Created By: pixelpunk on April 6, 2013 Last Edited By: NESBoy on April 11, 2013

Uncle Tom Fallacy

The general public assumes something about a famous work that isn't true.

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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.

[[folder:Literature]]
  • 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.
[[/folder]]
Community Feedback Replies: 22
  • April 6, 2013
    CosmeF
    Animal Farm could be an example, everyone thinks it's a book against Communism but the author in fact sympathized with it and wrote Animal Farm because he was highly dissapointed about the Russian Revolution betraying the ideals that said to defend.
  • April 6, 2013
    NESBoy
    This should have some connection to Pop Cultural Osmosis (knowing the work through pop culture instead of the actual work).
  • April 6, 2013
    Tuckerscreator
    As well as Fandom Berserk Button and I Am Not Shazam.

  • April 6, 2013
    Korodzik
    This is already covered as Common Knowledge. (A bad title, I know.)
  • April 6, 2013
    HiddenFacedMatt
    Distinct or not, the current names for both the trope and this YKTTW is very misleading.
  • April 6, 2013
    pixelpunk
    Ok, so it looks like this trope already exists, but the existing title isn't very good. Also, the way the definition is given is a little muddled. Maybe we could still use this to rename the trope and clean it up a little?
  • April 7, 2013
    capsaicinfinity
  • April 7, 2013
    pixelpunk
    A little insulting maybe, but better than Common Knowledge. I didn't think this existed because not only is it hard to relate the name with the trope, but some very big examples like the ones above don't have a link to it. Probably because people don't know how to find it cause the name is misleading.
  • April 7, 2013
    Ryusui
    We may already have this trope, but the existing trope name needs some serious work. If nothing else, it needs to reflect that the common understanding of a work is blatantly false.

    Popular Misconception? Popular Misunderstanding?
  • April 7, 2013
    arromdee
    I don't think The Jungle counts, because the fact that many people haven't read the book and the fact that there are misconceptions about it are unrelated. At the time, when many people _did_ read the book, it was still taken to be about food sanitation.

    The same can be said for Animal Farm. Besides, I'm not sure that "this book is against Communism as practiced" and "this book os against Communism" are sufficiently different to count as a major misunderstanding.
  • April 7, 2013
    StarSword
    ^^That's a job for the TRS.
  • April 7, 2013
    MetaFour
    Looks like this is sorta related to Never Live It Down (where a minor aspect of a character or story gets overblown in the public consciousness).
  • April 7, 2013
    Tuckerscreator
    From what I've read, part of the The Jungle was about the need for better food sanitation, but it was overall about the plight of workers in factories. However, the descriptions of rotten food was what stuck in people's minds and got the most reform, and what caused Sinclair to later state "I aimed for the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach."
  • April 7, 2013
    helterskelter
    I think this trope should be completely example-less. It looks entirely like Flame Bait, especially with that title. It's by nature YMMV, since it assumes an interpretation is wrong on the general public's part, and right on the editor's. Not to mention it's up for debate how many of these really count--for instance, much of the criticism leveled at Lolita has to do with the main character obviously being pro-pedophilia, regardless of the books moral stance. An "Uncle Tom" is not someone who is out to betray black men, but one who is too ingratiating with white men. As someone mentioned, people aren't exactly confused about what The Jungle was about, but rather than they took away something else entirely.
  • April 7, 2013
    AmyGdala
    This page would serve absolutely no purpose without examples.

    On the other hand, Common Knowledge has too many examples. It starts out by listing differences between popcultural osmosis and actual scenes, but then it ends with this terrible Real Life folder that list popular misconceptions about *anything*. By the end, it's just listing fun trivia of any kind.
  • April 8, 2013
    Larkmarn
    Isn't the Uncle Tom example just Adaptation Displacement?

    It's not like people are wrong, they're just correct about most adaptations but the original.
  • April 8, 2013
    captainpat
    This sounds like Misaimed Fandom.
  • April 8, 2013
    Lumpenprole
    Winston Smith of Nineteen Eighty Four is sometimes considered a martyr due to his doomed rebellion against Big Brother. But the book actually presents Smith as a cowardly, whining nebbish, cultivated as a traitor by the Thought Police because he actually fits the Party's stereotype of the despicable turncoat.
  • April 8, 2013
    DunDun
    ^^^It sounds like Adaptation Displacement can be a cause of this trope, but that doesn't mean this trope doesn't apply. Look at how many people think Frankenstein is the monster--this trope could just as easily be named Frankenstein Is A Scientist or something.

    Though I think a better name for this would be Uncle Tom Fallacy or Frankenstein Fallacy.
  • April 8, 2013
    Larkmarn
    So... how is this different from Common Knowledge then? It just sounds like this is just Common Knowledge hit with Trope Namer Syndrome.
  • April 8, 2013
    Ryusui
    That's precisely what it is.

    If there's a slot open in the Trope Repair Shop, Common Knowledge needs to go there.
  • April 8, 2013
    Larkmarn
    Oh, okay. I say Not So Common Knowledge, then. Or Common Ignorance. We really don't need bad trope namers here.

    Last I checked, YKTTW as backdoor TRS is frowned upon... I think the only thing you can do until a spot opens up (... if a spot opens up) is post on the page's discussion page.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=fddqo6v9mj9e7vzhaigcocn0