Wrong Genre Savvy / Film

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    Animated Films 
  • In every Toy Story film, Buzz Lightyear (or one of his duplicates) thinks he's the hero of a Space Opera, because he's an action figure based off of the hero of a Space Opera. The writers mention in the commentary for Toy Story 3 that they loved putting him in this position because he's so much fun to write this way.
    • In the original, Buzz comes out of the box thinking he's the real Buzz Lightyear; coming to grips with the reality of his status as a toy — and his value as one — is one of the driving conflicts of the film.
    • In Toy Story 2, Buzz accidentally awakens another Buzz toy in a toy store display by trying to steal his utility belt. Other-Buzz accuses him of breaking ranks and traps him in one of the boxes (which was empty because reasons), and gets mistaken for the regular Buzz when Hamm, Potato Head, and Rex show up. Hilarity Ensues.
    • Finally, in Toy Story 3, Buzz is captured by the villains du jour and gets reset to factory condition via a switch in his back, which also wipes his memories of his friends. The villains convince him that they're his superiors and put him to work as a guard.
  • The Incredibles:
    • Syndrome taunts Mr. Incredible about how he's obviously an Arch-Nemesis with Joker Immunity who will continue to dog and torment the family throughout their lives. He realizes that this isn't that kind of superhero story about the time he notices the car hurtling towards his jet.
    • Elastigirl warns the kids about the danger of being Wrong Genre Savvy.
    "Remember the bad guys on the shows you used to watch on Saturday mornings? Well, these guys aren't like those guys. They won't exercise restraint because you are children. They will kill you if they get the chance. Do not give them that chance."
  • In Big Hero 6 the team becomes convinced, through comic book nerd Fred's fairly sound logic, that Alistair Krei is the masked villain Yokai because Yokai stole the microbots in the fire, Krie was shown to want them, and he's a sleezy corporate executive. They're wrong, it's one of the people they thought died in that fire, Prof. Callahan, and he wants to get back at Krei for accidentally getting his daughter killed. It wasn't an evil power/money grab, it was a revenge plot.

    Live Action Films 
  • Lady in the Water
    • The hero, Cleveland Heep, consults the movie critic in order to identify the tenants who fill in the roles of Story's helpers. However, when their plan goes awry and Story is attacked and injured, Cleveland realizes that he incorrectly identified himself. Note that the movie critic was more or less right in his ideas of who the tenants would be, but Cleveland merely interpreted the clues incorrectly.
    • Not to mention the scene where the same movie critic is confronted by the monster, and instead of running away he goes on spiel about how the movie has had no violence, deaths, lewd acts, or nudity and deduces that he is going to live with just a wound because of these factors. He must've forgotten about the female lead being naked for all her screentime.
  • The unease audiences feel toward Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs is heightened by his seemingly unsavvy placement in the structure of the story. Genre conventions would make him the villain. But the story's villain is Buffalo Bill. "Hannibal the Cannibal" is actually the Trickster Mentor. He is Yoda to Clarice's Luke, the shadow counterpart of her FBI academy instructor. Other characters call him a monster, but Clarice addresses him as she would a teacher and he is among those who congratulate her when she graduates. His function in the story places him much closer to the main character than we would expect him to be, and far too close for comfort. With his breakout at the end of the film, this genre-savvy character sheds the mentor role and assumes a more conventional role as villain. In a sense, his act signals a return to "order".
  • Last Action Hero:
    • Child hero Danny rides his bicycle head-on to play chicken with the main villain's car, reasoning that it has to work because he's the hero in a non-R rated movie where the kid would never die. Then it dawns on him that he's the Plucky Comic Relief instead, and is vulnerable. Cue ET visual gag.
    • The second half of the movie deals heavily with how badly Jack Slater's Genre Savvy as an Action Hero fails him in the gritty, real world until he learns the new rules whereas Benedict becomes Genre Savvy right out of the gate instead.
  • Mark Wahlberg's character in The Other Guys really wants to live in a Buddy Cop Movie, and partially succeeds, but fails in other places because he's so bound to genre convention (most notably, he assumes that the white-collar embezzlement plot they uncover must somehow be related to drugs).
  • A positive example: Guy from Galaxy Quest, though for the most part Genre Savvy, goes through the events of the film in a depressed and terrified state, because he is convinced that he is nothing more than a designated Red Shirt among the Show Within a Show's stars (even his name suggests thisnote ). In the end, he is told that he has a promising future as the Plucky Comic Relief.
  • Jack Burton of Big Trouble in Little China thinks he's a sort of western-style hero who takes charge and beats the bad guys with guts and bravado. However, he doesn't know anything about all the eastern mysticism going on. His best friend Wang has to explain everything to him. It's Wang who is actually the hero, out to rescue his girlfriend. Jack is actually the sidekick, just tagging along and trying to recover his lost truck.
  • Near the end of The Madness of King George, Lord Chancellor Thurlow wastes time announcing the king's return to health by bemoaning the messenger in King Lear who arrives too late to save Cordelia. The whole film is an averted Lear — something the king seems to recognize, even if Thurlow doesn't.
  • Burn After Reading:
    • Chad and Lynda both start acting like they're in a Spy Drama after they find a disc with the financial records of a former CIA analyst, acting all mysterious around the analyst and refusing to give their real names. However, they're in a Black Comedy, so Hilarity Ensues.
    • A slightly more subtle example comes from Desk Jockey treasury agent Harry. When he shoots gym employee Chad, he believes he has killed a spy. This leads to complications when he is followed by his wife's divorce lawyer's investigator
    • A fairly subtle example comes from CIA analyst Osborne Cox. While there's no indication that his CD contains actual classified information or valuable secrets, Osbourne thinks his warmed-over ruminations about old news are the makings of a bestselling "Washington tell-all" book. He believes himself to be the wise Washington insider whose insights will be greatly valued, instead of the mid-level drunken asshole he really is.
  • The Pirates of the Caribbean movie series has a faint undercurrent of this throughout: nearly every character thinks they're in a different story than they actually are. There's a subtle Deconstructionist aspect as well, as established pirate Tropes are played with and/or dismantled.
    • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl:
      • Elizabeth spends a good deal of the movie expecting and hoping one of the pirates she runs into would be like the romantic, dashing rogues she reads about in her books, or for them to at least adhere to some honor-among-thieves morality. Over the course of the film she's increasingly disillusioned (Barbossa shirks the code whenever it inconveniences him, the Black Pearl crew want to rape her, Jack Sparrow's a horny, opportunistic drunk, Jack's own crew don't bother to rescue their captain once they get their ship...) until the very end. When Will risks his life to do what's right, she sees he's the kind of heroic ne'er-do-well she'd been hoping to see.
      • This gets a lampshade when Barbossa taunts Elizabeth by telling her she'd best start believing in ghost stories, because she's in one.
    • In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, when the Kraken is taking down a ship full of Red Shirts, one of the merchants runs forward, bravely offering what they had previously thought was the dress of a ghost who was haunting their ship. That would have worked out a lot better for him if he had been in a ghost story, and if that ghost story was actually about him.
  • In The Man Who Knew Too Little, the "hero" thinks he's in a huge role-play featuring acted danger and spying. Meanwhile, all those around him assume he's part of their grand spy world and mistake his bumbling comic efforts as amazing super-spy work.
  • An exchange from Detroit Rock City, about whether or not some road-tripping stoners should pick up a hitchhiker:
    Jam: It's a teenage girl walking along the side of the highway. They make scary movies that start out like that!
    Trip: But they make porno movies that start out like that too, man!
  • Stranger Than Fiction is a unique case, where the main character realizes he's in a story after he starts hearing his own narration. He seeks out help to try to become Genre Savvy, and correctly deduces that in the context of his narrator's story, he's in a tragedy, which is ironically Wrong Genre Savvy as the meta-story (the movie about the story about a man who hears his own narrator, i.e., the movie you're watching) is actually a comedy.
  • The hostages in From Dusk Till Dawn, particularly Scott Fuller, have all the Genre Savvy needed to survive in a heist film or hostage-taking film. Scott even lampshades this by telling his father, "I've seen this on TV, Dad!" Pity for them the bar the Gecko Brothers choose to stop at is full of Fricking Vampire Strippers!
  • Return of the Living Dead: When confronted with a reanimated cadaver, a group of characters put a pick axe through its brain based on what they know about zombies from seeing Night of the Living Dead. It has no effect.
    Burt: I thought you said if we destroyed the brain, it'd die!
    Frank: It worked in the movie!
    Burt: Well, it ain't workin' now, Frank!
    Fred: You mean the movie lied?
    • Ironically, the idea of zombies who are smart enough to repeatedly moan "Brains" and/or who explicitly feel overpowering hunger instead of mindlessly eating, comes from this trilogy, not the original series. Or even care about brains; the originals seemed to show a distinct preference for liver.
  • The college kids from Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil believe they are in a typical Hillbilly Horrors-style horror film after two rednecks announce that they "have" one of their friends and they start dying one by one. In actuality, they're in a comedy and the two hillbillies saved the girl from drowning. All the deaths are a result of the "victims" being Too Dumb to Live. On the flip side, Chad believes he is The Hero who is going to defeat the evil hillbillies and get the girl. He's actually the villain.
  • In the little-known Alien ripoff Creature, someone says they remember seeing an old movie (specifically, The Thing from Another World) where they tried to stop the monster from killing everyone with an electrified forcefield. Not too effective against this monster.
  • The camp Disney flick Condorman features a comic book artist as its protagonist, who dreams of being a comic book action hero. He gets his chance when he persuades his CIA buddy to let him take a courier mission, but then proceeds to ham it up as the most ludicrously obvious Cloak & Dagger spy ever — which causes the Soviet agent he's meeting with to fall in love with him and defect. In a weird way, his Wrong Genre Savviness actually twists the story until he is a superhero in a spy movie.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail:
    • The knights tend to act like they are in a standard Arthurian romance, without realizing they are in anything from 1) A very low budget Arthurian Romance, 2) A realistic depiction of the dark ages, 3) A musical, or 4) A modern day Police Procedural.
    • Lancelot's Tale has a very obvious example of this. He keeps talking about how he's going to fulfill this quest of saving a Damsel in Distress in his own "idiom" only for everything to go wrong for him since the movie's a parody. The script actually uses the word "genre" outright, but John Cleese forgot the correct word while filming resulting in a much funnier scene.
  • Sam in TRON Legacy holds the lightcycle baton like a lightsaber.
    Sam: What's this? What do I do with this?
    Jarvis: I'll give you a hint ... Not that.
  • Tom in (500) Days of Summer thinks that he's in a romantic comedy where everyone gets their happy endings, you can stand up to people hitting on your girlfriend and knock them out with one punch (when he tries this, the guy gets up right away and kicks his ass), etc. Justified because he's grown up on romantic comedies and confused them with reality (and missed the point of The Graduate, declaring it the perfect love story when it clearly isn't). He's in a Deconstruction of a love story.
  • Queen Narissa, the antagonist of Enchanted, singlehandedly puts the "decon" in the film's Decon-Recon Switch of fairy-tale movies, but fails to recognize the "recon". The one character she can easily handle is Edward, who besides Pip is the only one who lacks Hidden Depths beyond what would be expected of the genre.
  • In The Cabin in the Woods, Marty thinks he's in a Reality TV show after discovering a hidden camera in his room. What he doesn't realise is that he's about to sabotage a ritual sacrifice that's needed to prevent the end of the world.
  • In Troy, Paris thinks the world works like a romantic poem. Hector angrily informs him about how War Is Hell.
  • Santa's Slay: Lampshaded when Nicholas tries to shine a light in Santa's face, and all it does is annoy him.
    Santa: I'm Santa Claus, not fucking Dracula!
  • In Fresh, the titular character has a friend named Chucky who he brings into the business of running drugs. Unlike Fresh who is a smart teen, Chucky is a Leeroy Jenkins who's obsessed with the gangster movies, gangsta rap music, and comic books like The Punisher. When the two go on their first delivery job at night, they get jacked by rival drug dealers. Fresh warned Chucky beforehand that if they get jacked to drop the book bags filled with drugs and run. However, Chucky, thinking he's in a gangster film, takes out his gun and starts shooting at the adult dealers - missing with every shot. They kill him and Fresh gets away. In fact, the whole film is about a young man being Genre Savvy.
  • Played for laughs in Pay It Forward. Early on a reporter is offered a Jaguar (car) for free by a stranger. He is baffled and asks if he perhaps was expected to kill the stranger's wife in return and when this is denied he suspects the Jag to be rigged and blow up in an External Combustion (which of course was not the case).
  • All of the Nazis in Downfall, but Hitler most of all. Hitler clings to the belief that a last-ditch counter-attack (made by military units which are woefully under strength or don't even exist anymore) is going to miraculously push back the advancing Soviets and Germany can go on to win the war. He insists such a thing will be the biggest reversal of fortune in military history, more so than Stalingrad was, and his secretaries and underlings believe him not knowing that the man has absolutely lost his grasp on reality. In real life, the OSS made a psychology report on Hitler and found something very insightful about him: he mentally processed his entire life on the model of a Wagnerian play where he was the hero, the kind of play where the hero would face insurmountable odds but prevail in the end through determination, incredible luck and divine favour. When cold, hard reality got in the way of that, he couldn't mentally process it - the report accurately predicted that the moment the war stopped going according to Hitler's "narrative", he would retreat to the seclusion of his bunker. The report also accurately predicted that he would give the order to burn down German towns and infrastructure even though such a thing would serve no purpose beyond spiteing the winners - once he saw that he was going to fail, Hitler would shift his worldview from a Wagnerian epic to a Wagnerian tragedy, the kind where the hero loses at the end and his entire castle burns down all around him like a funeral pyre to the gods. He then did everything he could to ensure as many Germans as possible would go down with him in a last blaze of glory, which meant sending Child Soldiers to their senseless deaths and behaving like a modern-day Nero.
  • Deadpool: Colossus still seems to think he's in a PG-13 X-Men film and a typical superhero movie. He's in an R-rated spin-off starring Deadpool, who flat out admits he's no hero. (Admittedly, he does admit he wants to prevent Ajax from ruining more people's lives, but his main goal is revenge).
  • In the indie film Big News From Grand Rock small-town journalist Leonard and big-city journalist Lucy think they have stumbled upon a secret government cloning program. Turns out that they have merely stumbled upon a small-time embezzlement scheme aimed at getting a local council member a free pool for their back yard.