Oblivious To Hints

Hans Gruber: (knowing that McClane is barefoot) "Karl, schiesse auf das Fenster."
(Karl gives Hans a puzzled look)
Hans Gruber: Schiesse auf das Fenster!"
(Another puzzled look from Karl)
Hans Gruber: (clearly exasperated) "SHOOT the GLASS!"

Bob is trying to pass a clue or message on to Alice, but in a way that won't be too conspicuous. Perhaps he's talking in Igpay Atinlay, maybe he's leaning his head or eyes in the direction he wants Alice to look, he could even be winking. This may be a Quiet Cry for Help. Whatever it is, Alice is completely oblivious to this, or she thinks Bob is trying to say something else.

Sometimes, Bob will get so fed up with Alice's cluelessness that he'll finally decide "To hell with it," and shout the message, such as "TURN AROUND AND LOOK BEHIND YOU!" Other things may occur as well.

This can also be a character trait where a person is oblivious to any amount of Hint Dropping. The more annoying ones will misunderstand every attempt or interpret it as the opposite. In a particularly bad case you can't get it through them even if you spell it out for them or shout it in their face, and don't even bother with subtlety anymore. They might also be immune to criticism via Insult Backfire.

Related to I Do Not Speak Non Verbal (and occasionally, Non-Verbal Miscommunication).

Characters who tend to suffer from this:


  • In Fire and Hemlock, Tom desperately tries to make Polly understand that he is in danger of being made a human sacrifice, and she can save him by clinging to him (as friend) for nine years. He sends her fairytale books and everything, but she fails to notice it. Justified in that she's a child for most of the narrative, and the hints are very subtle.
  • There are probably many of these in The Simpsons, but one of the best known is when Homer and Bart are working the ringtoss booth at the carnival. Wiggum tries to get Homer to bribe him, but after three tries (one of which includes mentioning his friend "Mr. Bribe"), Wiggum decides "screw this", and shuts the booth down. Later in the episode, Wiggum refuses to help the Simpson family when the owners of that booth took over their house. Homer still doesn't get it.
  • In The Emperor's New Groove, Kronk can't figure out that Yzma wants him to knock Kuzco out until she finally slams her fist into her other palm.
  • The IT Crowd: "Why are you giving me the secret signal to shut up?"
  • Pick a Doctor, any Doctor: you can't get more stubbornly blind than the guy who has to be outright trying to ignore something obvious (and sensible, or social). Much to the frustration of many a Companion.
  • ¡Three Amigos! has Lucky making all manner of noisy bird-like calls to get the attention of Dusty and Ned. When they're sitting only a few feet away. He finally gives up and shouts at them.
  • It happens in the play Boeing Boeing as the main character tries to inform his philandering roommate that the German stewardess girlfriend has arrived ahead of schedule — while his French girlfriend is in the room.
  • In an episode of Deal or No Deal, Howie Mandel tried to show a contestant and her family that her sister had flown in from Boston to play one of the show's models. [1]
  • George Carlin complained about this in his last show, It's Bad For Ya. He discusses at people's inability to take a hint that they're boring the crap out of him, when he finally rants.
    George: And while all of this is going on, you're searching through your mind for something gracious and diplomatic you can say to bring the conversation to a close; and all I can ever come up with is, "SHUT THE FUCK UP! SHUT THE FUCK UP! SHUT THE FUCK UP! SHUT THE FUCK UP!"
  • When Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice wants to leave Jane and Bingley alone together, she starts winking conspicuously at Elizabeth and Kitty so they'll leave. Elizabeth ignores her, knowing she's being tactless and stupid. Kitty, after a few minutes, asks why Mrs. Bennet keeps winking at her.
  • This exchange between the Big Bad and her sidekick in Men in Black II, when the former hears a suspicious noise in the kitchen:
    Serleena: *nods in the direction of the kitchen*
    Scrad: *does nothing*
    Serleena: There.
    Scrad: *does nothing*
    Serleena: Noise.
    Scrad: *does nothing*
    Serleena: Kitchen!
    Scrad: Oh, right!
    • In the first Men In Black, Laurel is trying to indicate to J that the Bug is in the morgue (and holding her leg under the table between them) by pointing down and repeatedly saying "I'd like to leave with you now" and "I have to show you something." J thinks she's talking about... something else....
  • Sierra Petrovita from Fallout 3. She is pretty naïve and is blind to the fact that her neighbor, Ronald Laren, is constantly hinting that he wants to have sex with her, and the Player Character can even tell her outright that Ronald "only wants to get in her pants", to which she responds: "Who would wanna wear an old pair of women's pants?"
  • Probably the funniest scene in the entire Indiana Jones series occurs in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
    Obvious Nazi agent: Welcome to Iskenderun. The Director of the Museum of Antiquities has sent a car for you.
    Marcus: Oh, what? Your servant, sir.
    Sallah: As I am his.
    Obvious Nazi agent: Follow me, please.
    Marcus: My reputation precedes me!
    Sallah: There is no museum in Iskenderun.
    Other obvious Nazi agent: Papers, please.
    Sallah: Papers? *laughs* Of course! Run.
    Marcus: Yes.
    Sallah: Papers, sir, got it here. *pulls out a newspaper* Just finished reading it myself! *laughs* Run!
    Marcus: Yes.
    Sallah: Egyptian Mail, morning edition! Run!
    Marcus: Did you say...? Uh, uh...
    Sallah: *punches the Nazi agent through the newspaper* RUN!
  • In one episode of Fawlty Towers, Polly keeps hinting to an oblivious Basil that their gourmet chef is deeply drunk, while Basil entertains dinner guests.
  • Noob has case in which the message isn't cryptic nor meant for the character, but the character is still lousy at picking up hints. Season 1 finale had the Noob guild discover that their dismal healer (Sparadrap) has a younger brother who actually knows how to play when he briefly takes over the avatar while the usual player is in the bathroom. In an early Season 2 episode, one of the guild's (other) members doesn't pick up on an elite player being Sparadrap's younger brother despite being present for a conversation that basically goes like this :
    Elite Player: You're speaking to the leader of [game's best guild] Kevin.
    Sparadrap: Hey, how do you know my real name? Do you play a the mindreader class?
    Elite Player: Don't you recognize my voice?
    Sparadrap: Err, no! But you do sound like my little brother! But that couldn't be! He's not here! I'm using computer! And he doesn't even know how to play! I try to teach him, but he runs of to the super café.
    Elite Player: Cyber café. Just forget about it.
  • Jin in Dead Island just would not take no for an answer on helping the gangs who had taken over the police station. Despite the survivors and the gangs themselves telling her not to.