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When picking an image for a trope, it is possible that the image is not actually an example of the trope. And in several cases, this is perfectly fine.

Images technically aren't even meant to be example entries—they're just meant to illustrate the trope at a glance. Most importantly, readers are assumed to be unfamiliar with whatever work the image is from. That means that if a picture looks like a good example, but fans of the work know it is technically not, or it gets retconned or subverted later in the work; then it can still be a good image! The reverse is also true; if an image requires knowledge of the work to understand it in the first place, then it is usually a poor choice.

For instance, if in issue 4 of a comic, Repus Oreh dies on-panel; then in issue 7 it is revealed that this was actually a hologram made by his mad scientist friend, then panels from issue 4 can still serve as an image for Character Death. Although fans of the comic know that he didn't actually die in that scene, most tropers or readers will not know, and need not know.

There are some other cases where the images doesn't portray the trope. Sometimes the image is a Visual Pun or other joke. Other times the trope is too NSFW to portray normally. Other times it's a trope involving plot or characterization that's hard to portray in a picture. Numerous examples are listed below.

This doesn't refer to images that are poor quality, or which barely represent the trope. If the image is completely inaccurate, you should go to the Image Pickin' forum. All the images here are deliberate (non-)examples.

Don't confuse this with The Treachery of Images. In many ways, this is the opposite of Just a Face and a Caption.

Finally, if an image is technically not an example, please resist the urge to point out on the page (or even worse, in the image caption) that it doesn't "actually" illustrate the trope. If you believe some image is bad, take it to the Image Pickin' forum; don't write underneath that it's a bad image.

See also, This Index Is Not an Example, for Trope Namers.


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    Visual Puns 
  • Accentuate the Negative: A diacritic above a film negative. The caption complaining about the Visual Pun is an example, however.
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: It's a picture of a large cock. "Cock" being the other word for roosters, mind you.
  • Black Is Bigger in Bed: A straight example is blacklisted thanks to the Content Policy, so we have a black obelisk being bigger instead.
  • Blaming "The Man": The image is of a character literally named The Man, rather than the ambiguous authority figure referenced by the trope.
  • Camera Tricks shows a camera juggling chainsaws, not creative ways of manipulating the camera or viewing frame in media.
  • Canon: A giant cannonnote , not something that counts in a work's continuity.
  • Cold Sniper: A sniper in the cold, not an emotionally distant sniper.
  • Dethroning Moment of Suck: Has a picture of a castle on fire, not the worst moment of a work.note 
  • Dead Horse Trope: Literally beating a dead horse is not a tropenote , just a punny illustration of the phrase from which this form of Playing with a Trope derives its name.
  • Dead Unicorn Trope: Actual dead unicorns aren't tropes at all, much less ones that got widely parodied despite never having been played straight.
  • Died During Production: A picture of a skeleton at a typewriter, not someone who actually died while working on a project.
  • TropeCo.Flying Brick: A real flying brick is a Superhero that combines Flight with Super-Strength, not an actual brick with wings.
  • Fragile Speedster: They're fast characters with a glass jaw, which is hard to distinguish from Catching the Speedster. Hence the picture is of a life sized glass sculpture of a motorcycle, symbolizing speed and fragility.
  • Glass Cannon: A literal glass cannon image because you can't really represent someone having strong attack powers and weak defense powers with a single image.
  • Going Cold Turkey: An image of a turkey in the snow, not an attempt at avoiding an addiction.
  • Hardcore: Instead of something extreme or intense, it's a picture of an avocado core that is hard to cut.
  • Hentai: As actual pictures of hentai are a no-no, the image is a picture of a hen wearing a necktie.
  • Ironic Index: The photo depicts a literal iron, rather than an expression with the opposite superficial meaning of what was conveyed, as the latter might be difficult to visually represent in a single image.
  • It Tastes Like Feet: Depicts someone eating a literal foot, instead of comparing a food's unpalatability with something no sane person would have eaten/tasted.
  • Kangaroo Court: A kangaroo as a judge presiding over a courtroom. As the trope refers to unfair judicial processes, there is no way to show it literally that would not just look like a courtroom.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: The trope is about a cynical hero. The picture is a knight figure crafted from lemons (thus wearing actual sour armor).
  • Kudzu Plot: It's an actual picture of the Kudzu plant, not a plot that doesn't resolve its questions.
  • Landslide Election: The trope is about winning an election by a massive margin. The image depicts Quentin Trembley winning by default due to a literal landslide killing all the other candidates.
  • LEGO Genetics: The trope is about the simplified nature of genetics in media, while the image is a LEGO replica of a DNA strand.
  • Locked Pages: The image is a giant padlock, not a page that is locked.
  • Mauve Shirt: Just a mauve shirt with nobody wearing it, not a Red Shirt with enough characterization to make them stand out.
  • Paper Tiger: Shows a game card with an actual tiger made of paper, not someone who is proven to be weaker than first looks would hint at.
  • Permanent Red Link Club: A picture of Link in red clothes, not a page this wiki has purged forever (besides, that would kind of defeat the purpose of the club).
  • Power: Usually does not involve a button that turns something on or off.
  • Purple Prose: An image of a purple feather quill, as opposed to an excessive use of florid, nigh-indecipherable writing.
  • Put on a Bus: Being written out of the show without being killed off usually does not involve an actual bus.
    • The Bus Came Back: Likewise, returning to a show doesn't typically involve departing from an actual bus.
    • Bus Crash: Offscreen deaths do not normally involve a literal bus crash.
    • Long Bus Trip: It's about characters who depart the show for long stretches of time, not lengthy buses.
    • Put on a Bus to Hell: It's about being written out of the show in an especially mean-spirited way, not about taking an actual bus to Hell.
    • Put on a Prison Bus: It's about characters being written out of a story by being arrested, and doesn't necessarily involve an actual prison bus.
  • Sacred Cow: An actual sacred cow, not a work that no one dares criticize.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: It's literally "(an) old hat", not something that was once considered trendsetting before it loses that appeal after being imitated so often.
  • Sinkhole: Shows cars collapsing into a hole on a street, rather than a misused Pot Hole.
  • Sock Puppet: Sockpuppet accounts on forums and wikis are usually not controlled by actual sockpuppets.
  • Sour Grapes Tropes: The index is about tropes demonstrating that what you desire doesn't always turn out well. The image is a literal picture of grapes.
  • Square Peg, Round Trope: Since it's impossible to actually illustrate trope misuse without using a lot of text, the image just shows a square peg being pushed into a round hole.
  • Straw Fan: A hand fan made of straw instead of how the makers of a work view the Unpleasable Fanbase.
  • Übermensch: A joke based on Friedrich Nietzsche's memetic appearance and Superman's transhuman nature. The canonical Superman follows a conventional good/evil morality, he does not transcend societal norms to create his own.
  • Undead Horse Trope: A skeletal horse isn't really a trope, much less one that's seen as clichéd to the point of frequent parody but somehow without the death of straight examples. Though it might fall under Horse of a Different Color.
  • Walking Spoiler: Jason Fox's costume will spoil the heck out of the other characters, sure, but FoxTrot is too light on plot to have any characters that would spoil it.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: It's a picture of a mouse, not a plot point that isn't resolved.
  • Writer's Block: It's a block that you put on your desk and you can't write anymore! least according to Calvin. The actual trope is about the phenomenon where writers can't think of material.

    Not Really an Example 
They might look like an example at first glance, but they really don't fit.

These images aren't played seriously. Instead, they come from parodies.

These images might have qualified at one point, but not another. It might be a case of Subverted Trope, Depending on the Writer, Unbuilt Trope or Zig-Zagging Trope.
  • Adaptational Nationality: Flintheart Glomgold plays up his Scottish heritage in DuckTales (2017), but is later revealed to actually still be South African as in the comics.
  • Alpha Bitch.Webcomics: While Pyper in Magical Boy started out as a bitch, she has a change of heart after being saved by the heroes relatively early in the story, and eventually joins them, even becoming a target of bullying herself.
  • Alternate Continuity: For the most part, the Marvel Comics and Marvel Cinematic Universe exist as two separate continuities, with the latter being an adaptation of the former. However, there are some works, such as Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, that treat these continuities as existing within a single canon as Alternate Universes. The designations "Earth-616" and "Earth-199999" come from these interdimensional stories and refer to universes rather than continuities. The numbering is also inconsistent, as the main MCU is shown to be Earth 616 (sharing the earth designation as the comics) in films like Spider-Man: Far From Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, while it's designated as Earth-199999 in works made outside of the MCU (such as the aforementioned Across the Spider-Verse); see Alternate Universe.Marvel Universe for more information.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: While all hyenas seen in The Lion King (1994) are indeed Chaotic Evil, The Lion Guard introduces good hyenas.
  • Ambulance Cut: The SpongeBob SquarePants scene shown in the image is a Double Subversion. Mr. Krabs attempts to eat the rotten patty in order to prove that it’s still good to eat, and the scene cuts to a speeding ambulance - only for it to revealed that said ambulance was just a random ambulance passing the Krusty Krab, which Mr. Krabs remarks on. He then takes a bite out of the patty, and it immediately cuts to a sickly Mr. Krabs being rushed into the hospital.
  • Animals Hate Him: The image is from the intro of Total Drama Island, the first season of the show, where animals generally get along well with DJ, and even within the intro, were perfectly docile around him until they got startled. However, the third season of the series, World Tour, plays this straight regarding the character.
  • Anti-Hero: Whether Batman counts as an anti-hero varies depending on the writer and portrayal, with him being a more traditional hero in many incarnations.
  • Author Tract: The Godless Communism does qualify as an Author Tract, but it is in fact an anti-communist message.
  • Badass Pacifist: While Tank Man's actions weren't violent, we don't know if he was actually a pacifist, and it's not like violence was an option when faced with tanks.
  • Basement-Dweller: While Jenkins, the nerd in question, is repeatedly stated to have no social life, there's no implication that he still lives with his parents.
  • Brooklyn Rage: The character depicted doesn't actually come from New York City (or Liberty City rather), but the San Francisco analogue San Andreas. However, the stereotype is still very much present throughout Grand Theft Auto III.
  • Celibate Hero: While Susake shows no interest in romance for most of Naruto, by the epilogue and Boruto, he is in a romantic relationship with Sakura and has a child with her in the form of Sarada.
  • Crapsaccharine World: While the Sunnyside Daycare Center starts off played straight, the ending makes it an actually happy place.
  • Creating Life Is Awesome: While Jurassic Park starts portraying this idea by showing the wonder of dinosaurs, the park soon starts to fall apart when the unpredictable nature of the cloned creatures, the Velociraptors in particular, leads to tragedy. Overall, across the franchise, it is not the act of creating life itself that is bad, but only the act of arrogantly trying to control that life to suit particular needs.
  • Creating Life Is Bad: This trope is present in the modern public consciousness and in some adaptations of Frankenstein, but the original novel was more ambiguous over portraying the artificial creation of life on itself as evil, as it was the act of Frankenstein abandoning his creation and the rejection of humanity that drove the initially benevolent and well-intentioned Creature to villainy and wickedness. Thus, the novel isn't exactly a cautionary tale about the dangers of creating life as much as it is one about humanity's refusal to take responsibility for its actions and ambition and arrogance over nature.
  • Critical Existence Failure: The Blues Brothers is not a video game, so the car does not have any hit points as the image suggests. However, it fits the trope aside from that.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Philip J. Fry was presumed to be dead by his family, hence why his brother named his son "Philip J. Fry" in turn. However, Fry survived frozen in a cryogenic chamber for a thousand years, hence why he's able to see his own dedication on his nephew's tomb.
  • Didn't Think This Through: The image from Super Mario Bros. 3 demonstrates a poor decision by the player, not by the character in-universe.
  • Disgusting Vegetarian Food: While the image looks like an example, Calvin's disgust for his mother's cooking is a Running Gag and he'd react the same way no matter what she made.
  • Disproportionate Restitution: While Ben and Henry believed that simply saying sorry would be enough to get Charlie to forgive them for their bullying, the image simply depicts Charlie rejecting the apology, not Ben and Henry's attempt at restitution.
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: The cast of How I Met Your Mother doesn't usually perform the theme song; the image is from a single Special Edition Title in which they do. However, the show's creators are in the band that does perform the theme song, so the song is an example, just not in the way the image suggests.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Princess Luna used to fit the item, as she became extremely popular from her first short appearance in the second episode, and for the next few seasons she was relegated to small appearances alongside Celestia, barring one A Day in the Limelight episode. However, she became a more prominent character as the seasons progressed, getting more focus episodes, likely because of this popularity. The page image is from a Season 2 episode, which is before Luna became more prominent in the series. Doubles as a visual pun, due to Luna's dark coloration compared to the rest of the characters in the image.
  • Exiled from Continuity: While the X-Men, The Fantastic Four, and Deadpool did qualify for years, Disney would buy 20th Century Fox and the film rights to those characters in 2019, bringing the once-exiled teams/characters back under Marvel's full control for the first time in years and allowing them to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (which they have or are planning to).
  • Expansion Pack World: While it looks like World of Warcraft was making up new continents with each expansion, most of these areas had been established in Warcraft III. They just weren't accessible yet, and therefore had no reason to be on the map. However, all of those were examples in Warcraft III itself, and the Dragon Isles can be considered a straight example in World of Warcraft as they had only been given brief mentions before the ninth expansion.
  • Faux Horrific: Subsequent panels of this Gunshow comic show that the CD killed all the occupants in the car, making it an Artifact of Death.
  • Hot-Blooded: Fate/stay night's Shirou Emiya isn't normally hot-blooded, but is very passionate about his cooking in the gag manga.
  • Hot Sauce Drinking: The "hot sauce" in question is actually ketchup with a swapped label, done so Jackie and her son Tobias could win a competition without going through the immense pain of downing an actual bottle.
  • Humanshifting: Elliot can only shapeshift into girls specifically (and has a hard time perfectly mimicking a specific person's appearance), making him closer to a Sex Shifter.
  • Ironic Name: While Courage does show a lot of fear, he overcomes it to stop the threat in every episode, so it's more like a Meaningful Name.
  • Kid Detective: Conan Edogawa is actually a 17-year-old de-aged down to seven.
  • Lawful Evil: While he plays this straight throughout most of the plot, Darth Vader eventually ditches the "evil" part after he performs a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Lawful Good: While the mainstream Superman usually fits this alignment, there are other versions that are more chaotic, and some that are downright evil.
  • Little Useless Gun: J certainly treats the Noisy Cricket like a little useless gun when he first gets it, but when he actually fires it, it blasts a hole bigger than him in the wall and knocks him flat on his ass. Which still makes it useless on a practical level, but not in the way the trope is typically about. Background materials also suggest that K gave it to J in an absurdly overpowered state as a hazing prank, and when used properly it serves its intended purpose as a holdout gun just fine.
  • Loves Only Gold: Scrooge McDuck is indeed in love with gold and obsessed with being and remaining the Richest Duck in the World, but he also has a rigid moral compass and loyalty to his family and staff/friends. His Evil Counterpart Flintheart Glomgold is a straighter example.
  • May the Farce Be with You: While the soundtrack of Scott The Woz's Borderline Forever references Star Wars in its cover art, the special itself isn't specifically a Star Wars homage or parody. The album cover is just playing off the Astral Finale.
  • No Name Given: The Hiveswap Friendsim character pictured didn't have his name revealed in promotional material, but his name was revealed in the game.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: Mojo Jojo is portrayed this way at times, but the image is not narratively an example, since the bottom image is set before the episode the top image is from.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: Darkseid has varying motivations. While he is omnicidal in Final Crisis, most of the time he just wants to remove free will or take over the universe.
  • One-Note Cook: Heidi can only serve burgers at first, but she gains access to a machine that adds fries early in the game. She also cooks lots of different dishes in the sequel.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: While Jesus always teached His followers about the importance of forgiveness, peace and loving others above everything, he also heavily criticized the pharisees for hypocritically calling themselves followers of God despite refusing to give forgiveness to the ones who needed it the most and giving more value to material gains and ornaments than to the core of the message. The event in which Jesus shoos away tradesmen from a temple while accusing them of turning a house of prayer into a den of thieves only looks shocking in comparison to more modern images of Him.
  • Power Creep: Ice Rager is strictly better than Magma Rager, making it Power Creep in a literal sense. However, Magma Rager is a bottom-of-the-barrel card in Hearthstone and Ice Rager isn't that much better, and doesn't actually creep the game's overall power level.
  • Quintessential British Gentleman: While it's an Invoked Trope on his part, Sir Reginald Hargreeves isn't even human, let alone British, actually being an alien wearing a Human Disguise.
  • Random Drop: Like most enemies in the Kingdom Hearts series, it is indeed random what you get from a defeated Spiderchest. However, the pictured pie chart is completely false; it always drops something, but never Potions, Ethers, or the Infinity +1 Sword.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni.Comic Books: The image is taken from the 2005-6 Invincible Iron Man, where Dr. Strange occasionally shows up to give Tony exposition, but the two otherwise don't work together as Strange has his hands full with other things.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: Fanart of both a straight example from Scooby-Doo and an inversion from Doctor Who.
  • Sickbed Slaying: Elle Driver wants to kill the Bride in Kill Bill while she's bedridden and in a coma, but Bill calls Elle up to stop her because he considers such a method to be beneath them.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Despite being the Trope Namer, The Smurfs has zig-zagged this trope starting in The '80s with the introduction of characters such as Sassette and Nanny Smurf. In particular, the image on the trope's page comes from Smurfs: The Lost Village, which initially plays the trope straight by having Smurfette as the sole female smurf, but then subverts this after introducing the whole tribal village of female smurfs.
  • Snowy Sabertooths: The cold snowy weather Diego is dealing with is the result of an impeding ice age, not because he lives in a permanently cold climate, and the sequels do away with this entirely. However, he does interact with woolly mammoths, implying he does live somewhat far north.
  • Southern Gentleman: Big Daddy is a deconstruction; he may look like an archetypical southern gentleman, but it's just a superficial veneer that does little to mask his deplorable racism and elitism.
  • Spare a Messenger: Kronar does initially let the guy in question get away, but it later becomes a subversion when he gets so pissed off at being mocked for being a "wimp" that he chooses to Leave No Survivors instead.
  • Stock Shōnen Rival: One of the characters shown is Takumi Aldini from Food Wars! who is a self-proclaimed rival to the protagonist, but lacks the skill, privilege and dignity to be considered as one by the narrative and even the protagonist himself. He's only there to mirror Soma's inclusion on the Stock Shōnen Hero image.
  • Tagalong Kid: The page image is taken moments before Steven breaks into a sprint to get in front of the group, foreshadowing his growth over the series from a kid that needs to be saved to a formidable and valued member of the Crystal Gems.
  • Three-Point Landing: While Black Widow (and pretty much everyone in the MCU) has done a three-point landing before, that particular screenshot is of her standing up after sliding across the ground.
  • Token Good Teammate: While Flonne was initially the only one of the main characters to be a truly moral person, the Defenders of Earth later join the party, who similarly have a strong sense of morality.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Conway Stern was a Double Agent, and given that Archer said he wasn't circumcised, probably wasn't really Jewish. Later played straight when he loses both of his hands.
  • Vanilla Edition: Blade Runner was the second DVD release ever after Twister, so being bare-bones was to be expected.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: Subversion; Red Skull attempts to flee from Magneto, but the latter captures him before he can get away.
  • Villainous Friendship: While Sonic the Hedgehog/Mega Man: Worlds Collide initially plays this trope straight, Wily and Eggman's friendship falls apart later in the story.
  • Virtue Is Weakness: Gilgamesh Wulfenbach here is complaining about how other people seemingly hold the attitude that virtue is weakness, rather than expressing the attitude himself.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?.Western Animation: The pic comes from the first episode of The Ghost and Molly McGee, which leaves it unclear where exactly Brighton is, but later episodes confirm that it's near the Illinois-Iowa area.
  • Word of Gay: While Dumbledore was initially an example of this, he was eventually made explicitly gay in Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, which is a canon work in the franchise.
  • Xenophobic Herbivore: While the fear of "the other" is at play, Zootopia is more about how a crisis can create a fear that can be manipulated instead of a specific type of citizen (i.e., herbivores) always being naturally xenophobic.