Giftedly Bad refers to someone, typically an artist, who plies his trade with intense passion, infinite drive, supreme self-confidence, and absolutely no talent whatsoever. If they are actors, they're melodramatic hams; if they are singers, they warble and screech; if they are poets, they're masters of the Painful Rhyme. In general, their work will have what one person associated with the Museum of Bad Art (an exhibition of this trope in visual media) has called the "Oh my God factor" (as in, Oh my God, what do they think they're doing?)
What makes someone giftedly bad is not just their extreme lack of talent, but two other factors. First, the subject must be absolutely convinced that they're the best there is at what they do. And second, pretty much every other person must believe that they're as terrible as they really are (although they might not admit it to them to spare their feelings).
A giftedly bad artist often sees some level of severe Critical Backlash; he treats this criticism with Selective Obliviousness and continues working undeterred, believing all his critics to be wrong and misguided. He'll occasionally throw out a Take That, Critics! and tell them he'll be Vindicated by History. It's not all bad, though; a giftedly bad artist could also be considered So Bad, It's Good, and thus become as celebrated and revered as a genuinely talented artist, but only out of the kick people get out of seeing an earnest and enthusiastic artist producing utter crap.
So Unfunny, It's Funny is a Sub-Trope. So Bad, It's Good is often a by-product, but not a necessary condition; while an artist whose entire oeuvre is So Bad, It's Good is almost always Giftedly Bad, the reverse isn't necessarily true, and no giftedly bad artist is trying to be So Bad, It's Good.
It's also a surprisingly common trope in Real Life, thanks to the Dunning-Kruger effect, which states that the skills necessary for being good at something are also necessary for assessing one's talent at something. This means that someone who's really untalented doesn't know enough to know how untalented he is, and he thus believes himself to be better than he really is.
Related tropes include High Hopes, Zero Talent (the artist is aware of how bad he is but keeps trying nonetheless); Small Name, Big Ego (who overestimates himself in every other aspect of his life); Muse Abuse (where an artist exploits people in his real life for inspiration); Bungling Inventor and Terrible Artist (natch); and Bile Fascination (explaining why people are so interested in the Giftedly Bad).
Finally, please remember the above criteria when adding examples:
- The artist must be objectively, universally bad — so don't add an example just because you personally think he's bad
- The artist must be totally deluded into believing he's really good — so don't add an example of an artist who's just bad
- No Real Life Examples, Please!
- A Subaru commercial involves a 30-something man getting an easel from his wife for his birthday. He enthusiastically brings it with him in his Subaru as he drives through increasingly punishing terrain to get the best view for his painting. But for all his enthusiasm (and the car's capability), he still can't paint better than a 5-year-old. He's very proud of his artwork, while his wife can't tell top from bottom on her "favorite" painting.
- In Ranma ½, Akane Tendō is bad at cooking. She does know she's not great at it. But she is offended by criticism and always tries to "improve" her recipes. Her relatives treat her cooking as some sort of disease or a curse.
- In Love Stage!!, protagonist Izumi Sena aims to be a mangaka one day, not seeing that there's anything wrong with what he produces. Everyone in his class thinks his drawings are terrible. Even the family manager, Rei Sagara, tells him bluntly that his drawings suck.
- In Nichijou, Yukko cannot tell a joke to save her life, no matter how much she believes she can.
- In Hayate the Combat Butler, Nagi is convinced that she's an amazing manga writer. Only one other person can even understand her bizarre over the top storylines, let alone appreciate them. When she eventually sees an actual professional's manuscript and realizes just how bad she really is, she's absolutely devastated on realizing she doesn't even know how to do the one thing she thought she had a talent for.
- Naga from Slayers is giftedly bad all across the board. From her fashion sense to her magic, she views everything she makes or selects as a thing of elegant beauty, even though everyone else sees it as a source of absolute horror. She even creates a dragon golem that destroys most of a town simply trying to keep its poorly-balanced body upright, and her only response is that some people have no appreciation for art.
- Sousuke of Classicaloid is a budding musician of the desktop music variety, but his music has caused glass to crack and objects to fall (even when it's not particularly loud). When he tries to sing, it causes people to collapse.
- Miia in Daily Life with Monster Girl is a Lethal Chef, full stop. She doesn't realize this because lamia only have a fraction of the taste buds that humans do so she can't taste how awful her own cooking is. The smell alone has sometimes caused normal humans who've tried to eat her cooking to lose consciousness.
- Cacofonix the bard from Asterix thinks he's a great musician, but his singing and harp-playing scares off small animals and has been known to cause rainstorms. He has to be restrained about Once an Episode from performing, usually by Fulliautomatix the blacksmith.
- Gaston Lagaffe is giftedly bad at music, inventions, science, and cooking. Notably, Gaston (and his Love Interest Miss Jeanne) thinks the music he plays on his gaffophone is great even though it causes plants to commit suicide.
- In the G.I. Joe comic, Major Bludd has a rather deservedly dismal reputation as a poet. People tend to not bring it up to his face because he's a cold blooded killer, so he believes himself to be a peerless poetic genius.
- The Smurfs has Harmony Smurf, the village musician. He has a wide collection of instruments, but can't play a single one of them, and tends to blow off the others' complaints as jealousy. He's so bad that it verges on the supernatural, as he can make a music box play awfully bad simply by holding it.
- Destruction from The Sandman spends his days making new recipes, paintings, and sculptures, all of which are mediocre at best. This might be because he's the Anthropomorphic Personification of destruction.
- The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye reveals that Megatron of all people was an aspiring poet before he became a revolutionary / terrorist / dictator / The Atoner. A horrible one. After defeating Impactor, the Autobot used the last of his strength to scratch "No More Poetry" on the ground. When Swerve needed an idea to bring business back to his bar after a competitor opened up, he hired Megatron to perform his poetry...at the competitor's. The customers fled in horror back to Swerve's.
- In Peanuts Snoopy seems convinced that he's a famous writer. He isn't◊. On at least one occasion, he received a publisher's rejection letter telling him they wouldn't publish his work if he paid them, which he dismissed as a simple form letter.
- The Smurfs: Trumpet Smurf is bad at playing his instrument of choice. He's even worse with other instruments, and any instrument he touches would somehow produce a trumpet sound. Even a triangle!
- Dick Tracy: Tonsils has a loud, clear voice and nothing else going for him as a singer. He's initially not sure about a musical career, but his manager "Dude" is convinced Tonsils will be a star. It turns out that audiences love Tonsils' So Bad, It's Good singing, and he gets a swelled head. Unfortunately for Tonsils, this is a crime story, and things rapidly go downhill from there.
- The Poetic Fiend in the GrailQuest series, encountered once a book, is a horrifically bad poet, yet convinced he's the best of the best. However, it's in the player's interest to always praise his work, since the Fiend is also a nigh-unstoppable vampire who can kill an adult Tyrannosaurus rex with one bite. His poetry can also be useful to you as a weapon; in the last book, he teaches you a cringingly bad poem that will neutralise instant-death powers used on you.
- Twilight in Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole is a self-styled "poet warrior" whose poetry is dreadful. (He's not so bad on the lute, though.)
- In Arizona Dream, Paul raves about acting throughout the movie and gives impromptu renditions of whatever he's watching on TV, but the only two times we actually see him perform are bombs. The first time, he hops on stage at the cinema and starts acting along with the characters in front of the screen, only to everyone to boo him and throw popcorn at him. The second is at a talent show where he attempts Cary Grant's cornfield scene from Northby Northwest; all the judges rate him a "1".
- The Great Mc Gonagall is based on the Real Life giftedly bad Scottish poet William Topaz McGonagall, considered in some circles to be the worst poet in the English language, and yet utterly convinced of his greatness.
- Ed Wood is about the Real Life giftedly bad movie director Ed Wood, widely considered a man of limitless enthusiasm for filmmaking — and zero talent.
- The Producers, being about an attempt to deliberately make a terrible work of art, naturally has several characters like this, as the eponymous producers try to hire the worst artists they could find. They come up with:
- Franz Liebkind, an unashamed Nazi who writes the incredibly tasteless Springtime for Hitler (and who in the musical was also the original choice to play Hitler before breaking his leg and is as good an actor as he is a playwright);
- Roger de Bris, a Camp Gay director who knows nothing about the Nazis (or really directing) and turns a love letter to Hitler into a ridiculous flamboyant production;
- Lorenzo St. DuBois, a stoner hippie, who plays Hitler accordingly.
- Withnail of Withnail & I is an out-of-work Large Ham who has some talent, but it's entirely obscured by his drinking, drug abuse, unreliability, overbearing personality, and his inability to accept that anyone doesn't recognize his absolute genius. He genuinely has no idea why he never seems to win any parts:
"Bastards! You'll all suffer! I'll show the lot of you! I'm gonna be a STAAAAAAAAAAARRRRR!"
- In Amadeus, Antonio Salieri is portrayed as giftedly bad, at least in comparison to someone genuinely talented like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Salieri: Did you my work please you?Mozart: ...I never knew that music like that was possible!Salieri: [not fooled] You flatter me.Mozart: [insincerely] No, no! One hears such sounds, and what can one say but... Salieri!
- Florence Foster Jenkins is about the Real Life giftedly bad singer of that name.
- This House Has People in It: The character known only as "The Sculptor", who goes so far as to run his own sculpting TV show called "The Sculptor's Clayground", can't actually make decent sculptors. Everything he makes is all turns out to be a lumpy, mishapen mess at best with random sticks, rhinestones and paint splatters for good measure. Despite this, he's delusional enough to feature several pictures of his art on his website, which claims that his art was sold to rich patrons or "a collection of good art".
- In the Vorkosigan Saga, the Imperial Security HQ was designed by an insane architect (a relative of Mad Emperor Yuri). The building is so uncomfortable to be in, as either prisoner or actual staff of ImpSec, that it verged on Alien Geometries — to a point Simon Illyan once offhandedly remarked that he was never so close to emigrating as when he saw the beautiful glass tower that housed Escobar's Investigatif Federale.
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy describes the three worst poets in the universe, all of whom are giftedly bad to some degree:
- The protagonists only encounter the third worst, the Vogons, who hook them up to "poetry appreciation devices" which make them physically feel how bad the poetry is. The Vogons seem to be aware how bad they are and take pride in it; when Arthur tries to compliment the poetry (a thought that had never occurred to the galaxy-savvy Ford), the Vogon poet gets pissed off and chooses to throw them out the ship's airlock.
- The second worst are the Azgoths of Kria, whose most prominent poet was so oblivious to how bad his poetry was ("four of his audience died of internal haemorrhaging, and the President of the Mid-Galactic Arts Nobbling Council survived only by gnawing one of his own legs off") that he was strangled to death by his own intestine, which had become sentient in a desperate attempt to get him to stop.
- The worst poetry in the universe, naturally, came from Earth, courtesy of "Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings of Greenbridge, Essex, England." This is, in fact, a reference to a Real Life terrible poet who went to school with Douglas Adams (and who's named for real in the original radio series as "Paul Neil Milne Johnstone of Redbridge" — he asked for the name change not to protect his reputation so much as to obscure his identity and address). He freely admits now that he was an awful poet as a teenager, but at the time, he was Giftedly Bad. The "dead swan" poem shown in the TV series is in fact one of his actual works from that period.
If you wanted a small surface-to-air missile, you asked Johnson to design an ornamental fountain. It came to pretty much the same thing in the end.
- Bloody Stupid Johnson embodies this trope. He was such a poor architect and inventor that people commissioned him just to see what he'd come up with. Indeed, it became something of a status symbol to own something designed by BS Johnson. His genius was that the final product was brilliant, often in some way completely unrelated to the original intent. Some of his creations warped time and space, such as his terrace rows and an omnitemporal mail sorting machine containing circles where pi equals 3. His particular specialty is the Johnson Organ, which actually plays music as intended (although with strange voices like "farm animals" and "young ladies screaming"); his most famous example there is the Great Organ at Unseen University, which includes a 128-foot long "Earthquake pipe" and is so complicated that only the Librarian (who's an orangutan) has enough flexibility to play it.
- In Making Money, Igor "cures" a Mad Artist by switching his brain with a turnip. He's upbeat, calm and terrifically proud of everything he does — but it looks like a five-year-old drew it. Moist has to tell Igor to change him back, both because he needs the art skills and because he was never really happy with the idea in the first place.
- Though it's less clear when he appears in The Last Hero — where it seems like he's doing Contractual Genre Blindness more consciously — The Discworld Companion reveals Evil Harry Dread to be a giftedly bad Evil Overlord. He tries his hardest and wonders why he's not successful; it's because everything he does "right" is basically every mistake warned against on the Evil Overlord List.
- In The Graveyard Book, one of the ghosts is a poet whose response to a bad review is to vow never to publish his poetry again, his logic being that people would one day discover his poetry and revere him as a genius, making the reviewer look foolish. On Neil Gaiman's blog, he says that the poet's epitaph was "Swans Sing Before They Die", in reference to a verse from Coleridge:
Swans sing before they die - 'twere no bad thing
Should certain persons die before they sing.
- Jorge Luis Borges' short story "El Aleph" features a poet who is obsessed with his own mediocre poetry, and believes that as soon as anyone of importance will read his epic poem, he will be immediately regarded as the greatest poet of his time. During the story, he is attempting to write a poem describing in minute detail the entirety of the Earth.
- In David Eddings' The Tamuli, the minor antagonist Elron spends most of his free time composing his ridiculously lengthy poem "Ode to Blue" (yes, the primary color) which, according to the protagonist unlucky enough to be forced to hear a part, is the most awful dreck ever allowed to sully a paper. When another character presents him with a starkly poetic (and entirely spontaneous) description of the steel-grey light of a harsh Rendorian dawn, Elron actually flees. This is also true of his villainous persona, "Sabre". While Elron/Sabre clearly wants to be a Magnificent Bastard, and may even think he is one, he doesn't actually have the first clue how to do it. The result, rather than being badass and intimidating, is such a Cliché Storm that the heroes, upon seeing him for the first time, are utterly amazed he's actually for real.
- In Good Omens, Newton Pulsifier is passionate about electronics but manages to destroy everything he touches. His ham radios black out entire districts. He always buys a computer that doesn't work. His car (if you could call it that) is so dysfunctional that its airbags would randomly deploy. But when he puts together a circuit that's designed not to work, he ends up with a fully functional transistor radio that appears to be picking up communications from Russia.
- Three Men in a Boat:
It is one of Harriss fixed ideas that he can sing a comic song; the fixed idea, on the contrary, among those of Harriss friends who have heard him try, is that he cant and never will be able to, and that he ought not to be allowed to try.
- Lapis-Trubetskoy from the Russian novel The Twelve Chairs, whose poems are filled with inane tautologies. Ostap Bender, one of the two protagonists, calls him Lapsus-Trubetskoy when they first meet. Later he is seen trying to sell poetry to several different magazine editors, changing the subject matter every time; for example, he calls his submission to a medical journal "The Ballad of Gangrene."
- P. G. Wodehouse wrote one Jeeves and Wooster story about a friend of Bertie's who wanted to be a portrait painter. He couldn't get any commissions until he had painted some portraits, and he couldn't paint any portraits until he fulfilled some commissions, so he spent his time doing commercial artwork. His uncle, who financially supported him, commissioned him to paint a portrait of his new baby. The portrait was so monumentally bad that his uncle cut him off completely, in a huff (or a minute and a huff). Jeeves, however, saw an opportunity to use the ugly portrait as the basis for a comic character, Baby Blobb, and the friend went on to become rich, drawing comics of The Adventures of Baby Blobb.
- The Disaster Artist is an account of actor Greg Sestero's work in The Room and his relationship with the film's director/producer/writer/star, Tommy Wiseau. The Room is widely considered So Bad, It's Good, to the point where people believed it had to be a parody; Sestero reveals that it was an earnest work of art by a singularly motivated individual, who just happens to be terrible at filmmaking.
- The novel The Planet for Tyrants from the cycle Alice, Girl from the Future features Underwater Bull, an alien frog from a society where social mobility depends on how well you could sing (well, croak). Underwater Bull was born tone-deaf, and he is completely disenfranchised by society — so he organizes a coup, installs himself as dictator, forces everyone to listen to his terrible singing, and tries to present his non-existent talent as the new, mandatory art form (to the point of banning everyone else from singing and enforcing the prohibition by cutting out offenders' tongues). He gets ousted himself and taken to the eponymous rehab planet for former tyrants.
- The Trope Namer (quoted above) is a piece of criticism regarding William McGonagall's poetry. Virtually everyone agrees that McGonagall was the worst English-language poet of the 19th century (a century full of bad poets), if not of all time, at least among those who actually published their work professionally.
- Mark Twain went on at considerable length to describe just how awful he thought James Fenimore Cooper's works were in Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offences.
- An essay by Isaac Asimov mentioned a correspondent of his that Asimov described as "an unappreciated national treasure," because on every issue the man was so (as Asimov put it) mastodonically wrong that Asimov felt that on matters of public policy, a sound approach would be to first find out this man's opinion and then do the exact opposite.
- Phoebe is occasionally portrayed as a Giftedly Bad musician when she plays the guitar at the coffee shop — specifically, she writes her own songs, and her lyrics tend to be bizarre, stupid, or both. Her friends just smile and nod, perhaps because they're not any better (if Ross's "wordless sound poems" are any indication, although Phoebe liked those — go figure).
- Joey steps into this territory with his acting work; not only is he not particularly good, he's also not quite smart enough to understand criticism of it (for instance, thinking the word "abysmal" is a positive word after all, so many of his critics have described his work as such). Sometimes it's because he's acting in utter dreck and doesn't realize it, like his show Mac and CHEESE, which Chandler referred to as the worst thing humanity had yet come up with.
- Monica is a Giftedly Bad masseuse, which she can't accept because she has an incredible drive to be the best at everything. Only Phoebe is brave enough to tell her the truth. Her boyfriend, Chandler tries to soften the blow (as only he can) by saying she's so bad, she's the best at being the worst.
- In Leverage, Sophie Devereaux is a terrible actor and an even worse singer. Among her more interesting performances are a hamtastic rendition of Lady Macbeth, a soap commercial where she viewed the dirt "as a metaphor for sin," and an unseen performance of Death of a Salesman where she played Willy Loman. In a twist, she actually can be a great performer — as long as she's conning someone.
"Never before has a performance of The Sound of Music made me root for the Nazis."
- Britta Perry of Community believes herself to be a talented photographer, but the only good picture she takes is by accident.
- Dave Lister from Red Dwarf is an abysmally bad guitar player, but believes himself to be the next Hendrix. This ultimately saves his life when a form-copying Psiren invades the ship and takes Lister's form. The rest of the crew is unsure which one to shoot, so they hand one of them a guitar — when he plays it perfectly, they shoot him:
Lister: How did you know that wasn't me?
Cat: 'Cause that dude could play.
Lister: He wasn't any better than me.
Kryten: That's how you believe you play, sir. That's why, when the Psiren read your mind, he shared your delusion that you are not a ten-thumbed, tone-deaf, talentless noise polluter.
Lister: Are you seriously saying you think he was better than me?
[Lister picks up the guitar and plays several dissonant, atonal notes.]
Lister: If anything, this is slightly better.
- Arrested Development:
- Tobias Fünke believes himself to be a good actor, when he really isn't. He thinks the only reason he hasn't landed a major film role is that he just hasn't tried yet. When he does try, he forgets to read the script. He's slightly more successful as a writer but gets in trouble thanks to his legendarily poor phrasing — his only success was The Man Inside Me, a self-help book that became popular in the gay community (he's not sure why).
- Gob thinks of himself as a talented magician, but his props constantly fail and his animals keep dying. As the show goes on, his illusions get more complex and his failures more spectacular; his method for making a yacht disappear is to sink it when nobody is looking. Despite this, he continues to vigorously pursue his craft and insists on everyone taking it deathly seriously.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Spike was a Giftedly Bad poet before he became a vampire (which didn't cure him of his bad poetry, but did cure him of the notion that he was a good one). His audience back then called him "William the Bloody" ("because he writes bloody bad poetry!"). He gets a better reception in the modern day, but that might be because it's So Bad, It's Good. Series creator Joss Whedon validates the trope in the DVD Commentary when he notes how difficult it is to write poetry that entertainingly bad.
- The main character in the Korean Series Oh My Lady is the world's worst actor.
- The Muppets thrive on this trope, especially in The Muppet Show. Fozzie Bear is probably the purest example; while he occasionally comes up with something good, the others point out that even a broken clock is right twice a day.
- In How I Met Your Mother, Marshall Eriksen has many impressive talents, like winning every board game ever invented. He thinks that stand-up comedy is one of those talents. He would be wrong.
- Kamen Rider Double has one-shot character Jimmy Nakata, whose singing causes physical pain to its listeners and knocks birds out of the sky. And he's winning an American Idol style show in spite of this (because the Monster of the Week is rigging the contest). In a slight subversion, when the MotW is dealt with and Jimmy sings again, the judges say it was bad, but they can't disparage anyone who sings from the heart.
- The Scouse woman in the second episode of Black Mirror is convinced she can sing. She's so sure of herself she paid 15 million merits just to enter the contest and then waited for over two months to be seen. She's on stage for all of a minute, after which she's told she's rubbish. She isn't convinced.
- On Seinfeld, Elaine thinks she can dance and shows off her skills at parties. George likens it to "a full-body dry heave set to music."
- The WB's Superstar USA, a parody of American Idol, was built around this trope. The show used the same "series of auditions, then on to Hollywood" format, but purposely picked the worst performers to advance, while showering them with praise. The singers weren't told until the very end that they were actually picked for being terrible.
- Jack from Will & Grace practically lives and breathes this trope, mostly because he's incredibly wrapped up in himself and has to be the center of attention.
- Subverted on the teen comedy City Guys: Cassidy is about to perform at a big New York audition night with Chris and L-Train. Her bad singing convinces them they'll be a laughingstock if they go on stage with her, so they let her perform by herself. At that point, Cassidy reveals she's a fantastic singer and was faking being bad to trick the two into letting her go solo.
- A common trait in People Like Us, but particully "The Photographer" (played by Bill Nighy), who thinks himself much more talented than he actually is.
- In Victorious, Trina Vega is so bad that no one's sure how she even got into the Hollywood School of Arts. She can't sing, she can't dance, and she can't act. The other students — and even some teachers — are befuddled as to how she got in. A later episode shows that most of the select committee never saw her to begin with; only Sikowitz was left to judge her, and he drank spoiled coconut milk and just saw a beautiful performance of colors.
- Echo from Mr. Young is a terrible singer. The eponymous Mr. Young spends the episode about her singing trying to either improve her voice or hide it. By the end, he saves her public embarrassment by performing a duet with his own amazing voice. Echo then believes that the horrible voice is the duet was his and the amazing one was hers.
- Tim Taylor from Home Improvement is a Giftedly Bad handyman. His problem lies in his never keeping things simple; everything he does has to be "improved". There's a reason Tim Taylor Technology was named after him. His show Tool Time consists mostly of Tim trying to soup something up and failing spectacularly (while his Hyper-Competent Sidekick Al provides actual useful repair tips). Not only does Tim think he's a home improvement genius, he thinks he's mrore popular than Real Life well-known handyman Bob Vila. It's established that Tim is capable of repairing things properly; he just doesn't want to. He's also got a couple of remarkable accidental achievements this way, like launching a barbecue grill into geosynchronous orbit.
- On Girl Meets World, Maya is a very talented artist. Riley, not so much. She pretty much paints purple cats in a style one might get from a kindergarten student.
- Rik The People's Poet from The Young Ones is firmly convinced that he is a left-wing ideologue, The Casanova, and the voice of a generation of kids and punks and skins and rastas. He is spectacularly wrong on all counts. His poetry is howlingly wretched, and believe it or not, is actually better read than recited:
Pollution! All awound!
Sometimes .. up! Sometimes... down!
But always... awound!
Pollution, are you coming to my town... or am I coming to yours?
Ha! We're on different buses, pollution... but we're both using petwol!... BOMBS!!
- Cordelia Chase in Angel is so bad at acting that her colleagues debate yelling "Fire" to get out of her play. They reason that although it's a theater, it's not a crowded one, so they can get away with it.
- Madam Edith in 'Allo 'Allo! is such a terrible singer that she makes customers stick cheese in their ears, if not outright run away.
Lt. Gruber: Madam Edith has an unusual voice, René. Was it trained?René: Oh, yes. But it escaped and returned to the wild.
- Debra Jo from Little Lunch is convinced that she is very good at ballet and a virtuoso on the recorder. Neither is true, with her recorder playing landing soundly in Dreadful Musician territory.
- In an audition of the third series of Factor X (the Spanish version of The X Factor), a contestant introduced himself saying he thought of himself as "the personification of the X factor". Said contestant then proceeded to butcher Elvis Presley's "Steamroller Blues", and afterwards admited to one of the jurors that his friends and family had advised him to quit singing. Other juror advised him in return to listen to that advice.
- Jessica from Fresh Off The Boat spends quite a bit of time working on her mystery novel, "A Case of a Knife to the Brain". She considered it an instant classic before writing a single word, but in the end the book sold terribly and got terrible reviews.
- P.D.Q. Bach, the last, and certainly the least, of Johann Sebastian Bach's children. (Fictionally speaking.)
- Murdoc Niccals has never canonically been heard to sing onscreen except for the growling-whispering rap in "White Light", but his singing has been described as sounding "like someone treading on a duck". He insists the world is merely too small-minded to appreciate his genius and he needs 2D's more "conventional" voice for the albums.
- Possibly averted with the release of Demon Days, where supposedly he sang (Or whispered, more accurately) the words to the harder, punk track "White Light."
- As of phase 3, we have heard him sing, but contrary to what the characters and Word of God said in ROTO, his voice is actually not bad. Though that may be an oversight on the management, so who knows.
- Maria Cross, the worst singer in all of Visual Kei either as zis persona or as zis style. Adopted an Oshare style look, never mind zis music being an affront to the subgenre, and is known best for street performances in Tokyo where No Indoor Voice meets with Screams Like a Little Girl, Metal Scream, and other such tropes to create a hellish sound that somehow could be workable grindcore or noise, at least until the police end the performance because zhe has no permits for the amplified sound. The entire persona is possibly a Stealth Parody aimed at trashing Oshare Kei as a subgenre or parodying the very concept of Visual Kei itself, which makes it enough of a not real life example to be put here (though if it turns out to be serious, the example can be removed)
- In fact, it's pretty likely Maria Cross is some sort of a parody, because zhe is actually capable of singing in ways that aren't absolute crap, and the way zhe flips between relatively ordinary for Visual Kei cleans/screams to Hell Is That Noise hints at Stylistic Suck - someone who does know what they are doing and is messing it up on purpose.
- Harry Chapin's "Six String Orchestra" is about a would-be musician continuing to pursue his dream in the face of humorously harsh criticism.
- Yowane Haku is this in spades, having a voice which is just slightly out of tune, making any song she sings be full of Stylistic Suck, but a dedicated part of her fanbase find she's actually a case of Narm Charm, adoring her attempts to sing better.
- Cyrano de Bergerac
- Montfleury thinks he is a dramatic actor capable of romancing the ladies. Everyone else (except maybe his protector the Duke of Candale) disagrees: the bore calls him a shame for theater, Theatre representant, Jodelet, thinks the public came to see him to laugh at him, nobody really tries to help when Cyrano bullies him out of the scene and everyone calls him a coward.
- In Act II Scene IV, Baker Ragueneau, who wants to be a poet, declaims his poem (a recipe in verse) to his friends, the poets. He is totally serious about his poem, but it's Stylistic Suck.
- One of the most memorable scenes from Molière's Le Misanthrope comes when Alceste, the title misanthrope, thrashes the poetry of Oronte, an obsequious nobleman who desperately wants to be his friend. Alceste finds Oronte's poetry cloying, pretentious and devoid of meaning, and even says it is "meant to be taken to the cabinet" — "cabinet" having a secondary meaning of "outhouse" in 17th century French. He then responds with a poem he finds of high quality, a simple medieval country ballad.
- While not an intended part of the plays in which he appeared, 18th-century actor Robert 'Romeo' Coates was so terrible, yet utterly confident in his acting, that his shows would sell out from sheer curiosity.
- May in Dragon Nest is a fairly typical example. She genuinely believes that she is amazing at painting, cooking, managing her small business, fashion, and everything else, and she believes herself to be smart, sophisticated, and attractive, but in reality, she is so stupid and terrible at everything that other townsfolk begin to wonder if she's cursed after a while. This is compounded by her endless quests that tend to create problems rather than solve them. It's almost a wonder she isn't chased out of town with torches and pitchforks.
- No One Lives Forever gives us Inge Wagner, a Brawn Hilda whose Start of Darkness began when her parents pressured her into becoming an opera singer, ignoring that she was completely tone deaf. The combination of reassurement, ridicule, pressure, and resentment drove her mad, and she eventually fell in with H.A.R.M. She runs a cover operation as a nightclub in Hamburg, where her responsibilities as a hostess extend to singing for her patrons. Badly. Yet the club remains popular with beatniks, who think that she does so deliberately as an avant-garde rejection of conventional taste in music. She is completely ignorant that this is why they enjoy her singing.
Patron: "Anyone can sing a melody. It takes a true artist to defy a melody!"
- According to Word of God, Wagner is based on Florence Foster Jenkins.
- Portal gives us Cave Johnson, CEO of Aperture Science, a man with great enthusiasm, vision, and commitment to Science!, but next to no common sense, much less business acumen. Inventions include Repulsion Gel, which allows objects to bounce off of it without losing any momentum, thereby enabling a perpetual motion machine. It was originally marketed as a dietary aid replacing pudding so that the food would bounce right out of people's stomachs. Aperture's most famous invention is the Handheld Portal Device that can create wormholes and is powered in part by a miniature black hole. Johnson's original intent for it was to be used for shower curtains. It goes without saying that either of these inventions could have changed the world, but Aperture instead became obsessed with trying to get them to function in their original roles, and became trapped in an endless cycle of cube and button-based testing.
Wheatley: I! AM NOT! A MORON!!!
- "Excursion funnels are part of an investigation into how well test subjects can solve problems while traveling through a churning funnel of liquid asbestos. Results so far have been highly informative: They cannot."
- Wheatley himself fits the profile. He's designed to be the dumbest moron who ever lived, but his chaotic actions make him utterly impossible to predict and almost impossible to outwit.
- Persona 4: Yukiko, Chie, and Rise have the utmost confidence in their cooking schools and are seemingly oblivious to the fact that they're absolutely horrible at it, no matter how many times they're told as such and how many times their meals have made the others sick. Yosuke even lampshades it in Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, outright asking them how they haven't realized how badly they suck at cooking.
- Saber in Fate/EXTRA believes herself to be the pinnacle of the arts, a creative savant on par with the gods. In reality, her skills are below-average at best. In her past life as Nero Caesar she even built a personal theatre devoted specifically to her performances, and when people started to leave in the middle of her first recital, she ordered all the exits sealed.
- In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, there is Lurbuk, an Orc bard working in the Moorside Inn in Morthal. He is a notably terrible bard who hasn't been kicked out only because there are no customers around to complain. However, he is apparently so bad that there is a Dark Brotherhood contract out on him, which you get to fulfill if you are a member.
- If you talk to Nazir about the contract, he states that there were multiple contracts on him, so they had to hold a lottery to see which one would actually be honored.
- Cyril The Bard in The Fourth is not a very good musician, yet he doesn't seem aware of this.
- Tom and Izzy from Home On The Strange visit an art exhibition, and everyone they encounter is one of these.
- In Men in Hats, Jeriah likes to think he's an underappreciated great artist. He characteristically maintains that True Art Is Angsty, but his own efforts come across more as just plain ridiculous.
- Caliborn from Homestuck. His first drawings are incomprehensible (think three-year-old discovering MS Paint), and only mildly improve after several years. When he has the chance to use a Learn How To Draw book, rather than actually practice the drawings in the book, he cuts them out and uses them for his own shitty comic.
- Count Legato actually a nerdy kid named Panpipe using a stolen magic contact lens of Cucumber Quest writes and stars a play that is atrocious by just about any standards. Not only is it poorly-written and possibly even less well acted, it's also incredibly self-serving to the point of creepiness. He is so deluded that he thinks it's a work of brilliance and only realizes how bad it is when he's called out on his behavior and his writing in front of the audience, whereupon he promptly has a pseudo-Villainous Breakdown.
- Homestar Runner's resident dreadful white rapper Coach Z. Notably, he's pretty decent when he's had time to set up and practice but his preferred style is free-style and he sucks at it.
- Cracked gives us "5 People Who Failed Their Way to Fame And Fortune".
- Rusty from Pokémon Rusty believes he is destined to be a Pokemon master, despite clearly being one of the worst, most ignorant trainers in the world who shouldn't be allowed to take care of anything let alone Pokemon, and everybody but him knows it.
- Squidward Tentacles from Spongebob Squarepants is not as good at music as he thinks he is. He does have his moments though. The trope is zig-zagged depending on whether it would be funnier, at the moment, if Squidward were an unappreciated talent or Giftedly Bad.
- When Squidward actually gets passionate, his clarinet playing is pretty good. However, he normally plays just to tone out the stupidity of his neighbors... which doesn't really require a proper melody.
- Interestingly, when Squidward tries his hand at conducting, he actually seems quite good.
- SpongeBob himself is a notoriously incompetent driver, having failed well over a million times on his driver's test. Each time normally leads to him reducing Bikini Bottom to ruin through his manic driving habits, which has led Mrs. Puff to deem SpongeBob unteachable. This however never sways him and he remains obliviously optimistic even as he has driven his instructor deeper into insanity. The first episode that focused on his atrocious driving skills showed that he's got a large amount of the boating lessons memorized, but that he always fails actual driving portion of the test because he gets extremely nervous and panics once he's behind the wheel; nearly every other episode just portrays him as being completely oblivious to anything and everything around him.
- Like with Squidward and his clarinet, SpongeBob's incompetence varies, and can be a competent driver through unorthodox, though unfortunately illegal means that would otherwise also be deemed unsafe. In the first movie, he is shown to drive the Patty Wagon quite competently without the need for a license, saying such a thing is not needed to drive a sandwich.
- Plankton is determined to destroy Mr. Krabs with his rival restaurant at the Chum Bucket, trying to market chum-related products to his customers even as he's trying to acquire the Krabby Patty formula. It has been shown that the food Plankton offers is simply unfit for consumption, driving away anyone who isn't already scared away by his cruelty. Plankton tries numerous ways to convince his customers his food is just as good as that of the Krusty Krab, but it usually only sickens whoever works up the nerve to try it.
- When Squidward actually gets passionate, his clarinet playing is pretty good. However, he normally plays just to tone out the stupidity of his neighbors... which doesn't really require a proper melody.
- Brian Griffin of Family Guy is a dedicated, passionate, confident writer... whose book was such a flop that the unsold copies were sent back to him packed in shredded copies of his book. The one time he writes a hit is supposed to be a Take That! to the trend of awful self-help books, which he writes in a day. When he's suddenly well-known, he rolls with it until Bill Maher utterly destroys him on his show.
- Rocky and Bullwinkle has Captain Peter "Wrong-Way" Peachfuzz, the worst sailor in the world. Despite having wanted to be a sailor since childhood, he's totally incompetent at it (mainly because he has No Sense of Direction). He only captains a ship because he inherited a huge sum of money, bought a cruise liner, and hired himself as its captain. The rest of his crew has a conspiracy to keep him from actually controlling the ship: they disconnected all the controls on the bridge, and the ship is actually steered from a secret control room he doesn't know about. This plan fails when he blunders his way into the real control room by accident while trying to get to the fake one.
- From Daria, Trent and his band "Mystik Spiral" (although they're thinking of changing their name) are pretty poor musicians in general, but Trent is absolutely abysmal at writing lyics. The lyrics of "Oh, my nose! Oh, my face!" have to be heard to be believed.
Daria: It has a beat, and you can dance to it if you have no shame.
- Throughout My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, whenever the Cutie Mark Crusaders attempt a new scheme to get their cutie marks, it usually goes wrong in a particularly spectacular fashion. Their attempt at performing a rock ballad in "The Show Stoppers" is probably the best example. It ends up winning them an award... for best comedy act. All of this despite being told multiple times by multiple different characters that they're going about getting their cutie marks the wrong way. It takes them until season five to finally get their cutie marks, in the episode "Crusaders of the Lost Mark".
- Leela from Futurama became a major-league blernsball player in "A Leela of Her Own". Her complete lack of depth perception combined with a very strong throwing arm made it quite dangerous to be on the receiving end of her pitches. She did, however, provide a strong boost to ticket sales, as people would show up just to see how many batters she would "bean" during the game. It took her most of the episode to discover that she was really nothing more than a publicity gimmick.
- Kaeloo draws like a kindergartener, but considers herself to be a great artist (not that anyone else does).