Uncertain Audience

"In the anime industry's quest for ratings, the creators of shows with strong cross-demographic appeal must pander to two separate, yet equally important groups: the Shōnen fandom, who enjoy Giant Robots, short-skirted schoolgirls and long, drawn-out fights between musclebound supermen full of veiled homoeroticism; and the Shoujo fandom, who like their schoolgirls magical, their Giant Robot pilots Bishōnen, and their homoeroticism right out in the open. These are their stories..."

Uncertain Audience takes place when producers have not positioned a certain enough target for their work's release.

Occurs when a form of media seems unaware of its target demographic, appealing to a wide range of different people. It can be a candy-coated squee with a squick center for some people (like a Tootsie Roll lollipop for those who don't like chocolate, or prefer real chocolate) or vice versa (like salted peanuts that you can't eat until you bust em open). For chocolate-munching, peanut-swallowing people on the other hand, this genre blend can be the perfect flavor for you. On the other hand, if you have diabetes or high blood pressure, your best bet is to stay away from this.

Food metaphors aside, it generally comes in three forms:

Compare Multiple Demographic Appeal.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Code Geass seems to have about five different genres it wants to be in, ranging from robots to politics and back around to high school comedy, with elements of supernatural thriller thrown in.
    • In fact, the reason the Mecha aspect can be excised from the show with no real impact on the plot (at least as far as the first season is concerned) is because it was not, in fact, originally conceived as a Mecha show. However, being a Sunrise anime, one thing led to another...
  • Similar to Code Geass, Full Metal Panic! manages to find a way to take a giant robot military thriller and include high school comedy.
  • Negima! started out looking like a Harem Comedy, then took a hard turn into a fighting series in volume three. Since then it's remained a fighting series, albeit with Harem Comedy elements left in it. It works pretty well.
    • This can be blamed on Executive Meddling - Ken Akamatsu wanted to write a fighting series, but the publisher wanted another harem series like Love Hina. Akamatsu essentially pretended to be writing a harem comedy, and gradually turned it into the fighting shounen he'd wanted.
  • As a Space Western, Cowboy Bebop runs the gamut in terms of genre and tone from comedy, like in "Mushroom Samba", to gruesome horror as in "Pierrot le Fou". This sometimes leads to extreme Mood Whiplash, though it is also what makes the series so popular in many people's eyes. In fact, in the preview for "Black Dog Serenade" Jet even warns the children and women in the audience that they won't care for the plot of the next episode because it is aimed at the middle-aged men.
  • .hack//Legend of the Twilight: On one side, it was considerably more light-hearted and childish than .hack//SIGN, with more comic relief and cute monsters. On the other side, it also had more Fanservice and Implied Twin Cest between the two main characters such that the series has arguably become infamously immortalized because of it.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha has elements of a traditional Magical Girl series with a large helping of sci-fi added on.
  • Some anime Anthology Films like Robot Carnival, Genius Party and Genius Party Beyond fit in this category due the complete change of mood (and sometimes of genre) in each animated short. For example, in Genius Party there is a science-fiction adventure ("Shanghai Dragon"), a Magic Realism tale ("Doorbell"), a Tim Burton-esque comedy ("Deathtic 4"), a philosophical monologue ("Limit Cycle") and it ends with a Slice of Life romance story ("Baby Blue")
  • It can be argued that this trope, combined with Values Dissonance, is why Detective Conan (a.k.a., Case Closed!) failed when it was broadcast on Cartoon Network in the United States: it was too childish for [adult swim], yet too violent for Toonami, having brutal murders, complex plots involving suicide, drugs and business dealings but also many childish comedy moments.
  • Shugo Chara!: It has a young girl protagonist, adorable fairy mascots, and sparkly Magical Girl battles. It also deals with some surprisingly dark subjects, many characters have deep psychological issues, and a huge part of the story is the heroine's romance with a boy in his late teens (who is openly sexually attracted to her). There's also lots of moe elements in order to appeal to otaku. This may be why no licensing company wants to pick the anime version up.
  • Jewelpet Sunshine is often accused of this. It's a wacky kids' school comedy that deals with issues such as incest and zoophilia. Also, the school part is specifically the last year of high school, meaning all the major characters are at least 18.
  • Watashi ni XX Shinasai! can't decide if it's a mature shoujo romance or a shounen moe ecchi. And it's serialized in Nakayoshi, a little girls' manga magazine, further confusing things.
  • Despite its massive popularity, Neon Genesis Evangelion arguably falls into this trope. It has mecha play an important role in the plot, but is also heavily focused on interpersonal character drama - the audience for the two contrasting elements is very different. This might be why the series is so divisive.
  • Shonen series catering to Bishonen Jump Syndrome (including the page quote) can suffer from this if especially if the Multiple Demographic Appeal they're going for is handled poorly. With many members of its target audience (especially in Japan where traditional gender roles are emphasized more) being turned off by the girly stuff they hate in Shoujo being integrated in stories made for them.
  • This is one of the biggest criticisms that even fans have of Akame ga Kill!. The series is relentlessly dark, with main characters dying left and right, but at the same time there are heavy comedy elements that can seem very out of place, such as Lubbock's constant flirting and Tatsumi's Clueless Chick Magnet tendencies.

    Films — Animated 
  • Perhaps the main flaw of Titan A.E. was it did not seem to have a target demographic: The harder Science Fiction elements turned off children from it, and the goofier moments (already hit by the Animation Age Ghetto) turned off Science Fiction fans. According to a publicist, they were aiming for the 10-13 year old crowd. According to the director's commentary, they were aiming for teenagers. Even the VHS reflected this uncertainty—on it you had a trailer for the first X-Men movie, followed by a promo for Digimon (remember- Fox Kids was still around at this point).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Pirates of the Caribbean plays up both the romance angle and the pirate angle, as well as the kiddie comedy angle and the zombie curse angle. Taken individually, each would seem to mesh poorly with the others, but (the first, at least) is notable for its success in Multiple Demographic Appeal.
  • Also the bad sci fi Pod People. It features an E.T.-like Friendly Alien who befriends a little kid, but also features a duo of poachers and a pop music band with some coarse language and sexual innuendo. It also contains a B-plot about a second alien, identical to the first, going on a murderous killing "spree" against the rest of the trapped-in-a-cabin cast.. so it's basically E.T. meets Friday the 13th. Possibly a result of Executive Meddling; originally it was written to be a straight up horror film, but when E.T. was released they tried to capitalize on the success and turn it into an alien buddy film. Didn't really go well.
  • Who the hell was Hobgoblins made for? It's about a bunch of Grotesque Cute obvious puppets who trap people in twisted versions of their wildest fantasies... all of which seem to be about everybody boning their brains out. If you thought the movie it was ripping off was a bit confused about its target audience, wait until you see this thing.
  • Hudson Hawk. A parody of musical comedy (a singing cat burglar) and action/adventure/espionage.
  • Last Action Hero. A mass Lampshade Hanging of action/adventure movie tropes mixed with a comparison between Real Life and cinematic reality.
    • Though it's worth noting that the film itself almost plays out like TV Tropes The Movie, so it could be argued that the audience for it just hadn't been invented yet.
  • There's also movies like Dick and Across the Universe which are meant to appeal to a young audience but deal with things (Watergate and The '60s, respectively) that are more likely to appeal to baby boomers.
  • Battlefield Baseball, which is sort of a spoof of baseball movies... but also has gratuitous violence, an inexplicable plot, and a few musical numbers, all wrapped up in a martial-arts package. It's weird.
  • Spice World. The Nostalgia Chick comments on how she has no idea who it was being marketed towards, given that some of the jokes were clearly meant for adults (such as men in thongs and one of the girls suggesting that they get naked for a young boy in the hospital), but other jokes seemed more geared for kids, or at least would be unfunny to adults. Of course, you could make much the same point about the band themselves, so maybe the target audience was just "Spice Girls fans".
  • The live action film adaptation of Yatterman made by Takashi Miike seems pretty childish, with lots of slapstick humor, colorful special effects, cheesy action scenes and a clumsy villain trio... but it also had many sex- related jokes, including one scene where one robot starts acting as if it was having an orgasm.
  • The 2009 film of Land of the Lost with Will Ferrell, which is probably why it flopped. It has a goofy, slapsticky sci-fi plot you'd expect to see in a kids' movie, but most of the humor is very dark and sexual.
  • Sucker Punch: While the trailers make it look like it was a pop-corn flick (with giant robots, dragons and samurai monsters), is actually a serious drama about a girl being put in a mental institution that uses her imagination to escape from harsh reality, involving at least two fantasy sub-plots: One that takes place in a brothel, and another that involves different genres, such as Tolkienesque High Fantasy, Sci-Fi/Cyberpunk,Steampunk/Diesel Punk/War Movie.
  • Despite being rated "PG", and having lots of childish humor, the movie version of Howard the Duck also contains lots of sexual humor and innuendo, including references to zoophilia.
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show: In a commentary on the DVD, Richard O'Brien mentions that this was a concern around the time the film was released.
  • Several Anthology Films tend to do this, such as New York Stories and Paris, je t'aime (this one had elements of comedy, drama, fantasy, Magic Realism, and one story involving vampires).
  • It is not quite clear if Barry Levinson's Toys was intended as a kids' comedy or a satire for adults, having elements from both genres.
  • The Indian science fiction superhero film Ra One starts like a kid´s comedy about a nerdy father making a videogame for his son in order to make him think that he is cool. Then, after the first musical sequence (which doesn´t look at all like something from a kid´s film) the movie turns very serious and dark, with the villain from the videogame becoming real and starting to kill people, including a main character. Then, the movie turns silly again, but after another musical sequence the movie turns serious once again.
  • Ink has many light-hearted and whimsical elements from Fairy Tales and Juvenile Fantasy, but it also has lots of swearing, frightening scenes, and deals with several adult themes such as drug use and suicide. It also has several elements from arthouse films (Specially in the visual style) and fighting sequences involving martial arts and a shaky camera.
  • The film version of Cloud Atlas received a mixed reaction from critics and audiences probably due this: The movie, like the book by which it was inspired, involved six different interrelated stories, which were very different from each other: There were two Period Pieces, a thriller, a comedy (The story of Timothy Cavendish) a science-fiction Dystopia similar to Blade Runner and a Post Apocalyptic adventure. While the six stories are connected, there is a complete change of mood and styles in every scene.
  • A frequent complaint about Small Soldiers is that its premise is too silly for adults, but too dark and violent for children.
  • Godzilla:
    • Though the films seem to alternate audiences, with some being for adults and others for children, Godzilla vs. Gigan can't quite decide who it's supposed to be geared to. On one hand, it has a lot of goofy elements, including a couple of scenes where Godzilla and Anguirus actually talk. But on the other, the fight scenes are disturbingly violent and show more blood than was ever seen in a Godzilla movie before.
    • Godzilla vs. Hedorah has pretty much the same problem. While it has plenty of aspects pandering to kids, such as a kid main character, silly-sounding music, and Godzilla flying, the film also has Family Unfriendly Deaths of people being disintegrated to their bones, a scene where a guy has an alcohol-fueled hallucination, a creepy-looking Muck Monster villain, and fights between Godzilla and Hedorah that, while not exactly gory, are still rather grotesque due to Hedorah's manner of dumping his slime on Godzilla.
  • The Runaways failed to make much headway at the Box Office because executives were unsure whether to market it towards the now-aged fans of the band from their heyday - or else the teenaged fans of the two leads Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart.
  • The film War Dogs is a Based on a True Story film about a pair of arms dealers who got busted for embezzlement. It's directed by Todd Philips of The Hangover fame. Common criticisms of it is that the film was too slapsticky to be taken seriously as a Dramedy, but also not funny enough to be an out and out comedy.
  • North was intended to be a kid-friendly film with a few adult jokes here and there, but the kid-friendly scenes were too childish for adults and the adult jokes were too inappropriate for kids.
  • The modern cinematic universe trend seems to have slowly revealed an issue of this trope. Given that the model that made the Marvel Cinematic Universe - and the more rushed DC Extended Universe - work was in part made for people who like comics and to introduce them to a larger audience, those universe have very set audiences. The Follow the Leader trends, not so much. As apparent in the start of the Dark Universe, there were several things in The Mummy that are not at all out of place in the horror way of doing things that drive the people expecting it to be like the comic ones crazy. The MonsterVerse so far as seemingly managed it better, mostly due to Just Here for Godzilla tendencies, but it has been pointed out that the ways Universal and Toho (let alone other horror/monster franchises) made their crossovers work and the way the MCU set up things are actually polar opposites. Making it hard to please both sides and any film in either could suffer if it isn't settled which audience they want to cater more too.
  • This is also true of the DC Extended Universe itself. When the franchise first began, WB attempted to recapture the critical acclaim of Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Saga, while also trying to recreate the shared universe concept that Marvel had perfected. The problem is, while Marvel's films are generally four quadrant blockbusters that are designed to appeal to multiple demographics, the early films of the DCEU were very clearly trying to go after the more sophisticated adult audience that had made Nolan's films such critical darlings. This is perhaps best exemplified by Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which despite being very dark and depressing, was still marketed like your average Marvel movie, complete with a line of children's toys from Mattel and various food tie-ins (including breakfast cereals).
    • They were also, at least according to Zack Snyder, designed to appeal specifically to hardcore fans of the original oomics, and thus feature a good deal of Continuity Lockout. However, given how large their budgets are, they also need to appeal to a mass-market audience to have any hope of making their money back. Snyder's films in particular have also drawn criticism for being both borderline incomprehensible to anyone who isn't a comics fan, while also taking such a radically different approach to the characters that a lot of fans are turned off.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Many Space Western films and series fit this trope:
  • The short lived police musical drama Cop Rock: The dissonance of cheery, happy songs appearing spontaneously in an otherwise relatively serious police drama was probably one of the reason of why it wasn´t very successful.
  • Joan of Arcadia: A Magic Realism Dramedy which also contains some elements of a police drama (mostly in the parts related with Joan's father) high school romance and many religious/spiritual themes.
  • Glee, especially in its first season. It meshes things like oral sex jokes with the teeny angst of Degrassi and the kind of anvilicious messages you'd expect from an 80s kids cartoon along with the cutesy singing appeal of Kidz Bop and The Wiggles. Based on comments from the writers, it eventually decided it was mainly for Tweens.
  • The makers of the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie seem to have never decided whether they were producing a jumping-on point for the general trans-Atlantic SF/"cult TV" audience, or a revival of the show for hard-core fanboys. As a result, the latter were repelled by such things as the Doctor kissing someone and being half-human and the Master being able to spit corrosive slime for no apparent reason, while the former were bemused about what this "Eye of Harmony" thing was and why the central character turned into a completely different person thirty minutes in.
  • One of the problems about the first season of Torchwood seems to have been that the writers and directors were all over the shop about whether they were doing a Denser and Wackier Hotter and Sexier show full of fanboy Rule of Cool moments and fangirl feels, or a grey rain-soaked ultra-depressing cop show with barely-relevant SF MacGuffins. This led to some weird juxtapositions between episodes and even more disturbing results when the two seemed to overlap.
  • While the Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future toys were made for kids, the show itself was fairly dark, dealing with themes about nuclear war and Nazism, and the title of the show was enough to turn off most adults. The live-action violence didn't help matters.

    Video Games 
  • One of the problems with the original Borderlands was that it didn't seem to be sure whether it was a straight Deconstruction of RPGs and first-person shooters, a Parody of the same, or something in-between. As such, it came off as an Indecisive Deconstruction and a Shallow Parody, which limited its appeal. The sequel ratcheted the comedy and the parody Up to 11, which made it Denser and Wackier, but gave it a much clearer idea of its own identity, and it found its audience that way.
  • Go! Go! Nippon! ~my first trip to Japan~ is an English-language Visual Novel made in Japan specifically for foreign audiences. However the makers seem to be unsure on what that audience wants... It's about an Occidental Otaku (supposed to be the player himself) going to stay in Tokyo with two cute sisters for a week. In the developers' intentions, this game would be an educational one, a way to learn about actual Japanese landmarks and customs with a funny product tailor-made for otakus. However, these elements do not mix well since the protagonist's wacky shenanigans are too lame and boring for actual otakus and too off-putting for anyone else (since he's usually portrayed as a dorky Manchild) and the educational part is limited at best since you can't even access to all the info you gathered until you have completed the game (besides that, it's all stuff you can find on the internet for free). Plus, despite the fact that the company that made this is specialized in erotic VNs, there's no sex at all, thus alienating their overseas fans. Despite this, being released on Steam and featured in a series of bundles ensured that the title sold moderately well.
  • The Assassin's Creed franchise runs the gambit of genres. Stealth gameplay, open combat, collectors missions, Historical tourism starting from game 2 on, conspiracy series. With so many different angles to each game, it's no wonder the audience gets up in arms about the new games as they come.
  • Final Fantasy X-2 attracts these claims. The fact that it centres on a trio of female characters and has a Lighter and Softer tone than its predecessor (not to mention a battle system revolving around changing clothes) seems to turn off male gamers. However there's also a massive heaping of Fanservice, Les Yay and Stripperiffic outfits - which alienate female gamers.

    Western Animation 
  • This may be why Dan Vs. never got much of a mainstream audience. It's a Black Comedy that occasionally deals with mature themes (such as murder and marital problems), has a Heroic Comedic Sociopath as the protagonist, and sometimes heads into very dark territory (one episode ends with the implication that a character is going to be raped). It's also filled to the brim with wacky slapstick, surreal plots, and there's little to no blood or swearing.
  • The Looney Tunes Show could never decide if it wanted to appeal to sitcom fans or fans of classic Looney Tunes, and suffered for it.
  • Likewise Loonatics Unleashed was originally supposed to be a Darker and Edgier superhero reimagining of the Tunes, which eventually tried to include some of the humor of the originals while still being an action show. It never seemed sure how serious or how funny it wanted to be, though, and neither element was handled particularly well.
  • While Jimmy Two-Shoes is a (usually) kid-friendly show, the pilot was probably the darkest and most mature cartoon ever envisioned for children. Filled with gore, violence, Body Horror, religious themes, serial killers, and Hitler as a character, it's safe to say Executive Meddling was definitely for the better.