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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. Thus, while it's Truth in Television, it can be quite hard to determine whether or not this person is really just "Dumb"

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 Versus 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 are what helps him survive and get stronger.
  • Kuwabara of YuYu Hakusho might qualify, depending on your interpretation. Although Shizuru, his sister who normally insults him constantly, tells him at one point that while he's not stupid, he's definitely not the bookish type. He still manages to get into a good high school and is on track to get into a good college in the final episode, due to his diligence in studying.
  • Taiju in Dr. STONE is one of the ultimate examples. He's the dim-witted best friend of Science Hero Senku, so while he relies on Senku for the know-how when it comes to surviving in a primitive world, he has a near-limitless supply of stamina that allows him to provide the labor in the earliest chapters. This comes in handy later, as well, when they need to develop agriculture in order to feed a growing population. Taiju's ability to apply himself to the menial labor and utilize some of the things he's learned from being around Senku (even if he doesn't understand the underlying science) means that not only is he able to keep working while others are collapsing from exhaustion, but the section he tends to grows lush plants much more quickly.

    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.

    Fan Works 
  • Go Away I'm Watching Porn: Downplayed with Issei, who states he is actually average in most areas, it's just that throughout his childhood he had an ungodly amount of motivation to improve himself across the board, all "For the Harem!" This, plus creative use of the Boosted Gear means that by the present he is incredibly knowledgeable in a wide range of magical and medical theory, on top of the various applications of both in and out of battle.

    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.
  • Of Mice and Men: Lennie Smalls may not be the smartest but his strength and obedience make him one of the best workers on the ranch, with Slim stating that he nearly worked several of his coworkers to death because they couldn't keep up with him.
  • 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.
  • Guo Jing, the main character of The Legend of the Condor Heroes, is stated to be about as intelligent or clever as a wooden log, but becomes an incredibly powerful martial artist through simple, persistent hard work.
  • In both the short story and the novelization of Flowers for Algernon, this is why Charlie Gordon is chosen as a test subject for the experiment which aims to surgically increase human intelligence. While other adults with his low IQ of 68 tend to have given up on improving themselves, Charlie has learned to read and write (albeit with severely impaired spelling) through sheer effort and persistence, a feat which one of his doctors declares equivalent to a person of ordinary intelligence learning Einstein's theory of relativity without help.

    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 and this wins over his customers.
    • Erin is a ditzy, dorky and cute 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 klutz 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 are prejudiced 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.

    Visual Novels 
  • Downplayed with Johanna in Double Homework. She isn’t stupid by a long shot, but unlike Tamara, she has to put in effort to succeed. She is a hard worker, and the only reason she needs summer school is because she stretched herself too thin by being the protagonist’s primary caretaker while he shut himself away.

  • Deep Rise: In the final act, the (eldritch) protagonists discover that there is a god who loves them in their Cosmic Horror Story universe - and she accidentally caused the total collapse of an alien civilization while trying to bring the Rapture. Half of the population refused multiple offers to eternal paradise, mostly out of a combination of fear, paranoia, and getting this offer by an unnaturally sweet-voiced but utterly terrifying moon of blue glowing eyes and tentacles floating in the sky. Naturally, they panicked and civilization crumbled to the ground. She would have saved far more if she just took the time to research their culture and created A Form You Are Comfortable With, instead of appearing spontaneously in the sky and then offering a deal that was far too sweet to be true, regardless of how genuine her intentions are. She telepathically talked to every single soul on the planet until they accepted her offer or died, which helped her save the other half. note 

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • This is a big reason why many kids who struggled in school often perform much better in the adult world than many gifted students. Many gifted students breeze through school, often unchallenged and without developing a good work ethic, becoming Brilliant, but Lazy in the process. Thus, when the adult world hits them with something difficult that they have to struggle with, they often will shut down or just give up since they have little if any experience struggling with something that's a real challenge and will thus be afraid to try new things out of fear of failure. People who struggled in school, however, are much less intimidated by failure since they're accustomed to it and know how to cope with challenges or stresses since that was the norm for them growing up. It's why it's so important to consistently challenge gifted students, as well as stress important lessons like it's okay to fail and life is unfair to students who have trouble in school.
  • The tropes' positive implications are brutally inverted by Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord, one of Germany's most brilliant commanders. Kurt claims that these people are not only a danger to military command and should be eliminated immediately, but that the lazy AND stupid are much preferable to ones with work ethics. He goes as far as to claim that the lazy idiots are the backbone of any modern army and you should not fear giving them routine duties. But what about hardworking geniuses? They, as Kurt cheekily proclaims, are valuable but only as the Chessmaster Sidekick of the Intelligent and Lazy officers you should be putting into command positions.