One of the more common stock characters, the Half-Witted Hillbilly is the unrefined, uneducated, backwards yokel found in fiction. While they technically can come from any predominantly rural region, in American pop culture they're most commonly portrayed as hailing from the Deep South, Appalachia, or the more sparsely populated areas of Texas and the Southwest.
The Half-Witted Hillbilly is a subtrope of the Country Mouse, but whereas the Country Mouse character tends to be more naive than anything else, the Half-Witted Hillbilly tends to be portrayed as either remarkably ignorant of technological or social progress, or just plain stupid. While most Half-Witted Hillbillies are comedic characters, they can also be tragic, villainous or even murderous depending on the story.
The Half-Witted Hillbilly can come in many different forms, but most of them fall into five broad categories, all typically sporting a Hayseed Name:
The Genuinely Disabled: Rural characters who actually suffer from a true mental illness or disability tend to be edge cases at best. They tend to have more nuanced, fleshed-out, sympathetic portrayals than most instances of this trope, possibly to avoid the risk of attracting "Dude, Not Funny!" reactions. While characters like Forrest Gump or Karl Childers from Sling Blade may technically fit most or all of the description on paper, they fill different roles in the story.
The Country Bumpkin: This is perhaps the broadest category of Half-Witted Hillbilly. They may be portrayed as a bit backwards, Book Dumb, or remarkably gullible/naive, but generally not incredibly stupid. May or may not be a fount of homespun wisdom and/or esoteric knowledge about obscure subjects. May be extremely capable in the right environment or situation, or even a Genius Ditz who can whip up Impossibly Delicious Food with only a possum and some veggies. Very commonly overlaps with the Kindhearted Simpleton as many Country Bumpkins are generous and hospitable, whether due to social mores, religious convictions, or innate goodness. While their foibles are generally Played for Laughs, most Country Bumpkins tend to receive positive-to-neutral portrayals.
The Backwoods Bigot: This variation of the trope is portrayed as "stupid" not because of mental acuity (or lack thereof), but specifically due to their social or political prejudices. Much more common in Political Cartoons than elsewhere, but do appear in other mediums on occasion. Tends to cross over with Insufferable Imbecile.
The Inbred Ignoramus: The Inbred Ignoramus tends to encompass all the worst stereotypes of rural America: perpetually drunk or on drugs, misanthropic, Too Dumb to Live, unemployed and/or criminal, etc. May have some redeeming characteristics, but generally not. If the character is not canonically inbred, you can bet that the joke will be made at some point. These characters tend to be proof that rural people are still on many people's list of Acceptable Targets.
The Half-Witted Hellbilly: This is what happens when the Half-Witted Hillbilly crosses over with Hillbilly Horrors.
It's worth noting that the Half-Witted Hillbilly is by no means a universally loved trope, though it has quite a way to go before reaching Discredited Trope status. Most of the Half-Witted Hillbilly's stereotypical characteristics stem from the fact that rural areas — particularly the more isolated ones — tend to struggle with poverty and a lack of educational resources, so the basic premise of this trope often comes down to "poor people are stupid." To further rub salt in the wound, the old chestnut about rural communities being inbred is largely based on assumptions and exaggerations reported by late-19th century journalists and missionaries, rather than actual reality. It's not hard to see why this trope may be considerably less funny to some people than others.
Compare The Idiot from Osaka, which is a similar concept in Japanese media. Contrast Southern-Fried Genius. May overlap with the Country Cousin, Farm Boy, Farmer's Daughter, Good Ol' Boy, or Southern-Fried Private.
No Real Life Examples, Please! This is a play on a potentially hurtful stereotype, after all.
- During the American anime industry's infancy, it wasn't uncommon for early anime dubs to assign random minor characters (and Osakans) with highly exaggerated Southern or Texas accents that no-one from either region actually speaks with, and hayseed dialogue to match. As such, these characters' dialogue was often localized in keeping with this trope, whether it was true to the spirit of the original Japanese or not. This practice has become less common as anime became more popular in English and dubbing has generally become more faithful to the original.
- In one such example, an incidental character in the first episode of the Battle Athletes OVA speaks with an such an outrageous country drawl that it makes the character seem half-witted despite not having said anything particularly foolish.
- Jeff Dunham's puppet Bubba J is a cross-eyed redneck that doesn't know or care about much other than drinking beer. Naturally, the entire routine is about how stupid he is.
- This is one of the tropes that fuels the "blue collar comedy" of comedians like Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy, though it's less about making fun of rural people as it is making light of rural stereotypes. (And since the comedians in question are rednecks themselves, this allows them to make fun of themselves and their families.)
- Lil i Put: Świętopełk "shepherd of the dodo birds" is a Polish variant. You are never sure what he is going say next is some type of simpleton wisdom or (more often) total gibberish.
- Preacher has a family of one-eyed inbred hillbillies who are among the most kind-hearted. The others are definitely in the Hillbilly Horror genre, including a trio of cave-dwelling cannibals and a compulsive rapist of Anything That Moves (and some things that don't, including a birthday cake).
Garfield: The man's whipping a tractor!
- The Arbuckle family is a downplayed example; they aren't necessarily any dumber than any of the other characters (certainly not compared to Jon), but they are shown as varying degrees of backwards in accordance with the Rule of Funny. Jon's father and brother are typically shown to be the most backwards (notably, Jon's father was once shown not knowing how to use indoor plumbing) while his mother and grandmother are generally portrayed far more positively.
- Their neighbor is noted to have never quite gotten the hang of modern technology.
- The titular character of the Long Runner comic strip Li'l Abner adheres to the long-standing tradition of hillbilly protagonists with more heart than brains. His father Pappy Yokum, however, makes him look pretty sharp by comparison.
- Joel and Rufus from Gasoline Alley.
- Snuffy Smith is a dumb, lazy moonshiner whose popularity led to him becoming the de facto star of the comic, all but completely ousting Barney Google, the original protagonist.
- The "Backwoods Bigot" variation is common to the point of ubiquity in Political Cartoons; an uncountable number of cartoonists use a picture of a redneck or hick as visual shorthand for bigotry, right-wing sentiment, or general backward attitudes.
- Tow Mater from Cars is an exemplar of a sympathetic Country Bumpkin: big-hearted, Book Dumb, socially awkward, and largely ignorant of anything outside of Radiator Springs, but all the things he's good at, he's really good at. At least part of his popularity comes from the fact that his voice actor is Larry the Cable Guy essentially playing a kid-friendly version of himself.
- Deliverance: Most people's renditions of Deep South in general come from this film, which is full of Half-Witted Hillbillies...and a few Half-Witted Hellbillies. The scary part of the film is that serial rapists fit into this clan.
- Ma and Pa Kettle, originally supporting characters in the novel and film The Egg and I, reached Breakout Character status and starred in their own wildly popular series of films. The Kettles are a hillbilly couple with 15 children, and neither of them are exactly geniuses... but that makes them ideal for the comedic fish-out-of-water plots of their films.
- Ernest P. Worrell is an easygoing, good-natured, dim-witted Southerner originally created to hock various products on TV commercials in the South, but his popularity eventually led him to his own series of films. The character's charm and slapstick comedy helped launch the career of Jim Varney.
- The film version of Forrest Gump is an edge case, being Genuinely Disabled. Still, he does satisfy many aspects of this trope, being that his folksy charm and humorous misunderstandings are a major part of the character's appeal.
- My Summer Story (AKA It Runs In The Family): The largely-forgotten sequel to A Christmas Story referred to the other half of Jean Shepard's memoirs that resulted in the iconic film. In the memoir and the film, the Bumpus clan are nothing but Half-Witted Hillbillies who move into a place, turn it into a dump, and leave after the bills pile up. To further hammer home the lack of sophistication they had, they still used outhouses despite their home having indoor plumbing, and one of the Bumpus members, as a feat of strength, destroyed the stairway to the main door, which none of them bother to rebuild.
- Karl Childers from the film Sling Blade falls into the Genuinely Disabled category. While his low intelligence stems from his disability rather than his rural upbringing, he is notable for being one of the few tragic examples of this trope, from his abusive upbringing to his committing murder to protect his loved ones.
- The Lancre Morris Men in Lords and Ladies are quite offended at the way they're portrayed by big city playwrights:
- Much later in the conversation, after some attempt to get Carter to understand a Double Entendre, Baker comments "Them playwriters down in Ankh, boy, they certainly know about us."
- Invoked and subverted in Where the Red Fern Grows. The story takes place in the Oklahoma portion of the Ozarks, where the main character Billy Coleman and his family are poor, uneducated, and live in the hills. At one point, when Billy visits the next big town by himself for the first time, the city kids judge him harshly over of his dirty, impoverished appearance. When he admits that he's from "the hills" and his name just happens to be named Billy, the kids all make fun of him, chanting "Hillbilly! Hillbilly!" Of course, despite his lack of education, Billy is by no means stupid.
- The Hillbilly Moment segment of The Amanda Show made a Running Gag of this trope. The female Hillbilly would tell the beginning of the knock-knock joke, and when the male asked "who's there," he'd get hit in the head with the item mention in the joke's beginning. Then both would laugh and declare "that's a good one". They were both portrayed with low intelligence, but the boy Hillbilly deserves special mention for falling for the same joke every episode.
- The Andy Griffith Show has a couple of prominent examples:
- Ernest T. Bass is a rowdy, uneducated hillbilly/troublemaker best known for throwing rocks at windows, and speaking mostly in rhyme. He only appeared in five episodes of the show's original run, but remains one of its most beloved minor characters.
- Mayberry's own Gomer Pyle is one of the nicest, most innocent young men you could ever hope to meet...but he's incredibly gullible, naive, and certainly not terribly bright. His popularity eventually led to him getting his own TV spinoff, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C..
- Gomer's cousin Goober Pyle (whose last name was once given as Beasley), also fits into the "nice but slow-witted" trope. His actor, George Lindsey, would take the character to the variety show Hee Haw after the Mayberry shows ended their runs.
- The Darling clan, a Country Bumpkin family led by patriarch Briscoe Darling, consisting of his four sons and his only daughter Charlene who had occasional flirtatious moments with Andy. They have a pretty good Appalachian bluegrass band, and they have their moments involving superstitious mountain folklore.
- The Beverly Hillbillies may just be the Trope Codifier for the Country Bumpkin type. The entire series is based on the premise that the hillbilly Clampetts don't understand the posh modern conveniences of Beverly Hills. The degree varies wildly between characters; for example Jed has a lot of genuine wisdom and a deep cunning, but Jethro is straight-up an idiot who may or may not have an actual mental disability.
- Invoked in The Crown (2016). While Johnson is not at all stupid, he is regarded in-universe as being much less intelligent than the exalted Kennedy.
- Green Acres has Fred and Doris Ziffel, an elderly Country Bumpkin farm couple who regard Arnold the pig as their son.
- The State had a recurring sketch of "The Inbred Brothers", which had two guys in union suits doing dumb things: falling down, eating leaves, lighting themselves on fire, etc.
- True Detective features Lucy Purcell, who is of both the Inbred Ignoramus and Backwoods Bigot varieties, although it's worth saying that she isn't inbred. She is, however, extremely racist, stupid, and cruel.
- The infamous X-Files episode "Home" featured a family of mutants that was the result of generations of incest. Like the Deliverance rapists, this family was not meant to be funny.
- The Godwinns were a couple of comical hog farmers — managed by Hillbilly Jim, no less — before their FaceHeel Turn and rebranding as Southern Justice.
- Haystacks Calhoun used a farmer/southern hillbilly gimmick for many years, and his folksy "nice guy" demeanor made him popular. He (legitimately) weighed in excess of 600 pounds and, with Tony Garea, held the WWWF Tag Team Championship for several months in the summer of 1973. As with Hillbilly Jim years later, heel opponents that were convinced he was a slow-witted hick soon found out otherwise. Diabetes and other health issues ultimately ended Calhoun's career by the late 1970s, and he passed away in 1989 at the young age of 55.
- Hillbilly Jim: A more down-home, folksy, fun-loving bumpkin from Mud Lick, Kentucky. Heel wrestlers tried to either take advantage of his seemingly simpleton ways or insult him for his backwoods origins, but Jim was more wily than he appeared.
- When Jim was legitimately injured (during a match against Brutus Beefcake) and sidelined for several months shortly after his 1985 debut, the WWF decided to introduce several of Jim's cousins Uncle Elmer, Cousin Junior and Cousin Luke to the fold. Each one of their characters was decidedly slower-witted than Jim, the brains of the family (which, if you asked Jesse Ventura wasn't saying much). The Hillbilly family wreaked havoc on the WWF well into 1986.
- Warhammer Fantasy: Comes in two main varieties:
- Imperial peasants do tend to be isolated and illiterate (as expected of medieval society), and the more isolated villages are often targets of Chaos cults thank to their ignorance.
- Bretonnian peasants are extremely stupid and childlike, at least according to their overlords. however, this is partially an act: The last thing peasants want is to get an Upper-Class Twit getting further involved in their lives, so they use Obfuscating Stupidity to keep them at bay, leading to some aristocrats really thinking the average peasant is stupid enough to stab himself in the back a dozen times with his own farming implements. Of course, illiteracy and ignorance are also endemic among the lower classes as well.
- Scooter from the Borderlands series has a strong Southern accent, and is completely clueless about anything that doesn't involve machines. One sidequest has you help him find inspirations to compose a poem to woo a girl he likes. The results are... less than impressive. The second game reveals that he, his mother Moxxi and his sister Ellie are from the Hodunk Clan, who are all stereotypical hillbillies.
- In Edna & Harvey: The Breakout, Petra has a strong Southern accent in the english dub, and is clearly one of the ditzier patients of the asylum. One prominent example is when she throws a Surprise Party for Peter...on the toilet.
- Fallout 3: The DLC Point Lookout includes a terrifying group of people known only as the "Swampfolk", who have a variety of mutations from both radiation and inbreeding. They are hostile to all outsiders and are implied to worship an Eldritch Abomination. They don't have much in the way of brains but are terrifyingly strong-the player can observe one destroying a Mirelurk.
- Far Cry: Hurk Drubman Jr., first introduced in Far Cry 3, who then goes on to appear in Far Cry 4, Far Cry 5, and Far Cry: New Dawn, fits this trope perfectly. A fat bearded American with a Deep South accent, he behaves most of the time like an excitable partying Frat Bro who loves guns to a disturbing level. In his first appearance, he's trying to train monkeys as suicide bombers, citing Russian World War II dog bombers and American Navy dolphin bombers in his reasoning. note Luckily, Hurk's latest monkey bomber, Coco, is intelligent enough to get rid of his explosive vest before Hurk detonates it. In later games, Hurk makes further clumsy errors in judgement: in 4, he somehow thinks he's fighting for Pagan Min's Royal Army instead of the Golden Path, purely because he thinks their heavily-accented English is actually their native language. Hurk reaches Lethally Stupid levels in 5 when he's one of the Guns For Hire, because he has a tendency to bring RPGs and massive firearms into battle against the Project at Eden's Gate, which means he's as likely to hit you as the peggies. Hilariously, his caveman ancestor Urki is shown to have been just as much a Half-Witted Hillbilly back in Far Cry Primal, despite Urki being from Central Europe millions of years before there ever was a United States.
- Grand Theft Auto V: The O'Neil clan most certainly fit this bill due to the fact that the brother that talks to Trevor has the typical drawl and the family consists of nine brothers and a boatload of grunts. Yet, they have a capable meth operation and a working relation with the Los Santos Triads which could've made them Southern-Fried Geniuses had they not pissed off the wrong guy.
- Need for Speed Payback: Holtzman is a self-admitted hillbilly off-road racer who appears friendly at first, but is extremely arrogant, foul-tempered, and even threatening in reality. While he may not necessarily be outright stupid, he's certainly unhinged.
- Leonard and Bubba from Redneck Rampage are extremely unflattering portrayals of Southerners, turning this trope Up to Eleven. It'd be more noteworthy if the entire game wasn't basically one huge exercise in Refuge in Audacity.
- The Ace Attorney series gives us Lotta Hart, a self-proclaimed Country Bumpkin who will have you know most Southerners are actually very intelligent and sophisticated. She's just the exception. This is done as part of the Cultural Translation of the series; in the Japanese version, she's The Idiot from Osaka.
- Something*Positive: One strip set in the 1930s has a redneck dump her baby on the (black) midwife on the grounds that it's the midwife's fault the baby came out black.
- Duke brings this up in The Critic when he first meets Jay's new assistant Alice. Both of them speak with a southern accent, and he notes how southerners have to work extra hard in New York because as soon as people hear them talk, they're immediately dismissed as illiterate, country bumpkins. In actuality, both of them subvert this trope since neither one is remotely dim, although Duke is very eccentric at times.
- The Fairly OddParents: Wanda's Anti-Fairy counterpart Anti-Wanda is dumb as a rock and speaks in a Southern drawl.
- King of the Hill: Lucky, who debuted amongst a menagerie of other rednecks in the episode "The Redneck on Rainey Street" is a prominent example as a guy whose family had had shotgun marriages, and his primary income consists of frivolous lawsuits.
- Fuzzy Lumpkins from The Powerpuff Girls, asides from being a dimwit in general, encompasses many hillbilly stereotypes: he plays the banjo, hoards guns, and shoots at anyone who gets near his property.
- Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel from The Simpsons is backwards, uneducated, makes moonshine, has over 50 children, and it's implied that his wife Brandine is related to him in at least two different ways.
- In Tiny Toon Adventures: How I Spent My Vacation, Buster and Babs get captured by a menacing family of possums in the Louisiana outback (as well as gators and a boat full of predators that want to eat them alongside Mr. Hitcher who, after failing to kill Plucky and the pigs earlier, just happens to show up) and are rescued by the son of the possum family, who they bring back to Acme Acres. He then enrolls in the Looniversity, saying "Hoo-eey! I'm gonna get me an ejumucation!"
- Curt and Pun'kinhead Martin from the old Warner Bros. cartoon short "Hillbilly Hare" found themselves matching wits with Bugs Bunny... but find that they were unarmed the whole time.
- In one episode of Wacky Races, Dick Dastardly encounters one of these hillbillies, who has such a short attention span that he doesn't resist when Dick yanks off his hat and beard for a quick disguise.