Kelso: Yes! I WAS! And up until now, everyone had the good grace not to mention it!
A explanation for a character's eccentricity, ditziness, lack of intelligence, brashness, etc. is for them (or others) to harm their head as a infant or a child. A possible cause of this trope could be that they were accidentally dropped by their Alcoholic Parent, who had a little too much to drink. In some cases, they were actually pretty intelligent before the incident happened. One variation of this trope is that the character's mental deficiencies are not from a head injury but by them ingesting something harmful and toxic such as paint chips or alcohol. Another is that the brain damage was due to the character being deprived of something that's essential or substantial to having a relatively healthy body.
If this trope is Played for Laughs, a character may jokingly or cheerily suggest to the others that a daft moment that another character (who usually has no disabilities and is mostly functional otherwise) just had was due to them injuring their head in their childhood. However, if it's Played for Drama and the character genuinely had head trauma in the past, it's used as an indication that the character was abused as a child or had a very dysfunctional childhood (they may also have a head deformity because of it).
Related to Easy Amnesia, Tap on the Head, Hard Head, Circling Birdies. Contrast Early Personality Signs, which are hints of someone's future personality but unlike Childhood Brain Damage, it's implied that it's natural and not the result of an injury.
A classic example of a Hilariously Abusive Childhood.
- Dragon Ball Z:
- When Goku was a baby he was just as violent as all Saiyans are, until he accidentally hit his head and became the kind-hearted hero everyone knows and loves. It's even lampshaded by his evil older brother Raditz, who point-blank asks Goku if he did hit himself in the head as a child and Goku not only confirms it, but even adds "I still have the scars, you know".
- The Big Bad of Dragon Ball Z: The Tree of Might, Turles, represents what Goku would have been like without his childhood brain injury. The result is an Identical Stranger who has Goku's love of food and fighting but none of his empathy.
- In Pokémon: The First Movie, this is possibly the reason Mewtwo goes insane. As a child, he was not allowed to come to terms with fellow clone Ambertwo's passing away naturally. The scientists gave him a heavy tranquilizing serum to put him back to sleep until he developed into an adult. He wakes up confused, bitter and angry with little to no memory of why.
- In the English dub of No-Rin episode 8, Yoshida angrily asks Kousaku if he was dropped on his head when he calls Kei (whom Yoshida has a crush on) to come.
- My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! starts with Catarina getting a bad blow to the head at age eight. By fifteen, she has developed an impulsive and spacey personality that can't entirely be expalained by the Past-Life Memories she gained after the blow.
- A variation of the trope occurs with Martin Soap from The Punisher: We see the nurse dropping him on his head just after being born, but he doesn't end up with any mental handicap for it - it's just there to show that the crap life shoves on him started very early and never let up.
- Cyclops of the X-Men suffered brain damage when he was a child after being pushed out an airplane with his brother (Havok) with only one parachute. Besides amnesia, the part of his brain that would have regulated his optic blasts was damaged, causing them to be "on" all the time. The blasts are only controlled by his ruby quartz visor and his eyelids.
- Obelix in Asterix got his Super Strength from falling in a cauldron of magic potion when he was small. Although it gives him a useful power, it's played as this trope, and there's several implications that it permanently altered his personality into the sweet, childlike attitude we see - for instance, when reverted to childhood by magic, he loses his power and becomes serious, deep-thinking and quite grumpy.
- Batman villain Black Mask was dropped on his head by his parents while being born. This was just the first incident in a long line of abuse and neglect his parents inflicted on him. It's implied that the incident may have been a contributing factor in Black Mask's unstable mental state and extreme mood swings.
- The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: "Better Luck Next Time" has Billy and Mandy sent through time after getting sucked into Grim's Cosmic Cuckoo Clock. They land in the bedroom of Billy when he was an infant. He was apparently quiet, studious and intelligent back then, but when present-day Billy goes into his stupidity dance, baby Billy is suddenly corrupted and becomes stupid as well.
- Garfield: Jim Davis opens the comic's 20th anniversary book by claiming, "I was born July 28, 1945, in Marion, Indiana, and was promptly dropped on my head - which explains my lifelong desire to become a cartoonist."
- In the strip itself, Jon's often-eccentric behavior has been implied on a few occasions (such as this one) to be an effect of several head injuries he suffered growing up on a farm.
- In a number of Axis Powers Hetalia fanfictions, such as The Hearth Series, it's revealed that Germany can't remember his childhood as the Holy Roman Empire because of injuries. Given that the series has Holy Roman Empire going to war before his "death", it's not that big of a leap.
- This played with in the Gensokyo 20XX series with Reimu and Chen. In Reimu's case, this is a variant and a subversion in that, aside from being age-regressed, she technically isn't a child but this trope comes into play when she eats rat poison in 20XXV, the effect of which leaves her near-blind and a heavy sleeper, though her intelligence remains intact, then again, in 20XXII, she was injected with sedatives every few hours for screaming, so that may have also had an effect on her that either faded with time or wasn't so apparent until now. In Chen's case, she was brain damaged as a result of her suicide attempt by drowning during the events of 20XXIV, which left her unable to talk. This explains her speech impediments that we see during 20XXV.
- According to Kill la Kill AU, Nui fell on her head when she was a year old and, apparently, Satsuki chocks the fact that she doesn't take messages too well because of that.
- Minato in Fairly English Story suffered from brain damage in the car accident which killed his parents. However, this didn't harm his intellect or emotional maturity. Rather, it leaves him unable to naturally convey emotions without intentionally trying.
- From Train Tracks, this trope is the reason as to why Satsuki "Minjonet" Kiryuuin has epilepsy. To elaborate further, her parents were having fight and she was hit with a beer bottle.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic Asylum, Rainbow Dash had an accident as a foal that left her disabled. She can fly but even with physical therapy she isn't on par with most other pegasi. She received head trauma that left her with a Speech Impediment, and which might be part of the reason for her temper.
- In the Naruto fanfic Team 8 Kurenai wonders if Gai had been dropped several times on his head as an infant. She concludes more realistically that the stronger a jonin is, the more wackier they behave (and fears that she will become eccentric as well).
- This Bites!: According to Ace, Luffy didn't get enough oxygen as a child, and chewed on the bars of his crib, which had lead paint. Also, Garp apparently believes that concussions don't have any side effects, and passed this belief on to Luffy. Cross comments that that explains so much.
- In Farce of the Three Kingdoms, Liu Shan is implied to have brain damage from being flung on the ground as a baby. He's actually quite Genre Savvy, but extremely passive.
- In Happy Feet, the fact that the penguin Mumble's egg was dropped by his father is the main reason he can't sing, and the film does everything it can to compare it to this trope without actually saying it.
- In the Yogi Bear Easter Special Yogi The Easter Bear, Paulie at one point asks his stupid henchman Ernest if his mother dropped him when he was a child.
- In The Goonies, it's implied that Sloth's deformity was caused by being dropped as a baby. When Ma Fratelli tries to calm him down by singing "Rock-a-bye Baby", Sloth reacts to the line "the baby will fall" as if it has unearthed Repressed Memories, precipitating his HeelFace Turn.
- Shadow of a Doubt: The film implies that a brain injury suffered when he was hit by a car as a child is what caused Uncle Charlie's "problem".
- A Running Gag in the Chris Farley movie Tommy Boy has people ask his character if he ate paint chips (or lived near powerlines) as a child.
- In Bio-Dome, there's a scene where one of the "heroes'" mothers is holding the other's head under water to teach them how to hold their breath for long periods of time.
- Alice Through the Looking Glass reveals that the Queen Of Hearts used to be normal until she fell and hit her head as a child, which caused it to swell to the size that it is.
- In the first Bad Santa movie, Willie asks "The Kid" AKA Thurman Murman if he's intellectually slow due to the fact that he was dropped on his head as an infant.
Willie: What is it with you? Somebody drop you on your fucking head?The Kid: On my head?Willie: Are they gonna drop you on somebody else's head?The Kid: How can they drop me onto my own head?Willie: No, not onto your— Would...God damn it! Are you fucking with me?
- Played for Drama in Harriet, with brutal historical accuracy. Harriet Tubman really did have her skull fractured in childhood, when an angry overseer threw a two-pound lead weight at another slave and she accidentally got in the way. She survived, but suffered from fainting spells for the rest of her life.
- In Joker (2019), after reading his adoptive mother's records from Arkham Asylum, Arthur discovers that he has suffered brain damage in his childhood due to the abuse he received from her and her boyfriend, which can serve as a possible explanation for his mental issues.
- A Russian folk parody of an old Soviet song says: "Our youth threw us onto campaigns with sabers, our momma dropped us head-down on ice, and if our momma didn't drop us head-down on ice, no campaign with sabers would be possible". Original Russian: "Нас бросала молодость в сабельный поход, нас роняла мамочка головой об лед, кабы не роняли нас головой об лед, то не состоялся бы сабельный поход".
- In Brave New World, it's rumoured that Bernard Marx's eccentricities are caused by an excess of alcohol in his blood-surrogate while he was being grown.
- Subverted in Dragon Bones: Ward pretends that a violent beating by his father caused brain damage to make his father believe he's a harmless idiot. (His father introduced the tradition of Klingon Promotion and fears Ward might want to continue it.)
- John Steinbeck
- In Of Mice & Men, George tells the ranch owner that Lennie was kicked in the head by a horse as a child to explain why he's mentally slow. Lennie has to ask George about it afterwards as he doesn't know whether it's true or not - George then says it's not true.
- In The Grapes of Wrath, Pa Joad blames himself for his son Noah's slowness, as he tried to deliver him on his own, and ended up distorting his head.
- Played for Laughs at one point in The Malloreon, when Garion comments that maybe his tendency to charge into dangerous situations without thinking about the danger is because his Aunt Pol dropped him on his head as a baby.
- The Soviet book Kingdom Of Crooked Mirrors briefly features a character who was dropped on his head as a child. Since then, he can only count to three.
- In The Elenium, the main characters meet a secondary, clearly handicapped character who was hit on the head when young by a cow.
- In Horns, it is heavily implied to be the reason why Lee Tourneau is a remorseless psychopath.
- In the EmilyofNewMoon trilogy, Emily's Cousin Jimmy is "simple," due to her Aunt Elizabeth causing him to fall into the well when they were children.
- In Battle Royale, Kazuo Kiriyama is emotionless due to brain damage he sustained at a very young age. In the manga, being shot in the head restores his ability to feel right before he dies.
- In Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Liu Shan is renowned as an inadequate successor to Liu Bei, with his childhood nickname "Adou" becoming a Chinese byword for someone utterly useless. This is probably because his father had dashed his infant son to the ground in anger that his general Zhao Yun had risked his life to rescue the kid, saying, "[b]rothers are as hands and feet; wives and children are as clothing. You may mend your torn dress, but who can reattach a lost limb?"
- Angela's brother and Frank's uncle Pat in Angela's Ashes, who is slow-minded and is said to have been "dropped on the head" as a baby.
- Played for drama in Dragonriders of Pern: the mentally-disabled servant Camo, a secondary character in the Harper Hall trilogy, is eventually revealed to have suffered severe oxygen deprivation during his birth.
- My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!: The story starts with Catarina getting a massive blow to the head at age eight and getting Past-Life Memories in the process. By fifteen, she has developed an impulsive and spacey personality that leads several characters to wonder in-universe if she's suffered some brain damage from the blow to her head. Out-of-universe, it's implied but never stated that the "Monkey Girl" persona from her previous life has completely overwritten whatever personality and reasoning Catarina had previously.
- In Kenan & Kel, Kenan explains in a minor Running Gag that Kel's lack of common sense (and otherwise intelligence) was the result of him being dropped on his head as a child. Kel invariably agrees: "Yes - Many times!" This is usually in situations where he needs to excuse Kel's odd behaviour, so it may or may not be true.
- In Frasier, Niles tells Frasier than one of Daphne's brothers, who mostly speaks in incomprehensible mumbling, was dropped as a child. Worse yet, he was actually dropped on another brother.
- The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air has a slight variation, when Will asks Carlton if he was deprived of oxygen.
- Married... with Children had a flashback in which Kelly (The Ditz) was shown to be very intelligent as a young girl, until she hit her head during a car ride.
- In Malcolm in the Middle, Dewey's odd behavior is apparently the result of Lois standing in front of a microwave oven while she was pregnant with him.
- That '70s Show, Kitty asks Kelso (aka The Ditz) if he was dropped on his head, as seen in the above quote.
- One episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has a murder suspect who licked lead-based paint off his toy cars as a child; the ensuing brain damage caused him to grow into a Psychopathic Man Child with a Hair-Trigger Temper. The toy company was sued and forced to pay his medical bills.
- In one segment of The Amanda Show. Debbie is asked if she was dropped on her head as a child. Her answer? "Sure, lots of times!"
- A good example from the Noël Coward song "I wonder what happened to him?"
You remember Monroe from the P.A.V.O.?He was tall-ish and mentally dim.All that talk of heredity can't be quite true,He was dropped on his head by his ayah at two.I'm certain by now he'll have reached G.H.Q.I'm sure that's what happened to him!
- In The Light in the Piazza, Margaret reveals that the reason for her daughter Clara's childlike behavior is that she was kicked in the head by a pony, causing her to fall and hit her head. This left her essentially stuck mentally at the age of 12, even though she's now 26. This is why Margaret and her husband oppose her marrying Fabrizio though Margaret comes around at the end of the show without telling Roy.
- Max Stone, one of the character presets from Fallout, was dropped on his head by the labor bot in his backstory.
- The remake of Ducktales has Scrooge ask Launchpad if he suffered head trauma when he was younger in the Amazon level.
Scrooge: Launchpad, were you dropped on your head much as a child?Launchpad: All the time! Why?
- Played for Drama in The Longest Journey: April's dad was drunk and dropped her when he held her as a baby for the first time, causing a serious cranial trauma that took several years to heal, during which she couldn't walk or speak. Although she eventually grew up normal (as normal as a half-dragon Shifter can be, anyway), her father's repressed guilt over the incident resulted in her very strained relationship with him and eventually led to her running away from home before the start of the game.
- At one point during Baldur's Gate II, should a male CHARNAME make the mistake of saying that he "doesn't rightly know" where to go next with Jaheira during a very bad time for her, she will accuse him of sounding like he'd been dropped on his head as a child. Or kicked.
- This is eventually revealed to be the source of Marumu's emotionless Cloud Cuckoo Lander tendencies in Heart De Roomate, the result of a fall off a small cliff some years before. Not quite Played for Drama, though, since this is revealed by her brother, who not only explains that she's been in therapy in the meantime, but also thanks Yusuke for helping her along (since their relationship escalated, she's been showing more signs of improvement).
- Cranky villagers in Animal Crossing will state that as a child Pascal was hit by a soccer ball in the head, and after that he began spouting unusual philosophy. It's unknown if that's true or just the animals being rude.
- In Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade, the poison that a teenaged King Zephiel was tricked into taking as a young man is repeatedly stated to have been the catalyst that left him not quite the same. A number of similar poisons in the real world (such as mercury) can and do result in personality-warping brain damage, including paranoia, increased aggression, and decreased impulse control... just like it happened to him.
- The Urinal Game gives the player the opportunity to try to share urinals. If you do it with the large, muscular guy, you get the message "How many times were you dropped as a child?".
- 8-Bit Theater: Black Mage asks Fighter whether he was dropped on his head a lot as a child, to which Fighter answers, "Maybe..." This is immediately followed by a flashback to Fighter's childhood, with young Fighter exclaiming how happy he is to have power lines in his back yard and plenty of paint chips to eat.
- The Order of the Stick:
- A flashback explains Elan being The Ditz as a result of his brother Nale continually Dope Slapping him when they were babies, as seen in the page picture.
- Later on, when Durkon's mother Sigdi asks to hold an infant, Durkon's son, her grandchild, Hilgya briefly questions whether it's safe to do so with one arm. Sigdi points out she raised Durkon with one arm, and Hilgya relents, with the caveat that nothing in her interactions with Durkon suggests he wasn't dropped on his head as a child.
- Slightly Damned: Buwaro's frequent blows to the head (fail rock catches) might go some way to explain his lack of intelligence, but there are factors, such as damage to his egg before birth and being left alone for long periods of time.
- In Bob and George, when Mega Man actually Helmut in disguise continues talking about his evil plan even though Roll is right behind him, she asks if he ate paint chips as a child. He states that it's very possible.
- (Mostly) Played for Drama in Darwin Carmichael Is Going to Hell. Due to Darwin's negligence as a baby sitter, the future Dalai Lama falls out of his high chair as a baby. Consequently he has the mental capacity of only a child as an adult.
- Amoridere: This is the reason as to why Doki has cerebral palsy. When she and Toki were born, she was deprived of oxygen at birth, being born second and at a later time than the latter. The same would apply Vielle, as she also cerebral palsy and her debut story doesn't say how long her mother was in labor.
- Two Best Friends Play: In one episode, Matt's being more of a ditz than usual, so Pat asks him whether he [Matt] ate paint as a child. Matt immediately answers, "You mean wall candy?"
- In Dragon Ball Z Abridged, like his canon counterpart, Goku fell on a rock head-first when he was still a child. And he's noticeably more ditzy and absent-minded than his canonical self.
- The accidental dosage of bleach while at the hospital after defeating Vegeta likely didn't help matters.
- In Ultra Fast Pony, Rainbow Dash is aggressively stupid. The episode "Pinkie's Day In" gives a possible explanation:
Mrs. Cake: You're not supposed to throw babies.
Rainbow Dash: Seriously? My second foster parents used to throw me all the time!
Mrs. Cake: That explains so much that I didn't care about.
- Sam & Mickey implies this with Barbie, as, in response to her being yelled at for throwing Krissy, Margaret replies, "What?! I used to throw you all the time and you turned out fine—On second thought, you're right."
- In another video, a throwaway line claims Chelsea is this due to Barbie throwing her around when she was a baby.
- In yet another video, Barbie retorts to Stacie exclaiming, "It's not [Yasmin]'s vault you're an idiot!" by confessing, "But it's my fault that you're an idiot!", since Barbie took a lot of drugs while pregnant with her.
- All Grown Up!, the sequel to Rugrats, mentions that Dil is so strange because Phil and Lil dropped him on his head when they were babies.
- In Big Hero 6: The Series, season 1's primary antagonist, Obake, had contracted a brain tumor from an experiment gone horribly wrong, and lost the ability to tell right from wrong. Not that he minds.
- On Regular Show, Mordecai and Rigby travel back in time and meet young Pops, acting lucid and sane, unlike the Cloud Cuckoo Lander he is in the present. Later during a car chase, they hit Pops, who then starts giggling like present-day Pops.
- The Simpsons:
Bart: Dad, what's the point of this story?
- One episode reveals that Homer is an idiot because he stuck a crayon up his nose as a child and got it jammed into his brain.
- In "Itchy and Scratchy: The Movie", Homer told Bart when he was a kid we wanted a bike but his dad wouldn't let him. So he tries holding his breath so his dad would give in. But he passed out and had to be rushed to the hospital, where the doctors say he has suffered brain damage.
Homer: I like stories.
- A flashback also shows Ralph Wiggum being held by his father as a baby sucking on a bottle when his father accidentally drops him, and afterward Ralph is no longer able to find the bottle with his mouth.
- SpongeBob SquarePants:
- It is often suggested that Patrick's stupidity is the result of frequent head injuries. In "Squidward the Unfriendly Ghost", Patrick mentions that he knows a lot about head injuries, then spaces out mid sentence. In "Big Pink Loser", SpongeBob tries to discourage Patrick from mimicking him by hitting himself with a hammer, to which Patrick responds, "I've been doing this way before I started copying you."
- Squidward once asked SpongeBob if he was dropped on his head as a baby. SpongeBob confirms it and is amazed at how Squidward found out. Psychic powers.
- In an episode of The Beatles, John sews the money from last night's concert into Ringo's pocket to keep it from getting lost.
John: There! Safe as in a mother's arms.Ringo: Me mother dropped me once.John: I know. That's why I didn't sew it in your hat.
- In The Critic Jay Sherman's father admitted in a video will that he dropped Jay on his head when he was a baby, all day long.
- Family Guy:
- A Cutaway Gag showed that Stewie used to be a hyperactive kid with a normal-shaped head, until he hit his head on the ceiling while jumping on the bed, squashing his skull into its current football shape and altering his personality.
- In "Peter's Daughter," Meg believes she's pregnant and is planning to marry the baby's father. Since Meg is against getting an abortion, Lois implies she could simply "Drink and smoke a lot." And then immediately adds if Meg's gonna go with that option she shouldn't stop halfway because otherwise she'll "Be stuck with Chris," implying this is the reason Chris is such an idiot.
- According to a couple of episodes, Peter is an example. After getting pregnant by Mickey McFinnigan, Thelma went to Mexico for an abortion, which was really getting beat like a pinata until Peter came out, while another suggests that he's the way he is because he got sick as a kid (he's shown unable to kick a soccer ball).
- The Amazing World of Gumball:
- As an infant, Sussie could speak and dreamed of being a lawyer. Then she was dropped on her head, and started speaking in the same gibberish she would spout as a junior high student.
- In "The Vase", the Watterson kids attempt to break the titular vase by giving it to Richard, whose hands are covered in butter, while telling him not to drop it. He doesn't, causing Gumball to angrily ask why "Why couldn't you have managed that when I was a baby?" It's not exactly clear if he's being serious or accurate.
- In F is for Family, Kevin is noted to have been drowning at the bottom of a motel pool for two minutes as a child.
- Also implied with Phillip's younger brother Anthony, who barely speaks in full sentences, after Phillip played with Anthony's soft spot.
- In DuckTales (2017), after the family meets Donald's fellow Caballeros, José lets it slip that when Huey, Dewey and Louie were still eggs, Donald bet he could juggle them and ended up dropping one. Hearing this, Huey and Louie look at Dewey, who is not paying attention and slowly blinking one eye at a time. Huey and Louie nod in silent agreement that the egg was probably him.
- Brain damage in childhood (generally caused by traumatic brain injury or stroke) can have widely varying effects. Children are significantly more able to recover from brain damage and return to a close-to-normal level of ability than adults are since their brains are more "plastic", developing alternate pathways and repurposing other areas of the brain much more easily to fix the damaged capacity. However, since a child's brain is under heavy development, brain damage during this period can disrupt their development and result in serious developmental problems for the child. Brain damage is no laughing matter in any case (even when it Paints Smilies On Your Soul).
- Since the prefrontal cortex is so critical to our higher, medium, and even basic level mental processes, damage to the prefrontal cortex causes dysfunction in social, emotional, and decision making behavior. In children, the mental repercussion can be a lot more severe, and a condition known as "acquired sociopathy" can arise from it, with the hallmarks of callousness, impulsivity, and extreme self-centered behaviour found in the usual sociopath. The severity of this condition increases in children who get the brain damage at a younger age.