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MacGuffin Blindness

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Ben: [using a Jedi mind trick] These aren't the droids you're looking for.
Stormtrooper: These aren't the droids we're looking for.
Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope

Two opposing factions are looking for that one thing that will guarantee their victory. Sometimes, they both are the same thing. Sometimes, however, the object they are searching for shows up right in front of their face and they are any of the following: convinced (by someone else or just don't believe it themselves) that it is something else unrelated to what they're looking for, magically tricked into believing otherwise, or just don't even notice it.

This does not apply if the person in question does not know they're supposed to be finding this particular object. However, if they know they're hunting for it, but have no idea what it looks like, then it does apply.

MacGuffin Blindness Categories:

  • Convinced by Self. It could be that they were distracted, focused on something else at the time, and didn't feel it was worth investigating to make sure. Or perhaps they could simply talk themselves out of it. "This can't possibly be the all-powerful MacGuffin!" So long as it is mundane and the person seeking that manages to ignore the MacGuffin, this is the case.
  • Convinced by Another. The smooth-talking rogue could talk the interested party into not buying it for being worthless. Perhaps The Hero has been captured by the Big Bad and needs to fast-talk him into believing it's not what he's looking for. So long as the primary means are mundane and it is not the person doing the searching that convinces the searching party, this is the case. Sometimes, the other being may be hiding the MacGuffin by making it a Needle in a Stack of Needles.
  • Magically Tricked. It could be magical brainwashing, it could be a Jedi Mind Trick, It could be some form of charm that makes the person near it forgetful after letting go of it or putting it away, so long as they still remember they're searching for it, but some supernatural means of causing them not to recognize it must be in play.
  • Ignorant of the Form. The party know what they're supposed to be looking for, but the problem is, no one ever told them what it's actually supposed to look like. In the event, they're consciously looking for the object and it's right in front of them, but they don't recognize it.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight. The object is hidden out in the open, in a place no one would ever think to look, because the least likely place for someone to look for a secret MacGuffin is out in public where anyone could find it. All examples of this go in its specific page.

Compare to It Was with You All Along, where the MacGuffin has been in one's possession all this time and they didn't know it.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Bleach: Urahara hid the Hogyouku inside Rukia, without her knowledge or consent to keep Aizen from finding it.
  • In Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, Rufus Shinra, who's been stuck in a wheelchair (as he's dying from Geostigma) being interrogated by the villains for most of the film, reveals that not only is he much more well than he lets on, but the head of Jenova was on his lap in a sealed box the entire time. This is convinced by another, because Rufus Shinra was hiding it and playing on Kadaj's personality.
  • In Sailor Moon S, Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune look for three artifacts, said to be inside the hearts of normal people. They are, respectively, inside Sailor Uranus and Neptune themselves, and inside Sailor Pluto.

    Film — Animated 
  • Moana spends most of her film searching for Te Fiti so she can return the Heart of Te Fiti to her, and this includes an encounter with Te Ka in the middle of the film. It isn't until the end of the film that Moana realizes, Te Ka is Te Fiti, overcome with rage and despair at losing her heart. This is Ignorant of Form.
  • Tangled: Rapunzel spends the entirety of the story fascinated by the multitude of glowing lights that appear in the sky each year on the night of her birthday. She doesn't recognize that she's the reason those lights are in the sky until very late in the movie, due to Mother Gothel's manipulative upbringing. This is Convinced by another.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade:
  • In It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, all of the characters are racing to find a treasure buried "under a big W", which turns out to be a set of four criss-crossing palm trees in that shape. Most of the characters ignore the palm trees for a fair while, except for poor, put-upon Emmeline—but by the time she's decided to take the treasure for herself while the rest are distracted, everyone else has figured it out.
  • In Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Bugs and Daffy are able to keep the Queen of Diamonds card away from Elmer Fudd by playing a quick game of "Is This Your Card?" by mixing it into a deck of identically-backed cards, only revealing the real Queen of Diamonds card right before taking off and leading Fudd on a classic Looney Tunes chase. This is Convinced by Another, though it only lasts for a few seconds.
  • Men in Black: The "Galaxy in Orion's belt" (Ignorant of the Form). No one told them at the time that, for example, Orion was a cat and the belt is the collar on the car.
  • Men in Black II: Jay spent the entire movie looking for the Light of Zartha, not realizing that he'd been hanging out with her throughout the entire movie.
  • Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope:
    • At the beginning, the droids are fleeing an Imperial attack. Some gunners on the Star Destroyer see their escape pod, but decide not to shoot it down because their scanners detect no life signs aboard.
    • In Mos Eisley, four stormtroopers ask to see the identification of Luke and Obi-Wan, and investigate into the droids briefly, but Obi-Wan mind-tricks the head stormtrooper into thinking they aren't the droids he's looking for. An obvious example of magical trick.
    • A combination of "Convinced by Another" and "Hidden in Plain Sight" comes into play with the protagonists themselves. The "Convinced by Another" is the princess over on Alderaan, with a name change and hidden among allies to the Jedi, passed off as a war orphan adopted into the royal family. The "Hidden in Plain Sight" is the farmboy camping out on Vader's home planet, in the custody of Vader's stepbrother, and they didn't even bother changing the surname.

  • In Alan Dean Foster's Glory Lane, The Protagonist's adorable shape-shifting Companion Cube turns out to be the item everyone else in the entire book is looking for, and no one realizes it till the end.
  • In Harry Potter:
    • After Harry learns what horcruxes are, he attempts to hide a potions book in the Room of Hidden Things. In order to distinguish this cupboard so he can find it again, he puts a bust of a wizard on top of it, and puts a battered old tiara on top of that. That tiara is actually the Diadem of Ravenclaw, one of the horcruxes Harry is supposed to hunt down. This is Ignorant of Form, as he is supposed to be actively hunting down horcruxes, but he does not know that the diadem itself is a horcrux and just believes it to be another fixture of the Room of Hidden Things.
    • This is weaponized by the Lestranges, who would charm every object in their vaults with a fire and a cloning charm. If the objects were touched directly, the object would multiply and grow unbearably-hot to touch, creating a Needle in a Stack of Needles in the hopes that the intruder would continue to find and touch the wrong object and eventually be crushed/incinerated under the weight of the constantly-expanding burning matter. Harry, Ron, and Hermione find this out the hard way during their attempt to steal Hufflepuff's Cup from the vault, though they are able to ultimately succeed.
  • Holes sees an odd example, where the MacGuffins are a combination of people and things, and all are ignorant to each other until the very end. Stanley Yelnats dismisses his family's story of his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather, so he doesn't understand the significance behind Zero's last name being Zeroni (Madame Zeroni cursed said great-great-grandfather for failing to uphold his end of a promise). And while he knows that the bullet shell with the KB monogram that he found belonged to famed outlaw Kissin' Kate Barlow, and that they were digging for something in the Texas desert, he doesn't realize why finding the bullet shell was important, though he does make it a point to remember where it was initially found. He eventually sings to Zero as he drinks from a mountain pool, inadvertently breaking the curse on his family, and he and Zero return to where the bullet shell was found to dig a little further, where they discover the shell was a marker for the location of Barlow's rumored treasure hoard.
  • In The Inheritance Cycle's final book, the Rock of Kuthian has this effect, both in person and in memory to anyone who was alive in the world at the time of the enchantment. Essentially, a number of eldunari enchanted the very phrase "Rock of Kuthian" to slip out of the memory of everyone who had ever heard it when it was cast, and to forget it on sight. Eragon has to constantly remind Glaedr of the mission to even find the Rock due to this, and even the being that told Eragon of the rock's existence doesn't remember doing so. Magically tricked.
  • In the children's picture book Where's My Fnurgle? by Jim Benton, the narrator keeps looking for an odd creature called a fnurgle. It is always highly visible on the page, but he can never see where it is.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Glory searches all through season 5 for the key, but doesn't until right near the end realize that it was given a human form, let alone that it's been Buffy's sister Dawn all along.
  • Doctor Who: In "Rose", the Doctor is looking for a big round antenna in the heart of London in which the Nestene Consciousness may have hidden its transmitter. As he's saying this, right behind him framing his head is the London Eye (a giant Ferris wheel). Rose spots it, but the Doctor doesn't notice it until after Rose has pointed it out to him three times.
  • Happens to Sibuna in House of Anubis in the second season. After an entire season of risking their lives and battling both Victor and Rufus to get to the Mask of Anubis, the Mask doesn't work even when used by Nina. It turns out the real Mask of Anubis was the thought-to-be-fake mask on display at the artifact exhibition, having been seen by all the characters but dismissed as a replica. This is a mass case of Convinced By Self.
  • Kaamelott:
    • One of the reasons the quest for the Grail has yet to make any significant progress is that the gods who gave the quest can't ever give the knights a good description of the damn thing. Thus far all they have to go on is "it's a container" and "it's a burning stone".
    • Perceval once threw away some random junk given to him by an old man, which may or may not have been the Holy Shroud and the Nails of the True Cross.

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy VII gives us a pair of them:
    • The party discovers that the Black Materia they have been searching for is actually the entire Temple of the Ancients, which they've been exploring for the previous thirty minutes. This is Ignorant of Form.
    • The White Materia Aerith carries in her ribbon. It's the only thing that can stop said Black Materia, and no one knows what it is or does until the end of the game. Aerith thinks it does nothing and is only decoration for a while. This is Convinced by Self.
  • Pokémon Black and White: The Dark/Light Stone, depending on your version, is sitting in plain sight in the Nacrene Museum, but Team Plasma doesn't notice it. This is Ignorant of form.
  • In Quest for Glory there's a thief-specific subplot running through the series regarding the search for a legendary blackbird statue, a Shout-Out to The Maltese Falcon. In the second, third, and fourth games you can find a fake blackbird, and in the fifth you finally find the real one. However, the real bird also appears in the first game, but you can't pick it up because your character doesn't know what it is yet. Although the game is trying to convince you it isn't what you are looking for, which makes it Convinced By Another, in this context, the player doesn't know what it is, so it is Ignorance of Form.
  • SoulCalibur II: In Mitsurugi's ending, he discovers the magic sword he just found is actually evil, and concludes it can't be the legendary Soul Edge. This is Convinced by Self.
  • In Tales of the Abyss, The Hero Luke, and The Rival, Asch are each given a McGuffin by the goddess. However, Luke fails to receive his. After searching the world for it, Asch figures out what happened to it. Luke is a clone of Ashe, made using magical energy. As the McGuffin Luke was given was made of the same energy, Luke somehow ended up absorbing the McGuffin into himself. One could say this was Ignorant of the Form since Luke and the sphere became the same thing, or a case of Poor Communication Kills.

    Western Animation 
  • Many times this is done in Looney Tunes. Say Elmer Fudd is hunting Bugs Bunny. Elmer will often ask Bugs if he's seen a rabbit. Bugs will describe himself to a T, to which Elmer will affirm him, but Bugs will then say "Nope. Haven't seen one." A humorous example of being convinced by another.
  • In Season 4 of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, the Mane 6 find that they are searching for six keys to open a locked box that the Tree of Harmony left them. Over the course of the season, each Mane received an object that glowed with a rainbow hue, but none of them realized their significance until the season finale, where it was revealed that those objects were, in fact, the keys needed to open the box. As the objects weren't key-shaped, and thus the Manes couldn't possibly have known they were needed, this is an example of Magically Tricked.