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Ditzy Secretary

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Some would say you can't run an office without a good secretary. But in this case, you can't do it with this one.

They'll misplace papers, forget calls, get lost on the way to the office, and/or otherwise just fail to be useful. How they got or keep the job makes no logical sense, although it may have something to do with the fact that it's hilarious to watch their mistakes frustrate their office-mates time and time again. Or alternately, they could hold their position by providing eye-candy, either in-universe or for the audience. More often than not, it's a combination of both.

This is a subtrope of The Ditz. It can overlap with both Sexy Secretary, and by extension, Brainless Beauty. Contrast Sassy Secretary, who has a tendency to be more intelligent than her bosses, and Girl Friday, who is much more competent, period.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Invincible Robo Trider G 7: Ikue Sunahara is prone to clumsy and slapsticky behaviour but she offsets it with her diligence and dedication to her boss Watta.

    Film —Live-Action 
  • Dick implies that the secretary in the Nixon administration (Rose Mary Woods, played by Ana Gasteyer) caused more of the stupidity than she's letting on
  • Ghostbusters (2016): Kevin is a rare male example. He wears glasses but took the glass out so he didn't have to clean them, thinks covering his eyes blocks out sound, cannot figure out how to work a phone, cannot figure out that he's supposed to figure out how to work the phone, only announces appointments when the person has been waiting for at least ten minutes, and wanders off during the final battle to go get a sandwich. Erin wanted to hire him because he is just so damn pretty, while the other girls went along with it because he was the only applicant.
  • Laurel (Marilyn Monroe) in the 1952 comedy Monkey Business, who is dumb as a fencepost but quite the Sexy Secretary. Her boss hands her a note and says "Find someone to type this." When someone notes she's at work early, she says, "Mr. Oxley's been complaining about my punctuation, so I'm careful to get here before nine."
  • Ulla, the receptionist hired by Max in The Producers. She can't type, knows little English, and spends most of her time dancing on her desk. Max clearly hired her exclusively for her looks (and is also implied to be sleeping with her). In the stage version, she becomes the lead actress in the Show Within a Show.

  • A businessman returns to his office after lunch.
    "Any calls, Daisy?"
    "Oh! Um, yes, there was one. I think he was named Magnusson, or Gomez, or something. It sounded Middle-Eastern."
    "Who did he work for?"
    "*sigh* OK, what did he want?"
    "Ooh! That I remember! He said, 'If your boss doesn't call me back in the next five minutes, his bank account gets frozen, his company goes down and he goes to prison!'."

  • Please Don't Tell My Parents I've Got Henchmen: Abigail Tinsley, better known as the supervillain She Who Wots, begins working as a secretary for the supervillain crime boss Spider. Abigail's step-mother suggested it in order to help with Abigail's "militant schizophrenia." Unfortunately, since Abigail is regularly possessed by an extradimensional spirit and can see into multiple planes of existence, getting her to focus on anything as minor as paperwork is very difficult. When Penny receives a letter from Spider, it's filled with random digressions by Abigail, mentioning how much fun dictation is and how Spider is glaring at her while she types.
  • In the Space Precinct novel The Deity Father, part of the Big Bad's deliberate invoking of traditional mafia tropes is hiring a robot receptionist who affects this, although she actually has a relevant degree.
  • The Marcias in Temps, a group of thirty clones who were an entire classroomful of Single-Minded Twins as children, were all sent to different secretarial schools as a Nature vs. Nurture experiment, and every single one of them was bottom of the class. So the DPR hired them all as receptionists, so the Temps would always see a familiar face. Every story in which they appear has them mess up paperwork or appointments, while giving off a vibe of bored indifference about the whole thing. In Eurotemps, this gets Deconstructed by the story "Totally Trashed" by Roz Kaveney, which explores how they feel about being alternately laughed at and bitched about by pretty much everyone in the DPR, and strongly implies that the reason they're so bad at the job is because they never really wanted it in the first place, but nobody actually asked them.
  • Tricky Business: The secretary was hired solely on the basis of having cleavage a small dog could get lost in. Her idea of keeping the press away consists of being at the door, turning her head to talk to the boss, then turning back to announce "he says he's not here".

    Live-Action TV 
  • Gender-inverted in Third Rockfromthe Sun when Dick has to hire his brother Harry after Nina quits. Harry is so bad at the job, he doesn't think to answer the phone.
  • Caméra Café (Italian version) has many examples:
    • Patti is the flat-out ugliest one in the company and she has a notable "airhead" personality. Much to the annoyance of her boss Ilaria, since Patti is always messing up.
    • Anna in the first two seasons. She's the unlucky director's secretary and not a very competent one.
    • Gloria (introduced in season 5), a total Brainless Beauty and one of the dumbest characters in the show.
  • A recurring sketch in The Carol Burnett Show features Deadpan Snarker Mr. Tudball and his Sarcasm-Blind secretary Mrs. Wiggins. One sketch opens with her just staring vacantly into space and, when Mr. Tudball uses the intercom to ask what she's doing, she keeps saying "Hello" as he's trying to speak.
  • College Humor Show: Dan hires an intern because she's hot but not because she's skilled. Before long, Dan and his hapless coworkers end up having to do errands for their interns and the situation multiplies into mayhem.
  • One episode of Frasier has Niles hire a mobster's girlfriend as a receptionist because she's incompetent at every other job she's had. She tries to put Frasier on hold and hangs up on him instead. The only reason he hired her was that the mobster asked Frasier to recommend that she marry him, but he refused after she told him of several of the mobster's negative traits, including refusing to allow her to get a job due to her incompetence.
  • On Friends, Rachel hires Tag, a very inexperienced and very young assistant purely because he is pretty. It turns out he learned the job fairly quickly. He's not extremely smart or very competent, but he's not a stupid boy either.
  • In the sitcom Hey Dad..!, Martin's secretary Betty. The running gag about her being an architect's secretary despite not even being able to pronounce "architect" is only the start of it. In one episode, she has a long conversation with an answering machine message despite knowing perfectly well it's an answering machine. She keeps her job because she's a family friend and Martin doesn't have the heart to fire her.
  • Monk: This becomes a plot point in the episode "Mr. Monk Fights City Hall." Eileen Hill, a councilwoman who Monk hopes will help him save the parking garage where Trudy's car exploded hires a secretary who is not incredibly capable or bright, either as a secretary or as her proxy in the vote. Monk eventually figures out that the councilwoman hoped to get her boyfriend to leave his wife by faking a pregnancy and therefore advertised for a secretary in Lamaze classes so she could get pregnant urine under the guise of a blood test. Unfortunately, Monk insults the secretary while giving the summation, and it costs him the vote.
  • A running gag throughout Murphy Brown was her inability to keep a secretary for more than a single episode. Examples include a man who can't type more than one letter at a time, a woman who insists she's quitting cigarettes even as she keeps taking a drag, a woman who ran a phone sex line from her desk, and, in one case, a crash test dummy.
    Murphy: I have certain needs. Someone who files alphabetically. Someone who makes a cup of coffee without setting off the smoke alarm. Someone who can find his way back from the men's room without having to stop at the lobby directory!
  • Simon & Simon: In an episode where the brothers were trying to incorporate their agency, including an office and secretary, they passed over a rather dumpy middle-aged looking woman who had an impressive resume for a young and beautiful, but very Dumb Blonde who didn't even have the sense to answer the phone when it rang.
  • In Twin Peaks has Lucy Moran, the Twin Peaks Police Department secretary. She's mostly competent at her job, but she tends to describe everything in extreme detail in a way that makes her seem foolish. For example, there's a running gag of her simplistically explaining how the phone/intercom system works, i.e. "I've transferred the call, it's the one with the little glowing light next to it". She also tends to bury the lede when taking messages.

  • In The Men from the Ministry the General Assistance Departments' secretary Mildred Murfin is not the brightest secretary in the Ministry, to say the least, and makes constantly hilarious typing errors.
    • Daphne Bentwater of the typing pool even more so when she temporarily replaces Mildred. When she attempts to write in shorthand a few-sentence notice Lennox-Brown dictates in ten seconds, she only manages to get down "Dear sir".

    Video Games 
  • Isabelle from Animal Crossing New Leaf has shades of this in her clumsy and somewhat scatterbrained demeanour, but she offsets this with her diligence and her love of her job. In Happy Home Designer, it's revealed by her brother Digby that she has engineering degrees from 19 different universities, in which case, despite all appearances, there's certainly no denying her competency or work ethic.
  • BlazBlue: Noel Vermillion is this for Major Jin Kisaragi. Played with in that while she has low self-esteem and is quite clumsy and not very bright, during a fight she can be cold and effective. This is because her weapon — the twin guns Bolverk — is a magical weapon that keeps her state of mind in check. There are reasons she was installed in this post... lots and lots of them.
  • Hypnos from Hades (who's also the the Greek god of sleep) is a gender-inverted example. He's supposed to keep track of newly arrived dead souls, but he spends most of his time sleeping, doodling on his paperwork, putting his foot in his mouth, and completely ignoring the actual job he's supposed to be doing. Achilles speculates in the codex that the reason he hasn't been fired yet is that Hades finds him Actually Pretty Funny and keeps him on payroll as an unofficial Court Jester.

    Web Comics 
  • El Goonish Shive: In the non-canon strips, the lab assistant Amanda is introduced as being dumb as a bag of hammers. She later improves, but she still tends to drink strange mad science concoctions without asking what they are and is a giant klutz.
    Dr. Germahn: Back off. She types 120 words a minute.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Animated Series: The object of the Mad Hatter's affection, Alice, fits the stereotype a little bit. She barely can detect Jarvis's madness.