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Audience-Alienating Premise

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We don't know what stinks more: the concept or his diaper.
"I simply don't care a damn what happens in Nebraska, no matter who writes about it."
A now-forgotten critic on the book O Pioneers!

Some shows never stood a chance. Not necessarily because they're bad, but because the very concept scared people away. This is the Audience-Alienating Premise. An idea that could be cool and could even make a fantastic show, book, movie, video game or comic, and may very well have, but which instead dooms the work from the very start due to the mere concept being a difficult sell. Sadly, due to how it "sounds", many people won't try it out.

This can play out in the inherent struggles with trying to get people excited with niche genres (horror films with Squick and Nausea Fuel), foreign material that doesn't translate well (comedies with puns based on the native language), genres that were killed off some time ago (blaxploitation can only exist today in parody), adaptations of an existing property with a built-in stigma (Peter Pan is for kids because of the Disney movie), trying to appeal to too many demographics at the same time (making only that part of the film intelligible to its target audience), or the execution itself takes things in an unexpected direction.


Note that this is not a judgement call on the work itself. Marketing itself can be entirely at fault, trying to sell it as something more generic when it has plenty of other qualities to offer. Sometimes attempts to mimic styles popular from other cultures comes off as too different for audiences to understand and appreciate, even though it is a fine example of that genre in its own right. Of course, a work with such an obstacle can rise above it and achieve recognition; in many cases an oddball work is shunned on release only to become a Cult Classic, often being either Vindicated by Video or Vindicated by Cable. Simply having an off-sounding premise doesn't immediately qualify for this trope, as sometimes a movie inspired by 1930s pulp space adventures or psychedelic rock with horror themes ends up being wildly successful anyway. Compare that to It Will Never Catch On.


Compare Germans Love David Hasselhoff when a work winds up much more popular in another country due to differences in tastes and Values Resonance. When the alienated audience is in another country, it's Americans Hate Tingle. This is usually attributable to Values Dissonance. Public Medium Ignorance is for works which suffer from a strong tendency to be audience-alienating. More often than not, the resulting work is Overshadowed by Controversy.

Could also overlap with Necessary Weasel, and Anthropic Principle. Contrast Dancing Bear, where the oddness of the premise attracts interest rather than discouraging it. Also, in many ways the opposite of Multiple Demographic Appeal; in fact, an Audience-Alienating Premise is sometimes the result of trying to cater to different kinds of audience and failing to attract any. Compare Intentionally Awkward Title.

Note: Do not add this trope until a work has been released. It only counts if it actually fails to meet expectations, not if people merely anticipate that it will fail. And just because one person finds a work's premise unappealing doesn't necessarily mean that everyone shares that viewpoint.

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  • When they were first invented in the mid-20th century, bikinis were not at all popular and were even banned or discouraged in various countries. The reasons should be obvious: A female swimsuit that amounts to little more than undergarments, invented by a man. Being used to one-pieces and the more modest traditional two-pieces, most women were not keen on walking around nearly naked in such contexts where it was mostly unheard of at the time. It took a decade or two afterward for bikinis to gain acceptance.

    Film — Animation 
  • Yellow Submarine apparently didn't do too well when it first came out; it was aimed at adults, but it was animated. It fared better later when it was discovered that it was a good movie for children (seeing as there was nothing inappropriate about the movie) and after it became more acceptable for adults to watch cartoons.
  • This was one reason Frankenweenie was a box office disappointment. A black and white stop-motion animated feature focused around death and reanimation is a hard sell for today's families, especially when it's topped off by a violent climax. Disney didn't help matters by refusing to move its release date to distance it from the more accessible Hotel Transylvania and the equally-dark-and-quirky-but-released-first ParaNorman; when the former became a Sleeper Hit that exceeded industry expectations and had strong weekly holds, and the latter got the earliest wave of critical buzz, that pretty much burned off demand for another Halloween film for 2012.
  • El Arca is an animated retelling of the story of Noah's Ark that is very questionably written: Christians who would have been interested in the film for its Biblical story were turned off by its blasphemy and raunchiness, the aforementioned sexual themes made the movie unsuitable for children when its art style seemed geared for them, and everyone (except for a few members of the Furry Fandom) were repulsed by a few heavily sexualised animal characters. The movie seemed to have no idea who its audience was supposed to be and consequently, it failed and sank into obscurity.
  • The Emoji Movie: The mere thought of having an entire feature-length film all about emojis didn't tick with many. Doesn't make matters better since this was green lit in the wake of both an animated feature of Popeye from Genndy Tartakovsky and an animated film of Medusa from Lauren Faust being put on hold (where most of the criticism for this movie is coming from showing signs of Executive Meddling). As for the movie itself... well, as this review puts it:
    "With its bright colors and cute characters, The Emoji Movie clearly was made, presumably by adults, for young kids, even though it's about technology in a way that a person has to be at least an older child or a pre-teen in order to appreciate. It's a movie that's too bland for adults, too cutesy and juvenile for teens and pre-teens, and too confusing for kids. In other words, it's a movie for no one, except all of the companies that signed on to have their mobile applications and games blatantly promoted without a lick of shame on the part of the filmmakers."
  • Double example: Titanic: The Legend Goes On and The Legend of the Titanic. One takes a hundred-plus-year-ago tragedy and just throws in a bunch of wacky hijinx to comprise everything prior to what actually happened. The other takes the same event (though for the most part, treats things much more seriously), and turns it into an anti-whaling Aesop, to say nothing about its fictional aversion of what happened in real life.
  • The Star, being an animated retelling of the birth of Christ, is a hard enough sell in mainstream cinema, but it's also a comedy where the events are told from the animals' perspective. The fact that distributor Sony has had a rather poor track record with creating true crowd-pleasers doesn't help either.
  • The Road to El Dorado is an homage to the Road to ... films starring two Spanish thieves who find the titular city and get mistaken for gods. Further complicating things is that, like many other animated movies here, it can't decide whether it wants to appeal mainly to kids or adults. Kevin Koch, an assistant animator, even cited this trope as part of the reason for the film's lack of success:
    For me there were two major problems with The Road to El Dorado. First, it was a period piece set in South America — I thought at the time that that combination would be box office poison. There are certain settings and time periods that I don’t think modern audiences are interested in, even if the film is fantastic.
  • The trippy 1981 Hungarian film Son of the White Horse. The premise was fine: a feature-length retelling of a folk tale everyone from that country knows. The execution was something else. A bold, overwhelming audio-visual kaleidoscope of esoteric folk iconography that was so unusual in its visual style that even the animators complained. The story was expanded with numerous Eurasian myths and heavy symbolism, but the plot and characters remained paper-thin to stay true to the source material. This turned off the adults. As for the kids, they didn't care too much for the eerie sound design, abstract art, and excessive genital/sexual imagery. The film tanked hard upon release but garnered appreciation over the following decades.
  • Cesante is a Chilean animated film for adults, covering 12 hours in the life of Carlos Meléndez, an unemployed man who seeks work and respect, surviving multiple adventures and humiliations. The film premiered in 2003, at a time when Chile was going through a serious economic crisis and therefore there were many unemployed people in the real world, which for many was an unpleasant case of "Too Soon", in addition to the consciously ugly and even grotesque aesthetic alienated the public that was not used to animated films that were not for the whole family.

  • New Coke was a 1985 rework of Coca-Cola's formula, made to taste closer to Pepsi. Pepsi fans just kept drinking Pepsi rather than switch to the rival brand, while Coke fans were outraged that their drink was changed. The failure was so massive, the old formula was brought back 3 months later as Coca-Cola Classic. This reversion brought Coca-Cola much good publicity and sales, a popular Urban Legend says the entire campaign and outrage was intentionally planned.
  • In 1996, McDonald's introduced the Arch Deluxe, a new burger specifically marketed towards adults, made with higher-quality ingredients. Unfortunately, McDonald's is mostly known for their cheap prices, so the higher price turned regular McDonald's-goers away, while fans of gourmet food who'd have appreciated the burger wouldn't be caught dead eating at McDonald's. The Arch Deluxe became one of McDonald's biggest failures despite a massive advertising campaign.

  • Alfie's Home is a children's storybook about a kid who, due to his parents constantly arguing, latches onto the sexual abuse from his uncle as his only source of affection. That alone is a hard sell, but it could have found a niche helping kids who deal with sexual abuse in Real Life... that is until it brings up the possibility of Alfie becoming gay from all this (something based on a long-discredited psychological theory), and treats it as a problem that must be taken care of by a few words with a counselor. You can probably imagine why the book was lambasted by everyone who has read it.
  • Thomas Dixon's “Ku Klux Klan” trilogy, consisting of The Leopard's Spots (1902), The Clansman (1905) (which was adapted into The Birth of a Nation (1915)), and The Traitor: A Story of the Fall of the Invisible Empire (1907). If the informal name of the trilogy isn't already a red flag, the protagonists of the series are Reconstruction-era Klan members!
  • A Brother's Price is about a world where only about 10% of the population is male, and this leads to polygamy. Already a rather odd premise, not to mention the fact that polygamy is a rather controversial idea in the west. Worse yet, the cover and advertising were apparently designed to appeal to a mainstream romance audience, who likely won't like the book at all as it's more of a thriller.
  • William Luther Pierce is a massive white supremacist, and his books reflect that. Good luck finding anyone who isn't also a white supremacist who won't be turned off from his books by that fact.
  • The Northwest Front series is white nationalist literature where we're supposed to root for racist militants.
  • Awoken (written by Lindsay Ellis, Antonella Inserra and Elisa Hansen) is a parody of the Paranormal Romance genre, specifically "Twilight meets the Cthulhu Mythos". When asked if it was an audience-alienating premise, they responded with "That's the joke."
  • The Clique is an Indecisive Parody told from the point-of-view of a middle school-aged Alpha Bitch and her Girl Posse (two character types that are nearly universally despised) but does very little to make them likable or sympathetic. And even readers who would want to read something like that are very likely going to be put off by all the Squick (namely the very sexualized depictions of preteen girlsnote ). The author tried to add some Deconstruction elements later on in the series but for many it was too little too late. This trope is possibly why The Film of the Book was Direct-to-Video — the creators were probably aware that a film with this kind of plot would bomb if released in theaters.
  • The article's opening quote refers to one of the seminal canon works of Willa Cather, one of the most prominent female authors of the first half of the 20th century (one of her others, My Antonia was published in 1901). Indeed, she frequently wrote about Nebraska - one of the least densely-populated and featured in the United States. Cather's most famous work, The Professor's House was partially written in response to this trope (and consequently is more like a Dark Fic or Deconstruction compared to her earlier works - and most notably, takes place along the shores of the Great Lakes with flashbacks to Arizona).
  • The Deptford Mice trilogy features anthropomorphic mice in a struggle against a God of Evil and his bloodthirsty rat minions. Violent deaths abound, including decapitation and flaying alive. The cute animal characters would put off older kids, but the stories are Nightmare Fuel for the younger ones. This is likely why these books have yet to see a film adaptation. Who would you market it to?
  • River Heights was a spin-off of The Nancy Drew Files series (itself a spinoff of the original books), receiving a Poorly Disguised Pilot in that series. The series itself had very little mention of Nancy herself, instead focusing on a neighbor of hers named Nikki, and was instead a high school drama series not unlike Sweet Valley High. Fans of Nancy weren't interested in teen drama (and if they were, were likely already reading other series, like the aforementioned Sweet Valley High), fans of drama likely thought it was a straight mystery (because of the tie-with Nancy Drew), and the series faded away after about 16 books. Not learning their lesson, they tried this again with Nancy Drew on Campus, another spinoff that sent Nancy away to college and, yet again, pushed aside the mysteries in favor of more young adult drama. Again, the series died off after 25 books (while this sounds impressive, realize that Nancy Drew books are ridiculously Long-Runners, with the original series lasting to 175, while the Files spinoff lasted to 124, and even less successful series such as Girl Detective survived all the way to 47.)
  • Twisted! is a book about sentient rollercoasters... that kill and eat people. The idea of the main characters being amusement park rides seems too childish for adults, but the gore and edginess of the content makes it inappropriate for children.
  • Save the Pearls: Revealing Eden is a novel about a dystopian future where whites are enslaved and oppressed by evil black people. And did we mention that Blackface plays a huge role in the story?
  • This is the most likely reason why the first Monster High book series flopped. It had too many mature themes and fanservice for young readers but older ones would most likely be turned off by a novel series based on a little girls' toy line. And fans of the franchise disliked that it was pretty much In Name Only.
  • Bumped is a young adult novel about a dystopian future where a virus has made everyone over the age of 18 infertile and reliant on teenage girls as surrogate mothers. People were squicked out by the Teen Pregnancy, while readers who do want to read about it criticized the book for exploiting a serious problem in society for shock value.
  • Forgive Me Leonard Peacock is about a teenager going about his day as he plans to murder his former best friend who sexually abused him and then kill himself. He decides instead to take a picture of his ex-friend masturbating and is talked out of killing himself by one of his teachers
  • The premise of Growing Around is not one that holds up well to Fridge Horror, at least before later drafts have fleshed out and better realized how such a world could potentially function. It takes place In a World... with Swapped Roles taken to the extreme: kids have all authority, and grown-ups must abide by their rules. Despite this, people age and develop as they do in Real Life. While the author is aware of this problem readers have, he makes it clear that he doesn't want to pen the Darker and Edgier Lord of the Flies-style Deconstruction that everyone's minds head towards, nor does he want to bog down the story to explain how such a world could work, and simply implores potential readers to extend their Willing Suspension of Disbelief for it.
  • The BattleTech novel Far Country. Standard Battle Tech stories revolve around Realpolitic stories of different human star empires fighting each other, with no focus on Space Opera themes like exploration or first contact with alien species. Far Country had several different groups get stranded on an alien planet with no way home having to deal with the bird-like alien natives. People who liked Battle Tech were turned off by the utter lack of a Battle Tech related plot, while fans of space opera style science fiction were turned off by the tie-in to the franchise.
  • This is most likely the reason why the Tailchaser's Song adaptation is stuck in Development Hell. It's an adventure novel full of rich lore and violence. It's also about talking cats. Unlike its Spiritual Successor, Warrior Cats, Tailchaser's Song is aimed at older fantasy fans. It's more in the vein of Watership Down with its heavy emphasis on mythology, culture, and Conlang. Kids are unlikely to be interested in a novel that has its own glossary and has 4-page long character section, cat fans are turned off by the mature tone, and fantasy fans don't want to read about cats. This leaves it for that small niche of xenofiction fans.
  • Victoria by military theorist William S. Lind is a book where a bunch of Rated M for Manly Right Wing Militia Fanatics completely crush the forces of liberalism, leftism, multiculturalism, feminism, political correctness and progress to establish a new, pure America where everyone is a good, proud, red-blooded Christian, or else. It's... not for everyone, and outside people who subscribe to certain flavors of right-wing politics, it tends to be enjoyed more for being So Bad, It's Good.
  • The Grimoire of the Necronomicon by Donald Tyson is a book that claims to be the foundation of an occult religion based off Cthulhu Mythos beings... barely. Most Cthulhu Mythos fans don't even believe in their existence, and would unlikely to be amused by Tyson's take, where instead of Earth being an Insignificant Blue Planet it's the main focus of the Great Old One's plans. Said Great Old Ones are In Name Only and instead of being Eldritch Abominations beyond human comprehension they've been shoehorned into becoming deities based off the seven classical planets. Actual occultists are turned off by the fact that the actual Ritual Magic is extremely prosaic and simplified, effectively consisting of a few invocations around a highly minimalist "temple" of some rocks and lines. It's a book seemingly aimed at those who know about neither the Cthulhu Mythos nor occultism.
  • The Gor novels. Not only do they present men enslaving women as a good and proper thing to do, but they also go on to advocate that slaves be treated "with great harshness and cruelty" and to show those harshly treated women as finding Happiness in Slavery.
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. It's a story about Humbert Humbert, an erudite pedophile who lusts after his underage stepdaughter after her mother dies in a car accident. Said lusting involves activities such as sniffing her clothes after she leaves for summer camp, erotically trying to suck poison from a gnat bite on her arm, and trying to give her sleeping pills so he can fondle her while she's unconscious. Yeah. To his credit, Nabokov wasn't trying to portray pedophilia in a positive light. H.H. is clearly a disturbed, delusional, and horribly manipulative Unreliable Narrator who tries his hardest to make himself seem sympathetic. He tries to excuse his behavior through pretentious Purple Prose, often with contradictory statements; everything from trying to Appeal to Tradition with how grown men always used to marry young girls to blaming his daughter for trying to seduce him.'' Unfortunately, many readers grossly misinterpret this fact. Some actually do sympathize with him and consider his daughter to be the manipulator, others view it as a beautiful yet tragic love story.
  • The Cold Moons is a Xenofiction fantasy about talking badgers. While there may be a decent audience for this sort of thing if done right, as shown by the success of Warrior Cats, Watership Down, and Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole, badgers are not an appealing species choice to center a book on (especially in the 1980s, when the book was published) and it's only a uphill battle from there to get people interested.

  • Gustav Mahler's Kindertotenlieder. That's right, "Songs on the Death of Children". Mahler based those songs on a series of over 400 poems written by Friedrich Rückert who wrote them as a way to cope with his grief after two of his children died. These poems were never intended for publication.
  • Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring: A dissonant, loud and threatening avant-garde ballet about the ritual sacrifice of a young virgin in prehistoric times to hail a new Spring? Sounds lovely! In fact, during the premiere performance, the audience rioted. It's telling that nowadays, the music is mostly associated with dinosaurs.
  • Kiss's Music from "The Elder". One of the hardest rock bands in the world at the time attempting a Progressive Rock Concept Album? It just wouldn't fly. Even the band themselves consider it an Old Shame and have rarely ever performed any of the songs live.
  • Diane Diamond, in her book Be Careful Who You Love, suspects that Michael Jackson's 38-minute Short Film/Concept Video Ghosts was buried by Sony in North America because of its premise. Jackson plays the mysterious "Maestro", who is suspected of being up to no good when it's revealed that he's been secretly inviting a small town's kids to his spooky mansion for ghost stories. The Maestro is denounced as a freak by an evil, bigoted white Mayor (Jackson in a Fat Suit), so he summons up a troupe of ghouls to turn the tables on him and his mob. It's a blatant allegory for the child molestation accusations leveled against Jackson in 1993. Sony did get the clip wide distribution overseas, as the scandal hadn't done quite so much damage to Jackson's reputation there, and it eventually found wide North American exposure at the Turn of the Millennium.
  • Fleetwood Mac decided to follow up the massive success of Rumours with Tusk, an expensive double album with bizarre, offputting artwork and bizarre, offputting songs by Lindsey Buckingham. It sold well, going double platinum, but did nowhere near as well as Rumours did. It's been Vindicated by History as a classic of experimental pop, but it stands as one of the best arguments against cocaine use.
  • This might be why metal band iwrestledabearonce haven't been able to get really big in the music world yet. They look like a bunch of scene kids and get marketed to that scene despite rejecting the label. Their sound is based out of Avant-Garde Metal with a bizarre hodgepodge of every type of metal and non-metal styles out there. In short, they are too "weird" for scene kids while metalheads reject them for their image.
  • Whatever the merits of U2's Songs of Innocence, a lot of people were creeped out by the way Apple automatically downloaded it to their iTunes libraries. Apple had to release a tool to remove the album for those who didn't want it.
  • Frank Zappa: A man who changes styles and genres in every composition or song he writes. Just as you're starting to enjoy a melody he may suddenly cut it off and replace it by something bizarre and offsetting. Regular poppy songs are intercut with avant-garde classical music, doo-wop chants, long and complex jazzy jams, bizarre quotes and conversations and sometimes silly noises. If you are someone who likes listening to all kinds of music you're going to have to stomach that this musician will also use his melodies to provide scathing social commentary, pointed Satire, bawdy and offensive sex jokes, inside jokes only he and his fellow musicians will get and sometimes plain stupid sing-a-longs about dangerous kitchens, poodles, sex dolls and smelly feet. As a record producer once said: No commercial potential. Indeed Zappa has always remained in the marginal corners of the musical scene, but still managed to build up a fanatical cult following.
  • The Wanted bombed in the United States because they were being pushed as a boy band. Unfortunately, their members were all in their early 20s at the time they started to release music there, so they proved to be unable to build up the teenage girl fanbase that helps boy bands succeed. The boy band image also alienated adult listeners, who were also growing tired of the electropop sound dominating the airwaves at the time.
  • Metal Machine Music by Lou Reed is a double LP set with nothing but continuous droning of guitar feedback and screeching noises. How anybody on Earth could've thought this wouldn't end in commercial disaster is a sheer mystery.
  • John Lennon and Yoko Ono's first three albums are all experimental recordings. Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins (1968) is basically John and Yoko experimenting with noise and feedback while Yoko wails. Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions (1969) has more of the same, though luckily only one LP side worth of that. The second side is Yoko and John singing newspaper articles, a recording of the heartbeat monitor of their unborn baby (who died in miscarriage), two minutes of pure silence and Yoko playing around with a radio. Wedding Album (1969) has John and Yoko saying their names for one entire LP side, while side 2 is a couple of songs, press interviews and background noise in their hotel room during their Bed-In peace project. Needless to say, it's not difficult to see why these albums are not often mentioned when people lament Lennon's genius as a songwriter!
  • Kenji Sawada's concept album Onnatachiyo. A concept album based on The Tale of Genji from a singer mostly known for his anthemic live performances, with lyrics outright written in haiku freestyle, and complex instrumentation with Julie's backing band EXOTICS buried under layers of synthesizers from Yellow Magic Orchestra's Hideaki Matsutake. The album had virtually no live tour attached to it, and is probably the most polarizing album of Sawada's 80s albums.
  • Big Grams, consisting of rapper Big Boi and indietronica band Phantogram, wasn't able to reach anything further than a niche audience. The combination of Southern Rap and shoegazey glitch-pop was too odd to fit on either the urban or alternative formats. The ones that did listen to it, generally liked it, however.
  • Panic! at the Disco's 2007 album Pretty. Odd. turned out to be this for the band's fanbase at the time. An emo-pop band doing a throwback to 1960s baroque pop and psychedelic pop (particularly The Beatles' album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band)? It just didn't fly with their fans. It ultimately resulted in half the band departing to form a new band.
  • One More Light by Linkin Park is the most hated album in their library because of the very premise. The band, known for mixing rock, hip-hop with flavorings of electronica together while having a unique identity, while also featuring a Vocal Tag Team, making an album that almost completely abandons both rock and hip-hop (save for few disparate elements) and cranks up the electronica to create a pop album meant to be enjoyed by tween and teen girls who listen to artists like The Chainsmokers. Safe to say, this didn't win points with anyone. When all the songs were revealed, with barely audible guitar, only one song featuring the Chester/Mike combo (which was hampered by two other rappers being there), near-invisible instrumentation that wasn't synthetic, listeners were scratching their heads wondering exactly how this was supposed to be welcomed by their longtime loyal fans. Yet the band expects them to do just that, and flat-out insulted them for "not moving on from Hybrid Theory". It didn't help that Chester Bennington sadly killed himself just a few months after One More Light came out. While many fans have been kinder to the album in light of that, most people might be uncomfortable with listening to what's essentially a suicide note.
  • Jimi Hendrix is famously celebrated as one of the greatest guitar players of all time, but this wasn't always the case. Back when he was starting out, Jimi's guitar playing in the States was seen as too wild and unfocused for many bands he tried to join, and the few bands he did join, part ways with him shortly afterwards. It wasn't until he traveled to Europe that his guitar playing was embraced and he formed The Experience. He then returned to the States with the hit song "Hey Joe" and the rest is history. His once unfocused guitar playing has since been used as a blueprint for many Rock guitar players that would come long after his unfortunate untimely death.
  • Exclusively for German-speaking countries, Melanie C collaborated with Rosenstolz to produce "Let There Be Love", a Translated Cover Version of "Liebe ist alles", and got disappointed that all the people who had purchased the original track less than a decade earlier wouldn't buy the same song with the same instrumentation again in English.
  • The glam metal band Vinnie Vincent Invasion never really took off because of this trope, according to drummer Bobby Rock in his autobiography. The band had the commercial pomp of late-period glam bands like Def Leppard and Poison, but Vinnie Vincent's guitar playing was often too experimental(he derived just as much from jazz and blues in his playing as typical shred metal) for the type of crowd that music attracted back then; most of the songs Vinnie Vincent played were fast-paced, but were usually over 5 minutes long and not arena rock friendly.
  • ABBA's Voulez-Vous was accused of abandoning "the ABBA sound" by many fans at the time of release, since the only disco-esque song ABBA had released at the time was "Dancing Queen" two albums before, whereas this new album had a lot of disco influences. Coincidentally, the band wasn't as popular at the time after they'd done a long tour through Australia in 1977 so this could have been a result of Hype Backlash, but Voulez Vous is as celebrated as any other ABBA album in the present day.
  • Danish eurodance band Daze was disillusioned by all the Aqua comparisons following their debut record, and took their style in a completely different direction for their next album: They Came to Rule, which employed the famous Max Martin sound associated with Britney Spears as the basis for a Darker and Edgier, anti-authority image, with which they tackled scandalous subjects such as trash television, the manipulative corruption of the media, and prostitution rings. It flopped — the group's original audience was alienated, and the people who liked that kind of rebellious commentary weren't interested in buying an album by Daze. The group remained together, but never released another album.
  • Dexys Midnight Runners' Don't Stand Me Down, an expansive experimental soul album, failed to appeal to fans, who wanted another "Come On Eileen". It doesn't help that the first single was released several months after the album was, and the single chosen — "This Is What She's Like" — was twelve minutes long. On top of that, the album received no promotion. It was a commercial failure upon release, which led to the group's disbandment. However, it's now considered somewhat of a lost gem.

  • In 1988, the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company launched Premier, a smokeless cigarette that heated tobacco rather than burning it, allowing smokers to enjoy the taste of tobacco without that harmful secondhand smoke and messy ash. What few of the existing audience of smokers who were willing to give Premier a shot were not pleased by Premier's taste and the complicated instructions required to light it, while the potential new audience of non-smokers who were already put off by tobacco products still refused to give them a shot. By the following year, Premier was snuffed out.

  • Bally's Spectrum was an attempt to combine the action of Pinball with the puzzle game Mastermind. Unfortunately, cerebral logic puzzles and arcade games are two great tastes that don't necessarily taste great together — of the 994 machines produced, fewer than five hundred were sold, and the others were scrapped or salvaged.
  • Pat Lawlor's Safe Cracker rewarded good players with Real Life tokens, which could be collected, used to play "Assault on the Vault", or (possibly) be redeemed for drinks and prizes. Players didn't care for any of the options and the idea never caught on.
  • Golden Logres tried to combine realistic pinball action with the mission-oriented structure of a Role-Playing Game. While die-hard players loved the challenge, it alienated everyone else who just wanted straightforward arcade action.
  • James Bond 007 was a time-based pinball game; the player starts off with 50 seconds, and can keep playing so long as he has time remaining, which he gets by making key shots. Unfortunately, novices couldn't build up enough time to enjoy the game, while experts found it easily exploitable for long games. The backlash was so bad that most operators tried to return the tables to Gottlieb as a result.
  • Orbitor 1 is a pinball game built on a transparent warped plexi-bowl, which causes the ball to loop and spiral as it travels along the table. Unfortunately, the sparse layout, simple rules, and sheer difficulty of aiming shots on an uneven surface quickly turn off most players.
  • Baby Pac-Man was an attempt to blend video games and pinball; a fan of one was unlikely to be a fan of the other. Those who happen to enjoy both had a hard time getting past the absurd difficulty and changes to the typical Pac-Man formula, such as starting with no Power Pellets and the Ghost AI being far more aggressive. It doesn't help that you have to be good at both Pac-Man and pinball in order to do well.
  • While The Twilight Zone is not a failure by any means and is a Cult Classic nowadays, it could not recapture the lightning in a bottle Bally achieved with The Addams Family prior because of its confusing layout and incredibly complicated rules. Those who could figure it all out had a blast. To everybody else, The Twilight Zone just didn't make any sense.
  • In the late '00s, Stern attempted to market pinball machines to China. Unfortunately for them, they didn't check in advance what would appeal to their potential new audience and began with Big Buck Hunter Pro and NBA—while basketball is pretty popular in China, both of these machines are based on thoroughly American franchises largely unfamiliar to Chinese audiences. Pinball is also not a concept that's widely understood in China the way it is in western countries, rendering it incomprehensible to any curious onlookers.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • While Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling started with the fairly tame premise of pro wrestlers competing against various martial artists and athletes from other sports, the "anything goes" nature of the bouts quickly saw an escalation to bloodletting, burning, electrocution and worse. Those who watched FMW in its glory years will tell you it offered so many different match types that it was possible to still enjoy it while ignoring the more Garbage heavy matches and indeed, some did. On the flip side, when Kodo Fuyuki tried to introduce a safer style to FMW he called "sports entertainment", that was an audience-alienating premise to the FMW faithful who had learned to like the occasional blood bath and those who stuck around ended up leaving too when they learned "sports entertainment" translated to less variety even among the normal matches. The concepts associated with "sports entertainment" would later be more successfully implemented by All Japan Pro Wrestling during its "Puroresu Love" rebuilding period and Fighting Opera HUSTLE. HUSTLE was a bit of a cash sink that could only survive under Nobuhiko Takada, but it at least had favorite wrestlers of many fans and Bile Fascination going for it.
  • A wrestling promotion with Vince Russo as booker that expects you to pay ten dollars a week, where the first thirty minutes of the first show featured nothing but talking. Wrestling fans wanting to torture themselves could see pretty much the same thing for free. But then more people started to notice, AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, and Low Ki and declared the X Division to be a new landmark of pro wrestling! All the same, financial success wouldn't come to TNA until a while after Samoa Joe and Kurt Angle were signed.
  • The biggest point of contention regarding the transition from Yoshimoto Women's Pro Wrestling Jd' to JD Star was the "Athtress" program, which involved the promotion trying to get the wrestlers acting deals and to that end scouting trainees who had the looks of models for its dojo. A good deal of fans and workers alike were not amused by the idea of using the sport as a stepping stone to pop stardom and JD ended up losing as many fans in the transition as it gained. World Wonder Ring STARDOM found more success signing already famous model Yuzuki Aikawa and having veteran joshi Nanae Takahashi subjugate her to a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown in her first match to garner audience sympathy.
  • The Syfy revival of ECW (aired on basic cable from 2006 to 2010) ended up being this, for various reasons. To begin with, the show was only an hour long, which left very little time to develop storylines amidst matches that could go on for as long as ten minutes or more. The original hardcore fanbase that had watched the pay-per-views religiously during the late '90s hated the fact that the promotion had been stripped of everything that had made the original ECW unique; worse, many of the biggest Extremists of that era were either taken off television or moved to the Raw and SmackDown rosters. And as if all that weren't bad enough, ECW was almost from the start treated as a second-class (and by the end of its run, even third-class) promotion, being used as a testing ground for new talent or a place where older wrestlers (William Regal, for example) went in the twilight of their in-ring careers - and by 2010, the promotion wasn't even fairly represented in the Royal Rumble Match! The result was a form of sports-entertainment that pleased no one, its only strong point being that it essentially introduced CM Punk to the world.

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Little Muppet Monsters. As Scott Shaw! (who storyboarded the series) put it "The concept of this second half-hour was neither simple nor particularly well-developed." Basically, three new kid Muppet monsters live in the basement of the Muppets' home and create their own TV station which broadcasts Muppet-based cartoons but only to the familiar Muppet characters living above them. Yeah. When a failure to produce the animated segments in time resulted in the show being replaced after three episodes by a second episode of Muppet Babies (the show was scheduled to follow Muppet Babies to create an hour-long slot called "Muppets, Babies and Monsters"), ratings shot up, and everyone involved said "Well, let's do that, then." LMM's blending of animation and Muppets would be handled much better in Dog City (adapted from a special aired on The Jim Henson Hour), which lasted a good 31 episodes on Fox Kids.

    Tabletop Games 
  • FATAL's premise is "What if, instead of playing in a sanitized Dungeons & Dragons-style fantasy world, you had one with all the negative traits of Ancient Rome and The Dung Ages and more casual references to rape than you can shake a stick at rolled into one?" Even if FATAL had been a masterwork of mechanical genius (which it isn'tnote ), with a premise like that, it wouldn't have made it big anyway. One of the most well-known memes about the "game" is "Roll for anal circumference!"note , an infamous thematic element are suits of magical armor that turn your character into offensive racial stereotypes and are named after racial slursnote , and the sample adventure mentions a character called Cuntrina. The audience for this game seems to be racist, misogynistic young males who enjoy polynomials and scatological humor.
  • There is a half-finished RPG called Racial Holy War. The title alone probably satisfies any sane person's curiosity, but the premise is that in the future, folks without a lot of melanin are oppressed by racial stereotypes of those with a lot of melanin who have taken over the world at the behest of Jewish masters. Each of these non-white races is referred to exclusively through racial slurs, and each has a special attack based on negative stereotypes. The game seems aimed at Dungeons & Dragons playing Klansmen who were upset racial minorities weren't in the Monster Manual. Even the elements that are there are so badly designed that some people suspect it's a Stealth Parody. (It really is not, it was written by a Priest in all seriousness.)
  • Star Fleet Battles does this through sheer complexity. The premise is to make a game which captures the full in-universe depth of running the starships from Star Trek in combat. Many people take one look at the doorstopper manual and opt out. A second, minor point of alienation is that the game has its own 'verse, which is likely to annoy some purists who would be more willing to invest in learning the game if it was "really Trek." However, the game has been around since 1979, so it has found sufficient fans to be a Long Runner.
  • Ironclaw is a good game. It has a fun, broad, and deep setting that allows for different kinds of game, it has a good gameplay system that strikes a decent balance between depth and usability, it offers the player lots of freedom in terms of what kind of character to build, and the rulebooks even have good production values for their price. Unfortunately, despite its quality, it will almost certainly never gain recognition as anything but a niche title because of the decision to replace all of the standard tabletop RPG Five Races Plus Hybrids with Funny Animals. Just imagine telling your group you're thinking about running a campaign of "the furry game!"
  • GURPS marketing campaign is a chronic, self-induced nightmare anytime the game system is released in a new market. The system by its own intention and design is universal, thus can be used as players choose. So selling basic books and supplements to mechanics is easy, going as far as ads comparing the expansions with new sets of LEGO by their compatibility. More so as they are solid and with standardised and transparent rules for just about anything players can imagine. But selling settings for the game? Forget it. While there are tons of predefined settings, worlds and even whole universes made for GURPS, people are usually too preoccupied with "Generic" in the name of the game or with the idea of creating their own setting using "Universal" mechanics. Given that about 80-85% of all books released for GURPS are different, original and often very complex settings and their expansions, the struggle is real. Let's use the slogan "build your own game-world" and at the same time try to sell such worlds. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

    The sheer number of settings make any large-scale marketing campaign impossible. Typical tabletop RPGs have their own set of mechanics and own single setting, so it's very easy to focus or find a target group. In the case of GURPS, there are all shades and flavors of fantasy, sci-fi, realistic, cinematic, comedy, gritty and light-hearted settings you can imagine, or even those you never dreamed about. Thus while the game as a whole can satisfy any player, you just can't run ads for all the settings or you'll go bankrupt trying.
  • Black Crusade was the first ever attempt to create a Warhammer 40,000 roleplaying game where the assumption was that the players would not be members of the Imperium. Unfortunately, it features three very alienating aspects. Firstly, extremely grimdark content matter — though some efforts were made to present a more neutral "no worse than the Imperium" viewpoint, the basic gist of the game is that you are committing all manner of atrocities, often against innocent civilians, for the sake of personal benefit. Secondly, the handling of both human and Space Marine party members boils down to making it that Chaos Marines are veritable gods of slaughter but almost useless at anything that doesn't involve that, whilst Heretics get to be inferior in combat but the "skill monkeys" of the group. Thirdly, and most damningly, actual in-rulebook support for inter-party conflict and struggling. All in all, a game only really viable for those groups mature enough and skilled enough to handle the backstabbing and infighting without disrupting the game, paired with very pigeonholing rule-structure and extreme gameplay fluff.
  • Bleak World is a very fun and simple horror/action/adventure RPG. However, it crammed too much into one area to ever appeal to a single audience. Essentially Lovecraftian Eldritch Abominations are threatening to destroy the Earth and an alien race of Magical Girls is the only thing stopping them from consuming us all... and that's about 5% of the plot, the rest is made up of vampire politics (complete with Twilight jokes/homages that also happily joke about millenials), werewolf politics, witches coming back to life and serving warring gods, Little Green Men invading Earth, twisted experiments Gone Horribly Wrong trying to become real humans again, Ghosts trying not to die again, mummies serving different gods from the ones the Princesses are fighting and the Witches are worshiping, a race of Giants and goblins trying to get back home, and finally the remnants of humanity just trying to survive all of that. Good luck trying to find a GM to fit all of that into a game.
  • Redakai was a trading card game doomed by its own gimmick. The cards are translucent with paint on certain parts so that players had to stack cards and combine their attributes, and attacks take the form of battle damage that reduces the victim's health bar. Not a bad idea on paper, but this also means that you needed a special board to prevent your opponent from seeing what you have. Combine this with the "basic" game giving you no control over what happens, and you have a game that hit the bargain bin after just a couple of months. The Animated Adaptation being a critical and commercial flop as well also hurt it in this regard.
  • Given that White Wolf prides itself on trying to be the Darker and Edgier and/or "realistic" game company, it should be little wonder that over the years, some of its game lines have proven... less than successfully received, a trait that Onyx Path Publishing has only continued.
    • Wraith: The Oblivion:
      • Perhaps the most infamous example of this from the Old World of Darkness. While the World of Darkness — as the name implies — is a Crapsack World, most of the games shoot into A World Half Full and let you Earn Your Happy Ending. Even then, there's definitely some Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy in the setting and its metaplot, which was the slow wind-down to initial extinction. Wraith takes all that darkness and doubled-down. Your character is already dead, is in the underworld harrowed by his own destructive impulses — which are trying to destroy him forever — and everything he has in the underworld is made from the souls of those too weak to stand. Many an Eldritch Abomination commands hordes of hungry, tormented spirits, and a restful afterlife looks to be little more than a happy fiction. The other wraiths live in a society that is a caricature of oppression in ancient Rome. The landscape and characters look like something H.G. Giger would paint if he were aiming for self-parody via BDSM. A few games of this and even Warhammer sounds bright and cheery.
      • Charnel Houses of Europe stands out among these by being about wraiths spawned from the Holocaust.
      • Wraith also has a mechanic wherein every ghost had a "shadow" that turned up periodically to try to corrupt and undermine them, and each player character's shadow was played by another character's player. So not only was every player required to effectively play two characters (their PC and another PC's shadow) but the game had a built-in mechanic requiring players to screw each other over. The intent was to create deep, psychological roleplaying where the players got to flex their drama muscles as much as the GM; the effect was that most people saw it as a game that could only end in hurt feelings and recriminations.
    • Changeling: The Dreaming is another World of Darkness game that often got painted with this brush as well, and for the opposite reason to Wraith — it came across as too bright, especially when the second edition outright told players that the Dreaming was supposed to be a bright contrast to the rest of the World of Darkness (illustrations like the "bear with balloons" certainly didn't help, making it seem almost childlike). And then those who were looking for a brighter game than, say, Vampire or Werewolf dug deeper, only to find that the whole game was about fighting against the death of imagination, a fight most changelings inevitably lost. Those who were looking for something along the lines of the rest of the World of Darkness found something covered in glitter; those who wanted something cheerier found the glitter flaked off easily.
    • Kindred of the East, while not quite as bad off as Wraith or Changeling, suffered some of this as well, as it required Westerners to have a decent understanding of Asian mysticism and religions. It never came close to the popularity of Vampire: The Masquerade and its many spin-offs due to this, which admittedly wasn't helped by the fact it came out in a time when actually getting the aforementioned research wasn't easy. To make matters worse, if you do have even cursory understanding of Asian mysticism, then you start seeing major research failure from the authors.
    • Exalted puts a mechanically deep combat system in a world of harsh politics, where a normal soldier can win a fight and die of gangrene, and where long-term change is as dependent on good bureaucracy as on the fist of immortal god-killing warriors, strongly inspired by and often tearing apart classical mythological heroes of the past. In the Second Edition, this happened to be behind a game best-known for playable characters waving surfboard-sized swords and throwing around blasts of energy like Dragon Ball Z, a part of the setting the mechanics theoretically supported but few GMs or players could, and even much of the writing staff focused on the Sutra-like Sidereal charms or the More Metal Than Thou effects found in the Green Sun Prince arsenal.
    • One of the earliest examples of this trope from the Chronicles of Darkness is Promethean: The Created. Devoted to playing as golems à la Frankenstein's Monster with the goal of Become a Real Boy, Promethean suffers from a combination of fluff that is brilliantly written but very heavy on the Wangst, due to its emphasis on the Created's nature as In-Universe Hate Sinks and Walking Wastelands, an end-goal that many players find counter-intuitivenote , punishing mechanics that can easily make the game unfun, a susceptibility to Railroading, and just a general playstyle that demands a high level of maturity and good communication on the parts of both player and storyteller, due to the very intimate focus of the game. Much like Wraith before it, Promethean has earned a reputation amongst NWoD fans as "the greatest game that nobody plays". This has led directly to the authors trying to tone the game down in its second edition to hopefully make it more accessible.
    • Another game from the Chronicles of Darkness to suffer this is Beast: The Primordial. It's a hard enough sell to begin with, as it's unashamedly a game dedicated to playing as Villain Protagonists, but add in the fact that Beasts map onto the Abuser archetype all too well, the lack of "lightening" optionsnote , moral objections to the canonical "Beasts justify their feeding with the excuse of teaching humanity Wisdom Through Fear" angle, and perceived Unfortunate Implications about how Beasts "tie-in" to various real-world minorities, and Beast has become the most reviled gameline in the entirety of the Chronicles of Darkness.
  • One of the reasons why the otherwise decent Luck & Logic didn't really get off the ground is because matches can take forever. Average time for a round is 45 minutes. Combine that with tourney-style play, and you'll have most of the players already exhausted after the second match. For the record, most of the popular CCGs like Magic, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Pokémon can finish a match in 10 to 25 minutes. That's approximately half the duration. Pop open any Starter/Trial Deck and open the rules side of the pack-in playmat. At first glance, the sheer rules density is intimidating enough to scare off card gamers looking for a simple, go-to game. However, the rules are actually quite intuitive once you learn them.
  • Warriors Adventure Game, the licensed RPG adaptation of Warrior Cats, was an attempt by the publisher to get tabletop RPG fans interested in the book series. The book series is targeted at children ages 9-12, while tabletop RPG players are generally much older, so there already wasn't much demographic overlap. The game is too complicated for a kid who's never played a tabletop RPG before but too simplistic for an audience that's experienced with RPGs. The pre-written adventures were included in books 19-24 of the series, which make no sense unless you've read books 1-18, so if you've just picked them up for the adventures you're not going to get into the book series from them. Essentially, nobody who reads the series is going to be interested in the game, and nobody who plays RPGs is going to pick up the game, to begin with, never mind start reading the series because of it. Predictably enough, the game lasted under three years before getting canned - although you can still find the rules on the website, and current printings of books 19-24 continue to have the adventures in the back, nothing new will be published.
  • BreaKey is one of the most baffling concepts ever devised for a game: you buy packs like in a trading card game, but instead of cards, you get plastic key-like pieces with a sticker showing some creature. You play by putting two pieces together and twisting them until one breaks, forcing Junk Rare to be the norm, since the weaker pieces are bound to get broken and discarded. Kids wouldn't want to play a game where they need to buy (or have their parents buy) a new pack each time they want to play, and collectors naturally hate the idea of a game where their collection is guaranteed to get permanently damaged if it is ever played with.

  • The Golden Ticket is a musically-sophisticated opera full of Genius Bonus musical in-jokes for buffs... but it's also an adaptation of a popular children's novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Critic James L. Paulk's review of the Atlanta Opera's staging for was fairly positive, but pointed out that adults who love opera would likely find the source material too kiddy for their tastes, while kids wouldn't appreciate the jokes referencing adult operas and styles in the score and find proceedings too slow-going. (That much of the book's snarkier humor is absent doesn't help.) The result, according to Paulk, was a show that didn't sell a lot of tickets and had many families leaving at intermission — which is to say, kids didn't want to stick around for the actual tour of the factory! He also thought the show was too long for said kids at 2 and 1/2 hours with intermission. Compare this to the success of the 2013 stage musical adaptation of the novel, which lasted 3 1/2 years on the West End with a similar runtime.
  • Stephen Sondheim shows are notorious for these. This is why, for all their acclaim, only a few of his musicals (Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd, etc.) are well-known to the general public.
    • Follies: Two married couples who met in the glory days of Ziegfeld-style stage revues confront each other over their regrets for the past and unhappy present-day lives.
    • Pacific Overtures: Japan opening itself up to the encroaching Western world in the 19th century, with staging inspired by Kabuki theater (an all-male cast, etc.).
    • Sunday in the Park with George: Act One — Painter Georges Seurat chooses art over love. Act Two — His descendant in The '80s comes to grips with the struggle to create great art in a world full of critics.
    • Assassins: Nine men and women who assassinated, or tried to assassinate, American presidents meet each other and their various acts of trying to kill the president are shown to the audience. The climax of the play sees them convince Lee Harvey Oswald to shoot JFK.
    • Passion: In the 19th century, a young soldier has a Stalker with a Crush — a mentally unbalanced, homely, terminally ill woman who adores him. Notable for having the shortest-ever run of a Broadway show that won the Best Musical Tony Award, with 280 performances — less than a year's worth.
    • Merrily We Roll Along has a workable central premise in the tragic story of three friends who all lose their youthful optimism over the course of two decades and end up with every artistic spark crushed out, but was doomed with its setup of telling the story in reverse order. The first audiences were horribly confused and walked out in droves, and there were quite a few rewrites to try to make it more understandable over the course of more than a decade before he finally gave up.
  • Imagine This was a 2008 West End musical set in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942 depicting a Jewish theater troupe that learns, during their Show Within a Show about the siege of Masada, that the ghetto's residents are being tricked into going to certain doom in the concentration camps. In the end, most of the troupe is murdered for trying to warn the audience. Not hard to see why this would-be inspiring musical didn't last two months (counting the preview period); both the main story and the Show Within a Show have downer endings, and the basic conceit of a Holocaust-set musical is a questionable one.
  • This might be one reason Andrew Lloyd Webber's Stephen Ward failed — it's a musical about the Profumo Affair, a political scandal with little relevance to those who weren't adults living in the U.K. in The '60s. That Lloyd Webber decided to open this dramatic, adult musical just in time for Christmas 2013 (when theatre audiences tend to gravitate towards lighthearted and/or fun-for-the-whole-family fare) couldn't have helped.
  • The 2014 West End musical comedy I Can't Sing! got some good notices, but when it closed in less than three months (again, counting a preview period), British theatre newspaper The Stage wasn't the only one to point out that the show had a shaky premise when it came to audience appeal — it was an officially-sanctioned parody of The X Factor, complete with backing from Simon Cowell himself. The audience who watched The X Factor on TV wasn't interested in paying West End ticket prices for a parody of something they could watch at home, while regular theatergoers were turned off by the self-promoting, lowbrow concept. To make matters much worse, the overconfident producers gave it a huge physical production and staged it in one of the largest theatres in town (the Palladium), so whatever good word-of-mouth there was from those who did see it wasn't nearly enough to fill the theatre and justify the day-to-day running expenses.
  • Side Show is a musical drama based on the lives of Violet and Daisy Hilton, Conjoined Twins who became 1930s vaudeville stars and are best remembered today (if at all) for their appearance in the film Freaks. The original 1997 Broadway staging was a flop, but the show has an intense enough fanbase that it received a revival in 2014... which had an even shorter run. Ads for both versions tried to get around the premise by not directly stating it, but that didn't help. To quote a New York Times article on the revival's closure:
    "We'd tell clients that the show was about conjoined twins, Siamese twins, and it just created horrible images in people's heads," Scott Mallalieu, the president of, a theater ticketing agency, said. "The only clients who bought tickets had seen the original Side Show on Broadway and loved it. Everyone else was turned off."
  • Goosebumps was adapted as a screenplay titled Screams in the Night; mere months after its premiere it was put on indefinite hiatus and never re-aired. In addition to rather poor writing, the fact that Goosebumps appealed to young fans of horror and not adults who appreciate theatre didn't help it gain an audience.
  • Hamilton is something of a real-life subversion. Michelle Obama admits that, after she and her husband invited Lin-Manuel Miranda to perform at the White House poetry slam and he told them he planned to perform a piece about Alexander Hamilton, they were... less than excited. And sure enough, when the performance did happen, the audience breaks out into bemused laughter as he explains that he will perform a hip-hop piece about Alexander Hamilton, as he felt embodied hip-hop. Even while singing the song itself, the audience starts laughing once he gets to the part where he solemnly repeats Hamilton's name. However, the musical has become enormously successful anyway — Michelle Obama later stated that it was the best work of art she'd seen in any form, ever, and the show is widely considered to be a very famous case of Better Than It Sounds.
  • Spring Awakening:
    • The original, containing a lot of teen angst, a masturbation scene, underage sex, gay kisses, incest, suicide, and advertised "real onstage nudity", had a lot going against it. Ended up nominated for 11 Tony Awards and won 8.
    • The revival, which incorporated American Sign Language, censored nothing from the original, and had cast members with varying hearing abilities, turned off some hearing audience members who didn't want to see a "deaf musical", assuming it'd be incomprehensible. Result: Nominated for three Tonys and got a national tour.
  • The Testament Of Mary was based on a novel about the Virgin Mary, set after Jesus' death. We are assured that Mary was not a virgin when Jesus was born, he did not come back from the dead, and all of his followers are morons for thinking he was some kind of messiah. At one point Mary also pulls out a knife and threatens to murder some of those followers in their sleep. It was nominated for three Tony Awards, and critics expressed confusion when it ended its run early, having only played for about five months. Apparently, viewers who might have been interested in a religious story didn't like the implication that their holy figure would have wanted to stab them to death.
  • Heathers sticks to its original premise of two teenagers who start killing students and framing them as suicides in an upper class white high school, starting with the local Alpha Bitch. It's full of Black Comedy, Mood Whiplash, and frequently Crosses the Line Twice, both playing the deaths of rich kids for laughs yet taking the act of suicide very seriously. Being based on an even darker source film that gathered a modest cult following, it didn't even make it to Broadway before major productions lost steam. It still attracted a very loyal following of adult fans of the original and teenagers that liked the snarky humor.
  • The notorious 1988 musical adaptation of Carrie was brought down most of all by how the story simply wasn't suited to the format, a downer tale of high school bullying that ends in mass slaughter with only a single character left alive for a limp final note. This especially affected the central set-piece of Carrie destroying the prom; the pig's blood prank that sets it off was done by Billy simply pouring a bucket of raspberry jam onto her head, followed by the actors all writhing around and desperately trying to give the impression of a level of destruction that is not possible to stage in live theater. The show was also noted for doing a terrible job of establishing Carrie's telekinetic powers for anyone not familiar with the novel or film, with her only breaking a light bulb in the opening scene and pinning her mother into a chair while opening up the pit of hell (no, really). Even an attempt to revamp the show in 2012 with a greatly revised script and several song changes didn't get much of anywhere, though it was at least seen as better use of the story's potential, and got the creators willing to license it out, unlike the original version.
  • Urinetown. A dark musical comedy about drought, corporate corruption, bloody revolution, and mandatory public urinals? It's not going to be everyone's cup of tea.

  • LEGO:
    • It is generally believed that this was a major reason behind the failure of LEGO's RoboRiders theme. Their previous attempt at buildable, collectible action figures, Slizer, was a big hit for its creative setting (robots in different elemental settings) and for the uniqueness of the models. However, whereas the Slizers were identifiable characters with posable limbs, RoboRiders were essentially goofy-looking alien motorbikes with weird weaponry attached. They came with no rider figures, nor did they have seats — instead, the wheels were the riders, with printed decals on the sides of the wheels representing the otherwise unbuildable characters. And they launched these wheels like projectiles, meaning that every shot reduced the bikes to a nonfunctional mess with one wheel at the end. The concept was too esoteric for kids who wanted more Slizers sets, and the line failed.
    • Learning from this mistake, LEGO began working together more closely with creative agencies and storytellers for their next line, BIONICLE, and turned what was originally conceptualized as a story of robot tribesmen beating each others' heads off into a more serious Science Fantasy epic that resonated well with its audience, and became one of their most popular series. Ironically, BIONICLE itself became an example in its later years because kids couldn't keep up with its over-thought continuity, and after nine and a half years, LEGO had to cancel it.
    • The later Bionicle reboot was significantly simplified, some would say too much. Apart from the original team of Toa and the basic Cain and Abel Light vs. Dark concept, very little of the first generation was re-adapted into the new story-line, and what took its place wasn't as unique and engaging. The line ultimately underwhelmed veteran fans and failed to interest new ones, and was thus canceled after two years of a proposed three year grace period.
    • Galidor's tie-in LEGO line: a bunch of overpriced gimmicky action figures with swappable body parts and virtually no compatibility with other LEGO sets. May have been more successful as a regular toy line made by another company, but LEGO lovers hated the enormous, useless pieces and other buyers didn't know where to put these weird, expensive toys (the LEGO logos, which may have given them confidence about the product's quality, were hidden on the boxes).
    • Around the same time as Galidor, LEGO attempted to reach out to kids who didn't like building toys. The result was the Jack Stone line, LEGO sets with (again) big, specialized pieces and very little in the way of construction. Too "juniorized" (and still LEGO) for bigger kids, not exciting enough for smaller children, and unacceptable for adults. However, this building style was kept for a few years, strictly promoted towards a younger crowd, before being abandoned.
  • Novi Stars was a doll line aimed at little girls where all the characters were Ugly Cute alien and robot girls. It barely lasted two years. And their fairly cheap make sadly turned away most toy collectors interested.
  • Back in 1965, Hasbro once made a doll called Little Miss No Name, in an attempt to tug at little girls' heartstrings by offering them a toy modeled after a sad homeless girl. Unfortunately, this toy proved to be unsuccessful not only because of her depressing backstory of being lonely and wanting a good home but also because she looked rather creepy due to her large eyes and soulless frown.
  • As the Transformers: Generation 1 franchise began to wane in popularity, Hasbro attempted several gimmicks to keep the line fresh, many of which failed to connect with the audience:
    • Transformers Pretenders tried to take the "Robots in disguise" aspect even further with the inclusion of Pretender Shells that could disguise the figures as organic beings. In theory, this line could be two toys in one, but the two sides failed to synergize properly; the shells, with their garish appearance and limited articulation, seemed more at home in Masters of the Universe as opposed to the older-skewed Transformers, and the robot often had to sacrifice in design to accommodate the shells.
    • Transformers Action Masters were, simply and infamously put, Transformers toys that didn't transformnote . Instead, they came with gadgets, nonhuman partners, and even larger vehicles which turned into weapons, making for a more conventional toy-line along the lines of G.I. Joe or M.A.S.K.. Not only did this screw over what made Transformers unique and memorable, but the end result was too surreal to be taken seriously on its own; not only was Bumblebee (who becomes a small car) the same size as Devastator (Who is combined from six robots who become construction vehicles), but the likes of Optimus Prime and Wheeljack ended up driving a Big Badass Rig and a Cool Car, when they're famous for turning into those vehicles (which begs the question of whether the Transformers shrunk down or their vehicles were absurdly huge).
  • My Little Pony: This is why G2 sold so poorly. It retooled the characters into looking more like full-size horses than cute little ponies, and as a result, didn't last for more than a year or so in the US (though it went over somewhat better in various European nations, where it went on for a few more years). The next retool returned the ponies to something close to their original look.
    • G3.5 fell into this, because although it retained popular characters from G3, it switched over to a heavily stylized look which once again failed to resemble ponies; that time around, they didn't even particularly resemble any kind of equine, and so the retool was unpopular everywhere (especially the Uncanny Valley "Newborn Cuties"), and it contributed to Filly's displacement of the franchise in Germany.
  • Poopsie is a girl-oriented blind-bag slime making kit that's focused on excrement. The aesthetics are done too much in a Tastes Like Diabetes fashion to be considered a complete Gross-Out Toy, and there are unicorn dolls that make the slime (guess how) that go to Uncanny Valley territory and are almost Bratz Babyz lookalikes.note  In the end, you're trying to ask yourself what the hell the creators were on when they were developing this.

    Visual Novels 
  • Hatoful Boyfriend is a dating game where the potential mates are birds, most of which are pigeons. It's based off a pun that doesn't translate into English. The main character is a human girl. And the pigeons are represented by photographs of actual pigeons. It was created as a joke but takes itself deadly serious in places because its creator saw an opportunity to tell an engaging story which just happens to be about birds, and the sequel Holiday Star drops the dating premise almost completely. Those who have heard of it often assume it's either an otherwise-normal dating game which is inexplicably about birds, or nothing but a joke, and both groups are more likely to make fun of its existence than play it. Despite this, it managed to somehow gain spinoff manga, drama CDs, official merchandise, and a very small but equally dedicated fanbase composed mostly of people who initially only checked it out because of the strange premise.
  • Diabolik Lovers is about a girl who is abused by sadistic vampire brothers. And all of it is played for fanservice. Even people who enjoy that kind of thing reportedly found it uncomfortable. It's considered one of the reasons why the anime adaptation bombed.
  • Monster Girl Quest: Lose and the Girls Rape You. It's a deep and engaging story deconstructing half the tropes in existence and parodying the rest, involving a race war that goes back to the dawn of the world... but that doesn't change the fact that the battle mechanic is the hero fighting off the monster girls who are trying to rape him. It proved popular enough for a sequel, Monster Girl Quest: Paradox, which has much more developed gameplay and a story that's even broader in scope, but still with the same premise (though there is a higher proportion of combat that isn't about rape).
  • Arithmetic's Bidding for Love is infamous for its main premise. The main character is sold to a rich man through an auction and he exercises his right to do whatever he wants to the heroine, including having sex with her that she doesn't fully consent to. It only gets worse when it's later revealed that her company set her up to be sold and they erased her existence from the company. Not to mention her eventually falling in love with the man who initially forced himself onto her. If this wasn't a romance game, it could work as an episode for a crime drama.
  • With Dies Irae, the mere fact that this novel has Nazis as its villains, as well as someone as infamous as Reinhard Heydrich as its main Big Bad, who is given quite a bit of character, can be enough of a turnoff to some people. Adding to this is the fact that the novel constantly wants to focus on the present and the characters themselves, so the crimes of the Third Reich are rarely brought up.

    Web Animation 

  • Homestuck is so notorious for its Continuity Lockout, that fans of the comic trying and inevitably failing to get their peers interested in reading it has become a meme unto itselfnote . This is mostly due to the sheer size of the project (8127 pages in total when it finally finished, which vary in length from single images to Wall of Text chat logs to elaborate animations to interactive games); the strangeness and complexity of the plot making it impossible to explain to the uninitiated; and the video game-centric nature of it. Additionally, in order fully get all the jokes, it is almost a prerequisite that you read the three comics that came before it: Problem Sleuth, which is a monumental read in and of itself, Bard Quest, an unfinished experiment, and Jailbreak, the first, and as a consequence the least polished of all the creator's work. And on top of all this, in order to reach the parts anyone talks about, you have to read through a good 1500 pages of buildup, during which the characters spend a lot of time meandering and doing largely irrelevant things; even the fanbase jokes about how slow and boring the first two chapters are.
  • Dinosaur Comics is a dadaistic comic whose art is literally the same six panels in the same positions for each comic; only the dialogue changes from comic to comic. It does have a tiny yet dedicated fanbase, though, and its writing has been praised enough that creator Ryan North got a gig with Marvel Comics.
  • Billy the Heretic is white power propaganda. That alone is enough to scare away most potential readers.
  • Kit N Kay Boodle is graphic furry porn... written with children's book-esque dialogue and drawn with a cutesy, adorable art style that looks like something out of Care Bears. Most furries are put off by its childishness and consider it Fetish Retardant, while any kid who reads it will most likely get scarred for life.
  • Pastel Defender Heliotrope combines cutesy anime-esque art and plot points with an insanely complicated and confusing storyline, lots of continuity references to its similarly confusing precursor Unicorn Jelly, and Author Tracts highly characteristic of its creator.
  • US Angel Corps, a (literal) Gorn comic by notorious artist David Cheung, is about a stripperiffic all-girl black-ops group who repeatedly and messily die. And get raped. Usually in that order. The subject matter alone can easily drive away general readers, but its target audience are the ones who are especially displeased. Porn readers were appalled by the comic's graphic gore and depictions of decidedly unsexy things like rape and necrophilia, while guro fans found the comic's blatant objectification of women and fetishism of their suffering (there's a lot of emphasis on the girls crying and begging for their lives) to be too much even for them to tolerate. Outside of the tiny percentage of hardcore Cheung fans, nobody likes this series.
  • Satan and Me is about a girl who accidentally summons Satan. He's then forced to live with her because she refuses to release him on the basis that keeping him captive prevents him from going around causing trouble. Slice of Life hijinks and occasional drama ensue. That alone isn't an alienating premise (unless you're not into demons), but the specific method she unwittingly uses is — she summoned him by menstruating onto a pad that the manufacturers accidentally printed an insignia on. Ironically, the series came about in the first place specifically because some Tumblr users were musing that it'd be a funny idea for a webcomic. The trope's also lampshaded by the username of the Tumblr blog that hosts it — "thisiskindagross".
  • Jack, by David Hopkins, is a Furry Webcomic which has a fairly cartoonish art style, but is also an extremely dark story about the afterlife starring the (furry) Grim Reaper and contains a lot of graphic sex and violence. Many people are turned off by either or both cutesy, furry art style and dark, religious commentary that tries to take itself deadly serious.
  • Mountain Time is a surrealist stick-figure comic with inane "plots" that are often resolved in equally inane ways. It makes frequent references to literature, B movies, and obscure music. That, combined with the rough artwork and hand-lettering, is enough to prevent most readers from noticing that it's actually pretty funny.
  • In general, Gunnerkrigg Court is a perfectly reasonable and non-alienating comic, but the premises for some of the individual chapters are amusingly bizarre or boring sounding, leading to The Rant often lampshading this by jokingly thanking the reader for having bothered to read them:
    "Thank you for reading this chapter about girls getting haircuts."
  • Vegan Artbook pushes fundamentalist veganism and does little else. Its only real fans are vegans as nutty as its creator.
  • Suicide for Hire, as the title would imply, is a comic about a service wherein suicidal people can pay to be murdered.
  • Ego Trigger, by Matsu-sensei, tries very, very hard to be an Animesque Slice of Life series with the concept that everyone can take another form that embodies their true self, which grants modest special abilities. That in itself could easily work and is not the alienating premise. It is also known for having extremely strong characterization and nice art. There is just the slight issue that all the girls (save one) have absurdly large breasts to fetishistic extremes and much is made of the fact that the female lead’s ego power makes her already-huge breasts even bigger. Two other girls are even bigger than that, and that sole aforementioned exception is the focus of a Running Gag that she hates her flat-chestedness and the universe conspires against her. And the male lead is an Author Avatar. Yeah, readers who aren’t fond of excessive sexual Fanservice wouldn’t touch this with a ten-foot pole, since although it has much better characterization than the typical ecchi series, and tries to create real pathos, it’s still an ecchi series. Nor does it help that the artist has given more prominence to his non-canonical extras that remove everything other the Fanservice and exaggerate that past the line into softcore pornography. And even if someone was willing to ignore the non-canon stuff and read it anyway, the lengthy time spent in Development Hell would make them not even bother.

    Web Videos 

    In-universe examples 

Fan Works

  • In To Hell and Back (Arrowverse), Cisco chose to watch the Twilight movie over reading the book because he heard the book was worse. Caitlin, who actually did read the book, agrees wholeheartedly with that opinion.

Film (Animation)

  • Toy Story 2: Stinky Pete, a toy from Woody's Roundup, is not very appealing to most children because he's a gassy elderly man Prospector doll from a old defunct toy line. He spent years on a shelf watching other toys be sold and never got played with, which made him bitter, and led him to become the villain. In the end, however he gets taken by a little girl that paints on her toys in what appears to be a Fate Worse than Death, but according to Word of God he comes to love the little girl, so it's actually a happy ending for him.

Film (Live-action)


  • How Not To Write A Novel calls this trope "The Voice in the Wilderness" and illustrates it with an intentionally offensive sample novel passage which portrays Auschwitz commanders, guards and doctors as selfless souls trying to save the inmates from dying of typhus, only for the Allies to "demonize" their efforts. The authors then explain that writing a novel with a "universally detested" viewpoint is a bad idea regardless of whether you genuinely believe it or simply figure that shock for shock's sake will sell.
  • In the annual Lyttle Lytton Contest, a contest which challenges contestants to write the worst opening line of a novel they can think of, a special prize is awarded every year to the entry which suggests the kind of novel the judge would least like to read.

Live-Action Television

  • In Kitchen Nightmares episode "Piccolo Teatro", Gordon opens the episode by stating that "The French are a nation of meat lovers, each eating an average of 90 kilos of this stuff every year." The titular Piccolo Teatro was a vegetarian restaurant situated in Paris. Gordon was exasperated when he realized what he was up against, yet nonetheless proved to the owner that the restaurant was indeed capable of faring well in spite of the circumstances, or even because of its niche as one of the only vegetarian options in Paris. The real problem with the restaurant - and the reason why it went out of business - was its Lazy Bum owner that wasn't willing to be more hands-on in the restaurant business.

Web Original

  • Digibro made a video once about averting this with his views on why the premise is one of the least important criteria for evaluating a show, where he talks about good shows that have weak premises and bad shows with intriguing premises.
  • Discussed on Projector. Mathew notes in his review of How I Live Now that it's about a not-very-likable character trying to get back to someone who is their cousin/lover. He also notes that it flopped in his native UK, probably because of this.
  • ProZD has some trouble getting other people interested in Chihaya Furu, which is about a game called Karuta, where one person reads a verse from a poem and the other players have to find the card that corresponds to that poem. He ends up putting the other guy to sleep because of how unexciting it sounds.
  • Jontron feels this way about a lot of the various Barbie games he reviews, finding them to be so mindlessly focused around fashion which just simply does not work as a game premise and would even drive away Barbie's target audience. Notably, the only one he actually finds decent is Barbie: Magic Genie Adventure since it actually averts this and is a fantasy action-adventure game with Barbie characters:
    Jontron (On Barbie by Epyx): So this game can be wholly summed up as "getting ready for a date with Ken!" Alright, Ken you're creepy, Barbie you need to stand up for yourself more, and if I was a small girl I'd probably never touch video games again after this!
    Jontron (On Barbie: Magic Genie Adventure): Believe it or not this one's actually pretty good. You fly around on your magic carpet through mazes while collecting items and solving puzzles. All of this to restore your friend's magical powers. But something feels off... something's not right. No one's told me to change my dress or get ready for a date with Ken yet!
  • According to CinemaSins, Joker has no hope in hell of garnering an audience but only managed to avert falling into this by making the star The Joker:
    Jeremy: So here's the end of the movie. It's pretty good, I guess. Would any of you have watched this if it wasn't called Joker? My guess is that you wouldn't. So I guess the next thing that an independent production that has no chance in hell of getting an audience needs to do is somehow tie it into a Thanos origin story? Just a guy driving around L.A. traffic all day yelling "I WISH ONLY HALF OF THESE PEOPLE EXISTED!" The. End.

Western Animation


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