Idiot Ball

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WARNING: Prolonged exposure to the idiot ball can cause severely reduced intelligence, complete social ineptitude, and death.
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Obi-Wan: Wait a minute. How did this happen? We're smarter than this.

Anakin: Apparently not.
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A moment where a character's stupidity fuels an episode, or a small plot line. If multiple characters have the Idiot Ball it becomes an Idiot Plot. Temporary (or permanent) Genre Blindness is often a cause of this trope.

Coined by Hank Azaria on Herman's Head: Azaria would ask the writing staff, "Who's carrying the idiot ball this week?" This is generally not a compliment on the writing because the person carrying the idiot ball is often acting Out of Character, misunderstanding something that could be cleared up by asking a single reasonable question or performing a simple problem-solving action, but that he isn't doing solely because the writers don't want him to. It's almost as if the character is being willfully stupid or obtuse.

Unsurprisingly, this provokes a What an Idiot! response from the audience. However, sometimes, the purpose is to help the audience. Sometimes, the holder of the idiot ball asks the dumb question to allow a certain amount of exposition to occur that wouldn't organically be talked about, but needs to be stated for the audience.

On the other hand, making stupid mistakes can be the hallmark of Character Development if the person recognizes it in the end. Seeing someone discarding the idiot ball can be a rewarding moment when they are Taught By Experience.

See also Villain Ball, Hero Ball, Distress Ball, Idiot Plot, Forgot About His Powers, Alcohol-Induced Idiocy, Comedy of Errors, Too Dumb to Live, What an Idiot!, Conflict Ball, Bullying a Dragon, Mugging the Monster, Failed a Spot Check, Ping-Pong Naivete, Third-Act Stupidity *big breath* , and Out-of-Character Moment. A Stupidity-Inducing Attack is essentially what happens when a character deliberately throws the Idiot Ball at another character.

This trope is the Opposite Trope of Smart Ball, and probably not closely related to Sanity Ball, Happy Fun Ball or Advantage Ball. And not even remotely related to the Timey-Wimey Ball or Dragon Ball.

Related "forgetfulness" tropes:

Character Condition Character doesn't remember, or Remembered Too Late Character remembers, maybe Just in Time
Has magical or metahuman ability Forgot About His Powers, Reed Richards Is Useless Remembered I Could Fly
Has mundane ability Idiot Ball Forgot I Could Change the Rules
Doesn't have mundane ability Forgot I Couldn't Swim ?
Examples of people carrying the Idiot Ball are listed on these subpages: