady called, the "Lady in the Walls", at first they assume she was a ghost, but she is in fact an Ax Crazy deranged human who has spent her entire life living under the house.
  • In Torchwood the team is investigating mysterious disappearances on a road, and both Tosh and Ianto up disappearing as well, waking up in a cellar of some sort. They, being paranormal investigators, assume it's aliens. Turns out it was just normal crazy people.

Puppet Shows

  • This Swedish Chef sketch has two Wrong Genre Savvy talking pumpkins. They try to use Briar Patching, advising the Chef to use increasingly bizarre/dangerous implements to smash them, on the assumption that he won't have them. However, this is the Swedish Chef we're talking about, who can always pull a sizable arsenal out of Hammerspace.


  • The basis of The Phil Hendrie Show, which appears on the surface to be a rather standard AM radio call-in talk show, albeit with some notably off-the-wall guests. It's customary for such shows to allow listeners to call in to give the host and guest a piece of their mind; and given the extreme craziness of the guests, the callers get pretty vociferous. However, despite the hourly disclaimers that the whole thing is a put-on, the callers fail to realize that the "guests" are actually fictional creations of voice actor Hendrie, and that they are the butts of what is essentially a prank phone call in reverse. If they even manage to notice that the host and guest sound rather alike, they are too deep in their Debate and Switch, Insane Troll Logic argument to get out.

Tabletop Games


 GM: You wake up in your apartment. You hear heavy steps on the stairs.

Player: I put my clothes on.

GM: They must be some sort of police assault squad, coming for you.

Player: I wash and shave.

GM: They're pounding on the door!

Player: I open.

GM: [ends the game]

  • Also worth noting is the uh oh moment when you design your character under the assumption that the game is going to be a certain genre and then find that you have made a character completely unequipped to get by in the gamemaster's world. This is especially a risk in universal systems such as GURPS, where literally any character conceivable can be made, requiring the GM to be very clear about the ground rules of his/her universe, or else tragic mismatches can ensue.
  • In Traveller, during the Interstellar Wars the Vilani Imperium had been deliberately clogged with Obstructive Bureaucrats to prevent change even if the change meant technical advance. This is a seemingly stupid idea but It Makes Sense in Context. You see, long ago the Vilani had conquered every single power around and rearranged the universe exactly the way they wanted. With no outside threat the only danger was civil war. If they could make their imperium run on autopilot the danger of that could be minimized. The problem was that this only made sense when there was no outside threat. Unfortunately the Vilani discovered a Barbarian Tribe from a certain Insignificant Little Blue Planet, which had different ideas about such matters...
  • In Unknown Armies, some characters (specifically television-obsessed Videomancers) can actually use Wrong Genre Savvy to their own advantage: a Significant formula spell from that school, called 'Laff Riot', literally replaces reality's normal rules with the conventions of a situation comedy ... "reality", here, being defined as the brutal and unforgiving harshness of a self-identified postmodern horror role-playing game of power and consequences wherein foolish characters often have the life expectancy of goldfish. The spell lasts only seconds in a fight or a few minutes outside of combat, but while in effect, all gunshots miss (including critical successes) and no physical damage from any source can exceed 5 points (approximately 1/10th of the average human's hit points). Targets of any attacks are, however, often subject to hilarious and humiliating pratfalls, like the suggested result of winding up hanging by the seat of your pants from a fire escape, flailing helplessly. Wrong Genre Savvy applies again when the spell wears off, of course, and people are once again free to plummet to their death.
  • Fair Folk in Exalted derive a lot of their horror from the fact that they're incapable of understanding that reality is more than just a melodrama of roles to be enjoyed and passions to be savored, and that all the human 'actors' in their stories are mortal and sentient.
  • Too much Talecrafting in Changeling: The Lost can cause a changeling to fall prey to this and his or her perceptions are warped to perceive everything as part of a fairy tale.
  • Hunter: The Vigil doesn't get to make more than one chance at being wrong genre savvy before the vampire the hunters thought was dead in sunlight comes up behind them for the killing blow.


  • Rodrigo of Othello fits this on two levels. He thinks he's the rake protagonist who seduces the pretty young wife of an old man, but he's actually more like a Casanova Wannabe-type who gets conned by the conniving servant. Making things worse is that he's in a tragedy, not a comedy, and the conniving servant is Iago.
  • Lampshaded in Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods — when the Baker's Wife is being seduced by Cinderella's Prince, she sings, "This is ridiculous, what am I doing here, I'm in the wrong story..."
    • The Narrator suffers from this worse. He thought he was in a classic fairy tale and his job was to tell the story from the safe side of a thick fourth wall.
  • In Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Anthony thinks that he's the hero who rescues the beautiful maiden who's been locked in a tower by an evil old man. Unfortunately, he's in a Stephen Sondheim musical ...
  • In the 18th century play Nathan the Wise, Nathan's servant Daya is reasonably savvy of the "Columbine" role in commedia del'arte and thus sees it as her duty to find a mate for Nathan's daughter. However, the young crusader that Daya tries to fix up with the daughter turns out to be the daughter's long-lost brother. In commedia del'arte, this kind of Contrived Coincidence is fairly common, so you could say that the guy would either be the love interest or the long-lost brother, and Daya made the wrong conclusion. There's also an aspect that although Daya knows that Nathan is a nice guy, she has antisemitic prejudices, and thus tends to act like the play she is in is The Merchant of Venice.
  • Polonius in Hamlet thinks he's in a Star-Crossed Lovers comedy, where every problem is caused by unrequited love and can be solved with eavesdropping. Unfortunately for him, he's in a revenge tragedy. As with Rodrigo, he fits a commedia del'arte stock character who happens to be in a tragedy (Rodgrigo is a Captain/Miles Gloriosus type, and Polonius is the Pantalone/Dottore character).
  • Deconstructed with Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet, who doesn't realise he's in a romantic comedy, and winds up derailing the plot into a tragedy with his killing of Mercutio.
  • A large fraction of the characters in Little Shop of Horrors are Wrong Genre Savvy. The main character, Seymour, and his employer Mr. Mushnik, think they're in a rags-to-riches story. Seymour's love interest, Audrey, thinks she's in a romance. Orin seems to think that he's a Bastard Boyfriend, or perhaps the player character of a videogame.
  • In Cromwell by Victor Hugo, Rochester, one of the men who conspires against Cromwell, thinks he's in a romance, and that his forbidden love with Cromwell's daughter will prevail. Unfortunately for him, he's in a political drama and she never noticed that he existed.

Video Games

  • Sain from Fire Emblem acts as though he's the knight in shining armor in a fantasy story, forgetting that he's trapped in an RPG, leading to getting hit with an ax a few times in order to explain how Sain wasn't following the game mechanics.
    • Shin Megami Tensei V: When Aogami first meets Amanozako, he believes her to be an evil demon underneath her cute appearance. But it turns out she truly is cute and innocent as she looks. She shows a darker side during a full moon, but since she isn’t self-aware at the time, she is truly benevolent at heart. This is not always the case though. While Amanozako wasn’t feigning kindness to prey on the player, the player later encounters a demon that does act friendly and compassionate to manipulate his human victim, the demon named Lahmu. Aogami knows that power comes at a price, and that power in question is the demon summoning program. He explains that if the player interacts with demons long enough, they’ll start to become like demons themselves. Given that Hayatoro (a wolf demon) is firmly on the hero’s side, this is not always a bad thing. But the horrors that this implies are made all too clear when Sahori interacts with Lahmu, and then follows his advice to murder her two bullies in a terrifying vengeance.
  • Balthier of Final Fantasy XII constantly refers to himself as "the leading man." Though he never admits it, he's "actually more of a supporting role" which is similarly mentioned in his appearance in the Final Fantasy Tactics remake.
    • Despite that, his Genre Savvyness does not fail him when he needs it most when doing stupidly dangerous and heroic at the game's climax. "You know what they say about the leading man? He never dies." When confronted with the fact that he's actually a supporting character, Balthier rejects such pessimism out of hand. He doesn't die.
    • Seifer of Final Fantasy VIII at one point declares his and Squall's roles to be, respectively, the heroic Knight and the evil mercenary. Later, having finally realized that the Big Bad has been using his aspirations toward knighthood to manipulate him, he declares himself a "young revolutionary" instead, although by that point he's less Wrong Genre Savvy and more just plain in denial.
    • It's ultimately subverted by Snow in Final Fantasy XIII: his conviction that he is The Hero in an idealistic setting where determination and a just cause will see him through any setbacks seems woefully out of place throughout the first two thirds of the game, and causes more cynical characters like Lightning and Hope no end of frustration. By the final battle, however, he proves to have been entirely right about everything except his own role in the party.
    • Zack at the start of Crisis Core displays this with a mix of Genre Blindness. He initially seems to think he's just a straight up hero and doesn't get how cynical the world he's in is. The Genre Blindness comes from not getting that Shinra is evil, or Professor Hojo is heartless sociopath despite him constantly locking you in a room with monsters For Science!.
  • We can't forget about Captain Gordon, Defender of Earth!! who appears to be entirely unaware that he's not the main character until Laharl teaches him otherwise. Hard.
    • Despite how it may seem to some, Mao is right on the money. In the good ending he does win, its just that he fails to realize that he's at the beginning of his story, and needs to go through The Hero's Journey before he can beat the Big Bad.
      • Flonne makes the same mistake about once a chapter in the first game. Apparently magical girl and tokusatsu shows are the only thing on in Celestia...
      • Flonne is however right when assuming that demons aren't evil, and that her being around Laharl will cause him to turn good.
    • Aurum actually invokes the trope upon realizing that he's become the Big Bad.
    • Adell in Disgaea 2 Cursed Memories assumes that he's a hero saving the world from the Evil Overlord Zenon, since he's wasn't affected by Zenon's curse that turns everyone in his world into monsters. He's mostly right, but the real reason Zenon's curse didn't affect him is because he was born a demon.
    • Fuka in Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten believes her being the underworld is All Just a Dream, and refuses to acknowledge that she is in fact dead. This does unlock her full potential though.
    • Asagi does this throughout the franchise, as an ever escalating in-joke. She started as test character for a canceled game, and developed into an unlockable character whose shtick is to believe she's the main character and try to take over. Though at this point she appears to just be insane.
  • Ryotaro Dojima of Persona 4 is remarkably intelligent and prescient regarding a number of plot points in the game, such as discovering that Mitsuo is a copycat killer, how the victims are selected, and even the player's involvement, but his skills would be far more in tuned with a standard Police Procedural or whodunnit, not an Urban Fantasy.
  • The Elder Scrolls Oblivion does this to the player. One of the early contracts for the Fighter's Guild has you going to a batty old woman's house to take care of a "rat problem" in her basement. However, unlike beginner rat-based missions from other RPGs, your job is to save the rats from mountain lions that have gotten into the old woman's basement. It makes sense in context, trust me.
    • This is actually an in-joke — the first FG mission in Morrowind does involve slaying rats for an identical-looking woman in Balmora, who shares her surname.
    • Which is dating back as far as Daggerfall, where the first FG mission is also a rat-killing one.
      • Which also has Fighter's Guild missions that involve killing beasts such as lions in the client's house.
    • There's a nod to it in Fallout 3, by the same developers wherin there's an optional quest to save the Vault bully's mom from Radroaches during your escape.
  • Midori of Devil Survivor convinces herself that she's some sort of hero of justice once she gets her hands on a COMP that lets her summon demons, and that the power of love always prevails over evil. How wrong is she? So wrong that she will get herself killed by an angry mob looking for a scapegoat if you don't make the right decisions.
    • What's really funny is that she gets a monster convinced it's a Magical Girl Warrior show too! And play your cards right, the same monster reappears as the Badass Black Frost — doing the hero of justice shtick for the other demons
  • Bang Shishigami, HAMMER OF JUSTICE, thinks he's in a shonen anime. It shows. Seriously, one of his win quotes is "Tune in next week!"
  • Eversion manages to pull this off on the player. The game goes from a Sugar Bowl to horror surprisingly quickly. And then manages to end cute (if in a way a Nightmare Fetishist would enjoy) in the secret ending anyway.
  • In Mana Khemia, Flaya thinks he's in a Masked Superhero show instead of the Alchemy School Ontological Mystery RPG that it is. It allowed him to do some Crazy Awesome things up to convincing a Tournament Referee to replace his partner!
  • In the Professor Layton games, Inspector Chelmey acts like he's the main character and that Layton is the arrogant rival that tries to stop him from solving the crime by looking after an answer is found. In reality, Layton is the main character and Chelmey is the arrogant rival who instantly follows the first instinct he has.
  • Subterranean Animism, despite being a Shoot'Em Up, has one scenario which player character Marisa spends discussing in terms of RPG tropes, eventually getting her Mission Control Alice in on it too. Topics include whether a cave would have numbered floors (it apparently does), justification for ransacking houses (which Marisa would probably do anyway), and the necessity of talking to townspeople for hints (in a game where everything that isn't your character is an enemy), just for starters. Surprisingly, it doesn't slow them down for a second.
  • In Dragon Age Origins, King Cailan establishes himself as a great admirer of the Grey Wardens, and expresses his eagerness to fight alongside them to defeat the darkspawn like in all the stories he has read. Unfortunately for Cailan, Dragon Age is not that kind of fantasy.
    • Anybody who has read A Song of Ice and Fire and is aware that it was a great influence in this game will dub King Cailan "King Redshirt III" after hearing him speak for about 10 seconds.
  • In Dragon Age II, Cassandra Pentaghast adamantly tries between narrations to pin the blame of all the events of the game on a Big Bad. There is none. Varric even says that Meredith, corrupted by the Artifact of Doom, was irrelevant.
  • Eddie Riggs of Brutal Legend approaches the game from the perspective of a Heavy Metal roadie. This sometimes works — as he ends up in a place and time that runs on The Power of Rock — but other times, it falls squarely into this trope; for instance, he's the lead character and The Chosen One, but his immediate inclination is to assume he's supposed to play Hypercompetent Sidekick. Which is understandable, because even in a world like that, Eddie believes that he's the best roadie, and nothing more. In the end, he makes that work, because "I'm a roadie! I keep the trash off the stage!" Cue DECAPITATIOOOOOOOOOONN!
  • Strong Bad constantly hopes that Strong Bads Cool Game for Attractive People is an action game, instead of a point-and-clicker.
  • Zoey from Left 4 Dead, she's becomes a bit frustrated that the "zombies" aren't shamblers, but are instead violently insane people who can run, climb ladders, scale fences, etc.

  "I can't get over how fast they all are, it's not even fair. I'm calling zombie bull---- on that, you know? [Giggles nervously] They're not...allowed to be so fast."

    • Worse than that, the The Sacrifice comic reveals that her wrong-genre-savvy-ness led her to mistakenly Mercy Kill her father after he was bitten. She has something of a Heroic BSOD when she finds out he was actually immune to infection like her.
      • Of course, that WAS before Zoey knew she was immune herself. Plus, she just learned before the flashback that it was transmitted from the father's side, so...Not really her fault.
    • Most of the Survivors believe themselves to be people who are immune to the "outbreak", which they are. Unfortunatly whatever agent that causes the outbreak is still within them, making them "carriers" who would unintentionally spread the disease to everyone they came in contact with.
  • The Citadel Council in Mass Effect seem to think they're in a political thriller. They're wrong.
    • Oh, they are. It's just that they are in one that is driven along by the impending destruction of all advanced organic life by horrific mechanical creatures from the beyond.
    • They could be subverting a trope. At first glance, they do seem to fit it. On the other hand, they are the source of most of the intelligence the player needs to track Saren, most importantly Virmire, where they dispatched a Salarian espionage team specifically to track Saren.
  • Okami has a few imp merchants in some of the dungeons. They have no qualms about selling Amaterasu weapons and equipment, even though they must suspect she's going to use them to defeat their fellow Imps and their boss. Someone should tell these guys that this isn't a Gaming and Sports Anime And Manga about shopping.
    • Actually they are genre-savvy, they're taking "revenge" on her! They know that Amaterasu is going around massacring them, but what's a single cowardly imp going to do against a goddess. So they convince themselves that they're landing a few hits on her by taking her hard-earned cash in exchange for items.
  • To make a long story short, in Mega Man Legends, humanity assumed AI Is a Crapshoot, and prepared accordingly. Turns out, no, the AI was perfectly fine, but the preparations ended up making humanity look like Abusive Precursors.
  • Most of the cast of Tales of Symphonia initially believe themselves to be escorting Collete on her journey to revive their dying world and seal off an evil army called the Desians. Fairly soon they find a girl from a parallel world Sheena, and that both worlds are vying for each others mana and they most likely can't save both of them, but they keep their hopes up and try anyways. Then comes the Wham! Episode moment that is tradition for the series, they find the angels that were setting up the whole thing are evil and are in league with the Desians, and they actually can save both worlds.
  • In the Elder Wars of Lusternia, Amberle was this. Being Purity Personified and reaching out to your enemies sense of kindness doesn't work so well, when you're in a Crapsack World and the foes are Cosmic Horrors. She dies pretty much instantly.
  • In Tomb Raider Anniversary, Pierre runs off with a piece of the Scion with Lara in hot pursuit. The statues outside of the tomb come to life and focus their attention on Pierre. Pierre then throws the Scion to Lara, thinking the monsters will go after her instead of him since she has the Scion. He gets attacked and killed by the monsters anyway.
  • Played painfully straight in Zoey's back story in the comic version of Left 4 Dead. Zoey's mother becomes an infected and attacks Zoey's father, who then kills her out of self defense. Realizing he is bitten by a zombie and he knows everything about zombies in the movies, he assumes to be infected and asks Zoey to kill him before he turns. Zoey tearfully does so, but in a few week's time, she discovers that her father had the carrier gene, which meant he would not have mutated anyway. Zoey collapses in tears after realizing that killing her father was a major mistake.

Visual Novels

  • Taiga Fujimura from Fate Stay Night seems to think she is the protective mother/older sister of a romantic comedy for Shirou, (as evidence by her objections to Saber and Rin staying at the Emiya home in Fate Route) but she is, in fact, dead wrong, especially when she gets shown the exit door to allow more serious discussions.
  • Umineko no Naku Koro ni - Good news: Rudolf is enough of an old Western buff to have gotten to know how to use a lever-action shotgun to massacre the rival siblings on the island. Bad news: he's in a mystery novel and forgets to make sure everyone's dead, or take all the extra guns.

Web Comics

  • The title character of Mechagical Girl Lisa A.N.T. sees the events of her story as following the tropes of magical girls anime... including when they don't.
  • Red Mage from 8-Bit Theater believes he's in a world that follows the rules of a tabletop RPG. To be fair, his efforts sometimes do work, but usually just when it's funny.
    • Like, for example, when he survived a fatal fall by "forgetting" to write the damage down on his character sheet.
      • We should note though, that the first Final Fantasy game did go much more closely with D&D design/rules than the series does now.
    • He did recently mention that only a certain number of enemies could be onscreen during any given fight. I don't think even Red Mage knows what genre he thinks he's in anymore.
    • This is a world where the actual success of any given plan is almost invariably inverse to the sense it makes.
      • Example of a failure: Trying to kill Sarda by having everyone's near-ungodly powers focused into an optimum role (i.e. Red Mage's varied attacks go into distraction and Fighter deflects all counterattacks while Black Mage and Thief go in for the kill) in an all-or-nothing surprise blitz attack. An example of a success? Black Mage killing Astos... with a terrible retort ("Astos? Mo' like yo ass is toast!")
  • In an early arc from Sluggy Freelance, the otherwise-nameless Captain of a starship believes he'll be the sole survivor of an alien rampage because he's the "handsome masculine lead", but Torg questions the logic he used to reach that conclusion, calling him a "shallow, one-dimensional stereotype" and suggesting that Riff and Torg will be the sole survivors instead because they have the more interesting backstory. The captain shouts "What is this? A sci-fi thriller or a goofy buddy movie?" The alien promptly answers his question.
  • Poor Piro from Megatokyo thinks romance works like either a Japanese Dating Sim or a Shoujo manga, and constantly beats himself up for not being able to live up to the kind of situations he figures romance should entail. It's hard not to laugh when he whines about how he should be an "expert" at the subject considering all the games and mangas he's played and read, totally without irony.
    • Largo on the other hand defines himself by Action Adventure Tropes, playing the Hot-Blooded action hero in totally inappropriate situations. Ironically, his girlfriend actually finds herself oddly attracted to this, despite or possibly due to her own deep-seated cynicism.
    • When Yuki is awakened as a Magical Girl, she instinctively reacts by seeking out cute, impractical uniforms and acting as if she were the main character in a series of that genre. She gets this drummed out of her when the "impractical" part makes itself apparent.
    • Thankfully, the second thing she does is meet Largo, who immediately dresses her in something resembling tactical gear. Also a wonderful example of how Largo is both Genre Savvy and Wrong Genre Savvy at the same time.
    • The setting in Megatokyo runs in multiple, overlapping genres at a time, and most characters have a Weirdness Censor for genres that don't overlap with their own. (Piro/Largo is only the most flagrant divide.) Most moments of Wrong Genre Savvy happen when a character wanders into an element of someone else's story or when the fantastic fails and Reality Ensues.
  • Othar Tryggvassen, Gentleman Adventurer! from Girl Genius. He's convinced that he's the leading man, Baron Wulfenbach and Gil Wulfenbach are the diabolical mastermind and the mastermind's fiendish right hand man respectively, and Agatha Clay is the leading man's beautiful young sidekick (even if she's not the Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter like he originally thought). Unfortunately he's completely insane and doesn't realise that he's wrong on all counts, so his genre-savvy plans are almost always inappropriate.
    • Once he realizes that Agatha is a Heterodyne, he changes on the last part and treats her as The Hero of her own story (possibly with himself as some manner of Mentor Archetype) — which doesn't solve his problem, since he's still completely insane, and Agatha knows it and wants nothing to do with him.
      • Word of God is that he's re-cast his delusion slightly, Agatha is now the tragic love interest (he's going to kill her last, in some sort of love-suicide pact).
    • It would be helpful, at this point, to point out that this story Othar thinks he's the Hero of a quest to save the world by killing every last Spark. Including, last of all, himself.
    • Othar is more a case of Right Genre Wrong Story. We have been shown that the way he thinks is the way their world works. Doesn't make him any less insane.
    • To be fair to Othar, though, when he's in his own stories, he's actually quite effective.
    • One of the radio plays questioned whether Othar really is delusional — after all, having Sparks in charge has been almost always catastrophic for common Europeans, and it's not at all clear that the heroes will be able to break that cycle.
    • And when Gil goes to show Tarvek off Castle Wulfenbach while staying himself, Tarvek accuses him of having been inspired by a penny dreadful.
  • An odd example that may be both a subversion and a straight example occurs here. Lucy believes that she and the rest of the group are in a horror movie plot, which the current arc certainly resembles. This worries her because, due to the tropes associated with horror movies, none of them will survive. However, she isn't in a horror movie; she's in a webcomic. Given that the webcomic is Something Positive, her chances of survival might be even worse.
    • Shortly afterward Wil Wheaton gets his arm cut off because one of the survivors is acting like its a zombie movie, and thinks a bite means infection... the catgirls don't work like that.
  • In Chainmail Bikini, a D&D webcomic, the players see the new players' character fighting undead. They stand around and watch, thinking it's the scene where she impresses them with her power and they ask her to join their team. When she turns out to be losing the fight, they figure out that they've "picked the wrong cliched introduction" and that this is actually the one where they save her life and ask her to join their team.

 Ramgar: Hold up. I think this is the cliche introduction where we see the new character kick so much butt we ask them to come with us. It's a classic of the medium. Let her have her moment of glory.

Lucretia: Will you imbeciles get over here and help? I'm inundated with undead!

Sapphire: Looks like this is the classic "we rescue someone and THEY ask to join US" intro.

Ramgar: Sorry, I wasn't sure which cliche we are supposed to be doing!

Lucretia: Expediency over verbosity, gentlemen!


Web Original


 Spoony: "Suddenly I've decided that I'm terribly afraid of you."

  • Don Sebastiano, from the Whateley Universe, thinks that he's in a standard Sky High-esque superhero story, he's the Big Bad and that he and Hekate can do anything they want. Problem is, they're actually in an X-Men-esque superhero story. He's more the Disc One Final Boss, Hekate is his dragon, and he's underestimated the value of politics- without them, he'd be dead or maimed, because he's playing in the same league as a bunch of people who could kill him without any effort and have already gone up against bigger enemies. (Seriously, the Don or Hekate- or both of them- versus Tennyo? No contest.)

Western Animation

  • Valerie of Danny Phantom is a Well-Intentioned Extremist who thinks she's The Hero, thinks The Hero is the villain, and thinks the Big Bad is her Mentor. When she discovers the truth, she is not pleased by the way she's been manipulated.
  • My Little Pony: Paradise is well-versed in the tropes of fairy tales and legends, and yet she, a winged pony living in a Magical Land with unicorns and dragons, wonders why her life can't be more like a storybook. Uh...
  • One episode of Bonkers featured a Screwy Squirrel-type character who goes on a crime spree. At first Bonkers thinks he's unstoppable, because the character always wins in his cartoons. Then Bonkers comes to the realization that this is his cartoon, and so is able to defeat him.
  • Futurama: Fry's Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe when he thinks he's a robot counts as this:

 Fry: "Fear not, for I shall assist ye!"

Hermes: "Robots don't say 'ye'! ...Quit thinking you're a robot!"

Fry: "I'll show ye..."

  • South Park examples:
    • In "Stanley's Cup" the characters correctly realize that they are in a typical sports movie and thus deduce that are bound to win against all odds. They also understand that to achieve that, they need to invite a really good player to their team for the final match, which they also do. In the end they turn out to be Wrong Genre Savvy and are beaten brutally: the opposing players were the real protagonists all along.
      • The opposing team was a professional hockey team and Stanley's team were pee-wee players about five years old. There was no other protagonist, just a parody of the cliched sports movie ending with what threatened to be a Shocking Swerve if it didn't cross the line twice. The pee-wee players are crushed brutally, deconstructing Underdogs Never Lose by showing pro players simply mauling tykes. After the underdogs do lose, the Littlest Cancer Patient dies from losing hope. It's Played for Laughs.
    • A three-parter has the gang playing as super heroes; however, when Cartman starts acting very villainous and the others try to call him out on it, he mistakenly believes he's still a superhero and it's the other boys who are the bad guys.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In the episode "Homer Goes to College", Homer is convinced that Dean Peterson of Springfield University is a Dean Bitterman type and spends most of the episode pulling ill-conceived pranks on him, even going as far as to try and run him over with a car at one point. The irony is that Peterson is actually a good-natured younger guy who gets on well with the other students. Homer also reacts to the rest of the college environment as though it were some kind of raunchy teen college movie when it quite patently isn't.
    • In "Brother From Another Series", Bart suspects that his archnemesis Sideshow Bob is up to no good when he's released from prison to work for his brother. In truth, he actually DID turn over a new leaf. (Though having said that, Bart is right about Sideshow Bob MOST of the time) While scouting around for clues, the following dialogue ensues:

 Bart: He's more the same than ever. And I know where the evidence is. There's only one place where it could possibly be.

Lisa: Bob's trailer at the construction site?

Bart: [[[Beat]]] That's even better! Let's go there.

Lisa: What were you thinking?

Bart: The haunted mine.

    • In "Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy" Bart becomes paranoid of bizarre conspiracies, believes the adults are spend most of their time indoors by day because of some hair brained conspiracy he cooks up. But the reason was they were into Grampa's special tonic which gets them really horny.
  • In The Fairly Odd Parents, Timmy's wish to never have been born was (admittedly) a desperate attempt to salvage his bruised ego (having obviously seen the Trope Namer movie). Unfortunately, Von Strangle uses the opportunity to test him in a particularly cruel way.
  • On Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, Judy Ken Sebben aka Birdgirl seems to think she's in a typical superhero cartoon, much to Harvey's chagrin.
  • On an episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes, as Beezy is being dragged to the altar for his Shotgun Wedding, he remains confident that Big Damn Heroes will save him. Of course, being on a Sadist Show, the trope gets subverted, and the wedding goes through though it still gets annulled.
  • In an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, SpongeBob becomes convinced that Mr. Krabs is a robot thanks to having seen a movie where robots take over the Earth (and some coincidentally odd behavior on Mr. Krabs' part). After he and Squidward have ruthlessly interrogated the "robot", Squidward thinks to ask SpongeBob how the movie ended, to which he replies that it turned out there weren't any robots after all; it was a misunderstanding. Oops.
    • Mr. Krabs in the episode Born Again Krabs thought that the Flying Dutchman's visit is All Just a Dream, turns out it's actually real. It also turns out that by screwing around like everything is a dream Krabs has driven the Krusty Krab into bankruptcy.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Zuko is under the impression that he's The White Prince on a ​Redemption Quest for disrespecting his lord and father. It's not until he hears said lord and father decide to wipe out a continent that he realizes that he's actually the Noble Demon destined to make a Heel Face Turn - and because he dragged his feet for so long, he's going to have to go through hell to prove himself trustworthy.
  • Beauty and the Beast - Gaston (Big Bad) thinks he's the hero, and that Beast (Jerk with a Heart of Gold) is a monster who wants to get his claws on Belle.
  • The mane cast of My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic got a bit of Wrong Genre Savvy in "The Best Night Ever", in which all of them thought they were in fairy tales or various other stories. In reality, they were in a moral-driven Slice of Life comedy, and this week's lessons turned out to be "Don't get your hopes up too high" and "good friends can help you make the most of a bad night".
  • In the Animated Music Video for DyE's "Fantasy", the Final Girl does absolutely everything right to survive if she were in a Slasher Movie. Unfortunately for her, she's actually in a Cosmic Horror Story, and makes the mistake of looking directly at the Big Bad.
  • In the first season of Martin Mystery Diana thinks that most of the paranormal monsters were Scooby-Doo Hoax, when in fact they really are paranormal monster/aliens.
  • In a few episodes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2003, Michelangelo loves monster movies and panics when he meets creatures from beneath the earth, body-snatching aliens, or eldritch horrors. Someone always dies horribly. Lucky for him, he's not in a monster movie — he's in a Saturday Morning Cartoon.
  • On a Transformers: Prime episode the Nemesis gets overun by terrorcons, zombie-like undead transformers. At one point Starscream and Knockout are menaced by one and Knockout suggests going for the head because he'd seen it done in human zombie movies. But as it turned out the tactic does not work on robot zombies.

Real Life

  • Survivalists, thus far. Or the ones in the developed world. In many parts of the world, the things they do and prepare for are known as life. If the concept of survivalism can be changed and the current survivalist concepts can be applied to developed nations en masse, the developed world wouldn't have to fear an electricity apocalypse.
    • The TV show Doomsday Preppers sets out a wild collapse theory, rates the preparations of the featured preppers for that scenario and then points out how very very unlikely that scenario is.
    • On an episode of Penn Teller Bullshit they visit a real-world "survival training camp" which not only shows them woefully inadequate to the tasks (but acting Genre Savvy), but they explicitly point out that the odds are you'd be in the large majority of the world that just outright die in whatever disaster strikes.
  • In The Decline of the West, Oswald Spengler mentions Swedish king Charles XII, who was a big fan of Alexander the Great, tried to follow his example, thus made war on the Russia of Peter the Great, only to have his army destroyed at the battle of Poltava, which effectively ended Sweden's time as a great power.
    • This is a recurrent theme in Spengler's theory of how history "works". Each Culture (meaning the largest sense of the word, cultures like Greco-Roman society, Western Christendom, old Egypt, China, etc.) all follow certain recurring patterns that can be compared and contrasted with each other, but it's like individual lives, each Culture only passes through each stage once, just as each individual only passes through each stage of life once. For a Culture in its late phase to try and operate like it did in earlier stages is like an old man trying to behave like a teenager, at best the result will be futile, and it may well be painful or fatal. As Spengler saw it, Napoleon is to Western Christendom as Alexander the Great was to Greco-Roman Culture. We've had our Alexander now, and the West can't do that again. On the other hand, our version of Julius/Augustus Caesar is still to come...
  • Nero's last words "What an artist, dies in me!" seems to indicate that he failed to realize he wasn't living in a play. At the very least he failed to realize he wasn't an actor but the emperor of Rome. (It is pretty much universally agreed that Nero was insane, if not possessed. The man did not distinguish between a Christian and a Tiki Torch.)
    • It's best to remember that nearly everything known about him comes from his enemies. Yes, he was a poor Emperor, most likely because he really wanted to be an actor and had no real interest in politics. So he focused on his aesthetic pursuits and neglected the matters of the state. The cruelties commited under his reign weren't really any worse than those under more competent rulers. Getting specified as the evil emperor came simply from the fact that he at one point used a small, unpopular religious sect as a scapegoat, and they ended up writing the history later on.
  • Some modern classical historians argue that Caligula wasn't the lunatic Roman historians presented him as, but a young Emperor who wanted to dispense with his imperial predecessors' act that the Emperor of Rome was just a senior statesman, not a monarch. He failed miserably, although if he had been Emperor about a couple of centuries later his approach wouldn't have gotten him stabbed.
  • An especially tragic instance of this trope would be the 9/11 terror attacks. Other than Flight 93's passengers, who were able to find out about the intent of the hijackers in advance, the passengers on the other flights were led to believe that this would be a hijacking akin to those of the 1980s, where individuals would fly the planes to Cuba. Instead, they had much worse in store.
    • Even some of the hijackers themselves had been fooled into believing this, if certain tapes by Osama bin Laden are to be taken at face value.
  • Many idealistic young men leapt at the chance to participate in World War One, seeing it as "The War to End All Wars." At its outset the War was romanticized as a sort of culmination of the revolutionary spirit of the 19th Century, a great cathartic conflict that would bring about an end to a stagnant old order and give birth to a new age for mankind. Unfortunately they got it backwards: the War turned out to be the death knell for 19th-Century idealism rather than its realization. Instead of a glorious revolution, it was a senseless bloodbath that defied any attempt to romanticize it. And while it did topple the old order in Europe, bringing about the collapse of many established empires, the new age it ushered in was one of the darkest times in human history.
  • An old military maxim says "Generals are always prepared to fight the last war." There are many examples across human history of leaders or armies being Wrong Genre Savvy. The most frequently cited example is that of the western Allies at the start of World War Two. They expected a conflict similar to the First World War, and prepared for a "ground war" of infantry, trench standoffs, and protracted sieges. They were completely unprepared for the blitzkrieg, which combined air power and "rapid dominance" ground tactics.
  • Saddam Hussein believed that he could win the Persian Gulf war by entrenching his forces and outlasting the US-led Coalition in another Vietnam War. But he did not expect that his forces would be easily outclassed by the Coalition forces and that the Coalition could overwhelm his armies with Blitz warfare. Plus he overlooked one other important (and missing) factor for a Vietnam-style war: the presence of a ubiquitous tropical jungle in which to hide his forces.
    • Also, he failed to recognize that sometimes a nation can learn from experience, Hussein himself failed to learn from experience, because he was still looking at the second round of the Gulf War through the Vietnam lens as well in the 2000s.
  • During the Troperrific Great Siege of Gibraltar, the Spanish thought that they were in a kind of heroic fantasy setting, where the siege of The Rock marked the heroes' final assault on the Always Chaotic Evil Big Bad's stronghold. For instance, 80,000 people turned up on the surrounding hills to watch the "Grand Assault," "trail the British flag into the dust." Don Jose Barboza thought that he could inspire his flagging soldiers with a suicide attack on the British sortie. It didn't work.
  • Joseph Goebbels said this about the end of World War II to try and inspire the Nazis: "Gentlemen! In a hundred years time, there will be a glorious technocolour film about these days. Do your duty, so that when your actor comes onto the screen the audience will not jeer and holler." Unfortunately, he was in Real Life, not one of his costume dramas.
    • He was right in a sense: There was a famous technocolor film about those days. And the audiences neither hollered nor scoffed. They mocked.
    • It would have been far more unfortunate had Goebbels been right.
  1. What they are in is somewhat unclear, although a con is close
  2. in which system, the police is your friend
  3. where the attitudes are a lot more... cyberpunkish