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Definition of a classic — something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.

The Inverse of Complaining About Shows You Don't Watch, in which these people somehow know exactly how good something is, without having ever actually seen it. Maybe they saw so much praise they feel like they can account for having actually watched it for themselves, or maybe they're just carbon-copying someone's opinions to fit into the group. Or they have seen a fragment of the work, liked it, and assumed the rest is equally good. Who knows? Similar to somehow knowing a show is utter crap without having seen an episode, it's one of the greatest mysteries of human culture, and has only been exacerbated by the Age of the Internet.

Praising Shows You Don't Watch is often a major contributor to Mainstream Obscurity. When it becomes really commonplace, Pop Cultural Osmosis Failure is not far behind.

Compare Popcultural Osmosis.

Examples of Praising Shows You Don't Watch include:


  • In the 1990s, the success of the movies of Akira and Ghost in the Shell meant that many in the West professed to be 'into manga', in many cases without ever seeing any more examples of the form than those two films. Or appreciating the difference between manga and anime. Or that there's a lot of different genres within the anime/manga world, besides dystopian sci-fi.



  • The Bible. Some people who espouse it as the direct word of God haven't read more than a few verses of it (as opposed to Biblical scholars, who tend to analyze and discuss it academically). On the flip side, most people who hate it haven't read it either. Some traditions do cover a large portion of the text over the course of a few years, though.
  • In Islam, it is very important to learn about the Koran. It's not limited to just reading it either. Memorization of Al-Fatiha is important, as it is needed for prayer. Indeed, there are many people all around the world who have memorized the Koran by heart. Unfortunately, like with The Bible, there are many who praise the Koran yet rarely ever read it.
  • William Shirer characterized Mein Kampf as the bestselling book in Germany between 1934-1944 that was never read by most Germans who bought it.
  • War and Peace
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Moby Dick
  • Lord of the Rings gets this, too. Mostly for people who haven't exactly read it, but praise it more for what they accomplished.
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four. Many phrases from the book, like "Big Brother", "thoughtcrime" and "Room 101", have entered pop culture, people can often quite convincingly claim they've read the book by simply quoting these phrases.
    • That's debatable, as most people can only repeat the concept of Big Brother and think of it as an extreme form of totalitarianism that sees everything and controls everything. Anyone who has actually read 1984 knows that the vast majority of the population (the proles) doesn't need to be closely watched and it's only the Party itself that must be controlled. The repression in 1984 then is less caused by strong governmental control as most people imply when they try to make analogies about 1984, and instead it's an internalized repression that people enter almost willingly. The big concept in 1984 is not Big Brother; it's toughtcrime.
  • Mark Twain would be displeased to learn that The Adventures of Tom Sawyer now meets his definition of "classic." When most people discuss the book, they refer to one scene -- Tom tricking his friends into whitewashing a fence for him. This occurs in Chapter 2. Either that is an incredibly awesome scene, or it's got 'most quoted' status in school textbooks, or most people stop reading around page twenty. You can tell that someone has actually read the whole thing when they refer to other memorable scenes, like getting lost in the caves, and Tom and Huck attending their own funeral.
  • Much like the Tom Sawyer example above, you can tell whether or not anyone has actually read Don Quixote by whether they remember anything about it other than the windmill scene.
  • Richard Feynman mentioned in his autobiography a case when one publisher sent a schoolbook to the California State Curriculum Commission, but it wasn't ready for print, so it had empty pages. Six out of the ten members of the commission still rated the book favorably -- literally judging it by the cover! Ironically, it was one of the highest rated books, and according to Feynman's autobiographical account, none of the other members understood why he hadn't rated the textbook.
  • Many works of mythology, such as The Epic of Gilgamesh, King Arthur and various other texts of Classical Mythology and other myths. Although many are well-respected as inspirations for modern fantasy and great storylines by themselves, few people have probably actually read them.
  • Part of the Framing Device for why The Princess Bride (the book, not the movie) is an 'abridged version' is because the author (who is, in the Framing Device, claiming to merely be an editor) recommended this book highly to his son, despite the fact he'd never read it, having only heard the (much shorter) version his father read to him as a child.
  • While Twilight did have some... questionable... aspects of vampires, amongst the cries of how they ruined vampires like Dracula in Twilight is allegedly that they are moving during the day - which pretty much shows how familiar people actually are with Dracula.
  • A Brief History of Time} and Godel Escher and Bach are both well-known for this, the former having been described as "the most unread book ever written". These tend to be the sort of books that people leave on their bookshelves or coffee tables to look sophisticated, but because the books are quite challenging to read, only a handful of people who own them have ever finished them.

Live-Action TV

  • There are very few people who have seen acclaimed shows like The Wire in full, yet because it is the general opinion of critics, they immediately proclaim them "the greatest TV show ever made" after watching the first few episodes. Which is silly, given that it's a very slow-burning show which takes several episodes to get going.
    • Quite a few shows on HBO or Showtime have this problem, probably because those are higher tier networks so a lot of people can't see them (legally) anyway until they come out on DVD, but everybody wants to seem "cultured".
  • Barely any of the people who say that original format of Doctor Who is better than the 2005 revival have actually watched most, if any, of the serials (or in the case of Missing Episodes from the 60s, listened to the soundtrack recording and its linking narration).


  • Happens with a lot of very successful and famous rock groups. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, ACDC, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and many other older rock groups, in spite of having legit and quite large fanbases, are popular among this group of people, particularly in the case of music debates where one will list these bands and others to prove their musical taste is "superior" to the other person's. An exception to this is when someone uses a Progressive Rock group like Yes. They will often be seen as a music snob by others. Of course, Your Mileage May Vary.
    • Parodied by this Funny Or Die vid: "Take Off Your T-Shirt If You Can't Name A Song By The Band That's On It".
    • It's nearly impossible to have never heard at least one song from all the aforementioned groups if you've ever listened to the radio. You might or might not have heard anything by Yes; "Owner of a Lonely Heart" is pretty popular on the radio. So, these types of fans might get the bands mixed up -- "Paint It Black" is totally ACDC's best song!-- but at since they're so popular, almost everyone has heard a single by them at some point.
    • The Ramones are probably a better example. The shirts are more popular than the band ever was. Most people probably don't know that three of them are dead.
  • Happens in the classical music world as well; everyone's heard of Bach, Mozart, Brahms, and so forth (Beethoven gets a pass for the "Ode To Joy," "Fur Elise," and the opening of the Fifth Symphony) but few can name a piece of theirs or identify it on hearing. Moreover, most of those who can usually come up with their #1 hit, so to speak, whether or not it's at all similar to their entire oeuvre or a good example of their work - Brahms' Wiegenleid ("Lullaby"), for example, which is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike everything else he every wrote.


  • Usually anything that fits any of the tropes on the True Art index often gets this.


  • Shakespeare is so well known for being "the greatest author in the English language, and possibly any language," that many people will not hesitate to dump heaps of praise over his entire body of work and over all aspects of his writing. While some of his best-known plays are required reading in most high schools, Shakespeare wrote quite a few plays, and not all of them were works of staggering genius. Some plays are preserved only out of a Gotta Catch Em All sense of duty to study Shakespeare's entire body of work, rather than for their individual quality. Also, many people don't know that most of Shakespeare's plays were adaptations/rip-offs of previous works. Shakespeare punched up the plot and wrote the dialogue (the latter of which someone would argue is the point of reading Shakespeare), but did not himself invent the stories.
  • Hunter and Jeff in Title of Show admit to doing this.

 Jeff: Anything we write will be better than Whorehouse Goes Public

Hunter: I thought Dee Hoty was good in Whorehouse

Jeff: Actually, I never saw it so that's not fair.

Hunter: I never saw it either but I have opinions about stuff I've never seen all the time.

  • The works of Menander received loads of acclaim throughout history... despite all of his works existing solely as fragments from the eleventh century to the end of the nineteenth. Since then, a few of his works were recovered (Dyskolos, or The Grouch, has been found in its entirety, and now about three-quarters of The Samian Woman are now known), leading to an inevitable Hype Backlash.

Video Games

  • Silent Hill 2 -- particularly after it was continually heaped with praise by Zero Punctuation.
  • The UK PC Gamer magazine's review of Far Cry 2 was more like a review of the press pack circa six months earlier; features were mentioned that didn't exist, the main factions were repeatedly called by the wrong names, and much was made over the ability to pick factions and missions, something you can't do unless you really hate advancing the plot.
  • Compare the number of people who have praised Psychonauts or Beyond Good and Evil to the actual sales figures of those games. You'll almost certainly find the former number far exceeds the latter. It should be noted that those figures also don't include stuff like emulation or used game sales, as well as piracy.
  • Mysteriously, more people knew of and begun to praise System Shock 2 after a certain someone reviewed a Spiritual Successor.
    • Regardless of who reviews it, classic games become more well known and praised after modern games emulate/continue them, especially when people want to appear to be a more "refined" gamer. Other examples: The effect of Fallout 3 on 1, 2 and Tactics , the effect of The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion on Morrowind.
  • Radiant Silvergun is praised outside of Japan for various reasons related to gameplay and story, but the fact it was never released internationally and that it costs a small fortune makes it skeptical that many of them have ever seen anything more than a few videos of it.
  • The Virtua Fighter series a whole. Often praised as the deepest fighting game ever most that never played it.
  • Similar to the above: the Trope Namer for 8.8 was a review of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess released before the game itself. Half of the Internet Backdraft was this, while the other attacked the logic of the review (insisting the graphics should be greater when it's a port, not an enhanced remake).
    • Rather hilariously true of many game reviews since 2000 onward, with people giving five star reviews to games that won't come out for months, sometimes reviewing the game based on a couple of screenshots and rambling about features that don't exist (but clearly should and will in five months!). Amazon's gotten better about it, at least.
  • Ico is widely praised as being a simple yet artistic, touching game. Finding people who actually played it, though, is not quite easy.
  • Portal has become insanely popular, but it is hard to tell whether people actually like the game itself or just listen to the memes the game created without even knowing a thing about the Companion Cube or how The Cake Is a Lie.
  • Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels is sometimes praised because people who found out that it was the "real" sequel to Super Mario Bros instead of the Dolled-Up Installment released as Super Mario Bros 2 in North America. Actually playing - and surviving - probably finishes the loving.
  • Terraria had a community like this pre-release, with many people praising the game well before it came out and claiming it to be nothing like Minecraft, despite only a limited number of them having played it at that point.
  • A good number of Touhou Project fans have not played the games proper, and are only familiar with the games through fanart, doujins, remixes and other fan material.
    • Then there are Touhou Project fans that are only familiar with the games through canon and semi-canon gaiden works by the games' creator (from fantasy-land travelogues up to and including a book-length short story series), and praise the project as a whole because there's no single phrase referring to these works alone.
  • There are certain fangirls who claim to love games like Kingdom Hearts and will tell you all about their ships, but have never actually played the games.


  • Homestuck gets plenty of this, primarily from girls who are enamored with the troll characters and are just itching to roleplay one but cannot be bothered to read the whole comic. You can tell you're probably dealing with these people when you see trolls behaving more like an awkward human teenagers with gray skin than the human-shaped Starfish Aliens that trolls actually are, or find someone talking about how much they just loooooove Homestuck while showing off their pictures of pregnant trolls with pointy ears.
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