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Proportional Article Importance

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"Are you saying Ferb playing the blues didn't cause world peace?"
Captain Rex Kramer: "Passengers Certain to Die!"
Steve McCroskey: "Airline Negligent!"
Johnny: There's a sale at Penney's!

Whenever a character is shown a printed document and instructed to notice or read something important to the plot, they will accidentally only notice something completely different and irrelevant. Typically, Alice will show Bob a massive headline which tells of an important Macguffin Location or obvious Chekhov's Gun, only for Bob to get excited over the small shoe ad in the corner. Alternatively, Alice will push the paper in Bob's face but it's the wrong page, so Bob will inadvertently refer to some irrelevant article.

Since this typically involves someone to hold the Idiot Ball, expect a character to invoke this with a setup question, only to receive a comment on something totally unrelated.

Compare Worst News Judgment Ever for when the source itself misjudges information importance.



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  • A Norwegian ad featured a woman finding a sleeping hobo with a newspaper as a blanket. The headline at the newspaper was Wanted for murder and a picture of the hobo. The woman took the newspaper to a female police officer and showed... that there was a 50% sale at a Norwegian shoe chain, as written a bit down on the first page.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Occurs a few times in Hidamari Sketch. For example, the flame on Miyako's stove flares up, and all Miyako notices is that her meat burned, not that her hair is on fire.

    Fan Works 
  • One Harry Potter / Hetalia: Axis Powers crossover had a scene where one character is given a Muggle newspaper and is told that there is a plot-relevant article about magic. Instead, the character reads another article about a Russian pilot who saw gremlins midflight, but turned out to be a hallucination from drinking too much vodka, and that the pilot was restricted to one bottle per flight. The author's notes adds that this was a real article.

    Film — Animated 
  • In Chicken Run, after Ginger shows the other chickens a poster for "Rocky the Flying Rooster":
    Ginger: This is our way out of here."
    Babs: We'll make posters?
    Ginger: What's on the poster, Babs, what's on the poster! We'll fly out!

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Used twice in Airplane!, both by the same character.
    • Played straight:
      Captain Rex Kramer: "Passengers Certain to Die!"
      Steve McCroskey: "Airline Negligent."
      Johnny: There's a sale at Penney's!
    • And twisted out of all recognition (literally!):
      Steve McCroskey: Johnny, what can you make out of this?
      [Hands him the weather briefing]
      Johnny: This? [begins folding paper] Why, I can make a hat or a brooch or a pterodactyl...
  • Almost done in Dogma when Bartleby shows Loki the newspaper clipping about the church rededication. Instead of reading the wrong side/article, Loki reads just the headline with a "so?" Which prompts Bartleby to respond, "You have to keep reading."
  • Invoked in It's a Wonderful Life. When George shows off the headline about his brother Harry winning the Medal of Honor, Ernie plays a joke by pretending to only notice the weather forecast ("Gonna snow again.").

  • In American Gods Shadow attempts to show Wednesday how much time they've spent "backstage" by showing him a newspaper. Wednesday only sarcastically comments on the first headline he sees.
  • A running gag in the first few Captain Underpants books was that a kid would notice whatever bizarre events were befalling Captain Underpants, only that when he tried to point them out to his mother, she'd ask him how she was expected to believe that-while reading something that was nearly as strange, such as a tabloid newspaper with the headline "Bigfoot gives birth to 200 pound UFO baby". The fourth book had the pair appear twice-the second time, the kid decided not to tell his mother about the giant robot fighting a giant man in his underwear.
  • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry notices an article in the paper concerning the arrest and imprisonment of a member of the Order and points it out to his friends. Ron at first only notices an advertisement for robes. Justified, since the article is "barely an inch long'' and the advertisement is nearly full page.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Black Books episode "The Grapes of Wrath", Bernard and Manny drink a valuable bottle of wine that's due to be presented to the Pope, and hastily improvise a substitute with which to refill the bottle in the hope that nobody will notice. At the end of the episode, Bernard picks up a newspaper with a prominent front-page article about the Pope being poisoned by their improvised wine substitute and the arrest of their friend who owned the bottle, and Manny reacts with horror. Bernard, however, was simply pointing out the date as his birthday.
  • In Doctor Who episode "Silver Nemesis", the Daily Mirror has a huge headline proclaiming that the meteor that kicks off the plot is returning to Earth. Ace, however, is more interested in the football results at the bottom of the back page, and the Doctor doesn't notice.
  • Subverted in an episode of The Drew Carey Show, where Lewis reads an irrelevant newspaper ad and somehow, through a convoluted line of reasoning, works out what Mimi and Mr. Wick are planning from it. He is then asked what's on the other side and dismisses it as "some article about a secretary making millions off a fake sexual harassment suit".
  • Hustle: A customs official who's been trying to get the team to help him find a stolen painting slaps a newspaper in front of Mickey. Mickey, feigning ignorance, reads off the big, obvious headline ("French Trawlers Blockade Ports") before the official directs him to the smaller headline, "Masterpiece Still Missing".
  • Several riffs on Mystery Science Theater 3000 used this: The film du jour would have a Spinning Paper, and someone would react to one of the small filler headlines instead of the big one about the monster/criminal/etc. "New petitions against tax!" "My God!"
  • A variation occurs in the third season of The Good Place. Jason Mendoza has fallen into a slump and sees a wall of flyers hanging up, with several of them for a program offering to help improve one's life. Jason instead selects the lone poster asking for participants in a dance competition, which sends him down an unproductive path.

    Video Games 
  • Troll And I starts in 1953, with one character showing another a newspaper headline. The other man assumes he's being shown the news about Josef Stalin's death, but the actual article of interest is the one about Scandinavian troll sightings.

    Western Animation 
  • Inversion in the Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode "The Dressing", where the Aqua Teens deal with a robot turkey that says he's from the future. Near the end of the episode, Shake shows Frylock a newspaper, intending to show Frylock an irrelevant pantyhose ad, but the first thing Frylock sees is the article about a turkey robot toy recall.
  • In one episode of Beavis And Butthead the titular characters read a page of ads, all of them for prostitutes, strippers and sex-lines. The only ad not involving sex says "assistant wanted". Their reaction? "Hehehe... it says ass!"
  • Featured in the Courage the Cowardly Dog episode "One Thousand Years of Courage", where Courage and his family end up transported into a future ruled by sentient bananas. Eustace is reading a paper, and complains about the Ridiculous Future Inflation in an ad ("Eight million bucks for a salami!") before Courage and company notice the date on the paper.
  • Family Guy:
    • Parodied; Lois wishes to show Peter the newspaper where photos of them at a boat race were published in, and Peter believes that the thing Lois wants him to notice is movable type, and panics that their serfs may find out.
    • A straighter example:
      Lois: This is wonderful! Look at this, Peter!
      Peter: [reading headline] 200 die in train derailment. Oh God, Lois, that is just morbidly obese.
  • Bender in Futurama episode "Roswell That Ends Well": "High school gym renovations on schedule? What a load!" The more important article is the report of the Roswell incident, which the time-traveling characters have caused.
  • Used in the Gravity Falls episode "The Legend of the Gobblewonker", with Dipper trying to point out an ad for a monster photo contest, but Mabel zeroes in on the ad on the previous page for human-sized hamster balls.
    Mabel: (gasp) I'm human-sized!
  • Happens in episode 11 of Langt fra Las Vegas when Anne makes Casper read a newspaper article about elderly people hating children.
  • In one episode of The Mr. Men Show, Miss Naughty places a rubber fly on Mr. Nervous' salad plate, and then waits to see his reaction. True to form, Mr. Nervous starts freaking out about something being in his salad, and asks Mr. Tickle to get rid of it. "It's just an olive," Mr. Tickle tells him, removing the offending veggie.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Daring Done?", when Pinkie thinks that Rainbow wants to look at the paper to see the news about Cloudsdale politics, Rainbow shoves the page with Yearling's retirement announcement in her face. Pinkie sees an entirely different article.
    Pinkie Pie: I never would've picked noodles as the official food for Whinnyapolis either, but here we are.
  • Subverted in The Owl House episode "Yesterday's Lie". When Luz is trying to get Vee to read an article on Eda, but they initially read the opposite side of the page which is talking about the town's secret history. Luz dismisses it as junk at the time, but it later turns out that it was actually written by the episode's villain and hints at a major plot twist to the series' Myth Arc.
  • In Rugrats episode "Visitors from Outer Space" When Lou tries to show Didi the news article about aliens abducting a family, he accidentally has it on an article about a soap opera queen marrying a goat-man.
  • In the Mickey Mouse cartoon Runaway Brain, Mickey, forgetting the anniversary of his first date with Minnie, sees an ad for a miniature golf course in the paper and shows it to her, offering it as a consolation. Minnie instead sees the ad below it, for an expensive Hawaiian vacation.
  • This was a key plot point in the Scooby-Doo episode "The Headless Horseman of Halloween": at one point Shaggy finds a newspaper clipping with the article "Flying Saucer Lands at Beauticians' Convention". When Fred looks at it, however he announces he just solved the mystery. At the end of the episode, Fred reveals the actual clue was on the other side of the clipping: an article reporting that the Villain of the Week's company had filed for bankruptcy, thus providing a motive.
  • In the South Park episode "Le Petite Tourette," Cartman's about to fake having Tourette's on Dateline, and Kyle plans to stop him by using the fact that Chris Hanson, about to interview Cartman, also hosts "To Catch a Predator." He tricks a pedophile into entering the studio, promising brownies would be in there, too. His plan worked a little too well, as a number of pedophiles enter the studio, each one shooting themselves when they saw Chris Hanson after shouting out "Oh no, it's Chris Hanson!" and the like. One pedophile, however, shoots himself after shouting, "There aren't really brownies?!"
  • A variation occurs in a Static Shock episode: when bounty hunter Puff is looking for a money-making opportunity, she finds a newspaper saying there's a reward for the capture of Rubberband Man. Upon showing it to her accomplice Onyx, he remarks "Gee, Puff, I don't know. Journalists don't make a lot of money..."
  • In Storm Hawks, Piper shows the team a notice on how they've become the most wanted criminals in Atmos because of thefts by imposters. All Junko sees the ad for an apartment, and how expensive it is.