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Audience Awareness Advantage

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"I know, there's that line in her song about how Adrien disappears and Chat Noir appears, and it's clearly worded like that for the purpose of making the viewer snort, because she really has no idea. But that's just it. She has no idea. As viewers, we're privy to a lot more of the narrative as a whole than any of the characters. How many blonde haired, green eyed boys are in Paris? Probably a fair number."
Tumblr user shadeterminus, on Miraculous Ladybug's "Santa Claws"

What happens when the audience has a tendency to forget that the characters aren't being presented with the same information, view, and experience with the genre that the audience has.

In cases of Audience Awareness Advantage, things that are so utterly embedded in the public consciousness that everyone is assumed to know them wind up being applied to the characters as well, since obviously they're people too. Things the viewer takes for granted because they've been presented to them in an obvious way seem like they should be obvious to the character too, even if there's no real reason to think this. In addition, things the audience sees coming plainly because they're genre tropes we've been exposed to all our lives probably aren't quite so obvious to characters that have no clue they're living in a comic book or crime drama or action film. Finally, the viewer is only ever shown those snapshots of the characters' lives which are most relevant to the plot, which means that, just like people in the real world, they might have other worries, activities, or interests occupying their time off-screen.


This can get especially bad with series that have run long enough that even those who have never so much as read a single issue or watched a single episode can be assumed to have a reasonable chance of knowing these things. Probably not helping are a number of comedies and unthoughtful parodies that lampshade this or take it to extremes, which can make the viewer feel like they're in on some joke the characters aren't. Making everyone and their dog aware of every single trope out there almost certainly doesn't help. ... Ahem.

Basically, if someone is saying "Oh come on, he was so obviously the Evil Overlord shapeshifted into a teenager and pretending to be your best friend for ten years all along!", they're indulging in this trope.


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    Comic Books 
  • Supergirl: A large number of people seem to know Supergirl is Superman's cousin rather than his girlfriend, little sister or just some random superheroine who's chosen to emulate his style. They know she is specifically his cousin and has his same powers and weaknesses, even in realities where they haven't made their relationship public.

    Fan Works 
  • In Lost in Camelot, Bo and Kenzi (Lost Girl) are sent back in time by a homeless old man with a thick beard and great magical power, arriving in Camelot (Merlin (2008)) almost fifteen hundred years in the past. As far as Bo and Kenzi are concerned, they were teleported away by a strange old man, and even after Kilgharrah explains that Camelot is actually Bo's home time, he only speculates that the sorcerer that sent Bo back must have sensed that she had been displaced in time. Only the audience can guess that the old man was actually Merlin's future self, based on his appearance when using an aging spell in later seasons of the show, and Word of God has confirmed that future Merlin would have been unaware that he was actually changing history, and certainly wouldn't have been creating a Stable Time Loop.

  • In Juno, the viewers can see that Mark is simply not that enthusiastic about raising a kid and being around Juno made him feel like a "cool rock star". Everything about how Mark and Vanessa's relationship wasn't quite right was already evident from their first scene and the rest of the movie highlights it. So when Mark attempts to kiss Juno and leaves Vanessa when she was going to adopt, Juno was surprised. It was just that she either didn't realize it or chose to ignore it.
  • The Dark Knight Rises receives this in the conclusion; when Batman "died" at the conclusion, viewers the world over cried foul that no one in-universe noticed Bruce Wayne died at the same time, ignoring the fact that plenty of people died and disappeared at that time, so by that logic Batman could have been any of them. Then it's revealed he's actually still alive, and the viewers again demanded to know how no one recognized him, believing that the general public in Italy have all memorized the faces of wealthy Americans and spilled the beans. Especially when everyone thought he was dead anyway. For that matter, every Batman medium has to deal with the "how does anyone not know Bruce Wayne is Batman? He's rich and doesn't socialize! It must be him!"
  • The Lovely Bones had some fans complaining how no one suspected Harvey as Suzie's murderer - despite his creepy appearance. Suzie's very opening narration says that when the story takes place, child abduction was not a national crisis.

  • Shows up in Star Wars Legends.
    • The plot of The Thrawn Trilogy partly relies on the fact that Darth Vader being Luke and Leia's father is not common knowledge, and in fact most people aren't even 100% sure that he's dead. With pretty much every book written later, on the other hand, the authors fall victim to this trope and act as though everyone in the galaxy has watched the films and knows everything that happened in them. By contrast, in the new canon its a major plot point that almost nobody outside the OT main cast knew that Leia was related to Luke and Vader, and that Leia actually deliberately covered it up. Her true parentage does become public knowledge later on (a rival of hers finds out and leaks it), and it winds up derailing her political career, as well as being a major contributor to her son's Start of Darkness.
    • This is also the official explanation for how so many people can be skeptical of the Force in the original trilogy era when the Jedi were active a mere fifteen-to-twenty years previous in the prequels. We've seen plenty of examples of Jedi in action, but most people in the Galaxy Far Far Away haven't. Their information about Jedi and the Force, even during the prequels, amounts to stories about some religious cult that they believe are likely exaggerated and easily dismissed.
  • In the Doctor Who Past Doctor Adventures novel Wolfsbane, not only are the audience the only ones aware that the Fourth and Eighth Doctors are the same person due to the Eighth's current state of amnesia, but only the reader is presented with the necessary subtle clues that the Fourth Doctor's TARDIS was drawn to 1936 by the Eighth Doctor's currently-crippled ship.
  • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, this trope has led to people considering Zacharias Smith to be a Strawman with a good point. Zacharias points out that all everyone was told about Cedric's death was what they had been told by Dumbledore, who had gotten the information from Harry, and that nobody was given any proof that Voldemort was back and active. The reader has been following Harry for the past five books, and read about his being around for Voldemort's resurrection and fighting him off, so they know Harry's telling the truth. But in-universe, Harry is the only living witness at Hogwarts to most of Voldemort's appearances (including his face appearing on the back of Quirrell's head and his Horcrux ghost appearing in the Chamber of Secrets), and Harry is (understandably) not giving out any details. Count that with the newspapers and government working to stamp out any info about Voldemort being around, Zacharias has every reason to doubt Harry based on word alone.

    Live-Action TV 
  • How I Met Your Mother brings us an inverted version of this: while viewers of the first version start out wondering who the great love of Ted will be, this is painfully obvious to his audience, his Future Kids, who are suitably bored.
  • Watch episodes from the early seasons of Smallville. In the first few minutes, is there a focus on a new character, probably a teen? Then basically the remaining questions are whether he'll ingest kryptonite directly or via plants/tattoo/ etc., what sort of super power he'll sprout as a result, how quickly he'll turn evil and/or mad, how Clark will stop him and whether or not this will spawn a "What is it you aren't telling me" moment from Lex. Thanks to cultural osmosis, even someone who never watched the show could probably predict at least half the plot.
  • This will happen with any competitive Reality Television show, particularly those which are not of a creative nature. Viewers tend to be judgmental about players' strategic moves on Survivor, or missing small details during tasks on The Amazing Race, without taking into account that (a) teams don't get all the information we do, and aren't privy to the Confessionals and strategies of the other players, and (b), are working under massive amounts of fatigue and stress while trying to do these tasks, and tasks are not always laid out for them like they are the audience.

  • Acknowledged in the Escape from Vault Disney! episode about Loki (2021), in which they discuss the third episode of the show shortly after the episode was released, yet the podcast would not release to the public until after the entire first season was out. This made all speculation instantly dated, and their success with their predictions was better than one would expect, but is still considerably off the mark from reality.

  • People with autism are more likely to have what psychologists call a "theory of mind deficit" or "mind blindness". The short play The Sally Anne Test by Simon Baron-Cohen (the cousin of a famous comic actor) invokes this as part of a psychological test designed to measure this in viewers who may have a learning disability. First, Sally and Anne are introduced, and the examiner makes sure viewers know their names. Each is carrying a basket. Sally puts a marble in her basket, puts the basket down, and exits. Anne takes the marble out of Sally's basket and puts it in her own basket. Sally returns, and viewers are asked where Sally is about to look for the marble. The viewer passes if he believes that Sally will first look in her own basket. A viewer who believes that Sally will first look in Anne's basket has mind blindness and has fallen victim to this trope. Baron-Cohen originally staged it as a puppet show; Leslie and Frith staged a production with live actors to rule out the objection that children might not attribute theory of mind to dolls.

    Video Games 

    Web Comics 
  • Played for Laughs in Bob and George. The titular Bob is a main character with a respectable chunk of screentime, but since he spends most of the comic gallivanting in alternate dimensions, the past, and the future, not every character has met him—and the author keeps track of this. At one point, Bob encounters Dr. Wily, and spends a couple of strips ranting at him before the latter interrupts to ask who he is. Prior to that, Dr. Wily met Bob only once, a few years ago and over a video call.
    • Earlier, the Author interrupted a storyline after viewers pointed out that Dr. Light didn't seem to remember the events of a previous game. The Author's Hand Wave is that there is no Plot Hole; Dr. Light is old and he forgot.

Alternative Title(s): Viewers Have More Information, Viewer Myopia