Follow TV Tropes


Book Dumb

Go To

"You know how Einstein got bad grades as a kid? Well, mine are even worse!"
Calvin, Calvin and Hobbes note 

Not every student will be a certified genius and obsess over anything that isn't a flawless A+. Many will actually do quite mediocre in school, but this is despite seeming at least average in intelligence in most other areas of life. This is generally an indication that they aren't stupid but don't have the skills to rise next to the TV Genius characters in academia. Alternatively they may be Brilliant, but Lazy where the lazy part is disliking sucking up to the faculty, or be secretly a Genius Ditz when given the right project to work on.

A Book Dumb character is a fairly common way to incite relatability with the audience (especially when creating a This Loser Is You) while still allowing them to be special in the scope of being a main character. A Book Dumb character will usually show excellent "street smarts", is quite capable of thinking on their feet, and is often very good at problem solving most of the time, but he (and it is usually a boy) does not function well within a regimented learning system. Maybe he's just not good at that type of learning. Maybe he's clever, but can't resist an opportunity for mischief. In extreme cases, he may even be a genius or inventor at home, but devolves into a functionally illiterate bad boy as soon as he enters through the school gates. Maybe he's just Too Dumb to Fool or an Apathetic Student. Some characters are like this due to literally not having a formal education, either due to a family/community situation or being from an area without an education infrastructure. They might not be in any way stupid or lazy but a lack of opportunity has simply restricted their progression.

More or less the polar opposite of the Stereotypical Nerd, who does excellently in school but is shown as being almost completely incompetent in all other areas of life. Both can be very intelligent people, but only in certain circumstances. The different attitudes of most people to each type of character betray our society's mistrust of intellect. Both, however, can be Geeks.

This is also common among adults, who will be portrayed as not having done very well at school, even though today they may be a wealthy business owner, famous novelist, celebrated artist, top sportsman, or nuclear safety inspector. If the character is doing a menial labor job they will usually be just as ineffective in his job as he was at school (though always managing to avoid George Jetson Job Security), while displaying considerable intelligence in other areas of their life.

This is one of the ways writers have evolved Brains Versus Brawn since this trope allows you to maintain the contrast between the "smart" and "dumb" character, while also giving the dumb character both more complexity than a one-note idiot character and a leg up in the competition over their smarter foil who often suffers from a lack of Street Smarts. Often overlaps with Troubled, but Cute, especially in Western media. Book Dumb female characters are quite common in Anime and Manga but in Western media this trope tends to skew heavily male. The popularity of the Uptown Girl trope might also be a factor.

Some writers will try and use it as a criticism of the school system, either claiming that schools are staffed by incompetent idiots who don't know intelligence when they see it, or that schools are deliberately designed to stifle innovation and free will in order to turn kids into mindless future wage slaves.

Still, this trope has quite a bit of Truth in Television. As any teacher can tell you, there is something about the school system that does alienate a certain portion of otherwise intelligent children, although the pervasiveness of this trope frustrates some students that are held to Teen Genius standards by their parents, wondering why nobody that actually does well in school is ever the main character. Most troublingly, this trope is popular among anti-intellectuals, who argue that academic smarts are entirely worthless. Of course, being anti-intellectuals, their arguments lack a certain... something. Luckily some school systems are trying to do things to solve this problem, as it often makes learning easier for everybody anyway, and several systems have been in use since just after the Turn of the Millennium, although wide-spread adoption has yet to occur anywhere. Also, most book-dumb people in real-life often resort to looking up the answers to their schoolwork online — typically through the likes of Wikipedia — to put on an intelligent façade in pursuit of popularity (or at least not flunk out and get in trouble).

The inversion is Book Smart. Contrast TV Genius, who only seems intelligent in the classroom, and Ditzy Genius, who is a genius in academics but inept in everyday life. Also contrast Insufferable Genius, who is very talented and arrogantly proud of it. Compare Everybody Hates Mathematics, the roughly mathematical equivalent. Technical opposite of the Badass Bookworm. If they are asked to do an essay, they might end up Padding the Paper.

Example Subpages:

Other Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • A lot of Marvel and DC characters on both sides get this not because they are stupid, but because they hang out with too many super-geniuses. Depending on the Writer, they will be shown as either dumb, just a bit outclassed, or even having common sense as compared to the overcomplicated plans of their teammates/nemesis.
    • The Thing compared to Mr. Fantastic and Doctor Doom, who all went to college together. People tend to forget that Ben Grimm has multiple engineering degrees and was a military test pilot and NASA astronaut. In large part because he doesn't talk like the highly educated man that he is, along with being overshadowed by his super-genius former classmates.
      Mr. Fantastic: Come on, Ben, you have a few college degrees too!
      The Thing: Don't broadcast it, I want my admiring public to think I'm a self-made genius.
    • Thor compared to Loki or Iron Man; heck, any of The Avengers compared to Iron Man or Hank Pym.
    • Depending on the Writer, the Juggernaut compared to his telepathic genius brother Professor X. It took a Heel–Face Turn for him to ever bother pointing it out to anyone, but he was raised in a household of physicists, and as Cain explains to his attorney the She-Hulk, he just plays The Brute most of the time because that's what everyone expects from him.
    • Superman compared to Batman or Lex Luthor. Likewise, anyone in the Justice League compared to Batman. With Superman it really is the writers' faults. Clark Kent is a world renowned investigative journalist and a prize winning novelist. Superman helps maintain the advanced Kryptonian equipment in his Fortress. And on at least one occasion he has said to Batman's face that he was just as smart as Batman, which Batman openly agreed with. If anything Superman is an inversion; he's book smart but does not have a talent for combat and tactics, so people (both in and out of universe) assume he is less intelligent based on how he fights. Even then, that's mostly because Superman is so incredibly powerful that he usually doesn't need to fight in the first place, not to mention as a Technical Pacifist he much prefers to end confrontations non-violently whenever he can get away with it and thus, what tactics he does use often are not about "winning" a fight in the traditional sense.
    • Nate Grey is an Artificial Human designed as a Living Weapon by the Age of Apocalypse version of Mr. Sinister, and prematurely aged to his late teens to that end. This, his escape, and his life with his Found Family of guerrilla fighters disguised as Shakespearean actors, before becoming effectively homeless in the main Marvel Universe means that for a long time he was Unskilled, but Strong, utterly devoid of life experience outside of survival, and only really good at fighting. However, his impulsive nature, hot-temper, and usually justified paranoia meant that most people thought he was either dim or a brash hot-head. As it was, he learned fast, developed some very unconventional uses of his powers, and displayed a level of tactical brilliance on par with his father and older brother when he ran rings around Norman Osborn, the Dark Avengers, and the Dark X-Men, in Dark X-Men, nearly destroying everything he'd achieved in a matter of hours with a Batman Gambit he'd come up with on the fly (and in the end, Norman did exactly what Nate was planning shortly after, during Siege: had mental breakdown and went full Green Goblin in public, destroying his power and reputation).
  • Batgirl III (Cassandra Cain) is one of the top martial artists in The DCU, but is illiterate and barely has any spoken language education. She has one of the better excuses for this, as she was raised without access to books or speech by the assassin David Cain, who intended for violence to be her only language.
  • Excalibur (Marvel Comics)'s Meggan was illiterate, and insecure around her Illuminati-level genius physicist boyfriend (later husband) Brian Braddock. She was learning to read and was able to write down phone messages by the end of the series. By the time of Captain Britain and MI13, she was capable of masterminding a revolution in Hell and doing a Deal with the Devil (Hades, to be more accurate) that actually worked out in her favor. However, she's still a bit insecure about her lack of education when it comes to her and Brian's Brainy Baby, as she worries that her baby won't need her.
  • The titular hero of Paperinik New Adventures jokes that he only graduated of kindergarten due to seniority, and does tend to leave most of the research to his AI Voice with an Internet Connection. He is, however, far from stupid, quick on his feet, and good at putting information into good use once he's been brought up to speed. Ironically, when teaming up with Xadhoom, he tends to be the brains in the duo, because Xadhoom, despite being one of the most intelligent beings in the universe, is so powerful that she usually doesn't need to bother with strategy beyond "blow up everything," so her planning skills are severely underused.
  • Gail Simone's final arc of Red Sonja shows that Sonja is only borderline literate. Her difficulty practicing her handwriting is depicted like a learning disability.
  • Chase Stein from Runaways, despite being the child of genius inventors, has no scholastic aptitude whatsoever and is easily the dumbest member of the group (including the 11-year-olds):
    Chase: Hey, I may not be book smart, but I am Street Smart!
    Gert: Which street? Sesame?
    • Yet when on his own, he was clever enough to come up with a simple plan to deal with the Gibborim; find and threaten those smart enough to help. His "anonymous white van" idea also shows he has some degree of cleverness.
    • This starts to lessen as the series goes on: Chase shows a skill with fixing and using tech devices close to his parents, and is as skilled with the Staff of One as Nico, the resident spellcaster herself.
  • When asked by the professors on his final theology exam how many parts (and what kind) a good sermon should have, Hieronymus (from a story illustrated by Wilhelm Busch) answers (sorry for not rhyming): "Two parts: One part that no one can understand, and one part that's understandable."
  • Zipi y Zape: The twins. They can build a time machine out of a barrel and a broken grandfather's clock, but then they'll struggle to do their assignment: calculate 5*13.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes is shown to be very far behind his classmates academically, but is a loquacious philosopher in his spare time, showing a vocabulary and critical thinking skills far in advance of what you could expect from a normal 6-year-old. In this case, it's an explicit criticism of the school system. Bill Watterson has also said that he enjoyed having Calvin use big words to describe stupid ideas. It's also implied that Calvin, while intelligent, is simply not motivated to apply himself. In one strip, for example, his father sits him down and asks him why he doesn't do better in school, noting that he's obviously smart because he managed to devour every dinosaur book he ever got his hands on. Calvin simply replies that they never study dinosaurs in school. He has shown considerable aptitude in school-grade subjects like maths and reading comprehension in situations where the subjects, such as dinosaurs or time travel, were interesting to him. Calvin is a classic case of a gifted child in an education system that isn't engaging him properly.
    In addition, Calvin is also very mischievous, more interested in causing trouble and messing with the teacher's head than actually learning. He regularly gives bizarre answers on his tests ("What is the significance of the Erie Canal?" "In the cosmic sense, probably nil,") which seems to be as much for his own amusement as an attempt to cheat the system.
  • Dennis the Menace (UK) is an example of this being taken to a ridiculous degree. In the comics these days, Dennis even has a futuristic car that he designed himself, with protective armour and water cannons, and yet is shown to be completely (and cheerfully) lost at school.
  • In For Better or for Worse, one word: Gordon. While Gordon graduates high school with average grades, he is a gifted mechanic who turns out to have a decent head for business. He goes to work for a local outfit, and within ten years all but owns the place, it being sold to him when the owner retired; he then takes the store from a local landmark ("Oh, right, that place") to a thriving business which, the last time it was seen before the strip's conclusion, may well have been on the verge of becoming a franchise.
  • Frazz: Caulfield dislikes school and frequently derails lessons, but reads books far above his age's reading level and has intelligent discussions with the titular janitor.
  • The German comic Haiopeis, with anthropomorphic sharks.
    Shark 1: Do you know about books?
    Shark 2: Sure... but they're worthless, taste like cardboard.
    Shark 1: I didn't want to eat them.
    Shark 2: What then?
    Shark 1: I wanted to know how to switch them on.
  • Manolito from Mafalda and, to a lesser extent, Mafalda herself (Her report on "the British Invasion" was a drawing of hippie fans of The Beatles). Felipe is absent-minded during lectures, but he never seems to fail a test. Manolito is actually shown to be rather dumb outside school as well, never properly understanding or caring anything that he cannot relate to money, so he may be more of a Genius Ditz.
  • Peanuts:
    • Peppermint Patty would rather be playing sports than sitting in a classroom, compounded by not getting much sleep weeknights because she waits for her father to get home from work at night. On the other hand, any girl her age who could be capable of mistaking a dog obedience school for a human school to the point of enrolling in it, "studying" with the dogs, graduating and being so sure that she doesn't have to go to regular human school because of that "diploma" is on her own level of stupidity. She already thinks Snoopy is a 'little kid with a big nose' and treats him accordingly. Remember, with Patty, we're quite far into Jock territory, too. As if she didn't have enough downward pressure on her grades.
    • Sally also has a lot of trouble in school, and often struggles with her homework despite Charlie Brown's patient efforts to help her. One of the strip's running jokes is the unintentionally humorous school reports she gives in front of the class, which are frequently inspired by malapropisms and end with her feeling humiliated as her classmates laugh at her. Some of her more memorable reports include "Santa and his Rain Gear", "Footbidextrousers" people, "The Bronchitis" (a dinosaur that supposedly went extinct from coughing too much), and her report on the oceans of the world, in which she reported there are no oceans in the individual landlocked states in the US.

    Fan Works 
  • Anchor Foal: Part of Harem Fantasy's description of Passionate Sports Girls:
    They may not be too bright.
  • In the That's What Bein' A Friend Is About series, Ninten is shown to be this, and it ends up becoming a major plot point in Something That You Just Don't Understand, where he believes that he's too academically incompetent to fulfill his destiny of saving the world from Giegue.
  • In The Calvinverse, Calvin's still as Book Dumb at his comic counterpart. Lampshaded in Calvin & Hobbes: The Series:
    Hobbes: You know, if you actually studied, you'd get a few things done school-wise.
  • Dragon's Dance: Wataru frequently skips his lessons on his village's history in favor of training with his dratini, which he has a natural talent for. Because of this he only has a vague knowledge of major events in their history, and thus doesn't realize why keeping the dragonite who live in the valley secret from outsiders is such a big deal to the elders.
  • In Equestria: A History Revealed, the Lemony Narrator seems to do well enough to be in university, as well as write in the structure of an essay, but her inability to understand simple logic, something which fuels her conspiracy theories, as well as her ignorance of basic maths fulfills this trope.
  • In This One, Kenshin is so backwoods that he doesn't how old he is, what year it is, what writing is or that there are numbers past five.
  • Downplayed with Captain Kanril Eleya of Bait and Switch. A mustang from a blue-collar background, she's very proficient as a tactician and is by no means uneducated, but by her own admission in "Shakedown Shenanigans" she's a soldier, not a scientist or diplomat, and often needs to have technobabble explained to her. In one case in A Voice in the Wilderness, she can't make heads or tails of some sensor readouts, but she does understand more general concepts such as what a radioactive half-life is and that a Class N planet is going to look rather like Venus.
  • In Hope for the Heartless (which takes place after the events of The Black Cauldron) Avalina is described this way. As a brush farmer, her education is not the best of quality, but her captor, the Horned King, recognizes her as a bright child and a passionate learner. For example, she can read better than many grown men, even if she mispronounces some things and halts in odd places (reading is a passion she's not have had much time for before her capture), but her arithmetic is at best poor and handwriting barely decipherable and she can't read maps. Not satisfied with such potential being wasted in meager duties, the mostly self-taught warlord decides to educate her himself, and she makes great progress.
    • Creeper, the Horned King's lackey, doesn't come off as very bright (at least in the lich's eyes). For example, he has Never Learned to Read. Avalina still argues that he has potential and convinces the Horned King to try to teach him. Eventually the lich begrudgingly concedes and is surprised to learn that the goblin can count to twenty and picked up from Avalina the skill to make a rope.
  • In the Peggy Sue fic I Am NOT Going Through Puberty Again!, even after becoming Hokage, Naruto is still this. When he looks at his Chunin Exam test sheet, he's pleased to observe that he's unable to understand only half the problems this time.
  • Subverted in the story Vapors where Naruto's problem is described as potentially being dyslexia that gives him reading troubles. Unfortunately, dyslexia hasn't been discovered in the Elemental Nations, so they have to make do as they can.
  • Combined with Taught by Experience in Chiaroscuro where Naruto quickly figures out (after learning about Suna's economic struggles) that Suna is likely to attack Konoha because "I've been poor before. Eventually, poor people get desperate." It's also implied that Naruto was struggling only because he was behind when it came to basic skills, like reading and writing, which was something parents usually jump-started their kids at home.
  • In Returning, a Ravenclaw student, Lyra, struggles with theory and obviously has a very fast and loose approach to note-taking (the excerpt we see is peppered with misheard words and commentary). She's also an Inept Mage, which makes her a far from promising Hogwarts student.
  • Risk It All: Although his grades are middle-of-the-pack at best, Ren demonstrates a keen understanding of probability and statistics, quickly crunching the numbers to weigh the risk vs. reward in casino games as well as the randomness of the skills and powers he gains.
  • In Faith The Vampire Slayer, Faith has poor grades but is a skilled mechanic, being able to figure out everything wrong with Giles's car the first time she rides in it then fix it, and a decent negotiator.
  • Exaggerated in Dragon Ball Z Abridged with Goku, making him essentially Too Dumb to Live. But, while his idiocy is ramped up, there's also this moment when discussing the Ultra Super Saiyan form with Gohan.
  • In the Robotboy fic Human After All, Gus doesn't know that Japan fought against America in World War 2. It's implied he's never even heard of the war.
  • Ambition of the Red Princess:
    • Naofumi struggled academically throughout his school career but quickly shows an impressive understanding of people and their motivations, such as realizing that a barkeep offering everyone a free round of beer will make his customers eat and drink more along with their cheer drawing in more curious customers, earning him more money than the single lost barrel of beer would've earned him. Similarly, when Malty exonerates him of having allegedly raped her, Naofumi almost immediately puzzles out that she was expected to betray him as part of a plot by the king.
    • On other occasions, Naofumi immediately dismisses the other heroes' claim that being the Shield Hero makes him useless, citing how important tanks are in multiplayer games. He also realizes that the two "envoys" sent by Siltvelt are low-level spies given that their "plan" to smuggle him out of the country is to take him by carriage through the main road connecting the two countries, which is fortified by a heavy garrison. Naofumi takes a moment to explain why leaving Melomarc is a bad idea to begin with as it'd paint him as a deserter, and that's if everyone at the garrison thinks rationally and lets him pass rather than killing him.
  • Korra, as she's depicted in Project Voicebend, is terribly uninformed about a lot of subjects a girl her age should know about. She's barely literate, she doesn't know how to do basic maths, she has no idea what sex is or why she feels all tingly whenever she gets into a fight, among many other things. This is because the White Lotus taught her nothing besides how to bend the elements and beat people up. It's actually a very sensitive issue for her.
    Tarrlok: My club is not dumb. You're dumb.
    Korra: [tearfully gasps]
    [cut to Korra sobbing uncontrollably at Air Temple Island]
    Korra: You guys... I think I'm dumb. I don't even know what 2 + 2 is!
  • Ron Weasley's usual role as this is invoked in the fanfic Muggle Fairy Tales are Mad! when a discussion of Fudge's poor performance as Minister of Magic leads to Ron bringing up Gunderman Poddingport, a Minister so useless that he's never even mentioned in the history books because he's most well-known for eating sweets while the goblins attacked a village in the sixteenth century; Ron only knows about Poddingport because his ten-times great-grandfather Ronaldus was one of the wizards involved in cleaning up the aforementioned mess, with Ron paying more attention to the story than his siblings as he was named after Ronaldus.
  • Flosshead from Seth In The City. He seems to be fairly pop-cultured for an evil dinosaur hatchling, is very good with technology and yet usually gets no higher than C's in school.
  • Ty Lee from Ash and Petals is not a dumb girl, but school has never been her strong suit. She only got through her academy days by copying off of Azula.
  • Actually subverted with Percy in Son of the Western Sea. Actually having help with schoolwork and not having to deal with the Olympians giving him quests which throw his life into chaos means that he was able to improve his grades. While he still struggles with English and History, he gets an A in Physics and a solid B in pre-calculus. Given he is (unknowingly) the nascent god of spaceflight, that makes sense.
  • A Diplomatic Visit: In chapter 11 of the third story, Diplomacy Through Schooling, Sonata freely admits that she used to be this. She's put a lot of effort into fixing that since she got back to Equestria though.
  • In Second Year, Second Try, Yu Narukami is great at using Personas, solved a murder mystery and is an excellent cook, but ends up getting Held Back in School and repeating his second year at Yasogami. It's also pointed out that the other Investigation Team members who get poor grades have various talents outside of school.
  • In Leaving Town, Riko "Erwin" Matsumoto is extremely knowledgeable about history, especially World War II, but doesn't do all that well in school.
  • In Tough Love, Charlie rather bluntly reveals his low opinion of Bella's intelligence (or lack thereof). What seems to frustrate him more than that, however, is how she has completely given up trying to even pass her classes, instead preferring to wallow in her sadness over Edward dumping her. She ignored any and all help offered by teachers in the form of tutorials, extensions and counseling, and once turned in a calculus test covered entirely in the words, "WHY, EDWARD, WHY?"
  • Through Her Eyes: Averted. Despite her own beliefs on the matter, Ruby is actually one of the most intelligent students at Beacon, second only to Weiss. That said, her past education of homeschooling and internet tutorial videos means there's a lot of blind spots in her knowledge base, such as technology, so she has to do a fair amount of catch-up work in order to stay at Beacon. Either way, her real strength is in her fighting ability, which amazes the rest of her class.
  • The Way, Truth, and Light: Played with in Ritsuka Fujimaru. In this version of the story, he was an orphan who was raised in a church and never went to school, so the only books he had ever read are the Bible and a few texts on the Saints. He can reliably quote scripture, but he knows nothing about history or mythology, so he has no idea who Servants like Cu Chulainn and Heracles are. This contrasts him with Mash Kyrielight, who was raised in isolation and studied history and mythology to be able to recognize Servants and what they can do, but has never heard of the Bible or Jesus.
Cool Cat Saves Vietnam: Cool Cat is barely literate (or at least dyslexic).
“Cool Cat!” Daddy Derek ran over to his blood relative son and caressed his fuzzy cheek. “I have a new movie for you to be in, Son. It’s a real good one this time. I think, if you were in it, it’d sell big “B” billions across the globe.” Daddy Derek handed Cool Cat a script he had printed moments ago. It was still warm and the ink looked wet.

Cool Cat picked up the freshly baked pages and gasped. “Woooooah! Noooo waaaay! Cool Cat Saves the Vitamins? I’ve always wanted to be in a health movie! Maybe you can use special effects to shrink me down and go into a body!”

Daddy Derek shook his head and struggled to keep his faked smile up. “No, no, Cool Cat. It’s Vietnam! We’re going to kick off a new Vietnam War and you’re going to star in it.”
  • Burning Secret: Lincoln’s classmates groan at the thought of taking a test. Exaggerated for horror in Chandler’s case, since he set up the fire just because he hated school.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The entirety of Delta, in Animal House, are stated to be extremely bad students; the highest-scoring person is fraternity president Robert Hoover, with a 1.6 GPA (four Cs and an F), with Bluto having a 0.0 and D-Day having no GPA at all (no courses completed). However, they had to have been pretty damn smart to pull off the events of the climax.
  • In The Art of Self-Defense, Sensei is a smooth talker and incredible schemer, but requires a calculator to perform simple maths.
  • Bill and Ted in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure will apparently mature into musical geniuses, display a high degree of creativity, and have a surprisingly sophisticated vocabulary. However, they are failing history and clearly have not paid much attention in school.
  • In The Blind Side Michael Oher is presumed to be worthless and unteachable, until a teacher administers a test verbally and he actually receives a passing score. The problem lies not in his inherent intelligence, but rather in his borderline illiteracy and the methodology of the test itself. Throughout the remainder of the film, Oher is depicted as being highly competent so long as a task can be adapted to a metaphor he understands.
  • In Blue Is the Warmest Color Thomas can be easily seen as intellectually inferior to Adèle since he's not much of a reader but is actually good in Maths. He is also reasonably talented in music and decided to learn on his own because he didn't like his music classes. He learned to play various musical instruments by listening and watching videos.
  • Kenny Dantley, the protagonist of Corvette Summer, doesn't care about any of his classes except auto shop. He gets a D-minus on one exam.
  • In The Dark Crystal, Kira is nobody's fool, but she never learned to read.
  • The Getting of Wisdom: Laura, at the start of the film, lacks a formal education in such subjects as history or literature, but is a remarkably gifted pianist, able to play complex pieces entirely from sight.
  • Ghostbusters (2016): Patty, the only non-scientist on the team, is nevertheless a huge history nerd who knows a lot about even minor New York landmarks. This proves invaluable when tracking ghosts and figuring out the Big Bad's master plan.
  • Lady Bird: Lady Bird is artistic, clever, and very bright, but she doesn't care much for schoolwork and as such gets pretty mediocre grades and is shown a few times to struggle with maths. However, it's mentioned that she got surprisingly good SAT scores and she manages to get a scholarship to college.
  • Teddy from Neighbors might be this. His grades are very poor (because he apparently never goes to class) and he's hopelessly naive about the 'legacy' of Delta Psi but otherwise he seems pretty sharp in contrast to the genuinely stupid likes of Scoonie and Garf. Notably he realises the importance of winning over the neighbours (at least at first) and it's his idea to sell Delta Psi dildos, making the fraternity a lot of money.
  • In Night School (2018), main character Teddy doesn’t perform well academically, but spent most of his adult life managing a complex social life that allowed him to appear more well-off than he actually was. This becomes justified later when it’s revealed that he has a learning disability.
  • Jean-Baptiste Grenouille of Perfume displays a high level of intelligence in addition to his brilliance in perfume making. However, he was raised as a simple tanner's apprentice in 18th century France, so he has no education at all. Even in adulthood, he must ask simple questions like, "What's a legend?"
  • Malik from Un prophète is almost illiterate (though he does get some education while in prison) — but he's very, very clever.
  • Stop! Look! And Laugh!: Jerry Mahoney is this; he is a bad student, mentioning how awful he does in school on his tests but he is smart enough to pull tricks to fool Paul Winchell or avoid going to school.
  • Ted and John from Ted 2 are clearly unfamiliar with literature, as when Sam mentions F. Scott Fitzgerald to them, they think the 'F' in his name stands for 'Fuck'.
  • Subverted in The Waterboy. Bobby Boucher seems to be mentally retarded, but that's really due to years of excessive sheltering by his mother, who taught him everything "is the Devil!", as he has practical knowledge about water filtration, and later does well with every college class, even having a near-perfect score on his high school-equivalency exam.

  • In Russian Humour, the Chukchi people of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug — an indigenous people who were already there when Russians settled Siberia — are portrayed this way, being extremely naive and ignorant of the modern world and social norms, For example... but having a kind of benign perspicacity — they are usually used to highlight the absurdities of modern life or establishment propaganda:
    A Chukcha returns from a visit to Moscow. Everyone is curious. "What is Communism like?" asks another Chukcha. "Wondrous," replies the Chukcha, "in Moscow everything is for the betterment of man. Also saw that man." note
    • And sometimes they just have sharp frontier instincts:
    A Chukcha and a Russian explorer are out hunting polar bears. They see one. "Run!" yells the Chukcha, and sprints back the way they came. The Russian shrugs, raises his gun, and kills the polar bear with a single shot. "You Fool!!" yells the Chukcha. "Russian hunter bad hunter — you can haul this bear the ten miles back to the yaranga yourself!"

  • Julia from 1984 is barely literate, yet able to guess the Party's innermost goals almost intuitively, and evade capture by a totalitarian regime for ten years. It's entirely possible, however, that she's actually an agent of that regime used to lure people like Winston into a false sense of security before the Thought Police come after them.
  • Huckleberry Finn from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is the EPITOME of this trope. He's able to come up with elaborate plans on-the-spot to turn the tables around in a bad situation but he can't even spell his own alias correctly. Jim too. As a slave, he's uneducated (and it shows), but he can be pretty philosophical about what he does know.
  • Aximili from Animorphs is an Andalite military cadet, a member of a super-advanced alien species, with all the complete-education and training that implies, and all the vastly-superior-to-human-science knowledge that comes with it — and his actions throughout the series show that he's quite intelligent and quick-thinking as well. He also conveniently knows very little about a great many plot points and other miscellaneous details that he should reasonably be expected to know by the standards of his people, because while he has completed his education, he spent most of that education staring at the attractive female Andalites in adjacent learning cubicles. Some things, it would seem, are universal.
  • Claudia Kishi from The Baby-Sitters Club series is this trope. Basically her entire personality, and many of her plotlines, revolve around the fact that she does poorly in school despite being talented at art and having generally good judgment and social skills. In the early books she's just uninterested in school, but she seems to get dumber as the series goes on, even going so far as to be sent back to a grade she had already completed.
  • Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts: This is a given as Fumizuki Academy separates it’s students into different classes based on their entrance exams scores, with the series focusing on Class 2F. However, it also plays with the trope as most of the students being downplayed examples due to Crippling Overspecialization and a few others being subverted examples due to being Brilliant, but Lazy.
  • Bazil Broketail:
    • One of Relkin's greatest regrets — by his own admission — is that he lacks proper education, having finished only two classes in the local school. Nevertheless, throughout the series he still proves to be quite intelligent and insightful for a simple soldier. In book four, for example, he correctly identifies the weakness of a steel golem conjured by Gadjung the sorcerer and later also is not fooled in the least by Heruta's attempts at brainwashing him.
    • Bazil also qualifies. He doesn't seem to have received any formal education other than combat training, but he still repeatedly displays wisdom and knowledge beyond that. This is most prominent in book five, where he learns the language of Ardu (and actually does better job at it than Relkin), later takes leadership over them, organizes them into an army that he leads against slavers of Mirchaz and actually proves to be a brilliant tactician — all this despite having no education in strategy and the dragons' hat of being generally poor at planning.
    • Unlike Relkin, who finished two classes in local school at least, Mono received no formal education at all. He claims that wife of his houselord Goole taught him how to read and write (though he admits he was never good at the latter), as well as some basic mathematics, and that's it.
    • Count Trego is an utter ignoramus in every matter except warfare and details of Czardhan nobility affairs. Argonathi witch Endysia actually embarrasses him by revealing that she read the Ballads of Medon, an exquisite work of art written in his homeland — that Count Trego himself has never read, only picking the most popular parts. Still, his gradual development into a better man shows that he is quite intelligent and capable of learning things previously unthinkable to him if he wants to.
  • A Certain Magical Index: Touma Kamijou is really smart when it comes to fighting and surviving, often managing to figure out his opponents' weakness and outsmart as well as outpunch them. He is also good at applying the laws of physics to predict trajectories and stuff like that. He does really poorly at school, though in his defense, saving people, the city, or the world often eats up the time he could have used to study. He is also ignorant in a lot of topics that his peers are not. For example, he only understands Japanese. Most other characters know multiple languages, and often complain that he must be an idiot when they have to translate for him. He doesn't know about any country besides Japan, which his peers also complain about. He is also very ignorant about mythology and history. At one point, his companions, who are all from England or Italy, start talking about the Japanese surveyor and cartographer Inō Tadataka. He has no idea who that is, causing his companions to say that he must be a slacker to not know his own country's history.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid:
    • Greg is not stupid, but he is a slacker who receives bad grades.
    • Rodrick lets his father do all his homework, and fails his assignments when he does it on his own.
  • Caius from Detectives in Togas. Leading to many funny situations when he can't answer the questions of his teacher. Like this: "The Rhine is a river... which has banks on both sides."
  • While Mildmay in Doctrine of Labyrinths is quite intelligent, he's also functionally illiterate.
  • Don Camillo: Peppone dropped out of school in third grade and is only literate in the most technical sense. It doesn't stop him from eloquently arguing politics, turning his blacksmith's shop into a successful auto repair business, serving as his home village's mayor for over twenty years or out-scheming his arch-enemy, the village priest, with surprising regularity.
  • Razz, from Don't Call Me Ishmael!, fits. Failing his subjects, described as "wasting his potential".
  • Flox from Fairy Oak is hopeless at maths. So much she is willing to break the Magical Law in order to scape a pop quiz.
  • Flawed: No matter how hard Juniper studies, she is only an average student at best, despite being a generally intelligent person in other walks of life.
  • From Russia with Love: SMERSH assassin Red Grant failed the political indoctrination segments of his training, but got top marks in more practical, technical subjects like codebreaking and tracking. Once in the field, he shows he's not just Dumb Muscle by demonstrating skills many other thugs and henchmen in the franchise are seemingly incapable of, like using stealth and holding down a cover.
  • Sagara Sousuke from Full Metal Panic!. He doesn't tend to do very well in school. Granted, it's not like he has a lot of street smarts in relation to normal people's survival and lives either, but... he sure is good at fighting and surviving in the combat zone. Not to mention his knack for rescuing people. An episode shows that Sousuke's problem is he is just unable to think outside of military terms and situations. He reads classic poetry and somehow comes to the conclusion that it's talking about a World War II Naval battle.
  • Galaxy of Fear covers its bases. Zak Arranda is reasonably intelligent but hates to study. His big sister Tash is a bookworm who likes study and cites her sources when she writes essays — admirable, for a thirteen-year-old.
  • Skylar in Gives Light is witty and perceptive, but says he doesn't perform well in school. It's not clear whether he's legitimately Book Dumb or just plain lazy, as he also claims to hate reading books and never finishes them.
  • Scarlett O'Hara from Gone with the Wind is mentioned to have barely scraped by at the Fayetteville Female Academy, and never willingly opened a book since her graduation. However, this is purposefully cultivated because intellectual women found it harder to catch husbands in the antebellum South. She is highly skilled in wrapping men around her little finger and is also shown to have an instinctual knack for business and uncanny mathematical skills. Frank Kennedy was appalled to find out that she even knew what a mortgage was. Melanie, on the other hand, is not afraid to discuss literature and philosophy with her fiancé.
  • In The Hammer (2022), Tiny admits that he's not the sharpest tool in the shed and sometimes wishes that he'd paid better attention to his comrades' lectures. When Asgard tries to explain the power of gravity to him, Tiny tunes him out and starts picking his ears while showing disdain for Asgard's attempts to describe something that Tiny takes for granted. But Tiny's strength and martial talent are the real deal, having developed a form of mana manipulation that would make him one of the ten strongest knights in the land despite starting from nothing as a penniless commoner. He's also quite adept at manipulating others, taking advantage of how people think he's Just a Kid until it's too late. This is also justified; Tiny's upbringing as a slum orphan means that he never obtained a formal education.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Both Harry Potter and Ron Weasley have a fairly low level of interest in academia and usually rely on their uber-nerd friend to succeed for them. Everyone knows that Harry Potter becomes a great wizard, yet he's only this great when in danger. He even flat-out says this in the fifth book. Even J.K. Rowling states that while Harry does become a gifted wizard, he was pretty much comparable to Ron as The Ditz, especially when one remembers how out of the trio, Harry was the only one to never use a single spell in the first book. Even though he just learned of Hogwarts' existence a day before attending, he was certainly given the chance to learn at least one spell throughout the school year, especially given the circumstances. Even Ron learned two spells, and successfully performed one. This is downplayed a bit, in that neither Harry nor Ron are bad at school, just kind of middle-of-the-road, with their grades in a major exam suggesting them to be the wizarding equivalent of B-students.
    • If you thought Harry and Ron were bad academically, Ron's prankster twin brothers, Fred and George, are even worse. Case in point: Mrs. Weasley commented once of Ron achieving seven "Exceeds Expectations" grades in his O.W.L. exams as more than Fred's and George's added together. On the other hand, they managed to found a highly successful joke shop to sell their magical inventions that impress even Hermione. However, they were not always Book Dumb; in the first book, Ron mentioned that they make high grades, despite being goofs. Their grades declined because in the later years of school, they could no longer breeze through exams without even trying. And given their career plans didn't require getting into the advanced classes, it wasn't worth the effort to them to study harder.
  • Kyon from Haruhi Suzumiya is clearly intelligent and knows a lot for his age, as displayed by his continual references to widely varied aspects of culture, history, mythology and advanced scientific concepts, many of which a high schooler would have no reason to know, but is far below average as a student, possibly due to his cynical and apathetic personality. In the novels, he ends up needing Haruhi's help on at least one assignment. Lampshaded by Kyon himself: "Why is it that I can be so smart when it comes to reading Nagato's facial expressions or Koizumi's hidden clues, but fail to answer every single test question?"
  • Justified in Homerooms & Hall Passes, where the main characters are transported from a Standard Fantasy Setting into an American middle school. In their original setting, they're all competent adventurers. But they're at a serious disadvantage in classes that presuppose a lifetime of immersion in technology, geography, history, and even cosmology different from that their own.
  • Ichika from Infinite Stratos is very bad when it comes to theoretics, much to his, his sister's, and his haremettes' annoyance.
  • In It Can't Happen Here, much of the American populace is book-dumb after the Windrip regime's educational "reforms", book burnings, and censorship campaigns. Institutions of higher learning have been eviscerated, and the remaining schools only teach practical or useless classes, meaning that much of the populace is ignorant of history, literature, and civics. When citizens revolt against the Corpos, this works against them as well as the Corpos.
    So, after the first gay eruptions of rioting, the revolt slowed up. Neither the Corpos nor many of their opponents knew enough to formulate a clear, sure theory of self-government, or irresistibly resolve to engage in the sore labor of fitting themselves for freedom ... Even yet, after Windrip, most of the easy-going descendants of the wisecracking Benjamin Franklin had not learned that Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty or give me death" meant anything more than a high-school yell or a cigarette slogan.
  • Jakub Wędrowycz, a genius and master exorcist, only went to elementary school for three years back in 1910's, so his knowledge of anything not related to the supernatural is... sketchy (he can barely read and write the Latin alphabet). He personally despises any higher education and considers it a disgrace when his grandson turns out a Teen Genius who reads books all day.
  • Yuuri from Kyo Kara Maoh!, is shown as having very average grades (and baseball abilities), but evidently has enough street smarts (well most of the time, anyway) to make it as king.
  • The Legend of Yan-Kan Mar: Toki (formerly Yan-Kan) is illiterate due to her social standing never allowing her to go to school back when the Taiko ruled the world. When given the chance she still doesn’t go to school, but rather gets a job while her sisters get a proper education.
  • In The Lighthouse Duet, Valen is hinted to be severely dyslexic, incapable of reading even single words, and his addiction issues cause him to make terrible decisions when the cravings hit, but he has an excellent memory and is able to adapt to any number of unfamiliar situations.
  • Peyssou from Malevil is a skilled farmer and mason but is otherwise uneducated. He often asks Emmanuel or Thomas to define some of the less-common "smart" words they use.
  • Fanny Price in Mansfield Park is from a poor family and hasn't had access as a child to the governesses her rich cousins had; as a result, when she first meets them they laugh at her for not knowing basic facts about geography and history. However, she's got more common sense and a better sense of morality than they do, and does a better job of making up for lost time in academic knowledge than they do in developing character.
  • In Maoyu, The Hero is the resident World's Strongest Man, but lacked a formal education. In the first episode, he didn't even know what pollution is. He sadly lampshades this in that he is only suited for fighting and is not equipped to help in problems concerning economics and politics. He is quite clever and practical, just ignorant, and he learns quickly.
  • The Master Key: Rob may be fascinated with electricity, but is kind of an idiot, not to mention an asshole. He thinks he knows everything about the world despite never having left his home town, frequently leaves his destinations worse than when he arrived, and turns down the final gifts of the Demon of Electricity, who is a Benevolent Genie, gives him a huge "fuck you", and demands that he depart forever.
  • Vin from Mistborn has this to an extent; she's actually pretty good at reading and writing but hates doing them. Also, she once encounters an obscure mathematical puzzle and doesn't even realize it is one.
  • The Murderbot Diaries: Murderbot is far from stupid but has wide gaps in its education by virtue of having spent most of its life, occasionally leading to it making a Note to Self to do things like look up what a "metaphor" actually is or using "anagram" instead of "acronym" either in internal monologue or in conversation. Also not helping is that much of Murderbot's actual experience of how human society works outside of the areas a SecUnit is actually supposed to be is drawn from TV shows it binged on Space Netflix.
    Murderbot: A forensic sweep might show that I'd been there. If forensic sweeps worked like they did in the entertainment media, which, come to think about it, I had no idea if they did or not. (Note to self: look up real forensic sweeps.)
  • Played with in My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!. Catarina is incredibly dim, but only socially. While she has absurd ideas of how she's supposed to learn magic and so on it's actually indicated a number of times that she gets average scores on tests when she tries. When she's not interested in something though she's capable of barely reaching double digit scores, though, so it's fortunate that she actually feels she needs to learn magic and so on.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians also has several examples of this — most of the demigods are ADHD and dyslexic, which results in their doing rather poorly in school, despite their hyperintelligence in other areas.
  • Terry Pratchett loves this trope as much as any of them.
    • In Maskerade, Granny Weatherwax is described as "grudgingly literate but keenly numerate". In an early book, she initially couldn't comprehend the un-reality of a local play.
    • Cohen the Barbarian is illiterate, though he loves books (they make for good lavatory paper), but he's got so much cunning and guile it doesn't matter. Unlike most barbarians, he does have a great deal of genuine respect for education, though. He had a Geography teacher as part of his retinue and trusted adviser in Interesting Times, and would listen and defer to him when faced with a problem he was best equipped to tackle. He even proved himself willing to listen to Rincewind when he thinks what the man has to say is relevant.
    • Leonard of Quirm, despite being possibly the most well-read and brilliant man on the Disc when it comes to what we Roundworlders would call "actual" science, seems to think that an excess of education or training can be a bad thing, leading to a flaw he calls "learning the limits of the possible" — i.e., a failure of imagination. He failed the Alchemists' Guild exam due to doodling complex devices in the margins and absent-mindedly correcting the questions. He is also rather bad at coming up with names for his inventions for some reason.
    • Perhaps the finest example of this in Discworld, however, is Harry King, who like Cohen tends to use certain kinds of paper for lavatory use (his wife likes newspaper when it's recycled, but King himself prefers to "cut out the middleman"). He was born a poor street kid and eventually came to be the waste management consultant in Ankh-Morpork. William de Worde, by no means stupid and possibly the most well-read person in Ankh-Morpork outside of the Patrician, had the "uncomfortable moment when an educated man realizes the illiterate person sizing him up could probably out-think him three times over"
    • His Grace the Duke of Ankh, Commander Sir Samuel Vimes is also a key example. He doesn't know much in terms of education (he grew up as a street kid, with all that entails in old Ankh-Morpork), and struggles manfully with his paperwork and other more intellectual duties, but he knows people better than almost anyone else in the setting. While Smart People Play Chess, he questions why the pawns don't overthrow the nobles and set up a republic.
  • P. G. Wodehouse's Psmith series owes its setup to this trope. Mike Jackson is pulled out of his school on account of his failing grades and sent to a private school, where he meets Psmith, exiled from Eton for a similar reason. Despite their academic deficiencies, Mike is a near-infallible cricket player and Psmith is an underhanded genius hiding beneath the guise of a stereotypical Cloudcuckoolander.
  • At the start of Red Rising, Darrow didn't even know what shampoo was. This was mainly due to the fact that he was a member of the lowest caste in society, who weren't allowed to read, and weren't allowed running water for showers, only being able to clean off dirt by blasting themselves with pressurized air. Once he gets an actual education, he's very quick thinking, well read, and eloquent.
  • Roys Bedoys: Roys often complains about having to study and procrastinates studying, which makes him somewhat of a bad student until he steps his game up.
  • Gwen and Lesley from The Ruby Red Trilogy don't really pay attention at school (except in History class) and 'study' by watching popular movies only loosely related to the topic, yet outside of school, they are able to hold their own in trying to figure out and navigate the complex conspiracies of the Guardians. This is sharply contrasted with Gideon and Charlotte, who have received intensive education practically since birth in historical knowledge and skills designed to let them fit seamlessly into past eras, but have also been successfully indoctrinated to play their roles in the Guardians without question or complaint and are unprepared for navigating healthy friendships and relationships in their own era.
    Gwyneth: "If you've been trained for your life as a time traveler only half as thoroughly as Charlotte, then you've had no time to make any friends at all, and your opinion of what you call average girls comes from observations you made when you were standing about the school yard alone. Or are you telling me that the other kids at your school thought your hobbies, like Latin, dancing the gavotte, and driving horse-drawn carriages, were really cool?"
  • Cayleb of Safehold openly admits to not being much of a scholar, but he is definitely not stupid.
  • Sharpe: Sharpe starts the series as this, being a Satisfied Street Rat with the education that entails in the late 18th century. Even after he learns to read (after three months with William Lawford and a page from The Bible in a cell in India) he never shows any interest until he gains a commission and gets married. After that, however, he becomes a voracious, if somewhat eclectic, reader.
  • Slacker: Football hero String is smart enough to understand a playbook perfectly, but he's failing all his classes and thinks To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee is one of the stars of Duck Dynasty.
  • Tantei Team KZ Jiken Note:
    • When Wakatake is not in the mood he can easily become this. This is why on one hand he is eligible for Team KZ (which requires being the top 2% academically), but on the other hand couldn't even get into the middle school he wants.
    • Aya's little sister Nako turns out to be this in her spinoff Genie Team G Jiken Note, in a more classical way. Despite having an IQ of 260, she's an perennial underperformer, always been divided into the lowest class in Shumei Seminar and her intelligence is hardly recognized until the fifth grade.
  • The world of Temeraire features several people like this, though it certainly wouldn't be uncommon as public schooling was all but unthought of during the Napoleonic wars. Laurence forced himself to cram the necessary mathematics to be a sailor into his head when he was a boy, but was not much skilled beyond that, and had little love for books. Laurence, though, is not a slow man by any means. However, it's subverted when Temeraire's love of books and joy in reading and knowledge infects Laurence. Laurence also insists that his adolescent ensigns and cadets do their schoolwork, when he's not so busy he forgets, and though they perform their duties ably and, as children and youth are wont to do, pick up languages faster than the adults in the crew, they show great resistance and dislike of it. Similarly, uneducated dragons, even from breeds not particularly renowned for thinking, prove quite capable of debating advanced mathematics with Temeraire. The trope is also inverted in a minor character, a lieutenant who, "If ships could be sailed by figures could sail around the world without fear" but when called to order others around habitually gives the wrong order.
  • D'Artagnan from Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers is very perceptive and good at Indy Ploys, but "had never been able to cram the first rudiments of [Latin] into his head, and [...] had by his ignorance driven his master to despair".
  • In William King's Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf novel Grey Hunters, Sven's marked lack of interest in history and the archives makes a Foil for the more studious hero, Ragnar. At one point he drags Ragnar away from the hologlobe for beer.

    Live-Action TV 

  • Charles Gunn from Angel is far from well-read due to growing up on the streets but has a first-rate intellect, though he gets self-deprecating about being "the muscle" in the group in later seasons. In Season 5, this is subverted when he becomes the group's legal expert after getting a mental download of a comprehensive knowledge of the law, along with some Required Secondary Powers like golf, foreign languages and Gilbert and Sullivan.
  • Arrested Development: High-school age Maeby Fünke is able not only to con her way into a job as a film executive, but to actually execute it competently, despite only getting a crocodile in spelling and a daisy in arithmetic.
  • Penny from The Big Bang Theory is this, having dropped out of community college and having trouble learning scholastic topics. This contrasts with the rest of the characters who all work in different scientific fields.
  • Jesse Pinkman, from Breaking Bad, never did well in class, especially Walter White's chemistry class, and speaks in a particular vernacular that does not make him seem very intelligent. When it comes to actually performing chemistry, however, he is surprisingly talented: he actually understands Walt's formula for his sky blue meth instead of just simply following a recipe, and not only is he one of the only three people who can cook meth with purity in excess of 90% (the others being Gale Boetticher and Walt himself), but once managed to create a batch of Walt's formula out of a cramped RV meth lab by himself.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Xander is hopeless at basic schoolwork.
    • Buffy herself comes off this way, largely because her slaying cuts into her studying. Those of her teachers who aren't jerkasses recognize that she is actually very bright, and she gets a great Verbal SAT score.
    • Faith is shown to be this on having the phrase "Achilles' Heel" explained to her.
      Faith: "Ah. The school thing. I was kinda absent that decade."
  • Doctor Who: Noble Savage Leela may not be the most educated or intellectual of the Doctor's companions, but she is highly observant and intuitive. This makes her an excellent complement to the Genius Ditz Doctor.
  • In Dead Gorgeous, Rebecca believes being pretty and popular are more important than being smart. As a result, she neglects her studies in favour of fashion and gossip magazines. In "Smoke and Mirrors" it is revealed that is failing every subject, which nearly causes her to fade out of existence.
  • Drake from Drake & Josh, with a side of Brilliant, but Lazy.
    Drake: All right, it's been 17 minutes since we were at the sign that said "two hours from this point." I figure an hour and 43 minutes for the line, 6 minutes to ride The Demonator, 13 minutes to find the car and 22 minutes to drive home. That puts us at the front door at exactly 10:58, which is two minutes before mom and dad said they'd be home.
    Josh: All right, like, if you can figure that out … why are you failing math?
    Drake: Because this is important!
  • Eureka's protagonist, Sheriff Jack Carter is book dumb in comparison to his town full of supergeniuses. He has street smarts in addition to what would be considered a high degree of education anywhere else in the world. This works in his favor as the running theme of the series is how the super-geniuses go for overcomplicated answers but it's Carter pointing out the simplest solution that saves the day.
  • Family Ties: Mallory is frequently portrayed as a space cadet and average (at best) student who posits that there may be "special verbs for dead people" since they don't "do" anything. However, she is clearly a very talented fashion designer who nearly beats Alex in the PBS scholarship contest of her own accord.
  • Leonard Snart (a.k.a. "Captain Cold") in The Flash is a very good villainous example. He never finished high school, and his signature Freeze Ray was stolen from STAR Labs rather than anything he made himself. That said, he was a very cunning and successful professional criminal even before he took on this gimmick, thanks to a hefty dose of Awesomeness by Analysis, and was the first villain to hand the Flash a solid defeat and remain at large, rather than being killed or captured. He has also taken apart and put back together his cold gun enough times to know how to maintain it, despite the technology being way beyond him. He insists that his partner (who's even more this trope) do the same with his flamethrower. Mick later turns out to be even smarter by being able to pilot a timeship and track down temporal fugitives as the Bounty Hunter Chronos. Jefferson "Jax" Jackson never went to college due to a busted knee ruining his chances for a football scholarship. Despite this, his skills as a mechanic translate surprisingly well to maintaining a timeship almost as well as Rip (a trained Time Master).
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Being a smallfolk (commoner) who was only relatively recently elevated to the nobility by Stannis Baratheon for loyal service, Ser Davos Seaworth is illiterate until Season 3 as smallfolk don't generally learn how to read and write, but he is still one of the most intelligent characters on the show. He's a quick thinker and excellent strategist, and even the Book Dumb part is starting to disappear since Shireen began teaching him to read.
    • In "Battle of the Bastards," Tormund doesn't understand the strategic terms that Jon uses and takes the metaphor "had demons in him" literally.
  • Emma Norton in Genie in the House. Interestingly, despite being the more popular and seemingly girly of the Norton sisters she is also the character with most of the stock sitcom male characteristics; laziness, Small Name, Big Ego, a tendency towards get rich quick schemes, and comedic lechery.
  • Cappie, the president of Van Wilderesque fraternity Kappa Tau on Greek is shown to be extremely smart, to the point of being able to converse freely in Latin and figuring out what the point of a psychological experiment was that the research assistant didn't realize, but he's also shown to completely not care about school, such as showing up to a class for the first time two months after it started.
  • Matt Parkman on Heroes, although he's no genius, is streetwise enough to have been a cop and cunning enough to have literally thought his way through some nasty situations. He's also dyslexic, hence Book Dumb through no fault of his own.
  • iCarly: Sam Puckett takes this trope so far that a realistic question can be asked of how she hasn't been expelled or held back. Again. She got held back already in the 3rd grade. She's also a bully. Yet outside the school, she can scheme and plan.
  • Luke from Jessie is shown to be highly creative and intelligent when it comes to pranking and scheming but is expelled from school on a regular basis due to his behaviour and grades. Though an episode where he and Ravi switch character (It Makes Sense in Context) reveals he'd actually have good grades if he did his homework and didn't fall asleep in class, making him also an example of Brilliant, but Lazy. A guest appearance on the Spin-Off Bunk'd reveals that Luke actually gets Straight As in summer school.
  • Gentarou Kisaragi, the main hero of Kamen Rider Fourze is this. So much that he considers getting a 50 his greatest accomplishment! Plus, that 50 was originally an 18 — due to helping out the detention teacher's son, he bumped it up to the 50 to pass! The other half of this trope is shown in Gentaro's social skills (he's incredibly good with people and can befriend just about anyone, plus is a very good judge of character and when someone is hiding something), his deductive reasoning (figuring out who the Monster of the Week was based on a character tic), and his ability to learn, adapt, and improvise during battle.
  • Kenan Rockmore from Kenan & Kel. He forgets what George Washington did with the cherry tree, can't think of an author to use as an influence for his "graduation speech", and doesn't know how to spell "thief" ("T-H-E-A-F-E"). That said, he is resourceful when it comes to planning his schemes.
  • Mirabelle from The Kicks, though this is largely due to laziness. "Breakaway" reveals that she believes she's not smart enough to pass her classes, so she doesn't bother trying.
  • LazyTown: A strange subversion. Robbie is an Evil Genius without a doubt, as he's able to build machines that would have engineers scratching their heads (like a microwave that can make inventions for you and even a time machine), and his varied disguises and antics show he's obviously a very knowledgeable individual despite all their goofiness. However, for some reason, he struggles with simple arithmetic and reading.
  • The Librarians: Compared to Flynn Carsen (22 academic degrees), Jacob Stone (world's foremost expert on art history with several Ph.D.s and honorary doctorates), and Cassandra Cillian (a genius-level mathematician), Ezekiel Jones (world's greatest thief) and Eve Baird (colonel in a special UN counterterrorism unit) seem like outliers. Ezekiel doesn't like to read much and tends to scoff at Jacob's knowledge of art. Despite this, he has incredible street smarts, self-taught skills of getting out of any situation, and knowledge of the criminal underworld. Eve, on the other hand, doesn't need to be book smart, when she has three (sometimes four) Librarians, whose knowledge and skills she knows how to direct, as well a good leader should.
  • The titular character of Life with Derek obviously isn't stupid. He just has other priorities.

  • Reese of Malcolm in the Middle was shown, more often than not, to be an ingenious planner — Malcolm himself hangs a lampshade on it by saying:
    "It's weird. Reese is one of the worst students at school, but he's invented like fifty games, and they're all fun."
  • Kelly Bundy from Married... with Children began the series as a snarky, Book Dumb teenage girl before turning into a Brainless Beauty essentially overnight.
  • Modern Family: Haley Dunphy gets middling grades at best, often misuses words larger than two syllables, and altogether considers thinking to be a "nerd" thing to avoid at all costs. However, she's shown to have a very cunning mind when she puts in the effort, from the time she convinced the family she had a waitress job (and then tricked them into thinking her mom's outburst got her fired when Alex tried to expose her), continually sees through her parents' manipulations, and even started up a successful fashion blog.
  • The eponymous character of Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide.
  • Never Have I Ever: Paxton. The reason why he's in Mr. Shapiro's class is because he flunked it as a sophomore.
  • The writers of The O.C. seemed unsure whether Summer Roberts was merely Book Dumb or The Ditz. She seems to vary with different episodes, and at least one episode hinted she was more a Seemingly Profound Fool ("what is a Jihad?").
  • Derek "Del Boy" Trotter of Only Fools and Horses was always more interested in making money down the market than school, which for him was mostly a way to hang out with his friends. He has a shockingly poor grasp of just about every academic subject, save for maths where his decades of wheeling and dealing have left him with fantastic mental arithmetic. Despite all this he is an excellent Guile Hero, able to outwit people much better educated and successful than himself. One memorable instance involved him confessing to a crime moments after receiving a legally binding declaration that he couldn't be arrested for his involvement with it. His Book Dumb nature means that he is so frequently wrong about things that when he is secretly acting out one of his brilliant plans, even the audience is fooled.
  • Our Miss Brooks: Teenager Walter Denton is a cunning schemer, editor of the school paper and manager of the baseball, basketball and football teams. However, his grades range from mediocre to absolutely abysmal. This odd dichotomy was acknowledged by Mr. Conklin in the episode "The Birthday Bag":
    Mr. Conklin: Excellent, Walter. It's a wonder that agile mind of yours doesn't function so efficaciously in the schoolroom.
  • Kim Parker from The Parkers is a dimwit in academics, and there is a running gag about her having bad grades, but she does have a big heart and dreams of reaching success. At the show's end, she never graduates from Santa Monica College, but she goes on to become a successful fashion designer.
  • Perpetual Grace Ltd: Glenn is an adolescent who has spent most of his upbringing running his father's pawn shop rather than going to school or socializing. As a result, he's shockingly ignorant about basic concepts. For example, he gets lost due to believing that west is always to his left. Characters often struggle to explain complex situations to him in terms he understands.
  • Played with with Inspecteur (DI) Lampion, in French series Les Petits Meurtres d'Agatha Christie. He's smart and interested in new sciences and techniques (like profiling), but often fails to recognise the classical poetry and literature that his superior, Commissaire (DCI) Larosière, is fond of quoting.
  • Pretty Little Liars: Hanna was never a particularly good student, but she knew her fabrics.
  • In Princess Returning Pearl, Xiao Yan Zi has never been formally educated, and when book-learning is forced on her at eighteen, she finds it extremely difficult, though she is by no means unintelligent. Her struggle with learning literature is a major subplot in the series.
  • Queen Sugar: Deconstructed. When Hollywood began to struggle academically in high school, he was too ashamed to ask for help and none of the adults in his life noticed that he had stopped going to class. This motivates him to run for a position on the school board, to make sure more kids don't fall through the cracks like he did.
  • Red Dwarf
    • David Lister, at least in later seasons, is Book Dumb but can be a reasonably intelligent guy. In "The Inquisitor", where he is put on trial to justify his existence (before himself as Judge), he fails because he could have been a better person than he was, whereas both The Cat and Rimmer (who are easily just as, if not more, a waste of DNA) get off by their own low standards.
    • The Cat is shown to be good at piloting Starbug and having a good sense of smell and perception of nearby danger. This is despite the fact he's not intelligent in other areas.
  • Darlene Connor from Roseanne is a D student more interested in sports than useless studying. However, she's quick-witted and a talented writer, and becomes the first person in her family to go to college, presumably doing well when she's studying something that matters to her.
  • Schitt's Creek has Alexis Rose, who never finished high school and has no interest in anything even slightly academic. She does have a strange amount of street smarts and a particular flair for self-promotion, which she eventually turns into a career in public relations.
  • Turk from Scrubs was a C student in high school, but managed to get into medical school and eventually makes head surgeon. This is to some extent true to life; it is often far easier to focus on academics when one has a clear direction, goal, and interest. He notes himself that his college marks picked up soon after he decided where he wanted to go with his studies.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise: Chief Engineer Trip Tucker is an engineering genius, head of the engineering department on Earth's first Warp 5 starship, and consistently throughout the series is shown managing tricks on Enterprise no one else in Starfleet could have pulled off. He also appears to have the same instinctual knowledge of the engines as his successor (predecessor?) Montgomery Scott — and struggles with basic algebra.
  • Romeo is this on The Steve Harvey Show. Although he's been in High School for nearly seven years, he actually does well on his SAT's and by the series end, he gains admittance into a four-year university course.
  • Zack from The Suite Life of Zack & Cody.
  • Dean Winchester, the elder brother in Supernatural is this trope. He almost never reads unless he has to while researching a case, and he only has a GED, having dropped out of high school at sixteen to hunt. However, he is a great mechanic, managing to keep his beloved 1967 Chevy Impala in great shape and even rebuilding it by himself after a semi totals it in the first season finale, and he made an electromagnetic frequency (EMF) meter out of a busted Walkman. Not mention he's a great liar, a fairly smooth talker, a hell of a tactician, and he has a lot of supernatural lore committed to memory.
  • In the TV version of Sweet Valley High Jessica is a complete airhead in the classroom, assuming amongst other things that makeup tests are about the use of cosmetics and that Paris is in Italy. Otherwise, while definitely shallow and impulsive, she can be plenty cunning and manipulative, particularly if someone plays a nasty trick on her.
  • Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond on Top Gear — not stupid by any definition but completely uninterested in the kind of engineering, mathematical, or mechanical trivia that fascinates their colleague, James May.
  • An episode of The Twilight Zone dealt with a girl who was mute and presumably illiterate, but with incredible mental powers (like Cassandra Cain minus the whole assassin thing). When her teacher showed her a picture of a boat and asked what it was, the girl had a vision of the boat rocking at sea, and she felt very sad that she couldn't share this with the teacher. The story ends with the girl's caretaker finding her, but she's been DePowered to a normal child.
  • The Wire:
    • This is a major recurring motif among the street-level characters in the show. Many of the teenage characters are shown to struggle in school, while most of the adult dealers and hustlers have very little formal education—yet the show frequently shows that they're far from stupid, as it takes a great deal of cunning and intelligence (including maths skills) to survive on the streets of Baltimore. Highlighted in one memorable scene where a boy named Cyril struggles with his maths homework, despite having no problem keeping an accurate drug count while dealing on the corner.
      Wallace: Damn, Cyril! Look: close your eyes. You workin' a ground stash. 20 tall pinks. Two fiends come up at you and ask for two each, another one cops three. Then Bodie hands you off ten more. But some white guy rolls up in a car, waves you down and pays for eight. How many vials you got left?
      Cyril: Fifteen.
      Wallace: How the fuck you able to keep the count right, and you not able to do the book problem, then?
      Cyril: Count be wrong, they fuck you up.
    • Several of the detectives are also examples. Legal professionals who read their reports often gripe about their terrible spelling and grammar. Jimmy McNulty is the most prominent example. He's not particularly educated or well versed in academic subjects, but he's a brilliant detective and always sees himself as the smartest man in the room. After a disastrous date with a political strategist who is unimpressed by his blue collar lifestyle, he bristles, "I'm the smartest asshole in three districts and she looks at me like I'm some stupid fuck..."
  • Wizards of Waverly Place: Alex Russo regularly fails exams, but is the craftiest and most competent character in the series. This is lampshaded by her best friend, Harper, when she is looking for a substitute teammate in an academic contest after one of her original teammates dropped out:
    Harper: I wish you were smart. Then you could fill in.
    Alex: I am smart! I'm street smart.
    Harper: But not book smart.
    Alex: I am too book smart! Sure, I don't read books, but I hollow them out and hide things in them.

  • Abba's "Thank You for the Music" is about someone who people see as this until she sings.
  • The narrator of the Sam Cooke song "Wonderful World" may not know much about what he learned in school, but it would be a wonderful world if you loved him.
  • Soulja Boy has a song called "Report Card," which focuses on him rapping about asking his teacher to change his grades on his report card from straight Fs to straight Ds.
  • XTC's "Mayor Of Simpleton" has a similar theme to "Wonderful World", with the narrator also making the argument that, because he's so book dumb, he'd be totally straightforward about his feelings with you because he's incapable of making up a lie.

  • While it's not uncommon for serial killers covered by The Last Podcast on the Left to be school dropouts, Pee-Wee Gaskins earns special mention here as his autobiography, Final Truth, is described by Marcus as having surprising insight into the psychosis of serial killers despite Gaskins dropping out at age eleven, being more classifiable as a "mass murderer" than "serial killer", and such studies not yet being part of the common public consciousness. Marcus and Henry quote one section in particular, in which Pee-Wee accurately describes a type of Serial Escalation common to serial killers, where after the first, most difficult kill, they have to do a little bit more to maintain the thrill and grow steadily more sloppy as they do.

  • Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues:
    • Jae is said to be smarter than the average Joe, but logical subjects like maths or engineering baffle her.
    • Tamasin has a bright mind, but she doesn't work well with how the school tries to teach her. This has fed into her bad reputation, and as a result she's become prone to skipping class.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Da Orks in Warhammer 40,000. On the surface they look like a bunch of drunken soccer hooligans who can barely stack a couple crates up without smashing them to splinters, but looks can be deceiving. Just because charging at you with an axe held high and a loud bellow on their lips is their favorite tactic, doesn't mean it's all they do. Contrary to popular belief, they do indeed understand the concepts of flanking, high ground, suppressive fire, camouflage, feints, tactical withdrawals, and other such strategies. They have an entire god devoted to "Being Cunning" — specifically, Being Brutally Cunning — so don't let your guard down. Additionally, because of how their version of psi works, choosing not to roll with formal education is actually a very calculated and clever strategic decision. If they built an engineering college for the mekboys so they all understood how engines and aerodynamics work, making their hoverbikes go faster would no longer be as simple as a can of red paint.

  • Annie's people are like this in Annie Get Your Gun, per the "Doin' What Comes Naturally" number.

    Video Games 
  • Absinthia:
    • If the party pays off Violet's student debt, everyone will state that the rich should be taxed, except for Sera who doesn't know what taxes are.
    • Despite having no formal training in chemistry, Jake is quick to learn how to brew potions when Thomas's wound is infected. In the ending, he uses this newfound skill to get a job making potions for Halonia's military.
  • The Kid in Bastion qualifies: a quick learner who immediately knows how to use new weapons, even the most sophisticated ones, and even upgrade them, the only person ever to have signed up two tours of duty for a highly risky job, a very skilled and reknowned scout and explorer, witty enough to survive being headhunted by powerful organizations... and a school dropout who only wants to make a living in a merciless world.
  • Elvis from Bravely Default II used to be such a huge mess as a student of Lady Emma's class. Most of his mistakes somehow revolved around setting his head or his clothes on fire, accidentally throwing the mysterious book into the fire but luckily finding out it's magically durable, he often fell asleep during her lectures and was often left behind instead of getting help from her, and his idea of training to traverse the Wayward Woods is to get lost in there and figure out a way to find the exit. Emma's notes do point out that what he lacked in smarts was made up with the potential he had, but even in the present day, Elvis leaves a lot to be desired that not anyone in the team dares to seek sage advice from him.
  • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind makes fun of this tendency for barbarians, with a picture book aptly titled "ABCs for Barbarians." It goes through A, B, and C, associating them with simple words before stopping.
  • Fate/Grand Order: Ritsuka Fujumaru has to go on multiple time traveling adventures to save the world. With a few exceptions (for example, they knew who Ushiwakamaru was, as they were a fan), they don't know anything about history and mythology, so their companions have to fill them in. In battle, they are good at strategy and using their Servants' strengths to their fullest.
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses:
    • Raphael struggles academically and has a penalty in Reason, the most brain-intensive field. However, while he is a bit simpleminded, he also has a lot of practical knowledge, and his neutrality in Authority shows that he's not completely helpless.
    • While Felix isn't unintelligent in the slightest and at worst neutral with every physical weapon type and movement type, he also admits he's no good at tactics. He has weaknesses in Reason and Authority, the most brain/study-intensive fields. Interestingly, Reason is his Budding Talent — building it during classes will make good progress for becoming a Mortal Savant down the line. His supports with Ingrid show that he's capable of thinking outside of the box, but isn't interested in discussing tactics.
  • I Was a Teenage Exocolonist: Several characters manifest this:
    • Dys dislikes traditional classes, in part because he's guaranteed to run into the Child Prodigy twin sister towards whom he has Successful Sibling Syndrome if he attends them. Instead, he sneaks out of the colony to observe the local wildlife. When Sol becomes old enough to go on officially sanctioned expeditions, Dys plays the role of the more knowledgeable peer.
    • Nougat, the recurring tutoring student, is suddenly much better at maths if she's using it for something hands-on or pertaining to everyday life.
    • Sol can befriend Nomi-Nomi, one of their peers, while working as a tutor in the same manner that they can befriend other peers by working alongside them. Job events, however, show that Nomi-Nomi comes to the tutoring sessions to get help, not provide it. Nomi-Nomi is also a walking argument in favor of the colony starting to support full-time artists.
    • As a child, Anemone hates school and would rather play sportsball instead.
  • According to an NPC in his neighborhood and his friend's comment in the anime adaption, Endou Mamoru from Inazuma Eleven is this. However, in a soccer game, he's a Hot-Blooded captain who is a huge source of Heroic Spirit.
  • Kyo Kusanagi of The King of Fighters may be an excellent fighter (having won the titular tournament at least 7 times), but because of this, he's been kept out of school for so long that he's at least 25 and has yet to graduate (not counting the time he was kidnapped and missing for at least a year). The problem being that, despite the successive year appellations, he hasn't aged — nor, for that matter, has the rest of the cast. No wonder they changed the sequel labeling style. It's more of a case of Kyo being The Slacker. He's not an idiot; he just gets bored very easily and decided to drop out from school by the time the NESTS saga rolled around. By the way, he's only won KOF from '94 to '97.
  • In Lil Gator Game, Lil Gator easily gets bored with overly technical stuff, such as when some kids from a fancy prep school try to explain their projects in detail, and thinks that an equation is "the thing where rocks get smaller". Despite this, they can be shown to be quite smart for a kid their age, especially when they point out the contradictions in their friend Martin's "testimony" during the mock courtroom scene.
  • Dekar from Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals is pretty consistently portrayed as an idiot, but he's also resourceful and very philosophical. Also, he was the only one to see through Idura's trap at the Tower of Sacrifice. (Of course, Idura DID manage to trick him into the trap after a few minutes — but it didn't matter, as Dekar simply tore the thing apart.)
  • In Persona 3, Junpei isn't completely stupid, but he has the worst academic performance of all the party. Likewise, Aigis, a Ridiculously Human Robot who joins the party midway through the game, is only prepared for fighting Shadows, so she does quite poorly on the only set of exams that she takes.
  • Most of the Investigation Team in Persona 4. With the exception of Yukiko and the Protagonist (whose aptitude depends on the player), none of them are seen to do well on their exams. In spite of this, none of them are actually stupid. Rise has only just restarted school after suspending her career as a teen idol, Teddie has never been to school but picks up ideas fast, and Naoto is by far the most intelligent and educated member of the group, albeit without any visible academic record to prove this. Both Yosuke and Chie don't really stand out in regards to intelligence but help move the investigation along regardless. Even Kanji — who is clearly the least intelligent of all — makes up for his lack of intellect with a rather specialized interest.
  • Persona 5 has more than a few examples.
    • Ryuji and Ann are not particularly good students, with Ann only good at English, but aren't necessarily stupid, either. Even though Ryuji is one of the least intelligent members of the party and often lacks common sense, he has a number of clever ideas, such as using the Metaverse to collect evidence of Kamoshida's abuse.
    • Eiko Takao, a friend of Makoto's from the Priestess Confidant. Unlike Makoto, who's one of the top students in her grade, Eiko has poor grades, but is knowledgeable about fashion, has a boyfriend and seems to have a vision for how she wants her life to go. Unfortunately, it turns out that Eiko is also somewhat gullible, and her boyfriend turns out to be manipulating her in order to get her into debt and sell her to the sex trade.
  • While not strictly educationally relevant because of the world it takes place in, Phantasy Star IV has Chaz. Whenever he's presented with anything technically complex, it's mostly lost on him, and he's easily impressed and surprised by technology (a particularly dumb moment is when he's impressed that Demi — who is an android — is adept at handling machines). He even lampshades this, pointing out that Rune has basically had to explain everything to him since he joined the party. However, his understanding of people is top-notch, and he's usually aware of other characters' feelings and thoughts before they express them; this also leads him to his Moment of Awesome when he recognizes the hypocrisy inherent in his destiny and chooses to refuse the call.
  • Potion Permit:
    • Rue struggles with her lessons from her tutor Xiao, so he asks you for help in mentoring her.
    • Russo hates homework, so he sneaks out to play with Laura or at the arcade instead.
  • In Puyo Puyo, Amitie is a competent magician and nobody doubts that she'll be a great one someday. With that said, she's always in need of supplementary classes, and it's implied she does badly in those as well.
  • John Marston, the protagonist of Red Dead Redemption, is certainly this, to serve as a stark contrast to his son Jack and the sequel's Arthur Morgan.
  • Zig-Zagging Trope with the Boss in the Saints Row series. They often come across as completely ignorant about pretty much everything not involving crime and mayhem, to the frequent irritation of their allies and enemies alike. It's either selective or obfuscated, though, as they're also a fan of Jane Austen.
    • In Saints Row 2 Tera tells them she's a microbiologist during a mission. They don't know what that is.
    • And in Saints Row IV they don't recognize the famous "tomorrow, tomorrow and tomorrow" soliloquy from Macbeth, much to the exasperation of Zinyak who wanted it to demoralize them.
  • Luke, the protagonist of Tales of the Abyss goes well beyond Book Dumb to not knowing nearly anything, being completely ignorant about his own world or the way people live. He even unwittingly shoplifts from a food stand because he doesn't know how stores work. While he is observant and resourceful and clearly fairly intelligent, having lost all his childhood memories coupled with his belligerent attitude makes it difficult to teach him anything. Of course, this functions as a convenient way for the other characters to explain even the most basic common knowledge about the game world to the player.
    • Then you find out it might be more justified than it previously appears, since he's actually only seven-years-old. And been cooped up in his own house the entire time to boot. This also means he's much smarter than it seems at first; how many seven-year-olds can arrange a peace treaty meeting or quickly realize the methods needed to save the world when just handed brief explanations?
    • Tales of Symphonia's Lloyd Irving is like this. Starts off completely clueless, but by the time Martel shows up you get the feeling that Lloyd has figured out exactly how to plow through the Gambit Pileup. Dawn of the New World pretty much confirms this, because even when you consider that most of the evil deeds that Lloyd was blamed for were actually Decus in disguise, the real Lloyd is still pretty much running his own plan, as evidenced by his demanding the cores and then running away when he realizes he's outnumbered by his former friends, rather than just joining up with them. Yet, despite now being nearly twenty, academics-wise, he's still only managed to get around to memorizing his multiplication tables, as revealed in a skit with Raine.
    • Tales of Vesperia has its own protagonist, Yuri Lowell. Though he is the one that keeps the party steps ahead of the other groups throughout the game, he states outright that he has little patience for reading. While most of the others in the party tend to be experts in their (book) researched fields, they each end up relying on Yuri for his street smarts. That said, he's also a Guile Hero; his lack of academic interest is out of laziness, not lack of brains.
  • In Touhou Project, Mystia Lorelei canonically cannot read kanji ("fine print" in translation), yet runs a successful con act using her power to inflict Temporary Blindness to sell grilled lampreys as a folk cure for blindness, making her one of the most successful youkai in Gensokyo despite being functionally illiterate and on the business end of the Superpower Lottery (and a lot of poultry jokes).
  • Rosie of Valkyria Chronicles finished her education (and therefore military training) at middle-school level. Nevertheless, she starts off as one of Welkin's squad leaders and is more experienced in combat than most of Squad 7's recruits.
  • The 'Tactical Points' (TP) element of Xenoblade Chronicles 3's Chain Attack system is widely regarded as a means of displaying how intelligent party members are in carrying out their attacks. While Taion has a TP base of 35, Lanz and Sena, the two muscle-heads of the party, both have a TP base of 15. This has led to memes of referring to the pair having '15 TP moments', whenever they do or say something that could be construed as stupid. And then you have Triton, a scatterbrained old man with a TP base of 10.

    Visual Novels 
  • Keiichi in Higurashi: When They Cry has an interesting case of this; it's revealed that while his grades are standard to mediocre, he has a rather good to great understanding of the real life implementations of whatever is being done. However, in Tsumihoroboshi-hen, it is revealed that Keiichi has scored genius levels on IQ tests, and is quite smarter than he initially seems, yet has a pathological block that requires him to be interested in the subject to do well. He is also shown to help Mion and Rena with their studies, and Mion is a year older than him.
  • Played for Drama in Little Busters! with Kud, who is a very eager and hard-working learner, but because she isn't used to the Japanese examination system and isn't very good at multiple-choice tests while under pressures tends to consistently do pretty badly in tests.
  • Nurse Love Addiction has this with Asuka, who isn't the brightest bulb to begin with, to the point where you have to wonder how she got accepted into nursing school even with her younger sister Nao's help. That said, it's reconstructed in one character's good ending, where Asuka becomes the top student in the class simply by having a tutor that suits her.
  • Akira from Spirit Hunter: NG is clever enough to solve the various puzzles and mysteries Kakuya throws his way, as well as keep himself alive against murderous spirits, but he's terrible at anything that requires actual research and leaves that to his more intellectual allies. In his profile, his intelligence is his lowest stat, more than three times less than his physique.

    Web Animation 
  • JaidenAnimations: The titular Jaiden is a cartoon enthusiast and storytime animator who is also a college dropout and a Nervous Wreck who is much more focused on gaming and animating (which she acknowledges is media consumption) than researching anything about the world she lives in.
  • The Most Popular Girls in School: It's clear Trisha's not going to be class valedictorian anytime soon, but she does have knowledge in certain areas — cheerleading, paperwork, cameras, etc. Her mother, Trish Cappelletti, was a former student at Overland Park High School, and she repeated two years and stayed at the school for six years total.

    Web Comics 
  • Dear Children's Cailin Carver and Josh De Witt, two of the main viewpoint characters, are not into books, in stark contrast to their friend Chelle Seagal — to her frequent frustration. Josh, in particular, is quite intelligent, despite his lack of interest in reading.
  • Ariel of Drowtales shows signs of this, including not knowing her clan's history outside of the romanticized versions she read though this makes sense considering Syphile's lackluster teaching (which consisted of giving Ariel a dictionary, something far beyond her ability to understand, and ordering her to read it) and the fact that she only spent about 5 years at Orthorbbae, significantly less than almost everyone else in her age group, and much of the time she did spend there was spent trying to avoid being attacked again after she was discovered to be a girl, and she's explicitly said to have not gotten very good grades as a result. Despite this she's been shown to be fairly intelligent in other areas and is very good at thinking on her feet.
  • Muko from Furry Fight Chronicles didn't graduate from high school, and anything she learned about furry fighting came from magazine posters.
  • Orville from Hodges Pond does not know what a vegetarian is and can't spell the word "scholar".
  • Celina's imp cannot add, has trouble reading, and often writes letters backwards in Imp.
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, since Bob starts out as officially the world's most average man, he's not really dumb, but since the rest of main cast (Jean's a scientist, Molly's a prodigy, and Voluptua's a 300-year-old alien) are much brighter and more well-educated than average, he tends to come off looking Book Dumb by comparison.
  • In Jupiter-Men, Quintin, Jackie, and Arrio all struggle in different subjects in school. Quintin flunked his social studies project thanks to his String Theory-laden presentation about Jupiter-Man, while Jackie is a straight-C student. Arrio mentions struggling with Spanish and Jackie says they can all be dumb together. But Jackie is a cheerleader, a member of multiple clubs (though she's known to bounce between them), and is social and popular. Quintin is capable of in-depth research into subjects he's interested in, going so far as to take his own pictures of Jupiter-Man, though his efforts go unappreciated owing to his belief that Jupiter-Man has superpowers.
  • Averted by Max in Max Overacts — Max isn’t stupid, but he is definitely prone to poor decision-making, lack of focus and his classroom grades are below average, which he regards as a problem.
  • Oona from The Order of the Stick falls under this. While she seems like a simpleton with limited vocabulary, she's actually smarter than she lets on, expressing complex and philosophical thoughts on politics between goblinoid races and her intention to keep Monster Hollow's population sustainable for her settlement. While she does speak in the third person, her dialogue is not bold and lowercase like the other characters with poor intelligence, giving the indication that this is the result of different languages and syntax.
  • Schlock Mercenary:
  • Sleepless Domain: Sally has trouble in class. When she asks Tessa for her notes from the other day, saying she thinks she missed something, Tessa retorts, "Let me guess, like, all the notes?" Her grades are below Gwen's, who, according to this page's Alt Text, has a solid B in every subject.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: Sigrun and Emil. Sigrun didn't really get an education to speak of, being a Taught by Experience Military Brat. A scene shows her to be completely baffled by the fact that Mikkel actually likes to read. Emil got educated by private tutors and was doing fine until he family got a Riches to Rags episode and he joined the public school system, seeing his grades drop greatly. The fact that that he's shown to be not that much better than Sigrun in terms of academic stuff (and much worse than two other members of the crew) during the story strongly hints towards those tutors failing to actually teach him something.
  • Rak from Tower of God, who has no idea of the basics of the Tower or weapons, but has an intuition and empathic intelligence that is incredibly accurate.
  • In Weak Hero, this is the explanation for why Eugene is both The Smart Guy of the main group and lacking in grades enough that he needs to go to cram school — he's interested in any sort of knowledge that doesn't pertain to school. He even shows more interest in a science contest than he ever does in the classroom.

    Web Original 
  • Quantum from Beyond the Impossible, to the point people are surprised to find out he knows more than just comic books:
    Quantum: I thought tachyons were only theoretical?
    [everyone stare at him like this is the strangest thing they've ever heard]
    Quantum: What? I read... [shrugs]
  • Sgt Ducky: Ducky is actually quite intelligent about the topics he wants to talk about but frequently explains how he performed badly in school due to a lack of interest.
  • Whateley Universe:
    • Solange is cunning, smart enough to see how to apply her father's business practices to ruling her high school, but Book Dumb because she's already a billionaire heiress who is never going to have to work for a living. There's nothing any teacher has to tell her that she sees any value in learning. Too much work.
    • Subverted by Shine, who is determined to overcome his lack of education; despite having made a fortune from his distilling devises before the age of fourteen, he feels he missed something important by leaving school when he was only nine, and wants to better understand just what his powers are doing.
  • Worm: Thanks to an upbringing which went straight from Parental Neglect through Parental Abandonment into the Department of Child Disservices, the supervillain Rachel Lindt (i.e. Bitch or Hellhound, depending on whether you ask her or her enemies) is outright illiterate — although she has learned quite a bit about caring for dogs.

    Web Videos 
  • In Episode 4 of FU DW, after a mention that D.W. can't read, the narrator quips that she should change her middle name from Winifred to Can't (Dora Can't Read).
  • Arin from Game Grumps can discuss game design, theoretical economics, and quantum physics at length, but is a high-school dropout that can't tell you the difference between a century and a millennium.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: Finn doesn't have a school to do bad in, but he's terrible at maths and doesn't understand Princess Bubblegum's science experiments. He's also quite impulsive and sometimes gullible. That being said, there are numerous episodes where he gets by through cleverness or subterfuge rather than just running at monsters with a sword. (Not that he doesn't do that too.)
  • Amphibia: Anne Boonchuy is a lazy, unmotivated student who is actively adversarial with her teachers, but is shown to be quite intelligent and resourceful when she applies herself. As an adult, this is no longer the case as she has earned a doctorate in herpetology.
  • Batman: The Animated Series: Batman's villain Scarface has some trouble saying big words but he's a great planner, almost to Clock King level.
    Scarface: Woke up last night with one of them whatchamacallits. Prema... Premanotion.
    The Ventriloquist: "Premonition"?
    Scarface: Don't put words in my mouth!
  • Ben 10: Kevin Levin is a justified example in Ben 10: Alien Force and Ben 10: Ultimate Alien; he's 17 years old, has spent most of his life on the streets, and hasn't gone to school since the age of 11. He's an utter genius at practical things like energy weaponry and mechanics (from cars to starships), as well as maths due to managing his own finances and history from keeping track of who hates who and why, but is understandably lacking in most academic areas.
  • Big City Greens: Cricket Green is largely ignorant of such subjects as science, literature, and geography (for example, he thinks the capital of Mexico is "M", and believes the Earth is flat), but he is a clever schemer who often comes out on top in dealing with his foes.
  • Bugs Bunny: While he's very clever and Street Smart, he has trouble reading ("diabolical sabotage" becomes "dy-a-bo-likkle...sab-o-tay-gee") and he doesn't know geography very well. In "The Abominable Snow Rabbit", he ends up in the Himalayas, while trying to reach Palm Springs:
    Daffy: You and your shortcuts. I told you to turn west at East St. Louis.
    Bugs: Yeah, I know. [Looks at map] The way I figure it, we're somewhere in the Hi-may-lay-us mountains.
    Daffy: That's pronounced "Himalayas"... Himalayas? Why, you four-legged Marco Polo! That's in Asia!
  • ChalkZone: Rudy Tabootie has been shown to not do very well academically, even getting straight Cs on his report card in "School of Destruction". Despite this, he easily outsmarts the various villains in the show, and is very resourceful and creative.
  • Clarence: The titular character is optimistic, knows how to have fun, and comes up with crazy plans. But this also leads to him being slow academically, being shown to have been placed in the crayon class in the episode ''Average Jeff'
  • Code Lyoko: Ulrich Stern and Odd Della Robbia demonstrate this trope (in contrast to teammates Jérémie and Aelita); Odd's mostly due to laziness since he's been shown to be quite capable if he decides to be, and neither of them are helped by their Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World lifestyle; in Ulrich's case, this is a source of contention for his overbearing father.
  • Danny Phantom: Danny Fenton while portrayed to be resourceful and clever in intense situations, is the standard C-student male teenage protagonist commonly seen in shows with High School settings. Of course, this is at least partially attributed to the notion that fighting ghosts constantly interferes with his studies. Nevertheless, his attitude towards his studies was subject to much varying. However, it's been averted once or twice, explaining why he didn't just do the obvious thing in a given situation (IE: Wishing a ghost who's playing genie into her containment) and instead spends the episode doing as he wants to do.
  • Daria: Jane has more common sense than most people and she's a very skilled artist, but it's noted in a few episodes that her grades are middling at best, especially in maths. Her academic performance in other subjects is never specifically mentioned.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: Eddy, the leader of the trio, has a consistently poor report card record, and has shown to be utterly clueless in anything related to academic knowledge, along with being incredibly impatient and prone to shoveling the bulk of the workload off on Ed and Double D. However, he is the leader of the Eds for a reason, has shown to plan out some truly ingenious scams throughout the series, and his wit is pretty quick as long as general knowledge isn't required.
  • The Fairly OddParents!: Timmy Turner is incredibly resourceful and able to outsmart adults, fairies, pixies, snarky genies, aliens and all sorts of other beings many times his age, but the series goes out of its way to ridiculously illustrate how bad he is with anything that involves academics, to the extent that it's a Running Gag that he always gets straight "F's." (Then again, his sadistic teacher Crocker seems to make it a point to give "F's" at every given oppertunity.)
  • Fillmore!: Subverted in the last episode where the main suspect in the poisoning of a class tarantula seems to be a Book Dumb kid who was often kept behind after class to look after it. The character's Big Secret is that, against his image, he's an A student, and was looking after the tarantula because he wanted to.
  • Futurama: Philip J. Fry is frequently portrayed as a lazy, childish The Slacker who is impulsive to the nth degree, has a soda addiction that nearly cost him his (best) (girl)friend's life (It Makes Sense in Context) and caused him to suffer near-lethal radiation poisoning, and on a trivia show blurted out the answer before any others were listed. In one episode, he attends Mars University, just so he can drop out. He has minimal social skills and has difficulty talking to people (including women). And despite being in a situation where not understanding his current environment makes sense, it's made pretty clear that he doesn't have much more knowledge regarding anything else outside of a small sector of nerdy interests. Despite all of this, he does manage to be quite clever at times, as well as pull off some remarkable feats and moments of clarity when given the right motivation.
    Fry: Well, I may not have brain smarts, but at least I have street smarts. (gets hit by a bus)
  • Goof Troop: Pete. They make it clear a few times that he didn't even finish High School, yet he runs a successful used car lot, is a successful Manipulative Bastard and would probably be considered upper-middle class in economic standards. His son PJ as well but in different ways. He doesn't do very well in school most of the time it's mentioned, but he's consistently the Only Sane Man.
  • Gravity Falls: Both Mabel Pines and "Grunkle" Stan Pines in contrast to their more bookish and academically talented brothers. Although he's not college-educated, Stan's shrewd business acumen and strength as a con man are second to none, and he managed to fix the broken portal just by reading up extensively on physics despite his lack of experience in the field. Mabel is highly creative and socially gifted, to say nothing of her mean hand with a grappling hook.
  • Grojband: Kon, as shown in the episode "Math of Kon" as he failed six years worth of maths.
  • Home Movies: Brendan Small is a parody: Everyone claims that he is very intelligent but in reality, he is egotistical, incompetent and a failure at everything.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: Jade Chan is generally Book Dumb on the basis that at times it could be argued if she even cares about school, for she would rather be on Jackie's adventures, see Adventure Rebuff. It doesn't help that at school she is often talking about said adventures instead of learning. Outside of school however Jade possess a smart and cunning mind and seems to be a very good problem solver, not the mention the ability to break into underground military installations. She is definitely street smart to the point that it scares Jackie how clever she is, at times it seems like he would have to be cunning himself to outsmart Jade. The leader of the super-spy organization Section 13 gave her a standing offer to join when she gets old enough. He was laughing at the time, but it is uncertain if he was joking (though later states this seriously when she managed to get into their most secured vault with no trouble). Her future version was actually competent enough to become leader of that organization, until being demoted for a mistake.
  • Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures: Villain Jeremiah Surd's minion Lorenzo is a pretty competent guy, but seems to lack education. For instance, he didn't recognize the terms "Apollo" and "cardiac arrest".
  • Stumpy from Kaeloo. He's apparently so dumb he can't even recite the alphabet beyond the letter "B", and thinks his favorite superhero discovered America. However, the show heavily implies that he has some sort of learning disorder.
  • Kim Possible: Ron Stoppable is the typical C-student male protagonist. Yet Ron regularly assists Kim in saving the world, and while evil was the best villain in the series, inventing several doomsday devices. Also built one when kidnapped by Drakken using stuff lying around, and gave Senior Senior Senior the ideas to build traps.
  • King of the Hill:
    • Luanne Platter did terribly in school but she is a gifted mechanic, a good example of this was in an episode where Hank's truck is taken apart for evidence when a delinquent broke into it and Luanne puts it back together in less than two days. Not to mention how he let her touch his truck, something he never let his own friends do greatly suggested her level of skill. However this side of her is rarely shown in the later episodes mainly due to flanderization.
    • Bobby. Very creative and has encyclopedic knowledge of cultural trivia, but a C student at best.
  • Wendy from Les Sisters, to the extent that her scores on tests for a hundred points are single-digit numbers.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Rainbow Dash regularly expresses a strong jock attitude, often misunderstanding complicated words ("Tenacity?" "Gesundheit.") and (initially) fears the stigma of being known as an "egghead" who reads books, but she is a capable weather manager (which fans posit would require extensive academic training). "Testing, Testing, 1-2-3" goes even further, implying that she may have some sort of learning disability (hence her dislike of heavily academic subjects). It also shows that when she's flying, she's capable of processing and remembering large amounts of information very easily. In later seasons, it's shown that her book dumbness was entirely a façade, and the reason she had trouble learning in a classroom was not due to learning disabilities, but because she was bored.
    • Applejack is down-to-earth and fairly simpleminded (she refers to French as "speakin' in fancy") but has enough business sense to run her farm without any economic problems.
  • Luz Noceda from The Owl House is repeatedly shown to be very intelligent, is an avid reader, and has a strong desire to learn. Despite this, her grades were implied to be rather lackluster back on Earth. The fact that she has ADHD probably has something to do with it.
  • Ozzy & Drix: An episode emphasized the importance of book learning in a painfully Anvilicious way. After Book Dumb Osmosis spends the entire episode berating Drix for not having any street smarts to offset his prodigious book smarts, it is ultimately Drix's book smarts that save the day. Ozzy, realizing for the last thirty seconds of the episode that book learning can sometimes go a long way, asks Drix to educate him. Drix obliges by quoting well known sciency things ("Well, for example, E=MC2") without offering anything resembling context, to which Ozzy reacts with obnoxiously exaggerated excitement.
  • Recess: TJ is perhaps the perfect embodiment of this trope. While his grades are notoriously average/below average, once on the playground he can pull off elaborate schemes from (quite literally) under his hat.
  • The Replacements: Todd Daring is shown to be brilliant schemer, but seems to have an aversion to anything to do with schoolwork. At his most extreme, he replaces his German teacher with someone who only speaks German so his father cannot find out how badly he is doing.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Bart Simpson is clearly an excellent example of this — at school, he is falling behind everybody else, barely managing to stay in his own grade, whereas in his spare time he thwarts criminals and solves mysteries, often displaying intuitive thinking skills on a par with his sister Lisa. Further proven in the few situations where he does apply himself academically, and manages to do quite well for himself. He has also proven himself to be an excellent polyglot, speaking fluent French in two months, and Spanish and Japanese in a matter of hours.
    • Ralph Wiggum, despite having a reputation for rather dim fits this to a minor extent. Although he's as Book Dumb as one could possibly get, numerous scenes have been dropped throughout various Simpsoncentric media from the comic, to the series itself that he's possibly creatively gifted. When his head's on somewhat straight(er than usual) anyway.
  • South Park: Trey Parker and Matt Stone have admitted that Eric Cartman is a genius: the smartest character in the show. However, he refuses to care about anything that does not immediately help him, especially school. He never pays attention in school and remains ignorant. Despite this problem, he forms very detailed plans, considers complex issues and is a brilliant manipulator. Despite this, he demonstrates frequent belief in totally ungrounded assumptions (which, given the nature of the South Park 'verse, are sometimes proven true.) An excellent example: in one episode, Cartman is horrified to find that there are more minorities at the local water park than white people and does a complex series of calculations to determine the population ratios and rate of change. Stan then remarks that this is "more math than I've ever seen you do," to which Cartman snaps "Because this is important!"'
  • Static Shock: Protagonist Virgil Hawkins was a below average student. He was formerly a good student, but being a super hero has interfered with his study time. Similarly, his best friend Richie (before gaining superpowers of his own) was shown to be a very poor student who excelled in engineering, making high-tech devices for Static to use constantly, but never passing a maths test.
  • Strange Hill High: Mitchell avoids studying as much as possible. He even states in "Read All About It" that he used the school hiding place the previous maths exam.
  • TaleSpin:
    • Wildcat seems pretty unintelligent, but give him any mechanical task to work on and he shows his true genius. Give him a broken telephone and he can fix it in ten seconds flat.
    • Baloo is revealed in one episode to be poor at spelling, and in a later one that he never even finished primary school. He is, however, a top-notch pilot and is capable of coming up with some cunning strategies when dealing with the various villains in the series.
  • Beast Boy from Teen Titans (2003) is by far the least academic of the main team, justified by how he didn't exactly have a normal, healthy upbringing with education in mind. He's shown to be really bad at subjects like geography (he assumed the Great Wall of China was in Japan) and history ("Now I know how George Washington felt when Napoleon beat him at Pearl Harbor!"). He does, however, have a vast knowledge of pop culture (which becomes useful when he and the team end up Trapped in TV Land by Control Freak) and demonstrates with his Animorphism powers an encyclopedic knowledge of the animal kingdom for things to turn into, including more esoteric lifeforms such as dinosaur species and amoebas.
  • The Venture Bros.:
    • Hank Venture. Earlier in the series he would have probably fallen under the category of an ordinary dumbass, but as of late he has acquired a rather typical teenage mindset. Even so, Hank still is as uneducated as a doorstop.
      Jefferson Twilight: Hank, aren't you just a little ashamed of your ignorance?
      The Alchemist: Like, just a little?
      Hank: Yeah. Constantly.
    • One episode had the two of them graduating "high school" and looking into colleges, with Hank instead deciding to join S.P.H.I.N.X. so he could work with Brock. To basically everyone's surprise, Hank manages to pass every single test they put him through to keep him from joining the organization, and he shows a freakish level of competence in handling dangerous situations. This can be attributed to being raised by resident-badass Brock Samson, and having picked up tricks from his life as a boy adventurer. But that same episode brought up that both Hank and his brother Dean have so little experience living in the real world, they have barely any actual life skills and wouldn't last a week outside the compound.
  • W.I.T.C.H.:
    • Will appears at least as smart as anyone else the rest of the time, but her grades are so bad she tries to hide them from her mother.
    • Irma Lair counts, saying she "lives in the now" and doesn't worry about her grades.
    • Book Dumb doesn't mean incompetent as they display intelligence and creativity at their Guardian positions; one notable example is Will using Teletransportation to save herself and a group of her allies, a feat that requires ten years of training to do safely. And this was her first time attempting it. Of course she did freak out when it seemed she teleported them into a wall. Naturally, waking up, going to school and saving the world causes grade loss on its own.
  • Yin Yang Yo!: With his exaggeratedly short attention span and prodigy for playing mindless video games, Yang is almost a blue anthropomorphic rabbit version of Timmy, complete with Jerkass tendencies. This is especially apparent when compared to his far more studious and level headed twin sister. The three shows share writers and directors, so it's not much of a surprise.

    Real Life 
  • Comedian Russell Brand did terrible in school. His book even has notes from his teachers who suspected he was Obfuscating Stupidity. Listening to his stand up and reading his book he comes off as extremely intelligent even culturally well versed.
  • George Carlin didn't do too well in school and has said that either the work would be too difficult or too easy and he'd be bored. Carlin also goofed off in class quite a bit as well. Knowing his stand up, Carlin is possibly one of the smartest comedians who ever lived and some even call him a philosopher.
  • Frank Zappa hated mainstream education and was a self-taught performer and composer. He even took his children out of school at age 15 and refused to pay for their college. Zappa was never anti-education, being a fiercely intelligent and near-obsessive autodidact, but his general disdain for everything to do with The Man left him with no respect whatsoever for the "formal" side of formal education.
  • One YouTube video showed an amazing example of this trope. A poorly educated Chinese man with no electrical training builds complex robots out of stuff from junkyards. His creations are amazing. He is clearly ingenious and clever.
  • A classic example is Dave Thomas, the founder of the Wendy's restaurant chain: ridiculously successful restaurateur, philanthropist, advertising icon, and high-school dropout. He finally got his GED in 1993 (at sixty-one, mind) because he thought his success might encourage others to take the wrong lesson and drop out like he did.
  • Bill Lear — if his name sounds familiar it's because he invented the personal jet that bears his name — and he never even had an opportunity to drop out of high school as he never went beyond the 8th grade. The Wright brothers themselves were simple bicycle mechanics who possessed what amounted to only a basic education for that era (which wasn't much).
  • Sammy Davis Jr. worked in show business his entire life and never attended school.
  • From a study that was quoted on The Colbert Report: out of all the billionaires in America, 5% come from Harvard while 35% come from "the college of No College Education". Also keep in mind the percentage of Americans who graduated from Harvard; it's got to be less than six million people.
  • As quoted above, Albert Einstein supposedly wasn't successful at school, and thus ended up as a clerk in patent office. Fortunately, this gave him plenty of time to daydream, and while Einstein wasn't a particularly fast thinker, he was a very deep one, which in turn led to his discovery of the theory of relativity. This is, in fact, a 100% thoroughly debunked myth (except about the speed/depth of his thoughts — depending on his knowledge of trivia, he might have done very well on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? but poorly on Jeopardy!). Einstein did extremely well in school. Einstein was actually a child mathematics prodigy who was doing both differential and integral calculus by age 12. It is true, however, that he didn't like the then-very-militaristic German schools. The myth may have arisen because the grade rankings in Switzerland (where he was born and went to school) are opposite to the ones in Germany (where he lived later). In Germany, 1 is the best grade, 6 the worst. In Switzerland, 6 is the best and 1 the worst. It could be assumed some Germans heard that Einstein "only" got 6s and came to the wrong conclusion. Also, when he first tried to apply at ETH Zürich (a science and technology university) he did not pass the entrance exam, because it was written in French. He still got exceptional marks in mathematics and physics. The other source of this myth may be the opinion of his teachers, who claimed that young Einstein was often prone to daydreaming and had trouble in focusing. Which is not surprising given that Einstein had already mastered large parts of his curriculum and was simply bored as hell. And one more thing: Einstein was not 'just a clerk in patent office'. He was a technical expert tasked with approving patent claims, a job that usually required a doctorate just to apply. He had, however, some "social" problems with some of his teachers. Best known is the case of his private teacher, when he was five-years-old. The teacher quit after young and irascible Albert threw a chair at her.
  • A similar case with Alan Turing. The British concept of being "educated" when he was young placed a heavy emphasis on the Classics, literature, history, and social sciences. Turing, who was brilliant at mathematics but weaker on these other subjects, was considered too narrowly-focused by the standards of the system. Of course, he went on to be Britain's greatest codebreaker during WWII and also laid the groundwork for modern computing as we know it.
  • Thomas Edison did poorly during his brief time in grade school as a child — which may have had something to do with undiagnosed hearing loss — yet he became one of the most successful inventors the US has ever known. He invented the phonograph, introduced practical incandescent lighting and power generation, started the first American motion picture company, and developed a system of corporate research and development caught on throughout the world. His mother started homeschooling him when he was about ten; he was a voracious reader and did his own chemistry experiments. His schooling basically ended at age 12 when he started working as a food vendor and newspaper boy on the Great Trunk Railroad, and through a youth spent hustling he learned telegraphy, started patenting inventions, and went into business. His favorite science was chemistry, but he taught himself a little bit of just about everything over the years with the help of an increasingly huge research library. He could never have produced so many inventions or gotten so successful without help from a lot of talented employees, many of whom he hired specifically because they had formal education or specialized knowledge that he lacked. Edison's treatment of rivals and employees who challenged his authority does require scrutiny, and he did more than once lose his dominance in the very industries he had founded by saying It Will Never Catch On to things such as the alternating current power grid and phonograph recording deals with famous artists. That said, nobody can deny that he left his mark on the world and changed innovation from a solitary pursuit into an industry in itself.
  • Especially talented and intelligent children may often receive poor grades for a variety of reasons. Studies have shown that intelligence can manifest in many different ways. For example, a kid with good tactile intelligence might perform poorly in mathematics even if he has an intrinsic understanding of mechanics. Teaching styles often only address certain kinds of intelligence, putting certain children at a disadvantage. Intelligent children with learning disabilities such as dyslexia can also fall behind if their needs are not properly addressed.
    • Maths teachers routinely expect students to show how they reached their answer, and reduce scores if they don't, regardless of how correct the answer is. Gifted students who can work out the answer in their heads see no need for the step-by-step procedure, so they suffer for it. On the other hand, this method of grading really is meant to help out students who aren't too good at maths, as showing your work often gets you enough points to pass so as long as you've answered a handful of questions correctly.
  • Adolf Hitler is an example. He was a notoriously bad student and dropped out of school when he was only 16-years-old. Yet he also had an excellent memory and had a lifelong love of reading, and would eventually have a private collection of more than 10,000 books (although, on the other hand, he used that excellent memory to memorise passages from other authors and pass them off as his own, and believed that the smartest way to read a book was to commit the "useful" parts to memory and ignore the rest). He rose to seize control of an advanced industrial country and made some considerable headway towards conquering the entire world. As time went on, however, poor decisions and generally degrading sanity caught up with him.
  • Marshall Mathers is an interesting case of this, he hated school and did poorly in it, repeating ninth grade multiple times, but he loved books and read the dictionary front to back multiple times, which he says gave him his incredible skill at rhyming.
  • Craig Ferguson dropped out of high school at age 16 and since then has had no formal education. He considers himself an autodidact, having read for pleasure pretty much everything the rest of us are forced to read in school. He is thus incredibly well-read and extremely literate and articulate. He now has his own show, a Peabody Award, and two well-received books to his credit. Keep in mind that in the British educational system, leaving school at 16 is equivalent to graduating high school in the U.S. Only those students seeking to move onto university (U.S.: "college") go to school beyond the age of 16, as they study up for their A-levels (exams intended to be used for entry into university).
  • In fact, this trope would partially apply to a majority of people in some countries. For example, studies show that, in France, people who have been reported to have a higher IQ than average (above one standard deviation from the average, meaning approximately superior to 115) are also globally low achievers at school. They have lower ratios of success at the "Baccalauréat" (High School graduating exam), and a higher proportion of them drop school before actually taking the "Baccalauréat". This might or might not be true in other countries as well. This is frequently believed to at least partly stem from the rather rigid and conformity-oriented French education system and the lack of formation of teachers relatively to this matter (although significant changes have been made thanks to governmental initiatives).
  • The late stand-up comedian Mitch Hedberg. During an interview, he revealed that he lost interest in being book smart around 10th grade and barely graduated with a high school diploma. He also lampshaded it a bit with this great one-liner:
    "I never went to college, but if I did, I would've taken all my tests in a restaurant because the customer is always right."
  • Quentin Tarantino never finished high school but has been tested with having a genius-level IQ and has an encyclopedic knowledge of film. He also admitted in an interview that he loved his history classes.
  • Christopher Titus brings up that he barely finished high school and that he still had a substandard education at "California public schools." While not academically intelligent, his stand-up routine brings up a great deal of fantastic insights into human interaction and the importance of self-awareness. In his podcast he also points out that his close friend (and fellow podcast member) Tommy Primo was actually put into special ed only because he was too hyperactive to pay attention and was a troublemaker, one time even jumping from the second story of the school to escape some teachers. Tommy eventually became a stuntman (among others, doing work on Titus) and was asked back to the school for a career fair.
  • Ringo Starr was notoriously uneducated due to years spent in the hospital as a child, but he was far from unintelligent. Besides being an excellent drummer, he had a very quick wit even for a Beatle.
  • Emperor Akbar, of the Mughal dynasty and the 16th Century India, is known as one of the greatest and most respected rulers that India ever had for several reasons: developing a comprehensive, cohesive and standardized taxation system across India, developing a comprehensive military and bureaucratic organization for his empire, patronage of wit and art and music, love for philosophy and developing his own school of thought, for coopting Hindu elites into his regime (thereby ensuring their loyalty to his dynasty) and for fostering a culture of tolerance and co-existence between Hindus and Muslims (thereby ensuring a degree of social stability). All these things portray a clever, wise and hard-working bookish intellectual, isn't that so? Well, he was known to be illiterate.
    • Likewise, Charlemagne. He had no education as a child (his father, Pepin "The Short" didn't see the point), but then had a huge Empire basically dropped on him by the Pope. He was functionally illiterate his entire life. His solution was to have books read to him, while he exercised: which is pretty darn clever in itself, given what we now know about the effects of exercise on learning. He was also famous for grilling diplomats about their home countries. He presided over a period that some historians call a "Little Renaissance" in the 8th Century AD, that saw a flowering of the arts on the continent thanks to the political stability imposed by Charlemagne. However, the Carolingian dynasty he founded ended up not lasting very long note , and more warfare was to come before the real Renaissance happened. English-language world history books tend not to talk about this period, because Charlemagne's influence didn't extend into England. Charlemagne came up with the Imperial system of weights and measures. While inferior to the later metric system: this was miles better than the systems which had existed previously simply because all the units were intrinsically related to one another and could be applied globally (a pint's a pound the world around). This system was not named for the British Empire, but in fact for the Holy Roman Empire.
  • André Masséna, one of the most brilliant commanders of the French Revolution and the First Empire, had little chance of getting any kind of formal education in his childhood (what with being a poor orphan from Nice and having to work as his uncle's soap factory) and only learned to read and write in his late teens. Contrary to other generals of the same era who tried very hard to compensate for their lack of initial schooling by studying hard in their adult life, he never cared much about deepening his culture, instead relying on his instinct to make war.
  • Stanley Kubrick, one of the most visionary directors of all time (who reportedly had an Improbably High I.Q. to boot), hated school and got poor grades. He often cut class to go to the movies, and he later criticized the American educational system for failing to provoke critical thought.
  • The infamous bibliomaniac Stephen C. Blumberg stole over 23,600 books worth at least 5.3 million dollars from various libraries throughout the United States before being caught in 1990. Ironically, this very literary person (he never tried to sell any of the rare books he stole) was a poor student who struggled to complete high school and only attended six weeks of college before dropping out.


Video Example(s):


The Supreme AI overthrew Anna

After hearing about the loss of an infantry crew, Scotty immediately tries contacting Linux Anna, only to find that she's been overthrown by the Supreme AI of the Internet. She simply hit Anna with a plastic spoon which made her break down in a panic, and then finished her off with a bioweapon version of Windows Vista. Scotty immediately panics about it and says that it's the epic war with ROFL-9000 all over again, and that he's "totally not advertising the series by Akriloth2160", and he says that he got only a 0.5% in history class.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheUsurper

Media sources: