Praising Shows You Don't Watch
"'Classic.' A book which people praise and don't read."The Inverse of Complaining about Shows You Don't Watch, in which these people somehow know exactly how good something is, without having ever actually seen it. Maybe they saw so much praise they feel like they can account for having actually watched it for themselves, or maybe they're just carbon-copying someone's opinions to fit into the group. Or they have seen a fragment of the work, liked it, and assumed the rest is equally good. Or perhaps they've seen the Ink Stain Adaptations and decided they really liked those, which means the original must be even better. Who knows? Similar to somehow knowing a show is utter crap without having seen an episode, it's one of the greatest mysteries of human culture, and has only been exacerbated by the Age of the Internet. Praising Shows You Don't Watch is often a major contributor to Mainstream Obscurity. When it becomes really commonplace, Popcultural Osmosis Failure is not far behind. Compare Popcultural Osmosis. Often prone to happening with Sacred Cow works.
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- In the 1990s, the success of the movies of AKIRA and Ghost in the Shell meant that many in the West professed to be 'into manga', in many cases without ever seeing any more examples of the form than those two films. Or appreciating the difference between manga and anime. Or that there's a lot of different genres within the anime/manga world, besides dystopian sci-fi. This has created a weird situation where many fans of old-school anime want the industry to go back to "the way it used to be," i.e. focused on dystopian sci-fi; but it never actually was focused on that genre. For some reason, the other types of shows didn't start getting imported until years later.
- The Metroid manga suddenly became widely encouraged reading material on related forums and other discussion areas after the backlash against then new title Other M. To the ten people who actually read the manga though, the common arguments used to defend Other M made little sense, the game's plot directly contradicted it in several instances.
- Miracleman: The relative rarity of the comics and the talent involved (it was originally written by Alan Moore with the artist roster containing many future big names such as Alan Davis and Rick Veitch) makes anyone who didn't read it assume it was an instant classic; but they might be disappointed in the actual product if they read it. The main problems come from the fact that Alan Moore wrote it very early in his career (around the same time he was writing Captain Britain) and as such the early issues are just... bad. The book is also saddled with a horrendous Idiot Plot for the heroes' origins, which allowed all of the silver age stories to still be canon. Even the Olympus story arc, the best regarded by far, is mired with the mistakes Moore made in the first two books. Practically everything Alan Moore has done in the intervening years has been far superior, which has lead to disappointment among new readers. Alan Moore himself noted that Marvel was scraping the bottom of the barrel by chasing after the rights.
- This happens a lot with movies — movies known for being good, but unseen by many of the people who praise them. Many of these nevertheless become used as benchmarks, which terrible movies will often (according to many a review and rant) be described as "making merely mediocre movies look like...".
- Citizen Kane
- Lawrence of Arabia
- The Universal Horror Classics — Dracula (1931), The Wolf Man (1941), The Mummy (1932), Frankenstein (1931), Creature from the Black Lagoon, etc.
- A lot of German Expressionism — The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Metropolis, Nosferatu, etc.
- A lot of the classic non-American film directors — Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, Akira Kurosawa, François Truffaut, Michelangelo Antonioni, Werner Herzog, Vittorio De Sica, Jean-Luc Godard, Jean Renoir, Jacques Tati, Andrei Tarkovsky, Bernardo Bertolucci, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Krzysztof Kieślowski, Luis Buñuel, Yasujiro Ozu, etc.
- Plenty of Stanley Kubrick films, especially Doctor Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, and The Shining.
- Annie Hall, and Woody Allen in general
- Several iconic films of Martin Scorsese, e.g. Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas
- Gone with the Wind, Ben Hur, The Ten Commandments- anything long enough to have an intermission built in.
- In general, the only truly "classic" non-Disney movies you can count on everyone having seen are Star Wars, The Wizard of Oz and (maybe) The Sound of Music.
- Some movies that specifically appeal to a particular fanbase (e.g. fans of a franchise or director) will elicit a storm of 10/10 scores on their IMDb page before they even come out.
- The Wizard of Oz downplays this. Almost everyone has seen it, but most people only watch it when they're kids or when they're with kids, and so can go many years without being exposed to it. It's common to watch it again after a long absence and being surprised by a sight gag, quip, or sequence that one had totally forgotten about. Or to suddenly get a joke that went over your head years ago.
- This is true of a lot of the earlier Walt Disney animated films as well, such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, and (especially) Fantasia. However this trope is more or less played straight with a lot of the live action films that he did, like Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Swiss Family Robinson, and Old Yeller.
- The Bible. Some people who espouse it as the direct word of God haven't read more than a few verses of it (as opposed to Biblical scholars, who tend to analyze and discuss it academically). On the flip side, some people who hate it haven't read it either. Some traditions do cover a large portion of the text over the course of a few years, though.
- In Islam, it is very important to learn about the Koran. It's not limited to just reading it either. Memorization of Al-Fatiha is important, as it is needed for prayer. Indeed, there are many people all around the world who have memorized the Koran by heart. Like with the Bible, there are many who praise the Koran yet rarely ever read it.
- William Shirer characterized Mein Kampf as the bestselling book in Germany between 1934-1944 that was never read by most Germans who bought it.
- War and Peace. Said to be one of the great Russian classics, but people tend to shy away from it due to it being a thick Doorstopper of a book.
- Hey, any famous Doorstopper is in default danger of this trope or its inverse, especially the "modern" stuff like Pynchon or Joyce.
- Pride and Prejudice
- In the same vein, Gulliver's Travels - also everybody "knows" it...the shorthand, dumbed down version, that is.
- Lord of the Rings gets this, too. Mostly for people who haven't exactly read it, but praise it more for what they accomplished.
- This one is perhaps a very sad example, as most people who claim to love it might never have cracked it open, but have seen the movies, and therefore think they know the story. The movies were great, but missing Tolkien's classic writing style and a number of the important themes of the work were either truncated or left out. Not to mention the sheer number of non-Tolkien ideas that were added to the script.
- 1984. Many phrases from the book, like "Big Brother", "thoughtcrime", "doublethink", and "Room 101", have entered pop culture, so quoting these phrases and being aware of the general theme of "totalitarianism and censorship are bad" is probably enough to convince someone else who hasn't read it that you have. Ironically, his essay Politics in the English Language specifically advises people from using "dying" metaphors that one is used to seeing in print and parroting them off without taking the time to fully understand what they mean, in an effort to look smart. Now 1984 is one of the biggest sources of that.
Why I Write: Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic Socialism, as I understand it
- Orwell in general falls into this a lot, particularly from people who have either never read any of his work other than 1984. Anyone describing Orwell as a conservative or a "fanatical anti-Communist" is talking out of their proverbial arses.
- Brazil was inspired by 1984, despite director Terry Gilliam having never read the book until after the film's production.
- According to a recent survey in Britain, two-thirds of people deliberately lie about having read a book to impress others. 1984 topped the list, with 42% of those surveyed admitting to lying about reading it. As a point of comparison, only half that number admitted to lying about reading The Bible.
- Mark Twain would be displeased to learn that The Adventures of Tom Sawyer now meets his definition of "classic." When most people discuss the book, they refer to one scene — Tom tricking his friends into whitewashing a fence for him. This occurs in Chapter 2. Either that is an incredibly awesome scene, or it's got 'most quoted' status in school textbooks, or most people stop reading around page twenty. You can tell that someone has actually read the whole thing when they refer to other memorable scenes, like getting lost in the caves, and Tom and Huck attending their own funeral.
- Umberto Eco would be another author for the pseudointellectual poseur. Most people likely never manage to get past the first 50 pages of The Name of the Rose and probably never start Foucaults Pendulum).
- Much like the Tom Sawyer example above, you can tell whether or not anyone has actually read Don Quixote by whether they remember anything about it other than the windmill scene.
- Richard Feynman mentioned in his autobiography a case when one publisher sent a schoolbook to the California State Curriculum Commission, but it wasn't ready for print, so it had empty pages. Six out of the ten members of the commission still rated the book favorably — literally judging it by the cover! Ironically, it was one of the highest rated books, and according to Feynman's autobiographical account, none of the other members understood why he hadn't rated the textbook.
- Many works of mythology, such as The Epic of Gilgamesh and various other texts of Classical Mythology and other myths. Although many are well-respected as inspirations for modern fantasy and great storylines by themselves, few people have probably actually read them.
- Part of the Framing Device for why The Princess Bride (the book, not the movie) is an 'abridged version' is because the author (who is, in the Framing Device, claiming to merely be an editor) recommended this book highly to his son, despite the fact he'd never read it, having only heard the (much shorter) version his father read to him as a child.
- While Twilight did have some... questionable... aspects of vampires, amongst the cries of how they ruined vampires like Dracula in Twilight is allegedly that they are moving during the day - which pretty much shows how familiar people actually are with Dracula.
- A Brief History of Time and Gödel, Escher, Bach are both well-known for this, the former having been described as "the most unread book ever written". These tend to be the sort of books that people leave on their bookshelves or coffee tables to look sophisticated, but because the books are quite challenging to read, only a handful of people who own them have ever finished them.
- Many people who praise the works of HP Lovecraft can't name a Lovecraft monster other than Cthulhu, who isn't a major character in his pantheon to begin with.
- Quite a few shows on HBO or Showtime have this problem, probably because those are higher tier networks so a lot of people can't see them (legally, anyway) until they come out on DVD, but everybody wants to seem "cultured".
- There are very few people who have seen acclaimed shows like The Wire in full, yet because it is the general opinion of critics, they immediately proclaim them "the greatest TV show ever made" after watching the first few episodes. Which is silly, given that it's a very slow-burning show which takes several episodes to get going.
- There's an extra on an The L Word DVD that shows a work-around: They re-enact the episodes using an AfterEllen.com recap. It makes for some...odd viewing. Presumably, they get the DVDs once they become available.
- Though AMC is not on the same tier of network as HBO or Showtime, a lot of shows on it, especially Mad Men and Breaking Bad, are in the same situation as described above. Both shows get raves from seemingly everyone, with some even putting them on the same level as The Wire and The Sopranos, despite only getting ratings in the low millions.
- This did change in the final eight episodes of Breaking Bad, where it broke its viewing record 4-5 times and pulled in over 10 million viewers for its finale.
- Doctor Who:
- The fandom is prone to praising episodes it can't watch, leading to the sardonic observation by some fans that when a "classic" Missing Episode is discovered, those who described it as a classic often go very quiet... The classic example here is "Tomb of the Cybermen", which was considered the high point of the show as horror before its shock rediscovery in the 90s and hokey, nonsensical racist garbage afterwards. Some people comment that this may have a lot to do with the high reputation of Season 5, which at the time was so Strictly Formula that it bored Patrick Troughton into quitting the role, but ended up mostly missing with plenty of time for the Nostalgia Goggles to kick in.
- It's also been inverted, with some stories that were remembered in conventional opinion as very poor getting suddenly lauded when they got released on VHS, or rediscovered after some time on the "missing" list - the classic examples here are "Enemy of the World" and "The Underwater Menace" for opinion improving once more episodes got found, and "The Gunfighters" and "The Sunmakers" for re-evaluated video releases.
- In-Universe - the character Whizzkid in "The Greatest Show in the Galaxy" is an unsubtle and pleasantly sadistic parody of obnoxious 1980s Who Fan Dumb who insist everything is Ruined Forever but are too young to remember whatever period they held as the show's glory days. He's obsessed with a circus, but due to his young age never actually saw much of it. Note that he has to base his opinions on the show by pointless bits of ephemera like 'poster design', a direct parallel to fans having to guess the quality of Missing Episodes from Radio Times listings and set photographs.
"Even though I wasn't there in the early days, I know it's not as good as it used to be!"
- Happens with a lot of very successful and famous rock groups. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, AC/DC, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and many other older rock groups, in spite of having legit and quite large fanbases, are popular among this group of people, particularly in the case of music debates where one will list these bands and others to prove their musical taste is "superior" to the other person's. An exception to this is when someone uses a Progressive Rock group like Yes. They will often be seen as a music snob by others.
- Parodied by this Funny Or Die vid: "Take Off Your T-Shirt If You Can't Name A Song By The Band That's On It".
- The Ramones are another example. The shirts are more popular than the band ever was, and most probably don't know that the whole band is dead as of July 2014.
- Happens in the classical music world as well; everyone's heard of Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johannes Brahms, and so forth (Ludwig van Beethoven gets a pass for the "Ode to Joy", "Für Elise", and the opening of the Fifth Symphony) but few can name a piece of theirs or identify it on hearing (to Jeremy Paxman's eternal frustration on University Challenge). Made more confusing by the fact that their best-known hits are sometimes not at all similar to the rest of their oeuvre - Brahms' Wiegenleid ("Lullaby"), for example, which is almost entirely unlike everything else he ever wrote.
- Take a trip to teenage "alternative" tumblr blogs, you'll find many teens wearing shirts of Nirvana, The Misfits or Black Flag, yet the post nothing about their music and don't know who Kurt Cobain or Glenn Danzig are.
- Michael Jackson gets a lot of accolades, especially since his death, proclaiming that he's "the greatest entertainer of all time!" Like William Shakespeare (see below), however, he did a lot more stuff than just Off the Wall, Thriller, and Bad, and it's telling that of those only a few Jackson 5 singles and Dangerous tracks continue to get exposure. As for his videos, beyond the three he did for Thriller, the bulk of the others are either forgotten — or Snark Bait. When the Cirque du Soleil show Michael Jackson The IMMORTAL World Tour exposed both professional critics and casual showgoers to a lot of lesser-known Jackson numbers (both solo and with groups), they didn't like what they heard. And the "greatest entertainer" accolade bespeaks an unawareness or willful ignorance of the fact that after 1989, most of his live performances (on tour, at award shows, the Super Bowl, etc.) were lip-synched, which gives him more in common with studio-assisted, prefab starlets like Britney Spears than Sammy Davis Jr., Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, James Brown, The Beatles, and other performers Jackson is held up as an equal or superior to.
- Due to the negative feedback about the fourth edition of Dungeons & Dragons, many gamers have an utterly unhealthy love of Pathfinder as it's an outgrowth of the game's third edition (which, ironically, also had a loudly negative reception and people rushing back to second edition). This coupled up with fourth edition being marketed aggressively towards new players, with Wizards of the Coast supporting game shops to run "Encounter" events to show of 4E, to result in a lot of new gamers praising Pathfinder to death in order to agree with older gamers rather than trying it and seeing if they liked it first.
- William Shakespeare is so well known for being "the greatest author in the English language, and possibly any language," that many people will not hesitate to dump heaps of praise over his entire body of work and over all aspects of his writing. While some of his best-known plays are required reading in most high schools, Shakespeare wrote quite a few plays, and not all of them were works of staggering genius. Some plays are preserved only out of a Gotta Catch 'Em All sense of duty to study Shakespeare's entire body of work, rather than for their individual quality. Also, many people don't know that most of Shakespeare's plays were adaptations/rip-offs of previous works. Shakespeare punched up the plot and wrote the dialogue (the latter of which someone would argue is the point of reading Shakespeare), but did not himself invent the stories.
- There's a joke about this in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged), where they ask if you've read a Shakespeare play...then go on to ask if you've read King John.
- Another thing about Shakespeare is that his works are difficult to read for the average Joe, as in they are written in what can seem like a different language. How many high-school students would pass a test on Shakespeare without an explanation on the words used? This makes anyone who proclaims that Shakespeare is a master of language, but when pressed doesn't even know what half of the dialogue means, particularly amusing.
- The works of Menander received loads of acclaim throughout history... despite all of his works existing solely as fragments from the eleventh century to the end of the nineteenth. Since then, a few of his works were recovered (Dyskolos, or The Grouch, has been found in its entirety, and now about three-quarters of The Samian Woman are now known), leading to an inevitable Hype Backlash.
- Stephen Sondheim has a reputation as the greatest of songwriters in late 20th century musical theatre (if not musical theatre as a whole), but of his solo works — as opposed to often-produced shows like West Side Story that he only contributed lyrics to early in his career — few are produced on any regular basis beyond theatre hotbeds such as New York and London, and they usually don't run for long, owing to his tendency for Audience Alienating Premises. Many of those shows, such as Pacific Overtures, Merrily We Roll Along, Assassins, and Passion, were flops in their original productions and still haven't caught on with the general public in restagings. (The key exceptions to this rule are Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Into the Woods.)
- Many people will take interest in a game for its plot and characters, but haven't played it because because it looks too difficult, is too tedious, or isn't easily available because it's not readily available in their region or is difficult to find even through piracy.
- Silent Hill 2 — particularly after it was continually heaped with praise by Zero Punctuation.
- The UK PC Gamer magazine's review of Far Cry 2 was more like a review of the press pack circa six months earlier; features were mentioned that didn't exist, the main factions were repeatedly called by the wrong names, and much was made over the ability to pick factions and missions, something you can't do unless you really hate advancing the plot.
- Compare the number of people who have praised Psychonauts or Beyond Good & Evil to the actual sales figures of those games. You'll almost certainly find the former number far exceeds the latter.
- This might be changing by today because of Steam and GoG sales, plus the continuous sales over the years thanks to the games' Cult Classic status, but since apparently only the initial sales matter...
- Mysteriously, more people knew of and began to praise System Shock 2 after a certain someone reviewed a spiritual successor.
- Regardless of who reviews it, classic games become more well known and praised after modern games emulate/continue them, especially when people want to appear to be a more "refined" gamer. Other examples: The effect of Fallout 3 on Fallout, Fallout 2 and Fallout Tactics , the effect of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion on Morrowind.
- Radiant Silvergun is praised outside of Japan for various reasons related to gameplay and story, but the fact it was never released internationally and that it costs a small fortune makes it skeptical that many of them have ever seen anything more than a few videos of it.
- Thankfully it's much more widely (and cheaply) available today due to an international Xbox Live Arcade release.
- The Virtua Fighter series a whole. Often praised as the deepest fighting game ever created...by most that never played it.
- The Trope Namer for 8.8 was a review of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess released before the game itself. Half of the Internet Backdraft was this, while the other attacked the logic of the review (insisting the graphics should be greater when it's a port, not an enhanced remake).
- Rather hilariously true of many Amazon.com game reviews since 2000 onward, with people giving five star reviews to games that won't come out for months, sometimes reviewing the game based on a couple of screenshots and rambling about features that don't exist (but clearly should and will in five months!). Amazon's gotten better about it, at least.
- ICO is widely praised as being a simple yet artistic, touching game. Finding people who actually played it, though, is not quite easy.
- Portal has become insanely popular, but it is hard to tell whether people actually like the game itself or just listen to the memes the game created without even knowing a thing about the Companion Cube or how The Cake Is a Lie (and, to top it off, it isn't, as the ending shows).
- Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels is sometimes praised because people who found out that it was the "real" sequel to Super Mario Bros. instead of the Dolled-Up Installment released as Super Mario Bros. 2 in North America. Actually playing - and surviving - probably finishes the loving.
- Terraria had a community like this pre-release, with many people praising the game well before it came out and claiming it to be nothing like Minecraft, despite only a limited number of them having played it at that point.
- A good number of Touhou fans have not played the games proper, and are only familiar with the games through fanart, doujins, remixes and other fan material. Most fans who have seen what the games look like praise them for having beautiful bullet patterns, but won't play them.
- Then there are Touhou Project fans that are only familiar with the games through canon and semi-canon gaiden works by the games' creator (from fantasy-land travelogues up to and including a book-length short story series), and praise the project as a whole because there's no single phrase referring to these works alone.
- A good portion of the Dangan Ronpa fandom has not played the games. Since it didn't have a release outside of Japan at the time, it was pretty unknown until a Let's Play made it popular. Despite a fan-translated English patch, the animation of the game was as far as many fans went.
- It finally got an official English export, but it's only on the PlayStation Vita (which has its own problems).
- There are certain fangirls who claim to love games like Kingdom Hearts and will tell you all about their ships, but have never actually played the games.
- Even before the MOTHER series earned its status as Sacred Cow, there were many people repeatedly praising EarthBound and talking about how awesome it is. Now look at its sales figures, and ask yourself how many of those people actually played it when you could actually obtain a cartridge for a reasonable price.
- Final Fantasy VI can reach this depending on the person. In some cases, you'll find that they like it just because it's not Final Fantasy VII.
- Harvest Moon fans are quick to call Harvest Moon 64 the best in the franchise despite the fact few have played it. A good majority of the fanbase got into the games through (More) Friends Of Mineral Town, A Wonderful Life, and the Nintendo DS games plus 64 was obscure as it was; the 64 wasn't as popular as the Playstation and even kids who owned a 64 were more likely to pick Mario than some farming game. They simply hear other fans praising it so they praise it too. It doesn't help that it will likely never be ported onto the Virtual Console.
- Bullet Hell games suffer from this. On one hand, people praise them for being so pretty and intense to watch, but on the other hand, most players refuse to play these games.
- Tetris The Grand Master. For all the attention it gets over two superplay videos, there are very few players outside of Japan who have seen videos of it and played it, due to No Export for You combined with arcade-only releases (Tetris: The Grand Master ACE on Xbox 360 doesn't count), and, like with Bullet Hell games, the harsh-seeming learning surve.
- Homestuck has a number of fans who only ever read the parts of the comic that deal with one of the resident Humanoid Aliens species, the trolls. The troll characters are teenagers who are quirky and easy enough to identify with that it is often unclear when browsing the plethora of fan works whether some people are even aware that there is a story going on with these characters, or whether they simply latched on to the character designs, alien romance habits and exaggerated manners.
- Cinema Snob Reviews Frozen (a fan comic where The Cinema Snob reviews Frozen) spoofs this In-Universe when Snob claims that The Snow Queen (1957) is superior to Frozen without even watching the older film, simply because it's classic and foreign.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, a conceptual amalgamate of all the previous generations as admitted by the creator Lauren Faust herself, generated several different groups of fans, among them two interesting ones, either of which doesn't seem to have ever seen the old shows:
- First says all the old generations sucked, and the new one (4) is so much better (possibly said to avoid ostracism, as the old shows were targeted to little girls),
- Second says the first generation was great, then they sucked, and the new one is good because it's a remake of the first generation only.
- There's also a surprisingly large group who are in it because of the multitude of surprisingly well done fan works floating around the net, to the point that few haven't even watched more than a few episodes since it debuted, or even watched the show at all!