While some shows fail just because they're bad, or because they weren't marketed much and people didn't know they existed, there are some that don't stand a chance in the first place. Not because they're terrible or badly done, and in fact they may be even fantastically done for what they are. But because the very concept scared people away.
It could be because of Squick. For example, An American Crime is a movie based on the real life torture and murder of a teenage girl at the hands of her foster mother and her children. Sound like fun? Most people don't think so, even if the movie is genuinely well-made.
Other times, it's because the concept is unique, but in a way that scares away audiences rather than growing on them. For example, Avatar: The Last Airbender , about kids and young teens going on adventures to save a fantasy world, is a hit with both kids and adults, due to the generally light tone and the complexity of the story, and a theme that has broad appeal. On the other hand, Peter Pan & the Pirates was by comparison a failure and was cancelled in less than 2 years. It featured young children going on adventures in a fantasy world, had complex characterization for the time, and took itself seriously and got quite dark at times. But instead of growing its audience, it shrunk it. Older kids think Peter Pan is beneath them, while younger kids would find the cartoon scary or intimidating (and it did have its share of scares).
This is the Audience Alienating Premise. An idea that could be cool and could even make a fantastic show, book, movie, video game or comic, and may very well have, but which instead dooms the work from the very start due to the mere concept alone being totally unapproachable to most people. Sadly, due to merely how it "sounds", many people won't try it out. In some cases, it might become much more popular in another country due to differences in tastes and Values Dissonance. In a reversal, attempts to mimic styles popular from other cultures comes off as too different for audiences to understand and appreciate. When the alienated audience is in another country, it's Americans Hate Tingle. Again, this usually happens because of Values Dissonance.
In some cases an oddball work is shunned on release only to become a Cult Classic, often being either Vindicated by Video or Vindicated by Cable.
It should be noted that simply having an off-sounding premise is not an automatic declaration of commercial failure either and in some cases, such as a movie about a telekinetic alien farmer or psychedelic rock with horror themes, it winds up being successful regardless. When an audience alienating premise winds up succeeding despite predictions to the contrary, it's It Will Never Catch On.
See also One-Episode Wonder, which is what happens to many of these. Can overlap with Public Medium Ignorance, as works which suffer from that have a strong tendency to be audience alienating. Could also overlap with Necessary Weasel, and Anthropic Principle. A Genre Buster, unless it's exceptionally well-done, will often meet this fate, simply because there just isn't enough of any one genre in it for genre-lovers. Contrast Dancing Bear, where the oddness of the premise attracts interest rather than discouraging it.
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Anime and Manga
Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan. Bear with us here: an angel comes back in time to repeatedly and brutally murder (and promptly reanimate) a junior high student, in order to stop him from creating a 'pedophile's world' where all females don't age past 12 years old. And it's a COMEDY!
Elfen Lied at least attempts to pose thought-provoking questions about nature vs nurture and unethical science (albeit rather hamhandedly.) To anyone walking in, however, it's just a gory series about little girls being tortured. You're lucky if they don't think of you as a sadistic pedophile.
Koi Kaze is a love story between a 27-year-old man and a 15-year-old girl. This would be controversial enough, but it gets worse when it's revealed that they're a long-lost brother and sister. They learn this at the end of the first episode. The series goes on for 12 more episodes.
Maria†Holic. The series is about a sadistic double-faced crossdresser who torments and abuses a perverted lesbian teenager at an all girls school. And it's never really clear which one of the two we're supposed to side with. It hasn't fared well with many people, especially in the U.S. and other countries. It's been praised for some of its comedy writing, but pretty much nothing else, and the English translation of the manga flopped and was discontinued after a few volumes.
Spice and Wolf. It's about medieval economics. You try getting people to watch it. The way they did try to sell it was emphasizing the initial nakedness of the female lead, which had the side effect of making it look (to anime fans) like a Magical Girlfriend series ala To Love-Ru, which it isn't.
Wandering Son portrays puberty and LGBT issues - especially transgender ones - quite seriously. This puts off many people since it's outside of their comfort zone or they're so used to comedies about the subject.
And people who want to read a transgender story might be turned off by the fact that one of the kids is randomly revealed to not be trans in the first place.
Sankarea is about a boy with an unhealthy zombie fixation, and a suicidal girl who tests his experimental reanimation serum, dies, comes back as a zombie, and becomes his girlfriend. Yep.
Mysterious Girlfriend X is the story of a high school boy who becomes addicted to the new transfer student's saliva. As in, he licks it off her desk in the first episode. Interested yet?
Sometimes is the case in attempting to localize works from Japan to America, where cuteness and sexualization are aligned much more in the former than in the latter. For example, Bottle Fairy, which is aggressively cute, but also panders to the Moe crowd in such a way that makes western viewers uncomfortable.
The series is also some strange combination of Sadist Show and reverse harem, two genres that don't really go together even without the homophobic premise.
This is a likely reason for Dennou Coil never getting licensed by a foreign publisher. The cute art style and young age of the cast seem to target children, but as the series goes on it starts touching on the sort of transhumanism- and internet-related philosophical questions that appear in series like Ghost in the Shell. Now, you could maybe tap a certain market with childhood nostalgia clashing with such difficult topics, but the maturity of the story is also undermined by the persistence of soft sci-fi and "magical" tropes, especially the ending.
Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo: A boy meets genius girl with an Ambiguous Disorder and No Social Skills. Despite getting surprisingly positive reviews, many refuse to watch it due to how incredibly misogynistic (and to some, ableist) the premise sounds at first glance, especially since some summaries describe her relationship as being his "pet". In reality he and a few of the other characters are essentially her care takers.
Haou Airen is a bloody, graphic series about a girl kidnapped by a Hong Kong gang leader to be his Sex Slave and who becomes horribly broken. It's also a smutty shoujo romance. Viz Media reportedly dropped its licsense of it for this very reason.
This is probably why Mitsudomoe flopped so miserably, at least in Japan (in the US it's a borderlineCult Classic). The crude, childish nature of the show put off otaku, while the otaku-targeted advertising and merchandise scared off most other potential audiences (and made some believe it was a lolicon show).
Similar to the above example was Hanamaru Kindergarten. The toddler-aged main characters turned off adult viewers, while the use of mature humor and themes made it unsuitable for kids. The target audience seems to be "otaku who want to experience early childhood nostalgia" which isn't a big demographic at all.
This happens to Samurai Flamenco where a lot of viewers thought the show is like "Kick-Ass meets Kamen Rider" due to the first six episodes of a vigilante trying to be a hero and beating up thugs. Then, episode 7 onwards came with the introduction of villains and monsters straight out from the Tokusatsu and Super Sentai shows. Viewers who are unfamiliar with these genres started to drop the show and those who are still watching it are Tokusatsu fans and those who want to watch it just for fun.
Rika is a manga about a middle school boy, Kazuya, who shares a bedroom in his family's small Tokyo apartment, with his younger sister, the titular Rika. Normal so far. Then we find out that Kazuya masturbates while his sister is changing, without her knowledge. Then we learn that Rika has romantic feelings for her brother, which they eventually confess to one another. It makes the Kissing Cousins plot that comes up later seem tame by comparison.
Kodomo no Kodomo is an obscure manga about a young girl who gets pregnant... while she's still in elementary school. That alone should tell you why it's obscure. (The father happens to be another elementary schooler, but that does very little to lessen the squick.) It's been criticized by those who actually have read it for portraying a disturbing and horrifying situation as something whimsical and innocent.
...and even if you could stomach that premise and try to read it, the eyestrainingly-horrible art style would put you off anyway.
CLANNAD is widely regarded as one of the best anime series ever made, but a lot of people avoid it after hearing about how sad some parts of it are, especially in the second half of ~After Story~. Also, even though the series is aimed at young men, they might be turned off by the high school romance, thinking it's for girls. Other people pass after hearing about the alleged Deus ex Machina ending.
Lady Snowblood: A relatively feminist work, but with lots of rather sexually exploitative elements mixed in.
Upotte is a Slice of Life manga/show about an academy of anthromorphized guns. Anime viewers who like moe will be put off by the guns, and gun fans will most likely be put off by the moe. Only those who can appreciate - or tolerate - both genres will be able to watch/read this show/manga.
The manga Saikin Imouto No Yousu Ga Chotto Okashiinda Ga is about a girl who gets forced by a bi-sexual Cute Ghost Girl to wear a chastity belt and fill a "Feeling Gauge" attached to it regularly, mainly by doing things that are embarassing and involve her step brother, so a staircase in heaven can appear and allow the ghost girl to finally move on. Oh, should she refuse, she dies. And it's all played for pure Fanservice.
This may have been part of the reason why Heat Guy J never achieved much widespread popularity. It looks like a straightforward sci-fi buddy cop-style action series, as opposed to the serious drama it actually is. As a result, many people wrote it off as just another buddy-cop action show, and those who watched it because they liked straightforward action shows came away underwhelmed.
The manga Lotte no Omocha is a story about a strapping young man who is tricked by elves into moving to another world, specifically so a 10-year-old succubus can have sex with him for the rest of his life. Trying to talk about it generally goes like this: "It's a story about a man becoming a surrogate father—" "Wait. Isn't that the one with the ten-year-old succubus?" "Yeah, but—" "Ten-year-old. Succubus."
Kodomo no Jikan is about a pre-pubescent girl who falls in love with her teacher, and acts overtly sexual to get his attention, which you wouldn't expect to do well in the US. It didn't get a chance to — it was canceled when the licensing company learned how bookstores and distributors would react: by canceling orders. Outside of Japan, owning something like this could theoretically get you thrown in jail. The US release was also slated to have the audience-alienating title of "Nymphet", which was requested by the author since Seven Seas couldn't use the original [translated] title of "A Child's Time". The series also deals very bluntly with touchy subjects such as incest/Wife Husbandry, sexual development in children, and hitting puberty abnormally early, which probably alienated readers even further.
kiss×sis is an over-the-top harem comedy that goes as far as it can possibly go without actually being considered porn. The premise — boy's twin stepsisters have obsessive crushes on him — alienates a lot of people, but that's the least offensive by a fair margin. Blatant fanservice, shameless Playing To The Fetishes... going into too much detail would be a bad idea, so we'll just leave it at that.
Sugar Sugar Rune is a little girls Magical Girl show that also has a surprisingly dark plot and tries to raise questions about semi-serious topics such as love and femininity (with mixed results). It also suffers badly from Most Writers Are Adults, which can be off-putting for some. Possibly because of this it never really became popular outside Japan and faded into semi-obscurity after it ended.
Wata Mote is a Mood Whiplash-filled comedy about a severly anti-social and messed-up girl who tries to become popular but usually fails horribly at everything she does. While slightly more popular in the US, the anime flopped in Japan.
Haiyore! Nyarko-san, which has the delightfully insane premise of Cthulhu Mythos meets Unwanted Harem. Viewers who aren't Lovecraft fans won't get all the references worked into the story, while viewers who are may be put off by the fact that those references are really the only connection to Lovecraft's work — or worse, as some fans have been outright offended by the show's Lighter and Softer and claim it makes Lovecraft spin in his grave.
Ro-Kyu-Bu! is a basketball series with well-written friendship drama but also with Moe designs taken Up to Eleven and lots of lolicon and Cos PlayFanservice and subtext. Fans of either probably wouldn't care much for the respective other.
The second season takes it a step up in that the female lead who is in sixth grade has feelings for the male lead who is in late highschool and from what is depicted it is not the kind of innocent crush one would expect either.
Teacher's Pet is an obscure manga about a teacher who gets horrifically sexually abused by one of her students. And it's a smutty josei. Sound fun?
Assassination Classroom is probably not going to fly high in America and other countries with histories of student rampage (like the Columbine massacre) because even if it is an alien that will destroy the world within a year if not defeated and the fuel for a crazy Save Our Students plot, the plot do revolves around training an entire classroom into being able to kill their teacher, and some of the students are disturbed (and some are not) with their increasing ability to do Charles Atlas Superpower stunts for the sake of assassination.
Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld: A Magical Girl maxiseries created during early 80's? It didn't stand a chance, so DC killed the series by making the main character evil and blowing up her homeworld. Of course, if they had the foresight to allow the property to live until the 90s, they could have had a hot product on their hands. Relaunched in 2012 as the lead feature of Sword of Sorcery, written by Christy Marx, the woman behind Jem. The comic again failed to find an audience, and was cancelled with Issue #8 in early 2013.
While the relaunch had some potential going for it, it also ran into a number of the same roadblocks - for a comic that was being promoted with kid-friendly bumpers on Cartoon Network's DC Nation, it went for more of a "Game of Thrones with magical gem powers" vibe and featured an attempted gang rape in its first issue.
Amethyst had a sort of crossover in the second series. Cue very surprised looks from readers wondering what the hell a character from a "comic for little girls" was doing in the pages of Dr. Fate. (Turns out Amy is a Lord of Order. Yes, you read that right.)
Power Pack (the original 1980s comic): Kid superheroes, except that instead of featuring wacky antics and dumb adult villains, the theme was played totally straight. In other words, the story took itself seriously and was meant to be seen as such (not only was its own series pretty deep at times, but the kids were even featured in the X-Men's Mutant Massacre crossover, which was every bit as dark as it sounds), but many people wrote it off because it was about kids. Kids who wanted to see wacky antics probably ended up disappointed. Most other people dismissed it out of hand, because they assumed a story about children would just be wacky and stupid. It's probably no coincidence that most of the letters to the editor came from adults, and the occasional 12-year-old who was surprised at the quality of the storytelling.
Yeah! by Peter Bagge and Gilbert Hernandez is a girls' comic about three girls in a rock band who are trying to make it big but can only get fans in outer space. It was intended to resemble the girls' comics of the sixties, and it is to comic books what a disco album by Iron Maiden would be to the world of music: It doesn't contain any of the stuff that their fans like, and it belongs to a genre that nobody's been interested in for decades. It was cancelled after nine poorly-selling issues, and the fact that it's a fun comic with good writing and nice artwork didn't really make a difference.
Avengers Arena: Taking C-List but cult favorite teenage heroes (including members of Runaways, and Avengers Academy) and putting them in a The Hunger Games/Battle Royale scenario (but with no indication of social commentary or satire), so as to prop up Smug Snake gimmick villain Arcade as a legitimate threat (twenty years too late), by having a lot of teenagers die. The amount of vitriol it has generated before its release is rather amazing.
Chick Tracts are meant to appeal to people other than evangelical protestants. However, the target audience is automatically alienated by the central messages (promoting religious fundamentalism, decrying the "evil" of the Catholic Church, comparing people who think Evolution is a sound theory to Nazis, etc.), while people who would agree with them don't bother reading them because the tracts are not meant for them.
Sex Criminals is a comic about a pair of lovers and aspiring bank robbers who can freeze time whenever they orgasm. And no, it's not a porn comic. It's a well-written and funny comic, but the premise and the title, not to mention the somewhat provocative covers, will probably scare a lot of potential readers away.
Barbara Slate's Angel Love series folded after eight issues and a special. Its cute cartoonish artwork and style of writing clashed with the subjects it was dealing with: drug use, abortion, critical illnesses, and incest.
Archie Sonic The Hedgehog similarly crossed over with Image Comics in a Sonic Super Special issue. Few things in life are more dissimilar than the respective tones of Sonic the Hedgehog and Spawn, but they crossed over anyhow.
Attempts to combine highbrow literature with hardcore porn comics tend to fall under this trope. Audiences generally approach each genre with entirely different expectations and purposes in mind. Two examples are Gilbert Hernandez's Birdland, a satire of Wilhelm Reich's disputed orgone energy theory, and Alan Moore's and Melinda Gebbie's Lost Girls, featuring Alice from Alice in Wonderland, Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, and Wendy from Peter Pan.
One review pointed out that Mobile Suit Gundam SEED: Freedom suffers from this trope (hence its lack of reviews) because of its summary, which gives the impression that it intends to deconstruct and outright bash the series.
Dark Fics tend to be this in general, especially when the work they're based on is light-hearted.
Will Ferrell's Funny Or Die website has an article about "7 Movies That Are All About Kiddie Sex" featuring 7 of these. Though the criticism of them is presented humorously, that title's not one of the jokes.
Almost every movie set during the second Gulf War has been a box office bomb, including The Kingdom, The Green Zone, In The Valley Of Elah, and most notably, Best Picture Winner The Hurt Locker. The war itself is so politically charged (the most controversial case since the Vietnam War) that any depiction of it risks alienating large chunks of the audience based on its perceived politics and it's too current to work as escapism. An alternative explanation is that the problem is with films perceived as critical of the military, or as depicting typical soldiers as victims and/or war criminals. Act of Valor, for example, made money, and that started life as a Navy SEAL recruitment film. Zero Dark Thirty, by the same team of The Hurt Locker, also recouped its budget given it dealt with the hunt everyone wanted to be solved.
Alegria, the dramatic film inspired by the Cirque du Soleil show, is a fable that entwines the story of a street mime and a circus singer falling in Love at First Sight with that of unwanted children being forced to tend and sell flowers for a cruel taskmaster. Aside from the obvious (namely, Everyone Hates Mimes), it's too dark and mature thematically for children — the story kicks off with the mime and his child friend both literally wanting to die, a supporting character is a lovelorn old alcoholic, etc. But how many teens or adults want to watch a movie about whimsical circus people helping to realize a World Half Full? The film only made it to theaters in Canada and a few European countries.
This is key to why Newsies bombed in 1992: A drama about a 1899 newsboys' strike — and it's a musical! Disney had seen so much success with animated musicals at the turn of the decade that they saw potential in this live-action one; Jeffrey Katzenberg compared it to Oliver! But there hadn't been a blockbuster, live-action movie musical since 1978's Grease that didn't clearly take place in a fantastical context (i.e., the Muppet films). To the average kid moviegoer, a dramatic, realistic musical came off as unrelatable, especially when lighter fare like Beethoven and Ferngully was on offer that particular spring. Adults were likely turned off by the kid-centric cast lacking in (then-)name performers (if, again, they weren't turned off by the fact that it was a musical), and its setting didn't have obvious appeal to anyone. There is a happy ending here — while it was a Box Office Bomb, it did well in the video aftermarket and became a Cult Classic, to the point that it received a successful Screen-to-Stage Adaptation in 2011.
Funny Games (either version) presents itself as a Gorn film that deconstructs the genre and makes the viewer question why they watch gorn films to start with. The problem here is that gorn fans don't appreciate being told they're sick bastards by the films they're watching (and it isn't explicit enough for gore fans to get a thrill out of anyway), and non-fans aren't going to watch it in the first place. This was freely acknowledged by director Michael Haneke, who once observed: "If you walked out of the film, you didn't need to see it."
The "sequel" was even worse - a deluded fan of the first movie kidnaps one of the actresses and eleven other random people and literally staples them together in about the crudest way possible.
Lawn Dogs. A 10-year-old girl and a 21-year-old man become close friends. It's rated R. Their relationship is mostly platonic, but there are strong hints that the girl has feelings for the man. Not many people want to watch a movie about this, though those that have tended to consider the film to be excellent.
Precious, a film about a 16-year-old illiterate obese girl having the baby resulting from her rape by her father. The baby has Down's Syndrome, a second incest-rape baby is on the way, her mother is also sexually abusive, and at the end she finds out her father is dead. From HIV. Which she also has. And she's only sixteen (though fortunately for her, she gets a few hopeful moments by the end: she can read and write, her kids are HIV-negative, and she's finally escaped her parents). Interestingly, this one escaped the stigma: while these elements are typically Hollywood poison, they're extremely popular with Lit Fic. Being The Film of the Book of the critically acclaimed Push, it had the buzz of a hot literary property, plus the support of superstars like Tyler Perry and Oprah. Precious made $62 million and earned two Oscars for Best Supporting Actress (Mo'Nique as Precious' mother Mary) and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Parodies in 30 Rock with the fictional Tracy Jordan vehicle Hard to Watch.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World failed to find an audience due to combining too many niches together: comic books, indie rock, and video games from the 80s. Its audience would have to be a particular breed of hipster or geek that appreciates all three. Michael Cera also was not a big enough draw on his own and was in the midst of a Hype Backlash from audiences feeling he played the same character too often, something the Scott Pilgrim marketing did little to dispel (keeping the most Cera-esque bits but leaving out Scott's more jerkass-ery personality). Throw in some weak marketing (the main poster for the film was just Scott rocking his guitar, with a vague tagline of "An epic of epic epicness", leaving the uninitiated with zero clue about the movie) and an overreaching budget ($60m for a film with a narrow niche helmed by a filmmaker (Edgar Wright) with a devoted but small American following) and the movie was dead on arrival, despite very good reviews from critics and audiences who did seek it out.
Tideland is about a 10-year-old girl who spends several weeks in an abandoned house with her father's bloating corpse. To pass the time, she has increasingly bizarre daydreams about her Barbie heads and befriends a mentally handicapped man, with whom she practices kissing. The DVD automatically plays an introduction by director Terry Gilliam, who admits that the viewer might very well hate the film.
A Serbian Film. A down-on-his-luck porn star is promised a large amount of money to appear in a high-concept "art film." The movie turns out to be a snuff film, and he is forced to participate in a series of increasingly shocking, violent, and horrific sex acts, capped off with newborn porn!
Rock: It's Your Decision was a fundamentalist Christian propaganda film about the evils of Rock and Roll music. The film came out in the 1980's, when the whole "rock music is evil" thing wasn't taken seriously anymore. To say it didn't appeal to many people is like saying that Hurricane Katrina was stronger than the average storm.
Vulgar, a film financed by Kevin Smith and written and directed by his friend Bryan Johnson, recounted the story of a kind, but struggling, children's party clown who is viciously raped by a father and his brain-dead sons.
Dick, a comedy set in the 1970's about two teenage girls who develop a crush on Richard Nixon and end up becoming major figures in the Watergate scandal. Teens weren't interested in a comedy based around 1970's nostalgia while adults weren't interested in the revisionist history concept (the film also depicts Woodward and Bernstein as a pair of morons) so the film died a quick death at the box office. However, it has become a cult classic over the years.
Trash Humpers: Grainy, camcorder footage of a trio of crazed elderly people that kill people, mutilate baby dolls, and fornicate garbage. Director Harmony Korine claims to have invoked this with the opening scene, dropping the pretensions of other art films so that anyone prone to walking out early would do so and the rest knew exactly what they're in for.
Basically, all of Korine's work can be deemed as this (except, perhaps, Spring Breakers.)
Shakes the Clown didn't do too well in theaters, even though most people would say it isn't that bad. But it just couldn't find its niche. On one hand, it's about birthday party clowns who never take off their makeup even when not working, so despite its R-rated raunchy humor, the premise was too ridiculous for adults. On the other hand, the clowns drink heavily, sleep around (sometimes contracting veneral diseases), snort cocaine, and commit numerous acts of violence, including hate crimes (yes, really) - so it was too dark for kids. The result was a film that wasn't very funny and worth seeing only for novelty value (i.e., "the Citizen Kane of alcoholic clown films").
Although the 2011 Best Picture Oscar winner The Artist did well in theaters, one of the things that deterred it from attracting a lot of mainstream attention is the fact that it practically radiated "self-indulgent experimental arthouse gimmickry". It's a black-and-white silent film that occasionally reintroduces sound for one-off jokes, with a very small cast and plenty of Charlie Chaplin-esque melodrama. It's also a film about film history, which is not that interesting a topic to the masses. Other films that have made forays into new or discredited visual styles, like Avatar with 3D or The Hobbit with faster framerate, have done fine.
Hugo, another 2011 Best Picture nominee, had similar problems, inspiring the page image. Adults didn't want to see a whimsical story of adorable waifs solving a mystery, and kids weren't interested in the early film history (and the career of Georges Melies, in particular) that proves central to the tale. In general, it's a bad idea to aim Period Piece films of any kind at children — unless they feature cute animals as the heroes and/or fantasy elements.
The Strange Thing About The Johnsons is about a young man who rapes his father for years on end, until the latter kills himself. It's drawn controversy, not only because of the subject matter, but also because the entire cast is African-American. Some people say this adds to the story while others accuse the director of racism.
The title of The Princess Bride used to be this for guys. It sounds very much like a girly romance story, so many young boys — like the one in the movie — thought it to be a "kissing book", so to speak, and were put off by it. At this point, the movie's reputation is enough that most people look past the title.
Fun Size, an even bigger box-office disappointment released at the same time as Frankenweenie, is a Nickelodeon movie that looks like it's aiming for the tween girl demographic like the many kidcoms from the Nick Channel (starting with it starring Victoria Justice) yet it's rated PG-13. The movie's too crude for young kids (the trailers alone highlight this) and the find-the-missing-little-brother plot is too childish for the tweens.
The makers of Philadelphia deliberately countered this problem by hiring A-list actor Tom Hanks to play the lead out of fears that the 1993 audience would be turned off by the premise, which is about a gay man who has HIV.
Errol Morris's debut documentary embodies this trope — Gates of Heaven is about a family-run pet cemetery faced with closure and the challenge of finding new resting places for its inhabitants. It's a sweet, gentle film, but it's not surprising to learn that Werner Herzog's infamous shoe-eating venture was the result of a bet he lost with Morris over whether it could get released at all!
Oscar Bait films in general have this problem. Which would you rather see, a fun action flick or yet another depressing period drama about The Holocaust?
Sex Lives of the Potato Men, an obscure British film devoted to the sexual exploits of a group of potato delivery men. This would have been bad enough, but the main characters were made to look as grotesque as possible. A raunchy comedy about hideous people having sex? No thank you. It should come as little surprise that this film actually provoked public debate over whether the British film industry was in severe decline.
Speed Racer, with its camp and retro aesthetics, seemed like it was aiming for those who fondly remembered the original 60's anime, despite the PG rating. The directors ended up with a product that seemed too nostalgia-oriented for kids and too childish (at least on the surface) for most adults.
The film Caligula is extremely notorious in part because of this. It tried to be simultaneously a dramatic historical epic and a low-brow sexploitation film, and failed at both. The drama was too ludicrous for the mainstream, and even if it wasn't, they would have still been turned away by the depraved sexual acts. Meanwhile, the porno crowd didn't find the drama appealing, and the exploitation stuff wasn't titillating enough for them.
The Postman: It was, um, difficult for the marketing to explain the movie's premise. Apparently, it involves a man rebuilding America After the End by... delivering the mail? While this makes a lot of sense, it takes few longer moments to comprehend the idea, thus rendering it almost unmarketable.
As mentioned in the description, An American Crime. It's a film about the real-life torture murder of an innocent teenage girl at the hands of her foster mother and various children. Does that sound like a movie you'd want to watch?
Hanzo the Razor is a trilogy of films about a samurai detective/metsuke solving various corruptions in Edo japan. The series mixes this relatively interesting premise with blaxploitation inspired music and editing, but the problem is that Hanzo himself is a Designated Hero who is just as repugnant as the murderers and thieves he encounters along the way, due to raping women to get the information he needs. The worst part, they enjoy it by the end usually.
This is ultimately the reason why Pacific Rim ended up being a box office disappointment in the US. The film was intended as the first major Western Humongous Mecha movie, as well as an homage to Kaiju films. First, the film had no major stars on the cast (the biggest names were probably Ron Perlman and Idris Elba). Second, the film faced competition from the more accessible Grown Ups 2 and Despicable Me 2. Third, the film appeared indistinguishable to the average moviegoer from established franchises of both genres such as Transformers and Godzilla, both of which had entries that were gaining more hype despite not being released till 2014. (Apart from diehard fanboys, most casual moviegoers took one look at the advertising and said words to the effect of: "Optimus Prime isn't in it? No thanks.") Beyond all this, was a large amount of internet and convention buzz that lauded the film as a bigger draw than most people thought. When the film was released, it ultimately ended up being too intense for children and too infantile for adults despite positive reviews. It still passed the $100 million mark and got a cult following - but most of its success has been overseas.
The 1981 epic Lion of the Desert, starring Anthony Quinn. It is a powerful anti-colonialist film, but it is set in a conflict not many know about (1920s Libya), with a hero not very famous outside of his country and enemies that aren't often seen as "scary" enough in cinema. The death blow comes with the fact that it was commisioned and financed by Muammar Gaddafi, making potential viewers avoid the film for considering it propaganda. Too bad, because according to most critics it is actually good.
It didn't help that the film was based on a book written by a former associate of Assange who has since become one of his most hated rivals. That assured that even those who vehemently support Assange would refuse to go see it, on the assumption that the film would make him look bad.
A lot of political documentaries could possibly qualify. Although they may be important, they're not going to convert anyone who doesn't already believe to a cause. They also aren't particularly fun to watch.
The Killing Of John Lennon is pretty much Exactly What It Says on the Tin - a film about how Mark David Chapman set out to kill John Lennon. Technique-wise, it's not a bad film, and contrary to what some critics claim, it doesn't make Chapman look any more sympathetic - if anything, Chapman looks worse, because the film portrays him as a virulent homophobe, a bully, and a shitty husband. But how many people are really going to want to watch a film about the guy who killed one of the world's most beloved musicians?
Prior to its release, the Pixar film Ratatouille produced some concerns that it would be rejected by audiences since its central premise involved a rat cooking in a kitchen, an idea that produces much Squick for many people. The movie ultimately proved these skeptics wrong by becoming a box office success, although it should be noted that it did still somewhat underperform by Pixar's standards.note It is to date the fourth lowest-grossing Pixar film, ahead of only Toy Story, A Bug's Life (both of which preceded it by about a decade), and the notoriously base-breakingCars 2.
Radio Flyer was a Box Office Bomb for one main reason, the totally ridiculous and off-putting premise. Basically two kids have a stepfather who is abusive to one of them, but the kids cover it up because their mother loves him. So instead of telling the authorities about the abuse, the abused kid decides to build a machine and fly away. Needless to say, the Family-Unfriendly Aesop(about how it's better to run away from your problems then actually tell someone) did NOT sit well with most people, especially the critics that savaged the film, arguing that it sent the wrong message to kids who actually are in an abusive situation. The movie appealed to almost no one, as the subject matter was too depressing for kids, and it was too laughable and unrealistic for adults.
Towelhead can certainly qualify. It’s a coming-of-age story about a 13-year old Lebanese-American girl who's stated to be well developed for her age (justifying the Dawson Casting along with legal reasons.) coming to terms with her sexuality as she lives with her unsupportive father in Texas after being kicked out of her mother’s house during the early nineties and is raped by her neighbor and beaten by her father because of it. Plus, it’s called Towelhead. Can you just tell that this got only a limited release?
This was the main reason that Spike Jonze's film adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are turned out to be an Acclaimed Flop, barely breaking even at the box office. Understandably, not everyone was wowed by the premise "The director of Adaptation and Being John Malkovich tries to turn a beloved children's book into a depressing, darkly humorous fable about growing up...for adults." Lots of parents didn't want to take their children to see it, thinking that it was too adult; lots of teenagers and adults just didn't want to see it, thinking that it was for children.
Anything that involves deliberately cultivating rot or mould to produce the taste, from blue cheese to the traditional Icelandic hakarl (rotten shark) to the Japanese natto (fermented soybeans), tends to generate this reaction from some. Even beer, another product of fermentation, is an acquired taste for some people.
For Westerners, eating insects.
Foods based on offal squick out a lot of people, though they're perfectly happy to eat hot dogs and other sausages. The classic example is haggis - notorious for being the heart, lungs, and liver of a sheep, boiled in its own stomach (to quote the Earthworm Jim cartoon); what many people don't know is that the first three ingredients are minced first, making the whole thing more like eating a giant bratwurst.
It's less common nowadays, but for a long time many people were put off of sushi because it's "raw fish".note Only nigiri is raw fish; it's perfectly possible to have a great sushi dinner with nothing but vegetarian and/or fully-cooked rolls.
Lolita is a prime example of this, to the extent that it's mostly known in the general public as "that novel about paedophila". Fortunately, its status as a modern classic prevents it from becoming too neglected, but most people unaware of why it's considered so great are likely to pass it up due to the premise.
The Clique is an Indecisive Parody told from the point-of-view of a middle school-aged Alpha Bitch and her Girl Posse (two character types that are nearly universally despised) but does very little to make them likable or sympathetic. And even readers who would want to read something like that are very likely going to be put off by all the Squick (namely the very sexualized depictions of preteen girls).
The author tried to add some Deconstruction elements later on in the series but for many it was too little too late.
The article's opening quote refers to one of the seminal canon works of Willa Cather, one of the most prominent female authors of the first half of the 20th century (one of her others, My Antonia was in fact published in 1901). Indeed, she frequently wrote about Nebraska - one of the least densely-populated and featured of the United States. Cather's most famous work, The Professor's House was in fact partially written in response to this trope (and consequently is more like a Dark Fic or Deconstruction compared to her earlier works - and most notably, takes place along the shores of the Great Lakes with flashbacks to Arizona).
Warrior Cats is about cute, fluffy cats that are involved in bloody battles, have a complex religious and social structure, have a tendency to die horribly, and have illegitimate offspring all over the place. Younger kids see cats, and then see continuity and leave. Older kids are put off by the Cute Kitten thing and may be embarrassed to start the series in the first place. The books do have an audience, but because of this trope the authors have yet to be able to get a Film of the Book made.
River Heights was a spin-off of The Nancy Drew Files series (itself a spinoff of the original books), receiving a Poorly Disguised Pilot in that series. The series itself had very little mention of Nancy herself, instead focusing on a neighbor of hers named Nikki, and was instead a high school drama series not unlike Sweet Valley High. Fans of Nancy weren't interested in teen drama (and if they were, were likely already reading other series, like the aforementioned Sweet Valley High), fans of drama likely thought it was straight mystery (because of the tie-with Nancy Drew), and the series faded away after about 16 books. Not learning their lesson, they tried this again with Nancy Drew on Campus, another spinoff that sent Nancy away to college and, yet again, pushed aside the mysteries in favor of more young adult drama. Again, the series died off after 25 books (while this sounds impressive, realize that Nancy Drew books are ridiculously Long Runners, with the original series lasting to 175, while the Files spinoff lasted to 124, and even less successful series such as Girl Detective survived all the way to 47.)
Twisted is a book about sentient rollercoasters... that kill and eat people. The idea of the main characters being amusement park rides seems too childish for adults, but the gore and edginess of the content makes it inappropriate for children.
How NOT to Write a Novel calls this trope "The Voice in the Wilderness" and illustrates it with an intentionally offensive sample novel passage which portrays Auschwitz commanders, guards and doctors as selfless souls trying to save the inmates from dying of typhus, only for the Allies to "demonize" their efforts. The authors then explain that writing a novel with a "universally detested" viewpoint is a bad idea regardless of whether you genuinely believe it or simply figure that shock for shock's sake will sell.
This is the most likely reason why the first Monster High book series flopped. It had too much mature themes and fanservice for young readers but older ones would most likely be turned off by a novel series based on a little girls' toy line. And fans of the franchise disliked that it was pretty much In Name Only.
Bumped is a young adult novel about a dystopian future where a virus has made everyone over the age of 18 infertile and reliant on teenage girls as surrogate mothers. People were squicked out by the Teen Pregnancy, while readers who do want to read about it criticized the book for making light of a serious problem in society.
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is about a teenager going about his day as he plans to murder his former best friend who sexually abused him and then kill himself. He decides instead to take a picture of his ex-friend masturbating and is talked out of killing himself by one of his teachers
Lone Star was supposed to be the big headlining show of the 2010-11 season for the Fox network, but the premise turned off audiences so badly it was canceled after only two episodes were aired. Unlike shows like Leverage or Hustle, the conman protagonist was not stealing just from Jerkasses but was also cheating nice, hard-working people. The Heel-Face Turn that was supposed to set him up on the road to redemption (and audience sympathy) turned out to be just a way for him to marry two different women and maintain a double life. When the audience finds no redeeming qualities in the main character and wants him thrown in jail as soon as possible, the premise just doesn't work.
As a general rule, network audiences tend to hate shows with morally-gray protagonists. Heist-themed shows like Thieves and Smith totally bombed, and Hannibal has poor viewership largely because the Misaimed Marketing makes it look like it has a serial killer Villain Protagonist (when in reality, Hannibal is the antagonist of the series).
Not nearly as severe as other examples, but some viewers find themselves put off by the fact that Friday Night Lights is "about football". It kind of is, but interest in football isn't (necessarily) a requirement to enjoy the show at all, any more than an interest in ghosts is required to enjoy Ghostbusters. It's just a good and interesting small-town/family drama.
And the flipside was that NBC also targeted football fans, promoting it heavily during Sunday Night Football telecasts, only that those fans found too little football and passed, and everyone else who passed on it thought "too much football."
That the football in question is the American variety didn't help it overseas; in Britain, ITV4 only aired the first season (although Sky Atlantic did eventually... well... pick up the ball).
ABC's Lucky 7, a drama (that was advertised as being mostly) about the downsides of winning the lottery, was cancelled after only two episodes in 2013. In hindsight, it probably wasn't a good idea to air a show about how suddenly coming into a lot of money is a bad thing during an economic downturn.
Even the most pro-capitalist viewers have reported difficulties with the show Hou$e Of Lie$. It's about taking money from rich business owners... and giving it to rich management consultants instead. This wouldn't be so bad if the consultants in question didn't Kick the Dog every episode, or act in some hypocritical fashion that makes it difficult to take the characters seriously.
This was why the show Cop Rock failed. It's a crime drama... and a musical! Though with the success of shows like Glee, one wonders if it was just a bit ahead of its time.
Similarly, the drama/musical Viva Laughlin (the U.S. adaptation of the BBC series Viva Blackpool) got horrid reviews and was canned after only two episodes, even with a singing, dancing Hugh Jackman. After the crashing and burning of Smash, it would seem that musical TV series simply don't work; TV movie musicals like High School Musical seem to fare better.
Musicals, in general, are a bit of a hard sell (High School Musical being an outlier). Glee survived by playing into the camp appeal and because sales of the music make up for its underperfroming ratings.
Glee also did well because, like its suspiciously similar predecessor, Fame, the context of the series allowed for its characters to break into song and dance because, duh, the characters were singers and dancers and most musical numbers were thus presented in the context of putting on a show. This is not the same as a bunch of cops suddenly deciding to sing for no reason.
Possibly one of the reasons that Dollhouse didn't do particularly well (or gain quite the cult following of other Whedon shows). The concept of people repeatedly having their mind wiped and personalities implanted to act as prostitutes, assassins (and more) isn't exactly a comfortable idea, even if the show criticizes it, not to mention how hard it is to get attached to characters who literally have a completely different personality from week to week. More to the point, the show is uneven in its criticism. For the first season, the Dollhouse seems to function just fine, except for one evil escapee and a Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist who only makes progress when he gets help from the Dollhouse itself. Then there are episodes where the ongoing plot is absent, or nearly absent, which could imply that some of the Dollhouses' work is just fine.
Funnily enough, though, Arrow is a massive hit, and uses essentially the same premise (CW drama mixed with DC Comics), just 10 years later. That Arrow had the fortune of launching in the wake of the massive success of The Dark Knight Saga probably helped. The relatively unknown character having been introduced to viewers through Smallville didn't hurt either.
Freaks and Geeks was never going to last in network television. The period setting, mixed with the hour-long length (most American sitcoms clock in at under 30 minutes) and subdued, quirky humor, completely turned off most viewers. It didn't help that the show had the bad timing to air before '80s nostalgia really got into gear later in The Oughts. Plus, beginning the series at the very start of the '80s meant that the setting was culturally still very much The Seventies, which might have also been confusing to viewers.
Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters From Beverly Hills was a show that focused heavily on harshly criticizing the Tokusatsu genre and showing how the creators thought one of those shows should be done. Fans of the genre were turned off by its vindictiveness, and people who didn't like it didn't even bother to watch it.
Blood Ties, the TV adaptation of Tanya Huff's Blood Books, had all the pieces there: a good premise, a convincing love triangle, and good actors (Tanya Huff apparently saw the lead actress on a different series years earlier saying she'd make a perfect Vicki) with good chemistry. There was one big problem, though: the Canadian series got picked up in the US by Lifetime. The dark, supernatural premise alienated fans of Lifetime's normal dramatic romance fare, and Girl-Show Ghetto kept male fans of sci-fi and fantasy from giving the show a fair shake (believing it was typical Lifetime dreck.) It's telling that Lost Girl, another Canadian series with an ass-kicking female lead with a Perky Goth sidekick and a supernatural being as a potential love interest premiered on Syfy and fared infinitely better.
The short-lived series The Nine. It was advertised and marketed as a crime thriller but was actually more of an emotional drama. Thus people that wanted a crime thriller were turned off by the melodrama and viewers that would have liked the melodrama were alienated by the crime-focused advertising.
Carnivŕle qualifies: despite having a highly original and engaging plot, the premise of "supernatural battle set in the Depression-era dustbowl", and the thick layer of religious and mystical symbolism all over the show, made it hard for a lot of people to get interested in.
Prog Rock in general. While the genre is wide-spread, incorporating many different styles such as folk, metal, and classical music, most people only know it as "20-minute-long keyboard solos", despite there being many songs which only go on for about five minutes, and having music that incorporates absolutely nothing other that guitar, bass, drums and voice.
Diane Diamond, in her book Be Careful Who You Love, suspects that Michael Jackson's 38-minute Short Film / Concept VideoGhosts was buried by Sony in North America because of its premise. Jackson plays the mysterious "Maestro", who is suspected of being up to no good when it's revealed that he's been secretly inviting a small town's kids to his spooky mansion for ghost stories. The Maestro is denounced as a freak by an evil, bigoted white Mayor (Jackson in a Fat Suit), so he summons up a troupe of ghouls to turn the tables on him and his mob. It's a blatant allegory for the child molestation accusations leveled against Jackson in 1993, so as Nathan Rabin jokes in his My Year of Flops review, it's challenging the audience with the question "Why must we judge people just because they're eccentric, look weird, or like to sleep in the same bed as pre-pubescent boys they aren't related to?" Sony did get the clip wide distribution overseas, as the scandal hadn't done quite so much damage to Jackson's reputation there, and it eventually found wide North American exposure at the Turn of the Millennium... and then he was accused of molestation again. Now even Jackson's estate seems to be embarrassed by it; it isn't included in full in the DVD set Michael Jackson's Vision.
Double albums in general. In the minds of a lot of listeners, "double album" is synonymous with "self-indulgent mess".
The Golden Ticket is a musically-sophisticated opera full of Genius Bonus musical in-jokes for buffs...but it's also an adaptation of a popular children's novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Critic James L. Paulk's review of the Atlanta Opera's staging for ArtsAtl.com was fairly positive, but it pointed out that adults who love opera would likely find the source material too kiddy for their tastes, while kids wouldn't appreciate the jokes referencing adult operas and styles in the score and find proceedings too slow-going. (That much of the book's snarkier humor is absent doesn't help.) The result, according to Paulk, was a show that didn't sell a lot of tickets and had many families leaving at intermission — which is to say, kids didn't want to stick around for the actual tour of the factory! He also thought the show was too long for said kids at 2 and 1/2 hours with intermission. Compare this to the success of the 2013 stage musical adaptation of the novel, which has a similar runtime but not the same problem with kids getting bored...
Bally's Spectrum was an attempt to combine the action of Pinball with the puzzle game Mastermind. Unfortunately, cerebral logic puzzles and arcade games are two great tastes that don't necessarily taste great together — of the 994 machines produced, fewer than five hundred were sold, and the others were scrapped or salvaged.
Golden Logres tried to combine realistic pinball action with the mission-oriented structure of a Role-Playing Game. While die-hard players loved the challenge, it alienated everyone else who just wanted straightforward arcade action .
James Bond 007 was a time-based pinball game; the player starts off with 50 seconds, and can keep playing so long as he has time remaining, which he gets by making key shots. Unfortunately, novices couldn't build up enough time to enjoy the game, while experts found it easily exploitable for long games. The backlash was so bad that most operators tried to return the tables to Gottlieb as a result.
Orbitor 1 is a pinball game built on a transparent warped plexi-bowl, which causes the ball to loop and spiral as it travels along the table. Unfortunately, the sparse layout, simple rules, and sheer difficulty of aiming shots on an uneven surface quickly turns off most players.
FATAL's premise is "What if, instead of playing in a sanitized Dungeons & Dragons-style fantasy world, you had one with all the negative traits of Ancient Rome and The Dung Ages and more casual references to rape than you can shake a stick at rolled into one?" Even if FATAL had been a masterwork of mechanical genius (which it isn't), with a premise like that, it wouldn't have made it big anyway. One of the most well-known memes about the "game" is "Roll for anal circumference!"note one basic roll for character generation is four one-hundred sided dice divided by two, minus one from the total. This must be repeated twenty times, an infamous thematic element are suits of magical armor that turn your character into offensive racial stereotypes and are named after racial slurs, and the sample adventure mentions a character called Cuntrina. The audience for this game seems to be racist, misogynistic young males who enjoy polynomials and scatological humor.
There is a half-finished RPG called Racial Holy War. The title alone probably satisfies any sane person's curiosity, but the premise is that in the future, folks without a lot of melanin are oppressed by racial stereotypes of those with a lot of melanin who have taken over the world at the behest of Jewish masters. The game seems aimed at Dungeons & Dragons playing Klansmen who were upset racial minorities weren't in the Monster Manual.
Even the elements that are there are so badly designed that some people suspect it's a Stealth Parody.
Wraith: The Oblivion was part of the Old World of Darkness and falls into this trope. While the World of Darkness - as the name implies - is a Crap Sack World, most of the games shot into World Half Full and let you Earn Your Happy Ending. Even then, there was definitely some Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy in the setting and its metaplot, which was the slow wind-down to extinction. Wraith took all that darkness and doubled-down. Your character is already dead, is in the underworld harrowed by his own destructive impulses - which are trying to destroy him forever - and everything he has in the underworld is made from the souls of those too weak to stand. Many an Eldritch Abomination commands hordes of hungry, tormented spirits, and a restful afterlife looks to be little more than a happy fiction. The other wraiths live in a society that is a caricature of oppression in ancient Rome. The landscape and characters look like something H.G. Giger would paint if he were aiming for self-parody via BDSM. A few games of this, and even Warhammer sounds bright and cheery.
Charnel Houses of Europe stands out among these by being about wraiths spawned from the Holocaust.
Wraith also had a mechanic wherein every ghost had a "shadow" that turned up periodically to try to corrupt and undermine them, and each player character's shadow was played by another character's player. So not only was every player required to effectively play two characters (their PC and another PC's shadow) but the game had a built-in mechanic requiring players to screw each other over. The intent was to create deep, psychological roleplaying where the players got to flex their drama muscles as much as the GM; the effect was that most people saw it as a game that could only end in hurt feelings and recriminations.
Changeling: The Dreaming often got painted with this brush as well, and for the opposite reason - it came across as too bright, especially when the second edition outright told players that the Dreaming was supposed to be a bright contrast to the rest of the World of Darkness (illustrations like the "bear with balloons" certainly didn't help, making it seem almost childlike). And then those who were looking for a brighter game than, say, Vampire or Werewolf dug deeper, only to find that the whole game was about fighting against the death of imagination, a fight most changelings inevitably lost. Those who were looking for something along the lines of the rest of the World of Darkness found something covered in glitter; those who wanted something cheerier found the glitter flaked off easily.
Kindred of the East suffered some of this as well, as it required Westerners to have a decent understanding of Asian mysticism and religions. It never came close to the popularity of Vampire: The Masquerade and its many spin-offs.
Exalted, another White Wolf RPG, puts a mechanically deep combat system in a world of harsh politics, where a normal soldier can win a fight and die of gangrene, and where longterm change is as dependent on good bureaucracy as on the first of immortal god-killing warriors, strongly inspired by and often tearing apart classical mythological heroes of the past. In the Second Edition, this happened to be behind a game best-known for playable characters waving surfboard-sized swords and throwing around blasts of energy like Dragon Ball Z, a part of the setting the mechanics theoretically supported but few GMs or players could, and even much of the writing staff focused on the Sutra-like Sidereal charms or the More Metal Than Thou effects found in the Green Sun Prince arsenal.
Star Fleet Battles does this through sheer complexity. The premise is to make a game which captures the full in-universe depth of running the starships from Star Trek in combat. Many people take one look at the Door Stopper manual and opt out. A second, minor point of alienation is that the game has its own 'verse, which is likely to annoy some purists who would be more willing to invest in learning the game if it was "really Trek." However, the game has been around since 1979, so it has found sufficient fans to be a Long Runner.
Ironclaw is a good game. It has a fun, broad, and deep setting that allows for different kinds of game, it has a good gameplay system that strikes a decent balance between depth and usability, it offers the player lots of freedom in terms of what kind of character to build, and the rulebooks even have good production values for their price. Unfortunately, despite its quality, it will almost certainly never gain recognition as anything but a niche title because of the decision to replace all of the standard tabletop RPG Five Races Plus Hybrids with Funny Animals. Just imagine telling your group you're thinking about running campaign of "the furry game!"
Stephen Sondheim shows are notorious for these. This is why, for all their acclaim, only a few of his musicals (Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd, etc.) are well-known to the general public.
Follies: Two married couples who met in the glory days of Ziegfeld-style stage revues confront each other over their regrets for the past and unhappy present-day lives.
Pacific Overtures: Japan opening itself up to the encroaching Western world in the 19th century, with staging inspired by Kabuki theater (an all-male cast, etc.).
Sunday in the Park with George: Act One — Painter Georges Seurat chooses art over love. Act Two — His descendant in The Eighties comes to grips with the struggle to create great art in a world full of critics.
Assassins: The men and women who assassinated, or tried to assassinate, American presidents.
Passion: In the 19th century, a young soldier has a Stalker with a Crush — a mentally unbalanced, homely, terminally ill woman who adores him. But he comes to realize that Stalking Is Love. (Notable for having the shortest-ever run of a Broadway show that won the Best Musical Tony Award, with 280 performances — less than a year's worth.)
Imagine This was a 2008 West End musical set in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942, depicting a Jewish theater troupe that learns, during a Show Within a Show about the Biblical siege of Masada, that the ghetto's residents are being tricked into going to certain doom in the concentration camps. At the end, most of the troupe is murdered for trying to warn the audience. Not hard to see why this would-be inspiring musical didn't last two months (counting the preview period); both the main story and the Show Within a Show have downer endings, and the basic conceit of a Holocaust-set musical is a questionable one.
This might be one reason Andrew Lloyd Webber's Stephen Ward failed — it's a musical about the Profumo Affair, a political scandal with little relevance to those who weren't adults living in the U.K. in The Sixties. That Lloyd Webber decided to open this dramatic, adult musical just in time for Christmas 2013 (when theatre audiences tend to gravitate towards lighthearted and/or fun-for-the-whole-family fare) couldn't have helped.
The 2014 West End musical comedy I Can't Sing! got some good notices, but when it closed in less than three months (again, counting a preview period), British theatre newspaper The Stage wasn't the only one to point out that the show had a shaky premise when it came to audience appeal — it was an officially-sanctioned parody of The X Factor, complete with backing from Simon Cowell himself. The audience who watched The X Factor on TV wasn't interested in paying West End ticket prices for a parody of something they could watch at home, while regular theatregoers were turned off by the self-promoting, lowbrow concept. To make matters much worse, the overconfident producers gave it a huge physical production and staged it in one of the largest theatres in town (the Palladium), so whatever good word-of-mouth there was from those who did see it wasn't nearly enough to fill the theatre and justify the day-to-day running expenses.
It is generally believed that this was a major reason behind the failure of LEGO's Robo Riders theme. Their previous attempt at buildable, collectible action figures, Slizers, was a big hit for its creative setting (robots in different elemental settings) and for the uniqueness of the models. However, whereas the Slizers were identifiable characters with posable limbs, Robo Riders were essentially goofy-looking alien motorbikes with weird weaponry attached. They came with no rider figures, nor did they have seats — instead, the wheels were the riders, with printed decals on the sides of the wheels representing the otherwise unbuildable characters. And they launched these wheels like projectiles, meaning that every shot reduced the bikes to a nonfunctional mess with one wheel at the end. The concept was too esoteric for kids who wanted more Slizers sets, and the line failed. Learning from this mistake, LEGO began working together more closely with creative agencies and storytellers for their next line, BIONICLE, and turned what was originally conceptualized as a story of robot tribesmen beating each others' heads off into a more serious fantasy/sci-fi epic that resonated well with its audience, and became one of their most popular series. Ironically, BIONICLE itself became an example in its later years because kids couldn't keep up with its over-thought continuity, and after nine and a half years, LEGO had to cancel it.
The Binding of Isaacdefinitely fits the bill. You are a young boy named Isaac. Your mother was commanded by God to kill you to prove her loyalty, so you escape into the basement... which happens to be filled with demons, mutants, undead fetuses, and the occasional Horseman of the Apocalypse or incarnation of one of the Seven Deadly Sins. And you have to fight them off using only your tears. And sometimes your urine. Or your blood. Edmund McMillen himself has lampshaded this fact several times, stating that he considered it way too repulsive for most people's stomachs.
Subverted in that it has done very well for itself, selling more than a million copies, and receiving a substantial DLC (Wrath of the Lamb) that was in the top sellers list on Steam when released. This is a good example of how the trope can be overcome by word of mouth from a loyal fan base. It also helps that, gameplay-wise, it's extremely satisfying.
The Unholy War is a great game which combined fast paced combat with very slow paced turn-based strategy, not targeting any of those two genres' audiences. Action-oriented gamers are scared by the "slow and meticulous" chess-like gameplay while the strategy-oriented gamers are scared by the "quick and dumb" action gameplay.
American hate groups have put out a few video games, the most infamous of which is Zog's Nightmare. The games mirror those groups' views, which should be enough to explain why they fit this trope.
While not strictly a hate group, this is applies pretty well to several "games" that PETA has released. One of the most recent (and well known) was Pokémon: Black & Blue, a Pokémon... parody, for lack of a better word... that focused on animal cruelty. Those who agreed with PETA wouldn't bother playing it, and basically everyone else was very much turned off by the concept. To say that Pokémon fans in particular were deeply offended would be a gross understatement. While Nintendo with earlier parodies took this with stride, making PSA's needing to inform that, for example, Mario isn't wearing the skin of a tanuki, but donning a tanuki-based costume, the Pokemon one was the final straw. They threatened legal action against PETA if they didn't take it down and stop.
Criminal Girls is an above-average dungeon crawler with excellent characterization, but good luck getting anyone to see beyond the Squicky (and fanservice-y) premise about beating and torturing teenage girls into subservience.
Death Smiles, a side scrolling Shoot 'em Up by CAVE, got a lot of flak for the Gothic Lolita artwork of the game. Most is nice, tasteful and beautiful, but too many instances of pre-teen girls getting sensual with each other (including a bubble bath scene) has gotten the game an ill reputation among fans, mainly Americans. Most Shump fans will warn potential players to ignore the artwork for the intricate gameplay for a reason.
Something similar happens with Otomedius, which is a Gradius parody game which exchanges the spaceships with scantily-clad females showing off their bosom.
On the other side of the coin, there is Cho Aniki, a Shoot 'em Up with muscular guys in speedos. Most gamers only knows it as "that gay Japanese game".
A generic example: Ignoring the legal reasons, spiritual successors in video games tend to happen because the original game's mechanics and design decisions alienate modern gamers. For example, in the original circa-1994 XCOM, your units had Time Units that made the very act of movement into horrible math games. In the new XCOM, movement is determined visually.
Super Columbine Massacre RPG, a freeware RPG Maker game where you play as the two Columbine shooters who go on their infamous murderous rampage. The second half of the game involves the duo going to Hell fighting enemies from Doom and becoming minions of Satan (the South Park version).
Spec Ops: The Line looked like a typical war shooter while telling a tale of madness, despair, and horror. The kind of "games are art" player who might appreciate the Whole Plot Reference to Heart of Darkness would be put off because it looks so much like a modern military shooter. Fans of military shooters found a game that came from an obscure low-budget franchise that continued to be low-budget (indeed, this is what the game was marketed and previewed as) with dated Take Cover gameplay that didn't compare to the already existing juggernauts in the modern military shooter and were given a You Bastard experience that accused them of being violent sadists and told them what they already knew (hey, kids! war and violence are bad!). The game's real audience turned out to be those who weren't fans of modern military shooters or violent video games, though many of them also passed on the game due it looking like every other modern military game from the advertising.
The game's lead writer, Walt Williams, acknowledged that the nature of the game made it practically impossible to effectively market, considering that part of the force of the game's narrative comes from it initially resembling a typical military shooter only to pull the rug out from under the player: revealing that the game is a Genre Deconstruction significantly dilutes the impact. For this reason Williams anticipated that the game would not prove to be a massive commercial success but would end up as a Cult Classic.
Stretch Panic is about a girl who uses a possessed scarf to fight her demon-possessed sisters. She must exorcise the demons, which require points that you must obtain by groping women with comically over-sized breasts.
Ar tonelico has an interesting and highly detailed magic system, a fascinating After the End world full of Magitek where humanity is on the brink of extinction and the planet is so scarred it's trying to commit suicide, and some of the most beautiful music to be found in JRPGs. It's also better known for its main gameplay feature of guarding and exploring thepsyches of emotionally vulnerable, magic-using young women who get dressed in increasingly fanservicey costumes or, as of the third game, progressively strip off more and more clothes over the course of a fight to draw on more power. The first game felt a little like the fanservice was thrown in to draw attention, but after that they kept pushing for more.
The Clown Prince Rises is a freeware game recreating the Aurora shootings. To make a video game about such a horrific tragedy (and put you in the shoes of the one who instigated it) won't exactly endear you to the audience.
Games by Double Fine seem to be this in general. All of them are very unique and imaginative, but often too weird for the average gamer. Most of their big titles did not sell very well at all, and Brütal Legend nearly put them out of business, though there is more to that story than just bad sales. But that's not for here.
Although ''Psychonauts had an aversion. Tim Schafer's original plan involved the main character being a telepathic ostrich...until realizing that nobody would want to play a game where you're an ostrich.
Rapelay is, quite literally, a rape simulator. Even with the success of rape-heavy visual novels this fails, since the gameplay amounts to "Hold down mouse button, watch bar fill". People not into rape scenarios reject the game on sight; people into them are bored by the stale mechanics.
A similar problem plagued Can't Escape the Heroine, a video game involving a man trying to fight off women who want to rape him. People not into rape scenarios will get turned off immediately, while those into them will be disappointed by the fact that the goal is to avoid rape.
A Corny Voyage is a mod for Half-Life 2. The gameplay is a zero G racer where the player pilots a piece of undigested sweetcorn through a person's intestines to reach the anus. Seriously.
Lose/Lose is a space shooter in which killing enemies results in random files in your Home folder being permanently deleted. The premise alone is more than enough to scare people away from even downloading it. Unsurprisingly, it's classified as malware by several antiviruses.
This might be what prevents the BlazBlue series from gaining wider recognition. Originally envisioned as an RPG, it was eventually changed into a fighting game during development. As such, it's far more story heavy than any other fighting series. The cutscenes are often pretty long, to the point that the game can feel more like a Visual Novel with a few gameplay segments than a proper fighting game. Not only that, but the plot is incredibly complex, involving time loops, clones, mystical essence and conspiracies aplenty. To make things even more inaccessable, a lot of key information about the story is found only in various light novels and audio dramas, none of which have been officially translated, and many of which haven't been UNofficially translated either. Players who care only about the matches may not have any problems, but players who don't want to completely forsake the plot might find it a daunting task to understand just what the heck's going on.
The gameplay aspects aren't much better. One of the game's major selling points is that every character has a different mechanic based around one of the buttons; for example, Arakune can summon insects, while Carl uses the same button to control his puppet. This means that every character plays uniquely, unlike some games that bog down in clone characters. Unfortunately, many gamers look at this and think, "So nothing I learn playing one character will transfer to any others?" The massive learning curve implied by the concept is a turnoff to a lot of people.
Wall Street Kid for the NES. Yeah, a stock market simulator is not exactly a concept with mass appeal, especially when it's being sold on the same eight bit console as Super Mario Bros and The Legend of Zelda. Add some very, very boring aesthetics on top of that (the game is literally about 90% just white text on a black background) and you've got a game which was kind of doomed to fail from the start.
Lester The Unlikely. It's the story of a Hollywood Nerd and his journey to discover his inner strength and self-confidence, which later manifests as outer strength and the ability to kick ass. Most people never figure this out, because you spend the first half of the game playing as a Hollywood Nerd who is deathly afraid of turtles and is highly vulnerable to fall damage.
Custer's Revenge is a game about General Custer who rapes a Native American woman tied to what is either a pole or a cactus. Even if you can get past the Unfortunate Implications, there is no getting past the blocky low-resolution graphics (in a porn game) and gameplay that's primitive and repetitive even by early 1980s standards.
Hatoful Boyfriend is a dating game where the potential mates are pigeons. (It's based off a pun that doesn't translate into English.) By the way, the main character is a human girl. Not a lot of people seem to realize that it was meant as a joke.
Homestuck is so notorious for this, fans of the comic trying and inevitably failing to get their peers interested in reading it has become a meme unto itselfnote "LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT HOMESTUCK.". This is mostly due to the sheer size of the project (over 8000 pages and counting); the complexity of the plot making it impossible to explain to the uninitiated; and the video game-centric nature of it. Additionally, in order fully get all the jokes, it is almost a prerequisite that you read the three comics that came before it: Problem Sleuth, which is a monumental read in and of itself, Bard Quest, an unfinished experiment, and Jailbreak, the first, and as a consequence the least polished of all the creator's work. And on top of all this, in order to reach the parts anyone talks about, you have to read through a good 1500 pages of buildup; even the fanbase jokes about how slow and boring the first two chapters are.
Dinosaur Comics is a dadaistic comic whose art is literally the same six panels in the same positions for each comic; only the dialogue changes from comic to comic.
Billy the Heretic is white power propaganda. That alone is enough to scare away most potential readers.
Kit N Kay Boodle is graphic furry porn... written with children's book-esque dialogue and drawn with a cutesy, adorable art style that looks like something out of Care Bears. Furries are going to be put off by its childishness, while any kid who reads it will most likely get scarred for life.
Pastel Defender Heliotrope combines cutesy anime-esque art and plot points with a insanely complicated and confusing storyline and Author Tracts about the creator's insane beliefs. It's nearly impossible to tell who it's aimed at.
The animated movie Felidae is a film noir with blood, murder, sex, and a cult. Starring cats (real ones, not Funny Animals). Its look made many people think it was a Disney-type movie, but the actual content is not kid-friendly, thus it scared away adult audiences while not attracting kid audiences. The film has since gained a cult status online, however.
Fox's Peter Pan & the Pirates was a cartoon with some great writing and storytelling, that was surprisingly gothic and occasionally scary at times. Why didn't it do well? Well, it's about Peter Pan, and yet it takes itself dead seriously and has more mature storytelling than you'd expect given the source material. Hence, little kids who might be drawn in by Peter Pan got scared away, and older kids who'd enjoy the story took one look at who it's about and decided it was kiddy. Note that the original novel was very dark in its way, as well (at the end, Tinkerbell is dead, and Peter is too childlike to remember, or care, who she was, for example). But, thanks to Disneyfication, anything that returns to the spirit of the original alienates everyone.
While Beast Machines was certainly a successful series overall, it is a bit of an oddball in the history of Transformers cartoons and suffered A LOT of hate from fans of Beast Wars. This is probably in no small part thanks to the unusual themes and morals explored — predominantly nature vs. technology. It also had a notably dark overall tone despite being aimed at children.
A major part of this hate was the fact that the show decided to twist up continuity so that Cybertron, the metal home of the Transformers, had apparently originaly been an organic planet. This displeased a lot of fans.
Allen Gregory. The show is about a homeschooled 7-year-old played by Jonah Hill, who is forced to attend elementary school when his gay parents hit hard times; and thus has little idea on how to act as a kid. It also contains a recurring subplot about Gregory attempting to date his principal, who is in her 70s. The show was met with poor reviews and was canceled after just 7 episodes due to poor ratings.
The fact that one of the parents wasn't actually gay but rather gave in to a gay relationship because the other wouldn't leave him alone despite several restraining orders angered quite a few people in the gay community because of what it implied didn't help matters either.
The European series Popetown was set in the Vatican, and featured an impish Pope who came off as a Dirty Old Man / Spoiled Brat, as well as overly sexy nuns and corrupt cardinals; much of the humor is rather sexual, scatological, or just plain stupid. Despite initial interest from viewers, the ensuing religious controversy over how offensive it was to Catholics kept it off the air long enough for any real interest to dry up.
Loonatics Unleashed re-invented Looney Tunes characters as superheroes in a dark, cyberpunkish setting. Unfortunately, people who would've been interested in the Looney Tunes were turned off by the dark-looking setting and action emphasis, and people who wanted to see superhero stuff were put on their guard by the fact that the characters were based on toons famous for zany slapstick. Due to a backlash the premise was changed into a much more standardized superhero cartoon that received mixed reviews at best. Further attempts were made to fix the show in the second season by lightening things even further and reintroducing nearly all the other classic characters, but the show was cancelled after that season ran its course.
Pelswick was unable to gain much of an audience due to taking too many risks at once. It had a paraplegic protagonist, which is a pretty big risk by itself, unfortunately, especially since it made the bold choice to have it not define his entire character. Then it was set in a Fantastic Comedy (the protagonist receives advice from a guardian angel only he can see), and some of the people who liked the reality aspect found the fantasy aspect confusing to the point they couldn't enjoy it, as well as having an unconventional art style which some people find off-putting in and of itself. For good measure, the show employed mature humor about political correctness and then aimed the series at kids, complete with a far-from-subtle Aesop structure that older people were turned off by. All of this resulted in being cancelled after 26 episodes and not released on DVD with a virtually nonexistent fanbase.
This is the reason My Little Pony Tales flopped. Fans of the usually fantasy-themed My Little Pony franchise found the slice-of-life elements dull and cliché, while most slice-of-life fans couldn't get beyond the fact that the cast is all brightly-coloured talking ponies. It's still a controversial topic in the MLP fandom decades later.
Almost Naked Animals. The entire cast is animals who have all their fur shaved off, and wear only underwear, for no specific reason. And they all work at an island cabana. And the art style is very ugly, and NOT in an Ugly Cute kind of way.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars will win you over with its artistic excellence, but it has to do so with a potentially debilitating premise. Namely, for all the heroes' wisdom and daring do, they are all suckers fooled by Palpatine who is manipulating both sides to weaken them in order to finally seize power in Revenge of the Sith.