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Adaptational Dumbass

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Knuckles the Echidna, circa 2008; translator of ancient runes, vs. Knuckles the Echidna, circa 2014; Illiterate.
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When adapting an existing character for a new work the character is often altered in transition from the source material. They might become nicer, nastier, more badass, a lot less badass, or smarter.

Then there are these characters, who are actually made dumber; for example, a character who was The Smart Guy in the source material becomes The Ditz in the new one.

See also Adaptation Personality Change. Compare and contrast Took a Level in Dumbass, where a character decreases in intellect inside the particular work, and Adaptational Intelligence, this trope's polar opposite.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Death Note: While Misa Amane wasn't the most intelligent person in the original manga, she did have a good head on her shoulders and was serious about her actions, knew simple, slightly dangerous yet effective plans on how to get what was needed, like in the Yotsuba Arc where she goes off on her own to investigate Higuchi from the Yotsuba group and records his admission that he is the current Kira which played a big role in finishing up that arc. The anime altered her intelligence to the point of downplaying any big moments she had in the manga and even changed her personality to be more airheaded and up-played her Yandere traits towards Light, making her a typical The Ditz character.
  • Dragon Ball Super:
    • Unlike the anime, Goku Black is more likely to grab the Idiot Ball such as not killing Future Trunks after he's weakened from fighting Future Dabura and actually spares Trunks' life again because he wants to keep fighting him, while anime Black is far more pragmatic and no-nonsense since he tries to kill Trunks every chance he gets and even traps him in the past by destroying the Time Machine. However, the sparing Trunks is justified: much like Captain Ginyu, this version of Black couldn't access anywhere close to all of Goku's power at first, requiring him to use the Saiyan race's innate Came Back Strong abilities to tap into it by having Trunks injure him and being healed by Future Zamasu in turn.
    • Zigzagged with Gowasu. In the manga, Gowasu is far more aware that there is something wrong with Zamasu. He notes while Zamasu's fighting skills are top-notch, his personality needs work. In the anime, Gowasu knows about the conflict in Zamasu's heart about mortals and the role of the gods, but thinks that if giving time and enough guidance Zamasu will come to understand his role as a Supreme Kai. At the same time, manga Gowasu seems to have only chose Zamasu as his successor based on his fighting power and almost nothing else, something Whis lampshades. In fact, Gowasu is blindsided by how much Zamasu hates mortals and doesn't understand his role as an upcoming Supreme Kai. In the anime, while Zamasu's power is a factor, Gowasu seems to have chosen Zamasu mostly because of his pure-heart and strong sense of justice, which are good qualities to have in a Supreme Kai. Where anime Gowasu messed up is that he doesn't seem to be aware of Pure Is Not Good and Black and White Insanity.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Alphonse starts off as an intelligent, insightful young boy who was the sensible one compared to Ed. Later on he makes many very poor, and arguably stupid choices like taking Barry the Chopper's mind games to heart, and distrusting people who he's known all his life. This happens in both the manga and anime, but in the manga, Al learns from this and doesn't do anything like it again. In the first anime it mainly takes effect in the later half, where he runs off every time he gets upset, even though the Homunculi and Dante are looking for and trying to kill them, going along with Shou Tucker's plans and not telling Ed (even though Tucker made his daughter into a chimaera, resulting in her death, and letting Sloth convince him that she's his mother, even though she is a Homunculi when Ed is trying to remind him that they're fighting for their lives, immediately running towards Envy disguised as Winry, right after Ed says it isn't her, and barely putting up a fight. He arguably became more impulsive than his brother, whereas earlier in the show it was the other way around. This could be interpreted as the writers having Al act more like how a real little boy would if they were put in such a situation, but he becomes more competent again in the finale. Other than that he basically becomes quite the load.
  • Tenchi Muyo!: In the OVA, Mihoshi was a competent cop, but had been overworked to the point that she had a nervous breakdown and was forced to take a leave for her health. She'd just been reinstated when the series began, but she still wasn't back on the ball and made silly mistakes. The third OVA implies that something terrible and traumatic happened to her that caused her mental break, but nothing definite is ever pinned down. All other continuities portrayed her as a ditz from the get-go, with the understanding that she'd always been incompetent. Even worse is that her level of intelligence seems to drop with each continuity, the worst being the version from Sasami: Magical Girls Club.
  • In Persona 5: The Animation, there's a minor case with Ann. During the Medjed arc, a mysterious hacker called Alibaba offers to help the Phantom Thieves deal with Medjed in exchange for stealing the heart of Futaba Sakura, Alibaba's real identity. In the game, Ann immediately realizes that Futaba has the same name as Sojiro Sakura, owner of the Leblanc café and Ren's guardian, after Ren shows her the IM conversation in which Alibaba made the request. In the anime, Ann says that the name sounds familiar, but doesn't make the connection until Yusuke points it out in a scene shortly after the group's first IM conversation with Alibaba. The same could be said for Makoto, who's on the cusp of realizing the same thing before Ann spells it out, but it's possible that Sojiro never told her his name during the scene in which she first met him.
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    Comic Books 
  • Ultimate Marvel:
  • Downplayed with Tails in Sonic the Comic. He's still good with tools, but he's not the Child Prodigy of the games. Sonic frequently calls him "pixel brain" because of his more naive characteristics.
    • Part of the reason he isn't an expert in technology is because he grew up in the Nameless Zone which has technology equal to Medieval Britain.
  • New 52:
    • Captain Stingaree was wrong about his hated identical brothers being Batman but he had clear reasons for drawing that conclusion and Bruce himself ensured that his suspicions were (initially) confirmed by having one of said brothers be unmasked by Karl as Batman. His plan was also meticulously plotted out. Post Flashpoint his brothers are overweight with absolutely no resemblance to Batman and he accuses them of being Batman while Bats himself is right there. He also generally acts like a loon in a poor portrayal of his adaptation specific mental illnesses.
    • Batman villain Sterling Sliversmith went from the swordsman runner of a criminal enterprise who just happened to be obsessed with silver and who nearly got away with his brother's murder to a deranged High School teacher whose lessons are useless and who can't control his students, instead spending time whining about them.

    Fan Fiction 
  • While far from perfect in canon, Ironwood in Ruby and Nora makes his canon counterpart look like Einstein. It’s because that author dislikes Atlas.
  • The Stalking Zuko Series: Aang is portrayed as more childish and naive than in canon. As a result of his immaturity and stubborn adherence to Air Nomad ideals, his decision-making skills are much worse than in canon and he rarely contributes anything useful to discussions.
  • In My Huntsman Academia, Junior is dumb enough to try and pick a fight with all of Team MNVW after Pyrrha alone managed to burn down his entire club. Predictably, they wreck his shop pretty quickly. Compare this to his original RWBY counterpart, who was wise enough to remain non-hostile to Yang after she visited his bar again in search of information.
  • Professor Arc: Ozpin is hit by this, along with "adaptational laziness" and arguably "adaptational insanity". While the canon Ozpin certainly makes some questionable decisions, there is at least some logic behind them. In this story, Beacon is run by a man who is unable to handle basic paperwork, wastes millions on near-useless things like a golden lemur statue and appears more concerned about his coffee than about the fate of his school. Only Glynda's vigilance prevents Ozpin from destroying Beacon faster and more thoroughly than Cinder. Then again, some characters think he might be Obfuscating Stupidity, but it remains ambiguous how much, if any of his incompetence is actually fake.

    Film — Animated 
  • Onua in BIONICLE: Mask of Light. He was established as a level-headed and highly mature Genius Bruiser who only seemed dumb to an outsider because he rarely spoke. The movie chose to portray him more as a Boisterous Bruiser who rushes into a situation without thinking and whose only action not to end in an unintended disaster is lifting up a few rocks.
  • In Kipling's The Jungle Book, Baloo is the wise, strict but fair, teacher. Old but well respected by the wolves and Bagheera for his vast knowledge of the laws, languages, and customs of the different jungle animals. In Disney's animated movie, Baloo is a goofy, fun-loving, lazy, and rather irresponsible character. And more of a fun uncle/older brother figure to Mowgli, than the mentor/grandfatherly figure he was in the books.
  • The Green Goblin/Norman from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a far worse example than the version in Marvel's Spider-Man mention below; This incarnation of the Green Goblin/Norman is shown to be just a dumb brute instead of being an intelligent, scheming, and manipulative criminal mastermind like most versions of the character. Of course given his size and monstrous appearance, it's entirely possible that his usage of the Goblin Formula had degenerated his mind to a degree.

    Film — Live-Action 

    Live-Action TV 
  • Jessica Wakefield in the television adaptation of Sweet Valley High. While her academic performance tended to vary in the books Jessica was almost always depicted as smart, sometimes extremely so. The TV version ranges from being cunning but Book Dumb to being a Brainless Beauty whose stupidity causes any scheme she embarks on to implode.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • In the books, Sansa can spout historical and literary trivia and identify Renly and Barristan purely by Sherlock Scan, but in the show, she literally thinks "shift" is a vulgar word for dung. She also remains oblivious to subtle character clues like Loras's chivalrous disinterest and Littlefinger's Stepford Smile instead of sensing them after a single conversation, and she trusts her mysterious new maid "even though she tells me not to" rather than assuming she's a spy (which is true of her maids in the novels).
    • Arya is a lot more heedless and prone to Revenge Before Reason than in the books where she prefers to avoid confrontations and only fight when she has no other choice.
      • For instance, in "Mhysa", she attacks a man-at-arms for bragging about desecrating her brother's body without any heed to his comrades which simply doesn't happen in the books, and in "Two Swords" she's intent on confronting several soldiers at an inn despite the Hound's protests, while in the books it's the Hound who rushes into the inn despite Arya's protests and she only loses control on the last man standing at the end of the fight.
      • Then there's the matter of her carefree stroll through Braavos while the setting's best Murder, Inc. is after her in "The Broken Man", and while it can be argued that her Indy Ploy in "No One" ultimately allowed her to win, that plan would've been utterly useless if she hadn't serendipitously survived the Waif's previous attack in "The Broken Man".
    • Robb is made more brash and impulsive due to the show's changes to his marriage. In the books, he marries Jeyne Westerling to save her from being Defiled Forever by their one-night stand fully knowing it's a terrible move but choosing Jeyne's honour anyway. The televised version sees him marry Talisa because he can't control his raging... love for her and refuses to hear what a stupid move it is. He also brings his entire court to the Twins for the Red Wedding in the show, resulting in all of them being either killed or captured. Granted, he doesn't foresee the betrayal in the novels either, but he does recognize the foolishness of keeping all his eggs in one basket and therefore leaves his wife at Riverrun with the Blackfish rather than bringing her with him.
    • Stannis needs to be told of the Lannister incest by Ned and the Dance of the Dragons by Shireen in the show. In the books, he's the first to raise suspicions of incest and co-investigates with Jon Arryn, and he knows enough history to specifically include a faction leader of the Dance in a list of historical traitors. He's also initially very cynical of Melisandre and her religion in the books but dives right into fundamentalism in the show, and his military tactics always seem to boil down to direct assaults.
    • Mace Tyrell isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer in the books either but he's far from the clueless oaf depicted in the show. For instance, his feasting at Storm's End is implied to have been a psychological weapon against Stannis's starving garrison and he personally commands the right wing of the army in the Battle of Blackwater, which are things that are very hard to imagine him doing in the show.
    • Roose Bolton, for all his political and psychological savvy, can't seem to see what a viper Ramsay is and openly rebels against the Lannisters before he's ready by marrying Ramsay to Sansa (which is never actually shown to win him any support), leaving Littlefinger free to descend on them with an army. Contrast this with the books, where Roose keeps Ramsay on a short leash by controlling his goons and strengthens his ties to the Lannisters by acquiring an imposter Stark bride from them, which brings half the North at least begrudgingly to his side and provides him thousands of reinforcements from the south. In addition, the book version of Roose doesn't constantly antagonize his psychologically unstable son by threatening to take away his inheritance. In fact, he's creepily at peace with the fact that Ramsay will eventually kill his other heirs since he himself is too old to raise new sons to manhood and "boy lords are the bane of any House."
    • The show portrays the Sand Snakes as Dumb Muscle whose main pursuits are bickering and trying to kill people, and even when they try to get involved in diplomacy they're just insulted and told to "let the grown women speak." In the books, they're still stubborn and hotheaded but only Obara could even be accused of not also being cunning and politically aware and Doran even tasks Nymeria and Tyene with infiltrating the Small Council and the Faith Militant for him. Tyene Sand, although still a Master Poisoner, in the show displays none of the cunning she does in the books when she suggests invoking Dorne's gender-neutral inheritance laws to crown Myrcella as a rival to Tommen in an attempt to lure the Lannisters into an unwise attack on their Thirsty Desert kingdom. Instead she comes across as merely a petulant Psychopathic Womanchild who still calls her mother, "Mama."
    • Hand in hand with other deviations, Jon makes more mistakes or just doesn't get to be as clever as in the novels, particularly in his leadership which—unlike The Strategist of the novels—mostly amounts to being a Frontline General in numerous battles and skirmishes, many of which are likely or even unequivocal defeats until The Cavalry bails him out. He also often neglects or delegates important administration whereas in the books he's something of a Badass Bureaucrat Pen-Pushing President who competently institutes major logistical reforms and frequently negotiates treaties, alliances, and loans. Some fans chalk this divergence all up to not spending enough time being mentored by Qhorin Halfhand in Season 2.
  • Persuasion: The original book versus ITV's made-for-TV movie adapatation:
    • Mary Musgrove of the book is a self-absorbed, whiny woman constantly seeking attention, mostly by playing sick. She's certainly not the sharpest tool in the box, but nothing in the book suggests that her intelligence is below average. In the 2007 movie, she's absolutely, utterly idiotic and honestly behaves like a mentally deranged person, always twitching and jerking about, speaking with a nasal voice and laughing and whining all the time and manages to embarrass herself at every opportunity.
    • Charles Musgrove is a fairly intelligent and friendly chap in the book. In the 2007 adaptation, he's a stupid, ditzy guy who doesn't seem to realize how embarrassing his wife is and behaves like a dimwit. For instance, unlike in the book, he doesn't seem to realize that his wife only pretends to be ill.
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    Web Animation 
  • FreedomToons: The way that Dave Rubin is portrayed is basically FreedomToons's answer to Team America: World Police's Matt Damon. The only barely coherent phrase he can utter is "I agree with that".

    Western Animation 
  • Bunnicula: In the books, Harold is the smart one out of the three pets, having to put up with the scatterbrained Chester and the hare-brained title lapin. But in the TV series, Harold is often portrayed as being impossibly stupid in comparison to the now-competent Chester and Bunn.
  • While the 1965 version of Morocco Mole from Secret Squirrel was a Bumbling Sidekick, in the 90's revival, Super Secret Secret Squirrel, he's outright Too Dumb to Live.
  • Sonic Boom:
    • In the original games, Knuckles was merely a bit gullible. Here, he's little more than Dumb Muscle; he's illiterate, it takes him a few seconds to understand left from right and he can't even count.
    • Dr. Eggman. While his game counterpart was also a comical character, he was more of a Not-So-Harmless Villain, capable of concocting good plans and being a real threat. This incarnation is more of an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain who tends to come up with ridiculous plans that rarely pose a major threat.
  • Happens in-universe in the Simpsons episode "Homer to the Max". The character Homer Simpson in the Show Within a Show Police Cops starts out as a smart badass hero in the pilot episode, only to be replaced with a Bumbling Sidekick in the series proper, much to Homer's (the real one's) dismay.
  • Batman: The Animated Series: The show's take on Hugo Strange is far less clever as a manipulator or as an inventor than his Psycho Psychologist and Mad Scientist comics counterpart.
  • While by no means dumb, Norman Osborn in Marvel's Spider-Man gets blindsided by his arrogance more often than in other incarnations, such as failing to realize Otto Octavius was going to betray him as soon as he told him that he owns his tech.
  • Daffy Duck in the original Looney Tunes shorts was more gullible and a bit naive than anything else but he was portrayed as intelligent when it suited him, in The Looney Tunes Show he is portrayed as a total dumbass who can't do anything right.
  • Curbside, an unsuccessful pilot revolving around an Animated Anthology starring revamped versions of Terrytoons characters, gave this treatment to Muskie Muskrat from The Deputy Dawg Show. Rather than a clever trickster, he is made Deputy Dawg's bumbling sidekick.
  • Disney Fairies: Silvermist was perfectly normal in the chapter books, being somewhat clever, hard-working and with her main character trait being a calm, unflappable demeanor. The movies turn her into a complete space-case who can't even tell irony or exaggeration from fact ("And she just exploded!" "*gasp!* She exploded!?").
  • Sonic Sat AM:
    • The title character was made much more reckless and foolishness-prone, to the point it's not uncommon to see him barge into situations without thinking, only to have to be bailed out by Princess Sally Acorn.
    • Tails. Unlike his game counterpart, who is a Child Prodigy and Gadgeteer Genius, this incarnation was depicted as having average intelligence and no interest in machines, the role of gadgeteer genius being filled by Rotor instead.
    • Dr. Robotnik. While most media depict him as a Mad Scientist who builds his Killer Robots himself, here, he was never shown to be capable of building any machines, as he always left the task in Snively's hands. In addition, Word of God stated that he's a less competent tactician and Big Bad than Snively.
  • Chase Devineaux in the Carmen Sandiego Word Detective and Math Detective games was one of Carmen's former partners, and whom she considers a Worthy Opponent as he gives you instructions on accomplishing your goals. In the Carmen Sandiego Netflix series, Chase tends to grab the Idiot Ball more than once, and Carmen easily outruns him. He also seems to have little knowledge of history and geography, making him less capable of seeing the big picture of Carmen's plans and his obsession with capturing her makes him blind to the times where she is not the enemy.
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