High Hopes, Zero Talent
Bob finds himself among the candidates for his dream occupation. This is something he's wanted his entire life and dreams of rising to the top. Once he starts training at said job, it becomes quickly apparent that Bob... has zero talent for the job.
Still he keeps working at it
(possibly undergoing Training from Hell
)... and it doesn't help
. (After all, Hard Work Hardly Works
.) And what's more, there will be no Applied Phlebotinum
or Magic Feather
to smooth the way toward Bob's goals. He can't do it and that's that. Not to say that Bob is completely worthless. He may have plenty of viable talents. Just not in the field he desired.
Often, this character will find other ways to stay within his chosen field, and may even find happiness there (a bad pilot gets shunted to the flight crew or Mission Control
), but he never really stops wishing for that which he can't gain.
Contrast with Fake Ultimate Hero
, where the image is there, but the skills are not. A Heroic Wannabe
is likely to be this trope as well.
Compare Dream-Crushing Handicap
, I Coulda Been a Contender!
, Muggle Born of Mages
, Giftedly Bad
or Minion with an F in Evil
(if said minion actually wants to be a bad guy). This might also be seen as an occupational form of a Tragic Dream
Anime and Manga
- In Rune Soldier Louie, the eponymous character a mage in training, who longs for adventure. The problem is, he sucks at spellcasting because he doesn't keep up with his studies; preferring to solve his problems with his fists instead. Except he's not very good at that either, since he hasn't had any formal training and usually just rushes in without thinking. Which is what creates the friction between him and Jeanie.
- Kawachi's father in Yakitate!! Japan, who kept trying to become a baker at Pantasia until his death. This is revealed to be the driving force behind Kawachi's own determination.
- Waver Velvet in Fate/Zero wants to be a great magus, but lacks the necessary heredity. You see, magical ability apart from a few freaks tends to be something gained over the generations and Waver is a nobody. He enters the Grail War as a sort of revenge against a teacher that snubbed his work and mocked him in front of a class by. Unfortunately, his paper stating hard work can make up for talent is both obvious and gibberish: Hard work will make you better at something, but with no aptitude from the start hard work can only get you so far, and it certainly won't grow you magical body parts that you weren't born with. However, it turns out that while he's rather bad at magic himself, he's quite good at educating others and helping them maximize their own potential. Which is something he has no interest in, even as it gives him a solid career and good social standing.
Films — Animated
- In Untold Tales of Spider-Man, Peter Parker had to deal with an unwanted fangirl in the form of Sally Avril, who was inspired by Spider-Man to try and become a costumed heroine herself. Unfortunately, she simply didn't have the talent for it, and eventually got herself killed when she insisted on continuing despite Spidey's repeated attempts to talk her out of doing it.
- The original Jester, an archenemy of Daredevil dreamed of being a major Shakespearean actor, and trained himself in everything from acrobatics to boxing to swordplay to try and improve his chances. Unfortunately, he forgot to get the one kind of training he actually needed-namely, acting lessons. He was such a bad actor that the only work he could get was as the the pie in the face guy for a two-bit comedian, and eventually he became so embittered he decided to take the skills he was actually good at and became a costumed criminal.
- In Astérix and the Normans, Cacofonix, who is a good instrumentalist but a unspeakably awful singer, is told off-the-cuff that his music is really good and he might do better in the city. Cacofonix becomes obsessed with this idea, and convinced that he will be a huge pop star there. He steals a horse and tries to ride there, singing for food. When he becomes needed as a Human Weapon against Horny Vikings, Obelix manages to locate him again, solely by following the trail of destruction caused by the pain and outrage of people exposed to his music. In particular, in one inn his voice caused a brawl so terrible the building was torn to pieces.
Films — Live-Action
- In Monsters University, Mike Wazowski's dream is to become a scarer and despite being very well-read on the subject is stated to lack natural talent. Ultimately, his failure to achieve his dreams is a Foregone Conclusion considering his fate in Monsters, Inc., but he still finds success in the scaring field with Sulley and things get better for him after the events of Monsters Inc. marks the shift from scare power to laugh power.
- Linguini of Ratatouille wants to be a great chef, even more so when he discovers he's Auguste Gusteau's son. Unfortunately for him, he's a total Lethal Chef. While discovering he's a bad chef (especially without Remy), he turns out to be an ace maître d'.
- Robots: Rodney's father has a lifelong dream to play trumpet in a band. In the end he gets to live out his dream, and... he sucks. Well he did say he was a little rusty. He's been out of practice for at least twenty years.
- Ed Wood—his big-screen and Real Life versions—wanted to be a great movie director whose films would be remembered long after his death. Two out of three ain't bad, we suppose.
- Birdemic director James Nguyen is one angora sweater away from following in Wood's exact footsteps. As is Tommy Wiseau.
- In Citizen Kane, Susan Alexander, second wife of Charles Foster Kane, gets put out on a huge opera debut by her husband. While her voice may be pleasant for something singing in the shower, she is not cut out for opera in any way. Her vocal teacher loudly proclaims she is unteachable and more or less facepalms every time she sings. Kane won't listen to Susan, the instructor, or every newspaper critic in America and insists she keeps going on stage.
Orson Welles later regretted this part of the film, as people assumed she was based on screen actress and William Randolph Hearst's paramour Marion Davies, who Welles (and many others) felt was actually a fairly talented actress and a nice person. Marion Davies was well-suited to romantic comedies— unfortunately, Hearst saw her as the second coming of Mary Pickford and kept putting her in lavish, sentimental dramas that didn't take advantage of her talents.
- The Trope Codifier is Rincewind of the Discworld series. Rincewind does have many actual skills (he's something of an Omniglot, for starters; he can scream for mercy in nineteen languages, and just scream in another forty-four) and he seems to be a semi-competent librarian (a job one would think would be ideal for someone as risk-adverse as Rincewind), but he dreams of being a real wizard. Unfortunately for him, he is "a natural wizard in the same way fish are natural mountaineers." He does have most of the traits of a wizard, including ones that are, well, magical (like seeing the Eighth Colour). The only ones he doesn't seem to have are the ability to do magic, and knowledge of when he is to die (and even Death doesn't know when Rincewind is to die, so that might not be a failure on his wizardiness per se). Usually wizards (and witches) learn when they're going to die a week or so in advance (barring accidents). But Rincewind assumes he's going to die on a daily basis, so the actual knowledge probably wouldn't register as anything different. Given that the main occupation of Discworld wizards is not doing magic, it could be argued that he's got too much talent.
- Harry Potter has Butt Monkey Neville Longbottom. When it comes to actually casting spells he's just not very good. However, the skilled-in-other-areas aspect applies to Neville as well, as he's a herbology prodigy and a major Determinator. In the end, most of his victories turn out to be moral or physical, making him one of the few people to bring fists to a magic fight and still win.
- Angel in the Charlie Parker Series, a thief with enormous technical skills, but lacking the attention to detail to be a good thief. One particularly memorable flashback shows him walking into a room full of valuable - and portable - works of art, and attempting to steal the television. However, his lockpicking skills make him useful to the NYPD, which winds up saving his life and earning him a lifelong friend.
- Phil Baldwin in Son of Interflux by Gordon Korman. He has "potential" for everything, but that potential never amounts to much.
- Cookie from Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide really wants to be on the cheer squad. It... doesn't work out, to say the least.
- Joxer of Xena: Warrior Princess wanted two things: To be a great heroic warrior, and Gabrielle's heart. He never got either.
- Red Dwarf: Arnold Judas Rimmer is desperate to become an Officer in the Space Corps, and yet failed his Astronavigation exam thirteen times. All in an attempt to win his mother's approval. The novel describes it best:
If Rimmer hadn't been such a dedicated anal retentive, he would have realised something. He wasn't cut out to be an officer. Wasn't cut out for it. He'd realise he wasn't the slightest bit interested in Astronavigation, or Quantum Mechanics, or any of the things you had to be interested in to be an officer.
- The novel then reveals that Rimmer's true talent lies in art and cartography.
- Later on, he also aspires to be a great general or leader, crippled in this desire by being a Dirty Coward of an Armchair General.
- In Scrubs, Doug is an incredibly incompetent doctor, but ends up causing so many deaths he is able to start a new career as a pathologist in the morgue identifying the cause of death of corpses that have other pathologists stumped.
- The Smile.dk song Hollywood is about a talentless would-be actress who dreams of being a Hollywood superstar.
- Detective Dick Gumshoe from the Ace Attorney series is all heart and no deductive skills. That being said, he's not all that bad at fighting and has a wasted talent at engineering.
- Brisbane Adams in You Say It First's predecessor comic, Unlike Minerva. Brisbane wanted all his life to be a part of a real-life Vaudeville theater. And he didn't let things like not being able to sing, dance, act, tell jokes or do magic tricks stop him.
- Christian Weston Chandler's great dream in life is to be a famous comic book artist who writes and draws his own property for a major publisher like Archie Comics, Dark Horse Comics, or what have you. Unfortunately, his magnum opus is Sonichu.
- Cherry in Cherry's Cure believes this about herself, and so do most other people.
- The Batman's version of Basil Karlo could have been a world-famous actor...except for the fact that he didn't have the slightest bit of talent. The only work he could get was in cheesy low-rent horror movies, and he turned out to be far more effective at supervillainy as Clayface than he ever was as a legitimate actor.
- In King of the Hill, one of Dale Gribble's dreams is to learn basket weaving and has the opportunity to on a "vocation vacation". He's absolutely horrible at it, which causes him a lot of angst. Things get worse when Hank's handiness and attention to detail put him top of the class, driving Dale into a jealous rage.
- Squidward in Spongebob Squarepants fashions himself as great artist and musician. But his art is unremarkable and are merely images of himself (which is not much). And his music is dreadful and sounds like a dying animal.
- The Pulverizer in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) wants to be a ninja like the turtles, but he is terrible at it, and can't make a simple move right. He decides to let himself get doused in mutagen hoping to be mutant like the turtles; instead he becomes a shapeless blob monster.