Let's cut to the chase: Fans are an odd group of people.
There are writers with a vision who have created a character who represents everything they loathe, and have placed him in a setting that satirizes everything they hate about modern society. Bring on the Moral Guardians and Media Watchdogs; they're prepared for controversy!
Only... it doesn't quite work like that. Instead of seeing a loathsome, hateful figure, the audience sees a Woobie who only is the way he is because of his daddy issues, and feel sorry for him instead of hating him... or even find him cute. They take the author's painstaking satire at face value. The Crapsack World the writer has created is somewhere they think is pretty awesome. They have, in the writer's view, missed the point: ignoring the subtext that the writer had thought was obvious in favor of the text and they really like the text. The majority of time the readers realize what the writer intended, but simply disagree. After all, just because the writer loathes certain traits doesn't mean the reader will do so.
There are many paths leading to a Misaimed Fandom, but many of them originate from the 'Death of the Author' theory; the idea that the audience can interpret a work however they like, regardless of what the author says. No matter how many times Word of God states their case, there's always going to be a large portion of the readers who will have their own very different perspective. And they're always going to be able to find something in the text to help their case, whether the author intended it to be there or not.
Of course, while fans are entitled to their own interpretation, that does not mean they are always right. The writer's original intention might not be the only valid interpretation, but it probably shouldn't be dismissed out of hand, either; they're the ones actually putting their thoughts down and getting them published, after all. But this doesn't mean that fans have to worship at the writer's feet. Works have to stand by themselves and there is a limit to what authorial intent can change. Ultimately: when words and images clearly depict A, no Word of God can make it B.
Sometimes Misaimed Fandom is a matter of Values Dissonance or Culture Clash: where a writer doesn't recognise (or actively disagrees with) social changes, they may perceive Misaimed Fandom about their work as villains and heroes switch places in the popular mind, or the failure to recognize that people of different cultures, political points of view, or backgrounds will see the story and characters in a different way than the writer intended.
In some cases, the reader may genuinely be seeing something that isn't there, or might not be looking hard enough; if the text isn't read correctly, then the interpretation that follows is naturally going to be flawed. The reader might miss some of the more subtle meanings or interpretations. Alternatively, they might read the text too closely, and find symbolism and meaning that the author never intended especially if the symbolism in question is something quite obscure, that the author may not necessarily be aware of. And, of course, they may just be missing the point.
Often, however, the fans know full well that their interpretation of the text isn't that of the author, and may acknowledge what the author was trying to do, but choose their own interpretation anyway. They may be aware that the author is satirizing them and their views, but they're good sports and can appreciate a well-done jab in the ribs, especially if it's not without affection or they think it's Actually Pretty Funny. Thus, an unlikely fandom is not necessarily Misaimed.
And sometimes the Misaimed Fandom simply comes from the fact that the author's not that good a writer. If a message is poorly communicated to begin with, then of course there's going to be problems when interpreting it. Some authors go for subtlety when they really should have been a bit more obvious, or try to set up a Strawman Political only to make the strawman's arguments more logical and valid than their hero's. In these cases, the fandom is misaimed because the author's botched the sights on the rifle. This is especially common in parody, where an author may simply not be literate enough in the culture or media they're mocking and just produce a mediocre example of what they're trying to parody when they think they're exaggerating it to the point of ridiculousness.
Other times, the Misaimed Fandom starts out as the target audience, but becomes misaimed when the creators decide to take a series in a different direction. The original fandom often doesn't like this one bit.
And oh yeah, the inverse happens too. Sometimes people dislike something for playing clichés and tropes straight, when it's actually parodying or deconstructing them. See Stealth Parody.
Do not confuse this with an Alternative Character Interpretation. A Misaimed Fandom fails to understand the author's intention for a character, no matter how Anvilicious it may have been; an Alternative Character Interpretation understands the intended or default interpretation, but deliberately subverts it. Another related trope is Rooting for the Empire, when you root for the villain without misinterpreting them as a intended good guy.
This trope comes in many forms, which are listed below (and it's a looong list), as well as tropes that can be compared, connected and contrasted to:
- Accentuate the Negative
- Bile Fascination
- Blue-and-Orange Morality
- Broken Base
- Character Derailment (unless it's intentional)
- Designated Monkey
- Designated Villain
- Die for Our Ship: Basically when fans insist upon a certain pairing, no matter how idiotic or nonsensical it really is, and hate a particular character for "being in the way".
- Do Not Do This Cool Thing: Also see Evil Is Cool and Draco in Leather Pants.
- Don't Try This at Home
- Dork Age
- Draco in Leather Pants: A character has obvious moral failings that are handwaved if not outright overlooked by fans.
- Enemy Mine
- Ensemble Dark Horse: Can intersect with Draco in Leather Pants.
- Epileptic Trees
- Evil Is Cool
- Evil Is Sexy
- Fair for Its Day
- Fan Disillusionment
- Fan Dumb: A subtrope of the Misaimed Fandom.
- Fans Prefer the New Her: A character's makeover or change in appearance is hated in-universe but fans think it's preferable to how they were before.
- Faux Symbolism
- Finagle's Law
- Follow the Leader: A successful work can lead to other creators trying to copy its success, without understanding why the initial work became so popular in the first place.
- Grey-and-Gray Morality: A work can try to be neutral in the conflict it presents, and acknowledge that Both Sides Have a Point. That won't stop fans from simplifying things and acting like one side is pure good while the other is pure evil.
- Hate Dumb
- Internet Backdraft
- Isn't It Ironic?: Compare for more musical examples, anyway.
- Jerkass Dissonance: The reason why the words "badass" and "jerkass" sometimes appear nigh interchangeable, even on this very wiki.
- Lowest Common Denominator
- Mexicans Love Speedy Gonzales
- Nostalgia Filter
- Not So Different
- No True Scotsman
- Opinion Myopia
- Periphery Demographic
- Periphery Hatedom: This trope's polar opposite, where a character or work is intensely hated by people it wasn't supposed to appeal to.
- Poe's Law: Parodies are by nature extreme, but when the subject of a parody is itself extreme, it can be hard to tell the difference, leading some to actively agree with the parody.
- Praising Shows You Don't Watch: It's easy for someone to miss the point of a show they've never watched, as they won't know what the point was, and might only like the show for what's on the surface rather than its themes.
- Revenge Before Reason: A lot of revenge stories portray revenge in a negative light. The protagonist might start a Cycle of Revenge, with others now wanting them dead because of their actions. There's also a tendency for innocents who had nothing to do with the protagonist's revenge to get caught in the crossfires. Despite the problems revenge can cause, it's quite common to see fans root for the revenge seeker. They don't care about who gets caught up in the protagonist's desire for revenge, and see them as cool for their actions.
- Ron the Death Eater: A character isn't evil, but is treated as such by fans. This trope can overlap with The Scrappy.
- Rooting for the Empire
- Ruined FOREVER
- The Scrappy: Sometimes justified (when deliberately invoked by the creator), but most of the time it's just because of Bandwagon Haters. Also see Creator's Pet.
- Serious Business
- Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!
- Strawman Has a Point
- Stealth Parody: When the fans don't realize it's a parody/satire.
- They Changed It, Now It Sucks!
- Three Chords and the Truth
- Unfortunate Implications
- Unintentionally Sympathetic
- Vocal Minority
- What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: What the show's creators think is suitable for kids may not be. Happens all the time in the field of Anime. Not that this or What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids? are restricted to animation.
- What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?: When the show's creators didn't intend for the work to be seen by kids, but the assumptions of the medium/genre claim otherwise.
- What Do You Mean, It's Not Political?
- What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?
- Animated Films
- Anime & Manga
- Comic Books
- Comedian Characters
- Live-Action TV
- Myth and Religion
- Newspaper Comics
- Professional Wrestling
- Tabletop Games
- Video Games
- Web Media
- Western Animation
- Other Media