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Damned By a Fool's Praise

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"When Armond White tells you that Man of Steel is the Godfather of superhero films and calls it his movie of the year, then you as a viewer understand, 'Okay, so this is the worst movie yet created.'"

How can you tell a writer hates something when he doesn't simply say so? The resident dummy will appreciate it. This often comes at the end of an Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking incident.


The character praising something doesn't have to be a moronic tasteless twit when this trope is used. Sometimes the person can be a Jerkass, creep, or some other type of unsavory character thereby tagging the object of praise with the mark of low quality, disreputability, or even Squick.

See also Your Approval Fills Me with Shame when it's done between two characters, Hitler Ate Sugar when someone uses a hated character's interests to make a point, and Anti-Advice. Contrast with Dumbass Has a Point, where an idiot's remarks actually turn out to contribute meaningfully to the conversation at hand. May overlap with Fan Hater if the writer is also bashing the people who like the particular thing he hates, It's Popular, Now It Sucks! if the writer has a less-than-positive view about the intelligence and taste of most people, and/or Hype Backlash. Sometimes, in a situation where Only One Finds It Fun, the sole character liking it can be stupid, which is sometimes, but not always, an example of this trope.


See also The War on Straw and Ad Hominem. Subtrope of Take That!, and related to the similarly named trope; Damned by Faint Praise.


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  • In addition to their usual strategy of depicting users of a particular product as savvy and cool, advertisers will sometimes show the users of a competing product as clueless dweebs and maladroits. However, ads of this type often come off as heavy-handed and end up backfiring. (Generally speaking, it's bad business strategy to alienate potential customers by inadvertently insulting them.) If they are used, they are almost always done in a tongue-in-cheek manner.
  • Even the tongue-in-cheek approach can backfire. A Quiznos ad from autumn 2003 that took a potshot against Subway and — implicitly — its customers had two men sitting on a bench, one with a toasted Quiznos sub, and one with an untoasted sub that was obviously from Subway. The man with the Quiznos sub says "Untoasted? What, were you raised by wolves?" Cue the second guy (Jim Parsons, before he became known as Sheldon) having a flashback of himself, still an adult and wearing the same three-piece suit as in the previous shot, nursing from a mother wolf with her pups. He then responds back in the present "Yes, I was. Hm." Enough people were put off by this ad that it was taken off the air, then put back on with the nursing scene cut out but with the "raised by wolves" insult left in. (And of course, the ad is Hilarious in Hindsight now that Subway does toast its subs.)
  • This trope is more frequently employed in political advertising. In these cases, a common tactic is to run commercials against a particular candidate claiming he or she is being supported by a person or group that's considered unpopular by the majority of voters. The message being that the fact a "hated" person or group is endorsing the candidate is proof there's something wrong with him or her.
  • A 1995 British Audi advert inverted this to the same effect by having a stereotypical obnoxious City yuppie test-drive the car while boasting, driving aggressively, and being a Jerkass in flashback clips. At the end of the advert, he handed the car back to the dealer and rejected it as "not really my style".
  • In a meta example, many memes have abruptly died when a large corporation's social media accounts started invoking them (similar to parents catching on to fads, both common in real life and invoked in many of the examples below).
  • The first Johnny Turbo comic shows Johnny hyping up the TurboGrafx-16's CD-ROM attachment as being superior to "Feka"'s own CD platform, and one of the arguments used is that Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective came out on Turbo CD two years ago. Anyone who's actually played Sherlock Holmes knows that, while it might have been a nice showcase for FMV technology at the time, it's not exactly riveting as a game.

    Comic Strips 
  • Any idea the Pointy-Haired Boss of Dilbert likes will be seen as stupid. He's also a fan of Barney & Friends.
    • Weaponised by Wally. Aware of his own uncoolness he grows a goatee so that they would go out of fashion as no one would want to be like him. Taken to extremes when a guy who is trying to avoid being uncool like Wally or Dilbert (who is clean-shaven) pulls off a ridiculous reverse goatee.
  • FoxTrot
    • Paige Fox finds a pair of retro pants and squees over them to Peter, until Bumbling Dad Roger walks by and mentions he used to have a pair just like that and suggests they should go around dressed the same. Paige's next line to Peter is, "Want some pants?"
    • After trying and failing to get Jason to stop playing a computer game, Andy deliberately invokes this by having Paige pretend she likes the game he's playing. It worked.
  • In Garfield, anything Jon likes is subject to this. Jon has ridiculously weird taste in things and tends to purchase things on impulse, then almost immediately forget he had those things upon obtaining them.
    • There's a comic strip where Garfield is watching an infomercial for something unknown but so bad that he can't help complaining endlessly. Jon walks by and tells Garfield he has three of the product.
    • In the Garfield and Friends episode "Rolling Romance", Jon is the only one at an Honest John's Dealership who's interested in a particular car that even the dealer is initially hesitant to sell him—it turns out the car is possessed and madly in love with Jon (whereupon Garfield is quick to question the car's tastes).
    • Both the comic strip and the TV show have done a showcase of useless things Jon has bought over the years, such as a battery-powered battery recharger. (Decades before cellphone power banks were a thing.)
  • MAD often does the inverse of this trope- rather than proving that something's bad by having someone with unsound judgment like it, the magazine often proves that someone has less than sound judgment by having them approve of something bad. For example, in the parody of Angel, a girl who's possessed by a demon starts saying things like "Al Gore would be an excellent president," before concluding by saying that the show and its actors will win awards, resulting in the characters present being horrified at how much she's been affected.
  • Apart from the many uses of straw characters, Chick Tracts often do this by having the devils insist that you not listen to what you read in the tracts since they want you to go to Hell when you die.
  • The Far Side creator Gary Larson once claimed to have a friend who served as a "miner's canary bird" early alert for problematic comic strips. If said friend called and told Larson how great the latest strip was, he knew there'd be a disaster in waiting.

    Fan Works 
  • The Stalking Zuko Series does a variant on this with pairing Katara and Aang, and Zuko and Mai, two Avatar: The Last Airbender pairings that the author does not consider viable- the characters who ship them aren't stupid, per se, but the reasons given for each pairing are suspect at best. In Katara and Aang's case, Katara is told by Pakku and Yugodanote  that as a woman from the Southern Water Tribe, her only real option in her lifetime is to marry well, and if she doesn't want to marry Hahn, prince of the Northern Water Tribe, the best alternative is Aang, the Avatar (For obvious reasons, Katara doesn't mention being in love with Zuko, the new Fire Lord of their defeated enemy). As for Zuko and Mai, Zuko mainly gets back together with Mai for the sake of his own honor. By a little over halfway through "Not Stalking Firelord Zuko," both pairings are permanently broken up.
  • The Mountain and the Wolf: Less "fool" and more "violent psychopath", but the Wolf's every word of praise tends to shame the people it's directed at. While the Wolf's advice is useful during warfare (even when he's clearly operating on Warhammer rules), once Daenerys takes King's Landing it's worse than useless, as he can't seem to get it through his skull that Daenerys doesn't want to rule the city with an iron fist.
    • Several of his suggestions are so abhorrent the heroes do the opposite even if they were originally going to do something similar: Grey Worm orders the Lannister prisoners spared after the Wolf starts butchering them one by one, Daenerys spares a group of Dothraki she'd sentenced to death earlier when the Wolf asks how gruesome she wants their demise to be, and Tyrion decides to spare Bronn's life (despite having barely avoided an assassination attempt) due to the Wolf urging him to kill Bronn.
    • On the other hand, his opinions of several characters are in line with the opinions of whoever he's talking to (such as praising Tyrion's intelligence in front of Varys or demeaning Ramsay Bolton in front of Jon). Rather than change their opinions, it just makes them confused as to what the hell kind of morality system the Wolf operates on.
  • The Pokémon Squad:

  • Death Comes as the End: While musing about her son's scribe Kameni and whether her granddaughter should pursue him romantically, Esa says Imhotep approves of him- but then, she's had ample opportunity to observe that Imhotep is not the brightest bulb in the box.
  • The Trees of Pride has a variation. As part of his status as a Hollywood Atheist, Squire Vane absolutely and categorically refuses to accept any idea which has been presented to him in the form of a popular narrative. This pushes him into conflict with Dr. Brown, a much more rational atheist who had analyzed the popular legend linking the "peacock trees" on the Squire's land to the mysterious fevers that ravaged that region, and found that the evidence supported it.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Used to great effect by Mays Gilliam in Head of State. When his opponent Lewis uses typical (read: stupid but effective) attack ads, Mays refuses to retaliate in kind, pointing out that Lewis will expect this sort of response. Instead, he releases ads praising Lewis by people such as a member of the KKK and Osama bin Laden.

    Live-Action TV 
  • All in the Family: In the first-season episode "Archie Writes the President" — which he does upon learning Mike wrote a letter to President Nixon critical of his economic policies. In a Dream Sequence, Archie narrates his letter, showing Edith, Gloria and Mike and all — even Mike — nod approvingly and pat him on the back for "telling it like it is."
  • In Paul Merton's Live at the London Palladium video, particularly stupid characters who appear in some of the sketches will often express a fondness for Angus Deayton (who, at the time, appeared alongside Merton on the BBC panel show Have I Got News for You):
    Paul: So, I thought this builder was stupid, but I hadn't counted on his mate. He walks into the house, and the first thing he says is...
    Builder's Mate: Hehe! That Angus Deayton! He don't half make me laugh!
    Paul: Now you can't get more stupid than that!
  • In a 2008 Saturday Night Live sketch, presidential candidate John McCain goes out of his way to escape from a televised event, hosted by his running mate Sarah Palin, where McCain is to receive an endorsement from George W. Bush.
  • Parker Lewis Can't Lose has Parker campaigning for Student Council President or whomever students elect, only to notice he was doing it purely for pride and has no real program, unlike his main opponent. He decides to drop out of the race by recording and editing voice samples from Ms. Musso and playing them at the end of her speech, to make it look like she's endorsing him, driving everybody to vote for his opponent.
  • When Tracy made a coalition of self-described idiots on 30 Rock, Liz was forced to make a public apology for insulting him by listing the beneficial things idiots have created, only to start listing the terrible things they've done. The lists were fundamentally the same, and included an Entourage movie, Bratz dolls, Florida, and waterparks.note 
    Tracy: I like it. She's naming awesome things!
  • Played with to self-deprecating effect on Top Gear (UK) before Jeremy Clarkson got himself fired. Any car that any of the three hosts actually owned was immediately moved to the "Uncool" section of their Cool Wall.
  • In a A Bit of Fry and Laurie sketch, Stephen claims that he stole Hugh's brain as a practical joke. Hugh then comes out and praises TV presenter Noel Edmonds and Secretary of Education Kenneth Baker.
    Hugh: Oh, that man is fantastic. He's just what this country needs. He's firm, he's courageous... and his views on education! I mean, they're just so enlightened and sophisticated and enthralling! Well, of course he's an utterly enthralling man.
    Stephen: (to the audience) Well, of course we can see what's happened, but I don't think he has got a clue, has he?
  • Stranger Things:
    • Ted Wheeler's utterly clueless about what is going on around him with his family. In Season 2, we see he has a "Reagan/Bush '84" sign proudly displayed outside of his house. This gets more jarring when you consider that one of Reagan's most memorable quotes is: "The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help." - and he implicitly trusted the government agents, because they were from the government and claimed to be there to help...
    • Bob Newby is constantly shown to be a wholesome and boring guy in comparison to the edgier, hipper adolescents. During a heart-to-heart between Jonathan and Will, immediately after Jonathan says that Kenny Rogers sucks, Bob comes in to proclaim that he loves Kenny Rogers. One scene later, we see the Byers household watch Mr. Mom. Bob is laughing uproariously, Joyce is having a good time, while Will and Jonathan are bored to death.
  • The Big Bang Theory: Wolowitz builds a radio-controlled car that looks like Stephen Hawking in his wheelchair. What finally convinces him it's in poor taste is when resident jerkass Sitcom Archnemesis Kripke thinks it's funny.
  • Parks and Recreation: Andy is normally The Ditz beyond belief, but he still gets a moment like this when he asks Tom, a sleazy Casanova Wannabe, if he's too old for April (he's twenty-nine, she just turned twenty), and Tom says no, he doesn't think so.
    Andy: [happily] Tom says it's okay! [Beat, his face falls] Oh, God, that probably means it's not okay.

    Web Animation 
  • Inverted (Bolstered by a Fool's scorn) in SMG4 Bloopers episode The Pursuit of Happiness where Meggy, in a funk after winning the final Splatfest and having no more purpose in life, is reluctant to even try finding a new job as she feels Splatfest is all she was ever good at. However, when Bob says that jobs are overrated, she begs the others to help her find a job.


    Web Original 
  • Exaggerated in the original iteration of the Virgin Walk vs. the Chad Stride. Anything Chad does is deliberately opposite to the uncool Virgin: if the Virgin likes listening to music with isolating headphones, then Chad has never listened to music in his life. If the Virgin prefers walking in a way where he'll take up less space and not bump into anyone, then Chad will take the obnoxiously widest stride imaginable just so he can push people out of his way.

  • One good way to turn off 4chan anons from a series is to show them how much their rival sites or even rival boards like it. If it's unanimously loved (especially on Tumblr or /v/), then they take it as a cue it's horrible. This also works in reverse, where other sites will take a cue to skip a series if some of the more venomous boards like it (especially /pol/).

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • On Animaniacs, Slappy tells Skippy that all the junk food he's eaten has rotted his brain and adds "No wonder you like that Bonkers show."
  • This has become one of Family Guy's trademarks: most, if not all, arguments made in favor of something the writers disagree with is presented as abundantly foolish and unsympathetically, while their own beliefs are presented civilly and without any kind of realistic flaws.
    • In "Whistle While Your Wife Works" among the questions Stewie asks Jillian to bait her into giving dumb answers, he asks for her views regarding the recent activity of homeland security.
      Jillian: Well, I just think, for starters, that sometimes the government has things they can't tell us and, truthishly, we should just accept that.
    • An in-universe example occurs in the episode "Dog Gone", when Brian's book, Faster than the Speed of Love, is celebrated by a book club for the mentally challenged. (In a deleted scene in the same episode, Peter was among the people who likes Brian's book.)
    • In "Road to Germany", when Stewie and Brian travel to 1939 Poland, Nazis are seen wearing John McCain campaign buttons.
    • The song "A Bag of Weed" includes the lyric "When stupid people need a thrill, they rent The Rocketeer!"
    • There's an inversion at the end of the Griffin family history episode, where there's a whole conversation where Peter confesses that he doesn't like The Godfather and Chris, Brian, Lois, and Stewie all beat down his opinion, effectively saying they feel he doesn't like it because he's a moron.
    • In "Tales of a Third Grade Nothing", Stewie, Brian, and Frank Sinatra, Jr. renovate their old nightclub into the swanky pLace, which is initially a success, only for everyone there to leave once Andy Dick shows up.
      Brian: What just happened?
      Stewie: Andy Dick happened. As soon as that guy shows up any place, it gets a worse rap than John Wilkes Booth.
      [cutaway to Abe Lincoln acting like a rude jackass at the Ford's Theatre while an annoyed Booth sits behind him]
    • In "Trump Guy", Donald Trump calls Bob's Burgers his favorite show, and Peter warns the Emmy voters in the audience that a vote for the show is a sign of support for him (the show has won two Emmys, and the awards are known for their anti-Trump stance).
  • In the Futurama episode "The Day the Earth Stood Stupid", the entire population of the world except Fry become chronically stupid as a result of an invasion by the Brain Spawn. As soon as Fry figures this out, Bender declares "Let's all join the Reform Party!"
    • For syndication, it was changed to "Tea Party".
  • In The Owl House if Hooty, very much an inversion of The Owl-Knowing One, thinks it's a good idea, the other characters will instantly think it's a bad one. Of note, when Eda agonizes over whether or not to let Luz enroll in Hexside, Hooty mentions that Eda taught him everything he knows, and he turned out fine. Eda immediately goes to talk to Principal Bump.
  • In The Simpsons episode "HOMR", when Homer becomes smarter than average but hates it he goes to a Back-Alley Doctor (i.e., Moe) to insert a crayon up his nose to re-dumbify him. The "doctor" delicately shoves it up there; he doesn't want Homer to end up too dumb or too smart.
    Moe: All right, tell me when I hit the sweet spot. [gently inserts crayon]
    Homer: Deeper, you pusillanimous pilsner pusher!
    Moe: All right, all right. [with a small hammer and chisel, taps the crayon further up Homer's nose]
    Homer: De-fense! [woof-woof] De-fense! [woof-woof]
    Moe: Eh, that's pretty dumb. But, uh... [taps once more]
    Homer: Extended warranty? How can I lose?
    Moe: Perfect.
  • South Park:
    • In the episode "Timmy 2000", the kids, and eventually the adults, get addicted to Ritalin and become so dull and boring that they actually like Phil Collins. When the pharmacists hear of this, they have a "My God, What Have I Done?" moment.
    • The dorky Butters thinks Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was pretty good even though everyone else thinks it was like watching Indy getting raped.
    • In fact, a safe way to figure out what the South Park writers don't like is to see whether either Cartman or Butters likes it. This was averted with "Cartoon Wars", however. Cartman was the only one of the main cast who hated Family Guy, an opinion shared by the creators.
    • "Funnybot" has everyone annoyed by Tyler Perry in a Madea outfit. Token is the only one who finds it funny, much to his own chagrin.
    • In "Hellen Keller! The Musical", the kids try to put on a huge extravaganza of a Thanksgiving play based on Butters' seemingly glowing responses to the kindergartners' play. In the end, it turns out that the kindergartners' play was poor and used limited resources, the kids only then realizing that it was Butters they were listening to.
    • Exploited by the parents when their kids are getting caught up in the Chinpokomon craze. They pretend to be fans of it themselves, and the kids all immediately drop the hobby on the spot, because all adults (or at least all parents) are inherently uncool and lame, therefore anything they like must be just as uncool and lame as they are.
    • In another episode, when Chef is campaigning to have the town's flag changed because he thinks it's racist, the townspeople in favor of keeping the flag the way it is are none too happy to learn that the KKK is on their side. Jimbo and Ned disguise themselves as Klansmen and infiltrate their meeting to convince them to switch sides… by straight up telling them that pretty much everyone hates them and will vote against whatever side they support on principle, so they should pretend to support the side they want to lose instead. And it works!
      Klan Leader: All right, it is decided! We will officially tell everyone that we want the flag changed, so that they will all vote against us!
    • In "Mecha-Streisand", the only person in the whole town who reacted to Barbra Streisand positively was Sheila, who's intentionally characterized to be as annoying and unrelatable as possible.
  • In the Arthur episode "Team Trouble", Arthur, Francine, and Buster have to do a group project on Ancient Rome. They decide to make a comic book about it, but none of them do any research for it. Arthur and Francine realize the low quality of their portions after showing them to other people, who point out the problems in them. Buster, on the other hand, concludes his portion isn't good because Binky liked it.
  • A Dudley Do-Right short had a man call Dudley the "squarest Mountie I've ever seen", prompting Inspector Fenwick to ask him…
    Inspector: Dudley, how do you feel about Lawrence Welk?
    Dudley: Only terrific, Inspector. That's real toe-tapping music.
  • Kim Possible spends an episode working at a taco joint she hates under a mean (and dorky) boss to afford a designer jacket. Ron buys it for her at the end, only for her former boss to walk by wearing the same thing.
    Ron: Exchange it?
    Kim: Oh yeah!
  • Similar to South Park's Chinpokomon example, the parents of Clone High get their kids to stop smoking raisins by smoking them themselves, thereby rendering it uncool.

    Real Life 
  • Expect a lot of children to lose interest in any fad when their parents take interest in it.
  • Perfectionists in a given field tend to care little for praise coming from people who are laymen in that field, especially if they are friends or relatives because they can easily chalk up the appreciation to "They only like it because I'm their X, not because it's actually good."
  • Armond White, a film critic who is the subject of the Video Game Dunkey quote above, is notorious for often giving films with near-universal praise negative reviews (Toy Story 3, Get Out, Pulp Fiction) and positive reviews to reviled ones (Jack and Jill, Grown Ups, Norbit). Dunkey says that he's still useful as a critic, meaning you just have to see what he thinks of a film and figure the film's actual quality is the opposite of whatever he says.
  • For obvious reasons, politicians are not fond of criminals and murderers giving them vocal support for their policies. In fact, it's become a standard smear tactic for a politician's detractors to turn to some near-universally despised personality who probably isn't even affiliated with said politician for comment. Some of these personalities have even made careers off of this. Other times, you will see politicians praise an actor or another kind of artist just for that artist to trash the politician for their policies. Sometimes the artist suffers a major hit to their reputation for doing so. Other times, they are praised for it.
  • Speaking of politicians, it's widely believed the Planking meme was outright killed by this somewhat unsettling photo of New Zealand Prime Minister John Key standing awkwardly behind his planking son, and said politician going on to remark how he sees nothing wrong with planking so long as it's done safely. People dying wasn't enough to put a stop to that trend, but one politician endorsing it was enough to put it in the ground instantly.