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Dumb Is Good

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"She's the selfless kind of person people are before they know any better."
Jamie about Emily, Dear Dumb Diary

Here's how it plays out:

Smart People are mean and Dumb People are nice. Typically, geniuses are psychotic and high-strung, idiots are nice and sweet, because Ignorance Is Bliss. In comedy pairs, the genius will often smack around the idiot.

The smart character will be mean because he is arrogant and literally doesn't suffer fools gladly. In more sympathetic portrayals, the smart character is good underneath, but made cynical and bitter by his keen intellect, which allows him to see that the world sucks, or their lives will one day end. Inversely, the dumb character has no reason to be continuously happy, other than to provide a foil for the smart character, to show that being all smart all the time makes you unlikable, miserable or both, and why would you choose to be that way if ignorance is bliss?

This trope can also be applied to intelligence itself, with the Book Dumb (who doesn't show himself to be that dumb) hero's street smarts and practical experience being shown as superior to academics whose knowledge is dusty, dry and doesn't work in the real world, another tenet of Anti-Intellectualism. Indeed, it is always risky to assume that an uneducated character (or an uneducated person in Real Life, for that matter) will always be dumb. A character may become smart purely through private study, life experience, or just plain Awesomeness by Analysis. Simply hanging around intelligent or cultured people can help, too.

This is a pretty common trope in many films, especially Oscar Bait. Intelligent and rational people are portrayed as emotionally unfulfilled, neglectful of their family and friends, mean, or corrupt, and contrasted with a simple-minded, often mentally-delayed character with a heart of gold.

It may be caused by the This Loser Is You effect, since Viewers Are Morons; also closely related to Book Dumb. Also likely to believe that School Is for Losers. Not to be confused with Good Is Dumb. This can extend to intellectual pursuits, leading to Straw Vulcan, Science Is Bad or even Science Is Wrong. Can also lead to an Idiot Hero and/or Brains Evil, Brawn Good due to Brains Versus Brawn. Often found with a Minion with an F in Evil character.

A direct inversion of Good Is Not Dumb. Another inversion is an Insufferable Imbecile; a mentally disabled jerk may invoke the Disability as an Excuse for Jerkassery. Contrast with Gentleman and a Scholar, in which an intelligent character is one of the most pleasant, thoughtful, and well-adjusted people around. Try not to get this and Silent Protagonist mixed up, along with the Kindhearted Simpleton (whose levels of stupidity, friendliness, tolerance, and patience can relate, but they mainly differ by the Kindhearted Simpleton's qualities by their evident compassion, altruistic dialog/behavior, sympathetic communication, massive naivete, and the quality of being a genuinely simple person who has unintelligence or lack common-sense yet has an evident heart of gold and good-nature as opposed to the Dumb Is Good with just being friendly, reasonable at times, and The Ditz).

Contrast The Brute, a villain that while often lacking in intelligence can still be a threat to our heroes with their brute strength. Also contrast Stupid Crooks, which is about none-too-bright criminals, whose stupidity is meant to be mocked.


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  • Diesel clothing's current advertising campaign (as of February 2010) is: "Be Stupid".

    Anime & Manga 
  • Ichigo Kurosaki of Bleach is occasionally portrayed as this. Although he supposedly studies hard and gets good grades in school, he is frequently portrayed as an Unskilled, but Strong Leeroy Jenkins.
  • Nobita Nobi from Doraemon has the lowest grade in classes, and is an overall nice guy of the main casts as long as he's not bullied too hard.
  • Son Goku from Dragon Ball. It gives you a clue if naive Goku who doesn't even know the difference between boys and girls can ride on Nimbus, a cloud which only allows those pure of heart to ride, while Bulma, quite possibly the smartest female on the planet, can't.
    • To quote Goku:
      Goku: (to Frieza) I'd rather be a brainless beast than a heartless monster like you.
    • One reason Goku isn't as violent as the rest of his race is because he suffered a severe head injury when he was a baby. So he's only a good guy due to head trauma. The villain from the Non-serial movie The Tree of Might Tullece is essentially a look at what kind of person Goku would have become if he hadn't cracked his skull. He's pretty much identical to Goku physically and shares similar love of food and drink, but he's an intelligent and utterly twisted villain.
    • Averted with Son Gohan, the son of Goku. He is just as much a good guy as his father and uses the Nimbus from time to time. He is also a scholar who gets top marks and a solid job to support his family.
  • Natsu Dragneel from Fairy Tail isn't exactly the sharpest tool in the box. In fact, he actually causes more problems than he solves. However, he's also a noble hero, a genuine One-Man Army, and a true companion to his friends. Though, that never prevents his True Companions from face palming at his wacky antics.
  • Tohru Honda from Fruits Basket. She's very naive/dumb and thus never even realizes that taking advantage of people can be advantageous, or more accurately she's so air headed it never crosses her mind. Her air headed goodness is constantly put on a pedestal in the manga. This is later noted by Momiji telling the fable of the happy fool in volume three, he makes a direct link between the happy fool and Tohru. This is put on a pedestal when Momiji proclaims that the happy fool is the one truly blessed..
  • Fushigi Yuugi gives us Book Dumb Naďve Everygirl Miaka (the epitome of Virginity Makes You Stupid) as the heroic Priestess of Suzaku, working alongside smart-but-not-educated-and-occasionally-dweebish Tamahome. And on the villains' side, we have smart, studious Yui alongside clever and manipulative Nakago.
  • In Hetalia: Axis Powers, Italy is this, mostly in contrast to Germany; his sheer idiocy makes him much more likable, and often much happier, than his more high-strung companion and his ill-tempered brother.
  • Kill la Kill: Despite being quite stupid and airheaded, Mako Mankanshoku is generally the most kind-hearted student at Honnouji Academy, as evidenced by her loyalty to Ryuko.
  • A recurring theme in Kinnikuman. Many of Suguru's opponents, prior to their Heel–Face Turn, are shown to be genuinely more intelligent than him. They also have plenty of techniques that they have spent time developing, whereas Suguru initially won with nothing short of dumb luck. For example, he won his first wrestling match simply because his opponent laughed so much at his ugly face that he broke his back. The final Big Bad is the ultimate embodiment of this trope, with Kinnikuman Super Phoenix being empowered by the God of Intelligence.
  • Lucky Star: While Miyuki certainly owes her sweet nature to her mother, it's clear the woman is not responsible for her daughter's intelligence. She'll happily start a conversation with telemarketers but according to Miyuki, she had to mature fast because her family wouldn't be able to function with just her clueless mother running the house.
  • Naruto:
    • Naruto typically uses his brain last in dealing with any given situation, but it's usually because he acts from the goodness of his heart before anything else. This is a sharp contrast with many of the more intelligent characters, such as Sasuke, Neji, and even Sakura, who are generally colder and meaner when they are first introduced (at least at first).
    • The First Hokage Senju Hashirama. A tremendous shock to fans and to the ninja who find this stern, noble historical figure cracking bad jokes, going off on tangents, and sulking like a 5-year-old.
    • Obito Uchiha. His personality is nearly identical to Naruto. Interestingly enough, on becoming Big Bad Tobi, he also becomes smarter.
    • Subverted with Shikamaru Nara. According to his sensei Asuma, Shikamaru's IQ clocks out at over 200, and his combat style largely consists of staying in the rear and thinking extra hard about how to use his comrades like chess pieces to defeat the enemy (coupled with use of his shadow possession jutsu in creative and inventive ways). But his intelligence comes with increased empathy: he's better able to imagine all the possible ways his comrades might be hurt or killed, and then figure out how to prevent it. His first mission as a leader ends with him in the hospital crying because until Tsunade comes out and tells him that they all made it through their medical procedures and will recover he doesn't know if half the team died under his command.
      • "...Next time the mission will go perfectly...!"
  • Monkey D. Luffy of One Piece is pretty dumb but certainly is one of the most fun-loving and nicest characters you'll ever meet. The smartest characters are either greedy and selfish (and this is just a description of those in his crew), manipulative, sadistic, homicidal, and schematically vile. And that's not even mentioning Sir Crocodile and Eneru.
    • Though both Tony Tony Chopper (a skilled doctor) and Franky (a skilled shipwright) are both quite intelligent and good-hearted individuals, if not wildly eccentric and there are your fair share of violent and dumb brutes. Chopper also happens to be very naïve, and will often react right alongside Luffy, and also has an odd tendency to "hide" on the wrong side of a door. Franky seems to be more on Sanji or Zoro's level of "dumb", while still being a great engineer.
  • Tamaki from Ouran High School Host Club. While it seems that he somehow manages to rank in the top ten in academics in his class every year, that brilliance is definitely not portrayed in daily life. In fact, the characters often make comments about what an idiot he is. At the same time, however, he seems to be one of the nicest guys in the world, constantly doing things for other people and trying to make them happy.
  • The Quintessential Quintuplets: Amongst the five titular sisters, Yotsuba is the one with the worst grades, but also the nicest and most earnest, especially towards Fuutarou early on. Somewhat zigzagged and played with in her backstory, as we see she was actually rather selfish and competitive, wanting to be the best out of her sisters, but after she flunked out in their old school and her sisters pretented to have cheated in their exams to stay with her, she changed to her current selfless personality, and it's all but stated that her being a Dumb Jock is actually an act to cover up her own insecurities and leave behind her selfish former self.
  • The stupidest character in Sailor Moon is Sailor Moon herself, which is amplified by her laziness and whining. But she's typically the nicest and first to reach out to those in need.
  • Gourry Gabriev from Slayers is definitely not the sharpest knife in the drawer (a fact alluded to on numerous occasions) yet he comes off as just about the most easygoing, honest, and unobtrusive member of the permanent cast, especially the infinitely smarter but infinitely more jerkish Lina. In the original novels he's actually very much a Deadpan Snarker, and his seeming idiocy is Obfuscating Stupidity, which he does mostly because it's funnier that way.
  • Played for Drama in Tomodachi Game by Makoto Shibe. He's overall one of the most pure-hearted characters in the series, but also also Too Dumb to Live with Manabu flat-out stating that Shibe is the stupidest player he's seen yet in the Deadly Game. As a result, he's constantly manipulated by everyone around him as they take advantage of his kind nature.
  • The titular character of Yotsuba&! isn't stupid for a 5-year-old child. But there's a very large number of things she doesn't know, and she's very good by any definition.

    Comic Books 
  • Jeremy, from The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius by Judd Winick, has a tendency to eat things he really shouldn't eat, gets himself into trouble that Barry has to bail him out of more than a few times, swears constantly especially when it's least appropriate, and definitely isn't Barry's intellectual equal (though to be fair, nobody is). However, he's consistently shown to have a stronger moral compass than Barry himself, and acts as Barry's Morality Pet and conscience. He's also called out Barry on some of his more callous actions. It's heavily implied that Jeremy's friendship is one of the only things keeping Barry sane and keeping him from becoming a full blown Mad Scientist.
  • Crossed with Viewers Are Morons, In-Universe, in Elvis Shrugged: Col. Tom Parker preaches this on TV, before Elvis interrupts. The setting is a Crapsack World where all libraries are closed.
  • The Incredible Hulk: The Hulk is usually The Hero or at least an Anti-Hero. However, Depending on the Writer, he is near mindless or at least has a childlike mentality. Many of the times Hulk clashes with the heroes is due to some misunderstanding or someone fooling him into thinking one of the good guys did him wrong. His main villain is an Evil Genius named The Leader who has super intelligence. Likewise in Ultimate Marvel, Hulk defeats Abomination because the latter "thinks too much".
  • Scott Pilgrim has...well, Scott Pilgrim, who is quite dense but nonetheless the hero of the story. His final opponent, Gideon Graves, is far smarter than he is.

    Comic Strips 
  • In one Garfield strip, Garfield berates Odie's vapid stupidity and rhetorically asks who could possibly love a grinning idiot like him. Cue a sudden downpour that soaks everything. Everything but Odie, who is somehow shielded from the rain.
    Garfield (while looking up at the sky): You stay out of this!
  • Krazy Kat has Ignatz, the mean, bitter and often discontented mouse, constantly tossing bricks at the sweet, loving, rather dim-witted Kat. The fact that the Kat thinks the bricks are a sign of love helps his cause a lot.

    Films — Animation 
  • Up: Dug is noticeably stupider than all the other dogs, who can talk in complex sentences and even, in at least one case, cook. The dogs themselves are not that intelligent, but they're still smarter than Dug.

    Films — Live Action 
  • Very common in most Abbott and Costello movies, shows and routines. Abbott is clever, mean and sly and Costello is usually dumb and happy or at least naive and happy-go-lucky.
  • The Banshees of Inisherin: Pádraic is rather dim and would probably be the village idiot if not for Dominic, but is a genuinely good-hearted person for all of it. His attempts to become meaner and thus 'more interesting' fail terribly. Colm, by contrast, becomes more of a jerkass the more involved he gets in his work and goes out of his way to try and aggravate Pádraic.
  • A fairly mild example in Barbershop, where all the characters who work in the titular shop are generally "good". But the one college educated barber who defines himself by his brain is also the one who's closest to a Jerkass. He's treated as something of a Butt-Monkey by the other barbers, and when the somewhat thuggish character Ricky takes him down a peg the whole shop considers it a Moment of Awesome.
  • Being There (and Chance the Gardener's character type in general), both the original novella and the film version, is something of a subversion of this that ironically predates the above. Chance is a good-hearted fool, but he affects intelligent-but-unhappy people only because they think he's intelligent, and his concrete statements are thus interpreted as grand metaphors.
  • Carrie (1976):
    • The film softens the titular character from the book - who harboured violent revenge fantasies and was full of hateful thoughts about her situation long before her Face–Heel Turn. Carrie in the film is portrayed as a more naïve girl who just has poor social skills.
    • The film makes Lovable Jock Tommy a Dumb Jock as well, where he needed Sue to write a poem for his English homework. In the book, he was an Academic Athlete who did very well in school already.
  • Forrest Gump has Forrest Gump. His characterization is aimed more toward satire in the books, which play up Gump applying his uncomplicated, bullshit-free worldview to all the craziness going on around him even more than the movie did.
  • George of the Jungle is the noble hero who'll do anything to protect the jungle and prevent harm from coming to any innocent people traveling through it. However, he's also so dopey that even the animals he protects can't help but facepalm at his stupidity.
  • Every member of the titular team in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) (in addition to most of the characters, assuming they're not outright evil) is a quintessential Jerk with a Heart of Gold, to the point where the movie feels like a deliberate exercise in finding as many unique ways to execute the trope as possible... with the exception of Groot — by far the nicest member of the team and easily the stupidest. It doesn't stop him from aiding in their often-excessive acts of violence, but he's so happy-go-lucky about it half the time that it almost feels like he's just too dumb to even process the morality of his actions.
  • Harvey addresses this:
    Elwood P. Dowd: Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, "In this world, Elwood, you must be" — she always called me Elwood — "In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant." Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.
  • Heathers has the two ditzier members, Heathers Duke and McNamara as more sympathetic than the calculating Heather Chandler, the Alpha Bitch. Although protagonist Veronica is smart, she's an Anti-Hero and arguably a Villain Protagonist until she has her Heel Realization halfway through.
  • This is savagely deconstructed on the Mexican film La Ley de Herodes, more specifically the now Dead Horse Tropes from films where a naive, yet well-intended protagonist is manipulated by meaner corrupted people and manage to beat them with goodness showing that: 1) This is highly unlikely to happen in Real Life and 2) How the protagonist gets more and more corrupted until he become far worse than the corrupted people that manipulated him as a mean of survival.
  • The "Smart people are mean, dumb people are nice" dichotomy is best illustrated in The Lawnmower Man. The protagonist starts off as a sweet, nice, likable mentally handicapped young man. As the story progresses, the more intelligent he gets, the meaner and more malevolent he becomes.
  • Stan Laurel in Laurel and Hardy is usually shown as happier and nicer than Ollie, as well as dumber — not that Ollie was massively smart either. Notably, in A Chump at Oxford, becoming smart turns Stan into a jerk. Funnily enough in real life Stan Laurel was an intelligent "ideas man" and Ollie was more easy-going and not as clever as Stan (but considerably cleverer than he portrayed himself in films).
  • The Adam Sandler movie Little Nicky has the main character being the good dumbest son of Satan borne out of a fling with an angel while his other brothers Adrian and Cassius are both smarter and stronger respectively. Evidently took after his mother since all the angels are blond, ditzy valley girls.
  • Mean Girls:
    • In-universe, where Cady pretends to be bad at math so that Aaron will tutor her. Ms Norbury, their teacher, guesses what she's doing right away, and alludes to other girls she knew of pretending to be dumb to be more attractive to boys.
    • Karen is the Dumb Blonde of the Plastics and is also the most good-hearted member - in contrast to the Manipulative Bitch Regina and the neurotic gossip addict Gretchen.
  • In Napoleon Dynamite, Napoleon is dumber than most of the other characters in the movie and seems to fail at everything. Even his friend Pedro notes Napoleon's only talent as the ability to draw. However, when Napoleon performs his dance towards the end of the movie, his fellow students seem to be genuinely appreciative of it, to the point where they do end up voting for Pedro as class president.
  • Inverted in Pain & Gain, where the protagonists are incredibly dumb, greedy murderers who succeed mostly on sheer luck while the Hero Antagonist Ed DuBois is apparently the only intelligent person in the entire movie.
  • Phat Girlz: The only skinny woman portrayed in a positive light is Jazmin's cousin Mia, who is a complete twit.
  • Regarding Henry is probably in a class by itself. Harrison Ford plays an arrogant prick of a lawyer and a bad husband, until he gets shot in the head!
  • Rock 'n' Roll High School is about the struggle between an authoritarian, rock and roll-hating principal who complains that students aren't learning in gym class with a Ramones-loving, rabble-rousing, Book Dumb student who leads the rest of the school (including one teacher) to trash the school, then blow it up with explosives. This is portrayed as an unequivocally good thing to do. The main character's best friend, however, is supposedly a genius who works on nuclear physics in her spare time
  • Rocky Balboa from Rocky so embodies this trope that many fans forget he was a leg-breaker for a loan shark in the first movie. Of course, he was never shown breaking legs for the loan shark, and he refused to break a man's thumbs. Diminished later on the series when he became a mentor figure, to the point where one reviewer commented that he was the only boxer to become smarter the more he got punched in the head.
  • Deconstructed in Billy Bob Thornton's Sling Blade, where he plays the mentally disabled man Karl Childers. Karl is kind, soft spoken, and blind to intolerance, and is also a talented mechanic because he always finds the simplest solution to problems. However, he also has no qualms about brutally murdering people he deems to be bad.
  • Zangief from Street Fighter was portrayed as too dumb to be evil. "Quick, change the channel!"
  • In Tommy Boy Chris Farley plays a lovable dunce while his counterpart, David Spade's character, is referred to as "a smug unhappy little man [who treats] people like they're idiots."
  • Parodied effectively in Tropic Thunder with Tugg Speedman's "Simple Jack" role.
  • In Un Taxi Pour Tobrouk some French soldiers are stranded in a desert. The most intellectual guys want to sit and wait for death (averting a painful desperate walk) while the two most simple-minded ones leave them and walk. They eventually join them, as one notices that (paraphrasing) "two sitting intellectuals won't go as far as one walking brute". The dumb ones are proved right when they find a German car with water.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit: Roger Rabbit is depicted as rather naive and simple-minded, yet his friendly and easygoing nature makes him stand out from his partner Eddie Valient and the rest of the cast.
  • The main characters from Zombieland: Double Tap (except Columbus) are snide Anti-Heroes, whereas the new member Madison is shown to be rather dense yet easily the sweetest member of the group next to Columbus. In fact, as much as Wichita and Tallahassee weren't too fond of her, they did feel bad for her when she went through a supposed zombification and was supposedly Mercy Killed by Columbus (it was really just a Self-Induced Allergic Reaction to almonds in her trail mix and Columbus only shot besides her to scare her away).

  • A precept of The Party in Nineteen Eighty-Four: "Ignorance is Strength". People are encouraged to not think in order to have better lives. It's because smart people will question the system, realize it sucks, and possibly revolt.
  • Baccano!'s Firo Prochainezo deliberately invokes this when he assures Ennis that she can trust him because "[he's] stupid, and that's all there is to it." Additionally, Isaac and Miria are probably the nicest characters in the series. They are also indisputably the dumbest.
  • Akihisa Yoshi from Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts is the "baka" (read: idiot) of the title, but what he lacks in brain cells he makes up for in heart. Only he would think stealing back his confiscated stuff from a teacher in order to pawn them off to buy a little girl a stuffed animal for her sister would be a good idea. His idiocy infuriates his female friends but his pure actions and motives unwittingly win him their hearts.
  • Subverted in A Brother's Price with Keifer Porter. Everyone who knew him agrees that he was very, very dumb. That enabled him to get away with quite a lot of deception — no one thought he was clever enough to be evil.
  • The Lord Dunsany short story The Bureau d'Echange de Maux centers on a The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday where people can exchange any burden they felt they had. One pair exchanges wisdom for folly and folly for wisdom. The man who gave up wisdom is described as leaving looking happier than when he'd come in.
  • The end of Chapter IV of the Confessions is a lament that all the knowledge, receptivity, and skill in the world is useless if one does not rest in God, making Augustine's ill-learned students far superior to their effortlessly genius, but prideful teacher.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rowley may not have the most common sense, but everyone likes him better than Greg.
  • The Discworld novels will occasionally feature a stupid, more sympathetic Dumb Muscle villain (Banjo of Hogfather, Lemon of Soul Music, and Mr. Tulip of The Truth all leap to mind) who gets a more favourable end than his cunning partner in crime, but this is more to show how easily stupid people can be led astray. The heroes are usually quite intelligent.
    • Possibly played straight with Brutha from Small Gods. Despite his fantastic memory, he is considered a bit dim by most other characters. Nevertheless, he is compassionate and noble, and is the only one of Om's many worshipers to actually believe in him. It may be that his simplicity is the reason he never questioned what he was taught to believe (as opposed to everyone else, who simply go through the motions out of tradition and fear).
    • This is explicitly subverted with the characters of Carrot and Vimes. Carrot is a good natured, kind, and generally optimistic person who is often described as "simple". After this description, however, the books never forget to mention that "simple" doesn't mean stupid, and as the books go on it is clear that Carrot has an incredible deductive mind. Vimes, on the other hand is a cynical grouch who has little use for most people around him, but it's made clear that he truly loves his city and those who work under him, not to mention his wife and son.
      Angua: Someone has to be very complex indeed to be as simple as Carrot.
    • Cohen and his 'horde' from Interesting Times can't exactly be called smart (except for 'teach'), but they are extremely skilled fighters.
    • All of these simple-but-good examples could be considered cases where wisdom contributes to goodness more than intellect.
    • Granny Weatherwax, who is extremely intelligent, has said that if you know what's good and what's evil, you can't choose to be evil. She's extremely mean-spirited when she has a chance to be, but is solidly on the side of good. She would have enjoyed evil more, but it simply isn't an option.
  • Played with in Dragon Bones: Ward pretends to be dumb so that his father will consider him harmless. He is actually very clever, but, in a subversion of Dumb Is Good, genuinely good.
  • Caramon Majere, of the Dragonlance series, is perhaps best described as a lovable oaf: Friendly, outgoing, not exactly bright but everyone likes him. Raistlin Majere, on the other hand, is a Deadpan Snarker who spends more time with his spellbooks and his bitterness, recognized as a magical and intellectual genius who spends most of his time ordering Caramon around. And this is before Raistlin undergoes his Start of Darkness!
    • Caramon does, however, prove himself to be significantly more intelligent than anyone would have given him credit for when he has to think for himself. The authors note in their annotations that he never was stupid, he just thought things through before acting.
  • In The Dresden Files, Harry has convinced both the Gatekeeper and the Summer Knight that he can't possibly be the villain they'd suspected him of being, by pointing out that he is not, and never has been, smart enough for the systematic scheming that an "evil mastermind" requires. Indeed, all he had to do to convince the former was to point at the bandage on his own head and quip "Dude".
  • Baube Lud from Felsic Current is very dumb. Therefore, despite the mocking of his fellow troopers and his failed attempts at romance, it never occurs to him to be anything but fundamentally good-natured and good at his job. Very good.
  • In Flowers for Algernon, protagonist Charlie Gordon is a mentally challenged man mocked by most of the people he knows for being retarded. Then he participates in an experiment that makes him a genius, except he's still alienated because most of the people in this world are now half his IQ, so he can't relate to them. Plus, they're frightened/frustrated/jealous of his superior brains. The difference is that when he was retarded, he didn't realize when people were making fun of him, so he was able to be naive and happy. Then when the experiment fails and Charlie regresses to an IQ in the 70s, he becomes happy again and people start liking him out of pity.
  • Brandon in The Leonard Regime. Despite being dumb, he still fights for liberty. Also, he is never the aggressor in his arguments with Nick.
  • Martín Fierro: The protagonist invokes this trope when he says that he didn’t want to vote in the last election (In Argentina, to vote for the Civil Judge was required) because He is a gaucho redondo (dumb) and those things do not interest him. If the judge was angry at this, he would have done better persecuting the real culprits, or in other words, Fierro thinks that people interested in the election are culprits of... something.
  • My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!:
    • Zig-zagged by Catarina Claes. The original villainous version from the Dating Sim Fortune Lover was implied to be an unintelligent, impulsive Rich Bitch who wasn't given to deep plots, while the Japanese schoolgirl who reincarnated into her is so friendly and empathic that her classmates nicknamed her "Lady Saint" (Saint-sama)...but she's still not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Humorously, at one point in the story a group of girls accuses her of being a bully (like the original Catarina), only for her best friends to defend her by arguing that she's too dense to have pulled off the complex crimes they're accusing her of committing. Catarina, who's actually in the room while this is happening, is glad that her friends are sticking up for her but is too dense to realize they're insulting her.
      Catarina: What's going on? I think they're helping me, but at the same time I feel insulted.
    • This comes up more in the spin-off On the Verge of Doom!. Catarina regains her memories years later, after she's already been a spoiled brat and a bully for over a decade. Gerald is willing to believe her Heel–Face Turn simply because she's too stupid to keep up an act for long.
  • Inverted in Larry Niven's "Not Long Before the End". The hero is a wise, intelligent sorcerer who happens to call himself "Warlock"; the villain is a barbarian with a magic sword.
  • John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men sets this up: Lenny is the childlike one of the pairing, while smarter Curly is an intelligent villain. Slim describes the concept directly, some way through the book.
  • Fezzik from The Princess Bride, although Inigo turns good, too. In fact, one could argue that Vizzini is the stupid one. The book Vizzini is legitimately portrayed as a twisted genius (who, in the end, gets tricked into outsmarting himself).
  • Beak from Reaper's Gale is completely unfamiliar with the concept of nastiness, despite a childhood that would make lesser men cynical. He is also an incredible mage powered by The Power of Friendship.
  • Blaggut, the illiterate, less-than-bright searat in The Bellmaker, the only vermin in the series to survive a Heel–Face Turn. He's initially paired with the captain from his ship, who obeys the usual Always Chaotic Evil role of vermin, but eventually kills him when the captain murders the abbey's Badger Mother.
  • Inverted throughout A Series of Unfortunate Events: it is stated outright that "well-read people are less likely to be evil". The villains are Book Dumb at best and often shown to be complete philistines who prefer the maudlin, sentimental writing of Edgar Guest to great works like Moby-Dick. Olaf is shown to be unable to spell "poison". Two characters who seem to be evil masterminds identify eagles as mammals.
  • In The Sound and the Fury, the Compson brothers (who narrate different blocks of the story) consist of Benjy, who is sweet but severely mentally handicapped, Quentin, who is intelligent but got some seriously taboo desires and ends up Driven to Suicide, and Jason, a Jerkass. Benjy comes off as by far the most likable of the three.
  • Taranvigian in The Stormlight Archive works like this. Due to a magical effect, his intelligence shifts from day to day, and his morality is inversely related. This is explicitly part of the effect, as he notes himself that it doesn't work like that for most people.
  • The Wolfs in The Talisman appear to be of universally low intelligence but are extremely loyal to the king and the crown and very friendly people. Since they're huge powerful werewolves, Morgan of Orris tries to corrupt some to his side.
  • "Ignorance is Strength" is justified for the Hive Mind in Stephen Baxter's Coalescent; it saves the Order from being damaged by the private agenda or misjudgement of any individual, fallible leader, substituting for that judgement the emergent wisdom of the hivemind. It also fosters the conformity necessary for life in close quarters.

    Live Action TV 
  • All in the Family loved to play around with it: At first, the somewhat ignorant Archie is decidedly cynic and rude, while his intellectual son-in-law Mike is very idealistic and nice. But as the show progressed, we see that Archie is not as abrasive as he seems, as well the "Meathead" proves that he's rather selfish and condescending towards the same minorities he supposedly supports.
  • In the soap opera All My Children, cunning (often) villain Adam Chandler had a twin brother, Stuart, who was both very sweet and quite dumb.
  • Angel: The Groosalugg. He eventually wises up to this and lets the rest of the team do the planning.
  • In the Made-for-TV Movie of Brave New World this is an actual ad campaign for a media company. (Which just happened to be modeled after the "TV is Good" campaign for ABC...)
  • Often used by Chespirito with his characters. El Chavo, Chapulín and Chompiras are clearly dumb, but good. Averted with Dr. Chapatín, as a medical doctor is not dumb at all, and also averted with Chaparrón Bonaparte, he’s crazy, but not dumb and knows a lot of history (the origin of his mad behaviors).
  • Inverted in Criminal Minds, with main characters being highly intelligent FBI profilers, while the UnSubs, barring the occasional Evil Genius generally have low or average intelligence, with a lot of them being uneducated.
  • The titular character in the comedy-drama Derek is child-like and possibly autistic Kindhearted Simpleton who his smarter but more cynical friends Hannah, Dougie and Kev envy him for his kind nature and idealistic view of the world.
  • Played with in Doctor Who, in which The Hero is one of the smartest beings in the universe, while there are many instances in which his less intelligent companions are disgusted by his methods.
    • In particular, his seventh and eleventh incarnations both have a nasty reputation for manipulating companions and civilians alike; the only differences between the two of them is that the seventh became exhausted by it.
    • Seemingly played straight in "The Long Game" with Adam Mitchell, though it's that he uses his intelligence to try to profit by stealing future technology to "invent" in the present, which would heavily disrupt the established timeline.
    • Many companions, both temporary and long-term, have been notably intelligent or tech-savvy by human standards, such as Martha Jones and Rory Williams.
  • In Eureka, Sheriff Carter is frequently shown finding solutions to problems that none of the geniuses around him can't find.
  • Invoked on Family Matters when Eddie and Laura set Laura's friend, Maxine, up with Waldo Geraldo Faldo. She was initially put off by his stupidity, but in the end, she found him at the same time to be a charming and sweet guy. They continued to date until Waldo was eventually Put on a Bus.
  • In the Farscape episode "My Three Crichtons", the hyper-evolved and super-intelligent version of Crichton is the least compassionate. The caveman-like Crichton, on the other hand, is the most moral, even doing a Heroic Sacrifice to save the regular Crichton's life.
    • The regular Crichton, however, is actually legitimately intelligent (the Farscape project was to test a physics theory he came up with, after all) and fairly nice, being one of the more moral characters in Season 1. Most of his crewmates think he's a moron (at first at least) thanks to being unfamiliar with the sector of the universe and his constant pop culture references.
  • Game of Thrones: Despite Hodor's lack of intelligence, he is one of the kindest characters in the show.
  • How I Met Your Mother: Ted seems to be at his most annoying when he's displaying conspicuous intellect. He even acknowledged this himself in one episode, recognizing that he was being a "douchebag" when reciting (from memory) Dante's The Divine Comedy in the original Italian, a legitimately impressive achievement.
  • Played with in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Within the gang, it's played straight. Dennis is the most well-educated member of the group. He's the most manipulative (tied with Frank) and is implied to be The Sociopath, a rapist, attracted to his sister, and a Serial Killer. Illiterate Charlie is the least selfish person in the gang and his most villainous moments make him seem more intelligent. However, this is only true within the gang, as the gang themselves are both stupid and bad people. Others are shown to be both smarter and morally superior.
  • The episode of The King of Queens "Educatin' Doug". Carrie enrolls herself and Doug in an English night class (which Doug isn't too thrilled about) when she thinks they're becoming TV-addicted idiots. Carrie does quite well in the class, but Doug struggles, resorting to beating the information he needs out of Spence, who is also in the class. At first Carrie is angry when she finds this out, but eventually learns that she shouldn't have forced Doug into the endeavor. In addition to Dumb Is Good, the Aesop here would also seem to be "Leave well enough alone".
  • Malcolm in the Middle explicitly explored this in one episode, with stupid older brother Reese teaching Malcolm how to "turn off his brain" by singing commercial jingles to himself all the time so that boy genius Malcolm would be happier, kinder, and more relaxed. It works until Malcolm finds himself in a situation where he needs to think quickly and he abandons his blissful ignorance to return to his intellectual, cynical, Jerkass persona. Of course, Reese himself is an aversion. Dumb he is, but nice he ain't.
  • Inverted in 'Mister Rogers' Neighborhood'', albeit subtly. Despite his reputation as an anodyne kids show host, Mr. Rogers studied child development under Margaret Mc Farland at the University of Pittsburgh, and used what he learned in order to make one of the most developmentally appropriate children's shows on the air. From the use of transition scenes (the Trolley) to the frank discussion of emotions (which seems banal to adults, but is necessary for children so that they can begin to understand their own emotions and deal with them), Mister Rogers put his intelligence to use to serve children, rather than to sell them toys or junk food.
  • In The Outer Limits (1995) episode "From Within", Neil Patrick Harris plays a man whose mental retardation renders him immune to Id-unleashing parasites.
  • In the Pryor's Place episode "Voyage to the Planet of the Dumb", Patty Maloney is dressed in a white T-shirt with the slogan STOOPID IS GRATE crudely lettered in blue.
  • See also Aaron Sorkin's Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, in which a sketch is called "boring" in a focus group. When another member of the group calls it "too smart", it's pointed out that "smart is another word for boring" and Simon snorts, lamenting "smart as a pejorative".
  • In The Unusuals, there's a repeat offender named Marvin who's so stupid he commits crimes wearing a necklace with his name on it in huge gold letters, but he's portrayed as not such a bad guy because he's just too stupid to be malicious.
  • Technically, Daryl Dixon from The Walking Dead (2010). Daryl's a redneck who never had a job, a life of his own, or even a high school education. However, he would become a badass One-Man Army in the zombie apocalypse who'd heroically help other survivors out of the goodness of his heart and protect his True Companions with his life. Despite his lack of social skills and higher education, he is one of the most hardcore heroes on the show and Rick's entrusted second-in-command.
  • The original page quote was a "No one likes the smartest kid in the class" line from The West Wing. Regardless, Aaron Sorkin does not so much subvert the trope as reject it, shoot it, string it upside down from a lamp post and spit on it. Much of Seasons 3 and 4 witness President Bartlet and his staff rejecting anti-intellectualism and extolling the virtues of education and intelligence. It's a measure of what we normally see on TV that "extolling the virtues of education and intelligence" actually makes the show unique.

  • XTC's "The Mayor of Simpleton".
  • P!nk's "Stupid Girls" criticizes the trope and urges young women to think and have ambition in life.
  • Gorillaz has 2D — lead singer, thick as a brick, and kindest guy in the band. Justified since he is a victim of brain damage, and is constantly high on painkillers.
  • Jellyfish's "Ignorance is BLISS" is probably as close as you can get to a deconstruction of the concept. It is a villain song about an anti-intellectual monarch (represented by Bowser in this case) trying to criticize a woman (Princess Peach in this case) for reading lots of books and that it turns her into an idiot. The pieces of Author Tract in the song make it clear that his reign is an absolute disaster due to his sheer incompetence. It takes only two people (Mario and Luigi) with legit skills to dethrone him. Justified, as the singer wrote this song to criticize all common arguments by people why people should be illiterate.
  • In TV on the Radio's "Happy Idiot", when the narrator decides to get over a breakup, he will simply stop caring about the worries of the world. The track even uses the phrase 'ignorance is bliss'.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Averted many times in Dilbert. The negative consequences of stupidity is probably the most recurring theme of all, and the majority of the strips deal with the protagonist's struggle against his obtuse colleagues and bosses as well as the Kafkaesque workplace they inhabit. Paradoxically, you could also say that the trope is played straight at the same time, as there are several occasions where intelligence and skill is portrayed as a serious (and sometimes fatal) drawback.


    Tabletop Games 
  • In Call of Cthulhu, brains can equal understanding, and understanding means learning These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know. Mechanically, failing an Idea Roll can sometimes avert losing points on the Sanity Meter and picking up Cthulhu Mythos points. Nothing can save you once the college professor starts reading forbidden tomes.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons, Lizard Folk have never really been portrayed as anything more than Stone Age-level tribal savages living in swamps and marshes. Dragon gave an explanation as to why in "Ecology of the Lizardfolk" (Dragon #335) that basically amounts to this; D&D's lizardfolk are deeply religious beings, and worship Semuanya, a hermaphrodite deity whose mentality is that of an animal, existing only to feed and breed. In their creation mythos, Semuanya once had a mate named Kecuala who, unlike Semuanya, was an intellectual who constantly thought about the world around itself and worried over what to do in order to survive. This eventually caused it to split into the first male and female lizardfolk, much to Semuanya's grief. Thus, lizardfolk literally demonize intelligence as evil, an unnatural and wasteful attribute, and deliberately try to be as feral as possible in hopes of one day restoring Kecuala to life.
  • Another D&D example can be seen in the Greyhawk setting, with the deity Saint Cuthbert, who champions the "Street Smarts over book-learning" variant of this trope, championing common sense, folk wisdom and practicality over education, which tends to be demonized as inherently wasteful. One of his holy books is even "The Parables of the Wise Fool", a series of fables in which a Book Dumb but Street Smart "fool" bests various Know-Nothing Know-It-All types due to having good common sense and a practical mentality. The trope is zigzagged, though; Saint Cuthbert is quite plainly stated to be self-righteous, arrogant, and convinced of his own superiority, traits that have seen his Character Alignment fluctuate between "seriously flawed" Lawful Good and Well-Intentioned Extremist Lawful Neutral over the editions. His following is most common in the rural regions, where people are generally under-educated, and their reputation for both this trope and sharing their god's self-righteousness means that Cuthbertites have a reputation as "dumb, arrogant hicks" in cities.
  • The god Erastil from Pathfinder has some of Saint Cuthbert's "practicality and common sense over education" mentality, likewise being a pragmatic god of the rural folk, but to a much lesser extent. He's more a god of Good Old Ways more than anything, and his purview is the good of the community first and foremost; in his view, education is just fine, so long as it's about actually helping people and not just an excuse to not contribute.
  • A major tenet of Imperial dogma in Warhammer 40,000. "Thought Begets Heresy; Heresy Begets Retribution" and "Only the Awkward Question; Only the Foolish Ask Twice" are two common quotes in the fluff. Within the metaphysics of the universe, close-minded dogmatism is one of the only things that can stop a normal human from falling to Chaos.
    • Ogryns follow this tenet without knowing it. They have blind faith in the Emperor, and while some fought on the wrong side during the Horus Heresy, it is highly suspected that they were lied to about which side they were on.
      • Ogryns embody another common Imperial view of this trope: "Blessed is the mind too small for doubt."


    Video Games 
  • In Backyard Sports, Pete Wheeler, who is dumb, is actually extremely nice. Dmitri Petrovich, who is incredibly smart, is mean. Averted with Reese Worthington, who is smart but nice (and is not a nerd).
  • Solaire Of Austora and Seigmeyer of Catarina are two of the most benevolent characters in the Crapsack World of Dark Souls, but neither are very intelligent. Solaire is rather ditzy and Seigmeyer is a Boisterous Bruiser with Suicidal Overconfidence. Both of them are still very powerful however, so Beware the Nice Ones.
  • Felicia has been generally established as the nicest and sweetest main character in the Darkstalkers series. Her appearances in other games, however, repeatedly suggest that she's also The Ditz on an almost painful level.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, just about everyone in the Companions guild mocks Farkas for being the dumbest one in the bunch — including Farkas himself. However, he is bar none the nicest guy in the guild, being one of only two members of the inner Circle (the other being Kodlak, the Harbinger) to be even remotely welcoming to the Dragonborn when s/he joins them. Although the others gradually warm up to the Dragonborn, Farkas is friendly from the first meeting, to the point where he's a legitimate contender for the nicest follower in the entire game. It should be noted, though, that Farkas is actually a subversion of the trope; while he is as good as he initially seems, he's not as dumb as everyone would have you think.
  • Inverted in I. M. Meen where the antagonist is an evil wizard who can't spell and hates studious children while the protagonist is one such child, described throughout the game as 'smarty' and 'bookworm'.
  • Mass Effect: Zigzagged. Due to being an Audience Surrogate, Commander Shepard technically falls under this due to having very little knowledge of the massively known universe. S/he is really more Genre Blind in the beginning of the game rather than dumb, but the council and other NPCs in the game classify Shepard as being dumb anyway. It's justified as Shepard was simply a random soldier serving under a highly intelligent captain before being promoted to a Spectre without much warning. Fortunately, the commander proves to be a very fast learner after asking many questions about others and wisely takes in different aliens to help him/her, despite his superiors calling him/her foolish for even trusting these allies. It eventually all pays off for Shepard in the end.
    • Subverted with the krogan warrior Urdnot Wrex. If Shepard takes the time to befrend Wrex, he reveals that he's actually very intelligent, he's just bitter about how his species has become self-destructive. Should he survive the first game, he goes on to attempt to educate his people to try and make them more than the dumb brutes the galaxy things that all krogan are.
    • Played with in Jack's case. She never had a normal life, resulting in her never gaining a basic education, social skills, or a care for following society's rules in general. However, after her Heel–Face Turn she becomes a noble hero who violently thrashes any villains who attempt to harm her students. Hilariously, she still has trouble with handling her paperwork.
  • Duster in Mother 3, especially when compared next to Kumatora. Duster is portrayed throughout the game as dumb, but never fails to be a nice guy. By contrast, Kumatora, the smart girl of the group, is rather cynical and has quite a bit of an attitude.
  • Subverted in Portal 2 with Wheatley. He's already kind of a jerk, making thoughtless comments about "smelly humans" and then half-heartedly apologizing for them, and even goes so far as to make a Face–Heel Turn upon gaining control of the Enrichment Center, where it takes literally seconds before he goes power-mad. We learn from GLaDOS that he was an "Intelligence Dampening Sphere" built to be as unintelligent as possible to hold her murderous tendencies back and distract her with bad ideas. He attempts to trick and kill Chell and does not care that his actions (or lack thereof) will cause the entire Enrichment Center to blow up. Ultimately he's plagued by poor common sense regardless of his morality.
    • Throughout Portal, there's this distinct vibe concerning Prometheus. In Greek mythology, Prometheus was definitely lacking in hindsight, while his brother, Epithemus, is lacking in foresight. GLaDOS never learns from her mistakes, only altering her modus operandi in the later half of the game. Wheatley takes the role of Epithemus. Definitely learning from the mistakes of GLaDOS, but rarely thinking ahead to formulate plans or traps.
  • Radiata Stories: Clive, a country hick, is one of the nicest guys in the game. Not only will he be Jack's friend without a Fetch Quest but he'll come to the guild and volunteer.
  • Randal's Monday: Murray is incredibly stupid, and also the nicest guy in the game. The smarter a character is, the more likely they're a manipulative jerk.
  • Pretty much the philosophy of the Free Drones faction in Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri. The society is built by a socialist proletariat with a distrust for the educated upper echelons who once oppressed them. They are phenomenally industrious and can pump out infrastructure and units like no tomorrow, but tend to be very backwards technologically — partly out of a distrust of fancy intellectuals (who are pretty much expected to pull their weight in practical labour just like everyone else), and partly out of desire not to "waste" funds on "blue sky" research when it can go to helping the common man instead. However their end-goal of eliminating poverty and creating a fair and free society for all makes them far more sympathetic than a lot of the other factions.
  • Tragically averted by Eddie in Silent Hill 2, who used to be a perfectly nice but slow-witted Manchild, but it was his lack of intelligence that exacerbated his problems, because it left him unable to cope with the bullying he received in any kind of healthy or constructive way. He eventually snapped, killing a dog and crippling its owner, before fleeing to Silent Hill, where he could lash out and indulge his newfound violent impulses freely.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue. None of the characters are incredibly smart, but Caboose, who is dumb as they come, is definitely the happiest of the bunch, as was once commented on by Church. Also, he seems to try to be helpful to his teammates, but, well, he's Caboose.
    Church: Dang man, I would love to live in your world for like ten minutes.
    Caboose: Yeah. I have a really good time.
    Church: Yeah it seems like it. I don't think I'd get anything done, but I don't think I'd care.
    • Grif is surly, uncooperative, and would, in general, rather not be here (wherever here happens to be at the moment). He's also been noted to be the smartest member of the Red Team (although, all things considered, this is more a judgment on his teammates rather than being particularly complementary towards Grif).
    • Similarly, Donut is usually very happy. One could even call him gay. He's only marginally smarter than Caboose. Their happy yet simple natures allow them to quickly become friends when Donut is captured.

    Web comics 
  • This is played with, though not directly touched upon in 8-Bit Theater. Of the four protagonists, three are self-serving rogues who are often committing or willing to commit actions far worse than most of their antagonists. The only character who could conceivably be called a hero is the one oblivious enough not to realize that his companions are incapable of altruism and that their schemes are often evil. However, it should be noted that he is sometimes shown to be a Genius Ditz and the other members aren't really that smart either.
    • However, outside of the main cast, Whitemage stands out as an example of a character who is both good and quite canny. Meanwhile, several very stupid characters are shown to be malicious, some of whom [King Steve] are capable of real harm while others are largely harmless due to their incompetence [but not for lack of intent or the internal frustration and bitterness which most happy-go-lucky heroes avoid]. So on the whole it seems like the trope is averted but played with to a degree as the stupider villains are often treated as harmless while Fighter remains a good guy but may at times cause as much harm as his evil cohorts without realizing the consecquences of his own actions.
  • The Adventures of Dr. McNinja: Dr. McNinja claims that this story arc's lesson is that those of this trope are preferable to the evil-geniuses.
  • Girl Genius: Exaggerated with Dr. Dim, a friendly and helpful big guy who's dumb as a brick, and before the Baron lobotomized him he was an Evilutionary Biologist whose monsters terrorized all of Europa.
  • This is parodied in Happy But Dead. When Tito, Gear and Colin die, Colin and Gear go to Hell. Once there, they learn that Tito made it into Heaven despite doing just as much bad stuff as they did. However, as he was considered too stupid to fully understand what he was doing was wrong, he automatically gets a free pass to Heaven.
  • In The Last Days of Foxhound, the biggest jerks in the comic tend also to be the smartest (excepting perhaps Raven) — Otacon is the best example in that he is perhaps the only genuinely good person in the series, and also a complete Ditz.
  • Nodwick goes both ways: Piffany seems to have severe problems with understanding what goes around her but is practically a living saint. On the flip side, Yeagar isn't much better but is the only party member to be actively malicious. Artax and Nodwick, the two most clear-headed thinkers in the party (in that order) are both Deadpan Snarkers to various degrees, but Artax is considerably more callous than Nodwick. Thus, the dumbest and the smartest person in the party are the nicest, with the two in the middle picking up the "nasty" slack (although Nodwick has an extremely caustic tongue, particularly in regards to Yeagar and Artax's antics). And Yeagar and Artax are the ones slapping Nodwick around. Repeatedly. While Piffany isn't looking.
  • Thog of The Order of the Stick is a subversion, particularly in this strip, whose title is Stupid Isn't Always Cute. This doesn't stop most fans being sympathetic towards him nonetheless. (Not that it's hard to be sympathetic in comparison to Thog's usual company).
    • Elan and Monster in the Darkness are relatively straight examples, especially early on where they were both the moral centres of their respective teams and the dumbest. However, both have gotten a lot more canny over the run of the comic and neither show any signs of bitterness or jadedness; though admittedly this is more genre-saviness than book learning.
    • Xykon plays with this, in so far as while he is still both intelligent and evil, he avoids the bitterness and other baggage that comes with this trope as he is often shown to not care about angst or strategy so much as just having fun being evil.

    Web Original 
  • Subverted in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog; The Good Captain is big and dumb and a completely insensitive jerk, while the titular Doctor Horrible is by far a more sympathetic character despite his Morally Ambiguous Doctorate. While he does have a fairly low opinion of people in general, it seems to not be meant in a malevolent way; as he himself says, "The world is a mess and I just need to rule it" ... presumably as (in his mind at least) a benevolent dictator. On the other hand, he is trying very hard to join an organization called "The Evil League of Evil", which name pretty much says it all. So it's also half played straight — smart and dumb are both jerks.
    • This ideal is actually promoted by Captain Hammer himself in the comics, with him stating that smart kids or anyone that doesn't immediately fit mainstream's perception of normal should all be thrown into jail. The audience of course is expected to know that he's just spouting [BS].
  • Parodied in Friendship is Witchcraft. Ponyville's citizens take great pride in being ignorant, to the point that numbers are forbidden in Ponyville (as mentioned by Cheerilee, a schoolteacher). In Episode 7, Applejack, who is away retrieving her free iPod nanos, sends a letter saying that the free iPods were fake and that she's been kidnapped into slavery, but her friends completely ignore the message and think that, because she now knows how to write, she's been corrupted by knowledge and thinks of herself as too good for her friends. When her friends catch up to her, she eventually reveals a bomb that activated when she left the plantation, and explains the whole situation, but they still ignore what she's trying to say (lampshaded when Applejack asks "Are you even listening to what I'm saying?" and her friends shake their heads). The story culminates in Applejack reporting to Princess Celestia that it's better to know nothing at all.

    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing World of Gumball:
    • While Richard Watterson is stupid to a painful degree, and his sons Gumball and Darwin are mostly bratty, they're all usually the well-intentioned heroes of the series who try to do what's right and bring justice to their neighborhood... most of the time.
    • Sussie is very dumb, to the point she doesn't know the difference between a duck and a dog. However, she loves all her classmates, and gives them many gifts (even if they're lame). She likes everyone and not once has been rude or angry at a character. However, one episode implies she acts that way on purpose, while in another episode, it is shown she was very intelligent but got stupid after being dropped by her parents.
  • Animalia: Played with, when Alligator actress Alegra becomes highly intelligent after accidentally absorbing Livingstone's intelligence, causing her to suddenly become a dangerously Evil Genius, to the point Livingstone's rival Tyranicus ended up helping the protagonist to get the intelligence back because he'd rather have his rival in perfect state than an intelligent Alegra.Partially subverted in that Alegra wasn't really a nice person to begin with (though her normal self does displays a softer side occasionally), whereas Livingstone, when possessing his natural hight intelligence, is portrayed as an extremely wise and kind person. As such, the message would rather be that intelligence is a gift that can cause as much harm as good, depending who's possessing it.
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force: An Inverted trope. While the genius characters aside from Frylock certainly aren't nice or sympathetic by any means, being the kind of show this is, the most malicious characters are also the stupidest (e.g. Oglethorpe, The Mooninites, and Shake. Especially Shake). The few nice characters tend to be more intelligent than most of the cast. Played straight and subverted with Meatwad. While generally dumb and nice, he's only this way because of his place in the pecking order. When he gets any amount of power or leverage over someone, he picks up the Jerkass ball very quickly.
    "I do not want to do anything illegal here...but I would kill somebody, in front of their own mama, to get a ten-speed."
  • Beast Wars: The most noble of the Maximals, Silverbolt, is also so committed to being Stupid Good that even the other heroes wonder if his processor could perhaps use some debugging.
    Scott McNeil: Silverbolt...strong, proud, brave, and smart as a sack of hammers.
  • BoJack Horseman: Highly intelligent characters like BoJack, Carolyn, and Diane tend to be a lot less happy than dumber characters like Todd and Mr. Peanutbutter. In the first episode, BoJack even says of Mr Peanutbutter, "he's so stupid that he doesn't even realize how miserable he should be. I envy that." Made somewhat more realistic when character development reveals that Todd isn't so much stupid as he is naive and clueless, and that Mr. Peanutbutter has a cynical side combined with a cultural dislike of expressing negative feelings. And BoJack's intelligence doesn't actually translate into acting ability or common sense — it just makes him able to see exactly what is happening as he repeatedly ruins his own life.
  • Dexter's Laboratory: While Dexter is less of a Jerkass than rival genius Mandark, he is still high-strung, arrogant, and seems to have problems in regards to thinking ahead. In contrast, his older sister Dee Dee is usually much more cheerful, sensible (sometimes), and laid back, despite being something of a Cloudcuckoolander.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: Mostly played straight.
    • Ed and Jonny are Kindhearted Simpletons, Nazz is a bit ditzy but very sweet, and May is the dumbest Kanker and probably the most innocent and least cruel of the three.
    • Subverted with Edd. He is a genius and, while he can be self righteous and judgemental, he's incredibly nice most of the time, up to the point that the other neighbors tolerate him the most out of the main trio. He is often portrayed as sensitive, thoughtful, and reasonable.
  • Futurama: In "Mars University", when Gunter the monkey wears the bowler hat that Professor Farnsworth invented that makes him super-intelligent, he's a snobbish know-it-all, especially towards Fry. Later, when Gunter's hat gets broken and thus only gives him average intelligence, he finds that he's much happier that way and decides to attend business school, much to Farnsworth's ire. Mars University also parodies this trope with its motto, "knowledge brings fear."
    • Fry, Amy, and Zoidberg are this to the Planet Express crew, as they're the least likely to grasp the Jerkass Ball, all the while being the most unintelligent employees (though they have their moments, especially Amy).
  • Gorillaz: 2D isn't too bright, but definitely a nice person; he's a supporter of the Free Tibet campaign, and fans often comment on how adorably innocent he is. Moreso than Murdoc, his crazy and amoral bandmate.
    Paula Cracker (talking about 2D in this interview: He was very sweet. A bit thick, though.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: Billy in early seasons is an idiotic but friendly Cheerful Child in contrast to Mandy who is smart, cynical, and heartless. For better or worse, later seasons take away the "good" part as Billy is still stupid and also a spoiled, violent Jerkass.
  • Heathcliff: Mongo in the cartoons was generally the most gentle and good-natured of the Junkyard Cats, as opposed to all the other characters whose main interests were some level of scheming and fighting.
  • Inhumanoids: Tendril was both the least intelligent and the least evil.
  • Invader Zim: It fell afoul of this trope accidentally with the character of GIR, a Robot Buddy at extreme levels of stupidity. Intended to be merely an idiot hedonist, he was seen as one of the nicer characters in the series, and an entire episode was dedicated to sticking him in "duty mode", which had the result of making him several times more evil than Zim himself. It didn't stick. Played more straight with Keef, who's completely oblivious to the fact that Zim doesn't like him, but one of the only nice kids at Skool.
  • Kaeloo: Dumb characters like Kaeloo and Stumpy are much nicer than smart characters like Mr. Cat. Somewhat subverted by Stumpy as the show goes on and he becomes more antagonistic.
  • Leni Loud from The Loud House, second eldest of eleven siblings is obviously the least intelligent of the lot, but is also the one who is the slowest to rile up and act out in anger. The episode "Shop Girl" revolves around her siblings trying to teach her to stop being so nice and naive, only for it to backfire, and she still is as nice as she always has been.
  • Pinky and the Brain: Pinky being the dumb, but nice and happy one, while Brain being a super-genius hellbent on taking over the world (though for the better good). This is played with when Brain makes Pinky intelligent and, finding out that an intelligent Pinky is actually smarter than him, comes to realize he is the reason they always fail (proved mathematically no less) and reduces his own intelligence. The subversion is that Pinky is still happy, energetic, and full of "Narf" when he is intelligent while the Brain, though he does suddenly find rather silly things funny all of a sudden, retains his unhappy personality.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: Averted this with Mojo Jojo. Though he claimed he played it straight to guilt Professor Utonium into giving him superpowers, the Professor remembered that Mojo was always a destructive little monster. The Professor even claims that Mojo hasn't changed a bit since the first thing Mojo did with his new powers was to go on a rampage in the Professor's lab.
  • Played with in Rick and Morty. In the first two seasons, Rick is a genius and Morty is an idiot. Rick smacks Morty around and doesn't care about anyone else, while Morty is nice but weak and useless. In the episode Rickcounters of the Rick-kind we meet Alternate Universe Doofus Rick, who is a nice person, and Evil Morty, who seems to be much smarter than the other Morty's. In Season 3, Morty is shown becoming smarter as a result of his adventures with Rick, but also to be turning more cynical and less good.
  • Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!: Scooby-Doo and Shaggy are not exactly the smartest cookies in the Scooby snack box, but they're very kindhearted and it's actually their foolishness that winds up with them capturing most of the ghosts the gang face.
    • In later Scooby-Doo productions (sans one), Fred had become this, becoming a massive Cloudcuckoolander but retaining his politeness and likeability.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In the episode "HOMR", in which the normally stupid Homer gets a crayon dislodged from his brain, making him slightly more intelligent than average (Homer: Is there no room in the world for somebody with a 103 IQ? ) . However, he quickly loses his friends due to his intelligence. Then Lisa tells him the sad "truth": As intelligence goes up, happiness goes down. Smart Homer sees only one recourse — re-insert the crayon through his nose...
    • Lisa is consistently (and for some, obnoxiously) portrayed as both the most intelligent and morally upright person in the family. She is frequently disliked by classmates and feels isolated and depressed as a result of her intelligence. She might sometimes save all of Springfield and be right a lot (at least, in the view of the writers) but she pays a heavy cost. Maybe the message is that Dumb Is Good most of the time, but you also need smart people around to occasionally save your ass.
    • One episode had the people with the highest IQs put in charge of the town. It was a complete disaster, largely due to their arguing over who was the smartest.
    • Ned Flanders isn't smart like Lisa, but he always sticks to his Christian values in doing the right thing and being a good neighbor to everyone, which gets him labeled as an extremely boring guy and Homer is constantly annoyed by him. Even when Homer or someone else tries to show Ned how to have a good time, Ned doesn't know how to relax or let loose because he fears doing something un-Christian may get him condemned to Hell or the like.
  • South Park: Butters Stotch is quite simple-minded and clueless, but he stands out for being far nicer than his pessimistic, foul-mouthed classmates.
  • Space Ghost: Brak used to be an intelligent, underhanded villain in the original show, but following his return in Cartoon Planet, Space Ghost Coast to Coast and The Brak Show, he became an lovable, harmless simpleton. Such to the point that he has no idea how it happened, either:
    Zorak: "Say, uh, Brak; how did you survive that Pirahnamyte barrage?"
    Brak: "I don't know, it was all a blur. I think I just went to sleep and woke up stupid!"
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • The episode "Patrick SmartPants" has The Ditz Patrick accidentally become smart, then quickly turn into an Insufferable Genius who eventually becomes miserable because he can no longer relate to his dumb friend SpongeBob. So, he becomes an idiot again and is ecstatic. This is presented as an unequivocally good thing.
    • SpongeBob himself certainly isn't the sharpest tool in the shed, but to his credit, he is much nicer than characters considered smart like Squidward, Mr. Krabs, and Plankton.
  • Steven Universe: Zig-zagged with Amethyst. While she's not exactly the most intelligent member of the Gems, she is one of the toughest fighters on the team and much like her cohorts is always there to save the day.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Michelangelo is considered the least intelligent member of the team and is often called out on his foolishness by his own brothers. Though, whenever he has to help them combat serious villains he shows off his amazing ninja skills in hand to hand combat in order to keep up with his badass brothers. Donatello, meanwhile, is a full aversion, being The Smart Guy and also a really nice dude.
  • Teen Titans Go!: While all the character have their dumb moments, Cyborg and Beast Boy have the most among them all. In one episode, to point out that intelligence levels are linked to popularity, Robin uses CB and BB as examples, saying they know virtually nothing, and everyone loves them, a comment which they are flattered by, despite basically being called idiots. Robin also points out that his average intelligence gives him average popularity, and Raven’s vast amount of knowledge makes her a bummer.
    • In the same episode, Raven makes Starfire super smart, and she begins spouting out random, depressing facts to her teammates about things they love, ruining the fun things and bumming them out.
  • Transformers: Animated: Bumblebee is the least intelligent member of his team, but when he's called into action he's always the first one to jump at the need to help others.
  • Transformers: Prime: Bulkhead admits that he's only good for breaking stuff instead of building stuff and is easily confused by Technobabble. However, he's considered one of the most kindhearted autobots on the team and sometimes outsmarts antagonists who are more intellectually superior than he is.

    Real Life 
  • Inverted in real life. Criminals and delinquents have below-average intelligence by somewhere between half and a whole standard deviation, on average, meaning that being dumb makes you more likely to be evil (meaning that Stupid Crooks is indeed often Truth in Television). Interestingly, the Flynn Effect has increased the average IQ of people in developed countries over the last century, and those countries have warred considerably less with one another in the meantime.
    • Or, rather, criminals and delinquents who get caught have below-average IQ, but there's probably selection bias at work — intelligent evil people may not be any less common, just less likely to get caught/identified as evil. Apparently there's a correlation between sociopathy and success in the business world.
  • There seems to be an unspoken assumption in American politics that "intellectual" is a synonym for "elitist", and therefore of "bad". This belief seems to be roughly traceable to the 1840 presidential election, in which President Martin Van Buren lost re-election to William Henry Harrison partly because of Van Buren's public image as an aristocrat who was out-of-touch with the common folk. Since then, it has become something of a ritual in American politics for presidential contenders in both parties to compete for which candidate can seem the most like "just regular folk." This gets particularly funny in those elections when both candidates went to Ivy League or similarly acclaimed schools.
    • Goes back at least to 1824 when the contest was portrayed by his supporters as between "Jackson who can fight and Adams who can write".
    • It seems to hit a peak of ridiculousness during the 2008 Democratic Primaries, when the two front runners, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama were both getting painted with the elitist brush, since they were both well-educated Law school graduates. It created the surreal images of Hillary Clinton drinking shots in a bar, all the candidates appearing on Saturday Night Live and The Tyra Banks Show, and other related weirdness.
    • Likewise it was major factor in the Republican Primary of 2012, prior to Mitt Romney's eventual victory many of the candidates tried to play up "folksy" images of themselves.
  • There is the old saying, "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and Ignorance Is Bliss." That's gotten more important with the spread of easily accessible information. Depression is on the rise (or is being noticed more readily), and some blame the abundance of information. Some people have suggested the way to improve this is to "play dumb" and avoid the news before the worries of the world crush you.
    • This saying is actually misquoted and misunderstood. The original quote (from Alexander Pope's "An Essay on Criticism") is "A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring". In other words, "an idiot with a little knowledge thinks he's an expert and acts like an Insufferable Genius because of it". Basically, if you're going to learn, strive to learn everything, so you know how little you really understand; but if you only learn a little, you'll assume you understand everything. It's the difference between being a Know-Nothing Know-It-All and an actual expert in something.
    • Entertainingly, this has actually been verified by science: statistically, people with minimal knowledge of a subject are much more confident in their opinions regarding that subject than people that actually have any real level of understanding. This is named the Dunning-Kruger effect after the scientists that verified it (Ignorant of Their Own Ignorance is our own trope equivalent), though whether they 'discovered' it is an open question since many cynical people have made the observation in less-scientific contexts throughout history.
  • Emma Watson (who plays the above mentioned Hermione Granger) has openly spoken against this trope, saying "There are too many stupid girls in the media. Hermione's not scared to be clever. I think sometimes really smart girls dumb themselves down a bit, and that's bad".
  • A deadly application of this trope happened in Cambodia during the reign of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge where intellectuals were among the people singled out as enemies of the state and slaughtered en masse. Often the criteria for being labelled a intellectual involved something as simple as happening to wear glasses or looking "scholarly."
    • Similar example: a major tenet of the Chinese Communist movement was, for a while "kill all the intellectuals" almost in so many words. Then they realized that they'd killed the majority of their scientists and engineers and they needed roads and bridges, which is why most of Chinese infrastructure is now designed by contract labor from other nations. This is also why many students choose to attend a university outside China; a foreign degree, especially one from the United States, is highly valued.
    • The USSR under Stalin also enforced the hell out of this trope, the most well-known example being sending all the scientists that believed in natural selection to Siberia because it 'wasn't communist enough' and forcibly substituting Lamarckian evolution (proved wrong about 100 years earlier) into the curricula.
  • Interestingly, the earliest examples of the word "nice" being used to describe someone in the English language indicate that the original meaning of the word was "naive" or "innocent", or in other words, lacking knowledge. For example, saying "What a nice child" would be describing the child as ignorant and carefree. So a word used to describe someone as dumb morphed into one used to describe someone as good.
    • Geoffrey Chaucer, who spelled it "nyce", kindly couples it with other adjectives which indicate that by it he meant something closely akin to "foolish". Several of the people described as "Nyce" are very clearly not Good.
  • Occasionally, good smart people will do this to themselves to enjoy a laugh or to sacrifice learning that little bit extra to relax or to learn something fun that you won't get in a book, such as the laughs had on a night out with friends.
  • King Henry VI of England was mentally impaired, and had little understanding of the war that was breaking out around him. Many at the time regarded his condition as pious innocence, in contrast to the machinations of the nobles around him.
  • Depending on the circumstances, Mensa are sometimes advised to leave mention of their membership off of their resume, lest their applications be rejected for being perceived as overqualified. This is also a regular practice for former directors since they don't want to look like they took the job as a temporary measure.


Video Example(s):


"It's Been Ages!"

These are highlights of the cat Roger, he may be oblivious, not that bright, and definitely the strangest and most eccentric cat around. But his friendly demeanor brings the best in him.

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5 (6 votes)

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Main / DumbIsGood

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