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Wrong Genre Savvy: Real Life
  • Survivalists, thus far. Or the ones in the developed world. In many parts of the world, the things they do and prepare for are known as life. If the concept of survivalism can be changed and the current survivalist concepts can be applied to developed nations en masse, the developed world wouldn't have to fear an electricity apocalypse.
    • The TV show Doomsday Preppers sets out a wild collapse theory, rates the preparations of the featured preppers for that scenario and then points out how very, very unlikely that scenario is.
    • On an episode of Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, they visit a real-world "survival training camp" which not only shows them as literally Too Dumb to Live (since they're woefully inadequate to the tasks but acting Genre Savvy), but they explicitly point out that the odds are you'd be in the large majority of the world that just outright died in whatever disaster strikes. Another point is that a lot of time is being spent on "trapped in the wilderness with no gear" style survivalism when there's no real reason things like guns and matches would stop working.
  • In The Decline of the West, Oswald Spengler mentions Swedish king Charles XII, who was a big fan of Alexander the Great, tried to follow his example, thus made war on the Russia of Peter the Great, only to have his army destroyed at the battle of Poltava, which effectively ended Sweden's time as a great power.
    • This is a recurrent theme in Spengler's theory of how history "works". Each Culture (meaning the largest sense of the word, cultures like Greco-Roman society, Western Christendom, old Egypt, China, etc.) all follow certain recurring patterns that can be compared and contrasted with each other, but it's like individual lives, each Culture only passes through each stage once, just as each individual only passes through each stage of life once. For a Culture in its late phase to try to operate like it did in earlier stages is like an old man trying to behave like a teenager, at best the result will be futile, and it may well be painful or fatal. As Spengler saw it, Napoleon is to Western Christendom as Alexander the Great was to Greco-Roman Culture. We've had our Alexander now, and the West can't do that again. On the other hand, our version of Julius/Augustus Caesar is still to come...
      • Unless Lenin and Stalin were Julius and Augustus, which would then make China the new Byzantium.
    • Communism did this more consciously than the most, making it a part of the ideology known as the 'historical necessity.' Unfortunately for the Soviet Union, it found out too late it wasn't the predestined Messiah after all.
  • Nero's last words "What an artist, dies in me!" seems to indicate that he failed to realize he wasn't living in a play. At the very least he failed to realize he wasn't an actor but the emperor of Rome. (It is pretty much universally agreed that Nero was insane, if not possessed. The man did not distinguish between a Christian and a Tiki Torch.)
    • It's best to remember that nearly everything known about him comes from his enemies. Yes, he was a poor Emperor, most likely because he really wanted to be an actor and had no real interest in politics. So he focused on his aesthetic pursuits and neglected the matters of the state. The cruelties committed under his reign weren't really any worse than those under more competent rulers. Getting specified as the evil emperor came simply from the fact that he at one point used a small, unpopular religious sect as a scapegoat, and they ended up writing the history later on.
  • Some modern classical historians argue that Caligula wasn't the lunatic Roman historians presented him as, but a young Emperor who wanted to dispense with his imperial predecessors' act that the Emperor of Rome was just a senior statesman, not a monarch. He failed miserably, although if he had been Emperor about a couple of centuries later his approach wouldn't have gotten him stabbed.
  • An especially tragic instance of this trope would be the 9/11 terror attacks. Other than Flight 93's passengers, who were able to find out about the intent of the hijackers in advance, the passengers on the other flights were led to believe that this would be a hijacking akin to those of the 1980s, where individuals would fly the planes to Cuba. Instead, they had much worse in store.
    • Even some of the hijackers themselves had been fooled into believing this, if certain tapes by Osama bin Laden are to be taken at face value.
  • Many idealistic young men leapt at the chance to participate in World War One, seeing it as "The War to End All Wars." At its outset the War was romanticized as a sort of culmination of the revolutionary spirit of the 19th Century, a great cathartic conflict that would bring about an end to a stagnant old order and give birth to a new age for mankind. Unfortunately they got it backwards: the War turned out to be the death knell for 19th-Century idealism rather than its realization. Instead of a glorious revolution, it was a senseless bloodbath that defied any attempt to romanticize it. And while it did topple the old order in Europe, bringing about the collapse of many established empires, the new age it ushered in was one of the darkest times in human history.
    • Only on the Western front with static trench warfare. On the Eastern front, things were different and it was a much more conventional war.
      • Speaking of which, the European powers were used to fast paced wars of movement, made up of isolated, definite battles and brief sieges. A war of attrition like World War 1, where two equally matched mechanised powers simply grind away at each other until one gives up, had literally never happened before, and lead to the development of brand new technologies and ways of fighting, most notably aerial battles. The British and French generals were simply unprepared and untrained for such a fight- it was like putting a modern general in charge of a space battle. Although they did eventually wise up, you can see in the early years of the war the two sides stumbling around trying to figure out just what the hell they were supposed to do. For instance, the iconic system of trenches all across France were the result of an old colonial war strategy - each trench was only supposed to stall the opposing enemy, but each time the two armies wouyld basically walk around it and build their own trench, the entire network grew up as the French and Germans raced each other to the coast. After that they had nowhere to go but forwards.
    • Similar romanticization existed during The American Civil War, to the extent that early in the war there were citizens that gathered with picnics to watch a battle... and ended up fleeing when it moved near them, naturally.
  • Speaking of the The American Civil War, Wrong Genre Savvy-ness was the main reason it wound up being the bloodiest war in American history. The Civil War was the first "industrialized" war, the first time reliable, accurate weapons and munitions were produced in mass quantity. Traditional battlefield strategies, still dating back to the times of mass firings of inaccurate smoothbore muskets, proved not only to be obsolete, but also deadly for the troops involved. Basically, technology outpaced strategy. Waging a 19th-Century war with 18th-Century tactics meant a lot of unnecessary casualties.
  • An old military maxim says "Generals are always prepared to fight the last war." There are many examples across human history of leaders or armies being Wrong Genre Savvy. The most frequently cited example is that of the western Allies at the start of World War II. They expected a conflict similar to the First World War, and prepared for a "ground war" of infantry, trench standoffs, and protracted sieges. They were completely unprepared for the blitzkrieg, which combined air power and "rapid dominance" ground tactics. The US averted this, however; they wrote up plans for World War II in the 1930s and executed them during the war, fighting on two fronts but concentrating on crushing Germany first, while beating back the Japanese via an island hopping campaign.
    • The French Maginot Line, a series of fortifications along the French border, is routinely cited as an example because the Germans either flew over it or went around it. But that was in fact what the Allies expected, and the reason they built it; see our entry on the Maginot Line for more details.
    • Part of the reason America lost The Vietnam War was because they went in thinking that they were fighting World War II or The Korean War. They also misunderstood the reasons the war was being fought, but that's another story altogether.
    • A similar effect plays out as what Bruce Schneier has termed "movie-plot threats": security measures are implemented to prevent specific attacks that have already been tried (successfully or not) - rather than on more general practices that don't rely on the attackers not trying anything new.
  • During the Franco-Prussian War, the French planned to go on the offensive and stay there, such that French troops were issued maps of Germany, but not France. Unfortunately for them, the Prussians, or, more properly, the North German Confederation forces, immediately invaded France with superior numbers and superior firepower, and the entire war was fought on French territory. It is true that the French had machine guns, although they were such a big secret that hardly anyone in the French army had been trained to use them. The Prussians, however, had steel breach-loading rifled artillery, whereas the French were still using bronze muzzle-loading smoothbores. Also, the Prussians had something like twice the French numbers, and, above all, were much better organized, thanks to the Prussian general staff. Napoleon III thought that he was going to be like Napoleon I. He was wrong.
  • Saddam Hussein believed that he could win the Persian Gulf war by entrenching his forces and outlasting the US-led Coalition in another Vietnam War. But he did not expect that his forces would be easily outclassed by the Coalition forces and that the Coalition could overwhelm his armies with Blitz warfare. Plus he overlooked one other important (and missing) factor for a Vietnam-style war: the presence of a ubiquitous tropical jungle in which to hide his forces.
    • Also, he failed to recognize that sometimes a nation can learn from experience, Hussein himself failed to learn from experience, because he was still looking at the second round of the Gulf War through the Vietnam lens as well in the 2000s.
    • Saddam also thought he could win a war with a dozen nations on his own like Vietnam. What he didn't know was that the Vietnamese had massive support from other Communist states, while he had no supporting him, and even the Arab community was against him.
    • On the other hand, the reason why the post-invasion occupation almost became a total disaster for the United States was because much of the Department of Defense establishment outright refused to consider the possibility of going to war against any opponent besides an organized military force like the Soviet Union.
  • During the Troperrific Great Siege of Gibraltar, the Spanish thought that they were in a kind of heroic fantasy setting, where the siege of The Rock marked the heroes' final assault on the Always Chaotic Evil Big Bad's stronghold. For instance, 80,000 people turned up on the surrounding hills to watch the "Grand Assault," "trail the British flag into the dust." Don Jose Barboza thought that he could inspire his flagging soldiers with a suicide attack on the British sortie. It didn't work.
  • Joseph Goebbels said this about the end of World War II to try to inspire the Nazis: "Gentlemen! In a hundred years time, there will be a glorious technicolour film about these days. Do your duty, so that when your actor comes onto the screen the audience will not jeer and holler." Unfortunately for him, he was in Real Life, not one of his costume dramas.
    • He was right in a sense: There was a famous technocolor film about those days. And the audiences neither hollered nor scoffed. They mocked.
    • In fact, the Nazis pretty much lived this Trope, and it was their biggest weakness. For example, their own philosophy of rejecting "defeatist thinking" caused them to focus too much on offensive strategies and almost nothing on defensive, which proved a big mistake.
  • Medieval Europe long believed in the legend of "Prester John," a Christian warrior-king living somewhere in the unknown east beyond the Holy Land. There were even a few diplomatic expeditions sent to make contact, although none were ever able to find him (if he even ever existed). During the Fifth Crusade, leaders of the Crusader States began to hear rumors of a Central Asian king, a great conqueror and a follower of a vaguely-monotheistic religion, who was steadily working his way west, steamrolling over lesser tribes and kingdoms, and soon to be knocking on Baghdad's door. At first they rejoiced. Why, surely, this is some descendant of Prester John! Surely Christendom is saved! Well, it turns out that this great warrior-king they were hearing about was named Genghis Khan. He wasn't some lost Christian king. Sure, many of his opponents were nominally Muslim kingdoms and tribes, but that's not the reason he fought them. The Khan just wanted to conquer, period; these others were simply in his way. If he even knew anything about the ideology behind the Crusades, it didn't matter much to him. Europe was expecting some Big Damn Heroes from afar to save Christendom at its darkest hour; what they got instead was an Outside-Context Villain that suddenly made things a bit more complicated.
  • A mercifully much more lighthearted version from React. In the "Never Say No To Panda" video, many of them thought the commercial was from either China, owing to the presence of a panda in the video, or from Japan, owing to the absurdity of the commercial from a Western perspective. It was, in fact, from Egypt.
  • A lot of people have to get jobs they have little enthusiasm or knowledge for, in order to make money. However the same people can have hobbies they are brilliant at (e.g. music), which could make money if the market was right.
    • People who are forced to get a new job after having worked in a particular field for a long time but wind up in an entirely different field due to it being the one that's hiring. Frequently, they start their new job with the perspective they had from their old job. For example, if someone who'd been an elementary school teacher got a job teaching at a high school and was therefore used to dealing with much younger students. (Or vice-versa; a college professor who takes a job as a high school teacher.)
  • Exams based on luck. You have read and studied much about the course, only to end up with the exact questions you either havenít read or remembered the answer to.
    • Getting used to one type of exam or instructor and expecting things to carry over to another. For example: someone learns Organic Chemistry I from a professor who emphasizes rote memorization and gives multiple-choice exams. Suddenly, that student is in for a rude surprise if they studied for an Organic Chemistry II exam the same way, but the second professor favors problem-solving and gives complex multi-step questions.
  • That one person you work with who thinks he or she is awesomely great at their job and everyone looks up to them, when in reality they're barely competent and have a knack for alienating people.
  • The common saying, "Everyone is a hero in their own mind." Often used when looking at the motives of those seen negatively by society, it means that someone that looks to be doing something For the Evulz may be thinking about a Protagonist-Centered Morality, or on the flipside, they could indeed be doing good in an uncaring society who see themselves as good.
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