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Appeal to Obscurity
Bob is arguing with Alice about how doing something will cause her to fail. To further his point, he gives an example of someone who did that thing. She will say that she's never heard of that person.

He says: "Exactly!"

Sometimes the point is that the person never became famous because they failed at something; sometimes it has more serious implications like death, a cover-up, or disappearance from history. See also Famed in Story. Contrast Undead Author.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • British TV ad: "If you don't drink your milk, you'll only be good enough to play for Accrington Stanley." "Who are they?" "Exactly." (Accrington Stanley is an actual British amateur soccer team, much more obscure than the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea. As of May 2006, it has just been promoted back to UK league football.)
    • This probably in fact references an earlier Accrington Stanley team than the current reformed team, who infamously resigned from the football league mid-season. This is akin to not merely failing, but giving up half-way.

    Comic Books 
  • Runaways, when the kids go on a trip to New York.
    Chase: Superheroes are an everyday thing for New Yorkers, boss. For these people, seeing (She-Hulk) is like an Angeleno running into Steve Guttenberg.
    Nico: Who's Steve Guttenberg?
    Chase: Exactly.
  • This actually makes sense in one She-Hulk story, and in quite a disturbing fashion. The Time Variance Authority doesn't just kill people, it prevents them from ever existing in the first place. Like Knight Man and Dr. Rocket—not that you'd have heard of them.
  • In Ultimate Spider-Man, this turns up in the Seinfeldian Conversation of two incredibly bored doctors checking on the comatose Doctor Octavius.
    "Yeah—who decided [Ashley Judd] was a movie star?"
    "I know. Same person who decided Molly Ringwald was."
    "Who?"
    "Exactly."
  • Maybe more a kind of appeal to annihilation than an appeal to obscurity, but in Achille Talon there’s a dialogue which goes along these lines:
    Lefuneste: I don’t want to swim in that pond: the water looks deadly cold!
    Achille: Come on, you wimp! Think of the Spartans! In the midst of the winter they would play water-polo using ice balls in the rivers they were gladly swimming in!
    Lefuneste: Exactly: there are no more Spartans!

    Fan Fiction 
  • Played in some Harry Potter fan fictions regarding the "Eternal Glory" of the Triwizard Tournament. When asked to name one previous winner of the Tournament, the questioned will completely fail. The interrogator will then ask how that qualifies as "Eternal".

    Film 
  • Inverted in Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl.
    Norrington: You are without a doubt the worst pirate I have ever heard of.
    Jack Sparrow: But you have heard of me.
  • In High School Musical, Chad tries to convince Troy (they're both high school basketball players) that basketball practice is more important than singing:
    Chad: Have you ever seen Michael Crawford on a cereal box?
    Troy: Who's Michael Crawford?
    Chad: Exactly my point!
  • Used in Good Will Hunting as the professor and therapist discuss Will's future. They ask the bartender if he's ever heard of several people who've taken the path they don't want Will to take, including the professor's name. Finally, Robin Williams' character wins with this:
    Sean: Hey, Timmy!
    Bartender: Yo?
    Sean: Who's Ted Kaczynski?
    Bartender: Unabomber.
  • From What a Girl Wants:
    Glynnis: Look what happened to Olivia Nixon when she went to China last summer.
    Clarissa: Who's Olivia Nixon?
    Glynnis: Exactly.
  • In Mr. 3000, Stan Ross warns budding superstar Rex Pennebaker that if he doesn't support his team, he'll end up standing at the end of his career next to "Big Horse" Borelli. When Pennebaker asks "Who?", Ross says "exactly." "Big Horse" Borelli was the obscure no-name player who was the only one of Stan's former teammates willing to speak at Ross's tribute ceremony earlier in the film.

    Literature 
  • Discworld
    • In The Last Hero, Cohen explains why he a) wants to do something that will ensure he's remembered forever, and b) has dragged a minstrel along to record it:
      Cohen: Laugh away. But what about all the heroes who aren't remembered in songs and sagas, eh? You tell me about them.
      Minstrel: Eh? What heroes who aren't remembered in songs and sagas?
      Cohen: Exactly!
    • A variant, the Appeal to Obliteration, occurred in Interesting Times.
      'Like, supposing the population is being a bit behind with its taxes. You pick some city where people are being troublesome and kill everyone and set fire to it and pull down the walls and plough up the ashes. That way you get rid of the trouble and all the other cities are suddenly really well behaved and polite and all your back taxes turn up in a big rush, which is handy for governments, I understand. Then if they ever give trouble you just have to say "Remember Nangnang?" or whatever, and they say "Where's Nangnang?" and you say, "My point exactly."'
    • Another Appeal to Obliteration by the God of Evolution in The Last Continent, although in this case it's an apology for an uncontrollable reflex rather than a threat. It just feels like a threat:
      "Oh dear. there I go again..." A tiny bolt of lightning flashed off his thumb and exploded. "I hope it's not going to be the city of Quint all over again. Of course, you know what happened there..."
      "I've never heard of the city of Quint," said Ponder.
      "Yes, I suppose you wouldn't have," said the god. "That's the whole point, really. It wasn't much of a city. It was mostly made of mud. Well, I say mud. Afterwards of course, it was mostly ceramics."
  • A Song of Ice and Fire has the annihilation variant when Roose Bolton and Jaime Lannister discuss the impending fate of a man who betrayed Jaime's father.
    Bolton: Our goat should have consulted the Tarbecks or the Reynes. They might have warned him how your lord father deals with betrayals.
    Jaime: There are no Tarbecks or Reynes.
    Bolton: My point precisely.

    Live Action TV 
  • Freaks and Geeks: The heroine doesn't want to go to college. She lists famous people who never went to college, and her guidance counselor adds, "Frank." When she says, "Who?" his response is "The guy who pumps my gas."
  • The Brady Bunch: Carol, trying to convince a discouraged Bobby not to quit his hair-tonic business, lists famous people who became great because they didn't quit, and ends with "Carl Mahakian."
    Bobby: Carl Mahakian? Never heard of him.
    Carol: That's cause he quit.
  • On Star Trek: Enterprise, Archer has an example: "Do you know what Buzz Aldrin said when he landed on the moon?" Waitress: "No." Archer: "That's because Neil Armstrong got there first."
    • It was "That's a good last step..." (referring to the 3 foot gap from the lander's last step to the surface), FYI.
    • And when the lunar lander first landed on the moon, Buzz's first words were: "OK, engine stop."note 
  • Inverted on Dollhouse, when Echo is hired to help commit a robbery:
    Robber: If you're so great, how come I never heard of you?
    Echo: You ever heard of Bonnie and Clyde?
    Robber: [thinking she's made a mistake] Bonnie and Clyde got killed.
    Echo: That's because they wanted to be famous.
  • In Big Time Rush:
    Kelly: If you have a bad day with Deke, you'll be bigger nobodies than Tanyon Labelle.
    BTR: Who's Tanyon Labelle?
    Kelly and Gustavo: Exactly.
  • Supernatural
    • They did the changing-history version (see She-Hulk) when Balthazar prevents the sinking of the Titanic.
      Dean: Why did you un-sink the ship?
      Balthazar: Ugh, because I hated the movie.
      Dean: What movie?
      Balthazar: Exactly!
    • And another one from later in the same episode.
      Balthazar: That godawful Celine Dion song made me want to smite myself.
      Sam: Who's Celine Dion?
      Balthazar: Oh, she's a destitute lounge singer somewhere in Quebec — and let's keep it that way, please.
  • In a Christmas Episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Sabrina heads off to a magical party instead of spending time with her aunts and the partygoers mock those wanting to spend Christmas time together, including her aunts, on a TV. Sabrina cuts it off and storms out but is later told by Salem that she hit "erase" by accident and thus erased Christmas. He informs Sabrina she has 24-hours to fix the damage or Christmas will go the way of Bobunk, a holiday he inadvertently erased and couldn't get back.
    Sabrina: I never heard of it.
    Salem: THAT'S MY POINT!
  • Castle
    • Played entirely straight in the episode "A Dance With Death":
      Brad: I'd be off the show. I'd be Brian Dunkleman!
      Beckett: [beat] Who's Brian Dunkleman?
      Brad: Exactly.
    • In "Swan Song", Castle can totally see why a lead singer going solo would be a motive for murder:
      Castle: I mean, I'd rather be Peter Gabriel than Anthony Phillips.
      Beckett: Anthony who?
      Castle: Exactly.
  • On A.N.T. Farm in the episode "TranplANTed", when Chyna wants to get her lunch from her locker and eat in the cafeteria, and Olive tells her its not safe for them out there.
    Chyna: I left my lunch in my locker.
    Olive: Emma left her lunch in her locker.
    Chyna: Who's Emma?
    Olive: Exactly!
  • In Boardwalk Empire, an upset Eddie Cantor asks Billie Kent if she's ever heard of Lucy Danziger, Nucky's former lover who was Put on a Bus in season 2 after she abandoned Nelson van Alden with their out-of-wedlock baby, to remind her of the realities of being Nucky's fling.
  • A (probably justified) use in the Dinotopia miniseries:
    David: Wait, how do you know no one made it [out of Dinotopia by boat]?
    Mayor of Waterfall City: Had you ever heard of Dinotopia before you arrived?
    David: No.
    Mayor: Exactly!
  • In Agents Of Shield, Coulson defends S.H.I.E.L.D's policy of covering up supernatural events:
    Coulson: Do you remember the panic when that anti-matter meteorite landed off the coast of Miami and nearly devoured half the city?
    Skye: No.
    Coulson: Exactly.

    Music 
  • "Cinderella", a 1962 novelty hit by Jack Ross. It's a Spoonerism-filled retelling of the story, but he ends it with an Aesop:
    Cinderella never gave up. And as you walk down the pathways of life, never give up.
    Christopher Columbus never gave up
    Benjamin Franklin never gave up
    Abraham Lincoln never gave up
    Oliver Twiddledee...
    Who's he? You see, you don't know 'cause he gave up!

    Newspaper Comics 
  • From the politically-tinged 1970s comic strip Conchy:
    Conchy: Is there any chance the war with the East Islanders will reach the nuclear stage?
    The King: Not a chance. North Island tested a nuclear bomb and since then we've all been a little uneasy.
    Conchy: North Island? There is no North Island.
    The King: Exactly.
  • This doesn't quite work in one strip of Candorville. Stephen King argues that Dickens's fictional portrayal of slum life taught more people more about the slums than [mumble]'s factual reporting. Lemont, unable to hear him, asks "Who?" King responds "Exactly," and both wind up confused.
  • In one series of Bloom County strips, Bill the Cat was arrested by the FBI for selling secrets to Russia. Steve Dallas - his lawyer - asked what the secrets were. (Keep in mind, this was when Ronald Reagan was still President):
    FBI Agent: The Secret of the Sierra Madre, the secret recipe for Coke, and the secret of George Bush's appeal.
    Steve: The secret of George Bush's appeal?
    Agent: That's right.
    Steve: George Bush doesn't have any appeal.
    Agent: Well, that's the secret!

    Video Games 
  • The Curse of Monkey Island
    • The game features a scene where the captive Guybrush Threepwood is trying to convince the Demon Pirate LeChuck not to kill him. At one point, it's possible to argue that if LeChuck kills Guybrush, there will be no more Monkey Island games, and hence LeChuck will wind up just another forgotten game villain. LeChuck scoffs at this, prompting the following exchange:
    Guybrush: Do you know the name "Bobbin Threadbare"?
    LeChuck: Um, er...no.
    Guybrush: Exactly.
  • When Mira is talking about her arch enemy, Hanharr in Knights of the Old Republic 2, Depending on which option you choose to link her question and explanation, you can get something like this:
    Mira: Ever heard of Dersonn III?
    Exile: No.
    Mira: See what I mean?
  • In Baldur's Gate 2, Haer'Dalis deflates Edwin's ambition for eternal life through godhood by this trope:
    Edwin: You assume my death to be inevitable, but perhaps I think beyond those terms. Mortality seems escapable by others, so why not me?
    Haer'Dalis: Edwin, do you remember the name of the ancient Netheril god of the sea?
    Edwin: Eh... no.
    Haer'Dalis: Everything ends, Edwin. Everything dies. The dust of a god looks much the same as yours and mine will.
  • Invoked through Dialogue Tree in one of Karin's pep talks in the Olympic Mode in Capcom vs. SNK: Millennium Fight 2000 for the Neo Geo Pocket:
    Karin: You have as many medals as Irving Thiddlebakker! How do you feel about events now, champ? How are they?
    Your first choice of response: Piece of cake!
    Karin: You're going to be just like Irving: forgotten! It's not over yet. There are more valuable medals still to be won!

    Web Animation 
  • In the flash series Perfect Kirby, where Neil is talking about how Professor $1.99 is called that because he's cheap but still manages to make things work. His example is how they gave him a million dollars to make a hydrogen bomb. He spent most of it on candy but spent $1.99 making the bomb itself out of a pop can and other household items.
    Kirby: Did it work?
    Neil: Oh yeah. Remember Kaplikistan?
    Kirby: No?
    Neil: Exactly.

    Web Comics 
  • Arthur, King of Time and Space:
    Merlin: Don't make me mad.
    Space pirate: I'm on the verge of taking over all the territory of all the pirates Arthur's put out of business. I don't think one old man—
    Merlin: Have you heard of the dual dragons of Dinas Emrys?
    Space pirate: No.
    Merlin: They made me mad.
  • Played with in Questionable Content, where the conversation looks like this from Raven's point of view, but is a Stealth Pun from Faye's:
    Faye: You'd better be careful with those drinks, they're what killed Keith Moon.
    Raven: Keith who?
    Faye: Exactly.
  • Sean Tevis, who actually is running for Kansas State Representative on internet donations:
    "And exactly 0.003% know who Dirk Kempthorne is."
    "Who's Dirk Kempthorne?"
    • If this involves Kansas State Representatives, odds are only 0.003% need to know.
  • Done in Cat and Girl here.
  • Dork Tower: Igor educates Matt on the efficiency of Kickstopper.
  • Life of Wily, an early Mega Man sprite comic, features a unique delivery on the idea:
    Roll: [as Zero] You want Pop Culture? I'll show you Pop Culture!
    Wily: [as Sigma] Sure you will... You're about as Pop Culture as Dee Dee Stockton was.
    [Beat Panel]
    Roll: You just made that name up!
    Wily: No I didn't!
  • In Smithson, Gemma believes former child prodigy Darryl O'Doyle, who became normal following a brain operation, only to suddenly start writing avant garde poetry as an old man, through automatic writing with his left hand, is faking the whole thing. When Chuck asks why anyone would pretend not to be a genius for sixty years, she names three (real) child prodigies, and asks if he's ever heard of them. He hasn't.

    Web Original 
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series
    • One of the earlier ones:
      Kaiba: Since he's the star, he thinks he can hog all the screentime to himself. I mean, just look at Bakura.
      Mokuba: Who the hell is Bakura?
      Kaiba: Precisely.
    • Bakura seems to get this a lot.
      Yami-Yugi: Hey remember when Bakura was in this show? Neither do I!
  • Used dramatically in Dragon Ball Z Abridged, just before Freeza kicks the crap out of Nail, one of the few surviving Namekians:
    Freeza: Tell me...have you ever heard of the planet Vegeta?
    Nail: ...n...no...
    Freeza: Funny...because I expect to hear the same from the next person when I ask them about Namek.
  • From The Nostalgia Critic's review of Scooby-Doo:
    Nostalgia Critic: So the film opens with — big shock — a pop song.
    Past!Nostalgia Critic: Yeah, but so what? The original had pop songs too.
    Nostalgia Critic: Yeah, and I'm sure that never dated either. Just like having Sandy Duncan or the Harlem Globetrotters.
    Past!Nostalgia Critic: Who?
    Nostalgia Critic: Exactly.
  • Holy Musical Batman
    Superman: Have you ever heard of Mr. Mxyzptlk?
    Green Lantern: No.
    Superman: No! That's right. It's because I do my damn job.

    Western Animation 
  • All Grown Up!
    • The episode "Brother, Can You Spare The Time?": Tommy has just won an award for a video he's shot, and his brother, Dil, keeps intruding on a video he's shooting about himself because he [Dil] is worried that the fame will go to Tommy's head.
    Dil: Who knows what effects the "cross the fame border" has on sibling symbiosis? Once you're a big time director, the dynamic duel of T and D Pickles will be no more.
    Tommy: First of all, even if I do get famous, who's to say that you won't be the brother that got famous too?
    Dil: Two words, T, Lars Christian Anderson.
    Tommy: Who's that?
    Dil: Exactly.
    • There's a later scene where Dil uses Gabe Ruth to further his argument, and he even takes the argument to a TV talk show.
  • Parodied on The Simpsons; after Lisa fails her audition for first chair in the school orchestra and tells herself there's no shame in being second place, she has a dream about being a member of "Garfunkel, Oates, Messina, and Lisa", the second-most popular band in America. The group is sponsored by Avis Rent-a-Car and has a #2 single called "Born To Runner-Up".
  • Used on Fillmore!, when Fillmore and Ingrid are interrogating an artist suspected of doing graffiti:
    Tommy: I ain't goin' out like Charles Laskey, know what I'm sayin'?
    Ingrid: Who's Charles Laskey?
    Tommy: That's what I'm sayin', know what I'm sayin'?
  • Used in Frisky Dingo, when Killface's son comes out of the closet and Xander, Killface's rival in the presidential election, wants to use the news against his campaign.
    Stan: Nope, we leave this one alone.
    Xander: Why?
    Stan: Because two words: John Kerry.
    Xander: Who?
    Stan: Exactly.
    Xander: [Beat] ...He some sort of famous gay dude?
  • Animaniacs: "Piano Rag"
    Yakko: Very Pete Townshend-esque.
    Dot: Who?
    Wakko: Exactly.
  • Men In Black: Agent K's way to make Agent J (and the viewers) understand a certain weapon's power was mentioning Earth's second moon. When J pointed out Earth had no second moon, the trope came into play.

    Real Life 
  • Adolf Hitler says: "Accordingly, I have placed my death-head formations in readiness — for the present only in the East — with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space (Lebensraum) which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"
    • He may have invoked this trope, but the annihilation of the Armenians was a very real event from around the time of WWI. This quote is often used to argue that the Holocaust was at least in part inspired by Turkey's genocide of the Armenians, and its ability to go unpunished for it.
    • The Armenian Genocide had somewhat fallen into obscurity at the time, so it worked. Only later was it made more famous once the UN adopted laws against genocide and the Armenian diaspora attempted to finally bring it to justice. Due to Turkey invoking the Streisand Effect they only brought more attention to it in their efforts to cover it up.
  • From the Genghis Khan page on This Very Wiki: After a long list of conquered nations, it reads "Khwarezm? You've never heard of that country? Exactly."


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