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Working-Class People Are Morons

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"You've got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the New West. You know... morons."
Jim (aka The Waco Kid), Blazing Saddles

Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Fret not, ye honest poor — thanks to the rules of your universe, all your problems can be solved without the use of complex reasoning skills or book-learnin' anyway! You can get by just fine on your folk wisdom and life-loving affirmations. If anyone criticizes you then clearly they're either evil or too rich to know how to loosen up. Don't worry, a few weeks around you and your wacky 'ethnic' family will give them a little pep!

This is prime time's go-to plot device whenever embarrassing relatives come to visit the Girl Who Married Up or the blue-collar schlub wins the lottery. Basically, in TV Land, it is impossible to be both poor and intelligent unless you're the show's Insufferable Genius or precocious child. Such smart individuals may experience Tall Poppy Syndrome. One would almost be tempted to believe that there are no libraries or schools beyond elementary. They may frequently live in a Trashy Trailer Home.

Especially egregious in episodes involving court cases, where heartfelt pleas from a Simple Country Lawyer seem to sway judges more effectively than any number of rational, legalistic arguments from highly-paid big-name firm lawyers.

Compare and contrast Lower-Class Lout, the malevolent version of this trope. See also Slobs Versus Snobs. For when the stereotypical and "simple" character is specifically rural, see Country Cousin and Half-Witted Hillbilly. The inverse of this trope is Upper-Class Twit; the reverse of this trope is Working-Class Hero.


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    Films — Live-Action 
  • The page quote comes from Blazing Saddles. The trope is actually zig-zagged as, while the citizens of Rock Ridge aren't very bright, Sheriff Bart and the ethnic railroad workers are shown to be smarter than they are despite their lack of education.
  • The House of Yes: Four of the five characters are members of an elitist, wealthy, well-educated family. The fifth is a ditzy girl who is trying to marry the main character and also happens to be middle-class and uneducated. Despite this contrast, she is the most sympathetic and sane person in the film.
  • My Fair Lady has this in Eliza Doolittle. The whole plot hinges upon Henry's attempts to turn her from a simple Cockney flower salesgirl to a Proper Lady.
  • Sátántangó is about the poor, listless, drink-addled villagers in a particularly depressing collective farm in late Communist-era Hungary. When Irimiás returns to the farm after a long absence, he goes on a rant to his sidekick Petrina about how the people of the collective farm are "a flock of sheep," dumb, passive, easily led. Then he proceeds to do just that, manipulating them out of their money.
  • La Terra Trema: The villagers of Aci Trezza, a Sicilian fishing town where the fishermen are ruthlessly cheated and exploited by the fish wholesalers who collect their catch. The villagers accept their fate with ox-like stupidity, not even realizing that they are exploited by the merchants, and if they do, simply accepting it as their fate. They mock and ridicule Ntoni Valastro, the one young fisherman who had hoped to break the cycle of poverty by buying his own fishing boat and selling his own catch. After his boat is wrecked they are even worse, taking positive delight in the misfortunes of the Valastros. In the end, a bitter Ntoni talks about how everyone in the village abandoned him.
  • The Rental:
    • The guy running the AirBnB, Taylor (who is the owner's brother), is a Lower-Class Lout who is more or less stated to be racist and has no social graces.
    • Josh is the foolish sibling to his brother's apparent responsible, and a college dropout who can barely hold down a job, while his brother is a well-educated startup CEO (as is his girlfriend).

  • Eric Flint explains in the afterword of 1632 that he wrote the book in part to combat this:
    Part of the reason I chose to write this novel is because I am more than a little sick and tired of two characteristics of most modern fiction, including science fiction. The first is that the common folk who built this country and keep it running - blue-collar workers, schoolteachers, farmers, and the like - hardly ever appear. If they figure at all, it is usually as spear carriers or, more often than not, as a bastion of ignorance and bigotry. That is especially true of people from such rural areas as West Virginia. Hicks and hillbillies: a general, undifferentiated mass of darkness.
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four has Winston, newly emboldened by the idea of the resistance, stop in at a pub occupied by "proles"... only to see that they're taken by the (fairly substandard) Bread and Circuses provided by the Party, and unlikely to lay the groundwork of any revolution. Then again, neither is he...
  • Animal Farm, by the same author, features Boxer, a horse meant to represent the working class. He is shown to lack basic literacy and remains completely loyal to the farm's new management, which makes Napoleon's disgraceful treatment of him all the more sickening.
  • Harry Potter plays with this trope.
    • Stan Shunpike is not the brightest of wizards and has a distinctly working-class accent.
    • Zigzagged with the Weasleys (in particular Percy and the twins), though they're arguably Impoverished Patricians due to their pureblood status — though if they do count as working-class, Ron is the least impressive of the bunch because he's overshadowed by all of his brothers but even he is a whiz at wizard chess.
  • In The Twilight Saga, the filthy rich Cullens are treated as the epitome of class and intelligence, while almost all of the rest of Forks (working-class people) are portrayed as gossipy (Jessica and her mother), impractical (Mike's mother), overly superstitious (nearly every Quileute), stupid (most of the other students at Forks), or in awe of the endless wealth of the Cullens. Bella is working-class and supposedly very intelligent but spends the entire series identifying with Edward and his family.
  • In Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, all the villagers are ignorant, primitive fools there to be laughed at.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Beverly Hillbillies: All the show's comedy is derived from the contrast between the country hicks and the upper-class neighborhood. Played with in that they were as or more intelligent than their neighbors, but they lacked education and tended to assume that the luxuries they suddenly owned all had practical purposes. Hey, if you aren't going to raise animals in it what are you even supposed to do with all that yard?
  • All in the Family:
    • Played straight with Archie, but averted with his daughter, Gloria, who only had a high school education and worked in a department store, but was fairly intelligent and held progressive views.
    • Also averted by Archie's neighbor, George Jefferson. He lacked even a high school education and started off as a janitor but was a shrewd businessman who taught himself the dry cleaning business and eventually "moved on up". In one episode he showed he was too savvy to fall for a scam that Archie had fallen into.
  • Keeping Up Appearances appears to follow this, but Onslow can be seen reading doctoral-level texts and can be quite the philosopher. He's just incredibly lazy and a slob.
  • Eureka is an odd example. While Sheriff Carter isn't stupid by any reasonable standard, he is surrounded by a group of high-IQ Science Heroes who tend to treat him that way.... until they need his help and insight to undo the current episode's disaster.
  • Billions has a subversion. When Axe is investing in a proposed casino in a poor town upstate, he buys up a large amount of land for pennies on the dollar that will be valuable once the casino is built. However, one property owner is savvy enough to realize what's going on (his real estate agent girlfriend mentioned all the recent buys and his friend saw several businessmen in expensive clothes at a local diner so the guy decided to go to city hall to check the public records for the buyer) and refuses to accept Axe's lowball offer. Axe, realizing the guy has done his research and is smart enough to not get screwed over, offers a fair price (on the condition the owner throws in a vintage motorcycle he was restoring) which is accepted. He even admits he's impressed and wishes his employees had the guy's initiative.
  • In the Adam Ruins Everything episode "Adam Ruins...Voting," Adam explains to the voter that America's Founding Fathers wanted to restrict the right to vote to wealthy land-owning white men since they deemed anyone else too ignorant/illiterate to make an informed decision. He goes on to explain that right to vote was then reserved for land-owning white men, with universal white male suffrage not legalized until 1856, universal male suffrage in 1865 following the end of the Civil War, and women would be given the vote in 1920.
  • Played straight on Married... with Children:
    • Al Bundy is presented as a pathetic middle-aged loser trapped in Perpetual Poverty and a Soul-Sucking Retail Job partly because of his poor judgement (thinking that School Is for Losers and that he could coast through life on his football skills before he broke his leg and lost his scholarship), stubbornness (he repeatedly tries to Doom It Yourself and causes more problems than he already starts), Small Name, Big Ego persona (he brags about scoring four touchdowns in a high school championship football game despite being in his forties), and tendency towards GetRichQuickSchemes that inevitably fail.
    • Al's wife Peggy is a lazy parasite who sits in front of the TV all day wasting what little money Al makes on worthless junk without caring that she's burying the family in debt, and laughs off the idea of getting a job;
    • Their daughter Kelly is The Brainless Beauty and the Dumb Blonde. She was an Alpha Bitch in high school who also thought that School Is for Losers and tried to get by in life on her looks, only to end up working in a run-down diner and having a Z-list acting career;
    • Their son Bud might be a subversion in that he gets good grades, but he's such a Casanova Wannabe that he's constantly ridiculed and rejected by women and is often reduced to scheduling masturbation.
  • Subverted in one episode of CSI: Miami. When they have weak evidence against a factory farm, Ryan assumes that they'll be able to walk right in without warrants because "We have badges and they don't even have college degrees." It turns out to very much not be the case. Everyone they talk to is well educated and knows their rights, and they face a legal challenge to even obtain the evidence they need.
  • M*A*S*H: The blue-blooded Charles Winchester quite enjoyed the view from the top of his nose of the company clerks, the farmboy Radar O'Reilly and the Toldeo-born Max Klinger. If he was ever upset with them, his insults almost invariably conflated their lower class and their intelligence, with Klinger also getting a bonus jab for being Lebanese.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Played with in Bloom County. Just about all the residents of the eponymous community (mostly peopled by scruffy farmers) are a bunch of yokels who live by Rule of Funny and Insane Troll Logic. However, the upper-class characters that show up (Senator Bedfellow, Donald Trump, Mr. Limekiller's ex-wife Elanor, etc.) aren't much better.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Rifts the fascist Coalition States promote this idea to the majority of their population. Since the game is set After the End, they have great latitude in doing this. For example, they faked the destruction of the largest library in North America just to back up their claim that certain knowledge (such as pre-Rifts history) was lost forever. They officially maintain a policy of public illiteracy for the masses and teach that non-government intellectuals are dangerous and probably in league with demons. All (censored) education, entertainment, and news are delivered in audio-video format so that nobody needs to read to utilize this approved information. However, the CS is actually run by a technocrat elite that is heavily educated (using the "lost" knowledge they have stockpiled) and are thus a bunch of Hypocrites. Even more ironic, their foremost top-secret research facility is packed with Mad Scientists, whose director actually believes himself to be a god!

  • Eliza's father in Pygmalion is a send-up of this trope. In actual fact, he's intelligent, with his ingenious methods of staying away from work.
  • William Shakespeare typically portrays commoners as simpletons. They often spout malapropisms and speak in prose, as opposed to the more erudite verse of the upper class. This is usually Played for Laughs and most famously in A Midsummer Night's Dream, where some common tradesmen put on a pathetic excuse for a play while the upper-class spectators MST it.
    • Bear in mind that this division of poetry for aristocrats and prose for commoners is a theatrical convention at the time, albeit not a hard-and-fast one (Hamlet frequently speaks in prose, for instance; Juliet's Nurse speaks in poetry), and not something that Shakespeare created himself. In Shakespeare's works you have several notable characters, Jack Falstaff especially (he has more lines than any character aside from Hamlet) who parody and mock the beliefs of the high lords. Likewise, one-shot characters in Macbeth and Hamlet (like the Gravedigger) have become Ensemble Dark Horses as well. The most notable example is Caliban, the resentful slave in The Tempest (who speaks exclusively in verse).
  • Henrik Ibsen played with this time and again. In The League of Youth, the honorable chamberlain Bratsberg chides the more base and crude proprietor Monsen because Bratsberg thinks this of him. Monsen was a lumberjack who worked his way up the social ladder, but will never be anything but a slob in the eyes of the Chamberlain. The chamberlain is proud of his inherited wealth.
  • Arnold Wesker played with this in his trilogy of stage plays concerning the British-Jewish Kahn family and their ups and downs in the fight for socialism before, during, and after World War II. In the second play, roots, the young and idealistic farm girl Beattie Bryant tries hard to get her fellow countrymen in Norfolk understand the intellectual concepts of politics and a better life. It turns out her boyfriend, Ronnie Kahn, has come to terms with his view of her as a working-class moron without any independent attitudes. She finally subverts this, but it is open guessing if she ever gets through to her relatives - who openly adapt to their "moron" qualities (and even seem to pride themselves on it).

    Video Games 
  • To a lesser degree than Lord's Believers, the emancipated workers faction Free Drones in Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri gets penalized in research nonetheless. The attributed rationale of this refers to research as a "blue-sky" thing.

  • The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!— Bob runs a newsstand and is generally the most poorly educated member of the central cast (he's dating a college teacher, his adopted daughter is a genius, and Voluptua is a 300-year-old member of space royalty), but he consistently displays more common sense than those around him. Played with when Jean expresses surprise that he went to college. Bob: "I majored in newsstand management! No way I could have kept it running through all this if I didn't have a degree in it!"

    Western Animation 
  • Parodied on The Simpsons:
    • When the perfectly sane and bright (if a bit stodgy) Frank Grimes tries to get along in Springfield, he goes tragically — fatally — insane, because the world is designed to accommodate apathetic idiots like Homer.
    • Another episode parodies Homer's preconceived notions about his country cousins.
  • Played for laughs in a Robot Chicken sketch that placed Masters of the Universe's Teela and Evil-Lyn on a farm for a reality show called "Country Folk R Morons" (a play on The Simple Life, starring the RC sketch's main target or inspiration Paris Hilton). A farmer tries to explain to them theoretical quantum chrono dynamics.
    Teela: You're f[bleep]ing stupid!
  • Inverted in Jackie Chan Adventures. Two farmhands look exactly like stereotypical hicks, but it turns out they both have PhDs and they take remarkably well to the concept of a magical flying chicken and a pig with Eye Beams.
    Jackie: Doctor Buford MacDonald? Your books are very insightful!
    Buford: Thank yee. (punch)
  • Plankton's family in SpongeBob SquarePants comprises hillbillies with a taste for root beer. Sheldon Plankton is the only one of them to have gone to college and is thoroughly ashamed of his uneducated family.
  • Played with in an episode of Metalocalypse, when the Omniscient Council of Vagueness tries to stop Nathan from getting his high school diploma because he'd disprove this trope in-universe: if he does, that means that the working class has proof that they're just as intelligent as the wealthy elite and will therefore be harder to browbeat.
  • King of the Hill: Averted by the Hill family (but played very straight by several of their neighbors). Quite a few guest characters have mistakenly assumed this to be the case with Hank and his kin, but they tend to find out the hard way that this trope isn't universally true.

    Reality TV 
  • Inverted and Played for Laughs by the Reality TV show The Simple Life. Their country hosts were more or less average, but every time Paris Hilton or Nicole Richie opened their mouths they made everyone around them look like geniuses by comparison. Detractors will say that Hilton and Richie are morons by any standard.