A moment where a character's stupidity fuels an episode, or a small plot line. If multiple characters have the Idiot Ball, it becomes an Idiot Plot
. Temporary (or permanent) Genre Blindness
is often a cause of this trope.
Coined by Hank Azaria
on Herman's Head
: Azaria would ask the writing staff, "Who's carrying the idiot ball this week?" This is generally not a compliment. Frequently, the person carrying the idiot ball is acting out of character
, misunderstanding something that could be cleared up by asking a single reasonable question
or not performing a simple action
that would solve everything. It's almost as if the character holding the ball is being willfully stupid or obtuse far beyond what has been established as "natural" for them. Frequently, it's only because the story (and by extension, the writers) need
them to act this way, or else the chosen plot/conflict for the episode won't happen.
Unsurprisingly, this provokes a What an Idiot
response from the audience. However, sometimes, the purpose is to help
the audience. Sometimes, the holder of the idiot ball asks the dumb question
to allow a certain amount of exposition to occur, that wouldn't naturally be talked about, but needs to be stated for the audience.
On the other hand, making stupid mistakes can be the hallmark of Character Development
if the person recognizes it in the end. Seeing someone discarding the idiot ball can be a rewarding moment when they are Taught by Experience
Idiot Balls can also deflect a boring Invincible Hero
, which is positive for an audience reaction. There is nothing like a "Why on earth did he do that?" to get the fans talking about the show after it's over.
This trope can be seen as Truth in Television
, as everyone makes stupid mistakes every once in a while.
This trope is the opposite
of Smart Ball
, and probably not closely related to Sanity Ball
, Happy Fun Ball
, or Advantage Ball
. And not even remotely
related to the Timey-Wimey Ball
Compare and contrast Hanlon's Razor