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Undermined by Reality

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"We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in 'reality'. And reality has a well-known liberal bias."

Life can be a bit of a tightrope walk for some actors, especially those appearing on children's television. Some fans have the unfortunate habit of mixing up the fictional entity with the real person who plays the fictional entity, and can get rather disappointed, rightly or wrongly, when their idols fall off of the pedestal. The companies producing the shows are aware of this, and sometimes hold their actors to nigh-impossible moral standards, punishing them for "crimes" such as trying to live a normal, adult life.


However, there's a flip side to the coin. Sometimes, the premise of a television programme, book or song really can be undermined by the actions of the presenters, or even by the actions of those who work behind the scenes.

When a show is actively preaching to its viewers, it's not unreasonable to expect the people doing the preaching to uphold the standards that they're promoting. If they don't... well, then you've got the real life version of Holier Than Thou, but with more air time. If the talk show marriage counselor verbally abuses his wife, or the professional dog trainer ends up in court after his Rottweiler attacks a child, it's easy to understand why viewers might decide that they're better off not taking advice from these people.

The trope also applies to figures such as presenters when they themselves are being held up as role models, rather than a character that they portray. Those who front children's television shows have to be particularly careful about their real-life conduct — there'll be red faces all round if it turns out that the woman sternly warning children against the dangers of drugs is using some less-than-legal substances. It's not particularly fair that other entertainers, such as rock stars and soap actors, can get away with these things (and far more) while others are pilloried for it... but it's Truth in Television. If a builder or window cleaner gets into a violent brawl while off the job, their employers won't care as long as they can still do their jobs. If a teacher or doctor is found in the middle of a fight, however, their career could be on the line.


It's worth noting that occasionally it's not actually the actors'/production team's fault that things go wrong. Sometimes, life's just decided that it's not going to be their week. This is especially true on shows that involve people out with the actual members of the show who could say or do anything they like on or off camera. The programme isn't really responsible, but they'll be held to account regardless.

Mainly, it's non-fiction shows, or songs, that qualify for being Undermined by Reality. Fictional shows only really merit the trope if the actor does something that's actually illegal, or at least morally reprehensible enough that it's not just the usual suspects who are up in arms over their off-screen behaviour. If the actors are being held to ransom over normal, fairly innocuous behaviour simply because said behaviour doesn't mesh with their fantasy persona, then that's Contractual Purity.


See also: "Funny Aneurysm" Moment (where the irony of a situation is particularly cruel but affects the actor rather than the production), Holier Than Thou (for the fictional equivalent), and Artist Disillusionment/Fan Disillusionment (for the likely results of this trope). For the advertising variant, see We Care. See Role-Ending Misdemeanor. One reason Dead Artists Are Better.

For when the message of a story is undermined by behavior within the story itself, see Broken Aesop.

This page is not an excuse to be Complaining About Shows You Don't Like. And please don't add internet drama.


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  • Subway commercials obviously aren't going to use Jared Fogle as their spokesman anymore seeing as how he was found guilty of child porn possession and Child sex tourism.
  • Coca-Cola and Jello will never have a montage of their biggest campaigns that includes their biggest pitchman from the 70s-80s, Bill Cosby, after the rape trial that includes putting drugs into beverages.
  • Super Bowl 52 featured a Dodge commercial using Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous Drum Major speech. However, later in the same speech he talks about how advertisers use persuasion to trick people into buying things, and specifically mentions car companies by name.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Rurouni Kenshin, and to a lesser extent, Buso Renkin, had their reputations tarnished after their writer, Nobuhiro Watsuki, got arrested in 2017 for child pornography possession.
  • Recovery of an MMO Junkie's anime adaptation went under fire by viewers when the director liked and shared pro-Neo-Nazi propaganda on Twitter.
  • Toriko: many people refuse to give the series a chance after it was learned that Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro got arrested in 2002 for seeing a 16-year-old prostitute. There was also the series getting heavily shilled in spite of its poor ratings, which has led to some accusations of nepotism because Shimabukuro was friends with Eichiro Oda.

  • Comedian Jimmy Carr performed a sketch on 10 O'Clock Live that satirised the tax avoidance of Barclays Banks. A few months later, it emerged that Carr was himself party to a K2 tax avoidance scheme.

    Comic Books 
  • An example that tainted an entire medium: in 1954 Australian comic-book writer and artist Len Lawson was convicted of raping several models. The resulting scandal tied in with the influence on Australia of the US anti-comics backlash to virtually destroy the country's home-grown comics industry except for the most inoffensive of children's publications. (As a sad postscript, when Lawson was released from prison, he soon sadistically murdered two women, and was sent back to prison for life.)
  • The Team Achilles spin-off of Stormwatch was cancelled after writer Micah Ian Wright was discovered to have grossly exaggerated his claimed military experience. The controversy was especially severe due to Wright's anti-Iraq-War activism, which he had used his alleged past to give greater weight to.

    Films — Animation 
  • The numerous corporate tie-ins to the Green Aesop film The Lorax, he speaks for the trees, and Mazda. It claimed to be ecologically friendly, but it turned out that it was worse than some cars at pollution.
    Peter Sagal: "I am the Lorax. I speak for a fee!"
  • The Emoji Movie teaches you to Be Yourself despite being so by the numbers and such a mish mash of other, much better films such as Wreck-It Ralph, Inside Out, and The LEGO Movie that it lacks its own identity. There's also the fact that it's a blatant cash grab desperately banking on a popular trend.
  • Disney is famous for its sweetness-and-light approach to children's entertainment; in fact, sometimes they overdo it. The actual Disney company, however, hides sharp teeth behind that saccharine smile. Just ask anyone who's ever been in a legal battle with the company, or look up what good ol' Walt himself did to staff (and trade unions) that crossed him (though given the whole reason the Disney Company got started...). This can come as a bit of a shock to those who see Disney as a guardian of childhood and fair play.
  • The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie features one scene in which Bugs Bunny shows that he has many "fathers," displaying a wall decorated with the directors responsible for his cartoons. A nice tribute, until, if you're a die-hard cartoon buff, you might realize that someone crucial to Bugs' development is missing. The reason is that the movie's director, Chuck Jones, held a massive grudge toward Bob Clampett, who was not only his polar opposite in directing style, but had also recently claimed sole credit for the creation of Bugs, so he is the only famous Bugs director not on the wall. (Frank Tashlin isn't either, but he only directed two Bugs cartoons).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • During the release of the live-action How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, quite a few products emerged based on the movie—which were at odds with the original story's Aesop warning against the commercialization of Christmas. The 2018 animated adaptation suffered from the same problem.
  • After the movie 300 was released, almost every fitness and weight loss company used it as a piece of their marketing strategy toward men. ("Look like the men of 300!") However, when you look at the Training from Hell they endure and the fact that Gerard Butler developed a problem with painkillers from the abuse his body took and even had to check into rehab (although it wasn't just the training, there was also the typical abuse any actor in an action film must endure), maybe 300 isn't the best movie to reference. (It's telling that most of the companies have switched over to Captain America and Thor from The Avengers.)
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks has a story in which the three chipmunks realize that fame and fortune is not all it is cracked out to be, and leave the seemingly superficial lifestyle, and the money, behind to enjoy an apparently better down-to-earth life with Dave. Family being more important that materialism is a fairly common Aesop... but when one realises that the movie is completely Merchandise-Driven, and was made to sell tickets, CDs, toys, video games and other merchandise, the moral of turning your back on materialism seems kind of hollow.
  • The movie version of Jem and the Holograms has a message about being yourself and not selling out to giant corporations when it is an In Name Only cash grab adaptation that relies on a by the numbers plot.
  • The Disney Channel movie Descendants has the main theme of not having to be defined by your parents. Yet numerous characters are introduced to the audience as the offspring of [insert popular Disney character]. To make things worse, some of them have the same character as their parents, because of the desire to cash in on Disney's characters.
  • In Dreamgirls, Effie White is the lead singer and most talented member of the Dreams, but their corrupt manager Curtis demotes her to backup singer in favor of Deena Jones, who is more marketable. This is unambiguously presented as a Jerkass move on Curtis's part, and it ruins Effie's life. Then, in the movie version, Jennifer Hudson played Effie, the lead character of the movie, but the studio designated her a "supporting actress" and gave top billing to Beyoncé Knowles (playing Deena), who is more famous. Then again, Hudson won an Oscar for her performance (for Best Supporting Actress; had she been nominated for Lead Actress, she likely would have been blown out by Helen Mirren), while Knowles only got a Golden Globe nomination that most people assumed her manager father bought for her, so perhaps it averages out.
  • Atlas Shrugged, being an Objectivist treatise, is all about how the markets will inevitably select the most skilled and deserving people. Despite this, the creators kept working to make the films despite each one flopping horribly in the box office, thereby ignoring the markets. As if that wasn't bad enough, they turned to Kickstarter to get the last one funded, breaking one of the central tenets of Objectivism by asking others for help instead of doing things themselves.
  • Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam has a message about not selling out and being authentic, when the film is little more than a clichéd vehicle for certain pop singers.
  • Derek Savage's actions towards his critics make the anti-bullying message of his film Cool Cat Saves the Kids very ironic.
  • The 2008 documentary Bigger, Stronger, Faster saw its director Chris Bell challenge the "conventional wisdom" about the health risks of anabolic steroids, questioning doctors and lawmakers about the real health risks and grilling a father whose son committed suicide over whether steroids really were to blame. The film heavily featured Bell and his two brothers Mike and Mark, both of whom were active steroid users. Within less than a year, Mike Bell (a former WWE jobber) had committed suicide, and both were shown to be at a significantly elevated risk for heart disease due to their steroid use.
  • Dragonball Evolution has the protagonist learn to be himself even though the movie constantly has to dumb down the source material by adding in numerous clichés to make it more acceptable for a Western audience.
  • Moonwalker has a message about Celebrity Is Overrated in a movie that does little more than celebrating Michael Jackson.
  • Viva Knievel! revolved around the idea that Evel Knievel was a Christ-like motorcycle jumper who easily forgave everyone who wronged him. Less than a year later, Knievel was arrested for attacking Shelley Saltman with an aluminum baseball bat for writing an unflattering biography, repeatedly hitting him with it and breaking his arm. He spent six months in jail, Saltman won almost $13M in a lawsuit, and Knievel became a persona non grata, his career abruptly over.
  • Kill Bill is a movie about female empowerment, produced by Harvey Weinstein. No points for guessing what he was exposed for nearly 15 years later. Needless to say, leading lady Uma Thurman wasn't amused (to put it lightly) when she found out.
  • The main reason United Passions bombed so badly was that it was a film about the greatness and morally uplifting nature of FIFA as an institution (with particular focus placed on its executives, of all people)... released right in the middle of a massive corruption scandal with the organization at its center. Special mention goes to Sepp Blatter, whom the film goes out of its way to present as a heroic figure despite his corruption being well-known by practically everyone.

  • A man starts imparting a seminar titled "How to raise your children", after he got kids of his own he renamed it as "Suggestions for raising your children", and when his kids became teens he canceled the seminar.

  • The Twilight series is about the romance between Ordinary High-School Student Bella Swan and a brooding, hundred-year-old vampire named Edward Cullen. While it wasn't written as a religious story, it attracted a large fandom among conservative Christians due to the chaste nature of the series, with Bella waiting until marriage before sleeping with Edward, though only because he forced her to, and choosing to give birth to her dhampir baby even in the face of it possibly killing her, and attempts by her husband, doctor, and best friend trying to force her to abort it. (The author, not coincidentally, is a devout Mormon.) It is still unknown how the final film in the series, Breaking Dawn Part 2, was affected by the revelation that Kristen Stewart (who played Bella) cheated on her then-fiance Robert Pattinson (who played Edward) with the director of her film Snow White and the Huntsman.
  • The bestselling book Rich Dad, Poor Dad claims it contains all the secrets for becoming rich and it's full with financial advice on real-estate investment, however a few years after the book was published the author, Robert Kiyosaki, declared bankruptcy and it turned out that all his financial advice was sound... in 2007, you know, before the 2008 real estate bubble burst and took down the world's economy with it. The parts of his advice that weren't outright illegal, that is.
  • The various aesops in the work of Ayn Rand rather suffered from Rand herself cheerfully making proclamations about what was and was not morally right that tended to contradict them. Collective action is wrong and you should never force decisions on others... unless Rand is telling you to vote for a specific Presidential candidate, in which case, everybody vote for that person. It's wrong to enrich one group at the expense of others... but the colonisation of the Americas was totally okay in every respect because they weren't capitalists. And so on.
  • The Darkover series has been retrospectively tainted by the posthumous accusations of child abuse and incest against Marion Zimmer Bradley, especially due to the allegations casting a darker light of some of the depictions of incest, and sexual activity involving very young characters, in the novels.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Extreme Makeover: Home Edition:
    • The show ran into a snag when two cohabiting families for whom they had built a massive house began fighting, causing the larger, adopted family to move out. ABC legally washed its hands of any responsibility.
    • One of the more special houses they had built was about to be foreclosed. It wasn't directly the show's fault, but they paid the mortgage on that one, and they will probably tone down future makeover houses just a little so that the people moving into them can afford to maintain them.
    • In a Thanksgiving special, they built a house for a family that runs a soup kitchen, complete with a commercial-grade kitchen and a cafeteria area for serving. Months later, the local government denied the zoning request that would have allowed them to actually use that kitchen and cafeteria to serve food.
    • One makeover program involved building a Flintstones-themed bedroom, complete with fake rock walls and a straw floor. Needless to say, when it came time to revisit the house a while later, the room was in the process of being redecorated after the inhabitants tired of the decor and of having to clean a straw floor.
  • A similar situation happened with all of the "car improvement" shows such as Pimp My Ride. An article in TV Guide once followed up on some of the show's more memorable cases. They found that quite a few of the kids were encountering serious financial problems thanks to it. The kids, who are often driving these old, beat-up cars because they're broke and that's all they can afford, found that their insurance rate went through the roof after Xzibit and Co. got a hold of them. Possibly adding to it, all of the extra things they added into the car had to have ruined their gas mileage as well.
  • A contestant (college girl) on Deal or No Deal was described as loving the color lime green. So, they switched all the lights in the theater to lime green, and the models' dresses were lime green, and the contestant squeed. She talked a little about her sizable debts, and hoped to win enough to pay them off. Well, her third offer was a totally tripped out lime green Cadillac Escalade worth $87,000. Truly an impressive automobile. She took the deal, but no follow up was ever done about where she got the money to pay the taxes or much, much higher insurance on that vehicle to say nothing of the sizable debts she already had. (But it was lime green!)
  • Even the most venerable of children's shows can fall victim to this, as Blue Peter found out when presenter Richard Bacon was caught taking cocaine in 1999.
  • The posthumous revelations of Jimmy Savile's crimes as one of the U.K.'s most prolific sex criminals has ruined the reputations of all the shows he helped present — Top of the Pops, Clunk Click, and Jim'll Fix It were all aimed at children or teens, and he used them to find victims. The scope of his crimes, which he was never tried for in his lifetime, effectively undermined the entire BBC!
  • Pretty much any time the Arrowverse shows have tried to project a feminist message (i.e. The Flash (2014) episode "Girl's Night Out" and most of Supergirl (2015)'s time on the air) now rings hollow, following executive producer Andrew Kreisberg being fired for sexual harassment and creating a toxic work environment.
  • Life is hard for straight actors who play gay roles. Every interviewer will insist on asking them if the love scenes (or more often, kissing scenes) were difficult to play. If they say yes, they risk undermining the role, and sometimes the interview will attempt to frame this as homophobia. If they say no, this may be inferred as coming out, and will certainly start (or fuel) rumors. If they try to Take a Third Option it may be seen as a cop-out. At any rate, reading such interviews can spoil a viewer's enjoyment of an otherwise immersible romantic scene.
    • There's a reverse problem for gay actors. They no longer have to hide their sexuality to work - but it can be difficult or impossible for them to secure non-homosexual roles. (Of course, some Straight Gays can have the problem of people insisting that they're not gay enough for certain roles, as is the case for John Barrowman when he tried to get a main part in Will & Grace).
  • Notably averted by Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, who really was as wholesome and benevolent as the show made him out to be. No matter what the internet would have you believe. He really was.
  • Averted on That '70s Show when actor Tommy Chong was sentenced to prison time as part of a Federal crackdown on businesses selling bongs. Tommy Chong feared he would lose his role on the program, but the producers reassured him that he had been cast as an aging hippie in part because of his drugged-out comedy persona in the first place, and actually doing time for marijuana related charges would not affect his place in the cast.
  • A weird one with Two and a Half Men. Instead of the actor engaging in depravity, one actor has become a Christian and denounced the show. In November 2012, a newly Christian Angus T. Jones urged viewers not to watch his show because it was full of "filth". On other occasions, he has told the Seventh Day Adventist church that he no longer feels comfortable on his show because it does not promote God.
  • Aaron Sorkin's show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip was essentially a season-long Take That! at modern network TV, arguing that the American people don't really want to watch poorly-written schlock and trashy reality TV and that all the networks would need to win their affection would be to give them quality product and stop dumbing everything down for them. Specific examples of what networks ought to do were provided by a screenwriter character who was clearly an Author Avatar for Sorkin and an In-Universe proposal to do a TV series set at the U.N. that bore many similarities to Sorkin's previous show The West Wing. The counter-argument? Well, Studio 60 ended up getting cancelled two-thirds of the way through its first season. Why? Horrible, horrible ratings.
  • One of Frankie Boyle's jokes on Mock the Week had him talking about how he'd heard that the women in government were there to be window dressing. He then said "where on Earth would those women be considered window dressing? The London Dungeon?". Anyone who's ever been to the London Dungeon and met the women normally employed there... that joke could be taken as a compliment now.
  • In the film (1970) and first seasons of M*A*S*H (1972-73), the Korean War was of course a metaphor for the Vietnam War. After the USA lost the war in 1975, with the annexation of the south by the north, the series stopped pushing the metaphor quite so hard. However, today it's risible to even imagine taking the early seasons' face-value message that U.S. intervention in the Korean War accomplished nothing and North Korea wasn't really that bad anyway seriously. Granted, no one could have known the two Koreas would turn out that way at the time the show was made, to say nothing of when the war actually took place - in the 1970s, both Koreas were poverty-stricken dictatorships.
  • The TV Land series Younger is about a forty-year-old woman lying about her age and pretending to be in her twenties to find a job. As such, the show has made a few digs at the fact that modern society favors younger employees over older, more experienced ones. Noble intentions, but the problem is, the show's publicity push spent as much time (if not more) trumpeting the fact that the show was twenty-something Hilary Duff's return to TV as it did focusing on the star, forty-year-old two-time Tony winner Sutton Foster.
  • Gene Roddenberry's vision of a future moneyless utopia in Star Trek falls rather flat when you learn that the man himself was a quite ruthless businessman, pulling shady moves like writing completely irrelevant lyrics to the show's theme song that were never intended to be used just so he could steal part of the composer's paycheck. Though you can still argue that the "idea" itself is more important than the flaws of the man behind it.
  • Networks pulled reruns of The Cosby Show after Bill Cosby had literally dozens of rape accusations against him. In fact, everyone's tried to avoid all entertainment with him as Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids also disappeared from airwaves and it's pretty obvious Jell-O Pudding Pops won't be using him anymore.
  • This is believed to be a big reason for the failure of the Netflix series Girl Boss. The series revolves around Sophia Amoruso, founder of the Nasty Gal fashion company, and was designed to portray her as rebellious and unconventional but ultimately talented and the intention was to show her as an unlikely business success story. However, in the months before the show premiered, the company filed for bankruptcy and went from being an inspiring success story to a huge failure, largely due to Amoruso's mismanagement. In addition, Amoruso was hit by multiple lawsuits for actions such as firing women who got pregnant, undermining the show's feminist aspirations, as well as claims that the work environment was toxic. Without Amoruso's success to justify her behavior, the show was ultimately stuck revolving around a selfish, rude, immature and overall unlikable character and ended up being cancelled after a single season.
  • Sesame Street is well known for treating their characters outside of the show as actually what they are and not as puppets...unless it involves dealing with something controversial. After gay marriage was legalized in California, someone posted a petition online suggesting they have Bert & Ernie get married to teach tolerance about same-sex marriage. Sesame Workshop refused, citing that Bert & Ernie are only puppets, and therefore, have no gender. note 
  • Late in its run, Home Improvement was going to do A Very Special Episode centered around drunk driving. During the writing stage Tim Allen was arrested for DUI and the creative team realized it would be hypocritical of them to do the episode so it was scrapped.
  • Smallville: One of the morals on "Unsafe" was that your first sexual experience is to be approached carefully, and even Allison Mack was used to promote it (Her character Chloe said it in-universe as well). This moral loses credibility when Allison Mack was accused of being involved with sex trafficking for the cult NXIVM and in April 2018 arrested for that. Her mentor Keith Raniere, who led NXIVM, was accused of raping children.
  • One of the main recurring themes of Mad Men is the casual sexism of the 60's, criticizing the sexualization of the workplace, harassment and other abuses women had to suffer through back then. However years after the series concluded, its creator Matthew Weiner was accused of sexually harassing a female writer on the show.
  • The original Roseanne featured an episode about racism and the short-lived revival included an episode condemning Islamophobia—both of which because this as the tweet that caused the latter to be short-lived was itself racist and Islamophobic.
  • America's Next Top Model Cycle 10 contestant Whitney Thompson was a confident plus-sized model who had her main platform be that "girls need a role model" (i.e., someone who wasn't Hollywood Thin), which the judges apparently agreed with by praising her to the moon and back, portraying her as being much more assertive and competent than the previous heavier models of cycles past and declaring her the winner of that cycle. Unfortunately for Thompson, her body type (coupled with diminished credibility for appearing on the show in the first place) allowed for limited opportunities in the fashion world to the point where she had to lose weight in order to receive more work.

  • Michael Jackson's reputation as a true eccentric was seen for years as just a funny bunch of quirks that his genuine talent and extensive charity work, especially with children, balanced out. Then he was accused of molesting a young, male friend in 1993. He settled a civil suit out-of-court (and made a payout to a maid who had similar claims regarding her son) and supporters claim the evidence against him was sketchy all along, but his career was never quite the same; a second round of child molestation accusations that resulted in a court trial came along in 2003. While he was declared not guilty in 2005, his career never even approached his former heights until he died, at which time his popularity again rose and it became risky to say anything about his checkered past. However, the release of the 2019 documentary Leaving Neverland brought the child molestation accusations back into the spotlight and again made his reputation toxic. Additionally, the Drugs Are Bad theme in his film Moonwalker is soured by the revelation that he was a prescription drug addict for decades, as that was how he died.
  • A much darker example. "Pack Up Your Troubles" ("in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile") is known as one of the most optimistic songs ever written. Its writer, George Henry Powell, later committed suicide. The context of the song and the suicide, however, are different. He wrote the song in 1915, when 35-years-old, with the explicit intent to raise moral for the British troops during World War I. And it worked. Powell may have committed suicide in 1951, when 71-years-old and as a mostly forgotten relic from another era. Though his cause of death is disputed. His brother Felix Powell, the one who wrote the music for the song, actually did commit suicide in 1942, by shooting his own heart with a military rifle. Felix was supposedly enthusiastic during his service in World War I, but was much less enthusiastic when serving in the Home Guard during World War II.
  • Brian May of Queen felt uncomfortable about the closeted Freddie Mercury writing a gay anthem like "Body Language" from Hot Space in 1982, not so much due to Freddie's sexuality as fearing it would alienate the straight Queen fans.
  • Russian girl-group t.A.T.u. became famous for the supposed love affair between singers Lena Katina and Yulia Volkova. Not only were the two a fake couple guided by a manager who relied on producing scandals for publicity, but they ditched the manager and the lesbian gimmick within two years of achieving fame, have both since married men, and Volkova has made comments condemning male homosexuality.
  • The Culture Club album From Luxury to Heartache has an absolutely tragic example: the peppy, happy overall feel of the recordnote  is a little tough to listen to after learning keyboardist Michael Rudetski died of a heroin overdose not long after its release. At Boy George's house, no less. (Which, of course, brings up the question of George's contribution to the man's death, seeing as he was also addicted to heroin and arrested for marijuana possession at the same time, but it's best not to point fingers at people like that).

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Professional Wrestling is very vulnerable to this phenomenon. In the past, when kayfabe was maintained, heels and faces wouldn't be allowed to be seen out in the real world together, and popular wrestlers were required to live their gimmick (not so bad, if you play a beer-swilling redneck, but think of poor Gorgeous George...). In the modern age, despite the finishes and certain spots predetermination being acknowledged, there are still many situations where Real Life Writes the Plot after faces are caught doing something they shouldn't, and a quick Face-Heel Turn occurs (Edge and Lita springs to mind — after the two were caught having an affair, Lita had a Face-Heel Turn and was paired with Edge (already a heel), whose gimmick changed from "bitter asshole" to "sleazy man-whore".
    • Even worse, in recent years, pro wrestling's role as fun escapist entertainment has been near-fatally undermined by what wrestlers call "the sickness" — the scores of performer deaths due to abuse of performance-enhancing and recreational drugs, with Chris Benoit's murder of his family and subsequent suicide (Benoit's autopsy revealed one of the highest testosterone ratios known to man and post-concussion syndromes similar to Alzheimer's) as a horrific capstone. In addition, unlike most TV shows or real sports, financial abuse is fairly common; one TNA (a wrestling promotion owned by a $1 billion level energy company and airing on TV every week for millions in rights fees) wrestler kicked up a shitstorm when he tweeted about qualifying for food stamps, and one of their champions was outed working a minimum wage mall kiosk job.
  • The WWE Divas being touted as "Smart, Sexy and Powerful" gets undermined when you hear stories from many former Divas about how much pressure they were under to maintain their good looks 24/7 (Krissy Vaine got addicted to botox injections, Kristal Marshall became dangerously underweight), perfectly healthy women being told to lose weight (Rosa Mendes, Maria Kanellis) and being hugely restricted by management in various areas — Gail Kim claimed that one week they were told "no punching" and the next "no kicking". The knowledge of this makes the ones currently in the company seem like living Stepford Smilers.
    • In a curious flipside to the above point, it's something of a fun hobby for many fans to hate the so-called "model Divas" who were not trained on the indies and were offered WWE developmental contracts as they are assumed to be break-a-nail types that don't care about wrestling and only want a stepping stone to other forms of entertainment. This gets undermined when you hear the horror stories of vicious bullying many of these women received from other members of the roster — Amy Weber quit because Randy Orton found flyers from when she used to work at a strip club and posted them up all around the backstage area, Bobbi Billard was released after getting injured in developmental because the women training her (Ivory and Jacqueline) were deliberately going too hard on them. Add that to the knowledge above and the knowledge that a good portion of the girls were actually wrestling fans which is why they agreed to become wrestlers and people might feel a tad guilty for abusing them.
    • WrestleCrap brought up another one; when interviewed on "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's podcast, Triple H was asked why Chyna has never been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, despite being a big part of the Attitude Era, with him replying it was due to her being a porn actress and WWE not wishing to be associated with that. However, as the writer pointed out, Sunny is in the Hall of Fame and she did/has done porn, and Jimmy Snuka (possibly) murdered someone, so he comes off looking like a hypocrite. In Hunter's defense, most of the Internet believe that he was lying — the generally accepted reason as to why she has not been inducted into the Hall of Fame yet is because she couldn't be trusted with a live microphone.
  • WWE Tough Enough has a lot less success stories because of this trope. The premise of the show was having ordinary people off the street train to become wrestlers in a span of two months or so. In reality, it takes years to get decent enough to wrestle on TV, as opposed to a matter of weeks. As such any winners of the show would be too green to get any kind of meaningful push. The only people from the show to have any real success were in the company for several years by then, long after momentum from the show had dissipated. It's to the point that people forget that John Morrison, the most successful winner (and the second must successful alumnus of TE, after The Miz), was even on the show to begin with, let alone a winner.

    Video Games 
  • Ni no Kuni places a great deal of emphasis on the moral that you should follow your dreams. Unfortunately, the ten-year-old protagonist and his best friend live in 1950s Detroit, even if it's only ever referred to by its nickname "Motor City". They dream of designing cars. One look at how the American car industry in general and Detroit in particular fared since the 1950s tells an entirely different story regarding what happens when you follow your dreams than the game intended.

    Web Original 
  • That Guy with the Glasses:
    • The site seemed to promote the feeling that the various producers were friends and worked well together—and while some producers had left or been removed years earlier, that feeling continued until 2018, when various ex-producers started leaving the site en masse and released a Google document detailing mismanagement, sexism, favoritism, hypocrisy, ignoring producers' concerns, and unsafe filming conditions by Mike Michaud and the Walker Brothers, as well as sexual misconduct by Mike Ellis and the late Justin "JewWario" Carmical. The site's response, which didn't include an apology and instead tried to attack the former producers, resulted in more exits, to the point that by April 13, 2018, only Brad Jones and Larry Bundy are left—and the latter openly admitted to only doing so out of spite for being ignored for a decade and to watch the whole thing go down and the former's doing so resulting in the destruction of his friendship with Allison Pregler.
    • The Nostalgia Critic editorial Doug Walker did on the nature of Shallow Parody is heavily undermined not just by Doug's tendency to doing the exact same thing in his own reviews, but also the accusations that he purposely ignored the reviewers' own characters during the production of the anniversary movies in order to make them fit with his style of comedy.
    • The very existence of Farewell, FamiKamen Rider, as Kaylyn Saucedo only learned about Carmichal's history when composing the original Google document and has expressed regret over making a tribute movie for a predator. Likewise, Lewis Lovhaug expressed regret over moving up Gameboy #3 on the Atop the Fourth Wall schedule and doing that as a tribute to him as well, and he and Bennett White have stopped displaying the JewWario hats they had in honor of him. Many others, like Phelan Porteous, have taken to the Un-person approach, removing videos with Carmichal in them or redoing the review to either replace Carmichal with someone else or just simply remove him from them.
  • Many of the messages in Sequelitis about game design and teaching the player rather than giving them obvious tutorials became undermined with Game Grumps, where Egoraptor is shown struggling to learn game mechanics to a memetic degree and ignoring or dismissing tutorials constantly.

     Western Animation 
  • The episode of The Simpsons where Lisa became a vegetarian ended with Lisa learning not to force her beliefs on others. The episode featured a brief guest appearance by Paul and Linda McCartney, but they insisted that they would only do the episode if Lisa's vegetarianism was made permanent rather than the show's usual Status Quo Is God approach.