A trope about a duo in which the smarter, more aggressive individual bullies his dumb but pleasant comrade. They're usually in a commander-henchman type scenario, though this isn't mandatory, nor is the smart guy necessarily all that brilliant. The important part is that they know they're the smarter of two and mistreat the slower one. Their relationship holds because the less intelligent one is unaware that they're being treated unfairly and remains something of an Extreme Doormat, not always out of weakness, but ignorance. Usually, the smart guy comes up with schemes (not necessarily evil, just very selfish) and ends up bumbling them, because the dumb guy tries too hard to help out, while the dumb guy doesn't really get that they're inconveniencing other people. Or, if they succeed, the dumb guy tries to stop the smart guy and explain to them that it's not nice to use people. A relationship-based variety of Dumb Is Good, often overlaps with Vitriolic Best Buds. Will often involve lots of Boke and Tsukkomi Routine. Sub-Trope (child trope) of Kindhearted Simpleton and Insufferable Genius. Compare Brains: Evil; Brawn: Good which is a correlation between intelligence and morality, as well as Straight Man and Wise Guy.
ExamplesAnime and Manga
- In Dragonball Z, Goku and Vegeta display this while teaming up to defeat Majin Buu. Vegeta often gets outraged whenever Goku does or says something stupid while Goku just remains nice and friendly to his arch-rival.
- Cardcaptor Sakura. Kinomoto is Book Dumb and incredibly naive, while Syaoran Li is a precocious Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy. While Sakura comes to depend on Syaoran for mentoring, Syaoran's Character Development comes from accepting Sakura's insurmountable kindness and insight as making her more worthy as Master of the Cards. By the time they have become an official couple, there are only vague shades of this, as Sakura has Took a Level in Badass, while Syaoran's softer Adorkable qualities have taken over most of his personality.
- Suske en Wiske: Lambik is the smart jerk who is actually stupid, while Jerom is is nice and smarter than Lambik is. Still they fit the trope, because Jerom is a Contemporary Caveman and thus not always familiar with 20th and 21st century stuff, while Lambik is. That's why he can command Jerom and take lead in their zany schemes.
- Among Charles Muntz's battalion of servant dogs in Pixar's Up, Alpha the doberman is a Drill Sergeant Nasty that leads them. Alpha tends to heap abuse on dimwitted but determined Dug. This mistreatment is a huge catalyst in Dug's Heel–Face Turn in siding with Carl, Russell and Kevin.
- In Toy Story, Rex often plays the Likable Moron to both Hamm and Mr. Potato Head's Smart Jerk on occasions, although this is played straighter with Mr. Potato Head. Rex can be something of a Cloudcuckoolander but is more of a Gentle Giant and Hamm is a Deadpan Snarker and Mr. Potato Head is quite a Jerkass.
- Disney's The Emperor's New Groove has the wicked, scheming high priestess Yzma engineer a coup d'etat, assisted by her muscular but moronic henchman, Kronk. Yzma is described in-universe as "scary beyond all reason" and shows no sympathy to anybody, while Kronk is a Minion with an F in Evil, who even fills in as a line cook to keep a diner running.
- Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Steve Martin is the smart jerk, John Candy is the nice moron.
- The Lion King: The frenetic and bellicose meerkat Timon is paired with genial but dim warthog Pumbaa. Timon leads the pair on the theory that smarter equals louder. Never better demonstrated than the scene where Simba introduces Nala to them.
Pumbaa: Pleased to meet you.Nala: The pleasure's mine.Timon: Hold it, hold it! You know her. She knows you. And she wants to eat [Pumbaa]. And everybody's okay with this?
- Abbott and Costello - Zero-Context Example
- Laurel and Hardy (who are already mentioned) are the Trope Namer as well as the Trope Codifier in film. Every other variation in comedy pays lip service to them. Though it must be said that Hardy isn't that much brighter than Laurel. He just assumes he is.
- The Marx Brothers: Chico usually is the smart leader, while the mute Manchild Harpo just tags along. Nevertheless Chico often scolds Harpo for being stupid and not understanding him.
- Of Mice and Men
- Played with. George appears to be more gruff, severe and stern than mentally handicapped Lennie (who Does Not Know His Own Strength) who is a cheery, childlike person. However he's doing this for Lennie's protection, since the later is incapable of realizing the damage he causes.
- It also comes up in the Back Story when George tells a story about making Lennie do stupid stuff just for laughs, and how he learned An Aesop not to do that anymore.
- Raistlin Majere often plays the smart jerk to his twin brother Caramon's nice moron in the Dragonlance novel series. Caramon's a good bit less moronic than many other examples though, it's just that his brother's genius is quite genuine.
- Percy The Small Engine of The Railway Series and even more so its Animated Adaptation, Thomas the Tank Engine. While occasionally insightful, Percy is naive and childishly innocent, so often plays the Likeable Moron to several more experienced but arrogant engines such as James or Gordon (Thomas was also his most frequent Smart Jerk until having Took a Level in Kindness, and gaining enough Cloud Cuckoo Lander points to border him as a Likable Moron himself).
- House had a character who was both: an Insufferable Genius who can't work with people slower than him, but takes pills to restrain his intelligence so he can tolerate them (he claims that intelligence wise, his girlfriend and a baboon are the same).
- Eddy and Ed in Ed, Edd n Eddy. Eddy calls him names, picks on him and bosses him around constantly, and Ed cheerfully obeys his commands.
- 2D and Murdoc of Gorillaz, at least in Phases 1 & 2. Murdoc beat him up, stole his girlfriends, regularly insulted and humiliated him, yet 2D still referred to Murdoc as his 'best mate' and often either aided in his antics or looked the other way from the more... dubious behavior. He finally seems to have sharpened up in the Plastic Beach arc, openly resenting Murdoc and his growing insanity.
- Pinky and the Brain follows Brain, a calculating and short fused Villain Protagonist and his dopey but incredibly loyal Minion with an F in Evil Pinky. Such is Pinky's kind devotion to Brain that he led to latter to suffer a tearful Jerkass Realization midway through one attempt at world domination.
- Utilized soundly in The Ren & Stimpy Show. Ren is intelligent, but selfish, violent tempered and outright psychotic. Stimpy is dim witted, but kind natured and perpetually cheerful. In many episodes (particularly in later seasons), Stimpy borders as a slave for Ren, and is verbally and physically abused on a regular basis. He rarely takes any of it to heart and thoroughly enjoys doting over Ren.
- [ZCE, "X is like this" is not context] The relationship between Vlad and Jack in Danny Phantom often plays out like this, though the friendship in reality only goes one way.
- Spongebob Squarepants. Squidward considers himself an "artistic genius" and has disdain for his stupid but well-meaning neighbors Spongebob and Patrick.
- Cartman and Butters in South Park. Cartman is a calculating sociopath who regularly drags Butters into his schemes, or just casually bullies him for fun, but Butters is cheery, innocent and usually friendly to Cartman (notably being one of very few to call him by his first name).
- Twilight Sparkle and Pinkie Pie are a low key example in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Twilight Sparkle started off a fairly acerbic and antisocial magic student to Princess Celestia, and a frequent Straight Man to Pinkie Pie, a tall order Cloud Cuckoo Lander who vigorously makes friends with practically everyone in Ponyville. Downplayed as Twilight gradually becomes more sweet natured (if still occasionally pompous and inconsiderate). Also, Pinky Pie is more of a Cloudcuckoolander rather that a moron, as shows several elements of Simple-Minded Wisdom and Hidden Depths.
- Tex Avery's George and Junior. George is the the Schemer while Junior is the dimwitted Fat Idiot.
- Darkwing Duck: Though Darkwing is the primary protagonist of Saint Canard, he's also a Large Ham, tempermental, and snarky enough to meet Anti-Hero specs. Turbo has much less brains than Darkwing, but makes up for that with a more affable and generous demeanor.
- CatDog: Played straight most of the time because Cats Are Mean and Dogs Are Dumb. The fact that they share the same body makes things particularly zany, however. - Zero-Context Example
- Downplayed with Beavis and Butt-Head: While they both act like brainless troublemakers, Butt-Head is the more aware and unrepentantly self-centered of the two. With Beavis, it's shown that he acts much nicer without Butt-Head's influence.
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