Created By: STUART on October 18, 2009
Troped

Armchair Expert

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I'm reclaiming this since it's been dormant for a month. I'll clean it up a bit, then I'll launch it.

Do We Have This One??, Truth in Television as well. RollingUpdates, Needs a Better Description, Should We Have This??

You have a friend, who has never actually done something but hey he/she has read all about the subject so they are going to attempt it anyway. What could possibly go wrong... right?

This trope is the literary equivalent of I Know Mortal Kombat and Taught by Television -- that is, the character in question gets his knowledge by reading about it. Unlike those tropes, however, it's not entirely implausible for a person to actually be competent when he has to apply his book knowledge in Real Life.

Examples

Anime and Manga
  • Eyeshield 21: The Amino Cyborgs team spent most of their training time getting juiced up and reading books on how to play football. This leaves them with low stamina when they play the Devil Bats.

Fan Fiction
  • DJ Croft of Neon Exodus Evangelion is suspiciously good at sex, considering he's supposedly a virgin--he learned the how-to from a book and filled in the gaps with just-that-awesomeness

Film
  • American Beauty. The 14-year old isn't the slut as she makes herself out to be.
  • Aliens. Gorman's only been on two drops. Simulated.

Literature
  • In the Discworld novel Wintersmith, Roland believes that he will be an expert swordsman because he has read the fencing manuals and fought many imaginary swordfights in his mind.
  • In Harry Potter, Dolores Umbridge suggested that just having a thoretical basis in Defense Against the Dark Arts should be enough to prepare the students to successfully take their exams.
  • Scriber Jaqueramaphan from A Fire Upon The Deep by Vernor Vinge is all about this trope; he also tends to be pretty incompetent in most of the things he's read about.
  • David from the novel version of Jumper when he finally loses his virginity. Millie asks if he's really a virgin, and he replies, "I told you, I read a lot." (It's a running gag, the "read a lot" thing).
  • Heinrich Dorfmann in {{Flight of the Phoenix} instructs the survivors on how to rebuild the crashed plane... even though he's only ever designed model aeroplanes
  • Don Quixote is a very old example, he read tons of books about knights and then thought he could be one.
  • [Twilight Edward Cullen]. Literally. While the rest of his family was having housebreaking sex, he was by his lonesome spending his sleepless nights studying everything there is to study. For example, he cooks perfect meals for Bella on his first try, despite never having a reason to cook before.

Live-Action TV
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Wesley bragged that in the new Watcher training, he had even taken on two vampires "under controlled circumstances, of course". Giles quickly countered that he wouldn't encounter those in Sunnydale... controlled circumstances, that is.
  • Star Trek: Voyager, "Rise." Neelix claims to know everything about orbital tethers (flexible columns going from a planet to an orbiting station, so you can take an elevator to it). He must confess that he really only worked with models. Very detailed models as he's quick to claim, but still models.
  • Averted (yeah, I know) with Faith in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She's just the slut she makes herself out to be.
  • Parodied with Dave in Flight of the Conchords, who acts like an expert in all things, especially being a ladies' man. Judging by his tendency toward Malapropisms and the way he (deniedly) lives with his parents...
  • X-Files: "I play Dungeons and Dragons. I know a thing or two about courage"
  • Sheldon Cooper attempted to learn to swim on the internet. And to rock climb.

Tabletop Games
  • This is actually a knack in Scion. Basicly means that the Scion has read so much about stuff they can try them even if they have no training.
Community Feedback Replies: 50
  • September 5, 2009
    cheat-master31
    There have been quite a few philosophical puzzles and questions in books based on this kind of idea, where someone has never done/experienced something but is an expert about it through research and books. About whether they know the subject or the like.
  • September 5, 2009
    Frank75
    German philosopher Kant never left his hometown, but was very well-read about other places like London.
  • September 5, 2009
    Ryusui
  • September 5, 2009
    Micah
    I'm not sure if we actually have this, but we've got a bunch of related tropes. It makes me wonder if we need a supertrope/index for "ways to get good at things without practicing". How Else To Get To Carnegie Hall?

    • Scriber Jaqueramaphan from A Fire Upon The Deep by Vernor Vinge is all about this trope; he also tends to be pretty incompetent in most of the things he's read about.
  • September 5, 2009
    xyzyxx
    Star Trek Voyager episode, "Rise." Neelix claims to know everything about orbital tethers (flexible columns going from a planet to an orbiting station, so you can take an elevator to it). He must confess that he really only worked with models. Very detailed models as he's quick to claim, but still models.
  • September 5, 2009
    SKJAM
    DJ Croft of Neon Exodus Evangelion is suspiciously good at sex, considering he's supposedly a virgin--he learned the how-to from a book and filled in the gaps with just-that-awesomeness
  • September 5, 2009
    Dhavaer
    Hermione gets a few of these in Harry Potter.
  • September 5, 2009
    Dick Richardson
    Following up on the Neon Exodus Evangelion example, David from the novel version of Jumper when he finally loses his virginity. Millie asks if he's really a virgin, and he replies, "I told you, I read a lot." (It's a running gag, the "read a lot" thing).
  • September 5, 2009
    Andyzero
    Many, many cases of the Covert Pervert.
  • September 5, 2009
    Taeraresh
    The protagonist (for lack of a better word) of Richard Thompson's Read About Love probably fits. He has no real clue how sex works, because everything he knows about it he learned from magazines. It's not entirely his fault though, as everyone he tries to ask about it is too embarrassed to tell him anything.
  • September 5, 2009
    STUART

    Not sure if this is the same thing. The trope I have in mind is basically the virgin equivalent of the Closet Homosexual's Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today. Sort of like Have I Mentioned I Am Sexual Today.
  • September 5, 2009
    foxley
    In the Discworld novel Wintersmith, Roland believes that he will be an expert swordsman because he has read the fencing manuals and fought many imaginary swordfights in his mind.
  • September 5, 2009
    Sackett
    In real life I believe this is how Henry Knox got the job of being a general of American artillery during the revolution. He ran a bookstore, and so he had had books on the subject. (I believe he ended up our first Secretary of War aka Defense).

    http://militaryhistory.about.com/od/army/p/knox.htm
  • September 6, 2009
    djkates
    @Nate the Great: The episode you're talking about is "Rise". "The Chute" is the one where Tom Paris and Harry Kim are thrown in prison.
  • September 6, 2009
    Magus
    Seconding But I Read A Book About It.

    • Eyeshield 21: The Amino Cyborgs team spent most of their training time getting juiced up and reading books on how to play football. This leaves them with low stamina when they play the Devil Bats.
  • September 6, 2009
    Some Guy
    ...For the love of God and his son Santa Claus, would you please put DJ Croft in a Fan Fiction section? No sane Japanese person, or any other person for that matter, would actually publish him.

    Put in a Rolling Updates tag while we're at it. And I'll be darned if I can understand how you can use Rolling Updates while simultaneously declaring a trope Up For Grabs. Aren't those two put together rather counter-intuitive?
  • September 6, 2009
    Whispering
    @Some Guy: Sorry first time I've ever wrote a YKTTW.
  • September 6, 2009
    Some Guy
    'S OK. Did you read any how-to pages first? I don't think there's actually Rolling Updates instructions in those yet.
  • September 6, 2009
    Whispering
    @Some Guy: Ummm....tl;dr. So no, my bad.
  • September 6, 2009
    Nate the Great
    I apologize. Brain fart.
  • September 6, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    I'm guessing there are going to be Troper Tales...
    • This Troper, lampsharded recently in a conversation....
  • September 6, 2009
    STUART
    I think this should be split into two tropes:
  • September 6, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    • There's also this Played For Laughs because The Book Was Wrong, and the Book Smart hero is hopeless at the activity in question.
    • Or conversely, the Book Smart hero is actually shockingly good for an unexperienced person. Usually no one believes them until they're proven wrong.
    • In Henry Knox's case, apparently everyone believed him AND he was good, averting the Rule Of Drama.
  • September 6, 2009
    SonTenks
  • September 7, 2009
    Filmwench
    Heinrich Dorfmann in "Flight of the Phoenix" instructs the survivors on how to rebuild the crashed plane... even though he's only ever designed model aeroplanes.
  • September 7, 2009
    Mimimurlough
    Anne of Friendly Hostility before she loses her virginity. She even says it herself, once.
  • September 7, 2009
    Heliomance
    Tabletop RPG: There's a knack in Scion that lets you do precisely this.
  • September 8, 2009
    Saintheart
    Er, with the Aliens example, it's thirty-eight simulated drops, and two combat drops ... including this one.
  • September 8, 2009
    henke37
    I Read A Book is my title sugestion. It goes in style with It Was A Gift and I Know Mortal Kombat.
  • September 8, 2009
    AlexThePrettyGood
    • Title suggestion: I Know The Theory
    • Examples:
      • In Harry Potter, Dolores Umbridge suggested that just having a thoretical basis in Defense Against the Dark Arts should be enough to prepare the students to successfully take their exams.
      • In Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Wesley bragged that in the new Watcher training, he had even taken on two vampires "under controlled circumstances, of course". Giles quickly countered that he wouldn't encounter those in Sunnydale... controlled circumstances, that is.
  • September 8, 2009
    Edgukator
    X-Files: "I play Dungeons and Dragons. I know a thing or two about courage"
  • September 8, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    This Troper is guilty of this; I can tell you all about Street Fighter's characters and story, but have never actually played it, as sad as that is.
  • September 8, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Thirding But I Read A Book About It.

    Don Quixote is a very old example, he read tons of books about knights and then thought he could be one.
  • September 8, 2009
    Idler 2.0
    Sheldon Cooper attempted to learn to swim on the internet. And to rock climb.
  • September 8, 2009
    SevenOfDiamonds
    Edward Cullen. Literally. While the rest of his family was having housebreaking sex, he was by his lonesome spending his sleepless nights studying everything there is to study. For example, he cooks perfect meals for Bella on his first try, despite never having a reason to cook before.
  • September 9, 2009
    Reg Shoe
    The current title is actually a knack in Scion. I forget the exact benefit but it basicly means that the Scion has read so much about stuff they can try them even if they have no training.
  • September 9, 2009
    Joysweeper
    I like "I Know The Theory" as a name. Maybe "Armchair Expert".

    Can overlap with Awesome By Analysis.
  • September 11, 2009
    Whispering
    So whats the title going to be? And anyone wants to launch this thing or should I?
  • September 11, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Averted in A Bit Of Fry And Laurie when they try to fly a plane with no experience, not even reading about it.

    Hugh Right now, Sir Peter, you've never flown an aeroplane before?

    Stephen Never flown in my life, Johnny, no.

    Hugh And you've never had any lessons?

    Stephen Oh I've had lessons, maths, geography ...

    Hugh But not in flying?

    Stephen No.

    Hugh And I've never flown before. Is this something you've always wanted to do?

    Stephen Not particularly. So when you rang up I just leapt at the chance.

    Hugh Right.

  • September 11, 2009
    Ryusui
    Good heavens. All these examples and still no one's bothered to fix the damn trope title? At this rate it's gonna get LAUNCHED as "Well Read Virgin". Bleaugh.

    Fixed it myself.
  • September 11, 2009
    rjung
    The description needs a bit of work; when I first read it I was tempted to say "We've got a half-dozen other tropes like it already." Clarifying that this trop is for examples of people getting expertise solely through reading would help avoid that.
  • September 11, 2009
    Whispering
    @Ryusui:
    • Well I thought it was spiffy.
    @rjung

  • September 11, 2009
    Fanra
    "Armchair Expert" is the common cultural name for this. I think we should go with that as the name for that reason.

    Example:

    • In the film Three Days of the Condor, based on the novel Six Days of the Condor, Joe Turner's job for the CIA is to read books, newspapers, and magazines from around the world, looking for hidden meanings and new ideas. When the Call To Adventure comes to him, he uses his book learning to survive.
  • September 11, 2009
    Bailey
    Armchair Expert works. Or perhaps Theoretical Expert.

    Max from the Pokemon anime was introduced as one of these with regards to Pokemon battling. Same goes for most students of Pokemon Tech. Or So I Heard.
  • September 11, 2009
    CrypticMirror
  • September 11, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Thirding Armchair Expert.
  • September 11, 2009
    rjung
    @Whispering: Okay, I took a stab at fixing the description. Anyone else want to give it a polish?

    And Armchair Expert sounds good to me, too.
  • September 12, 2009
    Whispering
    Armchair Expert rolls off the tongue better than But I Read A Book About It so I changed it to that.
  • September 12, 2009
    STUART
    Just Launch It Already.

    (Actually, under this name it's really more of a supertrope to I Know Mortal Kombat and Taught By Television, and all of the But I Read A Book About It examples still belong under Book Smart.)
  • October 18, 2009
    STUART
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=5u7aqobavam04qcu98cp99dk