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Dramatically Missing the Point

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Shane Detori: (When Frank, her father, is about to eat an egg that was in a chimpanzee's mouth, and picked up from its straw-filled cage) Dad, that's filthy!
Frank Detori: Honey, 10-second rule. Once you pick it up within 10 seconds, you can eat it. (And then starts eating the contaminated egg, much to Shane's disgust.)And also.... 
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Sometimes people can miss the point of things, due to being dense, stubborn, or lacking context, but the story treats this as a serious thing. The consequences can vary though, from a misunderstanding, to a tragedy, or even a Happy Ending.

One of the most common forms is someone being sad, seemingly due to a small trigger, and another person thinks it's just that trigger instead of the bigger picture.

Although this can be caused by people being stupid or delusional, as with an Irrational Hatred, often they can simply be naive, like people who don't realize that they are being asked out, or confessed to. This also could apply to when the mentor/Parent/Acquaintance leaves some sort of instructions or advice that is tragically misinterpreted. Likewise, ignoring another person's feelings may come to a head with a declaration of "Did You Think I Can't Feel?"

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Also, this can happen in Comedies, it's just not meant to be silly ways of missing the point.

Many of the more moralistic examples of the Inspector Javert trope stem from this. Sometimes, you'll get a Javert who is simply confused or doesn't have all the facts, but the others persecute people they know are good simply because it's the rules. They're loyal to the letter of the law, but not its spirit.

A Sister Trope to Comically Missing the Point.

Compare Advice Backfire, Poor Communication Kills, "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot, Ignored Epiphany, Dramatic Irony, Selective Obliviousness, Stopped Reading Too Soon.


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In-Universe Examples Only:

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    Advertising 
  • Commercials for the short-lived food Snack 'Ums would feature a kid trying out said product, then getting hurt doing a sports activity, such as high diving or street hockey. When asked by one of his friends if it hurt, he would reply "Yeah, but I think I liked it" and asks for some more, referring to the snack and not the injury.

    Comic Books 
  • Chick Tracts:
    • A lot of people who refuse to accept Christ don't get what the Christian who's witnessing to them is trying to express. For example, the sheriff in "Gun Slinger," assumes he's too good to go to Hell. In reality, the point of the tract is that it doesn't matter whether you're a good or bad person as long as you accept Jesus and repent of your sins; a notorious outlaw who'd repented of his sins before being executed goes to heaven, while the sheriff goes to hell.
    • Subverted in "Ransom." Bonnie, who's just learned that her sister and brother-in-law have no intention of paying her ransom, initially sounds like she needs a reality check when she says that she's already been ransomed, but then launches into a metaphor about Jesus paying the "ransom" for mankind's sins that ends up converting her kidnappers.
  • Injustice: Gods Among Us, when Superman starts going over the edge, Batman points out that Superman is scaring people. Superman justifies himself by saying that the bad guys should be scared, not understanding that Batman meant people in general.
  • A good chunk of suffering and death in the Marvel Universe is due to Thanos madly trying to earn Death's favor by killing people. Death apparently reciprocates those feelings, but she sometimes seems wary of Thanos' "offerings". At one point she bluntly told him that more death is the last thing she needs. This hasn't stopped Thanos' killing spree. He isn't called the "Mad" Titan for nothing.
  • Revival sees dozens of people come back to life. Jordan Borchardt's mother asks if she saw God during her time dead and is disappointed that Jordan reports only blackness. Off this reaction Jordan slices off her eyelids so that next time she'll keep her eyes open.
  • In Superman storyline Way of the World, Supergirl asks Wonder Woman how she can cure cancer because she promised an ill kid that she would save his life. Wonder Woman asks why, and Kara wrongly thinks Diana is asking "Why did you go to me specifically?" instead of "Why did you make such a reckless promise?".
    Supergirl: I promised a kid that I'd cure his cancer, and I'd like your help.
    Wonder Woman: Why?
    Supergirl: "Why?" Well, you've got a lot more experience than me, and I haven't really tried anything like this before...
    Wonder Woman: No. I mean why would you make that promise? To a child.

    Film — Animated 
  • Encanto: Alma sees the magical "gifts" as something that her family must prove to be deserving of and never take for granted. Except a gift isn't a reward, it's an unconditional gesture of love. By believing it will preserve the magic to have her children and grandchildren live to benefit others, leading to rampant emotional instability, Alma unwittingly took the true gift, her family's safety and happiness, for granted.
  • The Incredibles: The reason why Buddy Pine AKA Syndrome was never able to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a superhero was because for all his talent as an inventor and fanaticism towards super heroism that could have driven him to become a capable a Science Hero, he focused entirely on the "super" aspect of being a superhero that involved having extraordinary powers and abilities and never gave any thought towards the "hero" part of it that motivated his ex-idols to use their powers for the greater good. As a child, he believed Mr. Incredible's refusal to accept him as his sidekick was due to him lacking any legitimate superpowers rather than being an overly-impulsive youth who kept recklessly putting himself in harm's way in his efforts to prove he was worthy of being "IncrediBoy". This mentality persisted all the way to adulthood, as shown when Mr. Incredible calls him out for murdering retired superheroes so he could pretend to be one, he rebuffs that his technology made him real enough to capture the entire Parr family and get as far as he did rather than acknowledge how he was willing to become a mass-murdering lunatic for the sake of living out his self-centered fantasy.
  • In Kung Fu Panda, the Dragon Scroll is said to impart enormous power upon those who read it and is the ultimate reward for the one chosen to be the Dragon Warrior. However, it would turn out that the power is all spiritual. The scroll itself is just a shiny surface acting as a mirror, showing the reflection of the one looking at it because all the power, skill and value is within them, not the scroll. It's telling that Tai Lung and Shifu did not understand the meaning behind it and misunderstood what the Dragon Warrior was supposed to be all along. Tai Lung even says when looking at his own reflection that it's nothing.
  • Megamind: Hal became a hero to impress Roxanne, not because he actually wanted to be a hero.
  • Olaf's Frozen Adventure hinges on Olaf's belief that he can just find someone else's holiday tradition so Anna and Elsa can mimic it. He doesn't realize, either out of innocence or thoughtlessness, that a family tradition is a personal thing by nature.
  • Toy Story 4 builds its ending around this trope throughout most of the film. After having spent weeks not being played with by Bonnie, Woody fears he's lost his purpose, but still maintains loyalty to his owner in spite of the fact. His actions to prove his loyalty to her constantly end up causing him and his friends trouble, even if he never meant to. When he reencounters his old flame Bo Peep, she spends much of the time trying to convince him he needed to move on with his life, but he doesn't quite seem to get it, content with staying as Bonnie's toy. It takes a disastrous rescue mission and Bo walking out on him afterwards that Woody realizes that he's been largely unable to move on from being Andy's toy, and that Bonnie doesn't appreciate him the same way as Andy did. Thus, he decides to stay with Bo and live life as a lost toy.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Avengers: Endgame, when 2014!Thanos sees that even five years after managing to complete his grand scheme of "solving" the Overpopulation Crisis by wiping out half the population of the universe, everyone still remembers and are recovering from the event, the Avengers killed his future self for it, and are in the process of trying to undoing it. Instead of realizing that his solution was the wrong one from seeing these things, he decides everyone else are simply ungrateful and decides instead that he will wipe out the entire population of the universe and build a new one where no one will know the atrocities he committed and everyone will be grateful towards him.
  • At the ending of The Final, the parents of the victims dramatically miss the point of the attacks. Instead of the victims being seen as getting their comeuppance for years of bullying, they're portrayed as saint-like who were attacked for no reason. Also, rather than become "a moment in history", as one of the attackers said it would be, it's largely forgotten about after it's over. Though Kelly, realizing just what her behavior has driven people to do, eventually kills herself out of shame.
  • The Hunt (2020): The hunters attempt to make their hunt a long-running homage to Animal Farm, complete with a pig and nicknaming them after the animals in them. They seem to utterly miss that it's a story about leftist revolutionaries becoming as bad as the people who they revolted against. Nor does Athena seem to realize that Crystal isn't who she should dub "Snowball" after the Trotsky character in the story. Crystal notes that going by what Athena believes, she should give that to herself as a nickname.
  • In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Henry didn't realize the way he was treating his son was driving a wedge between them. Indy states this when Calling the Old Man Out.
    Henry, Sr.: Did I ever tell you to eat up, go to bed, wash your ears, or do your homework? No. I respected your privacy, and I taught you self-reliance.
    Indy: What you taught me is that I was less important to you than people who've been dead for 500 years in another country. And I learned it so well, that we've hardly spoken for 20 years.
  • Interview with the Vampire: Louis (the titular vampire) spends the whole of his interview with a reporter named Daniel discussing how he was sired by Lestat and the years he has spent as a vampire. He describes his unlife and the blood lust that came with it as a torturous existence that has been nothing but painful with any supposed benefits being far outweighed by the negatives. Daniel, however, becomes so enamoured with the idea of living forever as a supernatural being that he asks Louis to make him a vampire. Predictably (and understandably), Louis flips out.
  • In The King's Speech, Albert criticizes his brother Edward, who is heir to the throne, for acting unbecoming of the King of England. Edward thus accuses his brother of trying to take his place as king, when what Albert was really trying to do was telling Edward to get his act together specifically because Albert didn't want to be king. (Which is especially ironic, because Albert does end up becoming King (as George VI) precisely because of Edward's behavior.)
  • Moulin Rouge!: Christian leaves before the finale of El Tango De Roxanne, depressed at the thought of Satine sleeping with the Duke, in doing so missing the point of the song; the Argentinian was playing the part of The Duke, not Christian, during the song; it was a warning that he (The Duke) was going to do anything, including rape, to be with Satine.
  • Over the Edge: After Richie is shot by Doberman for pointing an unloaded gun at him, Jerry calls a PTA meeting, but his discussion is less about how to deal with the problem of delinquency, and more about how to maintain the town's property values. This causes Fred, his own business partner, to angrily call Jerry, himself, and every parent in the meeting out for neglecting their children.
  • The Paper Chase: Near the end of the law school year, Bell lords an 800-page course outline over the other members of the study group as the pinnacle of what a great outline should be. However, law school course outlines are supposed to be around 50-80 pages in length, because they're a summary of the year-long class. Given that most textbooks are around 800 pages in length, an 800-page outline isn't "summarizing" anything and would be worthless as a study aid. You might as well just read the textbook itself.
  • The script for Pretty Woman started out a lot more tragic. One plot point was Edward renting a white fur coat for Vivian to wear during her hired time. When she is sad over their time nearly being up, he thinks it's just because he made her give the fur back.
  • Done subtly in The Sandlot. At the end of the movie, Scotty and Benny meet the Cool Old Guy Mr. Mertle, a retired baseball star who supposedly once knew Babe Ruth personally, and always dreamed of beating the Babe's home run record before he was forced to retire when a wayward baseball left him blind. After hearing his life story, Scotty assumes that he never got to beat the record because he lost his eyesight. Of course, an older viewer will probably deduce the real reason: he's a middle-aged African-American man in the 1960s, and he would have played long before baseball teams were desegregated. In all likelihood, he was never allowed to achieve his dream because he was never allowed to play against White players.
  • Secrets & Lies: Cynthia thinks that Maurice and Monica don't have children because Monica doesn't want any while Maurice does. Going by the way she tries to cut her mother off when she confronts Monica, Roxanne has probably already cottoned on to the real reason.
  • Star Trek:
    • In both Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek (2009), the Kobayashi Maru test is a major one for Kirk. In both timelines, Kirk is so determined to beat the training simulation that he actually hacks Starfleet Academy's computers and cheats his way to victory by changing the conditions of the starting scenario. He doesn't realize that the entire point of the Kobayashi Maru simulation is that cadets aren't supposed to beat it; the test is designed to be unbeatable to prepare them for the possibility of a no-win scenario, and to test how they react to defeat. Or rather, he rejects the point of the test, adamantly believing that there's no such thing as a no-win scenario. Kirk's refusal to accept this fact provides valuable insight into his pride, which proves to be his Fatal Flaw.
      • In a more straight example, Khan owns Moby-Dick, and even quotes Captain Ahab, but apparently completely missed the entire point of the book about the cost of vengeance.
    • In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Valeris airs her concerns to Spock about this new Federation-Klingon peace. Spock doesn't realize how concerned she is at this moment. He later states neither party was listening to the other.
  • In White Christmas, Betty is upset at what she thinks is Judy's betrayal at leaving the act to get married and Bob's double-dealing by using the show for publicity. Bob, on the other hand, doesn't understand why she won't sing for him and thinks she's just being difficult.

    Literature 
  • Ascendance of a Bookworm: Myne describes her previous life mother's attempts to save water and electricity to be this. She would turn water off while brushing her teeth but not while doing dishes and unplug the television while it was not in use only to regularly fall asleep while it was on.
  • The Collector. Clegg stalks and abducts Miranda, a young woman he's grown obsessed with. After numerous escape attempts on her part, Miranda becomes severely ill and dies because Clegg refuses to let her out of captivity to see a doctor. The lesson Clegg learns from all of this? Things went badly because he was too lenient a captor, and the book ends with him stalking another girl, eager to put his new knowledge to use.
  • Vlad Tepes in Count and Countess, who doesn't understand why it's bad to conscript children into his army, nor why Elizabeth Bathory is so upset when her daughter dies.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Anyone who possesses the three Deathly Hallows is said to become the "Master of Death". Many people theorize that this means giving their owner some sort of immortality. The various people who undertake the search for the Hallows believe as such, including Xenophilius Lovegood, Gellert Grindelwald, and a young Albus Dumbledore. Only later in life did Dumbledore realize that "mastering Death" doesn't mean conquering death and becoming immortal, but accepting that death is inevitable, much like how Ignotus Peverell, creator of the Invisibility Cloak, greeted Death like an old friend. During their meeting in the Afterlife Antechamber at the end of Deathly Hallows, Dumbledore calls Harry a true Master of Death, because he did not use the Hallows as a way to deny his mortality.
    • The point about the Master of Death is actually stressed as the main Aesop of "The Tale of the Three Brothers", included in a children's book that is widely read in the wizarding world. Strange that very few people get it.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Everyone who treats the conflict over Westeros as a "game of thrones" and covets the Iron Throne as the ultimate prize. The entire point of the Iron Throne (an extremely uncomfortable and dangerous chair made of swords) is that ruling a realm is a responsibility and a burden, not a prize in a game. So far as we know, only three people in the series really seem to have understood this: Eddard Stark, who had the opportunity to seize the Throne but refused it out of a sense of honor and never regretted it; Robert Baratheon, who never really wanted it in the first place but was forced to claim it; and Aegon the Conqueror, who made the damn thing in the first place. Stannis and Robb get some credit, as neither is motivated by personal gain and dislike what comes with being King. Both of them are still fighting over the throne, Robb in order to avenge his father and Stannis because he's technically next in line to inherit it and he refuses to fail at his duty. Varys does at least claim to be doing what's best for the people, but his true motives are too murky to say for sure. Aegon VI was raised to believe this, but he still seems to have a bit of an entitlement complex about the whole thing.
    • Although in Robb's case, he never actually expresses any intent to claim the Iron Throne. He's crowned King in the North, and as far as land he only ever expressly plans to keep everything North of the Trident as independent Kingdom. His issue is a different way of interpreting this trope, as he's focused on avenging the Northmen who had lost their lives already (including his father), as well as rescuing his sisters (one of who already escaped, but he doesn't know this). He does also want to dethrone the illegitimate Joffrey and eventually bring down the Lannisters in revenge and "justice", which may or may not result in him claiming the Iron Throne, depending on how it plays out. In the War Council at the end of the first book, his mother Catelyn attempts to point out the fact that killing the ones responsible for their dead will not bring her husband or other dead and they should be willing to make concessions for the sake of peace, the security of their realm, and saving the people who still could be saved (like Rob's sisters). Of course none of the other factions are willing to budge, making such negotiations difficult, and thanks to his advisors Robb decides to play the game full-tilt. With dire consequences...
  • The Traveler's Gate: Naraka Travelers are supposed to be completely dedicated to justice. Unfortunately, Naraka defines justice as "punishing the guilty." They don't much care about side effects of their punishments, or even about preventing crimes. A Naraka Traveler can commit a crime, undergo proper penance for it in the form of pain, and then go right back to committing the same crime again.
  • One in Warhammer 40,000's backstory is shown in the Horus Heresy novel Betrayer. In the Night of the Wolf, Leman Russ and the Space Wolves confronted Angron about his practice of using forbidden technology to turn the World Eaters into raving berserkers, and the two legions came to blows over it. Angron always said that he won, that he thrashed Leman Russ in close combat until the Wolf had to crawl away. Decades later, Lorgar of the Word Bearers explained that Angron won the duel, but Russ won the battle - Angron's bloodlust led him to be surrounded by Russ' bodyguard while the rest of the World Bearers fought on oblivious, therefore proving Russ' point that Russ' soldiers were greater than Angron's warriors. The only reason Russ spared Angron was in hope that the Primarch learned something.
  • The Wheel of Time:
    • The Aes Sedai are magically bound by the Three Oaths, to "speak no word that is not true," "make no weapon for one man to kill another," and "Never to use the One Power as a weapon except against Darkfriends or Shadowspawn, or in the last extreme defense of her life, the life of her Warder, or another Aes Sedai". In theory, this was to stop them from taking advantage of people, but in practice, they focus on the first one, and use it primarily to gain people's trust while twisting the truth, so they can more easily manipulate them.
    • Also, their name; "Aes Sedai" means "Servant of All" in the Old Tongue, which, in the the Age of Legends would have been taken largely at face value, being a phrase in the language that everyone spoke. This meaning, while still known to those with knowledge of the Old Tongue, is now completely non-indicative, as modern Aes Sedai seem mostly to want to lead the world (at best), or rule over it with an iron fist/destroy it (at worst).
    • The Aiel prohibition against using swords is a remnant of their previous pacifism (a sword doesn't have use as a tool, like an axe would, so it served as a shorthand). Having forgotten the origins of the rule, they're now perfectly happy to kill people but are arbitrarily restricted from using swords to do it.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer40000: The Iron Hands Astartes Chapter believe that the living metal hands of their Primarch were a physical embodiment of his doctrines of efficiency and strength above all things, something that has led to the Chapter's Rite of Severance where a newly initiated battle-brother has their left hand replaced with a mechanical one. Ferrus himself, however, never saw his hands as a sign of strength, for all the great works he accomplished with them he was painfully aware they weren't his real hands and it amazed him that no one else saw it that way too. He saw the hands as a sign of his weakness, a crutch he relied on instead of being strong in his own right. He intended to lead by example by removing the metal from his hands but was slain in his fateful duel with Fulgrim before he had the chance.

    Theatre 
  • Death of a Salesman: Willy Loman ends up killing himself, thinking that he will give his family a lot of money. At his funeral, at least one character points out that Willy could have chosen another path and have been happier for it. One of his sons, Happy, declares that he will succeed where Willy failed. He's blatantly ignoring the fact that Willy was no good at being a salesman and Happy has no reason to assume that he's any better, and that if any lessons were to be learned from events it was that it's more important to find something you're good at which makes you happy and look for success there, rather than follow someone else's idea of success.
  • In Les Misérables, when Valjean is trying to explain his theft to Javert in the first song.
    Valjean: "My sister's child was close to death, we were starving—"
    Javert: "You'll starve again!"

    Visual Novels 
  • An especially tragic version of this happens with Peko Pekoyama in Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair. Having been raised to think of herself as a tool to the Kuzuryuu clan, when the scion to the clan, Fuyuhiko, insists that their relationship until now is null and void once they arrive at the "class trip," she assumes that he, out of his desire to prove himself independent of the clan, hates her as the clan's tool, when in reality, he wants her as a person, rather than a tool. As a result of this mindset, Peko kills Mahiru when a tense standoff between Mahiru and Fuyuhiko (who'd planned on killing Mahiru but was starting to get cold feet) breaks down, believing that because she acts on Fuyuhiko's behalf, if she's convicted of the murder, he'll be able to "graduate." In truth, Fuyuhiko didn't want her to do that, so Peko is found guilty and executed, with Fuyuhiko losing an eye in a failed attempt to save her and living with the guilt for the rest of the game. In Island Mode, however, Peko gets over this if you successfully reach her ending.
  • In Kindred Spirits on the Roof, Umi values her friendships with Sasa and Nena, so while she accepts Sasa's Love Confession, she insists that their relationship not come at Nena's expense. After noticing that Nena has distanced herself from the other two, Umi becomes concerned and convinces Sasa that they'll have to tell Nena about their relationship and break up if it gets in the way of their friendship with Nena. It turns out that [Nena not only knew about Sasa's feelings for Umi before Umi herself did, but approved of the relationship and was trying to give the other two some space, so Nena calls out Umi on being overly concerned about her. Umi gets the point, and while she remains considerate of Nena, she never again contemplates going that far for Nena's sake.
  • Toward the end of Shinrai: Broken Beyond Despair, a flashback reveals that Kamen had tried to tell her best friend Momoko that Hiro was unfaithful, since Hiro had asked Kamen out while still in a relationship. Momoko, however, refused to believe Kamen, assuming that Kamen wanted Hiro for herself, and threatened to end their friendship if Kamen persisted. In reality, Kamen was a lesbian who had Unrequited Love for Momoko, but she didn't want to break them up; she just didn't want Momoko to get her heart broken. In the end, Momoko read texts from Hiro on Kamen's phone, and, assuming that Hiro was cheating on her with Kamen, proceeded to kill Hiro and herself with the goal of framing Kamen for their deaths.
  • In Spirit Hunter: NG, the reason Kubitarou collects heads is because she misinterpreted a children's song that she thought could heal her younger brother. The opening line is "Head to the Great Tarou Kintoki"; because of her sub-standard education, Kubitarou took it to mean "Bring a head to the Great Tarou Kintoki".

    Webcomics 
  • The Order of the Stick: Miko Miyazaki immediately assumes that because her own conclusions led her to kill Lord Shojo, the eponymous band somehow made her do it. She then takes it as far as assuming everyone in the room is working against her, and she can do no wrong because she is the strongest member of the Sapphire Guard.
    Roy Greenhilt: It's like she has that Monk ability that lets you jump as far as you want, only for her, it applies to conclusions.
  • Trevor (2020): Dr. Maddison thinks that Colin and Purdy being dumbfounded are them maliciously mocking him by pretending to not know what was happening to Trevor, despite him sending them multiple messages explaining it. Enid explains to Purdy that she had the messages (that they could catch) altered without Dr. Maddison’s knowledge, and fed rumors about Dr. Maddison being crazy to the rest of the staff, so they truly do not know what he is ranting and raving about, despite his insistence that he’s already told them.

    Web Original 
  • Not Always Right has a story about a child throwing a can of yams at a cashier, significantly injuring them. His mother's response? “Oh! Isn’t he cute?! He wants to play baseball!”
  • The villains of RWBY primarily operate in the shadows, exacerbating tensions until the area falls to in-fighting, which, in a world full of monsters drawn to negativity, is a recipe for disaster. General Ironwood believes the best way to combat this is...to send a massive fleet to whatever territory is potentially threatened, turn it into a police state, and ignore whatever criticism he may receive, creating the tension the villains need. And when things go wrong, his immediate response is to tighten his grip.

 
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Teleporting Bread

When shown the tumorous bread, Soldier concludes this means they can't teleport any more bread and flies into a rage. Engineer tells him he can "teleport as much bread as you like" to calm him down. Soldier then spends the entire three days teleporting so much bread that it creates a giant monster, having interpreted Engineer's words as an order.

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