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Oblivious to His Own Description

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How did this clown ever wind up in Detective Comics?

"What's a raccoon?"
Rocket Raccoon, Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Character comes across some kind of definition that the audience, or other characters, know to be right about him. The character is the only one who is unaware of that.

Usually Played for Laughs. May come in a variety of ways:

  • Someone tells something about an unspecified someone. The character asks, "Who would that be?" The reply is, "That would be you."
  • The character hears a word or expression for the first time and asks out loud what it means. Perhaps it is beyond the character's vocabulary, perhaps it comes from a Fictionary. The irony is, the character is a walking example of the word.
  • There is a picture/drawing/"Wanted!" Poster of the character. He fails to see himself in it.
  • The character chews out other characters for behaving or acting in a specific manner while remaining oblivious to the fact that they are much the same.
  • Someone is mocking the character in terms designed to keep them from realizing that they're being insulted.

An embarrassed or hypocritical character might act like this while keeping quiet about knowing the description is accurate ("I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about"). A disguised character might pretend to be oblivious but compliment himself while at it.

Compare Calling Me a Logarithm, Failed a Spot Check, I Resemble That Remark!, Stealth Insult, Tomato in the Mirror, and "Where? Where?". When a character is oblivious that they are describing someone in the room, it’s Oblivious Mockery.


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    Comic Books 
  • A recurring joke in Atomic Robo is Robo's Arbitrary Skepticism towards nonsense science, despite himself being a sapient atomic-powered robot with Super-Strength invented by Nikola Tesla.
  • Groo the Wanderer, on numerous occasions, especially with synonyms for "stupid".
    Groo: What did he mean, "slow of mind"?
  • Spider-Man:
    • This was the downfall of Jimmy Natale, mob clean-up man and one of the Vulture's knockoffs. Having found a way to create a new Vulture, he pitched the idea to his bosses as a way to discourage further screw-ups. Unfortunately, he didn't notice that he had all the qualities he recommended (ruthlessness, efficiency, etc.).
    • In Spectacular Spider-Man #200, Harry Osborn, at his most erratic, goes on a rant to MJ about how Peter might be a nice guy as Peter, but he changes when he puts on the mask, which is far more applicable to his own Green Goblin persona, which he drifts in and out of during the conversation.

    Comic Strips 
  • In one Calvin and Hobbes strip, Calvin starts a list entitled "A Million Things That Bug Me." Hobbes suggests he add "excessively negative people," which Calvin happily adds, although he eventually catches the insult.
  • Dilbert: The seventh habit of highly defective people is thinking the people in the comic aren't you.
    Pointy-Haired Boss: Hehe, look at that stupid hair.
    • Another strip had the PHB reading a memo about thefts in the office, and describes the thief as being "slow-witted, with pointy hair". He continues, saying that it "stops short of actually naming her Alice."

    Film — Animated 
  • Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman: Batman's reaction to the presence of a new costumed crimefighter in town:
    Bruce: The last thing Gotham City needs is a vigilante running amok.
    Alfred: As they say on the streets, I'm not touching that one.
  • Shrek: Donkey has a moment of this when he follows Shrek back to his hovel in the swamp, and finds it surrounded by "No Trespassing" signs:
    Donkey: I guess you don't entertain much, do you?
    Shrek: I like my privacy.
    Donkey: You know, I do too. That's another thing we have in common! Like, I hate it when you got someone in your face, you trying to give them a hint and they won't leave. And then there's that big awkward silence, you know...
    (Shrek turns around and stares at Donkey, resulting in a big awkward silence)

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Go West (1940), the group stops to bunk for the night at a native village. When Quale sees a totem pole with a startling resemblance to him, he remarks that it's "the silliest looking object [he's] ever seen."
  • Liar Liar pulls a somewhat inverted version of this. When Fletcher requests a bathroom break and tries to think of a way to get out of continuing the court session so he can try to maintain his promise to his son, he decides on, in his own words, "kicking my ass!" When brought before the judge and asked who had done this to him, as he can't tell a lie of any kind, he PROMPTLY describes himself. The judge doesn't see through it, not even when Fletcher promptly hides his teeth after the "big teeth, kinda gangly" comment.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In The Avengers (2012), Tony Stark starts painting Loki in a not very flattering light, not realizing until the very end that he's describing himself as well, in the process.
      Tony Stark: Divide and Conquer is great, but he knows he has to take us out to win, right? That's what he wants. He wants to beat us, he wants to be seen doing it. He wants an audience. [...] Yeah. [Stuttgart]'s just previews, this is... this is opening night. And Loki, he's a full-tilt diva. He wants flowers, he wants parades, he wants a monument built to the skies with his name plastered... [he suddenly realizes that his own name is written in huge letters on the Stark Tower, and thus realizes that Loki intends to use it for his Evil Plan] ...son of a bitch.
    • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014): As illustrated by the page quote, Rocket does not understand why Quill calls him a raccoon and doesn't listen when Peter tries to explain to Rocket that he is a raccoon. This continues until Rocket finds a cage full of raccoon kits in the third movie, with a label giving the common name for the species as raccoon.
  • In Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Del Griffith talks to Neal Page about how he hates it when people don't shut up when the other person doesn't want to talk to them, completely unaware that Page has barely said a word to him.
  • In the Dolly Parton film Straight Talk, the protagonist Shirlee sees her boss at the dance studio brooding in his office and insists on skipping her lesson so he can talk about his problem, saying that talking to people means more to her than the job. He talks about how he has an employee who's a Nice Girl, but who keeps neglecting her job so she can give customers relationship advice and doesn't take a hint, no matter how often he tries to tell her that he can't afford for her to do that. Shirlee says that, as sad is it may be, he probably needs to fire a woman like that. He agrees and fires her.
  • In Wayne's World, Garth is snooping around Benjamin's room and finds the latter's diary. In it is listed the entry "Purchase feeble public access show and exploit it," to which Garth remarks, "Gee, I feel sorry for whoever that is!"
  • In The Wife, Joe reads his son's short story and tells him that the couple in it, an insufferable blowhard and his long-suffering wife, seem like a cliche. His wife Joan at least realizes that it's based on her and Joe.

  • The A to Z Mysteries book The Lucky Lottery has the heroes going to the convenience store where the winning, and now stolen, lottery ticket was sold to try to find out who might have taken it. The cashier offers a description of a suspicious man she saw in the store earlier, and Josh draws a picture based on what she says—but when they go to the police with their findings, the cops take one look and point out that it's just a drawing of Josh himself with a mustache. We later find out why: the cashier was the crook, and she deliberately made up a story to send the kids on a wild goose chase.
  • In The Disaster Artist, Greg Sestero recalls seeing The Talented Mr. Ripley and realizing how chillingly similar the relationship between Dickie Greenleaf and Tom Ripley was to the relationship between himself and Tommy Wiseau. When Greg later watches the movie with Tommy, he is worried that the latter will realize the same thing... but Wiseau remains utterly oblivious and is instead inspired by the movie to create his infamous "magnum opus".
  • Discworld:
    • In Jingo, Lord Vetinari recruits Fred Colon and Nobby Nobbs to accompany him and Leonard of Quirm on a secret mission, due to their "special qualities". Later, as Fred is dozing off he hears Leonard ask "Why them?" and the Patrician replies "They do what they're told, they tend to believe the last thing they heard, they're not bright enough to ask questions, and they have that certain unshakable loyalty available to those unencumbered by too much intelligence." Fred then goes to sleep, content that he's not like those poor bastards because he's a man with special qualities.
    • Later in the same book we get this exchange:
      Vetinari: Our very lives depend on your appearing to be a stupid, fat idiot.
      Colon: I ain't very good at acting, sir...
      Vetinari: Good!
  • In the fourth book of Gulliver's Travels, the titular character ends up in the land of the Houyhnhnms, a race of intelligent talking horses. When Gulliver first arrives there, he comes across a creature, known locally as a "Yahoo," which he describes in great detail as hideously ugly and crude creatures with thick hair on the heads and chests; the Yahoos walk on their hind legs, lack tails, and are generally the most "disagreeable" creature Gulliver has ever seen. In case you hadn't already guessed, the Yahoos are human beings; Gulliver fails to recognize their parallels to himself and thinks that he has a lot more in common with the Houyhnhnms than the beasts.
  • Hit and Run by Lawrence Block: Hitman with a Heart Keller is watching TV in his hotel room and sees a story on CNN about the assassination of the governor of Ohio. They show a picture of the assassin, and he takes a moment to realize that it's a picture of him.
  • Ivan Krylov has a fable where a monkey sees itself in the mirror and says "My, what an ugly and misbehaving creature. Good thing I look nothing like that, or I would have died of shame. It does look a bit like some of my friends though."
  • "Notorious", a short story by João Guimarães Rosa (of The Devil to Pay in the Backlands fame). The narrator, a doctor, is surprised to get a visit from a feared outlaw. It happens a newly arrived guy from the government called him "notorious", and the furious outlaw travels miles... to ask the doctor, one of the few educated men in the backlands, what the word means. Fearing the worst, the narrator answers it means "important", and the outlaw leaves happy.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Tyrion describes his sister Cersei as "Greedy for power, for honor, for love." She is — and Tyrion himself is too. They're actually the most alike of of their siblings (not that either one would ever admit it to themselves).
  • To the Ends of the Earth: The narrator overhears two people discussing someone with a very out-of-date worldview, but who is nonetheless fairly likable and not completely stupid. He does not realize that they are probably referring to him (it is never explicitly confirmed that they are, but it seems very likely).

    Multiple Media 
  • MonsterVerse:
    • In Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Mark Russell assumes before seeing more than a few Titans up close for himself, and against his own zoological rationality, that all the Titans including Godzilla are nothing more than homicidal monsters who should be wiped out with no good eggs among them, and he's abandoned his wife and daughter years before the film's start due to a Grief-Induced Split so he could wallow in self-pity at a cabin. Mark claims that Monarch's judgment of the Titans is biased and delusional when Serizawa says he thinks some of the Titans are benevolent, and he chides his ex-wife for not putting her family or her own mental health first, while failing to realize how both these insults are very applicable to him if you take out a little of the contexts.
    • The official novelization of Godzilla vs. Kong has a hilarious passage where character Bernie Hayes, a conspiracy theorist who thinks the government controls people with tapwater and who routinely showers with bleach to ensure he can't be tracked, mentally quips to himself that it's a good thing he's not paranoid.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Bible has an instance of this with respect to King David. After David's Uriah Gambit is successful, God sends Nathan the Prophet to him. Nathan tells David about a very rich man that stole a poor person's pet lamb to serve to his guests rather than take one from his own vast flock. Upon hearing the story, David becomes furious and declares that the man deserves the death penalty and will also need to pay fourfold for the lamb. Once Nathan reveals that he's actually talking about David, he has a literal My God, What Have I Done? moment.
  • This is a classic from fairy tales (e.g. Grimms' False Princess who happily declares her own death sentence this way) and surely has its own Aarne-Thompson number.
  • In Egyptian Mythology, one story has Isis magically disguise herself as a mortal maiden to attract Set's attention. When Set flirts with her, she tells him of her woes: she is the widow of a herdsman with many cattle, and when her son began to watch over the herd after his father's death, a stranger intruded in the stable, threatened him, and threw him out to take the cattle for himself. Set is outraged by the story and asks if the cattle should be given to a stranger when the master's son is still alive, causing Isis to reveal herself and tell him he has indicted himself for murdering Osiris and usurping his throne.

There's a scene in Arsenic and Old Lace in which Mortimer, who is a theater critic, rants about a play he saw in which the protagonist fell into a very obvious trap. All the while, he somehow fails to notice that he's doing the exact same thing he's criticizing the character for.

    Video Games 
  • In Batman: Arkham Knight, when you've solved almost all of Riddler's puzzles, he has a Freak Out and laments that it's like he's crossed into some Alternate Universe where Batman is the smart one and he's nothing more than a lunatic with an over-inflated ego.
  • In the final episode of Batman: The Telltale Series, depending on your choices the Joker will become a vigilante who fight criminals alongside Batman, though the latter is aware that the Joker is an out of control murderous maniac. When he tries to stop him from killing Director Waller by explaining that it's not justice, the Joker accuses Batman of using justice as an excuse to do whatever he wants, completely unaware that it's what he's been doing as a vigilante.
  • BlazBlue: Continuum Shift: After listening to Hakumen's story about a woman he cared for long ago that inspired him at the cost of her life, Tsubaki remarks that she'd be happy to become a woman like that someday. She doesn't know that Hakumen is the alternate timeline counterpart of her love interest Jin, and the woman in question is that timeline's version of herself.
  • This trope helped cause the downfall of MJ-12 in Deus Ex: they had created the AI Daedalus to crackdown on terrorist groups that could challenge their rule and utterly failed to realize that MJ-12 itself fit their stated definition of a terrorist group, which caused Daedalus to go rogue and team up with JC Denton.
  • In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Flayn's C support with Seteth has her complain to her overprotective brother (actually father) about someone getting in the way of her making friends. Seteth is horrified and asks who he needs to deal with; Flayn, of course, shoots back that she's talking about him before leaving. Seteth is left in Stunned Silence before seemingly forcing the conversation out of his memory.
  • One of the side characters in Grand Theft Auto V, Mary-Ann, tries to explain to Trevor why they wouldn't be a good couple and falls hard into this trope:
    Mary-Ann: You are thin. You're irrationally angry. Nothing you say makes any sense. You are... completely have no control over your emotions. We have nothing in common!
  • In Sonic Colors, one of Eggman's PA messages has him informing "the owner of a white hovercar shaped like an egg" that their car was broken into. He only realizes who the owner obviously is once he repeats the message a second time. For extra hilarity, judging by another of his messages, his own robots go around looting the guests' cars, meaning they might be responsible.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY Chibi:
    • In Episode 10, after witnessing the Love Triangle between Pyrrha, Jaune, and Weiss, Ren remarks that they can't see what's right in front of them... while Nora, who's crazy about him, is waving a sign reading "Notice Me!" surrounded by pink hearts.
    • In Season 2 Episode 1, after the opening sequence goes pear-shaped, Ozpin states that he'd have to be a pretty incompetent leader if he didn't notice sabotage happening right under his nose. This is almost immediately after Mercury and Emerald respectively conked Ruby on the head with a boom mike and dropped a stage light dangerously close to Yang, complete with false apologies. Following this, Ozpin gets flattened by the rose symbol when Cinder pushes it over... and still believes that it fell on him by accident.
    • In "Super Besties", after Ruby has used Bedtime Brainwashing to force Weiss to spend the entire day with her against her will, and to force Yang to hand over spending money and let her use her motorcycle, Blake tells Yang point blank that she and Weiss "have weak minds and are easily manipulated"... while she herself is wearing a "back-up bestie" T-shirt, courtesy of Ruby.

    Web Original 
  • In this video, "Sherlock Can't Solve Elementary," Sherlock describes the protagonist of Elementary to John, while totally oblivious to the fact that he's basically describing himself.

    Real Life 
  • According to Chuck Jones, Daffy Duck's lisping voice was Mel Blanc's impression of Warner Bros. producer Leon Schlesinger. Jones' autobiography Chuck Amuck quotes Schlesinger's reaction to the character as follows: "Jeethus Christh, that'th a funny voithe! Where'd you get that voithe?"
  • In The Art of Discworld, Terry Pratchett wrote that, at every book signing he did near a police station, there would be a copper who told him they worked with a Nobby and a Colon. On one occasion, he was told this by "a clear Nobby".


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Oblivious To Her Own Description, Oblivious To Their Own Description


2 Minutes Notice

Fizz sings about how much of a bad boss Mannon has been and how he's quitting working for him, all while Mannon is completely clueless about the song being aimed at him, as he has no idea Fizz dislikes him.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (20 votes)

Example of:

Main / TakeThisJobAndShoveIt

Media sources: