Susan: Lemont, have you ever noticed how in comic strips and sitcoms, the men are usually clueless victims of life, while the women are wise and have their lives in order? Lemont: Another bad day at work Susan? Susan: Why can't my life be like a f*ckin' comic strip!!!
It's common in commercials for a woman to represent the advertiser's product, while a man represents the competition. The woman patiently explains or demonstrates the superiority of the advertiser's product to the clueless man. This is especially pronounced in cleaning product ads that air during the day, which are targeted at housewives.
Pretty much gender-flipped from adverts in the 50s, 60s and 70s when the women were shown as clueless. Not just clueless, but clueless about things like cooking, cleaning, washing up and doing the laundry, which were nevertheless seen as their domain. The voice of reason was always a man, sometimes the husband, who somehow knew all about it even though his suit suggested a white-collar job outside the home, sometimes an older male authority figure. Bonus gravitas if the older male was wearing a lab coat.
Nami, the navigator of the Strawhat pirates often has to express common sense since few of her crewmembers, especially her captain Luffy, possess it. On the other hand, Nami has her own blind spots (such as the promise of wealth) and has to be reeled in by the others in turn.
In Detective Conan, Eri Kisaki is considerably more mature and businesslike then her almost-but-not-quite ex-husband.
Zoe, the only girl from Digimon Frontier, usually tends to act more rational and level headed than all her male teammates. She also was able to control her Beast Spirit right away whereas they couldn't.
In Soul Eater, this trope is very self evident. There's the main males; Black Star who's an arrogant jerk, Kid who's mainly just an obsessed freak over symmetry, and Soul who's snarky, impatient, and rude. Then there's the main females; Maka, Tsubaki, and Liz, whom are all practical, level headed, intelligent, kind, and mature, for the most part (the only exception is Patty, who's kind of a dip head).
The trope even applies to the villains of the series. Medusa and Arachne are a lot more level headed, calm and mature, whereas Crona, Giriko, and Asura are much more on the insane side.
In the anime, Maka even outright kicked the main villain of the series, Asura's, ass all by herself and basically saved the world all by herself, while all the males got beaten by him.
Played with somewhat with Cardcaptor Sakura, most females are high spirited and extremely kindly Moes or outright borderline Purity Sues, most males are somewhat arrogant Jerks With A Heart Of Gold. A handful of exceptions exist (Meiling, Ruby Moon and Yukito). Granted however a few of the females (particularly Sakura) are also suggested to be somewhat ditzy and naive in tone though given most of their ages this could be considered realistic.
Pokémon: To a subtle extent with most female companions. While they still have profound moments of humility or hypocrisy, they usually have at least a small cut of competence over Ash. Brock initially balanced this until, well...
Trinity Blood: The female rulers and leaders are generally portrayed as more competent or in a better light. When they commit grave mistakes, they are just flawed an tragic rather than tyrannical or evil. The vast majority of the Saints who guided humanity were women. Most male leaders are either corrupted tyrants, cruel or the big bad. The only exception is the Pope who is cast on an incompetent light most of the time.
Averted in Y: The Last Man - after the gendercide that wipes out all but two of the male population of Earth, there are plenty of women around who act in a venal, selfish and destructive fashion towards their fellow women; of the main characters, the female characters aren't always morally superior to the male character, either. The pervasive nature of this trope is lampshaded when the male character admits that he's surprised that a female-dominated society didn't abolish war and usher in an age of peace and "standing around in circles holding hands singing 'Kumbaya'."
Laurie of Watchmen, also the only major female character in the main cast, is often the one with the most realistic and logical perspective. She is not bogged down with extreme views of justice like Rorschach is, holds a negative view on irrational behavior (such as Jon wanting to leave humanity to die and Dan's desire to help Rorschach in spite of his horrid behavior). On the other hand, she's also extremely stubborn and at times delusional, refusing to see the truth that the Comedian is her father when she had enough evidence and the detective skills to put it all together herself. She can also be weak-willed (her repeated attempts to quit smoking always end in failure). In Watchmen no one is spared dysfunction.
A truly infuriating example of this trope occurred in the Italian Paperinik comics: at one point, the creators of Paperinik decided to give him a Distaff Counterpart and thus gave Daisy Duck her own superhero identity of Paperinika. Naturally, a great deal of stories involved them working together. Unfortunately, not only did they end up constantly bickering and hating each other in their secret identities, which was annoying enough on its own, but every time they were together, Paperinik suddenly lost all competence and reverted to Jerk Ass bungling Donald Duck in a costume. Seeing as the whole point of Paperinik's creation was responding to fans complaints that Donald was always a Butt Monkey loser, the fans were not pleased at this development, leading to Italy axing Paperinika all together (though she is still used in the Brazilian comics). Paperinika made a comeback in the Ultraheroes storyline, where all the major Disney comics superheroes teamed up. This time, though, she's been written as even more incompetent than Donald when the two get together; mainly because she is so driven to prove herself Paperinik's equal that she worries about that more than the job at hand, and they end up bickering when they should be saving the day.
Maintained for the large part in Sonic the Hedgehog. Most of the female characters have far less overwhelming personality defects than the male cast and usually act as voice of reason for their male comrades. This is especially obvious for Sally, who lost even the key flaws she had in SatAm (see below) to become a overly versatile and collected foil to the far more arrogant and hot tempered Sonic.
In Sonic the Comic this is in the begining inverted with Amy due to her more bubbly and childish attitude, deliberately played straight in later stories however with Amy is far calmer, mature and sensible than her other counterparts and has doesn't has the key flaws of her other counterparts.
In one of the oddest examples of this trope the Archie ComicsGolden Age character Suzie ended up like this. Suzie first appeared as a Dumb BlondeMs. Fanservice in the Anthology ComicTop Notch Comics in 1942 and proved so popular she eventually took over the comic which was renamed after her and ran until 1954 as Suzie Comics. In the mid Forties she gained a supporting cast including her clueless, loser boyfriend Ferdie who quickly became a one man Spotlight-Stealing Squad - by the early Fifties he was arguably the real star and Suzie had become a supporting character in her own book. What made it surreal was that in the few late era strips that didn't feature Ferdie Suzie acted like her original Brainless Beauty self. In the Ferdie strips on the other hand she suddenly gained several dozen IQ points to act as the straight woman to his antics.
In Paperinik New Adventures this was inverted: it was Paperinik and One that had to keep the angry,vicious Xadhoom in check(you know it bad when Donald Duck thinks you have a temper). Also Everett Ducklair,despite having his owndemons is still more well adjusted than his daughters and wife. Same goes for his two main employers,as Anymore is clearly more rational than Birgit.
Film - Animated
Played straight with Bob and Helen Parr's reaction to forced retirement from Superhero Life in The Incredibles. Helen adapts to life as a normal human being while Bob remains frustrated and longs for his Glory Days.
Inverted in Brave with Queen Elinor. While she's obviously the better administrator than her husband and can pacify the tensions between the four clans, the central conflict in the story is due to her being too obstinate to see the world from her daughter's point of view. Her husband Fergus, on the other hand, understands his daughter very well and tries to get Elinor to realize this when he pretended to Merida in one scene.
Played straight in The Lion King II: Simba's Pride with the now queen Nala, something that exasperated most fans of her previous portrayal, and even her teenage daughter Kiara in regards to Simba. On the other hand, Simba not being particularly wise by any standard is a big part of the plot.
Inverted in Ice Age The Meltdown as Manny is the one playing straight man to Ellie but used in Ice Age Dawn Of The Dinosaurs and Ice Age: Continental Drift as Manny is always freaking out about something while Ellie keeps calming him down and playing straight man to him by calming him down and telling him everything will be alright. This also happened in the Christmas special.
Morris and Joanne Campbell. To quote the book version, "Dad's got his head in the clouds. Mum's got her feet on the ground."
Also Helena and Valentine; Helena is intelligent, friendly, and mostly fair to everyone she meets. Valentine, while very likeable, is rather scheming and often self-centered.
This is shown again by the floating giant couple, whose balance keeps them in equilibrium; when they become uncoupled the female sinks into the ground while her mate helplessly floats away.
In Knocked Up, female lead Alison is a smart, driven, competent, responsible career woman and male lead Ben is a lazy stoner coasting off of an injury settlement and sporadically working on a web site with a specious business model. The arc of the film is mostly about Ben settling down to become worthy of Alison. The trope is deconstructed by the Beta Couple, who resemble the Alpha Couple turnedUp to Eleven. Pete is more relaxed and less ambitious than his wife but not lazy or irresponsible, and Debbie is controlling and borderline emotionally-abusive in her efforts to goad Pete into living up to her insane standards.
In the poster for the Katherine Heigl film Life as We Know It, Josh Duhamel is walking around in a nappy.
In Predators lone female character Isabella is the group conscience and team builder.
In Minority Report, John Anderton asks the creator of the Precog system, Dr. Hineman, which Precog would have his minority report that depicts his innocence. Hineman responds that it would be the most gifted of the three. When John asks her which one would that be, she smiles and says in an "of course" manner, "The female."
In Dogma he one Mooby's boardmember Bartleby and Loki choose to spare because she's lived a virtuous life is also the only woman present at the meeting.
In a World...: All men in the film are either Straw Misogynist assholes (Gustav) or so diffident and non-threatening as to be effectively neutered (Demetri Martin and Rob Corddry's characters). The latter is presented as the "good" alternative, and Sam Soto's transition from the former to the latter is presented as character development. The women aren't presented as perfect— witness Dani's guilt over cheating on her husband or Carol starting the movie as a semi-employed Woman Child still living with Daddy at 32— but they're still presented as more competent than and morally superior to the men.
Defied and mocked in Neighbors, by Kelly when Mac asks her why she's not reining in his crazy revenge fantasies — she herself has those same urges.
Seth Rogen stated in an interview that the wife character was written in the usual way until he showed his real wife the script and she pointed out that she'd get just as into it as he did.
The epitome of this trope is a joke where three men get a genie and they each get one wish. The first man wishes to become ten times smarter and the second man wishes to become a hundred times smarter. The third man wishes he was a thousand times smarter... and turns into a woman. Like many jokes of this type, of course, it's often inverted depending on the gender of the person telling it.
Science develops the first working brain transplant. A woman's brain can be as low as $3000, while men's brain are often worth five times that much. When questioned about this, the scientist answers "Well, that's because women's brains have been used."
George Carlin, describing God: "And if there is a God, it has to be a man. No woman would fuck up the world this much." (paraphrased)
In the original Peter Pan book, Wendy asks the eponymous character why there aren't any Lost Girls. Peter responds her that is because girls are too smart to felt off their cradles. Wendy is delighted.
Played annoyingly straight in Bernard Werber's short story "Un jour, il n'y aura que des femmes sur terre" (One day, there will only be women on Earth), in which the protagonists sees glimpses of the future in which all men died after a nuclear explosion, and genetically engineered women who reproduce asexually go on the form a perfect society free of wars, famine, envy, living closer to Mother Nature. Never mind the fact that, in the story's present, women are just as prone, if not more so, to jealousy, bursts of rage and violence than men.
G. K. Chesterton's heroines have a tendency to be more sensible than his heroes. While they can rise to the occasion in times of crisis, they have much higher standards than his heroes for what qualifies as a crisis. This was also very much a conscious belief held by Chesterton.
Frankenstein, though this largely depends on which version you read. In the original 1818 edition Victor is cold, callous and foolish, but his father Alphonse is the perfect father and his friend Clerval is the perfect youth, full of life and vibrance. The second version turns Victor himself much more sympathetic, and Elizabeth is turned into a Purity Sue.
In Mario Puzo's book, The Godfather says it specifically. He says women have no head for business "though no doubt they will be saints in heaven while we men burn in hell."
Referenced in Robin McKinley's Spindle's End: In the country where the story is set, there's a folk belief that queens are more level-headed and generally better rulers than kings, and this belief is deeply ingrained enough that the local evil magicians go to the trouble of casting a lot of spells to make the royal line hardly ever produce female heirs.
Aina from Twilight Dragon, especially in comparisson to her potential love interest, Trowa.
In Aaron Allston's Galatea in 2-D, in the Battle Couple of Red and Penny, Penny does the prudent thing: argue they should contact their boss when the heroes show up unexpectedly, persuade Red not to fight after their boss dies, etc.
This is one of the primary differences between witches and wizards in Discworld, particularly in the way they use magic. Wizards tend to be flashy and theatrical and have a social structure based on academia; witches have more sensible, practical magic and more commonly take on the roles of local midwives or herbalists.
Not just the witches and wizards. The women of the Discworld are almost invariably smart and down to earth. There is the occasional one-off ditz, but there are no female main characters in the spirit of Rincewind or Nobby.
In Sharon Creech's Ruby Holler, twins Dallas (daydreamy guy) and Florida (grouchy, realistic girl) play this straight. The other two main characters, old couple Tiller and Sairy, avert this: Tiller is the solider and less capricious one, while Sairy is the reckless daydreamer. As a result of this, Tiller bonds with Florida and Dallas grows close to Sairy.
The wildly successful 1740 English novel Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded is an iconic example. The heroine, a girl of Incorruptible Pure Pureness, is matched against Mr. B, a lascivious and immoral man who makes great attempts at corrupting her virtue. Pamela withstands his advances and ultimately tames him, showing him the way to true morality.
Anisja compared to Sachar, Olga to Oblomov (not that hard).
Ross and Monica's parents initially look like this, but she's gradually revealed to be something of a Stepford Smiler.
Alan and his ex-wife in Two and a Half Men. She is infinitely more mature and capable than her loser ex-husband. When she goes up against Alan's brother Charlie, he may get his way sometimes but she is still portrayed as the one with the level-headed opinion in the argument.
Judith is more capable than Alan but she is also far more vindictive than him and takes sadistic delight in humilating him at any opportunity. Alan loses to her because he is Butt Monkey rather than any moral superiority on her part.
Archie and Edith Bunker in All in the Family. Edith was more moral and friendly then Archie, but she was also rather airheaded. Archie was smarter, but it came down to the same with Edith ultimately being the one who put Archie in his place when he went too far.
Tim and Jill Taylor in Home Improvement, especially in the earlier seasons. This was softened a bit as the series went on, and Jill had several of her own moments of incompetence. For example, when Al's mother passed away, Jill's advice only makes things worse while Tim is more comforting and practical.
One episode ended with both of them realizing they were wrong. It involved Tim forgetting to do something, and the episode had both of them blaming the other for it. Jill left him a lot of clues and hints but, after talking to Wilson, realized she never actually outright told Tim to do it (and after so many years of marriage, she should know that he's not big on clues). Despite Jill realizing she was wrong, only Tim apologized; Jill played it off as if she had been right all along, and thus this trope was preserved.
Debra and Ray Barone in Everybody Loves Raymond take this Up to Eleven. Ray is infantilized to the point of almost being totally dependent on Debra, particularly in domestic situations. Almost all the other characters will take Debra's side over Ray in intellectual matters and she is usually seen as possessing far greater common sense.
In the episode "The Checkbook" Ray takes over the responsibility of managing the household finances from Debra and is demonstrated to be totally inept. The task is then shifted back to Debra.
Inverted in one episode featuring Debra trying to get Ray to agree to couples counseling with the idea that she would try to get him to see her point of view. It ends up being the opposite when Ray starts to open up to the therapist, and Debra ends up being the one on the spot. And yes, she refuses to go do it again since the therapist didn't side with her.
Both played straight and completely subverted, averted, and parodied in The George Lopez Show, which has Angie often be the Closer to Earth counter to George's impulsiveness, but she is in no way always right have the best way of doing things; she may be the more sensible, but she is also overly optimistic and somewhat naive, while George lacks foresight but, while overly cynical, is more of a realist.
Charmed inverted it early on with Piper and Leo's relationship where Piper is the neurotic and obsessive one while Leo often has to try and calm her down most of the time. However Leo gets baggage of his own in later seasons making them both disasters.
iCarly: Played straight with Carly and Spencer, with Carly being the Closer to Earth and Spencer impulsive and occasionally stupid, Gender Flip with Freddie and Sam, with Freddie being the Only Sane Man most of the time, with Sam being a destructive force of nature.
That means Carly and Freddie are the ones Closer to earth, then?
Lizzie McGuire plays it totally straight. "Calm down, Matt, we're just trying to fool dad. It's not like we're trying to fool mom!" Jo is often dorky, but is nearly always right, especially in comparison to Sam.
However, between Lizzie herself and Gordo, Gordo is usually the sensible one.
Lizzie is the sensible one between her and Matt, though. Also played straight with Matt and his girlfriend.
Played straight both ways in The King of Queens, where Doug is foolish and impulsive, but Carrie is somewhat immoral (or at least self serving) and brash, and, in episodes that showcase each's flaws, the other will be the Closer to Earth.
Deputies Kimball and Johnson (Reno 911!) are arguably the most competent officers on the force, having almost made actual arrests, while Williams tends toward oblivious and Weigel is a headcase. The men are also fairly incompetent, including Lieutentant Chew Toy.
That's not saying much. Everyone is almost always ridiculously, over the top incompetent they only seem better when compared to the people they deal with. However, everyone, except maybe Weigel, gets several moments of actual intelligence.
Inverted in Sister Sister. Ray is sensible, and Lisa is more impulsive and reckless.
Inverted by Maria's parents Alan and Chrissie in The Sarah Jane Adventures where Alan is the morally superior one. Of course Sarah Jane Smith is more of a dependable mother figure than Chrissie and is a good mother to her own adopted son, so it's not like the show is devoid of a moral mother.
Inverted again by Rani's parents. Gita is well-meaning and sweet, but she comes off as The Ditz, and the less said about how she handles her encounter with aliens, the better. Haresh is the grounded, reasonable but Strict Teacher and rock of the family, and in contrast to his wife, takes the alien encounter in stride and doesn't obsess over it.
Doctor Who itself tends to go backwards and forwards on this depending on the era of the show you're watching:
Avoided during the majority of William Hartnell's era, where most male-female companion teams (Ian and Barbara, Vicki and Steven, Steven and Dodo) were either equals in wisdom or were both intelligent in radically different ways, but hit hard with Ben and Polly - they have the running gag that they disagree on virtually everything and that whenever they do, Ben is wrong and Polly is right. Troughton's second male-female team, Jamie and Victoria, is a bit more balanced, as both are fairly brave and while Victoria is cleverer and more insightful, Jamie is more wary and cunning, and they both look after each other depending on who has the upper hand. His third, Jamie and Zoe, portrays Jamie as somewhere between Fearless Fool and Cloud Cuckoo Lander with him getting a comedy bit about his stupidity Once an Episode, while Zoe is an Impossible Genius who treats Jamie with condescension and can talk to the Doctor as an equal.
Subverted with Rose and Mickey. At first, we see Rose as being brave, kind and able to stand up to the Doctor while Mickey is a comedy Dirty Coward and hopelessly ill-fit for the Doctor's lifestyle, and the Doctor treats them both with this attitude. Mickey soon demonstrates extreme intelligence in some ways (such as hacking skills) despite the Doctor's continuing condescension. By the second series he's mostly demonstrating a brave and mature side we had previously missed, and the Doctor realises he underestimated him enormously.
Steven Moffat's tenure has shown a particular tendency towards this trope due to his background in Mars and Venus Gender ContrastSex Comedy and enjoyment of a World of Snark — just look at the Cloudcuckoolanderish Eleventh Doctor compared with Amy, River and Clara, for example. An even clearer example is Vastra, Jenny and Strax - Vastra makes sexist comments about the innate stupidity of men and is an elegant genius who claims to be the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes, while the only man on the team (Strax) is The Ditz and doesn't understand concepts like biological sex or that not every problem can be solved by invading the source with an army. In "The Doctor, The Widow, and the Wardrobe", only Madge Arwell, a 1930s housewife, is considered "strong" enough by the sentient forest to carry their life force. When the Doctor finally figures out why:
Doctor: You and I, Cyril, we're weak. But she's FEMALE.
In "Deep Breath", Vastra is shown to be able to send the Doctor immediately to sleep just by touching his head. Pleased with herself, she says "I love monkeys, they're so funny" - when Jenny calls her out on calling humans 'monkeys', Vastra responds that people are apes and men are monkeys. Never mind that the Doctor is a member of a powerfully psychic race and usually in reasonable command of his powers, Vastra can beat him entirely by virtue of being a woman.
Turk and Carla of Scrubs. Nine times out of ten, any problems that arise in their relationship are caused by Turk. On the rare occasion that Carla is the cause of the problem, she'll get her way anyway. For example, an episode where Carla learned that she had to compromise with Turk instead of making all the decisions herself ended with her getting the car she wanted anyway; that's right: in the end, Turk was the one who made the compromise.
It's not that Turk actually causes the relationship problems, more that Scrubs runs on The Unfair Sex. The moral laws of the show seem to contain one stating that relationships are about making the female happy, without real or balanced regard for male happiness. Dr. Kelso definitely gets more from his marriage than his wife, yes, but primarily by keeping several mistresses at once and patronizing Southeast Asian whores. Dr. Cox actually leaves a happy (but new) relationship to get back together with his ex-wife when she announces that she got pregnant off of a Greek pool-boy (though it did eventually turn out the baby was in fact Dr. Cox's), though in a minor subversion Dr. Cox is portrayed as genuinely happy with this state of affairs in the later seasons.
This was the original plan with It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, with Dee being the comparitively sane voice of reason in the gang, but the actress Kaitlin Olsen insisted that she be given as many wacky hijinks to do as the guys.
In Black Books, Fran likes to think that she's more sophisticated and superior to Bernard and Manny, but she's ultimately just as bad as Bernard, and in many ways worse. Of the three, Manny's actually the nicest and most decent person which, of course, just means that the other two ruthlessly exploit him.
Averted in Extras, where Maggie's pretty dim compared to Andy (but probably brighter than Darren). She is, however, shown to be a bit nicer, especially after Andy's let fame go to his head a bit.
Dr. Cameron is often the voice of morality in House's medical team. However her morals are often a bit questionable.
Cuddy, as the Team Mom, seems more sensible and moral than House. It just so happens that he generally turns out to be right. However, Wilson fills a fairly similar role to Cuddy despite being male, although he sometimes lets House get away with things due to being his friend or needs a telling off from Cuddy himself.
After Cameron leaves House's team, the female doctors who wind up replacing her are this too. Thirteen and Adams (both of whom are accused of being Suspiciously Similar Substitutes to Cameron) are often the voice of moral outrage to House's insane treatment of his patients. In one episode, Cuddy seems annoyed when House doesn't have a female on his team, explaining that he needs one to keep a moral voice.
Mostly subverted on Will and Grace, where Leo (and Will) are shown to be more down to earth than Grace, but near the end, when Leo has an affair during his Doctors Without Borders mission, she ends up saying no to the possibility that they may be able to work through it. While it was a pretty stupid thing he did, he was at least willing to try and fix things.
Grace's paranoia about Leo having an affair with his pretty coworker turned out to be true, however, this doesn't make her any more of a Closer to Earth woman. In fact, it just makes her neurotic.
Almost every relationship on That 70's Show is like this to a degree. Eric and Donna are the most obvious, while Kelso and Jackie are more a case of '"Do what I say and I'll sleep with you," as are Fez and Nina. Red and Kitty are a slight subversion, as she is shown to be far too idealistic and more easily misguided than the more cynical Red; not to mention a borderline Lady Drunk. Bob and Midge are something of an aversion, as they're both shown to be equallynuts.
It's fairly debatably how much of an a true example any of those really are. Also, That Seventies Show features a complete inversion in the case of Jackie and Hyde, where he is the one who acts mature for both of them (and not by a long shot, either).
Sometimes Eric is the more practical one, telling Donna that she should just tell him when she wants him to do or not do something rather than "hinting" (Translation: Lying) and saying that everything is okay. He calls her out on this several times but always seems to acknowledge the pointlessness of his actions. As time goes on though their relationship is on more equal footing.
It was occasionally suggested that Mrs. Foreman was sometimes faking it to fulfill her social role. "You're making it really hard to pretend I don't know what you're talking about."
Red and Kitty are almost an inversion, but they are at any rate far more down to earth than the rest of the cast. Hyde is definitely the most mature of the main group, although Donna might be considered more down to earth. I'm not sure this trope really applies, although it would if we only considered Eric/Donna and Kelso/Jackie, and the later instance only because Kelso makes anyone look competent in comparison.
Inverted in Sugar Rush. The father is well-meaning but weak-willed and somewhat in denial about the family's dysfunction, while the mother is a self-indulgent, irresponsible adulteress.
Averted in Pushing Daisies where both of the Official Couple are extremely nice albeit flawed people - Chuck (the woman, in case you didn't know) is a lot friendlier and eager to help people, but she can be a little self-centered, reckless and even vengeful in a way that Ned is not.
Inverted on Little House on the Prairie with the Olesons. Nels is an level-headed man who always does the right thing, but Harriet is petty and greedy.
Averted in Burn Notice, where Fiona is the most aggressive and violent of the trio.
First season, maybe. But these days she's becoming Michael's conscience, constantly reminding him that family and friends are more important than getting un-burned. Also, despite her enthusiasm for her job, she clearly knows her limits and when she is in over her head. She will discourage Michael from getting involved with people she feels are too dangerous for them to handle.
It still stays averted however, due to the fact that Sam is filling a similar role as Michael's logical anchor instead of moral, reminding him when he's acting paranoid or rash when they need to stop and think.
The first episode of Law & Order featuring Jack McCoy raises this trope; McCoy and Claire Kincaid are going after a female doctor who has been selling an All-Natural Snake OilSpice Rack Panacea as a breast cancer cure, with the result that a woman has died. Claire expresses reluctance to pursue the matter criminally, arguing that the doctor is still engaging in research to cure breast cancer. McCoy argues that the doctor's still conning her patients by trying to sell them what she doesn't have and putting their lives in risk, and then bluntly accuses Claire of subscribing to this trope, suggesting that if the doctor had been a man Claire would be the first and most eager person calling for the criminal case. The rest of the episode also touches on this in that the doctor is very contemptuous of male-dominated medical practices which treat the women with patronising dismissiveness; McCoy notes, however, that while this may be the case the male-dominated medical practices are at least keeping women alive, which is more than she's doing.
Given an interesting twist in Castle in that it's Richard's daughter Alexis that's the most grounded one of the three generations living together, while Castle himself is a bedrock of common sense and maturity compared to his ex-wife and mother.
Initially at least, the dynamic between Beckett and Castle played this fairly straight — Beckett was the sober, sensible, down-to-earth cop where Castle was the irresponsible, feckless playboy. In later seasons, however, there's been more of a balancing (or even an inversion at times); as Beckett's become increasingly obsessed with solving her mother's murder above all else, behaving increasingly reckless, irrational and at times self-centred, Castle's become more of a voice of reason and willing to call her out whenever he thinks she's overstepped the line.
Played straight and to extremes in the "Lithia" episode of 1990s remake of The Outer Limits. A male soldier awakens in the near future from cryogenic hibernation to find that men have been completely wiped out by war and that only women remain, creating an Amazonian society. The women live in relative peace and harmony with each other, but the male soldier proceeds to make trouble, including getting several women killed while trying to steal items from other villages. It turns out that every male that has be rethawed has caused similar problems for the villagers, and that the women no longer trust the male sex, meaning Mercer will be returned to cryostasis.
The episode ends with an equally hamfisted moral from the narrator: "The differences between men and women have been debated among philosophers since recorded history began. If indeed males are, by their nature the aggressor, it is this quality that may one day be their undoing." Apparently the problems that arose had nothing to do with him being a trained, futuristic soldier several decades out of place in a communist, extremely primitive village. Nope, it's all about his gonads!
In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, we only saw Buffy's father a handful of times in the early seasons, but what little we did see of him indicated he was a genuinely caring, loving father to Buffy whose marriage to Joyce simply broke down, apparently not entirely the fault of either party. In later seasons, this appeared to be retconned to make her father a heartless bastard who ran off with his secretary to Spain and didn't care about his daughters or even about the fact that his ex-wife was dying, apparently solely because of this trope.
It was less due to this trope and more because Joss Whedon had decided that Joyce was to be killed off in season five, in order to force Buffy into the role of the responsible adult of her family; a major step in her development. This would have been impossible if her dad was still around, so he was written as a distant, uncaring asshole in order to facilitate the plot twist. Joss had this planned out before season 3 began; sure enough, season 3 is when Buffy's dad suddenly becomes a deadbeat.
On the other hand, Joss is hardly unwilling to kill characters off. Granted, he hates to do it offscreen, and he prefers betrayal to mourning as a source of suffering for main characters. Still, there's something going on here that's probably sex-based. And of course within the show, the most primal powers beneficial to humanity (closest to "earth") seem to be very much feminine.
Some of the relationships with male characters seem to reverse this. Xander was definitely more practical than Cordelia when they were dating, though it didn't really come up. He was also usually the sane one with Anya; this was irrelevant other than for her role as comic relief. (For example, unlike him, she had no visible need for a job, residence, or means of support for over a year - until she started acquiring them.) Oz was borderline more "together" than Willow at first, and Jenny Calendar was attracted to Giles as somebody firmly rooted. Still, when everybody gets their doses of trauma, the female characters tend to develop along the lines of this trope, while males are more prone to break down, often in directions which induce more pain for the females. This seems to be especially true for the most minor characters.
The characters most frequently portrayed as wise and centered — and possibly the only main characters who didn't implode fearsomely at least once — are Giles and Tara.
On the subject of Whedon, Firefly has Zoe as being more focused and responsible than her husband or even, at times, than Mal. Subverted in the case of Simon, who's a pretty reasonable and intelligent guy (unless it comes to girls, although Kaylee herself isn't much more reasonable on that level).
In Fawlty Towers, Basil and Sybil Fawlty operate on a level like this; they are both rather horrible and dysfunctional people, but Sybil has better social skills and is calmer in a crisis, whereas Basil is hopelessly lacking in both areas.
Granted, all of the correspondents on The Daily Show tend toward a certain degree of idiocy, but this dynamic can be pretty clearly seen during a lot of segments that deal with Samantha Bee's and Jason Jones's relationship (who are married in real life, as well).
One episode dealt with the Secret Service prostitute scandal with Samantha Bee claiming that this is because there are no women in the Secret Service who have a "civilizing" effect on men. Bee's speech is interrupted by fellow correspondent Jessica Williams who wants Samantha to get back to partying (apparenly, both of them got pretty hammered and had some fun times the night before), completely subverting the speech.
Boy Meets World runs on this, going so far as to make an entire episode centered around the theory (ironically brought up by Eric) that "all men since the beginning of time have been idiots." In a special case, Cory and Topanga, the show's main couple, at first subverts it, then mercilessly plays it straight in the later seasons.
Subverted in Being Human. Annie is somewhat ditzy, inclined towards crazy (if well-meaning) schemes, from which she often has to be talked down. Nina also tends to be more emotionally erratic than George, who's generally the Only Sane Man in the setting (though they both act as the other's moral compass on occasion, George tends to be more honest about it.) Played straight-er with Mitchell, who starts losing control of his life as of the end of season one and never really quite gets it back.
Inverted in Battlestar Galactica with Starbuck and Apollo: She's the reckless loose cannon who prefers to shoot first and ask questions later, while he's the thoughtful moral compass and voice of reason who often has to reel her back in.
Subverted in My Name Is Earl. Both Earl and Darnell are much more sensible than Joy and are on equal footing with Catalina.
Averted in Peep Show. While Mark and Jeremy are both neurotic and incredibly flawed, it's only more noticeable with them because they're the main characters. The female characters are no better.
Subverted in The United States Of Tara. Max is a lot more sensible and sane than Tara. The fact that Tara has about five different personalities living in her undoubtedly helps.
Played with on Frasier. Daphne appears to be far more sensible than the Crane Brothers but only because much is made of their snobbery. Taken on her own, Daphne shows many signs of eccentricity such as her sunny retellings of childhood traumas or her self-described psychic abilities, making Martin and Roz the sanest of the cast. When she gets together with Niles, both are portrayed as intelligent reasonable people for whom any bizarre behavior is often justified.
Subverted big time however with the boys' earlier wives. While Niles and Frasier can both be extremely neurotic and snobby, both are still shown as good-hearted compassionate individuals. Their wives, however are not. Frasier had Diane, a Cloudcuckoolander of epic proportions, and Lilith, whom Niles accurately described as the coldest thing in nature (although the show did treat her more sympathetically as it went on). Maris, meanwhile, was absolutely horrible to Niles and threw him out the second he stood up for himself, as well as just being a generally unpleasant woman.
Inverted with the Buckets in Keeping Up Appearances. Hyacinth is so totally obsessed with her social climbing that she is constantly out of touch with reality—insistently pronouncing "Bucket" as "Bouquet" is the least of her issues. Richard, on the other hand, is long-suffering, but manages to keep his sense of humour—and his sense—despite his insane wife.
The sitcom Whitney features her boyfriend Alex, who more or less is the straight man to the titular character's antics and commentary.
Of the "corner kids" in the fourth season of The Wire, one of the two girls of the group, Zenobia, is considerably more able to interact normally with people outside of the ghetto than the boys. This is demonstrated most poignantly when they go out to a sit-down restaurant and she is the only one not befuddled by the experience.
Also demonstrated with the McNulty-Beadie relationship, and heavily implied with each of Bunk, Pryzbylewski and Carcetti versus their wives. Greggs too, if she is the "man" of her lesbian relationship.
Averted in Seinfeld. Elaine thinks She is the moral center of the group and the sane one but She is every bit as uncaring and antisocial as the rest of the group. Out of all the cast, Kramer was the only one shown as portraying anything close to kindness.
And Jerry, though eccentric himself, is the most level headed of the main cast.
How I Met Your Mother vacillates on this with the Lily-Marshall relationship. Marshall is such a massive goofball that Lily often can't help but look closer to earth, merely by default. But part of the reason Marshall loves Lily so much is that she can be every bit as silly and crude as he is. At Marshall's wedding, he revealed that he once held a farting contest with Lily.
One of the reasons they make an entertaining couple is that they're each Closer to Earth than the other in different areas (e.g., Lily is brash, impulsive and prone to moronic schemes, Marshall is neurotic, hysterical and has many eccentricities), so both of them get to play the Wacky Guy and the Straight Man at different times.
On occasion, the Marshall and Lily relationship can invert this trope. Marshall is the most inherently kind and compassionate member of the gang. But every once in a while Lily will display a shallow, selfish, or manipulative streak.
It is also averted with Ted and Robin. She is short tempered, irrational and slovenly while he is calm, clear-thinking and organized.
Modern Family plays this straight with Claire and Phil (Who is such a goof that anyone looks more sensible) and averts it with Jay and Gloria and Jay and his ex-wife. There are also a lot of moments where Claire acts irrationally or impulsively.
Played with. The women are more sensible than the men for the most part. Leslie Knope makes virtually all of the decisions and is portrayed as the most effective member of the Department. Andy is a complete doofus (season one revolved around his breaking his leg while drunk and retrieving a toaster at the bottom of the pit) compared first with Ann (whom he is heavily dependent on). Tom is educated yet lacking in common sense (he fires a shotgun indiscriminately during a hunting trip) and Jerry is gullible (although most characters, male and female, take advantage of Jerry.)
Andy's case becomes slightly more balanced after he gets together with April, who breaks from her usual apathy to become his co-conspirator in Cloudcuckooland. Being significantly younger than Andy, it occasionally falls on him to be the voice of reason and responsibility... in relative terms, anyway.
Inverted occasionally by Ron who tends to be a little more down to earth than Leslie. He warns Leslie it is not her place to prevent Andy and April's wedding and also counsels other members of the Department when Lil' Sebastian goes missing. However Ron still defers to Leslie's decision making in most cases and requires her to intervene whenever his ex-wife Tammy arrives to manipulate him.
Breaking Bad plays this straight in its early episodes given Skyler's overall lack of involvement in her husband's illegal activity. As the story progresses and she becomes both more complicit and increasingly irrational, it is averted. It is also averted with Hank and Marie and Jesse and his girlfriend Jane, who threatens to expose Walt and introduces Jesse to heroin.
Averted in Married... with Children. Al is incredibly bitter and immoral but Peggy is even worse with her refusal to take care of her children, her mistreatment of Al and her constant mooching. Al comes across as a Jerkass Woobie while she is just a Jerkass.
Also while Al is not portrayed as particularly intelligent Peg's schemes do come across as downright surreal, like when she sold beauty products but it turned out she was only turning a profit because she was buying her own products. Al actually had to sit her down and explain that she was actually spending money not making it.
Averted and given a twist on 30 Rock. Liz is often the only sane one among her staff, mostly Tracy but Jenna is often just as bad as him if not worse. When Liz goes off the handle, Pete and Jack are the sane ones. Tracy will be given sane moments, although usually with a twist. Let's just say no one is spared a dose of craziness now and then.
Played for laughs in Community; Britta Perry often likes to think she's this trope, but she really, really, really isn't. Very explicitly parodied in "Digital Estate Planning". Britta mocks Jeff about how this is the difference between the two sexes- women don't "hack and slash through life." Cut to Annie and Shirley who are hiding a dead body and preparing to murder the rest of his family to cover their trail. (Note: This was in a video game, so its not quite as horrible as it seems.)
Bones, while it tries to be balanced, slants in this direction. While Bones herself isn't as much on the common sense scale, she is by far the most intelligent. The women are generally portrayed as wiser, while the men are usually the ones who do childish things like experiments for the purpose of Stuff Blowing Up and need the supervision of Team Mom Dr. Saroyan. Booth constantly gets anthropological terms wrong (which could be Obfuscating Stupidity, though) Angela and Sweets both declared "Men are idiots" in a episode. Bones and Angela went out of the way to remind us that all violence towards animals are male.
Coupling has neurotic, self-centred crazy people aplenty of both sexes, but Steve and Susan — the main couple, Straight Men and Author Avatars — have this dynamic. Steve tends to be an indecisive Man Child while Susan's the responsible adult.
The Big Bang Theory, very strongly. There's three types of character on the show: The stereotypical antisocial losers (always male), the Jerk Jock-type characters (also always male), and the girly girl who all the guys want to get with.
Averted in Malcolm in the Middle. While Lois is unarguably the head of the family and certainly more competent and savvy about parenting and keeping house than Hal, it is due to necessity and long practice with honing her skills to keep her children under control, not wisdom. While Hal is most definitely a Bumbling Dad, Lois is a Knight Templar Parent, a Manipulative Bastard with a Hair-Trigger Temper, and is usually loud, irrational, pig-headed, and tactless and needs Hal to talk her down as frequently as he needs her to talk him down from his Zany Schemes and emotional meltdowns. The lack of a "normal" parent is part of what makes the show's rather extreme portrayal of a Dysfunctional Family so much easier to swallow than it would be if one half of the main couple was sane.
Only Fools and Horses: Raquel to the extent where she's the only consistently sane character from around "Rodney Come Home" onwards.
Cassandra, to much less of an extent than Raquel, though. She's definitely the more sensible one out of her and Rodney, but Rodney is himself generally more sensible compared to Del Boy, and Cassandra is both insanely career driven and prone to acting like a spoiled brat at times.
Deep Space Nine. Lampshaded during a Klingon marriage ceremony. The Gods created the first Klingon heart, but it was lonely. They created a female heart that beat stronger, but the male heart was jealous of its power and fought it. "Fortunately the second heart was tempered by wisdom. 'If we join together, no force can stop us'." The two hearts joined become so powerful they overthrow the Gods.
Habib, and to a lesser extent Patricia, are more sensible and less often the butt of jokes than the male characters in The Thin Blue Line.
In Elementary, although for the most part their partnership is equal, when it comes to social matters and etiquette, it's overwhelmingly Watson that has to keep Sherlock in line.
Paige also tends to be a stereotypical ditzy, shallow teenager, obsessed with dating and going to the mall.
Calvin and Hobbes is a classic example, pitting a wildly creative young boy against several eminently sensible female foils. While the entire cast usually winds up playing the Straight Man to Calvin, the other male leads still tend to be funnier than their female counterparts. (For instance: Dad explains science.)
Garfield has a typical example in Jon and Liz, although, to be fair, Garfield is also more sensible than Jon. (Hell, Odie might be more sensible than Jon.)
For the first several years of Retail, women in positions of authority (Marla, Val, Connie, Lara) were always portrayed positively, as intelligent, caring, sensible, and fair-minded leaders. By contrast, men in positions of authority were all depicted negatively - Stuart and Josh are arrogant Corporate stooges, Jerry a misogynist, Gary insisted on holding annoying and useless training seminars, and Bradley a gloating, insufferable jerkass who tried to steal his competitor's employees.
As of late 2013, this trend has diminished somewhat, with Cooper's promotion to stockroom supervisor and the introduction of the Delman's managers, the sympathetic Greg and the manipulative backstabber, Mina.
Of particular note, Romeo and Juliet. When a street brawl breaks out, Lords Montague and Capulet try to fight, and their wives have to hold them back.
Even between the Nurse and Friar Lawrence, this trope is applicable - although in a darker way. Friar Lawrence sets about making tons of risky plans that, although well-intentioned, have a thousand ways to go wrong. The Nurse tells Juliet to be sensible and marry Paris, and give up Romeo for dead, because it involves less risk and heartache.
In A Midsummer Night's Dream, Theseus seems quite determined to dismiss the lovers' story as a dream. His wife Hippolyta is the only one to note that it's odd that four people would happen to have exactly the same dream, at exactly the same time. Depending on whether or not Puck is played as a woman, he/she could also fit, given that he/she constantly points out the craziness of the situation at hand. (Averted with Titania, who is played for a fool by Oberon and ultimately submits to his authority.)
Patrice in 13 is shown as wiser than Evan, who pursues popularity at the expense of losing the friends he already has
Patrice and Archie subvert this trope, because while Patrice is generally more level-headed than Archie, who tends to spend a lot of time thinking about Kendra, Archie is able to convince Patrice to do the right thing and help Evan out, even though he was a jerk to her.
In BIONICLE, Gali is typically portrayed as more level-headed, wise and sensible than most of the male members of her team, often serving as the voice of reason. Although, Onua sometimes gives her a run for her money, possibly because his powersmake him literallyCloser to Earth. Nokama filled in pretty much the same role in her team, which is understandable, given her original occupation as a teacher. Later on this trope got deliberately avoided, at times inverted, with the exception of one occasion: characters belonging to the element of Psionics were stated to have been created as female because the first member of their race was an overly brash male who caused great trouble — although the questionable sensibilities of this origin story were mocked by the other characters.
In many Role Playing Games, like the early Ultima games, if given the choice of gender for the player characters, odds are men will have increased Stregnth stats, while women will have increased Magic stats. That is, if there's a difference at all.
Inverted in the very same game. When you return to the Citadel you get an encounter where a woman and a man are arguing and she is taking a wild fear based position and he is taking the more conservative playing the odds solution.
This trope can be averted with a Renegade Female Shepard.
While we only ever see "Eve"/ Urdnot Bakara, it appears that Krogan women are this in comparison to their men. It's mentioned that the Krogan women got so sick of the men's Blood Knight tendencies continuing to destroy Tuchanka, they decided to split off and form their own separate, female-only clans.
This is averted many times in Knights Ofthe Old Republic. For example in Knights of the Old Republic II, you have a choice between siding with the corrupt Czerka corporation, whose spokesperson is a woman, or siding with the well-intended Ithorians, whose spokesperson is a man. (Well, not a man, because he's an alien. But a male.)
Bioware has avoided this in Dragon Age: Origins by making potential romantic partners you try to please: good boy, bad girl, good girl, bad boy (in the order you meet them).
On the other hand, played absolutely straight with the Lady of the Forest a.k.a. Witherfang who is not only the Morality Chain for the entire werewolf race, but also the only one who doesn't advocate massacring either elves or werewolves. As opposed to the (male) werewolf field commander Swiftrunner and the (male) elven leader Zathrian, respectively. In fact, her solution to the Elf-Werewolf conflict is easily the most ethically correct one, with only two casualties: Zathrian and the Lady herself, both of whom die willingly in the end.
Dragon Age II tends to avert this, as the major sides of conflict have both their men and their women presented with serious moral flaws. The two major figureheads Orsino (male) and Meredith (female) are so deeply flawed, the whole thing might as well be considered Evil Versus Evil. However, for most of the game, Orsino does come off as more reasonable and level-headed than Meredith, if equally flawed. Your own party members avert this as well, as both males and females can be equally grounded or sane ... in general. Regarding the main conflict however, the men fare far worse as Fenris and Andrs are hopelessly bigoted in opposite directions and Sebastian is so devout that he considers selling out Merrill and Anders, which even Fenris disagress with. Varric is the only reasonable and sane one among them, which could be suspect considering he's telling the story. On the other hand, Isabela is neutral yet helpful, Aveline is actively points out the problems in both groups, and Merrill is an innocent and receives perhaps the most Character Development of your companions.
The Legacy DLC subverts this, as Janeka, a female Grey Warden, while rude, is coherent, answers all questions asked of her succinctly as has clear plans for her actions, as opposed to the male Larius, whose half-corrupted by a taint and can barely speak a straight sentence. As it turns out, Janeka is being influenced by Corephyus, while Larius is able to resist the influence better. The outcome of the module, however, is strongly implied to be the same Downer Ending-slash-Sequel Hook, regardless of whom you supported.
Although Link himself and almost all of the important male characters are just as focused and talented. Also, despite being a princess, the owner of the Zora Sapphire, and the Sage of Water, Ruto is a Tsundere and Abhorrent Admirer to Link.
Inverted in Majora's Mask, though. There are two fairies, Tael and Tatl, brother and sister, respectively. Tatl is the one who accompanies Link, but she's whiny, flighty, and can be downright unhelpful and sarcastic. Tael, while he never joins the party, is practical and gives good advice about summoning the four guardians. He also volunteers to go with Link to the moon until Tatl goes instead.
It's worth noting however that Zelda is the one that made the rash decision to send Link after the Master Sword, inadvertently allowing Ganondorf to get his hands on the Triforce,
In the Monkey Island series, Elaine is the sensible sidekick of the childish Guybrush, and the Vodoo Lady always has a counter against LeChuck, the big bad. A "baloney" or goofy female character is very rare while the the opposite rings true for the male ones.
The fifth game, though, has a slight subversion. After LeChuck is accidentally turned back into a human, he claims he is a good man now. Guybrush isn't buying it, while Elaine keeps claiming that it's true (this is the guy who's been trying to kill and marry her, in that order, for the entire series). Finally, even Guybrush is convinced by both of them... then LeChuck runs him through with his sword. Nice Job Breaking It, Elaine!
Utawarerumono: Sopok's character practically revolves around spouting this, even when the girls are being complete idiots.
Something of an aversion. In the third Ace Attorney game, between Phoenix, Mia, and Edgeworth, it's the latter that seems to never get the chance to say anything face-palmingly stupid when the options present themselves. Of course, those two saying them is completely up to the player.
Averted in Circumstance of the Revenant Braves, where Fio is generally less stable/rational than Kei. Morally, they're two different flavors at the same end of the spectrum, with Fio being more impetuous about doing good deeds while Kei is more concerned about being practical in his ethical behavior.
Sluggy Freelance sort of fits this trope. Generally, Zoe and Gwynn are shown being nowhere near as stupid or crazy as Riff and Torg. However, Gwynn did, before getting possessed, tend to be about as reckless with her magic as Riff is with super-science, and both her and Zoe have had their Not so Above It All moments. It's more like Sluggy will have women's default state be Closer to Earth, but will have them descend into lunacy as well if it makes for a good joke.
Eventually it turns into Zoe being the Only Sane Man among the cast, with Gwynn becoming almost as much a childish freeloader as Torg and Riff, except, in her case, she's also vain, vindictive, and, at times, manipulative, particularly in relationships, to the point that Hilarity Ensues (she gets better...).
In the Sluggy Collection side-story, Riff and Torg get sucked into another dimension where they undergo a Gender Bender. Girl!Torg says she feels more on top of things now. So this trope is officially in force.
Alice fulfills this role in Loserz. Not only Closer to Earth than the boys, but also more so than the other girls.
An interesting example from Something Positive are Aubrey and Jason. From the comic's beginning these two friends were both described as being mischievious pranksters, though Jason was the calmer and more rational one, while Aubrey was driven by whim and often abandoned hers halfway through. Both have undergone character development since then, but Aubrey's has been greater, arguably making her slightly more level-headed. (They're also married now, incidentally.)
They're just about even now, really. While both are mischievous, Jason's pranks were always much more thought out, with backup plans in place should anything go wrong. When he wrote Nailed, he knew full well it was crap, but the whole thing was a giant Batman Gambit so he'd get laid. Aubrey was always running with the first idea that came to mind, which led to her being banned from public access television. She has had greater character arcs, but quantity alone don't give her a leg up.
Inverted with Hazel and Zach in Girls with Slingshots. Zach has a successful business and wants to be in a respectful, adult relationship leading to marriage. Hazel not so much. Other characters in the strip have pointed out that Zach is "the girl" in the relationship.
Reversed with the unnamed caretaker couple in Freefall they're both cooperating with Clippy for his promised reward but Husband is more stable and level headed and has at least some mild doubts when Florence gives her side of the story while Wife is purely motivated by greed and triggerhappy to boot.
Averted with the other women who have been featured on the show, including Shannon, Alyssa, and Elyse.
Marge and Homer Simpson of The Simpsons. One could consider Marge almost a parody of this trope at times, given she is so tied down to earth she is exageratively boring and unimpulsive in personality.
Bart and Lisa Simpson do this too, albeit to a much lesser extent than their parents — Lisa is certainly much more intelligent than Bart, but Bart is the more socially adept of the two, and isn't nearly as dumb as his father. The trope gets taken to its logical extreme in the episode "Lisa The Simpson," where Lisa discovers that the Simpson males are genetically determined to lose their intelligence as they age, eventually becoming idiotic man-children with menial jobs. Of course, this doesn't affect the female Simpsons, who are all incredibly smart and successful.
One could argue the situation as being more complex in earlier seasons. Homer despite his stupidity was fine being a regular working man and providing for his family. Lisa on the other hand often acted as an ambitious Soapbox Sadie. She once callously labeled Marge's normal life as a housewife as meaningless and constantly expresses shame at being of the same gene pool as her uninspirational family. Lisa is more intelligent than Homer by miles, but Closer to Earth is debatable. Of course Flanderization kicked in and made Homer a Jerk AssCloudcuckoolander, though even then Lisa and Marge took similar evolution, they are now only as Closer to Earth as "slightly less manic" allows. In Lisa's case it's more to do with Characterization Marches On since she and Bart were originally created as an interchangeable pair of bratty kids meant to drive Homer and Marge crazy but Bart's popularity skyrocketed so they re-tooled Lisa to be the Child ProdigySoapbox Sadie she's known for.
It's worth noting that even in her initial form, Lisa usually was portrayed as more tactful and sly in her mischief, always besting Bart in his antics or managing to escape the same comeuppance he usually foolishly walked into. If anything her later more intellectual incarnation inverted it more often due to Bart at least sometimes able to outsmart Lisa or play on her new found pompousness.
Interestingly, episodes showing the future imply that both of the kids will become successful. Lisa will be the first female President of the United States, while Bart will put himself through law school and become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
Lois and Peter Griffin in Family Guy. This is somewhat subverted in that Lois is far from perfect herself, often giving into temptations such as theft and lust. While she always outshines Peter, she is often outshone by their intellectual and compassionate dog, Brian. Of course, even Brian has a number of character flaws like alcoholism and angry outbursts.
For the first season at least though, its played completely straight (with such pedestrian examples as having Peter bring home a fish he caught making a mess all over the house Lois had just cleaned and believing he kept his end of the marital bargain by providing raw food that Lois would have to spend hours preparing). Peter is always the jerk or the idiot and if Lois ever loses her patience, its only having been driven to the point where even Mother Theresa would lose it. She and Meg only develop real comic character flaws in later seasons (though given it's evolution into more sadistic humor they take said flaws to extremes).
Totally inverted in King of the Hill. Hank is down-to-earth and grounded (even to the point of being a wet blanket). Peggy is crazy and out there. She perceives the situation... differently.
To a lesser extent, Timmy's parents. Sure, they're both nuts, but his dad's considerably more nuts.
Drawn Together is an odd case, both Toot and Clara are often portrayed as just as bad, if not worse than the males in the house. Foxxy Love, however (although she's certainly no saint) has been described as the only one "not totally retarded" and is generally the most caring, responsible, and motivated person on the show. She's also black, so it's probably another form of Positive Discrimination.
Played straight and subverted with Maddie from Danny Phantom. While she definitely plays a better parental figure then Jack, she will be just as obsessed and out-of-focus as her husband if a ghost catches her attention. With a series about ghosts, this happens quite frequently.
Even in that case, she's much more competent and rational in her ghost hunting, and tends to avoid seeing ghosts where there are none and overreacting, like Jack does.
Although it seems that Jack is something of a Genius Ditz who actually may be smarter than Maddie in some respects. Most of their equipment, although maintained by Maddie, is usually invented by Jack.
Though Jimmy is smarter than both of them, Hugh Neutron is definitely the stupid one in the family.
Played with in American Dad!. While Stan is no doubt much more out of touch and outright insane than his wife, considering some of the things Francine's tried to do, she's Closer to Earth the same way Mars is "Closer To Earth" than Neptune.
Francine, we must remember, is a woman who abandoned her children for a year just so she could get revenge on George Clooney for upstaging her in a bit part she had on a sitcom twenty years earlier. Of course, Stan went along with it, but only to make her happy. Closer to Earth, indeed.
Well, remember that it was Stan who planned the whole thing for Francine, to point of surprising her by blindfolding her and revealing it only when they are already on the plane; it wasn't like he was just along for the ride.
This is probably best described as a Zig-Zagging Trope. Which one of them is closer to Earth is largely dependent on the situation. If it's something involving politics or one of the kids behaving oddly, Stan flies off the handle and Francine is the reasonable one. If it has to do with their marriage or social status, Francine flies off the handle and Stan is the reasonable one. Each one needs the other the keep them sane at different times... kind of like a real marriage!
In terms of role designation, the trope is still usually played straight however, due to Stan usually playing the Bumbling Dad role and getting the vaster share of Aesops handed to him than Francine. Francine has clear flaws, but they are more often played for quick gags with her usually having to deal with Stan's problems rather than instigate her own (even the odd times she is made to learn a lesson, it usually involves her having to put up with Stan's own stupidity). Steve and Hayley have a similar dynamic.
Baloo and Rebecca play a similar (albeit more platonic) example in TaleSpin. While Rebecca is slightly less impulsive and obnoxious than Baloo, she shares his stubborness and ego (and is also a borderline Control Freak). Word of God suggests they were intended to foil each other in different aspects. Baloo was Book Dumb and slovenly, but also streetwise and resourceful due to his adventuring. Rebecca was a logical business woman and well educated, but also somewhat naive and inept to the outside world. Generally if depending on the scenario, either could play the Idiot Ball, with the other playing the Closer to Earth Straight Man.
The Tick has American Maid, a completely competent confident superheroine in a cast that includes mostly insane and retarded heroes alongside posturing ineffectual heroes and meek neurotic sidekicks. They also have an exchange with a female superhero team in Belgium, this team is shown to be more powerful and more competent than Arthur and the Tick.
Played both ways on Phineas and Ferb: Linda is generally more grounded than Lawrence, and Doofenshmirtz's craziness is contrasted by both his ex-wife and daughter's sanity. However, Candace is absolutely neurotic, making her far less down-to-earth than either of her brothers or her love interest Jeremy. These cases are murky, though; Candace (and Lawrence to a lesser extent) seem kookier, but then, they're the ones who know what's really going on, so...
In fact, the few times that Linda catches a glimpse of just how strange her life really is, she becomes almost as neurotic as Candace.
Noodle from Gorillaz has been the most mentally stable and well-adjusted member of the group so far. Strangely, she remained so even after she regained her memory inbetween Phases 1 and 2, learning that she was trained as a Super Soldier for the Japanese government and the only alive kid left from the project.
Given a twist in Futurama. While Leela is certainly the most sensible of the crew, Fry is undoubtedly the kindest most moral character on the show. Further more, She is often shown as stubborn and short tempered to contrast Fry's mellowness.
Kanga of Disney's Winnie the Pooh adaptations. While even the sanest males such as Rabbit and Eeyore have frequent moments of naivete and brainlessness, Kanga usually holds the Sanity Ball and acts as a Team Mom to the other animals outside of unindividual acts of bumbling by the entire cast (a possible reason she is Out of Focus due to most stories focusing on misunderstandings and blundering). The original novels' Kanga was also slightly saner, but a bit more idiot prone.
The parents in Rugrats show evidence of this. With Stu and Didi, Didi is the rational one and the disciplinarian and with Betty and Howard, Betty is the stronger one and more decisive. This also seems to be the way with Randy and Lucy. However subverted with Chaz and Kira who are both competent parents, even though Chaz does slip into Bumbling Dad territory. Completely averted with Drew and Charlotte who are both awful parents as Angelica demonstrates.
Played with for Stu and Didi, Stu is more eccentric and childish, but far more laid back than neurotic and overcautious Didi. Howard is similarly a Nervous Wreck, but less abrasive than Betty.
South Park plays this straight with the Marsh family (Sharon is often exasperated by the idiotic things Randy does), inverts it with the Broflovski family (Gerald is relatively sane, while Sheila is a nutjob) and averts it with the McCormick family (Stuart and Carol spend too much of their time fighting for one to be any smarter than the other).
Even the Broflovski's zigzag with it since Gerald is also an occasionally immoral lawyer. Similarly Sharon is only sane compared to Randy, and pretty much all adults, male or female, revert to moronic panic whenever something plagues the town (be it warranted or not). Stan and Wendy also flip flop with this, both are prone to acts of childishness and self righteousness inbetween acting as the Only Sane Man.
Daria fans have noted that the female characters are almost always more dominant (and developed) than the males. Played With, however, because being well-developed also often means they have more noticeable flaws. (Jake, for example, is a ditzyBumbling Dad, but Helen is a Workaholic who sometimes seems less sympathetic.) Daria's relationship with Tom can also be seen as an Inversion, though some fans think it went too far and made him seem like a Relationship Stu.
Used to some extent in Sonic Sat Am, while Sally had palpable flaws such as overcautiousness and a haughty temper, they came at the expense of her competence a lot less often than Sonic's, and a lot of the time, Sally had to keep Sonic in check when his overconfidence or reckless attitude lands him in trouble. Bunnie and Dulcy were somewhat ditzier, but still made far less detrimental mistakes than him or Antoine.
Though, in the comics, the characters portrayed weren't entirely like this (Gwen especially), mostly because they had their own problems that separated them from Earth. Up until One More Day the role was held by Mary Jane Watson Parker, who had her own share of problems as well.
Goof Troop has a Competence Zone that drastically favors 11-year-olds... when it comes to the guys. Peg, the only adult woman in the cast, is also the Only Sane Woman a lot of the time, and actually has more sense than Max (which of her and PJ has more primarily depends on who is in focus). Completely averted with the Petes' kids, though, with PJ being the Only Sane Man whenever Peg isn't and Pistol being totally hyperactive—it should be noted, however, that PJ is both in the Competence Zone and In Touch with His Feminine Side, while Pistol is extremely young.
Spliced plays this completely straight, both with Patricia (in relation to Peri, Joe, and Entree) and Octocat (in relation to Smarty Smarts).
Due to this being a series primarily made for girls, most of the wise and competent roles are filled by females who get the lion's share of Character Development, while males are often limited to supporting characters or antagonists tend to be either evil or immature. Odd exceptions occur however (Spike's competence varies, but he is usually a Straight Man to Twilight Sparkle's Idiot Ball moments).
Teen Titans has Jinx, both the only girl in the H.I.V.E. Five and the only one who strives to be anything more than a common street villain the Titans beat on a weekly basis (more specifically, to join the Brotherhood of Evil). She's also the only one to take a Face-Heel Turn.
In the American Smurfs series, the producers tried to compensate for Smurfette being the only female Smurf making her smarter than most of the population to the point where she is almost the Second in Command of the village.
G. K. Chesterton and his wife Frances. She managed all the practical details in their lives, while for all of Gilbert's intelligence and wit, often forgot where his appointments were and did most of his writing in depots because he missed his train. In one notable incident he sent her the following telegram: "Am at Market Harborough. Where ought I to be?" She replied: "Home." Shortly after the wedding, he directed the bank to not honor his signature, only hers. She gave him an allowance and would consider requests for more for special expenses.
The Cult of Domesticity was a prevailing view in the 19th century that women were weaker and less intelligent than men, but more moral. The wife and mother was supposed to be the guiding source of morality for the home. Men made all the decisions, but women were supposed to inform their decisions with their pure moral center. Although if the men hoped that the cult would render women subservient, they were sorely mistaken, as it inspired women to participate in various moral crusades, including abolition, prohibition, unions, and eventually, campaigns for sufferage and feminism.
Another inversion was Earl and Josephine Dickson. Earle invented bandaids because his wife was such a klutz that she would often get injured while he was at work.