TooGoodToBeTrue Too Good To Be True YKTTW Discussion

Too Good To Be True
A character is appropriately skeptical that an improbably favorable situation is some kind of scam.
(permanent link) added: 2013-12-04 20:59:25 sponsor: Nakuyabi (last reply: 2013-12-19 01:17:58)

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Genre Savvy characters are often aware that in real life, perfect outcomes to practically anything are extremely rare. Whether the asking price for something at Honest John's Dealership is just a little too low to be believable, that ravishingly lovely lady throwing herself at the protagonist claims to have an extremely unlikely fetish for guys matching his specific description (which incidentally includes the word "ugly"), or some present situation just plain seems to be a little too wonderful to be real, the character's instincts tell him something must be wrong. Somebody must be getting screwed here, and if he can't determine who's the patsy, that somebody is probably himself.

Such instincts, more often than not, tend to be sound: Honest John's name is a misnomer and that product he's trying to unload for next to nothing is actually a liability to its owner, which is why he's trying to get rid of it; that lovely lady is a Honey Trap or worse and plans to deliver her victim to his worst enemies to be tortured to death; and the reason things are going so well is that one of the protagonist's enemies is setting him up for a terrible fall from the heights of his greatest triumph. Note that this instinct is common in characters from all parts of the moral spectrum, though heroes tend to be targeted for this kind of deception a lot more than villains. Also, while high intelligence tends to coincide with this instinct, characters who are Too Dumb to Fool are especially likely to be appropriately skeptical that they could really be on an endless lucky streak.

As much as this instinct often proves to be Truth in Television, the Rule of Drama actually dictates that it's even more likely to be an accurate appraisal of the situation in fictional works, since an ideal situation in which everything goes according to plan leaves no room for Conflict, and without conflict, there's no story. Considering how very often this instinct expresses itself to both the characters and the audience, let there be In-Universe Examples Only on the main page for any given work to which this applies, please. Audience Reactions expressing this instinct can go on the Fridge Logic tab.

The Schlub Pub Seduction Deduction can be considered a sexual Sub-Trope. See also Your Princess Is in Another Castle and Spoiled by the Format for some specific Fridge Logic that may clue the audience to this trope.


  • A somewhat downplayed example in Aladdin: The Return of Jafar: Abis Mal is offered tons of treasures in exchange for setting his genie Jafar free. Initially he's elated, but just before he's going to make the wish, he remembers that Jafar has been a complete Jackass Genie the entire time he's had him. If he sets Jafar free, what's stopping Jafar from making all his treasure disappear and doing horrible things to his former master the moment he's loose?
  • A shop owner in Cone Heads admits to having suspected the truth all along when his incredibly industrious new employee Beldar admits to being an illegal alien (which technically he is, though the shop owner is unaware of just how alien he is).
  • In the first Matrix movie, Agent Smith gives a Hannibal Lecture about how this trope thwarted the machines' earliest efforts to build a Matrix that was intended to be a utopian Heaven-on-Earth for humanity because humanity just wasn't buying it: "It was a disaster. Whole clusters were lost." He speculates that this distrust for perfection is inborn.
  • As one of the investigators in Minority Report points out, the cops' discovery of an "orgy of evidence" actually makes him more skeptical that they're pursuing the right suspect (and he's right, sort of).
  • In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, John calls his foster parents to see if they're safe from the T-1000. What initially tips him off that's something's not kosher is that his foster mother is being far nicer to him than she ever has before, since normally she's fed up with his juvenile delinquent ways. Sure enough, the T-1000 has already replaced her, and is in the middle of killing off his foster father as well while they're talking.

Live-Action TV
  • In Castle's first episode, Richard Castle is rather bothered by how quickly and neatly everything on his first case falls so neatly into place, though the cops don't see anything wrong with this. It turns out he's right, and the man they've arrested is a patsy.
  • In "Dead Stop" from Star Trek: Enterprise, T'Pol notices Captain Archer is visibly troubled about the mysterious repair station they've found which is able and willing to fix every bit of the extensive damage to their ship (and the injuries to its crew) in exchange for the amazingly low price of just 200 liters of warp plasma. His instincts are sound, as it turns out there's a "hidden fee" the station also tries to extract from them.
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