So you're watching your favorite high school drama. In comes the cheerleader, as bubbly, bright and ditzy as ever. Everything about her, from her Valley Girl vernacular to her superficial interests and appearance, tells you that this is the classic mold of The Ditz.
That is until the episode goes on.
This young woman is revealed to be a straight-A honors student. She is a master when it comes to hacking computers, or has a wealth of talent in dealing with mechanical things. Her knowledge of things both vast and obscure makes the viewer do a double take in their perception of her. There's a sort of cognitive dissonance that goes on, juxtaposing the character's appearance against their actual intellectual ability. This character makes you say "Huh... you're Smarter Than You Look".
This character is not simply the Genius Ditz or The Rain Man, for those characters are sharply skilled in a single area while remarkably hindered in others. The Smarter Than You Look character has true vast and all-encompassing intelligence. He just looks stupid, through mannerisms, vernacular or visible appearance, while actually being quite smart. The key to being Smarter Than You Look is the distinct and clear appearance of stupidity.
This is not to be confused with Obfuscating Stupidity, where a character consciously plays dumb either to avoid responsibility or for some other reason. This trope has no intention of appearing to be unintelligent; they simply can't help the appearance of stupidity they have.
The Bunny-Ears Lawyer can overlap with this, but the difference is in the appearance of the character. The Bunny Ears Lawyer appears strange, but it doesn't take away from his intelligence. He is typically known to be a genius. The Smarter Than You Look appears stupid, and this appearance conflicts with their actual intelligence. A genius professor who always wears a wizard's hat to class and only answers to "Merlin" is a Bunny Ears Lawyer; one who can't read and has poor pronunciation skills would be a Smarter Than You Look.
Sometimes, the appearance of stupidity or ditziness is compounded by the presence of Unfortunate Implications, particularly racial or related stereotypes (This can be particularly true for those who are Pretty Smart for a Hottie, where beauty can belie a character's knowledge).
To an extent, this trope is subjective based on what the viewer (or the rest of the cast) view as unintelligent. In many cases, though, the character is consciously designed to have this appearance, to teach the audience An Aesop of never judging a book by its cover. Sometimes as tropes evolve the subversion can actually become the rule; for instance many modern viewers have grown to expect a character like the Valley Girl mentioned at the start to fall under this (because the 'surprise' has been used so often) and are thus themselves surprised when the character turns out to be genuinely ditzy.
The Smart Guy in a Five-Man Band may start out as this, or he may stay as this. The Absent-Minded Professor is often a subtrope of this. If the character is (or seems to be) from the Deep South, you've got a Southern-Fried Genius. If the character is assumed to be stupid because he looks like Dumb Muscle, he's a Genius Bruiser. (This may be compounded by the character having a case of Face of a Thug.) This trope is to intellect as the Old Master is to strength, or as the Killer Rabbit is to danger/terror. May involve Hot Scientist. This trope is a very close relative of Ditzy Genius, but differs in that the Ditzy Genius actually is pretty stupid/inept/Cloudcuckoolanderish sometimes, whereas the Smarter Than You Look character just has a ditzy personality.
- Gaoh of Eyeshield 21 comes very close to being the monster version of this trope. Only the quarterbacks, Hiruma and Kid, notice that he might be a 7-foot raving dinosaur that can lift a car with ease, but he'll never, ever break the rules of football. His strategy is to break the enemy quarterback's arm, and if the quarterback doesn't have the ball, they'd get a severe penalty. Thus, he'll come to a screeching halt, even if he's tongue distance away from the quarterback, if they manage to throw the ball away at the last second.
- Fullmetal Alchemist: 2nd Lt. Heymans Breda looks like a big dumb grunt, but he's actually pretty bright. Our first glimpse of him comes as he's gloating about winning at shogi for the 47th time in a row. The end of the flashback chapters about the war note why Mustang took on the subordinates he did. Breda's in the group because he's smarter than he looks.
- Shiro Kabuto from Mazinger Z and its sequel Great Mazinger. He did not come across like very smart, and in fact during his first few appearances, his acts make him looking like Too Dumb to Live (for starters, while Koji is horrified by the Iron Mask, especially after killing it, all Shiro says is that Koji is so cool for killing him). Later on in the series, he shows being more mature than his older brother, proves he is knowledgeable about things the teenagers around him are completely ignorant of, learned to pilot the Pilder in relatively short time (bonus points since unlike Koji, he has practically zero experience in piloting the Pilder, while Koji mentions that the control is similar to his motorbike) and pulls a Big Damn Heroes several times, that really says something. Of course, he IS a member of the Kabuto family: his grandfather and his father were excellent scientists, and even his Idiot Hero brother can be very clever when he uses his brains, so you can tell it is on the blood.
- Plain and socially awkward Machiya from DEAD Tube can tell when fairly convincing footage and photos has been manipulated by just looking at it; this doomed an entire group of people who have been pretending to his friends to only have him killed later, Machiya keeps being his awkward self but always quick to revert any situation when someone he tried his hardest to trust turns out to be some manipulative person who is out for his neck.
- Alibaba from Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic seems to be just a typical greedy shounen protagonist, but he is able to read and use complicated sword techniques, things that a common person wouldn't be able to do. He also tends to think and plan before taking action.
- Ino Yamanaka of Naruto appears to be the outgoing, bubbly rival and has tendencies of a Dumb Blonde. However, in the first Naruto databook, it is revealed that Ino had the best overall grades in the Academy.
- Deidara has all the subtility and grace of a Mad Bomber and appears not very bright. His tactical skills are nothing to scoff at and the Naruto databook rates him a 4.5/5 for intelligence, making him smarter then geniuses like Sasuke and Neji.
- Nanase-sensei of Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions is a bit of a Sensei-chan, but Yuuta notes that she can be quite cunning, as shown when she plays along with Rikka's delusions while the latter submitted her club formation form for her "Far Eastern Magical Nap Association".
- Hayato Gokudera from Katekyō Hitman Reborn! looks and acts like a deliquent (he is in fact a mafioso), but he reaches high score grades easily and he's The Smart Guy of Tsuna's guardians.
- In Hunter × Hunter, the Genei Ryodan are all Genius Bruisers. Even the two brutes Uvogin and Franklin who both look like Dumb Muscles are very smart and have broad knowlegde. One of them even has occasionally outsmarted the Evil Genius Sharnark. The Ditz Shizuku is also a Genius Ditz.
- Kanon in Servant × Service. Despite her being the show's Token Mini-Moe, her cute looks belie a smart, perceptive mind. She can fix her father's stuffed bunny avatar rather easily, having spent her childhood watching her mother do it, and also instantly deduced from Touko's statements that her brother and Chihaya are dating.
- Taichi Yagami and Zeromaru from Digimon V-Tamer 01, especially Taichi, considering he's a happy go lucky eleven year old boy, who happens to be good at geometry and somewhat versed in biology.
- Katsuki Bakugo of My Hero Academia is a smug, temperamental, foul-mouthed grade-A asshole who at first glance looks like the guy who skips class for fun and beats up nerds for looking at him funny. He's actually a Genius Bruiser who has the 3rd best grades in his class (higher than Midoriya and Todoroki) and is only behind the class representatives themselves, all due to the fact he wants to be the greatest hero ever and refuses to let himself half-ass his work. Although his temper sometimes gets the better of him, anyone who judges him to be your average Leeroy Jenkins is going to pay.
- Present Mic, Yuuei's teacher/DJ/pro-hero, is one of these. He's the Life of the Party who just can't sit still and shut up, but he's a teacher for a reason and there's actually a keen intellect behind the silly, exuberant behavior. He's the first one to cotton on to the probability of there being a traitor at Yuuei.
- Sailor Moon has two examples:
- Minako Aino is a lazy teenager with poor grades, whose only notable quality seem to be her athletic skills (Artemis said so when he first saw her). As the series goes on it becomes clear she's extremely intelligent, as shown by the immense array of skills she has picked up off-page and the ones she picks up on-page with extreme ease and can do anything, and her poor grades are a combination of her finding school boring and, when it comes to English, being too good (it's heavily implied she spent a large part of her childhood abroad and learned English there-and thus is unable to get good scores in a system that favors rote memorization).
- Usagi Tsukino, being an Expy of Minako, is a ditz and gets grades just as poor as her (in the manga at the start of the Dream Arc Minako even jokes she's happy to go at the same school as her because otherwise she'd feel lonely-without a failing student ally), to the point many are actually surprised she passed the high school entrance exams. She's actually fairly intelligent outside of school, and even there there's the fact she got in a fairly high-level school.
- Pretty much any apparently stupid Saint in Saint Seiya. There's a fairly good reason: with the infernal training they went through, they had to become strong and smart to survive.
- Many, many characters from Ranma ½. The most notable is Shampoo, whose looks, poor Japanese (in Chinese she's actually eloquent to the point of being archaic), and tendence to bust through walls makes her look like a Brainless Beauty who just happens to have Super Strength-she's actually a Manipulative No-Nonsense Nemesis with great intelligence and Ranma's equal in terms of technique (as Akane learns the hard way when she challenges her and gets her memory wiped through a rather complicated move), who just happens to stay in a land whose language she doesn't speak well and not understanding why one should take the long way when they can break through walls.
- The prince in Goddess Creation System looks like a selfish, whimsical buffoon, but he's actually quite astute and even much of his seemingly stupid behavior actually does make sense: When he saves Xiaxi from drowning he expects her to throw herself into his arms and sleep with him like some storybook nonsense, but only because he assumed it was a fake drowning and no more than an attempt to seduce the crown prince. He was just happy to play along until it turned out she wasn't interested, at which point she actually begins, of all things, to teach him mathematics and responsibility.
- Bunnie Rabbot from the Sonic the Hedgehog comics can be an example of this. With her thick country accent and naïve optimistic attitude, you'd never expect her to be so technologically skilled and resourceful. Granted, she's never really shown to have vastly diverse intellect, so she may fall somewhere between this trope and the Genius Ditz.
- Legion of Super-Heroes: Dream Girl in the modern/original version. Like many story elements in the Legion, this was based on a throwaway reference from the Silver Age: she changed Light Lass's powers using Naltorian Science. She's the smartest Legionnaire after Brainiac 5, Superman, and Supergirl, at least if you believe the RPG, and is one of the few who has been able to use Brainiac 5's force shield belt.
- When you think of smart members of the Fantastic Four, Reed Richards is normally one's first and only thought. However it is easy to forget that The Thing, Ben Grimm, also went to the same school as Reed and Doctor Doom, and to be a test pilot and astronaut as he was you require two masters degrees or a Ph D minimum. He often can translate what Reed is saying in techno-babble and can create tech just as easily. This is something that is often missed by writers, but ironically not the first Fox-produced films.
- A frequent realization made by both his friends and his enemies is that the modern Superboy is actually surprisingly observant and cunning, in spite of his highly immature exterior. More than once, his Let's Get Dangerous! moments are heralded by him dropping his trash talk, going completely serious, than surprising an opponent with creativity and decent tactics.
- Gankes helps Miles Morales by checking some stuff related to his most recent mission in internet. What the hell, Ganke? Are you checking black market stuff with the school's internet? Of course not! He set up a network of his own!
- In the Our Miss Brooks story, ''The Reunion Assembly'', honour student Brains Snodgrass bears a remarkable resemblance to his dimwitted grandfather, Stretch Snodgrass. Walter Denton, Stretch Snodgrass's best friend, considers Brains to be "spooky" - an unnaturally intelligent duplicate of Stretch as a teenager.
- In Hogwarts is a Strange Place, Hermione initially dismissed Harry as unintelligent because of the rural speech pattern and dress due to having spent most of his childhood on a farm in Iowa, yet he loved books and was well-read enough to quote poetry to her. His explanation of it was "There's just too damn much work ta be done on a farm to waste time in front of a TV. Most folks I know would rather read a book than let some piece of gadgetry do their thinkin' for them."
- While generally applicable to loopers due to the sheer time scale available to them, both Yang Xiao Long and Sun Wukong of The RWBY Loops deserve special mention. While they outwardly portray themselves as fun-loving brainless beauties, both of them are quick to pick up on emotional distress, have had philosophical ponderings on the nature of looping and personality, and have taken full grasp of the chance to improve their skills—notably, Yang is a fully capable surgeon.
- Misty's Psyduck, in contrast to his scatterbrained canon self, is this in Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, picking up things like his trainer having a crush on Ash. He's also a much better battler than he looks at first glance, intentionally hitting his head to trigger his stronger attacks.
- In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, Izuku is described by the Villain in Mt. Fuji as "someone who exhibits no signs of culture and refinement". Despite this, Izuku is worldly enough to recognize obscure pieces of opera music like "The Cunning Little Vixen" by ear, know slang words used around the world like "schway", and commit entire backstories to memory.
- In Total Drama fanfic Courtneys Crusade For Redemption'' Lindsay, of all people. She actually shows a lot of insight at times, giving good advice to the other Heroic Hamsters and, generally speaking, helping them to do better than in canon.
- Legally Blonde: The main character, Elle Woods, ultimately proves to be this—she still maintains some of her ditzy qualities (such as printing a résumé on scented paper) but she ends up becoming a highly self-sufficient and skilled lawyer. Overall, she shows remarkable intelligence (especially the first sequel), one example being how she was able to get accepted into Harvard Law School (which is consistently ranked as being one of the top ten law schools in America) with just one point shy of a perfect score on her LSAT-exam on her first try. Her Jerkass ex-boyfriend, who also went to HLS, had to retake the exam just to get in.
- Me, Myself & Irene: The triplets are a great example. They have all the vernacular and visible qualities of gangster-wannabes, but are all complete geniuses. This is one that is compounded by some racial Unfortunate Implications.
- The Hudsucker Proxy
- Norville Barnes, who keeps showing people a picture of a circle and saying, "you know, for kids!" Turns out he thought up the Hula Hoop.
- When the Big Bad is choosing a proxy (i.e. patsy), he interviews Norville because he doesn't look too smart. Turns out, he is a college grad voted Most Likely to Succeed.
- Myth Adventures: More than a few characters along the way.
- Guido looks like dumb muscle. He has a degree in business, even if he had to take Economics 101 three times. He just prefers hands-on kneecapping to the cruelty of slowly sucking out someone's life in a business environment.
- Nunzio is Guido's bookend-matching cousin. He's taught kindergarten, requiring a four-year degree in many dimensions, and was an animal trainer at one point. Gleep considers him slightly more intelligent then most of Skeeve's friends. This opinion occurred after Nunzio got Gleep—a baby dragon—to 'sit' by stopping him cold in full run with his hand on his nose.
- Chumley hails from Trollia, is huge with different-sized eyes, and can troll-speak with the best of them. He's also a vegetarian and speaks in a refined manner and accent in private. He can discuss learnedly on many of the subjects that come up through the books, and tell what damage his sister is doing in a bar fight just by the resultant sounds.
- Rachel from Animorphs may count. She's a major shopping enthusiast, blonde, beautiful... and a straight-A student who also happens to be a Blood Knight. The Ditz and Blood Knight aspects of her personality are even split at one point.
- Discworld: Keith from The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents is a stupid-looking kid. He is not stupid, and he doesn't appreciate Maurice assuming that he is.
- Siegfried from The Sleeping Beauty of the Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms looks like your standard muscle-for-brains Barbarian Hero, but he's smart enough to excel at the Engagement Challenge tournament with his outside-the-box thinking and to figure out some of the intrigues and secret identities involved.
- Count Glossu Rabban, "the Beast" of Dune's House Harkonnen, is a dumb brute, but there are several points in the original novel where he suggests or asks things that implies that he's not as dumb as he looks. Among other things, he's one of only a few characters to both realize that the Fremen are dangerous and suspect that there might be more of them around than is commonly known.
- Malazan Book of the Fallen:
- Despite his craziness, tendency towards accidentally stabbing himself in the foot, and an ego the size of some small countries, Iskaral Pust is actually quite bright, and at times, surprisingly effective. A High Priest of Shadow is a big deal — and he's outwitted his fair share of god-like Ascendants like the ancient Ryllandaras.
- After listening to Udinaas for a while, Fear Sengar has to reevaluate his opinion of the former, nondescript slave as just capable of menial work. When he tells Udinaas he should've been a king and not a slave based on his intelligence and vision, Udinaas just curses him for his trouble.
- The Stormlight Archive: Adolin is much sharper than his foppish pretty boy warrior prince appearance would suggest. Every suspicion he had in the books so far has been founded to some degree. Sadeas WAS plotting against them. Amaram's reputation WAS too good to be true. And there WAS something unusual about Kaladin.
- Harry Dresden of the epomynous series is a tall, Adorkable, Pop-Cultured Badass who usually speaks quietly, never meets anyone's eyes for too long, and wears some strange jewelry. However, when danger looms, it turns out that he's as much badass as he is pop-cultured, his voice rises to a Badass Baritone, that height gives him an edge in a hand-to-hand fight, and that jewelry has some pretty useful magical functions. This is even lampshaded by one of his friends, who plays this trope pretty straight herself: Karrin Murphy may be a hair over five feet, but she's also a master hand-to-hand combatant, markswoman, and strategist.
- Better Off Ted: Phil Myman somewhat fits this, in that he is often bumbling and emotionally off, sometimes coming off as a bit slow, despite being a head scientist and a described genius.
- Cordelia Chase in Angel. She was smart in Buffy the Vampire Slayer too, of course, but at least early on was operating more under Obfuscating Stupidity to stay popular.
- Glee: Quinn might be expected to be the dumb, beautiful, bitchy head cheerleader, but it turns out she only fulfills three-quarters of this. She seems pretty intelligent for most of the series (except, y'know, the whole teen pregnancy thing) and is mentioned at one point as a straight-A student. Her boyfriend, stereotypical non-Jerk Jock Finn, is correspondingly dumb. Early on in season 3, which is considered to be the height of her stupidity decision making-wise, it is revealed that she was on the honor roll with a straight 4.0 GPA during her teen pregnancy, and that she's been accepted early into Yale, despite the fact that she by this point had a history of playing truant. She's also been known to use a varied and polysyllabic vocabulary, and she has given some insightful, wise, eloquent advice to Rachel/Santana/Mercedes.
- Intelligence2014 has a really good perception example. Gabriel doesn't want a handler, so he's basically harassing Riley Neal through her digital footprint to get her to go away. He mentions her low SAT scores and she says defensively that she doesn't do well on tests and he sort of brushes off that answer. In that same episode, she corrects his digital interface Mandarin and proves (through simple logic and deduction) to his boss, Lillian Strand, that A) Strand does actually believe the same things as Gabriel. His wife was an undercover agent, who seems to have turned on her country and died. Gabriel believes she's alive and loyal. And B) actually sort of talks Strand into taking action to help Gabriel when she was previously telling him to forget about the issue. Two things, Gabriel hadn't managed to do himself even though he had all of the facts of the situation and Riley didn't.
- Jayne Cobb from Firefly. He's a hard-edged, rough-hewn, semi-literate thug, but he's actually pretty skilled in areas that matter to him: fighting, tracking, planning crimes and interrogation.
Dobson: Okay, I can see you're not as dumb as you look.Jayne: I wish I could say the same, Larry, but this is just disappointin'
- Eliot on Leverage as The Big Guy is often not seen as useful for his intelligence. However he is also a Chef of Iron and learns quite a lot from his various girlfriends. It is even a Mad Libs Catch Phrase: "I've dated a lot of [insert useful profession]". He's also occasionally taken over for Nate. His intelligence was even lampshaded by Nate, when Maggie mentions that he's smarter than he seems in The Zanzibar Marketplace Job and Nate says that it's kind of the point. It comes all the way back around with Sterling.
Sterling: Your friends' lives hang in the balance and you're going to take your cues off a punch-up artist instead of me?
- In Series Five of Doctor Who, Rory Williams initially looks like the dim, dreary sort-of boyfriend Amy will happily ditch to go travelling with the Doctor. Then you realize that, while the whole of Leadworth is outside taking photos of the sun apparently going out, Rory—the nurse—is paying attention to the coma patient out walking his dog, and taking photos of that. That's right, Mickey Smith 2.0 just identified Prisoner Zero all on his own with no help from the Doctor, and did the one thing that would let the Doctor give the Atraxi all the information they needed to catch it. There's a reason the Doctor beams at Rory like he's just got a new crush at the end of their first conversation.
- Rory's first time venturing into the TARDIS also has him completely non-fazed with it being Bigger on the Inside, explaining that he's read up on all the latest scientific theories since they last met.
- Lister from Red Dwarf often demonstrates that he's actually a great deal smarter than Rimmer, but their personalities and dress sense would indicate otherwise. The only reason Lister is a lower rank than Rimmer is because he's perfectly happy being a Brilliant, but Lazy slob.
- One episode of Malcolm in the Middle had Malcolm get paired with a ditzy popular girl during chemistry class, and is quite surprised when the "ditz" part of her persona is an act. Turns out, she's nearly as smart as Malcolm himself, but to her, being popular is more important than being smart.
- Patty the Daytime Hooker from My Name Is Earl can speak multiple languages and got 1500 points on her SATs.
- Scream Queens (2015): Jennifer tends to be dismissed because of her candle obsession, but she's smart enough to have the political situation in the sorority pegged down to the last detail and can be a cunning enemy when provoked. Also, when Grace and Zayday set up a sleepover so they can play 'Truth or Dare' to find out if any of them know anything about the Red Devil, she's the only one to question why someone wouldn't just lie after picking 'Truth'.
- Chad James is a complete and utter moron... academically, at least. When it comes to actually solving the murders he's the closest to solving the mystery by himself besides Grace and correctly deduced that Boone wasn't murdered as well as how there are at least two murderers when both Caulfield and Sam are murdered in a situation where it would be impossible for one person to perform the killing. He's also the elected leader of the Dickie Dollar Scholars because he's the smartest member (which really should tell you how stupid most of them are).
- Howard Stern: Despite having plenty of toilet humor and naked women on his show, Stern is a graduate from Boston University and is well-versed in current events.
- Be More Chill: Christine is scatterbrained, socially awkward, and prone to rambling on and on about things that excite her. However, as the show goes on, we find that she's extremely introspective, empathetic, and has a good deal more common sense than most of her classmates. It's implied her ADD, combined with her genuine cluelessness on social matters, is part of what makes her come off as a bit of a ditz. But, of course, ADD has nothing to do with intelligence or lack thereof.
- Final Fantasy X has Rikku. Despite having a somewhat naive bubbliness, being a bit clumsy, and overall having many mannerisms of The Ditz, she is a crack mechanic, skilled chemist, master thief, talented with computers and machinery, and shows significant emotional and intellectual depth.
- Ox in Visions & Voices. He's a generic farmer who talks in a country accent and is the party's Mighty Glacier, yet if you talk to him you'll find that he's actually very intelligent and loves books. Perceptive players will notice right off the bat that his secondary stat is even the game's spellcasting stat, to further reinforce this.
- In Team Fortress 2, the Heavy Weapons Guy may look and sound like a big lumbering oaf who loves nothing but his Heavy Weapons, but in the Russian translation, he actually comes off as quite intelligent, and he has a surprising depth to his character in Poker Night at the Inventory too. He even has a PhD in Russian Literature.
- Does this mean he can outsmart boolet?
- This is even hinted at in his "Meet The..." trailer: his "400,000 dollars to fire this weapon for twelve seconds" line speaks of some serious math skills.
- The Scout is a loud-mouthed egotistical punk, but some of his dialogue hints at some brains behind the bragging: taunts towards the Medic and Demoman reference the Hippocratic Oath and depth perception, respectively, and the Halloween update also had him reference Lovecraftian literature while trash-talking Merasmus.
- Even Soldier, who is so divorced from reality he probably owes it alimony, is knowledgeable enough to constantly reference well known pieces of literature such as All Quiet on the Western Front and The Lord of the Rings in spite of him being implied to having Never Learned to Read and being a Malaproper who can't string together the correct syllables to say "Bilbo Baggins." He also demonstrates at least a passing familiarity with concepts such as mythology, archaeological time periods, and other national cultures, even if he's completely within the grip of Patriotic Fervor.
- Does this mean he can outsmart boolet?
- Mass Effect has Urdnot Wrex, a large, slow-speaking Krogan who is less his people's stereotypical Blood Knight and far more a Warrior Poet.
- Mass Effect 2 has Grunt from the same species who, despite essentially being a newborn test-tube baby, is very articulate. Even his name, "Grunt", is chosen by him because the other words he knows are hollow to him and mean things that he doesn't feel. And when he's not killing big things, he enjoys listening to Ernest Hemingway. His favorites seem to be 'For Whom The Bell Tolls' (which is a notoriously graphic rendition of the Spanish Civil War) and 'The Old Man and the Sea' (which is an old fisherman fighting off sharks). He's got barely a tenth into 'The Sun Also Rises,' and outright deleted 'A Farewell to Arms.'
- And in Mass Effect 3 it turns out that Conrad Verner, of all people, is a doctor of dark energy physics and xenoarcheology.
- [PROTOTYPE 2] features James Heller, a Marine who can rip the turrets off tanks and finds every opportunity to slip in a curse in every sentence. However, he definitely has a sense of humor (if a little dark), has a keen knowledge of tactics, and the collective knowledge of several doctors all contained within his mind.
- Tojiko in Kara no Shoujo looks pretty dumb and is rather easy to tease, but she actually gets good grades and is a publishing author.
- Makoto Nanaya of BlazBlue gives the appearance of a bubbly and scatterbrained squirrel beastkin with more exposed skin than working intellect... until a flashback in Noel's story mode reveals that she, a mere commoner among individuals of more prestigious families, was attending the NOL Military Academy entirely on scholarship. Were that the extent, she wouldn't qualify, but an ivory tower environment like a classroom is a poor place for her to apply her immense street smarts, yet work in the Intelligence Division under Captain Hazama and as a Double Agent slash Reverse Mole for Sector Seven is. Continuum Shift in general, especially Slight Hope , is a demonstration of her prowess as an Intelligence officer - put short, had Makoto known that she had fallen into a timeline where Noel never existed and her activities in Slight Hope were interfering with his plans, Hazama would be treating her as something much worse than a mere Spanner in the Works. That intro discussion at the top of the page? That's Hazama expressing his purest scorn for Makoto for almost obliterating his plans again.
- Flonne, in Disgaea: Hour of Darkness is a ditzy Love Freak Otaku angel, but she's shown to be more with it than you'd suspect (Laharl even says so at one point). In fact, she has the highest base intelligence stat out of the main trio.note Similarly, Laharl is a bratty, selfish, violent demon, but has been prone to making cool-headed judgement. When he issues out a challenge for the title of Overlord, the Prinny commentary on the DS version shows surprise at Laharl's skill at calligraphy... because it didn't know Laharl could spell.
- The same goes for his successor in the sequel, the hot-blooded fist fighter Adell. When a Geomaster presents a nightmarish geopuzzle to the group (essentially a large multicolored checkerboard with symbols tying effects into each other), one of the other party members comment that their opponent has attacked Adell's weak spot: his inability to think. Adell takes one good look at the puzzle and (correctly) announces that taking out the red geosymbol will unravel the whole thing. When the others express stunned disbelief, he points out that he only prefers to take things on with brute strength because it's usually faster.
- Masque in Fleuret Blanc at first appears to be taciturn Dumb Muscle, but his text messages reveal that he is actually quite well-spoken when he has to be, and he is also skilled at investigation. He also has an academic interest in masks and cultural history, probably enough to catapult him into full Genius Bruiser territory.
- You will find yourself on the receiving end of this quite often In Bethesda games such as The Elder Scrolls and Fallout series. No matter how much of a genius your character is, a lot of npc's tend to treat you as if you were a complete moron and using the trope by name is the closest you'll get to them complimenting you.
- Although he seems like a big fat musclehead with a very stereotypical lower class British football hooligan accent, Attikus from Battleborn is actually way smarter than he looks thanks to the side effects of the Hedronic Collector grafted on his right arm. In fact, he's way smarter than the few Thralls who appear to have some inkling of intelligence.
- In The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel, Beryl is possibly this. In Chapter 3, when you get the results on the midterm exams, you find that she has placed fifth. That's out of 99 students in the entire school, just behind the noble Patrick Hyarms and two places above the maximum placing that you can get for Rean. True, when you're prepping for the exams, she does claim to not need to study because she can use her mystical abilities to know exactly what material is going to be on the exams, but who knows how true this actually is.
- In Fate/Grand Order, Frankenstein's Monster, one of the game's summonable Berserkers, despite largely expressing herself in moans and head shakes, is actually completely capable of speaking in full sentences and sharp-witted enough to shut down her creator with a few choice words, realize from the very start Ishtar is up to something, and manipulate Archer of Shinjuku, James Moriarty, by appealing to him as a Morality Pet into giving her a serious upgrade, promoting her to the Saber class. It's just that thinking exhausts her, and being as obsessed as she is with conserving energy, she rarely uses her brain to its full potential.
- "John Doe" of Batman: The Telltale Series is childish, playful, spiteful, and irreverent to any series consequences. At the same time, in true Joker fashion, he's a Gadgeteer Genius, can plan and manipulate people on the fly, and easily deduces both Lady Arkham and Batman's true identities from very disparate clues. He's also much Stronger Than He Looks, and Bruce even gravely warns Catwoman at one point to not underestimate him for even a second.
- Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn is a brave and beautiful huntress who also happens to be a Genius Bruiser. At one point in the story she is able to impress a scholar by deducing that the world is round because that is the shape of the shadow the Earth leaves on the Moon during an eclipse. She inherited her intelligence from her "mother", the long-dead scientist and mastermind behind the Zero Dawn Project, Dr. Elisabet Sobeck.
- Grisaia no Kajitsu: Despite her own assumptions, Makina is not stupid. She actually has a photographic memory and its hinted she could potentially be an outright genius.
- Komari from Little Busters! doesn't have much common sense and is almost ridiculously idealistic, but she's also a very good student who regularly gets high grades.
- Done in an odd way in Sluggy Freelance, maybe subverted, with Clem. Zoë meets up with him for the first time in years, after he supposedly dropped out of high school. He's dressed like a janitor, has a "dumb" accent and walks around holding roadkill in his hand. It turns out that he didn't drop out of high school so much as advance much faster than everyone else and is now a professor at the local university, and the roadkill (reportedly) is for stem cell research. The possible subversion is that he's still a moron with a dumb accent who walks around holding roadkill. His intelligence is intentionally left on the level of Informed Ability.
- The main character of Blade Bunny acts very much like a stereotypical Dumb Blond ditz. But she's a highly-skilled ninja who, on a second or third read, is clearly thinking about five steps ahead of her opponent.
- The Order of the Stick:
- A Running Gag, especially early on, was that Roy hates people assuming that he's Dumb Muscle since he's the team's Fighter. He's both The Leader and the Only Sane Man, even if he lacks Vaarsuvius' raw genius. He even has a MBA (Master of Battle Administration) degree.
- Xykon. He's very good at planning ahead and assessing the situation just like any other respectable villain, he just almost never does because he gets bored easily with that kind of plotting. What's more, since he's aware people think he's stupid, he occasionally uses that to his advantage by playing dumb before handing someone their ass on a silver platter. He said just about as much himself when he killed Dorukan in Start of Darkness after his Berserk Button was pressed. As Xykon himself has pointed out, there's a difference between not knowing things and just not caring about them.
- Likewise, Tsukiko. Don't let the Girlish Pigtails or the crush on Xykon fool you—during her fight with Haley she came up with some pretty good ways around her evasions, and she figured out something Xykon himself had been unaware of: the ritual for the Snarl doesn't do what Redcloak had been telling them it did.
- Girl Genius:
- Vanamonde von Mekkhan. His grandfather kind of names the trope. Most of the time, he is comparing flavors at the coffee shop (it's unclear whether he has an actual job there). But when the city is attacked, oh my.
- Agatha admits that Tweedle is smarter than he looks, but that she is too. When Violetta says that Agatha looks pretty smart already, she immediately realizes that that was what Agatha was actually going for.
- Zola. She's blonde and pink, giving a great Valley Girl impression, and, in front of Gil, is constantly a distressed damsel. But she packed a small personal arsenal into Der Kestle, killed at least one person in cold blood as a warning, and showed herself to be a cunning, ruthless, and strong fighter. She also outwitted Lucrezia!Other!
- Reynir from Stand Still, Stay Silent: He's a stowaway who has lived a quite sheltered life by the cast's standards, which results in him being quite naïve and lacking the self-confidence to put his foot down about anything. However, when tagging along with the crew's two scholars making a technically unauthorized investigation of an abandonned fort, he's the only one who notices signs of animals avoiding the building that the two others entered a little earlier (there is a small layer of snow on the ground, and it brutally moves from being covered with overlapping tracks to completely undisturbed a few meters away from the building), and becomes hesitant to approach. Later, he manages his first fuctioning anti-ghost rune from switching things around from a rune used to keep sheep close to the farm he remembered seeing in his home. The ghosts for whom the rune is intended are a previously unheard of phenomenon, and Reynir has nobody actually teaching him runic magic.
- Schlock Mercenary:
- Pretty much the entire company, but Tagon tops the list. He prefers to solve problems by shooting things and he surrounds himself with literally the smartest people in the galaxy (making him look stupider by comparison), but he is a tactical genius and an excellent leader. On multiple occasions he has managed to outsmart the enemy simply by using common sense when they expected him to be too stupid to rub two sticks together.
- Schlock as well. He's a hyperactive Adult Child who looks like he barely evolved past pond slime, but he also has perfect memory, Super Senses, and is strong enough to fight someone wearing Powered Armor. He's just usually Brilliant, but Lazy.
- Even Nick, one of the stupidest members of the company, can fall into this, especially in regards to things directly related to his job, like weapons.
Kathryn: You're faster than you look.
Nick: I'm also smarter than I look, but the Captain says that's because of a really low bar somewhere.
- In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, both Jean and Voluptua have said this about Bob, at least in terms of Simpleminded Wisdom.
- While Leviathan from Worm is already a Hero Killer by virtue of consistently slaughtering a full fourth of the army of superheroes and villains that show up to fight him every time he appears to destroy entire cities, and is strong, faster than a superspeedster, and has large-scale hydrokinesis that completely averts Soft Water, the Extermination (8) arc also reveals that he possesses a kind of brute cunning, inventing new tactics to defeat Armsmaster's prediction software on the fly.
- Behemoth displays much the same cruel intelligence in Crushed (24) during the attack on New Delhi. It's a standard warning at the beginning of all Endbringer fights, actually. They still get underestimated. Even the Simurgh, who looks pretty smart to begin with and is notorious for brilliant long-term plans that nobody even realizes are in play.
- Stewie from Family Guy: Simply because he's a baby, he's assumed to be unintelligent, until you find out about his plans for world domination, mastery of multiverse theory and so forth.
- Vivian Porter in the Kim Possible episode with the robot rumble. She's blond, tanned, gorgeous, apparently ditzy, and even voiced by Shawnee Smith, a well-known ditz player... except she's the foremost robotics scientist in the world. Even making a artificial "boyfriend" created specifically to provide an alter ego because she thinks her looks will prevent people from taking her seriously.
- In The Simpsons story about the Hellfish group, the big guy, named "Ox", has a stereotypical stupid guy voice and is the one who explains the concept of tontine to the others.
Burns: "Well put, Oxford."
- Burns does it to Homer in another episode:
Burns: "You're smarter than you look. Or sound. Or our best tests suggest."
- Barney Gumble may be a drunkard and lazy, but he's been shown to possess exceptional talent when it comes to the arts.
- In Homer's Barbershop Quartet, Barney is a brilliant singer.
- In Mom and Pop Art, Barney drew a replica of the famous painting "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" by Georges Seurat, on a napkin.
- In A Star Is Burns, Barney wins the Springfield Film Festival with his touching and emotional yet unfortunately titled film Pukeahontas, an autobiographical piece about his alcoholism.
- Burns does it to Homer in another episode:
- Mission Hill: Jim, Andy's best friend doesn't seem all that smart. A slow talking, monosyllabic guy, who is implied on more than one occasion to be a stoner. But apparently, he's also a total computer whiz, and paid very well for it by an ad agency. Andy wasn't even aware until Jim told him.
- His more unintelligent traits is implied to be caused by his use of marijuana, among other things, in the unproduced "Supertool", Andy tells him to "break through the fog for once".
- Ed from Brandy & Mr. Whiskers looks like a totally goofy otter with More Teeth than the Osmond Family but when he opens his mouth, he's usually quite intelligent.
- In Superman: The Animated Series, after they first met and she tried to blow him off only for him to succeed in out-scooping her, Lois quickly learned not to underestimate Clark Kent.
Lois: I take it back. You're not the rube hayseed I took you for.Clark: Thanks... I guess?
- Skeeter from Doug (particularly in the Nickelodeon episodes) always seemed to be easily confused and was, at times, rather goofy. It's later revealed, much to Doug's surprise, that he has a genius IQ. His intellect was played up more in the Disney episodes.
- Stated word for word in Yin Yang Yo! by Yin when Yang not only provides a good plan, he explains that he does learn thing, but slacks off so less is expected of him.
- In Dragons: Riders of Berk Dagur the Deranged is, well, deranged and a Blood Knight, but he's also capable of being surprisingly sneaky and clever which he uses to depose of Alvin as the Big Bad halfway though the second season and hang onto the title thereafter.
- Amy Wong generally comes off as a ditzy Upper-Class Twit, even with shades of Brainless Beauty sometimes. While she's introduced as an engineering student, this is rarely mentioned in early seasons. However in the post-revival seasons, she finished college, obtained a doctorate, and starts being portrayed more as a Ditzy Genius instead of just The Ditz.
- Nibbler, being an example of Obfuscating Stupidity. In one episode he wins a prize for being the "dumbest pet in show" except that he's actually a highly intelligent super-being whose race is responsible for maintaining order in the universe.
- Daria: Quinn acts dumb and shallow because that is what makes her popular, but by the final season she has begun to accept her intelligence a bit more. Daria even tells her that she isn't one of "the stupid".
- Cave Guy, one of the many adversaries of Freakazoid!, looks like your basic caveman, but is actually very intelligent, articulate, and speaks with a highbrow sounding voice. In the first episode, he mentions that he subscribes to The New Yorker.