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Uncertain Audience

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"At times it's far too childish for RoboCop fans, and at other times it's a little too dark for the kids! And in the end, it really appeals to no one."
Smeghead concluding his review of RoboCop 3

Uncertain Audience takes place when producers have not positioned a certain enough target for their work's release.

Occurs when a form of media seems unaware of its target demographic, appealing to a wide range of different people. It can be a candy-coated Squee! with a squick center for some people (like a Tootsie Roll lollipop for those who don't like chocolate, or prefer real chocolate) or vice versa (like salted peanuts that you can't eat until you bust em open). For chocolate-munching, peanut-swallowing people on the other hand, this genre blend can be the perfect flavor for you. On the other hand, if you have diabetes or high blood pressure, your best bet is to stay away from this.

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Food metaphors aside, it can appear in various forms:

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Compare and contrast Multiple Demographic Appeal, where a work deliberately appeals to different audiences (usually with better success), and Audience-Alienating Premise, where it's the actual concept that has trouble finding an audience rather than the executionnote . Compare Bathos, where the juxtaposition of incompatible genres or moods is done deliberately for humor.


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Examples:

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    Advertising 
  • This commercial for salads from Domino's Pizza mocks people who enjoy salads as buzzkills who ruin pizza night by making everybody get salads instead, yelling at them to "Eat a pizza once in a while!" Do they want to appeal to people who dislike salads and enjoy pizza, nullifying the point of adding salads to the menu, or do they want to appeal to people who dislike pizza and enjoy salads, which is the demographic the commercial mocks as "soulsmashers"? It also completely ignores anybody who may enjoy both pizza and salad.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Cardcaptor Sakura Clear Card can't seem to decide whether it's intended for kids who are new to the series or adults who grew up watching and reading the original run. On one hand, it is still serialized in the very same Shōjo magazine as the original run, and the anime adaptation aired in a kids timeslot, but on the other hand, since it's a direct continuation, it requires familiarity with a work that's over 20 years old, and all of The Merch are things like collector-grade figures and replicas, as well as expensive cosmetics and clothing, with very few things kids could afford or would be interested in.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi started out looking like a Harem Comedy, then took a hard turn into a fighting series in volume three. Since then it's remained a fighting series, albeit with Harem Comedy elements left in it. It works pretty well. This can be blamed on Executive Meddling — Ken Akamatsu wanted to write a fighting series, but the publisher wanted another harem series like Love Hina. Akamatsu essentially pretended to be writing a harem comedy, and gradually turned it into the fighting shounen he'd wanted.
  • As a Space Western, Cowboy Bebop runs the gamut in terms of genre and tone from comedy, like in "Mushroom Samba", to gruesome horror as in "Pierrot le Fou". This sometimes leads to extreme Mood Whiplash, though it is also what makes the series so popular in many people's eyes. In fact, in the preview for "Black Dog Serenade" Jet even warns the children and women in the audience that they won't care for the plot of the next episode because it is aimed at the middle-aged men. What makes it work is how each episode is a showcase of a slightly different genre, but with consistent characters, making it more "a little bit for everyone" instead of trying to appeal to everyone at once.
  • .hack//Legend of the Twilight's anime adaptation: On one side, it was considerably more light-hearted and childish than .hack//SIGN, with more comic relief and cute monsters. On the other side, it also had more Fanservice and Implied Twincest between the two main characters such that the series has arguably become infamously immortalized because of it.
  • It can be argued that this trope, combined with Values Dissonance, is why Detective Conan (a.k.a., Case Closed) failed when it was broadcast on Cartoon Network in the United States: it was too childish for [adult swim], yet too violent for CN's then late-afternoon Toonami block, having brutal murders, complex plots involving suicide, drugs and business dealings but also many childish comedy moments.
  • Shugo Chara!: It has a young girl protagonist, adorable fairy mascots, and sparkly Magical Girl battles. It also deals with some surprisingly dark subjects (including one-sided Brother–Sister Incest), many characters have deep psychological issues, and a huge part of the story is the heroine's romance with a boy in his late teens (who is openly sexually attracted to her). There's also lots of moe elements in order to appeal to otaku. This may be why no licensing company wants to pick the anime version up.
  • Jewelpet Sunshine is often accused of this. It's a wacky kids' school comedy that deals with issues such as incest and zoophilia. Also, the school part is specifically the last year of high school, meaning all the major characters are at least 18.
  • Missions Of Love can't decide if it's a mature shoujo romance or a shounen moe ecchi. And it's serialized in Nakayoshi, a little girls' manga magazine, further confusing things.
  • Despite its massive popularity, Neon Genesis Evangelion falls into this trope. It has mecha play an important role in the plot, but is also heavily focused on interpersonal character drama — the audience for the two contrasting elements is very different. This might be why the series is so divisive.
  • Shonen series catering to Bishōnen Jump Syndrome can suffer from this if especially if the Multiple Demographic Appeal they're going for is handled poorly, with many members of its target audience (especially in Japan where traditional gender roles are emphasized more) being turned off by the girly stuff they hate in Shoujo being integrated in stories made for them.
  • This is one of the biggest criticisms that even fans have of Akame ga Kill!. The series is relentlessly dark, with main characters dying left and right, but at the same time there are heavy comedy elements that can seem very out of place, such as Lubbock's constant flirting and Tatsumi's Clueless Chick Magnet tendencies, as well as lots of fanservice. Not helping is that the whole Gray-and-Gray Morality part of the story is more of an Informed Attribute, making it hard to tell if it is supposed to be for older audiences looking for a darker Shonen series, or a lighter themed Shonen series for younger audiences. Older audiences find the humor distracting and feel the darker setting is too tame, while younger audiences found the show's themes a bit extreme and hard to get past, alongside the show using heavy amounts of violence, plus the fanservice was distracting.
  • Boruto is caught between appealing to the fans of the original Naruto manga, or to new viewers. For long-time fans of Naruto, it's a story focusing on the children of the characters from the original manga, said parents being characters fans have followed for nearly two decades and therefore like more than their children, and want to see more of the adults, and find the concept of a story that is supposed to be set after the long history of war was seemingly ended to be a Happy Ending Override. Non-Naruto fans had no desire to watch it, simply because its a continuation of a long-running series with a certain level of infamy among the anime community for Filler, and thus lack any emotional connection to it that might have hooked them in. This isn't helped by the fact that newer fans simply won't know much about Naruto if they haven't seen the original series, as Boruto is not very good at informing newcomers on the setting. Combined with the low stakes of the story for most of its release and lack of a good story hook for either party, it makes it hard to sell for any viewer, something fans of the show admit is a major problem.
  • Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA☆ILLYA suffers from this due to being a combination of genre and setting. It's a Magical Girl anime set in an Alternate Universe of Fate/stay night, following Illya. As the Fate franchise is already a world involving Magic, it had trouble attracting a large audience for years, and it was only until much later into the manga's lifespan that it began to attract a serious fanbase. From the perspective of fans of the Magical Girl genre, it lacks anything really unique about its setting, coming across as a Cardcaptor Sakura clone, which meant fans of the genre simply lacked a reason to watch it if they weren't fans of the Fate franchise. For fans of the Fate series, it's a strange and out-of-genre work that doesn't mesh well with the complicated lore and themes of the greater franchise, at least during its first season. Even beyond that, the fact it's part of the Fate franchise means it automatically alienates some viewers simply because of how complicated the series is for outsiders. It also suffers from having Lolicon elements (especially 2wei, which turned off readers/viewers who were able to look past it), meaning people who might find everything else fine were put off by the uncomfortable vibe the show had. And for the few fans that actually liked the magical girl parody and referential humor of the first couple of seasons, they were put off by the third season's shift into Darker and Edgier territory, which went to the point of completely jettisoning Illya and her supporting cast to focus on an Alternate Universe version of Shirou going through a bleak storyline with as much if not more suffering than Heaven's Feel.
  • Sailor Moon Crystal: This anime was seemingly targeted at fans of the original Sailor Moon manga, as it claimed to be a faithful adaptation of that material... But then made several changes to the end of the first season that upset that particular demographic. Then the third season attempted to court fans of the original 90s anime by changing the art design and the cast's personalities to more closely resemble it, but fans of the original anime had already been turned off by the lack of focus on the ensemble cast vs focus on Sailor Moon herself, a facet of the original manga. The series seemingly also failed to attract new fans, as a fourth season hung in limbo for years and underwent yet another art change before finally being retooled into two movies, Sailor Moon Eternal. Sailor Moon Eternal then tried even harder to cater to fans of the anime, further driving the original audience away.
  • The Vision of Escaflowne:
    • Mostly averted as it's considered a famous case of Multiple Demographic Appeal done right, though it did infamously bomb when it first aired in Japan (finding much more love overseas and then being Vindicated by History), partly because the idea of an anime not being a clear-cut Shōnen or Shoujo series (nor being based on a pre-existing manga) was pretty unheard of at the time.
    • It also initially struggled when it first aired in the US under Fox Kids, who tried to market it exclusively to young boys but kept a lot of the romance elements beyond the canceled first episode, which might have contributed to it being much better received in other English-speaking countries (particularly Canada) and being quickly pulled from syndication. Vision of Escaflowne Abridged discussed and lampooned this in its opening episode.
      Van (to Hitomi): The reason you're confused is that the network skipped the first episode. It seems that... certain elements... didn't test too well with that crucial "has a penis" demographic.
      Hitomi: And they thought that was more important than maintaining continuity and the plot?
      Van: You're watching Fox.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V: by some accounts, about half the creators wanted it to be an idealistic show and a Milestone Celebration about the joy of being an entertainer and making people smile, and the other half wanted it to be a gritty Deconstructor Fleet with heavy War Is Hell themes. Needless to say, these two concepts got in the way of each other a lot, and towards the end, the series had gotten too grim and cynical for people who liked the goofy stuff, and too saccharine and annoying for people who liked the darker stuff. For a particular example: the series introduces the Battle Beast, a traumatized boy reduced to an animalistic level and trained to kill who offs multiple named characters, and then has him turn over a new leaf and learn to have fun after the main character plays paintball with him.
  • Much of the reason DARLING in the FRANXX is a fairly controversial show is this—it's often been described as the fusion of Neon Genesis Evangelion and Gurren Lagann, as it absolutely borrows stylistic cues from both. Consequently, it has a high-concept, sexualized, inherently silly premise of robots with pilots sitting at the controls in doggystyle, but the series itself, for most of its run, is relatively slow-paced and serious, focusing on interpersonal drama, love triangles, and tragic backstories. A lot of people interested in bawdy, farcically over-the-top action were wondering when the show would stop focusing on sad teenagers, and found the show's conflict hard to get hyped about. Meanwhile, the people who liked the show's character focus and drama were either unable to get past the premise, or were driven off by later episodes bringing the silly stuff to the fore—culminating in a lady the size of the planet fighting space aliens.
  • This is often cited as the main reason why Appare-Ranman! flopped with general audiences despite its good critical ratings—it revolves around a cross-country race in a Steampunk-inspired setting very loosely based on turn of the century America, but despite the over-the-top setting, characters, and action, the series also has multiple character arcs and backstories revolving around serious topics such as women's rights and the folly of revenge. Viewers who tuned in to see colorful, ridiculous action a la REDLINE found it hard to tolerate the angsty backstories and morals, and those who might have been interested in the characterization found it hard to take seriously because of the more out-there elements, and the series' sales suffered because of it.

    Comic Books 
  • Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld fell victim to this throughout nearly all of its runs. The original comic was conceived before the Magical Girl Warrior was codified in the West (to put it in perspective, Sailor Moon would not debut on American television for more than a decade after the original maxi-series) leaving the creators with no idea where to go with a princess character that journeyed between Earth and Gemworld. Their solution was to make the series a full-on horror title that proved extremely unpopular and was quickly cancelled. Several decades later, after the Magical Girl Warrior had been codified, and following a series of well-received animated shorts, DC revived the character for the New 52 relaunch in the pages of Sword Of Sorcery, as an adult targeted title with heavy themes that included attempted rape, while having nothing in common with the shorts. The book proved unpopular and was cancelled after failed attempts to bring in readers. In 2020, a new Amethyst miniseries was published, eschewing Magical Girl Warrior tropes in favor of heavy, complex, and mostly boring political intrigue that once again, proved unpopular with readers. While the surface trappings of a magical princess being Trapped in Another World would repel male readers and older readers, the heavy focus on elements like horror and politics turned away anyone looking for a Magical Girl Warrior series, resulting in low readership and short runs.
  • Rainbow Rowell's Runaways has much the same dilemma as the above-mentioned Cardcaptor Sakura Clear Card. On the one hand, it's marketed heavily towards fans of the original series, with references to their past adventures and the various crossovers with other comics (for instance, Victor von Doombot is a recurring guest character, and a recurring subplot is Victor's trauma from the death of his nephew), and thus casual readers may have to read a bunch of lesser-known comics in order to understand all the plot points. On the other hand, the series was meant to appeal to viewers of the Hulu series, and thus a number of changes to the team's dynamics were made, including Xavin and Klara having their roles in the series severely reduced, Gert having a much larger role on the team, and Nico and Karolina being made an Official Couple, as they are on the show. While some of those changes were well-received, a significant number of longtime fans were annoyed by what they perceive as forced synergy with the TV show.
  • IDW's Beast Wars comics get a fair bit of this, due to being primarily focused on characters from the toyline, Beast Wars II, and Beast Wars Neo. Fans of the cartoon are put off because the main appeal to Beast Wars was its strong character work with a limited cast, while the comics have Loads and Loads of Characters that mostly excludes the cartoon's cast outside of cameos. Meanwhile, fans of the anime are put off by the massive amount of Adaptation Personality Change and significant tonal differences, making it feel like the creators were crowbarring its concepts into the American continuity regardless of whether it made sense. This was especially evident with the Beast Wars Sourcebook, which devoted massive chunks of pagetime to obscure characters from Japanese fiction but also rewrote half their personalities to In Name Only levels. It seems like the only people it was made for were fans of Toyline Exclusive Characters like Razorbeast and Torca, who previously didn't have any meaningful followings or characterization.

    Fan Works 
  • Sword Art Online Abridged has this happening to this version of Alfheim Online; the box description zigzags between a child-friendly game about friendship and a more adult game about violence and fighting. Tiffany describes the target audience as being the cast from Lord of the Flies, though he doubts that's a market big enough to profit from. Granted, in the same scene he also mentions that it's been seeing a surge of popularity recently, so perhaps the at odds marketing really did work or the Lord of the Flies market really is big enough to profit from.
  • The fanfiction My Brave Pony: Starfleet Magic suffers from this. It's got numerous violent and dark plotlines (the story constantly advocates Violence Is the Only Option and that friendship is worthless while also brutalizing and breaking down several characters including killing Twilight Sparkle off for real) but it also has its share of light-hearted elements (spontaneous musical numbers, the story of a statue learning to be a real boy, wholesale references to shows like Today's Special and Strawberry Shortcake with Power Rangers-esque fight scenes) and as a result, the series is too dark for children but too childish for adults.
  • While Pokémon Reset Bloodlines is far from unpopular, it's undeniably very hard to sell. The story's main draw, a superpowered Ash with a harem, is something that doesn't attract viewers who are looking for a compelling read, while those who do have to contend with one of the archetypal "bad fanfic" plot points. Not helped that this fic also tends to deconstruct said power fantasies as much as it plays them straight, alienating the readers lured by the above mentioned main draw.

    Films — Animation 
  • Some anime Anthology Films like Robot Carnival, Genius Party and Genius Party Beyond fit in this category due the complete change of mood (and sometimes of genre) in each animated short. For example, in Genius Party there is a science-fiction adventure ("Shanghai Dragon"), a Magic Realism tale ("Doorbell"), a Tim Burton-esque comedy ("Deathtic 4"), a philosophical monologue ("Limit Cycle") and it ends with a Slice of Life romance story ("Baby Blue").
  • Perhaps the main flaw of Titan A.E. was it did not seem to have a target demographic: The harder Science-Fiction elements turned off children from it, and the goofier moments (already hit by the Animation Age Ghetto) turned off Science-Fiction fans. According to a publicist, they were aiming for the 10-13 year old crowd. According to the director's commentary, they were aiming for teenagers. Even the VHS reflected this uncertainty — on it you had a trailer for the first X-Men movie, followed by a promo for Digimon (remember, Fox Kids was still around at this point).
  • While generally looked at as a good movie nowadays, The Hunchback of Notre Dame had a bit of a problem with this. At its core, it's a very serious and quite dark story, featuring heavy themes such as religious fundamentalism, rape, and even genocide. This would make for a fine movie, but the problem being that it wouldn't be marketable to kids, arguably the main demographic for the Disney Animated Canon. So they added in a decent amount of comic relief and slapstick, mostly centered around three ambiguously alive Gargoyles. Audiences agree, even big fans of the movie, that this didn't mesh well with the rest of the movie and serve to bring down the overall quality of the picture.
  • Home on the Range may have flopped for this reason. Some elements such as the corny story and lighthearted song numbers feel like they were intended for a younger audience than usual for Disney, but the film also has a "hip" feel to it reminiscent of the Dreamworks Animation films at the time, resulting in a messy film that is generally considered one of Disney's weakest works.
  • The following year's Chicken Little had similar issues of trying to combine the usual Disney story conventions with a Fractured Fairy Tale slant in the vein of Shrek (the film was the last animated film greenlit by Michael Eisner in the midst of his feud with Jeffrey Katzenberg, right before Disney's merger with Pixar). Though more successful financially, the film had both jokes that were unappealing to older audiences and a surprising amount of Nightmare Fuel for younger ones.
  • The Road to El Dorado couldn't quite shake off this issue when it first came out, resulting in it largely being a Box Office Bomb. It's an animated movie set during the exploration of the new world involving two European friends finding the legendary El Dorado. Despite its wacky premise, it was much darker then advertised, containing blood, innuendos, and not shying away from making the Spanish conquistadors (namely Hernán Cortés) as terrifying as one could imagine. At the same time, it had a lot of slap-stick comedy, quirky songs like a Disney movie would, and in general it was looking like your standard children's animated movie. Without a clear audience, it ended up not doing well, though nowadays, it lives on well online thanks to both of these elements being liked by fans years later.
  • One of the main reasons The Black Cauldron didn't do well was this trope; they couldn't seem to decide between making a more serious dark fantasy film that stuck closer to the source material, or a more whimsical and lighthearted fantasy film geared towards children. As a result, they had to edit a lot of the film's more graphic and scary content while adding goofier kid-appeal elements, which alienated fantasy fans and especially fans of The Chronicles of Prydain. Even then a lot of the film's content, such as the Horned King and the Cauldron Born, were still regarded as too intense for young children (it was notably Disney's first animated film to be rated PG, and this was in an era when PG meant a whole lot worse than what it means now), which likely contributed to the film's commercial failure. Nowadays, most people agree the movie would probably have been better if they'd gone full Darker and Edgier, as these tend to be the parts people enjoy most.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Artemis Fowl: Many critics were left baffled as to who exactly Disney was trying to market the film to. Fans of the book series were angry at the numerous changes the film made, including changing the Grey-and-Gray Morality from the first book, making Artemis a standard hero rather than a Villain Protagonist, and completely removing the fairies' inherently sexist society as a plot point. Non-book fans weren't interested in yet another generic Disney action movie based on a franchise they weren't familiar with. It did not help that the movie was rife with Special Effect Failure. This led to a movie that pleased no one and was quickly dumped on Disney+.
  • Whereas Batman (1989) was a film adaptation of the comicbook that deliberately went for a more grounded tone (with a sprinkling of campy moments, via the Joker character), Batman Returns went much further but had an inconsistent tone. Due to Protection from Editors, Tim Burton had much more authorial control over the film, but as a result, the tone veers wildly between Darker and Edgier material (Penguin's parents throwing him into the sewers in the opening sequence, the Penguin himself wanting to exterminate Gotham's firstborn children, the exploration of Bruce and Selina not being able to hold a relationship because of their underlying personal problems/secret identities) is juxtaposed with ridiculous camp like Batman strapping an oversized bomb to a henchman and blowing him up, rocket-firing penguins, the Penguin driving around in a giant duck while screaming maniacally and the goofy soundtrack in scenes with the Red Penguin Circus Gang. This even extended to the future direction of the movie — in an infamous case, the film got in hot water with audiences after McDonald's marketed Happy Meal toys featuring family-friendly versions of the characters, for a film that has all manner of surprising violence and darker source material. The subsequent films, for better or worse, adopted a much lighter tone that began to introduce more elements of camp.
  • Battlefield Baseball, which is sort of a spoof of baseball movies... but also has gratuitous violence, an inexplicable plot, and a few musical numbers, all wrapped up in a martial-arts package. It's weird.
  • Blank Check. The setup for how the kid protagonist ends up with a million dollars involves a knowledge of banking practices that very few younger viewers could easily follow along with, while the standard 90's "Home Alone" Antics and attendant "grown-ups suck" tropes keep it from being particularly engaging to parents while they explain how interest accrual works to their confused children. And that's not even getting into the creepy, ephebophilic overtones of our young hero's crush being a grown woman... who does reciprocate his affections.
  • The film adaptation of Blood and Chocolate is ostensibly based upon the young adult werewolf novel by Annette Curtis Klause, but makes so many changes to the plot and characters it's barely recognizable. In the process it became a bland and generic supernatural love story that's been told a hundred times, stripping out the more unique and gritty elements from the novel. The end result is that fans of the book weren't interested because it had little in common with the story they loved, while other people weren't interested because it looked cheesy and cliched; it couldn't even appeal to horror fans because it clearly played up romantic drama over the horror elements. The film only grossed $6 million on a budget of $15 million.
  • Cats (2019), as an adaptation of a musical famous for having only the barest bones of a plot, confused and disappointed audiences who were unfamiliar with the source material and would have been expecting more of a standard plot structure. Fans of the musical, on the other hand, were put off by the new story material director Tom Hooper did add, as well as the film's tone being inconsistent not just with the musical, but from scene to scene as well. One reviewer who was a fan of the stage version declared that Cats doesn't even know what Cats is about. Cats is also known for being very Camp and fantastical, and yet Tom Hooper seemed intent on bringing it to realism the same way he had for Les Misérables (2012). This resulted in the movie falling headlong into the Uncanny Valley.
  • This trope is usually pointed to as one of the reasons behind the failure of Fantastic Four (2015). The director was clearly shooting for something along the lines of a grim, sinister Cronenbergian Body Horror film, while the executives panicked, took it away from him in post-production and hastily finished it as something intended to chase the coattails of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The result is a movie that's too scary for kids, too slow and joyless for casual audiences, too quippy and fast-paced for horror fans, and too different from the source material for comic-book fans, and ultimately ended up pleasing basically no one either critically or commercially.
  • The 2011 Green Lantern film was criticized for bumbling trying to split the difference between being aimed at existing comics fans and the general audience. Most people feel like they introduced too much of the mythos too early for the latter but eased into enough that they alienated the former. The film was a Box Office Bomb that lost at least $75 million in its theatrical run.
  • Who the hell was Hobgoblins made for? It's about a bunch of Grotesque Cute obvious puppets who trap people in twisted versions of their wildest fantasies... all of which seem to be about everybody boning their brains out. If you thought the movie it was ripping off was a bit confused about its target audience, wait until you see this thing.
  • Hudson Hawk. A parody of musical comedy (a singing cat burglar) and action/adventure/espionage.
  • Ang Lee's Hulk was marketed like a standard superhero blockbuster, complete with all the usual bells and whistles, such as a line of action figures and other merchandise aimed at young children. Despite this, the film itself is actually very slow and somber, with far less action than one would expect from a movie about the Hulk. Many critics stated that the movie feels less like a superhero film and more like a serious family drama that just happens to have a giant green monster in it. The end result was considered too boring and pretentious for the audiences that enjoyed movies like Spider-Man and X-Men, and yet too silly for more serious audiences that might otherwise enjoy the kinds of films Ang Lee is known for making.
  • Last Action Hero. A mass Lampshade Hanging of action/adventure movie tropes mixed with a comparison between Real Life and cinematic reality. Though it's worth noting that the film itself almost plays out like TV Tropes: The Movie, so it could be argued that the audience for it just hadn't been invented yet.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean plays up both the romance angle and the pirate angle, as well as the kiddie comedy angle and the zombie curse angle. Taken individually, each would seem to mesh poorly with the others, but (the first, at least) is notable for its success in Multiple Demographic Appeal.
  • Pod People features an E.T.-like Friendly Alien who befriends a little kid, but also features a duo of poachers and a pop music band with some coarse language and sexual innuendo. It also contains a B-plot about a second alien, identical to the first, going on a murderous killing "spree" against the rest of the trapped-in-a-cabin cast.. so it's basically E.T. meets Friday the 13th. Possibly a result of Executive Meddling; originally it was written to be a straight up horror film, but when E.T. was released they tried to capitalize on the success and turn it into an alien buddy film. Didn't really go well.
  • Spice World. The Nostalgia Chick comments on how she has no idea who it was being marketed towards, given that some of the jokes were clearly meant for adults (such as men in thongs and one of the girls suggesting that they get naked for a young boy in the hospital), but other jokes seemed more geared for kids, or at least would be unfunny to adults. Of course, you could make much the same point about the band themselves, so maybe the target audience was just "Spice Girls fans". And it ended up grossing $152 million worldwide, so it seems there was a market for it.
  • The live-action film adaptation of Yatterman made by Takashi Miike seems pretty childish, with lots of slapstick humor, colorful special effects, cheesy action scenes and a clumsy villain trio... but it also had many sex-related jokes, including one scene where one robot starts acting as if it was having an orgasm.
  • There's also movies like Dick and Across the Universe which are meant to appeal to a young audience but deal with things (Watergate and The '60s, respectively) that are more likely to appeal to baby boomers.
  • The 2009 film of Land of the Lost with Will Ferrell, which is probably why it flopped. It has a goofy, slapsticky sci-fi plot you'd expect to see in a kids' movie, but most of the humor is very dark and sexual.
  • Sucker Punch: While the trailers make it look like it was a pop-corn flick (with giant robots, dragons and samurai monsters), is actually a serious drama about a girl being put in a mental institution that uses her imagination to escape from harsh reality, involving at least two fantasy sub-plots: One that takes place in a brothel, and another that involves different genres, such as Tolkienesque High Fantasy, Sci-Fi/Cyberpunk, Steampunk/Diesel Punk/War Movie.
  • Despite being rated "PG", and having lots of childish humor, the movie version of Howard the Duck also contains lots of sexual humor and innuendo, including references to zoophilia.
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show: In the DVD Commentary, Richard O'Brien mentions that this was a concern around the time the film was released.
  • The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys is, on its face, a Coming-of-Age Story with lots of comedic elements, but which at times takes a dark turn, with a subplot involving incest and sexual abuse, and a Downer Ending. It also features cheesy animated segments.
  • Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald was often noted for this, due to the conflict between its protagonist and its antagonist. People interested in Newt Scamander wondered why he was involved in a grim-and-gritty conflict that didn't involve his magizoology focus at all, while people interested in Grindelwald and the backstory of the franchise's main Greater-Scope Villain would just wonder why a nebbish scientist is the main pivot of the conflict and not the actually-relevant Dumbledore. This was already a bit of a divide in the first film, which had wacky scenes of Newt rounding up magical critters being intercut with scenes emphasizing Credence's abuse.
  • Several Anthology Films tend to do this, such as New York Stories and Paris, je t'aime (this one had elements of comedy, drama, fantasy, Magic Realism, and one story involving vampires).
  • It is not quite clear if Barry Levinson's Toys was intended as a kids' comedy or a satire for adults, having elements from both genres.
  • The Indian science-fiction superhero film Ra.One starts like a kid's comedy about a nerdy father making a video game for his son in order to make him think that he is cool. Then, after the first musical sequence (which doesn't look at all like something from a kid's film) the movie turns very serious and dark, with the villain from the video game becoming real and starting to kill people, including a main character. Then, the movie turns silly again, but after another musical sequence the movie turns serious once again.
  • Ink has many light-hearted and whimsical elements from Fairy Tales and Juvenile Fantasy, but it also has lots of swearing, frightening scenes, and deals with several adult themes such as drug use and suicide. It also has several elements from arthouse films (specially in the visual style) and fighting sequences involving martial arts and a shaky camera.
  • The film version of Cloud Atlas received a mixed reaction from critics and audiences probably due to this: The movie, like the book by which it was inspired, involved six different interrelated stories, which were very different from each other: There were two Period Pieces, a thriller, a comedy (The story of Timothy Cavendish) a science-fiction Dystopia similar to Blade Runner and a Post Apocalyptic adventure. While the six stories are connected, there is a complete change of mood and styles in every scene.
  • A frequent complaint about Small Soldiers is that its premise is too silly for adults, but too dark and violent for children.
  • A common statement about the notorious bomb Caligula is that it was trying to be both a deep, dramatic historical film that happened to feature sex (which was what writer Gore Vidal and director Tinto Brass wanted, though even their visions were very different), and high-budget exploitative Porn with Plot spectacle (which was what producer Bob Guccione wanted). The result was too trashy and debauched for fans of drama, and too heavy on narrative for people who watched it with their pants off.
  • Godzilla:
    • Though the films seem to alternate audiences, with some being for adults and others for children, Godzilla vs. Gigan can't quite decide who it's supposed to be geared to. On one hand, it has a lot of goofy elements, including a couple of scenes where Godzilla and Anguirus actually talk. But on the other, the fight scenes are disturbingly violent and show more blood than was ever seen in a Godzilla movie before. Part of this is that the films were a response to the rising star of the Gamera series, which at the time also ran hard with kid-appeal while featuring a weird amount of blood and gore.
    • Godzilla vs. Hedorah has pretty much the same problem. While it has plenty of aspects pandering to kids, such as a kid main character, silly-sounding music, and Godzilla flying, the film also has Family Unfriendly Deaths of people being disintegrated to their bones, a scene where a guy has an alcohol-fueled hallucination, a creepy-looking Muck Monster villain, and fights between Godzilla and Hedorah that, while not exactly gory, are still rather grotesque due to Hedorah's manner of dumping his slime on Godzilla.
  • The Runaways failed to make much headway at the Box Office because executives were unsure whether to market it towards the now-aged fans of the band from their heyday — or else the teenage fans of the two leads Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart.
  • The film War Dogs is a Based on a True Story film about a pair of arms dealers who got busted for embezzlement. It's directed by Todd Philips of The Hangover fame. Common criticisms of it is that the film was too slapsticky to be taken seriously as a Dramedy, but also not funny enough to be an out and out comedy.
  • North was intended to be a kid-friendly film with a few adult jokes here and there, but the kid-friendly scenes were too childish for adults and the adult jokes were too inappropriate for kids.
  • The modern cinematic universe trend seems to have slowly revealed an issue of this trope. Given that the model that made the Marvel Cinematic Universe — and the more rushed DC Extended Universework was in part made for people who like comics and to introduce them to a larger audience via positive word of mouth, those universe have very set target audiences. The Follow the Leader trends, not so much. Most notably this has caused problems for franchises that already had history of crossovers being given a new push to Follow the Leader. Now they had new people expecting them to emulate the super hero trend and old fans wanting them to do things like they always had.
    • The Mummy (2017), Universal's first entry to kickstart the Dark Universe franchise, failed because it couldn't win any specific demographic; fans of the classic horror movies were turned off by how the movie spends most of its runtime on Tom Cruise's character instead of the titular monster, while mainstream audiences weren't won over by the film's connection to rather obscure horror monsters. Universal eventually scrapped such plans, with The Invisible Man (2020) becoming a solo movie much more geared to their normal horror fans.
    • The MonsterVerse started out seemingly able to handle this better, mostly due to Just Here for Godzilla tendencies. Following Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) the critics turned on the Monsterverse for essentially going to please the classic Toho fans more than the expectations of the modern Shared Universe fans which reacted far more positively.
    • Meanwhile Warner Bros' other attempt with a pre-established library, SCOOB! used press releases to assure Hanna-Barbera fans characters they haven't seen much of in a while are indeed going to be in the movie. The actual movie itself went full on Hanna Barbera Crisis Crossover retaining the studio's silliness, haphazard crossover and playing on emotions of people who already knew the characters. Its only Uncertain Audience point seemed to be whether putting it in a modern setting was necessary or We're Still Relevant, Dammit!. Which wasn't even that new to HB IP's and with maybe the exception of Yo Yogi! wasn't a problem in practice.
    • To better explain this, it needs to be noted the ways Universal and Toho (let alone other horror/monster franchises) made their crossovers work and the way the MCU set up things are actually polar opposites. By this we mean the MCU was producer-driven with full intent on producing a uniform setting and despite being a genre-type was still very normal in many Hollywood norms. Universal's movies (and again horror/monster franchises in general) were always done much more haphazardly with many decisions on sequels, crossovers and reboots being handled as people came up with new ideas and a chunk of its output each year is in disregard of many Hollywood norms and with little respect for it. Toho itself being much bigger regard in Japan than in Hollywood is also seen as an example of this as during Universal's heyday with the monster flicks they were never considered a major studio either. Sometimes even regarded negatively for using mostly men in rubber suits. Hanna-Barbera on the other hand is also in a very similar position. The studio never took themselves that seriously but loved to produce Crossovers with their characters. HB however like Toho and Universal Horror has not been held in high regard in some areas of Hollywood and the internet. Despite this all three examples built their entire legacies on their characters and eventually crossing them over in their own ways, their loyal fans appreciated them for it. This however clearly causes problems for studio heads who want to reach the new Shared Universe fans but by catering too much to them they run the risk of alienating the audiences that really were the only ones who super cared about the characters in the first place.
  • DC Extended Universe
    • The franchise ran into this from the beginning as the studio attempt to build an interconnected franchise off a film intended to just be a new Superman series. WB attempted to recapture the critical acclaim of Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Trilogy, which were generally serious films, and resulted in the first film, Man of Steel, being noted as quite somber for a Superman movie. At the same time however, the films is aimed at multiple demographics like Marvel's movies even though the audiences may not necessarily like the approach. Once Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice came out (made by the same team as MOS), laying the groundwork for the rest of the Shared Universe, the overtly serious tone was passed around to all their characters (Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman specifically, but also cameos from others like Aquaman and Flash), which made audiences question how the characters were going to be treated going forward. On top of that, despite being very dark and depressing they were still marketed like your average Marvel movie, complete with a line of children's toys from Mattel and various food tie-ins, including breakfast cereals. The film received an even more divisive response than Man of Steel and suffered some of the worst box office drops in cinematic history despite the marquee value of Batman and Superman. Going forward, the studio had to rework their approach by scaling back on continuity and reassuring audience that the dark tone will not dominate all future films.
    • WB's reactionary approach lead to radical changes being made in post-production of Suicide Squad (2016) and Justice League (2017) to lighten the tone. Suicide Squad was intended to be a darker criminal underworld drama but a different cut of the film was made that emphasized the comic book camp, and they ended up blended together for the final product. Justice League was completely revamped with reshoots, making the film more of a standard pulp adventure instead of a more apocalyptic encounter. Justice League in particular was a commercial failure and failed to win over any audiences.
    • Birds of Prey (2020) was attempting to attract Birds of Prey fans and Harley Quinn fans. However, the numerous changes the film made to the Birds of Prey members as well as largely being sidelined by Harley Quinn ended up alienating Birds of Prey fans. Meanwhile, the majority of Harley Quinn's fans are teenage girls, but the film's graphic and extreme black-comedy violence meant it got an R rating, precluding any of them from being able to see it. Furthermore, fans of Harley as she appears with the Joker didn't enjoy the movie as it starts with him kicking her out, while fans of Harley and Poison Ivy stories also weren't satisfied as Ivy doesn't appear at all.
  • This is perhaps one of the biggest problems with The Hobbit film series. It couldn't really decide if it wanted to go with the tone of the book (silly and whimsical, but with darker, more poignant moments scattered throughout) or more like the epic tone of the previous The Lord of the Rings trilogy. This ended up alienating fans of the book, while also falling short of the expectations of fans of the original trilogy.
  • The Nutcracker in 3D is a musical fantasy aimed at children, but features so much fascist imagery that it ends up as Nightmare Fuel. The Mood Whiplash between lightheartedness and grim drama was the main reason the movie was universally panned.
  • From Dusk Till Dawn has been criticized by crime movie fans for the Genre Shift that happens halfway through. Lots of fans of the producers' other works agree that the movie would've been better if the first half had been stretched to the end. That might be a case of Trolling Creator, though.
  • Star Wars:
    • George Lucas himself stated that the franchise was primarily for children with the original Star Wars trilogy was being a light-hearted popular children's fantasy that adults could see with them in the vein of The Wizard of Oz and the The Thief of Bagdad (1940). However, as the Star Wars fandom aged up, adults became a sizable and vocal part of the fanbase, meaning that Star Wars could never really lean solely on its kid demographic in the best interests of merchandising and marketing. Not helping matters is that many of the later Star Wars creators, who happened to be fans of the franchise themselves and thus saw it from an adult perspective.
    • This dichotomy was very evident in the prequel trilogy, which were simultaneously intended to be Darker and Edgier and more Merchandise-Driven. The Phantom Menace, for instance, has some of the most blatant Kid-Appeal Character candidates in the series and tons of silly, pulpy action setpieces that would probably get an eyeroll from older or more serious fans, but its central plot is introduced with a trade dispute over new tax policies and features scenes dealing with political minutia and speeches in the Senate that would likely leave kiddies bored or confused.
    • The Disney-era installments struggled with appeasing multiple demographics despite their relative financial success. Although the newer films are more "adult" than previous Star Wars movies (i.e. more intense violence, less whimsical humor, and a lessened Kid-Appeal Character presence), Disney still markets them towards kids with an abundance of family-friendly merchandise and tie-ins. Disney's attempts to expand Star Wars to newer audiences and markets (most notably the Chinese) have been mixed partly due to the "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny nature of the films and competition from newer blockbusters like the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Most notably, Solo was aimed at die-hard, nostalgic fans who would be interested in Han Solo's backstory, yet the film's massive budget would necessitate the inclusion of more casual fans, most of whom didn't watch the movie either because they weren't interested the subject matter or felt there wasn't a unique selling point that appeals to them like a famous lead actor.
    • The Rise of Skywalker, currently the last feature film as of this writing, had a very uncertain audience, likely not helped by The Last Jedi leaving quite the Broken Base in its wake and a very Troubled Production. It attempted to appeal to old-school fans who felt burned by prior installments by retconning as much of its predecessor as it could manage, but also undoes the largest accomplishment of the original trilogy in resurrecting Palpatine, hands Rey even further Story-Breaker Power, and introduces multiple new Force powers and unprecedented technologies, all of which seem designed to annoy those old-school fans. Meanwhile, fans brought on by The Force Awakens were angered by elements like Finn and Poe being mostly marginalized in favor of focusing primarily on the Skywalker legacy from the old films, while fans that enjoyed The Last Jedi were obviously none too happy to see its themes and characters abandoned. This was also evident in its treatment of "Reylo", the series' main Fan-Preferred Couple—bringing the two together with almost no relationship development, which angered the fans who saw it as abusive and creepy, but also killing Kylo off seconds after their first kiss, angering the shippers who wanted the two to have a happy ending.
  • This trope is likely the reason for the failure of a flurry of pulpy period adventure films in the early-90's, like The Rocketeer, The Shadow, and The Phantom, on top of the disappointing box office of Dick Tracy. In an effort to find the next Indiana Jones and Batman, studio execs greenlit multiple popular properties from or set in the first half of the 20th century. This assumed that audiences flocked to Indy and Batman because of a nostalgic allure, rather than Indiana Jones being the product of a collaborative dream team between Steven Spielberg and George Lucas (and starring Han Solo himself, Harrison Ford), and Batman being, well, Batman. Although Tracy was a decent hit, albeit not the blockbuster Disney hoped, and The Rocketeer found an audience among genre fans at home after its box office failure, it turns out the wave of period adventures failed to resonate with younger audiences who had no interest in said properties.
  • Nine Lives. The film is a talking cat movie, which typically only appeal to kids, but the movie has several business scenes which are too boring for kids. The movie also has several disturbing scenes like the main character nearly dying in a coma and a suicide attempt, but also has a lot of Toilet Humour.
  • The 2018 film Red Sparrow was seen as too campy for people who like more serious spy fiction but too serious for people who like camp. Add that the movie has so much objectionable content that it borders on Exploitation Film, and the studio was basically forced to cut a very misleading trailer.
  • In a similar vein is the Chevy Chase movie Oh! Heavenly Dog, being a failed attempt at a Benji movie for adults. It has several disturbing scenes in it, like Chase's character getting stabbed to death, and contains implied bestiality between Chase's character (as Benji) and a character played by Jane Seymour, but also has some instances of Toilet Humour in it.
  • As pointed out in Nathan Rabin's review of Chappie, the film seemingly can't make up its mind about whether it should be a violent, R-rated crime drama or a family film starring a quirky, child-like robot. The result is a film that's too violent for anyone under 17 and too stupid for anyone over 17.
  • Terminator: Dark Fate tried to both appeal to old fans by bringing back Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger, but at the same time tried to be a clean slate for the franchise by killing off John Connor and replacing him with a different destined savior. Old fans were furious that once again, a Terminator sequel performed a Happy Ending Override on Terminator 2 and were not happy about the series' focal character John Connor not only being usurped but actually killed off unceremoniously in the Cold Open, while non-fans were either intimidated by the references to the previous film or simply didn't care about the new characters. Unsurprisingly it was a massive Box Office Bomb, costing the studio between an estimated 110 and 130 million dollars once everything was said and done.
  • Men in Black: International attempted to attract the old MIB fans as well as a younger demographic by casting more contemporary actors Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson as the protagonists. However, since neither Will Smith nor Tommy Lee Jones reprised their roles, the old fans didn't turn out and Hemsworth and Thompson simply didn't have the star power to draw in a new audience.
  • Jem and the Holograms is based off a cartoon from the 80s with a small but dedicated fan base. The film includes lots of Mythology Gags and incorporates some of the cartoon's wacky charm into the stage costumes, but then again gives it a Setting Update for the 2010s, switches the set-up from an adventure theme to a Coming-of-Age Story, makes the cast Younger and Hipper and seems to be trying to appeal to the youth of the day. Grown fans of the cartoon were put off by the massive changes, while tweens were put off by how derivative it looked. The result was an embarrassing $2 million gross on a $5 million budget, getting pulled from theatres after only two weeks.
  • The Huntsman: Winter's War was a sequel to a vehicle for Kristen Stewart in her heyday that was also embracing a market for Darker and Edgier fairy tale retellings. This sequel/prequel drops Kristen Stewart from the story, focuses on a side character and goes for a Lighter and Softer tone to capitalise on the popularity of Frozen. Fans of the first film are turned off for the changes in characters and shift in tone, while younger viewers weren't attracted because the first was outside their demographic.
  • Stuart Saves His Family.
    Al Franken: Somebody wrote a review that said something like, "Watching Stuart Saves His Family go into the multiplexes is like watching a platoon of rookie soldiers head into an ambush. The people who will like this movie won’t go to it, and the people who will go to it won’t like it."
  • This proved to be a bit of a problem for Ophelia. It's an adaptation of one of William Shakespeare's most famous plays, exploring it from another character's perspective, which would appeal to Shakespeare fans. But the film also has a Lighter and Softer tone, simplifies and modernizes the dialogue, takes many liberties with the source material (including borrowing a lot from a Romeo and Juliet) and plays up the romance, which seems to appeal more to the young adult crowd (the book it was based upon is also aimed at young adults). However, some teenagers aren't all that interested in Shakespeare and/or may not be familiar enough with Hamlet to fully understand the plot, while Hamlet fans didn't always appreciate how much the story was changed.
  • Perhaps the main flaw of The Black Hole was that it didn't seem to have any specific target demographic. On the one hand, the film includes some rather dark imagery and themes such as the zombified Cygnus crew members, the Hell scene, and Durant's death by drilling, along with hard science fiction elements that would not exactly appeal to younger audiences. At the same time, it also includes kid-appeal elements such as Cute Machines V.I.N.CENT and B.O.B. and the goofy target-shooting sequence. The fact that it was released by Disney only further confused matters.
  • Mulan (2020) was often remarked on for this, in terms of the changes made between it and the 1990s original. The removal of Mushu and a lot of the more comedic moments imply a desire to make a gritty and realistic war movie, but the film also introduces actual supernatural powers and an evil witch. Reportedly, the removal of Li Shang was to reduce implications of a commander romancing his underling, implying an attempt to play up a more feminist angle, yet several pointed out how Mulan's importance is credited to her natural superhuman magical powers and not her ingenuity, suggesting that women can only be great if born with special abilities. The removal of musical numbers, casting of Chinese actors and partial filming in Chinese provinces suggested an attempt to deliberately go for Germans Love David Hasselhoff by playing to Chinese audiences. However, the film had no Chinese people in its creative team, featured a very bizarre interpretation of chi that most Chinese audiences disliked and didn't offer anything to differentiate itself form locally made wuxia films.
  • The obscure Hong Kong movie Thunder Of Gigantic Serpent is essentially three movies in one: a kid-friendly "little kid with a cute pet" movie, a violent spy thriller (including death, gore, and multiple F-bombs) and a Kaiju movie (when the girl's pet snake becomes giant size). As such, it's hard to know who the hell it was aimed at, which may be part of why it's so obscure.
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child attempts to return the series to its darker roots by keeping Freddy in the shadows more, integrating more gothic imagery and adult topics, and building up the kills as being more gruesome and shocking than before. At the same time, however, Freddy keeps his snarky, jokester persona from The Dream Master but cranked Up to Eleven with even more one-liners than before, which results in all of the kills falling into laughable territory and contrasts the darker and more serious tone being presented here, almost as if the writers of the Freddy's Nightmares TV series wrote his dialogue. In the end it leaves the viewers wondering who its intended audience really is.
  • Uwe Boll has complained about hating gamers and doesn't want them to see his video game-based movies because he wants a "real" audience, while nobody aside from possibly Boll himself knows what that actually is.
  • The Britney Spears vehicle Crossroads fell into this. Britney reportedly wanted a film her tween fan base could enjoy, but also a serious drama that dealt with hard-hitting issues. Thus you get a film that deals with Teen Pregnancy, date rape, Parental Abandonment, and losing one's virginity - but has to sanitize said topics to make them palatable for tweens. Thus you get a movie that is too mature for younger viewers, but too twee and cliched for older people who'd be able to appreciate its messages.
  • The Three Musketeers (2011) can be difficult to rate objectively as an adaptation of its source material, because it clearly tries to be as faithful to the novel as possible in some elements and just as crazy and embellished in others. This ultimately played against the movie, as gimmicks like the airships and cool weapons repelled purist fans of the novel and period film enthusiasts, while conventional action flick fans were likely uninterested due to the film being an adaptation of a swashbuckling novel (which wouldn't probably cater to a wide audience either). The fact that an infamous pop-corn director like Paul W.S. Anderson was in charge of the film didn't help either.
  • City of Ember, the 2007 adaptation of The Books of Ember, largely failed at the Box Office due to lack of advertising but it also fell into this. The film is set After the End in an underground city that is due to collapse soon as the resources are used up, and features scenes such as the twelve-year-old protagonist's grandmother dying and the children having to hide from the Mayor's secret police (who proceed to ransack their homes very reminiscent of the Gestappo). While this is presented in a child-friendly way, the film goes Denser and Wackier by pandering a bit too much to a young audience - with an occasionally goofy tone and several cast members giving very overblown performances (while the two leads play it straight).
  • Stormbreaker was the first attempt at an adaptation of the popular Alex Rider books. The books are known for eventually deconstructing the concept of a Kid Hero (Alex is a young adult who becomes a spy). The film, ironically enough written by the original author, contains some of that in an extremely toned down way. But then again it has lots of comical or escapist moments that make it seem like an Indecisive Parody of the spy genre. So the result was a film that was too sanitized to be a proper Deconstruction, while also being too mundane to be enjoyable escapism.
  • Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant was an attempt at adapting The Saga of Darren Shan, and it failed primarily because of a tone problem. The books were Low Fantasy and came from a grounded place - only introducing more fantastical elements as the plot goes on. The film is far Denser and Wackier, relocates the setting from Europe to America and makes so many changes to the source material - ostensibly to make it more marketable. This turned off mainstream viewers for seeming like a derivative mess, and alienated book fans for barely resembling its literary counterpart.
  • Black Christmas (2019) was the second remake of the 1974 slasher classic - which had a dedicated fan base. It however had virtually no relation to the original's plot, only taking place on Christmas and having a couple of Shout Outs. The film also has very unsubtle feminist subtext - dealing with rape culture in a way most viewers found very preachy. The director filmed it first to be R-rated but then decided in the edit to release it as PG-13, resulting in a lot of awkward cuts to some scenes. Horror fans were turned off by the heavy-handed social commentary more akin to a college lecture, which also had the effect of turning off feminists insulted by its simplistic messages (trying to deal with toxic masculinity and rape in a movie aimed at teenagers, similar to the Crossroads example above).
  • The Craft: Legacy is in actuality a stealth sequel to the 90s cult horror The Craft. However, it was mistaken for a remake by many because it follows most of the same story beats. It also fails to capture the nostalgia of the original because the only returning cast member Fairuza Balk is reduced to a non-speaking cameo at the end, and it shifts in tone; the original was unique for its time in that its portrayal of witchcraft came from a very grounded place, setting it apart from its successors Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Charmed (1998). Legacy however is more obviously inspired by Urban Fantasy of the day, alienating a lot of fans who felt it was too derivative.
  • A Spring Tale, a film adaptation of The Snow Maiden. It has a cheery animated sequence accompanying the credits in the beginning, has a lot of Comic Relief moments included, and has the whole marriage drama of Grandfather Frost and Spring Beauty removed; apparently aiming to make it kid-friendly. However, the love interests are every bit as unsympathetic as in the source material (Lel is The Casanova and shamelessly flirts with any woman, single or not, and Mizgir is a selfish jerk and attempted rapist), and the tragic ending is kept vague but not outright changed. As a result, adult fans of the play and the opera would probably be annoyed at the unnecessary comedy and the cuts, while kids would still be pretty baffled by the whole thing.

    Literature 
  • The Legend of Rah and the Muggles is hypothetically for children 6 to 12. However, most of the story is of Teletubbies-like hijinks that most kids this age would find horrifyingly boring. After being horrified by the prologue and backstory notes, which gives a frankly terrifying post-nuclear fallout apocalypse scenario with descriptions of political corruption, escalations into outright warfare, biological and nuclear weapons and eugenics. Yes, eugenics; our sweet child-like Muggles are the mutated offspring of war prisoners, war conscientious and "ethnically impures".
  • Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Most of the stories consist of cheesy folktales and urban legends unlikely to scare anyone above the age of twelve. But the illustrations are horrific and grotesque enough to downright traumatize young children. This could be part of the reason they were re-released with less scary illustrations three decades later.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Anne with an E: The show has several episodes and plot lines dedicated to educating kids and young teenagers about societal issues faced by marginalized groups and why diversity is worth celebrating; this sometimes results in a slightly corny, "PSA"-like tone that might make older viewers roll their eyes. At the same time, and probably as a consequence of this, the show presents a remarkably grounded and even cynical view of the world and doesn't stray away from dark topics such as discussions of suicidal ideation, PTSD and abuse, which some might find are a bit too depressing for some younger viewers. The writers do their best to balance these aspects to produce a show that can be enjoyed by the whole family, and they mostly succeed, but there are stretches of runtime that will alienate at least some part of its viewers.
  • Many Space Western films and series fit this trope:
  • The short-lived police musical drama Cop Rock: The dissonance of cheery, happy songs appearing spontaneously in an otherwise relatively serious police drama was probably one of the reasons why it wasn't very successful.
  • Joan of Arcadia: A Magic Realism Dramedy which also contains some elements of a police drama (mostly in the parts with Joan's father) high school romance and many religious/spiritual themes.
  • Glee, especially in its first season. It meshes things like oral sex jokes with the teeny angst of Degrassi and the kind of anvilicious messages you'd expect from an 80s kids cartoon along with the cutesy singing appeal of Kidz Bop and The Wiggles. Based on comments from the writers, it eventually decided it was mainly for Tweens.
  • The makers of the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie seem to have never decided whether they were producing a jumping-on point for the general trans-Atlantic SF/"cult TV" audience, or a revival of the show for hard-core fanboys. As a result, the latter were repelled by such things as the Doctor kissing someone and being half-human and the Master being able to spit corrosive slime for no apparent reason, while the former were bemused about what this "Eye of Harmony" thing was and why the central character turned into a completely different person thirty minutes in.
  • Once Upon a Time fell into this in its later seasons. The first three knew very much that they were going for some Darker and Edgier takes on fairy tales - Cinderella making a Deal with the Devil, Snow White becoming a forest bandit to survive, Peter Pan becoming a Machiavellian villain - leaning more towards hard PG. In Season 4, things became much Lighter and Softer - with characters rarely getting Killed Off for Real, sexual references vanishing overnight and a far more idealistic tone. They also started having characters more directly resemble their Disney animated counterparts. This appeared to be an attempt to draw in a family audience, but the result was often a show that would sometimes be Camp and overly sentimental (whereas previous seasons had more self awareness) - which alienated a lot of the initial fans. But the show would still attempt to touch on the darkness of the earlier seasons - resulting in some jarring tonal shifts like Zelena raping Robin Hood to conceive a baby, but getting redeemed via The Power of Love that same season. While it did make it to seven seasons, it can still be unsure around Season 4-ish just who it was meant to be aimed at.
  • One of the problems with the first season of Torchwood seems to have been that the writers and directors were all over the shop about whether they were doing a Denser and Wackier Hotter and Sexier show full of fanboy Rule of Cool moments and fangirl feels ("Day One", "Cyberwoman"), or a grey rain-soaked, Downer Ending-filled, gritty urban cop show with barely-relevant SF MacGuffins ("Ghost Machine", "Random Shoes", "Combat"). This led to some weird juxtapositions between episodes and even more disturbing results when the two seemed to overlap.
  • While the Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future toys were made for kids, the show itself was fairly dark, dealing with themes about nuclear war and Nazism, and the title of the show was enough to turn off most adults. The live-action violence didn't help matters.
  • The post-2009 reboot Star Trek shows in general seem to have this problem, trying to appeal to a more mainstream audience by being Darker and Edgier with a more actionized tone while also attempting to attract established fans with their many Mythology Gags. This is especially the case with Star Trek: Picard, which attempts to both court old-school Trekkies by bringing back Patrick Stewart and Jeri Ryan and be a blank slate for newcomers (a la the aforementioned Terminator: Dark Fate). This is not helped by the creators' indecisiveness as to whether it's a full-on Continuity Reboot or merely a Soft Reboot.
  • Most of the time the Ultra Series falls under Multiple Demographic Appeal, but a few series have suffered from this.
    • Ultraman Ace. On one hand, the show had some of the goofiest and most childish episodes of the Ultra Series and some of the worst special effects in franchise history up to that point, like "Give Back the Panda!", "The Choju is Ten Women?!", "Mystery of the Kappa's Residence", and "Shoot Down that Hot-Air Balloon!". On the other hand, the series is equally notorious for its episodes with kid-traumatizing Nightmare Fuel, extreme Family-Unfriendly Violence, and serious threats that overwhelmed even the Ultras, like "Burn! Choju Hell!", "Behold a Great Transformation at Midnight!", "40,000 Year Choju Appears", and "Ghost Story: The She-Devil of Firefly Field".
    • Ultraman Leo suffered from the lowest ratings in franchise history for this. While known as one of the Darker and Edgier entries in the Ultra Series, its intense Family-Unfriendly Violence and Anyone Can Die approach (seen in the two-part premiere, the Living Saucer story arc, and "Battle! Leo Brothers vs Ultra Brothers!") often turned children off, as they felt it was too dark. At the same time, the series also had many silly episodes with storylines centered heavily around child characters (like "Mighty Momotaro!", "I'm the Monster General", and "The Rhinoceros Beetle is a Space Invader"), meaning adults often found the series too childish at times.
    • Ultraman 80 really couldn't seem to decide on what kind of Ultraman series it wanted to be. For its first 12 episodes, the series played out as a school series, with Takeshi balancing out his jobs as a teacher and a UGM officer while also having to fight kaiju as 80, which kept the show relatable for kids and adults but also keeping the fun monster fights kids loved watching. But then the series got rid of the school angle to focus solely on UGM's adventures, so kids got more kaiju action, they also had more trouble relating to the adult characters. So then around the 30-episode mark, the show got retooled again to Takeshi helping kids with their problems, except none of the kids were his students this time, so while kids found surrogate characters again, adults could not care for them since there was no real reason for Takeshi to know them. As a result of this constant inconsistency, 80 became the last Showa era Ultra Series, and the franchise would be in a near-death state for the next fifteen years.
  • At the 2014 Kids' Choice Awards, there was a tribute to Dan Schneider. However, much of the tribute revolved around shows from the 1990s and 2000s such as All That and Drake & Josh. which hadn't had reruns in years. Much of the audience was too young to remember the shows being praised.
  • The revival of the North American Whose Line Is It Anyway? received this at first. Fans of the original American run disliked the removal of the original host Drew Carey, the new games lacked the same impact as the original ones, and the frequent use of cameos each episode became distracting. Newer fans however found themselves watching a show about several old men doing strange comedy improve with there not being really any major reason to keep invested because it was not as appealing. Thankfully, the series picked up steam again and is more liked.
  • No Good Nick is a show playing off the Cousin Oliver trope where a Long-Lost Relative who was recently orphaned joins an otherwise picturesque family, except the "orphan" is actually a teenage Con Artist trying to scam them. What might work as something darker and more farcical, it's a dramedy sitcom with a Laugh Track and portrays the dramatic moments entirely straight. The general look and feel of the show emulates the tween sitcoms of Disney Channel or Nickelodeon, but the darker story arc portrays overt criminal behavior and even The Mafia not entirely out of place in a serious adult drama.
  • The Worst Witch (1998 series) had a spin-off titled Weirdsister College, with Mildred now attending college. It was slightly Darker and Edgier, aimed at an older crowd according to Georgina Sherrington. But the acting and effects were still in line with the parent show — including trying to depict college students basically acting like grown-up children. And the shift in tone meant that it was a bit too dark for the crowd who had grown up with The Worst Witch — tackling maturer themes like Mildred having a stalker who tries to Mind Rape her, Enid getting thrown out of her college, and Hobbes becoming a villain thanks to trauma from bullying. It does still have its fans though, and some feel it was Too Good to Last.
  • The 1/2 Hour News Hour was intended as Fox News' conservative answer to The Daily Show, but was an abject failure. Fox News has a much older viewership than The Daily Show, and trying to tool the humor intended for the younger generation towards the old doesn't work even if it supports their views. And the younger generation will not watch a news channel (especially one that does not support their views) simply because of a show marketed towards them. The result was one of the most poorly-executed shows of its time and was canned after one season. However, its successor Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld retooled the humor down its own unique path and was more well-received.
  • The Black Mirror episode "Rachel, Jack, and Ashley Too" is a pitch-perfect parody of a Disney Channel Original Movie in the show's usual format, but the overlap between the two fandoms is small if nonexistent. As a result, Black Mirror fans lambasted it for being one of the series' lightest episodes, and it's also too adult to show to the usual demographic the DCOMs are targeted towards.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Why The Muppets was a one-and-done 16-episode failure for ABC. The premise was a Work Com mockumentary in the vein of The Office (US) and Parks and Recreation, with the Muppets inhabiting the real world. However, the show's humor tilted more adult than virtually any Muppet endeavor before it and struggled to find an audience, landing in the unwanted abyss of being too adult for kids and too childish for adults who weren't Muppet devotees. And even Muppet devotees were likely turned off by the changes from previous incarnations... who wanted to see Kermit and Miss Piggy broken up?

    Software 

    Theme Parks 
  • This is a major reason why Stitch's Great Escape! became one of the most infamous attractions in Disney Parks history. The darkness, 4D effects, and loud noises mean that it was still too scary for young kids (who otherwise would be absolutely terrified to go on SGE!'s predecessor), but anyone older than preteens were most likely irritated by the unpleasant and gross humor. Even Lilo & Stitch fans didn't like how the ride put the titular Stitch, one of Disney's most emotionally complex characters, in a very unflattering light, which has been and still is perpetuated by older American Disney Parks fans to this day. The ride's negative reception led Disney to avoid developing any further major Lilo & Stitch attractions in the U.S. ever since, including a port of the better-received digital puppetry live show Stitch Encounter.

    Video Games 
  • One of the problems with the original Borderlands was that it didn't seem to be sure whether it was a straight Deconstruction of RPGs and first-person shooters, a Parody of the same, or something in-between. As such, it came off as a Shallow Parody, which limited its appeal. The sequel ratcheted the comedy and the parody Up to Eleven, which made it Denser and Wackier, but gave it a much clearer idea of its own identity, and it found its audience that way.
  • The Assassin's Creed franchise runs the gambit of genres. Starting with focus on stealth assasinations, then open combat starting with the third game, then focusing on sanatized Historical tourism, until finally becoming a full-blown Action RPG with Origins onwards. With so many different angles to each game, it's no wonder the audience gets up in arms about the new games as they come.
  • Several Final Fantasy titles have had this problem.
    • Final Fantasy X-2 attracts these claims. The fact that it centres on a trio of female characters and has a Lighter and Softer tone than its predecessor (not to mention a battle system revolving around changing clothes) seems to turn off male gamers. However there's also a massive heaping of Fanservice, Les Yay and Stripperiffic outfits - which alienate female gamers.
    • Final Fantasy Tactics Advance tends to have this issue because of the changes it made to the setting and gameplay. Being a Spiritual Successor to Final Fantasy Tactics, one of the most beloved Turn-Based Strategy out there, it had to deal with the expectations of the fans coming in who loved the original game, while trying to get newcomers into the game. Fans of the original Tactics hate how the game is more child friendly and low stakes compared to the Darker and Edgier story of Tactics, alongside seeing the gameplay as being dumbed down and suffering from Fake Difficulty thanks to the new Rule system. Newcomers hoping to get in however had to contend with the same Rule system without any experience in the game type, and the mechanics were more advanced than most players were able to understand, alongside the name making it seem like a sequel of sorts. The result was that Tactics fans hated the game for not being like the original, while new fans were not ready for the gameplay and story.
    • Part of the reason Dissidia Final Fantasy (2015) ended up being a disappointment financially for Square Enix was that the game didn't seem clear on who it was designed for. Ignoring the fact it was originally an Arcade game, the PS4 port was criticized for this. The game was clearly designed to appeal to the E-Sports crowd with its usage of "classes", removal of the RPG mechanics such as leveling up, the streamlined summoning system and character builds, and 3v3 matches, something that apparently was wanted by Square Enix. At the same time, they wanted to still attract fans of the previous games, so they included a story mode that acted as a follow-up to the previous games story, included some returning characters like Kain, and announced they wanted to bring all of the previously playable characters back, plus they added new characters like Ramza. Sadly, the games inability to appeal to either groups backfired: the game never saw any light as an E-Sports due to its technical problems, poor gameplay balance, and the limited customization for characters, failed to appeal to the Fighting Game Community (where it was more likely to get success as an esport) because it required three players per team rather than the traditional 1v1 format, which anyone remotely familiar with tournaments will realize would make it impossible for matches to happen on time even if enough people managed to find teams, while long time fans hated the changes since they removed the RPG mechanics, forced those who played for the story and characters to have to grind to unlock more of it, and also hated how barebones the game's content was, especially the barely-there story. It did not help that the games matchmaking was very laggy, meaning nobody wanted to play online despite being essential to get full enjoyment out of the very multiplayer-focused game.
  • The Atelier attracts these claims. The series runs on Shōjo tropes, most of the games have a flowery art style with plenty of pretty boys (who are occasionally subject to Female Gaze fanservice), and a survey of Atelier players revealed that most of the series fans are women. Yet, starting with the Arland games, a lot of The Merch, DLC costumes, and promotional artwork are heavily Male Gaze-y, and the games have incorporated more and more moe elements over time.
  • Dead or Alive 6 tried to market itself as more tournament-friendly and appealing to western sensibilities, doing so by going Tamer and Chaster and reducing the amount of Fanservice in the game, ie going against its core identity, and the reason the series built its fame, in an aspiration to reach eSports and EVO. Then director Yohei Shimori would flip-flop between statements, stating that nothing changed later, only to go back to the old, confusing a lot of people. It was controversial, to say the least, and in fact said controversy often overshadowed the game itself. Unfortunately, any attempt to reach the big leagues failed, for two reasons: The first was the infamous "Core Values" incident where DOA6 was taken off-stream in the middle of the tournament at EVO Japan 2019, because it got too sexual with the use of female models shaking their breasts and butts to mimic the game. Then, when the lineup of EVO 2019 in North America, comparable to the Super Bowl of fighters, was announced, Dead or Alive 6 wasn't there. Effectively, all the effort and controversy was for nothing, as it was effectively damned to its niche status, getting passed up for other niche but more respected games like Under Night In-Birth and Samurai Shodown, and its direct competitor Soulcalibur VI, a game that didn't suffer from this trope as it went about its own way with zero confusion, incidentally a Hotter and Sexier one. The fact is, the game tried to appease everyone, but did the polar opposite instead.
  • Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE suffered this after it was announced and released. Fans of the Shin Megami Tensei series were turned off by the heavily Persona-like characters, gameplay, and story, and the game was seen as a waste of the core mechanics of the SMT series thanks to none of the story or gameplay elements that make the SMT franchise beloved being present. In particular, the lack of an Order vs. Chaos story like just about every SMT game had made SMT fans write the game off. Fire Emblem fans were put off by the lack of Turn-Based Strategy and usage of mostly characters from only about two games in the series as the Mirages, alongside finding the story and characters too "anime" for their tastes. The result was that SMT fans felt it was too dumbed down to be enjoyable, while FE fans felt it was too radically different to be worth playing. As if to make this worse, the idol theme of the game caused this issue to be even worse for those who did play it; those who liked idol stuff found its idol content very downplayed and essentially just there for flavor, while those who dislike idol stuff were immediately put off by the game's design. This left a small number of players who played it, and while it was received well, it was financially a flop. It's widely agreed that if the game had been a straight crossover as it was originally announced as, or instead announced as a crossover of the developer teams, people would have been more willing to give the game a chance. Its Switch rerelease did better, but still unperformed, only selling a mere 40k copies in its launch month in Japan.
  • Starlink: Battle for Atlas having this is ultimately what led to it having less than satisfactory sales for Ubisoft. The game's gameplay depth, scope and detailed lore seemed tailor-made for older gamers, but the focus on its toys-to-life spaceship controller gimmick was more for kids. Not even a guest appearance by the Star Fox cast in the Switch version has helped to boost the game's appeal. It ended up becoming something of a Sleeper Hit, especially on Switch because of Star Fox, but by that point the game had already released most of its DLC content and the second wave of toys was cancelled.
  • Ghost Recon Breakpoint suffered from this. It attempted to reinvent the Ghost Recon franchise as a loot-based shooter in the same vein as Destiny or The Division. Unfortunately, it was a massive failure. Longtime Ghost Recon fans hated the new mechanics for taking away from the realism and verisimilitude that was a major draw of the franchise for them. Meanwhile, the steps that were taken by Ubisoft to try and make those loot and RPG mechanics more palatable to the Ghost Recon fanbase made them unappealing to the players who like them. The loot system was very shallow and could be outright ignored for the majority of the game, as enemies outside of very specific areas on the map scale up or down to the Player's Gearscore, and even when they don't all human enemies can be killed with one headshot (two if they're wearing a helmet). The end result was a game that was rejected by both bases and flopped hard enough that Ubisoft's stock price tanked, and they delayed all forthcoming games to reevaluate the direction that they were headed in.
  • This is among the reasons why the Yo Kai Watch series didn't catch on in the west: the game tried to target both fans of Mon games and fans of Japanese culture. The Thinly-Veiled Dub Country Change didn't sit well with people into yokai, while the gameplay and monster designs didn't attract fans of Mon games. The series drew heavily into Japanese mythology and humor not familiar to many Westerners, and the changes made in the English translation didn't endear it to those who were familiar with yokai and Japanese folklore. Within the series, content released after the third game has faced this problem; with Yo-kai Watch 4 shifting its tone to be Darker and Edgier and gameplay to be more action-oriented; with anime such as Yo-kai Watch: Shadowside and Yo-kai Watch: Forever Friends following suit. Existing fans were split on the shift away from the established tone and gameplay; while potential new ones didn't find the new elements complex enough.
  • The Snack World, another Level-5 property; also ran into this problem in the west: the series featured a lot of cute visuals and gags that wouldn't be out of place in Adventure Time (one of the leads is even a Captain Ersatz of Finn); but the dungeon crawler gameplay loop and other jokes (such as the more risqué humor and poking fun at role-playing game conventions) would appeal more to older players. The fact the game was given an all-ages rating in Japan while getting slapped with older age ratings elsewhere has furthered this uncertainty.
  • The Shantae series is missing a "target demographic," embodying What Do You Mean, It's for Kids? and What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids? at the same time. The creator himself once said that it's "too sexy for a kids' game and too girly for a male gamer game." It's got a cute art style with a bright, primary-color palette, mostly-lighthearted stories, an occasional Black Comedy Burst or dead-serious moment, sexy character designs, and a level of Parental Bonus and raunchy humor that would raise a few eyebrows with parents. As the series has gone on, it's moved to a T-rating, and it's come to target older gamers who'd be the Periphery Demographic for a more "kiddie" series, but the difficulty of the gameplay has stayed low, leaving it underwhelming for adults.
  • Part of why YIIK: A Post-Modern RPG earned such an infamous reputation can partially be attributed to this. Its supposed to be designed as an old school RPG like EarthBound with a story about saving the world and uncovering mysteries in your town with your friends at your back. It also, and hence the "Post Modern" title, is supposed to a deep analysis of the RPG genre as well as a dark and personal story about how many characters are personally affected by some kind of loss topped with a complex story. This attempt to be a modern analysis using both an older artistic style and gameplay meant few players enjoyed it, as the gameplay was not particularly deep or interesting enough to satisfy fans of the genre, while people who played for the story were frustrated with how overly complex and confusing the story ended up being. In the end, its attempt to appeal to both modern story views and past gameplay fans meant it had no fans.
  • Chibi-Robo!: Zip Lash was part of a franchise that had always been, at best, a Cult Classic—small but devoted fanbase, very little general awareness. Zip Lash was intended to save the series by bringing in new fans, by way of a 3DS release and a Genre Shift from an explorative 3D platformer with the premise of going around an actual house and helping out the family there to a sidescrolling 2D platformer with the premise of saving the world by going through fairly standard environments. Longtime fans were angered that the series had so thoroughly abandoned its aesthetic and identity, while general audiences weren't familiar with the character and just saw it as a generic 2D platformer on a handheld that already had a surfeit of well-reviewed games of that type. Unsurprisingly, the game bombed hard.
  • Street Fighter X Tekken kind of gets this from the title, as given the two games are quite different, fans knew immediately somebody was going to get favoritism. Sure enough, the game turned out to be borrowing Street Fighter IV's artstyle, 2.5-D gameplay, and general designnote . If you liked Tekken, it didn't come across as a crossover so much as a Street Fighter game guest-starring the Tekken cast, but if you liked Street Fighter, you probably already owned at least three different versions of IV and didn't see a reason to pick up something so similar when there would probably be yet another version on the horizon to learn. And then there was the gem system, which let you modify fighters with gems found from buyable packs or random drops—the designers claimed the idea was to lure in fans of CCG-style games. But fans of card games want games that favor strategy over complex inputs and tight reactions, so weren't interested in jumping over the barrier for entry, while fighting game fans dislike anything that removes focus on player skill, especially Bribing Your Way to Victory or randomized elements.
  • An issue that hit Epic Mickey fairly hard is that it wasn't quite sure if it wanted to be a game for little kids, or a game for older fans of animation. It was certainly that older crowd that was most interested in the possibility of a Darker and Edgier Mickey Mouse, which was the game's original pitch, but the game itself turned out to be rather easy and shallow, with most of the creepy imagery and deconstructive elements shown off in those early promotional materials now absent. On the other hand, the young children the game now seemed designed towards would likely be put off by the focus on a character whose only particularly memorable showing in years was in Kingdom Hearts, even before the game's plot, which hinges on fans being at least passingly familiar with very old Mickey Mouse shorts.
  • It's often believed that this was why PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale didn't do very well. About half the franchises involved are gritty M-rated ones, but the game itself is a cartoony Platform Fighter with tons of wacky concepts—it's rather baffling to see what is essentially a space Nazi with actual firearms be a playable character in a game where you can rack up damage by hitting your opponent with a fish. The gameplay also ends up being oddly technical, which alienates people who want a simple party game, but is also very gimmicky and unconventional, which alienates the hardcore crowd. Even as a pure celebration of PlayStation history, many felt the roster was too heavy on Guest Fighters from non-Sony games, ironically making it seem like Sony didn't have much of their own history, while what third-parties were there were mostly promotions for upcoming games, such as Reboot Dante and Big Daddy (with most of his accompanying material coming from the then-upcoming BioShock Infinite), instead of more historically significant characters known for being on PlayStation consoles, like Crash Bandicoot and Lara Croft, making it look like Sony barely had any third-party history either.
  • This has become a huge point of contention for the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise after its third game. Fans can be generally divided into two camps, ones who grew up pre-Dreamcast on the 2D games, and ones who grew up post-Dreamcast with the 3D games. Fans of the former accuse the 3D games of relying on gimmicky features and spectacle to make up for their lack of substantial gameplay compared to the 2D titles as well as increasingly tonally dissonant plotlines. Fans of the latter accuse the 2D games of relying too much on Trial-and-Error Gameplay, as well having nothing but an Excuse Plot to serve as narrative motivation. Sega trying to reconcile these two camps have led to the games being accused of being uncertain who their target audiences are, and serve as a huge contribution to the franchise's notorious Broken Base.
  • Spore was notorious for this, especially when it was first released. The original trailer made it out to be a realistic, scientifically grounded, complex evolution simulator, but the end result was significantly simplified and cartoonish, seemingly to cater to children and more artistic, creative players. This naturally pissed off hardcore gamers and the more scientifically-minded fans, leading to massive Hype Backlash. While the artistic-minded players were not as vitriolic, the end result still contained a lot of Scrappy Mechanics, most of all the notorious biodisasters, that impeded players' ability to simply wander around freely for the sake of having more traditional video game challenges (one of the more common mod requests is to remove biodisasters and similarly annoying events). This has calmed down over the years as the original trailer became a distant memory to the younger players who grew up with the game, but the bitter divide still remains in some circles.
  • Bleeding Edge suffered from Ninja Theory not having a clear vision of what sort of game they wanted to create. Bleeding Edge originally started off as a fighting game, but during its development, Ninja Theory decided to change it into a MOBA, and then into a hero shooter. As a result, the game incorporated gameplay elements from all three genres, with none of them working well together. The game was simply too unconventional and bloated for a fan of any one of the three game genres to be interested.
  • This, along with a good dose of They Changed It, Now It Sucks!, was a big issue with Silent Hill: Book of Memories, it being a dungeon crawler in a franchise known for its Survival Horror and puzzle-solving aspects. According to WayForward Technologies who developed it, they sought to simplify the aspects of both the new genre it had entered as well as the old genre it came in a hope of attracting fans of both genres, which ultimately pleased nobody: fans of dungeon crawlers weren't interested in it as the gameplay was far too simplistic and grindy as compared to the other entries in the genre they were used to, while fans of the Silent Hill franchise weren't interested in it as the puzzles were far too simplified and it lacked the deeper horror or psychological aspects they were used to.
  • Quake Champions ended up awkwardly sandwiched between a signature style of its beloved franchise and the new hotness it was trying to replicate, and didn't quite grab fans of either. Quake multiplayer is known for its fast-paced, highly technical arena shooter gameplay beloved by its fans in large part because of its steep learning curve, with Champions' inclusion of Hero Shooter elements driving some of the old guard off, with many seeing it as a dumbing down player expression and making the challenges less rewarding. Meanwhile, expected newcomers were reluctant to join due to Champions still being more mechanically daunting when compared to more-accessible contemporaries like Overwatch and Paladins, as well as having an identity largely based around Quake and other id Software properties, which doesn't carry as much star power to modern audiences.
  • Balan Wonderworld was created with small children as its target audience, with it having incredibly simplistic controls and level design, but its advertising was aimed at attracting the older fanbases of NiGHTS into Dreams... and Sonic the Hedgehog. Likewise, despite being designed to be played by children, the game is notably lacking in its gameplay tutorials and explanation of its story, requiring players to look up guides in order to understand certain features and read the game's tie-in novel to understand its plot.

    Visual Novels 
  • Go! Go! Nippon! ~my first trip to Japan~ is an English-language Visual Novel made in Japan specifically for foreign audiences. However the makers seem to be unsure on what that audience wants... It's about an Occidental Otaku (supposed to be the player himself) going to stay in Tokyo with two cute sisters for a week. In the developers' intentions, this game would be an educational one, a way to learn about actual Japanese landmarks and customs with a funny product tailor-made for otakus. However, these elements do not mix well since the protagonist's wacky shenanigans are too lame and boring for actual otakus and too off-putting for anyone else (since he's usually portrayed as a dorky Manchild) and the educational part is limited at best since you can't even access to all the info you gathered until you have completed the game (besides that, it's all stuff you can find on the internet for free). Plus, despite the fact that the company that made this is specialized in erotic VNs, there's no sex at all, thus alienating their overseas fans. Despite this, being released on Steam and featured in a series of bundles ensured that the title sold moderately well.

    Web Original 
  • Just Bad Games accuses all three of the Tiny Toon Adventures videogames on PlayStation of being this, as they were Point-and-Click Adventure Games marketed at very young audiences but released years after the show was on the air. Fans of Tiny Toons wouldn't be interested in these games as they were now in High School at least, while the intended audience of the game would have no clue what Tiny Toons or who these characters even were.

    Western Animation 
  • This may be why Dan Vs. never got much of a mainstream audience. It's a Black Comedy that occasionally deals with mature themes (such as murder and marital problems), has a Heroic Comedic Sociopath as the protagonist, and sometimes heads into very dark territory (one episode ends with the implication that a character is going to be raped). It's also filled to the brim with wacky slapstick, surreal plots, has little-to-no blood or swearing, and would air in the middle of the afternoon just an hour or two after a My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic rerun.
  • In-universe during Cleveland's return to Family Guy in "He's Bla-ack!", when the guys roast The Cleveland Show. It certainly wasn't unwarranted; the show was obviously meant to appeal to black audiences, but it starred a character who was little more than a Token Black Friend in the original who had few jokes that didn't center on his race in some way. It didn't help that the show's initial setup was incredibly similar to Family Guy itself.
    Quagmire: It's not a good sign that this is the first time people even realized you had a show.
    Joe: Your logo was stupid. It looked like a big purple penis and your ratings blew.
    Cleveland: We did about the same as Bob's Burgers.
    Quagmire: That's your bar? Shame on you!
    Cleveland: This is good. This is constructive.
    Quagmire: The talking bear was so bad, Seth MacFarlane stopped voicing him after season 2.
    Cleveland: It's hard to make a talking bear funny.
    Quagmire: Oh-ho-ho! But it sure worked out well in movie form.
    Joe: Who was your show's audience? Y'know, who'd you make it for? Some Black guy who never met another Black guy?
  • The first season of The Looney Tunes Show couldn't decide if it wanted to appeal to sitcom fans or fans of classic Looney Tunes, though the show would come to commit to the former with its second season.
  • Likewise Loonatics Unleashed was originally supposed to be a Darker and Edgier superhero reimagining of the Tunes. After public critcism, the first season would attempt to include some of the humor of the original shorts, while the second season would try even harder to become more of a comedy-action show. However, it never seemed sure how serious or how funny it wanted to be with, though, and neither element was handled particularly well.
  • A major reason Father of the Pride flopped so badly was that the humour was too raunchy for children but at the same time too unsophisticated for its intended adult audience.
  • This is the reason why The Adventures of Kid Danger doesn't have much positive attention. It's too far removed from its source material to appeal to its fans, while it doesn't do much to draw in new fans.
  • Magical Girl Friendship Squad seemed to be targeting an audience that didn't exist, or if it did, was too narrow to make the show a success. It was presented in advertisements as an Affectionate Parody of the Magical Girl genre. However, not only did it air on a Science Fiction-focused channel, but in practice, its early episodes were a Shallow Parody that focused primarily on reference and millennial humor instead. Couple that with poor animation, and you have a show that tries to serve multiple groups, but in practice ended up appealing to very few people.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (2016) failed in part because it was uncertain whether it was aimed at new fans or returning fans. At first glance, it's a hard reboot with a new Rogues Gallery, tweaked personalities for the girls, and a new Lighter and Softer tone. Yet in practice, it's actually a Soft Reboot, filled with many references and Call Backs to events that occurred in the original cartoon. For example, the series expects you to already know things such as Mojo Jojo being their archenemy and his involvement in their creation, but also has him Demoted to Extra and used mostly for quick gags. This makes the series unappealing to both new fans who don't understand the references and old fans who don't like the new tonal and stylistic changes.
  • Teen Titans Go! argubly runs into this trouble. Though a comedic retool of Teen Titans aimed at kids growing up in the 2010s, it features a lot of references and jokes aimed at older DC fans, as well as adores Parental Bonuses and Shout Outs to pop culture going as far back as the 1960s, despite the fact that even the target audience of the 2003 cartoon would have to look up some of jokes. It's hard to tell if Teen Titans Go is targeted exclusively at kids or if it's aimed at general audiences, but considering its popularity with its target audience regardless, it might not matter.
  • ThunderCats Roar runs into the exact same issues as Teen Titans Go, where it's a more kid-friendly comedic reboot of the original series that the fans dislike, but throws in many jabs and references to the original series and 2011 reboot series that only older fans would understand. Unlike TTG and its ilk, however, the Thundercats franchise lacked the Pop Culture Osmosis that other long-running franchises boast, making this trope hit much harder, contributing to the show being cancelled after just one season.
  • Crunchyroll ran into a bit of a bind when other streaming services started offering original shows: Crunchyroll itself had to come up with its own original series to remain competitive, but it's an American site that specializes in streaming Asian shows (especially Japanese anime), meaning it cannot produce the kind of show its primary audience expects. This gave its attempts at original shows quite the uphill climb:
    • High Guardian Spice created quite a controversy when it was first announced to be Crunchyroll's first original "anime". The show was being produced by an American animation company, and the visuals and animation was very much in line with Western animated series like Steven Universe, which led many observers to question why a company that specializes in streaming anime would try to market a show that doesn't even imitate the style. Later trailers would just highlight this more, as it would end up being the only Crunchyroll Originals to not make use of a heavy Animesque artstyle. There's also the matter of the announcement trailer failing to communicate what the show was; regardless of one's thoughts about the use of diversity as a selling point, the failure to explain what audiences could even expect from the story's setting and characters didn't help matters either. As a result of the backlash, despite being the first of the Crunchyroll Originals to be announced, and new footage being made available in sizzle reels as recent as September 2020, it remains the only one to not see the light of day.
    • The tone of Onyx Equinox varies wildly. On the surface, it appears to aim for a children/teen audience, taking artistic and storyline cues from shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender. However, this is juxtaposed explictly adult content, with the regular presence of gory violence (including on-screen ritual sacrifice), foul language, and sexual content. The content and context clearly seem to be targeting two separate demographics, with no attempt to reconcile the varying tones.
  • It's unclear whether Big Mouth is aimed more at teenagers going through puberty or adults reminiscing about their puberty. The show is rated TV-MA and features explicit nudity, heavy sexual subject matter, and other details that make it inappropriate for younger audiences. On the contrary, many episodes take an anvilicious educational approach to subjects like sex education and personal identity that seem more like messages to help young teens still undergoing puberty (though adults may still appreciate them). The scenes featuring children's genitals provoke criticism regardless of the demographic - the sexual humor may be too inappropriate for 12-year-old viewers, but adults watching a show with a focus on child sexuality is often berated as creepy. The show itself loves to lampshade this on occasion, almost always in a Hypocritical Humor fashion.

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