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->'''Obi-Wan:''' ''[trapped in ray shields]'' Wait a minute. How did this happen? We're smarter than this.\\
'''Anakin:''' Apparently not.
-->-- ''Franchise/StarWars'' Episode III: ''Film/RevengeOfTheSith''

%% One quote is sufficient. Please place additional entries on the quotes tab.

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 IdiotPlot. Temporary (or permanent) GenreBlindness is often a cause of this trope.

Coined by Creator/HankAzaria on ''[[Series/HermansHead 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 [[OutOfCharacterMoment out of character]], [[YouKnowWhatYouDid misunderstanding something that could be cleared up]] [[PoorCommunicationKills by asking a single reasonable question]] or [[JustEatGilligan 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 [[TheWatson 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 CharacterDevelopment if the person recognizes it in the end. Seeing someone discarding the idiot ball can be a rewarding moment when they are TaughtByExperience.

Idiot Balls can also deflect a boring InvincibleHero, 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.

Note that in any relatively [[SlidingScaleOfIdealismVsCynicism Idealistic setting]], the villains will typically ''always'' firmly hold onto the Idiot Ball; instead of [[WhyDontYouJustShootHim just shooting the heroes]], expect to see plenty of EvilGloating because... well, [[TropesAreNotBad the show would be over otherwise, right?]].

This trope can be seen as TruthInTelevision, as everyone makes stupid mistakes every once in a while.

!![[Main/SuperTrope Subtropes include:]]
* CutsceneIncompetence
* DistressBall
* JustEatGilligan
* HeroBall
* PoorCommunicationKills (when used improperly)
* SeriousBusiness
* ThirdActStupidity
* VillainBall

This trope is the {{opposite|Tropes}} of SmartBall.

When multiple characters in the story have to grab the Idiot Ball to keep the plot going, you have an IdiotPlot.

Compare with PingPongNaivete where a character goes back and forth between grabbing and not grabbing a particular Idiot Ball, ForgotAboutHisPowers where a character stupidly advances the plot by ''not'' doing something expected rather than doing something unexpected, WhatAnIdiot which is an AudienceReaction to a potential Idiot Ball, and TooDumbToLive where an Idiot Ball puts a character in mortal peril if not kills them.

Compare and contrast HanlonsRazor. See the BallIndex for similar forms of OutOfCharacterMoment[=s=]

[[SelfDemonstratingArticle Now if you excuse me, I'll be spending my vacation in]] [[UsefulNotes/{{Chernobyl}} Chernobyl]] [[SelfDemonstratingArticle while all of you tropers look at the many examples of this trope.]]


* IdiotBall/{{Advertising}}
* IdiotBall/AnimatedFilm
* IdiotBall/AnimeAndManga
* IdiotBall/ComicBooks
* IdiotBall/FanWorks
* IdiotBall/{{Film}}
* IdiotBall/{{Literature}}
* IdiotBall/LiveActionTV
* IdiotBall/MythsAndReligion
* IdiotBall/ProfessionalWrestling
* IdiotBall/TabletopGames
* IdiotBall/{{Theatre}}
* IdiotBall/VideoGames
* IdiotBall/WebAnimation
* IdiotBall/{{Webcomics}}
* IdiotBall/WebOriginal
* IdiotBall/WesternAnimation