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Wrong Genre Savvy

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As it turned out, he was less of a main character, and more of a main course.
"Kids, sometimes you think you're living out one story, but the truth turns out to be something else entirely. At the time, I thought the story was about whether Robin should be at the wedding. If only I'd understood what the real story was."
Ted narrating in hindsight, How I Met Your Mother, "Shelter Island"

Sometimes, you can take being Genre Savvy too far, and wind up having as much Genre Blindness as the poor idiots who split up in a haunted house where one of you is a murderer.

If a character in a series that has a Fourth Wall thinks mainly in terms of tropes, you've probably got a character who's Wrong Genre Savvy. Even if you're correct about being in a story, it's possible for you to guess wrong about your role in the story, the genre of the story, or where on the various sliding scales your story is. Any way you spin it, it's still a common way of subverting Genre Savviness.

This can be a minefield. Say a stranger turns up on your doorstep; if he's a vampire, he can't hurt you unless you invite him in, but if he's an Angel Unaware or King Incognito, you might damn yourself by turning him away. And look at it from the visitor's point of view; if you're an honourable fairytale knight, you won't lay a finger on anyone who's eaten your food, but if you're one of The Fair Folk, eating your food will trap him there forever. What's a Genre Savvy guy to do?

This can also be used for deconstructing character types, by placing a generic character in a realistic setting and exploring what happens when they act as if they are in a work of a particular genre.

Of course, a potential reconstruction can occur as well. While the character is Wrong Genre Savvy about the premise or a particular aspect, they can be right Genre Savvy about complementary aspects of that premise; this means that, while the character is hopeless in the aspect to which they're Wrong Genre Savvy, in their functional aspect their support is invaluable, which may lead to the resolution of the plot and an increase in the character's chance of survival.

See Heroic Wannabe, Wide-Eyed Idealist, Black-and-White Insanity, Prince Charming Wannabe, and Lord Error-Prone for characters with this trait and Genre Savvy and its downplayed cousin Functional Genre Savvy for when characters get it right. Death by Genre Savviness is a related trope. See also This Is Reality, Hero of Another Story, Entertainingly Wrong, Thinks Like a Romance Novel. Wrong Assumption overlaps with a lot of these. May be confused with Too Dumb to Live.

Warning: It is very easy (and tempting) to list a character just because they are wrong about something, but that doesn't mean they are Wrong Genre Savvy. Even if they are wrong about their role in a story, that doesn't necessarily make them wrong about the type of story they are in. Before adding an example ask yourself "If this character was correct, would it change the genre?" if the answer is "no" then it doesn't belong here.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

  • Several characters across several Cool Kids Table games.
    • In Creepy Town, Walter shows up to the haunted house dressed as a fantasy wizard.
    • Mickey and Roc are zany, gaudily-dressed men who don't take things very seriously. However, they're characters for Firefly: The Zelda Chronicles and as such are stuck in that 'verse's in the dramatic Space Western setting. Jake describes them as having walked out of a David Bowie music video.
    • Yuki from Sequinox plays the story very straight, knowing all about magical girls thanks to being from Japan and her mom being an anime localizer. However, she doesn't realize that she's in an Affectionate Parody alongside absolute maniacs Sid and Chell, as well as Hannah who wants nothing to do with it.
  • The Thrilling Adventure Hour:
    • In the "Beyond Belief" universe, Will O' The Wisps are creatures who are aware of narrative causality, and the stories they tell come true. One of them is actually narrating the adventures of Frank and Sadie. Another Will O' The Wisp named Crispin tries to reboot an adventure whose resolution he didn't like - a story involving murderous skeleton creatures, two Cute Monster Girls, and an earnest young delivery boy - but he completely misinterprets what the story is about. This appears to have been a lifelong problem for Crispin: he tells the story about watching an old film serial in his younger days, and thinking that the main character was a random car.
      Frank Doyle: Has it occurred to you that perhaps the love story here is between Ken and one - or both - of the Frankenstein Girls, and the skeletons aren't involved at all?!

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Cyberpunk 2020 adventure module "Carlsbad Caverns'' features a vampire as the primary villain. Not a normal person who's been cybered with the appropriate implants to pretend to be a vampire, but an honest-to-God supernatural blood-sucking creature of the night. GM notes for this adventure module suggest that the referee allow the players to keep thinking they're in a gritty cyberpunk science fiction story, while they're actually being thrust into a gritty survival horror story.
  • The background of Deadlands includes all manner of supernatural horror. In one short adventure, though, the players encounter a man who's suffering from purely natural maladies but who is mistaken for a zombie by the paranoid townsfolk. Keeping them from executing the "monster" is the meat of the adventure.
  • On a Meta Game level, a player can be wrong genre savvy if they don't get table top role playing games or don't get the game they're playing. Imagine a typical Dungeons & Dragons player jumping feet first into Cosmic Horror Delta Green, and you can just imagine how quickly they're going to get killed. Can even lead to out of character hurt feelings or misunderstandings.
    • Likewise, a Delta Green player who picks up Dungeons and Dragons later might have trouble adapting to a world where the light at the end of the tunnel isn't an oncoming train. The first variant tends to be more common because D&D is much more popular and more likely to be the first game one plays, but it's not unheard of for someone who usually plays something like Call of Cthulhu to do stuff like refusing to pick up genuinely beneficial magic items or running away from a monster that they could actually kill.
    • And even within systems, if everyone isn't clear what the campaign is going for, this issue can crop up. Someone can bring a character built for courtly intrigue into a pure dungeon crawl, or one built for busting heads to a heist.
  • Most of the splats in the Old World of Darkness resemble classically known monsters, but each species has been surrounded by superstition. A very large number of mortals will think they're the protagonists in a Gothic Horror movie and try garlic against vampires, look for curse marks on werewolves, or assume mages are incompetent in close combat. By the time they realize it's closer to Dark Urban Fantasy from the monsters' perspective, it's generally too late.
  • The Tau Empire in Warhammer 40,000 believes in The Greater Good, and that the aliens they encounter can be brought into the fold with enough diplomacy or firepower. If they were correct, then there is hope for a brighter future where there is peace, and war will be in small scale. As it turns out, most of the other major factions are either impossible to negotiate with,note  or should not be negotiated with.note  One story had them actually prepare a celebration for the Necrons who smashed the Tyranid armada threatening one of their worlds, only for the Necrons to vaporize the planet as well.


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Wrong Sausage Message

After Ham and Moon apologize to each other for being too competitive, they want to show the town of Lone Moose that the competition will never tear the brothers apart. They do it by sharing the same sausage costume and giving a speech about how everyone is connected. They both assume everyone will love their message of togetherness but no one is impressed by it and they both lose the pageant.

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