Street Smart


(permanent link) added: 2011-03-16 02:10:16 sponsor: Tyoria edited by: Ekuran (last reply: 2011-03-30 15:44:19)

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A person well-adapted to surviving on the mean streets of Real Life. Street Smarts can only be learned through experience and honing one's gut instincts, and their lessons are directly applicable to immediate and life-threatening situations. This directly contrasts with Book Smarts, learned through dry textbooks in a purely theoretical environment, as in an isolated ivory tower.

The core components to Street Smarts are:

  • Ability to read others and determine intent. One need not be a Living Lie Detector to qualify as Street Smart, but a character is far more likely to be unduly suspicious than overly trusting. The talent for deception also tends to work both ways, and the character can be quick with a bluff or misdirection.

  • Ability to think on the fly and to improvise. The Indy Ploy is made of this, as is MacGyvering.

  • Ability to keep one's cool, even when bullets are flying. The better a character is at Casual Danger Dialogue, the more likely they are to be Street Smart.

  • Awareness of one's surroundings. Knowing the terrain is a huge plus.

  • Good gut instincts. Their intuition may not always aid them, but if everything else fails them, their gut will guide them to the right place.

This trope often goes hand-in-hand with Book Dumb, by way of demonstrating that street smarts are better and more important than book smarts. After all, a Street Smart (but Book Dumb) character might fail a Chemistry test, but a Book Smart (and Street Stupid) character may ace the test yet fail to make it out of danger alive without the assistance of their Street Smart intellectual "inferior". That said, a Street Smart character by no means must be a poor academic performer. It is in fact entirely possible to be Street Smart and Book Smart, allowing for a character with encyclopedic knowledge that can apply their skills on the fly even in heated situations.

As street smarts are learned through experience and time, even naive characters can grow to be increasingly street-wise over the course of a single series. Taking a level in badass often involves an increase in street skills.

The Satisfied Street Rat is by definition this type, as is any successful Street Urchin.

For Street Stupid characters, see Too Dumb to Live.

Examples

Comic Books

Film-Animated
  • Aladdin. Although he does make some notoriously poor judgment calls in almost every other area imaginable, his survival instinct, ability to think on his feet and improvise are fundamental to his very character.
    "Hey, I'm a street rat, remember? I'll improvise."
  • Nearly every character in Oliver & Company, and Thomas O'Malley from The Aristocats.
  • Disney's Lady and the Tramp. Tramp was a canine version. During the movie he introduced Lady to how dogs without masters lived.

Literature
  • Commander Vimes in Discworld, who grew up on the streets of Ankh-Morpork, and went on to become its senior police officer. Captain Carrot, while no longer a Na´ve Newcomer, still isn't quite there.
  • In Sid Fleischman's novel The Whipping Boy, the titular whipping boy.
  • Kim from Rudyard Kipling's Kim.

Live-Action TV
  • The eponymous Buffy the Vampire Slayer is street smart, as are most Slayers in general. They typically contrast with the Book Smart Watchers. However, Buffy's poor academic performance is chalked up to other factors rather than being Book Dumb (she's actually quite intelligent), and Giles can be rather Street Smart himself, especially compared to other watchers.

Tabletop Games
  • This is the common interpretation of the 'Wisdom' score in many Tabletop RPGs, especially Dungeons & Dragons. Wisdom is generally a combination of 'Common Sense/Instinct' and 'Street Smarts', which fits in with several of the skills who use Wisdom and directly contrasts 'Intelligence' (The classic 'Book Smart' stat)
    • 4th Edition Dungeons And Dragons has a skill called "Streetwise". Which is the ability to, for example, enter a strange town and find out who's who. What the "word on the street" is, etc.
  • The Streetwise talent in the World of Darkness RPGS gives the character street smarts, manifesting as gut instinct while on the streets and knowledge of the underground.

Video Games
  • Leon from F-Zero (more specifically, he made his debut in X) is said to be not particularly bright. This is possibly justified, given that his backstory involves in his home planet Zou being sacked by invaders (Leon himself losing his parents and his left eye) and still shakily recovering 12 years down the road, so Leon most likely never had the chance to receive a proper education. However, his natural instinct has made him very cunning. When the Arrows were vacationing on his planet, he showed superb handling of Super Arrow's King Meteor in his first foray with a F-Zero machine (impressing the couple to the point that they adopted him). He had a slow start when he finally joined the F-Zero races, but caught on quick, resulting in a respectable track record over time (not that you'd know this; due to the poor A.I. he's been plagued with in GX, he usually ends up dead last).

Webcomics
  • Haley is generally the most Street Smart member of The Order of the Stick. Roy wouldn't be so bad, if it weren't for his abysmal lack of a Sense Motive.
    • On the villain's side, Xykon is far more Street Smart than Redcloak, which is one of the reasons the power dynamic goes the way it does even though Redcloak is in all other respects the smarter of the two.

Western Animation
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender's Sokka has an inclination for street smarts that is honed over time. Toph is also very Street Smart -- and Azula dangerously so.

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