Competent evil help is hard to find. How else can you explain how the Evil Overlord's Dragon is a complete nincompoop, mooks are all dimwits who graduated from the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy, the elite special forces consist of a Quirky Mini Boss Squad, and all the ninjas are standing around in plain sight or queuing up to attack the heroes one at a time?
Sometimes, it seems like the lead antagonist has deliberately chosen the most incompetent, craven, cowardly, or just plain unreliable underlings around... the trope often culminates in a Dragon that, instead of being the best of what the lower ranks has to offer, seems to be a living distillation of everything that makes the incompetent underlings what they are. This version is often punctuated by having the right-hand man actually secretly trying to undermine and/or replace the Evil Overlord, but just too incompetent to be a real threat.
Of course, the simplest answer for why the evil master is surrounded by idiots is because you'd have to be stupid to work for him. The underlings' being Too Dumb to Live may well explain why they continue to work for an abusive employer, but we still have to wonder why the Evil Overlord hired them in the first place. We can't pretend he's not aware of his hirelings' shortcomings, since he never hesitates to exclaim about them: "FOOLS! CRETINS! BUNGLERS!" (there always seems to be a basic formula of Mild Insult! Not-So-Mild Insult! EXTREME INSULT!, if it's not a case of Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking), sometimes, "It's so hard to find good help these days..." and of course, the oft-repeated Trope Naming line, "I'm surrounded by idiots!" - sometimes accompanied by a Facepalm. Sometimes after one too many failures tend to say "If you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself!" and then proceeds to do far better at any given mission than his underlings have ever done, making you wonder why he didn't just do this in the first place.
Occasionally, one of them will respond to this exclamation by looking around and asking, "Where?"
This trope even made the Evil Overlord List.
Of course, one possible explanation may be that smart minions tend to try to take over... or perhaps any minion might be trying to take over, but a smart one might actually succeed.
See also Conservation of Competence. Polar opposite of it is Surrounded by Smart People. Contrast Too Dumb to Fool. If the character being surrounded by idiots lashes out on them, then it's Enraged by Idiocy.
- In Black Butler Sebastian is the head butler, and he has his hands full with keeping the incompetent staff in line. There's maid who breaks dishes and confuses shoe polish with wax, a gardener who destroys everything he touches, a cook who uses flamethrowers, and a guest who keeps trying to turn himself in to the police. (As it turns out, this is mostly because the staff were hired on the basis of their competence in very different areas.)
- In Mazinger Z, Dr. Hell often feels like this— and rightfully so. When he was young it was because he thought he was smarter than anybody, but now it is because his minions are, well, stupids. In an episode he invokes the trope almost word by word. His Co-Dragons have been fighting for the whole episode, even when they were supposed to engage the enemy. At the beginning he had tried to stop them and force them to cooperate, but it did not work. So during their latest fight he is (unsuccessfully) trying to ignore them as he has dinner:
Dr. Hell: Why, oh, why such a genius as myself is surrounded by idiots?
- One Piece:
- While the main protagonists, the Straw Hat Pirates, aren't actually idiots, they do act the part. Zoro and Nami take turns being the Only Sane Man to lampshade the idiocy. Robin has moments of her too, what with her being The Stoic of the group. This is lampshaded during a scene where everyone save Nami and Vivi are drinking, Vivi worries but Nami calms her down telling her that everyone knows what they have to do if a storm starts.
- Captain Kuro has this reaction in regards to his crew. It's not so much that the crew is stupid as it is that he's the smartest man in the East Blue next to Benn Beckman of the Red-Haired Pirates, and looks down on his crew as thugs that are useless without his plans.
- On the side of the Marines, Vice-Admiral Momonga has to deal with a rather impressionable crew that can't keep its act together both when facing a Sea King and meeting the Pirate Empress Boa Hancock, making people wonder why he bothers with them.
- A rare heroic example comes from the anime Martian Successor Nadesico, where Little Miss Snarker Ruri Hoshino frequently says of her crewmates, "baka bakka" — literally, "I'm surrounded by idiots".
- It has gotten to the point that many people have used this phrase as the base of "Ruri's Law", a cousin of Sturgeon's Law: "The vast majority of people are idiots".
- Another hero example: Orphen repeatedly utters this sentence (and variants) in the manga of the same name. You can't really blame him, though, since he is surrounded by nothing but loads and millstones.
- Not quite a direct example, but Hotaru's various idiot-bashing tools, anyone?
- It's straighter than you think. The Idiot Cannon only works on idiots. She uses it in almost every fight scene on almost everyone.
- In the case of Unsui in Eyeshield 21, he was surrounded by perverts. But in the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue, this trope is played straight and he seems to be on the verge of saying this. Also Hiruma and Suzuna usually react like this when a dumber or excited teammates points out an obvious or dumb statement while the other marvels at it.
- In Pokémon, Giovanni often has to put up with the Team Rocket trio (Jessie, James, and Meowth) and often will comment on their stupidity.
- From Eroica with Love's Major Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach feels that this trope is in effect, but in reality his hapless subordinates are actually fairly competent (most of them, anyway), it's just that he has ridiculously high standards.
- The Second Mizukage of Naruto after being resurrected was incredibly pissed at how none of the shinobi he was fighting would stop attacking the mirages he created and find his actual body.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion has an odd take on this. Witch Homura, and later Akuma Homura, intentionally creates the "Clara Doll" minions to represent parts of her personality, with upbeat names like Blockhead, Laziness, and Vanity. She certainly believes herself to be the sum total of these nasty traits, but the accuracy of her self-loathing (one of the minions is Pessimism) is up for debate.
- In Brave Exkaiser, Ptera Geist feels this way about the rest of his teammates. To be fair, he's kinda right, as the other lower ranked Geisters are Dumb Muscle. Dino Geist feels this way about the entire crew, Ptera Geist included, except his Mouth of Sauron Komori. In fact several episodes open with him roaring in fury and then having Komori chew them out.
- Lady Une from Mobile Suit Gundam Wing when Trowa and Wufei attack Treize's fleet. All her underlings could do is report the Gundams' every moves and couldn't do anything right until Une gave them specific orders.
- Doctor Doom, of course, has pulled it more than once. Then again, Doom has it harder than most — in his eyes — as everyone who isn't Doom fits this quote...
Doctor Doom: My greatest flaw. I surround myself with idiots.
- Dr. Light (the hero) was the overly serious member of the late 80s "bwa-ha-ha" Justice League. She said this a lot.
- Lex Luthor's flunkies, back in the day, tended to be dunces and were sometimes played for comic relief. They also might make Heel Face Turns. Otis and Miss Tessmacher are actually quite faithful to this type in the comics.
- Subverted in Empowered where Thugboy and the other self-dubbed Witless Minions pretended to be this to aspiring supervillains so they could fleece their high-tech equipment (and administer some quick, unexpected justice whenever a supervillain tried to cross the Moral Event Horizon). It went pretty well for them for a while, then It Got Worse — So, SO Much Worse.
- Astérix: General Cantankerus once described his troops as "They're all quite thick, and I'm their leader! [sobs]" In the French version, he says "They all are stupid and I'm their leader".
- Iznogoud: Or, more often than not, by crazies. Special mention to the palace guards. Iznogoud even lampshades this several times:
Iznogoud: Can't we just fire all crazy people from this palace?!
Wa'at Alahf: Sure, boss, but who would be in charge of doing this?
- In the Superior Spider-Man run, Otto Octavius (in Peter Parker's body) often considers everyone he ever meets to be an idiot. Then again, he is a genius.
- In a Justice League of America issue detailing a potential universe where Darkseid won, Batman taunted him by answering his question of why he was "surrounded by maggots" - after winning, he'd done what he always said he would do: reform creation in his image. Thus, he has no room to complain: all he's seeing is his own ugly mug.
- Done interestingly in Wayward where the Big Bad, a Visionary Villain intent on bridging the gap between the past and the future, not only finds himself frustrated by his conservative team mates' idiotic insistence to much rather fight to the last man instead of accepting the changing times and embracing the future and its technological wonders, but finds himself equally frustrated by the heroes' idiotic lack of respect for the introspective virtues of the past and stubborn teenage mentality to just follow the whims of their flailing emotions.
- This is Sheila's reaction on discovering who her final team-mates are during the "Grudge Match" arc in Knights of the Dinner Table. Following the elimination games, one member of each of the gaming groups is supposed to belly up to the table for the final showdown. Sheila expects to be backed up by the power players from the other 'evil' groups: the other players being supposed to take the fall to allow them to progress. Instead she ends up with the most useless character from every team.
- A Dilbert strip had the Pointy-Haired Boss complaining that he was "surrounded by incompetents", and Dilbert's reply was "If a bunch of incompetents were able to surround you, what does that say about you?"
- In Barney & Clyde, Pillsbury Pharmaceuticals' Sarcasm-Blind R&D team makes pill bottles more difficult to open in response to Barney's "Could we make it more difficult to open?" Barney declares himself surrounded by idiots, who then say, "We prefer 'savants.'"
- Evangelion 303: Asuka often thinks that all in the base but her — and some few people such like Shinji, Hikari or Jessika — are idiots or weirdoes. In the chapter 15, as she is putting up with the Mari and Kelly's antics, she thinks: "Idiots. Idiots both of them..."
- Rupert and Earl, an original creation by fanfic author Swing 123, are commanders of an exceptionally idiotic crew who appear in Calvin and Hobbes: The Movie (the original had the crew portrayed as very competent, but the remake makes them the idiots they are later on), have a cameo in Calvin and Hobbes II: Lost at Sea, and return in Calvin and Hobbes III: Double Trouble and Calvin and Hobbes: The Series.
- Tamers Forever Series:
- Ruki tends to show aspects of this when Chaos and Takato do something moronic (which is pretty much all the time).
Oh I can't believe you two
- Takato also acts like this when confronted by Ruki and Chaos's nigh constant bickering.
"Sometimes I wish my mind showed me something other than the two of you"
- Ruki tends to show aspects of this when Chaos and Takato do something moronic (which is pretty much all the time).
- Harry feels this way in The Havoc Side of the Force after one of the slaves he freed loudly confirms his identity in a throne room filled with people. He even tells HK-47 to ask them, in the most insulting manner he can, "Whether the words 'I'd like to remain anonymous' are anything more than a collection of unintelligible syllables to them, or they actually want me dead, or if they are all just sodding morons." As he points out, when he saved the slaves (and robbed their owner, a Hutt, blind), he made sure no one could possibly trace it back to him. Now because of a little girl, he's going to be hunted by the Hutts for what he did.
- In chapter 3 of A Necromancer's Wild Card, a Persona 3 and Is This a Zombie? crossover, Minato Arisato provides a heroic example as he quotes this trope verbatim after witnessing the students of Ayumu Aikawa's school paying more attention to Ayumu crossdressing instead of a giant crawfish monster that Ayumu recently killed.
Minato (thinking to himself while also facepalming): 'Hide your shame, Ayumu. Hide your shame because I'm evidently surrounded by idiots.'
- In Advice and Trust, Ritsuko's got this mindset. During Unit-00's activation test, she thinks that everyone else is stupid.
- In Shinji And Warhammer 40 K Kaworu bemoans his lack of competent henchmen. The trope is then deconstructed as he admits that he's not surrounded by idiots, he's surrounded by the mediocre. SEELE and NERV recruited the best henchmen while the Earth Cradle was essentially a dumping ground for the leftovers. As a result he got people who are less skilled and less sane than canon Evangelion characters.
- At one point in Back To Us, Alya learns from Adrien that the other members of Team Miraculous (who she learned the identities of in a previous chapter) don't know who he is under the mask and he doesn't know who they are. She then facepalms at realizing just how stupid he, Marinette and Nino are.
- In a heroic example, the four VERY MUCH feel this way in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World. At one point John asks in frustration, "Are we absolutely the only ones usin' our brains round here?" And later, when they're meeting with the Circle leadership:
John, who had thought his observation perfectly reasonable and no insight of any great brilliance, was almost as astonished as the Circle people by their reaction to it. Remembering his conversation with George and Paul some nights ago, particularly his comment that no one seemed to be using their brains except them, he could only conclude that he was one hundred percent right and that every other person on C'hou was a fucking idiot. Including the gods. He quickly picked up his wine cup again and drank deeply so he wouldn't burst out laughing.
- Dragon Ball Z Abridged:
Garlic: Oh God, your father's Goku... Oh my God you morons stole Goku's kid?! How? How did you steal Goku's kid?!
- Poor Vegeta.
Vegeta: I'm surrounded by idiots.
Goku: "I thought you were surrounded by gumdrops and ice cream?"
- And then there's Nappa...
Nappa: What's wrong Vegeta?
Vegeta: I'm just... having an aneurysm from sheer stupidity.
Nappa: I didn't know you were that stupid, Vegeta.
- And then there's Garlic Jr. in The Dead Zone Abridged.
Cinnamon: Well first we beat up his wife.
Garlic: Oh my shit!
- Poor Vegeta.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series
- Uttered by Dartz word-for-word in the first Evil Council of Doom.
- Bakura's utterance of "I'm surrounded by wankers."
- Death Note: The Abridged Series (kpts4tv):
- Happens a lot:
Higuchi: What's the point of having minions if they don't do your work for you! I should be watching the Home Shopping Network in my underwear but NO, I have to go out and commit a murder!
- Also when Mello's mafia minions kidnap an old grey-haired guy...
Mello: I asked you to bring me Sayu Yagami. A 17-year-old girl. Does this look like a 17-year-old girl to you?
Minion 1: No...
Minion 2: Yes.
- Happens a lot:
- Sword Art Online Abridged has constant lamentation from named male characters to the outright stupidity of the rest of the player base. Kirito constantly has to remind his female companions (not named Asuna, thankfully) how aggro works, Diabel loses his temper when some of his fellow players break from the game to play Bejeweled of all things, Tiffany goes from trying to help his fellow players to scamming them when he realizes just how stupid they are, and Kayaba's last vestiges of faith in humanity are sorely tested when one player attacks him after Kirito triggered the "Immortal Object" notice after attacking Kayaba himself.
Kayaba: I tried, you know. Lord knows I've tried. But there's just no helping you people! It's like you crave death, but not just any death, nooooo! You fuckers seem to have some sort of pool going to see who can end their existence in the dumbest, most avoidable way possible! And you just keep one-upping each other! Do you know how many of you have died screaming "Leeroy Jenkins"? More than zero!
- Rules: The reason why Light wants to stay in America for the summer is because this is his situation in Japan (with Misa being the most foremost example). When he was back home for Christmas, he desperately missed the intelligent company of Elijah and, to a lesser extent, Ethan, and has no desire to repeat the experience.
- A rare inversion occurs in a sidestory of Pokémon Reset Bloodlines. Zevie, the leader of Team Zenith (from which Teams Magma and Aqua split from) admits to Steven Stone that his plans failed partly because he surrounded himself with too many bright people, since their ideas to change the world clashed with each other and led to a lot of infighting.
- In Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent had been sending her minions to search for Princess Aurora, whom she cast a curse on as a newborn, to put her plan into motion. However, said minions failed in looking for her for 16 years because they thought too much about the "newborn" part. Maleficent is not too keen on finding out...
Maleficent: FOOLS! IDIOTS! IMBECILES!
* She starts blasting at her minions, shooing them away*
Maleficent: Oh, they're hopeless. A disgrace to the forces of evil...
- Aladdin: Captain of the palace guards, Razoul towards his underlings, who cower in fear upon seeing a little monkey who barely reaches their kness holding a scimitar.
Guard: He's got a sword!
Razoul: You idiots... WE'VE ALL GOT SWORDS!
- Twice in All Dogs Go to Heaven, the villain Carface shouts "Morons! I'm surrounded by morons!"
- In Disney's The Lion King, Scar says this exact quote about the hyenas. Interestingly, he said this about said hyenas playing their species's trope straight, and not the mission they had recently failed.
Scar: [facepalm] I'm surrounded by idiots...
- In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks, Adagio Dazzle feels this way about her Co-Dragons, Sonata Dusk and Aria Blaze. She has this to say to Sunset Shimmer during her initial tour of the school:
Adagio Dazzle: [insincere smile] You'll have to excuse them. [contemptuous frown] They're idiots.
- The novelization of My Little Pony: The Movie (2017) provides some additional insight into Tempest Shadow's mental state: "'Well, answer it!' Tempest barked. Sometimes she couldn't help feeling as though she was surrounded by incompetent oafs. They couldn't even accomplish the simplest tasks, like answering a potion call."
- The Bog King from Strange Magic. He's the king of the goblins who routinely fail him at basic tasks like informing him of trespassers or stopping said lone trespasser from breaking into his palace.
- An interesting variation in Despicable Me. While Gru doesn't find the antics of the Minions annoying (at least not to the point where he berates them loudly and viciously), they do have a tendency to aggravate each other.
- Quest for Camelot: Ruber towards some of his dim-witted henchmen and mostly his Griffin. The annoyed expression on Ruber's face gives it away at times.
- In their first appearance in Hercules, Hades' minions, Pain and Panic, can't even go down the stairs without slapstick stuff happening to them. Which prompts Hades to glance at the audience with a "I don't get paid enough for this" look.
- In 101 Dalmatians
- Austin Powers:
- Doctor Evil, of course, supplies us with this quote:
Doctor Evil: Why must I constantly be surrounded by frickin' idiots?
- Used in the trailer for Goldmember as well, by the narrator.
He is brilliant. He is deadly. And he is still surrounded by frickin' idiots.
- Of course he's not too smart himself... Number Two and Scott fit this more.
- Doctor Evil, of course, supplies us with this quote:
- In BEACH PARTY (Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon), the world's least scary motorcycle gang leader, Eric von Zipper, declares toward the end of the film that he has "an army of stupids." Not that he has much room to talk.
- In the movie Becket, when Henry II sends some loyal members of his court to arrest the Turbulent Priest, Becket not only refuses to plead to the charges but manages to turn the tables on his accusers by reminding them that he's their spiritual father and threatening their souls if they arrest him on false accusations. Henry II, watching this turn of events from afar, breaks down laughing and says in amazement, "He's made mincemeat of them. I'm surrounded by fools! Becket is the only intelligent man in my kingdom and he's against me."
- In Bickford Schmeckler's Cool Ideas, the eponymous character gives what may be one of the best diss lines ever:
Bickford: I'm surrounded by soon-to-be Deltas of the Brave New World.
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. As Butch, Sundance, and their employer are on a mission to pick up a payroll, Butch and Sundance are watching for an ambush. The employer says "Morons. I've got morons on my team.", and explains that no one will ambush them because they don't have the money yet.
- Get Shorty. Very few people not named Chili Palmer consider the consequences of their actions or the possibility that they might not be as smart/sneaky/powerful as they think they are.
- Marvel Cinematic Universe:
- In Guardians of the Galaxy, during the Kyln prison break, an exasperated Gamora comes to this conclusion.
Gamora: I am going to die surrounded by the biggest idiots in the galaxy.
- In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Nebula's general attitude towards the Dysfunction Junction that is the Guardians of Galaxy is that they're all morons who are completely out of their minds.
- In Avengers: Infinity War, Tony Stark, Peter Parker and Stephen Strange wind up teaming up with the Guardians (minus Rocket and Groot). Tony quickly becomes annoyed when the Guardians refuse to listen to any of his plans, and when Mantis tells him they "kick names and take ass", there's a long beat where Tony looks like he's seriously reconsidering every single one of his life choices.
- In Guardians of the Galaxy, during the Kyln prison break, an exasperated Gamora comes to this conclusion.
- In 1993 film Hocus Pocus:
Winifred: WHY? Why was I cursed with such IDIOT sisters?
Sarah: Just lucky, I guess
- In the film adaptation of Holes, after 4 days of digging in the same wrong spot in order to find Kate Barlow's loot, the Warden starts to lose her patience with the diggers and both Mr. Sir and Mr. Pendanski's incompetence, leaving the scene while uttering:
Warden: I'm surrounded by Cow Turds.
- The Hunger Games: President Coriolanus Snow takes this attitude towards Seneca Crane during their scenes in the movie. In general he seems to dislike the hypocrisy of the system he runs, or at least get tired of it, and enjoys the company of those, like Plutarch and Katniss, who share his cynicism.
- Labyrinth: Jareth the Goblin King actually has to tell his goblin minions to laugh when he tells a joke, and is seen at one point face-palming in the middle of his throne room. You get the feeling that he wants Sarah to stay with him because he's probably desperate for a conversation with someone with a IQ above one digit.
- Lawrence of Arabia. After attempting to discuss the uniqueness of Lawrence's face with his minions, they simply don't get what he's talking about. The Turkish Bey laments to Lawrence that he's "surrounded by cattle. If I [he] were posted to the dark side of the moon, I [he] could not be more isolated."
- The opinionated general in Mars Attacks! seems to think he's the Only Sane Man in the White House.
- Mr. Vandegelder seems to believe this in The Matchmaker, as he states directly to the audience "Ninety-nine percent of the world is populated by fools. And the few that aren't are in grave danger of being overcome by them". Dolly apparently believes it to be the case as well, to a degree, though she feels it's equally foolish to try to separate one's self from them ("A fool among fools, or a fool alone?").
- In Merlin, Vortigern wonders aloud "Why is it that I surround myself with a bunch of incompetent fools?"
- This is the same guy who prides himself on acting before thinking, which is precisely what causes his downfall (pun intended).
- Though he discusses it in a remarkably thoughtful way and points out that it has worked for him so far. Apparently the trick is to act before the other guy is done thinking.
- This is the same guy who prides himself on acting before thinking, which is precisely what causes his downfall (pun intended).
- In the New Zealand road movie, Snakeskin, the leader of the skinheads proclaims,
Speed: Terry your brother is a fucking idiot. You're a fuckin' idiot too, I'M SURROUNDED BY FUCKING IDIOTS!
- There's a non-villainous version in Paint Your Wagon, with the missionary expressing disgust at the inhabitants of No-Name City. ("Boozers! Gluttons! Gamblers! Harlots! FORNICATORS!") But his insults fall on deaf ears, partly because the townspeople are proud of their degeneracy and partly because they don't know what a "fornicator" is.
- In Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Robin - the hero - comes to this conclusion when he is presented with his new recruits. The ensuing training montage does little to disprove it, to the point where he seriously considers sending the training dummies into battle instead.
Little John: I sent word to every village in England. They've sent their best men.
Robin: We are in a lot of trouble.
- In Spaceballs, almost everyone working on the bridge of Spaceball One is an asshole. At least, they have the surname Asshole.note
Dark Helmet: How many Assholes we got on this ship anyhow?
[all except one crewmember on the bridge jump to their feet]
Standing Crew: Yo!
[beat as Dark Helmet turns slowly around, pauses momentarily upon seeing the number of Assholes, then continues turning to face Colonel Sandurz]
Dark Helmet: ...I knew it, I'm surrounded by Assholes.
[another beat before Dark Helmet quickly slams his faceplate down]
Dark Helmet: [in his deep voice] Keep firing, Assholes!
- Elijah Kalgan wants you to know that his Space Mutiny is being undermined by his own disciples. His words, not ours.
- Justified in The Spirit as the Mad Scientist villain can create cloned (e.g. expendable) henchmen, but not cloned henchmen who are smart. One attempt to do so creates a bouncing foot...man...thing. Which is just plain damn weird.
- In Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980), Lex Luthor had Otis. "It's amazing that brain can generate enough power to keep those legs moving."
- Possibly originated, certainly codified by The Three Stooges. "I'm surrounded by morons!" could have been Moe's Catch-Phrase if he hadn't had so many of them...
- Evil, the Big Bad in Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits, is surrounded by incompetent henchmen. At one point, he says to one of them who's just said something particularly idiotic, "Oh, my dear Benson, you are so mercifully free of the ravages of intelligence." This is likely his own doing, however, as both of the mooks who dare to raise serious questions about Evil's plan are blown to smithereens.
- Terry Pratchett likes this one.
- Evil Harry Dread in the Discworld book The Last Hero deliberately chooses his underlings for their stupidity, and they quickly kill themselves in battle. He's a traditionalist: "if I surround myself with morons, as I'm supposed to, then the hero will let me get away, like he's supposed to." It's just Terry Pratchett's usual method of taking things to the breaking point to make a joke.
- Carcer in Night Watch, especially after he becomes Captain of the Palace Guard. This is somewhat justified, in that "[Carcer's men] hated Keel with that gnawing, nerve-sapping hatred that only the mediocre can really bring to bear, and that was useful."
- Exactly the same joke/point is made in Guards! Guards!, an earlier Discworld novel which also stars Vimes, with the Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night.
- Ignatius Reilly, the protagonist of A Confederacy of Dunces, views his fellow citizens of New Orleans as such. Inverted to a degree, in that Ignatius himself is very foolish and has some serious Mommy Issues.
- Pavel Kazakov, Big Bad of the Dale Brown novel Warrior Class, says "I'm surrounded by cowards and incompetents" after Tin Men take over one of his oil tankers.
- Redwall's Cluny the Scourge muses on this trope in the first book, and decides that putting up with stupidity from his followers is worth the utter obedience he gets because they're too dim to think for themselves.
- Visser Three has an instant solution to any idiots around him - and it's not pretty. Thing is, though, he's not very tolerant of any failure, and is prone to executing his subordinates for anything from letting the Animorphs escape to reminding him that bugs exist.
- In The Return, Sixth Ranger Traitor David recruits a pair of thugs to do his dirty work, seeing as how he's now trapped in rat morph. They're not very bright, though, and David laments their idiocy several times. Eventually, they even end up turning on him.
- A Song of Ice and Fire:
- Cersei laments this, unaware that the reason is she's driven away or ignored everyone with good advice.
- Aside from Melisandre and Davos, Stannis feels he is surrounded by mostly bootlickers and fanatics.
- In Winnie-the-Pooh, this was A.A. Milne's explanation for why Eeyore is depressed.
- In the Rainbow Magic series, Jack Frost often complains about this. It backfires on him in the movie, where he gets smarter henchmen... who betray him.
- In Harry Potter Severus Snape, the Potions teacher, repeatedly laments that very few, if any, of his students are up to his standards of intellect. To their faces. It becomes a vicious circle, because the environment of constant ridicule and deprecation without any kind of aid or approval from the teacher does not lend itself to productive education, thus causing children to make mistakes and earn even more insults. In some cases, Neville Longbottom in particular, fear of him makes students so nervous that they're simply so stupefied with terror that they can't do their work properly, thus earning his wrath.
- In The White Rose, the third book of The Black Company series by Glen Cook, published in 1985, near the end of the book exactly this occurs: "Idiots" the Lady murmured. "I'm surrounded by idiots. Even the Tree is a dolt".
- As Diary of a Wimpy Kid progresses, Greg becomes much more aware of this. In Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School during the camping trip, he's the only sane person in the cabin, and helpless to prevent his cabin-mates' stupidity. In fact, when Greg separates from the group it all goes wrong for them.
- Artemis Fowl often feels this way about all of the other main characters (except Foaly, who is a genius) throughout the entire series. To be fair to his friends and teammates, almost all of them are quite competent in their own right, but Artemis is still equal parts exasperated/amused at their lack of understanding of his jokes/references/plans. It's tough to be an evil genius!
- Edgedancer (a novella of The Stormlight Archive): It's implied that this is how Nale feels about his acolytes. At one point, Lift overhears him giving a dressing-down to his acolytes, noting that he's managed to learn more about their target during a morning stroll than they did for the past week.
- Journey to Chaos: During the events of A Mage's Power, the Black Cloaks criminal gang tries to kidnap Princess Kasile but twice fail in their attempts to do. At that point their leader realizes that he'll have to do it himself because his underlings are useless.
- A heroic example is seen in Dad's Army with Captain Mainwaring's opinion of his men (the joke being that some of them probably feel exactly the same about him). As he states in the episode "Gorilla Warfare"-
- Edmund Blackadder IS this trope, at least from second season onward. Everyone except the title character is either insane, stupid, or both.
- At one point, during a first season episode of MST3K, Joel Robinson, prompted by yet another difficult wrangling of the robots, declares in anger 'I'm surrounded by idiots, of my own design!'
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- Botija feels this way in Chespirito, especially regarding his wife Chimoltrufia and his best friend and criminal accomplice Chompiras, in the case of the latter Botija would normally punish his stupidity with a slap in the face. Should be noticed that of the three, Botija is by far the most intelligent, not only is he shown to know a lot of culture and history, in latter seasons, once they left the life of crime and became law-abiding citizens working in a hotel, Botija is always shown reading. Of course, considering that both Chompiras and Chimoltrufia are dumber than average… It is also explained in-universe that Botija is not from the same poor and humble origins as Chimoltrufia and Chompiras, instead, coming from a high middle class household, which may explain his more cultured persona.
- Chilindrina also feels this way in El Chavo del ocho, especially when she teams up with Chavo and Kiko for mischief and/or she’s trying to trick them. Chilindrina shows a normal intelligence, if not higher than usual for a little girl: she’s not only very astute but also quite clever in the school episodes (her bad grades probable being a consequence of laziness instead). Of course, considering that stupidity is one of the main characteristic of both Chavo and Kiko, it isn’t hard to be portrayed as smarter.
- Star Trek: Voyager. Lonzak, in The Adventures of Captain Proton! holoprogram, is an homage to this trope. His bungling gives Mad Scientist Dr Chaotica a frequent opportunity to emote his famous "FOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLL!" line. Lampshaded also when Janeway (posing as Queen Arachnia) is trying to get Chaotica to lower his Lightning Shield so Captain Proton (Tom Paris) can attack.
Chaotica: [suspicious] Why this preoccupation with the Shield?
Janeway: Oh, forgive me. It's just that, as a fellow ruler of the cosmos, I often have to do things myself.
Chaotica: Ah. Because of the incompetence of your inferiors, no doubt!
Janeway: Something like that.
Chaotica: Oh, Arachnia, my love, my life! How well you understand our plight. If it weren't beneath my dignity, I...I would weep. How I've longed for someone who would understand.
- Seinfeld: Jerry Seinfeld when plot developments start getting out of control, although his default mode is the Unfazed Everyman.
- In the original Disney Zorro TV series, the evil commandant of the pueblo at one point actually said, verbatim, "I'm surrounded by incompetents!"
- Aeryn in Farscape references this when she considers who on board Moya is worth keeping. Running down the list, Crichton eventually gets annoyed enough to suggest she just have the whole ship to herself. Aeryn's response: "Mmm. Is that an offer?" Ironically, when one of the people she believes should have left Moya apparently dies later that episode, she reacts with open horror. Guess she was just in a bad mood.
- King Arthur and Father Blaise in Kaamelott. Every time there's a Round Table recap of "heroics".
- Kamen Rider Dragon Knight: Downplayed. General Xaviax complained about this several times through the story, but his underlings are not actually stupid. They are normal people with their own motivations, goals and Conflict Ball he didn't do much against, so it's only logical that things don't always go the intended way. Unfortunately, he can be an efficient villain even under such conditions.
Xaviax: What moron gave humans free will?!
- Doctor Who:
- The Ogrons, ape-like minions of the Master and the Daleks, are a literal version of this trope. Oddly, that's more of an Informed Ability, as they actually are fairly effective minions, able to hold their own against human soldiers or guerillas as well as draconians.
- In the Eighth Doctor Adventures, Sabbath's minions are an assortment of normal (but seemingly fairly well-trained; they can handle guns) Earth apes. They seem to be about as clever as can be expected, but don't comprehend video cameras and get scared if they hear one producing an imitation of his voice, suggesting he's a bit of a Bad Boss to them.
- Queen Katrika, in Trial of a Time Lord uses this one almost by name while wandering round lost in the underground.
- Harrison Chase from "The Seeds of Doom" declares this twice in one episode.
- The Doctor himself sometimes complains about the human race in this way. Nine often called humans "stupid apes", while Twelve's go-to insult was "pudding-brains".
- In an episode of Babylon 5, Emperor Cartagia comments that while he is infallible, he has to put up with everyone else making mistakes.
- Reba: This is Reba Hart's default expression. (The other one is "I hate your living guts.")
- On The Wire, Stringer Bell increasingly feels like this, which prompts his "40 Degree Day" speech. Even after that, some of his Mooks *still* don't get it. In an interview, Dennis Lehane, who wrote the episode, said he wrote that speech specifically to embody this trope.
- Beautifully lampshaded in Sanctuary after Magnus beats the crap out of a mook, steals his gun, and points it at the boss.
Forsythe: Why? Why do I even hire these guys?
- Much of the comedy of Hogan's Heroes is on how Klink (hardly a smart man in his own right) is constantly moaning of the antics of Schultz and others under his command.
Klink: Schultz, you're the most stupid man in the regiment. And what's worse, you're my top man.
- Tywin Lannister in Game of Thrones is a rare case of a Big Bad who, while unhappy about the situation, is aware of his subordinates' tendency toward idiocy and accepts it as a fact of life. That doesn't stop him from berating them for their incompetence, but he doesn't get angry about it. He also considers his eldest two children to be stupid in their ways.
- He makes it clear when he notices Arya that he considers everyone else in the fortress to be the equivalent of blind cattle in terms of intellect, both for wasting good talent and for not noticing a girl dressed as a boy.
- When Arya has one of his lieutenants assassinated right in front of him, Tywin's brief sigh before calling for the guards seems to be less fear he was the intended target, but more exasperation that he's going to have to find someone to replace this idiot!
- This is actually the reason he treats Arya so well, until he hands her over to Gregor at least. He recognizes her as very intelligent and enjoys having conversations with someone on a strong intellectual level, which is rare for him. The only other subordinate that he considers remotely competent on a mental level is Tyrion.
- In a deleted scene from season 3, Tywin confronts Pycelle on how he knows the man's appearance as a hunched, doddering idiot is all an act, openly asking "am I the only one who sees through this performance? Is it possible so many have been fooled for so long?" Pycelle (speaking in a normal tone) admits even he can't believe it works so well. Knowing that, you can see in season 4 Tywin glancing about when Pycelle is speaking as if asking to himself "Seriously? No one sees this?"
- Power Rangers:
- Lieutenant Stone from the early seasons has the misfortune of having Those Two Guys Bulk and Skull as his subordinates. He can frequently triple the IQ of a room by entering, and he knows it.
- Power Rangers RPM features this with Tenaya 7, The Dragon; while she sometimes acts sassy towards her boss, Knight of Cerebus and evil AI Venjix, it is easy to sympathize with her when she's dealing with the other Co-Dragons. In fact, it's lampshaded when Venjix calls her his most intelligent and reliable servant, and she remarks while looking at the other two that that's not saying much.
- Hell, practically every Power Rangers villain has had to put up with having to conquer the universe with the aid of complete morons. Lothor and Divatox stand quite high on that list.
- In Power Rangers in Space, Astronema calls her Quantrons nincompoops. And she built them.
- House acts this way around his employees, and is this when it comes to his patients — especially the clinic ones.
- On an episode of Batman, Catwoman is exasperated by the mooks working for her, and asks, "Why can't I get good help?"
- In an episode of Charmed, Barbas mumbles this when his mole revealed itself when captured.
- Bassie & Adriaan: The Baron is frequently full of anger because his henchmen keep making the same stupid mistakes over and over, managing to blow stuff up in his face or have Bassie and Adriaan escape.
- This is actually a plot point in The Following: Wannabe Chessmaster Joe Carroll founds his cult of psycho killers to carry out his bidding. The problem is that it's a cult of psycho killers. They're all crazy and murderous, and directing them toward any kind of focused productive activity is next to impossible. The original cult implodes before the end of the first season, and Joe's later attempts to rebuild it keep running into the same problem: Ax-Crazy people just don't play nice together.
- The Good Place: Most of the demons Michael has to work with are morons, insubordinate, or both. It gets to the point where Michael teams up with the people he's been torturing rather than work with the other demons any longer. (Said demons are threatening mutiny, which doesn't help.)
- "I am Surrounded By Incompetence", by You've Got Foetus on Your Breath.
- Wrathchild America's "Surrounded By Idiots". Can be cathartic to hear.
- Mr. Burns sings about his lazy employees to Smithers in '''Look at all those idiots''. The words surrounded by idiots is even in the lyrics.
- A heroic example in presented in The Odyssey; Odysseus' men end up screwing Odysseus over time and time again, doing things like getting trapped on the Island of Lotus Eaters, opening the bag of winds just as they were almost home, and butchering Helios' sacred calves. Sure, it was Odysseus' fault that Poseidon was angry at them, but you'd think his men would know better than to piss off the rest of the pantheon.
- Charles sometimes feels like this in Absolute Power:
Charles: I come in here in the morning, I look at him, I look at you, and I want to open the window and shout "I'm not mad! I'm the warden!"
- Horus Lupercal of Warhammer 40000 expressed this feeling during the infamous Horus Heresy. With his Primarch brethren split evenly between himself and The Emperor, The Emperor got the likes of Sanguinius, Guilliman and Vulkan. Horus? He got the likes of the morose Konrad Curze, the useless in everything but a fight Angron and the duplicitous Alpharius. He often bemoaned his ragtag group of allies.
- Leon, a young man who arrives in a town where everyone is cursed to be stupid, in the play Fools.
- In 1776, John Adams continually laments this about Congress. Near the end, Franklin calls him out on his dismissive attitude and points out that the other Congressmen are accomplished men who have been given the trust and responsibility of their colonies, just like Adams, and deserve respect even if they disagree.
- In Pokémon Live!, Giovanni is this to the point that Jessie and James give him migraines from sheer annoyance.
- Happens quite often in team-based online multiplayer games, especially those that are free-to-play.
- Command & Conquer: Red Alert, in the twelfth Soviet mission, Stalin says the exact same line in response to Nadia and Georgi Kukov questioning his desire to obtain the Allies' Chronosphere.
- Then Stalin assigns you, his only competent minion, to capture the Chronosphere. It's impossible. Literally. The win condition is to save your own hide by executing the plan near flawlessly, only for an unseen, invincible fourth alert tower to activate, automatically failing the stealth mission. Turns out, Kuckov was stupid enough not to notify you when he found it because it went against regulations to speak to a general without hours of bureaucratic permissions. Stalin is so dumbfounded by this stupidity that he breaks Kuckov's neck himself.
- And in the ending, the power players eat each other up with their sheer stupidness erecting from Mother Britain spreading her legs and letting Russia into 10 Downing Street, leaving the intelligent survivors to rule. Specifically, Stalin forgets his paranoia because he's too busy celebrating the communization of Britain, which lets Anya poison him and then shoot him six times. Then she lets loose a rant she clearly has held in for too long, insulting the U.S.S.R., religiously praising the Brotherhood of Nod, and generally flipping the bird on you by assigning you as a Lieutenant General until you are deemed useless in the 1990s and eliminated. Kane, realizing how much brain damage Anya has taken from her deep undercover assignment, shoots her in the back. He turns the gun to you, but explains that you may as well be Comrade Chairman, de facto ruler of Earth, because he's the future anyway.
- In the Jazz Jackrabbit manual comic (which serves as a premise to the game), Jazz learns from a rebel turtle that Devan Shell "has got a huge ego, so he tends to surround himself with morons."
- Your minions in Overlord I are so loyal, they would gladly jump into a giant smelter to fuel the forging of your new equipment. However, they're all complete fools.
- Lazarevic in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves after executing a soldier who stole from him: "I am surrounded by traitors and fools!!
- Cesare Borgia tries to play this card near the end of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, though by that point it's really more like "Surrounded by dead people and one very, very good Assassin."
- Pokémon Platinum: After crafting a beautiful speech about recreating the world for Team Galactic, Galactic Boss Cyrus admits when you confront him that the speech he gave was somewhat of a lie in that the new world would be for him alone, as his minions are not worthy of being in it, telling you that "you yourself must know that they are uniformly useless and incomplete." ("Incomplete" is kind of Cyrus's favorite word.) In fairness, most of the minions you'll have faced, aside from the commanders, really are useless.
- It's actually implied that Cyrus is actively and deliberately keeping his followers uninformed, as they'd leave the moment they learned what he was actually after (and they do in Platinum, and are mentioned in Black and White 2). The sole exceptions are the Commanders, who are either genuinely interested or Charon.
- By the end of Pokemon XD, Big Bad Greevil points out that after he finishes the XD project and makes irredeemable Shadow Pokemon, he would get to work on making Shadow Pokemon that can act independently so he doesn't have to rely on clunky Admins - like the five you beat down on the way to him. That kind of comment, from the man in charge of the most evil organization in Pokemon history, downplays Cyrus and his lies big time.
- Space Colony: you control, or try to control, a series of idiots, slackers, and various personality problems.
- Touhou's Sakuya Izayoi has to clean and guard the entire Scarlet Devil Mansion in spite of having a virtual army of hundreds of guards and maids single-handedly because the other meidos would do more harm than good, and the other guards, including Butt-Monkey Hong Meiling, tend to sleep instead of stand watch. Which is just as well, they're too incompetent to stop the Kleptomaniac Hero Marisa, anyway. Somewhat Flanderized by fanon in Meiling's case: even though she does take the usual siesta, it doesn't interfere with her work in any way. She's actually quite good at dealing with riffraff, a talented gardener and a very good martial artist... none of that particularly useful when trying to stop Plot Armor-infused characters.
- It's also literal - all the other maids are fairies. The most intelligent fairy appears to be Cirno, and considering that she's the ⑨note , that sets the bar very low.
- Reisen gets similar treatment; her boss is an absolute sadist Mad Scientist who experiments on her just to pass the time, none of the underlings she supposedly commands listen to her, Tewi (who they do listen to) is The Trickster who would rather torment her than help her, and the other Earth Rabbits are just as lazy, stupid, and easily distracted as any fairy. Because of these things, she winds up being just a no-good bunny, only useful for her sex-appeal.
- In what appears to be a Shout-Out to Austin Powers, Geartop, a robot, says this when one of his gnome mooks lets the players enter his lair in EverQuest:
Geartop shouts 'Deal with it! Whatever you do, don't open that door. They can't get in unless you open the . . . Idiots. I'm surrounded by fleshy idiots.'
- King K. Rool mutters "I'm surrounded by fools..." in Donkey Kong 64, during a cut scene in which Lanky Kong makes fools out of a couple of Kritters.
- A ganglord Sanchez in Desperados throws a magnificent temper tantrum including this complaint after the heroes steal some horses from his mooks. He even knocks one of his mooks out cold on the spot.
Sanchez: Mierda! Idiota! I can't believe this! You let one, ONE lousy American soldier steal your horses?!
- A quest in World of Warcraft called "A Wolf in Bear's Clothing" had the following intro:
High Warlord Cromush: "These worgen take us for fools! One would think that only an idiot would mistake one of their druids in bear form as a real bear. Unfortunately, there are many idiots here at the Forsaken Front. We've already lost a few battalions to organized worgen bear attacks. Yes, it's even more idiotic than it sounds."
- Bowser, in varying forms of media, suffers from this. While the degrees of stupidity vary, it's quite clear that his evil minions aren't smart enough for his liking.
- There are Self Imposed Challenges in The Sims 2 which involve only directing one sim in a household, leaving the others to act under their own free will and capabilities. The "I'm Surrounded By Idiots" Challenge is one version, while the somewhat better-known Asylum Challenge turns the household into an insufficiently-equipped Bedlam House, with your playable sim forced to Go Among Mad People.
- The Courier from Fallout: New Vegas: Old World Blues is this (providing s/he has an INT higher than 1), with the majority of the people there being clinically braindead, with the beings actually capable of communicating with him being a nymphomaniac robot, his own Jerkass brain, a Large Ham Mad Scientist who cannot control THE VOLUME OF HIS VOICE!, a megalomaniacal toaster, and two bickering lightswitches. The only other sane people are Doctor Mobius, who is addicted to every drug in the game from the stress, and Doctor 8, who can only speak in programming code.
- This tends to be the case with whoever the main character is in Ace Attorney. The most notable example is Miles Edgeworth, who is paired with the ever-bumbling, incompetent Detective Gumshoe.
- Although he never says the phrase outright, this is more or less the mindset of Neku in The World Ends with You. Subverted in that his allies really are competent (their reliability is variable but once in track they are powerhouses), it's just his distrust towards people interfering with teamwork and lowering their (both individual and joint) potential.
- Persona 4 provides a rare heroic example with Naoto Shirogane before she joins the Investigation Team, as she says this gem while her future teammates are Drunk on Milk during a school trip to Iwatodai.
"Are we a pack of imbeciles?"
- Dawn of War: Farseer Taldeer takes this opinion of her Imperial Guard catspaws at the start of Winter Assault, and states to that effect twice. In Dark Crusade, she uses this thinking to justify a direct invasion of Kronus by the Eldar, suggesting that the other factions on the planet don't realise the threat the Necrons pose and wouldn't be able to stop them even if they did. At least in her not-so-humble opinion.
"The Imperials test my patience with their incompetence! Very well, we will deal with the Orks ourselves, but only because time grows short."
- Also, Warboss Gorgutz in Winter Assault, hilariously.
- Another Ork with a brain, Kaptin Bluddflagg, takes a turn in Retribution when he reasons out the location of his main target, and even his smartest minion reacts with a blank look.
- In the "Recall" trailer for Overwatch, Reaper gives this expression when one of the Mooks he brought along to deal with Winston flies through the window of the room he's in and crashes into a table. The kicker? He's able to somehow do this expression while wearing a completely static skull-shaped mask!
- Pagan Min of Far Cry 4 is a Bad Boss who tends to punish failure harshly, but in his defence, his underlings really do make some spectacular screw-ups, most prominently failing to check a prisoner for cell phones. His exasperated response:
"Really, guys? We're not checking for these anymore?"
- During Fuuko's route in CLANNAD, Tomoya's sanity begins to strain as he is forced to spend more time with certain people. Who? Fuuko herself, Sunohara and Nagisa and her family, who are all as strange as Fuuko. Eventually he starts getting to the point where he wants to scream and ask "Why are all you girls (Sunohara is generally excluded from notice) such idiots!" Obviously not a villain, but he almost says the line word for word.
- Several characters in Dangan Ronpa feel this way, and not without reason.
- Byakuya Togami is the most obvious example, as he considers himself to be above the other students in just about every respect. Some, like Hagakure and Yamada, just prove his point.
- In the third game, Kokichi Oma believes his classmates are too focused on turning on each other than defeating the killing game. He's not wrong either, and only succeeds in uniting everyone when they're united against him.
- In If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device, this seems to be Emperor's general attitude towards his subjects, both his servants and common citizens of the Imperium. His sons are no exception and only Sanguinus and Malcador get a pass. To be honest, the Imperium has been showing its stupider side multiple times over the years, and Kitten, with whom the Emperor interacts the most often, is not the sharpest tool in the box either.
- Everyone in Combat Devolved seems to think this about their teammates.
- The Most Popular Girls in School: Mackenzie Zales, whether it be with her Cheer Squad containing two dimwits and a mentally unstable bitchy Tsundere, or with Team USA's antics in Season 5. In this fanart, she even says the trope name word-for-word.
- Torchwick frequently shows disappointment at his underlings' performance. To be fair, the guys that he hires them from also show the same disappointment.
- In a-non villainous example in the same series, Weiss Schnee has this attitude towards Ruby and just about any student who isn't Pyrrha.
- Red vs. Blue Church in seasons 1-5 definitely feels superior to everyone else whether they're red or blue. In season 11 this gets passed over to the new leader of the blues, Agent Washington.
- Wacky Game Jokez, 4 Kidz! has Mickey the Dick, who clearly has this view towards the ditzy June and the bubbling nerd Eric.
- Skeletor's plight is parodied in the web animation Bo-Starr and the Masters of Galastrom (link):
Skullduggen: You talk big, Bo-Starr, but you're no match for my legion of Invincible Deathbots!
[cue evil synth chords]
Skullduggen: ...which I'm not going to be using. Go and get them, Grass-man!
- Sam & Mickey: Deborah.
Deborah: (to Barbie and Ken) How many cooking shows do we have to cancel because you keep getting drunk and making fools of yourselves on air?
- 8-Bit Theater here:
Black Mage: Well, at least I shall die as I have lived. Completely surrounded by morons.
Black Mage: What a horrible dream. There was this idiot and these two other idiots. We kept running into idiots. So horrible.
- And when he dies and ends up in Hell, Black Mage initially thinks he's dreamed the entire (mis)adventure to date:
- Black Mage's homicidal impulses seem directly linked to how many stupid things are said in his vicinity at any given point in time. For example, if three people are having a conversation which defies the laws of logic, he will probably snap and stab anything and everything in arm's reach. If his sanity is finally broken by said stupidity, he'll just nuke everything in a five mile radius with a hadoken.
- Darths & Droids here:
Anakin: So, what are you up to?
Grievous: My armpits in incompetence!
- Demonade gives a female main character with two not so bright "Body Guards" who apparently let the inept thief go free because he got them to point out how their jobs sucked so bad they weren't paying attention, while there employer shows some measure of Genre Savvy and she actually utters the trope over three panels to emphasize how much she doesn't like her hired help.
- A variation seen in Girl Genius:
- As Gil puts it:
Gilgamesh: If I let everyone I thought was an idiot die, there wouldn't be many people left.
- His father, Baron Wulfenbach, often has the same reaction to people around him.
Klaus: I swear, it's like running a kindergarten.
- Gilgamesh eventually reaches the point where he realizes this explains a LOT of the Baron's behavior.
- At least two of the Jager generals display this attitude about their followers as well.
- As Gil puts it:
- How I Killed Your Master: Master Fei chooses the insult 'oafs' but otherwise done precisely.
- Da Chief from the Cliffport Arc in The Order of the Stick is definitely surrounded by idiots.
- Pretty much any villainous organization in Sluggy Freelance has this problem. Of course, in the Sluggy Freelance multiverse, there aren't many non-idiots to choose from.
- Silas Morth from Exterminatus Now deliberately invokes this, since he plans to sacrifice his minions in exchange for power.
- Captain Locke from Ozy and Millie has a pirate crew that makes it seem more like he's running a daycare. Justified in that everyone in the alternate universe he hails from has Merlin Sickness.
- Zebra Girl: Sandra's minions aren't exactly bright. They seem to mean well, but they frequently go above and beyond what she expects of them, resulting in them almost killing Crystal and knocking Sam unconscious. Sandra's feelings about them include annoyance, disbelief, anger and barely contained fury. She even goes as far as saying that she would have killed some of them on the spot if her combustion power actually worked on them.
- Villain Carla Brunelle from Flander's Company is a Magnificent Bitch and a Dragon-in-Chief who is an actual treat in season 2. Starting with season 3, however, her boss is killed, and the only remaining competent member of her team is Badass Bookworm Nadège; the three others consist in a bunch of morons with horrible sense of fashion, with only one of them possessing actual (but lame) powers and fighting skills.
- Sasha Hunter in Greek Ninja feels that she is (and is right on a few circumstances).
- Justified in Sailor Nothing: Dark General Cobalt's 'henchmen' (with one exception) are heartless made from the darkest impulses of the human mind (emphasis on "impulse") and are incapable of subtlety, organization, or planning. Or anything that doesn't immediately lead to satisfying those desires, really. And Cobalt isn't aware that the only reason he's capable of it is because of magical help. Things really don't improve for him in the epilogue, even though he's gone on to command real humans in the normal world.
- Early in Le Donjon de Naheulbeuk, the Enchantress lampshades this trope about her group. Right after she ended up detecting her own group with a detection spell.
The Enchantress: One is surrounded by incompetents!
The Dwarf: Wanna talk about your magic again?
- Agamemnon Tiberius Vacuum's mooks are all lovable dimwits. Especially Belvedere.
- This is one of Henri the cat's laments in Henri 2, Paw de Deux: "The white idiot writhes on his chair, begging for cheeseburgers... I'm surrounded by morons."
- While the Real Life Hitler is considered to be an inversion of this trope, the Downfall parodies Hitler is played straight. Hitler's staff is mostly made up of idiots who have such incredibly useful skills as pointing at maps, providing Hitler with useless information, getting drunk, objecting to all of his plans, and ranting. Naturally it's often because of them that Hitler's schemes always backfire. It also doesn't help that most of the people who are slightly more competent are constantly targeting him for their own gain.
- Whateley Universe: lampshaded by She-Beast during her confrontation with the Anti-Champion:
Yes, I know, I know, it’s MY fault, I hired them… bargain basement villains, hired at the last minute SO, this is why some supervillains are always screaming about being surrounded by incompetents.
- In Noob, the guild of Gaea Admirers probably wouldn't have even existed if its members hadn't been a bunch of idiots. They want to assist Gaea, who is playing in an enemy faction, because they are convinced that she's a Double Agent loyal to their own side. In reality, the events that made them come up with the Double Agent scenario are actually a Not Me This Time Frame-Up in which their own faction's top guild has a hand; this isn't even kept as a secret at least in the comic version of the story. An episode of the webseries also hints that Gaea's Manipulative Bastard tendencies have an Everyone Knew Already status to most players and that the members of the guild of Gaea Admirers are the only ones acting as if whatever they see her do should be kept secret. To top things off, they are also quite incompetent as helpers.
- The Odd One utters this every time his teammates acted incompetent or didn’t go along with his plan. Since he plays Solo queue, this happens so often, it’s almost his catch phrase.
- In SpongeBob SquarePants, Squidward always says, "Why am I surrounded by idiots?"
SpongeBob: [imitating Squidward] Everybody's an idiot except me.
Squidward: Well, it's true!
- In Pinky and the Brain, one is a genius, the other is, well... Pinky. They never specify which one is the genius or the insane one. Still, one is drawing complicated mathematical equations on a chalkboard, and at the same time, the other one is dancing around with his tongue hanging out and is tied up in his own arms... do they really need to specify which one? Considering what happened when The Brain enhanced Pinky's intelligence, it might not hurt. Especially if you've seen the episode where The Brain actually lets Pinky attempt it on his own (the "Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?" bit) and it WORKS until The Brain screws it up. On the other hand, we humans aren't shown as exceptionally bright either. With a few exceptions, folks are perfectly willing to accept the word of a talking mouse in an obvious disguise.
- The Simpsons:
- Mr. Burns, as stated in an Image Song produced during the 1990s:
Look at all those idiots! Look at all those boobs! An office full of morons, a factory full of fools!
- And in another episode:
Jackanapes! Lolligaggers! NOODLEHEADS!
- Frank Grimes. The whole premise of his episode is watching a normal person try to cope in Springfield. Eventually, his frustration overwhelms him and he gets himself killed.
- Lisa Simpson shows signs of this. Hell, she actually once voiced that she lives in a town of idiots in an issue of the comic.
- Mr. Burns, as stated in an Image Song produced during the 1990s:
- Prime Evil, from Filmation's Ghostbusters. (However, his henchmen did prove themselves to be capable on rare occasions.)
- Megatron of the original Transformers has nothing but bad things to say about Starscream's intelligence, bravery, and trustworthiness... but continually places him in a position of authority and trusts him with pivotal missions.
- In the G1 cartoon episode Auto Berserk, Megatron actually makes a rare pop culture reference by perfectly quoting Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, screaming out in the middle of battle "I've got MORONS on my team!".
- In Transformers Animated with have this little gem from Megatron when Lugnut and Shockwave are brawling over who's the more loyal minion after some prodding from Starscream.
Megatron: [facepalm] Oh for spark's sake.
- Lurky, bumbling henchman of Murky in Rainbow Brite, is not only clumsy and stupid but actually ''good''... he loves colors and happiness and everything Murky hates, yet he continues to obey Murky and Murky continues to employ him.
- The Monarch of The Venture Bros.: "I hate it that you two are my best men!"
- In He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983), Skeletor was fond of going off on tirades against the intelligence of his many henchmen, calling them lamebrains and numbskulls several times an episode. Not that he was particularly bright himself. Maybe it was just a bad pun.
Skeletor: I have to be brilliant, just to make up for them!
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: After Azula's captain completely ruins her attempt to capture her brother, the princess wisely trades in her Redshirt Army for a Quirky Miniboss Squad Power Trio. Played with in the season 2 finale, in which Azula's disguised sidekicks blab that they are Fire Nation. As it turns out, she had staged the situation; the Dai Li overhearing is key to their take over. Turns out she was better off with the redshirts — her Quirky Miniboss Squad has consciences, and when they storm out on her she loses a lot of SAN points.
- The Legend of Korra:
- The sequel series has a notable moment when Amon's mooks fail to capture Korra, who has already been kidnapped and locked in a metal box by Tarrlok, but still manages to trick them into opening the box and letting her escape. Amon, having just warned them not to underestimate her, is not amused.
- The Earth Queen in Book 3 takes a leaf out of Scar's book by saying this exact quote while ordering her servants around.
- G.I. Joe: Cobra Commander has never been very appreciative of his employees (not that his own battle plans were worthy of Sun Tzu either.).:
Cobra Commander: Idiots! I'm surrounded by incompetent IDIOTS!!
Cobra Commander: Morons! I have Morons on my payroll!
Cobra Commander: Why are great men always surrounded by lesser beings?!
Cobra Commander: I shall be waiting to reward your genius, or to have you beheaded for terminal stupidity! I have spoken.
- Ganon's minions in The Legend of Zelda definitely fit this description. In one episode when they got sick of his abusive management style, they actually managed to overthrow him and tried to take matters into their own hands, leading to an extremely ill-conceived and self-defeating assault on Zelda's castle. That episode may very well have been the closest Link and Zelda ever came to taking Ganon's Triforce of Power for themselves. (Of course, since succeeding at that would pretty much have been the end of the show, they managed to fumble their own expedition as well.) The main reason he keeps these losers around at all appears to be that since they always regenerate, he's basically got an infinite supply. Ironically, it was the final episode aired.
- In Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog Robotnik reaffirmed the lack of intelligence possessed by Scratch and Grounder in pretty much every episode. However they're typically his first choice to send after Sonic, and he often trusts them with important inventions he created. This was lampshaded in the episode "Spaceman Sonic" in which Sonic states that Robotnik will figure it cheaper to put Scratch and Grounder back together than to build new robots.
- In the episode "Robotnik's Rival", he claimed that this was a plan to ensure that they never betrayed him. Given that he was gloating over the eponymous rival who had just been backstabbed by his own super-competent henchbot, (and given that it's Robotnik) this was doubtless an Ass Pull.
- From the episode "Blackbot the Pirate": "I'm surrounded by defective circuitry!"
- From "Robolympics": "I'm surrounded by a bunch of burnt-out circuits!"
- Another rare heroic example: In DuckTales (1987), Scrooge McDuck is preparing to retrieve his vast fortune from the Marinaras Trench. He sees Doofus, Launchpad, and Gyro Gearloose, the crew that will help him, trip each other up and fall all over the place. And so, Scrooge can't help but exclaim in exasperation, "MORONS! I've got MORONS on my team!!"
- Similarly, on DuckTales (2017), Scrooge asks Launchpad if he can even pilot a submarine (he asks this AS Launchpad is at the controls and presumably has been for some time already). Launchpad replies that he once crashed a helicopter into a wading pool, to which Scrooge dejectedly replies "I've done more with less..."
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:
Shredder: Oh, how I've longed for an ally such as this! So unlike the snivelling idiots that I've been forced to suffer!
- Shredder, Arch-Enemy of the Ninja Turtles, would often lament "Why am I surrounded by such brainless morons?". Shredder once actually took the stupidity of his henchmen in stride. After inventing a new robotic weapon, he told Rocksteady and Bebop that he named it after them. He called it "The Knucklehead".
- In Turtles Forever, he watches footage of the 2003 Shredder:
Krang: I'm right here, I CAN HEAR YOU!
- Krang isn't particularly appreciative of Shredder's mental prowess either: "Morons! I'm surrounded by morons."
- Krabo/Draffsack of Insektors uses this excuse when the Yuks/Kruds plans fail. The thing is, he's actually right.
- In Donkey Kong Country, K.Rool would bemoan his henchmen being, in his words, 'Home-spun idiots'.
K.Rool: It's at times like this I find that I must ask myself again and again: "Do I really want the Crystal Coconut this badly?"
Klump: Stop, you moronic, robotic Kritters! STOP!!
- Kranky Kong was also a heroic version, with his attitude towards Donkey and Diddy.
- In "Barrel, Barrel, Who's Got the Barrel?" has Klump being the Only Sane Man when his Kritter troops begin firing their guns at the slightest provocation.
Kritter 1: Did he stop?
Kritter 2: I thought he said fire!
Klump: When I said fire, I didn't mean, "Fire!" (Kritters begin firing their guns in the air again.) Oh, what's the use?
- Junkman's henchmen in The Incredible Crash Dummies, although it is his fault (he built them from scrap).
- Megabyte in ReBoot, and how! He's the most brilliant mind in Mainframe, and by rights should be routinely walking over Bob...but all his minions are Dumb Muscle With An F In Evil.
- Played hilariously straight when the plot makes them heroic sidekicks instead of evil henchmen.
- There was also the episode where Enzo accidentally made everyone (but himself) into dimwits.
- In one late episode of Gargoyles, Xanatos's robot Coyote screws up. Xanatos sighs and, sounding more resigned than anything, says "It's so hard to build good help these days."
- After a failed attempt to teach the other kids of the cul-de-sac after various demonstrations of them being Too Dumb to Live, a lamenting Edd of Ed, Edd n Eddy says this verbatim.
- He also says this in another episode, "O-Ed Eleven".
- Teen Titans:
- Raven no doubt.
- In "Lightspeed", Jinx remarks "I don't know why I hang around with you nitwits." By the end of the episode, she's done hanging around with those nitwits.
- Phaeton in Exo Squad is constantly berating his generals for their incompetence. Even when they're right. ESPECIALLY when they're right.
- In The Fairly OddParents! "Wishology" trilogy, The Lead Eliminator is noticeably more competent than his comrades.
- Kim Possible:
- Duke Igthorn on Adventures of the Gummi Bears probably would've have been more successful in conquering Dunwyn if his ogre minions (well, except for Toadwart) didn't have the intelligence of mayonnaise.
- More than once on Sheep in the Big City, when General Specific's army men turn incompetent, he expresses; "I'm surrounded by buffoons!" Then, the camera pans out to show actual madmen out of nowhere, encircling him and bumbling incoherently in propeller hats and diapers.
- Aku complained about this more than once in Samurai Jack (and the majority of his minions being mindless robots didn't tend to help). That Jack was able to turn his robots to junk with such ease was the biggest reason he tried to face him mano-a-mano in "Jack Versus Aku". Of course, in that episode, the breaking point for him was a pretty big Epic Fail, when he sent a whole army of robots after Jack, and then one of them tripped, causing all of them to fall over like dominoes, destroying the entire army. Jack never did a thing. You can't blame Aku for wanting to rethink his plans after something like that.
- On The Hair Bear Bunch, whenever Mr. Peevly wasn't annoyed by the antics of the bears, he was frustrated by the incompetence of his oafish assistant, Botch.
- Limburger from Biker Mice from Mars. Especially when it comes to The Dragon, Greasepit.
- Scarecrow has a pair of oft-insulted henchmen who "never liked school" and are impressed to find they're working for an (ex)professor in his introductory episode of Batman: The Animated Series.
- Fung's bandit gang in Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness. It's even more frustrating considering that Fung had given themselves a year to be successful in the trade; now it's month 11 and the crocs are definitely still stumblebums.
- Derek Powers in Batman Beyond is a living radiation generator. His doctors, picking him up from a frozen-over lake, have brought him a blanket in case he's cold. Powers just glares angrily and states "You are idiots."
- Dib from Invader Zim.
Dib: "Okay, am I the only one who sees the alien sitting in class?"
Dib: Don't you care that ZIM is trying to destroy all mankind? Huh?Gaz: But he's so bad at it.
- At least Dib still has some hope for humanity. His sister, Gaz, on the other hand sees everyone around her as idiots. Like Dib, she knows Zim is an alien. But unlike him, she finds it stupid to even care.
- The Sheriff of N.O.T.T. from Rocket Robin Hood shouts a variant of this tropes when insulting his Guards for failing to keep Rocket Robin Hood and Little John in a pit. The exact speech:
- Sheriff: IMBECILES! BUFFOONS! COWARDS! I'm surrounded by cowards! I asked you to guard twoooo prisoners! Just - TWOOOOO! PRISONERS! I EVEN PUT THEM 10 FEET UNDERGROUND IN A STEEL VAULT TO MAKE IT EASIER FOR YOU! (Then, he calms down somewhat) And, what happens?
- The intro song to Daria has the repeated lyric, "You're standing on my neck," alluding to the title character feeling this way about her peers; their presence is so smothering that she can't function normally.
- Storm Hawks: With the exception of the Dark Ace, this is Master Cyclonis's situation. No wonder the Storm Hawks always win.
- Similar situations are the case for The Storm Hawks, the Raptors, and heavily implied for every other group in the series.
- My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: Twilight Sparkle feels this way after she visits Ponyville for the first time ("All the ponies in this town are CRAZY!"). She gets better though.
- Los Trotamúsicos: The archnemesis of the series, Chef, usually blames his henchmen for all their failings.
- Dr. Phibes' henchmen on Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get a Clue!. With villains like these, who needs heroes?
- The Owl in The Owl & Co, which often leads to the Owl suffering mishaps.
- Helga Pataki or Grandpa Phil of Hey Arnold! often respond to idiocy by using a shortened version of "I'm surrounded by idiots" by saying "I'm surrounded."
- On Dora the Explorer in Dora's Fairytale Adventure, the witch is this. While she's a case of Vile Villain, Saccharine Show, her minions don't seem to be capable of doing anything quite right and at one point actually get so caught up in one of Dora's accomplishments on her path to becoming a true princess that they cheer for her.
- House of Mouse has Practical Pig and Miss Turtle. They often give the people around them a nasty look on their faces because they feel this way.
- Despite being stupid, Penny from The Mighty B! feels this way. Especially when she bullies Bessie. She thinks she's the Only Sane Man at the Honey Bee Academy even to her true friends, Portia and Gwen.
- Mildred from Scaredy Squirrel is the only sane character on the show and doesn't want to contribute into the insanity created by dimwitted protagonist Scaredy or criminally insane Nester.
- In one episode of James Bond Jr., Dr. No orders his men to kidnap Major Boothroyd, aka Q. Unfortunately for him, they kidnap Horace Boothroyd, aka I.Q., Boothroyd's grandson! When his lieutenant points out that I.Q. answered the fake phone call, Dr. No says, "I'm surrounded by incompetents!" It is certainly funny!
- This is how Momo feels about his minions the Blup Blups, as he often says so in most episodes of Star Street: The Adventures of the Star Kids.
- Dr. Gangreen in Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! constantly mentions the stupidity of his minions, especially in reference to his main minion Igor. Zoltan and his band of tomatoes are more competent, but still manage to enrage him.
- King Max feels the same about his minions Sheky the Jester and his two dogs in The Biskitts.
- Mother Brain always mentions her minions' stupidity in most episodes of Captain N: The Game Master.
- In Kidd Video Master Blaster is constantly insulting his henchcats the Copycats with derogatory terms both related to their lack of intelligence and/or furry nature, and he’s also constantly treaten them with horrible tortures.
- Mr. Cat from Kaeloo. The closest thing he has around him to a remotely intelligent life form is the Ditzy Genius Quack Quack, and in fact he's suffering from a ridiculous amount of stress due to the people around him.
- In Lego Elves, the Goblin King is constantly frustrated by his incompetent goblin mooks.
- In one episode of Camp Lazlo, Edward writes his own holiday on the calendar, Edward Day, to get the campers to worship him, but everyone assumes that the point of the holiday is to act like him all day. Raj does an impression of him and says this verbatim.
- Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines: In "Fly-By-Knights," Dick Dastardly bemoans "What's a nice guy like me doing in a goof-up squadron like this?"
- The Bonkers episode "The 29th Page" had Al Vermin quip about having to give his goons dumbbells for Christmas when they're having trouble opening a safe, then retracting his statement after deciding that he doesn't want any more dummies working for him.
- Most popular depictions of Adolf Hitler during Villainous Breakdown mode during the last part of World War II involve him raving about being surrounded by traitors and fools. Whether any of this was right is another trope entirely, but most historians conclude that Hitler was losing his mind and his cohorts were busily trying to salvage their own skins. He was never a military genius and the maneuvers he insisted on helped lose the war faster, as well as costing him the loyalty of his former cohorts.
- Apparently, Julian Assange feels this way about his organization, which he more or less maintains total control over and runs from the top down. Telling quote:
In an encrypted online chat, a transcript of which was passed to The Times, Mr. Assange was dismissive of his colleagues. He described them as "a confederacy of fools," and asked his interlocutor, "Am I dealing with a complete retard?"
- Several studies has shown that intelligent people tend to underestimate their intelligence and unskilled people overestimate theirs: the Dunning–Kruger effect. So stupid people will tend to think that they are surrounded by idiots. This is especially true if they're poor communicators and prone to using Buffy Speak or otherwise fail to use the correct words when giving instructions or describing something.
- This was actual advice given to Ivan the Terrible. "How do I make my seat of power stand firm?" — "Do not keep anyone around who's smarter than you." Quite a few tyrants throughout history did likewise.
- The non-fiction The Dictator's Handbook by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith details the mechanisms by why this is so often justified in real life. For a leader in charge of a small-coalition organization (that is the leader only needs to rely on a relatively small number of people to keep themselves in power over a much large group of people, as in a dictatorship) loyalty to the leader is the most important criteria by which underlings are kept on and rewarded, since underlings have the capacity to undermine and even depose the leader should they feel the need and opportunity to do so. This takes even higher priority than competence: an incompetent but loyal underling can be trusted by the leader far more to keep them in power than a competent underling who's loyalty to the leader is uncertain. Competence and loyalty together are best, but ultimately loyalty is more important than competence.