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Dumb, but Diligent

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“Boxer was an enormous beast, nearly eighteen hands high, and as strong as two ordinary horses put together. A white stripe down his nose gave him a somewhat stupid appearance. And in fact he was not of first-rate intelligence, but he was universally respected for his steadiness of character and tremendous powers of work.”

A person who is not the brightest bulb but makes things work through perseverance, high amounts of enthusiasm and dedication to their leaders and co-workers. They are prone to make very stupid mistakes, even being clumsy, but these moments are minor compared to the level of work they are otherwise able to accomplish. Sometimes their stupid actions may become a problem, but their good work ethic is a factor that keeps them employed.


That's not to say they are complete morons. Sometimes just doing a good job efficiently is its own form of brilliance.

Compare Hard Work Fallacy, contrast Hard Work Hardly Works

Compare/Contrast Brilliant, but Lazy (where it's talent/intelligence compensating for effort) and High Hopes, Zero Talent (all the enthusiasm with less favorable results). See also Book Dumb, Bunny-Ears Lawyer, Simple-Minded Wisdom, and Inspirationally Disadvantaged. Often overlaps with Idiot Hero if this is applied to the main character, and Happiness In Minimum Wage if the ditzy employee is content with their low-paying job and have no ambitions of promotion. Related to Technician vs. Performer. Also related to Japanese Spirit — per that trope, this character lacks inner talent but has lots of resolve. Shounen heroes thusly tend to be dumb, but diligent.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Kenichi of Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple may be really talentless in fighting (any kind of style), but his sheer dedication and determination is what helps him survive and get stronger.

    Comic Strips 
  • Zero from Beetle Bailey gets his nickname from his simple-minded behavior. However, he is very dedicated to his work, despite not always understanding Sarge's orders.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The titular Forrest Gump, a slow, but earnest kid who, despite his self-admitted slowness, teaches Elvis how to dance, establishes a successful business, and becomes a model soldier in the US Armed Force. It's discussed in-universe by one of the drill sergeants:
    Drill Sergeant: GUUUUMP! Why did you put that weapon together so quickly, Gump?!
    Forrest Gump: You told me to, Drill Sergeant.
    Drill Sergeant: Jesus H. Christ! This is a new company record. If it wouldn't be a waste of such a damn fine enlisted man, I'd recommend you for OCS, Private Gump! You are gonna be a general someday, Gump! Now, disassemble your weapon and continue!

  • Boxer from Animal Farm is fully characterized like this, being very simple-minded but extremely dedicated to his work, traits which do not pan out well for him in the society the farm turns into. One of his life mottos is even "I will work harder."
  • Ciaphas Cain: Cain's Number Two, Gunner Ferik Jurgen is socially stunted, Book Dumb, and a habitual slob, but if Cain sets him a task he completes it with Literal-Minded efficiency. This is the main reason he Drives Like Crazy: he just picks the shortest route between A and B and drives at full speed along it.
  • Sam Vimes in the Discworld books is described as this, though some find the "dumb" part an Informed Flaw, as he is, at the very least, rather crafty and practical-minded. Regardless, he claims that most of his successes are less due to brains and more due to being too dumb to quit — he might not solve a case through making brilliant deductions, but he'll damn well keep prodding at it until something falls out! One book mentions him having "the sort of stupidity that can give intelligence a run for its money."
  • Forrest Gump is mentally handicapped, but was able to run without ankle braces, get multiple successful jobs, enlist in the army and fight in the Vietnam War, and ran cross-country completely on foot.
  • Hufflepuff House in the Harry Potter is characterized by their sense of loyalty, fair play and willingness to get their hands dirty. Due to their lack of defining traits compared to the other houses however, as well as Helga Hufflepuff's policy to include anyone regardless of any exceptional traits, Hufflepuff House has become stereotyped as the house of witches and wizards with no exceptional skills or wit.
  • At the end of the fifth Safehold book, How Firm A Foundation, an Inquisitor is accused by the Charisians of killing an officer on his own side in an attempt to enrage his men into killing the people they're pursuing rather than take them alive. One of the officer's men describes his late commander as "dim but always trying his best" and sides with the Charisians, leading to the Inquisitor's execution.
  • The Delta and Epsilon castes of Brave New World are mentally conditioned to be content with simple ongoing tasks, and even to be grateful that they can leave the thinking and decision-making to others.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Detective Charles Boyle is presented this way to the new precinct captain, Captain Holt. Sgt. Jeffords gives each major member of the squad a quick description (that coincidentally is illustrated by the members actions at that moment.) For Boyle, Jeffords remarks that he's clumsy and accident-prone (and manages to hurt himself several times just getting something from a cupboard at that moment), but is successful at closing cases because he's the most determined "grinder" in the precinct. This gets proven later in the season, when Jake Peralta, arguably the best (and most immature) detective in the precinct is having a string of bad luck, he keeps desperately trying to change cases until he gets an easy one to solve in order to "get the mojo back." Eventually Holt has a talk with Peralta where he says that Peralta has become so obsessed with his "bad luck" and so anxious to solve a case that Peralta is trying to toss each case he gets the first time he encounters any difficulty. By comparison, Holt says, Boyle may not have Peralta's gifts or arrest record, but Boyle never goes into the kind of slump Peralta is in because Boyle just keeps working away on a case until it's done, no matter what.
  • Kyle from Last Man Standing. He doesn't have much interest or talent in being upper management of Outdoor Man, but he loves his job and the people he works for. Over time the owners recognized that Kyle's friendly demeanor and being quick to do random tasks made him well versed with all the employees at the store, and a great adviser for shifting people between departments.
  • The Office:
    • In contrast to Jim, who is Brilliant, but Lazy, Dwight has a tendency to just not take "No" for an answer, and that is how he makes sales. His interpersonal skills are inappropriate, sometimes even illegal, but he has a high level of passion for everything he does.
    • Erin is a ditzy but Adorkable girl who has a love of her job as the receptionist that Pam could never fake. Just signing for a shipment of pens she takes as Serious Business.
  • Jerry from Parks and Recreation is a complete clutz who can't seem to get anything right around the office. However, he's also got the highest tolerance for boring grunt work of all the characters, and if he gets it wrong the first time, he'll cheerfully stay up all night to do it over again.
  • Quantum Leap had one episode where Sam leaped into a mentally handicapped man who worked in a warehouse. He was well liked by his family but had problems with a few co-workers who had prejudice against him. In particular one had trouble reading all the barcodes and labels and was afraid of being grouped together with Sam's host.
  • Flash from Step by Step was hired on as a member of Frank's construction crew, described as having twice the hyperactivity of a ten year old, so much that he only needs to sleep 20 minutes a night. This energy can cause him to make mistakes by not thinking through it, but when properly channeled he can build entire homes by himself. He described it as like nuclear energy, which can both power and blow up entire cities.

  • BIONICLE: Krekka is a Dumb Muscle member of the Dark Hunters who is deeply loyal to its leader, The Shadowed One. The Shadowed One often pairs him with the smarter yet treacherous Nidhiki to create a Brains and Brawn dynamic between the two..

    Video Games 
  • In Girls And Dungeon, Miruka is not terribly bright, being part cow, but she is very loyal and fights hard.
  • Half-Life: This trope seems to be encouraged by Black Mesa, with several signs throughout the facility saying "Work harder, not smarter." This even gets called out by Gordon Freeman in Freeman's Mind.
    Gordon Freeman: Yeah that's us, alright. We stay the course with stupid.

    Western Animation 

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