FANDOM


WikEd fancyquotesQuotesBug-silkHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extensionPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifierAnalysisPhoto linkImage LinksHaiku-wide-iconHaikuLaconic
"Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man."
Bertrand Russell

Here's how it plays out:

Smart People are mean, Dumb People are nice. Geniuses are psychotic and high-strung, idiots are nice and sweet, because Ignorance Is Bliss. In comedy pairs the genius will smack around the idiot.

The smart character will be mean because he is arrogant and literally doesn't suffer fools gladly. In more sympathetic portrayals, the smart character is good underneath, but made cynical and bitter by his keen intellect, which allows him to see that the world sucks. Inversely, the dumb character has no reason to be continuously happy, other than to provide a Foil for the smart character, to show that being all smart all the time makes you unlikeable, miserable, or both, and why would you choose to be that way if ignorance is bliss?

This trope can also be applied to intelligence itself, with the Book Dumb hero's street smarts and practical experience being shown as superior to academics whose knowledge is dusty, dry and doesn't work in the real world, another tenet of anti-intellectualism. Indeed, it is always risky to assume that an uneducated character (or an uneducated person in Real Life, for that matter) will always be dumb. A character may become smart purely through private study, life experience, or just plain Awesomeness By Analysis. Simply hanging around intelligent or cultured people can help, too.

This is a pretty common trope in many films, especially Oscar Bait. Intelligent and rational people are portrayed as emotionally unfulfilled, neglectful of their family and friends, mean, or corrupt, and contrasted with a simple-minded, often mentally-delayed character with a heart of gold.

May be caused by the This Loser Is You effect, since Viewers are Morons; also closely related to Book Dumb. Not to be confused with Good Is Dumb. This can extend to intellectual pursuits, leading to Straw Vulcan, Science Is Bad, or even Science Is Wrong. Can also lead to an Idiot Hero, and/or Brains Evil Brawn Good. Often found with a Minion with an F In Evil.

A direct inversion of Good Is Not Dumb. Contrast with Gentleman and a Scholar, in which an intelligent character is one of the most pleasant, thoughtful, and well-adjusted people around. Try not to get this and Silent Protagonist mixed up.

Examples of Dumb Is Good include:


Advertising

  • Diesel clothing's current advertising campaign (as of February 2010) is: "Be Stupid."
    • This is a common theme in advertising, since many people equate stupidity with frivolity and irresponsibility, traits that allow consumers to justify spending more money when they can't afford it, "just for fun."


Anime & Manga

  • The stupidest character in Sailor Moon, Usagi, is also the good-est.
    • Usagi is not so much as stupid as she is lazy and ditzy. However, her dub counterpart Serena is stupider then the original, complete with Valley Girl speech.
      • Her boyfriend, on the other hand, is a super-ultra genius, if the books in his apartment are any indication.
  • Gourry Gabriev from Slayers is definitely not the sharpest knife in the drawer (a fact alluded to on numerous occasions) yet he comes off as just about the most easygoing, honest and unobtrusive member of the permanent cast (virtually every other protagonist has some sort of major character flaw). In the original novels he was very much a Deadpan Snarker, and did that Obfuscating Stupidity thing mostly because it was funnier that way.
    • Found to a lesser extent in Amelia. While not really stupid, she's incredibly naive, tends to see the world in black and white, and occasionally strives into Cloudcuckoolander territory. She's also a shrine maiden who honestly wants to help everyone around her.
    • Averted with Martina, who is an idiot, but also evil. She's often just cunning enough to shoot herself in the foot.
  • A recurring theme in Kinnikuman. Many of Suguru's opponents, prior to their Heel Face Turn, are shown to be genuinely more intelligent than him. They also have plenty of techniques that they have spent time developing, whereas Suguru initially won with nothing short of dumb luck. For example, he won his first wrestling match simply because his opponent laughed so much at his ugly face that he broke his back. The final Big Bad is the ultimate embodiment of this trope, with Kinnikuman Super Phoenix being empowered by the God of Intelligence.
  • Son Goku from Dragon Ball. It gives you a clue if naive Goku who doesn't even know the difference between boys and girls can ride on Kinto'un; a cloud which only allows those pure of heart to ride, and Bulma, quite possibly the smartest female on the planet, can't.
    • To quote Goku:

 Goku: (to Frieza) I'd rather be a brainless beast than a heartless monster like you.

    • Although it's later inverted with his son Gohan, who is not only also pure enough to ride the Kinto'un, but is a full fledged Genius Bruiser when he reaches adulthood as a Straight-A honor student.
      • When the series ends, Gohan, a Gentleman and a Scholar, is the single most powerful being alive, and he rivals his father in goodness and niceness.
      • Actually, he probably isn't, considering that he gave up fighting altogether, and Goku continued to keep training himself.
      • By the end of the series, Goku isn't that dumb (which is not to say he's bright). He's very good at tactics in a fight but about average everywhere else.
    • Frieza, as mentioned above, is one of the smarter characters in the series. He's also a sadist and a psychopath who enjoys nothing more than slaughtering people by the millions. Dr. Gero is a genius as well but created a series of androids to kill Goku and take over the world. The last of these androids ate several cities' worth of people and came close to destroying the world.
  • Monkey D. Luffy of One Piece is pretty dumb but certainly is one of the most fun-loving and nicest characters you'll ever meet. The smartest characters are either greedy and selfish (and this is just a description of those in his crew), manipulative, sadistic, homicidal, and schematically vile. And that's not even mentioning Sir Crocodile and Enel.
    • On the other hand, Luffy doesn't play the trope totally straight. His idiocy has occasionally gotten his crew into trouble that they could've avoided, and frankly he can be kind of a dick. He's also extremely vengeful when it comes to injustice. He's nice by default, but there's not much middle ground between his moods.
    • Enel is more, capricious, omniscient and insanely powerful than intelligent. His so called Fairy Vearth he was supposed to conquer turns out to be not the Earth that was right below him all along, but the Moon, so he flies into space with his ship, and is lucky enough that space apparently isn't void in One Piece.
    • Actually, Enel is clever, and has shown himself to be such despite his insanity. For example, hearing about the Shandians and the Blue Sea travelers (the Straw Hats) does require you to be a Chessmaster. There's also the facct only he in all of Skypiea understands gold, and is willing to keep it to himself, and he was able to read ancient hieroglyphs in a surely extinct language and understand the history of Fairy Vearth.
    • Subverted by Nico Robin who is set up as an amoral genius, but later turns out to be a genuinely good person. She was forced to work with the likes of Crocodile to survive, since the World Government has been hunting her for 20 years since she is the only person in the world who can read certain stone tablets containing a century of history they have been covering up for 800 years.
    • Also subverted by Ussopp. Despite being a gadget genius (THE gadget genius before Franky) and one of the few people with common sense along with Nami and Robin, he is a genuinely nice guy, who constantly told lies to entertain people, and willingly puts his life on the line despite his cowardice. You could also count Chopper, as he is more naive than stupid. He is a capable doctor and very skilled at using his devil fruit.
  • Baccano's Firo Prochainezo deliberately invokes this in the Light Novels when he assures Ennis that she can trust him because "[he's] stupid, and that's all there is to it." Additionally, Isaac and Miria are probably the nicest characters in the series. They are also inarguably the dumbest.
    • And when Firo absorbs centuries of an immortal alchemical genius' experience, he retains his intelligence level. This is simply Handwaved.
    • Keep in mind also that Firo is a mobster and Isaac and Miria are thieves-- nice they may be, but Good is a little hard to argue. It could be argued that Isaac and Miria are too stupid to realize that anyone might object to being stolen from (they definitely stole Eve's money because they thought she'd be happier if she didn't have it any more--and they were right to a certain extent).
  • Nai from Karneval qualifies, but considering that he was originally cute little animal, it can be justified; he looks rather young as well. It's to the point that he doesn't understand what blood is, but he's slowly learning more about the world, and is basically Dumb Is Cute.
  • Tohru Honda from Fruits Basket. She's very naive/dumb and thus never even realizes that taking advantage of people can be advantageous, or more accurately she's so air headed it never crosses her mind. Her air headed goodness is constantly put on a pedestal in the manga.
    • Momiji tells the fable of the happy fool in volume three, he makes a direct link between the happy fool and Tohru. This is put on a pedestal when Momiji proclaims that the happy fool is the one truly blessed.
      • It's sort of deconstructed in that her sweet naiveté causes her suffering and makes it easy for others to take advantage of her (although nobody ever does). There's also fiercely loyal, protective Saki Hanajima, who is able to do well in school with apparent ease but is just lazy, and princely Yuki Sohma, who is shown as being quite intelligent, helping Tohru with her homework.
  • The title character of Naruto.
  • Ichigo Kurosaki of Bleach is occasionally portrayed as this. Although he supposedly studies hard and gets good grades in school, he is frequently portrayed as an Unskilled but Strong Leeroy Jenkins.
  • Tamaki from Ouran High School Host Club. While it seems that he somehow manages to rank in the top ten in academics in his class every year, that brilliance is definitely not portrayed in daily life. In fact, the characters often make comments about what an idiot he is. At the same time, however, he seems to be one of the nicest guys in the world, constantly doing things for other people and trying to make them happy.
  • Nobita Nobi from Doraemon has the lowest grade in classes, and is an overall nice guy of the main casts as long as he's not bullied too hard.
  • Fushigi Yuugi gives us Book Dumb Naive Everygirl Miaka (the epitome of Virginity Makes You Stupid) as the heroic Priestess of Suzaku, working alongside smart-but-not-educated-and-occasionally-dweebish Tamahome. And on the villains' side, we have smart, studious Yui alongside clever and manipulative Nakago.
  • Lucky Star: Subverted with the smart but sweet-as-pie Miyuki; played straight with her mother.
  • The titular character of Yotsuba&! isn't stupid for a five year old child. But there's a very large number of things she doesn't know, and she's very good by any definition.


Comics

  • Averted during Mark Waid's run on Fantastic Four, in which Reed Richards is shown to be a decent, compassionate, loving family man -- and then immediately embraced in Civil War, which depicts Reed as a detached, emotionless, who holds lesser intellects in contempt and is perfectly willing to stuff supposed friends into an extradimensional concentration camp.
    • Both Reed and Tony Stark were ultimately revealed to have been doing all that nasty stuff because they'd "done the math" and scientifically proven that as bad as the things they did during Civil War were, they were literally the only way to prevent the world from going to hell in a handbasket. This was intended to subvert this trope by showing that that they were actually the only ones trying to save the world. In practice, though, it made them look like Straw Vulcans who inexplicably never bothered to tell anyone their "logical" plan at best, Well Intentioned Extremists who weren't even willing to admit it might be possible to save the village without destroying the village at worst.
  • Jeremy from the Adventures of Barry Ween by Judd Winick, while not a complete idiot, does have a tendency to eat things he really shouldn't eat, gets himself into trouble that Barry has to bail him out of more than a few times, swears constantly especially when it's least appropriate, and definitely isn't Barry's intellectual equal (though to be fair, nobody is). However, he's consistently shown to have a stronger moral compass than Barry himself, and acts as Barry's Morality Pet and conscience. He's also called out Barry on some of his more callous actions. It's heavily implied that Jeremy's friendship is one of the only things keeping Barry sane and keeping him from becoming a full blown Mad Scientist.
  • In an issue of New X-Men Prodigy - whose power is that he can mimic the skills and knowledge of anyone nearby - gets a vision from Mirage and Emma Frost (which is presented as actually happening, and not revealed to be an illusion until the end of the issue) of what would happen if he permanently retained everything he absorbed instead of losing it when the person from whom he absorbed it left the vicinity. In short order he solves all the world's problems and brings about a one-world government, but China refuses to join up so he decides to nuke them into oblivion and the X-Men try to stop him so he has them killed and ... needless to say, he decided it was better for everyone if he didn't get that smart. (Rather than, say, making a mental note not to pursue the one-world government angle after curing all disease, or deciding not to bomb China if it comes to that, or realizing that a telepathic vision induced by someone whose power is to make you see your worst fears might not be 100 percent accurate in its predictions of how every government and superhero on Earth would respond to his actions, or ... let's face it, Prodigy is useless.)
    • That "cure for all diseases" came at the cost of the life of one of his fellow former students, in this vision (which should've been memorable enough, as it was the end of that issue we discovered this.) He also turned into a "for the greater good" (SHUT IT!!) fascist. That was the whole point of the vision. In his quest to "improve things for everyone", he turned into an uncaring prick who forgets that what's "good for everyone", isn't always. The point was that knowledge without at least some morality leads to bad things.
      • Of course, the only explanation for how he ended up "without at least some morality" in the vision (seeing as he was usually arguably the most moral of his team) is that somehow it went away when he got too smart.
    • Prodigy recently lost his powers, then had telepathic triplets remove the mental block so now he remembers everything he's ever learned. Instead of becoming the Insufferable Genius of his fears, he's now a Badass Bookworm since he never absorbed the intelligence of anyone who would make him inherently smarter and the only useful skills he seems to have retained are Wolverine's Krav Maga combat abilities.
  • Played straight in Ultimate Marvel when Hulk defeats Abomination because the latter "thinks too much."
    • Speaking of the Hulk, the regular 616 version is usually The Hero or at least an Anti-Hero. Depending on the Writer, he is near mindless or at least has a childlike mentality. His main villain is an Evil Genius named The Leader who has super intelligence.
    • Also inverted with the supposedly smart Grey Hulk. He's an anti-intellectual with an adolescent maturity level, but a brute animal cunning, and wins otherwise matched fights by simply being nastier than the other guy. And when Bruce's persona are integrated, he may be Good Is Not Nice, but also Good Is Not Dumb.
  • In one Garfield strip, Garfield berates Odie's vapid stupidity and rhetorically asks who could possibly love a grinning idiot like him. Cue a sudden downpour that soaks everything. Everything but Odie, who is somehow shielded from the rain.

 Garfield (while looking up at the sky): You stay out of this!


Films -- Animation

  • In The Emperors New Groove, Yzma is the evil mad scientist, while her assistant, Kronk, is stupid and thus good at heart.
    • Arguably, Kronk acts as something of a subversion of this trope, in that he's actually fairly bright, simply naïve. He's shown to be a highly proficient chef, able to identify rare birds without reference, and to speak fluent, um, Squirrel, so it appears that he may simply apply his abilities in a more constructive fashion than the cynical Yzma, rather than being particularly unintelligent. The message here is more along the lines of "Positive is Good" than "Dumb is Good".


Films -- Live Action

  • Rocky Balboa from Rocky.
    • Averted later on the series, when he became a mentor figure, to the point where one reviewer commented that he was the only boxer to become smarter the more he got punched in the head.
  • Very common in most Abbott and Costello movies, shows and routines. Abbott is clever, mean and sly and Costello is usually dumb and happy or at least naive and happy-go-lucky.
  • Charlie from Land of the Dead.
  • Forrest Gump, in the film of the same name (he's a touch more sarcastic in the books, which have a lot less of the Hallmark-card style of the film and a lot more satire).
  • Parodied effectively in Tropic Thunder with Tugg Speedman's "Simple Jack" role.
  • Being There (and Chance the Gardener's character type in general), both the original novella and the film version, is something of a subversion of this that ironically predates the above. Chance is a good-hearted fool, but he affects intelligent-but-unhappy people only because they think he's intelligent, and his concrete statements are thus interpreted as grand metaphors.
  • Zangief from Street Fighter was portrayed as too dumb to be evil.
    • "Quick, change the channel!"
  • Rock and Roll High School is about the struggle between an authoritarian, rock and roll-hating, principal who complains that students aren't learning in gym class with a Ramones-loving, rabble-rousing, Book Dumb student who leads the rest of the school (including one teacher) to trash the school, then blow it up with explosives. This is portrayed as an unequivocally good thing to do. The main character's best friend, however, is supposedly a genius who works on nuclear physics in her spare time
  • Toad, the harmonica-playing street performer in Super Mario Bros, despite being turned into a Goomba.
  • Stan Laurel in Laurel and Hardy is usually shown as happier and nicer than Ollie, as well as dumber -- not that Ollie was massively smart either. Notably, in A Chump at Oxford, becoming smart turns Stan into a jerk. Funnily enough in real life Stan Laurel was an intelligent "ideas man" and Ollie was more easy-going and not as clever as Stan (but considerably cleverer than he portrayed himself in films).
  • The Adam Sandler movie Little Nicky has the main character being the dumbest son of Satan borne out of a fling with an angel while his other brothers Adrian and Cassius are both smarter and stronger respectively.
    • Not to mention that Satan, Adrian, and Cassius are all shown as intelligent, while the angels are all blond, ditzy, valley girls.
  • Harvey addresses this:

 Elwood P. Dowd: Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, "In this world, Elwood, you must be" -- she always called me Elwood -- "In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant." Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.

  • This is the message of the Jerry Bruckheimer movie Armageddon. It is somehow easier to train drillers to be astronauts than the other way around. Anyone with a college degree or higher doesn't actually know what they're doing, or worse, only sort-of has an idea of what to do while the incredibly idiotic heroes stomp in and show the smart people how it's done.
  • This is savagely deconstructed on the Mexican film La Ley de Herodes, more specifically the now Dead Horse Tropes from films where a naive, yet well-intended protagonist is manipulated by meaner corrupted people and manage to beat them with goodness showing that: 1) This is highly unlikely to happen in Real Life and 2) How the protagonist gets more and more corrupted until he become far worse than the corrupted people that manipulated him as a mean of survival.
  • Regarding Henry is probably in a class by itself. Harrison Ford plays an arrogant prick of a lawyer and a bad husband, until he gets shot in the head!
  • A fairly mild example in Barbershop, where all the characters who work in the titular shop are generally "good." But the one college educated barber who defines himself by his brain is also the one who's closest to a Jerkass. He's treated as something of a Butt Monkey by the other barbers, and when the somewhat thuggish character Ricky takes him down a peg the whole shop considers it a Crowning Moment of Awesome.
  • The "Smart people are mean, dumb people are nice" dichotomy is best illustrated in The Lawnmower Man. The protagonist starts off as a sweet, nice, likable mentally handicapped young man. As the story progresses, the more intelligent he gets, the meaner and more malevolent he becomes.
  • In Tommy Boy Chris Farley plays a lovable dunce while his counterpart, David Spade's character, is referred to as "a smug unhappy little man [who treats] people like they're idiots."
  • Deconstructed in Billy-Bob Thorton's written, directed, and starred in film Sling Blade, where he plays the mentally disabled man Karl Childers. Karl is kind, soft spoken, and blind to intolerance, and is also a talented mechanic because he always finds the simplest solution to problems. However, he also has no quams about brutally murdering people he deems to be bad.


Literature

  • Baube Lud from Felsic Current is very dumb. Therefore, despite the mocking of his fellow troopers and his failed attempts at romance, it never occurs to him to be anything but fundamentally good-natured and good at his job. Very good.
  • A precept of The Party in Nineteen Eighty-Four: "Ignorance is Strength"
    • Yes, the dumb always get the good things, while the smart people are ungood and must end up in Room 101.
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead looks like it's doing this at first, except that, if you look closely, you'll see that Rosencrantz (who makes animal noises to pass the time) is actually smarter in a few ways.
  • In The Sound and The Fury, the Compson brothers (who narrate different blocks of the story) consist of Benjy, who is sweet but severely severely handicapped, Quentin, who is intelligent but got some seriously taboo desires and ends up Driven to Suicide, and Jason, a Jerkass. Benjy comes off as by far the most likable of the three.
  • John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men sets this up: Lenny is the childlike of the pairing, while smarter Curly is an intelligent villain. Slim describes the concept directly, some way through the book.
  • Inverted in the first of Larry Niven's The Magic Goes Away stories. The hero is a wise, intelligent sorcerer who happens to call himself "Warlock"; the villain is a barbarian with a magic sword.
  • Inverted throughout A Series of Unfortunate Events: it is stated outright that "well-read people are less likely to be evil". The villains are Book Dumb at best and often shown to be complete philistines who prefer the maudlin, sentimental writing of Edgar Guest to great works like Moby Dick. Olaf is shown to be unable to spell "poison". Two characters who seem to be evil masterminds identify eagles as mammals.
  • Fezzik from The Princess Bride, although Inigo turns good, too. In fact, one could argue that Vizzini is the stupid one.
    • In both the film and the book, neither Inigo nor Fezzik are particularly bright. Only the film version of Vizzini comes off as an idiot, though -- the book Vizzini is legitimately portrayed as a twisted genius (who, in the end, gets tricked into outsmarting himself).
  • Blaggut, the illiterate, less-than-bright searat in The Bellmaker, the only vermin in the series to survive a Heel Face Turn. He's initially paired with the captain from his ship, who obeys the usual Always Chaotic Evil role of vermin, but eventually kills him when the captain murders the abbey's Badger Mother.
  • The Discworld novels will occasionally feature a stupid, more sympathetic villain (Banjo of Hogfather, Lemon of Soul Music, and Mr. Tulip of The Truth all leap to mind) who gets a more favourable end, but this is more to show how easily stupid people can be led astray. The heroes are usually quite intelligent.
    • Possibly played straight with Brutha from Small Gods. Despite his fantastic memory, he is considered a bit dim by most other characters. Nevertheless, he is compassionate and noble, and is the only one of Om's many worshipers to actually believe in him. It may be that his simplicity is the reason he never questioned what he was taught to believe (as opposed to everyone else, who simply go through the motions out of tradition and fear).
    • This is explicitly subverted with the characters of Carrot and Vimes. Carrot is a good natured, kind, and generally optimistic person who is often described as "simple". After this description, however, the books never forget to mention that "simple" doesn't mean stupid, and as the books go on it is clear that Carrot has an incredible deductive mind. Vimes, on the other hand is a cynical grouch who has little use for most people around him, but it's made clear that he truly loves his city and those who work under him, not to mention his wife and son.

 Angua: Someone has to be very complex indeed to be as simple as Carrot.

      • Vimes is often regarded by others as not very bright, but he makes up for it through a combination of obstinacy and being Dangerously Genre Savvy.
      • You should also keep in mind that most of the people who believe that Vimes is stupid believe it because they're classist assholes who can't believe that a former pauper could outwit them. Except for Lord Vetinari (and Vimnes' wife Sybil), this "rich=smart" assumption they run on has been proven to be almost universally wrong.
    • Cohen and his 'horde' from Interesting Times can't exactly be called smart (except for 'teach'), but they are extremely skilled fighters.
  • In Harry Potter, Ron is frequently shown to not be the brightest of the bunch but is also Harry's best friend. Also, to certain extent, Harry himself, who always does the most idiotic and suicidal possible action to solve each and every plot throughout the books.
    • Contrast them with Voldemort, who was described as having a terrifyingly keen intellect as a student and was even said by Dumbledore himself to have been one of the most brilliant students Hogwarts ever had.
    • That's Harry being Good Is Dumb, not Dumb Is Good. Ron did become comic relief but it wasn't his intelligence that was being made fun of.
    • Then compare Hermione who is smarter than both of them and her intelligence helps them literally survive the series. She's also arguably a better friend to Harry and much more empathic while Ron is tactless and blunt as well as being very ignorant of a lot of things. The trio all have some degree of intelligence with Hermione being book smart, Harry being excellent at defensive magic, and Ron knowing more about the wizarding world so it's not really an example of the trope.
    • Also Neville, who is generally bad at everything except Herbology, but he's still a pretty good guy.
  • In Flowers for Algernon, protagonist Charlie Gordon is a mentally challenged man mocked by most of the people he knows for being retarded. Then he participates in an experiment that makes him a genius, except he's still alienated because most of the people in this world are now half his IQ, so he can't relate to them. Plus, they're frightened/frustrated/jealous of his superior brains. The difference is that when he was retarded, he didn't realize when people were making fun of him, so he was able to be naive and happy. Then when the experiment fails and Charlie regresses to an IQ in the 70s, he becomes happy again and people start liking him out of pity.
    • It's shown that they also protect him from others abusing him.
  • Caramon Majere, of the Dragonlance series, is perhaps best described as a lovable oaf: Friendly, outgoing, not exactly bright but everyone likes him. Raistlin Majere, on the other hand, is a Deadpan Snarker who spends more time with his spellbooks and his bitterness, recognized as a magical and intellectual genius who spends most of his time ordering Caramon around. And this is before Raistlin undergoes his Start of Darkness!
  • The Lord Dunsany short story The Bureau d'Echange de Maux centers on a The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday where people can exchange any burden they felt they had. One pair exchanges wisdom for folly and folly for wisdom. The man who gave up wisdom is described as leaving looking happier than when he'd come in.
  • Terrifyingly inverted in Catch-22 with the character of "Aarfy." Like many examples on this page Aarfy is an utter simpleton, deliberately dense and prone to ignorance--to the point where he doesn't even notice incoming flak. Rather than being portrayed as good, Arfy is completely amoral, happily raping and murdering a maid--the raping because she wouldn't consent to the sex, and the murdering because "I couldn't very well let her go around saying bad things about us, could I?" When Yossarian points out that he could have paid a prostitute, Arfy cheerily replies "Oh no, not me, I never paid for it in my life."
  • Inverted with the character of Inch in the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series. Inch is borderline retarded, but he savagely tortures the prisoners in his care.
  • The Wolfs in The Talisman appear to be of universally low intelligence but are extremely loyal to the king and the crown and very friendly people. Since they're huge powerful werewolves, Morgan of Orris tries to corrupt some to his side.


Live Action TV

  • In the Farscape episode "My Three Crichtons", the hyper-evolved and super-intelligent version of Crichton is the least compassionate. The caveman-like Crichton, on the other hand, is the most moral, even doing a Heroic Sacrifice to save the regular Crichton's life
    • The regular Crichton, however, is actually legitimately intelligent (the Farscape project was to test a physics theory he came up with, after all) and fairly nice, being one of the more moral characters in season 1. Most of his crewmates think he's a moron (at first at least) thanks to being unfamiliar with the sector of the universe and his constant pop culture references
  • Malcolm in the Middle explicitly explored this in one episode, with stupid older brother Reese teaching Malcolm how to "turn off his brain" by singing commercial jingles to himself all the time so that boy genius Malcolm would be happier, kinder, and more relaxed. It works until Malcolm finds himself in a situation where he needs to think quickly and he abandons his blissful ignorance to return to his intellectual, cynical, Jerkass persona.
    • Of course, Reece himself is an aversion. Dumb he is, but nice he ain't.
  • The original page quote was a "No one likes the smartest kid in the class" line from The West Wing. Regardless, Aaron Sorkin does not so much subvert the trope as reject it, shoot it, string it upside down from a lamp post and spit on it. Much of Seasons Three and Four witness President Bartlet and his staff rejecting anti-intellectualism and extolling the virtues of education and intelligence. It's a measure of what we normally see on TV that "extolling the virtues of education and intelligence" actually makes the show unique.
    • Toby is possibly the ultimate definition of "Doesn't suffer fools gladly."
  • See also Aaron Sorkin's Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip, in which a sketch is called "boring" in a focus group. When another member of the group calls it "too smart," it's pointed out that "smart is another word for boring" and Simon snorts, lamenting "smart as a pejorative."
  • Played with in Doctor Who, in which The Hero is one of the smartest beings in the universe, while there are many instances in which his less intelligent companions are disgusted by his methods.
    • In particular, his seventh and tenth incarnations both have a nasty reputation for manipulating companions and civilians alike; the only differences between the two of them is that the seventh (who's a lot better at it) will usually have a better reason for his manipulations.
    • Played far too straight in "Dalek" and "The Long Game" with Adam Mitchell.
  • The episode of The King of Queens "Educatin' Doug". Carrie enrolls herself and Doug in an English night class (which Doug isn't too thrilled about) when she thinks they're becoming TV-addicted idiots. Carrie does quite well in the class, but Doug struggles, resorting to beat the information he needs out of Spence, who is also in the class. At first Carrie is angry when she finds this out, but eventually learns that she shouldn't have forced Doug into the endeavor. In addition to Dumb Is Good, the Aesop here would also seem to be "Leave well enough alone".
  • Kamen Rider has a few examples.
    • Kamen Rider Ryuki has a quite anti-intellectual vibe to it. The title hero, Kido Shinji, is an impulsive and idealistic fool and wants to protect everybody (even the evil Kamen Riders who are trying to kill him). The other heroes are a barroom brawler (Akiyama Ren), a tea shop waitress (Kanzaki Yui) and a fortune teller (Tezuka Miyuki). In contrast, many of the villains are educated types. The Big Bad is Well-Intentioned Extremist Kanzaki Shirou. His colleague teacher Kagawa Hideyuki is a sleazy Straw Vulcan. Kitaoka Shuuichi is an Amoral Attorney. And college students Shibaura Jun and Toujou Satoru are both Ax Crazy [nitwit]s.
    • That's hardly a fair assumption to make. I'll give you Kanzaki, Kagawa and Shibaura but the others mentioned seem to be scraping the bottom of the barrel. Kitaoka, for all his scruples, is much cleaner than most in the 'Amoral Attorney' category, and Toujou's role as a college student is barely given a passing mention, if even that. Also, one of the primary antagonists is Asakura who most definitely does not fall under the "well educated category". For that matter, a minor antagonist, Mitsuru, ended up where he was precisely because his father thought he was a naive, immature rascal that needed much maturing. Granted, he ended up the heir of his father's company, but even the Board of Executives acknowledged that he was going to need their help for awhile before he was ready to take the reigns himself.
  • In The Unusuals, there's a repeat offender named Marvin who's so stupid he commits crimes wearing a necklace with his name on it in huge gold letters, but he's portrayed as not such a bad guy because he's just too stupid to be malicious.
  • In one episode of the 1990s Outer Limits, Doogie Howser, M.D. plays a man whose mental retardation renders him immune to Id-unleashing parasites.
  • Kieth has problems in Like Family when he moves to a place where people don't have this attitude.
  • In Survivor Allstars episode 5, the three tribes are tasked with building a raft out of bamboo that they are given. Two of them proceed to build nice looking rafts, while the third tribe notes that all bundled together, the raft will not sink, and out of laziness and exhaustion, simply leave the bundle as is. Naturally, the bundle of wood, while being the worst looking raft, proves to be by far the fastest and leave the other two tribes that took the time to carefully build their rafts far behind.
  • Heavily averted in Primeval. All the main characters are typically extremely intelligent, if not in terms of their education then in common sense at least.
  • In the Made for TV Movie of Brave New World this is an actual ad campaign for a media company. (Which just happened to be modeled after the "TV is Good" campaign for ABC...)
  • In the soap opera All My Children, cunning (often) villain Adam Chandler had a twin brother Stuart who was both very sweet and quite dumb.
  • In Eureka, Sheriff Carter is frequently shown finding solutions to problems that none of the geniuses around him can't find.
  • How I Met Your Mother: Ted seems to be at his most annoying when he's displaying conspicuous intellect. He even acknowledged this himself in one episode, recognizing that he was being a "douchebag" when reciting (from memory) Dante's Divine Comedy in the original Italian, a legitimately impressive achievement.
  • Fox And Friends has been accused of anti-intellectualism, especially by Jon Stewart. He has special contempt for Gretchen Carlson, who plays the part of the Dumb Blonde on the show despite being valedictorian of her high school, a Stanford honors graduate in sociology who also studied at Oxford, and virtuoso violinist. She has to Google words like "czar" and "ignoramus" on the show.


Music

  • Pink's "Stupid Girls" criticises the trope and urges young women to think and have ambition in life.


Religion

  • The Book of Ecclesiastes muses over this and concludes that smart may be good but it sure is sad and it is temporary as we all die anyway. Of course making philosophical speculations like that requires at least some smarts. So whatever.
  • In The Book of Genesis, the Original Sin was eating fruit from the tree that gave knowledge of good and evil.
    • ...except it wasn't. The sin was in disobeying a direct order not to eat from said tree.
    • Subverted in certain sects of Christianity, specifically the Gnostics, who believed not only that this knowledge allowed humans to appreciate God on more than a primal level, but that Eve did the ultimate noble act in sharing that powerful knowledge with Adam.
    • Averted in Matthew 10:16 -- "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves."


Tabletop Games

  • A major tenet of Imperial dogma in Warhammer 40000. "Thought Begets Heresy; Heresy Begets Retribution" and "Only the Awkward Question; Only the Foolish Ask Twice" are two common quotes in the fluff.
    • "Blessed is the mind too small for doubt."
    • Within the metaphysics of the universe, close-minded dogmatism is one of the only things that can stop a normal human from falling to Chaos.
    • Ogryns follow this tenet without knowing it. They have blind faith in the Emperor, and while some fought on the wrong side during the Horus Heresy, it is highly suspected that they were lied to about which side they were on.


Video Games

  • In Backyard Sports, Pete Wheeler, who is dumb, is actually extremely nice. Dmitri Petrovich, who is incredibly smart, is mean. Averted with Reese Worthington, who is smart but nice (and is not a nerd).
  • Felicia has been generally established as the nicest and sweetest main character in the Darkstalkers series. Her appearances in other games, however, repeatedly suggest that she's also The Ditz on an almost painful level.
  • Inverted in I.M. Meen where the antagonist is an evil wizard who can't spell and hates studious children while the protagonist is one such child, described throughout the game as 'smarty' and 'bookworm'.
  • Subverted in Portal 2 with Wheatly. Though he does a Face Heel Turn upon gaining control of the Enrichment Center and getting an intelligence boost ultimately he's WORSE than G La DOS. He attempts to trick and kill Chell and does not care that his actions will cause the entire Enrichment Center to blow up. Ultimately he's plagued by poor common sense regardless of his morality.
    • Throughout Portal, there's this distinct vibe concerning Prometheus. In the mythology, Prometheus was definitely lacking in hindsight, his brother, Epithemus, is lacking in foresight. G La DOS never learns from her mistakes, only altering her modus operandi in the later half of the game. Wheatley takes the role of Epithemus. Definitely learning from the mistakes of G La DOS, but rarely thinking ahead to formulate plans or traps.
  • The Neverhood: Klaymen, Willie and even Hoborg dosent seem that bright.
  • in one story, a smart and honest guy fooled his dumb, greedy and lazy brothers multiple times.
  • Radiata Stories: Clive, a country hick, is one of the nicest guys in the game. Not only will he be Jack's friend without a Fetch Quest but he'll come to the guild and volunteer.
    • Jack himself.


Web Animation

  • Red vs. Blue. None of the characters are incredibly smart, but Caboose, who is dumb as they come, is definitely the happiest of the bunch, as was once commented on by Church. Also, he seems to try to be helpful to his teammates, but, well, he's Caboose.

 Church: Dang man, I would love to live in your world for like ten minutes.

Caboose: Yeah. I have a really good time.

Church: Yeah it seems like it. I don't think I'd get anything done, but I don't think I'd care.

    • Grif is surly, uncooperative, and would, in general, rather not be here (wherever here happens to be at the moment). He's also been noted to be the smartest member of the Red Team (although, all things considered, this is more a judgment on his teammates rather than being particularly complementary towards Grif).
    • Similarly, Donut is usually very happy. One could even call him gay. He's only marginally smarter than Caboose. Their happy yet simple natures allow them to quickly become friends when Donut is captured.


Web Comics

  • Of the four main heroes of Eight Bit Theater, three are self-serving rogues just shy (maybe) of actual villains themselves. One of their latest group activities was to enter a town and murder a number of its citizens so that the rest would pay them protection money. The only character who could conceivably be called a hero (maybe) is the one stupid enough to (usually) not realize that his teammates are incapable of altruism and really don't care. However, it should be noted that he is sometimes shown to be a Genius Ditz and the other members aren't really that smart either.
    • Also, it is because he is so oblivious to the evil of his "best friend" Villain Protagonist that he has recently threatened the other two characters enough to prevent them from killing the guy -- or even letting him die via other means. So the most evil of the three, the real threat to the universe, is effectively alive right now only because the dumb-but-not-evil main character can't see how evil he is. (Despite being on the receiving ends of numerous stabs to the head from said "friend".)

 Fighter: Because friends look out for one another and we're friends, but Black Mage is my best friend. Also, I can block any attack and kill anything that bleeds. Hint.

    • 8-Bit pretty much nails this trope. There are only a few characters which can be considered intelligent: Sarda, who is as much as a Jerkass as one can be. White Mage, who started out with a kind, patient and gentle personality which eroded massively over time thanks to the idiots she has to suffer. Princess Sara is very definitely evil and is also more competent then every other official villain in the series. And Thief as well as Drizz'l are borderline cases: they carry the Idiot Ball more then once and are just smart enough to act as the Only Sane Man for their teams. Also, both are evil.
    • What with Sarda's omnipotence and omniscience, you could almost take it as Word of God in the latest comic that the Light warriors are all selfish monsters who need to die for the good of everyone else.
      • Except for Fighter. He's just a casualty.
    • Also notice that King Steve is completely idiotic, but he's also a complete monster. Waroween, anyone?
    • There's more than a little proof that Fighter was originally both intelligent and kind, but eventually just got tired of all the idiots in the world and pretty much turned off his brain.
  • The Adventures of Dr. McNinja: Dr. McNinja claims that this story arc's lesson is that those of this trope are preferable to the evil-geniuses.
  • Nodwick goes both ways: Piffany seems to have severe problems with understanding what goes around her but is practically a living saint. On the flip side, Yeagar isn't much better but is the only party member to be actively malicious. Artax and Nodwick, the two most clear-headed thinkers in the party (in that order) are both Deadpan Snarkers to various degrees, but Artax is considerably more callous than Nodwick. Thus, the dumbest and the smartest person in the party are the nicest, with the two in the middle picking up the "nasty" slack (although Nodwick has an extremely caustic tongue, particularly in regards to Yeagar and Artax's antics). And Yeagar and Artax are the ones slapping Nodwick around. Repeatedly. While Piffany isn't looking.
  • Thog of Order of the Stick is a subversion, particularly in this strip, whose title is Stupid Isn't Always Cute. This doesn't stop most fans being sympathetic towards him nonetheless. (Not that it's hard to be sympathetic in comparison to Thog's usual company).
    • Elan, however, is a straight example.
      • Especially when you consider his smart Evil Twin.
    • So is the Monster in the Darkness, at least when compared to the rest of Team Evil.
      • The MitD has been getting smarter as of late, explicitly because of the influence of a good paladin he formed an Odd Friendship with. Which would mean he's turning this trope on its head.
    • But, along with this is also subverted by other characters all the time, since Stupid Good and Dumb Muscle are major D&D stereotypes. Roy has unusually high Wisdom for a fighter and serves as the group leader, and, although he does seem to have trouble suffering fools, usually comes across as happy. On the enemy side we also get to see Xykon, who comes across as fairly stupid (although the argument can and has been made he just doesn't care, and it's impossible to say that he isn't at least crafty).
    • It has been pointed out by Xykon that he's a LOT smarter than Redcloak or others usually assume that he is. He just doesn't care about devising clever plans, preferring to just overwhelm the good guys with ridiculously huge armies, and ignore the machinations of his more devious underlings.
    • Part of this is because the characters fit the archetypes of their respective classes - Xykon is a sorcerer, not a wizard, which means his primary spellcasting stat is charisma instead of intelligence.
  • In The Last Days of Foxhound, the biggest jerks in the comic tend also to be the smartest (excepting perhaps Raven) -- Otacon is the best example in that he is the series' perhaps only genuinely good person, and also a complete Ditz.
  • This is parodied in Happy But Dead. When Tito, Gear and Colin die, Colin and Gear go to Hell. Once there, they learn that Tito made it into Heaven despite doing just as much bad stuff as they did. However, as he was considered too stupid to fully understand what he was doing was wrong, he automatically gets a free pass to Heaven.
  • Bob and George Why George forgot his powers
  • The Stupiders : Brainiac, who, on learning that carbon dioxide causes global warming, attempts to 'never exhale again'. [1]
  • In Sinfest, the enlightened drones seem not to recognize that their home is Satan's lair. Though they also seem to suffer no harm from it; Satan is ordering new ones to replace them.


Web Original

  • Subverted in Doctor Horribles Sing Along Blog; The Good Captain is big and dumb and a completely insensitive jerk, while the titular Doctor Horrible has his good points despite his Morally-Ambiguous Doctorate. On the other hand, though, he does actually seem to look down on the masses, so it's also half played straight -- smart and dumb are both jerks.
    • This ideal is actually promoted by Captain Hammer himself in the comics, with him stating that smart kids or anyone that doesn't immediately fit mainstream's perception of normal should all be thrown into jail. The audience of course is expected to know that he's just spouting [BS].
  • Generally averted in the Whateley Universe stories. The (high school) protagonists are all intelligent and also good, with about half of them in the genius category, and several of them seriously focused on scholastic achievement. Some of the worst people on campus, like Buster, are the dumbest.


Western Animation

  • Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy: Both Ed and Eddy despise and make fun of Edd's High IQ/Intellect in almost all of the early episodes, for two reasons:
    • 1. seems to have problems in regards to thinking ahead.
    • 2. It also can be said, Edd seems to be fairly arrogant, sometimes
      • Double D wasn't really presented as the clear "smart one" until the latter end of the first season.
      • Eddy is much more arrogant and insufferable than Double D (which is saying something) but certainly not quite as smart.
      • Also Double D seems gets more flak (particularly from Eddy) when his intelligence isn't up to par. "You're messin' with the group dynamics" and "you really haven't been on the ball lately".
      • Ed seems to be an example of both Dumb Is Good and Chaotic Stupid.
  • Even though he can be said to be less of a Jerkass than Mandark, the title character of Dexter's Laboratory is still fairly high-strung, seems to have problems in regards to thinking ahead, and can be said to be fairly arrogant. In contrast, his older sister DeeDee is usually much more cheerful and laid back, despite being something of a Cloudcuckoolander.
    • Then again, she is a very destructive person who obliviously trashes his laboratory on a regular basis.
      • Which may just be playing it straight, in a subversive way; it's occasionally debatable how oblivious she really is.
  • Inverted Trope in, of all places, Aqua Teen Hunger Force. While the genius characters aside from Frylock certainly aren't nice or sympathetic by any means being the kind of show this is the most malicious characters are also the stupidest. The few nice characters tend to be more intelligent than most of the cast.
  • The Ren and Stimpy Show.
  • Cow and Chicken.
  • Pinky and The Brain.
    • Depending on your point of view, it can be debated whether or not Pinky is the "dumb" one...
    • There is an episode early on in the series where the Brain makes Pinky intelligent and, finding out that an intelligent Pinky is actually smarter than him, comes to realize he is the reason they always fail (proved mathematically no less) and reduces his own intelligence. The subversion is that Pinky is still happy, energetic, and full of "Narf" when he is intelligent while the Brain, though he does suddenly find rather silly things funny all of a sudden, retains his unhappy personality (albeit less mean, but that might just be because his usual course of abuse towards Pinky is rooted in witty recriminations).
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy does this with Billy in early seasons. For better or worse, later seasons take away the "good" part as he's still stupid and also a spoiled, violent Jerkass.
  • Gunter the chimpanzee from the episode of Futurama "Mars University". When he wears the bowler hat that Professor Farnsworth invented that makes him super-intelligent, he's a snobbish know-it-all, especially towards Fry. Later, when Gunter's hat gets broken and thus only gives him average intelligence, he finds that he's much happier that way and decides to attend business school, much to Farnsworth's ire.
    • Mars University also parodies this trope with its motto,"knowledge brings fear."
    • Though this same episode averts the trope as Gunter was not being "so stupid I tried to wear a hat on my butt." It could be considered more a case of Status Quo Is God as Gunter hate being stupid and hated being smart.
  • The SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Patrick Smartpants" has The Ditz Patrick accidentally become smart, then quickly turn into an Insufferable Genius who eventually becomes miserable because he can no longer relate to his dumb friend SpongeBob. So he becomes an idiot again and is ecstatic. This is presented as an unequivocally good thing.
  • Though he's still pretty nasty, Megatron's rather dim lackey in Transformers Armada, Demolishor, is probably the "nicest" one out of the Decepticons.
    • In fact, in the sequel Transformers Energon he has moral dilemmas and temporarily fights for the good guys. Subverted, somewhat, in that after he rejoins the Decepticons and gets reformatted he becomes even stupider.
  • The Simpsons episode "HOMR", in which the normally stupid Homer gets a crayon dislodged from his brain, making him slightly more intelligent than average ( Homer: Is there no room in the world for somebody with a 130 IQ? ) . However, he quickly loses his friends due to his intelligence. Then Lisa tells him the sad "truth": As intelligence goes up, happiness goes down. Smart Homer sees only one recourse -- re-insert the crayon through his nose...
    • Then again, Homer is both dumb and a Jerkass and slightly more moral without the crayon, so Dumbness and Goodness aren't always related.
    • Lisa is consistently (and for some, obnoxiously) portrayed as both the most intelligent and morally upright person in the family. She is also the voice of the writers (who is supposed to always hold the correct opinion, even when Straw Man Has a Point) and so has achieved Scrappy status among fans, and has always been less popular than Homer and Bart. In universe, she is frequently disliked by classmates and feels isolated and depressed as a result of her intelligence. She might sometimes save all of Springfield and be right a lot (at least, in the view of the writers) but she pays a heavy cost. Maybe the message is that Dumb Is Good most of the time, but you also need smart people around to occasionally save your ass.
    • One episode had the people with the highest I Qs put in charge of the town. It was a complete disaster, largely due to their arguing over who was the smartest.
  • Invader Zim fell afoul of this trope accidentally with the character of GIR, a Robot Buddy at extreme levels of stupidity. Intended to be merely an idiot hedonist, he was seen as one of the nicer characters in the series, and an entire episode was dedicated to sticking him in "duty mode," which had the result of making him several times more evil than Zim himself. It didn't stick.
  • Mongo in the Heathcliff cartoons was generally the most gentle and good-natured of the Junkyard Cats, as opposed to all the other characters whose main interests were some level of scheming and fighting.
  • Peter Griffin on Family Guy prior to the show being Uncanceled.
  • Lindsay from Total Drama Island and its followups.
  • Recess: While T.J.'s The Ditz and Mikey's a bit of a Cloudcuckoolander, they're both some of the sweetest characters in the series.
  • Played with in Animalia, where Alligator actress Alegra becomes hightly intelligent after accidentally absorbing Livingstone's intelligence, causing her to suddenly become a dangerously Evil Genius, to the point Livingstone's rival Tyranicus ended up helping the protagonist to get the intelligence back because he'd rather have his rival in perfect state than an intelligent Alegra.Partially subverted in that Alegra wasn't really a nice person to begin with (though her normal self does displays a softer side occasionnally), whereas Livingstone, when possessing his natural hight intelligence, is portrayed as an extremely wise and kind person. As such, the message would rather be that intelligence is a gift that can cause as much harm as good, depending who's possessing it.
  • Gorillaz gives us 2D, who isn't too bright, but definitely a nice person; he's a supporter of the Free Tibet campaign, and fans often comment on how adorably innocent he is. Moreso than Murdoc, his crazy and amoral bandmate.

 Paula Cracker (talking about 2D in this interview: He was very sweet. A bit thick, though.

Real Life

  • Averted in Real Life; a person's intelligence by and large has no clear connection to whether that person is happy or not. That doesn't stop people, however, from believing that this is true. Or making it so.
  • There seems to be an unspoken assumption in American politics that "intellectual" is a synonym for "elitist," and therefore of "bad." This belief seems to be roughly traceable to the 1952 presidential election, which Democratic nominee Adlai Stevenson lost in a landslide partly because of his public image as an "egghead." Since then, it has become something of a ritual in American politics for presidential contenders in both parties to compete for which candidate can seem the most like "just regular folk." This gets particularly funny in those elections when both candidates went to Ivy League or similarly acclaimed schools.
    • It seems to hit a peak of ridiculousness during the 2008 Democratic Primaries, when the two front runners, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama were both getting painted with the elitist brush, since they were both well-educated Law school graduates. It created the surreal images of Hillary Clinton drinking shots in a bar, all the candidates appearing on Saturday Night Live and The Tyra Banks Show, and other related weirdness.
    • This trend in the U.S. (and to a somewhat lesser extent in Canada) is discussed in the book "More Money Than Brains", by Laura Penny.
  • There is the old saying "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and Ignorance Is Bliss." That's gotten more important with the spread of easily accessible information. Depression is on the rise (or is being noticed more readily), and some blame the abundance of information. Some people have suggested the way to improve this is to "play dumb" and avoid the news before the worries of the world crush you.
  • Emma Watson (who plays the above mentioned Hermione Granger) has openly spoken against this trope, saying "There are too many stupid girls in the media. Hermione's not scared to be clever. I think sometimes really smart girls dumb themselves down a bit, and that's bad".
  • Adam Carolla had this to say regarding this topic.
  • A deadly application of this trope happened in Cambodia where intellectuals were among the people singled out as enemies of the state and slaughtered en masse. Often the criteria for being labelled a intellectual involved something as simple as happening to wear glasses or looking "scholarly."
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.