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Oblivious to Love

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"What does a woman need to do, Harry? Rip her clothes off, throw herself on top of you, and shimmy while screaming, 'Do me, baby!'?"
Thomas, The Dresden Files

Love Hurts; it's messy and a mathematical nightmare where only a few can come out happy, never mind unscathed. One of its worst injuries is perhaps the plainest one... pining away at someone because All Love Is Unrequited, and in the end never even holding them because I Want My Beloved to Be Happy.

Then, there are times a deep-frozen love life is not because of Star-Crossed Lovers, the pursued Love Interest being the Master of the Mixed Message or any such thing. It's because the rules of plot and characterization dictate that they not notice the protagonist's overtures and Longing Looks. Bob likes Alice, and he makes several increasingly obvious hints that he's interested, he'd like to ask her out, and wants to be her boyfriend. Alice (though gender reversals are common) will usually be oblivious enough that his stuttering overtures aren't heard or followed up on, and on top is usually blind to Bob as a love interest because she:

Expect Alice to say things like "I wish there were someone out there for me" and Bob to respond with "He might be closer than you think." Of course, she'll think he's being vaguely hopeful rather than literal. In the worst cases, Alice may be actively looking for someone (in general or particular) and just be completely blind to other people's feelings for her, or even already seeing someone (let's call him Charlie), Charlie may or may not be the right guy for her, but that's secondary to her being oblivious to Bob trying very hard to get her attention.

If Charlie is the wrong guy, Bob will win Alice's heart in the end. This is a common consequence of Old Flame Fizzle. If he's the right guy, then expect Bob to either hook up with whoever he was ignoring or suddenly be revealed as a psycho slimeball.

The Matchmaker is particularly prone to this, being used to thinking of love as something she arranges for others, and often tries to hook up Bob with Danielle or Eglantine as just perfect for him.

If Alice really is attracted and doesn't realize it, Tsundere behavior may result, or she may treat Bob as her Protectorate, or ensure that he's fed, or blush furiously at the mention of him, prior to the Love Epiphany. Green-Eyed Epiphany is common.

This is commonplace in the Love Dodecahedron and also overlaps with Everyone Can See It. It is also prevalent in Yaoi Genre and (especially) Yuri Genre works, where it is often mixed with confusion about one's feelings for someone of the same gender. Compare It Meant Something to Me, where Bob overtly says he loves Alice, but she denies having any feelings. See also Did You Think I Can't Feel? Contrast Mistaken for Flirting.

If the problem escalates, then this can lead to a case of Clueless Chick-Magnet. Compare to Chaste Hero, where the character in question is completely clueless about the concept of romance; this one knows things about love and may even have a crush, just that he's just oblivious to certain other characters' advances. This is one cause of the Ignored Enamored Underling's problems.

The Japanese have a special term for this: Donkan (鈍感), which is basically the short-form word for this trope. In English fanspeak, a character will simply be called "dense."

For when a character is clueless about their own romantic feelings towards someone else, see Unknowingly in Love.

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Other examples

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    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Susie Derkins from Calvin and Hobbes. Word of God says that they have a mutual crush on each other. Calvin, apparently, either doesn't know about it or doesn't know how to deal with it, so he does his best to gross out and anger Susie, who then always gets mad at him.
    • Arguably, this may apply with Susie as well. Susie generally is contemptuous of Calvin, ignores him, and associates with him only when necessary, but at the same time, perhaps like Calvin, doesn't know how to handle her feelings towards him.
    • Strangely enough, in the strip it's Hobbes (Calvin's alter ego?) who is attracted to Susie and is always convincing Calvin to go play with her.
    "...So what happened to the mandibles of death, you sissy furball?!?"
    "I was beguiled by her feminine charms. Yow. Go soak your head."
    • Most likely Calvin just projects his feelings onto his imaginary friend as a way of dealing with them.
    • However, Hobbes also sometimes teases Calvin by suggesting he and Susie like each other; assuming he is real, it's possible he's just acting infatuated to get under Calvin's skin.
  • In Curtis, the titular character is too busy crushing on Michelle (who most definitely does not reciprocate) to realize that his good friend Chutney is head-over-heels in love with him. Once or twice he does wonder "Could it be that Michelle doesn't like me and that Chutney does?" but always writes the possibility off in the end.
  • Peanuts: Charlie Brown and Marcie. He's understandably intimidated by Peppermint Patty's overtures, but has yet to notice Marcie. Charlie Brown does figure out that Marcie likes him, but not until she (very bluntly) tells him so. His self-esteem is so low, he can't really believe that any girl can be interested in him, even Peppermint Patty. There's also Charlie and the Little Red-Headed Girl, who probably doesn't even know he exists.

    Film — Animated 
  • In Frozen, Anna doesn't realize that Kristoff has fallen in love with her until Olaf casually mentions it.
  • In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Esmeralda is oblivious to Quasimodo's love. Unfortunately for Quasi, this means she hooks up with Phoebus instead. Right in front of him, in fact.
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas: Jack Skellington, thy name is clueless.
  • In The Secret Life of Pets, Max is completely oblivious to Gidget's rather blatant crush on him... until he develops one on her in turn, after seeing her go One Dog Army on Snowball's minions at the climax.
  • Shark Tale: Oscar is completely oblivious to Angie's blindingly obvious crush on him until she outright screamed it out to his face.
  • Strange Magic: Princess Dawn completely fails to notice her best friend Sunny (who's an elf) is desperately love with her, despite his increasingly obvious hints. She's so busy flirting with every fairy boy that she fails to see his attempts to woo her. This drives Sunny to make a Love Potion to make her love him.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • This is of course the basic plot of any number of romantic comedies out there.
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron: Natasha obviously flirts with Bruce by using the joke of a man who did her wrong implying it to be Bruce with the subtlety of a brick to the face as she mentions traits that could only possibly refer to him, ending with asking if he thinks she should go for it. Bruce remains confused and still thinks she's talking about someone besides him until Steve spells it out for him.
  • Ted, the gym manager in Burn After Reading, is in love with Linda, who looks everywhere for a man and wants several rounds of cosmetic surgery to improve her odds. In the end, he does something heroically stupid to try and help her.
  • A Running Gag in the original Ghostbusters (1984) was Janine's crush on Egon and how he was absolutely oblivious of it due to his cold scientific nature.
  • The Hunger Games: Katniss Everdeen cannot see that Gale and Peeta clearly love her until they outright state it to her. In Peeta's case, it takes some time for her to realize even after he blatantly says it.
  • Joe Dirt is pretty good at picking up trashy redneck women, but when it comes to sweet girls, he thinks they're just being nice.
  • A New York Christmas Wedding: Subverted. At first it seems like Gabby was completely unaware that Jenni loved her initially, but the last timeline shows that she knew deep down.
  • The Patsy: Poor Tony has no clue that Pat is besotted with him. When she tells him "I'm in love with a man who hardly knows I exist," he cluelessly offers her advice on how to attract the mystery man.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Will wastes all his frustrated energy on swordplay because he's about the only person who can't see that Elizabeth is ready to jump his bones the minute she can get him alonenote . Jack Sparrow even lampshades this at one point. Granted, he may be aware of it; he just thinks that due to their difference in social class (he's a blacksmith's apprentice and she's the governor's daughter), it would be downright disrespectful of him to have feelings for her. This can be seen in his refusal to call her anything but "Miss Swann" for most of the movie, even though she keeps telling him to call her Elizabeth.
  • Mark from The Room, to a ridiculous extent. He never figures that he's helping Lisa, who is Mark's best friend's Johnny's fiancée, cheat on Johnny until about the fourth or fifth time that Lisa calls him over to have sex.
  • Sky High (2005): Will Stronghold is oblivious to Layla's crush on him, although he does have the excuse that Gwen Grayson got him to fall in love with her, then pretended not to notice herself in order to better string him along (even though when it came time the reveal that 'it was mutual', he couldn't take the hint until she flat-out said it).
  • X-Men: First Class: Charles Xavier doesn't notice that Raven Darkholme harbours some non-sisterly feelings towards him.

  • "Everybody Knows (Except You)" by The Divine Comedy:
    Everybody knows that I love you,
    Everybody knows that I need you,
    Everybody knows that I do,
    Except you!
  • "Shiver" - Coldplay ("it's you / I see / but you don't see me")
  • "3 Libras" by A Perfect Circle implies this trope.
  • "That Girl" by The Noisettes
    That girl’s in love with you//I know that you’re too blind to see//I know that it’s so plain to see
  • Taylor Swift:
    • "You Belong With Me" is about a girl with an unrequited love towards a friend.
    • "I'd Lie" by Taylor Swift
    He looks around the room
    Innocently overlooks the truth
    Shouldn't a light go on?
    Doesn't he know that I've had him memorized for so long?
  • Herb Alpert's "This Guy's in Love With You" (for when he gets tired or hinting and finally comes out and says it...but it is obvious that he's been hinting for a VERY long time!)

  • Ethan in the Cool Kids Table game Creepy Town may not be as dumb as Frank, but he's completely unaware of Veronica and Stacey trying to flirt with him.
  • Red Panda Adventures: The Panda's usual response to his driver/sidekick the Flying Squirrel blatantly flirting with him is "Kit Baxter, behave yourself". Eventually, he admits that he thought she was just messing with him - not long before they get engaged.

  • Bleak Expectations: In series 2, Pip Bin is completely unaware of Ripely Fecund's increasingly unsubtle hints (which didn't exactly start at subtle) that she is lusting after him, and his own feelings for her, right up until Ripely storms his wedding to Tallulah Not-A-Man.

  • In The Dao of the Awakened, when Lao Ai requests a dinner together as payment for the new armor, Hua Yin doesn't even realize it's supposed to be a date until it's almost time for them to part ways.

  • In Cromwell by Victor Hugo, Rochester is one of the men plotting against Cromwell and convinced he's in a forbidden romance with the man's daughter, sharing looks and that this affair will protect him. He's found guilty with the rest and to be executed, at which point the audience learns that Cromwell's daughter had no idea who the man even was and the "affair" existed only in his mind.
  • Cyrano de Bergerac:
    • Cyrano uses Selective Obliviousness to refuse to comprehend that he can be loved even with his enormous nose. At Act I Scene V, Le Bret has to remind him of the Smitten Teenage Girl Cyrano meet some moments ago. At Act IV Scene IX, Christian stubbornly tries to convince him that Roxane loves his “soul” –- Cyrano –- instead of his face. Cyrano will not believe it. Justified because Cyrano has serious Mommy Issues and his upbringing makes him more comfortable being the Love Martyr.
    Le Bret: Your courage and your wit! — The little maid
    Who offered you refreshment even now,
    Her eyes did not abhor you—you saw well!
    Cyrano (impressed): True!
  • In Les Misérables, depending on the actor, Marius can sometimes come off as quite a bit thick in the head about this with Eponine.
  • Anne in A Little Night Music is not only oblivious to her awkward stepson's feelings for her, but also to her own feelings about him, which she only realizes at the end.
  • In the Mrs. Hawking play series: In part IV: Gilded Cages, Victoria does not realize that Reginald is falling in love with her. She explains it to her nephew many years later as her own aromantic nature made it hard for her as a young person to see the signs she herself was unfamiliar with.
  • In Seussical, Horton is unaware of Gertrude's crush on him, even when she sings a song about it straight at him (he's too busy talking to Whos). This arguably changes after she reveals her Determinator tendencies in "All For You".
  • In The Sound of Music, Maria has absolutely no clue the Captain is in love with her until the Baroness (for her own ends, of course) points it out. This is possibly because Maria has spent too much time in a convent. A moral crisis immediately ensues, which the Reverend Mother very nicely clears up.

    Web Video 


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Love Is Oblivious, My Crush Is Oblivious


D.W. plays "house" for James

In an attempt to get her preschool classmate James to kiss her (long story), D.W. plays a busy housewife with a "baby" (her doll Poopsie) bringing groceries from the "sugar market" (supermarket) for him.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

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Main / PlayingHouse

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