Follow TV Tropes


Sarcastic Title

Go To
Turns out you DO need education in this economy.

As we all know, a work's title doesn't always give a reliable indication of its contents. In some works which try to make a point, the title deliberately and sarcastically contradicts the work's message. Often, the title will be (part of) a statement by a character who is clearly shown to be wrong (from the creator's perspective, that is — not necessarily from the audience's).

Done well, this serves to ram the point home in a brutal yet funny way (thus making it a lot more likely that the audience will pay attention to, and remember the message); done poorly, it will only confuse the audience.

For some reason, this crops up particularly often in Protest Songs, in which it may well overlap with Hail to the Thief. Compare Ironic Episode Title (when the contrast between title and content is one of mood rather than message), Isn't It Ironic? (with which this trope often overlaps), and Deceptively Silly Title.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • The Hero is Overpowered but Overly Cautious: The title of the series is based on how the POV character, Rista, perceives the hero, Seiya, as being far more cautious than common sense would dictate. However, most of Seiya's worries and countermeasures turn out to be justified when the demons keep using increasingly ruthless and cunning tactics that would have killed a less prepared hero, making him sufficiently cautious rather than overly cautious.
  • I Don’t Like You at All, Big Brother!! is a Suspiciously Specific Denial from a girl with Big Brother Attraction to her (adoptive) brother.
  • The episode of Re:Zero titled "Self-Proclaimed Knight Subaru Natsuki", in which Subaru makes a fool of himself and Emilia by proclaiming himself to be her knight, insults all the other knights when Julius mocks him for his behavior and inexperience and gets escorted out by Emilia herself. The episode ends with the aforementioned title card.

    Comic Books 
  • Fun Home, talks about the often unhappy childhood and family relationships of the author. A bit of a subversion, as it is actually the family nickname for the family business: a funeral home.
  • The final album of The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck is titled "The Richest Duck in the World". While Scrooge McDuck is in fact the literal richest duck in the world at that point, he's a sad, broken old man.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Prince of Egypt: Moses is the Prince of Egypt; his brother Rameses ascends the throne to become Pharaoh. However, Moses is a former Hebrew slave who specifically rejects his adoptive family's legacy to liberate the Hebrews from bondage.
  • Heroic Times:note  The title is about the chivalry of medieval knighthood that the unnamed main character wants to be part of. The actual story briefly portrays knights as noble and heroic, but then the title is quickly deconstructed, showing the debauchery of the royal court, the horrors of war and the unwelcoming, flippant nature of society as our hero gets increasingly disillusioned and realizes "heroic times" only ever existed in his fantasies.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Alpha Dog: Johnny Truelove would very much like to be top dog, but he is shown to be an idiot wannabe gangster and Dirty Coward whose spur-of-the-moment kidnapping and later murder of Zack Mazursky was an overreach that puts him and his entire crew in jail.
  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford: The film actually shows the injustice of Robert Ford's reputation as a cowardly assassin as well as James' reputation as a murdered folk hero.
  • Subverted with The Disaster Artist, a biopic dramedy about the making of the legendary So Bad, It's Good movie The Room (2003), which had the Working Title of The Masterpiece during production.
  • Fair Game is about the decidedly unfair things (from the creators' point of view, anyway) which have been done to Cassandra Delaney's character. The title is a play on words, because the phrase "fair game" also refers to animals that are able to be hunted.
  • Funny Games: There is nothing funny about the premise of two serial killers tormenting and murdering families just for fun.
  • Bobcat Goldthwait's God Bless America is a scathing killing-spree Black Comedy.
  • GoodFellas refers to a nickname for mobsters, not good people at all.
  • The Good Shepherd: Edward Wilson, an emotionless robot of a man who built up the CIA, can hardly be called a good shepherd. Even in his private life he ultimately does more harm than good.
  • Henry Evans in The Good Son is anything but.
  • The titular Grown Ups act like the complete opposite in both films.
  • Lake Placid: The lake isn't actually peaceful, it's being terrorized by giant, invasive crocodiles.
  • Little Darlings is a teen sex comedy about a pair of girls at summer camp who make a bet as to which one will lose her virginity first. Lampshaded in one of the taglines on the poster: "Don't let the title fool you."
  • Marriage Story is a film about a couple's divorce; the couple in question are already separated when the film begins.
  • The Princess Bride: The title is precisely what Buttercup doesn't want to be, since her betrothed Prince Humperdinck is the Big Bad and her True Love is poor farmhand-turned-pirate Westley. The plot turns on the heroes saving her from becoming the princess bride.
  • Once the title "Springtime for Hitler" got a veto, Mel Brooks chose The Producers to invoke the irony of how bad the two leads are at making stage plays.
  • Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation: While Captain Dax was a genuine war hero, he hated the Federation and would have detested the epithet bestowed on him post-mortem.
  • The titular characters in Ruthless People are not ruthless at all: even when they kidnap Barbara, it's because her husband copied their business idea and made a fortune out of it, and they only want ransom money and never actually intend to hurt anyone. Rather, the title comes from their attempts to be ruthless, which fail because they're genuinely kind and decent people.
  • The 1988 documentary The Thin Blue Line is titled after the iconographic motif representing law enforcement as the sole barrier between peace and chaos in society. The film itself is about a miscarriage of justice in which a man was convicted of a murder that he didn't commit, with director Errol Morris using it as an attempt to obtain sufficient evidence for an overturning.
  • World's Greatest Dad: The movie is about the dad in question taking advantage of his son's death for his own personal gain.


    Live-Action TV 
  • Euphoria, about a group of dysfunctional teenagers doing harmful and self-destructive things in an attempt to feel something, is not a very happy show.
  • Glee actually gets its name from being about a high school choir, or "glee club". The show is a dramedy that's frequently anything but gleeful.
  • The Good Place is about people that have died and gone to Heaven, except that they're there by accident and their character flaws are screwing the place up and turning "the Good Place" not-so-good. And then the first season finale reveals that they were never in the Good Place to begin with.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is a seriously dark series about five jerks regularly upending the lives of one another and perfectly innocent people throughout the City of Brotherly Love. That said, the title also refers to the It's Always Spring trope, which the series does adhere to unironically.
  • Tiger King: Joe Exotic indeed named himself "Tiger King", but the series painstakingly documents his Cult of Personality and very unregal behavior. At the very end, when Joe is sitting in jail and his zoo has been seized by others, he doesn't even have a kingdom anymore.
  • Utopia is about the Nation Building Authority, a government agency charged with infrastructure projects intended to create a better Australia. Needless to say, the results are nowhere near a utopia.
  • Workaholics: The guys are total stoner slackers who try to do as little work as possible. You can almost hear the title snarking, "Yeah, these guys, real workaholics they are."

  • "Another Day in Paradise" by Phil Collins is about a homeless woman who is either ignored or rejected by whomever she begs for help. The title applies to the much more fortunate people who ignore her. Collins was inspired to write the song after witnessing homelessness and poverty in Washington, D.C. in The '80s.
  • "Born in the U.S.A." by Bruce Springsteen. It's a cynical song about a poor and disillusioned Vietnam veteran, but the title makes it sound like a patriotic song - Ronald Reagan was among the many who didn't pick up on the sarcasm.
  • Swamp Dogg's song "God Bless America For What" would have been an example if he had titled it simply "God Bless America", as he intended to. He had to change the title to avoid looking like he was plagiarising the well-known patriotic song by Irving Berlin.
  • "Good Day" by IU is about the day a girl gets rejected by her Love Interest.
  • "Mr. You're a Better Man Than I" by The Yardbirds. All the verses follow the same pattern: 'if [insert opinion The Yardbirds didn't agree with] is true, then mister, you're a better man than I.'
  • The Anti-Love Song "Love Song" by Sara Bareilles.
  • "North American Scum" by LCD Soundsystem is a song about how Americans are looked down upon because of their flaws while ignoring all of the good things about North America.
  • Faith No More named their last album before their break up Album of the Year, because... they weren't particularly happy with the finished product.
  • XTC's "Don't Lose Your Temper", with some wordplay involved. The narrator of the song has a love interest who has a hot temper, but he finds this endearing, to the point of becoming concerned because she seems a bit calmer lately. Thus when he tells her "don't lose your temper", he means he doesn't want her to "lose" that aspect of her personality.
  • The Rolling Stones song "Sympathy for the Devil" is a Villain Song about Satan singing about all the evil he's caused throughout history, and doesn't portray him sympathetically at all.
  • PSY's music video "Gentleman" shows him acting like a huge Jerkass toward everyone, and then finding a woman who treats him the same way.
  • The group The Fun Boy Three firmly pitched their tent at the other end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism to that suggested by their name.
  • When EMI decided to make a compilation out of what the Red Hot Chili Peppers had done for them - four albums, only the fourth having any success - it had a very adequate title for a supposed Greatest Hits Album, What Hits?!
  • "Gangsta's Paradise" by Coolio uses its title ironically because the song spells out how the thug life is dangerous and violent. In short, anything but a paradise.
  • The Marshall Mathers LP is almost entirely dedicated to Slim Shady. The few appearances of Marshall Mathers on the record fictionalise him as (at best) an insensitive idiot unintentionally responsible for murder, and in other songs as an abusive psycho — in short, indistinguishable from Slim Shady. Is Marshall Mathers the real Slim Shady? ...Well, he doesn't seem to be standing up on the cover, so it's probably sarcasm. Toying with the moral panic about Eminem's lyrics and the fact that critics took his Slim Shady Villain Protagonist character literally. Probably.
    • By extension, The Marshall Mathers LP 2 is also this, being largely about Eminem and Shady and (by Word of God) not even being a sequel to The Marshall Mathers LP but a 'revisitation'. The album opening track, "Bad Guy", even has a character mocking the idea of making a sequel to The Marshall Mathers LP "just to get people to buy".
  • Pink Floyd had a compilation titled A Collection of Great Dance Songs, which as the cover with dancers tethered to the ground implied, were mostly undanceable.
  • Oasis, The Black Crowes, and Spacehog once toured North America together in what was billed as "The Tour Of Brotherly Love" - all three bands had pairs of brothers in their lineup who weren't exactly known to get along, with Oasis' Gallagher brothers being particularly infamous for public feuding.
  • Sheffield, England group Longpigs titled their debut album The Sun Is Often Out - Sheffield is known for its frequent overcast or rainy weather.

  • The opera La Traviata, which translates as "The Woman Gone Astray," "The Fallen Woman" or "The Corrupted Woman." It highlights the High-Class Call Girl heroine Violetta's status as Defiled Forever. The plot revolves around Violetta proving herself to be a person of outstandingly noble, selfless character and deep love, yet doomed to misery because her society unfairly judges her as a "traviata."
  • There's been speculation that William Shakespeare wrote As You Like It as a Pandering to the Base exercise to his audience, so the title should be read as As You Like It, i.e. "well, here's one of those comedies that you people eat up—me, I'm really not that crazy about it."

    Video Games 
  • Lies of P has the ending named "And They All Lived Happily Ever After". Naturally, it is the bleakest of the three endings and where more or less everyone dies.
  • Max Payne: The second game has a chapter near the end titled "Dearest of All My Friends." In it, Max has to protect his long-time enemy Vinnie Gognitti against their common foe Vladimir Lem's men, despite the fact that Max and Vinnie still hate each other. The title is dropped at the end by Vlad who proceeds to try to kill his former ally Max.

    Visual Novels 
  • ClockUp's Euphoria concerns a group of people locked in the middle of nowhere and forced to perform numerous sickening and depraved acts with and to each other — in short, exactly the opposite of euphoric.

    Web Animation 

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • "Fire Emblem Engage Is Maddeningly Easy" is a video about A Boy playing Fire Emblem Engage(which is considered one of the harder games in the franchise) and frequently losing units or otherwise struggling on maps, often after Tempting Fate.
  • "This video, titled, "Fire Emblem Engage Quick Review, Very Brief," is almost an hour long.note 
  • Some Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne videos, such as this one, are titled "Skill Issue," or something along those lines. They often consist of the player being caught in an ambush and being wiped out before they can even get a turn, often as a result of the enemy getting lucky critical hits and/or focusing on the Demi-Fiend.

    Western Animation 
  • Regular Show is actually a Quirky Work about anthropomorphic animals working in a park for an anthropomorphic gumball machine and getting into weird adventures. The tagline is literally "It's anything but".
  • Seven Little Monsters: The seven monsters tower over everyone else.
  • In-universe example from The Simpsons, parodying the use of this trope in independent cinema, comes when Marge attends the Sundance Film Festival. She walks into films called Regularsville and Candyland, expecting feel-good entertainment, and is horrified to find out they are about crossdressers and drug addicts, respectively. She deducts that every movie in the festival is like that, and walks into Chernobyl Graveyard expecting to love it. She doesn't.