Main Informed Ability Discussion

Collapse/Expand Topics

07:10:23 AM Feb 25th 2013
The Quantum Leap example claims that Sam doesn't show any of the skills mentioned. However, Sam does use his language skills occasionally: he reads hieroglyphics in two episodes (once in the first season, where Al uses his outrageous clothes to give Sam a hidden message, and once in the fourth, in "The Curse of Ptah-Hotep", where he deciphers an inscription about said curse); he speaks Japanese in the episode "The Americanization of Machiko" (that one's listed on the page already); he can apparently read German - he reads a German diary in one episode; he speaks Russian in one episode - but is surprised at his own skills at a point where he shouldn't be, so that one might be - as is implied - something he got from the "leapee".

So... change the text to reflect that he does have language skills? (I added a few more examples of him actually showing skills on the main page, sorry if I shouldn't have...)
08:24:45 AM Mar 15th 2016
Repair, Don't Respond. That's how we do it here. I've done what you should have in the first place.
11:07:46 PM Feb 10th 2013
I think there should be a seperate sub-trope for when Informed ability is badass-ery. I'm thinking, "Badass in name only" or something similar. There are a LOT of badass-specific examples of this trope, enough to warrant a sub-trope, I think.
12:02:15 PM Dec 25th 2017
You mean like Faux Action Girl?
10:23:17 AM Jul 24th 2012
I noticed that Lelouch from Code Geass gets hit with this, specifically with his chess skills. I don't think his skill at actual chess skills are so much this as they are Artistic License; the moves he makes aren't exactly the kind you should in Real Life, but they're important in a symbolic way. He really can play chess (tabletop and the other kind), but he doesn't fit the trope's actual definition. He would be this if we were told what an awesome chess player he was, but he's either never shown playing tabletop chess, or he is, and what we do see of him is always ending in him getting beat by everyone (hint: think Mai Valentine from Yu-Gi-Oh!, of whom we are told is a champion card player; it's lampooned hilariously in Yu Gi Oh Abridged).

So can't we move Lelouch to Artistic License or Gretzky Has the Ball (chess counts as a sport, right?) instead of this trope?
03:53:58 PM Mar 14th 2013
Mai Valentine isn't an example of this either; she would be if her losses were mostly if not all curb stomps against lesser duelists. On the contrary, she ends up nearly beating various top duelists. The thing is, she's a supporting character; she isn't given any significant screentime to begin with. The duels she went through in Battle City that she must have won to make the finals, for instance? We didn't see a single one, save for Magnum.
11:24:21 AM Oct 5th 2011
I'm not sure if I should bring this up in TRS topic or not...

But I think something isn't completely clarified is that the ability can't ever be shown, not even in an onscreen shot(that no other character knows of).

Unless that would still count as the trope.
12:04:41 PM Dec 25th 2017
This trope usually works on meta-level, it's not about showing ability to others but to the audience. it's STATED that they poses the ability but the story provides no proof that they do.
07:49:14 AM Jul 27th 2011
I feel like this article is in need of repair, especially for a lot of the comedic examples. In many cases stylistic suck is mistaken for this trope. Take Family Guy... of course Peter's writing was bad, laughably so. The enthusiastic response of the (mostly horny male) readers was also part of the joke. Never once in that episode was Peter's writing "talent" supposed to be taken seriously; in fact the whole subplot was an excuse for Peter's father-in-law to be temporarily impovershed.

This trope should be about writers being unable to show the talents their characters supposedly possess. If the lack of talent is intentional, it should be covered by Rule of Funny/Stylistic Suck
11:01:08 PM Mar 10th 2011
It seems like there should be a distinction between "the work never bothers showing a character trait that a character is said to possesses" from "the work shows a character trait that a character is said to possesses, but I'm not convinced."
11:32:17 PM Mar 10th 2011
The ideal for this trope is, "the work says a character has a trait but shows that he doesn't have it."

In a complete work, simply failing to show the trait might be this, or it might be Take Our Word for It. Not all traits can be shown; some traits can only be shown by truly gifted writers/actors/directors/etc. In an incomplete work, you can never be sure that there won't be a Let's Get Dangerous! moment.

No one truly believes both halves of your second case, so that's Alternate Character Interpretation.
12:25:45 PM Jul 19th 2012
Right, but this is right up there with people listing Informed Attractiveness is "they're supposed to be attractive, but I don't really think they're that great looks wise", or Narm being "this scene that didn't quite sell that I just wanted to make a cheap shot at". Lines are in need of drawing.
07:01:36 PM Jan 22nd 2011
Would stock market pundits be out of line for the Real Life section? Stock picking is a field where success and failure can be quantifiably measured. And yet in the morass of columnists, bloggers, TV talking heads and other pundits, no one seems to be right more often than anyone else.

Jim Kramer is the most famous one (and the most famous punching bag), but I wouldn't limit the example to just him.
07:16:22 PM Nov 27th 2010
edited by DarkNemesis
Adjusted these paragraphs in the trope description to be more concise and obvious:

More or less anything can be an informed ability, from personality traits to combat prowess; either the skill is talked about but never demonstrated, or the reverse is demonstrated instead; a character widely commented on as a superb wit tells crude, unfunny jokes, the master gunfighter's only sign of mastery is that he hasn't been to the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy, the great detective struggles to solve a mystery the entire audience worked out the minute it was introduced. It can even apply to things that aren't characters, like a suit of super armour that turns out to not be in any way super, a location described as a car park that contains neither cars nor anywhere to park them, or a much talked-about invincible enemy fortress that falls the first time anyone bothers to actually attack it.

It's a common occurrence with creative abilities such as painting, writing, choreography, and especially musical composition. When a "creative" character is introduced and said to be talented and their work later shown, it frequently can't live up to the hype — but we are still supposed to treat it as if it has. This is more likely the more talented the person is supposed to be; reaching the point of outright hubris on the part of the screenwriter if the character is supposed to be the greatest in the world in their field. It should be noted that this can be evaded by showing evidence that the person is successful and well-regarded or has skills their profession would give them without showing their work directly; it's only an informed ability if there is no meaningful evidence they have it at all (or clear evidence they do not), otherwise, it's Take Our Word for It.

Another common informed attribute is intelligence; scientists are prone to spouting Hollywood Science, while a genius character won't often end up too much more intelligent than the viewers themselves. If the executives believe too firmly in Viewers Are Morons or the writer is unskilled, they might not even seem that smart; this is particularly common if someone is supposed to be a genius tactician in an action movie.

A frequent source of this trope is The Worf Effect; the intent might well have been to show the good guy outsmarting or outfighting a credible opponent, or that a bad guy is a credible threat because he can do likewise to one of the heroes who is established to be strong in the field in question. However, the defeat proves so easy that instead the defeated person's credibility is lost and their intelligence or skill becomes an Informed Ability; this is particularly true if, as with poor old Worf, it starts to seem like their only function is being defeated to show how much better other things are.

This has less to do with a show's budget constraints and more to do with sketchy writing; it's telling what you should be showing; at worst, the audience will perceive it as the writer simply telling them what they think of a character, and are likely to search for reasons to dislike the character in question. Informed abilities are often the result of simple laziness or lack of desire to seek advice, though sometimes they're due to limitations of the medium; for example, it would be all but impossible for someone to have a body double in a theatrical dance routine (short of identical twins), so the director would have to factor the limitations of his actors into things.

Deleted whole paragraph; this isn't "how-to avoid ending up on TV Tropes' radar" and writers don't have anything to do with dubbing/effects.

Depending on what the skill is, there are ways around this trope. Got a character who's a talented singer? Dub in another actor's singing. A talented dancer? Use a body double. A talented musician? Have the actor pretend to play the instrument, but have the real music come from somewhere else. Of course, this is more difficult with things like tactical knowledge or skilled writing...
03:06:26 PM Nov 28th 2010
Your editing choices are reasonable and helpful. Good job.
04:31:36 PM Oct 5th 2010
edited by MagBas
  • Mai Kujaku/Valentine in Yu-Gi-Oh is supposed to be a great duelist, having made it to the semifinals of Duelist Kingdom, and the top 8 of Battle City... and she did it all off the backs of offscreen characters (with a few exceptions in Duelist Kingdom, where the ends of her victories are shown). She loses all duels we see in their entirety (except in filler episodes, like against Jean Claude-Magnum or in the Doma arc).
    • This was mercilessly parodied in episode 17 of Yu-Gi-Oh The Abridged Series. "Yeah, that Mai Valentine. She's a great duelist, all right." Episode 26 took another shot at her when Mai openly wondered why she was even allowed to participate in Battle City despite never winning any duels. And in episode 31, when she shows Joey that she has four locator cards, he accuses her of sleeping with Kaiba. Finally, when the Abridged Series got around to that one duel she did win, Tea exclaimed, "I can't believe we found a duelist even worse than Mai!"
    • Mai is typically also a case of The Worf Effect. When your on-screen opponents include Yami Malik...

Aham. Despite losing her on-screen battles, Mai is convicingly skilled DURING said duels and is one hard opponent not importing who she fights. She was not the victim of the Worf Effect by Malik; despite losing, she not suffered one Curb-Stomp Battle neither was an easy opponent. (By the way, she suffered no damage during the fist turns against Malik either)
10:08:32 PM Oct 30th 2010
Agreed. I think Asuka from Neon Genesis Evangelion should be the Fallen entry for Informed Ability instead.
02:52:41 PM Oct 5th 2010
  • Apparantly Voldemort is a genuis, even though the one we see in the books is Too Dumb to Live

First, be one academic genius not helps nobody in not be Too Dumb to Live. Second, he was one academic genius in one MAGIC school and he is one really powerful mage.
11:08:20 AM Sep 26th 2010
I think there should be a new subtrope of this called "Hollywood Novelist", as most films about writers aren't able to convince us how talented they are said to be. When given samples of their work, it is typically poor and cliched (see Roger Ebert's review of such movies as ''Her Alibi'' and ''Alex & Emma''). Stranger Than Fiction is better, as we only hear bits and pieces of the novel in question, and they are actually quite good. Finding Forrester averts this by leaving the contents of the writers to the audience's imagination. Still, it's common enough in pop culture to deserve a trope of its own.
03:06:07 PM Sep 12th 2010
Should we split by genre?
06:19:19 PM Jun 21st 2010

What's it called when a character spontaneously demonstrates a talent without any kind of buildup or implying that they had the skill? I added an example from Friends wherein Rachel spontaneously proves to be a skilled tap dancer without any buildup to it, and labeled it an inversion, but I don't know if this is actually another trope.
02:10:00 AM Jun 23rd 2010
10:57:34 PM Mar 10th 2011
Specifically, I Know Kung-Fu.
11:42:06 AM Jun 5th 2010
Some of these examples seem to be Take Our Word for It, while others are "they showed them failing to live up to the description". Are these really the same trope, since the former is usually a deliberate strategy to avoid the latter? If you want your character to be a prima ballerina, and the actress can't dance, you just don't show her dancing.
08:46:15 PM Jun 5th 2010
I think the key point with this trope is "If you removed the dialog stating that someone has ability / trait X, would you guess they have ability / trait X?" With an amazing ballerina, Take Our Word for It would be, say, showing she has awards but never showing her actually dancing; we see people's reactions to her ability rather than the ability itself. Informed Ability would be her running it off a list of amazing things she can do without any indication she can actually do it, or, in the more extreme case, being conspicuously bad at it.
05:17:15 PM Aug 18th 2010
It might be worth looking into splitting this into "Character is said to have trait X, but we never see proof of this" and "Character is said to have trait X, but we can see that they don't"
01:48:50 PM Apr 29th 2010
'Master of Assasins' in Dune, always sounded like a job description, like 'Master of Ceremonies' rather than an indication of skill.
10:04:06 PM Apr 29th 2010
Yeah, but presumably if you're the master of them you have some skill at assassination (much like the master of ceremonies has some skill with ceremonies); it'd be like calling a Sergeant "master of soldiers" and not expecting him to have any skill at being a soldier.
03:34:07 PM Apr 3rd 2011
A remarkable amount of masters of soldiers have lacked such skill, and a remarkable number who certainly had such skills made rather absurd mistakes. Few seriously claim Napoleon to have been unskilled as a master of soldiers-despite Russia and Spain.
Collapse/Expand Topics