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Tropes Hidden from Audience

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This page indexes tropes or patterns in storytelling/development whose entire purpose is to remain hidden from or fool an audience so that they never think about their workings, purpose, meaning or implications.

The creator is aware that there are some conventions which are Pet Peeve Tropes for one reason or another. Perhaps noticing them breaks immersion. Perhaps they're Cliches or rely too heavily on Cop-outs, Stereotypes or Pandering. Perhaps they're just discredited or outdated, ruin or muddle the consistency of the work, or are just inherently considered Bad Writing. However, because Tropes Are Tools, the creators still want or feel that they have to use them (often because their effects are still believed to be marketable), but try to create plausible deniability so that the audience doesn't dwell on it.

  1. Best-case scenario, they do not want the audience to notice the trope at all.
  2. They want the audience to believe the trope was an original idea, and not a well-worn Cliché or insidious stereotype.
  3. They want the audience to feel that the trope positively deconstructs, reconstructs or otherwise satisfactorily plays with an even more "undesirable" trope.
  4. They want the audience, if they do notice the trope and all its implications, to dismiss everything based on Willing Suspension of Disbelief or MST3K Mantra.
  5. They want the audience to feel that the trope is necessary to avoid stuff like Writing Pitfalls.
  6. They want the trope to be "part of the work's charm", in an ironically enjoyable sense.

These tropes often skirt a gray area overlapping both Tropes and Audience Reactions. They were put into the work (often intentionally), and thus count as tropes...but the only way they can be talked about is if the audience "outsmarts" the creator and notices them, because writers will usually not draw attention to them and may sometimes even flat out deny they exist. note 

NOTE: To qualify for this trope, the audience being ignorant or tolerant of the trope or its implications must be an inherent reason why the trope exists. For example:

  1. "Negative" stereotypes like Stay in the Kitchen do not qualify because, while avoided these days, it is still common to see the tropes played completely straight with Unfortunate Implications intact or invoked through Deliberate Values Dissonance. On the other hand, a Faux Action Girl, by definition, almost always insists that a character is an Action Girl, and does not want the audience to notice the "Faux" part: that she is actually bad at fighting.
  2. Plot Twists like Decoy Protagonist, Evil All Along and Unreliable Narrator may be attempts to "fool" an audience, but only until the particular twist is revealed. Likewise, "Easter Eggs" and hidden features are simply extra content added to a work. They aren't tropes that the audience is never supposed to notice or think about. The tropes listed below are only recognized through Fridge Logic, unintended audience reactions, or being Cliché.
  3. Also, this index is not for honest mistakes or oversights like What Happened to the Mouse?, unless the trope tricks the audience into not noticing or makes excuses, such as No Endor Holocaust.

Often a Justified Trope, whereas the plot itself will try to explain why said trope works out well for the story.

The antithesis of these tropes is Fridge Logic, whereas an audience comes to realize the implications — often unfortunate ones. See also Tropes in Aggregate, where audiences only start noticing these tropes when they keep appearing in several works, and Franchise Original Sin for flaws that originally went unnoticed until they were repeated in later entries of the series.

Naturally, you can blame us for revealing these "tricks" to an audience who likewise wouldn't have heard of most of them.

No Examples, Please! This is merely an index of such tropes.

Index of "Hidden" Tropesnote 

    open/close all folders 
    "Tricks of the Trade" 

Tropes in this section are basic development tricks that creators will try to seamlessly use in the work or its production. Naturally, other creators or savvy audiences will notice them, but these are the types of things an audience isn't supposed to notice as they take the "magic" away, like knowing how a stage trick works.

  • Already Undone for You: Puzzles and other gameplay obstacles are always found in their starting position, requiring you to actually play the game.
  • Ambidextrous Sprite: Mirroring art to cut down on storage and/or drawing costs.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Helping out the player to reduce frustration.
  • Anti-Trolling Features: Helping to reduce dealing with Trolls or Internet Jerks.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Characters are actually speaking gibberish, but audiences are supposed to believe it's an actual foreign language.
  • Behind the Black: If it's not visible to the audience, characters can't see it either.
  • Broken Bridge: Forcing the player to take a certain path by blocking others until it is time. Over time, the trope has become a lot less "hidden" and more lampshaded or mocked in-game.
  • Cheated Angle: Fudging perspective to draw things in a more favorable way.
  • Cheeky Mouth: Ignoring perspective to make drawing mouths easier.
  • Competence Zone: Those within a specific age group are the only ones capable of accomplishing anything. Anyone older or younger than that are either useless or a hindrance — conveniently, those within the competence zone are usually similar to the target audience.
  • Cut and Paste Environments: Reusing supposedly unrelated areas to cut costs.
  • Cutscene Drop: Repositioning player characters for the sake of cutscenes.
  • Cutscene Incompetence: In gameplay, a character has abilities, skills or tactics that enable them to perform well during a particular cutscene conflict, but the character never uses it and thus fails.
  • Cutscene Power to the Max: A character is much more awesome or powerful in cutscenes than the player could ever hope to be in gameplay.
  • Dawson Casting: An actor is portraying someone much younger than they actually are, and their performance is hopefully good enough that the audience doesn't notice or care.
  • Dynamic Difficulty: Changing the difficulty of the game to match player skill.
  • Event Flag: An action the player has taken has just locked in an event, which the player isn't supposed to know.
  • Fake Longevity: Making a game seem longer than it actually is by adding tedium or busywork, or copy-pasting content before the conclusion.
  • Fake Nationality: An actor is portraying someone of a different nationality or heritage than they actually are, and their performance is hopefully good enough that the audience doesn't notice or care.
  • Hollywood Homely: A character is supposed to be "unremarkable" or "unattractive" but is portrayed by or designed as, someone extremely attractive.
  • Kayfabe: In the earlier days of Professional Wrestling, the fact that the performance was "fake", and that the characters were merely performers, was kept an industry secret from the "marks" in the audience. "Smart marks", by contrast, were fans who knew that the sport was fake but enjoyed it regardless, and over time, "smart marks" greatly outnumbered normal ones. Thus, while most pro wrestling promotions will continue kayfabe as part of its performance, it is now acceptable to reveal to the audience some parts that are fake.
  • No Cutscene Inventory Inertia: Pay no mind to the fact that the cutscene doesn't quite match up with the preceding gameplay.
  • Obscured Special Effects: Don't let the audience look too close at the special effects or they might notice it's sub par.
  • Offscreen Inertia: Nothing changes when the audience isn't looking.
  • Offstage Waiting Room: Only the characters that are in the player's party matter. The rest will just do nothing.
  • Reduced-Downtime Features: New game mechanics or systems that throw the player right back into the action rather than tedium and minutiae.
  • Relationship Values: In some videogames, the game tracks how well or how badly you treat certain characters. These days, most games will inform you when a value is raised or lowered, but some games (especially older ones) keep it secret to surprise the player later.
  • Scully Box: Some sort of object used to make actors appear to have a different height than they actually do, without the audience noticing.
  • Static Role, Exchangeable Character: Reusing the same scenario, while swapping out which character it is that has which role. Often overlaps with But Thou Must! in gaming, particularly when a player choice renders a "required" character absent.
  • Underground Monkey: New characters that are just a minor visual tweak of another.
  • You Shouldn't Know This Already: Admonishing the player for using knowledge they shouldn't have.

    Hidden in Context and Patterns 

Single, individual examples of these tropes usually can't be noticed. They only become noticed once they appear multiple times within the same work or in other works, or when the audience notices the context surrounding the trope.

  • As Lethal as It Needs to Be: A weapon or attack is sometimes capable of killing a target, but other times merely wounds them, and this is never brought up or explained to the audience.
  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: Something unpleasant or morally questionable has to be done in the story, so the person who does it is a villain so that the audience can still view the hero as squeaky clean.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: If a character is beautiful or attractive, then they are more likely to be heroic. Of course, women must practice moderation.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: A beautiful or attractive character, whose beauty or glamor is never significantly tarnished so that she remains marketable for the audience without them noticing.
  • Bloodless Carnage: A fight uses violence, weaponry or armaments which should cause way more gruesome deaths or injuries than appear onscreen, but the gore is hidden to keep the show from being too serious or mature.
  • But Not Too Evil: A character is meant to be an extremely evil villain, but their onscreen acts are nowhere near as horrible as you'd expect for someone who has the motives or ambitions they do. Often an attempt to keep a story from being too dark or mature.
  • But Not Too Foreign: A character partly belongs to an "exotic" or foreign demographic, but their heritage, upbringing, aesthetics or behavior is close enough to the target audience to not feel completely alien.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: The computer opponent is cheating, as it is allowed to break the rules that the human player(s) must follow.
  • The GM Is a Cheating Bastard: The Game master fudging things to cover for whatever the party is doing.
  • Inverse Law of Sharpness and Accuracy: The more deadly a weapon is, the more likely it is to miss the target, because otherwise, fights would become boringly predictable.
  • Inverse Law of Utility and Lethality: The more utility a weapon or ability has, the less damaging or lethal it is. Otherwise, it would raise questions about why everyone isn't using it or trying to copy it.
  • New Rules as the Plot Demands: Changing the rules for the sake of plot.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Characters that are supposed to be villainous or mischievous, but hardly ever do anything outside of acceptable behavior.
  • There Are No Therapists: Characters can only deal with their emotional or psychological baggage on their own or with the help of their loved ones. Either the audience is not supposed to question why more professional therapy isn't sought out, or they're supposed to accept that it's useless.
  • Rubber-Band A.I.: The AI suddenly doing much better to catch up to the player.
  • Social Semicircle: Nobody sits with their back to the camera.
  • Xenafication: When an effeminate and delicate female character is later upgraded into a full-fledged fighting badass, because it's considered more marketable to an audience.

    Tropes Hidden in Context and Double Standards 

Single, individual examples of these tropes usually can't be noticed. They only become noticeable when comparing Double Standards in their use, or when the audience notices the context surrounding the trope.

  • Black Dude Dies First: Black character(s) are included in the cast, but killed off faster so that the cast once again becomes fully or majority white.
  • Bury Your Gays: LGBT characters are included in the cast, but killed off faster so that the cast once again becomes cis-heteronormative.
  • But Not Too Bi: A character is meant to be bisexual, but their onscreen sexuality only ever conforms to one specific orientation.
  • But Not Too Gay: The story includes gay characters, but they are not allowed to express it — either at all, or not to the same degree that the straight characters express their sexuality.
  • Chainmail Bikini: Armor that only exists to inform the audience that the person wearing it is an (attractive) female, either by conforming to a female body shape or showing off parts of her body. Usually impractical for combat, but you're not supposed to think about that.
  • Chickification: A female character who should be capable of fighting is, for some reason, acting like a helpless Damsel in Distress. The audience is either supposed to not notice or accept it, particularly if rescuing her is part of the Wish-Fulfillment.
  • Dainty Combat: An effeminate character has to be both tough and not too macho, so their fighting style is much more cute, beautiful or effeminate than is plausible for combat.
  • Designated Girl Fight: The female characters just happen to fight each other, preventing the male characters from needing to either beat up, or get beaten up by, a woman.
  • Disposable Woman: A female character exists, but she is used solely as motivation for a male character, whereupon she is removed so that the story focuses on him.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: A male character immediately resolves to protect or save a woman, without knowing who she is or why she's in the trouble she's in, and the audience is meant to see it as romantic or macho.
  • Females Are More Innocent: The female villains are only evil because a man happened to drove them to do the bad things they did. This disparity between female and male villains (that male villains can only be truly evil, while making the actions of female villains moot) was intended to go unnoticed by audiences.
  • Flawless Token: A Token Minority is far more capable or wiser than every other character in the story, often an attempt to avoid or compensate for other racist tropes.
  • Gender Incompetence: Competence is dependent on gender. Most of the time, it's female characters who end on the wrong end of this stick.
  • High-Heel–Face Turn: Of all the bad guys to turn good, it happens to be the (marketable or sympathetic) female character.
  • Men Get Old, Women Get Replaced: The female characters in a story either retire or become ageless at some point before their beauty starts to fade. Aged men still participate in the story, good looks or no, and the audience isn't meant to notice the discrepancy.
  • Never a Self-Made Woman: A common stereotype that a female character can only get to her position because a more powerful man helped her get there.
  • Non-Mammalian Mammaries: A female character from a non-mammal species has breasts, usually for the sake of making her attractive. Audiences are generally not supposed to ponder how or why said females have them.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: A protagonist does something that's either outright villainous or is practically identical to what antagonists or other designated villains are doing, but the story does not treat it as bad or unheroic because they're the protagonist.
  • Quickly-Demoted Woman: The story includes a woman in a powerful position, but she is quickly removed from it so that male characters can be in charge.
  • Sensible Heroes, Skimpy Villains: The heroic women are always dressed in modest, sensible clothes while the female villains are dressed in the skimpiest outfits possible. The connection between morality and promiscuity is intended to be subtle.
  • Sexy Dimorphism: The females of a non-human species always happen to be humanoid and conventionally attractive while the males are bestial; usually an attribute of Most Writers Are Male.
  • The Smurfette Principle: A story includes only one female character in an otherwise male cast. Even more, she is often used for fanservice, a romance subplot or creating some other type of intrigue.
  • Standard Female Grab Area: A formidable female warrior is immediately rendered helpless when the plot demands it by the villain grasping her arm. The audience is not supposed to realize that she should be capable of at least putting up a more capable fight.
  • Stripperific: Audiences are meant to find a female warrior's outfit sexy first and foremost, and either not think about or not care about how impractical it would be in combat.
  • Unprovoked Pervert Payback: A woman gets unreasonably angry or upset about someone (usually a man) whom she incorrectly believes did something perverted to her or another person. It's almost always Played for Laughs, as the audience is not supposed to think about how unstable she is or how her actions result in battery.
  • Unstable Powered Woman: A female character with tremendous power loses control, often due to her emotions. The connection between gender and loss of control was originally intended to go unnoticed.
  • Vasquez Always Dies: In a story filled with danger, an extremely capable or "butch" female character is included, but killed off, while the more marketable or attractive feminine character remains.
  • Wet Blanket Wife: A female character tries to stop her Love Interest from doing whatever dangerous, illegal or frivolous activity the plot relies on. The fact that this role is almost always fulfilled by a woman was originally intended to go unnoticed.
  • White Male Lead: Straight, Cisgendered White Men are considered the "default" whose presence is never questioned, notable or even given a second look. The more characteristics a character has which stray from that framework, the more their presence needs to have a "reason" or else the story risks falling into a so-called "niche market".

    Tropes Designed to Exploit or Trick an Audience 

Tropes in this section desire an Intended Audience Reaction, and know that the audience won't react that way if they realize that's the creator's intention. Thus, these tropes are designed to either never be noticed, "disguise" themselves as other tropes, or be excused in other ways.

  • Allegedly Free Game: A videogame that costs nothing to play...until you actually begin getting invested, in which case having any sort of fun with it (or winning at it) will begin costing more and more real life money.
  • Badbutt: A character uses is meant to appear cool, rebellious, or threatening, but uses less harsh language or mannerisms than would be expected of such a person.
  • But Thou Must!: A videogame offers the player a choice, but only one option is actually allowed. More insidious examples will only reveal that the choice is fake if the player replays the game or uses Save Scumming to reload.
  • Faux Action Girl: A female character is billed as being extremely skilled in combat, but the majority of her screentime showcases her failing at it.
  • Flawless Token: A Token Minority is far more capable or wiser than every other character in the story, often an attempt to avoid or compensate for other racist tropes.
  • Heads I Win, Tails You Lose: The battle is a Hopeless Boss Fight, but the player is led to believe that they can win. If they actually do manage to pull it off, it's still treated as if the boss won.
  • Karmic Rape: Someone gets sexually assaulted as a form of karma for what they've done. Almost no works will claim that they outright deserve to be sexually harassed, but an audience is meant to see it as karma nonetheless.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: A media trailer is designed to make audiences interested enough to buy copies/tickets/viewership; thus, it may be doctored or edited in a deceptive way that doesn't resemble the final product.
  • Opening a Can of Clones: A story introduces doppelgangers, shapeshifters, illusionists, telepaths, Time Travel, or other plot devices to trick an audience into reacting to a major plot point, but later renders it meaningless. And the moment that a writer does this once, audiences no longer know which consequences they should take seriously and which ones they shouldn't.
  • Rape Portrayed as Redemption: A plot point where someone endures sexual assault or abuse and it ultimately turns them into a better person. Very, very few works will outright claim that the rape was intended to be beneficial.
  • Real Women Have Curves: A woman is supposed to be considered "normal" because she frets about or is bullied about her weight.
  • Retirony: This trope began as a cheap way for writers to make a character's death "sad" — usually by introducing the fact that they were close to retirement, or being reunited with loved ones, shortly before their deaths. Once audiences began catching on to the trope, straight examples are either lampshaded, parodied or severely downplayed.
  • Romanticized Abuse: One character is abusive, manipulates or perhaps even terrorizes their Love Interest, but the audience is meant to find it hot and either not notice or excuse the abuse.
  • The Smoking Section: Many tropes within this index, such as Random Smoking Scene and Everybody Smokes were deliberately invoked by the tobacco industry in order to psychologically manipulate or tempt people into smoking, knowing they'd be hooked. Even after the truth about how deadly tobacco was became known, these tropes continued to be Downplayed.
  • Standard Hero Reward: A male character performs some sort of heroic deed, and a female Love Interest is either gifted to him or simply drops into his lap so that the audience feels his actions were rewarded. Originally, this trope's use as a "reward" for good behavior was downplayed — however, later works began lampshading, defying or justifying it.

    Plot Convenience or Cop-Out Tropes 

Tropes which do not follow logic, probability, plot consistency or real life facts to conveniently cause or delete plot points, and the audience is expected to accept it.

  • Always Close: It doesn't matter how long the player took, they just barely had enough time to succeed.
  • Backported Development: A character's current characterization (via Flanderization, Character Development, or Characterization Marches On) is more recognizable or popular, so they are given said traits even in prequels or flashbacks where they should behave much differently.
  • Broken Aesop: A story teaches a moral lesson that is undermined or contradicted by the events of the story itself. Sometimes can be intentional, but more often are noticed by audiences.
  • Compressed Vice: A character can develop and/or kick a terrible vice whenever it is convenient to the plot — whatever makes them more "interesting" to the audience.
  • Convenient Miscarriage: The creators do not want a character to become a parent, thus the mother winds up having a miscarriage that resets things back to normal, but can also be Played for Drama.
  • Forgotten Phlebotinum: A story-breaking phlebotinum is introduced to the story, but discarded without a word once the creators realize how detrimental it is to the story.
  • Guns Are Useless: For the sake of storytelling or Competitive Balance, guns, often no matter the caliber or ordinance, deal much less damage than less-advanced weapons.
  • Hand Wave: A convenient or very simple explanation is given for a problem that should, logically, be much more prevalent or detrimental to the story.
  • Kiddie Kid: A kid acts much younger than a child their age is supposed to act. Usually a result of a writer forgetting how children of a specific age behave and just making things up to compensate.
  • Most Writers Are Male: Male creators outnumber female ones, except in specific genres. Thus, there are often conventions or base assumptions that a writer makes which may make sense to some male audiences, but are confusing or off-putting to some female audiences.
  • No Delays for the Wicked: Villains have no problems with their plans unless stated otherwise.
  • No Endor Holocaust: Some event in the story should be far more disastrous or harmful than the story explores. Often, some kind of Hand Wave is meant to assure the audience that it really wasn't that bad.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Anything not on screen is free to go anywhere, even if it doesn't logically make sense.
  • Offscreen Villain Dark Matter: Villains just have the resources they need, no need to ask where they got them.
  • Plot Armor: A character has survived a situation that would have killed, sincerely hurt, or permanently hindered anyone else. However, since they're important, the author makes sure the danger creates no lasting consequences.
  • Politically Correct History: For some reason, people and groups are more tolerant than they actually were in history because that sort of baggage may be inconvenient to the rest of the story.
  • Stupid Sacrifice: The audience isn't supposed to realize that a character sacrificing their life or well-being for someone else for drama logically shouldn't have needed to make any sacrifice at all.
  • Third Act Stupidity: The story needs to wrap up, so many characters or events behave in unbelievable, convenient or stupid ways to get the story to the end.
  • Summon Backup Dancers: Dance numbers have extra participants that shouldn't logically participate, if they even exist in the scene at all.
  • Take Your Time: The plot will wait while the player does unrelated stuff.
  • Took a Shortcut: Ignoring how people arrived at a location for the sake of plot.
  • Traveling at the Speed of Plot: Fudging travel times for the sake of plot.

    YMMV, Trivia, Flame Bait and Audience Reactions 
  • Ass Pull: A plot development or revelation comes out of nowhere; typically, audiences are not meant to notice the lack of prior establishment or Foreshadowing.
  • Designated Hero: A character intended to be heroic comes across to the audience as just as (or even more villainous) than the antagonists.
  • Designated Love Interest: Two characters are supposedly taking part in a meaningful or loving romance — and hopefully the audience doesn't notice that they've barely interacted or had any sort of courtship.
  • Designated Villain: A character intended to be villainous instead has understandable (and sometimes even heroic) methods, goals or motives.
  • Deliberate Flaw Retcon: A creator whose work received heavy criticism tries to claim that the flaws being criticized were all intentional.
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: A story tells the audience that something is very bad or wrong, but makes it look extremely cool to do.
  • Idiot Plot: The story only happens because everyone is behaving unbelievably or extremely stupid, and it is not intended as parody.
  • Like You Would Really Do It: A character is seemingly killed or in otherwise dire straits, but fans don't believe the threat is genuine because it would ruin what makes the character marketable to the story.
  • Parody Retcon: A creator whose work received heavy criticism tries to claim that the criticism was intentional as a parody of its flaws.
  • Platonic Writing, Romantic Reading: Characters meant to have a platonic relationship are instead written in ways that audiences often mistake as a romantic relationship.
  • Relationship Writing Fumble: Characters meant to have one type of relationship are instead written in ways that audiences often mistake as a completely different type of relationship.