Playing With / Book Dumb

Basic Trope: A character makes pathetic grades but is relatively intelligent regarding non-academic pursuits.
  • Straight: Alice regularly makes terrible grades in her classes, but comes up with clever and intricate plans outside of the classroom.
  • Exaggerated: Alice is a perpetual F student, but solves practical quantum physics problems in her spare time.
  • Downplayed: Alice gets below-average (C/D) but not terrible grades, even though she's of around just over average intelligence and maybe even could get a C+ or even B- if she really tried.
  • Justified:
    • Alice has the potential to be a good or even great student, but she's too shy/modest to apply herself in the classroom.
    • Alice either finds school boring or a waste of her time, or both. She'd rather apply her talents elsewhere.
    • Alice may be smart, but she has difficulty in reading and/or writing.
    • Alice is not native to the culture or location, and cannot understand the local language, despite being incredibly smart and capable if someone only thought to engage her in her own language or help her learn the local language.
    • Alice is not good with languages and therefore can't learn the local language, but that does not make her any less smart or capable - it only means she needs a translator or dual-language communications.
    • Obfuscating Stupidity.
    • Brilliant, but Lazy.
    • Alice lives in a setting where standards of education are very poor and there are no opportunities, and is not expected to go anywhere. For example, no one expects girls in her country to be capable of learning anything beyond the eighth grade, and there are no work opportunities for women other than Housewife, so she gives up trying, because it's pointless.
    • Alice lives in a setting where standards of education are too high or are too reliant on standardized testing or one discipline. So although, for example, she is a bookworm and incredibly talented writer, she is also an example of Writers Cannot Do Math, and her school district or college will not pass anyone with less than a B in at least two high-level algebra and calculus courses. There is no way to waive the requirements even if it could be proven that Alice's career path will have no need for higher-level math (e.g. law or the humanities/liberal arts), so she drops out of school, despite, having been granted the waiver or allowed to substitute an easier math class, she could have gone on to law school or to a master's or doctorate in something related to literature or art.
    • Alice could easily be a A+ student, but at her last school she got bullied for being "too nerdy" so she gives up trying.
    • Alice is suffering from education neglect.
    • Alice would much prefer to be doing something else with her time.
    • Alice is intelligent enough to realize that the educational system is a complete and total failure, and thus doesn't rely on it to learn.
  • Inverted: Alice is a straight-A student -- but is completely helpless in the real world.
  • Subverted: Alice starts making good grades.
  • Double Subverted: But it turns out she's been bribing her teachers to inflate her grades.
  • Parodied: Alice is perpetually truant and has a quadruple F minus minus minus minus, but cures the common cold.
  • Zig Zagged:
    • Alice gets bad grades in school, but they start going up suddenly. This turns out to be because she built an android to go to school for her. Then the android malfunctions and becomes Book Dumb itself, so it builds another one to go to school for it. The same thing happens until Alice droids take over the world.
    • Alice's grades depend on the subjects she takes; some she's good at, others not so much.
  • Averted: Alice is a well-rounded student and an intelligent person.
  • Enforced: "Those idiots in the audience need a character that is intelligent despite poor academic performance to sympathize with!"
  • Lampshaded: "You know, if you worked half as hard on your schoolwork as you did on your scheming, you'd be headed to Harvard!"
  • Invoked: "I'm not going to study today. Not when there's too much to do."
  • Exploited: ???
  • Defied: Alice decides to buckle down and study for an important test.
  • Discussed: "Mr. and Mrs. Troper, if your daughter showed the same enthusiasm for school as she did for making mischief, she'd have a much brighter future".
  • Conversed: "So, wait. If these protagonists are so clever, why do they always get such horrible grades? You'd think they'd at least be able to pull off a B average".
  • Implied: While Alice's book dumbness is never explicitly lampshaded, in the background of her house you can sometimes see test scores of F-, and on the other side of the room a periodic table of elements Alice has owned since she was six.
  • Deconstructed:
    • Alice's poor academic performance comes back to bite her, as while she is an effective Schemer, any potential colleges/employers won't be able to look past her bad grades.
    • Alice ends up flunking school, and her clever schemes end up not being as clever or successful as she thinks they are, in large part because she lacks knowledge on subjects related to her schemes.
  • Reconstructed:
    • However, Alice decides to make her own path, and becomes decidedly successful in a different field.
    • A professor gets her working at an academic institution despite her grades, due to a few strings pulled.
  • Played For Laughs: Alice can't do basic arithmetic, but Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates couldn't compete with her in terms of philosophy.
  • Played For Drama: Alice's bad grades lead to her dropping out of high school and having to live on the streets. She becomes a alcoholic to cope with the pain, and during this lonely period she writes captivating, compelling, intelligent passages in her diary. After she tragically dies of liver failure before her 18th birthday, only then do the teachers who expelled her discover that she actually may have been the smartest girl in school when they read her diary entries.


Back to Book Dumb.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/PlayingWith/BookDumb