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A specific version of The Ditz: an attractive but stupid character who gets by on his or her looks. Usually promiscuous (or at least "boy/girl crazy" and popular). Jokes about the character usually revolve around their lack of intellect and effortless romantic abilities.
The Brainless Beauty can be either male or female. Female examples (who are usually also The Chick) tend to be classic blonde idiots; male examples are tall and muscular. Neither has much difficultygetting the attention of the opposite sex. The Brainless Beauty is rarely the hero; they tend to be foils for more intelligent (though less successful romantically) characters. Some are sympathetic good-natured dullards, others are presented as annoying obstacles for our heroes. Either way expect a smart but plain character to be left fuming at the unfairness of it all.
Brainless Beauty protagonists are most common in film (Zoolander, The House Bunny, Blonde & Blonder) but occasionally turn up on TV (Joey).
A Brainless Beauty — even a sweet-natured one — is unlikely to be the serious love interest of The Hero. In fact they make a natural Romantic False Lead. It can happen though if the Beauty shows some form of Hidden Depths. For much the same reason a Brainless Beauty is unlikely to be Big Bad since their lack of brainpower doesn't make them that formidable unless the story is a comedy and the hero is equally intellect challenged. In fact due to tropes like Kindhearted Simpleton and Dumb Is Good a Brainless Beauty is more likely to be good natured than nasty though they are very likely to be Innocently Insensitive.
Contrast with The Vamp and The Casanova, who are also good looking and sexually active but have a lot more going on upstairs.
The interesting thing about this trope is that it is the inversion of the "long known" Real Life tendency of people, which is to assume the more attractive person will also be the more intelligent and competent one. However, that is done subconsciously, while using this trope will generally be a conscious choice of the author.
Sometimes overlaps with Bratty Teenage Daughter.
See also: Popular Is Dumb. It is a reasonably good rule of thumb that most cheerleaders will be presented as being Brainless Beauties, unless the movie or show is actually focused on them. The same applies to jocks especially the nicer ones. An Asian Airhead is probably one of these. In a High School setting the Alpha Bitch usually has one of these characters in her Girl Posse though the Alpha Bitchusually isn't one herself because she needs a certain amount of craftiness to maintain her position.
Dumb Blonde covers some of the same territory, but (obviously) not all Brainless Beauties are blonde, and by no means are all Dumb Blondes as sexualised as this trope. Female Brainless Beauties will often possess a Simpleton Voice.
In a sufficiently outlandish comedy the Brainless Beauty might be literallybrainless.
If this trope is set in a High School (or more rarely a university) and a female main character falls under this trope there is a fairly good chance she is secretly smart but employing Obfuscating Stupidity (because Popular Is Dumb) or at least has Hidden Depths. For some reason male Brainless Beauties very rarely turn out to be secretly smart.
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Anime and Manga
Sonsaku Hakufu from Battle Vixens was portrayed as this in the Manga, although the Anime actually upped her stupidity by a large degree to the point of exaggeration.
Briefly, Krillin from Dragon Ball Z had a girlfriend named Maron. She was one of the prettiest characters ever introduced, but also truly, unfathomably stupid. Bulma's mom Mrs. Brief is pretty, but she is ditzy.
Natsuru of Kämpfer is an example of one of these as a protagonist. S/he manages to achieve the unique combination of thinking entirely with hir non-existent penis... and being Oblivious to Love. The result is a "hero" that just sorta stands there with a vacant expression as all the lesbians nearby start drooling, and the conspiracy involving a magical girl war he was drafted into just sorta drifts by. Notably, every adaptation makes this worse; s/he managed to have moments of competence to round out the physical attractiveness and utter idiocy in the light novels, had significantly less but still a few in the manga, and in the anime s/he has all the brains of a pile of unusually stupid (but pretty) rocks.
Charlotte of Princess Lover! seems to be trying to invoke this. The male lead resists it, but when she's kidnapped, she has no restraint about using her beauty against her captors. She is shown to be a little intelligent in the episodes, but in the previews she acts completely brainless.
'Momo' of Kimi Wa Petto is basically a big, dumb, friendly dog in human form. The UST between him, his master Sumire and the smart, rich man she's holding out for drives the plot.
While she wasn't too bad in the OVAs, Mihoshi became this in the Tenchi Universe continuity, driving her partner Kiyone to the brink of madness.
Vanessa, the heroine of the French comic Les Blondes is a literal example. She's stunningly beautiful and very nice but mind bogglingly stupid. In one album a baffled doctor shows her an x-ray of her empty cranium and explains he found nothing at all in her head. Vanessa is visibly delighted at the all clear.
Bakura: You know, it's a good thing you're pretty. Otherwise, I'd have to suffocate you.
Film - Animated
The Triplets from Beauty and the Beast were also shown to be a trio of Brainless Beauties who fawn over Gaston, despite the fact that not only is it extremely clear that he's not a good person, but he doesn't seem to have the hots for them. Incidentally, their official names are "the bimbettes."
Pavi Largo from Repo! The Genetic Opera is this by way of inverted Informed Deformity; despite being horribly scarred and wearing masks made of other people faces, his admirers consider him beautiful. The "brainless" part is not up for debate. His sister Amber Sweet has had multiple cosmetic surgeries and is more conventionally beautiful. She's not as brainless as Pavi, but she's also not smart enough to know when to stop. Near the end of the movie, her recent surgery causes the skin to slide off her face. She has another surgery to replace it, while her former face is saved and auctioned off to the highest bidder... Pavi.
Subverted in Mighty Aphrodite: Linda uses her sexual charms to get by, but she later turns out to be sadly aware of the fact, tries to improve her life without relying on beauty and deeply regrets not being able to take care of the child she put up for adoption. In the end, she gets better.
Shelley from The House Bunny is a rare example of a protagonist who qualifies.
Crow T. Robot: Ya'know, Peaches has a fresh natural stupidness that isn't forced or contrived...
Subverted in Superman III. Lorelei ''pretends'' to be an airhead, when she's actually a genius. Alone, she delves into deep reading, and reveals she's a computer expert, too. She's so intelligent she knows behaving intelligently will get her fired, since her job is to be "Ross'".
Lorelei:(reading Immanuel Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason") How can he say that Pure Categories have no objective meaning in Transcendental Logic? What about Synthetic Unity?
Marcia in the 90's The Brady Bunch films. Even allowing for the uh, singular worldview the rest of the family has she's pretty clueless and she's quite amazingly shallow:
Marcia: "I'll go first because I'm the prettiest."
In the 1940's, Marie Wilson often portrayed this trope (e.g., the Ann Sheridan/Dennis Morgan musical "Shine On, Harvest Moon").
In Roxanne (the Steve Martin update of Cyrano de Bergerac), Chris the fireman.
Destiny Demeanor in Loaded Weapon 1 literally has nothing between her ears - at one point while making out with the hero she seductively asks him to blow in her ear. When he does so we hear an echo like someone blowing across the top of an empty beer bottle and see the hair on the opposite side of her head billow in the breeze.
Party girl Maggie from In Her Shoes tells her sister "I'll let you do my resume if you let me do your hair."
Cotton in the Miley Cyrus flick So Undercover is a very pretty, very sweet natured blonde with nothing between her ears. At one point the house she is in catches fire and her first instinct is to touch the flames (thankfully her friends intervene.)
Cotton: "Ooh! What a pretty fire!"
Played with and painfully deconstructed in the film Film/Bachelorette. Katie is a gorgeous airhead and for most of the film her lack of intelligence is played for laughs. However in a candid moment she admits to her fears about her stupidity to Joe and how she doesn't actually like her life or know how to behave around people she has feelings for, other than via sleeping with them.
Christine from Maskerade. She's so dizy she uses double exclamation marks all the time and has no idea what's going on, and she can't sing either, but she still overshadows Agnes Nitt as an opera singer because of her looks.
Tawneee from Thud!. She's completely innocent towards anything romance- and sex-related because she was raised by a strict grandmother, and every man she's ever met automatically presumes she's out of his league. Well, up until she met Nobby Nobbs...
Laddie the dog from Moving Pictures was a picture-perfect dog, the kind that can supposedly communicate complex concepts with a wrinkle of the nose. According to his manager Gaspode, he was dim as a ha'penny candle. When we hear his barks translated by other animals and/or the narrative, rather than humans, it's generally some variation of "Laddie good boy!"
Subverted in Juliet from Unseen Academicals. She's friends with a principal viewpoint character who likes her but always has to do everything for her. Eventually, her friend realizes that it's the fact that she's doing everything for her that makes her come across as dumb, and when she's allowed to do things for herself she's actually fairly competent. Could still be a mild example, but some expectations are certainly subverted.
Penelope, one of Miss Susan's pupils in Thief of Time is described as having a face that would one day require her father to hire guards, but which is generally unmarred by thought. She gets a gold star for coming up with an important philosophical insight, although it's unclear if she meant to.
Olivia Ryan from The Clique is described as a naturally beautiful blond that lots of guys in her grade like but she is considered the dumbest girl at their school.
In Oathbreakers, Mercedes Lackey has an unusual example: it's a horse. He's apparently a very beautiful horse, but still thick as bricks.
In the Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms series, unicorns are breathtakingly gorgeous and head-thuddingly stupid. There seems to be an in-universe law that beautiful magical creatures are usually dumb as rocks, while intelligent ones are seldom beautiful.
Subverted in Diana Wynne Jones's Year of the Griffin; minor character Melissa is both beautiful and dumb, but rather than trade on her looks she's working to learn magic, even though it's hard for her.
Rosemary Barton from Agatha Christie's Sparkling Cyanide. Rosemary is so beautiful that virtually every male character is instantly attracted to her but so dumb that none of them can stand to be around her for very long. Pretty much all of her love interests end up with women with less beauty but more intelligence.
In the Uglies series, the surgery that makes you pretty at age 16 turns basically everyone into these.
Amy March in Little Women can't pay attention in school because she's too concerned with getting limes, the currency that would make her popular.
Subverted in The Pale King by Meredith Rand, who is well aware of this trope and annoyed by anyone who assumes she is one.
Keifer Porter of A Brother's Price, as well as being all-around nasty. One of his wives claims she's met dogs smarter than him; another of them recalls how when he'd throw tantrums and hurl names around, they were always "childishly simple".
Mae from Runemarks is described as one on the character page.
Subverted with Daisy in The Great Gatsby. She may be indecisive but she is no fool and she knows how miserable her life is. She invokes this trope as a Stepford Smiler as a coping mechanism.
In Why We Took The Car, Tschick accuses Tatjana of being this. Whether he's right or not is never confirmed.
Live Action TV
Joey from Friends is a sympathetic BB. Paolo, on the other hand, was a classic romantic foil. Rachel started out as one as she was clueless concerning any real life skills but thanks to Character Development she became a lot more sensible and capable.
Glory makes Harmony look like a rocket scientist. She's the ditziest Big Bad ever. Not that it makes her any less terrifying or unstoppable. Actually lampshaded by Buffy after Glory decapitates the Buffybot and still assumes she was the real Buffy:
Buffy: You're not the brightest God in the heavens, are you?
Cordelia Chase, on the other hand, subverts the trope; she appears at first to be a classic example, but is later revealed to be quite intelligent, just reluctant to show it because she doesn't want to lose social status. (It doesn't help that she is often shown in comparison with Willow.) Lampshaded early in Season 3 of Buffy when discussing the SAT:
Cordelia: "Actually, I'm looking forward to it. I do well on standardized tests." (beat) "What? I can't have layers?"
Unlike her movie version, Buffy has long since put this personality behind her — but we do get a brief glimpse of it in the flashback to when Angel first sees her.
Lydia from Teen Wolf, comes off as this at first, but it's later shown that she's Obfuscating Stupidity for Jackson's sake and is actually a Teen Genius who's extremely gifted in chemistry and can read archaic Latin.
Adriana La Cerva from The Sopranos is so dumb she believes a drug dealer when he says that the money from drug dealing goes towards poor children.
Cindy Annabel Tucker AKA Dawn Denbo's "lover Cindy" from The L Word.
Sandra from 227.
Blanche of The Golden Girls (Although this seems to be more breeding/force of habit than true stupidity)
Loretta Tortelli and Kelly Gaines on Cheers. Woody might be considered a male version. Sam Malone, post-Diane Chambers, arguably became one.
Just Say Julie - Literally! Julie Brown interviewed moronic (and fictional) model Lake Arrowhead and after posing a 'difficult' question Lake's brain exploded out of her head from the pressure of thinking. Luckily Julie found the brain (which was about the size of a wadded up piece of chewing gum), but Lake (who seemed exactly the same despite now having no brain at all) left to go on a date without bothering to put it back in. Julie then absentmindedly ate it.
Vince Noir of The Mighty Boosh has fabulous hair, amazing clothes, and one brain cell.
Hilary Banks from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. She casually asks her father for 300 dollars in the pilot episode, gets loads of various jobs with unexplained luck, gains her own television show as a talk show host. To make matters even stranger is that while Uncle Phil and Aunt Vivian acknowledge her greedy nature, they often force other characters to work much harder than Hilary herself. However, later episodes imply that Hilary was rather spoiled when her father struck rich, and is trying to prevent the rest of his children from doing the same. Especially Ashley.
Amber is so pretty, and so stupid. Her friend Ashley is even worse.
Invoked against Miley by Rico as well, when he tells her "It's a good thing you're pretty". He even dismisses his 'Miley is Hannah Montana' theory on the basis that she's too much of a bubblehead to pull it off.
Brittany. Fellow cheerleader Quinn is an aversion; she's a beautiful blonde but much smarter. Santana is somewhere in the middle: smarter than Brittany (though that isn't saying much), but has her occasional ditzy moments.
Erin from the American version of The Office is a mild version mixed with The Pollyanna - she's very pretty and probably the nicest person in the show but she can be completely clueless, gullible and naive.
Haley from Modern Family. Heavily inverted by Gloria who despite being drop dead gorgeous who initially comes across as a Gold Digger is actually very sweet, smart, and genuinely loves her older husband.
Chrissy on Three's Company was turned into the poster child for this trope by season 5.
In one episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Sabrina was temporarily turned into a literal example by a virus (literal, in that aside from becoming a dimwitted, boy crazy shopaholic, characters could look in one of Sabrina's ears and see straight out the other.)
Drake from Drake & Josh. Possibly a case of Brilliant but Lazy. He displays an ability to predict exactly how long it will take for him and Josh to sneak home compared to their parents' timing, claiming he could do that but is failing math because that situation was "actually important."
Hillary from Kyle XY is very blonde, very nicely built, very vivacious and loves to be in front of the camera.
Lampshaded and deconstructed in a season 2 episode of The Middle; Axl's boss is an extremely sexy but extremely dumb party girl who he is at first overjoyed to work with, but eventually grows to intensely dislike, even turning down a date (to his own shock) due to frustration at her thoughtlessness.
Jason Stackhouse in True Blood. Irresistible to women, seldom fully dressed, always utterly clueless.
Robin's boyfriend Nick was eventually revealed to be this. She breaks up with him for it.
Ted (to Barney): I'd say hump her brains out but someone obviously already has.
Many women of this trope were the target for many of Barney's one night stands, particularly when you factor in the fact that they always believed Barney's extravagant lies as a three-time Nobel Peace Prize winning astronaut spy.
Drew, one of Liz's boyfriends in 30 Rock, leads a charmed life without even realizing it due to having the looks of Jon Hamm.
In the short lived sitcom How To Be a Gentleman, the lead character dated an underwear model played by Desi Lyndic who he at first believed to be clever and funny because he was constantly Distracted by the Sexy while talking to her. It was only when he heard her over the phone that he realised she was an airhead.
Penny is probably closer to being of average intelligence with a few ditzy moments, but is effectively one in comparison to the rest of the main cast. That said, she does make an effort to learn and is in many ways more Genre Savvy about functioning in the real world than the guys. Her on again/off again boyfriend Zack plays this much straighter. Tall, buff, good-looking, and so dumb he makes the box of rocks like a college grad. He's also a genuinely nice person and actually gets along quite well with the guys.
Sheldon's sister Missy is drop-dead gorgeous. And their mother describes her as "dumber than soup." Somewhat subverted since in her only appearance Missy seems a normal girl with average intelligence and certainly not brainless. She's probably only "dumb" in comparison to her brother.
"Then came you raising the bar, oh you. You won't be undone. I looked into your eyes and much to my surprise. I saw that there was nothing in them 'Cause there's nothing between your ears but air."
2D of Gorillaz was described in his first website biography as having a "voice like an angel and an arse like a satsuma". He is, however, undeniably dim, even taking into account the doziness from his huge painkiller intake.
April Smith and the Great Picture Show have a song called "Drop Dead Gorgeous" in which the narrator acknowledges her love interest is incredibly gorgeous yet incredibly vapid, and if the love interest has no interest in getting smarter, than hell, neither does she.
Paige: Nicole, look! Bobby Whitmeyer must've transferred into our history class! He's the hunkiest hunk in the school! He is sooo hot! Sooo babe-like! Sooo to die for! Nicole: ...Sooo stupid... Paige: Oh, like brains really matter. Bobby: Oops - I'm in the wrong room. Nicole: In this case they do. Paige: AAAA! Come back!
The Trope Codifier for combining this trope with the Dumb Blonde trope might have been the enormously popular late 1940s/early 1950s radio sitcom My Friend Irma starring Marie Wilson as the very pretty but oh so dim Irma. The series would spin off into feature films, a television series in the early 1950s and a long running comic scripted by Stan Lee!
During World War II, a common British propaganda theme in the campaign against careless talk was that the beauty you babbled to was, after all, not so dumb; she could, in fact, be an enemy spy.
Galinda from Wicked initially comes off as just a Dumb Blonde but she definitely has Hidden Depths. Fiyero also has good looks and hidden depths, especially when he declares that "People are so stupid, they'll believe anything!" at the beginning of Act 2.
April from Company. One of her first lines is "I'm very dumb."
The Ace Attorney series has a few. And almost always averts them once they're broken down.
Cammy Meele, stewardess who is apparently sleeping with the plane captain. Murderer—oh, and she's the only person on the crew who can read Borginian.
April May, who is...something to Redd White. Accessory to murder.
Matt Engarde, 'fresh as a spring breeze' kid's show actor. Practically defines Bitch in Sheep's Clothing; he put out a hit on his rival.
Fallout: It is entirely possible to create a character with 1 point in intelligence and 10 in Charisma. Such a character could effectively be considered a brainless beauty. Take such a female character to Myron in Fallout 2 and implied drugging and rape ensues.
The Galaga ship (not even kidding) in Namco High is spelled out as the most gorgeous character, and while not strictly brainless is not portrayed as particularly intelligent - quoting from Hamlet while discussing Romeo and Juliet, for example, or not noticing Cousin blundering through a Buffy Speak request to join the drama club because he was busy listening to her own internal radio. Unusually for this trope, he has actually noticed that he tends to get things without needing to earn them or put effort into it, and that everyone around her is remarkably prone to telling her what they think he wants to hear, and is actually rather bothered by the situation.
Grif's sister from Red vs. Blue. Sure, we don't actually know what she looks like due to wearing all that body armour, but the impression we are given from the characters is that she ain't half-bad (especially when she is seen naked on a surveillance camera). Oh and she's dumber than a rock as well.
Survival of the Fittest v4 character Hermione Miller is often described this way. She's an aspiring fashion model, so of course she's gorgeous. Unfortunately, she's also not very intelligent, or at least is Book Dumb. Eventually deconstructed when she realizes that people would always secretly treat her with disdain and disrespect due to her foolishness, which leads her to pulling her collar.
In the Whateley Universe, Phase's sister Heather the supermodel, who has been compared unfavorably to Paris Hilton.
Ty Lee from Avatar: The Last Airbender although she also gets by on her super fighting skills. She's always happy, pink and perky, flirting successfully with everyone. However, she is shown to have some Hidden Depths; she purposely does everything to get noticed after being ignored in her childhood and it appears that her overly cheerful demeanor is to avoid being hurt by Azula. In the end she is shown to be a loyal brainless beauty who sacrifices herself to save her friend Mai.
Jillian from Family Guy. Her good-looking friends could be considered as this, too.
Jillian's friend: "Gloss rhymes with hair!"
Kinga the Kangaroo from Hip-Hip and Hurra. Even though she's more insane than stupid, she still has plenty of ditzyness in her.
Booey Bubblehead, the literal airhead from Galaxy High. Remember, she's not forgetful; just absent-minded!
The Nerdator, a one-shot villain from Freakazoid!, had intended to capture all the Earth's nerds (except Newt Gingrich) and absorb their intellect, leaving the running of the planet to "good-looking but vapid air-heads". Enter the star of the show to make him see the error of his ways.
Amy Wong from Futurama sometimes ventured into this trope despite having a PhD.
Shego briefly entered this trope when Dr. Drakken placed a mind control chip on her forehead, which also backfired on Drakken when Shego neglected to inform Drakken that Kim Possible was climbing up his waterfall lair because when the video feed came up, she still was trying to find a Dodo bird under his request, despite his stating a few minutes before that that Dodos were extinct and he was trying to mess with her.
Tara also falls into this on occasion.
Subverted with most of the characters though, most notably by Vivian Francis Porter.
Luann from King of the Hill has been flanderized into this - she used to be fairly intelligent, but a bit naive and ditsy. It didn't help that she ended up getting married to the walking, talking incarnation of White Trash. Who also became something of a Creator's Pet as time went on.
A villain in Sam & Max: Freelance Police had plans to pilot a rocket to space accompanied by a team comprised entirely of these, as opposed to people who were actually qualified for space exploration. He wasn't much of a villain, but it's a Fridge Brilliance once you realize that people thought a meteor was going to destroy earth, and the rocket was designed to keep humanity alive.
"Miss Springfield", Mayor Quimby's mistress from The Simpsons.
In The Simpsons 'Spin-Off Showcase' episode Lisa refused to participate in a cheesy family variety show so was recast by a pretty blonde cheerleader of a decidedly less intellectual bent.
Fake Lisa: "I'm Lisa Peppy, blonde and stunning. Sophomore prom queen five years running. Go Lisa!"
Miracle from Sit Down, Shut Up is a parody of this. She literally got her high school science teaching job because of her good looks. She didn't even have a high school diploma.
Lindsay from Total Dramaredefinesstupid. In Revenge of the Island, Dakota fulfills this role. She's also a mild deconstruction, as she gets positively elated when Sam asks her for fashion advice since nobody has ever asked her for advice before. From the same season, there's arguably Anne Maria. She's certainly not too bright, and at least considers herself quite a beauty (and is chased by two guys over the course of the season).
Cal of Undergrads, totally and completely. How else could he get all the chicks?
In South Park, Bebe realises that the boys only think she's smart because they all have a crush on her. Her mother, who had been pretty in her youth, tells her that this isn't true, but Bebe isn't convinced and asks her mother what eight times six is. The reply: "Oh, sweetie, those are two completely different numbers!"
Moral Orel's Nurse Bendy is a Deconstruction as she's dimly aware of this and thinks everyone only values her for her looks. Hidden Depths reveal she wishes she had a family, as she once gave her infant son back to his father. She has a set of teddy bears at home she uses for pretend to compensate.
Kimmy in Sym-Bionic Titan thinks she's supposed to be this, but Newton tells her she shouldn't have to be that just because society thinks so. Turns out with his help, she is able to figure out her math homework.
The members of Sev'ral Timez, the boy band from Gravity Falls, are all very good-looking, and can't even figure out how to drink water from a glass.Then again they are clones who can only sing well and they were locked in a hamster cage by a very bad boss and all they vould eat is hamster food and suck from a hamster bottle