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Commander Spock: Cadet Kirk, you somehow managed to install and activate a subroutine to the programming code, thereby changing the conditions of the test.
Cadet James Kirk: Your point being?
Admiral Richard Barnett: In academic vernacular, you cheated.
[Crowd gasps]
Kirk: Let me ask you something, I think we all know the answer to. The test itself is a cheat, isn't it? You programmed it to be unwinnable.
Spock: Your argument precludes the possibility of a no-win scenario.
Kirk: I don't believe in no-win scenarios.
Spock: Then, not only did you violate the rules, you also failed to understand the principle lesson.
Kirk: Please, enlighten me.
Spock: You of all people should know, Cadet Kirk. A Captain cannot cheat death.
Kirk: I of all people?
Spock: Your father, Lieutenant George Kirk, assumed command of his vessel before being killed in action, did he not?
Kirk: I don't think you like the fact that I beat your test.
Spock: Furthermore, you have failed to divine the purpose of the test.
Kirk: Enlighten me again.
Spock: The purpose is to experience fear. Fear in the face of certain death. To accept that fear, and maintain control of oneself and one's crew. This is a quality expected in every Starfleet captain.
Sometimes people can miss the point of things, due to being dense, stubborn, or lacking context, but the story treats this as a serious thing. The consequences can vary though, from a misunderstanding, to a tragedy, or even a Happy Ending.

One of the most common forms is someone being sad, seemingly due to a small trigger, and another person thinks it's just that trigger instead of the bigger picture.

Although this can be caused by people being stupid or delusional, as with an Irrational Hatred, often they can simply be naive, like people who don't realize that are being asked out, or confessed to. This also could apply to when the mentor/Parent/Acquaintance leaves some sort of instructions or advice that is tragically misinterpreted. Likewise, ignoring another person's feelings may come to a head with a declaration of "Did You Think I Can't Feel?"

Also, this can happen in Comedies, it's just not meant to be silly ways of missing the point.

Compare Comically Missing the Point, Poor Communication Kills, Could Have Avoided This Plot, Ignored Epiphany, Dramatic Irony, Selective Obliviousness.

No Real Life Examples, Please. And don't forget that all examples must be In-Universe. No just accusing people or characters of this.


Examples:


Anime and Manga

  • In Bleach, the New Captain Amagai Arc has a villain whose motivation is that Head Captain Yamamoto killed his father. The only other clue he had is that the father's dying words were "Bakkoto," the MacGuffins and Empathetic Weapons featured in the arc. It turns out that the father's last words were actually "Beware the Bakkoto" and that Yamamoto killed him because he was possessed, making the entire arc a Shoot the Shaggy Dog Story as had he not sworn revenge, the original villain's schemes would have still outed him as a villain and Amagai would still be alive.
  • Code Geass: In episode 21 of R2, when Lelouch points out that he only wanted to exact vengeance so that good may result, for others' sake, whereas his father committed crimes for his benefit (he would have thrown away his children's lives without hesitation) and only cares that he wins (declaring how people feel as a result of another's actions a worthless delusion), Charles doesn't get it.
    • In fact, it's not just that he would've thrown his children's lives away; he did throw his children's lives away. Lelouch tries to get his parents to understand that it's not right for them to have done that and argue that he had no right to disagree just because the things they'd planned to reunite the dead with the living happened to turn out well, but they refused to understand how evil it was that they would've let their children die (without even knowing whether their plan would succeed or not), and, worse still, self-serving; and, then, Charles continues to blame God when he's been the one responsible for making the world as awful as it is (Lelouch points out that, regardless of the innocent lives that would be lost for Britannia's benefit, even with his children in exile, he was still bent on conquering Japan, and, according to Suzaku in the episode prior, he could've saved Euphy).
  • Death Note: This comes up in Teru Mikami's backstory. As a child, Teru did what he could to protect his schoolmates from bullies, and while he enjoyed some initial success, in high school, the bullies retaliated against him, prompting his mother to advise him to give up on his crusade. The narration points out that she did so out of concern for his well-being, but Teru decided that his mother had no sense of justice, and actually rejoiced when she was killed along with a few of the bullies in an auto accident.
  • Fairy Tail: Rogue Cheney initially idolised Gajeel as one of Phantom Lord's best mages, but was gravely dismayed when, after Phantom Lord was disbanded, Gajeel joined Fairy Tail, the very guild responsible for their disbandment. Gajeel, however, is quick to point out that there was nothing admirable about the way he was back then.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: When the Elric brothers are about to infiltrate Laboratory 5, Edward tells Alphonse that there's something he's been afraid to tell him for a long time. When Barry the Chopper asks Al if he's sure he's not a construct created by his brother, Al becomes convinced that that's the thing Ed was afraid to tell him. When Al accuses Ed of this, however, he and Winry are absolutely disgusted, and it's revealed that Ed really wanted to know if Al hates him for what happened to his body.
  • Inuyasha: In the anime's first Filler episode, a couple of young girls become acquainted with Sango, and break into a warehouse to steal a heap of weapons to fight demons. They tell her the story about how they come from a village of ninjas, and their father died in a demon attack. With his last words, he told them to be strong, which they took as him wanting them to carry on the ninja tradition. Sango, however, realises that what their father really wanted was for them to be strong inside, since her father once told her the same thing.
  • Kekkaishi: Kaguro's backstory revealed that he was once a skilled human swordsman named Genichiro Kuroda. He taught himself to use a sword and joined a dojo, becoming one of the top students. He competed with his friend and rival Sakai to be the master's assistant, but was never able to defeat him. Kuroda was frustrated and wanted to become stronger, but didn't know how to go about it. Sakai told him that he was already strong because he never hesitated, and that if he simply wanted it badly enough, he could become stronger than anyone. Kuroda, however, took Sakai's meaning completely the wrong way and began challenging and killing the best swordsmen he could find. The trope is lampshaded by Sakai, who believes Kuroda must have gravely misunderstood his advice.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha: Arf tells Fate that seeing her sad and in pain from her quest for the Jewel Seeds is driving her insane with grief and begs her to stop. Fate's response is that she'll just have to repress her feelings to avoid upsetting Arf and try even harder to finish her mission. Fate eventually gets the point after her mother makes it clear that she never thought of Fate as her daughter, and regrets taking Arf's loyalty for granted and causing her pain by persisting in this painful and hopeless quest.
    • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, Teana, who's quite competent despite not having much magic power or many rare abilities, initially assumes that the only appropriate response to any mistake or inability to adequately contribute is to try even harder, which in turn leads to more problems. During the mission to protect the hotel, she and the other Forwards, who are essentially the last line of defense, don't see much action, so Teana tries to let loose with a magical barrage rather than hold out until Vita arrives, nearly injuring Subaru if not for Vita's intervention. After getting a harsh scolding from Vita and a calmer lecture from Nanoha, Teana pushes herself in training for several days, and tries a reckless combination attack against Nanoha during a training exercise, resulting in Nanoha blasting her into unconsciousness (which is implied to be partly the result of exhaustion). When Teana wakes up that night and is temporarily taken off active duty out of concern for her health, Teana protests and states her desire to be useful until Signum punches her in the face. After learning Nanoha's backstory and more of her training plans, Teana gets the point and decides to use what magic she has strategically.
  • Mirai Nikki: A mild, justified example occurs early on. When Yukiteru and Yuno are at an amusement park, Yuki declines to go to the planetarium, much to Yuno's confusion as she knows he's really into stars and space. Yuki accuses her of learning that from her Diary (a perfectly understandable assumption), but Yuno replies that she knows because he told her himself a year before, and it's then that Yuki remembers his Forgotten First Meeting with her.
  • Monster: During Dr. Tenma and Johan Liebert's first official meeting, Johan reveals to Tenma that the reason he got promoted to Chief of Surgery shortly after he saved Johan was because he killed the Director and several others. He did so after he overheard Tenma say that he wished they were dead, even though he said it in a blind fit of anger. Though considering this is Johan we're talking about, he probably missed the point deliberately.
  • Pandora Hearts: Jack Vessalius is convinced that Lacie's unfulfilled wish is to be reunited with the world in the Abyss because 1) he is unable to bring her back from the dead, and 2) she is separated from the world she loves so much. In reality, Lacie ultimately accepts her death and is merely thankful that she was able to live in the world that she loved. And now everyone in the series has to pay the price for Jack's misunderstanding.....
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Sayaka hates Homura because she thinks Homura deliberately waited until after Mami was killed before showing up to save the day. In truth, Mami tied Homura up with magic ribbons that only dissipated after her death. It doesn't help that Madoka knows this and doesn't think to tell Sayaka the truth before she takes off, though given how stubborn and self-righteous Sayaka is, it probably wouldn't have made a difference even if Madoka did tell her.
  • Happens all the time in Shakugan no Shana. A large portion of the drama in the series could have been avoided if the characters didn't keep taking tiny things completely the wrong way. Perhaps the most ridiculous example occurs near the end of season 1; when Shana and Alastor are trying to convince Wilhelmina not to destroy Yuji, Shana says they should listen to "what the Mystes says". While she didn't mean anything harsh by it, Yuji becomes convinced that, even after everything the two have been through together, Shana still sees him as nothing but a Torch, despite the fact that she had told him otherwise earlier in the season. This sends him into a Heroic BSOD, which just makes it easier for Bal-Masque to kidnap him.
    • A more straightforward example occurs a quarter way through season 2; after seeing Yuji helping Konoe so much and the effect it's having on Shana and Kazumi, Ike talks to Yuji about it. Yuji doesn't understand what he means.

Yuji: You think I'm spending too much time with Konoe? You've seen how helpless she is. It's not like I can leave her to her own devices, you know.
Ike: I think you're missing the point here, buddy. You don't see what's going on around you.

Fan Works

Film- Animated

  • Shrek: After Donkey discovers that Fiona turns into an ogress every night, she starts putting herself down and states that it's why she needs to marry Lord Farquad. Unfortunately, Shrek overhears them and assumes that when she says "horrible, ugly beast", she's referring to him, and the two end up at odds with one another until Donkey tells him otherwise.
    • The sequel provides a milder example; when Fiona tells her parents that she is going to "set things right", her father Harold takes it to mean she intends to leave Shrek, when in truth she wishes to return to the swamp with Shrek and cut her parents out of her life.

Film- Live-Action

  • The script for Pretty Woman started out a lot more tragic. One plot point was Edward renting a white fur coat for Vivian to wear during her hired time. When she is sad over their time nearly being up, he thinks it's just because he made her give the fur back.
  • Star Trek:
    • In both Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek (2009), the Kobayashi Maru test is a major one for Kirk. In both timelines, Kirk is so determined to beat the training simulation that he actually hacks Starfleet Academy's computers and cheats his way to victory by changing the conditions of the starting scenario. He doesn't realize that the entire point of the Kobayashi Maru simulation is that cadets aren't supposed to beat it; the test is designed to be unbeatable to prepare them for the possibility of a no-win scenario, and to test how they react to defeat. Or rather, he rejects the point of the test, adamantly believing that there's no such thing as a no-win scenario. Kirk's refusal to accept this fact provides valuable insight into his Pride, which proves to be his Fatal Flaw.
      • In a more straight example, Khan owns Moby-Dick, and even quotes Captain Ahab, but apparently completely missed the entire point of the book about the cost of vengeance.
    • In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Valeris airs her concerns to Spock about this new Federation-Klingon peace. SF Debris noted Spock doesn't realize how concerned she is at this moment.
  • In White Christmas, Betty is upset at what she thinks is Judy's betrayal at leaving the act to get married and Bob's double-dealing by using the show for publicity. Bob, on the other hand, doesn't understand why she won't sing for him and thinks she's just being difficult.

Literature

  • Everyone in A Song of Ice and Fire who treats the conflict over Westeros as a "game of thrones" and covets the Iron Throne as the ultimate prize. The entire point of the Iron Throne (an extremely uncomfortable and dangerous chair made of swords) is that ruling a realm is a responsibility and a burden, not a prize to be won in a game. So far as we know, only three people in the series really seem to have understood this: Eddard Stark, who had the opportunity to seize the Throne but refused it out of a sense of honor and never regretted it; Robert Baratheon, who never really wanted it in the first place but was forced to claim it; and Aegon the Conqueror, who made the damn thing in the first place. Stannis and Robb get some credit, as both of them dislike what comes with being King. Both of them still aim for the throne, Robb in order to avenge his father and Stannis because it is his by right of inheritance and he's a massive Principles Zealot. Varys at least pays lip service to the idea, but his true motives are too murky to say for sure; Aegon VI was raised to believe this, but he still seems to have a bit of an entitlement complex about the whole thing.
    • Although in Robb's case, he'd be quite happy to just keep the North & the Trident an independent Kingdom from the rest of the South. His issue is a different way of interpreting this trope, as he is determined to accomplish one of two goals: take heavy reparations from the Southern Kingdom for the damages done to the Riverlands, the deaths of his own men in the conflict thus far, and for the death of his father and his sisters being captives in King's Landing (Arya escaped, but he doesn't know this); or dethrone the illegitimate Joffrey and eventually bring down the Lannisters in revenge and "justice", which if it ends with him claiming the entire Seven Kingdoms as a consequence is one that he (as his father's protege) is willing to pay. In the War Council at the end of the first book, his mother Catelyn attempts to point out the fact that killing the ones responsible for their dead will not bring her husband (or Lord Rickard Karstark's sons) back to life, as much as they might desire it (herself included), and they should be willing to make concessions for the sake of peace (including the retrieval of Robb's sisters). Sadly, thanks in no small part to his advisors, Robb decides to play the game full-tilt. With dire consequences...
  • Vlad Tepes in Count and Countess, who doesn't understand why it's bad to conscript children into his army, nor why Elizabeth Bathory is so upset when her daughter dies.
  • In Harry Potter, Voldemort falls afoul of this trope with regards to the Elder Wand: he knows that the wand passes to whoever defeats its previous master, and interprets this as the wand going to whoever killed the last master. It fails to occur to him to think about non-lethal defeat, so he assumes that the wand's ownership should pass from Dumbledore to Snape when Snape killed the former. In fact, Draco Malfoy had already disarmed Dumbledore and become the rightful owner of the wand, which then passed to Harry when Harry disarmed Draco. This contributes to Voldemort's downfall in more ways than one, since it also leads him to kill Snape, who then passes the knowledge of how to defeat Voldemort on to Harry in what are probably the only circumstances under which Harry would actually believe him.

Live-Action TV

  • Doctor Who: An unusual example relating to the season 4 Myth Arc occurs in "Partners in Crime". Miss Foster didn't realise that when her employers told her they lost their breeding planet, they meant it literally, believing they lost it politically. The Doctor actually assumed the former at first, making this also a subversion of Comically Missing the Point.

Miss Foster: I've been employed by the Adiposian First Family to foster a new generation after their breeding planet was lost.
The Doctor: What do you mean, lost? How d'you lose a planet?
Miss Foster: Oh, the politics are none of my concern. I'm just here to look after the children on behalf of the parents.

  • Soap: Burt's doctor calls him in to tell him that he's got a rare disease.

Burt: OK, then what's the treatment?
Doctor: Burt, there is no treatment.
Burt: So, what, it just goes away by itself, huh?

  • The X-Files: In "Never Again" Scully complains that she has to share Mulder's desk; this and some Jerkass behaviour from her partner causes her to go off and engage in a number of Out of Character behaviors like getting a tattoo and engaging in a one-night stand. At the end of the episode Mulder says, "I don't understand...all this over a desk?" Scully just replies: "Not everything is about you, Mulder." The truth is Scully had just discovered she had cancer.

Theatre

  • Death of a Salesman Willy Loman ends up killing himself, thinking that he will give his family a lot of money. At his funeral, at least one character points out that Willy could have chosen another path and have been happier for it. One of his sons, Happy, declares that he will succeed where Willy failed. He's blatantly ignoring the fact that Willy was no good at being a salesman and Happy has no reason to assume that he's any better, and that if any lessons were to be learned from events it was that it's more important to find something you're good at which makes you happy and look for success there, rather than follow someone else's idea of success.

Video Games

  • Played for utmost tragic effect in Dangan Ronpa. In fact, the second murder occurs as a result of this trope. Chihiro reveals that he is actually a boy to Mondo, and asks him to train him to become strong. Mondo, however, envies Chihiro's strength to overcome himself and takes it as a sign that Chihiro considers him weak (his Berserk Button), which causes him to hit Chihiro with a dumbbell in a blind fit of rage.
    • An even more tragic example occurs in the sequel; Peko was raised to think of herself as a tool to the Kuzuryu clan, and when the scion to the clan, Fuyuhiko, insists that their relationship until now is null and void once they arrive at the "class trip," she assumes that he, out of his desire to prove himself independent of the clan, hates her as the clan's tool, when in reality, he wants her as a person, rather than a tool. As a result of this mindset, Peko kills Mahiru when a tense standoff between Mahiru and Fuyuhiko (who'd planned on killing Mahiru but was starting to get cold feet) breaks down, believing that because she acts on Fuyuhiko's behalf, if she's convicted of the murder, he'll be able to "graduate." In truth, Fuyuhiko didn't want her to do that, so Peko is found guilty and executed, with Fuyuhiko losing an eye in a failed attempt to save her and living with the guilt for the rest of the game.
  • Persona 3: Yukari has a very poor relationship with her mother due to her throwing herself at random men ever since her husband's death. While the average adult can easily see that her mother is just trying to move on, Yukari, due to greatly idolising her father, sees her mother's behaviour as an insult to his memory, and is convinced that she doesn't even care that he's dead. Through the course of Yukari's Social Link, however, as she becomes closer to the protagonist, she'll admit that she has gradually started to understand what it means to lose the one you love.
  • Persona 4:
    • When Mitsuo's Shadow is defeated, and disappears, Mitsuo starts gloating, acting as though he'd defeated it. In reality, this means that he failed to come to terms with the personal flaws that gave rise to it, in stark contrast to the heroes, who'd used those powers to defeat it.
    • In Chie's Social Link, one of Chie's old friends, Takeshi, is infatuated with Yukiko. At Rank 8, he complains to her about how Yukiko had a "funky laugh" the last time he saw her, and points out that he thinks she "was better off gloomy." Chie points out that's how Yukiko naturally is, and it's subtly indicated that she gradually gains the confidence to be herself around people other than Chie.
    • Kanji says that a great deal of his efforts to be a man at first, such as beating up biker gangs and hiding his interest in handicrafts, were a result of trying to follow his late father's advice to "become strong," out of the belief that his father didn't think he was strong enough. Kanji ultimately realizes that he had the wrong idea of what it means to be strong, and so decides to be true to himself.

Western Animation

  • In the South Park episode "Kenny Dies" (in a semi parodic tone) where the boys are told Kenny is diagnosed with a terminal disease. "But he's gonna get better, right?" enquires Stan. A somber music plays in the background as the adults exchange saddened looks.
  • Teen Titans:
    • In the season 4 episode "TROQ", Val-Yor continuously calls Starfire the titular name, and Starfire eventually talks to Cyborg about it, telling him it means nothing. Cyborg initially assumes she's saying it's a harmless name that doesn't mean anything, but she later reveals that it means exactly that- nothing. She explains that it's a very racist slur used by races who look down on Tamaraneans, which reveals to the Titans (and the audience) what kind of a person Val-Yor really is.
    • Ironically, Starfire herself falls victim to this trope later in the same season; in "Stranded", Robin says She's Not My Girlfriend word-for-word in front of Starfire, which leads her to believe that he sees her as neither a girl nor his friend (being an alien, she wouldn't know what "girlfriend" actually means). However, this later turns into an interesting subversion when it's revealed that Starfire actually does know what "girlfriend" means (at the very least, she has an idea), but is nevertheless hurt that Robin doesn't consider her to be such.

Robin: I don’t think you understand. On our planet, "girlfriend" means-
Starfire: A female with whom you have a pleasant and special association, including the sharing of enjoyable recreation and occasionally the buying of bountiful floral arrangements.
Robin: {Beat} Okay, maybe you do understand.

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