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Asian Airhead

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"If Regina is the sun / Then I'm a disco ball
'Cause I'm just as bright and fun / If you've had alcohol!"

"Fool me seven times, shame on you, fool me eight or more times, shame on me."
Amy Wong, Ph.D, Futurama

A stereotype used in various media, growing to prominence in The '90s and the Turn of the Millennium. It is an inversion of Asian and Nerdy, purposefully turning the "model minority" stereotype on its head by having the Asian character in the narrative be the dumbest of the bunch rather than a Stereotypical Nerd, the The Smart Guy, The Perfectionist, or a Book Smart Go-Getter Girl set to become a doctor, lawyer, or engineer.

Like Dumb Blonde, the stupidity of the characters can be presented in a variety of ways: The Ditz, The Fool, etc. Rarely will they present as the Insufferable Imbecile who is dumb, stubbornly ignorant, and rude, unless the character is a Dumb Jock or an Alpha Bitch (Popular Is Dumb, and these characters are at the top of the Popularity Food Chain).

Many examples take the "airhead" in the trope name somewhat literally and make these dumb Asian characters a Cloudcuckoolander, a Kindhearted Simpleton whose head is in the clouds and appears to be channeling a different...frequency from everyone else. While Book Dumb, they aren't complete idiots and will occasionally drop Simple-Minded Wisdom to the shock of those around them.

Tends to overlap with Brainless Beauty, Plucky Comic Relief, and Valley Girl in particular, given the high number of Asian people in Real Life who live on the American West Coast where the accent originated. Female versions tend to be the preferred type of Asian girls for fictional white guys. And on that note, while this is frequently a girl or young woman, male examples are not unheard of and have gained prominence in the latter half of the 2010's.

Note: Given this trope is a direct response to a Western stereotype about Asian people, this trope only really applies to works that have a majority non-Asian cast and were created by and for non-Asian audiences. The vast majority of Anime, Manga, Asian Animation, Light Novels, and other media by and for an Asian audience do not qualify.


Examples

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    Comic Books 
  • The Boys: The Female's mother (according to The Female) was an utter airhead who happened to work for a Japanese company trying to recreate Compound V. When The Female fell into a vat of the stuff, she thinks that the company took her away from her mother with a subscription to a fashion magazine.
  • Genął: Grunge, a Chinese-American California surfer/skater/slacker dude, is presented as a rather dumb Manchild. He tests well in school, however, thanks to his Photographic Memory.
  • While not stupid, Jubilee of the X-Men suffers dyscalculia, averting the "Asians as math geniuses" stereotype.
  • Robert Lai, a Chinese-American slacker who had trouble figuring out how to keep his mouth shut and managed to blow-up the chem lab at school after failing to listen to directions, was friends and classmates with Superboy when he was going to school in Hawaii.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Knives Chau from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is excitably ignorant of Scott's attempts at distancing himself from her, blundering through interpersonal interactions and becoming a Clingy Jealous Girl, though her lack of social smarts are probably mostly to emphasize her youth.
  • Brenda Song basically plays this part in every Disney Channel show she's ever worked on. She played a vaguely competent person in her own movie Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior, who still ended up blowing off saving the world in favor of being crowned 'Homecoming Queen', although she eventually saw the light after a very mild metaphorical slap across the face.
  • White Wolves II: The Filipino Steve has some wariness and respect for the wilderness, but also gets some Literal-Minded and Skewed Priorities moments. When Beri makes a crack about breaking out a guitar to sing campfire songs, he thinks she means they have a real guitar. More dramatically, he fails to bury food scraps far from the camp, which attracts a bear.

    Literature 
  • Claudia Kishi of The Baby-Sitters Club is crafty/artsy but has problems with grades, in contrast with her Asian and Nerdy older sister Janine. In The Movie, she has to go to summer school and is shown to be unable to remember the digestive system. In most of the books, though, it's indicated that while Claudia isn't very good at school, she is, in fact, intelligent. Mostly. Spelling, one of her defining not-too-bright traits, improved for awhile, before plummeting to near elementary-school-levels in the later books, to the point that it became a fandom joke.
  • Exploited in The Girl from the Miracles District when Nikita alters her appearance and acts like an airhead to fool her target and let her get close to him.
  • Subverted in the Star Trek: Enterprise Relaunch novel The Romulan War: Beneath the Raptor's Wing, when a reporter is taken aback to find the current Dalai Lama is a teenage girl who talks like a Valley Girl and says she doesn't follow the news, but by the end the reporter has decided she probably does have the wisdom you'd expect of the Dalai Lama, just an unusual way of showing it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A season one episode of Blackish has Kyra Kang Nussbaum, who is mentioned to be a super senior. Zoe helps Junior hook up with her, believing it will help boost his popularity. However, Kyra instead uses Junior to edit together an audition tape for The Bachelor.
  • The show Cake gives us Miracle, a young Filipino girl. Gorgeous, glamorous, and, of course, stupid.
  • On Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Filipino-American Josh Chan is handsome and popular, but he is also not very smart. He's a Lovable Jock and doesn't seem to have a mean bone in his body, but his oblivious nature does occasionally cause him to be Innocently Insensitive, particularly when it comes to other people's feelings.
  • The Filipino-American Jason from The Good Place. While other characters find him attractive, they also agree that he's possibly one of the dumbest humans on the planet.
  • Salute Your Shorts had Dina Alexander. Played by Chinese-American actress Heidi Lucas, she was, in effect, a mirror image of London Tipton years before the latter character was created. Dina is dim-witted, easily manipulated, vain, and yet also universally considered beautiful and popular by her peers.
  • Korean-American Miggy Park from Single Parents. He is a clueless new single father who can't even care for himself and needs help to parent.
  • London Tipton from The Suite Life of Zack & Cody. A beautiful, rich, popular young Asian-American girl... who just happens to be dense as a brick.note  London originally started out as simply being a lazy rich kid who didn't like school or work, however she was flanderized into being increasingly more ignorant as time went on. In later seasons she is a Brainless Beauty who Never Learned to Read.

    Theatre 
  • Ashley Park as Gretchen Wieners in the original Broadway cast of Mean Girls is one of the main popular girls (though interestingly, she also identifies as Jewish). While Gretchen is often the Straight Man to the even more air-headed Karen Smith, and shows more self-conscious vulnerability than the norm for this trope, this is still the same Gretchen who is trying to make "fetch" happen.

    Web Animation 

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • The selling point behind World of Wonder's WAIT, WHAT? which features RuPaul's Drag Race alums Gia Gunn and Kimora Blac as they get quizzed on various topics that they missed out on in school.

    Western Animation 
  • In American Dad!, we have Francine's unseen adoptive sister Gwen; Stan's constantly going on about how hot she is (even recalling how beautiful she looked on Francine's wedding day) and her parents favor her...but they openly admit that it's because she's an idiot who needs all the help she can get, while Francine is smart and clever enough to take care of herself. As Francine's father put it: "I mean can you believe it? An Asian girl who can't do math?!" However, this is later retconned when she appears in the show. Aside from lighting a cigarette in a gas-soaked room and failing math in high school, she's actually quite intelligent, cunning, and manipulative.
  • Bridgette in Close Enough is a Japanese-American social media influencer from a rich family, which is fortunate because her singing career with Emily is a failure and she can't hold a job more complex than clothing store employee.
  • Code Lyoko: Background character Naomi N'guyen, though we aren't given any hints that she's Asian within the show (the last name is only present in show notes, and she doesn't look remotely Asian). She tries out for Odd's band but is rejected because she's clearly never played the drums before.
  • Kuki Sanban (a.k.a. Numbuh 3) of Codename: Kids Next Door is effectively like a younger, prepubescent Hay Lin. An adorable, girly, kindhearted, rather prissy Japanese girl who is personified as being extremely scatterbrained. But she has a fair share of kick-butt moments that even it out. The finale shows that she is really a Stepford Smiler and her peppy personality is mostly an act, however Numbuh 3 still officially caused problems for her team due to ignorance such as in episodes "Operation: NO-POWUH" and "Operation: SPANK". Of note is that she was voiced by Lauren Tom, the same actress who provides the voice for Amy Wong in Futurama. In fact, one of the only young, popular characters she voices that doesn't fit into this trope in some manner is Kahn "Connie" Souphanousinphone, Jr. from King of the Hill. In a twist of irony, Numbuh 3 claims that she's not an airhead in the series finale "Operation: I.N.T.E.R.V.I.E.W.S" but she could have been sarcastic / joking. If not, then she's oblivious to her own abnormal behavior.
  • Danny Phantom: Kwan (is that his first name or his last name?) is Dash's friend and was initially shown as being a Jerk Jock like him, but became more of a dumb Token Good Teammate of the popular kids as time went on. Interestingly, the Bad Future shown in "The Ultimate Enemy" seems to have him grow up to be a scientist, so he may switch to that other stereotype when high school popularity is no longer a factor.
  • Tiffany, a member of the Fashion Club on Daria. She has no actual characterization: she just agrees with whatever her friends tell her to. She is also the dumbest character of the Fashion Club; she, literally, agreed with whoever spoke last, lost her place on a piece of paper three sentences in, and just so you know, that isn't how fast she speaks, that's how fast she thinks. She also scores the lowest out of her friends on the PSATs at a lackluster 902, when most colleges will typically only accept 1200 points or higher.
  • Lee Lee, one of Dee Dee's friends in Dexter's Laboratory. Though, to be fair, she just has the exact same ditzy personality as Dee Dee and all her other friends.
  • Amy Wong of Futurama. She acts so ditzy that it's easy to forget that she was introduced as a graduate student in applied physics (and eventually gets her PhD.)
    Professor Farnsworth: I'm sure I don't need to explain that all dark matter in the universe is linked in the form of a single non-local meta-particle.
    Amy: Guhh! Stop patronizing us.
  • By her own admission, Cassandra of High School U.S.A. is 100% Chinese. She's also about 300% vapid, self-important moron. Fortunately (for men) she's very attractive. Subverted when it's revealed that her parents were actually Americans who moved to China to pick up their old manufacturing jobs who then applied permanent skin coloring and plastic surgery on their daughter to make her appear to be Chinese.
  • Motorcity: Texas is the Burners' resident Cloudcuckoolander, though he shows Genius Ditz qualities on occasion when dispensing his own special brand of advice. The creators say he's Filipino.
  • Stacy Hirano, Candace's best friend from Phineas and Ferb, sometimes fits this trope. Stacy does show a keen interest in things like fashion and romance, and she appears to be Book Dumb (since she thinks the pyramids are in France), but she's often the Straight Man to Candace's neurotic mania. She gets easily distracted when trying to bust Phineas and Ferb for Candace, but that's mainly because she realizes there's no real point in doing so; given another task, she's far more sane and rational than Candace. (Also of note: Stacy's mother is a doctor, and apparently she'll grow up to be the President of Uruguay.)
    (Stacy suggests Candace should focus her attention on where the inventions go)
    Candace: Stacy, you're a genius!
    Stacy: Thanks. Could you call my mother and tell her that?
  • Ready Jet Go!: Lillian, who is Chinese-American, is shown to be somewhat ditzy. In "The Grandest Canyon" she doesn't know what "perspective" means, and in "Mindy Turns Five", she outright tells Mindy what she got her for her birthday instead of keeping it a surprise like she said she would. In "Fact or Fiction?", she legitimately believes that clouds are made of cotton candy. Why? Because someone at school told her so.

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