Follow TV Tropes


Oblivious to Hints

Go To

Hans Gruber: [knowing that McClane is barefoot] Karl, schiesse auf das Fenster.
[Karl gives Hans a puzzled look]
Hans Gruber: Schiesse auf das Fenster!
[another puzzled look from Karl]
Hans Gruber: [clearly exasperated] SHOOT the GLASS!

Bob is trying to pass a clue or message on to Alice, but in a way that won't be too conspicuous. Perhaps he's talking in Igpay Atinlay, maybe he's leaning his head or eyes in the direction he wants Alice to look, he could even be winking. This may be a Quiet Cry for Help. Whatever it is, Alice is completely oblivious to this, or she thinks Bob is trying to say something else.

Sometimes, Bob will get so fed up with Alice's cluelessness that he'll finally decide "To hell with it," and shout the message, such as "TURN AROUND AND LOOK BEHIND YOU!" Other things may occur as well.

This can also be a character trait where a person is oblivious to any amount of Hint Dropping. The more annoying ones will misunderstand every attempt or interpret it as the opposite. In a particularly bad case, you can't get it through them even if you spell it out for them or shout it in their face, and don't even bother with subtlety anymore. They might also be immune to criticism via Insult Backfire.

Related to I Do Not Speak Non Verbal (and occasionally, Non-Verbal Miscommunication). Contrast Selective Obliviousness, where the message is deliberately ignored rather than accidentally missed or misunderstood.

Characters who tend to suffer from this:


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Aggretsuko: Resasuke is completely incapable of understanding indirect communication. When Retsuko points out they've been walking a lot and asks if he wants to eat, instead of realizing she's tired and wants to take a break, he just says he's not tired and keeps walking with her. It's eventually made clear that this is one reason why he and Retsuko are ultimately incompatible with one another; Resasuke is never able to pick up on any hints Retsuko gives him that she's being worn down by their outings, and Retsuko is unwilling to confront him about it directly.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Shinji Ikari and Asuka Langley Sohryu like each other but both were too socially inept and frightened of other people to display their own feelings straightforwardly and realize each other's. Thus, Shinji always misses the constant hints dropped by Asuka (to be fair, he is clueless and oblivious but her hints might have been clearer), involuntarily making her feeling more worthless and getting her angrier.

  • George Carlin complained about this in his last show, It's Bad For Ya. He discusses people's inability to take a hint that they're boring the crap out of him when he finally rants.
    George: And while all of this is going on, you're searching through your mind for something gracious and diplomatic you can say to bring the conversation to a close; and all I can ever come up with is, "SHUT THE FUCK UP! SHUT THE FUCK UP! SHUT THE FUCK UP! SHUT THE FUCK UP!"

    Comic Books 
  • Supergirl: In Supergirl (Rebirth): Plain Sight, Ben's blatant desire to take her to the next school dance in a not-so-subtle way goes unnoticed by Kara Danvers.
    Kara: But this is meant to be an elite school— aren't we here to learn? This "dance" just sounds like a distraction.
    Ben: Maybe sometimes people need a distraction. I take it you're... not interested, though.
    Kara: Not in distractions, no.

    Comic Strips 
  • Madam & Eve: Done in this comic with a Mercedes car dealer who forgot his company also sells weapons systems.
    "Boy, is this guy dumb."
  • In Zits, Sara tells Jeremy that she's not supposed to have any friends over while babysitting, but she makes a point to state the address and time and how long the parents will be away. Jeremy takes it as a no-go, so Sara reminds herself that she has to be more straightforward with boys.

    Fan Works 
  • Advice and Trust: After kissing for the first time, Asuka asks Shinji why he had never responded to any of her advances favorably if he liked her. Dismayed, she learns that Shinji was completely oblivious to her hints. In chapter 2:
    She'd finally gotten that dense, oblivious, blind baka to finally notice the fact she'd been trying to get him to react to her hints that she... kind of thought he was cute.
  • A Crown of Stars: At the beginning of the story Shinji finally finds out that Asuka had been constantly dropping hints, and he missed every one of them. Several characters also inform Asuka that Shinji had not responded to any of her hints because he was oblivious, not because he was uninterested.
  • Doing It Right This Time: After Instrumentality Asuka realized Shinji did not react to her hints because he was oblivious and clueless, not because he was not interested.
  • Teen Titans fic Dropping Hints starts with Starfire screaming in desperation because Robin won't ask her out. Raven recommends she stop being subtle, and start dropping a lot of hints for him. Then Starfire asks Beast Boy what that means... his answer is somewhat unusual, but at least it works perfectly.
  • In Fantasy of Utter Ridiculousness, Patchouli is completely unaware that Jamie isn't talking with her solely to pass the time. All of Koakuma's attempts to spell it out for her fail miserably.
  • A Glass of Wine: Asuka does not get why Shinji will do nothing to her after they shared a hug, and it is driving her mad. Meanwhile, Shinji is absolutely clueless as to why she is so angry.
    Misato: Everyone has their problems, Shinji. Sometimes we need someone else to help us solve them.
    Shinji: That's what Asuka said.
    Misato: She said she needed help?
    Shinji: No, I needed help. She came to me because I needed it. She saw me, uh...
    Misato: Shaking?
    Shinji: She saw me and sat down with me. I guess she thought she owed me for the volcano, so she sat there and helped me out.
    Misato: Oh, wow. You're so damn oblivious it hurts.
  • Ghosts of Evangelion: After Third Impact Shinji tells Asuka that he wanted the same thing she did but he never got her hints:
    Shinji: I didn't get what you wanted. I wanted the same thing you did, and I didn't get it. I just... I guess I just lost it in a different way.
  • Last Child of Krypton: Despite having enhanced senses, Shinji is horrible at noticing hints. In chapter 2 Asuka meets him for the first time. She stiffens and stares at him for several seconds before quickly looking away lest he notices she was staring. Shinji, despite being able to sense the heat rising from her skin, misses this.
    The second thing that happened was that Asuka Langley Soryu laid eyes on Shinji Ikari for the first time, and stiffened oh so subtly, her air of casual indifference shifting to one of deliberate indifference, her eyes rapidly snapping off him to look anywhere else before he noticed her looking. Shinji, being Shinji, despite being able to see the heat rising from her skin, hear the quickening of her heartbeat, and practically feel the sounds of the afternoon breeze brushing through her hair, of course noticed none of this.
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide, Asuka's mental instability is partially owing to Shinji being incapable of noticing that she is constantly hinting that she likes him. After she wakes up from a coma, Shinji slowly gets better at noticing when she was dropping a hint.
  • The One I Love Is...: Shinji never got all hints Asuka had constantly dropped in his direction. Not even when she said she wanted to kiss him in chapter 4 he thought she might like him. She had to resort to blurt her feelings out blatantly.
  • Scarlet Lady:
    • Chloé repeatedly proves to be utterly oblivious to any and all indications that her bratty, selfish and possessive behavior is driving a wedge between her and Adrien. Despite the fact that he tells her outright on his first day at Francoise Dupont that he'll stop being friends with her if she keeps bullying others, as well as getting increasingly overt with his rejections of her unwanted advances.
    • Illustrated especially well by the school picture incident. When Chloé traps Juleka in the bathroom so that she can steal her spot next to Adrien, he grows so frustrated by her glomming to his arm and ignoring everyone's complaints that he hits his Rage Breaking Point and physically shoves her away, right as their picture is taken. Despite the resulting photo capturing the moment of him violently rejecting her, Chloé insists that it's a perfect snapshot of their relationship... something that is technically true, but she refuses to see just how broken their bond is.
    • Most of Chat Noir's snarky and sarcastic observations about how much of a burden his nominal partner is tend to fly right over Scarlet Lady's head, as well.
  • Subverted in The Second Try. Hikari thinks that Shinji is oblivious to all hints dropped by Asuka, but he's only pretending to not see them because no one can know that he and Asuka got together.
  • She's Mine Then: Alma manages to miss every hint and scrap of evidence of Marino and Dolores' relationship, as she was too busy scheming about how to hook him up with Isabela. When she reveals her intentions to the whole family, they have to spell everything out for her.
  • In X-Men: The Early Years, Scott Summers is amazingly dense. Jean Grey drops all kinds of hints and he's still blind to the fact that she likes him back.
  • You Are (Not) At Fault: Discussed. Asuka got upset every time Shinji missed -or seemed to dismiss- her hints, but after coming back from the dead she starts considering maybe he noticed but he did not know how to react.

    Films — Animation 
  • In The Emperor's New Groove, Kronk can't figure out that Yzma wants him to knock Kuzco out until she finally slams her fist into her other palm.
  • Donkey from the Shrek films loves to talk and talk and talk and it takes a very long time for it to occur to him that people either aren't listening or just want him to shut-up.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Beauty and the Beast (2017): Belle tries to tell Gaston that she'll never be interested in him without coming right out and saying it, but Gaston just doesn't get it. Of course, even when she does come right out and say it, Gaston still doesn't get it.
  • Probably the funniest scene in the entire Indiana Jones series occurs in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
    Obvious Nazi agent: Welcome to Iskenderun. The Director of the Museum of Antiquities has sent a car for you.
    Marcus: Oh, what? Your servant, sir.
    Sallah: As I am his.
    Obvious Nazi agent: Follow me, please.
    Marcus: My reputation precedes me!
    Sallah: There is no museum in Iskenderun.
    Other obvious Nazi agent: Papers, please.
    Sallah: Papers? (laughs) Of course! Run.
    Marcus: Yes.
    Sallah: Papers, sir, got it here. (pulls out a newspaper) Just finished reading it myself! (laughs) Run!
    Marcus: Yes.
    Sallah: Egyptian Mail, morning edition! Run!
    Marcus: Did you say...? Uh, uh...
    Sallah: (punches the Nazi agent through the newspaper) RUN!
  • Men in Black:
    • In the first movie, Laurel is trying to indicate to J that the Bug is in the morgue (and holding her leg under the table between them) by pointing down and repeatedly saying "I'd like to leave with you now" and "I have to show you something." J thinks she's talking about... something else...
    • This exchange between the Big Bad and her sidekick in Men in Black II, when the former hears a suspicious noise in the kitchen:
      Serleena: (nods in the direction of the kitchen)
      Scrad: (does nothing)
      Serleena: There.
      Scrad: (does nothing)
      Serleena: Noise.
      Scrad: (does nothing)
      Serleena: Kitchen!
      Scrad: Oh, right!
  • ¡Three Amigos! has Lucky making all manner of noisy bird-like calls to get the attention of Dusty and Ned. When they're sitting only a few feet away. He finally gives up and shouts at them.

  • In Dragon Bones, Oreg tries to give the others (especially Ward, it may be assumed) hints that Axiel is a half-dwarf. He is really obvious about it from the reader's point of view, one time asking Axiel what a word he used means, and immediately afterwards calls Axiel a "grumpy old dwarf". Ward notices that Oreg seems a bit smug and that the other person involved seems a bit irritated, but he doesn't understand the implications.
  • In Fire and Hemlock, Tom desperately tries to make Polly understand that he is in danger of being made a human sacrifice, and she can save him by clinging to him (as a friend) for nine years. He sends her fairytale books and everything, but she fails to notice it. Justified in that she's a child for most of the narrative, and the hints are very subtle.
  • When Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice wants to leave Jane and Bingley alone together, she starts winking conspicuously at Elizabeth and Kitty so they'll leave. Elizabeth ignores her, knowing she's being tactless and stupid. Kitty, after a few minutes, asks why Mrs. Bennet keeps winking at her.
  • The Truth has Mr. Wintler, quite accurately described as "a man who would not take a hint if it was wrapped around a lead pipe". He's in the vegetable trade, and forever bringing the newspaper vegetables that happened to have grown in highly suggestive shapes.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A Bit of Fry and Laurie: A sketch in the first episode has a man trying to tell another man he's fired. The man being fired doesn't notice even when the man asks him what he does when firing people, then acts out those very scenarios. He still doesn't get it when it escalates to being told, point-blank, "you're fired."
  • In an episode of Deal or No Deal, Howie Mandel tried to show a contestant and her family that her sister had flown in from Boston to play one of the show's models. [1]
  • Doctor Who: Pick a Doctor, any Doctor: you can't get more stubbornly blind than the guy who has to be outright trying to ignore something obvious (and sensible, or social). Much to the frustration of many a Companion.
  • In the Fawlty Towers episode "Gourmet Night", Polly keeps hinting to an oblivious Basil that their gourmet chef is deeply drunk, while Basil entertains dinner guests.
  • Commonly with Gibby of iCarly, one example from "iWin A Date" when Carly and Sam set up a dating game on the web show so Gibby can be paired on a date with a girl he likes, but don't wanna straight up give him the answer.
    Sam: Listen, there's three girls out there. Girl Number one, GIRL NUMBER TWO, and Girl Number three.
    Gibby: But how will I know which one is Shannon?
    Carly: If you want TWO choose Shannon, you have TWO choose carefully.
    Sam: That's all you have TWO do.
    Gibby: (still not understanding) o...KAY.
  • The IT Crowd: "Why are you giving me the secret signal to shut up?"
  • Our Miss Brooks: Miss Brooks drops hints left and right to Oblivious to Love Mr. Boynton.
  • On an episode of The Sopranos, Robert Wegler, a school official Carmela is having an affair with, calls her for sexy talk when Tony is standing a few feet away in the kitchen. He ignores some pretty obvious brush-off attempts on her part.

  • It happens in the play Boeing Boeing as the main character tries to inform his philandering roommate that the German stewardess girlfriend has arrived ahead of schedule — while his French girlfriend is in the room.

    Video Games 
  • Jin in Dead Island just would not take no for an answer on helping the gangs who had taken over the police station. Despite the survivors and the gangs themselves telling her not to.
  • Sierra Petrovita from Fallout 3. She is pretty naïve and is blind to the fact that her neighbor, Ronald Laren, is constantly hinting that he wants to have sex with her, and the Player Character can even tell her outright that Ronald "only wants to get in her pants", to which she responds: "Who would wanna wear an old pair of women's pants?"

    Web Comics 
  • Alex of Captain SNES: The Game Masta discovers, to his dismay, that everyone around him is varying degrees of Oblivious to Hints when he tries to get them to leave so he can deal with the Sinastrals without posing a risk to anyone else. Molly is the most oblivious, to the point of standing there confused when Alex passes her a note telling her to run. And Boogerman ultimately figures out the message, but instead of doing what Alex wants, he simply announces, loudly, to everyone present (including the Sinistrals) what the message is and patting himself on the back for figuring it out.
  • Jamie of Leftover Soup is this to an extreme degree. Even Ellen stepping on his foot multiple times to make him shut up doesn't get the hint across.
  • Mountain Time features a guy trying to get his friends to guess which hand he's holding a key in. Somehow, they don't even realize there's a key in question.

    Web Original 
  • EXO Next Door: Yeon-Hee doesn't realize until episode 13 that Chanyeol has been dropping her hints since they met, much less what they actually mean.
  • Good Mythical Morning: during this episode, Rhett, Link, and guest star Mayim Bialik are playing a game that essentially amounts to 20 questions, and Link is completely unable to guess 'birthday cake'.
    Link: In a lifetime, I've encountered (this item) more than three times?
    Mayim: Oh yeah.
    Link: But less than forty times?
    Mayim: How old are you?
    Link: Thirty-eight.
    Mayim: (gives a sly nod.)
    Link: Ooh... this has to do with me getting old?
    (several questions later, after he deduces that it is a food...)
    Link: Is it seasonal?
    Rhett: You'll see this fairly often just being around other people. But for you, for the one that's for you, you'll see it once a year.
    Link: ...Is it at the dentist's office?
    Mayim: (laughs)
    Rhett: (walks away) I'm leaving!
  • Noob has a case in which the message isn't cryptic nor meant for the character, but the character is still lousy at picking up hints. Season 1 finale had the Noob guild discover that their dismal healer (Sparadrap) has a younger brother who actually knows how to play when he briefly takes over the avatar while the usual player is in the bathroom. In an early Season 2 episode, one of the guild's (other) members doesn't pick up on an elite player being Sparadrap's younger brother despite being present for a conversation that basically goes like this :
    Elite Player: You're speaking to the leader of [game's best guild] Kevin.
    Sparadrap: Hey, how do you know my real name? Do you play a the mindreader class?
    Elite Player: Don't you recognize my voice?
    Sparadrap: Err, no! But you do sound like my little brother! But that couldn't be! He's not here! I'm using computer! And he doesn't even know how to play! I try to teach him, but he runs off to the super café.
    Elite Player: Cyber café. Just forget about it.

    Western Animation 
  • In Kim Possible, Motor Ed simply will not quit hitting on Shego, no matter how emphatically she tells him (verbally and otherwise) that she isn't interested. If anything, getting plasma-blasted into the wall seems to make him even more attracted to her.
  • In the Looney Tunes cartoon Don't Axe Me, Elmer Fudd's wife is having someone over for dinner and can't decide what to make. The dog, through pantomime, suggests roast duck (Daffy Duck, that is, whom the dog can't stand). But Mrs. Fudd keeps getting the cues wrong, and the dog finally snaps and outright YELLS at his mistress in exasperation, "NO! Roast D-U-C-K, duck! Sheesh!"
  • There are many of these in The Simpsons, usually courtesy of Homer:
    • One of the best known is in "Bart Carny" when Homer and Bart are working the ringtoss booth at the carnival. Wiggum notices it's rigged, tries to get Homer to bribe him, (Bart, of course, gets it immediately) but after three fruitless tries (one of which includes mentioning his friend "Mr. Bribe"), Wiggum decides "screw this", and shuts the booth down. Later in the episode, Wiggum refuses to help the Simpson family when the owners of that booth took over their house. Homer still doesn't get it.
    • In the episode "Cape Feare", the Simpson family is to be put in the Witness Protection Program so as to avoid Bart getting killed by Sideshow Bob. Two FBI agents discuss the family's new identity, and Homer is completely oblivious to the name change. Sometime later, they are still unable to convince him to acknowledge his new identity. Can be viewed here.
    • In "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?", Homer finds out that he has a half-brother who was given up for adoption when he was still little. When he goes to the Shelbyville Orphanage to try and find out where his brother went, the orphanage director tries to help via Could Say It, But... ("You know, Mr. Simpson, if you ask me, the city of brotherly love isn't Philadelphia, it's Detroit."). But of course, Homer's too thick-headed and blind with the obsession to not lose his lead to take the hint and eventually the director gets so frustrated that he outright says that Homer's brother is named Herb Powell and lives in Detroit.