Follow TV Tropes


Self-Propelled Barrier of Stupidity

Go To

A non-critical minor character whose sole purpose is to make things harder for the Hero(es) to achieve their goal and cause complications along the way. There is no way to educate, negotiate with or otherwise talk sense to a SPBofS, and this is apparent to the audience from the moment they appear. This is often the abusive sibling or baby sitter. Can also be an uncaring government bureaucrat, the Stupid Boss, or the school principal (when not a key character in the story). A SPBofS need not be in a defined position of authority over the protagonist. Unlike The Millstone, the SPBofS is an outside obstacle, rather than a member of the protagonist's adventure troupe who inadvertently screws things up. Also, The Millstone is usually a more developed and well-rounded figure, with a backstory, etc.



    open/close all folders 

     Fan Works  

  • Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality: Harry sees almost everyone who tries to prevent him from doing what he thinks is best this way, and occasionally mentally labels people 'PC' and 'NPC', with not a particularly long list for the the former. He becomes even more committed to this view after various unhelpful people blindly following orders leads to him being a matter of seconds too late to prevent Hermione from being killed by a troll. Played with by having some cases where Harry merely thinks this trope is in play, but the actual barrier is his own arrogance and condescension towards anyone he doesn't respect as an intellectual peer.


  • Chet, the colossally ignorant older brother in Weird Science.
  • Dr. Fredrick Chilton in The Silence of the Lambs. In many ways, he's the tool's tool - actively confounding the crime-solving efforts of Agent Starling and working toward his own demise at the hands of Dr. Lecter. Although Chilton's death does not arrive by the end of the movie, it's so close we can almost taste it.
  • Deputy Chief Dwayne T. Robinson of Die Hard takes the usual Obstructive Bureaucrat shtick to the level of outright willful stupidity. He uses the majority of his screentime dismissing every sensible point and concern raised by Sgt. Powell with a flippant remark, and constantly circles back to "John McClane's the real bad guy here" on no logical basis whatsoever. Robinson is so annoying and impossibly dumb that Roger Ebert singled the character out as nearly ruining the entire film (which Ebert otherwise enjoyed). Thankfully, he gets consecutively put in his place by McClane, Powell, and the FBI, then remains sidelined for the rest of the film.


  • Ed Greenwood is fond of using these as guards in his novels. No matter which protagonist (or group thereof) encounters them, unless they're personally known to these stalwarts they will try to run the 'interlopers' off, arrest them, or kill them outright...anything but check whether they might have actual legitimate business that requires them to move past.


     Live Action TV  

  • In the 1970s Doctor Who serial "The Silurians", UNIT and the Doctor have to deal with Dr. Lawrence, director of a nuclear power project. The man refuses to accept that there is anything more happening than possible sabotage and equipment problems, even as people die or suffer nervous breakdowns around him.
  • Sherlock treats pretty much everyone he ever interacts with other than John, Mycroft, Mrs Hudson and possibly Irene Adler as one of these. The fact that it's frequently true does not make this attitude any less exasperating for the people he considers to be exceptions.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: