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Ping Pong Naïveté

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Otis Weaselgraft: "Excuse me, young man, do you like money?"
T.D. Kennelly: "I guess."
Otis Weaselgraft: (to his assistant) "We've got a live one!" (to T.D.) "Then I, Omar Grisslegrass, have something for you: a tree... that grows money!"
T.D.: "Nice try! Everyone knows money doesn't grow on trees!"
Otis Weaselgraft: "Wait! How about a tree that grows steak?"
T.D.: (excited) "A steak tree?! Really?! Where?!"
Martha Speaks, "T.D. and the Steak Tree"

A character who, due to previous experiences, should know better, but doesn't. But later, they display that they do. But then they don't, and so on, and so forth.

This is extensively used either for quick, cheap momentary jokes and gags, or to hold the plot of the particular episode together. It also helps maintain the status quo. Expect to find it in a series with inconsistent character development and Negative Continuity. Sort of the milder, Zig-Zagged Trope sister of the Idiot Ball.

Compare Idiot Ball, Smart Ball, and Aesop Amnesia. See also Depending on the Writer. Usually justified by Rule of Funny.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Misa Amane in Death Note. Occasionally competent enough to pull off a good plan, usually a Genius Ditz. Blame the Mad Love.
  • Liar Game: Nao Kanzaki. While she is thrown into a world of lies and tricks, despite being "honest", she doesn't seem to understand the point of the Liar Game. First, she is tricked into giving 100 million yen to a "trustworthy" teacher, then almost screws up Chessmaster Akiyama's plan by making a part of the team the most unreliable person, Mr. X, in the round and then trusting said unreliable person, after she learned of Mr. X's true nature. Between her mistakes, she shows some bits of understanding her situation, but she forgets them when it's important. If it weren't for Akiyama, she'd be screwed. Downplayed in the manga as time passes: She manages to see through Yokoya's so-called psychic powers by putting something other than money in her suitcase (a teddy bear) which he obviously couldn't know about. Also, when the team threatens to fall apart she convinces everyone to keep working together.
  • Atsushi Arisawa from Bad Teacher's Equation is a Genius Ditz who consistently gets some of the best grades in the country, was invited to an elite high school in Tokyo without an entrance exam, and who sometimes has enough insight on other people's relationships to identify core problems and underlying psychologies that no one else sees. Unfortunately, he has no idea that he's actually that smart, goes to a high school for delinquents, doesn't see why he was invited to an elite high school in the first place, completely misses the most obvious aspects of most people's relationships, and has the surface mentality and naïveté of a small child on a sugar high! Yes, this is very frustrating!
  • Sakura Kinomoto from Cardcaptor Sakura, who manages to capture Clow Cards using her brain and ingenuity but remain oblivious about people's affection for her.
  • Tsukasa, the initial Big Bad of Dr. STONE, is a Genius Bruiser who, while not as knowledgeable as Science Hero Senku, is Genre Savvy enough not to underestimate Senku and smart enough to have an idea of what his enemy is likely to be up to. When it comes to his own followers, however, he seems to be blinded by his idealism into thinking that everyone who serves under him shares his ideals and morality. As a result, he doesn't realize how many of them are subverting his agenda, either through their own ruthlessness and deception or by converting to Senku's side. This bites him hard when his second-in-command Hyoga turns out to have just been biding his time for the opportunity to overthrow him as the primary antagonist.
  • The titular protagonist from Kaiji - despite constantly gambling his life in horrific death games, experiencing humanity's worst evils, and coming out with so much shame and disgust, he is usually full of clueless optimism for the next one he gets a chance at. He tends to blunder his way into bad situations, and then become exceptionally skilled at thinking his way out; at one point, he falls victim to a playground-level card trick and then, mere minutes later, learns to exploit human psychology on a large scale to win at games of chance.

    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: Calvin's understanding of the world is all over the shop, having extremely detailed and (for the late 80s/early 90s) scientifically well-informed daydreams of being a specific species of dinosaur in one strip, then being confused by how toasters make bread disappear and create toast instead in the next - or showing some awareness of physics way above a first grade level, but still buying into whatever absurd thing his dad just told him. One of Watterson's favourite gags was to have Calvin spout some Little Professor Dialogue, then end with a more typical six-year-old reaction, such as a surprisingly artistic poem that ends with the phrase "Eww, look at the spider suck out that bug's juices!"

    Fan Works 
  • This is a distinct problem in Naruto stories when authors try to balance Naruto's origins as an Idiot Hero with him naturally becoming wiser and more well-informed as time goes on. In That Look, Naruto ping-pongs from coming up with clever strategies and surprising insight to needing to be told why a reservoir holding seventy percent of Suna's water is a prime target, despite knowing Suna is in the middle of a desert.
  • Green Tea Rescue has Izuku Midoriya, who can act like a fountain of knowledge at one point (mostly when it involves Quirks or Pro Heroes) and then be completely oblivious (mostly if it involves relationships or love).

  • Toy Story 4: By this point, Buzz has been around for at least a decade. He has watched one owner grow up and adapted to a second - adjusting better than Woody, even. Somehow, not only has he never heard of a conscience, but when Woody explains the basics to him, he jumps to the conclusion that his conscience is whatever line plays whenever he hits his red chest button and proceeds to do exactly what it tells him for most of the movie. Forky approaches it from the other direction; as a spork who's only been sapient for a few days, he is understandably pretty ill-informed about everything to the point of not knowing what "friends" are, but still knows the meaning of the words "planet" and "carousel".

  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: It varies from story to story just how intelligent Manny is and how much he acts like a normal child as opposed to a Child Prodigy. In some books, like Cabin Fever, he's clever enough to cut power to every room in the house but his own, and in The Long Haul he quickly learns fluent Spanish. However, he's still young enough to believe in some pretty illogical ideas, like another kid being a vampire. There are also some books, particularly the early ones like Rodrick Rules, which suggest he's really intelligent, but pretends to be childishly dumb to get away with things.
  • Besides his famous Sherlock Holmes stories, Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a series of humorous adventure stories about Large Ham Napoleonic soldier Brigadier Gerard. In some stories, Gerard is rather clever and appears competent despite his inflated opinion of himself. On the other hand, he is a dolt in others and very much an Unreliable Narrator.
  • Jeeves and Wooster: Bertie Wooster constantly wavers between "mildly ditzy" and "hopelessly idiotic", the guiding rule seeming to be "whatever is funniest in the current situation". For instance, he'll briefly become Literal-Minded, despite the fact that he frequently uses analogies and common expressions himself.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Vala Mal Doran's knowledge of popular culture in Stargate SG-1 is inconsistent in the first few episodes of Season 10.
  • Summer Roberts from The O.C. swings wildly back and forth between being a clueless, uninformed airhead and a savvy student who aced her SAT scores and got into Brown.
    Summer: Kidding, I'm not stupid, just shallow.
  • The 'bots on Mystery Science Theater 3000 do this on purpose to mess with Joel and Mike.
  • Adrian Monk is, for example, still convinced that his college roommate's girlfriend was helping him organize whenever there was a tie on the door, or similar things whenever it's funny, but always becomes an expert on human behavior just in time for The Summation.
  • 3rd Rock from the Sun
    • The aliens' knowledge of Earth. One particular example is a second-season episode in which it's mentioned that Sally is going bowling. A fourth-season episode had her going bowling for the first time and not even knowing what it was. For the first two seasons, the Solomons were terrified of Jell-O (thinking it was a dangerous alien entity) yet in a first-season episode, Sally mentions making Jell-O with cheese. A particularly severe example is the episode when, very late in the show's run, and after hundreds of scenes in restaurants, the aliens finally figure out what "tipping" is.
    • Dick is sometimes supremely sarcastic, but at other times he doesn't seem to be able to recognize sarcasm and interprets everything literally.
  • House:
    • Happens all the time, with characters who have known the eponymous Jerkass doctor for years expressing varying levels of shock every time he does something insane or unethical, to the point that the one time somebody reacted some other way instead, it was a symptom of a horrible, brain-eating parasite. These same characters, however, will at other times act familiar with his behavior patterns, usually for a gag. All of the above also applies to his rudeness toward patients and tendency to pull the correct diagnosis seemingly out of nowhere just when things look bleakest.
    • And it even happens to House himself. He's deeply cynical about the state of things most of the time but when it comes to dealing with a hostage-taker with a gun, Vogler, Tritter, Stacy, and sometimes problems with Wilson and Cuddy, he's naïve and mainly likes to keep his head stuck in denial-land.
  • 30 Rock:
    • Played for Laughs with Liz. She's the head writer for a comedy show that mocks pop culture in one scene, and then she'll pull out archaic slang like "discotheque" unironically in the next.
    • NBC Page Kenneth Parcell gets in on the action, too - he alternates between having extensive knowledge of television - including its deepest, darkest, most disgusting secrets - and acting like a stereotypical fundamentalist whose only entertainment comes from reading the Bible. Might have something to do with his Humanoid Abomination status.
  • Nearly everybody on Heroes displays this at some point. Peter and Mohinder are the most frequent, but even general badasses like Noah Bennet and Sylar have conveniently forgotten things they learned or should have figured out several episodes earlier.
  • Mork & Mindy: In another alien example: Mork. One moment he mentions he still doesn't know where babies come from, the next he's making subtle sexual innuendos. This is probably the result of Robin Williams sticking to the script half the time and sneaking in double entendres for the other half. It got particularly bad in the second season when ABC wanted Mork to become more "hip".
  • Bones demonstrates this perfectly. She is baffled by standard cultural references that everybody else (Booth, Cam, etc) understands while constantly not understanding human motivations, yet she is a best-selling author with believable characters in her books who supposedly comprehend those same cultural references and have those same motivations that she doesn't understand in her real life. Although, it is stated in the show that Angela helps her with writing the parts of her books that deal with relationships and sex, which readers found more interesting than the scientific aspects of the books.
  • Used to a frequently irritating degree for cheap jokes on NCIS, usually at the expense of either Tony or McGee. Gibbs knows about technology (or doesn't), Ziva understands idioms and pop culture (or doesn't)...etc.
  • The Doctor from Doctor Who, as a character trait. Even the Tenth Doctor, considerably more sexually/romantically inclined than most of them, had moments of being Oblivious to Love (sharing the bed with Martha in "The Shakespeare Code", being offered a phone number in "Partners in Crime").
    • His naïveté to Earth pop-culture in general, as well. In his earlier incarnations, he was definitely a Fish out of Water, so that's fine. But come the modern series, he fanboys over famous human artists, and has made references to everything from Ghostbusters to The Lion King (1994). Which makes you wonder how he forgot what football/soccer was. In particular given he seemed to mistake it for cricket, which he has played before quite well and displayed a knowledge of in his fifth incarnation.
    • The Eleventh Doctor's sexuality is all over the place in particular. When Amy and Rory kiss in front of him, he acts grossed out, like a child, and when River kisses him through the bars of her prison, he flails his arms around and looks intensely confused. But there's also Something Else Also Rises jokes in "Pond Life" and "The Crimson Horror", he snogs both Tasha Lem and Jenny (when Jenny slaps him for it, he just laughs and says that her slap felt good, and when Tasha protests, he flirts and it's clear she secretly liked it), and then there's the parts in "The Time of the Doctor" where in the same scene he has forgotten that nudity is socially inappropriate, and slaps Clara on the bum in front of her parents as part of their Undercover as Lovers scheme.
    • The Fourth Doctor is known for veering wildly between being quite a sexual character and a very non-sexual one. He has trouble understanding what features are supposed to make women beautiful in "City of Death" and seems sexually oblivious to the gorgeous, ludicrously underdressed Nubile Savage he has following him around for a while, except to remind her that her style of dress is inappropriate on modern-day Earth or Victorian London. Yet he gets dialogue with Romana that is clearly intended to be flirtatious, makes double entendres and even blowjob jokes, and sometimes flirts with side characters. Sometimes he treats Sarah Jane very sensually, touching her face gently, talking to her in a sultry voice, sniffing her hair while hiding behind her, and even spooning her on one occasion - whereas at other times he looks at her like a thing. While carrying Eldraad in "The Hand of Fear", he uses a delicate touch, parts of the action choreographed like a dance, but note how he manhandles Sarah Jane in "The Ark in Space" and "The Android Invasion", in a way intended to give the impression he had no understanding of handling women.
    • Strax's gimmick is that he doesn't understand gender or human appearance in general, and his grasp gets better or worse depending on what's funnier. "Deep Breath" is internally inconsistent about whether he knows what clothes are.
    • The Twelfth Doctor is even more socially alien than the Eleventh and has so little regard for social mores that he steals clothes from tramps, has no understanding of what makes people look different from each other, doesn't understand dating, thinks he is unrecognizable if he changes his coat, writes on walls and doesn't understand why putting a sign on his door reading 'GO AWAY HUMANS' is a bad idea (with that last one, he did intend to write something else, but then seems not to have realised it until it was pointed out to him. "Never get angry in the middle of a sign.") Occasionally, though, he's able to be incredibly socially manipulative - see "Time Heist", "Kill the Moon", and "Into the Dalek" for him forming subtle plans around reading other people.
    • The Third Doctor is confused when Jo tries Waxing Lyrical with a The Beatles song, claiming not to know "I Am The Walrus", but the First Doctor professed himself to be a big Beatles fan.
  • The titular character from Sherlock. In one episode, he's so oblivious John has to explain to him what a date is, while in another he is able to successfully manipulate another character by appealing to her romantic feelings for him. And then in another episode, he correctly deduces that this same character is in love with someone, but is very surprised to find out that it's him.
  • Frasier: Daphne's knowledge of Niles' feelings. Sometimes it seems obvious that she must know (or at least suspect), while other times the plot only makes sense if she hasn't got the slightest idea (for example, overhearing that "Dr. Crane" is in love with her and assuming it's Frasier).
  • In a Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV Mockumentary skit about a hospital, the couple who are trying to have a baby are consistently misunderstanding things, but exactly how naïve they are about where babies come from in general is based on Rule of Funny. The punchline of the entire sketch is their outrage at having what you have to do to get a baby explained to them, but earlier, when a test-tube baby is explained as making a baby in a test tube, they ask how they'd both fit.
  • Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory alternates between having extensive knowledge about law, having seemingly memorized the entire penal code, and not understanding how he might get in trouble for breaking and entering, stealing, performing experiments on humans or purchasing uranium on the dark web.
  • Nikita in La Femme Nikita consistently exhibits this. While the jaded cynicism that would make sense given her time on the streets and in the Section is sometimes apparent, she is also often appallingly trusting, believing what she's told without either independent verification or the leverage to ensure that the promises made to her are kept.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • After Booker T became "King Booker" in June of 2006, he not only started acting like an Upper-Class Twit but apparently underwent a personality disorder of some sort that caused him to forget everything he had experienced as Booker T. When he saw Edge backstage, for instance, he would demand to know who he was - despite having bitterly feuded with Edge just a few years earlier. At other times, however, the old Booker T persona would reemerge and he'd once again speak in his stereotypical "Harlem" accent.
  • Also might apply to the many wrestlers who underestimate Rey Mysterio Jr. after he has already beaten them! John "Bradshaw" Layfield definitely counts (and, in fact, this trope ultimately cost him his entire career), but, shockingly, also perennial babyface Shawn Michaels, who once taunted Mysterio to go back to the locker room because "Hornswoggle isn't out here yet!"
  • Pretty much the case whenever a gimmick match is set up (typically a cage match, or some other way to "isolate" someone) that will "prevent them from cheating." You just know that means that they'll still get their hands on a weapon, or someone will still interfere from OUTSIDE the match, or even a no-disqualification match (which should let the good guy be on equal footing by being "allowed to cheat") just lets the bad guy cheat even WORSE. Usually because that's the exact same situation they were in a month ago.
  • Referees in professional wrestling rely very heavily on this trope, usually being completely oblivious to cheating and easily fooled/distracted by heels who are well known for underhanded tactics, but always managing to be far more observant and alert when the situation calls for it.

    Puppet Shows 
  • In Under the Umbrella Tree, Gloria, Iggy, and Jacob sometimes seem like children no older than six, just learning how to read, write, tell time, and other such things. Yet at other times they belong to sophisticated animal clubs, give speeches, get jobs, or teach classes like adults. Before Holly became their roommate they lived by themselves in their apartment, yet in the present Holly acts as their Parental Substitute, paying their rent, doing the laundry and most of the cooking, and not allowing them to use the stove, kitchen knives, or anything else dangerous to children.

  • In Big Finish Doctor Who audio "The Maltese Penguin", Frobisher complains that he struggles a bit with morphing humanoid men (like the Doctor) because they have 'all those dangly bits which have no purpose from what I can see'. However, most of his dialogue with the humanoid female love interest are long strings of outrageous Double Entendre referring to his own dangly bits as well as to hers. This is Justified by Rule of Funny, Noir Episode, The Reveal of the real reason why Frobisher is attracted to the other character, and could also possibly be just Frobisher talking about how the Doctor's bits have no purpose rather than those bits in general.

    Video Games 
  • Prince Amiti in Golden Sun: Dark Dawn has a case of this due to being a Sheltered Aristocrat. As a result, he zips back and forth between being the Meta Guy and being The Ingenue, sometimes within a single scene.
  • I Was a Teenage Exocolonist: The Past-Life Memories mechanic causes this for the Player Character. Going for specific outcomes will cause the player to flip-flop between trusting those memories and ignoring them. In addition to this, the memories are far from being implemented for every single situation for which they could be useful, resulting in needing a specific skillset to rediscover a very useful passageway every single run, but being able to use the memories to manipulate the outcome of a specific game of cards.
  • Natalia from Tales of the Abyss. She's a bit spoiled but otherwise elegant and conscious of her responsibilities as a princess. This doesn't stop her from believing every single tall tale that Anise tells her, including the ones about Van's eyebrow powers. Yeah. Eyebrow beams.
  • Estelle from Tales of Vesperia is the same. She knows that combat is necessary and feels A-Cup Angst towards Judith, on other things, however, and well...

  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Celia the sylph is a character who's simultaneously a savvy, sassy lawyer, an outsider from beyond the material plane who doesn't know how things work, and an everywoman unaccustomed to the casual violence inherent to adventuring. As a result, her characterisation tends to vary wildly, being almost childishly naïve when the plot calls for it, but able to mount a legal defence for the good guys when that's her function.
    • Elan can come across this way, with his childlike personality consistently played for jokes even past the point where he's had the harshness of reality broken to him dozens of times across the runtime of the strip.
  • Joey from A Game of Fools is beyond a doubt the most sexually experienced of the main characters and his sheer ease at picking up women is frequently commented on (and shown). He also does stuff like this.
  • Grace from El Goonish Shive, even though she's smart and learns quickly. In part because she was raised by mad scientists and so has No Social Skills and remains facepalmingly naïve in some areas, in part because she thinks messing with people is funny — and it's not quite clear which case is which. One side of this was her smooth transition from Innocent Fanservice Girl to The Tease playing Innocent Fanservice Girl for her boyfriend. That said, when she's naïve, she's REALLY naïve. A big part of her storyline is letting a Hitler expy escape, although he ends up dead anyway. When she later learns about World War 2 and what she almost allowed to happen, it nearly breaks her.
  • The cast of Homestuck are all thirteen years old or about that age. Sometimes they act in extremely adult ways, but other times they remind you that they are children. John watches R-rated action movies and has a huge crush on Liv Tyler (and arguably Nicolas Cage) but when Karkat implies Vriska likes him, he freaks out and says he's never felt that way about anyone before.
  • The titular character of The Legend of Maxx occasionally qualifies. He's generally stupid and has a tendency to Leeroy Jenkins into everything, but there are times when he proves to be somewhat competent, and he makes very elaborate buildings.
  • 8-Bit Theater does this with just about all the main characters, with Black Mage being probably the biggest shifter, depending on the needs of the joke. In general, if someone else is being stupid at the moment, Black Mage will be intelligent, rational, and logical, while if most of the other characters are acting smart (especially if one of them is White Mage), he will be a rage-fueled trigger-happy child with a gnat's attention span. Fighter also has moments of his intelligence abruptly ping-ponging up for a few seconds at a time.

    Web Original 
  • The Nostalgia Critic's intelligence and competence will vary depending on who he's with and if it's funny for him to be stupid or not. Occasionally happens within reviews, with him foreshadowing a twist for the audience earlier in a review and then acting surprised when it happens later on. A good example is in the review of Bridge to Terabithia, where he makes a joke about Leslie's death earlier on and then acts surprised when it happens later on.
  • Gus the Gummy Gator from Ryan ToysReview has his intelligence that vary depending on the episode. Although he mainly has average intelligence, at times he will be ditzy and clueless, or quite smart and knowledgeable. He is most likely a Genius Ditz.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • Due to being a 10-year-old boy, Bart fits the trope when it comes to things like sex, but that doesn't stop him from constantly making crude jokes and innuendo. There is even a joke about him freaking out when Homer gave him The Talk in one episode but it is not carried over.
      Bart: What a beautiful day. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the bees are trying to have sex with them, or so is my understanding.
    • Lisa switches between world-weary cynicism and childlike naïveté as the plot demands. In one instance, within seconds - she hurls a bucket of red paint at Krusty (who's wearing a coat made from some kind of animal skin), screams "Fur is murder!" then follows it with "When's the Krusty movie coming out?"
    • Bart and Lisa's knowledge of pop culture also fluctuates wildly; in "The Old Man and the 'C' Student," they instantly recognize and gush over Jack LaLanne (even when the episode first aired in 1999, it was a huge stretch to imagine anyone under middle-age knowing who that even is), while in "Mr. Plow," their knowledge of Batman is limited to the Tim Burton movie and they've never heard of Adam West or Robin before (even though the latter was a major character in the Batman comics since the 1940s and was also featured prominently in the animated series that was running when the episode first aired.)
    • Homer, whose stupidity is seasoned with odd Author Filibuster moments of uncharacteristic eloquence.
  • The gag with Rallo from The Cleveland Show is that he is a preschooler who acts like a playboy, except when he does behave like a typical preschooler after all, such as believing in Santa Claus.
  • Dexter's Laboratory:
    • Dexter is a Ditzy Genius who creates all sorts of crazy inventions, but also shows the naiveté of the elementary school-aged boy he is on occasion. One example is when he thinks he is going to die...because he has gas. To "simulate" the gas buildup in his lab, he used a balloon to represent himself. In other episodes, he doesn't know what the "strange protrusions" all over his body were (he had chicken pox) and tries to do a search through the entire animal kingdom for the "species" known as...the girl.
    • Dee Dee flip-flops between a girl who's bubbly and ditzy, but also possesses some street smarts and sometimes more common sense than her genius brother, and a complete airhead who seems barely capable of functioning in the real world.
  • Family Guy: Stewie and Brian are normally the smartest members of the main cast despite being a baby and a dog, respectively, but they'll occasionally act their age (in Stewie's case) or species (in Brian's) when Rule of Funny demands it, meaning that Stewie thinks people disappear when they play peekaboo and Brian is irrationally scared of the vacuum cleaner, for example. In "Halloween on Spooner Street", Brian discovers Stewie shooting at "monsters" with an assault rifle, only to ask him how he doesn't know what trick-or-treating is. Stewie then asks Brian how he doesn't realize that his reflection in the patio window isn't another dog.
  • Kaeloo:
    • Stumpy is incredibly naïve at times, such as believing Mr. Cat when the latter told him that the way to make a baby was to hold your breath for two days, but one episode of Season 2 showed him to be extremely perverted.
    • Depending on the Writer, Kaeloo may be an innocent girl or a Covert Pervert. For example, when Mr. Cat uses Unusual Euphemisms to imply that he wants to have sex with her, she doesn't get it, but she has also flirted with him in extremely suggestive ways before and once even tried to convince him to have sex with her.
  • Futurama:
    • Fry's overall intelligence varies from slightly below average to Too Dumb to Live. Also, whenever it's necessary for the sake of exposition, he will not have heard of some development in the future, no matter how long he's been there.
    • Zoidberg's medical knowledge qualifies. In some episodes, Zoidberg is unable to tell the difference between humans and robots or know if a human is alive or dead. However, in one episode, he is able to save a mortally-wounded Fry by attaching his head to Amy's body, and then repairing the body (after having previously caused the crash that injured Fry).
      Zoidberg (at the wheel): "I'll just turn the wheel to maximum fastness!"
    • Bender is a highly promiscuous sex addict who, in the Season 7 episode "The Bots and the Bees", is utterly confused when his latest one-night stand leads to a pregnancy, never having been given The Talk about robot reproduction. This despite the fact that it wasn't even his first kid.
      Educational Video: Since factories can't manufacture enough robots to meet demand, robots can also reproduce by mating.
      Bender: Aww, now ya tell me!
    • Farnsworth, who is over 160 years old, veers wildly from fully functional and effective to unable to remember the names of his own crew. He was a Ditzy Genius even in his youth, but has been known to play up his senility on purpose.
  • Starfire from Teen Titans (2003). On occasion, it seems like she's learning and adapting to Earth culture, only to be as naïve as ever about it the next episode. Hilariously played with in one episode with a blatant example of Obfuscating Stupidity:
    Robin: Starfire...where's the sofa?
    Starfire: Your Earth ways are strange to me. Please, what is this 'so-fa' of which you speak?
  • The boys on South Park, especially Cartman, are known to exhibit this.
    • In "Marjorine", the boys thought the girls' paper fortune teller could actually predict the future, yet they were able to build and operate hi-tech machinery to study it with.
    • In "The Return of the Fellowship of the Rings to the Two Towers", Butters sees a good portion of what is apparently "the hottest porno ever made," yet many years later in "Sexual Healing", he sees a picture that includes a naked woman and becomes obsessed with it, even saying he's "never seen that part of a lady before!" Also, despite being the one to explain copulation in great detail to Jimmy in "Erection Day", Butters is later seen in "Sarcastaball" having apparently been tricked by his dad into not knowing what semen is.
    • "Scott Tenorman Must Die" - Cartman knows what pubes are, but not that you're supposed to grow them yourself (instead of purchasing them) and gets tricked into giving Scott Tenorman money and travelling to the "Pube Fair" but is able to get revenge by tricking Scott Tenorman into getting his parents killed and then making him eat them.
    • In one episode, Jimmy remarks that he and his girlfriend took ecstasy and stayed up all night having sex. Later on, in "Erection Day", he gets his first erection and doesn't have a clue what he's supposed to do with it.
  • Almost the entire second season of Drawn Together was dedicated to doing this with half-retarded Ensemble Dark Horse Captain Hero. The sheltered Princess Clara is an equally big offender.
  • XR from Buzz Lightyear of Star Command is savvy enough to sneak into a large casino and cheat it out of a substantial amount of money, yet he willingly hands over all his petty cash to a street hustler.
  • In My Life as a Teenage Robot, Brad is constantly hovering between a savvy, nonchalant, typical teenager and a brash, bullheaded, over-eager, hero-wannabe. Jenny also varies between having a childish naïveté to being reasonably sensible, due to only being 5 years old but built as a teenager and not having any normal contact with the outside world until Brad and Tuck broke into her house to retrieve a ball.
  • Spongebob Squarepants and his best friend Patrick also fall into this category. Spongebob varies from being pretty smart to being completely clueless that Squidward doesn't appreciate his company (although his problem may be more naivety than lack of intelligence). Patrick varies from being a Genius Ditz to being Too Dumb to Live. And while Spongebob is usually smarter than Patrick, there are a few episodes where Patrick is actually the smart one.
  • Hank Hill from King of the Hill has this about certain issues. In one episode he mentions a bank teller who is "in between genders" indicating some sort of awareness of the issue, in another when Peggy tells him that her new friend Carolyn is really a man (drag queen though as opposed to transgender) Hank is genuinely baffled by the very concept, reacting with "Now wait a minute, that doesn't make any sense!" and continues to think of Carolyn as a woman for the rest of the episode, even going so far as to believe that, without her female clothes, she must be "Carolyn's boyfriend."
  • The eponymous character on Jimmy Two-Shoes goes from being an optimistic Straight Man to a Dumb Blond depending on what's needed for the story.
  • Both Fanboy and Chum Chum cater to this in various episodes. In one instance they're ridiculously annoying someone with their ADD-riddled antics, and later they're acting perfectly normal, usually when having to deal with a problem caused by someone that's not them.
  • Ickis of Aaahh!!! Real Monsters.
  • Alya from Miraculous Ladybug is usually one of the more intelligent and levelheaded members of the cast. But she falls for Lila's obvious lies just as easy as everyone else, completely ignoring Marinette's claims that Lila isn't telling the truth. It gets even worse in later seasons when she is trusted with the knowledge of Ladybugs secret identity and even becomes the backup holder of the Ladybug Miraculous but still falls for every single one of Lila's claims, even if both Marinette and Adrian are flat out telling her that Lila is not who she pretends to be.
  • Otto and Twister from Rocket Power, with Twister being more the naive one. One particular episode lampshades this in effect; the gang convince Eddie (Prince of The Netherworld) to skate in his empty pool as long as they keep it to themselves and leave before his parents get home. Twister, for his part, keeps quiet, even when his brother Lars comes to make mischief. Otto, on the other hand, kept bragging about it to strangers like it was a party, even to Lars. Reggie's What the Hell, Hero? one-liner sums it up perfectly.
    Reggie: Did you and Twister switch brains?!
  • Animaniacs has Skippy Squirrel, who switches between an innocent Foil to his Aunt Slappy and a companion to her shenanigans whenever the episode calls for one or the other. Most of his "innocent foil" roles are in earlier episodes, so his less naive outings mostly come across as Character Development, but every now and then he lapses backward.
  • Sector V from Codename: Kids Next Door. Justified, as they're all 10.
  • In Regular Show, Rigby doesn't understand why a man in a commercial would want girls to tear his clothes off, and when Mordecai talks about "the real reason why people go to concerts", Rigby insists it's to listen to music. But in a later episode, he refuses to watch a Chick Flick because the girls are fully clothed, showing that he isn't a Chaste Hero all the time.
  • Phineas and Ferb are child geniuses capable of Reality Warper levels of invention, but when they find an egg near their (male) platypus Perry, Phineas assumes he laid it:
    Phineas: Perry laid an egg! You know what this means, don't you? ...We're gonna have two Perrys! Congratulations, old boy! You're gonna be a... Hey, where's Perry?
  • In Disenchantment, we first see Elfo sneaking kisses with the Village Chief's daughter Kissy, and in bed with her. Yet, a few episodes later, he talks about how his dream is one day holding hands with a girl.
  • In early episodes of The Venture Bros., Hank was apparently naïve enough not to know what sex is (he assumes Brock is wrestling with a Major Baldovich), yet made Double Entendre jokes frequently. Nobody quite knows where he got them from.
  • In Hey Arnold!, the Running Gag of the show (almost Once per Episode) is Brainy getting an Offhand Backhand from Helga while stalking her. At the end of Helga's love potion, Helga seems to recognize Brainy's feelings for her and kisses him on the forehead, causing him to faint. However, in Helga at the Couch, Helga seems to forget that when she asks Brainy what his deal is with her after Brainy gave Helga a toy engagement ring. Brainy seems very confused. Then again, Helga has such self-esteem problems and she is a Hypocrite so big that her relationship with reality could be described as "distant" and she could be very well believing nobody loves her.