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Wrong Assumption

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"Lizzie, when you assume, you make an ass out of 'u' and 'me.'"
Dr. Robert Romano to Dr. Elizabeth Corday, ER

It's not that difficult for a character in a work to jump to conclusions. They might believe that they're a certain trope, that a different character is a certain trope, or at least that a certain trope is happening around them. But it turns out that they are very much wrong. And unfortunately, it will often take them until the end of the story to realize their mistake. In a Darker and Edgier story, they might not even realize the truth until it's too late for them to get a Happy Ending. In a Lighter and Softer story, only the villain will really be a victim to this and meet his/her downfall.

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Some tropes in the The Wannabe Index (like Big Bad Wannabe, Casanova Wannabe, Prince Charming Wannabe etc) and Mistaken for Index are sub-topes of this trope. There can be overlaps with Entertainingly Wrong, Hidden Depths, Horrible Judge of Character, Idiot Ball and More Than Meets the Eye as well. Compare also with Wrong Genre Savvy, where a character acts as if they're in a different genre than what they really are.


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Examples

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     Anime and Manga 
  • In Aura Battler Dunbine, when Show Zama first came back from Byston Well along with Garalia and their respective Aura Battlers, the first explanation the muggles come up with is that Show was actually a shapeshifting alien who killed then took the boy's appearance. It didn't get better from there.
  • In Bleach: In keeping with the theme of him being a luchadore who has cheering fans to please, Mask de Masculine views himself as the hero and the Soul Reapers as the villains that must be defeated, even though it's the Quincies who are threatening the balance between worlds.
  • In Captain Tsubasa, Genki Girl Kumi Sugimoto has a crush on popular Lovable Jock and her junior high's School Idol, Tsubasa Ohzora. So she applies to become the Cute Sports Club Manager of the soccer team he's already in, with direct intentions of getting close to him and then winning his affections. Well, such romantic deals often happens in sports stories... but why is she here? Kumi didn't count on how the main CSCM, Kumi's Cool Big Sis Sanae, was Tsubasa's Patient Childhood Love Interest with already two years ahead of her. Against a girl like her, Kumi simply could NOT compete.
  • In Date A Live, when Shido walks in on Tohka bathing, she freaks out. He's surprised and comments that given that she isn't human and was so ignorant of human society, he expected her to be an Innocent Fanservice Girl. He must have missed the part in the previous episode where she blushed and hid behind him after her clothes were erased.
  • Dragon Ball Z:
    • Vegeta's whole complex is how he views himself as The Hero or even The Chosen One, and so constantly gets mad when Goku and Gohan continue to take center stage. It takes him until the fight with Kid Buu to accept his destiny as Goku's lancer.
    • Mr. Satan has basically everyone on Earth convinced that he is The Hero. In the end, he becomes a sort of lancer. To be fair, Goku doesn't hold it against him in the end - and it even works for the sake of the heroes once.
  • In Full Metal Panic!, Sousuke Sagara approaches every situation as a military operation. Since he is a Private Military Contractor, he's right about half the time. The other half he's at a normal high school playing bodyguard for his love interest, and he proves completely incapable of adjusting his behavior or his situation analyses to fit the undercover assignment. Someone has put something (a love letter) in your shoe locker? Follow standard procedure for dealing with suspected IEDs and blow it up. The gym teacher screams at you and treats you like scum? Clearly he is the local Drill Sergeant Nasty; salute and thank him honestly.
  • In Gate, when Emperor Molt starts taking the JSDF seriously, he orders his army to use Scorched Earth tactics to deny the enemy supplies to make their journey harder. However, that old kind of tactic won't work with a modern force that uses helicopters, tanks, Humvees, jets and a well established supply line... or rather, it won't work because of the speed and range that the JSDF forces can bring to the table. Without matching abilities, the JSDF can leapfrog over those positions rather quickly. He also has no real concept of the kind of demented warfare Japan can unleash upon his country, and still thinks war with them is winnable. After the Senate building gets bombed to rubble, he eventually realizes it's better to negotiate with Japan than to see more bullet-filled corpses of his soldiers and possible rebellion from his own people and neighboring countries. Too bad his batshit crazy eldest son doesn't see it that way.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya:
    • Haruhi expects a student president, who runs the school and all the clubs like a dictator. There isn't one, so Itsuki hires some guy to play the part of a jerkass president. He's a jerkass in a different way entirely, though. Of course, since this is Haruhi he starts having trouble differentiating himself from the role he is playing, and will possibly end up exactly as Haruhi thinks he is.
    • She also winds up wrong about the positions she thinks the other members of the Brigade have. She views Itsuki as The Lancer, Kyon as The Big Guy, Yuki as The Smart Guy, and Mikuru as The Chick. In reality, Kyon is The Hero, Itsuki is The Lancer, Yuki takes the position of both The Smart Guy and The Big Guy, and Mikuru.... is still The Chick.
  • In Heroman, Will refuses to believe Joey is the hero of the story. He rudely tells him this and decides to prove him wrong. He ends up being is an Anti-Hero who ends up making things worse.
  • Mazinger Z:
    • Baron Ashura and Count Brocken hated each other. Big Bad Dr. Hell thought it would be a good thing, since they would surely try to destroy Mazinger-Z harder to upstage each other. Or course, what happened was many operations and schemes went by the wayside because they constantly fought and got in the each other's way, and they were unable to work together, ruining many joined missions, too. Hell's mistake was born of him believing he and his troops were heroes instead of villains.
    • In another episode, Count Brocken has one in which he took hostages, and used cheap tricks to defeat Koji, expecting Koji to be a straight, heroic and honorable hero like pretty much most tv show protagonists at the time. This could have (and at times actually did) work well if not for the fact that this is Koji we're talking about. In fact, Brocken does mention it by complaining about how Koji's fans will cry because of that. Koji's reaction? Take it like a man.
  • In Mobile Fighter G Gundam, young Maria Louise from Neo France is a Rebellious Princess with a crush on the local Knight in Shining Armor, George de Sand. She's depressed because he doesn't fight for her, but for her country. So, if she stages her own kidnapping and recruits Domon Kasshu, a rival that George spurned, he'll fight for her honor, right? WRONG! George does come for her, fully aware of her trick, and delivers a What the Hell, Hero? speech on how he's much more likely to be absorbed into fighting Domon than on Maria's honor as well as chewing her out for her recklessness. Domon's partner Rain has to bail Maria out, she's Put on a Bus until the second part of the series, and when she comes back she's learned from her mistakes.
  • In Naruto, the title character is told multiple times by several different people that he is the kind of person who could never be the main character in a story. Wrong.
  • In Puni Puni Poemi the eponymous character is convinced (apparently correctly) that she is the main character — and her voice actress. In the final scene the show's director (who is also a character) reveals that the main character is apparently her love interest.
  • In Slayers, Naga believes that she is The Rival when she's actually more of a sidekick. Lina often corrects her when presenting themselves to a new character. In the TV series, Amelia tries desperately to uphold Justice in a slapstick fantasy world.
  • In the The Twelve Kingdoms anime, Yuka leaps to the immediate assumption that being transported into a fantasy realm means she is The Chosen One, even though all signs point to her classmate Youko Nakajima. In the original novels, Yuka never even reached the Twelve Kingdoms in the first place, which should put things in perspective.

     Comic Books 
  • DuckTales has two examples during the story "The Once and Future Warlock":
    • Launchpad assumes that Laird's influence on Doofus (who he's brainwashed) won't cause the young duck to make any moves against him, given that Doofus is a friend and fan of his. This nearly gets him zapped.
    • In the same story, Scrooge and the boys assume that Laird's brainwashing has completely wiped away Doofus' real personality. They're wrong, and the real Doofus is ultimately saved.
  • In a Judge Dredd comic, a perp tries to escape from Dredd by jumping into what he assumes to be a laundry chute, but ends up being a waste disposal unit.
  • In many Superman comics (especially Lex Luthor: Man of Steel), Lex Luthor thinks (or says he thinks) that he's The Hero and the Only Sane Man to most of humanity (who insist on putting their faith in a powerful, dangerous alien) and that Superman is a Villain with Good Publicity. Of course, the reality is that Lex is a jealous villain and that Superman is an Innocent Alien and All-Loving Hero.
  • Supergirl:
    • In Red Daughter of Krypton Lobo taunted Supergirl during their whole fight, thinking that she'd fight sloppily if she got angry. It turned out that blind rage makes her more dangerous instead of more ineffective.
    • During the events of Superman: Doomed, Supergirl, who was using her anger to protect the galaxy, assumes Superman's just "getting in touch with his angry side" and can use his SuperDoom form for good. So she goaded him... and it made things worse.
  • In The Flash, Hunter Zolomon in his persona of Zoom is convinced that he's a Stealth Mentor / Anti-Villain that helps heroes grow stronger by making them experience personal tragedies. In truth, he's delusional to the point where he qualifies as legitimately mentally ill, and is as much a danger to heroes as any fullblown villain is.
  • The Incredible Hulk, when he appears in the Deadpool story arc Operation Annihilation, assumes that when Deadpool is attacking him, that he was hired by somebody to provoke him into a trap. In truth, Deadpool is acting on his own trying to provoke the Hulk into killing him, but even when he tells Hulk that nobody hired him, the Hulk still assumes it's part of some more elaborate scheme. Later in the same story, some somewhat smart soldiers see the Hulk rampaging and guess that Deadpool is the cause of it. They guess right, but when they see Deadpool in a bus full of children, they assume he's taken them hostage, when he was actually trying to rescue them.
  • In X-Men, this happened when they had to deal with Dracula. Yes, using a cross on Drac is a good way to keep him back. But, it really doesn't work unless you have the faith behind it, which the very Jewish Kitty Pryde and the oh-so-unrepentant Wolverine find out.
  • In Watchmen, after discovering that the recently murdered Edward Blake was actually the Comedian, Rorschach assumes that a "mask killer" is targeting ex-costumed heroes and is seemingly proven right when an assassin attacks Adrian Veidt. Blake was actually killed for knowing too much by Veidt himself, who then staged the attempt on his life to keep Rorschach on the wrong track.

     Fan fiction 
  • Advice and Trust: When Gendo fired Shinji and Asuka he was not concerned because he thought the Dummy Plugs would be an adequate substitute, and otherwise neither Shinji nor Asuka would leave or refuse pilot again because Shinji yearned for his approval and attention and Asuka's self-image was utterly tied to be a pilot. Oh, and he also thought Shinji's feelings towards Asuka were unrequited infatuation. However: the dummy plugs were NOT a good substitute; Shinji and Asuka's relationship was of the Belligerent Sexual Tension nature, and it had been resolved when he was not paying attention, so neither of them cared for or depended on his approval anymore. Cue freaking I-eat-Evas-for-breakfast Zeruel, easily destroying the Evas piloted by Dummy Plugs, nearly killing Rei, storming the Geofront and very nearly killing everyone because Gendo had been idiotic and suicidal enough to fire his best pilots!
  • In the Glee fic Hunting the Unicorn, Blaine's attempt to be Kurt's Knight in Shining Armor is the result of a Wide-Eyed Idealist meeting the Wrong Guy First and just having a shitty life in general. And Alex thinks he's the Dogged Nice Guy who'll end up with Blaine after he breaks up with his selfish, demanding tyrant of a boyfriend, but Kurt is Blaine's Second Love while Alex is the stalker they don't even know about.
  • In Imperfect Metamorphosis, Team 9 is full of idiots, and they are also misinformed about what is actually going on. Yukari, though, has no excuse, as she seems convinced, against all evidence, that she actually can take on Rin Satsuki, who already defeated her, Reimu, Eirin and some of Gensokyo's other powerhouses and possesses the power of a freakin' ARCHANGEL OF DEATH. Oh, and she apparently doesn't have any problems in trying to screw things over while she already has to deal with Yuuka, who placed a bounty on Rin Satsuki's head. If she had actually spent TWO SECONDS listening to what Eirin said, or, failing even that, had tried to find a peaceful solution, she wouldn't have ended playing Yuuka's game. If Rin actually WAS the Omnicidal Maniac she believes her to be, Gensokyo would have been ANNHILATED by now.
  • The Marvel Comics fanfic Minion has the Author Sue being a young woman who realized that the Laws of Narrative actually controlled their universe. She even deduced the existence of the comic-book Sliding Time Scale. Using that knowledge, she got herself as a job as a minion of Doctor Doom, eventually becoming his wife and seeking to destroy the Laws of Narrative so all these super-geniuses and super-beings will quit wasting their time in dramatic nonsense.
  • In the Naruto fic "A Few Angry Words" Pain seems to think he's Julius Caesar marching into Rome. He's more like the Antichrist marching into the Jezreel Valley.
  • In Transformers Meta, Barricade had successfully deduced that Bumblebee had been trying to trick him into letting him go by lying about finding mermaids which would grant him wishes, but still fully believed that mermaids were real and declared he would "find them by himself." He proceeded to list the things he would wish for upon his success.
  • In Ultimate Sleepwalker: The New Dreams, the Ax-Crazy Psycho for Hire Bullseye revels in his supposed A-list status and looks down on C-List Fodder like the billiards-based 8-Ball. When they're hired by rival crime bosses who are fighting a Mob War, Bullseye and 8-Ball end up fighting. The cocky Bullseye thinks that, as the A-lister, he'll have an easy time against the C-list 8-Ball. However, Bullseye ends up impaled by a huge piece of metal and gets his head severed and knocked into a garbage can by 8-Ball, just to add insult to injury.
  • In White Devil of the Moon, Luna mistakes Fate for a villain on the basis of her costume. While Fate used to be an antagonist, Dark Is Evil does not apply in Lyrical Nanoha, and as such, Luna ends up needlessly antagonizing Fate.
  • In this Riverdale AU where the last words your soulmate will say to you are tattooed on your skin, soulmates Betty and Veronica assume that their respective words (Betty's "I love you." and Veronica's "No, don't close your eyes, please don't leave me!") mean that Veronica will die violently and in pain and Betty will be left alone. While this turns out to be true, Veronica is only clinically dead for a few minutes and once she reawakens, both she and Betty receive new words that foretell a peaceful death together.
  • A Signal of Hope: A young Jason Todd was so traumatized and mistrustful of human dealings, he thought Bruce Wayne adopted him because he wanted something illegal of him. The misunderstanding was only cleared right after Jason came to Bruce's room to sexually propose to his horrified guardian.
  • The main character of Life Ore Death has this almost as a character trait due to learning English during the story. Usually it's Played for Laughs, such as when Ferris believes Kaldur'ahm to be a clone instead of Conner, but it's Played for Drama in the second season when Ferris is under the impression that Dr. Fate is consensually sharing Zatara's body, and still taking days off for him to see Zatanna, which isn't the case.
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     Films - Animated 
  • In Frozen, everyone assumes that the act of true love needed as a Curse Escape Clause is True Love's Kiss, but it's not romantic love that ends up breaking the curse in the end, but sisterly love.
  • In Beauty and the Beast, Gaston (Big Bad) thinks he's the hero and that Beast (Jerk with a Heart of Gold) is a monster, who wants to get his claws on Belle. But in the end, it is clear that the opposite was true.
  • In Kung Fu Panda, Tai Lung grew up thinking he would be The Hero instead of the Big Bad. In fact, the entire story is a stereotypical action Hero's Journey when seen from his perspective. Set up to become The Chosen One, he is betrayed by his mentor, and spends a long time in captivity. Then he breaks out of the predicament they put him in. He overcomes obstacles and beats up a whole lot of Mooks led by The Brute; then he beats up a Quirky Miniboss Squad led by his counterpart/Shadow Archetype by revealing an 11th-Hour Superpower he developed after his initial defeat; then he beats up the Big Bad, who was responsible for the things that happened to him at the beginning; then the Dragon Ascendant powered by an Artifact of Doom is revealed as the True Final Boss, He manages to wrest control of the artifact from the Dragon Ascendant, prepares to use it, and... his story crumbles around him, because he does not have what it takes to be The Hero. The Dragon Warrior title he wanted so badly brings nothing with it. Being a true Dragon Warrior requires understanding that there isn't anything that can make you special beyond your own effort. His design also includes a Stealth Pun on the topic. According to creator commentary, the color gold throughout the film symbolizes heroism. The only gold in Tai Lung's design is his eyes, because he's only a hero is his own eyes.
  • In Megamind, Megamind thinks that Hal will be the perfect person to train as a hero once he's seen him: he thinks he's a complete nobody who can realize his true heroic potential with his help. Unfortunately, Hal fits a different set of tropes...
  • Two wrongful assumptions are made in Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas by DreamWorks Animation: 1) the tribune of Syracuse is certain that the pirate Sinbad is responsible for the theft of the Book of Peace. Sinbad's boyhood friend Proteus defies this assumption, and puts himself in Sinbad's place on Death Row to allow Sinbad to recover the MacGuffin. 2) Eris, the goddess of discord, presumes Sinbad to be such a vain, selfish brigand that she wagers the Book of Peace that Sinbad would not likewise forfeit his life to save Proteus. Both the tribune and Eris are proven patently wrong, because Sinbad is really a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
  • In Starship Troopers: Invasion, Ice Blonde is just as surprised as the audience is about who survives the film. She survives the film, of course. She's surprised Mech survives, completely inverting Black Dude Dies First, and likewise Ratzass averts Big Guy Fatality Syndrome. Trig dies, as does Bugspray, and the not-so aptly named Hero.
  • In The Boxtrolls, Mr. Trout and Mr. Pickles are convinced they're the good guys fighting the forces of evil, but as the movie goes along they begin to doubt this perspective.
  • In The Princess and the Frog, Naveen mistakenly thinks that being kissed by Tiana will turn him back to a human. Later, he accuses her of falsely wearing the tiara, deceiving him into thinking she was a princess . They turn back into humans after they get married, as Tiana has really become a princess then through her marriage to Naveen.
  • In Zootopia, Judy jumps to the conclusion that the Timber Wolf mercenaries that have been capturing the missing mammals as they go savage are the "Night Howlers" that Mr. Otterton was yelling about. Turns out she was mistaken and later learns that Night Howlers are the nickname of a flower being used to create the Psycho Serum used to turn predator animals savage.

     Films - Live Action 
  • At one point in Babe, Farmer Hoggett believes Babe to be a sheep-killer, because he found one of his ewes lying dead in his pasture with a gaping wound, and fresh blood on Babe's snout. Hoggett takes Babe to the barn and prepares his shotgun to terminate the killer pig. Fortunately, Hoggett's wife announces that local police are seeking armed sheep rustlers in the area. She then notices her husband cradling his shotgun.
    Esme Hoggett: What on Earth are you doing with that gun?
    Farmer Hoggett: Oh! (looks at firearm, befuddled) Nothin'.
    Esme Hoggett: (rolls eyes and waddles away)
  • In Doom, Sarge thinks that he's The Hero and main character when it's actually Reaper. At one point, he even says "I'm not supposed to die!" when he's dragged off by a monster. He ultimately turns out to be the villain of the movie and Final Boss.
  • In Enchanted, talks with her young friend Morgan, who is nervous about her father marrying Nancy, having read plenty of stories involving a Wicked Stepmother. Giselle assures her that most stepmothers are actually very nice people, a true lesson, that proves its worth when Giselle becomes Morgan's stepmother. Unfortunately, Giselle uses her own stepmother-to-be Narissa as an example, unaware that Narissa actually is a wicked stepmother who is trying to kill her.
  • My Name Is Bruce has this from two angles: Jeff kidnaps Bruce Campbell, expecting him to be a real-life badass like Ash, and hoping that he can cure Gold Lick's monster problem. Bruce, on the other hand, is oblivious to the horror because he thinks that the whole thing's a prank.
  • In Outlander, the priest mistakes the moorwen for a demon and tries to exorcise it. The moorwren mauls him in the middle of his chant.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Elizabeth thinks Barbossa's crew are standard pilfer-and-loot pirates who would hold her for ransom if they found out she's the Governor's daughter, so she gives them a false last name: Turner (the last name of her secret love, and probably the first name to pop into her head). Unfortunately, they're not after something so mundane as money; in fact, one of the things they're looking for is a kid about her age with the last name of Turner. Oops. She also expects pirates to honor the Code of the Brethren as if it were a binding rule of law, not realizing that Barbossa is a Rules Lawyer who sees the Code more as "guidelines."
  • In Star Trek (2009), the "new" Kirk assumes that a Romulan from The Future would know what the Enterprise crew will do, so they should be unpredictable. His Vulcan shipmate more accurately recognizes that the Romulan and his ship are a Timeline-Altering MacGuffin, causing a new chain of events (though nonetheless failing to prevent the assemblage of the same Enterprise crew). Later, old-Spock takes advantage of Kirk's ignorance to falsely "imply" that Never the Selves Shall Meet is a rule of this particular Timey-Wimey Ball.
  • The Fugitive
    • Almost everyone believes that Doctor Kimble murdered his wife, especially the jury at his trial. They heard the recorded 9-1-1 call, with the dispatcher asking the victim if anyone else is there, and the distinct reply, "Richard, he's in the house!" Surely, this was deathbed testimony as to her killer; in fact, it was a warning to Kimble that the murderer was still loose in their home. The most unswayable character is federal marshal Sam Gerard, who is determined to stuff the escaped Kimble back into prison or into a grave.
    • When Kimble escapes through the storm drains and comes to a point where they bisect, he tosses his jacket down one tunnel and goes down the other one. The pursuing US Marshals aren't fooled for a second, they simply split up in order to check both passages. Later, when calling his lawyer, Kimble lies and says he's in St. Louis, correctly suspecting that the cops might be eavesdropping, but not that their equipment would determine that Kimble's in Chicago.
  • In Troy, Paris believes that The Power of Love can motivate him to defeat Menelaus in a duel. The old but incredibly strong and experienced warrior beats the shit out of him.

     Literature 
  • In A Civil Campaign, Miles Vorkosiganhe's a masterful Guile Hero, who always succeeds through his cleverness. But then he attempts to apply his military strategy to wooing his love interest, despite all of his family and friends trying to warn him that this is a terrible idea. Sure enough, when he proposes, she feels emotionally manipulated and walks out on him.
  • Agatha Christie:
    • In Easy to Kill, Brigit wanders off on her own. When Luke, the main character, finds her, he warns her to be more careful because he doesn't want her to get killed. Brigit says that it's okay, because the heroine is never killed in these types of stories. Luke objects, not because This Is Reality, but because he doesn't believe that Brigit is the heroine. She is. Luke is the one who was wrong.
    • A similar example occurs in another Christie mystery, Crooked House, where a young girl tries to fake a near death experience by setting up a statue to fall on her head when she walked through a certain door. When one of the other characters says that she could have easily been killed for real, the detective points out that it probably didn't occur to her because she thought she was the heroine, and the heroine never dies.
  • In Emma by Jane Austen, the title character sees herself as the wise match-maker with a keen insight into people and all their thoughts and feelings - a Fixer Sue of sorts - who can make the narrative play out exactly as she wishes and end in happy weddings for everyone. Every single one of her brilliant ideas fails horribly, many grave misunderstandings are created and exacerbated, her perception of situations is often completely wrong, and at times she can be outright insensitive. It is only once she stops meddling that everyone is able to resolve their romances, including Emma herself, entirely on their own.
  • In Howl's Moving Castle, the root of Sophie's problems is that she thinks that being the eldest of three children she will be doomed to a boring life without glamour or success. As such she completely fails to see that she has the ability to ensure a happy ending for herself as well as everyone around her.
  • In Madicken by Astrid Lindgren, Mia believes that Madicken is a stuck-up Spoiled Brat. But even though it's true that Madicken is the richest kid in their class, she also is Spoiled Sweet. And because her father is a Bourgeois Bohemian, she has been taught to care about social justice. And in the end, she and Mia can even become friends.
  • In Mansfield Park by Jane Austen, Henry Crawford honestly seems to believe he's the Prince Charming character, who will marry the Cinderella-esque heroine and rescue her from her depressing life with her neglectful family. Thus he feels completely confident after she rejects his proposal that they'll still inevitably be married, and both he and his sister still consider the marriage a sure thing. Unfortunately, he's actually the Handsome Lech character, who only passes himself off as Prince Charming to seduce women for fun, which he can't give up even after supposedly falling in love with Fanny Price. He came so close to being the romantic hero he wanted to be... and he blew it.
  • In Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, Inspector Lestrad of Scotland Yard often misreads the clues in a case, and has at least twice detained an innocent party. Fortunately, the Baker Street detective usually deduces the particulars and rightly names the culprit within a day. This cements the civil rivalry between Lestrad and Holmes.
  • In The Dresden Files, when Harry's apprentice-of-sorts Kim comes to him with a major summoning/binding circle that she wants explained, he refuses to give her any more information than what the thing basically is, apparently thinking that he's the Wise Mentor dissuading his overly reckless student from meddling in stuff that she'd regret. It turns out that she was friends with the Loup-Garou Macfinn, and she needed that circle to stop Macfinn's wolf form from going on a rampage. This wasn't something that she could just put off, because for every full moon she failed to put up the circle, people would die. So, she does the circle anyways, but she doesn't have the know-how to make it work properly. It fails, and Macfinn kills her. When he found out, Harry was completely horrified with his mistake, realizing (and pointing out) that he was actually the self-important authority figure that refused to help the hero because the hero "wasn't ready yet".
  • In The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Mr. Hargrave thinks he's the selfless, gallant Prince Charming, who will rescue Helen from her misery, ignoring how miserable his own predatory persistence makes her.
  • In Överenskommelser by Simona Ahrnstedt, Beatrice assumes that Seth is a Casanova, who doesn't care more for her than for any other woman. The truth is though that while Seth has had many meaningless affairs with many different women, he does have genuine feelings for Beatrice. Seth assumes that Beatrice is a shallow Gold Digger, who only sees him as a fun fling before she gets married to an old aristocrat and becomes a countess. The truth is though that she has been threatened into her betrothal to Count Rosenschiöld by her abusive uncle, and that her heart belongs to Seth... But several unfortunate circumstances (including her cousin completely screwing them over) only makes them even more sure that they can't trust each other. Of course, all of this could have been solved if they only had talked to each other, but it takes them twenty months to actually reach that point...

     Live Action TV 
  • Merlin:
  • On The Nanny, C.C. Babcock spends much of the series convinced that she's the Betty to Fran Fine's Veronica with Maxwell Sheffield, but she's not even in the equation, instead coming off as a Stalker with a Crush, with borderline Yandere tendencies. She doesn't realize it until after Max and Fran are already married and Fran is pregnant when Niles, having reached his limit with her, delivers a "The Reason You Suck" Speech that holds nothing back.
  • 30 Rock
    • Half the time, Jenna is convinced she's a beloved star and worries over her public image when even people who watch the show don't recognize her. The other half, she's terrified of becoming a has-been, not grasping she's a never-was.
    • When she attends her high school reunion, Liz looks forward to showing up the kids she remembers always putting her down as a nerd. However, it turns out that what Liz remembers as self-defense humor instead came off as horrific insults and thus, as far as her classmates are concerned, she's just the school bully grown up.

     Video Games 
  • Reader Rabbit: In the second grade game, Sam believes he's the brave friend who rescues Reader Rabbit from the evil dragon. In reality, the dragon is actually Reader's friend as well and Sam's just picking up the widgets the dragon needs to finish a rocket ship.

     Web Comics 
  • CK of Commander Kitty believes himself to be The Hero and Ace is The Rival. Of course, Ace turns out to be a genuine Nice Guy with no ill will towards CK at all.
  • Girl Genius:
    • Ottvar Tryggvassen, Gentleman Adventurer, is convinced that he's the leading man, Baron Wulfenbach and Gil Wulfenbach are the diabolical mastermind and the mastermind's fiendish right hand man respectively, and Agatha Clay is the leading man's beautiful young sidekick (even if she's not the Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter like he originally thought). Unfortunately he's completely insane and doesn't realise that he's wrong on all counts, so his plans are almost always inappropriate.
    • Once he realizes that Agatha is a Heterodyne, he changes on the last part and treats her as the Hero of Another Story (possibly with himself as some manner of Mentor Archetype) — which doesn't solve his problem, since he's still completely insane, and Agatha knows it and wants nothing to do with him. Word of God is that he's re-cast his delusion slightly, Agatha is now the tragic love interest (he's going to kill her last, in some sort of love-suicide pact).
    • One of the radio plays questioned whether Othar really is delusional — after all, having Sparks in charge has been almost always catastrophic for common Europeans, and it's not at all clear that the heroes will be able to break that cycle.
  • In Sluggy Freelance, Commander Clown and his allies think he's the good guy. While that's standard for a Well-Intentioned Extremist, it's not usually discussed in such a meta fashion.
    Torg: He's hanging from a helicopter's rope ladder while laughing maniacally and triggering explosives.
    Dart: OK, that sounds a little bad-guy-ish.
    Torg: It'd be OK if he said something witty, but the laughter pegs him.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Elan gets this sometimes. For example, the first time they defeated Xykon he activates a Self-Destruct Mechanism in order to invoke a Load-Bearing Boss situation. And then won't escape the castle until the last possible second to be more dramatic. On another occasion he correctly predicts the current villain will try the old abduct-the-love-interest ploy...but doesn't realize that he's The Chick.
    • Tarquin appears to have cast himself as the Big Bad and Elan as The Hero, unaware that it's Xykon and Roy respectively. Eventually Elan crushingly tells him that he's "not the real villain", and lets him drop off an airship, refusing to confront him in the epic showdown Tarquin wants. It is implied that Tarquin would be quite content being killed by Elan in a battle (the hero always defeats the villain, after all) but the anticlimax of being left in the desert causes him to lose both the plot and his cool, and he's left shouting "This is a terrible ending!" at his retreating son.

     Web Original 
  • In Atop the Fourth Wall, Linkara in his Comic Book Quickies assumes that reading a text box that says the location of a story is the world's largest flea market, that the giant flea in the panel is the world's largest flea and assumes that the comic's creator doesn't know what a flea market is. The real answer he found was much more, surreal. The flea is the the giant flea market eating flea. He reacts pretty the much the same way as the audience.
  • Ten Little Roosters:
    • Adam teams up with Gavin, only to find out Gavin's clone (long story) is in trouble. Gavin and the clone die horribly by mousetraps. When Barbara confronts Adam and suggests they team up, Adam refuses because of what happened. The killer is later able to ambush him and strangle him to death.
    • Miles believes that he can be the hero of the story by dressing up as Ruby Rose and trying to think like her. Even more he believes that beating Skyrim eight times and getting all of the Chaos Emeralds makes him even more suitable for surviving. It doesn't. At all. The one time he tries to take action, fighting a puma, he freaks, drops his weapon and runs.
  • In this ''Swedish Chef'' YouTube video, two talking pumpkins try to use Briar Patching, advising the Chef to use increasingly bizarre/dangerous implements to smash them, on the assumption that he won't have them. However, this is the Swedish Chef we're talking about, who can always pull a sizable arsenal out of hammerspace.
  • The page on Rick Astley plays on the expectation that the link to Never Gonna Give You Up will lead the expected Rickroll. Instead, it links to a Chinese song. The real link is listed with the rest of his music videos.

     Western Animation 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Zuko is under the impression that he's a Warrior Prince on a Redemption Quest for disrespecting his lord and father. It's not until he hears said lord and father decide to wipe out a continent that he realizes that he's actually the Noble Demon destined to make a Heel–Face Turn — and because he dragged his feet for so long, he's going to have to go through hell to prove himself trustworthy.
  • In Beware the Batman, Magpie is the Dark Knight's Stalker with a Crush with psychotic tendencies. Apparently, since she's the show's equivalent of Catwoman, she seems to think she and Batman are in love and want to be together. She reacts violently when she's told Batman was just being nice to her because she was in prison.
  • This trope is subverted in an episode of Bonkers, which featured a Screwy Squirrel-type character, who goes on a crime spree. At first, Bonkers thinks he's unstoppable, because the character always wins in his cartoons. But then, Bonkers comes to the realization that this is his cartoon, and so is able to defeat him.
  • Danny Phantom:
  • In Darkwing Duck, Gosalyn believes that Darkwing Duck and Taurus Bulba are "sworn enemies". Darkwing regretfully admits Taurus Bulba doesn't even know he exists, though he's slightly off; Taurus Bulba only sees him as a nuisance.
  • In an epsiode of Drawn Together, Hero is excited when he hears that Greeks are moving in next door, thinking the new neighbors are from a frat house. He tries to join in by wearing a toga at the house, but finds out that it's really a family from Greece.
  • DuckTales (1987), "Hero For Hire". Launchpad assumes he's new talent who's been discovered and is going to be a big-time actor. He's actually the Fall Guy who's been duped by the villains. Fortunately, halfway through, he realizes what's actually going on and makes another role switch into the episode's hero — to the surprise of the Beagle Boys, who had made the false assumption that Launchpad was too dumb to pose a threat and hence missed the transition.
  • In Futurama, Fry's Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe when he thinks he's a robot counts as this:
    Fry: Fear not, for I shall assist ye!
    Hermes: Robots don't say 'ye'! ...Quit thinking you're a robot!
    Fry: I'll show ye...
  • The Gravity Falls episode "Sock Opera" has Mabel setting up a huge puppet show to please her latest Guy of the Week, who has an unearthly fascination with puppets. When Mabel sets off a bundle of pyrotechnics and destroys the whole stage, she assumes that the audience will think it's All Part of the Show, when in reality they're less than pleased with the ending.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • The villain Mane-iac from "Power Ponies" knows that Humdrum is the Plucky Comic Relief Useless Sidekick to the titular characters and doesn't bother to incapacitate or capture him. Normally she'd be right, but this time around Humdrum is actually Spike who is far from useless. Surprise surprise, it bites her hard in the rear end.
    • Spike in the same episode, who makes the same assumptions about himself that the Mane-iac does before he manages to realize otherwise.
  • In Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer, Krys suffered under the delusion that he was the hero who would save the day, despite not having any powers and Rainbow Brite being way more badass than him. He eventually manages to save the day when he is given a powerful weapon and finally lets go of his pride to work together with Rainbow Brite.
  • Spongebob Squarepants:
    • Mr. Krabs in the episode "Born Again Krabs" thought that the Flying Dutchman's visit is All Just a Dream, when it turns out it's actually real. It also turns out that by screwing around like everything is a dream, Krabs has driven the Krusty Krab into bankruptcy.
  • One episode of Superfriends by Hanna-Barbera has an inventor named Goodfellow create a series of robots run by a master computer that could supplant almost all human activity. No one would have to mow the lawn, restock supplies or pilot vehicles; the Effort Eliminating Computer would do it all. Goodfellow presumed that humanity, freed from drudgery and tedium, would embark on a new Renaissance. By the episode's end, Goodfellow gets the disturbing news that people grew bored at having nothing to do, and began fighting, looting and general mayhem to stave off ennui.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy", Bart becomes paranoid of bizarre conspiracies and believes the adults are spend most of their time indoors by day because of some hare-brained conspiracy he cooks up. But the reason was they were into Grampa's special tonic which gets them really horny.
  • In Wander over Yonder, Wander believed that if he can get Hater to see Lord Dominator's face, the two will instantly fall in love. He's right as far as Hater's side is concerned, but Dominator is an aromantic who abhors Hater's affections.
  • In the first episode of the obscure series The Puzzle Club, main character Alex is investigating some recent thefts and witnesses an Asian girl and a redheaded Caucasian woman having a conversation, during which the girl, whose name is revealed to be Corina, refers to the woman as "Mom". Alex immediately assumes that Corina and the woman are part of the group of thieves since they look nothing alike and therefore, in his mind, can't be related, only to be proven wrong when he, future teammate Christopher and mentor Tobias find Corina Bound and Gagged in the thieves' hideout. Then he's further proven wrong when, upon hearing his theory, Corina angrily informs him that she has every right to call the woman he saw her with "Mom" and that it makes perfect sense they don't look alike as Corina is Happily Adopted.
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