Created By: RytexApril 3, 2012 Last Edited By: RytexJune 18, 2012

MacGuffin Blindness

When the object or objects that characters are searching for is right in front of them, and they don't know it

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Stormtrooper: These aren't the droids we're looking for.

Simply put, the good guys and the bad guys are always looking for that one thing that will be the weakness to the opposition. Sometimes, they both are the same thing. A classic example comes from Star Wars, where the stolen plans for the Death Star are held by R2-D2, and the Empire is trying to find it to secure the plans, and so spell doom for the Rebels, and the Rebels are trying to find the plans to find a weakness in the Death Star.

Sometimes, however, the object they are searching for shows up right in front of their face and they are any of the following: convinced (by someone else or just don't believe it themselves) that it is something else unrelated to what they're looking for, magically tricked into believing otherwise, or just don't even notice it.

Mac Guffin Blindness Scale:

Class 1: Convinced by themselves that it isn't what they're looking for.

Class 2: Convinced verbally by someone else that it isn't what they're looking for.

Class 3: Magically tricked into believing otherwise.

Examples:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Anime]]
  • Bleach: Urahara hid the Hogyouku [[spoiler:inside Rukia, without her knowledge or consent to keep Aizen from finding it.
  • In Sailor Moon S, Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune look for three artifacts, said to be inside the hearts of normal people. They are, respectively, inside Sailor Uranus and Neptune themselves, and inside Sailor Pluto.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Cartoons]]
  • Many times this is done in Looney Toons. Say Elmer Fudd is hunting Bugs Bunny. Elmer will often ask Bugs if he's seen a rabbit. Bugs will describe himself to a T, to which Elmer will affirm him, but Bugs will then say "Nope. Haven't seen one." A humorous example of Class 2.
[[/folder]

[[folder:Literature]]
  • In Harry Potter, after Harry learns what horcruxes are, he attempts to hide a potions book in the Room of Hidden Things. In order to distinguish this cupboard so he can find it again, he puts a bust of a wizard on top of it, and puts a battered old tiara on top of that. That tiara is actually the Diadem of Ravenclaw, one of the horcruxes Harry is supposed to hunt down. This is a Class 1 because, although he doesn't verbally or mentally convince himself it isn't what he's looking for, he's too distracted by something else to really give a care.
    • The reason why the locket is not considered one is because at the time he handled it, Harry did not know he would have to hunt it down.
  • In Alan Dean Foster's Glory Lane, the protagonists' adorable shape-shifting Companion Cube turns out to be the item everyone else in the entire book is looking for, and no one realizes it till the end.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
  • Doctor Who, Series 2, Episode 1: "Rose." The Doctor is looking for a big round antenna in the heart of London in which the Nestine Consciousness may have hidden his transmitter. As he's saying this, right behind him framing his head is the London Eye (a giant Ferris Wheel). Rose spots it, but the Doctor doesn't pay attention until Rose points it out.
  • In Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Glory searches all through season 5 for the key, but doesn't until right near the end realize that it was Buffy's sister Dawn all along.

[[folder:Film]]
  • Star Wars, as seen in the quote above. In Mos Eisley, four stormtroopers ask to see the identification of Luke and Obi-Wan, and investigate into the droids briefly, but Obi-Wan uses The Force to trick the head stormtrooper that they aren't the droids they're looking for. An obvious example of Class 3.
  • Averted in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The Holy Grail's in front of them, and they know what it is, but they don't know which one it is.
  • In Final Fantasy VII Advent Children (The Movie sequel to FFVII), Rufas Shinra, who's been stuck in a wheelchair (as he's dying from Geostigma) being interrogated by the villains for most of the film, reveals that not only is he much more well than he lets on, but the head of Jenova was on his lap in a sealed box the entire time. Class 2, because Shinra was doing a good job of hiding it and playing on Kadaj's personality.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Video Games]]
  • Final Fantasy VII gives us a bit of one, though it's slightly averted, as they soon discover that the Black Materia they're searching for is actually the entire Temple of the Ancients, which they've been exploring for the previous thirty minutes. Class 1.
    • Also, the White Materia Aeris carries in her ribbon. The only thing that can stop said Black Materia, and no one knows what it is or does until the end of the game. Aeris thinks it does nothing and is only decoration for a while. Class 1.
  • In Quest For Glory there's a thief-specific subplot running through the series regarding the search for a legendary blackbird statue, a Shout Out to The Maltese Falcon. In the second, third, and fourth games you can find a fake blackbird, and in the fifth you finally find the real one. However, the real bird also appears in the first game, but you can't pick it up because your character doesn't know what it is yet. Although the game is trying to convince you it isn't what you are looking for, which makes it a Class 2, in the context, you yourself don't know what it is, so it is a Class 1.
  • Skies of Arcadia Legends For much of the game, Vyse and company travel the globe in search of the moonstones, to keep them out of Empress Teodora's hands. They manage to find all but the silver moonstone, not knowing it was hidden inside Fina all along. She was unaware of this, herself, until Ramirez revealed that all Silvites are born with one!
  • Pokemon Black and White: The Dark/Light Stone, depending on your version, is sitting in plain sight in the Nacrene Museum, but Team Plasma doesn't notice it. It doesn't look like what they thought it would.
[[/folder]]
Community Feedback Replies: 41
  • April 3, 2012
    NightBreeder
    Hmm... Im suprised we don't have this one yet as a trope. Maybe you should look around again just to check. But this happens quite a lot in stories, and can be an interesting twist on the story if done well or lead to audience screaming "Dude, it's RIGHT THERE!!!" when done poorly.
  • April 3, 2012
    X2X
    This does sound a lot like It Was With You All Along, though.
  • April 3, 2012
    Rytex
    But that's just it. It's not with them all along. It waltzes right by them, or they by it, or they inside it (see FFVII) without them knowing.
  • April 3, 2012
    FastEddie
    Needs a name that does not sound like dialog.
  • April 4, 2012
    StevenT
    A pretty common joke in old cartoons, particularly Looney Tunes, was to have a hunter asking the very thing they're trying to catch if they've seen them. The hunted will then describe themselves to a T and then deny ever seeing them.
  • April 4, 2012
    Arivne
    I'm going to change the name to Unrecognized Mac Guffin so this trope won't be discarded for having a dialogue name.

    I am not saying that it's the best name or must be the final name, it's just a placeholder.
  • April 4, 2012
    Mozgwsloiku
    Done several times in Harry Potter they encounter two of the horcruxes early on but fail to recognise them among a mass of old items the locket among the Black memorabilia and the tiara in the room of requirement respectively.
  • April 4, 2012
    Bisected8
  • April 4, 2012
    Duncan
    In Alan Dean Foster's Glory Lane, the protagonists' adorable shape-shiting Companion Cube turns out to be the item everyone else in the entire book is looking for, and no one realizes it till the end.
  • April 4, 2012
    JobanGrayskull
    Seems this employs the Law Of Conservation Of Detail and sometimes a little bit of Chekhovs Gun.
  • April 4, 2012
    Rytex
    Added examples, but I think the title I had would make it more recognizable, just due to the fact that 1, it's a well-known line, and 2, it's a famous scene. It gives it away right there. the name Unrecognized Mac Guffin does help, but it's more generic, and not as easily "Oh I know what that is!" as "These aren't the Mac Guffins We're Looking For."
  • April 4, 2012
    Rytex
    Also, I am considering adding a Scale of such, with three classes.

    Class 1: Convinced by themselves that it isn't what they're looking for.

    Class 2: Convinced verbally by someone else that it isn't what they're looking for.

    Class 3: Magically tricked into believing otherwise.
  • April 4, 2012
    JobanGrayskull
    What about Overlooked Mac Guffin? Disregarded Mac Guffin? Or maybe a verb phrase variant of those like Overlooked The Mac Guffin or Disregarded The Mac Guffin?
  • April 4, 2012
    Rytex
    I still don't like any of those. Call it bias, but I still think my title, with the Star Wars quote and all, gives it a clearer picture than the others. Notice, though, that I haven't changed it back, yet. I want approval on the title before I change it to whatever it's gonna be.
  • April 4, 2012
    Topazan
    • In Quest For Glory there's a thief-specific subplot running through the series regarding the search for a legendary blackbird statue, a Shout Out to The Maltese Falcon. In the second, third, and fourth games you can find a fake blackbird, and in the fifth you finally find the real one. However, the real bird also appears in the first game, but you can't pick it up because your character doesn't know what it is yet.
  • April 5, 2012
    Arivne
    ^^ ^^^^^ @Rytex: I can tell you haven't heard about the policy change so I'll explain. A decision has been made by the Staff of TV Tropes that all new tropes are forbidden to have titles that sound like dialog. The reason is stated in Naming A Trope.

    Fast Eddie (see his post above?) is the owner and Admin of the entire TV Tropes site and is strictly enforcing the rule by either (a) Cut Listing any such trope when it's launched or (b) discarding it from YKTTW before it can be launched. He has discarded dozens of tropes for this reason in the last few months.

    Long story short: You cannot use the original title, period, end of discussion. If you try to use it anyway your trope will end up in the Bit Bucket, guaranteed.
  • April 5, 2012
    WackyMeetsPractical
    ^^^^^ Class 4, simply not noticing the Mac Guffin is covered by Failed A Spot Check.
  • April 5, 2012
    Rytex
    Ok, so just three classes, then. But does the Scale work? Would it make a good addition to the page?
  • April 5, 2012
    Rytex
    And also, this scale needs a name.
  • April 6, 2012
    Rytex
    Any ideas?
  • April 6, 2012
    troublegum
  • April 7, 2012
    Rytex
    Actually, I like that one. It does sound good. I'll fix it now.
  • April 7, 2012
    Rytex
    It also sounds good for the title of the trope.
  • April 7, 2012
    Rytex
    OK, so I added the scale, put it into a few examples, can anyone else help me figure out some of the others, and how they figure into the scale?
  • April 11, 2012
    Rytex
    Anyone at all?
  • April 11, 2012
    MiinU
    It could also be that the Mac Guffin is hidden inside a living person, without their knowledge. Making it the perfect way to hide it in plain sight. Think about it: who would think to look inside someone else's body for an ancient artifact/doomsday device/or whatever? Two such examples:

    Anime and Manga

    Video games

    • Skies of Arcadia: Legends: For much of the game, Vyse and company travel the globe in search of the moonstones, to keep them out of Empress Teodora's hands. They manage to find all but the silver moonstone, not knowing it was hidden inside Fina all along. She was unaware of this, herself, until Ramirez revealed that all Silvites are born with one!
  • April 12, 2012
    randomsurfer
    See also Hidden In Plain Sight for a more mundane version of this. Or maybe that's "Class 1?"
  • April 12, 2012
    SNDL
    In Sailor Moon S, Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune look for three artifacts, said to be inside the hearts of normal people. They are, respectively, inside Sailor Uranus and Neptune themselves, and inside Sailor Pluto.

    See also Grail In The Garbage.
  • April 12, 2012
    Kcspot
    @Miinu: I think that could be a separate trope altogether.

    The Magic Is In You? or The Macguffin Is You?
  • April 12, 2012
    RandomFlyingCoconut
    Dora the Explorer could count as well. I mean, how oblivious can you be to the location your your Mac Guffin. -___-
  • April 12, 2012
    RandomFlyingCoconut
    • meant to say "your" once
  • April 12, 2012
    Kcspot
    I just saw X 2 X's comment near the top. Disregard my comment.
  • June 11, 2012
    Rytex
    Bump.
  • June 11, 2012
    chicagomel
    Pokemon Black And White might count...the Dark/Light Stone, depending on your version, is sitting in plain sight in the Nacrene Museum, but Team Plasma doesn't notice it-it doesn't look like what they thought it would. (video games)
  • June 11, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Doctor Who, "Rose." The Doctor is looking for a big round antenna in the heart of London in which the Nestine Conciousness may have hidden his transmitter. As he's saying this, right behind him framing his head is the London Eye (a giant Ferris Wheel).
    Doctor: The Consciousness is controlling every single piece of plastic so it needs a transmitter to boost the signal.
    Rose: What's it look like?
    Doctor: Like a transmitter. Round and massive, slap bang in the middle of London.
    He paces around, agitated, looking around for a clue.
    Doctor: A huge circular metal structure... like a dish...
    He stands facing Rose, his back to the railings of the bridge. Behind him, the London Eye looms 450 foot above them, but he doesn't seem to register.
    Doctor: ...like a wheel. Close to where we're standing. Must be COMPLETELY invisible.
    Rose considers the Eye behind him.
    Doctor: What?
    Rose nods towards the Eye. The Doctor turns around, then back to her, completely nonplussed.
    Doctor: What?
    Rose shakes her head, looking at the Eye still. He turns around but still fails to make the connection.
    Doctor: What is it? What?
    Rose simply carries on staring at it. The Doctor turns around again and finally, it clicks.
    Doctor: Oh... fantastic!
  • June 12, 2012
    Rytex
    Examples added. Any more?
  • June 14, 2012
    Rytex
    Bumpity bump bump. I find this is one of those staple ones, but I guess no one else does.
  • June 14, 2012
    ClockStopping
    • In Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Glory searches all through season 5 for the key, but doesn't until right near the end realise that it was Buffy's sister Dawn all along.
  • June 17, 2012
    Rytex
    Added. Anymore? I see I garnered another hat. 2 down, 3 to go.
  • June 18, 2012
    Arivne
    If the MacGuffin is in the form of a living person, it's MacGuffin Girl.
  • June 18, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
    The character of Its A Mad Mad Mad Mad World are searching for a lode of money said to be hidden underneath a "big W". When they arrive at the destination, they are start searching for whatever the big W could be, unaware that it's a literal big W in the center of the park that they're all missing.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable