* Needs More Examples
A character who does a Categorization Failure will mistake two wildly different things for being the same thing, failing to see the very big and relevant difference. Alternatively, she may mistake two things that are the same for being wildly different things, because of focusing too much on some irrelevant detail.
This is an efficient and often amusing way of showing that the character doesn't have a clue about what she's talking about. While any character can do this mistake in a special situation, the characters that are truly prone to do it are those that are either small children or alien to the setting
they are trying to comprehend.
Usually, the mistake is either brief-and-never-mentioned-again, or a point is made of how the character learns and grow wiser. However, the character may also persist in her bad categorization: Defending it with Aggressive Categorism
, or develop it into an entire Nonsense Classification
Compare Wrongfully Attributed
. Contrast Innocent Bigot
, where the character mistake a category of people for having a bad trait, rather than mixing up two categories entirely.
- MADMagazine included this in a list of "20 things you'll never see on Star Trek": The enterprise discovers a new and unknown lifeform... which turns out to be an old and rather well-known lifeform, which simply happened to be wearing a funny hat.
- Played For Laughs in The Great Muppet Caper where Kermit the Frog and Fozzie Bear play identical twins. No one can tell them apart unless Fozzie wears a hat.
- Played with in the advertising for the 1988 movie Twins. The tagline was "Only their mother can tell them apart". But the twins were played by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny De Vito.
- In The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Magician's Nephew, the talking animals believe that a human's clothing is just like an animal's fur (i.e. it's part of them and can't be removed). Thus they fail to understand that Diggory's uncle is of the same species as Diggory, with disastrous results.
- The Disney version of The Little Mermaid has the scene where Ariel encounter humans for the first time. Especially two humans capture her eye. One is tall and handsome, while the other is ugly but funny and has a nice attitude. Ariel comments on how this other human is very hairy, and the fact that he drools. Unlike her, the average audience easily understands that this other "human" is actually the first human's pet dog!
- All children go through this as they learn their first language. For example, the word "dog" is likely to mean all animals. Once the distinction between "dog" and "cat" is in place, "cat" is likely to include small dogs.