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Literature / The Stupids

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The Stupids are the title characters of a series of books written by Harry Allard and illustrated by James Marshall. It features an unusual family that is Exactly What It Says on the Tin in that they are stupid and get easily mixed up when performing tasks, to the point that the dog and cat are smarter than them. It first debuted in 1977 with The Stupids Step out and ended with The Stupids Take Off in 1989, with four books in total.

  • The Stupids Step Out (1974)
  • The Stupids Have a Ball (1978)
  • The Stupids Die (1981)
  • The Stupids Take Off (1989)

The books were made into a film adaptation in 1996 directed by John Landis, starring Tom Arnold as the family's patriarch, Stanley Stupid.

The books features examples of the following tropes:

  • The Ditz: Much of the humor of the books is indeed a result of the mental acuity of the Stupids — they are so inept they are unable to do even the simplest of tasks (e.g., falling asleep, breathing) without being reminded how to do so.
  • Head Pet: Mrs. Stupid wears a cat on her head when she goes out with the family in one of the books.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Subverted by The Stupids Die, where they only thought to have died - but it was only the lights going out!

The film adaptation features examples of the following tropes:

  • Alliterative Name: Stanley Stupid.
  • Apophenia Plot: Played With. The protagonists invent a bizarre conspiracy theory from everyday details, involving a villain who plans to steal all the mail and garbage from America. However, while they attempt to thwart the "sinister plot", they inadvertently uncover a very real sinister plot involving terrorists and contraband weaponry.
  • Bee-Bee Gun: Stanley Stupid is at one point assaulted by the dreaded Drive Bee, sent by his nemesis Mr. Sender to kill him. Or at least that's what he thinks, since he's a complete Cloudcuckoolander. It does make him drive off the road though.
  • The Cameo: In true John Landis fashion, many smaller roles and bit parts are filled by acclaimed film directors, including Atom Egoyan, Norman Jewison, Robert Wise, David Cronenberg, and Costa-Gavras.
  • Correlation/Causation Gag: Stanley takes off his shoe and uses the heel to smash a wasp on the hood of his car, just as a bomb inside the vehicle goes off and blows the body of the car to scrap (oddly leaving both the entire front of the car and Stanley completely untouched). Unsurprisingly (considering who Stanley and his family are, see the title of the film) he thinks he did it.
    Stanley: That's a well-made shoe!
  • Hand Cannon: One of the corrupt air force officers selling weapons on the black market demonstrates a pistol that is essentially a handheld Grenade Launcher.
  • In One Ear, Out The Other: One of the posters had the main character shining a flashlight through the ears of his entire family.
  • Milkman Conspiracy: Subverted. The eponymous family of ditzes believe they've uncovered one of these, involving the police, garbage collectors, the New York Times, the local deli, the local Chinese restaurant, and bees to steal all the world's mail and deliver it to a man called "Sender" (Christopher Lee!) (because the father, who used to be a mailman, got suspicious about all those letters that said "return to sender"). The twist is that, not only does this conspiracy not exist, but in their efforts to thwart it, the Stupids manage to mess up an actually dangerous conspiracy entirely by accident. Oh, and they find Sender, and he turns out to be, not Christopher Lee, but Bob Keeshan!
  • Mistaken for Afterlife: Stanley and his daughter Petunia get lost and end up in an empty and dark movie theatre, and come to the conclusion that they've somehow died and gone to Heaven. When a custodian shows up to let them out, they assume he's God who's giving them a second chance at life.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The main antagonist, the colonel, is last seen when Harvey Atkin's character hits him with a door, knocking him out. You never know what becomes of him later.