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  • The Radix: Wurm is supposed to be a cryptography genius, having cracked the code of the Voynich manuscript. However, he can't decrypt a trivial Scytale cipher.
  • Orson Scott Card:
    • Exploited in his short story "Unaccompanied Sonata" (collected in Maps in a Mirror), which is about a musical prodigy. He's turned down adaptations of it because it would be near impossible to write music as good as the story claims the prodigy's is. So it was an enormous honor when he changed his mind and approved Yaron Zilberman to adapt it because of his brilliant work in The Late Quartet.
    Card: Here's a reason for making the character a musician — I don't have to create his oh-so-brilliant work. Even Ayn Rand, making Howard Roark an architect, had to describe his buildings, and alas, they are now very dated... With music, though, readers know that it can't really be recreated in fiction, merely referred to. But in a movie, the music has to exist. When I tell you in the story that people come from thousands of miles to hear Christian Haroldsen's nature-based synth music, or from dozens of miles to hear him improvise jazz on a honky-tonk piano, or learn his folksongs and are moved by them, you can believe it. In the movie, though, somebody has to compose that music, those songs; somebody has to perform it. And then you have to believe that people would respond that strongly to music that you have actually heard. If the music composed for the film is not utterly brilliant, will you believe the rest of the story? Will you care? Will the movie even work?
    • Averted in Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow. Both Bean and Ender are shown to be legitimately smart through their actions during their education at the Battle School. Even then, some of their ideas are slightly-less-than-brilliant but are thus shown to be possible by any person; it's just that Ender figured them out faster than the other students. However, informing does occur during their fleet simulations at Eros, likely because it's near the end of the novel, and because tactics in space are too long and complicated to describe over and over.
  • In Heart of Darkness the enigmatic Kurtz is worshipped, feared, and adored by everyone who meets him. The characters have no lack of superlatives for his incredible genius and vision. Even Marlow, who feels contempt for his African cult, considers Kurtz a genius. The problem is that Kurtz himself barely appears in the story. By the time Marlow finds him he is weak and pathetic. About the only impressive thing Marlow does actually see is an amazing painting Kurtz made at one point.
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  • In The Windup Girl by Paulo Bacigalupi, Doctor Chan informs the reader that Hok Seng is good and kind, yet throughout the book he is two-faced, lying, cheating, thieving, swindling, bigoted, manipulative, exploitative and generally psychopathic.
  • Thufir Hawat, from Dune, alleged Master of Assassins, fails repeatedly to thwart assassination attempts: 1: (Duke Leto Atreides' father) 2: (the assassination of Duke Leto's first born son because of a Harkonnen spy he allowed to sneak inside Caladan), 3: (not being able to stop Baron Vladimir Harkonnen from killing Duke Leto in the first Dune book), 4: (Rabban's hunter-seeker and its controller infiltrating Paul's room after having more than adequate opportunity to sweep the palace.). He also fails to goad Feyd into assassinating and supplanting good ol' Uncle Vladimir. However, it is insinuated that Thufer is past his prime. He himself recognizes his failings and offers to resign at one point, only for Paul to point out that his training, at least, has been very successful.
    • Also, regarding Feyd-Rautha, Thufir had actually warned Vladimir about the assassin. He was playing them against each other.
    • Hawat also managed to overlook the fact that the Baron had poisoned him with a residual poison and was feeding him an antidote in his meals to ensure he couldn't survive more than a few days if he attempted escape. Hawat's failure to figure this out and obtain his own antidote supply eventually resulted in his own death.
    • Thufir was actually surprised by Jessica's "Voice" ability, and seemed to be unaware that something like that was possible. Despite the fact that she had been training Paul to use it. Also, Gurney was aware of it and had been trained to resist it. Thufir seems to be completely oblivious.
  • Dan Brown:
    • Robert Langdon, of The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, is supposedly a Harvard professor of "symbology" (the closest real-life discipline is semiotics, a subfield of linguistics and anthropology) and expert in religions. However, in Angels, he mistranslates "Novus Ordo Seclorum" as "New Secular Order", when any high school Latin student would know that it means "New Order of the Ages". This guy is supposed to be this huge expert on da Vinci, but he misses the simple "it's written backwards" code, which da Vinci famously used in all of his personal notes. As a supposed scholar of European history, his inability to read Latin, French, or Italian makes doing first-hand research difficult.
      "HE is an expert in the works of Leonardo! SHE is a world-class cryptanalyst! IN A WORLD where the reader is presented with a facsimile of the document they're examining, it takes them several pages to deduce that they're looking at a page of mirror writing!"
    • His students are even worth taking as merely "informed". All the flashbacks of students he has in the classrooms seem to be of stock students who have questions and answers so naïve that you wonder how on Earth they could have possibly scored high enough to get into Harvard - or even get out of high school in the first place. Not to mention they are "informed" as having believed him when he told them early Judaism included sex rituals.
  • Magnus:
    • One of Magnus's powers includes "supernatural cunning", which he never demonstrates. He demonstrates knowledge, yes, but he is two thousand years old. In fact, he walks into an ambush obliviously.
    • A scanner reveals that Iscarius Alchemy has an I.Q. of 666, and yet he never demonstrates it.
  • Red Dragon has Will Graham who has been described by Crawford as having a special ability to relate to criminals like no one else, but all that's seen in the movie and novel is him doing basic police work. Finally averted in the series Hannibal, in which this process and its effects on Will are a major part of the story.
  • Left Behind has a few:
    • Cameron "Buck" Williams is supposed to be the "greatest investigative reporter of all time", with such amazing prose as this: "To say the Israelis were taken by surprise is like saying the Great Wall of China is long." Yeah, that's deserving of a Pulitzer, all right. He's not seen doing much journalism or writing in the series. He also instantly sells out to the conspirators as soon as he learns anything, on multiple occasions. Over the course of the first three books, he buries more stories than he publishes.
    • Similarly, Nicholae Carpathia's amazing oration is illustrated by a speech in which he rattles off a very long list of trivial details about the people in attendance and the agencies of the UN, and at one point reciting the names of all the member countries in alphabetical order. Actually listening to this speech would grow tedious very quickly, and also be a thorough waste of time.
    • This trope is part of Slacktivist's funny critique of the novel. It also notes the unusual twist on this trope that makes Left Behind worse than most: It has no omniscient narrator, and most of the unsupported praise is done by the protagonists themselves, or in the form of the protagonists imagining what respect or envy other people feel for them.
  • The Inheritance Cycle:
    • Readers are told that the Varden is a group of intricate political intrigue, and partisan politics. However, they always seem to be acting in a more-or-less unified manner.
    • Arya warns Eragon that the elves are a complex people who are quite alien to a human perspective, whose centuries-long lifespan means that they take a long view of political maneuverings, with their every action possibly being a single step in a strategy spanning decades, and that they will use this to manipulate Eragon. Yet the actual elves seen act in a fairly simplistic manner, don't seem particularly different from humans (with the exception of their veganism and atheism, and even those are a stretch), never seem to have any kind of long-term plan going, and for the most part are cordial and respecting of Eragon. In essence, Paolini wants to explain that the politics of his world are complex, but is unable to actually show it in any way which would present a problem for his protagonist.
  • Harry Potter:
    • The reader is told repeatedly that Alastor "Mad Eye" Moody is the most badass Auror to ever live, but in the two on-screen battles he fights, he's knocked out almost immediately in the first and outright killed in the second. The real Moody even admits in Order of the Phoenix that he really didn't do anything in the previous book. There is some justification because he appears in the books well after he retired, walking with a cane and a heavy limp; old age, paranoia and losing a leg have obviously taken their toll.
    • To a lesser degree, Ginny Weasley (master of the unseen Bat Bogey Hex, which doesn't even sound all that formidable) also suffered this. Books 5 and 6 had Ron and Slughorn praising her for her powerful magic, but the reader never actually sees it in practice (although she does survive several battles against far more experienced opponents). It comes across as her own version of a Noodle Incident.
    • Played for Laughs with Dawlish. The first time you meet him, Dumbledore comments that he is an excellent Auror (got all O's on his exams!), but manages to knock him and his accomplices out. Later, he's the member of the team that fails to capture Hagrid. In the next book, Dumbledore tells Harry that he caught Dawlish spying on him, and knocked him out again. In the final book, he's sent after a little old lady and gets beat up again. Word of God implies that he is, in fact, a competent Auror, but simply has the misfortune of constantly being Overshadowed by Awesome.
    • There was also what might have been Voldemort's signature move: Avada Kedavra, the Killing Curse. Supposedly, it's a lethal spell that has no countercurse or method of blocking it. Harry survived two direct hits from it, and Voldemort himself did the same once. The books do go a long way toward justifying these instances, however: sacrificing your own life to save someone from the curse is effective against it (which left Harry with no ill-effects other than his scar), and Voldemort survived due to his Horcruxes. (He wasn't as lucky as Harry. Though he survived, he became a barely-alive, ghost-like entity who required unicorn blood to survive.) The spell is also only a minor inconvenience to a phoenix: if it is used on one, it will just be reborn as if it had died any other way. It is even confirmed at one point that a simple solid non-magical barrier could block this spellnote , though it can do serious damage, like causing a desk to burst into flame, making it perhaps less menacing than it initially seemed, and no more different than evading gunfire.
    • A common criticism of Rowling's characterization of Slytherin House is that its core values are outright stated to be "Cunning" and "Ambition", but practically none of the Slytherin students seen in-series actually demonstrate either trait. In practice, most Slytherins are Dumb Muscle, and they seem to care more about purity of ancestry than about anyone's values and personality (hence, why so many future Death Eaters are Slytherins), to the point that there don't seem to be any Muggle-born students in the House at all. note  As many a fan has pointed out, some of the most ambitious students in the school would probably be the Muggle-born students eager to prove themselves. Possibly excused by the fact that "valuing" a trait isn't the same as "having" it, and by Voldemort's influence leading the House astray from its original values. Horace Slughorn, the most prominent pre-Voldemort Slytherin, actually does demonstrate cunning and ambition, and aside from a few moments of You Are a Credit to Your Race, doesn't care about a person's ancestry as long as they're useful.
    • Hermoine's understanding of basic science is shown to be severely lacking, yet she somehow managed to guess correctly about several plot points. She is repeatedly stated to be highly logical, yet most of her reasoning is non-sequitur.
      • Hermione's intelligence in general is this. She is regularly considered the Teen Genius of her era and many adults tell her she's the brightest witch of her age they've come across. The problem is, the reader can compare Hermione to geniuses from previous eras: the Marauders and Snape, Riddle and Dumbledore. Riddle and Dumbledore are obviously on another level, but compared to the Marauders, Hermione never truly creates anything as impressive as the Marauder's Map, leave alone a feat of magic comparable to the Animagi transformations, or Snape's potions improvements and invented spells. Additionally, Fred and George Weasley, who do rather poorly academic wise, are shown inventing products for their joke shop that require complex and never before seen magic that she is surprised by. Unlike Dumbledore, whose papers were published in major journals while still at Hogwarts and who seemed to win more awards than there were available, we don't see Hermione's extracurricular triumphs. Likewise, within canon, she got 10 OWLS, which is less than other geniuses like Percy and Barty Crouch Jr. who got 12. Hermione is obviously smart but it's mostly limited to doing well with her homework and exams.
  • In Maximum Ride, Fang is supposed to be silent and expressionless. He's described as a "brick wall" multiple times. However, he is no less talkative than the other characters, and expresses emotion normally most of the time. In the few cases he doesn't, the narrator doesn't fail to point it out.
  • In Vampirates, Grace is constantly described as the smart twin, yet her brother figures out that she's on the ship with the eponymous creatures before she does even though he's never seen them.
  • Alistair MacLean's (actually John Denis) Air Force One Is Down goes to great detail describing master thief (now secret agent) Sabrina and how good she is, then portrays her as a classic Damsel in Distress throughout the rest of the book. Most notably in a scene where Sabrina can't lie to the Big Bad because she can't keep her thoughts off her face (and she's supposed to be a master thief whose ability to deceive others is specifically discussed at the start of the novel).
  • Twilight
    • Bella is said to be more mature than people her own age several times by several different people. Her mother even says that she was born middle-aged. This is the same girl who cries at least once a chapter (and admits to crying when in any negative emotion), is so hormonal that she literally jumps her boyfriend repeatedly (and after he's already told her that he wants to wait), wanders off alone in a place she doesn't know well when it's getting dark, is so attached to her boyfriend of six months that she completely shuts down and becomes suicidally irresponsible when he leaves her, spends about 90 percent of her internal monologue fixated on people's looks, breaks the law multiple times in regards to her activities with Jacob, routinely lies to her parents for any number of reasons (both valid and pointless), spends an ungodly amount of time complaining about everything, plans a long car trip with a boy she barely knows who has treated her like crap since the day she met him (and lies to her father about it so if Edward tried anything he wouldn't know), strings along two boys because she "just can't choose," to the point of kissing and otherwise manipulating the ultimate loser, stomps her foot like a two-year-old when arguing with Jacob, etc.
    • Edward is described as being the epitome of a loving boyfriend, but his actions make him seem more creepily possessive and controlling.
    • To an extent, the Volturi. The characters go on about how ruthless they are and that they have no tolerance for lawbreakers. However, every time the Cullens do something that breaks the law, the Volturi always go very easy on them.
    • Breaking Dawn also describes the Volturi as selfish tyrants who use their powers and flimsy excuses to justify killing vampires and having ones they find useful press-ganged into their service. When the Volturi actually show up to verify that Renesmee is not a threat, they're generally quite reasonable and listen to the Cullens' side of the story, ultimately leaving in peace when it turns out Renesmee can grow up without revealing the existence of vampires to the world. (There are some ulterior motives in this, in that Aro only decides to leave after Alice shows him a vision of the results of a Cullen vs. Volturi battle, which involves Bella and Edward ripping his head off and setting him on fire.) Additionally, the laws the Volturi hold all vampires to are hardly unreasonable and mostly consist of "don't let humans find out about us" and "don't create murderous vampire children", laws which actually protect both vampires (safety from human-made advanced weaponry) and humans (safety from vampire empires where humans are cattle or slaves).
    • Bella's supposed to be a selfless, kind, caring, person who doesn't look down on others, yet she says that Jessica and her group are shallow, annoying, clingy and rude without much to back it up. She never does anything kind without ulterior motives, which rules out selfless. And she never seems to care that she is hurting people with her actions and lack of communication.
    • Perhaps more of an informed trait, but Bella repeatedly informs us that Edward speaks like a turn-of-the-century novel. Assuming she means the turn from the 1800s to the 1900s, which would seem reasonable given that he is born in 1901, he still speaks quite normally for the time he's in – the mi-to-late 00's, when the books are taking place.
  • Marguerite, in The Scarlet Pimpernel. Readers are told at length how "brilliant" she is, and she is repeatedly referred to as "the cleverest woman in Europe" by her peers. In practice, however, while she doesn't seem excessively dumb, her intelligence rarely seems more than average. She is consistently taken in by the Pimpernel's ploys, and the audience is almost certain to guess his identity before she does, even though she lives with him. This is probably partly a product of the portrayal of women at the time (even though the author was also female) and more importantly a product of the suspense narrative — since a lot of the drama would be lost if the narrator guessed things instantly. Regardless of the reasons, though, the descriptive passages tell that Marguerite has intellectual skills that she doesn't really demonstrate in the narrative.
    • At least partially justified in that cleverness in a society lady was measured by her ability to make witty remarks and discuss things like literature, theatre, and poetry, rather than more active intelligence.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe:
    • The Galactic Empire itself supposedly had absolute power and was of astronomical size, but only lasted 23 years, and was brought down by a relatively small rebellion. How powerful was it, truly? Some fans are skeptical. This video has one well-accepted explanation.
    • Of course, to be fair, the Rebel Alliance was much smaller, and not nearly as well-supplied or funded, yet they somehow prevailed. Again, the same poster has a well-accepted explanation.
    • Thrawn in the Star Wars Expanded Universe is a good example of why this happens. He's supposed to be a brilliant tactician, but most of those writing him aren't tactical experts, so they must either leave his abilities vague, show him outwitting the protagonist in nontactical ways, or give his opponents an Idiot Ball. Later appearances rectify this. Even in his original appearance it was a major plot point that his abilities were massively overblown in-universe: He was good, but looked much better simply because his predecessors had been complete jokes.
    • Also in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, the ruefully incapable Admiral Daala applies. Immediately after being spoon-fed her elaborate background story as Grand Moff Tarkin's ingenious secret protegé kept down by sexism, she arbitrarily loses three quarters of her fleet in a series of glorious defeats before even really starting her campaign. Sucks to be a villain in a universe where everybody has Contractual Immortality, it seems. Karen Traviss does a decent job of making her more effective in the Legacy of the Force series - although she gets herself unanimously elected as the leader of the free galaxy - but add her previous incompetence to her doing nothing for about thirty years and the net effect makes it even worse. Ultimately, the novel Death Star had her suffer some minor brain damage in a Rebel attack as a means to explain what happened to her vaunted military capability.
    • Mon Mothma is described in the new canon expanded universe as an immensely charismatic and brilliant communicator able to create and maintain a complex and nuanced web of compromises that keep countless parties in the New Republic satisfied, so much so that without her the whole thing starts to fall apart. Naturally this is never actually demonstrated directly, only talked about in past tense.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's Thuvia, Maid of Mars, you hear Cathoris declaiming on his inventions, which are marvellous. He never shows any mechanical aptitude on stage, or even any interest in machinery.
  • In Hereticus, part of the Eisenhorn series, Glaw's daemonhost is supposed to be more powerful than Cherubael because of being less bound, but Cherubael kicks its ass anyway, later making some comment about being quite nasty. Possibly justified in that power does not equal intelligence - and Cherubael is very very clever. He might well have outsmarted Glaw's daemonhost. His track record in The Plan department is pretty impressive, what with engineering the events of the first two books as a way to free himself from Quixos.
  • Nearly every major character in Dostoevsky's Demons is obsessed, to one degree or another, with Nikolai Stavrogin. Each one has had some sort of profoundly moving experience with him—all of which took place, not only before the events of the novel, but even outside the country—and he exerts a lasting, though in most cases unintended and unpredictable, influence over each of them. Yet almost nothing he's seen to do justifies why they hold him in such regard. This is Justified since Dostoevsky is trying to show how people draw attention and influence by projecting their notions on some "leader" or "ideologue".
  • Warcraft: In the book, Richard A. Knaak wastes no opportunity to remind everyone that Vereesa Windrunner is an expert marksman and a powerful hero in her own right... but her grand contributions to the plot of any book she appears in is to lose her bow in chapter 1, get kidnapped, fall in love with Knaak's pet hero, and getting married to Rhonin. Just like her husband, she goes from being an adventurer to suddenly leading the largest faction of high elves (mages in her husband's case) without any explanation at all.
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Author Stieg Larsson repeatedly says that the hero Author Avatar Mikael Blomkvist is a wildly talented journalist and exceptional writer; the not-so-easily-impressed Lisbeth Salander is certainly taken with his prose, even before meeting him. This is generally a harmless case through most of the book, as Blomkvist shows real skill with public records and investigative techniques. However, the little bit of his prose seen is...not bad, exactly, but it's hardly very good.
  • Sherlock Holmes:
    • Professor Moriarty is a huge example of this. Sherlock tells Watson (i.e. Doyle tells his readers) that Moriarty is the greatest criminal mastermind of all time, but you never get to see any masterminding. Furthermore, Holmes tells us about his cat and mouse game with the good Professor, but never shows or even explains either side of it, leaving everyone having to take his word for the brilliance on both sides. Add to that the fact that the vast majority of Holmes' mysteries were of a nature that no outside source could possibly care, be aware of, or benefit from, it makes Holmes' claims that Moriarty was behind nearly all the crimes he'd ever investigated look odd. He is a pretty paper thin archnemesis.
    • The (non-Doyle written) The Seven-Per-Cent Solution takes this idea and runs with it, explaining that Moriarty is a perfectly harmless fellow (and Holmes' former math teacher), who Holmes merely perceives as a villain as a side effect of his cocaine addiction. In Michael Kurland's Murder by Gaslight, Moriarty is technically a criminal but generally benevolent, and inconvenienced by Holmes's paranoid fantasies.
    • In many adaptations Professor Moriarty has a stronger role — he is a classic Breakout Villain.
    • Moriarty only appeared in a story and a short novel in all Holmesean canon, yet he managed to become the Breakout Villain. He only appears for a brief moment trying to stop the train that Holmes and Watson used to escape him, and for the rest of the story and the short novel he is The Ghost. Conan Doyle manages to justify why he cannot show any proof about Moriarty crimes: the real proof of Moriarty “masterminding” would be that not even the Great Detective can pin him with any of his (alleged) crimes, and if Watson ever published something bad about him without real proof, he could demand compensation, and win, by a charge of Malicious Slander, confirming him as a true Diabolical Mastermind and Villain with Good Publicity. In short; if his criminal genius wasn't an Informed Ability and was clearly demonstrable, he would cease to be a criminal genius.
  • In the Babysitters Club books, the reader is informed in every book that Claudia is a fantastic artist. This is something of a Justified Trope, however, since it's very difficult to show that in a literary format. Interestingly enough, spinoff series California Diaries actually had Amelia's drawings in the titular diaries, by Stieg Retlin. They're at about the quality of, well, a moderately popular artist on tumblr today.
  • In the Sweet Valley High series, Elizabeth is said to be a brilliant writer and wants to become a journalist. Examples of her writing are almost never shown, and the few which do somehow make their way into the story are quite average.
  • In Robert E. Howard's "Queen of the Black Coast", Belit and Conan the Barbarian are said to form a Brains and Brawn — but all the brain seen from Belit is deciding to go somewhere, and Conan does most of the thinking that is done. Actually this is typical of most Conan stories by Howard and was most probably an intentional subversion of common pulp tropes: while strength, tenacity, and ferocity are what Conan (and, more generally, the Cimmerians) are famed for and what he builds his reputation on, most of his actual success stems from cunning, trickery, and quickly taking advantage of strokes of good luck. There is a running, sly implication in many of the novels that the whole "barbarian" thing presented to the reader is an intentional front to lead his enemies to expect savage assaults in daylight when what's coming is more like a knife in the dark.
  • There's one children's book that's called "Three Smart Pals", by Joanne Rocklin. It's about a trio of kids who are said to be very smart. On their way to an outing they see a shopkeeper that they know getting a sign ready. They "help" him make the sign "better" by taking out various phrases. Taking out a few words makes the sign funny, taking out every word but "Fish" makes the three mad because it's apparently implying that they're either blind or stupid. They finally make him make the sign blank, and call it "perfect!" When they come back, the guy hasn't sold anything due to his blank sign. Then they pretty much have him rewrite the sign exactly as it was before they got there, and suddenly it's a huge success. Wouldn't it have just turned out that way if they hadn't stopped to "help"?
  • The Voice of Freedom, prequel novel to the video game Homefront, presents a particularly blatant example of this trope. Ben, the novel's protagonist, is described throughout the novel as a smart reporter whose talents were wasted on celebrities and pop culture before the US was invaded by an implausibly reunified Korea, and then as an inspiring public speaker after the invasion, using his rousing patriotic speeches to raise morale among Americans and infuriate the Koreans. The problem is that he is a terrible writer (coincidentally, so are the novel's two co-authors) and his "rousing speeches" on the radio are vacuous crap. Seriously, one of them ends with him shouting "Hell yeah!" repeatedly. Um... yeah...
  • This Dorothy Parker quote comes from her review of a largely forgotten novel called Debonair by G. B. Stern. The title "debonair" supposedly refers to the "charming" lead character, whose debonair charm seems to consist solely of speaking in a cutesy accent
    “I have yet to have an author inform me that a character is charming, and then, by that character’s deeds and conversation, convince me of that fact.”
    Dorothy Parker, "These Much Too Charming People"
    • As Parker continues:
    "Debonair" may be her lover's word for her, but "God-awful" will ever be her nickname with me.
    The Subterraneans are "hip without being slick, they are intelligent without being corny, they are intellectual as hell and know about Pound without being pretentious or talking too much about it, they are very quiet, they are very Christlike." So those are the Subterraneans. The only point in the summary with which I can agree is that they are hip; or, as Grandma used to say, hep.
  • Ivy, protagonist of The Magicians And Mrs Quent, is repeatedly said to be "quite intelligent", but she asks a lot of stupid questions, is slow on the uptake, and never does anything especially smart.
  • While the eponymous character of Septimus Heap is supposed to have amazing Magykal abilities, they do not quite show up anywhere.
  • Played as an important plot point in The Dresden Files series book Blood Rites, where Lord Raith, the patriarch of the White Court sex vampire clan, is supposed to be impossibly powerful due to the irresistible desire he arouses in his victims, whom he feeds on. This ability is never shown in the book, however, and through a series of clues Harry cottons onto the fact that Raith had his vampiric powers sealed decades ago by a curse.
  • The Career tributes were trained since birth to compete in The Hunger Games. Despite this, none of them know how to treat wasp stings. They also form risky alliances with people they don't have anything to gain from, use weapons they're not competent with, and decide that flushing Katniss out of a tree with fire is not as good an idea as just sitting under it and waiting until she drops a wasp nest on them.
  • An unusual example in Shogun. Toranaga is repeatedly stated to be a military genius and an amazing battle commander who has never lost a battle in his life, yet the reader never actually sees him leading in a battle, and the moments when he's seen planning a campaign are very brief and not particularly detailed (possibly because the author was not an expert on samurai warfare strategies). However, because there are many, many examples of his absolute brilliance in political chessmastery and manipulation, there's really no reason to doubt the people who say he's a great general, so he gets away with it better than most examples on this page.
  • GONE series:
    • Astrid Ellison is supposedly the smartest character in the entire series (earning her the title "Astrid the genius"), and while she isn't dumb and can quote various classical authors when the occasion demands it, some of her actions are painfully inept, illogical and can make you wonder whether she thinks at all. It seems to be that in the series, knowledge is not wisdom, and while Astrid is a genius in the former, she totally lacks the latter.
    • Lance is apparently absolutely perfect (according to Zil); well loved, talented, smart, handsome, strong, funny, kind hearted, modest...Book 4 protests when no one cares or even reacts to his death, even his current best friend, and his actions are proven to lack smarts nor kindness.
  • From LARP: The Battle for Verona: the entire US military. It's painfully obvious the author has only a rudimentary grasp of tactics and strategy, and what should have been a curbstomp battle never takes place for no good reason at all so that the main characters can go in and save the day instead.
  • In Firebird (Lackey), you only ever hear of Ilya's martial prowess; he never has to demonstrate it. Fortunately, he manages to win with skills he had ample time to demonstrate, avoiding abuse and acting more injured than he is.
  • Elistan in Dragonlance. It's told that he's great at motivating people and encouraging them, even able to convert Crysania from her skepticism to a fervent priestess of Paladine in one meeting. In practice, you're never actually shown any of this in any of his encounters with other people.
  • Anastasia Steele from Fifty Shades of Grey is supposed to be a brilliant college student studying English Literature, but she doesn't have her own laptop or even an email address and Tess of the d'Urbervilles seems to be her only literary reference.
    • Christian Grey is considered a wildly successful businessman who has made his billions through the invention of groundbreaking gadgetry. Besides the fact that he continuously ducks out of work to stalk or have sex with Ana, the things he's credited with inventing would have been invented by the time the books take place. There's also the continuous instances that he's charming and the best lover ever, which are contradicted by his less-than-classy behavior (for example, giving Ana a handjob at a family function or having sex with her in an elevator anyone could walk into), unsafe BDSM practices (among other things, he often doesn't give Ana a chance to use a safeword or gets upset with her if she does), and rather narmful "seductive" lines ("I don’t make love. I fuck… hard.") His narration for Grey does little to remedy this ("My body’s reaction is irritating. Maybe this will stop if I fetter, fuck, and flog her…and not necessarily in that order. Yeah. That’s what I need.", anyone?)
  • In The Wheel of Time, the villain Be'lal in the third book is supposed to be a brilliant Chessmaster, skilled general, and Master Swordsman. He only gets a chance to show off the latter before being killed off. Overlaps with We Hardly Knew Ye, as Be'lal gets built up impressively but only actually appears for a couple of pages. Of course, later in the series Demandred- who has pretty much the exact same quirks but is several times more badass - is a very major villain, so the author may have just decided to do away with the redundant character early on.
  • Strangely retroactively enforced in Halo: Glasslands. The scientist Dr. Halsey is shown in most Halo fiction to be very smart, with many examples of her scientific knowledge (though admittedly with helpings of And Some Other Stuff, because it is future science, after all). However, Glasslands declares her to be not as smart as she's said to be, with Halsey herself reflecting that she had believed she was the smartest person alive simply because everyone else told her so. This seems to be mostly because the author really doesn't like Halsey, as subsequent Halo media has mostly disregarded Glasslands's interpretation of Halsey's intelligence.
  • Tsuruhara Iori spends almost all of War and Snowflakes carrying a duffel bag full of her kendo practice gear, but she does not utilize any swordfighting skills during the course of the novella.
  • The The Princess Diaries character Lilly is apparently a genius, which the insecure narrator constantly points out. However, her complete idiocy towards any even marginally social matter makes this difficult to believe. It's not even a case of Genius Ditz or Academic Alpha Bitch: she frequently resorts to childish bullying to achieve her goals, tells Mia nothing about a plan Lilly expects her to play a vital part in, and often attacks people for extremely petty reasons (condemning celebrities because they're physically attractive, cheats on her boyfriend in front of him, and believing it was somehow Mia's fault when Lilly's boyfriend used her for sex).
  • The Gladers from The Maze Runner Trilogy are picked for their intelligence from their childhood, though few of them actually show any real genius other than setting up a system of order in the Glade. The best real example is sort of roundabout, but Minho and Thomas coordinate battle tactics and formations on the fly during firefights despite never having used guns before. Otherwise, they're of average outlook and just above-average intelligence.
  • In L. Neil Smith's The Probability Broach and sequels, Griswolds security service (brrr!) is consistently said to be scary, with no evident grounds.
  • In Lee Correy's Manna, a very leading-edge company recruits the narrator, purportedly for his all-around competence. The thing he's most competent at is misunderstanding what's going on and thereby providing occasions for exposition.
  • The Fault in Our Stars has this with its main characters. Hazel and Gus are both said to be very mature, intellectual and deep yet they behave immaturely more often than not and their "deep" words and thoughts tend to be morbid and existentialist, but not particularly varied or profound. Could be intentional, though, if the author was going for teenagers thinking they are more mature and deep than they really are.
  • In-universe example in A Song of Ice and Fire: The eminent politician Varys makes this long speech about how Aegon has been trained in many arts, and how he'll be this wise, compassionate ruler. By this point we have already met Aegon on-page, and he rapidly proves himself to be a hotheaded, naïvely sexist brat who mocks dead babies and throws tantrums at the age of 15.
  • In The Beast Within, the enchantress, Circe, is said to be compassionate and kind, making her the opposite of her three sisters. She's introduced dating the Prince, who is clearly a misogynist, and only curses him after he dumps her. She also only includes the servants in the curse because the Prince insults her and she wants to make him a little more miserable. She then proceeds to ignore the Prince (despite knowing how selfish he is) and makes no effort to follow his progress in breaking the curse. Because of this, she doesn't realize he was horrifically abusing his fiance and drove the girl to attempted suicide until it's almost too late to help her and her family. At one point, she shows a degree of fondness for Ursula (the sea witch who was basically a mob boss who tricked merpeople with Faustian contracts and who, by Circe's own admittance, was at fault for her own misfortunes?). At the end of the story, when she sees Belle crying over the Beast's stabbed and bleeding body, she cries tears of sorrow and is angry with her sisters... for making Belle sad. She has absolutely no reaction at all to the fact that the man she used to love and wanted to reform is dead.
  • In The Cuckoo's Calling, Ciara Porter is described by everyone as being stupid and bitchy. When Cormoran Strike actually meets her, she is perfectly friendly and open to him, seems to have genuinely seen Lula as a friend, and is shown to be rather literary (she quotes Oscar Wilde and mentions planning to go to college for a literature degree). Since a big part of the book is how the different witnesses and suspects describe one another depending on their relationships and personal views, this was likely intentional.
  • In Frankenstein the title character is repeatedly referred to as being "noble" and "selfless". However, his actions in the book are consistently irresponsible and selfish. First, he tries to create a living creature. Then, when it doesn't turn out as expected he runs away and pretends it never happened, leaving the creature free to wreak havoc. When the creature comes looking for him and tries to make a deal, he reneges, which leads to even more deaths. Through it all, he denies any responsibility for the situation he created. Of course, the latter half of the book is basically one continuous mental breakdown for him, and he's also something of an Unreliable Narrator to begin with.
  • The Third Policeman plays this for comedy with the character of de Selby, regarded by the narrator and many others as one of the most important scientists and philosophers in history. His beliefs when we hear of them, though, are largely Word Salad Philosophy at best and complete nonsense at worst: for some idea, he believes that all of existence is a collective hallucinationnote , that night is caused by polluted black air and sleep an asphyxiation from breathing it in, and that the Earth is shaped like a sausage. Even the people who revere him acknowledge his "regrettable lapses", but still try to analyze his ideas and passionately argue their interpretations of his works. Naturally, the whole thing is meant as satire; the whole joke is that the culture of modernist philosophy is so up its ass that it'll uphold a guy like de Selby as a genius if he can word his gibberish in an interesting way.


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