Sometimes a work will become so famous that even people who haven't read/seen/etc. it will still have some awareness of the work
. Naturally, when people judge a work's content based on hearsay, there are going to be some misunderstandings. Sometimes those misunderstandings are just minor misquotations or other relatively mild things
, but sometimes the misunderstanding of the work is so major that the public gets the completely wrong idea about the work's contents. Aesops
get reversed, heroes turn into Ron the Death Eater
and villains get mistaken for heroes
. The misunderstanding must be both a popular one and a major departure from the work's intent for it to be an Uncle Tom Fallacy
. As a rule of thumb, if more people believe a falsehood about a work is true than know the actual truth about the work, it's this trope. This will really drive fans of the work in question up the wall.
When applied to a main character's name rather than the work's plot or message, it's I Am Not Shazam
- The Trope Namer is the book Uncle Tom's Cabin. In the original book, Uncle Tom was a noble, if non-violent, character who would sooner die than betray his fellow slaves and he did. Unfortunately, early play and movie adaptations, in which the character was played by white men in blackface, tried to make Tom more "nonthreatening". Hence, the term "Uncle Tom" for a race traitor, as it has come to be used today.
- The book Lolita is often assumed to be pro-pedophilia by people who are only vaguely aware of its contents. The book is actually anti-pedophilia. The main character is a Villain Protagonist.
- In a historical example, Upton Sinclair's The Jungle was not a cry for better food sanitation.