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The Ingenue
The Ingenue, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1877)

"What are you doing here in the middle of the night? It's almost 9 PM."
Mary Lane, Reefer Madness (2005)

The Ingenue is a young virginal woman with the purity of a child.

She is woefully naive, making her a prime target for a villain seeking to take advantage of her, often in an I Have You Now, My Pretty fashion. As a result, the ingenue is one of the most common Damsels in Distress. She is also immune to sexual innuendo. In a worst-case scenario, the character will be given no personality beyond her purity and innocence.

The ingenue is a Stock Character found throughout all media but is especially popular in Opera where it is almost always voiced by a lyric soprano. The Princess Classic is one of the most common examples of this. If this character is played straight and not in a traditionally romantic setting, she may be Wrong Genre Savvy, and will usually be screwed over.

A young actress in a theatre troupe is often called an ingenue, as she is frequently cast in this role. Expect the White-Dwarf Starlet to wax poetic on how she was The Ingenue once.

If an Ingenue grows up it's likely she will become Silk Hiding Steel.

There is no direct Spear Counterpart to the Ingenue that shares the same characteristics and positive connotations. The closest equivalent for male characters, Manchild, is often viewed as immature and emotionally weak, with the emphasis being more on the lack of adult traits in the manchild versus their childlike purity.

Compare Manchild, The Pollyanna, Princess Classic, The Cutie, Purity Sue, Parasol of Prettiness, Proper Lady.

Contrast The Vamp, Femme Fatale, Heroic Seductress, Innocent Bigot, Seemingly Wholesome '50s Girl, Stepford Smiler, Wide-Eyed Idealist, Covert Pervert, Coy, Girlish Flirt Pose, Old-Fashioned Rowboat Date.

Examples

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    Anime & Manga 

  • The original Macross: Lynn Minmay. They made her more of a Ingenue in the American version, Robotech. However, she matures into an all around woman by the end of both series.
  • Ah! My Goddess: Belldandy. Her pastimes include cleaning, talking about how much she loves cleaning, and coddling various inanimate objects because love makes machines work better. She'll give any and every stranger on the street a hug, but hasn't gotten past second base with the boyfriend she's lived with for years. There are occasions where she is shown as being aware of the situation, but these are typically the exceptions rather than the rule.
    • For example, her knowledge of sexual innuendo is woefully limited, allowing her to misunderstand comments such as how Keiichi doesn't get much sleep when he's with her. She also misses Keiichi's hints about moving their relationship forward sexually, such as when they were standing in front of the love motel during an Urd-created rainstorm. On the other hand, she is at least somewhat aware that Keiichi has sexual desires, but admits she is not ready to fulfill them.
    • Another example, is when they were at the hot Springs and Keiichi was trying to cover up his nakedness. Belldandy was totally unaware of Keiichi's embarrassment at being nude in front of a group of girls, and thought that Marller had hurt him. Both Marller and Urd considered her complete obliviousness to be scary [1]
  • Code Geass
    • Nunnally Lamperouge is a sweet young girl unaware of anything beyond her brother and school. Then R2 rolls around, and we see that despite being blind and wheelchair-bound, she's still her father's daughter...
    • Euphemia is the only pacifist in her family of soldiers and strategists.
    • Shirley is the nicest girl in the series and only peripherially connected to the war theme.
  • Kimi ni Todoke: Sawako Kuronuma of fits this as a modern-day reinterpretation. Academically, she's very bright, but has almost no social skills. She falls for a guy who became incredibly popular at school due to his penchant for being nice to people. While she does get into "distress" from time to time, it's usually high school issues that pose the threat, and her friends encourage her to solve the problems herself.
  • Genma Wars: Non and Meena.
  • In Lucky Star, Tsukasa leans toward this trope, while Yutaka is a definite example. She is cute, sweet, and innocent, and her ignorance of sexual themes is made clear when she asks what yaoi means.
  • Hidamari Sketch.: Yuno certainly has Character Development, but still is childish and naive compared to her co-tenants.
  • Hanamaru Kindergarten: Nanako Yamamoto. Her obliviousness to romantic overtures appears to be genetic. She and her sister are both aware the other has men interested in them, but fails to notice when someone makes romantic overtures to them.
  • Chobits: Chii is a justified example. Her memory and personality were wiped clean so she has the maturity and awareness of a child.
  • In Ichigo Mashimaro, Matsuri's way more easily fooled by Miu's antics than the others.
  • FAKE: A rare male version is Ryo . He is not a Manchild and a very mature Straight Man to contrast his partner Lovable Sex Maniac Dee. However, he is extremely naive when it comes to intimate matters and often nearly taken advantage of as a result. Sexual innuendo tends to fly over his head, has little experience in relationships and is hardly able to keep his partner's (or boss') sexual advances at bay. In the English version, other characters call him 'Sandra Dee', an actress known for playing the Ingenue in many roles.
  • Gurren Lagann's Nia Teppelin also exhibits this trait, as she was extremely sheltered until the age of 14. Her innocence and cheer enables her to become The Heart of Team Dia Gurren.
  • Krista Renz from Attack on Titan actively cultivates this kind of image, as part of her overall issues with herself. She desperately wants to be thought of as a virtuous, innocent, and gentle girl to the extent she puts herself (and others) into harm's way. She is a kind person, but not nearly as innocent or virtuous as most people are lead to believe.
  • Kin-iro Mosaic's Alice is small by Japanese standards (despite being an English girl!) and has the naivety of a child.
  • Akari Akaza of Yuru-Yuri is a prime example. She's naive, modest, charitable and tender-hearted (She gets a BSOD from stepping on what she thinks is a live snake because she thinks she hurt it); and her friends can describe her with no other words than "good girl".
  • May Chang from Fullmetal Alchemist is a sweet, naive and well-meaning princess. Did we mention that she can also kick your ass?

    Comic Books 
  • CrossGen Comics had a conscious, self-aware example: Persha of The First, a centuries-old goddess of secrets who deliberately affects the behavior of a nosy, naive teenager, and remarks aloud that she is keeping secrets from herself in order to remain innocent.

    Fan Works 
  • In "Fluttershy's Night Out," the teenaged Fluttershy has obviously never even gone out on a friendly date with a stallion before.

    Film - Animated 
  • In the Disney Animated Canon:
    • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Snow White accepts a 'magic wishing' apple from an Obviously Evil crone and uses it to wish a prince on a white horse.
    • Sleeping Beauty: Aurora was raised by three fairies who have no idea how to raise a girl into a woman. She's lucky the man she met in the woods was her Prince Charming.
    • The heroine of Cinderella maintains her optimism and purity even while living a crapsack life.
    • Enchanted: Giselle harkens back to this archetype comments on it in the general theme of the "Disney Princess in the Real World" that goes on through the whole movie. Maturing into a grown woman is a plot point and she's a business woman by the end; the childlike innocent helps her connect with like minded children seen in the epilogue.
    • Tangled: Rapunzel is more confident and capable than the classic archetype, but fits as a result of being cut off from the world.
    • Frozen: Anna was sheltered from the outside world at a young age because of her sister's dangerous powers. When the castle finally opens to outsiders, she promptly falls in love with the first handsome man she sees who turns out to be taking advantage of her naivete and when her sister blankets the kingdom in Endless Winter, she rushes headlong into the cold to find a way to reach her without bothering to put some winter clothes on at first and nearly freezes to death as a result.
  • Elizabeth from The Legend of the Titanic is this to a ridiculous extent.

    Film - Live-Action 
  • Reefer Madness: Mary Lane. This is played for laughs in the musical and gives us the page quote.
  • Grease: Sandy Olsson is mocked for this by the other girls in "Sandra-Dee" song.
    "Look at me I'm Sandra-Dee, lousy with virginity....I don't drink I don't swear, I don't rat my hair.."
  • Metropolis: Maria wholeheartedly believes that a violent worker's uprising can be averted by a single person's intervention - even after the uprising takes place.
  • Silent film actresses Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish were famous for such roles.
  • Melanie Wilkes of Gone with the Wind. It's the same reason why her husband Ashley married her and why Scarlett is jealous of her and of him marrying her. Her actress Olivia de Havilland was often cast in similar roles.

    Literature 
  • In New Grub Street Marian Yule is an ingenue who grows up by becoming less naïve, more independent and self-assured; but still dutiful and nice.
  • Invisible Man:Sybil is a deconstruction of this. Not just in the sense of being a Seemingly Wholesome '50s Girl (which she technically is), but in the sense of having herself more than a few issues relating to how she's been sexually stifled. She feels she will be liberated if she's raped by a black man, and when the main character gets her drunk enough to convince her that he did the deed (without actually having done it), he remarks that she was "raped by Santa Claus," as he was to her just as much of a fantasy gift-giver.
  • The Little Drummer Girl:Charlene plays these roles in her theatre troupe, but is anything but.
  • Night World novel Witchlight:Iliana's behavior is explained this way by another character. "She's too pure to deal with this kind of stuff." Considering that her life has been that of a normal teenagers' but she is in fact in a world with vampires, witches, werewolves, and shapeshifters, and that she is well-liked enough that people try to be good people around her, this is understandable. She toughens up some later.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Sansa Stark shows how this character type cannot exist in a World Half Empty. She's acquired some Jade-Colored Glasses since series' beginning.
    Littlefinger: "Life is not a song, sweetling. You may learn that one day, to your sorrow."
  • The Monk: Antonia is extremely sheltered from having grown up in an isolated castle with her mother. She read an edited version of the Bible because her mother believed the text to be too violent.
  • The Sharing Knife plays with this trope in the form of Fawn, who still manages to be innocent and vulnerable as a child while fighting Eldritch Abominations and eagerly enjoying mind-blowing sex with Dag.
  • Invoked in Replica: the protagonist, Nadia, and all other women in the Executive class are expected to behave like demure, innocent ingenues.
  • Pansy Osmond in The Portrait Of A Lady, who retains a childlike innocence and devotion to her father despite being fifteen when she is introduced. Her naiveté is a cause of some annoyance to Henrietta Stackpole, who finds her "incomplete".

    Live-Action TV 
  • Kenneth the pageboy from 30 Rock is a male version of this trope- differing only in that his youthful appearance hides the fact that he's at least 40 or 800.
    • Parodied in one episode when Liz is growing cynical about New York. An innocent-looking young woman steps off a bus, and enthusiastically asks: "say, where does a young prostitute go to get a start in this city?"
  • Trance Gemini of Andromeda likes to give this impression, but it's not true.
  • Drusilla from Buffy the Vampire Slayer was originally this, before Angelus broke her. Her innocence, purity and innate goodness and belief in God are what drew Angelus to her.
  • Carnivàle: even though she has been working as a prostitute and stripper since her early teens, Libby fits surprisingly well into this trope. Her characterization relies heavily on her attempting to reconcile the realities of her life with her identity as a normal 1930s-style ingenue. She is extremely trusting and innocent (at least, with regards to human nature and life), has few social ties outside and information sources outside of 30s popular media and her immediate and extended Carnival family (who, despite farming her out at an early age out of necessity, obviously love and protect her). She dresses and behaves like the traditional ingenue, has unrealistic dreams and is genuinely very vulnerable and sweet. She also seems to be somewhat misinformed about sex (for example, telling Sophie that you can't get pregnant your first time). When she becomes romantically involved with Sophie and Jonesy, she is no more equipped or experienced than your average ingenue would be (despite knowing a lot more about sex): her shyness and vulnerability is presented as genuine.
    • Despite being in her early to mid twenties, Sophie knows almost nothing about sex. Her mother Appollionia actively prevented her from interacting with the strippers and other performers, and her few social contacts (Appollionia, Jonesy, Samson and Libby) are very protective of her and actively discourage attempts to explore her sexuality. Although she dated Jonesy prior to the start of the series, their relationship was not sexual and she remains a virgin until the incident during the dirtstorm with a man she knew was probably married. It is subverted particularly brilliantly when Sophie seduces and sexually humiliates Libby for the sake of revenge . Consequently, her occasional nastiness, as well as her active attempts to explore and express her own sexuality might prevent her from being a completely straight example of this trope, but it certainly doesn't stop everybody around her seeing her as the classic Ingenue.
  • Annie in Community gives this impression; and, despite her efforts to subvert it (and her personal history), it's mostly true.
  • Foyle's War. 'Sam' Stewart is always cheerful, loyal, kind, well behaved and seldom has a bad word to say about anyone. However she does engage in activities her vicar father would not approve of, such as helping with murder investigations.
    • However she also shows great strength of character, bravery, and generally sees through anyone who tries to fool her.
  • Rachel Berry of Glee calls herself this in the very first episode, though she doesn't fit the archetype very well.
    • Ironically, the character closest to The Ingenue would be Brittany. Despite not being a virgin, she is rather naive to extreme levels and yet is pure-hearted and idealistic enough to still believe in Santa Claus and magic combs.
    • Outside of the Glee club, Emma is something of a modern-day Deconstruction of The Ingenue.
    • Season 2 gave us Sunshine, though she was never able to do anything with the club after getting snatched up by Vocal Adrenaline. Season 4 gave us Marley, who fits the trope to a T.
  • Pandora of Skins series 3 (and occasionally series 2) is sheltered and naive, self-confessed to be useless, and often is the unwitting source of innuendo. Part way through the third series she falls in love with Thomas, an African immigrant, and a true gentleman. But later in Thomas' absence, she is seduced by Cook, and quickly loses her blissful ignorant disposition as this complication comes to light.
  • Captain Kirk and his many female conquests in Star Trek: The Original Series: "What is this, 'love?'" Andrea Android from "What Are Little Girls Made Of?", Shahna from "The Gamesters of Triskellion", and Kelinda from "By Any Other Name" comes to mind.
  • Carla and Jessie from Dancing on the Edge are both young singers who join the jazz band and are completely overwhelmed by the attention and success that follows. It's deconstructed a bit in Jessie's case, as she lets the fame go to her head and gets into deep trouble over it.
  • Minnie in "Lark Rise to Candleford" fits this trope. She had a drink with a man and thinks she's pregnant.
  • Daisy in Downton Abbey is a kitchen maid who has no idea of the ways of the world.
  • Lucy of The Bletchley Circle is younger than the other women, and much more innocent.
  • In the opening episodes, at least, Mia Kirshner plays this part very straight (well...) as Jenny in The L Word.

    Religion 
  • The Bible has The Virgin Mary. Eve from Genesis may have also qualified as she was innocent of all evil before she ate the forbidden fruit.

    Theater 
  • Subverted by Rose Maybud in Ruddigore, who appears innocent at first until it turns out she's not so much innocent as obsessed with etiquette and gold-digging.
  • Johanna in all versions of Sweeney Todd that include her, but especially the original penny-dreadful.
  • Anne from A Little Night Music is young, virginal and extremely shallow.
  • Peggy Sawyer from 42nd Street.
  • Lois Lane, a character in Kiss Me Kate, plays the ingenue in the Show Within a Show, but is decidedly less virginal off that stage.
  • Lampshaded in the Flying Karamazov Brothers' adaptation of William Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors - a letter to one of the characters is changed to a telegram, addressed to "The Ingenue".
  • In spite of her manner of dress, Audrey from Little Shopof Horrors.
  • Nikki Harris in Curtains fits this trope to a T.
  • Cosette in Les Misérables, mainly because she does little other than wonder why she almost never leaves the house, and then fall in love with a boy who followed her home and hopped her fence in order to tell her that he loved her after saying less than 10 words to her.
  • The White Singer in Alegria — according to the All There in the Manual material, she represents the goodness that existed and endured in the otherwise corrupt old order. She also has a touch of mischievousness about her, as seen during the Act Two opening sequence in which she brings a man from the audience onstage to dance with her.
  • This is the image Blanche Dubois tries to project around others. It turns out not to be the case.
  • Maria in The Sound of Music. And, even more, Liesl.
  • Margot in The Desert Song. Her "I Want" Song is even called "Romance."
    • Romance, a playboy who is born in spring, to teach the nightingale to sing a very pretty song: "I love you."
  • Sarah in Tanz der Vampire subverts this trope. She's a pretty, sheltered, pure girl on the cusp of womanhood who longs for romance and excitement. She's also a shameless flirt who lies to get what she wants and spends hours at a time quite possibly pleasuring herself in the tub, vocalizing orgasmically about it.
    • Alfred is quite honestly a better fit for this trope, despite being, you know. Male.
  • Christine Daaé in every incarnation of The Phantom of the Opera except (Gaston Leroux's original novel where she may be a daydreamer (and Genre Savvy victim of Stockholm Syndrome)) but also a Well, Excuse Me, Princess! whose pluck and stubbornness unnerve Raoul several times before he realizes how wrongly he's misjudged her just because she isn't a meek little ingenue-type.
    • The ingenue version of Christine is parodied in Maskerade, where she's so woefully oblivious to her complete lack of operatic talent that she completely misses the fact that a dowdier but sonically gifted woman is actually doing all the singing!! She's self-centred as a gyroscope and finishes every sentence with two exclamation marks!!
    • In Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, Christine is actually called "your precious little ingenue" (by her rival).
  • Miranda from The Tempest. Of course, this is mostly to do with the fact that she was raised on a desert island and was apparently unaware of the existence of humans other than her father until well into her teens. When Ferdinand turns up, she immediately falls in love with him.
    • Likewise for Miranda from Amaluna, Cirque du Soleil's loose adaptation of this play.
  • Amelia Wildenhaim of Lovers' Vows.
  • Jemima from Cats is this in cat form.
  • Cyrano de Bergerac: Deconstructed by Roxane, who is highly intelligent and practical, but is completely convinced her (and Christian) lives are like the Romance Novels she had read. Notice that no one of his suitors tries to force her to accept reality until Christian wants her to choose between Cyrano and him at Act IV, and that her Hidden Depths and Character Development demonstrate that she could handle reality very well.
  • Hope Harcourt from Anything Goes. Main character Billy is completely smitten with her despite sexy Reno Sweeney hanging on his arm.

    Video Games 
  • Kairi and Namine from the Kingdom Hearts series. Every single Disney Princess appearing in this series seems to be watered down to fit this trope quite nicely too (save for Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora, who always were Ingenues.)
    • Ventus is a very good male example, though the only reason that he is so pure and innocent is because Master Xehanort forcibly extracted all the darkness from his heart.
  • Merrill in Dragon Age II crosses this with Cloud Cuckoo Lander. Bethany is this as well.
  • Fairly common in Final Fantasy, which tends to combine it with White Mage and Love Interest.
    • Rosa Farrell in Final Fantasy IV looks like one, although she's really more of the Team Mom in practice—it's actually non-genue Cecil's naivete that causes the most trouble.
    • Lenna in Final Fantasy V is a very Naïve Newcomer to the world of adventuring who thinks that asking pirates for a ride won't result in, say, them holding her for ransom. (Not that Galuf's plan was any better.)
    • Aerith in Final Fantasy VII is a subversion. With her pink dress and flowers she might look the part, but living in the slums has made her very sharp and streetwise.
    • Garnet in Final Fantasy IX is so sheltered she doesn't know what a dagger is (although that opens up some Fridge Logic considering that it's a fairly standard piece of weaponry for, say, a castle guard). She spends most of the first disc trying to overcome it.
    • Yuna in Final Fantasy X, but not in the sequel thanks to having her faith shattered (and changing occupation to a gun-toting treasure hunter).
  • Lucy Devlin from Blade Runner is a good example of this; she's fourteen (despite having the appearance of an eighteen year-old at the least), naive, and highly impressionable.
  • Colette from Tales of Symphonia fits this to a T. She's sweet-natured, caring, likes animals (particularly dogs and turtles), and self-sacrificing. Colette believes everyone has some good inside them (even assassins who have repeatedly stated their intention to kill her), and she worries about others more than herself (to the point of not telling the rest of the party things they really wouldn't mind knowing about because she doesn't want them to worry), and any sexual innuendo flies over her head.
  • Deirdre from Fire Emblem: Geneaology of the Holy War.
  • Amy Rose in the older games from Sonic the Hedgehog (The 16-bit games and both Adventures) until Cream came and took her place.
  • Amiti in Golden Sun: Dark Dawn is a rare male example. He is Spoiled Sweet, he has Black and White Morality (which is rare in his world), and considering that he genuinely believed that he was a virgin birth until his guardian revealed the truth, it's possible that he is clueless about sex, despite canonly being the fancy of "all the girls in Ayuthay". It is ironic because he is the oldest person in your party for a good half of the game and yet he seems to be the most naive.
    • He can't be that clueless about sex; he sure knew where Eoleo was going with that "real clothes" comment.
  • Aerie in Baldurs Gate 2.
  • Ashara Zavros from Star Wars: The Old Republic
  • Azusa Miura from The Idolmaster is a rather uncommon example of this. She's the oldest of the idols, making her the local Cool Big Sis. The problem is she's The Ditz who has No Sense of Direction, as well has having an innocence to match even her younger co-workers.
  • In Immortal Souls, John's Love Interest Allison is a sweet little innocent woman. She's always clueless about the extent of the danger she's in, though she gets suspicious now and then.
  • Samantha of Vagrant Story is an example of the trope played utterly straight; she's a commander of the VKP, but she's dressed as a schoolgirl, spends the entire game attached to her lover Guildenstern at the hip, and most of her dialogue centers either on being in love or marveling at her surroundings. In general, she's just a sweet, relatively normal young woman with a good heart. And it's intentional: Guildenstern promoted her to be his right-hand lady so he could sacrifice her to the Dark as a pure soul.

    Webcomics 
  • Tempest from Domain Tnemrot.
  • Daisy of Giant Days; home-schooled in a tony community and sweetly naive, if occasionally a little annoyingly so.
  • Ursula from Precocious, due to her sheltered upbringing.
  • Oasis from Sluggy Freelance alternates between being The Ingenue and being an Ax-Crazy assassin, sometimes within the span of a single sentence. What do you expect when you take a supernatural killing machine and brainwash her to be "as giddy as a schoolgirl"?
  • Ruby of Sticky Dilly Buns deconstructs the trope. She's younger than the rest of the main cast, woefully naive (and at least one older figure has taken advantage of this in the past), virginal, and if not immune to sexual innuendo, certainly very bad at handling it. However, she's also petulant, arrogant, and insecure, and her "purity" is treated as both a symptom and a cause of emotional damage. She's also determined to succeed on her own terms, and would probably be angry if anyone tried to play Prince Charming for her.
  • Knights Of Buena Vista is a Campaign Comic covering Frozen. Mary plays Anna with exaggerations of this trope, including being scandalized at hearing The Talk from Elsa, and insisting that Hans was too much of a gentelman to "do such filthy things to me!".

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 


Grand FinaleTrope Names from the FrenchJ'accuse!
Extreme OmnisexualVirginity TropesMaiden Aunt
Hair of Gold, Heart of GoldTropes Of InnocenceInnocence Lost
Hopeless SuitorThe Singles IndexLadykiller in Love
Innocent Fanservice GirlAlways FemaleInnocent Flower Girl
House HusbandDouble StandardThe Loins Sleep Tonight
The IgorIndex of Gothic Horror TropesDamsel in Distress
Imperiled in PregnancyWomen Are DelicateInnocent Flower Girl
Hula and LuausImageSource/ArtI Kiss Your Hand
Immortal ImmaturityImmaturity TropesKids Are Cruel
The Four LovesRomance Novel TropesLadykiller in Love
Incorruptible Pure PurenessPurity PersonifiedMary Sue Classic
Informed LonerCharacters as DeviceInhuman Resources
Impersonating an OfficerWe Are Not Alone IndexImperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy

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