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Captain Oblivious

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"There are, of course, obvious limitations to not understanding the role of money in the lives of the majority. The late president [John F. Kennedy] was aware of this limitation and he was forever asking his working friends how much they made. On occasion, he was at a disadvantage because he did not understand the trader's mentality. He missed the point with Khrushchev at Vienna... His father, an old hand at Hollywood, would have better understood the mogul's bluffing."
Gore Vidal, "The Holy Family"

Some characters are so completely insulated from the outside world that life, for them, is very different from life for others. This is extreme to the point that they literally have difficulty comprehending that life could be different for other people, and will work their everyday lives under the assumption that all people view life through the same lens that they do.

They can be given a rather rude awakening when, for one reason or another, a different character acts in such a way that the guy living in a bubble realizes that the world is a very, very different place from what he thought it was. Up until that point, they will always Fail A Spot Check if anything happens that conflicts with their world-view.

Often a good way to frame a Reasonable Authority Figure: The main reason they haven't acted so far is largely that they didn't realize what was going on.

In terms of logic, this thinking involves the common fallacy of Confirmation Bias, sometimes with a dash of No True Scotsman. Compare Opinion Myopia.

See also I Thought Everyone Could Do That. This is the supertrope to Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense. A variation on No Social Skills. When the character is only blind in one area that's Selective Obliviousness.

Not to be confused with Inspector Oblivious. Or Captain Obvious.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun, Nozaki pretty much calls Seo this. Seo has zero ability to read situations for what they are, and thus often ends up ruining the mood. She also never seems to understand (or even notice) when people get mad at her when she says things that are Innocently Insensitive.
  • Catarina in My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! is so amazingly dense that she has a huge bisexual harem that constantly fawns over or flirts with her, but she never gets it because she's focused on trying to avoid her (presumed) fate as the villainess and assumes they're all in love with each other instead.
  • Played for Laughs in Dragon Ball with Goku. He has been living in a jungle his entire life, and much to the annoyance of some of the supporting characters, he cannot understand anything about normal human life. It's somewhat lampshaded when Master Roshi comments on his inability to judge a woman's appearance.
    Master Roshi: What are you, missing some hormones?!
  • Overlord:
    • Ainz's new lich body comes with a built-in emotion suppressor that prevents him from feeling too strong an emotion (good or bad), but also makes him feel little empathy for other people. As a result, most of the good he does happens despite his bumbling around simply because he's so stupidly overleveled, and sometimes forgets that a giant talking skeleton known to kill people tens of thousands at a time might scare normal humans, or that his minions are evil through and through and do not share any of his Benevolent Mage Ruler ideals.
    • Arche's parents are Impoverished Patricians (due to the Emperor removing them from power as part of his purges, though in this case at least it seems perfectly justified) that refuse to acknowledge the reality of their situation, buying expensive jewelry when Arche has difficulty bringing in enough food to keep them fed. She took One Last Job in order to free herself and her sisters from their parents, but unfortunately, the job involved raiding Nazarick. The last we see of the family is the parents selling their daughters into slavery (and it's later said the girls died of overwork).
  • Kousaka in Genshiken floats through life on a cloud of good feelings. It's not clear he knows what a "social cue" even is. He has a tendency to blurt out comments that nail the Elephant in the Living Room dead-on.

    Comic Books 
  • The Caliph from Iznogoud. A well-meaning and debonair ruler, he never suspects that Iznogoud is continually trying to overthrow his regime.
  • The title character from The Tick is... slow to recognize ninja with swords pointed at him.
  • Tintin: Professor Calculus, due to being hard of hearing, is blissfully unaware of most events going on around him and continually interprets them wrong.

    Fan Works 
  • Adrien in Leave for Mendeleiev. Not only is he completely oblivious to Aurore's crush on him, he blithely ignores all evidence that Ladybug isn't interested in being partners beyond fighting crime together. Even when she tells him outright that she doesn't love him, he just tries to convince her that they're "destined to be together" and that she should stop denying it.
  • With This Ring:
    • OL didn't realize the store where he went to buy clothes was a mob-front... despite the presence of guns and cocaine.
    • It isn't until after he leaves the Amazonian temple of Hera that he realizes that the sobbing woman, inconsolable over the discovery that Zeus had been once again lying about remaining faithful, and whom he had just convinced that Hera should probably divorce Zeus was, in fact, Hera herself, and not just a very passionate priestess.
    • OL never notices women hitting on him. This is mostly because he had the ring reduce his testosterone production in order to prevent himself from desiring a woman enough to misuse his power.

    Films Live-Action 
  • Donny from The Big Lebowski is perpetually Locked Out of the Loop, being seemingly incapable of following a conversation or piecing something together until long after everyone else has moved on. Little wonder why Dude and Walter spend most of the movie ignoring or insulting him.
    Donny: [after the Dude's phone has been ringing incessantly for nearly five minutes] Hey, your phone's ringing, Dude!
    The Dude: Thank you, Donny.
  • The Hendrys in The Day After have no idea that the world is hurtling towards nuclear war. Even with their TV loudly blaring newscasts and EBS warnings they're completely oblivious to the danger — going so far as to discuss the state of the fields over the two-tone alert — until an ICBM launches in the next field. Their frantic attempts to flee come too late when they're engulfed by a fireball and incinerated.
  • If: When General Denson gives a speech to the school on Founders Day, he does not notice smoke coming out of the floor until long after people have started coughing, and leaving the room.
  • The Knowledge: While on the road studying for the legendarily difficult exam that London taxi drivers have to take, Ted relates how he completely failed to notice a woman jogging — who was stark nude.
  • Zoolander: Ben Stiller's character lives within the bubble of being "really really ridiculously good-looking". It's to the point where he and another male model are unable to figure out how to use a computer. They wind up recreating the monolith scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey, complete with banging on the sides of the monitor like apes and Also sprach Zarathustra playing on the soundtrack.

  • Lord Rust from Discworld is so self-assured that he cannot comprehend the possibility that things are not exactly as he thinks they are. He doesn't even get a rude awakening — any information that conflicts with the way he sees things gets stopped at the door and sent on its way without ever making it to his brain. It's sort of hybrid of this trope with Weirdness Censor. This has been noted in-universe to have minor Reality Warper effects; in combat he's so certain that he's invincible from sheer entitlement that arrows visibly curve in the air to miss him and hit someone else.
  • Emma's father, Mr. Woodhouse, is like this in many ways. He's incapable of believing that other people feel or see the world differently than he himself does, so he just assumes that his own opinions are universal. His daughter sincerely loves him, but since she's about ten times as intelligent as he is, she has to resort to manipulating his worldview in order to do things like go to a neighbor's dinner party.
  • In Gone with the Wind, nearly all of the once-wealthy Southern elite — brought low by the Civil War's end and military occupation — were absolutely unable to comprehend that their old way of life was gone. They could no longer afford to throw feasts, or give money away freely, or spit on black people. Honor Before Reason was no longer a viable way of life, and some became Empty Shells from the shock of this.
  • Bertie from Jeeves and Wooster.
    As I stood in my lonely bedroom at the hotel, trying to tie my white tie myself, it struck me for the first time that there must be whole squads of chappies in the world who had to get along without a man to look after them. I'd always thought of Jeeves as a kind of natural phenomenon; but, by Jove! Of course, when you come to think of it, there must be quite a lot of fellows who have to press their own clothes themselves and haven't got anybody to bring them tea in the morning, and so on. It was rather a solemn thought, don't you know. I mean to say, ever since then I've been able to appreciate the frightful privations the poor have to stick.
  • Ken Follett's novel The Man from St. Petersburg has English Lord Stephen Walden's daughter Charlotte growing up in the 1900s. She has no idea what sex is, because she has grown up in a Gilded Cage.
  • The Marcus Didius Falco novel Three Hands in the Fountain has a Reasonable Authority Figure trying to get some sense out of an Obstructive Bureaucrat, and mentioning that neither person can believe that the other trope exists.
  • Miss Marple: In The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side, there is Mrs. Badcock, who is described as a good and kind woman, but also so satisfied with herself that she is oblivious to the effect her actions could have on others. This leads to her death. When she meets famous actress Marina Gregg, she proudly boasts that she came to meet her once before about 20 years ago, even though she had to crawl out of bed with German measles. What Mrs. Badcock didn't know was that she gave Ms. Gregg the disease while she was pregnant, causing her only child to be born severely disabled. Marina responds by poisoning her in revenge.
  • Oliver Twisted: Charley Bates is evidently clueless of keeping Fagin's plans for Oliver under wraps when the latter arrives at Fagin's den with Dodge. He complains about why they had to wait for a random boy while Fagin was supplying the impression that Oliver and Dodge met by chance.
  • Chris Fogle in The Pale King, during his wasteoid years. Even his life-changing event was the result of him going to the wrong classroom and experiencing something completely different from his own world view.
  • In Larry Niven's Ringworld, Louis Wu decides that Teela Brown is incredibly naive about the dangers of real life because she was Born Lucky — so lucky that she never had to deal with any hardship.
  • The title character in Coral Lansbury's Sweet Alice drifted through life in a sort of genteel upper-class way without acknowledging her and her bastard son's severe lack of funds.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In one episode of 30 Rock, Liz discovers that her incredibly attractive boyfriend is oblivious to how far his attractiveness has got him in life. He can order ridiculous items like roast duck soaked in Fanta at restaurants, is under the hilariously inaccurate impression that he's a tennis prodigy, and most alarmingly, somehow became a medical doctor in spite of not even knowing what the Heimlich maneuver is.
  • Blackadder Goes Forth: General Melchett, who really is General Oblivious; not only sending the troops "Over the Top" for the eighteenth time but also sending his second-in-command Captain Darling to join them because he "wouldn't want him to miss the fun"... facepalm...
  • Some of the drivers in Canada's Worst Driver seemed to have no clue what they were doing or what was going on. Case in point: Kevin.
  • Once Upon a Time in Wonderland: The Knave is the living embodiment of the trope with regards to Lizard's feelings towards him, even though she does everything but throw herself at him. Alice also seems to be oblivious of The Knave's apparent attraction to her.
  • Elliot in Scrubs throughout the first six seasons is completely oblivious to how weird the Almighty Janitor is. She constantly thinks to herself how sweet he is, completely unaware of the torture he inflicts on J.D.

  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic album It's a Pony Kind of Christmas features a rendition of "Jingle Bells" sung by Rainbow Dash, who decides to take her friends for a Christmas Eve sled ride. While she notices certain things (such as the townsponies running for cover and Applejack trying to hide in the barn), she remains cheerfully oblivious that she's terrifying everypony with the wildness of the ride.

    Myths & Religion 
  • This is The Buddha's Origin Story. He was prophesied to either be a great king, or a sage who rejected the world. His father preferred the first option, so he had him grow up in a bubble of perfect happiness, building a world he would never want to reject. It didn't work; the first time he left his bubble seeing people deal with actual suffering hit him far harder than it would have otherwise.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Exalted:
    • The nature of the Primordials is such that they are completely encased in their own legend and not, in honest sense, capable of comprehending how people can live in ways different than their own. Ebon Dragon is completely oblivious of heroism while Autochthon is completely oblivious to the logical consequences of his tools.
    • By the end of the First Age, the Solars have become oblivious that there are people not as larger-than-life as they are, leading to The Usurpation.

    Video Games 
  • Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories:
    • Overlord Zenon. Unless told directly, he has no idea what's happening in the world he's ruling, or even in the tournament he organized. So, after the location of his castle is broadcast on the news, his reaction to the constant onslaught of rival Overlords and would-be heroes is, "How does everyone know where I live?!"
    • The same applies to Zenon's daughter (actually, the real Zenon; the guy in the previous point was an impostor), Rozalin, whom Zenon deliberately kept isolated, until a botched (only not really) summon forced Rozalin out.
  • Fallout 4: Your character survives the Nuclear Apocalypse by taking refuge in Vault 111. Soon after emerging, you run into your old Robot Butler, who cheerfully informs you that you're two centuries late for dinner.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's: Sister Location: The HandUnit doesn't seem to notice things like Circus Baby's absence on the first night and the technicians' corpses hanging above the stage.
  • Luke in Tales of the Abyss. He eventually gets kicked out of his bubble very, very harshly.
  • The Gargatuas in Half-Life tend to have very poor eyesight and other senses, as they wont notice you unless get right up in their face or shoot them. This is mainly so you can sneak past them (either to find some dangerous thing in the area to kill them, or just sneak by in one case.)

    Visual Novels 
  • In Daughter for Dessert, Lainie, having grown up in a wealthy family where her every move had been scripted, knew nothing about either the hardships people face in the world or about ulterior motives people might have.
  • Doki Doki Literature Club!: The player character (who, despite being an Audience Surrogate, still has his own personality, interests and opinions) takes this to ridiculous, even meta extremes. On the second cycle through the game, the game begins glitching frequently, characters begin acting strangely, having violent or creepy outbursts, or mysteriously forgetting a heated argument they had only yesterday, to the point that even the other girls take notice that something strange is happening to them even if they can't pinpoint what it is. The player character doesn't acknowledge any of this; in fact, by the end of the cycle he stops reacting to anything at all and basically ceases to exist as the character, as the only surviving character (who also possesses Medium Awareness) finally drops all pretenses and begins addressing the player directly.
  • Defied with Amy in Double Homework. Although she grew up socially isolated as a princess, she has a pretty good idea of how everyday people have it in the world, and she made it clear to her parents that she wants to be treated as normally as possible.

    Web Animation 
  • In Alfred's Playhouse, Dictator Pickles states that the Playhouse was created so that one part of Alfred's mind would remain in happy, ignorant bliss while the other half would live in knowledge of and reliving his torment.
  • Lucky, the older brother of the titular character of Queer Duck, is apparently unaware of his younger brother being gay.

    Web Comics 
  • Mace Windu, in Darths & Droids. A Running Gag is he is never aware of what is going on, despite his position of power. Eventually the reason for his forgetfulness is revealed: He's a sleeper agent for Nute Gunray.
    Mace Windu: Why doesn't anyone ever tell me about stuff??
  • The Order of the Stick: Ivan, Hilgya Firehelm's husband, is oblivious to an extreme degree. As seen in flashbacks, he clearly had no clue that Hilgya was forced to marry him at crossbow-point against her wishes, that she obviously hates his guts and repeatedly tried to poison him. When she escapes from home and comes back after months of adventuring while heavily pregnant to boot, he believes she just spent an unusually long time in the bathroom. Hilgya theorizes an undiagnosed brain injury.
  • Pixie and Brutus: Pixie tends to miss the harsher aspects of life due to her naivete.

    Western Animation 
  • The Earth King in Avatar: The Last Airbender. So much so that he didn't realize his country had been at war for an entire century. Justified in this case, as his Treacherous Advisor intentionally kept him in the dark about this.
  • Eustace and Muriel of Courage the Cowardly Dog. In just about every episode, when the villains arrive, no matter how evil or monstrous they appear, or how bizarre or obvious their disguises are, they will absently go along with it no matter what, even if said villain is one they have been threatened or scammed by before (Katz, LeQuack, etc.).
  • In Family Guy, Lois was completely oblivious to the fact that Quagmire was a pervert and had the hots for her until she caught him spying on her in the ladies' room. In early episodes she seemed unaware of Stewie's plans to destroy her, although she would always foil them anyway.
  • Kaeloo: Kaeloo is completely oblivious to everything that happens around her. For example in one episode, she throws a party and decides to see how her guests are doing and sees that Stumpy is attacking Pretty, Quack Quack and Eugly are in an argument and Mr. cat is trying to kill a random sheep with a bazooka for no apparent reason. Rather than realize how badly things are going, she thinks everybody is having fun.
  • Dale Gribble from King of the Hill is a nutball Conspiracy Theorist who sees corruption and deceit everywhere... and is also so woefully oblivious that he's totally unaware of the actual conspiracy that's right in front of him; his wife has been cheating on him for over a decade with her massage therapist John Redcorn, and his son Joseph is obviously really John Redcorn's. Dale even catches them in the act multiple times and still doesn't put two and two together, causing John Redcorn to complain that he's kind of sucking the fun out of the affair.
  • Linda from Phineas and Ferb constantly remains oblivious to her sons' activities, even though her daughter is always trying to inform her and her husband is frequently involved. In a few cases this has involved public performances they put on which she was present for; she always walks away for the bizarre or dangerous part. By the end of the series she's clearly the only person in the city, quite possibly the entire planet (and at least two other planets and an asteroid), who doesn't know. It helps that whenever her daughter tries to show her what the boys have done, something always happens to make it disappear without a trace before she can see it, which was actually weaponized by her daughter at least once in order to get rid of something genuinely dangerous.
  • An early episode of Robot Chicken gives us "Randy the Oblivious Pizza Delivery Guy", who utterly ignored the customer's blatant seduction attempt. (The character was played by the episode's guest star, Conan O'Brien.)
  • The Simpsons: Mr. Burns can sometimes fall into this, as with the episode where a drunk Lenny comes up to the car to cheerfully thank his boss for sponsoring a night at the ballpark, unwittingly terrifying the rich old man with a thumbs-up.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: SpongeBob and Patrick often suffer from this. Most notably, they're firmly convinced that Squidward is their best friend, when in reality, Squidward hates them to the point of madness and wants nothing more than to be rid of them. In "A Pal for Gary", SpongeBob is completely oblivious to the fact that the monster is Puffy Fluffy at first. Even after he realizes Puffy Fluffy is the monster, he's still oblivious to the fact that it tried to eat him.
  • Steven Universe: Padparadscha, introduced in Season 5, is an off-colour Sapphire whose future vision doesn't work properly, letting her see only the very recent past. While this has applications on rare occasions, most of the time it serves as a Superpower Disability that gives her a Delayed Reaction to everything, and makes her strongly come across as genuinely unaware of what's going on in the present.


Video Example(s):


A Pal for Gary

The normally chipper and excitable SpongeBob undergoes several levels for this episode, to the point he outright scolds Gary for being mean to the monstrous Puffy Fluffy despite the fact he ignored the warning it hates other pets, to the point of punishing him after he saves his life. This even occurs when he saw the pet in its true form. Face it, he got what he deserved.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / JerkassBall

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