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High Hopes, Zero Talent

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"I'm bad, but at least I like it...!"
Shiori Ochiai about basketball, The Useless Senpai and The Talented Kouhai

Bob finds himself among the candidates for his dream occupation. This is something he's wanted his entire life and dreams of becoming the best. Once he starts training at said job, it becomes quickly apparent that Bob...has zero talent for the job.

Still he keeps working at it (possibly undergoing Training from Hell)... and it doesn't help. (After all, Hard Work Hardly Works.) And what's more, there will be no Applied Phlebotinum or Magic Feather to smooth the way toward Bob's goals. He can't do it and that's that. Not to say that Bob is completely worthless. He may have plenty of viable talents; just not the talent for what he desires to be.

Often, this character will find other ways to chase his dreams, and may even find happiness there (a bad pilot may get shunted to the flight crew or Mission Control), but he never really stops wishing for that which he can't gain.

A common trait of the Heroic Wannabe. Is the inverse of Brilliant, but Lazy and Because I'm Good At It. Contrast the Deaf Composer, who definitely does have talent. Compare and contrast I Just Want to Be Special, where the character desires to be something without necessarily being passionate about it.

Compare with Dream-Crushing Handicap, where their lack of ability is due to a handicap, and the Minion with an F in Evil (if said minion actually wants to be a bad guy). Also compare the Muggle Born of Mages, who lacks the "talents" to follow in their superpowered parent's footsteps. The Giftedly Bad is oblivious to their lack of aptitude. Very much plays into Hard Work Hardly Works. A subtrope of the Tragic Dream. Can lead to becoming The Resenter. Sometimes overlaps with Type Two of The American Dream, or with Japanese Spirit, depending on the work.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Angel Beats!, Yui is this in all of her pursuits. She hopes to replace Iwasawa as the guitarist for the band Girls Dead Monster, but can't sing or play nearly as well as Iwasawa, especially when she tries to do both at once. When she tries to do a German suplex, she's only able to succeed after a lot of coaching and with the target's cooperation. She only manages to dribble a soccer ball past five people and score a goal by cheating and receiving help from Otonashi and Angel. Even after hours of hitting balls, she's unable to hit a single home run but decides that spending all that time trying was worthwhile.
  • In EDENS ZERO, Rebecca's Goal in Life is to hit one million subscribers on B-Cube (the Fictional Counterpart of YouTube), but she lacks the talent and know-how to make anything beyond amateurish documentaries of whatever random thing catches her interest, resulting in her channel being largely overlooked or mocked by more successful B-Cubers. This becomes subverted when a Time Skip showed that Rebecca did eventually become a successful B-Cuber.
  • Hinamatsuri: Anzu dreams of opening a ramen shop and becoming a famous artist. She is a bad cook and her art is kindergarten level. Her adoptive parents praise her art, which makes her think she is a good artist.
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War: Kaguya struggles when it comes to photography despite her desire to pursue it as a career, even though she's an Instant Expert in just about everything else. However, her cameo apperance in Oshi no Ko shows that she does eventually improve enough to do it professionally.
  • Kengan Ashura: Tokumichi Tokuno'o is the opposite of this trope in regards to his "main" job that we see in the series, which is an underground fighter: he's a natural at martial arts, incredibly fit even without much practice, and has excellent fighting sense and brainpower, such that his sole loss is to the World's Best Warrior. However, he detests this job, and only does it to have the spare cash for his true life's ambition, which is to become a great novelist. As a novelist, he is, by all accounts, pretty terrible, to the point that even Gaoh Ryuki, who was illiterate a matter of months prior, was able to lay down some rather harsh critique. It's said that he has, on multiple occasions, declared he's retiring from fighting to publish a great novel... then when it bombs, he has to hastily un-retire to get his money back.
  • My Hero Academia plays with this trope as the people in question are not untalented per se:
    • Protagonist Izuku Midoriya wants to be a superhero more than anything. Unfortunately, in a world where 80% of humanity has some sort of superpower or Quirk, he's among the 20% of who is Quirkless. Despite this, he pressed on, studying the skills, powers, and tactics of the many heroes he admires in hopes of finding a way to achieve it. He spends the next ten years of his life enduring bullying and scorn for his dream. When he meets his idol, All Might, he has to tell the lad that without a Quirk, it'd be pretty impossible. However, this changes drastically when Izuku, noticing his former friend turned bully is in danger, he's the one that rushes in to help and none of the others (including a weakened All Might.) This inspired All Might in turn to push his limits and save Izuku and his bully. All Might later confronts Izuku alone, apologizing to him and noting that he can be a hero. How? All Might reveals his Quirk, One For All, was granted to him and passed down from hero to hero. He chooses Izuku to be his successor as Izuku's willingness to put his life on the line, even without powers, makes him a hero. The entire story is framed from Izuku's standpoint, on how he became the greatest hero.
    • Danjuro Tobita was apparently considered this in his youth, as when he enthusiastically tells his guidance counselor about his desire to be a hero, he's bluntly told that since his grades are poor and he got held back at a sub-par school, he'd be better off dropping out. When his attempt at saving a man from falling goes wrong, he ends up getting expelled. Years later, Tobita meets a former yearmate who'd succeeded at becoming a hero, and no longer remembers who Tobita is. Tobita ends up snapping and only finds an outlet by becoming a villain... the Gentleman Thief Gentle Criminal. Ironically enough, by the time we see him, he's actually a surprisingly dangerous and capable individual, being able to defeat five pros with ease and giving Izuku a hell of a fight, all with a Quirk that lets him make any surface (including air) bouncy. And when he's recruited by the heroes to help out in the final battle despite now being a convicted criminal, he succeeds spectacularly in a much larger-scale version of the failed rescue he attempted in his youth.
  • Nasuverse:
    • Waver Velvet in Fate/Zero wants to be a great magus, but lacks the necessary heredity. You see, magical ability (apart from a few freaks) tends to be something gained over the generations and Waver is a nobody. He enters the Grail War as a sort of revenge against a teacher that snubbed his work and mocked him in front of a class. Unfortunately, his paper stating hard work can make up for talent is both obvious and gibberish: Hard work will make you better at something, but with no aptitude from the start hard work can only get you so far, and it certainly won't grow you magical body parts that you weren't born with. Especially since there's nothing stopping those naturally gifted magi from also working hard. However, it turns out that while he's rather bad at magic himself, he's quite good at educating others and helping them maximize their own potential. Which is something he has no interest in, even though it gives him a solid career and good social standing.
    • Shinji Matou is the latest heir from a long line of mages, but the Matou family magic capacity has been declining with each generation until we reach Shinji, who wasn't born with any magic circuits, and therefore magical ability, at all. His wish upon the Holy Grail is to become a capable magus with magic circuits, and his resentment of his magically potent adopted sister Sakura for being selected heir of the Matou magecraft fuels his horrifically abusive treatment of her.
  • In One Piece, Chopper's first mentor, Dr. Hiriluk was a well-intentioned doctor who genuinely wished to make others better, but was also a quack with no real medical knowledge who made cures that left his patients in even worse shape. After a mistake by Chopper hastened Hiriluk's death, Dr. Kureha told Chopper in no uncertain terms that he needs training, not just passion, and took him under her wing as an apprentice (Which was actually a request by Hiriluk himself before he passed, likewise knowing Chopper needs legitimate training). As a result, Chopper inherited the best of his mentors - Dr. Hiriluk's passion and Dr. Kureha's skill.
  • Melvin from the Pokémon: The Original Series episode "The March of the Exeggutor Squad". He wanted to create a stage show big enough to make it to Las Vegas ("Broadway" in the originalnote ). But his show turned out to be boring with a capital "B." He also appeared to be rather dim (it never occurs to him to use his Exeggcute's hypnotic powers as the basis of a show in itself). At episode's end, it looks like he's simply going to try his show again, rather than try something new.
  • In The Useless Senpai and The Talented Kouhai, the eponymous senpai is this trope, being someone who enjoys basketball, but has no chance of becoming a regular despite being a third-year, resulting in the rest of the team bullying her and sticking her with chores.
  • Kawachi's father in Yakitate!! Japan, who kept trying to become a baker at Pantasia until his death. This is revealed to be the driving force behind Kawachi's own determination.

  • Andy Kaufman's "Foreign Man" persona often subverted this trope. With the audience typically (and ideally) unaware this was a persona, they would watch as a shy, awkward man speaking with a vaguely-European accent attempted to tell jokes and/or do celebrity impressions and prove absolutely hopeless. But a turning point would then come — he might suddenly burst into sobs ("I don't know if you're laughing at me, or weeth me!") that slowly became more rhythmic and led into a startlingly good performance on conga drums, or his last impression would be "de Elvis Presley" and turn out to be what's often been described as the best Presley impersonation ever performed. Elayne Boosler, in her Esquire magazine tribute to Kaufman, recalled a performance he did at a seedy disco in The '70s that saw the jaded audience love Foreign Man from the get-go because he was so determined to entertain them, making the subversion all the sweeter when it took place.

    Comic Books 
  • In Asterix and the Normans, Cacofonix, who is a good instrumentalist but a unspeakably awful singer, is told off-the-cuff that his music is really good and he might do better in the city. Cacofonix becomes obsessed with this idea and convinced that he will be a huge pop star there. He steals a horse and tries to ride there, singing for food. When he becomes needed as a Human Weapon against Horny Vikings, Obelix manages to locate him again, solely by following the trail of destruction caused by the pain and outrage of people exposed to his music. In particular, in one inn, his voice caused a brawl so terrible the building was torn to pieces.
  • The original Jester, an archenemy of Daredevil dreamed of being a major Shakespearean actor and trained himself in everything from acrobatics to boxing to swordplay to try and improve his chances. Unfortunately, he forgot to get the one kind of training he actually needed-namely, acting lessons. He was such a bad actor that the only work he could get was as the pie-in-the-face guy for a two-bit comedian, and eventually he became so embittered he decided to take the skills he was actually good at and became a costumed criminal.
  • The Killing Joke: One of several possible origins for The Joker shows him as once having been a wannabe stand-up comedian who quit his job at Ace Chemicals to pursue his dream... only to completely bomb. Dialogue between him and his wife hints that while he does have at least some skill at writing comedy, he has the stage presence and delivery of a dead trout. Desperate to support his pregnant wife, he agrees to serve as the figurehead for the Red Hood Gang, and things quickly spiral out of control...
  • In Untold Tales of Spider-Man, Peter Parker had to deal with an unwanted fangirl in the form of Sally Avril, who was inspired by Spider-Man to try and become a costumed heroine herself. Unfortunately, not only did she not have the right motivation (she was little more than an adrenaline junkie rather than wanting to fight crime for the good of others), she didn't have any powers, and wasn't even good enough to be a Badass Normal; she was a slightly above-average athletic teenager with a smart friend who wasn't intelligent enough to be a Gadgeteer Genius making her gear. As a result, her equipment was almost useless, her combat skills laughable, and Peter let her get her ass kicked by a villain just so she'd understand how outclassed she was. To be fair, this did make her give up the mask... only to die in a car crash while trying to emulate Peter's other job of taking photos of superhero fights, just so she could keep getting the same rush.
  • Preacher: One side character always dreamed of being an astronaut, so he joined the armed forces as a clerk and manipulated the paperwork to put his name on the list for selection. He was then immediately caught and thrown out (being around two heads shorter than all the other candidates) and in revenge spent years blasting out the southwestern desert to make a "FUCK YOU" visible from space.

    Comic Strips 
  • Foxtrot:
    • Peter sucks at both baseball and football (the only people worse are Jason and Marcus, who are nerdy and ten years old), but this doesn't stop him from trying out every year (while he usually ends up on the team, it's only to showcase how bad he is, and in one case only made it because half the team got thrown off after getting caught cheating on tests). Except one year where he didn't try out for the football team and comes across the list of rejected players...
      Steve: Looks like you were cut from girls' gymnastics, too.
      Peter: How could they cut me from varsity football when I didn't even try out? Was I THAT bad last year?! Was I THAT awful?! Am I such a pariah that they want to be SURE I'm not on the squad?!
    • In one arc, he becomes the assistant football coach instead. He's so bad at it that the coach puts him near the opposing team's goal so the team has a target for their venting (it's won them the last three games).
    • Roger is even worse, as any hobbies he takes up will end in an Epic Fail. This is best shown in his love of golf and chess where loses every time (in one strip before he'd even set up the board due to Jason stating every move Roger would make).
      Roger: Methinks my chess game has gotten a little too predictable.
    • Initially subverted with Roger and chess, at least when his opponent was his wife Andy who he frequently beat. Later on Roger's competence at chess takes a nosedive and he's so terrible he can't win against anyone, not that it stops him from thinking he's great at chess still.
  • In the Gilchrist-run of Nancy, Sluggo had some aspirations of becoming a professional athlete (usually for baseball, but also sometimes for football). However, Sluggo tended to be more focused on practicing stuff like his "[sports] hero autograph" or "poses for sports trading cards" than he was on practicing any of the actual physical aspects.
  • Peanuts: Charlie Brown loves baseball, and there's nothing he'd rather be doing than playing the game. He's also terrible at it, usually losing double figures to nothing. Probably the only reason he's still a team manager is that nobody else on the team cares enough to try and have him removed.
    • In one sequence, Peppermint Patty asks Charlie Brown to help her baseball team...selling popcorn at their game. He agrees to do it but spends most of the game asking her for a chance to pitch. Peppermint Patty, who knows exactly how bad Charlie Brown is at baseball (or so she thought), rejects him every time. That is, until the very end of the game when her team is so far ahead - they have a fifty to nothing lead, and it's the last of the ninth, two outs - that she decides it's impossible for them to lose anyway, so she lets him pitch just this one time. The first thing Charlie Brown does is to throw a wild pitch that knocks Patty unconscious. Then he somehow causes her team to lose fifty-one to fifty. Infuriated, Patty demands to know how this is even possible, but Charlie Brown can't (or won't) explain, and spends some time hiding from her.

  • In the After the Jungle-series by Flower princess11, Olga Sherman (née Pataki) and Summer Mitchell (the mean girl from the episode "Summer Love") prove to be this when it comes to acting—and Olga's husband Patrick proves to be this when it comes to becoming a rock star. To go into greater detail:
    • Olga — Sometime when her "baby sister" was in middle school, Olga decided to try pursuing a career as a theater actress, even quitting her job as a teacher and moving all the way to New York City to audition for Broadway. And at some point during this time, Olga met Patrick Sherman, an aspiring musician who she ended up marrying after only six of months dating. Unfortunately, Patrick fails to make it big as a musician while Olga fails to make it big as an actressnote . They eventually move back to Olga's old hometown of Hillwood and found other jobs to support themselves and their fraternal twin children, Logan and Lisa—while Olga went back to working as a schoolteachernote , Patrick has trouble holding down a job and is often switching employment, leaving Olga as the sole breadwinner for their family at times (which she's shown to resent). However, even by the time Olga's well into her 40snote , she still has (as Helga puts it) "delusions" of becoming an actress.
    • Summer — After graduating high school, she moved out to Los Angeles, California to pursue a career as an actress (albeit for movies and TV-shows instead of theater). Unfortunately, Summer got rejected from most places and (as revealed in "A Trip to the Beach") all her acting career really amounted to be is a series of a lame commercials and being the female lead in some low-budget horror movie that has long since faded into obscurity. But unlike Olga, Summer has clearly given any hope of becoming an actress.
  • RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse: Thrash Metail wants to be the greatest musician in Equestria, but his actual initial work was mediocre at best, and rather than try and improve, or work on it, he uses an evil guitar to brainwash ponies into liking his music. Which, even with the evil guitar, is still awful.
  • In Where Talent Goes to Die, protagonist Kaori Miura had once hoped to become an author like her idol, Sae Edogawa, but was told to give up on it and focus on her studies since she didn't have the talent necessary. Edogawa also had a friend who wanted to be an author just like her, but after being told one too many times that she wasn't quite good enough, her friend snapped and the two parted on bad terms.

    Film — Animated 
  • In Monsters University, Mike Wazowski's dream is to become a scarer and despite being very well-read on the subject is stated to lack natural talent (IE, children find him more funny/cute than scary). While he is unable to be a scarer and his and Sully's antics get them in trouble, the two never lose sight of their goals. By the time of Monsters, Inc., they've gone from mail clerks in the business to being the best scaring team through Mike's brains and Sully's talent and fear. Furthermore, he helps discover that laughter is ten times more powerful than screams and is able to apply his wit and appearance in making kids laugh.
  • Linguini of Ratatouille wants to be a great chef, even more so when he discovers he's Auguste Gusteau's son. Unfortunately for him, he's a total Lethal Chef. While discovering he's a bad chef (especially without Remy), he turns out to be an ace maitre d'hôtel.
  • Robots: Rodney's father has a lifelong dream to play trumpet in a band. In the end, he gets to live out his dream, and he's not good at it. In his defense, he did claim he hadn't played in twenty years so he's bound to be pretty rusty (no pun intended.)

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The monk Kirill in Andrei Rublev aspires to be a great icon painter but lacks artistic ability. When this is pointed out to him, he flies into a rage, curses his fellow monks, and leaves the monastery in a fit.
  • Norther Wislow in Big Fish is regarded as the local poet laureate in the town of Spectre, but the best he can come up with after years of writing is "Roses are red, violets are blue, Spectre is great!"
  • In Citizen Kane, Susan Alexander, second wife of Charles Foster Kane, gets put out on a huge opera debut by her husband. While her voice may be pleasant for something singing in the shower, she is not cut out for opera in any waynote . Her vocal teacher loudly proclaims she is unteachable and more or less facepalms every time she sings. Kane won't listen to Susan, the instructor, or every newspaper critic in America and insists that she keep going on stage. Orson Welles later regretted this part of the film, as people assumed she was based on screen actress and William Randolph Hearst's paramour Marion Davies, who Welles (and many others) felt was actually a fairly talented actress and a nice person. Marion Davies was well-suited to romantic comedies — unfortunately, Hearst saw her as the second coming of Mary Pickford and kept putting her in lavish, sentimental dramas that didn't take advantage of her talents.
  • In The Disaster Artist, Tommy Wiseau is portrayed as this.
  • Ed Wood—his big-screen and Real Life versions—wanted to be a movie director whose films would be remembered long after his death and be considered great art. Well, two out of three ain't bad.
    • Birdemic director James Nguyen is one angora sweater away from following in Wood's exact footsteps.
  • The film Florence Foster Jenkins explores the true story of the titular socialite who was known for her aspiration to be an opera singer and her terribly atrocious singing voice.
  • Arthur Fleck in Joker aspires to be a stand-up comedian, but his one performance at a local comedy club is absolutely terrible - people laugh at him, not at his material. Lampshaded by his mother, who asks, "Don't you have to be funny to be a comedian?"
  • Rupert Pupkin in The King of Comedy, whose ambitions far outstrip his abilities.
  • The minor side character of "Danger" Dillard in Million Dollar Baby is a somewhat mentally challenged (one of his habits is frequently proclaiming that he's going to challenge Thomas Hearns for the welterweight title, despite the fact that Hearns last held the welterweight title in 1981 and the film is set in the 2000s), hanger-on at the boxing gym, who shows virtually no boxing talent but is endearingly earnest in his desire to become a fighter.

  • A Certain Magical Index:
    • Saten Ruiko, like many others in Academy City, came to the city with the hopes of becoming an esper through the city's power development programme. However, even after years of hard work she remains a Level 0 (an esper with reality warping capabilities too insignificant to be of note), and she feels that she is The Load, unable to assist her friends in any significant way. Along with many other Level 0's, her desire to become an esper and to be useful to her friends is what drives her to use the "Level Upper".
      Saten: I was so tired of not having any power. And finally it didn't matter anymore what lengths I had to go to to get it.
    • Skill Out are gangs of delinquent Level 0's who were never able to develop esper abilities and therefore became Resenters to those who were able to do so. They regularly attack other espers, whom they feel are oppressing them, though espers who are innocent and even other Level 0s regularly fall target as well.
    • Index mentions that magic was developed in the distant past by those who wanted to defy this trope and have powers like those who naturally had them, such as Gemstones (espers who've had their abilities from birth) and Saints (those naturally closer in nature to God).
  • Angel in the Charlie Parker Series, a thief with enormous technical skills, but lacking the attention to detail to be a good thief. One particularly memorable flashback shows him walking into a room full of valuable - and portable - works of art and attempting to steal the television. However, his lockpicking skills make him useful to the NYPD, which winds up saving his life and earning him a lifelong friend.
  • Killashandra Ree, the protagonist of the Crystal Singer series. The series starts off with Killashandra washing out of her performing arts school. Rather, Killashandra quitting in a huff. She was a strong singer with perfect pitch. But she had a flaw in the upper vocal ranges that made her unsuitable for the diva roles she had her heart set on. Rather than settle for lesser roles or choral work, she quits music altogether. A decision spurred on by the fact that her teachers knew about the flaw nearly all along, but didn't tell her until after her final exams.
  • The Trope Codifier is Rincewind of the Discworld series. Rincewind does have many actual skills (he's something of an Omniglot, for starters; he can scream for mercy in nineteen languages, and just scream in another forty-four) and he seems to be a reasonably competent librarian (a job one would think would be ideal for someone as risk-averse as Rincewind), but he dreams of being a real wizard. Unfortunately for him, he is "a natural wizard in the same way fish are natural mountaineers." He does have most of the traits of a wizard, including ones that are, well, magical (like seeing the Eighth Colour). The only ones he doesn't seem to have are the ability to do magic, and knowledge of when he is to die (and even Death doesn't know when Rincewind is to die, so that might not be a failure on his wizardiness per se). Usually wizards (and witches) learn when they're going to die a week or so in advance (barring accidents). But Rincewind assumes he's going to die on a daily basis, so the actual knowledge probably wouldn't register as anything different.
  • The Familiar of Zero: Louise Francoise Le Blanc de La Valiere "the Zero" and everyone else initially thought she was this. Louise desperately desires to become a powerful mage worthy of the noble Valliere family and her mother, but every spell she casts blows up in her face, and she was only saved from expulsion when she summons an Ordinary High-School Student as her familiar. Eventually subverted when she is revealed to be a user of a powerful and lost type of magic, and her success rate with some of the more mundane spells goes up later on.
  • Harry Potter has Butt-Monkey Neville Longbottom appear to be one for the first half of the series, only for the second half to let him show his true potential. When it comes to actually casting spells, he's just not very good at the majority of magic, mainly due to being too poor to afford a proper wand and using a hand-me-down that was incompatible with him. However, the skilled-in-other-areas aspect applies to Neville as well, as he's a herbology prodigy and a major Determinator. In the end, most of his victories turn out to be moral or physical, making him one of the few people to bring fists to a magic fight and still win. Additionally, it is shown that he has amazing talent in Defense Against the Dark Arts; during the fifth book, when Bellatrix Lestrange and several death eaters are on the loose, he wants to learn defensive spells and Harry obliges not just him but whomever wants to learn, and when the Expelliarmus spell came up only the Brainy Brunette Hermione Granger mastered the spell faster than Neville did.
  • The Rithmatist: Protagonist Joel wants to be a Rithmatist (someone with the power to animate chalk drawings) more than anything. And he is actually quite good at drawing the various lines of Rithmatics. However, he completely lacks the actual supernatural power.
  • In Rune Soldier Louie, the eponymous character is a mage in training, who longs for adventure. The problem is, he sucks at spellcasting because he doesn't keep up with his studies, preferring to solve his problems with his fists instead. Except he's not very good at that either, since he hasn't had any formal training and usually just rushes in without thinking, which is what creates the friction between him and Jeanie.
  • Phil Baldwin in Son of Interflux by Gordon Korman. He has "potential" for everything, but that potential never amounts to much.
  • While My Pretty One Sleeps: Sal is revealed to have a case of this. He aspired to become a great fashion designer, but while he's not terrible at design, he's never been able to rise above mediocrity. He was regarded as an average student at design school, he struggled to gain any sort of success for decades, Neeve thinks that most of his recent designs are decent but nothing special, and even he admits that he's never been able to surpass his bold and innovative Pacific Reef look in seventeen years... and it turns out he didn't even create it: Neeve's mother Renata did, and she didn't even have a formal education in design. Sal tells Neeve that when Renata showed him her portfolio, he recognised its brilliance and knew Renata had The Gift for fashion, which he simply lacked.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Ahsoka: The relationship at the core of the show is Ahsoka Tano choosing to take Sabine Wren on as a Jedi Padawan, despite the fact that Sabine has never shown any aptitude for or sensitivity to the Force. Professor Huyang, a droid who has served the Jedi Order for well over a thousand years, bluntly tells Sabine that she has less aptitude for the Force than any Jedi he's known in his time. Ahsoka doesn't disagree about Sabine's lack of Force talent, but insists that while talent plays a role, training and discipline make the real difference in being able to use the Force. It's uncertain which of the two is correct so far.
  • Bates Motel (1987) has Alex West, a longtime friend of the now-deceased Norman Bates, inherit the titular motel on the condition that he restore it to being a working motel. Unfortunately, no matter how much he may want to genuinely honor Norman's wishes, Alex has absolutely no clue on how to run a motel, and only some Bond Villain Stupidity on the part of the Morally Bankrupt Banker he took out a loan from stops him from being foreclosed on after one night.
  • The Big Bang Theory: Penny spends most of the series run as an aspiring actress while working as a waitress as a day job. Problem is, while she's certainly pretty and her acting is shown to be...okay, that's not even close to being enough, and it's been shown several times that she's just one among thousands with the same description. As such, her "career" never amounts to more than a hemorrhoid commercial and a topless shower scene in a low-budget horror movie. She eventually gives up acting and becomes a sales representative for a pharmaceutical company to much greater success, but she admits that the only thing she actually likes about the job is the high pay.
  • Friends has an episode where Monica's boyfriend Pete decides he wants to compete in the UFC - specifically to become champion. He's in a full-body cast by the end of the episode.
  • Pretty much everyone in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but Dee is probably the most serial offender in terms of her desire to be a big star while never showing an inkling of the talent. One Imagine Spot had her going into witness protection and so flawlessly playing the part of a butler that she got to play herself in a TV series about her own witness protection period, and she spun that into being the star of an action film that grossed 900 million in presales alone. In reality, her biggest casting call was when she was an extra, playing a dead body - and she still managed to ruin multiple takes and got fired due to overacting and being The Prima Donna.
  • Lizzie McGuire has Miranda dreaming of becoming an actress. Unfortunately she's terrible and completely ruins the school play she's in. She later discovers a talent for singing instead.
    • Inverted for Lizzie, as she has able to become a skilled gymnast, but she hates gymnastics. She once won a gymnastics competition, and never took it again.
  • Cookie from Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide really wants to be on the cheer squad. It... doesn't work out, to say the least.
  • Red Dwarf: Arnold Judas Rimmer is desperate to become an Officer in the Space Corps, and yet failed his Astronavigation exam thirteen times. All in an attempt to win his father's approval. The novel describes it best:
    If Rimmer hadn't been such a dedicated anal-retentive, he would have realised something. He wasn't cut out to be an officer. Wasn't cut out for it. He'd realise he wasn't the slightest bit interested in Astronavigation, or Quantum Mechanics, or any of the things you had to be interested in to be an officer.
    • The novel then reveals that Rimmer's true talent lies in art and cartography.
    • Later on, he also aspires to be a great general or leader, crippled in this desire by being a Dirty Coward of an Armchair General.
    • Even his Alternate Universe version, who has had everything go right? Is a test pilot instead. And promptly goes on a one-way trip the second he gets involved with Astronavigation and Quantum Mechanics.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch - Sabrina, Harvey, and Valerie enter a Battle of the Bands competition without having any knowledge of how to sing or play instruments. As a result, Sabrina uses magic to make them sound better.
  • Scrubs:
    • Doug is an incredibly incompetent doctor, but ends up causing so many deaths he is able to start a new career as a pathologist in the morgue identifying the cause of death of corpses that have other pathologists stumped... mostly by having inadvertently replicated said death somehow at some point in his medical career.
    • The intern J.D. nicknames "Cabbage" is even worse, because unlike Doug, Cabbage has no medical skill whatsoever and no alternate job to fall back on, since he constantly makes basic mistakes like reading an x-ray backwards. The end result is that J.D. has to fire him from the hospital, and just as a final kick in the teeth, he accidentally contaminates a patient while she's getting ready to leave the hospital on his way out, and the infection ends up killing her.
  • Joxer of Xena: Warrior Princess wanted two things: To be a great heroic warrior and Gabrielle's heart. He never got either.

  • The song "Hollywood" is about a talentless would-be actress who dreams of being a Hollywood superstar.
  • Harry Chapin song Six-String Orchestra, where the protagonist, despite training hard, is unable to become any good as a guitarist.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Jillian Hall was very determined to make it as a singer and would take any opportunity to let loose with a song. But she was absolutely terrible, and would frequently get slapped or disrespected by the celebrity guest hosts she tried to impress. She did however get an EP 'A Jingle With Jillian' that got into the Top 50 albums on iTunes!

  • Bleak Expectations: Harry Biscuit wishes to become the world's greatest inventor, partly because of jealousy at his father inventing the biscuit, and his best friend inventing the bin. Unfortunately, Harry's inventions are nigh-universally awful, a fact Harry even acknowledges. The only times he ever manages to make anything successful is when he's either deliberately trying to make something awful, or has turned evil.
  • Old Harry's Game: The one-off character Chantelle is desperate to be a winner on Britain's Got Talent, despite the fact her singing is ear-gougingly awful. She's so determined she fails to notice she died, and is in Hell, and even then she's still convinced she can make it as a star. Satan decides to use her as a torture implement by letting her sing.

    Tabletop Games 

  • Kitty from The Drowsy Chaperone desperately wants to be a glamorous showgirl, but completely lacks the talent to do so.
  • In "Beauty School Dropout" from Grease, Frenchy's guardian angel appears to tell her that her dream of becoming a beautician will never work out, because of both her lack of ambition and talent, and that she should finish high school and pursue a more modest career. As he puts it, "You've got the dream but not the drive."
  • Steve Martin's Picasso At the Lapin Agile features, in addition to notable real figures such as Pablo Picasso, Albert Einstein, and even a time-travelling Elvis Presley, the eccentric Charles Dabernow-Schmendiman. Dabernow-Schmendiman is convinced that he will change the world with a revolutionary new building material...that is brittle, inflexible, and made from equal parts radium, asbestos, and kitten paws. Due to building codes, this material is also unable to be used anywhere other than San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Krakatoa. However, for Dabernow-Schmendiman this is an absolute success, and given the appearance later in the play of a fangirl of his, he may well be onto something. Or just a con man.

    Video Games 
  • Detective Dick Gumshoe from the Ace Attorney series is all heart and no deductive skills. That being said, he's not all that bad at fighting and has a wasted talent at engineering.
  • Fate/Grand Order:
    • Olga Marie Animusphere is a top-class Magus and the heir of the prestigious Chaldea Security Organization. Unfortunately, she has zero ability to become a Master and summon her own Servant, to her great dismay. It's strongly implied her treatment of the protagonist is due to jealousy over this since the protagonist is a nobody who was recruited into Chaldea who nonetheless has the potential to be the Master that she lacks.
    • Kadoc Zemlupus, the first Crypter fought, is basically the Evil Counterpart of the protagonist in that he has little talent as a mage but has great compatibility as a Master. He's set to be one of those who will save the world, only for the Chaldea bombing that sends him into a coma to happen. He slept with a dream to be a hero, only to wake up with the knowledge that the world has already been saved. Out of jealousy, he fights against the protagonist to prove that he's capable, only to be defeated because his opponent, while practically having the same strengths and weaknesses, is vastly more experienced and charismatic to cover said weaknesses. And that's not even going into the Word of God that claims should the Crypters go into the same journey as the protagonist, Kadoc would not survive far.
  • Inverted with the protagonist of Melody. He does not initially want to tutor the title character, but he ends up teaching her very effectively.
  • Ango Natsume from Persona 5 Strikers turns out to be this. Having long entered into writing competitions with no success, he eventually attracted the attention of some crooked editors who knew full well he was no good as a writer but wanted to profit off his being the grandson of a famous writer. Even though he overheard his editors talking about exploiting him, the success went to his head and he became the Monarch of Vanity.
  • Glass Joe in Punch-Out!!, especially in the Wii version where he's lost more bouts than everyone else due to his medical condition, and yet he insists on fighting and enters every bout with undeserved confidence, and will react with utter joy when he wins for once in Title Defense.

  • Regina Darkblood from Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures: She's an utter failure as a traditional rampaging demon. (Her aunt, Kria Soulstealer, spells out why here). She also lacks the self-awareness and (because she doesn't actually want to rampage) motivation to work on her shortcomings. But it turns out she has a knowledge of fashion and architectural history and lore (anything involving styles, really) that she's practically an urban anthropologist. Which she considers fun, but useless, no matter how legitimately impressed people are by her knowledge. Much like Rimmer in the Live-Action TV section, she thinks she has to because of familial expectations and fear of being disowned if she doesn't.note 
  • Nineteen-Ninety-Something: Amber, Cynthia and Kristen followed Lindsay and Craig to the University of Minnesota, half to stay together as a group and half so they could continue to cheerlead. When they were all summarily rejected from cheerleader tryouts, they were all despondent, as they all thought cheerleading would be their focus at college (Lindsay had already moved away from cheerleading, focusing on Political Science). Each girl swiftly rallied: Amber joined Lindsay in Poli-Sci, Kristen discovered she was a basketball prodigy and walked on with the ladies' team and Cynthia (who had been keeping a passion for cooking a secret) took the path of Culinary Arts.
  • Brisbane Adams in You Say It First's predecessor comic, Unlike Minerva. Brisbane wanted all his life to be a part of a real-life Vaudeville-style theater. And he didn't let things like not being able to sing, dance, act, tell jokes or do magic tricks stop him. Over the course of YSIF, Brisbane showed skills as a general Mr Fix It and as a problem solver in his role as an executive assistant.

    Western Animation 
  • The Batman's version of Basil Karlo could have been a world-famous actor...except for the fact that he didn't have the slightest bit of talent. The only work he could get was in cheesy low-rent horror movies, and he turned out to be far more effective at supervillainy as Clayface than he ever was as a legitimate actor.
  • The Cleveland Show: When the Brown family briefly relocated to Hollywood so Cleveland could follow his dream of being MLB-scout for the Los Angeles Dodgersnote , Cleveland befriends Gina, a wannabe actress who fits this trope to a T. Gina's incredibly gifted at backstage work (everything from directing to scriptwriting to set design) and even helps Cleveland with the episode's schemenote , but point-blank refuses to accept anything other than onscreen-stardom, even though her acting abilities are...mediocre at best.
    Gina: I just really want to be a star!
    Cleveland: Your dreams won't come true.
  • Dave the Barbarian:
    • Dave's an inversion—he's got the strength and the skills to be a barbarian (and can be a proper barbarian when given the motivation), but he has no interest in being one. When Fang claims that Dave wanted to be a barbarian when he was younger, he explains that the only reason for that was because he mistakenly thought that a barbarian was a librarian who also cut hair.
    • Fang, Dave's younger sister, plays this trope straight (most of the time at least)—she's got the passion and determination to be a barbarian, but is generally too small/weak/scrawny to actually become one.
  • Family Guy: Brian Griffin has ultimately become this in the post-cancellation episodes (particularly the later ones), wishing desperately to be seen as an intellectual and a talented writer — but so far, the closest he's ever come to any actual "success" (where he was actually trying to be genuinely artistic) are Faster Than the Speed of Love (his novel)note , A Passing Fancy (his play)note , and his run as a staff writer on the In-Universe Disney Channel-series Parent Boppersnote . Most of Brian's work also tends to contain a lot of plagiarism, and even that's typically done very poorly. Ironically, Brian's characterization in the pre-cancellation episodes (and, to a lesser extent, the early post-cancellation episodes) was pretty much the exact opposite of how he is nowadays — in those episodes, Brian was a genuinely sophisticated intellectual, an avid reader, and a talented singer (to name just a few things). But he never had any writing aspirations (at least not to the same extent as he does in the post-cancellation episodes).
  • Nigel Planter, the Harry Potter Expy in The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, is explicitly mentioned to have practically no magic talent whatsoever despite supposedly being the orphan of two famous wizards, to the point of being the worst student in the magic school he is enrolled in. It is later discovered that this because his parents were not wizards at all: They were the owners of a famous peanut company (it's in the name) and Lord Moldy Butt (*CRASH!*) was actually an estate broker trying to track him down and pass on his inheritance.
  • Josie and the Pussycats: Alexandra's greatest dreams are to win Alan's heart and to replace Josie as the leader of the band. Unfortunately, Alan's heart belongs to Josie and she has no talent in singing or playing instruments. A few episodes show that she is a good dancer, but she is not content with being a backup dancer and still wants to be the leader.
  • In King of the Hill, one of Dale Gribble's dreams is to learn basket weaving and has the opportunity to on a "vocation vacation". He's absolutely horrible at it, which causes him a lot of angst. Things get worse when Hank's handiness and attention to detail put him top of the class, driving Dale into a jealous rage.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic - Princess Celestia's fillyhood dream was to be in plays. When Twilight is putting on a play dramatising the first time Celestia raised the sun, she casts the princess to play herself. It turns out that she has approximately zero talent on the stage, despite all the classes she takes to make up for it.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Homer Simpson embraces this trope in one episode where he realizes he's officially passed the halfway point of the average male lifespan and becomes despondent that he hasn't accomplished anything with his life (directly ignoring, and in one case disregarding, all the things he HAS accomplished over the course of the show, such as his tour with The Smashing Pumpkins, his Grammy win, and his journey into space). After Lisa inspires him to idolize Thomas Edison, Homer becomes obsessed with creating just as many inventions as he did, but his "career" is a dismal flop, as his best work ends up being a makeup shotgun (which is used to literally blast women in the face with makeup), a loud, obnoxious "Everything Is Okay" alarm, an electric hammer, and a combination recliner/toilet.
    • In another episode, Lisa meets a boy named Lucas who is determined to be a competitive eater. He puts a lot of thought on his persona but can't master the part of actually eating food quickly.
    • Cecil, Sideshow Bob's brother, who auditioned to be Krusty's sidekick, but was quickly rejected by Krusty; Cecil's performance was very stilted and awkward, he had zero charisma even for a sidekick, and as Krusty points out, the "pie in the face gag" Cecil prepared for is only funny if the victim has dignity, and Cecil was a random dork in clown paint. Bob ends up winning the role specifically because he didn't want it, was dressed in a business suit, and the pie knocked his hat off, exposing his goofy hair.
  • Squidward Tentacles in Spongebob Squarepants fashions himself as a great artist and musician. But his art is unremarkable and are merely images of himself. And his music is dreadful and sounds like a dying animal.
  • The Pulverizer in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) wants to be a ninja like the turtles, but he is terrible at it, and can't make a simple move right. He decides to let himself get doused in mutagen hoping to be mutant like the turtles; instead, he becomes a shapeless blob monster.


Sideshow Cecil

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Main / HighHopesZeroTalent

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