Follow TV Tropes


Too Clever by Half

Go To

"A stupid person can make only certain, limited types of errors; the mistakes open to a clever fellow are far broader. But to the one who knows how smart he is compared to everyone else, the possibilities for true idiocy are boundless."
Vlad Taltos, Iorich

You can't tell a man who knows.

This is a character archetype. These characters:

  • Are extremely smart and/or good at whatever it is they do.
  • Know it, and are probably pretty arrogant (in fact, they tend to think they're even better than they are).
  • Advertisement:
  • As a result, are continually driven to go farther. Usually they succeed (remember, they're really good), but their failures are spectacular.
  • Often suffer some impediment, or endure some prejudice, to the point where being dramatically and demonstrably more awesome than everyone else in their field is a necessity if they're going to be seen as a success at all.

Usually these characters are protagonists (though generally not The Hero); they're often the Foil to Too Dumb to Fool. If they have Blue Blood, they could be Gentleman Snarkers. The Smug Super, Insufferable Genius, or Mad Scientist frequently acts like this. When they are antagonists, their cleverness serves them well at the beginning of the story, but their belief in their own intellectual superiority over the protagonists will always trip them up at the end. If the character isn't even that good, but acts like this trope applies to them, you might have a Miles Gloriosus or Know-Nothing Know-It-All on your hands.


An unwillingness to heed the advice of others is a big part of this. After all, if you're convinced everyone else is dumber than you, then how could they understand things that you don't?

These characters are especially susceptible to the Kansas City Shuffle, a deception that relies on the targets' overestimation of their own cleverness.


    open/close all folders 

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes can be very thoughtful, imaginative, and philosophical. Unfortunately, he's also a Small Name, Big Ego whose plans frequently go haywire. His creations like his duplicates and snow goons have a nasty habit of turning on him, he's regularly outsmarted by Hobbes and Susie in his efforts to prank them, and his schemes constantly backfire (e.g. by getting himself completely stuck when he has Hobbes tie him to a chair so he can be an escape artist). Like Jason Fox, he's a little kid without much life experience.
  • Jason from FoxTrot is incredibly intelligent, excels in school, and is an overall technical wizard. But he frequently does incredibly stupid things, potentially getting himself hurt or in trouble in the process due to being a ten-year-old boy with little life experience.
  • Knights of the Dinner Table: Brian Vanhoose has a streak of this. He's able to pull off a lot of brilliance, but he always pushes it too far and eventually his plans come tumbling down.
    • Bob got his own turn at this in a Cattlepunk game. Bob somehow got his hands on a copy of the rulebook with lots of loopholes written in. Unfortunately, he not only badly overplayed his hand, he had the bad luck of the GM at the time being Brian, the book's original owner.
  • Linus seems to have this trait in Peanuts. He often explains things using scientific facts and theories (most of which are true), quotes philosophers and the Bible, and often compares simple things to famous works of art. On the other hand, there are times when he acts naive or downright foolish; his well-known belief in the Great Pumpkin is mocked by most of the other characters except for Sally (because she likes him, though even she kinda finds the idea silly herself), Charlie Brown (who tries his best to be supportive, though even he voices his doubts), Peppermint Patty (who admits herself that she is kinda dumb) and on occasions, Snoopy.

    Films — Animation 
  • A Bug's Life: Hopper is cognizant of the fact that the if the ants ever realized they have superior numbers they could easily fight off the grasshoppers. Unfortunately for Hopper, he greatly overestimates the ability of his stick-before-the-carrot approach to keeping them in line. Flik's Rousing Speech combined with the knowledge that Hopper planned on killing the Queen results in the ants finally standing up to the grasshoppers.
  • Megamind. Megamind's intelligence is hyper-advanced compared to Earth standards, he's a genius inventor, and his hobby is creating grandiose revenge schemes against the kid who bullied him in elementary school. Worth mentioning that these schemes don't just fail, they fail completely... Until one day one didn't, setting the plot in motion. Metro Man made it seem like Megamind succeeded in killing him, so he could retire. His absence leads Megamind to create Titan, who uses his powers for his own personal gain.
  • In Superman: Doomsday, Lex Luthor's plan to create and control a clone of Superman is sound in theory but fails in practice because of how badly he overestimates the intelligence gap in his own favor. Ignoring his practice of locking the two of them in a red sun-lamp room and beating the crap out of the clone with a pair of Kryptonite-lined gauntlets, he does at least go to the extent of putting a lead capsule full of Kryptonite in the clone's brain as a lethal take-down. Except the clone gets suspicious of Luthor, and promptly uses a combination of a mirror, his X-Ray Vision to check his brain, and then heat vision to perform some impromptu brain surgery on himself. Likewise, when cornered by the angry clone, Luthor's best plan is to try and lure him into the room where he used to torture the clone... which fails because the clone doesn't take the bait; instead he locks Luthor in the chamber, and then rips the whole vault out of the building before dropping it onto the street. Luthor survives the fall through sheer luck.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Mark Whitacre, the title character of The Informant!, is an accomplished scientist who speaks several languages and sorely overestimates his own prowess when he gets between his company's corrupt leadership and an FBI probe. Not only that, but it turns out he's been embezzling millions from the company and spinning outrageous lies to make himself look good, both in the company and in his personal life. Not that he isn't brilliant (he earns two PhDs while in prison), but he's determined to succeed big and when that fails, he fails big.
  • Katharine Parker in Working Girl, a high-ranking businesswoman that speaks fluent German and views herself as a trailblazer for women in the business world, with a giant head to match. When it's discovered that she stole a brilliant idea from her equally intelligent secretary, she's promptly (and satisfyingly) fired and disgraced.
  • Detective Kujan from The Usual Suspects condescendingly tells Verbal Kint, the prisoner he is interrogating, that Kujan is smarter than him, that Verbal is stupid, a cripple, weaker than the criminals he associated with, and that Verbal will not be free until he will tell Kujan exactly what he wants to know. And then The Ending Changes Everything; Verbal was Obfuscating Stupidity all along, subtly leading Kujan to focus on his story, fabricated from random objects around the interrogation room, instead of suspicions on Verbal himself.
  • Mister Miyagi in The Karate Kid is less arrogant than most examples of this trope. However, he still seems unable to resist opportunities to be clever, even when it goes counter to his goals. His Wax On, Wax Off teaching regimen in the first movie (or rather, his refusal to explain it) almost drove his student away. His impromptu bet at the bar in the second movie may have paid for Daniel's college, but also humiliated the man he was trying to talk out of a duel to the death with him. His "sweep" joke in the third movie drove Daniel straight into the arms of the Evil Mentor when he needed support.
  • This is the basic accusation leveled at the showrunners and scientists of Jurassic Park: they were so eager to actually clone and revive the extinct dinosaurs that they didn't stop to consider if this was in any way a good idea. It wasn't.
    Ian Malcolm: Your scientists were preoccupied with whether or not they could, that they didn't stop to think if they should.
  • Loki tends to follow a pattern in Thor and The Avengers: he'll devise a clever plan, successfully manipulate everybody, have them where he wants them...and then he'll Kick the Dog, giving the heroes the motivation they need to bring him down, while his gloating lets them figure out exactly what he's up to. He wised up in Thor: The Dark World, where his apparent schemes were really giving Thor the chance to save the day, while actually setting up his successful scheme of faking his death and take Odin's place without anyone suspecting a thing. Loki then fell to old habits by Thor: Ragnarok, putting on an egotistical play which causes Thor to immediately figure what's going on.
  • Ex Machina:
    • Nathan's undoing is his pride. He needed to construct a scenario in which Ava would deceive and use Caleb to facilitate her escape, thus proving her sapience. His failing is that someone clever enough to be capable of assisting her, would also be clever enough to outwit him, and thus all his machinations fall apart because Caleb caught on to the game and played into it, which Nathan didn't figure out until it was too late.
    • This also applies to Caleb, when he rightly guessed that Nathan was still able to observe him and Ava when the power outrages occurred, and put his plan to free Ava into motion before Nathan realized it was too late. What he didn't count on was Ava betraying him and leaving him locked up in the monitoring room. Meaning, while he saw through Nathan's gambit, he still fell for the Damsel in Distress act that Ava was doing after all, though his feelings for her could be blamed for him trusting her, as love is known to cloud sound judgement.
  • The Hunger Games: Foxface dies because, lacking the know-how to forage food from the forest for herself, she relies on stealth to observe and steal from other Tributes - meaning that she doesn't recognize nightlock berries and, assuming them to be safe because Peeta collected them, inadvertently poisons herself with them.
    • While this is true for the book, an early shot during the training sequence indicates that Foxface actually had a higher knowledge of the flora in the area than the other tributes. In fact, the addition of this shot carries the implication that she committed suicide rather than dying at the hands of, or killing, the other tributes. The fact that the Nightlock berries were out in the open had to have set off some warning bells as well, if she were clever enough to avoid the other tributes without being detected after all this time.
  • The Godfather has an interesting discussion concerning this between recently ascended Don Michael and one of his few genuinely trusted supporters about who of his Caporegimes is most likely to betray him to the older, more experienced, and apparently more powerful Dons. They agree that betraying him is the smart thing to do and therefore they single out Capo Salvatore Tessio as the most likely turn-coat as he is smarter than Capo Peter Clemenza. What remains unspoken, however, is that he is still not smart enough to realise that Michael anticipates this, is planning the demise of his enemies as well, and will immediately recognise his treachery.

  • Pete Carroll, NFL coach of the Seattle Seahawks. Since he'd taken over as coach, he built himself a reputation of being a clever coach known to call unexpected plays that resulted in epic wins. This popular coaching style made him popular within the NFL and among football fans. His credibility was cemented when he led the Seahawks to their first Super Bowl win in franchise history in the 2013-2014 season against the Denver Broncos and their record-breaking offense. He was able to lead his team back to the Super Bowl for the 2014-2015 season. Until the final twenty seconds of the fourth quarter, Pete Carroll called an excellent game, and even though their opponent, the New England Patriots, took the lead by 4 points, the Seahawks were able to drive down to the Patriots one-yard line. Instead of making the logical choice of giving the ball to Marshawn "Beast Mode" Lynch, one of the NFL's top running backs, who, during the game, ran over 100 yards and got a touchdown, he calls for his quarterback, Russell Wilson, to throw the ball into the end zone. The ball gets intercepted and the Patriots win their fourth Super Bowl during the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady era, and thus instead of being the coach that won back-to-back Super Bowls for his team (and that would've been pulled off against a coach who has done this before), Pete Carroll is now seen as the coach who made the dumbest call in NFL history.
    • The Seahawks had three downs available once they got the ball to the one-yard line, but arguably not enough time to call three running plays (incomplete passes take less time off the clock than runs stopped in the field of play) and so, it is argued, it was necessary for Seattle to call a pass rather than a run. The Seahawks could have stopped the clock with a minute remaining by using their final timeout; instead, they let the clock run, apparently believing they could force the Patriots to burn one of their own timeouts, to keep time on the clock for a potential comeback after a Seattle score. Instead Belichick let the clock run, seeing that if he did not call timeout the Seahawks would fail to call one themselves, would fail to substitute in a power running package, and might instead call be induced to call a passing play. The play that Carroll settled on called for one Seahawks receiver to rub off his teammate's defender, leaving his teammate open, but the Patriot defenders were able to anticipate the trick the Seahawks would pull from pregame prep and set themselves up for an improbable interception. A dumb strategy of immediately calling timeout, subbing in a power running package, and then just running the ball up the middle repeatedly until time expired (or until scoring a touchdown) would likely have won the day.
  • Kellen Moore and Dak Prescott were the Offensive Coordinator/Starting Quarterback combination of the 2021 Dallas Cowboys that led the team to easily winning the NFC East and clinching the 3rd Seed in the conference. Kellen Moore was often stated to be one of the hottest potential Head Coaching candidates coming out of that year and Dak Prescott had just been paid a boatload of money to be the franchise QB of the team. The scenario is the Wild Card game against the San Francisco 49ers. The Cowboys are down 6 with 14 seconds to go and no timeouts at the San Francisco 40 yard line. They need a Touchdown to tie or win the game (depending on a missed Extra Point). The normal strategy in this case would be to try and throw a quick "Out" or "Corner" Pattern to a Wide Receiver, who will break towards the sideline in the hopes of getting more yardage and running out of bounds to stop the clock. The 49ers, understanding this, choose to put the entire secondary on the edges, allowing Dallas to do whatever they desired up the middle (though not in the endzone) but have no chance to get out of bounds to stop the clock. This left Dallas in a bind. They could take two "Hail Mary" attempts, but the chances of them succeeding are less than completing Dark Souls without dying. They could try a quick pass but the chances of them completing the play and lining up to "spike the ball" (intentionally snapping the ball and throwing it into the ground forward for an incomplete pass to stop the clock) are basically zero.
    • This is where the trope comes into play. The Cowboys actually come up with a pretty ingenious idea. Have Prescott run a "Quarterback Draw" where he drops back as if to throw, and then takes off running. The goal is to just get some extra yardage to make the final play manageable and not a Hail Mary in design, greatly increasing their chances of success. The cleverness here is that the reason a passing play to pick up the yardage won't work is because the Offensive Linemen blocking for the QB cannot move forward until the ball is thrown, and you cannot spike the ball unless all 11 players on offense are lined up properly so the timing hinges on the Offensive Linemen getting down field in time. On a Run Play however the Offensive Linemen can move forward immediately after the ball is snapped so they can effectively run with Prescott (while blocking for him of course) and get to the new line of scrimmage faster. Still following? So the goal is to get a bunch of yards, and have the entire team already on the ball quickly to spike it. This is not how it plays out and has a multitude of issues. Prescott either gets too amped, loses track of time or simply gets too greedy and goes down way later than he should, losing valuable seconds. Then, he and the entire team seemingly forget a basic tenet of how football works. A play cannot start until the Umpire in charge spots the ball. They try to get cute and spot them ball themselves, even creeping up a couple of extra yards from what should've been the spot which is basically why such a rule exists in the first place. The Umpire, who was hustling down the field far more than most would, not only has to respot the ball properly but the Offensive Lineman don't get out of his way so he has to push his way through them. All of this leads to Dallas running out of time and the game ending. Even if Dallas HAD gotten the ball off in time, the referees could've flagged them for an illegal formation as the Offensive Line didn't bother to reset themselves after the ball was spotted so they were too far forward, which would've also ended the game. So a potentially clever play is ultimately ruined by not knowing other basic rules which ends up costing Dallas from attempting a last second TD pass at all.

  • The eponymous character in Marlowe's Doctor Faustus is one of the best examples of this trope. His own brilliance in all things academic (and belief that he can do even more than he has) lead him to explore Things Man Was Not Meant to Know. The results are predictable.
  • The Mrs. Hawking play series: Young Victoria, as can be seen in the flashbacks of part four, Gilded Cages.

    Visual Novels 
  • Danganronpa: Occasionally, the culprit of the chapter gets caught because they overcomplicate their perfect murder plans.
    • Celestia Ludenberg is the first to fall into this trap. She has an admittedly clever plan involving manipulating Hifumi to kill Kiyotaka and frame Hagakure, followed by killing Hifumi so he couldn't incriminate her and blaming that on Hagakure too, while positioning herself in the investigation to give herself an airtight alibi. Problem is, she seems to forget that she has to execute said plan, and once people start to notice her slipups, the complex plan makes her own role in the investigation look too artificial to be true. Additionally, making Hagakure the scapegoat wasn't quite a masterstroke either; him being The Ditz means he can't effectively defend himself, but also gets him cleared once it becomes clear that something fishy is going on, since everyone knows he's too stupid to put together a clearly complex plan.
    • Kirumi in V3 is foiled because her cleanup job was too well done; nobody but the Ultimate Maid would be that thorough.
  • Hatoful Boyfriend: Holiday Star has signs of this in the young aristocrat Shirogane Sakuya. He's very smart, always arrogant, blind to any flaws he might have... his more aware brother once considers getting into a room Sakuya's renovated and equipped with security, which Sakuya'd proudly boasted was impenetrable. It turns out Sakuya rigged the door extensively, but completely neglected the windows. This despite him being a flight-capable bird, in a school full of other flight-capable birds!
    "But this is him I'm dealing with. It'll look like sneaking in is going to be hard, but knowing him he'll have overlooked something obvious..."
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney has Manfred von Karma. He has a perfect trial record and manages to direct court, even pushing around the judge when he wants to. He anticipates everything that Phoenix can think of, including the idea that Phoenix might call a parrot to the witness stand, so he retrains the parrot in just one night to not say something that might be bad for von Karma's case. But, his obsession with perfection led him to kill Gregory Edgeworth in a literally perfect crime: no one knew or could have found out that he did it. But his obsession with revenge demanded that he frame Miles Edgeworth for the death of his father, 15 years after the fact, which then ultimately culminated in von Karma getting caught for his otherwise perfect crime. And the kicker is that he would have gotten away with it if Maya hadn't managed to grab a single piece of evidence that von Karma was about to destroy.
    • In the same game, Damon Gant, Chief of Police, blackmailer and murderer. If he wasn't so obsessed with controlling people, he might never have been caught, but he just had to let Phoenix "discover" the "perfect" evidence of Ema's supposed murder of Neil Marshall in order to make Lana confess to everything, never thinking that Phoenix would be able to use that same evidence to prove that Gant actually did it all.

    Web Comics 
  • Suspiria, Insufferable Genius mage prodigy from Flipside. She really is a phenomenally powerful mage, but given her youth, she lacks both the experience and stamina of other mages of her rank, making her a much less formidable opponent than she should be. This has bitten her in the ass twice, in-story (the first with tragic consequences, the second costing her the other main characters' good will and respect and any sympathy the former granted her).
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Vaarsuvius is the resident Squishy Wizard and needs to be smart. Also, V's an elf, so there's the arrogance. The demonic contract plotline manages to skate on the very edge of the "spectacular failure" point without quite falling in. Later on, we find that their "Familicide" spell killed even people who merely had black dragon blood in them, or anyone related to them, such as their parents. People whose only crime, as V puts it, was "falling in love with a mysterious scarlet-tressed stranger". Cue Heroic BSoD.
    • Roy as well, at times; the below line is from when he crafted a very specific question that an Oracle would not be able to weasel away from, got an exact answer to that question, and therefore missed something very important that he'd honestly wanted to let him know:
      Oracle: Yes, you've certainly managed to cunningly outsmart yourself at the very least. note 
    • Also Nale. He may be smarter than Elan, but he's definitely not as smart as he thinks he is. For example, Nale had his succubus Femme Fatale girlfriend disguise herself and send the party on a dangerous quest to recover star metal. He assumed that the star metal would have been recovered as "everyone" has known about its existence for a great deal of time. However, it hasn't been recovered, since it was an extraordinary valuable prize under the guard of an extremely powerful black dragon who just so happened to be on vacation at the time. After it is found, the only result is Roy, an enemy of Nale's, having the star metal used to forge an Infinity +1 Sword. His intelligence has also led to a crippling case of Complexity Addiction. Most of his plans are characterized by initial success, followed by everything falling apart when one of the far-too-many moving parts hits a snag. This ultimately leads to his death sometime later. Having killed Minister Malack, right-hand man to General Tarquin, Nale's dad, he boasts about it straight to his father's face — in an exceptionally mean-spirited way to boot. He then rejects Tarquin's subsequent offer to reconcile and states outright that he doesn't want Tarquin's nepotism or pity. Tarquin, finally having had enough of his son's crap, proceeds to kill him, explaining that his (Tarquin's) nepotism and pity were the only things keeping Nale alive.
  • Many, many characters on Homestuck. Rose is one of the worst, admittedly very intelligent and knowledgeable but constantly getting outplayed and biting off more than she can chew. Vriska is slightly more self-aware about her overly complicated plans and double-crosses, but still cheerfully forges ahead, admitting she'd be bored if she wasn't either succeeding awesomely or crashing and burning in Shakespearean fashion.
  • Girl Genius: Describes almost every Spark; they gain supernatural intelligence and insight, but also severe cases of megalomania.
    • Many untrained Sparks quickly build half-baked doomsday devices and are just as quickly lynched for witchcraft, while most of the trained ones love to charge into the front lines with their "unstoppable" death machines and are quickly obliterated in the chaos of war while their rampant creations add force multipliers to collateral damage.
    • The reason why Baron Wulfenbach runs Europa itself despite his damaged Spark powers is because his brain is damaged just enough to ground his megalomania, and even then he has occasional flights of fancy (his obsession with ending Agatha despite all evidence of her cooperation is his undoing). The aristocrats stay in power because they know how to pull the strings of Sparks/channel their megalomania into backstabbing their enemies, but they also suffer from sheerly stupid levels of hubris. Everyone else is hard-pressed to survive this mad world.
    • In a flash-forward side-story, Vanamonde von Mekkhan is the current Mechanicsburg seneschal and formerly ran a shadow government in Mechanicsburg. He ends up targeted by Hadrian Greenclaw's plan to kill those conspiring to assassinate Agatha. Since Vanamonde likes to portray himself as knowing everything that goes on within the town, Greenclaw assumed that Vanamonde knew about the plot and only didn't act because he was in on it.
  • Galatea in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! is made of this. She's a genius, knows it, makes flipping well sure that everyone else knows it... and keeps concocting schemes that whirl utterly out of her control.

    Web Original 

    Real Life 
  • Humans, as a species, are prone to this. Humans are amazingly capable of adapting the environment, including their own behavioral programming, to suit them, which sometimes means overwriting a basic survival instinct. Food? Sex? Sleep? Avoiding violence or dangerous situations? Basic desire to continue existing? People almost routinely violate these basic needs, sometimes to achieve better results at a later date, sometimes out of a sense of moral duty or obligation, sometimes for fun, sometimes to the point of self-destruction.
  • This trope is the reason why a startlingly huge proportion of people who get roped into scams, cults, and buy into other patently bogus things are actually very intelligent. They think of themselves as being too smart to possibly ever be tricked into handing over their money to a crook or be manipulated by someone who heads a Scam Religion, or even come to very invalid conclusions because they believe they're simply so smart that nobody could fool them, so therefore anything which registers in their mind as checking out has to be correct, even if there's good evidence that they're wrong. More than a few cons are based on letting the victim think they've spotted the con and can find a loophole to profit from it when that supposed loophole is itself actually the bait for the real con. This is also the reason why scammers and the like can end up on the other end of this themselves because they assume that since they're so good at fooling others and know the tricks of the trade they would never fall into the trap themselves.
  • Galileo appears to have been one of these (see his entry under Instructional Dialogue), assuming Simplicio really was a caricature of the Pope. Even before he earned the attention of the Inquisition, he alienated the University of Pisa (which prompted his relocation from Venice to Florence — he needed new patronage) and pushed matters so hard that even the powerful Medici family began to find him a liability. The man just didn't know when to keep his mouth shut.
  • You might find this in education, when the instructor uses the Socratic Method — feigning ignorance of the subject and asking questions of the students to draw out the correct answer. The intelligent or well-read students will often try to bring out information which, while interesting, either doesn't get to the heart of the matter or assumes that the central question has been answered when it hasn't. This typically leads the instructor to shut the student down — or try to, as such students tend to be stubborn. This is particularly common in American law schools, where the Socratic method is standard. Free advice: There's a reason that Socrates' most famous statement is "I know that I know nothing."
  • The Nazis. Most of the senior politicians and generals were brilliant (when the IQ test had been performed on the Nuremberg defendants, most were high above average in the 120-138 range, while the most stupid and clearly insane of them, Julius Streicher, still scored a bit above average) and their military-industrial complex had been staffed with tens of thousands of equally brilliant officers, engineers, and bureaucrats who used the most advanced technology of their time. They managed to convince themselves so surely of their own superiority that they willingly walked into an unwinnable war. Not to mention that the Allied intelligence services were running circles around them, having subverted essentially every German agent while their own agents were placed in very high positions in the German war effort. Much like the scam/con example above, they'd so thoroughly convinced themselves that they couldn't be fooled that they never even bothered to look.
    • This mainly had to do with their early success and their racist ideology. Their early successes in the war made them extremely cocky which also gave credence to the idea they were the perfect race. After defeating most of Europe they thought the USSR would be easy because it was full of Slavs. Never mind the fact that the USSR had more troops, massive area to cover, the weather being against them, and having no plan for what to do if the invasion stalled. It was Germans vs Slavs so to them, it was an easy win. Suffice to say they were wrong.
  • Cocky medical residents should be reminded of "July Syndrome," a catch-all term for the sudden spike in iatrogenic (caused by medical treatment or examination) problems in teaching hospitals around the United States. July, because that's when after 4 years of medical school and accolades, all the brand-new residents start their residencies at once.
    • There's a reason that many high-end private jets are referred to as "Doctor Killers". A lot of these guys buy a plane that they can't handle, assume it will be simple (because they're very smart, and they bought the model with all the bells and whistles), and end up crashing it and killing themselves.
  • Obsessive fandoms in general are often guilty of overthinking matters when it comes to various theories and Fan Wank-y explanations (e.g. A 50-page treatise, complete with diagrams and charts, on how both Luke Skywalker and TRON are, in fact, secretly clones of one another in a Shared Universe because both are played by Mark Hamill), and simultaneously underthinking them by not checking to see if the premise was sound to begin with (i.e. they were confusing Mark Hamill with Bruce Boxleitner the whole time).
  • There is a quote by Gamal Abdul Nasser:
    "The genius of you Americans is that you never make clear-cut stupid moves, only complicated stupid moves which make the rest of us wonder at the possibility that we might be missing something."
  • In 1970s Quebec, the Parti Quebecois passed Bill 101, a law that restricted the use of English and promoted French as the primary language in Quebec. The Parti Quebecois' intent was to use Bill 101 as part of their efforts to separate Quebec from Canada, but Bill 101 addressed many Franco-Quebecois's concerns about language issues. As a result, support for separatism actually decreased. In the end, Quebec's language laws actually strengthened Canadian unity, something even the original architect of Bill 101 lamented.
    • Which was made worse for them by the fact that the Office québécois de la langue française, formed by the bill for the purpose of enforcing it, has gained a reputation for being overzealous, doing things like citing an Italian restaurant for using the word "pasta" on their menu, issuing a complaint against a store for having a small "recommended on Tripadvisor" sticker on their window, and forcing a hospital in a region with a large English-speaking population to remove all bilingual signage. It got to the point that the provincial government had to change the laws from not allowing any language other than French to simply requiring French be first and larger than other languages, but it took both a Supreme Court case ruling against them (which they got out of due to a law that basically allows provinces to ignore such rulings), followed by the United Nations Human Rights Committee ruling against them.
  • Lawrence H. Summers — a former Treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton, a top economic adviser in President Obama’s first term and one of the youngest people to earn tenure on the Harvard faculty - reminisced about his undergraduate days at M.I.T. in the 1970s, when the debate over the idea of technological unemployment pitted “smart people,” exemplified by the great economist Robert Solow, and “stupid people,” “exemplified by a bunch of sociologists.” It was stupid to think technological progress would reduce employment. If technology increased productivity — allowing companies and their workers to make more stuff in less time — people would have more money to spend on more things that would have to be made, creating jobs for other people. But at some point, Mr. Summers experienced an epiphany. “It sort of occurred to me,” he said. “Suppose the stupid people were right. What would it look like?” And what it looked like fits pretty well with what the world looks like today. For large categories of workers, wages are inadequate. Many are withdrawing from the labor force altogether. In the 1960s, one in 20 men between 25 and 54 were not working. Today it’s three in 20. The population is generally healthier than it was in the 1960s; work is almost uniformly less demanding. Still, more workers are on disability. Essentially, he thought companies would use technology in conjunction with their workers to make ridiculous amounts of money, and dismissed the likelihood that they might use technology to replace their workers and make the same money while paying fewer people. (You can see the complete article here).
    "Maybe the stupid people weren’t quite as stupid as I thought they were".
  • Siberian Huskies are one of the smartest dog breeds in existence, but this intelligence has earned them a reputation of being idiots and drama queens. They notice things that other breeds don't, but they're not smart enough to discern that the things they notice don't mean as much as they think. For example, most dogs will cross from a carpet to a linoleum floor without any issue. But a Husky may step off the carpet, notice the linoleum floor is different, and freak out.


Video Example(s):


K. Rool "outsmarts" DK

Upon learning that DK gave the Coconut willingly, K.Rool concludes it's part of a plot and gives it back. When DK shows up demanding the Coconut back, K.Rool realizes there was no plot and he just threw away the Crystal Coconut when it was handed to him on a silver-platter. By then, Klump and Krusha had already given it back and they are all back where they started.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / TooCleverByHalf

Media sources: