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Audience-Alienating Premise

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"Your average parent isn't likely to take their brood to a kids' movie billed as 'from the director of Raging Bull', while your average Scorsese fan probably isn't going to get much pleasure from seeing Sacha Baron Cohen crash into a cake."

"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.


Associated tropes and genres include:

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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    Comic Books 
  • Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld:
    • A Magical Girl maxiseries created during early '80s? It didn't stand a chance, so DC Comics killed the series by making the main character evil and blowing up her homeworld. Of course, if they had the foresight to allow the property to live until the '90s, they could have had a hot product on their hands.
    • Relaunched in 2012 as the lead feature of Sword Of Sorcery, written by Christy Marx, the woman behind Jem. The comic again failed to find an audience, and was cancelled with Issue #8 in early 2013. While the relaunch had some potential going for it, it also ran into a number of the same roadblocks — for a comic that was being promoted with kid-friendly shorts on Cartoon Network's DC Nation, it went for more of a "Game of Thrones with magical gem powers" vibe and featured an attempted gang rape in its first issue.
    • Amethyst had a sort of crossover in the second series. Cue very surprised looks from readers wondering why a character from a "comic for little girls" was doing in the pages of Dr. Fate. (Turns out Amy is a Lord of Order. Yes, you read that right.)
  • Power Pack (the original 1980s comic): Kid heroes, except that, instead of featuring wacky antics and dumb adult villains, the theme was played totally straight. The story took itself seriously (not only was the comic pretty dark at times, but the kids were even featured in the X-Men's Mutant Massacre crossover, which was every bit as dark as it sounds), but many people wrote it off because it was about kids. Most adult comic readers dismissed it out of hand, because they assumed a story about children would just be wacky and stupid, and kids who wanted to see wacky antics probably ended up disappointed. It's no coincidence that most of the letters to the editor came from adults, with only the occasional 12-year-old, who were surprised at the quality of the storytelling.
  • A similar issue plagued the first arc of the Terry Moore-led reboot of Runaways. The extremely cartoonish art by Humberto Ramos suggested that it was aimed at younger teens, which repelled longtime fans, but the not-so-kid-friendly storyline — involving Karolina being accused of complicity in the destruction of Majesdane, and ending with Xavin impersonating her and handing themselves over to her accusers — didn't really bring in many younger readers, and may have helped lead to the series' cancellation a year later.
  • Yeah! by Peter Bagge and Gilbert Hernandez is a girls' comic about three girls in a rock band who are trying to make it big but can only get fans in outer space, and was intended to resemble the girls' comics of the sixties. It is also to comic book fans what a disco album by Iron Maiden would be to a music fan: it doesn't contain any of the stuff that they like, and it belongs to a genre that's been dead for decades. Despite some good writing and nice artwork, the comic was cancelled after only nine poorly-selling issues.
  • Avengers Arena: Taking cult favorite teenage heroes (including members of Runaways and Avengers Academy) and putting them in a The Hunger Games/Battle Royale scenario played completely straight, so as to prop up Smug Snake gimmick villain Arcade as a legitimate threat (twenty years too late), by having a lot of teenagers die. The amount of vitriol it generated before and during its release is rather amazing. The sequel, by the same writer, had the surviving kids infiltrating the Masters of Evil with the book's premise being that one of them will turn evil. It sold so poorly that it was cancelled after 10 issues (the story was planned for at least 12).
  • Chick Tracts are meant to appeal to people other than evangelical Protestants. However, the target audience is automatically alienated by the central messages (promoting religious fundamentalism, decrying the "evil" of the Catholic Church, comparing people who think Evolution is a sound theory to Nazis, etc.), while people who would agree with them don't bother reading them because the tracts are not meant for them.
  • Barbara Slate's Angel Love series folded after eight issues and a special. Its cute cartoonish artwork and style of writing clashed with the subjects it was dealing with: drug use, abortion, critical illnesses, and incest.
  • Archie Comics:
  • Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Archie Comic's Sonic the Hedgehog similarly crossed over with Image Comics in a Sonic Super Special issue, due to then-series writer Ken Penders' brief involvement with Image and professional friendship with Jim Valentino. The sight of Sonic and the Freedom Fighters fighting a dimension-hopping baddie with such Image characters as Shadowhawk and Savage Dragon (Spawn only showing up in two shamelessly deceptive panels) would've been hard enough to swallow, but when the crux of the plot revolves around a team of X-Men ripoffs called the Lost Onesnote  and would crash-and-burn after one issue, audiences were left confused and unsatisfied as Penders' Creator's Pet Knuckles would render the whole thing moot with Chaos powers in the end anyways.
    • Penders also penned an earlier special which was packaged as Sonic Live!. Its lead story is a cringe-worthy piece where Sonic meets up with two real-world childrennote  and fight alternate Robotniks while learning he's a fictional character created by a random staff artist on behalf of a couple of white SEGA executives. Or in other words, it was an Indecisive Parody of Last Action Hero with Sonic and guest-stars the writer's family.
    • The comic as a whole hit this after the Newbie Boom Sonic Adventure and Sonic X caused. The series is one big artifact from when Sonic was low on canon material to go off of. Even when it tried to add game elements in the 2000s, the comic was still extremely different from game canon. Its many plot and characterization differences, along with its dozens of Canon Foreigner characters, are why the series has such a mixed reception amongst fans who got into the series after the Dreamcast era. In contrast, its Truer to the Text IDW Spiritual Successor was better received amongst its detractors.
  • Attempts to combine highbrow literature with hardcore porn comics tend to fall under this trope. Audiences generally approach each genre with entirely different expectations and purposes in mind. Two examples are Gilbert Hernandez's Birdland, a satire of Wilhelm Reich's disputed orgone energy theory, and Alan Moore's and Melinda Gebbie's Lost Girls, featuring Alice from Alice in Wonderland, Dorothy from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and Wendy from Peter Pan.
  • There was an X-Men miniseries called The First X-Men that turned a lot of people, especially those who don't like Wolverine, off by attempting to retcon that he, and not Professor Xavier, was the first person to found a mutant superhero team (and even worse, that the Professor was a self-hating mutant during that time). Critics generally found it an utterly bizarre vanity project for writer Neal Adams, while fans felt it was a (bad) attempt to cash in on the last two X-Men films by combining their premises together, and it's never been mentioned since. The irony is that Adams has stated at signings that he hated working on it, as it was heavily subject to Editorial Mandates and Vetos.
  • The second volume of Secret Avengers ended up as something like this. The premise is that SHIELD forms its own team of Avengers, but to keep them from revealing their secrets, they undergo a mindwipe after their missions, which was off-putting due to the grey morality of such a tactic and apparent attempts to amp the feel of the MCU with the book's promotional material. Still, the series found a small audience thanks to the fact it explored the moral implications of the concept, had a quirky sense of humor, used underused-though-well liked characters War Machine, Quake, Mockingbird, and Taskmaster, and had generally good writing. The series ended after 16 issues so the writer could move onto Avengers World.
    • The third volume qualifies even more: it dropped the above mentioned characters, with the art and tone of the comic shifting to what seemed to be a lazy ripoff of Matt Fraction's Hawkeye ongoing. Many fans dropped the book, and it was cancelled after 15 issues.
  • One More Day: To sum it up: Marvel's "Most Responsible Hero" loses his very aged mother-figure, and discovers that he can't fix it. He makes the responsible decision and gets his beloved wife to agree to delete their entire marriage (complete with unborn child), via an under-examined deal with the most deceitful and evil Reality Warper he can find.
  • Batman: Fortunate Son is a story about the Dark Knight taking on the evils of Rock & Roll. The comic was released in The '90s, long after such an idea became downright laughable.
  • This may have been part of the reason Gail Simone's The Movement didn't last very long despite good reviews. A comic series about a group of morally dodgy protagonists becoming vigilantes, who are also completely new characters and thus don't have previously built audience love to carry them. It was also very politicized which is a frequent turn-off for some comic readers. Simone herself has commented that, in hindsight, the book was a very difficult concept to sell and was lucky to get as far as it did.
  • Jonathan Hickman's run on New Avengers struggles with this; since Grey and Gray Morality and heroes being forced to do morally questionable things is a major theme, it's developed a reputation as being little more than an ongoing series of displays of how morally bankrupt the protagonists are. Only so many people can enjoy seeing beloved heroes like Black Panther and Mr. Fantastic acting like super villains. While the book sold fairly well, it was arguably more due to it's place as a cornerstone of the highly-publicized Secret Wars (2015) crossover than of the characters or story. A big part of the problem is that other groups aside from the protagonists are depicted as coming up with solutions to the story's big conflict that don't involve doing horribly amoral things. This has created an awkward situation where people like Doctor Doom are seen by fans as doing a better job at being heroes than the actual heroes.
  • Any case of a superhero becoming a Legacy Character has the potential to be this. Essentially, the writer is asking the reader to forget about the hero they've followed and become attached to and instead read about some new guy who may only be tangentially related to the original hero. If the writer can't do enough to make the readers care about the new character quickly, people will turn away because they see no reason to follow the story if the protagonist they cared about is gone. Examples of Affirmative Action Legacy have this even worse, as they are frequently accused of being a Creator's Pet so that the writer can show off how progressive they are, whether or not that is the case.
  • Branching off from the first point, practically every superhero has become a "Legacy" character by this point, and this can lead to instances of characters with already-beloved or appreciated gimmicks being shoehorned into another identity for the name recognition (and sales). This can also have the effect of "reducing" other roles or making them arbitrarily subordinate to the "Legacy" of another.
  • Dan Jurgens' Teen Titans series from 1996 which replaced all of the cast members from New Teen Titans with new characters and inexplicably turned The Atom into a teenager.
  • Robert Kirkman's The Irredeemable Ant-Man: according to Kirkman, the idea was to have the protagonist start out as a cowardly jerk and evolve into a real hero over time. Unfortunately, the comic put extremely heavy emphasis on how much of a jerk the new Ant-Man was while failing to play up his Hidden Heart of Gold; Marvel's advertising didn't help, selling the comic with the tagline "The World's Most Unlikable Superhero". Non-fans of Ant-Man were driven away, while Ant-Man fans left out of disgust at the thought of such a douche taking over the title. Evangeline Lilly read the series as research for the Ant-Man movie, and publicly dismissed it as "crap".
  • The 2015 Batman Beyond comic. It stars an adult Tim Drake (who took over after a time-traveling Terry McGinnis was killed) as a Fish out of Temporal Water in a post-apocalyptic world where Gotham is the only remnant of human civilization. It's not clear who the comic was intended, as it has little in common with any previous iteration of Batman Beyond, and the Tim Drake featured is very different from his prior characterizations.
  • Wacky Raceland, the Darker and Edgier reimagining of Hanna-Barbera's Wacky Races. Take a classic light-hearted cartoon about racers with their distinctive motifs running through different rallies around America and turn it into a Mad Max-inspired post-apocalyptic setting where every type of calamity happened and littered with mutants and eldritch abominations. Despite the title trying to ride on Rule of Cool, the concept was never going to be easy to sell and predictably the comic went under after just six issues.
  • Fury (MAX) was part of the Marvel MAX line and featured a Darker and Edgier and Bloodier and Gorier story of Fury looking at his last days as an agent of a post-Cold War era S.H.I.E.L.D. that presented Fury as a Blood Knight. Most notably, the detractors of this included Fury co-creator Stan Lee and actor George Clooney, who was in talks to play Fury in a movie when the series was released, and dropped out precisely because of it, both men expressing disgust at the series' graphic scenes, including Fury disemboweling Big Bad Rudi Gagarin and strangling him with his own intestines.
  • As the title may indicate The Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe has the Punisher indiscriminately murder every superhuman in the Marvel universe. It's unlikely that many people would want to see Frank Castle slaughter their favorite superheroes, and even if you agree with writer Garth Ennis' bias against superheroes, you're likely going to see the Punisher as Unintentionally Unsympathetic for killing heroes who had nothing to do with his family's death.
  • Creator Brian K. Vaughan has quite candidly admitted that this trope was a major fear of his when he was first writing Saga as it's an original, non-superhero, anti-war Planetary Romance Science Fantasy — but one that is absolutely for adults — featuring a non-white married couple as the leads, gory violence, and an abundance of graphic space alien sex. Not to mention how Fiona Staples' bright, colorful stylized artwork (the same she uses for Archie Comics (2015)!) seems to fit better with a series much brighter and happier than it actually is. Ultimately, however, the trope was triumphantly averted, when Saga garnered massive critical acclaim and became one of the best-selling ongoing series of the 2010's.
  • Trouble was universally condemned upon release. Among the reasons as such include being advertised as a romance comic despite not really being one, but the biggest one being its ties to the Spider-Man franchise: namely being about the adventures of teenaged versions of Peter Parker's parents, Uncle Ben, and Aunt May and the attempt to retcon that May was really Peter's birth mother. It was so reviled that it's not canon to either the classic or Ultimate Marvel universes.

    Fan Works 

  • 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 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.

    Films — 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 were supposed to be and consequently it failed and sank into obscurity.
  • Foodfight! is basically an extended homage to Casablanca starring advertising mascots and featuring loads of Toilet Humour and sex jokes... and it's aimed at children. Many critics note that the film seems to have no idea whom it's trying to appeal to. And that's not even going into the horrendous animation that practically makes the film look eye-gouging.
  • The Mexican animated film Un Gallo Con Mucho Huevos (A Rooster With Many Eggs) seems at first glance to be just an average film that'd be reasonably respectable in its home country. Its wide US release, however, is mind-boggling. Here we have a CGI film starring talking animals that resembles a kid pic but got a PG-13 rating for its US release, likely due to cultural differences in that Mexican humor is a bit more relaxed with standards than US humor. On top of that, the film is not being dubbed for its American release, it will be Spanish with English subtitles. How likely is it anyone will want to see a kiddie-looking PG-13 animated flick in Spanish? (and yet it cracked the weekend top 10, playing in less than 400 theaters...)
  • The holy trinity of "cute animal movies that turn out to be horribly non-kid friendly":
    • Felidae is a film noir with blood, murder, sex, and a cult. Starring cats (real ones, not Funny Animals). Its look made many people think it was a Disney-type movie, but the actual content is not kid-friendly, thus it scared away adult audiences while not attracting kid audiences. The film has since gained a cult status online, however.
    • Watership Down is a movie about rabbits! Kid-friendly, right?! Well, the film has quite a few scenes faithful to the original novel, such as rabbits being gassed in their burrows during a human land-settlement, a dog violently attacking and killing rabbits, rabbits getting killed by natural predators, and rabbits getting, albeit non-lethally, shot. The film didn't attract adults due to being about rabbits, thus dismissed as "kiddy", while kids were scared away by the climactic battle between Hazel's warren and the Efrafan rabbits. The film is for kids, but its reputation means that few watch it.
    • Sister film The Plague Dogs deals with the touchy topic of animal testing and has the same bleak, dark tone and art style but with cartoon talking dogs.
  • 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 the replacement for an animated feature of Popeye from Genndy Tartakovsky and an animated film of Medusa from Lauren Faust (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.
  • Toy Story 2: In universe, 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.

  • Natural Harvest -- A Collection of Semen-Based Recipes
  • Anything that involves deliberately cultivating rot or mould to produce the taste, from blue cheese to the traditional Icelandic hakarl (rotten shark) to the Japanese natto (fermented soybeans), tends to generate this reaction from some. Even beer, another product of fermentation, is an acquired taste for some people. Of special note is huitlacoche, a delicacy in Mexico consisting of corn infected with a parasitic fungus, better known to English-speakers as smut. The fungus proliferates in the corn kernels, swelling them up to massive proportions and turning them bluish. Few people outside of Mexico are willing to eat these things, even after attempts to call them names like "corn mushrooms" or "Mexican truffles" to make them sound more palatable (and they are harmless to humans even when raw), and huitlacoche is restricted or outright banned from import into most countries due to most people seeing it as a blight rather than something to eat. Their fears are justified, however, because farmers who just want to sell normal corn, and consumers who just want to eat normal corn, will not appreciate this highly contagious fungus infecting these plants.
  • For Westerners, eating insects.
  • Combining both mould and insects, casu marzu, an Italian cheese partially digested by live insect larvae.
  • Foods based on offal squick out a lot of people, though they're perfectly happy to eat hot dogs and other sausages. The classic example is haggis — notorious for being the heart, lungs, and liver of a sheep, boiled in its own stomach (to quote the Earthworm Jim cartoon); what many people don't know is that the first three ingredients are minced first (every description seems to go with "cut up" instead, wrongly implying that this offal is served in unappetizingly large chunks), making the whole thing more like eating a giant bratwurst. Other examples are the Mexican menudo, a soup made of hominy and beef tripe, chitterlings (pig intestines), a staple of African American people in the South, and scrapple (a fried loaf of pork scraps mixed with cornmeal mush) in the mid-Atlantic.
  • It's less common nowadays, but for a long time many people were put off of sushi because it's "raw fish". This stems from a fundamental misunderstanding when it comes to defining the word "sushi", which only refers the sticky, vinegar-seasoned rice that goes into various rolls and nigiri; not all types of sushi contain raw fish ("sashimi"). It's perfectly possible to have a great sushi dinner with nothing but vegetarian and/or fully-cooked rolls or nigiri like egg omelette, roasted eel or shrimp.
  • Foie gras is made from specially-prepared duck or goose liver. Liver alone is off-putting to many, but preparing foie gras requires force-feeding the bird until its liver bloats up to 10 times its normal size, something that can make it even more off-putting. It's not surprising that foie gras is controversial.
  • In many cultures, meat derived from certain animals are subject to taboo. The reasons are greatly varied: some examples include pork due to pigs being "unclean" (their dietary habits are considered off-putting), beef due to cows being considered too "holy", and horses, dogs and guinea pigs due to being considered too intelligent or too cute to be eaten. Taken even further in some cultures where there are taboos against eating meat period.
  • There is a whole psychological phenomenon known as "food neophobia," which collectively is about people's hesitation to try foods they aren't familiar with. Most people have this to one extent or another (a widely-seen example is the aforementioned westerners' aversion to eating insects), and it stems from a natural instinct to avoid putting potentially poisonous or otherwise dangerous things in one's mouth.
  • Fugu, a blowfish in which certain organs contain a deadly poison. Chefs are understandably only allowed to prepare it for customers after a three year training course to make sure they can accurately remove all the dangerous parts, and still there are occasional deaths from improper preparation. It's a delicacy in Japan, but hasn't caught on anywhere else for obvious reasons.
  • Veal is another controversial example. Not only is it meat from a baby cow, but meat from a baby cow that has been restricted from moving around in order to keep the meat tender and flavorful, which can also lead to abnormal development. Veal also tends to be more expensive than beef from older cattle, so those willing to look past the unsavory aspects of production may not be willing to shell out extra cash for it.
  • For more complete lists, see Stock "Yuck!" and Masochist's Meal.

  • 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.
  • The Bum Trilogy (and its Animated Adaptation, The Day My Butt Went Psycho!) is about people's butts coming to life and hopping off their bodies, and the protagonist's efforts to maintain peace between man and butt. While the idea might have a lot of intrigue, the fact that it's about butts ensures that potential readers will brush it off as something for little kids into Toilet Humour, unless they're that curious about the Fridge Logicnote .
  • 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” in 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 Klansman 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 was 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.
  • Lolita is a prime example of this, to the extent that it's mostly known in the general public as "that novel about pædophila". Fortunately, its status as a modern classic prevents it from becoming too neglected, but most people unaware of why it's considered so great are likely to pass it up due to the premise. Though just as many readers came to it for prurient interest based on its unfounded reputation. It's likely for this reason that the film adaptations play up Lolita as a Fille Fatale Bratty Teenage Daughter, while playing down Humbert's role as a self-centred abusive sexual predator.
  • Stephen King withheld Pet Sematary from publication for several years because he felt the subject matter made the book unpublishable.
  • 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 Turner Diaries is about a group of white supremacist terrorists... who are the heroes of the story. Needless to say, this book has absolutely no fans outside of its very narrow target audience.
    • Hunter is a book where the hero is a serial killer who targets Jews and racial minorities.
  • The Northwest Front series is white nationalist literature where we're supposed to root for racist militants.
  • Awoken (written by Lindsay Ellis and Elisa Hansen, among others) is a parody of the Teen 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 of 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?
  • Erin Hunter:
    • Warrior Cats is about cute, fluffy cats that are involved in bloody battles, have a complex religious and social structure, have a tendency to die horribly, and have illegitimate offspring all over the place. Younger kids see cats, and then see continuity and leave. Older kids are put off by the Cute Kitten thing and may be embarrassed to start the series in the first place. The books do have an audience, and it'll be interesting to see how The Film of the Book is marketed.
    • Seeker Bears is a series about bear cubs surviving and travelling together. It has its fans and sells well, but its heavy environmental message is what turns off many.
    • Survivor Dogs is much of the same as Warrior Cats, but with dogs. It alienates Erin Hunter fans by technically not being written by an Erin Hunter. "Erin Hunter" is a composite for writers, with Survivor Dogs using completely separate writers from the previous Warrior Cats and Seeker Bears. As a result, Survivor Dogs is written very differently than its two sister-series. It takes more inspiration from Watership Down than anything. The series' heavy mythology and Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp" alienates many first-time readers who are used to the more simplified lore of the previous Erin Hunter works.
  • 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 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?
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Watership Down is a serious children's fantasy adventure about rabbits. It features a lot of Family-Unfriendly Violence, Conlang, and Animal Religion. Most kids and their parents are turned off by either the violence or the rabbits, while xenofiction fans are turned off by it being about rabbits instead of something "cooler" or predatory like deer or cats. Watership Down, however, is saved from obscurity by being a classic with three different animated adaptations.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Progressive Rock in general. While the genre is widespread, incorporating many different styles such as folk, metal, and classical music, most people only know it as "20-minute-long keyboard solos", despite there being many songs which only go on for about five minutes, and having music that incorporates absolutely nothing other than guitar, bass, drums and vocals.
  • The word 'goth' or 'gothic' when attached to music can have this effect on people who would otherwise like the music. It implies stereotypical gothic fashion and whiney lyrics over the sense of the more prog-like melody and Post-Punk atmosphere in the music.
  • 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.
  • Double albums in general. In the minds of a lot of listeners, "double album" is synonymous with "self-indulgent mess".
  • 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 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 avantgarde classical music, doowop 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 20's 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 or 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!
  • Songs of the Humpback Whale was the first album with nothing but sounds of singing whales. At the time humans had always thought whales were mute, but this record proved otherwise. It was first released as a free record with an issue of National Geographic Magazine, because nobody thought anyone would buy it. Unexpectedly there was such a high demand for it that it was released as a full album and became an international bestseller. It was instrumental in showing people that these creatures' singing abilities were a hidden talent and cemented the image of the whale as a Gentle Giant in people's heads. The entire "Save The Whales" movement was inspired by this record and eventually the entire album was deemed so important that the National Recording Registry selected it for preservation.
  • 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.
  • "And We Run" by Within Temptation is a song that combines gothic/symphonic metal with rap. The two genres don't mix much (if at all) so many people were turned off; however, people that have heard the song typically have a positive reaction.
  • Big Grams, consisting of rapper Big Boi and indietronica band Phantogram, wasn't able 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.
  • This is cited by many as the reason for the era of Bubblegum Music lasting barely two years. The basic premise of bubblegum was that it was music to sell to children who 'couldn't listen to The Beatles any more because they didn't understand the drug references', but the low curation of the genre (with songs written by bored twenty-somethings) combined with the arty pop style of the late 60s meant that the lyrics were often too dark, sexual and lysergic for parents to allow their kids to listen to it, while the grownups were happy listening to real psychrock instead of the watered down version. Numerous bubblegum acts used their fame to gain full creative control of their output and put out bizarre albums no-one wanted, often with psychedelic/experimental (The Monkees) or apocalyptic Christian themes (The Osmonds and The Cowsills) that served as Nightmare Fuel for the target audience of eleven-year-olds. Serious music nerds who might have been interested in the Outsider Music elements wouldn't be caught dead listening to something so uncool as a manufactured band to sell records to children. You couldn't even crush on a lot of bubblegum artists, since many were session musicians if not literal cartoon characters. Even now, people arguing for the genre's artistic legitimacy mostly cite its influence on future genres like Disco and Power Pop, rather than as something you can actually listen to and enjoy on its own merit, even if you are under 12.
  • 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. Coincidently, 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.
  • "Fame sucks" songs, such as "The Way I Am" by Eminem and "Deep Inside" by Mary J. Blige, have the potential of becoming this. While the songs' premise is valid — the artist is voicing their frustrations with fake friends, the loss of privacy, and other stresses of show business — if done poorly it can come across as "Waaah being rich and famous is sooooo hard!"

  • 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.
  • Super Bowl LIII in 2019 between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams had the lowest ratings of any Super Bowl in a decade, putting off fans for a few reasons:
    1. Both the NFC and AFC Championship games were affected by questionable play-calling from NFL officials note , leaving many, especially Saints fans, feeling that neither team particularly deserved to be there.
    2. This was the third straight Super Bowl appearance by the Patriots, and the fourth in 5 years, so non-Patriots fans weren't particularly thrilled to see them there again.
    3. Finally, Maroon 5, Scott, and Big Boi's decisions to play at halftime at all were highly criticized, as many bands and musicians had previously turned down performing out of protest for the NFL's treatment of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

  • Pinball itself can be this: The prevalence of the Pinball Gag has caused the public perception of pinball to be basically banging a ball wildly and aimlessly with the flippers until the machine won't let you do that anymore, with little else to it. In other words, there isn't much public interest in pinball under the idea of, "What can a pinball game do that video games and mobile games can't do better?" It was not until 2012, with Jersey Jack Pinball's release of The Wizard of Oz, which has a huge monitor, that the perception has started to shift. It's a very slow one, however, due to the relative scarcity of pinball machines in public compared to arcade video games and redemption machines, and with these monitor-based ones being very expensive, they'll remain rare for the foreseeable future.
  • 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 turns 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 00's, 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 blood letting, 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 
  • 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 are referred to exclusively through racial slurs, and each has a special attack based off 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-inducted 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 the 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 longterm 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 (listed above under Literature due to its own issues on this front), 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.
  • BreaKeyis 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: The men and women who assassinated, or tried to assassinate, American presidents.
    • 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. At 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, as proof that Tropes Are Not Bad, 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 before the act break of her slamming every window shut and shoving her mother in the closet. 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 a 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 Robo Riders theme. Their previous attempt at buildable, collectible action figures, Slizers, 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, Robo Riders 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 was 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 horses than cute little ponies. The next retool returned them to their original look.
  • Poopsie Slime Surprise 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 dead seriously 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).
  • Katawa Shoujo is this on two levels: It's an eroge featuring various disabled characters, and it's by a group of folks on 4chan of all places. Despite this (or because of it), it has become a Gateway Series for the Visual Novel genre.
  • 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.
  • Doki Doki Literature Club! has almost exactly the same problem as Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Aside from a vague Content Warning being one of the few clues that things aren't what they seem, the game is an ordinary, lighthearted visual novel with a cute cast of colorful, quirky girls. People not into such games will probably stop playing in disgust early on before later events really ratchet up the horror, while people who are may not have any sort of interest in the horror story it eventually turns out to be. Similar to Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Sayori's suicide instantly became the game's signature meme in spite of later, darker turns.
  • 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.
  • While not quote as alienating as its Spiritual Predecessor Katawa Shoujo, the in-development Missing Stars has a fair sum of this. It's about an eighteen year old who had an accident that left him traumatized and with psychosomatic issues with one of his legs. His parents send him to a Boarding School that specializes in mental health problems. Some people are either unnerved by the idea of a dating sim themed around mental illness or they don't think the visual novel can pull it off well.

    Web Comics 
  • 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 Gorn comic by notorious artist David Cheung, is about an all-girl black-ops group who repeatedly and messily die. And get raped. Usually in that order. The subject matter is enough to drive off 95% of readers, while the majority of guro fans find its 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 dead seriously.
  • 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.
  • Penny Arcade has an In-Universe example, in the form of iChoke-U, a glove that strangles you when you beat Gabe in SoulCalibur online.
  • 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 conceit 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 Animation 

    Web Videos 
  • Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is a terrific movie that turns classic villain and hero tropes on their ear. It won a lot of awards, and it would have won one more if there was an award for "Worst Name for a Movie Ever". Many potential fans refused to see the film purely because of the title; it's not exactly unreasonable to expect something called a "Sing-Along Blog" to be awful.
  • Brows Held High: A Video Review Show where the host reviews arthouse movies. You know: those difficult pretentious and boring movies that most people don't watch or care about, but will still dismiss as stupid.
  • CinemaSins follows the efforts of an inattentive nitpicker in listing everything he found "wrong" in movies both famous and infamous. Some people find this series funnier than others.
  • While Digibro could easily qualify with being best-known for his videos dissecting anime down to the most picayune details, he also 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 ChihayaFuru, 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.

    Western Animation 
  • Big Mouth is a show about characters going through puberty, not being the least coy about exploring sexuality and its development. The concept alone has made it severely polarizing, several people accusing it of being child pornography. Likewise, its artstyle has been deemed visually unappealing (presumably done on purpose to avoid arousing ephebophiles), which didn't help smooth things over. Post-release it has found some favorable reviews, but even then the show remains very contentious and even those who like it admit the former problems are still prevalent.
  • The Critic could be this trope's codifier for the medium. It revolves around a Straw Critica fat, bald, acerbic, whiny loser — but portrays him sympathetically as often as not, particularly regarding his struggle against his boss's and popular culture's Anti-Intellectualism. The second season is Lighter and Softer; Jay gets a romantic interest with a Cousin Oliver attached. To the show's credit, it maintains its high level of humor and benefits from the more varied character dynamics the new arrivals allow. But even at the time, fans of the show knew it was Too Good to Last; on ABC in Season 1 it didn't fit in with any of the network's "wacky family" comedies, and when it made its Channel Hop for Fox in Season 2 it would be Screwed by the Network.
  • Disney Channel's The Buzz on Maggie, while generally liked by most of the people that watched it (a select few of which consider it a legit Cult Classic while most of the others merely consider it So Okay, It's Average), is an extremely (in fact, probably parodically) stereotypical Slice of Life tween sitcom aimed at little girls (naturally a crowd known for being rather squeamish to put it lightly) that takes place in an overflowing garbage dump infested with sentient anthropomorphic flies and various other types of insects who may or or may not have gained their anthropomorphism from prolonged radioactive fluid/gas exposure. You can probably already guess why it only lasted one season.
  • Assy McGee is about a Cowboy Cop named Assy McGee, who is literally a talking ass. Unsurprisingly it's one of the few shows [adult swim] treats as an Old Shame.
  • Fox's Peter Pan & the Pirates was a cartoon with some great writing and storytelling, that was surprisingly gothic and occasionally scary at times. Why didn't it do well? Well, it's about Peter Pan, and yet it takes itself dead seriously and has more mature storytelling than you'd expect given the source material. Hence, little kids who might be drawn in by Peter Pan got scared away, and older kids who'd enjoy the story took one look at who it's about and decided it was kiddy. Note that the original novel was very dark in its way, as well (at the end, Tinkerbell is dead, and Peter is too childlike to remember, or care, who she was, for example). But, thanks to Disneyfication, anything that returns to the spirit of the original alienates everyone.
  • Similarly, there's Sam & Max: Freelance Police. The show's main humor was incredibly fast-paced dialogue to the point that adults can get lost, and unlike Animaniacs, there wasn't much in the way of Slapstick to balance it out — the main duo were able to laugh off whatever Amusing Injuries they were subject to as if it barely happened. On top of that, it aired at a time when the Animation Age Ghetto was only just starting to be broken, so most grown-ups wouldn't have expected much from what was to them another duo of Funny Animals. Since the preexisting Sam & Max franchise was a Cult Classic, any veteran fans interested wouldn't be enough to sustain the show for more than a season.
  • Transformers:
  • Allen Gregory. The show is about a homeschooled 7-year-old played by Jonah Hill, who is forced to attend elementary school when his gay parents hit hard times, and thus has little idea on how to act as a kid. That could have worked very well... if not for the fact that both the title character and his father were unrepentant Jerkasses, especially to the daughter character (who was an unfunny and rather darkly played Meg ripoff). Not helping matters was the fact that one of the parents wasn't actually gay but rather gave in to a gay relationship because the other wouldn't leave him alone despite several restraining orders — this aspect already angered quite a few people in the gay community thanks to the Unfortunate Implications raised. It also contained a recurring subplot about Gregory attempting to date his principal, who is in her 70s, and his infatuation was portrayed far too sexually to be considered a Precocious Crush. The show reeked of Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy, was met with poor reviews, and canceled after just 7 episodes due to poor ratings.
  • The European series Popetown was set in the Vatican, and featured an impish take on The Pope who came off as a Spoiled Brat, as well as corrupt cardinals; much of the humor is rather sexual, scatological, or just plain stupid. Despite initial interest from viewers, the ensuing religious controversy over how offensive it was to Catholics kept it off the air long enough for any real interest to dry up.
  • Wanting to get in on the popularity of gritty action cartoons from Japan, Warner Bros. came up with Loonatics Unleashed which re-invented Looney Tunes characters as intimidating crimefighters in a dark cyberpunkish setting. Unfortunately people who would've been interested in the Looney Tunes were turned off by the dark-looking setting and action emphasis, and people who wanted to see anthropomorphic superhero action were put on their guard by the fact that the characters were based on Funny Animal cartoons famous for zany slapstick. Due to a backlash the premise was changed into a much more standardized superhero cartoon that received mixed reviews at best. Further attempts were made to fix the show in the second season by lightening things even further and reintroducing nearly all the other classic characters, but despite that and angling even more obviously for another season, the show was cancelled after that season ran its course.
  • To a lesser extent, this might also be the reason The Looney Tunes Show never became the smash hit the channel was hoping for. Sitcom fans were turned off by the Funny Animal cast and Looney Tunes fans probably didn't care for the show's very different humor style and personalities for the 'Tunes. Not helping was the common criticism that the show wasn't sure of which of the two it wanted to appeal to or even the age of its target audience.
  • Pelswick was unable to gain much of an audience due to taking too many risks at once. It had a paraplegic protagonist, which is a pretty big risk by itself, unfortunately, especially since it made the bold choice to have it not define his entire character. Then it was set in a Fantastic Comedy (the protagonist receives advice from a Guardian Angel only he can see), and some of the people who liked the reality aspect found the fantasy aspect confusing to the point they couldn't enjoy it, as well as having an unconventional art style which some people find off-putting in and of itself. For good measure, the show employed mature humor about political correctness and then aimed the series at kids, complete with a far-from-subtle Aesop structure that older people were turned off by. All of this resulted in being cancelled after 26 episodes and not released on DVD with a handful of fans (Funimation wanting to focus more on My Dad the Rock Star certainly didn't help matters).
  • Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain was an unneeded retooling of the already-popular series, Pinky and the Brain, where the duo are forced to live with the least popular character from Tiny Toon Adventures. Two episodes from Pinky and the Brain were made to show that changing the show was a bad move, but the higher ups didn't get the memo. It was clear that the staff hated working on the show as they put "It's what the network wants, why bother to complain? The Earth remains their goal, some things they can't control." in the show's lyrics. The show only lasted 13 episodes.
  • This is the reason My Little Pony Tales flopped. Fans of the usually fantasy-themed My Little Pony franchise found the slice-of-life elements dull and cliché, while most Slice of Life fans couldn't get beyond the fact that the cast is all brightly-colored talking ponies. It's still a controversial topic in the MLP fandom decades later. As for the franchise in general, the central premise of brightly colored magical talking ponies is a significant barrier to mainstream acceptance.
  • Almost Naked Animals. The entire cast is animals who have all their fur shaved off, and wear only underwear, for no specific reason. And they all work at an island cabana. And the art style is very ugly, to say the least, and NOT in an Ugly Cute kind of way.
  • This is what doomed The Goode Family from the start. It's a Spiritual Antithesis to King of the Hill, a show that works because the deeply conservative regions of the United States are well known in other areas of the continent (and probably the world), and those living in those regions are more flattered than anything to have a well-written sitcom set in the area. The Goode Family, on the other hand, is set in the strongly liberal Bay Area, whose culture is much more obscure and whose people felt insulted. As such, the humor and satire in The Goode Family was incomprehensible and the setting too surreal for most viewers, the only people whom it'd really appeal to being those familiar with the area and who either are dissatisfied with living there or can take a joke at their expense. It was yanked off the air as soon as its first season finished. Being put in a Friday Night Death Slot didn't help either.
  • SheZow is an Australian/Canadian cartoon about a twelve-year-old Wholesome Crossdresser superhero. While the series became a minor Cult Classic, this trope is believed to be the reason it never got a second season and faded into semi-obscurity after a very short run.
  • Ultimate Spider-Man. Take Spider-Man, a character popular for being the first teenage superhero to learn how to be a hero of his own, without any mentor (well, not alive anyway) with his own unique Rogues Gallery... and have him be part of a team of teenage heroes and working for SHIELD with Nick Fury as The Mentor, while making him fight mostly completely different villains than those he usually faces. On top of that, the show is very much Denser and Wackier, featured a heavy emphasis on cutaway gags, making it something of a kid-friendly version of Family Guy, already a show heavily criticized for the same. The show still managed to get success, but it also developed a major Hatedom, and even after it improved over the course of three seasons, many fans still refused to give it a chance just because of the premise. Also, fans who were hoping to see an adaptation of the Ultimate Spider-Man comic books were disappointed to find that this was an In Name Only adaptation.
  • Beware the Batman can be very off-putting for fans due to the show's unusual decision to not use any villains from Batman's iconic Rogues Gallery (instead using lesser-known or outright obscure villains), especially for those who find said gallery to be part of why Batman is so memorable to begin with. It did manage to get some fans and eventually brought some more classic villains, but that wasn't enough to save the show from cancellation before a second season.
  • Mr. Pickles is about Satan taking in the form of a dog and living with a family modeled after the "ideal families from The '50s" and going around brutally killing people and having sex with various animals. And it's a COMEDY!
  • Ren & Stimpy "Adult Party Cartoon" is extremely notorious in part because of this. It tried to simultaneously be a drama and a shock comedy that takes every single vulgar, offensive and tasteless joke Up to Eleven, and failed at both. The drama was too ludicrous and forced for the mainstream, and even if it wasn't, they would have still been turned away by the depravity and overall grossness. Meanwhile, the comedy crowd didn't find any of the jokes funny. Unsurprisingly, this led to its extremely short run. An episode-specific example is by far the most well-known and polarising one, the episode "Ren Seeks Help". For those unfamiliar: Ren engages in multiple, highly graphic acts of animal cruelty which are all Played for Laughs. Watch at your discretion.