Follow TV Tropes


Good Is Not Dumb

Go To

"Just because you're an angel doesn't mean you have to be a fool."

Good Is Not Dumb is the trope where a sincerely good, kind, and polite character is underestimated by others because of their kind nature.

Unlike Obfuscating Stupidity, Good Is Not Dumb does not involve any deception at all — the subject is genuinely nice and honest, but the cynicism of others lead them to misread the character as The Ditz, a Gentleman Thief, or some other gullible or deceptive archetype. After all, no one really gets through life being kind and trusting to everyone, right?


Almost inevitably, the genuine goodness of the character will triumph, often accompanied by the comeuppance of the disbeliever. The Con Man will be thwarted, the skeptical cynic will be surprised by The Power of Trust, and everyone will discover that "good" is not a synonym for "clueless victim".

A direct inversion of Good Is Dumb, and Dumb Is Good. Someone who is Good Is Not Dumb may realize that being nice to villains simply isn't going to cut it, so they may incorporate Good Is Not Soft. The ultimate stage of this is the Guile Hero who can play The Chessmaster's game without falling into the ambiguity or clear villainy of the Magnificent Bastard.

Compare and contrast with Wide-Eyed Idealist, Good is Not Nice, Gentleman and a Scholar, Beware the Nice Ones, Beware the Honest Ones, Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass, Evil Cannot Comprehend Good, and Good Is Old-Fashioned. Also see Rousseau Was Right, Good Is Not Soft and Incorruptible Pure Pureness.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Kamijou Touma from A Certain Magical Index. Practically the only skill he has against his enemies is his intellect, as Imagine Breaker has extremely limited range (he has to be literally touching the thing for it to work). He will often let himself take multiple punches that he knows he can manage if it will give him a chance to get in one good shot against his opponent. He also has the makings of a skilled Chessmaster, as shown during the Ichihanaransai Arc, where after getting tired of being used as a pawn in so many plans, he decides to play their game and flawlessly manipulates two major factions (GREMLIN and Academy City) by the nose with little effort while carrying out his own objectives.
  • Gantz: Masaru Kato. He is about as morally upstanding as they come, but he'll still pre-emptively ambush a guy on the toilet in order to defend himself and head off further violence.
  • Karakuridouji Ultimo: Sophia. He's on the Good Doji side and is the embodiment of Wisdom.
  • Liar Game: Nao. Like Corporal Carrot, she started off extremely naive, honest, and easily manipulated. As the game continued, however, we see that she is a lot smarter than she appears. She even schemes with Fukunaga and doesn't tell Akiyama and pulled it off, and often uses her innocent nature to trick and trap others.
  • Lyrical Nanoha: Although most of the main cast of the franchise falls into either Lawful Good or Neutral Good alignment, they universally adhere to the spirit of it, not the letter. The normally polite and gentle Nanoha, for instance, won't hesitate to blast you out of the sky if it ensures your survival when crap actually hits the fan, and trying to outsmart her in combat... is a very bad idea. Other characters display similar tendencies, perhaps because most of them started off as villains and the rest learned from them.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Zigzagged with Goku; while he is Book Dumb due to his relatively sheltered upbringing as a child (raised in isolation by Grandpa Gohan and then taking care of himself until he met Bulma), Goku is anything but stupid. Many enemies have fallen before him because they underestimated his intelligence and craftiness in battle. His battle instincts and ability to learn quickly often catches even his friends off-guard. He also often gives life advice and words of wisdom to his friends and sons.
    • His eldest son Gohan is the kind of boy parents would love their daughters to bring home: nice, polite, etc. He's also a full-fledged Genius Bruiser who at his peak, can tussle with Gods and also applies his smarts in battle. In fact, in the Expanded Universe, he would publish a book on the scientific principles of explanations of ki, making it much easier and understandable for normal humans to do the Supernatural Martial Arts of the series.
  • Naruto: Sakura, Kakashi, Shikamaru. Just to name a few examples.
  • Rurouni Kenshin: Himura Kenshin.
  • Saint Seiya: Crystal Saint, Marin, Albiore, Mu, and Dohko. They were the only Saints outside of the main cast who weren't fooled by the fake Pope.
  • Trigun: Vash the Stampede.
  • Monster: Dr. Tenma, Nina Fortner, and Dr. Reichwein.
  • Taiki Kudou from Digimon Fusion who is the smartest goggle-head in the series.
  • The titular Master Keaton.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Ed and Al are child prodigies, and adapt to situations quite well.
  • Souten Kouro: Cao Cao is serious about upholding the law, but he's not Lawful Stupid and knows a set-up when he sees it during his tenure as police chief. As he said in exposing the eunuch Jian Shi's plot against him: "I am not the kind of fool that would kill His Highness, who you had caught in your wicked scheme!"
  • Lacus Clyne of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED. One of the kindest and most forgiving people you would ever meet, and an Actual Pacifist. Do not mistake any of this for weakness or naivete. As of the end of Destiny, she is the Chairwoman of the PLANT Supreme Council, essentially in charge of one of the global superpowers of the Earth Sphere.
  • Many characters in Legend of the Galactic Heroes. Siegfried Kircheis is a particularly striking example.
  • Hajime of Gatchaman Crowds is as optimistic as they come. While she does have one or two moments of Obfuscating Stupidity, most of the time she's completely sincere in how she acts, and she proves to be one of the most thoughtful characters of the series.
  • Minor character Marlow in Attack on Titan, while in-universe is seen as foolish for wanting to change things, he is definitely not stupid, able to make astute observations that others haven't noticed or choose to ignore.
  • Emma of The Promised Neverland is frequently criticized for being naive and idealistic; however, she does frequently demonstrate this trope. Most notably figuring out that Ray sacrificed members of the orphanage to experiment with the transmitters. She forgives him, but makes it clear that she won't tolerate it if he does anything like that again.
  • Arusu of Tweeny Witches is frequently criticized by Sheila for being naive and idealistic, but she shows herself to be quite intelligent in episode 8, where she pulls a Batman Gambit to keep the special capture squad from capturing a piskie by exploiting the fact that those without four-leaf clover cannot see it.
  • Jinbei in One Piece has people underestimate his intelligence due to his gentle nature. He was one of the few Impel Down escape members to realize they will need a ship to escape and promptly goes gets it. He was smart enough to back off his request to leave Big Mom's crew, knowing the price would have cost him his life and his crew's lives. Instead, he waited for the opportune moment to free the captured Luffy and Nami and openly rebel against Big Mom.
  • Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?: Protagonist Bell Cranel is naive and fairly easy to manipulate (though mostly due to still being young and inexperienced as an adventured), but he's far from dumb. He spends evenings studying the monsters in the dungeon and always looking to Take a Third Option when caught in a Morton's Fork. Also, when he first meets Liliruca, it seems he doesn't realize how she's scamming him of a lot of money right under his nose, but it turns out he knew it all along and managed to more or less piece together why she did it on his own. Rather than call her out, he gambles on her becoming The Atoner just by being genuinely nice to her, and it works.

    Comic Books 
  • Nightwing may be one of the most genuinely nice and beloved characters in the DCU, a Wide-Eyed Idealist that always tries to see the best in people, but he is not and never will be stupid. Translates over to when he took over as Batman.
  • The original Captain America, Steve Rogers. Super Soldier, tactical genius, inspirational leader, unfailingly polite and incorruptibly idealistic.
  • Superman sometimes invokes this trope, often when an Anti-Hero claims that Good Is Old-Fashioned...Except when certain writers depict him as an idiot on the assumption that anyone that powerful must be Dumb Muscle and even then he solves problems with specific applications of that muscle.
  • It's implied that The Gentleman from Astro City is one of these. His goodness is never in question — he's unfailingly polite, selfless, and idealistic, even in the midst of battle. On the other hand, his intelligence to date has been largely implied; for example, he's one of the few super-beings who avoided capture during a secret alien invasion.
  • Spider-Man certainly has his flaws; he's hot-headed, cocky, loudmouthed, immature, neurotic and can occasionally descend into bouts of self-pity, yet he's still extremely loyal to his loved ones, lives by a very strict Thou Shalt Not Kill code, and, above all else, values responsibility. He also happens to be a genius scientist who applies his smarts in fights and has invented several ingenious devices, including his web-shooters.
  • In Zatanna's ongoing series she is confronted by Oscar Hampel, who claims that he was turned into a puppet because of a tragic series of events almost out of his control and that his violent actions were an isolated event. Zatanna accepts that her father, for all his wisdom and power, was only human and might have overreacted by turning Oscar into a puppet. She gives Oscar the benefit of the doubt and agrees to help him become human again...after she runs him through a magic Lie Detector, that is. After all, just because her father was not perfect does not mean he was wrong this time, and she is going to make sure before she takes any actions.
  • Jesse Custer's philosophy in Preacher, learned from his father (and from John Wayne in equal measure), basically boils down to this trope.
    Don't take no shit off fools. Judge a person by what's in 'em, not how they look. An' you do the right thing. Be one of the good guys. 'Cause there's way too many of the bad.

    Fan Works 
  • The dwarven noble protagonist in The Crown of Thorns, a Dragon Age fanfiction, is an embodiment of this trope.
  • Equestria Girls: Friendship Souls: Pretty much all of the mane cast, but especially Fluttershy.
    Fluttershy: "I'm nice. Not stupid."
    Gilda: Good. It would have been embarrassing to lose to a total dweeb.
  • The Reasonable Marines, a fanmade Space Marine Chapter for Warhammer 40,000, will attempt diplomacy first whenever possible, which makes then positively heretical in the shoot-first-ask-questions-never Imperium of Man. The fool that refuses their overtures gets to be on the receiving end of stealth tactics, combined arms, and all-around Combat Pragmatism.
  • In 3 Slytherin Marauders Arthur Weasley came up with a diversion which made Lucius Malfoy wonder when he'd become so clever.
  • In Sight The Visored thought Ichigo was extremely naive when he decides to spare Grimmjow after he escapes Aizen instead of killing him. While Ichigo didn't want to kill Grimmjow in cold blood, he does have another reason. Ichigo is wise enough that Grimmjow wouldn't be swayed into joining their side by appealing to his morality. He tells Grimmjow that he doesn't care what Grimmjow does as long as he stays on the sidelines, doesn't try to return to Aizen or attack Ichigo or any of his friends. Thus depriving Aizen of a potential warrior that knows how to find the Visoreds' secret base and better impressing Grimmjow. It works as Grimmjow decides to help Ichigo with his Hollow powers than return to Aizen or remain on the sidelines.
  • The Very Secret Diary: Tom Riddle looks down at Ginny, belittling her as a dumb little pawn. Ginny, however, ends up figuring out Tom's web of lies, and by combining willpower and the concern of her friends and family, ends up delaying his plans by several weeks, and is able to deduce his true origins.
  • Wish Carefully: In which Harry Potter surrenders wizarding England to the Death Eaters, evacuates everyone else, and lets the consequences of their own purist, isolationist ideology and Voldemort's "leadership" drive them to ruin.
  • In Karma in Retrograde, Present Mic is an energetic, outgoing hero who is known for his Large Ham speeches and enthusiastic talk show. This does not mean he's dumb or naive, being reasonably skeptical about Touya's inability to remember his time as the serial killer Dabi. He refuses to let his guard down around Touya even after weeks of good behavior, keeping Touya at arm's length but never outright mistreating him to avoid creating resentment. This aspect of Present Mic's personality is why Aizawa considers him his best friend.
  • Child of the Storm, as per canon, has Steve Rogers. He's an All-Loving Hero, The Cape with Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold, all that. But he also grew up in New York during the Depression, and he fought in World War Two, including liberating Auschwitz. He's definitely not naive.
    • Ron Weasley as well is noted to be this trope: While he's not academically intelligent like Hermione, or quick on his feet like Harry, he does have talents as The Strategist, and he's definitely more perceptive than he seems (though the occasional incident of Open Mouth, Insert Foot can overshadow this).
  • In A Knight's Tale as Inquisitor, the first characteristic everybody takes note of Arturia Pendragon is her steadfast Honor Before Reason - something that really sticks out in a world such as Thedas. So naturally, those same people are legitimately thrown off when she demonstrates just how meticulous in her plotting she can get whenever the opportunity presents itself.
  • In Harry and the Shipgirls, Arthur Weasley, after listening to a recording of Morsmordre being cast once, managed to deduce, purely from speculation and the available evidence, the whole chain of events that would have allowed it to be Bartemius Crouch Jr.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Cars 2, Mater's simple nature belies the fact that he's a genius at recognizing obscure car parts at a glance. He later uses this to identify Sir Miles Axelrod as the true mastermind behind the efforts to sabotage the World Grand Prix.
  • The Lion King: Despite bragging about how he got all the brains while Mufasa got all of the brawn, Scar's really no smarter than his brother, yet is resentful that Mufasa is king and not him. When Scar finally does become King, it becomes clear that Scar's not nearly as smart as he likes to think he is; Scar's a lazy hedonist who isn't even remotely interested in maintaining the Pride Lands, letting the place become a barren Mordor.
  • In Zootopia, Judy's voice actress specifically addresses the character this way: she's new to the city and a cheerful idealist, but that doesn't mean that you should underestimate her. She does fall for Nick's hustle when they first meet, causing him to dismiss her as a "dumb bunny," but after that, she's wise to his schemes and tricks him into giving her the information that she needs to blackmail him. By movie's end, the two are working together to Out-Gambit the villains.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Abbe Coulmier from Quills is a compassionate priest who believes Rousseau Was Right, and serves as a foil to the Marquis de Sade. While it initially seems like de Sade has the advantage, Coulmier turns out to be more than capable of zinging him right back and punctures de Sade's pretensions to evil.
    Coulmier: You're not the anti-Christ. You're just a malcontent who knows how to spell.
  • Georgia Byrd from Last Holiday might seem naïve, but she is a very good saleswoman and gives some solid advice to other characters. Despite all of Kragenís attempts to humiliate her, Georgia is usually one step ahead of him.
  • While the most obvious example from the Marvel Cinematic Universe is Captain America, the best example is Agent Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D., who's always quiet and polite even when he's pointing a BFG at an Asgardian demigod.
  • Glinda the Good in Oz the Great and Powerful almost immediately figures out that Oz is not a wizard. Still, she knows that people need to believe that he's the Wizard of the prophecy in order to win against the Wicked Witches. This is in sharp contrast to Theodora, who is completely taken in by Oz and flirts with him just like any other gullible girl, to the point where she's planning a wedding after knowing him a few hours. She also completely fails to notice her sister Evanora playing her, resulting in Evanora turning her into an Ax-Crazy Wicked Witch.
  • George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life is an idealist, but is nobody's fool; cf. his rant at Potter in the board meeting after his father's death.
  • Mr. Deeds Goes to Town: Everyone in the movie takes this kind, small-town man who inherited millions from his long-lost uncle as some yokel they can easily deceive. A great example was when a lawyer who represented one of his uncle's ex-wives tried to make a claim against the estate. While sympathetic to the wife at first, he realized he was being conned, and threw the man out of his house, to the shock of Mr. Cedar and Mr. Cobb.
  • The Hunger Games: Peeta is kind, patient, and three steps ahead when it comes to manipulating the on-camera narrative.
  • In the original Ghostbusters duology, Ray is definitely The Heart of the team—he seems genuinely excited to explore the supernatural, as opposed to Egon (who's almost purely cerebral), Peter (who's a grade-A cynic), and Winston (who's the most practical person in the group). He's also extremely polite and considerate, even trying diplomacy with a Physical God in the first film. But don't mistake his kind soul for a soft head—he's a certified genius in the fields of metallurgy, history (both ancient and contemporary), anthropology, and the paranormal in general. He's also just as good a shot with his proton pack as the other three, and Lord help you if you threaten a child on his watch. Ray's even able to turn his genuine belief in the good of people into a weapon in the climax of the second movie—he determines that the only way to break through the shell of slime (which is powered by negative emotions) is by tapping into the "few sparks of sweet humanity" in New York, which inspires the 'busters to mobilize the Statue of Liberty with positively-empowered slime, a plan that succeeds beautifully.
  • Richie Rich: Lawrence Van Dough sees Richard Rich's Benevolent Boss conduct as detrimental to the bottom line, while ignoring that Mr. Rich is an exceptionally savvy financial operator who's managed to become the world's richest man and remains almost universally beloved. When Richie takes over, he points out that his father's methods weren't only kind, but also good for business, as employees who are well-treated and secure in their jobs tend to work better and remain loyal.

  • Discworld:
    • Carrot Ironfoundersson greets everyone by name, is perpetually polite and cheerful, and selflessly volunteers to help anyone in need. But anyone who mistakes him for an easy mark quickly learns otherwise.
      And that was Carrot at work. He could sound so innocent, so friendly, so... stupid, in a puppy-dog kind of way, and then he became this big block of steel and you walked right into it.
    • While Sam Vimes is a textbook example of Good is Not Nice, his wife Sybil is an example of this trope. She's always unflappably polite and kind-hearted (even to Nobby Nobbs), but beneath her lighthearted exterior is a razor-sharp mind, as demonstrated when she negotiated Ankh-Morpork's fat trade with the Dwarf King in The Fifth Elephant.
    • And then there's Nanny Ogg, the Cool Old Lady who's always up for a good drink, a good smoke, and a good ribald song. Yet she's smart enough to keep Granny Weatherwax in check...
  • In Good Omens, the ever-polite angel (literal angel) Aziraphale occasionally gets visits from the representatives of property developers who are very concerned about the possible risk of fire to his bookshop.. He listens to them cheerfully and politely sends them on their way, and they never return... He's also been audited by the tax office five times specifically because, being an angel, he never makes mistakes or commits those tiny little frauds humans often do. His accounts are so incredibly perfect the tax office people think he must be up to something spectacular. He's not.
  • In The Hunger Games, Peeta is kind and patient and totally kills at least two people in the arenas, besides being three steps ahead when it comes to manipulating the on-camera narrative.
  • The Father Brown series by G. K. Chesterton uses this heavily with its titular character. In his first appearance, the Gentleman Thief Flambeau is shocked that a quiet, unassuming priest can not only outwit him but knows more than him about criminal behaviour. Father Brown points out that of course priests know these things; people confess to them.
  • None of the main cast of Codex Alera can be considered dumb, but Tavi in particular stands out. He's constantly derided for being overly idealistic and trying to make peace with nonhuman species who have been at war with Alera for centuries. However, he's a Guile Hero with a talent for Success Through Insanity Batman Gambits and understanding creatures that don't think like humans, so as often as not his idealism actually pays off, much to the surprise (and sometimes annoyance) of his detractors.
  • Jim Butcher's other series, The Dresden Files, also uses this trope on the Knights of the Cross, Michael Carpenter in particular. Michael is a Church Militant Knight in Shining Armor and devout Catholic, but he's also a perceptive person. If it looks like he's falling for a plan, it's because he believes it's the only honorable way to get Harry out of the latest mess and/or God will see him through it, never because he hasn't noticed the risk.
    • Also because Harry has risked the same for him.
    • When Harry receives the shadow of a Fallen Angel, he worries about telling Michael. When he finally does, Michael calmly tells him that he knew. Harry forgot that the Knights job is to help those who have evil within themselves redeem themselves.
    • Michael himself acknowledges this briefly once. "My faith protects me. The Kevlar helps."
  • Brother Cadfael from the Ellis Peters mystery novels is a very intelligent man, quite good at medicine, reading people and bringing the most unnoticeable clues together. He is also remarkably kind and compassionate. Hugh Beringar is also a good and honorable person — and a Magnificent Bastard on top of that.
  • In Timothy Zahn novels, Luke is written this way. While he may be one of the strongest Jedi, he is also able to outsmart his opponents when necessary.
  • Wedge Antilles, in his film and early EU appearances, was just an Ace Pilot, leader of Rogue Squadron, and loyal to his friends and cause. His day in the limelight, the X-Wing Series, showed some promising hints of interpersonal savvy, tactical insight, and further loyalty to principles rather than organization. This is exaggerated by the time of his Aaron Allston-written appearances in the New Jedi Order and Legacy of the Force. He's adept at Xanatos Speed Chess, an incredibly quick thinker, adept at cutting past what people are saying to what they mean and their underlying goals, and a loving husband and father who is deeply principled and moral. Somehow, people keep underestimating him.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, Frodo makes it very clear to Gollum that he is well aware that Gollum is trying to think of a way to betray the hobbits and take back the ring. Sam is surprised at this because he had assumed Frodo was far too good a person to be able to understand deception and treachery. Sam admits that he (and probably Gollum as well) "had confused kindness with blindness."

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Chernobyl, Ulana Khomyuk tries to act as The Conscience for Legasov, urging him to publicize the Failsafe Failure of RBMK reactors so that the Soviet government will be forced to fix the problem in all the other RBMKs still in operation. Shcherbina dismisses her as a naive idealist who doesn't understand the trouble she's asking Legasov to bring down on his head, and Legasov follows the party line in his Vienna speech. In the final episode, Khomyuk visits Legasov again, understanding why he didn't speak out in Vienna but imploring him again to say something at the trial of the plant managers—and making clear that she does know how the world works. She would have been satisfied with the KGB's deal if they would actually hold to it, but instead they're going to ignore it once they scapegoat the plant managers. The only reason she's asking Legasov to put himself on the line instead of doing so herself is because she knows how easily her word can be dismissed—Legasov, having acquired the reputation of a Science Hero who "spoke the truth in Vienna", will be harder to ignore.
  • The Doctor on Doctor Who frequently makes use of this to his own advantage. Although his kindness is almost always genuine, it frequently earns the scorn of various despots, tyrants, and baddies who assume him to be simple-minded or naive.
  • Benton Fraser from Due South. Honest, noble, impeccably polite at all times... and a lot more competent and intelligent than he appears. Incredibly reminiscent of Captain Carrot, to the point that you think somebody must have been inspired by somebody else. Apparently not, though.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Ned Stark's decisions are often dismissed as just being Honor Before Reason, but there are often very good reasons for his choices. He doesn't back Renly's bid for the throne, but replacing one false king with another would certainly require winning a war and Renly is a bureaucrat with no combat experience. Sure enough, Renly does nothing but divide the forces against the Lannisters. He offers Cersei time to flee before he informs Robert of her infidelity, but as the lover of a notorious kingslayer and the daughter of one of the most powerful warlords in the realm, letting Robert bludgeon her and her children to death in a fit of rage isn't really an option either.
    • Talisa, along with Catelyn and Edmure, insist that Lord Karstark should be imprisoned for the duration of the war as insurance against the Karstarks' loyalty. This despite having just seen the recently murdered corpses of the Lannister boys she tended to.
  • Dr. Molly Clock in Scrubs. Her cheery optimism refuses to yield even against the naked cynicism of Dr. Cox and Dr. Kelso and allows her to triumph against them.
  • Trance Gemini of Andromeda.
  • Stargate Atlantis: Rodney McKay was quite surprised to find that Col. Sheppard has a Mensa-worthy IQ.
  • Firefly:
    • In "Trash," Saffron assumes Mal is an idiot because he's being kind and compassionate to her. Then she walks headlong into his Batman Gambit when it turns out he expected her sudden but inevitable betrayal, and Inara beat Saffron to the drop point.
    • In "Ariel", Simon — to that point seen along with his sister as The Load by the rest of the crew — comes up with a plan to steal medical supplies from a hospital. It's a win-win for the crew; they profit from the medicine (which they can sell on poorly-supplied colonies) while Simon gets access to diagnostic equipment he needs to help his sister. He specifically targets an Alliance military hospital for the crew's raid because he knows it will be resupplied quickly, thus not jeopardizing patient safety. He even breaks his cover to attend to a patient who is in distress and being ignored by the regular staff and manages to (briefly) win Jayne's respect in the process. That still doesn't stop Jayne from selling him out, however.
  • Carly in iCarly sees the best in people, but if betrayed or oppressed, will come up with a scheme like having a massive in-school riot to get the good principal back.
  • Occurs several times in Survivor — Natalie in Samoa successfully played Russell's scheming to her own benefit. Also "Fabio" in Nicaragua, who had a "lovable goof" personality but was reasonably game-savvy and combined the two to get the win.
  • The Amazing Race:
    • On Season 2, Tara & Wil and Chris & Alex constantly ragged on Blake for being an idiot, despite this, he made several brilliant strategic moves, including being the first team to beg for money, getting his bags on a flight when all the other teams had to check theirs, and getting preferred parking on a ferry, most of which were decried by the above teams as "cheating".
    • Part of Boston Rob getting Uchenna & Joyce and Gretchen & Meredith on a faster flight in Season 7 (when Rob, in order to mess with their heads, mentioned a fictional earlier flight, which just turned out to exist) was him talking about how Uchenna & Joyce couldn't do anything for themselves.
  • Eiji Hino from Kamen Rider OOO may seem like a carefree fool, however underneath his simple exterior lies a rather cunning mind.
  • Emu Hojo of Kamen Rider Ex-Aid is a kind doctor who wants everyone to get along and be happy. He always tries to talk to people and appeal to their better traits, but if that doesn't work, he uses his understanding of people and knack for manipulation. This attitude allows him to be an All-Loving Hero in Crapsack World.
  • Merlin:
    • Arthur may be the poster boy for "Genre Blind is not dumb". Even if he's convinced that Agravaine is innocent, he will investigate nonetheless, and came close to arresting him at least twice. He's also a very competent tactician, as you'd expect from the commander of an elite army, and, in more recent episodes, started valuing Merlin's advice above all others (although he'd never admit it).
    • Gwen as well. Compared to the other characters who frequently pass around the Idiot Ball, Gwen shows plenty of intelligence. For example, she spies Morgause talking to Morgana in the city and immediately goes to Gaius about it, as well as trying to figure out what she's up to. And when she becomes Queen and it's revealed that someone in Camelot betrayed them, she immediately puts two and two together remembering she had seen one of her handmaidens leaving the city late the previous night and is able to get the truth out of her almost at once, something Uther never really quite accomplished. Plus she's the only character in the entire franchise to deduce that Merlin is a sorcerer, even if it takes her until the very last episode to do so.
  • The eponymous Ted Lasso lampshades this in the first season, how people always assume that his unfailing kindness, generosity, and positivity mean he's stupid and naïve, leading people to seriously underestimate him.

    Myths & Religion 
  • In The Bible Jesus Christ specifically commanded his followers to invoke this. "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." - Matthew 10:16

    Pro Wrestling 
  • With Kevin Steen doing his best Dark Helmet impression on the entirety of Ring of Honor while Jimmy Jacobs was on a redemption quest with Steve Corino, this trope coming up was seemingly inevitable. Unfortunately for ROH, Jimmy Jacobs discovered that while good may not be dumb, it wasn't for him. Evil felt better and sometimes, evil really does win!
  • On WWE NXT, we have Johnny Gargano. Even after everything his former best friend/tag team partner Tommaso Ciampa put him through, from betraying him, harassing him, attacking him, and eventually costing him his NXT career, even after coming to return that hatred, Gargano never quite gave up hope that Ciampa could be redeemed. That being said, Gargano also acknowledged the possibility that Ciampa couldn't be redeemed; so when Ciampa took his mercy for granted towards the end of their unsanctioned match and tried to cheap shot him with his knee brace, Gargano ducked under the blow, and finished off his former best friend, reclaiming his career in NXT in the process.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Book of Exalted Deeds supplement for Dungeons & Dragons makes a point of saying, early on, that Good does not equal stupid. A Good character won't leave a village to be eaten by a dragon, but they're perfectly allowed to ask questions about its power, its minions, and where it's living — they aren't obligated to charge in blind. The same book also notes that good characters don't even have to be too trusting and take the information of aforementioned example at face value — all of it may be a villain's trap, after all.
  • Princess: The Hopeful: Given the game is about playing good guys in an insanely dangerous Urban Fantasy Crapsack World, it should come as no surprise Princesses are expected to be at least somewhat pragmatic if they wish to survive, and the various Oath followed by their Callings all specify very explicitly that doing the right thing shouldn't blind your common sense. For example, a Seeker is expected to never lie, but still shouldn't go around telling every mortal about These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know nor break the Masquerade when it's obvious The World Is Not Ready, and just because a Mender swore to cure and help anyone in need doesn't mean she isn't allowed to take precaution to protect herself and her friends should her patient be very likely to backstab her.
    • The trope also is part of the reason why Princesses of Mirrors are classified as "Twilight" Princesses (the morally ambiguous ones) instead of Radiant (the straight good guys), as their code of never accepting compromise is pointed out to be sometimes just as harmful as what Princesses of Storms and Tears do. For example, when having to defend a village against an incoming army of monsters, a Princess of Mirror would refuse to put the villagers at risk and try to take the whole army on her own, which is very likely to result in everyone dying, whereas a Radiant would provide the villagers with weapons and training so they can support her in the fight, thus minimizing the losses.

    Video Games 
  • Aribeth in Neverwinter Nights is presented as good, nice, kind, politically savvy, capable, perceptive, and not above having a laugh at your expense. All in all a refreshing aversion of the traditional stoic goody-two-shoes paladin.
  • Mega Man X, a Reluctant Warrior who lives in an increasingly Crapsack World infested with The Virus, capable of turning even his best friend against him. Often referred to as 'too trusting' in-universe and 'emo' outside of it because he doesn't like killing people. He's also a Sealed Good in a Can Super Prototype One-Man Army with lots of combat experience and what he can't handle his aforementioned best friend will. He also ends up ruling the world, basically because he's the only person that could manage it. There was talk of having him hit the Despair Event Horizon, lose that compassion, and become the Big Bad of the sequel series. That would have been bad.
  • Garlot of Blaze Union may not be very smart to begin with, but he has a very sensitive nature that allows him to accurately read and understand his rivals and enemies' motivations. As his adventures start to gain him more and more street cred, it's his overwhelmingly gentle and compassionate heart that manages to win the hearts of his entire country—including those very rivals and enemies, more often than not. We get to see in the future just how much Bronquia really appreciates having a leader who's kind, just, and competent.
  • Duessel from Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones.
  • Ashara Zavros in Star Wars: The Old Republic is the most blatantly Light Sided companion in the Sith Inquisitor's entourage, but she also possesses a sharp mind and displays a lot of critical thinking towards both Light and Dark Side archetypes. Contrary to what you'd expect from a Jedi (even a Fallen one), her affection for you is only affected by strategic acts of kindness (ones that improve other's lives in long term), but not by being merely nice and compassionate to everyone. If you don't actively corrupt her to The Dark Side, she eventually arrives at her own philosophy of the Force (not unlike Darth Revan's) that combines the best aspects of both Sides of the Force and is guided by reason.

  • Almost all of the good guys in The Order of the Stick fall under this trope, with the exception of Elan — who has his moments with his extreme Genre Savvy. Paladins even state outright (several times) that they're "Good, not dumb." Miko is an inversion; while she is an intelligent and powerful paladin, her very warped and self-centered view of the world causes her to make increasingly bad decisions.
  • Arthur in Arthur, King of Time and Space. His enemies often assume that because he's nice, unassuming, and prepared to give the benefit of the doubt if possible, he can't be dangerous. Many of them are dead now, and the remaining ones still haven't learnt.
  • Girl Genius: Everyone thinks that just because Gilgamesh Wulfenbach never built a Death Ray and tries to be civilized and fair, they can push him around and act like he's nothing. When he's finally pushed over the edge, he shows the entire world that yes, he does know how to build a Death Ray, and yes, he's perfectly capable of kicking the crap out of Europa to protect his father and not-girlfriend.
    Wooster: You... you couldn't!
    Gil: Couldn't? Couldn't? I am Gilgamesh Wulfenbach, little man... and there is nothing I couldn't do, had I cause! And now... now I have one! Do. You. Understand?
    • When he does flip out and brings this up, he scares some very hard to scare people, while delivering an incredible beatdown to the oversized war criminal sent to retrieve him. And at the end:
      Gil: Well, you know what? I can do crazy. I really can. And it looks like I'm going to have to. Agatha is in danger. This whole town is in danger. If I'm going to be able to help her at all, I'm going to have to give up all this "being reasonable" garbage and show you idiots what kind of madboy you're really dealing with! [Smashes Vole apparently through a wall, Beat, sudden wide eyes] ...oh. Oh, no. This must be how my father feels - all the time!

    Web Original 
  • In a world as grey as AJCO most characters tend to sneer at the more idealistic members of their society such as Egg and Kaja. However, Kaja is a high-level angel with centuries of experience under her belt and while Egg isn't the most perceptive character on the server, she is a very close second to Telepher and the Auditor. And they have as much as thirty years of practice on her!
  • Dreamscape: Dylan's lack of powers, Nice Guy attitude, and harmless looks lead to him being demeaned by his adversaries, but there is more to him than meets the eye...
  • Hazbin Hotel: Charlie is a Downplayed example — while she is shown to be rather naive in her efforts to redeem the inhabitants of Hell, she very pointedly refuses to make a deal with Alastor (even refusing to shake hands), instead essentially ordering him to aid her, while leaving in an obvious escape clause to avoid him screwing her over in the future. Helps that her father is Lucifer, meaning she's lived with someone like Alastor and knows their tricks.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Justice League episode "Flash and Substance" Orion asks why Central City would honor a buffoon like the Flash, "who makes bad jokes, [and] who concerns themselves with pitiful men like the Trickster." But the Flash is anything but dumb — he's able to handle the Trickster without throwing a single punch. In fact, he actually convinces the Trickster to happily turn himself in to the police. He also defeated the Insufferable Genius Grodd in one episode by outsmarting him, leading his teammate Green Lantern to remark "Well, maybe you aren't an idiot." (Probably being at least partially sarcastic.) You can tell that even Batman is almost envious of his ability to quietly shut down a super-foe without violence, something he cannot imagine being able to do in Gotham... or anywhere else, for that matter. It does help that the Rogues (in the animations) are Punch Clock Villains rather than crazies Batman has to deal with. The Comics are another story:
    Flash: Do you think the Rogues here are simple? Do you think just because they aren't mentally screwed to the hilt that I have an easy time? Your guys are different, Bruce. They work on a completely cerebral level. They leave clues. They like to kill. My guys? They're organized.
  • Young Justice:
    • Kid Flash (Wally West) is no twit either, he may act like an immature and quirky teen, but he's a real expert in physics, biology, and geology.
    • We also see that while Robin is usually snarky and fairly goofy, he's a computer whiz and can be a Batman-style ruthless tactician. He doesn't like it very much, though.
    • Impulse also counts, he's a happy-go-lucky Motor Mouth,who built his own time machine to go back to the past, to stop his Bad Future from happening.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants, often.
    • In Plankton's first episode, he tries to manipulate SpongeBob into giving him a Krabby Patty by pretending to be friendly, but SpongeBob sees right through Plankton's ruse immediately. Plankton lampshades this.
      Plankton: Gee, and I thought you were stupid.
    • In the episode "Pizza Delivery", Squidward tries to tempt SpongeBob into becoming entranced by the Krusty Krab pizza that they have to eat it; SpongeBob immediately sees through this trick and protects the pizza.
    • In "I'm with Stupid", SpongeBob pretends to be dumb so Patrick can look smart for his parents, but Patrick begins to believe he really is dumb. However, Patrick does show some shade of smartness, as he is able to recognize his parents by their name; when his parents call each other "Janet" and "Marty", Patrick quickly realizes these are not his parents, as his real parents are named Herb and Margie.
    • Crossed with Smart Ball, Patrick is unsurprisingly vigilant and down-to-earth in "Porous Pockets", as he is able to con his way past the rich-turned SpongeBob's VIP list and tries to warn his friend that his new "friends" are only using him for his money, and to stop throwing his money away to them otherwise he'll have none left.
    • In "Company Picnic", Plankton hosts a picnic at the same time the Krusty Krab hosts one, stealing all the attention. He then attempts to trick Squidward and Mr. Krabs into signing a contract so they become his employees and use them into stealing the Krabby Patty formula. While Plankton is gloating, SpongeBob manages to hear everything he said, realizing the whole picnic was a scam and stops Mr. Krabs from signing.
  • Superman: The Animated Series: Superman gets to show and/or prove this a lot. Sometimes he's surprised by something he's never seen before, especially in the early episodes, when he was fresh off the farm and just beginning his heroic career. But if you try the same trick on him more than once, you'll find that he's figured out exactly what your deal is and how to stop you. Compare how befuddled he was by Mxyzptlk during their first encounter with how he almost effortlessly owns the extradimensional imp every time after that.
    Superman: Oh, it's you again, Mr. Kyltpzyxm.
    Mxyzptlk: NOT Kltpzyxm, it's Mxyzptlk! Now the first thing I'm gonna do- Aw, nertz. [disappears]
  • Ned Flanders from The Simpsons, at least in the early seasons. He's smart enough to outsmart Homer, though that's not saying much.
  • In the Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness episode "Bosom Enemies", Po bends over backwards trying to let Taotie redeem himself, only to have him throw it away at being called an "assistant" and attack the panda and his friends. However, Taotie seems to have turned again and helps Po stop his machine, and for a second it seems that Po has forgiven him. However, it turns out that even Po is not that naive and this treacherous villain is next shown in Chorh-Gom Prison.
  • Beast Wars:
    • Optimus Primal, quite possibly the intellectual equal of Magnificent Bastard Megatron, and more than once able to let the bad guys play right into his hands. Also a great guy in general, and a friend to all the Maximals under his command. Would rather not have to fight, but is very good at it.
    • And then there's Rattrap, who generally wins his fights by a combination of this and Good is Not Nice.
    • Rhinox. It's telling that when he was turned evil by Megatron, Optimus did not order a rescue attempt. Rather, he figured that if there was anyone on his own team who would be capable of outsmarting him in a coup, it would be Rhinox, and Megatron might not have realized how cunning his newest addition to the team truly was.
  • Ben Tennyson was this during Ben 10: Alien Force and some episodes of Ben 10: Ultimate Alien. In Ben 10: Omniverse, on the other hand...
  • Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts has the titular character's first instinct when tossed onto the Death World of the surface be to try and make friends. Even with people who clearly want her dead. But despite being a near-endless fountain of optimism, Kipo does occasionally have backup plans at the ready when her kindness isn't immediately awarded or somehow backfires, such as when she covertly nullifies Scarlemange's mind control serum when his fondness for her just leads to him upgrading his coronation into a more violent Join or Die affair wherein the dead would serve as lovely golden statues for her.

    Real Life 
  • Studies have shown that people who're more trusting are often more capable of telling when others are lying. For more information, see the analysis page.
  • Another study has shown that those who're more concerned with justice tend to think more logically.
  • In the early years of World War II, Mahatma Gandhi advocated passive resistance against the Nazi war machine, just as he had successfully used against British rule in India. However, when the horrific scope of Nazi Germany's campaign against Europe and its own Jewish population became evident, Gandhi acknowledged that, even if nonviolence could possibly work against the Nazis, it would suffer many, many bloody defeats along the way. Gandhi was not naive, and understood quite well that his resistance against the British succeeded because, when it came down to it, they were honorable enough to not resort to genocide. The Nazis, meanwhile, had no such compunction.
  • Pierre Terrail, seigneur de Bayard, has been held up for centuries as the exemplar of chivalric virtue, loyal, honorable, pious, noble and kind, admired by friend and foe alike, his name a byword for heroism and goodness. He was also one of the most effective military commanders of his day, in a large part because of his extremely practical approach to war — he demanded discipline and professionalism from both his cavalry and infantry (who other French commanders of the age disdained as a rabble) and made extensive use of espionage and reconnaissance to maintain awareness of his enemies' movements. In other words, he was the complete opposite of the stereotype of the idiot aristocrat whose only tactic is "charge".
  • It can generally be found that Evil Is Easy but also self-destructive, while Good is Difficult, but Awesome. So doing the right thing generally has numerous long-term benefits and can lead to a Karmic Jackpot... IF you are intelligent enough to pull it off.


Video Example(s):


Pizza Delivery

Squidward tries to entice SpongeBob into eating the Krusty Krab pizza, but he immediately sees right through the trick and protects the pizza from him.

How well does it match the trope?

4.54 (13 votes)

Example of:

Main / GoodIsNotDumb

Media sources: