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Failed a Spot Check

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Prometheus: You're in luck! The bridge ahead is still intact.
[an Invader throws a car off the bridge and heads for Michael]
Michael Ford: You neglected to mention the giant alien standing on the bridge.

When a character fails to notice something important or obvious, something they would want to know, even when looking.

The name comes from a typical mechanic from RPG games, dating back from the arch-RPG Dungeons & Dragons. A character's success on various tasks is determined by a dice roll combined in some way with base statistics (such as strength or intelligence) and some skill. The skills in question include several that require substantial luck, like Appraise, Use Magic Device, Hide, or the various Perform skills, but also such mundane tasks as Listen and Spot. Indeed, the Spot skill, which determines whether someone notices events around them in time to react, is often very dependent on luck, even if it's something any idiot should be able to see.

Because things like searching for hidden objects/doors/clues, "noticing what's going on out of the ordinary" or good old ambushes are all very common events in most RPG games, Spot Checks tend to be among, if not THE most common dice rolls being done. A single failed Spot Check can put the whole party at a disadvantage, and if you're not lucky you can miss something vital, even while looking for it. Considering the number of Spot Checks a typical game involves, there always are instances of missing out on something because of One Bad Roll, which naturally frustrated people about Spot Checks for literally decades.

In D&D games, the players will know that they failed a spot check (though GMs are encouraged to roll spot checks secretly when necessary), thus they are aware of not being aware of something, only not knowing what that something is. In this case, the player is aware of the character not knowing something.

This trope differs from Weirdness Censor (where they don't see it because it's so bizarre), Selective Obliviousness (where they don't want to see it) and Bystander Syndrome (where they ignore it because they don't care). Also differs from Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!, as there usually isn't that excuse. Opposite of Hyper-Awareness. Can often result in Right Behind Me (although that might be closer to failing a Listen check) or I'm Standing Right Here. If they eventually notice it, but not right away, that's Delayed Reaction.

This doesn't necessarily imply that the character is stupid; they just aren't noticing an important "something". One of the oldest jokes in Dungeon Master's arsenal used to be for players who fail their spot checks badly enough to find themselves "discovering" something both incredibly large and plainly obvious such as an island or a mountain, instead of the one unobtrusive detail that they were trying to find.

May relate to Genre Blindness and Forgot About His Powers. May be a sign of a character carrying the Idiot Ball or being an Unwitting Pawn. When the character's creator explicitly decides what he can and cannot notice, it may lead to Plot-Sensitive Snooping Skills. In cases of characters consistently failing spot checks to penetrate a Paper-Thin Disguise, we have Clark Kenting. Someone who does this too often may be Too Dumb to Live, or it may be a case of Obfuscating Stupidity, especially if the spot check failures suddenly stop at a crucial point. Can result in the characters realizing that Camp Unsafe Isn't Safe Anymore.

Also, this is Truth in Television, as anyone who lost his keys in the open middle of his desk can say. Behind the Black or No Peripheral Vision is when the character should be able to see it from his vantage point, but doesn't because the audience can't from their angle. The Chaste Hero is a character (usually male) who consistently rolls "1"s where romance is concerned. If the thing they're failing to notice is a breaking news story, that's Ignored Vital News Reports. If everyone fails to notice a creature that's big and dumb enough that its presence ought to be obvious, it's Suspiciously Stealthy Predator. If one person is looking for another person but constantly fails Spot Checks when they are close to the person they're searching for, it's Missed Him by That Much. This is usually the reason why Jump Scares happen. Banana peels, however, thrive on this trope.

The scientific term is for this phenomenon is Inattentional Blindness, so as incredible (and possibly depressing) as it sounds, it is known to happen to some degree in real life as well.

Strangely, more likely to happen to a Meganekko than someone with an Eyepatch of Power.

Contrast with Awesomeness by Analysis.

If the author does this, you may end up spotting Rouge Angles of Satin.


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    Asian Animation 
  • Happy Heroes: There is an episode where Smart S. encounters and chases after a monster that changes its appearance to match whatever object it touches. It touches a street light and turns into said object; Careless S. notices Smart S. chasing after the street lamp while crying that it's a monster, at which point he gets confused since he doesn't realize it's a monster and therefore doesn't see it. You'd think the fact that a street lamp of all things is even moving by itself at all would tip him off that something's going on.
  • Lamput: One episode has Fat Doc pop a balloon decoy set up by Lamput, which leads him to believe he's accidentally killed him. Lamput himself appears to give the crying Fat Doc a handkerchief, but Fat Doc fails to notice who gives it to him.

    Comic Books 
  • Death of the Family: Catwoman finds herself trying to move giant chess pieces containing people around. She fails to notice a person's head sticking out of a pawn.
  • Exiles: During the Mojoworld arc, the team goes looking for Longshot, figuring he's the only one who can fight Mojo. They grab a passerby in an alleyway and ask him to tell them where Longshot is. He asks if they're kidding, and points to the building across the road. It's a prison, with a giant neon sign reading "LONGSHOT'S PRISON".
    Sasquatch: Wow. Mulder and Sculley, we ain't.
  • In Injustice: Gods Among Us, Batwoman and Harley Quinn leave a gathering of a resistance group seconds before Superman arrives, busting through a glass ceiling and laying waste to the building. Neither woman notices this until they've made it halfway down the block on Batwoman's motorcycle and she spots flames in her rearview mirror.
  • In The Other Side Of Doomsday, Flash and Atom trace the electrical signature of the creatures involved in the kidnapping of their love interests to an abandoned electric plant, and they decide to split up and sneak into the place. As looking around, Flash is so worried about Iris that he does not notice he has just walked by a hulking creature until it is smashing it into unconsciousness.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): Euryale fails to notice a pissed off Pegasus dramatically rising from the pooling blood beneath her beheaded mortal sister. This allows Pegasus to easily knock her out when she tries to run Diana through to avenge Medusa.
  • Fantastic Four: The heroes once managed to miss that Dr. Doom and Franklin Richards had switched bodies despite Doom not remotely bothering to stay in character. They ended up Brainwashed and Crazy and needing to be rescued by the Power Pack.
  • The second House of M mini-series features a fight between Hawkeye, Misty Knight, Black Cat, and Magneto. It's only after Magneto is incapacitated that the rest notice Fin Fang Foom, a gigantic Chinese dragon, who had been lurking just off-screen. Promptly lampshaded by Misty:
    "How are we just now seeing the dragon?! It's not even that big of a room!"
  • Tintin: In Flight 714, the fact that plastique could set the volcano off means it was at most a day or two from erupting anyway. Rastapopoulos has missed the warning signs completely.
  • The Transformers (Marvel): Unicron, a planet-sized devourer of worlds]] is able to sneak up on the planet of Cybertron with no-one noticing him until he's close enough to take up the entire sky, because they're all busy fighting over whether or not they need to team up to take him on. This very moment was lampshaded by Kup at the end of issue #74. Kup asks Primus "You can sense Unicron, correct?" When given the answer of "yes, through our bond" Kup points to the sky behind Primus (and it may be noted, that the group Kup just walked away from to ask this question, has already been seen to be huddling together out of apprehension) and asks "Then how in the name of creation did you miss THAT?" Revealed in the next issue by Primus himself: Unicron snuck up on the planet in a shut-down state. He drifted up on them, and it's quite likely that the rather small army (this was before Grimlock's contingent of reactivated 'bots came back in the Ark) was still working out unit assignments and the like, going by the state of "the army" in the very next issue.
  • Superman:
    • In The Unknown Supergirl, villainess Lesla-Lar brainwashes and swaps places with Supergirl. Her faces are -supposedly- identical-, but even so, Supergirl's cousin and adoptive parents fail to notice sixteen-year-old Kara has become a grown woman overnight. Similarly, Lesla-Lar's co-workers fail to notice Lesla has been replaced with a shorter and definitely kinder girl. Months later, in The Girl with the X-Ray Mind, Lesla impersonates Lena Thorul, and this time it is Supergirl who fails to notice her best friend has been replaced by a similar-looking fraud. She does not even think of using her microscopic vision to make sure that the super-serum which "Lena" claims" granted her powers did not mess up with her DNA, an action which would have instantly given Lesla away.
    • In The Last Days of Superman, a shard of Kryptonite remains embedded in Jimmy Olsen's camera for many days without Jimmy noticing it until it was pointed out to him after nearly one month.
    • In The Phantom Zone, Clark Kent hears his co-worker Charlie Kweskill has vanished after falling sick. Since Charlie used to be his enemy Quex-Ul before losing his memory, Superman decides to check on him. His X-Ray Vision finds nothing unusual in Charlie's apartment so Superman leaves, but he is unable to shake the feeling he has missed something very important. As General Zod gleefully points out, Superman was so worried about and focused on finding Charlie that he did not notice the latter's lead-lined closet, which should have led to him wondering why Charlie owned it, and whether his ex-enemy was hiding something from him.
    • Adventures of Supergirl: As looking for a huge, angry alien called Rampage in the sewer network, Supergirl and her sister walk past her without noticing she is hiding underwater. Supergirl says she cannot hear her because every sound is being muffled by the noise of rushing water, but her super-vision should have easily spotted Rampage.
    • The Condemned Legionnaires: Supergirl X-Ray scans Satan Girl's mask and notes it protects her enemy's identity because it is lead-lined...but she fails to notice Satan Girl's entire suit is lead-lined, which should have clued Kara in on her mysterious enemy being Kryptonian after all, since Satan Girl took steps to protect herself from radiation.
    • The Planet Eater Trilogy: As he's flying towards the titular world-destroying machine, Superman is so lost in his thoughts regarding Brainiac's post-reprogramming good nature that he fails to notice a monitor light flashing on the planet's surface, and a hatch-door sliding open, before an energy beam strikes him.
    • Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot: Deadman is shocked when Kara greets him, but at no point during their talk the deceased hero realizes the obvious reason why Kara can see a ghost like himself (i.e., she is also dead).
  • Witchblade: The opening arc has Kenneth Irons doing all he can to trick Sara into giving him the Witchblade. He shows his collection of artwork of the Witchblade's history and how an earlier attempt cost him a hand. In their battle, Sara openly laughs on how, in all that time, Irons could have missed the key detail that guarantees he can never hold the Witchblade.
    Sara: You're so stupid. You of all could you not know...with your gallery...The one thing they all had in common...The Witchblade only chooses WOMEN!
  • X-Men: Given the number of times she has fooled them, one would think the team would have figured out a way to look out for shape-shifter Mystique. One of the worst cases is a 2019 story where she poses as Captain America for weeks to trick the X-Men into handing over mutant prisoners to "turn over to the government" and assuring them they have leeway to operate without oversight. It takes the real Cap showing up to chastise them over a blunder for the X-Men to realize the truth when a simple call to Avengers Mansion at any time would have exposed Mystique's scam.

    Comic Strips 
  • Bloom County:
    • Steve Dallas' mother thought Steve's father (her first husband) had been dead for twenty years, and married and divorced six other men during that time. After aliens made Steve a kind, sensitive person using the "Gephardtization" process, he told her that not only was his father alive, he was where he had always been, reading the sports section of the paper in the den at their house (next to the ceramic poinsettias). His mom said she had honestly just never noticed him there.
    • That wasn't the first time she had missed something that was obvious. She never realized the true reason Liberace never married (it was hardly a secret to most fans that he was gay) and used him as an example in at least two strips while trying to convince Steve not to remain single. It came as quite a shock to her when Steve let it slip in the middle of one such argument.
  • In one series of The Boondocks strips, Granddad wanted to see a movie that was, in his words, "manly", so he and Tom went to see Brokeback Mountain, thinking that it would fit the bill simply because the newspaper said it was "about cowboys". (Both Riley and Huey knew more about the plot than that, and Granddad had no idea why the two were laughing at him.) In fact, despite the fact that there were several gay couples at the movie, Granddad didn't get the point until he was about halfway through seeing it. (And even then, Tom had to explain it to him; Granddad often had a hard time grasping concepts in modern media.)
  • In one Sunday Peanuts strip, Charlie Brown and Lucy are talking about a museum exhibit she went to while drinking lemonade when Snoopy comes up behind and takes a sip of hers. She doesn't notice, even as she resumes sipping it, but Charlie Brown sure does and is noticeably squicked. Eventually, Lucy tells him, "You know, it's hard to talk while you keep making those weird faces!"
  • The Far Side:
    • An elephant gets ready to fight a human in a bar. His friend pushes him back, saying:
      "Relax, Jerry!... He probably didn't know you were an elephant when he told that last joke."
    • A man stands in a doctor's surgery with a rhino poking him in the back with its horn.
      "Wait a minute here, Mr Crumbly. ...Maybe it isn't kidney stones after all."

    Films — Animation 
  • Happens a lot in An American Tail, where Fievel and his family keep narrowly missing each other.
  • In the Canadian animated short film The Big Snit, the protagonist couple fail multiple spot checks regarding the nuclear war that has broken out while they were distracted by their own differences.
    • The husband is fast asleep when the nuclear war is announced on the television, and only wakes up when the family cat chews through the cord. He looks out of the window at the screaming masses in the streets, and... concludes that they must be there for some sort of parade. He gives the scene no further thought.
    • At the end of the short, the husband and wife somehow do not notice that they have been killed in a nuclear explosion and gone to heaven, in spite of the very otherworldly scene stretching before them. The husband simply remarks that on days like this, he doesn't feel like doing much of anything, and suggests that he and his wife finish their Scrabble game.
  • Coco: Mamá Imelda falls victim to this trope three times:note 
    • The first time is when Miguel claims that the guitar that cursed him belonged to his great-great-grandfather. She doesn't realize that he shouldn't know who her husband is, and even if he did, that he couldn't have found the guitar that belonged to him, given what she thinks she knows about him.
    • It's obvious when Miguel bails from his family that he's going to look for his great-great-grandfather. Imelda catches him minutes later leaving the station with Héctor. When Imelda finally catches up with Miguel, Héctor is no longer with him, a sign that Miguel has the wrong idea of who her husband is. This also seems to go right over her head.
    • The most glaring instance has to be when they search for Miguel at the music competition. None of the Riveras notice him on the stage with Héctor, who are singing a song that Héctor wrote for Imelda.
    • Then at the end, it turns out her banning music and trying to forget her husband has made it so neither she nor their daughter would recognize his guitar and songs were used by Ernesto De La Cruz, his partner and supposed best friend. She has unintentionally allowed his murderer to remain unpunished for almost a century.
  • In Monsters University, while Mike is concerning himself with an embarrassing photo of his fraternity in the school paper, he fails to notice an entire courtyard covered with said picture until it is pointed out to him.
  • In Monsters vs. Aliens, the protagonists disguise themselves as Gallaxhar-clones merely by donning their uniform. The other clones fail to notice that they look nothing like Gallaxhar.
  • Something very similar happens in Shrek 2. Shrek sneaks into the factory of the Fairy Godmother, by disguising himself in one of the workers' uniforms. Fine, except the workers are gnomes, he's an ogre, and the entire uniform only covers his head.
  • In The Transformers: The Movie, Jazz is stationed on Moonbase One and yells out "Where'd that come from?!" when Unicron attacks. Unicron is the size of a huge freaking planet. How could Jazz have missed that even if he wasn't monitoring the sensors? This is apparently a specialty of Unicron's since he pulled it at the beginning of the movie- he wasn't noticed by the first planet he attacked until he was practically within chomping distance, and he also pulled it off in the Marvel Transformers comic run (see above).
  • Turning Red:
    • Ming spent her life keeping her eye on Mei, hoping to see signs that her panda form would awaken. Yet she, who once went through the same experience, ignored the minor detail that Mei's eyebrows were now red, failed to question the all-encompassing beanie Mei elected to wear that fine spring day and why Mei is acting so robotic.
    • After Mei throws a dodgeball in her furry arm at Tyler, who barely dodges it on time, Mr. Kieslowski (the math teacher) and the other students besides Stacy and her friend, react to neither Tyler's Close-Call Haircut nor the hole in the window caused by Mei's ball, don't question how Mei could throw a ball with such strength, or notice what Mei's arm looked like before she threw it. He just gives Mei a time-out for doing an illegal throw.
    • While Mei and her friends are merching the panda for concert money, her after-school habits change radically with the minimal excuse that she's joined a Mathletes club. She hangs out with her friends instead of going straight home, her grades slip badly (which she hides from Ming in contrast to previously showing her proudly), and she becomes evasive when Ming questions her about what she's doing. These are classic signs of a kid who is Up To Something, yet Ming misses them all.
    • Mei and her friends have no worries about the 4*Town concert conflicting with the date of the red moon since 4*Town will be in Toronto the weekend before the red moon...until they discover that Abby misread the schedule and 4*Town is actually going to be in Toledo the weekend before, and they will be in Toronto on the night of the red moon. Cue Mass "Oh, Crap!".

  • Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson decide to go on a camping trip. After dinner and a bottle of wine, they fall asleep in their tent. Some hours later, Holmes awakes and nudges his faithful friend.
    Holmes: Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see.
    Watson: I see millions of stars.
    Holmes: What does that tell you?
    Watson: [thinks for a minute] Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets.
    Holmes: What else?
    Watson: Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo.
    Holmes: What else?
    Watson: Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three.
    Holmes: What else?
    Watson: Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful and that we are small and insignificant.
    Holmes: What else?
    Watson: Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow.
    Holmes: What else?
    Watson: [exasperated] I don't know! What does it tell you, Holmes?
    Holmes: [facepalming] Watson, you idiot. Someone has stolen our tent!
    • In some versions, Holmes and Watson are replaced with Tonto and the Lone Ranger respectively.

  • In 1635: The Cannon Law, a Spanish officer is irritated by an Inquisitor who accuses him — an officer from a known noble family — of being a secret Jew because he slept in on a Saturday, while completely missing the two actual Jews in his unit. Then again, the two Jewish soldiers weren't that observant, to the point that he imagines a hypothetical Jewish Inquisition might suspect them of being secret Christians.
  • Alex Rider: In Scorpia Rising, Alex plants a packet of cigarettes with a very angry scorpion inside of it in a car that he's been brought to. When Erik Gunter asks if Alex has any last requests, Alex asks for a cigarette, leading to Erik getting stung to death when he opens the packet and Alex escaping. Had Erik noticed that the fairly conspicuous packet wasn't there before, this escape attempt would have failed.
  • Animorphs The Andalite Chronicles has a weird bit where, during a Mêlée à Trois between Elfangor and some humans he rescued, Sub-Visser Seven, and some weird monsters that are basically living asteroids, they suddenly encounter an Unrealistic Black Hole, which they somehow never noticed until they are right on top of it. Even given that black holes are black, it would still be visible due to the stars it obscures, and you'd think either Elfangor or Sub-Visser seven's ship's sensors would have detected the gravity well and tidal forces from it.
  • In Battlefield Earth (the book), Fort Knox is one of the first places the gold-loving Psychlos hit. The humans get the gold for their plan from an armored car, which still leads to the same problem as in the movie, of how the Psychlos missed all the gold that humans had already mined.
  • The Butcher Boy: Deconstructed and Played for Drama. Francie began taking care of his father after his mother's suicide, even after he stopped eating or moving from the corner of the room. Which is where he eventually starved to death, but Francie failed to notice and accept this thanks to his own poor mental state.
  • Discworld: In Making Money a group of dwarves are reluctantly helping Adora with a mining project, but are bored out of their minds and unnerved by her golem assistants. When Adora apparently gives up, she takes the golems with her. The dwarves don't bother checking how many of the golems leave with her. Apparently if they had, the King of the Dwarves might not have yelled at them so much later.
  • In Dragon Queen, Trava fails to spot a dragon. Luckily, Sajag sees it.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel: Uncle Gary takes over a street corner store that sells souvenir t-shirts. Problem is, all the t-shirts read "Botson." Rodrick buys one from him anyway (though he is already a terrible speller).
  • The Dresden Files: In Fool Moon, Harry makes an "invisibility" potion which works by inducing this trope on anyone nearby. It works too well, and he is unable to get the guard's attention to save him from the Loup-Garou.
  • A boy in one Encyclopedia Brown book is notorious for this. The narration mentions that he once hired the title character to find his wristwatch when it was on his other wrist the whole time.
  • In Ender's Game, when Ender is first assigned to Salamander Army, he doesn't know anyone there other than its commander is a boy named Bonzo Madrid. When Petra is the first person to approach him to talk, Ender thinks she might be Bonzo. Initially this could be an understandable mistake, since everyone involved is a prepubescent and there isn't much physical difference between boys and girls at that age—except one obvious one. Later on in that scene it's revealed she was standing there stark naked.
  • A Fly Went By: The man is suspected of wanting to shoot the fox, but it turns out that he didn't even see a fox.
  • In the children's book Good Night, Gorilla, a zookeeper fails to notice the titular gorilla stealing his keys, letting itself out of its cage and freeing several other animals (including an elephant, a giraffe, and a lion). Then all the animals follow him home to his bedroom and he doesn't notice anything until his wife wakes up in the middle of the night and spots all the animals. She then returns all the animals to the zoo, except for the gorilla, who stays with her for the night.
  • This trope is used as a major plot point by two members of the main trio in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to accomplish some daring rescues during Time Travel without being seen by their past selves. It helps that they have an idea where to avoid standing.
  • Jaine Austen Mysteries: In Killer Blonde, the book's murder victim, SueEllen Kingsley was so self absorbed, she didn't notice her maid Conchi was actually her own sister, Carolee. Carolee did usually keep her head down and put on a black wig, but still...
  • This causes a character's death in A Memory of Flames. He forgets that he's wearing the armor of a dragon knight when he walks into a village filled with people who have hated dragon knights for generations. All the more bizarre when the character himself hates knights.
  • One Murderous Maths book, dealing with ellipses, featured a group of evil aliens dragging a giant space rock into the path of Earth's orbit (which they had plotted as a circle) and adopting a position some distance out of the way, only to be rudely surprised to learn that the Earth's orbit is an ellipse when the planet crashes into them unexpectedly. Needless to say, this requires absolutely heinous incompetence, because even though the Earth moves at thousands of miles per hour, it is a frigging planet.
  • Combe, the dreaded Inysh spymaster in The Priory of the Orange Tree, has eyes and ears everywhere in the Inysh court. Sneaking past his sentries (human and otherwise) is one of Ead's major concerns at the start of the book, and he knows immediately when Ead and Sabran have a tryst. Despite that, he was unable to divine the identity of the Cupbearer—because it was Igrain Crest, and Combe never even thought of surveilling the Council of Virtues. He admits later his huge blunder in assuming their loyalty was beyond doubt.
  • Edgar Allan Poe's The Purloined Letter is about a man who possesses a letter which is highly embarrassing to the royal family, and is blackmailing them with it. He freely allows the police to search his house, and after a very thorough search they come up empty. He had hidden the letter in the one place no-one would think to look: in a card holder, out in the open.
  • In The Shadow Over Innsmouth by H. P. Lovecraft, our hero is fleeing and has the entire Town with a Dark Secret after him. He has made it out of the town proper and is following an abandoned railroad. He hears them coming and in desperation, dives into a nearby ditch. And... the entire search party just passes him by. A force that big, and it never occurred to any of them to search the surrounding area instead of just sticking to the railroad. Even for a bunch of degenerate mutants, that's pretty jaw-dropping. To make matters worse, the protagonist actually faints from horror so it's not like he was making much effort.
  • Sherlock Holmes never had this problem, and was, in fact, the polar opposite, but Watson often seems oblivious to the most thuddingly obvious clues. The level of obliviousness varies depending on the particular portrayal, being fairly low in the original stories, but played up by Nigel Bruce. In the original stories, Watson just doesn't make logical conclusions in ways that would solve crimes. Holmes usually asks Watson to come with him when there is a slim chance of sudden assault. With firearms. At night. Watson, when prompted by Holmes, can be said to make quite a lot of intelligent and observational jumps — and in stories like The Hound of the Baskervilles, where he has to function in Holmes' absence, he is nonetheless very effective at helping Holmes. He's good — Holmes is just so much better.
  • In Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, Simon was too caught up in his own insecurities to put on the Elliot Smith shirt Blue got him for Christmas, so he almost missed the note taped inside that reaffirms his love for Simon.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • In A Clash of Kings, while most events emerge organically, it's been noted by many fans that the fall of Winterfell requires a little special plotting for things to get as bad as they do. While Theon pulls off a reasonable Batman Gambit that lures off the majority of Winterfell's defenders to a decoy, there's no way he could have predicted that the remaining guards would all fail to notice the sights and sounds of men throwing grappling hooks and climbing 80+ feet walls. Even more egregious, when Ser Rodrick returns to retake Winterfell, he and his men are butchered by Ramsay's army pretending to be friendly, even though Ramsay was outnumbered 4-1. Ramsay states (about Ser Rodrick) "When the old fool gave me his hand, I took half his arm instead." Now, just think about how this strange and unknown figure can walk up to Ser Rodrick and his men that heavily outnumber him and have no one notice that he has a sword drawn and ready.
    • In A Storm of Swords, during Tyrion's second trial, he notes that there are six Kingsguard in the crowd. Since there are only five active members of the Kingsguard currently in the city—the others being either dead or in Dorne—the sixth member can only be his beloved brother, but he doesn't make this connection.
  • In one Star Trek: The Next Generation novel, "A Time for War, A Time for Peace", Kahless II swapped himself with a hologram for six months to see if anyone would notice. How did Martok and the High Council find out? When the Klingon rebel group Klahb took over a Federation Embassy and demanded the removal of the hologram.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • In Solo Command, Wedge is preparing to depart on a mission where he is disguised as Han Solo. He is traveling on an imitation of the Millennium Falcon dubbed the Millennium Falsehood and has Chewbacca along to fly and help maintain the charade. Literally minutes before launch, Wes Janson points out to Wedge the minor detail that has been overlooked:
      Wes Janson: Wedge, you don't speak Wookiee.
  • The Stormlight Archive: In Edgedancer, Lift fails to notice the Indicium — the only building in Yeddaw that sticks above the ground level — until it's pointed out to her. Keep in mind that she actually ran to the city from the hills, and even commented on how flat it was.
    Lift: Was it always there?
    Wyndle: Yes, actually.
  • In The Lady, or the Tiger?, a "semi-barbaric" kingdom tries defendants with a Door Roulette- one door has a tiger that will kill the prisoner, while the other has a lady he must marry- that are a public spectacle. In one trial, of a man accused of having an affair with the princess, she gives him a subtle but noticeable signal toward the door on the right. The spectators are so focused on the man that they don't notice the signal, although the man himself does.
  • In Warrior Cats, cats guarding the camp at night often fail to notice their Clanmates sneaking out. In A Dangerous Path, when Swiftpaw does so, he comments that the cat on watch, Cloudtail, wouldn't notice a car crashing through the camp.

  • Daniel Amos uses this twice in their album Horrendous Disc.
    • "(Near Sighted Girl with Approaching) Tidal Wave", the girl of the title ignores warning signs—such as other people screaming and fleeing the beach—and is completely taken by surprise when the tidal wave comes.
    • "On the Line" points out how the listener is constantly ignoring messages from God.
  • The P.D.Q. Bach string quartet, The Moose starts with the performers playing a few awful-sounding bars, restarting, and only then noticing that they've been playing the wrong parts, in the wrong clefs.
  • The Nickelback song "Get Em Up" has our protagonists, a dim pair of would be bank robbers, preparing their heist for days. When said day arrives, they miss a couple of crucial things: The cops parked across the street and the fact that it's Sunday. Meaning the bank is closed.

    Music Videos 
  • In the extended version of Rob Cantor's "Shia LaBeouf", Shia LaBeouf gives a standing Slow Clap at the end of the performance, and like the movie he's referencing, he appears to be expecting everyone else in the audience to join in clapping. He then looks around and sees that the theater is empty except him, and he sits down awkwardly.
  • In the music video for the Caravan Palace song "Lone Digger," the dancer is completely oblivious to the fact that a very bloody fight is happening around her, even when blood splashes on her body, until the end of the video when everybody else is dead.

  • Happens in the Cool Kids Table game Homeward Bound 4. Josh manages to hide in a few trees when the humans come after them, While Shannon and Jake are stuck out in the open for humans to find, Josh manages to disguise himself by hiding behind a few trees. Also they're all dinosaurs and Josh is a T-Rex, which is why him being able to hide like that is so notable.
    • In The Fallen Gods, Tuatha doesn't notice that the party's room at the inn has been disturbed and search because she's drop-dead drunk.
    • In Sequinox, the team didn't notice the Amazing Technicolour Population that is one of the stars with bright red skin standing around amongst a group of human newsies in episode 12.
  • Black Jack Justice:
    • A recurring event, if not Running Gag, is prospective clients entering Jack's and Trixie's office and immediately asking if they're detectives, despite having to walk through a door that clearly says, depending on where you are in the series, either "Jack Justice Investigations" or "Justice & Dixon, Private Investigations". Jack and Trixie are often quick to rib the visitors for this and are so used to it that, in "As The Northern Star", when a prospective client walks in without asking if he's at Justice & Dixon, Jack and Trixie are slow to react because they don't know how to when someone doesn't ask the question. When this is explained to their visitor, Rawley, he has a theory as to why this happens.
      Rawley: I suggest that visitors to your office ask their obvious question in part because you and your partner stop and look at them as if the next line is theirs, and they can't think of anything else to say.
      Trixie: So it isn't that they're stupid, it's that we're rude?
      Rawley: Possibly.
      Trixie: It's probably true, but you still shouldn't say it.
    • In episode 67, "The Dead Duck", the client opens the door and asks if he's at Jack Justice Investigations. Jack says "yes" and Trixie says "no". It takes a few back-and-forths before it's made clear that their firm has been Justice & Dixon for several years by this point. To Trixie's irritation, the client leaves, only to come back and confirm if the "Justice" in "Justice & Dixon" is Jack Justice, which it is.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Referees. All. The. Time.
    • Halloween Havoc '97, Steve "Mongo" McMichael vs. Alex Wright. Wright won thanks to interference from Goldberg... who was in the ring for 2 minutes while the ref was distracted by Debra... despite the wrestlers bumping into him while so distracted. Even better? He looks back twice while the interference was going on.
    • While referees are easily distracted allowing for all sorts of shenanigans and can't put two and two together, the referee of this match deserves honorable mention.
  • Wrestlers also frequently pay poor attention to anything not directly in front of them, allowing opponents to easily sneak up and blind side them. The TV cameras often try to emulate this with selective viewing angles, although a loud cheer or boo from the arena crowd will usually alert viewers that someone new has just shown up to interfere. The wrestlers never notice this crowd reaction either.

  • All over the place in Bleak Expectations, usually for the purposes of humor.
    • For example, Pip Bin fails to recognize his evil ex-guardian Mister Benevolent regardless of the man's disguise, or that the latest person he's met is one of Benevolent's henchmen. And then there was the time he spent seven hours ranting at a member of parliament before realizing the man was dead.
    • There's also the Reverend Godly Fecund, who didn't catch on that his parishioners had all died from starvation. Pip Bin fails to recognize him when they meet up again in series 4, even though nothing about the man has changed. Meanwhile, Reverend Fecund fails to notice that Harry Biscuit is at that moment a dinosaur.
    • This is as nothing to the time Mr. Benevolent holds Pip captive in his own house, for months, and his family don't notice, even though his best friend admits they could hear Pip crying for help. Pip's wife at least has the slight excuse that she was outside, ogling construction workers, but that's nothing compared to Pip's sister, who repeatedly went into the room Pip was being held in, but just convinced herself she was hallucinating. Not surprising then that Pip is epically pissed when it's all over.
    Pippa: I spent hours in the house cryatorium weeping for your return.
    Pip: Perhaps if you'd looked - In the room - Because it turns out - that's where - I was!
  • In one episode of The Men from the Ministry Hamilton-Jones and Lamb come up with lots of creative ways to detect Sir Gregory's approach into the Office and repel his advances, including sprinkling sugar on the liner and smearing grease on the sill. Sir Gregory ends up simply calling to the Office via telephone.


  • In Major League Baseball (or baseball in general), there is a trick play called the "hidden ball trick" that relies on base runners and their coaches failing to spot that an infielder has the ball, allowing said infielder to tag out said base runner as soon as he steps off the base. This does not happen very often, however.
  • When playing dodgeball even a small, weak player can get the strong ones out by tossing a ball while they're throwing.
  • Several of the more spectacular American/Canadian football trick plays rely on the opposing team failing to notice one player on the other team doing something oddly: why is that player hunched over in the middle of the field, not moving, as if he were bent over concealing a football, while the play has moved over to the sidelines?
  • NFL examples:
    • The Chicago Bears were set to return a punt, they placed their two best returners (Devin Hester and Johnny Knox) back to receive the punt. The ball is kicked, a few seconds later, Hester took off up the field, moving towards the left sideline. Every player on the field followed him to block for him or to stop him. Every player except one, that is; Johnny Knox was the one who actually caught the ball and streaked up the right sideline to the opposing endzone. Too bad the play was called back because of a holding penalty on a different Bear.
      • Keep in mind that Hester is widely regarded as one of the best returners of all time (he holds the records for both most punt return touchdowns and most (kick and punt combined) return touchdowns) so the defense focusing on him is entirely logical.
    • It happened again in a game in 2014 between the Seattle Seahawks and the St. Louis Rams. On a punt by the Seahawks, primary return man Tavon Austin drifted to his left, frantically moving around as if he had trouble locating the punt against the background of the stadium's domed ceiling. The Rams players moved to block for him, and the Seahawks moved to follow. Unnoticed by nearly everyone was wideout Stedman Bailey, who caught the punt on the right side of the field, then ran up the sideline while most of the Seahawks were oblivious. He too scored a touchdown, and unlike the Bears example, there was no penalty on the play.
  • In April 2010, Anthony Vanden Borre was sent off for Portsmouth in a match against Blackburn. Footballer-turned-reporter Chris Kamara, who was reporting at the match for Soccer Saturday, saw Vanden Borre leave the pitch but had somehow missed the incident that got him sent off, and assumed he'd just been substituted. Hilarity ensued.
    Jeff Stelling: There's been a red card, but for who, Chris Kamara?
    Chris Kamara: [visibly confused] ...I dunno, Jeff. Has there?

    Tabletop Games 
  • Risk: If you pay too much attention to one threat — say, the most immediate one, such as the continent-breaking attack the South American player has launched at the southern North American border — you'll miss another player quietly adding troops in an undefended area, making the turn in which someone takes Alaska and holds it with 12 troops a bit of a surprise. It would also behoove you to pay attention to how many cards your enemies have, but this is war, damnit! Electronic Arts seems to have programmed their computer players to routinely fail to monitor the whole board, possibly in a combination of Truth in Television and Artificial Stupidity.
  • Scrabble. Seriously, how many times did you have the letters to make a high-scoring word but didn't notice it? (Homer had this problem in The Simpsons episode "Bart the Genius", where he didn't realize he could have spelled "oxidize".)
  • In Zombie Plague, players may search any spot they haven't searched, even if others have searched it, and what one player finds is completely independent of what another might find. It's entirely possible for one player to search a locker and find nothing but car keys, then have the next player search the same locker and find a chainsaw. The expansion makes the possibilities even wilder.
  • There's one stat in Call of Cthulhu literally called "Spot Hidden". Roll a 100 and guess what happens... though sometimes it's a blessing, as ignorance is bliss and one can easily Go Mad from the Revelation.
  • Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies suggests the GM tells the players what their characters are checking to spot, and if players then fail the check, the player gets to explain why. For example, the GM will call for a check to notice an assassin sneaking into the team's home, and a player who fails might say they were busy cleaning their gear... meaning they're armed when they do finally notice.
  • This is just one of the myriad of issues plaguing the Syndicate in Mage: The Ascension. One infamous example is that they created and funded Pentex, which became a hotbed of Nephandic and Wyrmish taint and corruption pretty much immediately, and it took roughly a century before the Syndicate as a whole even realized what happened. While that's perhaps the most blatant example, this trope is consistently a huge issue for them.
  • A common fandom joke in Yu-Gi-Oh! is "Yu-Gi-Oh! players can't read". Due to the oftentimes staggering amount of text on an individual card, most players will either skim over the text or just refuse to read the card outright to save time when confronted by a card(s) that they are unfamiliar with, leading to those same players being bewildered when a card does something that they didn't expect it to do. Lingering effects are even worse about this as they are not activated and thus players can tend to forget that their effects are still active even if they are already aware of how the cards work, such as the on-field effect of the card "Infinite Impermanence".

  • Character obliviousness is a genre convention for several stylized theatrical forms, particularly opera. There's no unified standard, of course, but the basic rules are roughly as follows: anyone hiding behind or under something is invisible, and that talking or even singing won't attract attention unless their speech happens to be a startled exclamation; anyone wearing a mask is unrecognizable, sometimes even obscuring gender. Individual productions have been known to subvert these rules, for instance by having all five eavesdroppers on a scene hide behind the same chair, concealed for plot purposes not only from the scene's principals but also from each other.
  • Arsenic and Old Lace makes this a Running Gag, first with hero Mortimer completely failing to notice his Ax-Crazy brother Jonathan sneaking up behind him with a curtain cord, and then taken to Refuge in Audacity levels with the policemen who visit the house. Not only do they completely misinterpret the reason for Mortimer being tied up, but they don't recognize Jonathan and Dr. Einstein from wanted posters in the precinct even while he's trying to kill them. This is given a brutal Lampshade Hanging by the police chief later. And, of course, there's the ultimate Running Gag about the bodies in the cellar, which the police don't investigate even when told about them... four times.
  • The Pirates of Penzance:
    • When Major-General Stanley is introduced, the pirates (and possibly the girls) fail their spot check on him (depending on the staging, this may overlap with Right Behind Me):
      Pirates: We'd better pause, or danger may befall; their father is a Major-General.
      Girls: Yes, yes he is a Major-General.
      Stanley: Yes, yes I am a Major-General.
    • General Stanley rolls a 1 about six times on his spot check during "Sighing Softly to the River" in the climax. He fails to notice the roughly two dozen pirates and policemen who are not only hiding (poorly) in his garden but are actually singing along with him.
      Stanley: And as I lay in bed, awake, I thought I heard, a noise.
      Pirates/Policemen: He thought he heard a noise. Ha Ha!
      Stanley: No. All is still, on dale, on hill. My mind is set at ease...
    • Don't forget the lines that precede it.
      Pirates: Yes, yes. The Major-General comes
      Policemen: Yes, yes. The Major-General comes
      Stanley: Yes, yes. The Major-General comes
    • Of course, the pirates themselves completely fail to notice the (poorly) hidden policemen who are singing along with them.
    • And the scene where the pirates sing loudly about how quietly they are sneaking up to the Major General's house before engaging in a little burglary in "With Cat-Like Tread" (the poorly hidden policemen join in here as well occasionally). The line that they "never speak a word" is technically true, because they belt them out at the tops of their lungs in song instead. "A fly's footfall would be distinctly heard" indeed.
  • In Pokémon Live!, Jessie and James report that Ash got away from them while walking right past them.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney: You could be forgiven for thinking that the prosecutor's office and the police force both go out of their way to hire people who are guaranteed to fail spot checks, as the only way to win is to find evidence that the prosecution missed or a conflict between testimony given and evidence. Sometimes justified, but it can reach the ridiculous: at various points, you'll wind up retrieving murder weapons, security camera footage, and evidence left for over a month that's immediately visible as crucial to the case. In the second case of the first game, you will have to remind a detective of the victim's cause of death and the fact that the death was immediate (to be fair, this is Gumshoe we're talking about). Later games lampshade the process. The series takes an aversion in Apollo Justice when both the new prosecutor and detective begin by taking a level up before advancing.
  • Danganronpa: It's fairly common for most students to not notice obvious hints or make obviously wrong conclusions, and the protagonist and other savvy characters have to point that out. Speaking of conclusions, the protagonists have to play mini-games in their minds to make the correct and logical ones. This can also be invoked by picking the wrong choices deliberately.
    • Failing a spot check is also the ultimate cause of death for multiple characters throughout the series, the first being the second death in the series, Mukuro Ikusaba, canonically more than agile and powerful enough to dodge a bunch of spears, but doesn’t notice them due to being too focused on being in character as Junko, despite getting forewarning by Monokuma calling his attack.
    • Gets Played for Laughs early on in the first game as well: during the first trial Taka scolds Hina and Sakura for sleeping in the same room and in the process makes it clear that he hasn't realised Sakura is a girl, likely due to her muscular build, but despite her obviously feminine name and dress and the fact that he's been locked up in her company for several days. Cue a brief pause in the very serious murder trial that's going on while he apologises profusely.
    • In Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, it never occurs to Hajime that Mikan's unusual behavior is a sign that she's caught the Despair Disease. Despite knowing that it alters the victim's personality. It isn't until the end of the class trial that he is finally able to put two and two together.
  • HF route in Fate/stay night. Nobody except Ilya, who isn't saying anything about what she knows (a surprisingly large amount), notices that Shirou took the cloth off his arm, meaning every time he projects he causes himself brain damage. His memories and ability to concentrate go pretty early, and no-one notices.
  • In some routes of Nightshade, Kuroyuki's failure to catch one is what kicks off the plot. He was ordered to murder Hideyoshi Toyotami, but didn't realize that Enju was in the next room over when he did, and so Enju ends up being accused of the crime.
  • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors:
    • After discovering that Lotus's death had happened recently, Junpei fails to realize that the floor they were on had only one elevator to serve as the only entrance/exit. And since he didn't bump into anyone on the way down, the killer was still on the floor. Guess what happens to Junpei next...
    • Happens more than once in the Submarine ending. Upon seeing Santa, Ace, and Clover lying dead on the ground, Lotus immediately points out they should leave before the killer returns. However, they don't check to see if the victims' bracelets are still on (they fall off if the wearer dies) and don't realize Ace was still alive. Later on, Junpei fails to notice that some of them disappeared from right next to him. Given the shock that the characters go through at these discoveries though, it's justified that they aren't paying a ton of attention to relatively minor details.
  • In Virtue's Last Reward (the sequel to 999), Sigma badly fails a spot check when he doesn't realize his voice has changed, or that he's missing an eye, or that with the exception of his arms he's suddenly 67 years old.

    Web Animation 
  • asdfmovie: "Hey guys, check out my new camera!" *BANG* "Oh wait, this isn't a camera."
  • In If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device:
    • Descius fails to notice a five-meters-tall Primarch standing in front of him, although the unspotted himself suggests it's more of a case of Selective Obliviousness.
    • Both superhumans checking the mail that's supposed to enter Emperor's private chamber fail to notice Nurgle's Rot bomb in one of the packages.
    • Salamanders somehow completely miss a giant, earth-shaking tank rolling right past them, as well as several brightly-colored Ultramarines accompanying it. It later becomes a Running Gag that Salamanders are nearly deaf, which is why they all speak with a deep booming voice, and that some cosmic force is making it so that the Ultramarines always succeed at what they're doing, no matter how impossible it is.
    • Corvus Corax somehow doesn't notice the Greater Catachan Barking Toad that's snuck onto his head to suckle on his ammonia-laded hair until one of the Catachan Jungle Fighters realizes it's there. Kayvaan Shrike both lampshades and berates himself incredulously for how he could have missed that. Granted, they were all busy freaking out about Vulkan messing with the Lesser Catachan Barking Toad seconds before, but they had more than enough time to figure it out.
  • In Machinima series Red vs. Blue Badass Action Girl heroine Tex at one point says she is going to go take out a small army of mooks. Knowing that she is a Stealth Expert the audience naturally expects her to move in ninja style and take them on one at a time. Instead, she picks a single target and starts thrashing him loudly and in full view. The sentries watching guard continue their inane conversation, even raising their voices to be heard over the screams of their distressed comrade who is right behind them. Lampshaded by Tucker, of course:
    Tucker: [exhasperated] What the fuck?! Are they deaf?
    [sniper round fly past him]
    Tucker: Oh, right. That you heard?
  • Being intended as a guide for Team Fortress 2, Team Service Announcement often warns about doing this.
    • In "Objectives", the spawn camping RED Team fails to notice a lone BLU spy that made it past them. This proves fatal.
      Announcer: The payload has almost reached the final terminus!
      RED Team: ...AAAAAAAAA!!!
    • BLU tries their hardest pushing the cart in "Body Blocking", failing to notice the RED Spy hiding in front of it who's canceling their efforts.
    • All the BLU Snipers in "Class Balance" don't seem to see the RED Heavy capturing the King of the Hill control point.
    • Heck, "Attention and Initiative" is built around a particularly brutal Double Subversion, because it shows RED Team not responding to any threat to their progress, noticing the problems just in time to help but not actually helping.
    • "Minigun Spinup" has a Heavy being followed by an enemy Spy and Sniper. They eventually get tired of it and decide to run him over with a steamroller.
  • Deadly Space Action!: At one point Lemarion misses a sign the size of a moon.
  • Played for Laughs in RWBY Chibi, where Junior Detectives Sun and Mercury completely miss Torchwick and Neo robbing a store behind them while they're focused on a trashcan.
  • SCP Animated - Tales from the Foundation: During "The Blue Key", the normally on top of things Dr. Buck fails to check the previous expedition logs for SCP-860. And allows the twin brothers of a lost D-Class in on the latest test. She gets roundly chewed out by Director Jones of the Ethics Committee, and reassigned to SCP-187.

    Web Original 
  • Twitch streamer The 8-Bit Drummer once streamed for three hours without noticing he wrote "Warining" in the title by mistake, resulting in a glorious Comical Overreaction and hilarious Skyward Scream when his chat told him.
    • He missed the second Z in a regular viewer's name for over a year and a half, resulting in a Running Gag where he'd heavily overemphasize it in later streams.
    • He also didn't notice a switch on his hi-hat that stopped it from opening. He played with this hi-hat for over a year with it stuck shut.
  • A photo seen on the internet, captioned "43rd Annual Ninja parade" — showing an empty street, of course.
  • Not Always Right:
    • This guy stopped at a cultural heritage event to rant about Mexican immigrants. The event in question? The Scottish Highland Games.
    • This customer complains about what happened at the drive-thru but misses one crucial detail.
  • This Not Always Friendly entry has the world's dumbest carjacker realize that a stopped car by the side of a road probably wasn't a good target after all.
    My car is broken down, genius! You just carjacked a dead lemon!
    • This fruit fanatic failed to notice they were allergic to bananas until they mentioned the sour, burning sensation they loved to their friends.
  • "Lenny" is a chat-bot designed to be used against telemarketers and unwanted callers which simulates an agreeable but scatterbrained old man with a hearing problem who likes to ramble about his daughters. The bot is designed to pause to wait for a response to simulate an actual person before beginning another routine. Most of these are fairly short, and even the longest, in which Lenny rambles for a second time about his third eldest daughter, Larissa, before being interrupted by quacking ducks, is only about a minute long. Despite this, there are recordings posted online of people talking to Lenny for as long as approximately one hour, meaning that they have heard the exact same phrases, recited in the same distinct way (including the quacking of ducks), a total of at least ten times without realizing that there is no actual person on the other end of the line.


Fake Tickets

When Homer and Wally's Super Bowl tickets turn out to be fake (which they failed to notice), Homer tries to let his gang of friends down easily. Unfortunately, they immediately see through the whitewash and flip out.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / PowderKegCrowd

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