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Childhood Brain Damage

Kitty: What is wrong with you?! Were you dropped on your head?!
Kelso: Yes! I WAS! And up until now, everyone had the good grace not to mention it!

A explanation for a character's eccentricity, ditziness, lack of intelligence, brashness, etc is for them (or others) to harm their head as a infant or a child. A possible cause of this trope could be that they were accidentally dropped by their Alcoholic Parent, who had a little too much to drink. In some cases, they were actually pretty intelligent before the incident happened. One variation of this trope is that the character's mental deficiencies are not from a head injury but by them ingesting something harmful and toxic such as paint chips or alcohol. Another is that the brain damage was due to the character being deprived of something that's essential or substantial to having a relatively healthy body.

If this trope is Played for Laughs, a character may jokingly or cheerily suggest to the others that a daft moment that another character (who usually has no disabilities and is mostly functional otherwise) just had was due to them injuring their head in their childhood. However, if it's Played for Drama and the character genuinely had head trauma in the past, it's used as a indication that the character was abused as a child or had a very dysfunctional childhood (they may also have a head deformity because of it).

Related to Easy Amnesia, Tap on the Head, Hard Head, Circling Birdies.

A classic example of a Hilariously Abusive Childhood.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Dragon Ball Z, when Goku was a baby he was just as violent as all Saiyans are, until he hit his head and became the kind-hearted hero we know and love.

    Comic Books 
  • A variation of the trope occurs with Martin Soap from The Punisher: We see the nurse dropping him on his head just after being born, but he doesn't end up with any mental handicap for it (it's just there to show the crap life shoves on him started very early and never let up).
  • Cyclops of the X-Men suffered brain damage when he was a child after being pushed out an airplane with his brother (Havok) with only one parachute. Besides amnesia, the part of his brain that would have regulated his optic blasts was damaged, causing them to be "on" all the time. The blasts are only controlled by his ruby quartz visor and his eyelids.
  • Obelix in Astérix got his Super Strength from falling in a cauldron of magic potion when he was small. Although it gives him a useful power, it's played as this trope, and there's several implications that it permanently altered his personality into the sweet, childlike attitude we see - for instance, when reverted to childhood by magic, he loses his power and becomes serious, deep-thinking and quite grumpy.

    Fan Fiction 
  • In a number of Axis Powers Hetalia fanfictions, such as The Hearth Series, it's revealed that Germany can't remember his childhood as the Holy Roman Empire because of injuries. Given that the series has Holy Roman Empire going to war before his "death", it's not that big of a leap.

    Film 
  • In The Goonies, it's implied that Sloth's deformity was caused by being dropped as a baby. When Ma Fratelli tries to calm him down by singing "Rock-a-bye Baby", Sloth reacts to the line "the baby will fall" as if it has unearthed Repressed Memories, precipitating his Heel-Face Turn.
  • Shadow of a Doubt: The film implies that a brain injury suffered when he was hit by a car as a child is what caused Uncle Charlie's "problem".
  • A Running Gag in the Chris Farley movie Tommy Boy has people ask his character if he ate paint chips (or lived near powerlines) as a child.
  • In Bio-Dome, there's a scene where one of the dumbasses' mothers is holding the other's head under water to teach them how to hold their breath for long periods of time.
  • In Happy Feet, the fact that the penguin Mumble's egg was dropped by his father is the main reason he can't sing, and the film does everything it can to compare it to this trope without actually saying it.

    Folklore 
  • A Russian folk parody of an old Soviet song says: "Our youth threw us onto campaigns with sabers, our momma dropped us head-down on ice, and if our momma didn't drop us head-down on ice, no campaign with sabers would be possible". Original Russian: "Нас бросала молодость в сабельный поход, нас роняла мамочка головой об лед, кабы не роняли нас головой об лед, то не состоялся бы сабельный поход".

    Literature 
  • In Brave New World, it's rumoured that Bernard Marx's eccentricities are caused by an excess of alcohol in his blood-surrogate while he was being grown.
  • In Of Mice and Men, George tells the ranch owner that Lennie was kicked in the head by a horse as a child to explain why he's mentally slow. Lennie has to ask George about it afterwards as he doesn't know whether it's true or not - George then says it's not true.
  • In The Grapes of Wrath, Pa Joad blames himself for his son Noah's slowness as he tried to deliver him on his own, and ended up distorting his head.
  • Played for Laughs at one point in the Malloreon, when Garion comments that maybe his tendency to charge into dangerous situations without thinking about the danger is because his Aunt Pol dropped him on his head as a baby.
  • The Soviet book Kingdom Of Crooked Mirrors briefly features a character who was dropped on his head as a child. Since then, he can only count to three.
  • In The Elenium, the main characters meet a secondary, clearly handicapped character who was hit on the head when young by a cow.
  • In Horns, It is heavily implied to be the reason why Lee Tourneau is a remorseless psychopath.
  • In the Emily of New Moon trilogy, Emily's Cousin Jimmy is "simple," due to her Aunt Elizabeth causing him to fall into the well when they were children.
  • In Battle Royale, Kazuo Kiriyama is emotionless due to brain damage he sustained at a very young age. In the manga, being shot in the head restores his ability to feel right before he dies.
  • In Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Liu Shan is renowned as an inadequate successor to Liu Bei, with his childhood nickname "Adou" becoming a Chinese byword for someone utterly useless. This is probably because his father had dashed his infant son to the ground in anger that his general Zhao Yun had risked his life to rescue the kid, saying, "[b]rothers are as hands and feet; wives and children are as clothing. You may mend your torn dress, but who can reattach a lost limb?"
  • Angela's brother and Frank's uncle Pat in Angela's Ashes, who is slow-minded and is said to have been "dropped on the head" as a baby.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Kenan & Kel, Kenan once implies that Kel's lack of common sense (and otherwise intelligence) was the result of him being dropped on his head as a child.
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air has a slight variation, when Will asks Carlton if he was deprived of oxygen.
  • Married... with Children had a flashback in which Kelly (The Ditz) was shown to be very intelligent as a young girl, until she hit her head during a car ride.
  • In Malcolm in the Middle, Dewey's odd behavior is apparently the result of Lois standing in front of a microwave oven while she was pregnant with him.
  • That '70s Show, Kitty asks Kelso (aka The Ditz) if he was dropped on his head, as seen in the above quote.

    Newspaper Comics 

    Theatre 
  • In The Light in the Piazza, Margaret reveals that the reason for her daughter Clara's childlike behavior is that she was kicked in the head by a pony, causing her to fall and hit her head. This left her essentially stuck mentally at the age of 12, even though she's now 26. This is why Margaret and her husband oppose her marrying Fabrizio though Margaret comes around at the end of the show without telling Roy.

    Video Games 
  • The remake of Ducktales has Scrooge ponder this of Launchpad in the Amazon level.
    Scrooge: Launchpad, were you dropped on your head much as a child?
    Launchpad: All the time! Why?
  • Played for Drama in The Longest Journey: April's dad was drunk and dropped her when he held her as a baby for the first time, causing a serious cranial trauma that took several years to heal, during which she couldn't walk or speak. Although she eventually grew up normal (as normal as a half-dragon Shifter can be, anyway), her father's repressed guilt over the incident resulted in her very strained relationship with him and eventually led to her running away from home before the start of the game.
  • At one point during Baldur's Gate 2, should a male CHARNAME make the mistake of saying that he "doesn't rightly know" where to go next with Jaheira during a very bad time for her, she will accuse him of sounding like he'd been dropped on his head as a child. Or kicked.
  • This is eventually revealed to be the source of Marumu's emotionless Cloud Cuckoo Lander tendencies in Heart De Roomate, the result of a fall off a small cliff some years before. Not quite Played for Drama, though, since this is revealed by her brother, who not only explains that she's been in therapy in the meantime, but also thanks Yusuke for helping her along (since their relationship escalated, she's been showing more signs of improvement).

    Webcomics 
  • 8-Bit Theater: Black Mage asks Fighter whether he was dropped on his head a lot as a child, to which Fighter answers, "Maybe..." This is immediately followed by a flashback to Fighter's childhood, with young Fighter exclaiming how happy he is to have power lines in his back yard and plenty of paint chips to eat.
  • A flashback in The Order of the Stick explains Elan being The Ditz as a result of his brother Nale continually Dope Slapping him when they were babies, as seen in the page picture.
  • Slightly Damned: Buwaro's frequent blows to the head (fail rock catches) might go some way to explain his lack of intelligence, but there are factors, such as damage to his egg before birth and being left alone for long periods of time.
  • In Bob and George, when Mega Man actually Helmut in disguise continues talking about his evil plan even though Roll is right behind him, she asks if he ate paint chips as a child. He states that it's very possible.

    Web Videos 
  • Two Best Friends Play: In one episode, Matt's being more of a ditz than usual, so Pat asks him whether he [Matt] ate paint as a child. Matt immediately answers, "You mean wall candy?"
  • In Dragonball Z Abridged, like his canon counterpart, Goku fell on a rock head-first when he was still a child. And he's noticeably more ditzy and absent-minded than his canonical self.
  • In Ultra Fast Pony, Rainbow Dash is aggressively stupid. The episode "Pinkie's Day In" gives a possible explanation:
    Mrs. Cake: You're not supposed to throw babies.
    Rainbow Dash: Seriously? My second foster parents used to throw me all the time!
    Mrs. Cake: That explains so much that I didn't care about.

    Western Animation 
  • All Grown Up!, the sequel to Rugrats, mentions that Dil is so strange because Phil and Lil dropped him on his head when they were babies.
  • On Regular Show, Mordecai and Rigby travel back in time and meet young Pops, acting lucid and sane, unlike the Cloud Cuckoo Lander he is in the present. Later during a car chase, they hit Pops, who then starts giggling like present-day Pops.
  • One episode of The Simpsons reveals that Homer is an idiot because he stuck a crayon up his nose as a child and got it jammed into his brain.
    • In "Itchy and Scratchy: The Movie", he told Bart when he was a kid we wanted a bike but his dad wouldn't let him. So he tries holding his breath so his dad would give in. But he passed out and had to be rushed to the hospital, where the doctors say he has suffered brain damage.
    Bart: Dad, what's the point of this story?
    Homer: I like stories.
    • A flashback also shows Ralph Wiggum being held by his father as a baby sucking on a bottle when his father accidentally drops him, and afterwards Ralph is no longer able to find the bottle with his mouth.
  • On SpongeBob SquarePants, it is often suggested that Patrick's stupidity is the result of frequent head injuries. In "Squidward the Unfriendly Ghost", Patrick mentions that he knows a lot about head injuries, then spaces out mid sentence. In "Big Pink Loser", SpongeBob tries to discourage Patrick from mimicing him by hitting himself with a hammer, to which Patrick responds, "I've been doing this way before I started copying you."
    • Squidward once asked Spongebob if he was dropped on his head as a baby. Spongebob confirms it and is amazed at how Squidward found out.
  • In an episode of The Beatles, John sews the money from last night's concert into Ringo's pocket to keep it from getting lost.
    John: There! Safe as in a mother's arms.
    John: I know. That's why I didn't sew it in your hat.

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