Why not just turn off the TV?
"No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have researched the records for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby."
A common belief among film and TV executives is that everyone who watches media has the intellect of Beavis and Butt-Head
This belief is a root cause of Executive Meddling
, especially common among shows intended for children. Kids can legitimately be said to be less knowledgeable than adults, though we all probably know a depressingly large number of exceptions.
Of course, there is
a "moron" demographic out there, and it has its members (though no one is sure how big it is), but executives seem to believe that every
person who watches TV belongs in it. This may be due to something known as the "80-20" rule in business—in this case that market-research shows 80% of money spent on television-advertised products comes from the lowest 20% in terms of education and intelligence, so show-content is naturally geared towards them.
On top of that, not only are viewers stupid, they are also intolerant of people and things unlike themselves, ignorant
, hate change
, need to be instantly satisfied, and have the attention span of a goldfish
Interestingly enough, though, this meta-trope sounds worse than it is, at least currently; actually comparing and contrasting the entertainment of today with the entertainment of the past will show that overall
, shows demand more of your mind than they used to, probably because we'd be bored if it didn't and partly because things like recorders or the Internet now make it possible to examine shows in more depth more easily
than in the past (read Stephen Johnson's book Everything Bad Is Good For You
for an eloquent explanation beyond the scope of this article).
Of course, all that means is that the bar for entertainment is raised even higher, and that viewers will get annoyed more and more easily if things like Infodump
happen a few times too many. Additionally, the caveat about this being what executives
believe about viewers was, at least at one point, not particularly untrue. In the era of the "Big Three" networks (NBC
), before VCRs and the like, shows really were designed
to be simple and supposedly "unobjectionable" narratives, for fear of making that one third of the entire TV viewing audience tune out and tune in to one of the competitors. This is why television quickly gained the nicknames Boob Tube and Idiot Box from intellectuals who found television pandering and simple.
Note that this viewpoint is not particular to network executives. Question some point of continuity for a children's show with a sizable adult Periphery Demographic
, and you are pretty much guaranteed one of the periphery adult fans will insist that it's "because it's a kid's show and they don't expect kids to notice." Ironically, kids are often far more
aware of such mistakes, not because kids are per se "smarter" than we expect, but because not having things like a job, spouse, or "real life" to distract them, they tend to watch their favorites much more obsessively and with more of their minds fully devoted to analysis. (Which makes them similar to others you may be familiar with.
) Consequently, children can put even the strictest editors to shame with their awkward questions.
Lastly, this trope is not necessarily bad
. Business administrators and anyone else whose job it is to explain things to others (like a coach or a presenter) know the "KISS" method ("K
hort and S
imple", or "K
tupid) because of the fear that if something is too complex
then no one will understand it, which is certainly true of TV plots. Thus, it's not a bad idea for a writer to assume that their audience are not geniuses and write accordingly, as no one will be entertained if they can't follow along the story. Of course, great care needs to be taken, because if a writer makes their story too simple they also risk alienating the audience who will angrily invoke this trope.
Compare Lowest Common Denominator
. For when the viewers really are
morons, see Fan Dumb
and Hate Dumb
For the less common polar-opposite, see Viewers Are Geniuses
. When this trope and the latter trope conflict, however, you can wind up with an Unpleasable Fanbase
For versions enforced by law (or out of fear of a potential lawsuit), see also Our Lawyers Advised This Trope
Not to be confused with Humans Are Morons
In-Universe Examples Only
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Anime and Manga
- An early episode of Claymore had Raki thinking to himself about how Claire is half-human, half-yoma. Then he immediately restates that Claire is a Half-Human Hybrid with different wording. Then he restates a third time that Claire is half-human, half-yoma, just in case the viewers didn't get it. Did we mention that Claire is a Half-Human Hybrid? Because she's half-human, half-yoma, you see. She's a yoma, but part of her is human, too.
- The author's notes for Eerie Queerie can become almost insulting by pointing out things that have already been explained numerous times over. A particular example is when Mitsuo is drawing a picture of a ghost (that only he can see) so Hasunuma can "see" what she looks like. There's an arrow pointing to Hasunuma that says "he can't see her".
- Every episode of the InuYasha dub has ridiculous amounts of exposition, to the point of flashing back to things in the same episode more than once and having the characters explain the simplest occurrences (such as a character returning from having left on a mission earlier in the episode) repeatedly to each other while it's happening. It's almost like they're all practicing to be sports announcers or something.
- When you can recite Kikyo's last lines word for word, you're flashing back too much. And there's the dialogue:
"Sango was possessed by a salamander egg!'"
"Sango was possessed by a salamander egg?"
- There's also the Japanese version of the anime, which shows the name of every secondary character at the bottom of the screen...every. Single. Episode, whether the character is newly introduced or not (though that only happened in the broadcast version).
- Naruto tends to do this quite often too...even in the manga. It once flashed back to an event that had occurred just minutes earlier, multiple times within the very same episode!
- This is half assuming the viewer has the memory of a goldfish and half an attempt to prolong the episode.
- It gets even worse in Shippuden when they sometimes have entire episodes where the action is broken up by flashbacks to derail any sense of pacing. And no, they aren't flashbacks of new things or flashbacks with new animation, no, they're showing past episodes for no reason. During Naruto, Bee, and Itachi vs Nagato, for example for a particularly bad flashback cut? For no reason, we flash back unexpectedly to (seeing the far superior animation of the Sasuke vs Itachi arc) of Orochimaru being consumed by the Totsuka Blade...so Itachi can tell us what's happening after the jarring flashback ends.
- The Pokémon anime feels the need to have the characters (usually Brock) comment on almost every Pokémon, type, or move used in a battle. For some uncommon weaknesses, like maybe Bug types over Dark types, it's OK, but not when it's over types that any fan who has played the games could guess. Every single battle has a discussion like this:
Brock: "(Insert Pokémon here) is a (Insert Pokémon's type here) type."
Whoever: "That means it should be good/bad against (Insert opponent's Pokémon here), right?"
Brock: "Right. But who knows what will happen."note
- The anime doesn't really talk about more advanced concepts that more experienced players of the game use either. That said, Pokémon battles in the anime work on a completely different level than they do in games. Though it doesn't excuse why everyone uses the most basic moves, strategies, and type match-ups. Sometimes, the characters tend to forget or simply not know how dual-type Pokémon work in terms of weakness and resistance.
- The series based on the original, main series Generation V games was called Best Wishes! in Japan. Apparently, they didn't think anyone would get it, and the name was changed to Black and White internationally.
- "Who's That Pokémon?" segments, especially in the (English) 1st season and all "Black and White" seasons. 99% of the time, the silhouetted Pokémon will be the main focus of the episode, meaning you'd absolutely have to not be paying attention to get it wrong.
- It gets worse in XY, where they show a silhouette of a Pokémon, then, it shows four cards also with silhouettes, and the viewer is supposed to pick the same Pokémon. The answer is the same thing as the big one on the screen.
- In the very early seasons of the show, almost every instance of Japanese culture was either completely ignored, or turned into a stupid American equivalent. For instance, Brock would often present the group with "jelly doughnuts" that were actually rice balls.
- For the animated trailer for Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, they show "Not Actual Gameplay" in the corner of the screen.
- In Rinne, small notes at the side tell us the purpose of whatever supernatural object is being used. Even if said object has already been used (and noted) several times in the past.
- This was the primary reason for the 7-Zark-7 sequences which Sandy Frank added to Science Ninja Team Gatchaman when it was brought over to the US (as Battle of the Planets, of course). While these scenes were partly to paper over scenes that were edited out for content (mostly violence) that might upset the parents of the kids watching the show, there was also a certain assumption that American kids wouldn't understand the plot unless it was constantly explained and re-explained to them.
- In Spirited Away, the English version has Chihiro saying early on that she saw Haku as a dragon, when in the Japanese version she just stays silent and realizes later on (through The Power of Love) that Dragon=Haku.
- In the second season of Yu-Gi-Oh!, in the finals of the Battle City Tournament, the villain Marik Ishtar repeats his evil scheme and that he hides behind a decoy at least five times per episode, for about 10 episodes, saying something like "These fools don't realise that I am Marik!"
- Yu-Gi-Oh! in general is like this. Not only do the characters constantly tell you what their cards do, but apparently no one in the show has ever actually played the game before and must periodically binge drink in order to forget everything they learn in an episode. The first season with duel monsters is excusable because there were no actual cards until later. It gets a little grating when they constantly tell you how skilled someone is but their big strategy consists of simply summoning a monster with higher attack power.
- Pot of Greed is one of the simplest cards in the game. Pot of Greed is one of the most commonly-used cards in the game. Pot of Greed appears in over a hundred episodes. Yet every single time it gets played, even if it got played earlier in the episode, the character will loudly announce "I PLAY POT OF GREED WHICH ALLOWS ME TO DRAW TWO CARDS FROM MY DECK."
- 4Kids also had the habit of making perfectly clear when a character was being brainwashed (which happens all the time in the Battle City season). They were also very creative - they would alternately add a golden border around the character, give him red or golden pupils, add an echo effect to the character's voice and went as far as to superimpose the image of the brainwasher on screen, just to make clear that said character is definitely being brainwashed. In the original Japanese version, they just got the usual Mind-Control Eyes.
- In the 4Kids dub of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds, there's a little segment that happens during the duel sometimes when someone plays a card. This is meant to give info on the card just played. Sometimes if it's a monster, the segment will give you information on the card's attribute, level, attack and defense points. Something you can learn by looking at the card. Thanks, 4Kids.
- Made even worse when that little segment gets the attribute WRONG like in episode 66...
- Used in episode 13 of Amagi Brilliant Park. The second promotional video created by Tricen to promote the park resembles something a film student would've created for a film project, causing Seiya to reject it, and go with the boring first video created. Tricen then tells him he secretly uploaded it online, and Seiya is shocked to find out that said video already has nearly a million and a half views, along with over seventy-four thousand comments.
- The Action Files was created to help schoolchildren become interested in comic books. The first page informs readers that word balloons contain dialogue, and they must read panels from left to right. The last page defines words the publishers thought readers might not know, such as "accident" and "future." Apparently, 4th-8th graders can't understand the concept of a word balloon, and have not learned those words in grade school.
- Some translations of Astérix en Hispanie and Astérix chez les Helvčtes, including the English ones, are titled Asterix in Spain and Asterix in Switzerland, respectively, using the present-day name of the land in question. Likewise, Le Tour de Gaule became Tour de France in Germany, while the English version was given a Completely Different Title (Asterix and the Banquet).
- The first issue of the comic Marville decides to explain some things to help you understand jokes, including the backstories for Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man. This comic was made in 2002. Then it flips around and the first few pages expect you to know who Ron Perelman (not him) is and be aware of controversy around the Atlanta Braves.
- Crossed with Dumb Is Good, In-Universe, in Elvis Shrugged.: Col. Tom Parker preaches this on TV, before Elvis interrupts. The setting is a Crapsack World where all libraries are closed.
- In an in-universe example, the Lemony Narrator to Equestria: A History Revealed certainly believes the readers are morons, and that it is her duty by writing this essay to "enlighten them". She also directly calls them stupid a couple of times in the essay too. But it's not that the readers are actually morons, but rather she thinks so strongly about herself that compared to her genius intellect they simply can't compare.
- Admiral Tigerclaw manages to do this with references, bizarrely enough. Whenever one is made, he will do everything he can to drive the fact that he made a Shout-Out into your apparently thick skull, including at one point having the characters themselves comment on something being a reference in-story. None of them have really been anything remotely obscure, so it's pretty silly.
- Partially Kissed Hero and indeed, most of Perfect Lionheart's fics are filled to the brim with the characters explaining everything going on as though the readers were idiots, and multiple author filibusters wherein the author waxes long and repetitively about everything going on to the point that there is little actual action to be found. With most of it barely even related to the story itself...
Film - Animated
- The American dub of Astérix and the Big Fight added a narrator to explain every single plot point.
- In The Emperor's New Groove and Kronk's New Groove, this is the way Kuzco treats the viewers when he's narrating.
- In the 1978 version of The Lord of the Rings, Executive Meddling had Saruman's name changed to Aruman, for fear that viewers would have trouble differentiating between his name and that of Sauron. This was apparently only decided after about half the dialogue was recorded, however, leading to the ironic situation that the character is referred to as Saruman and Aruman interchangably in the film.
- One of the trailers for 1997's Disney's Hercules shows the year of the movie production as MCMXCVII and then immediately replaces this incomprehensible Roman numeral with '1997'.
Film - Live-Action
- The Historical Drama Agora obviously assumed no one knows what the difference between a Socratic philosopher and an engineer is. And it's probably right, sadly.
- In the trailers for Angels & Demons, we see the word "Illuminati". Then, it spins upside down, and turns out to be an ambigram, so it still says "Illuminati". Then, Tom Hanks or somebody says "It's the Illuminati!". Inspired.
- In Back to the Future Part II, Doc Brown has to go to the board to explain to the audience the principle of parallel realities attached to time travel. In fact this is a time where the audience is taken for a moronic bunch of popcorn eaters. Justified in-story, as it is Marty who is looking for a simpler explanation.
Doc Brown: Obviously the time continuum has been disrupted, creating a new temporal event sequence resulting in this alternate reality.
Marty: English, Doc!
- A good example of this trope causing Executive Meddling can be seen in the climax of Batman Begins. Batman exposits to Gordon that if the train carrying the MacGuffin reaches Wayne Tower, the whole city will be covered in fear toxin. Executives were convinced that audiences needed to have this information repeated to them every two minutes during the train chase, and so the action climax repeatedly cut away to water technicians repeating this information over and over. This is the MacGuffin that emits magic microwave radiation which only affects liquid water. The viewer is expected not to figure out that people are mostly water and should sizzle like reheated meat when it goes off nearby. How's that for Fridge Logic?
- Black Hawk Down: SPC John Grimes is based on a desk clerk who was sent into action as a last minute replacement - and fought very well. However, Pentagon requested his name be changed, because the guy was dishonorably discharged from the military and was sentenced to 30 years in prison for raping his underage daughter. So far, so good. However, the filmmakers obviously thought that the audience are idiots - every time Grimes appears on screen, someone calls him "Grimes" (whether it makes sense or not), the guy uses the name "Grimes" referring to himself, or is seen writing his name on his helmet, letter-by-letter - G-R-I-M-E-S.
- Contagion: Multiple times when explaining what the virus is in several scenes, they use very layman explanations. A little jarring for those who have studied viruses or biochemistry, because sometimes it's a doctor, talking to another doctor, having to explain something they would have learned in first year of college. It's obviously there for the benefit of the audience.
- This conversation from Bowfinger: "That's too much for the audience to have to think about. They have to know that the guy's name is Cliff, they have to know that he's on a cliff. That the Cliff and the cliff is the same. It's too cerebral! We're trying to make a movie here, not a film!"
- Parodied in the 1987 Dragnet movie, when the PAGAN cult's full name is shown for the first time.
Joe: (reading): People Against Goodness And Normalcy...P-A-G-A-N...PAGAN!
Pat: (sarcastically): Good, Joe.
- Enemy Mine was apparently forced to include subplot about their enemies operating a mine. On the basis that people wouldn't understand the title could be rephrased as "My Enemy", and would want to know where the mine was. Maybe they could have had someone step on one too.
- The Evil Dead (1981) was originally to be called Book of the Dead, until producer Irvin Shapiro argued that the title was too "literary": as he famously said to them, "Nobody wants to watch a movie about a book!" While that's a pretty bizarre claim (the book in question is a Tome of Eldritch Lore), Evil Dead series creators Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell have both agreed since that the "The Evil Dead" really has worked better. Also, both the Egyptian and Tibetan textbooks we call The Book of the Dead are extremely serious manuals on how to navigate the afterlife.
- Halle Berry's character in The Flintstones was supposed to be named Rosetta Stone, but the studio executives thought that no one would get the joke. She was renamed Sharon Stone (with the actress' permission).
- G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: When the Doctor says "We eliminated all self-preservation in them." Destro's response is "English, doctor?"
- The Golden Compass began with an opening narration with many spoilers for the end of the series that spelled out the otherwise elegant metaphors for the soul, identity, consciousness, and individuality. Because obviously no one would understand the plot without being told "Daemons are souls!" at the beginning.
- Due to Executive Meddling, they changed the name of Iofur Raknison (head bad polar bear) because it was deemed too similar to main good polar bear Iorek Byrnison.
- In keeping with how the original novel was handled (see Literature, below), the American version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, was retitled Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. This required every scene in which the term "Philosopher's Stone" was mentioned to be shot twice, with the actors changing the words to "Sorcerer's Stone". Viewers in Canada and the UK can see examples of these alternate scenes in the making-up featurettes on the DVD/Blu-ray release.
- The first Hellboy has this problem. The film's story was dumbed-down to the point that a lot of stuff that would have been explained no longer makes sense, and it has an annoying habit of giving us location tags even when it's obvious where the characters are. Do we really need a tag telling us they're in an abandoned subway area when we saw the same area ten minutes ago? And its location was also tagged? At one point in the movie, a character is given a vision of the Apocalypse, which the villains are trying to bring about. We see a destroyed world with hellish creatures flying about, and no trace of human life anywhere. Just in case the viewers are too thick to get the message, we also see a handy newspaper with the headline "APOCALYPSE!" on it.
- The American edition of the Highlander film had the scenes at the beginning cut out because executives thought the cuts between Present Connor at and Past Connor would be too confusing. Naturally, the European and Japanese versions retained the scenes.
- Jennifer's Body stars Amanda Seyfried as a plain Jane. In case the constant dialogue that about her appearance wasn't enough for the viewers to figure out that she's unattractive, the character is named Needy. Later, Needy breaks out of the insane asylum and plots to kill Low Shoulder, the Satan-worshiping band that sacrificed Jennifer to Satan. When she explains while hitchhiking that she needs to get to a concert because it's going to be the band's last show, the camera pans over to a road sign reading "Low Shoulder," just in case you didn't get it.
- The American remake of Let the Right One In, Let Me In, goes out of its way to explain everything that was left subtle in the Swedish film. One of the most ridiculous examples: in the Swedish film a character leaves a letter quoting Romeo and Juliet, the American remake adds a scene right after of the character reading the play just so the viewer knows exactly where it comes from. Then there is the case where the subtitle translator is a moron and doesn't know it's a Romeo and Juliet quote, therefore mis-phrased the whole quote and lost the audiences.
- There's a drinking game where every time Orlando Bloom as Legolas says something unnecessary, you have a shot.
- "So, it's a drinking game?"
- "So, Orlando Bloom's contract specified he get a lot of dialog?"
- "A diversion!"
- The Madness Of King George is an adaptation of the play The Madness Of George III. Nigel Hawthorne stated (possibly as a joke) that the change was to prevent people from thinking the film was the third in a series, but the author and the director insist that it was to make George's royalty more prominent in the advertising, especially in areas where George III isn't instantly known by that name. In America, George III of the United Kingdom is commonly known as simply "King George," since the first two (along with the fourth, fifth and sixth) don't figure anywhere near as prominently in American history.
- A few crop up in The Matrix trilogy:
- Complaints from higher ups that no one would understand the original purpose of The Matrix (a computer that uses the brain and nerve cells of its inhabitants) meant they had to change it to a blatantly impossible idea that they are an energy source.
- Executives also had Neo's ending speech changed, as they figured not everyone would understand the word "chrysalis." This makes you wonder how the Architect's talk of "systemic anomalies" got through.
- By the time a movie series gets to its third release, its usually successful enough that the writers/directors have more leverage to fight executive meddling....alternatively, it's such a failure that the budget has been reduced to whatever the film-crew has in their pockets and the executives just don't care anymore. Obviously the second one doesn't apply here, but it does happen, from time to time.
- And in the third film, the Oracle was recast because of the previous actress dying. The in-universe reason for the change in her appearance was explained in a dialogue in her first scene. And then the explanation was repeated every single time she appeared after that in case the audience was too thick to wrap its heads around it.
- The main plot of Men In Black was toned down to something not very logical because the original plot was about two alien species about to enter war, and the bug (a 3rd race) was there to provoke it. The audience will obviously be confused about THREE alien races.
- The 1997 Live-Action Adaptation of Mr. Magoo ended with the disclaimer: "The preceding film is not intended as an accurate portrayal of blindness or poor eyesight. Blindness or poor eyesight does not imply an impairment of one's ability to be employed in a wide range of jobs, raise a family, perform important civic duties or engage in a well-rounded life. All people with disabilities deserve a fair chance to live and work without being impeded by prejudice." Presumably in case viewers thought it was a documentary.
- In The Patriot, Tavington's light dragoon regiment was based on that of Banestre Tarleton, a real life British commander, and are even referred to in dialogue as "Green Dragoons" in reference to the green coats worn by the 1st Dragoon Guards. However, someone in charge of the film decided that viewers would have been confused if the British did not all wear primarily red, and to that end the uniform was changed to a green waistcoat under a red frock coat.
- William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet by Baz Luhrmann has a habit of doing this. For example, the Capulet Party is given a location subtitle, even though those who don't understand the dialect could likely deduce the 'where' and 'what' from the scene itself. No viewer has ever been forced to study Romeo and Juliet before, or been presented with an adaptation, or is just familiar with the story through Pop-Cultural Osmosis.
- In Stardust, Michelle Pfeiffer and another witch are both hunting the same girl, Yvaine. When they meet, Michelle gets mad and puts a curse on the other woman, saying, among other things, that she will not be able to see/hear/touch the girl, and that she will not perceive her even if she's right there. Later on the witch puts a spell on Yvaine's companion, which angers her and she starts trying to hit and kick the witch. However, this does not work, and there is almost a force-field type thing around the witch. Cue the voice-over of the curse, just in case we forgot about it and were utterly confused as to why Yvaine couldn't touch her.
- The repeated use of location tags was parodied in Start the Revolution Without Me, a farce set during the days before the French Revolution. Several times during the first fifteen minutes, we are reminded by a stentorian narrator that the story takes place in 1789. Later the location tags run with it; "Paris, 1789", "A small country inn, 1789", "Later that same day, 1789"
- After a few test screenings the producers decided that the story of Super Mario Bros. wasn't "tracking" too well, namely the concept of a parallel world. Numerous subplots and expanded scenes were then cut out to focus more on the story at-hand while important concepts were conveyed through exposition added by later ADR-looping every time a character was offscreen or facing the other way. Most atrociously, the animated intro was added to the beginning of the movie to explicitly explain the parallel world and its evolved dinosaurs, which otherwise would have been a surprise second act.
- In the otherwise excellent Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, the deaf character's girlfriend is often shown spouting anarchist slogans and handing out pamphlets. When the factory owner kidnaps her, she tries to threaten him with claims that she's part of an anarchno-terrorist underground that will find and kill him if he messes with her. It sounds completely hollow, and he kills her anyway. At the very end, when it looks like the factory owner has come out on top of the cycle of vengeance, he's suddenly confronted by a mysterious group of toughs, who promptly murder him. In a perfectly unnecessary bit of audience hand-holding, the film repeats the girl's threats in voice-over, completely spoiling the moment.
- In an example similar to Batman Begins above, the makers of There Will Be Blood apparently assumed that viewers would not remember that Daniel Plainview's plan was to cut a deal with Union Oil and lay a pipeline to the coast so that he would no longer have to pay rail-tanker fees to Standard Oil unless this fairly simple plan were explained again and again every five minutes or so for the entire length of the film.
- At the end of The Three Stooges movie adaptation, the Farrely Brothers have to blatantly explain to the audience that all of the slapstick and violence was faked, most notably to the kids (even though it wasn't even targeted toward children, it was targeted toward the adults that grew up on the original B&W shorts). And the sad part? They seemed dead serious about it.
- In Michael Bay's Transformers, the first thing Megatron does upon being revived is to loudly announce "I am MEGATRON!!!" Just in case we hadn't figured that out. Justified in-story: Almost everyone at the facility had been calling him either "Mega-Man," "Ice-Man," or "N.B.E.-1" for YEARS. So he was probably trying to get it into the thick skulls of the Sector Seven staff, and not the thick skulls of the audience.
- Something of a lampshaded subversion occurs in 24 Hour Party People, which begins with Tony Wilson crashing a hang-glider. He turns to the camera and tells us that was symbolic of what will happen to him. "I'll just say one word: 'Icarus'. If you get it, great. If you don't, that's fine too. But you should probably read more." The movie expects that most people will get the (not particularly novel or obscure) reference, but also feels the need to be really proud of the fact that it doesn't explain itself.
- It's more of a reference to how Tony Wilson really acted, as can be seen throughout the film.
- The marketing for the sequels to Twilight is a bit like this. Despite the fact that all three sequels use the main characters on the posters, and the title is in the same font, it uses the handle 'The Twilight Saga' which never appears onscreen in the credit sequences.
- The advertising for West Is West goes out of its way to tell viewers that it's a sequel to East is East. Because that wasn't obvious from the name.
- A variant occurs in the 1939 film adaptation of The Wizard of Oz when studio brass forced the producers to make Dorothy's adventures in Oz All Just a Dream. Apparently they thought viewers were too sophisticated to accept that a fantasy land like Oz could be real. Go figure.
- Originally in X2: X-Men United, Xavier's hallucination of him returning to the mansion was much more convincing, with scenes of him teaming up with Jason to free Scott and hypnotizing a guard into helping them escape via a helicopter. The problem was, the screening audiences mistook the hallucination for the reality of the movie and were confused by how later scenes conflicted with that.
- Clearly the belief of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer; their movies only contain references to movies made in the past year, presumably in the belief that no one has memories past a year, and wouldn't know the reference of, say, The Smurfs (unless they're referencing the movie). And if there's a reference, you can bet somebody will immediately mention what the reference is to.
- Lest, with all these examples, one believes that this trope is nothing but a viewer myth perpetrated in the wrong belief that Executive Meddling is often caused by this, and people in Hollywood don't really think we're idiots, one blog writer told this (allegedly) true story on the /Film podcast: When director Paul Thomas Anderson was making his 2002 film Punch-Drunk Love, the man from the studio marketing department charged with making the film's trailer showed the finished product to Paul before release. Anderson was displeased with it, to say the very least, because the trailer was very generic and did not showcase the fact that the movie is ''anything'' but your typical romantic comedy/Adam Sandler vehicle.The marketer's response? To very condescendingly tell Paul, "Paul, Paul, you have to understand, the people watching your movies aren't very bright, so we have to tell them what to think and what to feel or they won't know what to do with the movie." Anderson demanded the marketer be removed from the project, and to this day, he has a large hand in what the trailers/marketing look like for his films. But, allegedly, the guy he fired still has a job in his field. Lovely.
- There are a number of 1950s sci-fi B movies that go so far as to put definitions of words used in their exposition in the exposition. The classic example is when a scientist describes a monster growing at "an accelerated, or speeded-up, rate." This is justified by the assumption on the filmmakers' part that their primary audience would be young boys. Films that illustrate this abound on the Mystery Science Index 3000, including The Amazing Colossal Man and It Conquered the World.
- In The Wolf of Wall Street, Jordan Belfort gives lengthy explanations to the camera of how pump-and-dump schemes and money laundering work, something that might have been justifiable in the time frame of when the movie is set but seems a little unnecessary with the degree of financial literacy in the general public nowadays. It's subtly lampshaded when he begins to explain what an initial public offering is, but then just drops it midway through.
- A Series of Unfortunate Events constantly spoofs this trope by having an adult character say a word, then assume that the orphans wouldn't know what the word means and try to define it for them, to which one orphan or another (usually Klaus) almost always interrupts "We know what it means." The author also often uses various words and phrases in the actual narration, then explains them in a humorous way as they apply to the situation at hand, such as describing "takes the cake" as "a phrase which here means that more horrible things had happened to them than just about anybody" in The Reptile Room. The Baudelaires are generally shown as being far more intelligent than anyone gives them credit for, and the adults of the series routinely underestimate them and never put much stock in anything they say, something which usually results in more unfortunate events. Leading to those who Follow the Leader ripping off the "a word which here means..." while apparently under the impression that it was supposed to be dead serious.
- Invoked in the Frederik Pohl short story "Day Million", as an omniscient narrator who's describing life in the 28th century grows increasingly angry with what he assumes to be the present day reader's ignorant disbelief.
- The book The Design of Everyday Things was originally titled The Psychology of Everyday Things. The author, Donald A. Norman, even liked the acronym, POET. However, while the academic community liked the title, the business community did not. Bookstores placed the book in their psychology section, apparently oblivious to its contents.
- Harry Potter
- The American edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was renamed to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Apparently this is because the US publisher thought American kids would reject a book that sounded as though it was about philosophy, and demanded a title that was less "misleading". This despite the fact that the Philosopher's Stone is an actual (theoretical) alchemical artifact, and is explicitly explained in the book, and that there's just no such thing as a Sorcerer's Stone at all. Which makes the Internet firestorms surrounding what to call the booknote especially bizarre. Surely US readers should reject a title that was chosen essentially because a publisher thought they were all idiots?
- In French the title has been changed to mean "Harry Potter at the Wizards School".
- There are a number of scenes in the books where Hermione has to break down and explain rather simple concepts to Harry and Ron so they can understand it. She's not doing it because Harry and Ron are idiots, but more because the writer was afraid the kids reading might not be able to follow along without help. Sometimes, it's Ron who does the explaining, especially when it comes to an aspect of wizard culture. Justified as Harry and Hermione were raised among Muggles, while Ron grew up in a wizard family.
- The mid-20th-century novel Ten North Frederick was mainly set in the present. But one segment is a flashback to the turn of the (20th) century when the main characters' grandfathers were young men. One of these young men tells a friend something about his social interactions with a woman at a dance. Even though it is obvious from context that he is talking about one of his contemporaries, the author interrupts the narrative to explain in his own voice that at the time, "it was customary to refer to girls as women". (For modern readers, the implicit Values Dissonance is just an added extra.)
- A certain best-selling British novelist was invited to write a short story for a magazine. In the story, the author wrote that the main character and a friend meet in a coffee shop and drink lattes. The editor insisted that latte be changed to cappuccino, because he thought that the readership, who were mainly from the lower/working class, wouldn't know what a latte was.
- Parodied in Arrested Development
Maeby: I know what the shape of a banana reminds you of, and I know when I say nuts it makes you giggle.
College Kid: * giggles*
Maeby: But, do you have any other response to "here's a banana with nuts?"
College Kid: Whooooohohoho! *giggles*
Maeby: Why are we even going after this idiot demographic?
- Used in Bones, when called upon at a trial as an expert witness, Brennan goes on about the skeletal remains as though she was talking to fellow scientists, using technical jargon and hardly stopping to take a breath. The prosecution was furious with her behavior, but she refused to talk down to the jury, believing that they could follow her. She later had a talk with her superior on the matter, who rationally explained to her that most of the world is unfamiliar with the very field she is a master of and that presenting things in a simplified manner will allow her expertise to help the case.
- As the deleted scenes show, the Chappelle's Show skit "Black Bush" was edited to not refer to John Ashcroft and Jeb Bush by name, and instead referred to their black counterparts in the edited skit as "Black Head of the CIA" and "Some Black Dude" respectively, to remind you of their jobs. Ashcroft and "Black Dick Cheney"'s roles were likewise almost entirely cut from the skit.
- All the CSI shows consistently insist their viewers are morons by using special effects to illustrate the events implied by the evidence. Even something as simple as a car making a turn requires a demonstration of how it happened.
- The shows also seem to think the viewers are too idiotic to notice over-used plot points. The now almost mandatory "twist" that the twin did it has been done half to death, but not only has the CSI franchise used it at least once every season, they always draw it out like it's a huge twist. "The DNA matches!" "But the fingerprints don't/someone saw them somewhere else!" "How is this possible?" Typically after a commercial break, one of the characters will state matter-of-factly that it's twins, as though this is an obscure enough twist that viewers won't know what's going on and will hang around an entire commercial break for the dramatic reveal.
- One episode had them explain why a dog would be drawn to someone who had rubbed their hands with bacon.
- Like TOS above, Firefly's pilot "Serenity" was deemed too cerebral by Fox executives, who told Whedon and Minear to write a more action-oriented first episode, which became "The Train Job". That was the start of a long and satisfying relationship.
- In Flash Forward, the audience was never trusted to remember even one of the characters' flashforwards. So every single time something happened that had to do with one, we were once again shown that flashforward, usually in its entirety.
- This is probably more about allowing new viewers to drop into the show, than questioning the viewers' intelligence.
- An unfortunate amount of this sort of thing is probably due to exactly that effect: not assuming that your existing viewers are stupid, but that any NEW viewers will be hopelessly lost if the entire situation isn't explained to them every episode. It's one of the reasons that networks are so reluctant to greenlight very arc-heavy shows.
- A brief moment in Fringe, specifically the episode "August" has Astrid analyzing an Observer's notebook. She points out that there are thousands of symbols and not a single one repeats even once. Peter, who is supposed to have an IQ of 190, by the way, asks what that means, and Astrid has to explain that language is based on a limited number of repeating symbols. Thanks J.J. We'll figure out all this time travel/interdimensional/genetic engineering/mind melding nonsense ourselves, but please explain to us how the alphabet works.
- Grant Morrison claims that a planned Invisibles TV series was cancelled because an executive thought no one could understand the concept of telepathy. Or maybe just trying to understand EVERYTHING ELSE ABOUT THE INVISIBLES.
- Heroes does this quite often, especially when the dubiously highly intelligent character Mohinder is involved. Complete with set-ups of characters asking questions to prompt the explanation.
- Played with when Harry Hill appeared on Light Lunch as the presenter reluctantly gave the details to contact for a copy of the recipe Harry was cooking, which was Chops and Mash.
- Game of Thrones:
- This caused much disappointment for fans when the show changed the ending of the Moon Door speech to "Your sister" from "ONLY CAT!"
- There's a subverted example in the first episode. We're told quite repetitively that JAIME AND CERSEI ARE SIBLINGS, YOU HEAR, including a particularly awkward dubbed-in sentence where Arya randomly says "Look, it's the queen's brother!" for no real reason. As it turns out, however, it was actually necessary for the producers to do this—viewers of the early shoots didn't quite grasp it, and therefore failed to recognize the significance and implications of Jaime and Cersei getting it on in the last scene.
- The scenes of LOST in which Daniel Faraday (or almost any character) explains time travel are slow-paced and overly pronounced with a head tilt and dramatic music ("we just don't know where we are - dum dum dum - in time!" for the millionth-time-over "explanation"). In a show where audiences are expected to believe an oft-parodied amount of wacky situations and plot lines, time travel must be thoroughly explained, lest the skeptics start wars on the internets. There's also the conversation between Miles and Hurley where Hurley seems unable to grasp that, despite the Stable Time Loop, since this isn't their past, they can still die.
- The conversation was meant to parody the sort of arguments that often occur between Lost fans, and was not intended to be an explanation at all. Notably, both Hurley and Miles wind up being wrong, but in different ways.
- Also, Nestor Carbonell (Richard Alpert) got a role in Cane, on opposing network CBS. They said he wouldn't be allowed for guest spots in Lost because viewers would be confused by him being in two shows. (Cane got the axe in just one season because of the writer's strike; Carbonell returned to Lost, and in season 6 was promoted to the main cast).
- There's also the unnatural way that some characters talk when a long forgotten plot point or character is brought back as though the writers forgot that the first four seasons take place in an Extremely Short Timespan. For instance, in season 4 Michael returns and this is mentioned by Ben. Sawyer immediately says "the same Michael that killed two women and betrayed us?", when it's only been a couple of weeks in the show's timeline.
- Viewers of “The McLaughlin Group” are advised of the next topic of discussion by a full-screen title card with accompanying music. Then there is a cutaway to a close-up of John McLaughlin, now with the topic super-imposed at the bottom. Then John, just to be sure we’re all on the same page, sonorously announces the topic that his panel will now discuss.
- Parodied in a sketch on That Mitchell and Webb Look. Gilbert and Sullivan are facing critical failure and try to recapture their past glory with new works such as "Shark With Big Teeth" and "The Girl With A Demon That Was Removed By a Vicar". When all of these prove to be even more unsuccessful, Gilbert and Sullivan decide the shows weren't "accessible" enough and they need something more in the style of their last popular hit The Mikado - so they write an incredibly crude and racist operetta about natives in the jungle, which is a smash. Lampshaded as Sullivan asks "you don't think we've ... cheapened ourselves?" and Gilbert replies "Nah."
- Monty Python's Flying Circus has a sketch all about this, where a TV executive suggests showing the last five miles of a highway; the show gets ridiculously high ratings. In the same sketch, the aforementioned executives decide to change the titles on old TV series to make them seem new (e.g. "I Married Lucy").
- Played straight and subverted multiple times in NCIS. McGee, Ducky, or Abby will sometimes go off into technobabble while explaining what they have just found. Gibbs will either cut them off and demand the bottom line, or ask for a translation. Sometimes, they will cut themselves off.
Abby: The hair's missing a protein called — You know what, it doesn't matter what it's called, the important thing is it's not there.
- It was called Navy NCIS (Navy Naval Criminal Investigative Service) in its first season because execs were worried that viewers would think it was part of the CSI franchise. Never mind that you'd have to assume that the "CIS" part stands for "Crime Investigation Scene". Never mind that the different number and order of the letters would actually be an easy way to indicate to someone who is only semi-literate that they aren't the same show. This was lampshaded by Tony early on when someone asked him if NCIS is like CSI - "only if you're dyslexic" - but even that's a stretch. More like "only if you don't know the alphabet and can't count to four".
- An episode of NewsRadio involved the use of a polygraph. The executives didn't think the average person would know what a polygraph was, so they made the writers put something in that explained it. The writers got even though, because whenever someone mentions the polygraph, Dave chimes in that a polygraph is a lie detector. Whoever he was talking to always responds, "Dave, I'm not an idiot."
- This belief is ultimately what led to Nowhere Man's cancellation.
- In NUMB3RS, it may be true that there are cases where really sophisticated math are used in the show. "Self Organized Criticality" and "Cake Cutting Algorithm" are some major examples and most people would require analogies to understand them. But the analogies don't stop there. The producers pretty much use analogies for everything that would even be common sense. Even a simple task such as trial and error.
- Although perhaps not considered such at the time, a tedious explanation of DNA and forensic science can be found in some episodes of Quincy.
- Those damn locational tags in Robin Hood. Presumably, the show spent a lot of money on the software that had a shooting arrow flit across the screen and display a subtitle such as "Locksley" or "Sherwood" every time there was a change of scenery, because they use them all the time. Especially irritating is when they stated the obvious, such as "Nottingham Castle" swishing across whenever there's an establishing shot of the castle; or when Kate tells Robin that Isabella wants to meet him in the meadow: cut straight to the meadow which is helpfully subtitled: "The Meadow." Thanks, show.
- In the episode "The Butter Shave", the same NBC executives who had previously offered Jerry a pilot now offered bad comedian Kenny Banya a chance at his own pilot since he does jokes the viewers don't have to think about too much.
- This trope was also used in "The Comeback" when George explains to Elaine and Jerry that he will not dumb his joke down "For some boneheaded audience", which cues everyone in the diner to look at him.
- Probably should be invoked by Smallville, if the message boards are any indication…
Fan 1: How did the Fortress get repaired? Brainiac infected it!
Fan 1: ...They should just say that instead of making the fans assume that.
- Simultaneously used and subverted in Stargate SG-1. Super-scientist Carter would often pause to lecture in technobabble to O'Neill, the leader and least eggheaded member of the team, about fairly basic real-world scientific principles. Not only did this make sure that less-knowledgeable audience members wouldn't be completely lost, it also provided some amusement for sci-fi fans who are already familiar with this stuff, when O'Neill would cut off Carter and have her get to the point. To paraphrase a typical example:
Carter: First, sir, we dial the Stargate out to the world orbiting the black hole, then launch it towards the star from a minimum safe distance. When it comes close enough to the star's surface, it will begin siphoning off matter from the photosphere, imbalancing...
O'Neill: Yes, yes, it'll suck away the sun's gas. Which will do what, exactly?
Carter: Make the star go boom.
O'Neill: Cool. That's what I needed to know.
- Another example:
Carter: That might just excite the phase particles enough to bring them into our visible light spectrum.
Carter: Sir, the invisibility field must operate-
O'Neill: Are you about to tell me that you can make the invisible guy visi-
Carter: Yes, sir.
O'Neill: That's all I need.
- This trope was also reverse lampshaded in the comedy episode 200, in which Marty proposes several ridiculous ideas for a Stargate movie that rip off other science-fiction shows. Mitchell tells him off:
Mitchell: Never underestimate your audience. They're generally sensitive, intelligent people who respond positively to quality entertainment. [beat]
- Richard Dean Anderson (O'Neill) told us what he thought of this trope in one of the DVD featurettes:
"I remember hearing that you have to dumb down material to meet the audience, which I thought was one of the more offensive things I ever heard. That's ludicrous. I mean, give us all the benefit of the doubt, if nothing else, but certainly give us some credit for being intelligent beings."
- When classic Star Trek was first getting started, its first proposed pilot was rejected by executives for this reason. Said executives seemed convinced that the intelligent writing of the original pilot; "The Cage," would have been impossible for viewers to understand, and that more action was needed to draw modern viewers in. There's no telling how things might have gone, had they not done this. Presumably, Jeffrey Hunter would have been the captain of the Enterprise, as opposed to Shatner. Some of the producers later said that NBC's problem with "The Cage" wasn't the intelligence but the sex — but in any case, one of the reasons for Star Trek's appeal is that Roddenberry did not believe viewers were stupid. He often expressed faith that people would be able to grasp even his more radical ideas: "there is an intelligent life form at the other end of this tube."
- Lampshaded in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, partially as a Take That from Aaron Sorkin. Whether or not it was truly averted on the show, is somewhat debatable, as characters talk about how viewers aren't morons, but other parts of it consist of Sorkin preaching to the audience.
- In Supernatural, "Weekend at Bobby's" uses this to a staggering extent. In the start Bobby threatens a demon that he'll burn a bag containing "hers", which she claims is a myth, but when he does burn it the demon is destroyed. The moderately awake will remember that ghosts can be killed by burning their bones and that demons are actually the spirits of the damned dead (a fact that is also made clear in the episode), so the bag must have contained her bones and the process works on demons. In the end Bobby threatens to burn Crowley's bones. Do you get it now? Well in case you didn't Crowley repeats the claim that it's a myth, while Bobby references the demon he destroyed at the beginning of the episode as evidence that it's not. In case you'd forgotten. Though it does at least make sense for him to bring it up again under the circumstances. But then the show proceeds to have a FLASHBACK to the starting scene, this time showing more clearly that the bag contained bones, and how the demon burned up when he destroyed them. Then Bobby specifically calls demons "ghosts with ego", just to make things absolutely clear. With all that, it's astonishing they didn't feel the need to remind everyone that ghosts can be destroyed by burning their bones. After all, it's only happened on the show about 30 times.
- Supernatural generally has a bad case of this trope. As well as explaining the obvious, it isn't internally consistent and the writers seem to work on the assumption that nobody's going to think too hard about any of it. But there are other reasons for watching it, so it all works out fine in the end.
- The creators of the highly speculative Walking with Dinosaurs and its follow-ups faced many angry criticisms by people who feared the audience might think that the computer-animated dinosaurs in the program are real, and be "fooled" into believing that everything the Narrator says is a true, scientific fact. They replied that people aren't that dumb — they know that a lot of guesswork is involved. Sadly, many people did fall for everything, though the complementary books (which tried to justify the show's most shakiest of science) sure helped in this.
- In The Film of the Series, extremely intrusive narration and dialogue got added very late in production onto what was originally meant to be a silent film. The execs' reasoning is that they wanted to gear the film towards kids, but they feared that they wouldn't understand what was going on unless everything was clearly spelled out. Do mind, the animation, movements and facial expressions of the dinosaurs were made slightly anthropomorphic for this reason to begin with, yet they still insisted on dubbing in a hastily-written voiceover.
- In an episode of The Weird Al Show, The Hooded Avenger mentions a bunch of impressing-sounding achievements he has, including a PhD. The network demanded that PhD be defined for kids who wouldn't understand the term (although they made no such requests for any of the other obscure/made up information), so Al explains it to Bobby...who replies with "Duh, I'm not an idiot."
- On the reality show Whodunit, they started to show exit interviews from the eliminated contestants (who were shown being "murdered") solely to inform viewers that the contestant wasn't actually killed. Unfortunately, this was a justified example because some viewers actually did think the eliminated contestants were really killed.
- In The Wild Wild West episode "The Night of the Golden Cobra," the Big Bad takes Jim, Artie and the daughter of Mr. Singh (Boris Karloff) to the cellar of Mr. S's palace under which is part of the huge expanse of oil that he wants, and in which he ends up drowning and says out loud "We are in the cellar of the palace." It's moments like this that make you understand Wonder Woman always using onscreen captions.
- Amazingly averted at NBC during Sylvester L. Weaver, Jr.'s tenure as president there. Weaver believed so deeply that broadcasting should educate as well as entertain that he typically required NBC shows to include at least one sophisticated cultural reference or performance per installment. Unfortunately, this led to disputes with David Sarnoff, chairman of the board of NBC corporate parent RCA, as Sarnoff generally found Weaver's ideas to be either too expensive or too highbrow for company tastes.
- Documentary shows often do this, because again, they don't know whether you're a twelve year old who has never taken a physics class before in their lives or a grad student getting their Ph.D in physics. For just one example.
- Did you forget what show you're watching despite the fact that every newer cable box or digital TV displays the title and synopsis immediately after changing the channel? Not to worry, for many networks now display the program's name on-screen either coming out of break or for the entire episode. And now with Twitter, said plug is now in "#CamelCase" with a convenient hashtag ready to go for online discussion.
- Every American Soap Opera known to man falls under this. Any time there is a mystery, the most obvious answer is nearly always the right one and horribly blatant clues are provided to the audience to spell it out. Despite this, it doesn't stop some hardcore fans from theorizing all sorts of possibilities that make much better sense than what ends up being revealed later on, in an often quite disappointing way. This happens quite often especially on the CBS series The Young and the Restless, and The Bold And The Beautiful.
- Many game shows (e.g., Survivor) explain the rules of the game repeatedly to players and viewers alike as if hosts don't know which people have never seen the show before yet are playing regardless or in case someone just randomly tuned in to find the game show on and they've never seen it before. Justifiable in some games like The Price Is Right or Survivor where they play different challenges each game, especially if it's a new challenge or game that was added to the game.
- This overlaps with Our Lawyers Advised This Trope: Survivor, The Amazing Race, America's Next Top Model and all the rest are required to state the prizes and rules in every episode due to laws regulating transparency, competition, and lotteries. Whether or not Viewers Are Morons, the federal government isn't, so the repetitions will remain.
- British MP Ann Widdecombe called the presenter on ITV's The Chase out on this. When the host said he had to explain the rules again for people who'd forgotten them, she did so for him, quickly, simply and precisely so she could get back on with the game.
- The BBC documentary series Planet Earth is originally narrated by David Attenborough, but when the show was adapted to American audiences, the narration was dumbed down, boasting more about the expenses and challenges behind the shots with less educational material, narrated by Sigourney Weaver. The original BBC version can be bought on DVD or Blu Ray though.
- French Channel TF1 likes to re-order episodes to put in sequence two episodes featuring the same Monster of the Week. Because the Previously On intro is not enough for the viewer to remember who that guy from last month is.
- Primeval: When Helen Cutter is killed by a raptor at the end of series 3, Danny Quinn was to start whistling "Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead". This was taken out because it was felt the viewers wouldn't get the reference.
- According to this blog post, now-former MAD writer Mike Snider recalls that his first printed piece in the magazine, a parody of "Let the Punishment Fit the Crime" from The Mikado, was greatly altered after submission because the editors thought that readers wouldn't "get" it:
Turns out that the editors had decided, after all of my work, that the lyrical meter of the original “Let the Punishment Fit the Crime” was so irregular (which is true) that only readers who actually knew the tune would be able to “get it.” And then they concluded that MAD-reading kids of the 1980s were far less likely to be familiar with Gilbert & Sullivan than, say, those of the 50s or 60s (also probably true). So, the editors themselves proceeded to rewrite the entire thing in regular, standard verse, as if it were just any old poem that never even met Gilbert & Sullivan…except that the article’s title itself (along with the great Jack Davis “Mikado”-artwork) would naturally lead everyone who did know the tune to try and sing these new “lyrics” to them — to their utter confusion and frustration!
- Hilarious in Hindsight: Keith Moon turned down an offer to form a band with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, saying an idea like that would "go down like a lead zeppelin." Page & Plant thought that sounded like A Good Name for a Rock Band, but decided to deliberately misspell it as "Led Zeppelin" because they assumed people would mispronounce it as "Leed" (as in "zeppelin that leads").
- In Calvin and Hobbes, a raccoon was replaced with a rabbit for British readers, who apparently have no knowledge of what a raccoon is, nor the ability to look it up or infer it from context.
- Gary Larson, regarding why he changed the caption of a Far Side cartoon from his first idea: "Of course, almost everyone knows that "ungulate" is the collective term for hoofed mammal, but then why risk confusion among a handful of illiterates?"
- Larson also reports, in "The Prehistory of the Far Side," that an editor once encouraged him to change a caption reading "Auntie Em! Auntie Em! There's no place like home!" for fear that readers would not recognize the reference to The Wizard of Oz.
- Played for laughs in Liberty Meadows, when the genius inventor Ralph tries to explain to the idiot Leslie how his holographic machine works. Leslie asks him "could you dumb that down?" When Ralph tries to explain it in simpler terms, Leslie asks him "could you dumb that down a little more?" Ralph ends by saying "It lets you see things".
- Many gamers accuse Nintendo of treating them like idiots for things such as the constant reminders and encouragement of using the Wii Remote Strap and Wii Remote Jacket; a wrist-strap connected to the remote, and a silicone shell that cushions the remote from impact, respectively. However, the jacket and wrist-strap only came into fruition due to a handful of people breaking their TVs through careless usage and attempting to sue Nintendo (These people are known in the gaming community as "wiitards"). Still, most gamers don't appreciate the constant patronizing reminders and game-interrupting messages all for the sake of these people. Many other gamers take this one step further and think that this is actually Nintendo's problem in general.
- The Legend of Zelda is very very concerned over the player having forgotten the sudden plot twist or their next targeted location...about 30 seconds after hearing it. And they repeat it about two or three times, just to make sure you don't forget again. Thanks Navi. Taken even further in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword with Fi. She would beep on EVERYTHING, right down to telling you your health is low and how to replenish it. Despite the fact that Nintendo have yet to remove the signature beeping that occurs when your health gets too low.
- Joked about in Super Paper Mario, where an NPC in Flipside will, as he put it, "completely blow your mind" with completely basic knowledge like "press this button to jump!" about four or five chapters into the game. On the reverse, his equal in Flopside will tell you somewhat obscure tips about quirks in the controls that you actually may not have realized yet, and then says "Aw but you probably already knew that. I'll just be quiet."
- Pokémon: Much dialogue and quite a few of the mechanics, including the infamous forced tutorials omnipresent in most of the games. Also, the boxart for the games since Gen III have a little footnote in the back that says "Basic reading ability required to fully enjoy the game".
- Wii Sports Resort forces the first person to play to sit through a 3 minute unskippable instructional video on how to attach and detach the Wii Motion Plus... and forces you to watch the video again if you haven't played in a while. Though thankfully the latter requirement has since been withdrawn through a software update.
- Nintendo's release of the Wii-U can be seen as a clumsy reverse of this. Their lack of marketing and clarification to the mainstream has lead many ill informed consumers to believe that the console was simply another version of the Wii. Nintendo now has to go out of their way to basically say "The Wii-U is a brand new gaming console and is not an add on for the Wii!"
- A lot of Samus' dialogue in Metroid: Other M is her blatantly describing how she's feeling at the moment, rather than letting the audience infer that for themselves. Granted, Samus being a bit of a blank slate was something the game was meant to change, but this makes her feel less a full character and more a parrot.
- Kingdom Hearts 2 has one. During the second visit to Agrabah, Iago leads our heroes into a trap, then reveals that he did so because Jafar threatened his life. Sora then explains what Iago did through clunky exposition.
- Played for laughs in Baldurs Gate Dark Alliance, if you unplug your controller and then plug it back in, you'll get a sarcastic message saying, "Good job. Now press the start button."
- When Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was released, features such as dedicated servers, the developer console, and modding ability were abandoned for the PC release, with the proprietary IWNET being the only way to play online. The devs claimed it was for the sake of, they say, the 'casual gamer' who is apparently too dumb to operate those things, despite those features being in every FPS released since Quake. More cynical observers speculated the game would be easier to control, and could be shut down when they wanted the players to move onto the next game.
- Taken to its logical extremes with Ehrgeiz's Quest Mode. The guy who gives you the tutorial gives you such helpful tips as, "To avoid a monster's attack use the R1 button. Normally, you'd use your right index finger to press it." and ''Use the L1 button [to jump]. That will be pressed by your left index finger."
- Surprisingly averted in the first Golden Sun game, there's a town where everyone has been turned into a tree, you can even walk around and read the tree's minds but there's no cut-scenes nor any dialogue along the lines of "seems like everyone in the town was turned into a tree", you have to go and beat the crap out of an angry tree, after doing so the characters demand him to turn the people back to normal.
- In Half-Life 2: Episode Two, the developer commentary at one point claims that Valve had play testers who, when reaching a fork in their path that circled around back to itself, literally walked in circles for over 30 minutes because they kept picking the wrong path. Because of it, Valve now makes their games have more broader visuals that cues the player on where they need to go next. This is most apparent in the Left 4 Dead series where there are literally arrows telling you where you need to go, even though Left 4 Dead is a strictly linear gamenote .
- The infamous CD-i game Hotel Mario regularly assumes that the people playing the game have no clue about how to play. This includes Breaking the Fourth Wall to tell the player to read the instruction book, or asking them if they "get the hint" when the pre-level cutscenes hint toward the level's gimmick.
- The Mega Man X series is notorious for "navigator" characters stopping the action to tell you things you should already know through common sense. Like "spikes are bad for you, don't touch them." The Mega Man Battle Network games get bonus points for their forced tutorials.
- The Ōkami hinting system, not content with considering the players as pre-schoolers and telling you exactly what to do the instant you're faced with a puzzle, will also repeat it a few times while you're "solving" it, interrupting you in the process. Making this even worse is that the game is rated "T"...
- In the game Petz: Catz/Dogz 2, the characters often feel the need to tell you how to get to a place you've been to a billion times already - the very first place you can explore is Dolphin Coast, and yet right before the final boss you'll still get characters telling you "To get to Dolphin Coast, take the path on the right closest to the ocean…."
- In Watch_Dogs, Lena's grave reads, "Born 2006, died 2012 at age 6." Apparently, Ubisoft thinks its consumers can't do remedial math.
- Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag: In an In-Universe example, Abstergo Entertainment, a newly formed division of Abstergo Industries which is the modern front for The Knights Templar, is seeking to produce a feature film based on the Golden Age of Piracy. Their approach to the project is to use their Genetic Memory research technology to discover what life was really like back in that era, then edit and sanitize it until it's another piece of Michael Bay-esque schlock, believing that that will sell more tickets. This functions as both a Take That Me at the real entertainment industry and as a reflection of the Templars' attempts to turn everyone into the kinds of mindless zombies that are easily swayed by media.
- In Bioshock Infinite, the lighthouse at the start of the game has three bells that have to be rung in a certain order. Minutes earlier, you're given a card that has the instructions on it... and when you get to that point, Booker immediately whips out the card so you can see the order. Finally, a game for smart people!
- Lampshaded in The Adventures Of Gyro. At one point in the story we see Gyro (who turns out to be a disturbed psychopath) behind Gladstone hidden behind the door... Then we get a big footnote from the "Editor" asking the readers to stop yelling "Turn around!" since Gladstone is a fictional character and this is a comic so he can't hear the reader any way. This is in fact a parody of annoying (and often pointless) footnotes found in some of American Disney comics such as the Ultraheroes series.
- In Bob and George, Dr. Light argues, on panel, that readers can't tell the difference between the Author and Megaman.
- Chainsawsuit presents: "star wars is for toddlers now".
- In this El Goonish Shive sketchbook strip, a Media Watchdog is depicted as holding this view as justifying ineffectual censorship.
- Nerf NOW!! proposes a sadly believable hypothesis on typical game publisher's decision process: Game Of The Year Of All Years "Strategy evolved!", indeed.
- Exaggerated in this Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.
- Often times, while xkcd emphasizes Viewers Are Geniuses, it feels the need to explain the mathematic/scientific/programming joke to the audience, creating a scenario where it can be an example of both tropes. There is even a Wiki to explain the comics. Their motto is: "explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb".
- Discussed in this Penny Arcade strip, in which Gabe uses the Call of Duty: Black Ops emblem editor to recreate one of the pictures in Claude Monet's Haystacks series (it's never shown which one). Tycho immediately tries to invoke the trope in his own way ("I think this may be lost on its intended audience."), but is immediately shot down when two VoIP players not only recognize the work, but also compliment Gabe's artistic skills.
- In the first half of the series The Batman, Batman comments every alarm of the Batwave with the words "The Batwave".
- Parodied in an episode of Family Guy; Peter rebuts the argument that British men are charming by saying "That's what they said about Benjamin Disraeli." Cut to Disraeli writing at his desk, then looking straight into the camera and saying "You don't even know who I am!"
- Parodied in Futurama:
- In an episode, an evil A.I. residing inside a laptop computer and three "execubots" are in charge of a television network, and describe their functions: one rolls the dice on what types of TV shows will be popular, one is programmed to like things he has seen before, and the last is programmed to underestimate Middle America.
- In the episode "When Aliens Attack", Fry objects to the plot twist about Single-Female Lawyer (Leela) getting married with this line: "But that's not why people watch TV! Clever things make them feel stupid and unexpected things make them feel scared."
- Disney Channel aired a commercial for the Gravity Falls website during a commercial break of Gravity Falls. At one point in it, a subtitle is shown and it says "Watch Gravity Falls on Disney Channel". Y'know, the same show that is technically on and the exact same network that's showing it. In fact, most website ads for Disney Channel shows from the past half-decade have the same issue.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- Prince Blueblood from "The Best Night Ever" was originally going to be a Duke, but was changed to Prince because the higher-ups felt kids would have no idea what a Duke was.
- In "The Return Of Harmony", Discord says out his riddle in that the Mane Six were to retrieve the Elements by finding them back where they began. It sounds completely hollow for Twilight Sparkle and she straight out guesses that the Elements were in the maze, which involves what she thought were "twists and turns". By the time the second part of the episode rolls, all of her friends were broken and brainwashed. In a perfectly unnecessary bit of audience hand-holding, especially for those who had remembered watching the pilot episode, this episode repeats Discord's riddle in flashback, completely spoiling the moment.
- If you want bad, try seeing an episode of the 1960s The New Adventures of Superman. Every episode has the narrator explaining everything that is happening...even if it's the simplest action which you are, at the moment, watching.
- The Peanuts holiday specials almost didn't have their now-famous jazz themes. Executive Meddling tried to nix them and/or have them recomposed in a different style, on the grounds that "kids don't get jazz".
- Parodied in the Space Ghost Coast to Coast episode "Pavement", where Space Ghost revealed he "writes" the episode they're doing and becomes an arrogant ass (well, moreso). After a commercial he states, "Welcome back, stupid viewers. You'll watch anything! Go ahead, change the channel, you'll be back!"
- The Spectacular Spider-Man had Green Goblin mention that he had possession of a "portable flash drive". In fact, this seems to be a common habit of any TV character whenever a flash drive is mentioned, even when they should know the person they're talking to has more than a passing familiarity with computers.
- Parodied in "The Tick vs. Arthur's Bank Account":
Even now, he [The Tick] sulks like Achilles in His Tent
. (everyone stares blankly at him) Handy:
?...It's Homer?... (close-up on Handy) Handy:
READ A BOOK!
- Followed up with a double-subversion in "Grandpa wore Tights"
(The Visual Eye attempts his signature attack "rocket from the sockets", i.e. shooting his eyeballs out into the air, but they simply drop unceremoniously to the floor.) Handy:
Well, THAT was an Oedipal moment. (everyone stares warily at him) Handy: Oedipus Rex?
...The play by Sophocles?... (everyone continues to stare warily...) Handy:
He gets his eyes plucked out at the end?... (everyone gives him a look of mild exasperation) Handy:
(indignantly) READ A BOOK!
- Subverted in an episode of The Transformers, "Autobot Spike", where Spike comments on Autobot X being a "real metal Frankenstein" and is asked by Bumblebee about what Frankenstein is; Spike then goes on to say it would take too long to explain. However, Wheeljack patches Teletraan into a TV station to make Spike feel better, and the first thing Spike sees is an old Frankenstein movie. Plus, Spike refers to Autobot X, and later himself as Autobot Spike, as a Frankenstein monster several times, to the point where it becomes laboured.
- In an episode of Transformers Prime while Megatron is using the Forge of Solus Prime to build himself a sword powerful enough to rival Optimus Prime's Star Saber, Dreadwing blatantly reminds the audience of the Forge's purpose as if they didn't already know at this point.
- Cartoon Network's ill-fated "Tickle U" block of programming for preschoolers featured a ticker at the bottom of the screen with messages targeted at moms, thus simultaneously discounting the idea of anyone in the target audience being able to read and the possibility of stay-at-home fathers.
- The vast majority of kids' cartoons have an annoying habit of having a character always read any onscreen text out-loud. Because God forbid kids should have to do any reading.
- This was lampshaded on Sheep in the Big City. Since the creators couldn't get Cartoon Network to drop their request for all onscreen text to be read aloud, they introduced a character, a goofy little man known as "the man who likes to read things out loud." Whenever there's a sign or some text, he shows up out of nowhere, reads it out loud, then remarks about how much he enjoys doing that.
- This is also played with in an episode of the Saturday morning Beetlejuice series. A group of other characters are attempting to get Beetlejuice to say a particular phrase out loud, one of whom flies a airplane overhead with a banner displaying the phrase. Beetlejuice looks up at the banner for a few seconds, then turns to the viewer and says that fortunately he knows how to read without doing so aloud.
- The Script Fic Calvin and Hobbes: The Series also rather pointedly subverted this. Early on, the MTM communicated entirely through holographic messages. This was later changed to an actual voice, and the final bonus chapter reveals that this was because the creators realized that, if it were an actual TV show, the studios would force them to have it read out loud.
- For the Brazilian dub of Littlest Pet Shop, Sunil's species was changed from mongoose to weasel because kids might not know what a mongoose is.