Obfuscating Stupidity/Western Animation

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to navigation Jump to search


  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender it's unknown exactly which parts of Bumi's behavior are Obfuscating Stupidity and which (if any, or all) are genuine weirdness. The only thing we do know is there's enough Obfuscating Stupidity for him to really be a ripped and awesome earthbender.
    • Iroh, top to bottom. Looking at the polite old man, you'd never imagine he'd once held the last bastion of resistance to the fire nation in slowly constricting grip. Almost everything he says in adverse situations is well-obfuscated, extremely polite deadpan snark. Also, when he was imprisoned in Book Three, he pretended to be insane while secretly doing exercises in his cell so that, after a while, all of his fat appears to have been replaced with sheer badass muscle.
  • Quinn Morgendorffer (Daria) is a canonical example of the fake-ditz variant. However, it is implied through the series that she hid her intelligence even from herself, for fear of emulating her perpetually unpopular yet brilliant sister Daria.
  • It's occasionally hinted that Nelson's ignorant thug persona in The Simpsons is at least partially an act to cover a more sensitive and intelligent soul.
    • This applies to all the bullies. Kerney, despite being a teenager and the father of a teenager, apparently is competent enough to pull his weight at church meetings, for instance.
    • In the episode "Summer of 4 Ft. 2, Lisa tires of her usual bookworm self and while on summer vacation plays the part of an average anti-intellectual "cool" kid to win friends. She occasionally slips up, however.
Cquote1.svg

Lisa: Ah, a gift from my favourite crustacean! (Gulps)
Rick: Hey, did you learn that word from a teacher for something?
Lisa: No...I...heard it on Baywatch.
Other kids: Oh yeah!...Baywatch!...David Hasselhoff, man.

Cquote2.svg
    • A very unusual moment of Obfuscating Stupidity comes from the episode "Mother Simpson"; unusual because it comes from the usually dense-as-brick Chief Wiggum. It's revealed by the end of the episode that Wiggum intentionally led the FBI astray in order to help Homer's fugitive mother Mona escape Springfield, leading one to wonder whether the stupid things he did in the episode were genuine or to just throw the feds off track.
    • Attentive Simpson watchers and tropers with a good memory alike will tell you that most of the cast of this show has had at least more than a couple "smarter than they let on" scenes, primarily in the series' earlier years and most of its glory days. Although mileage may vary on the definition of putting on an act...a wide range of characters ranging from Bart, Moe, Barney, Chief Wiggum, Homer, to even Ralph Wiggum himself have all had times where their stupidity is treated more like ignorance and/or haggardness than genuine one-dimensional stupidity. Some might even speculate that at one point the series had very few cookie-cutter stupid characters, perhaps as an underlying satire that most human stupidity is rarely involuntary or a natural trait. Homer could have been a man of high class and wealth...but a few mistakes and an unplanned pregnancy later and he sort of "gave up"...making him the oaf we all know today. This aspect of the show however is largely forgotten now, replaced with canned joke-esque stupidity and Homer having a crayon stuck up his nose. Many fans believe the unfortunate loss of this trait to be one of the biggest reasons why the show just doesn't seem as sharp as it once was.
    • This spills into many other tropes, from the aforementioned Book Dumb, to Genius Ditz, to possibly even one named after Ralph and many others.
    • Ralph almost singlehandedly took over the town by acting lovably stupid. (we don’t actually know the outcome, since the ending was a cliffhanger after the big reveal).
  • Sargeant Hatred of The Venture Brothers pretends to be a bumbling and friendly villain through season three because he knows being nice to Doctor Venture is the best way to get at the Monarch without violating guild rules.
    • Season four, however, reveals that Hatred is a genuinely incompetent and fairly stupid man, just like everyone else in the show.
  • Madame Foster from Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends uses her (partially faked) senility to hide how canny she can sometimes be.
  • In the Disney cartoon American Dragon: Jake Long, there is Spud (an apt name, considering his displayed personality). Spud has the personality of your average idiot (and sometimes worse), but once, when tricked into doing an aptitude test, he gets a perfect score and is sent to a school for geniuses, where he also is far smarter than any of those people too. Spud explains that he does so because he doesn't want the pressure of having to perform to live up to the expectations others might have toward a young genius. He'd rather enjoy life as an easy-going goof.
  • Baloo from Tale Spin (and to some extent, the original The Jungle Book as well) often seemed very dense and unsophisticated, suffering from endless financial problems and even having trouble spelling correctly. However it was shown many, many times that Baloo is probably a certifiable genius, and it's not just his flying skill (which would put him in line with the Genius Ditz) although that alone is certainly something to boast. Baloo shows an uncanny knack for geography even when navigator Kit isn't around, seeing through deception, insight, philosophy, and even mechanical skill and an abstract understanding of machines (though not to Wildcat's extent obviously). All the more impressive when one realizes that he does all of this based off of instinct, as his denseness is mostly attributed to being largely uneducated (which was somewhat more common in the 1930s when the series takes place anyway), as well as his own lazy nature.
  • Sarah Palin, in South Park's take on the 2008 US election, proves to be far more intelligent when outside the public eye.
  • The Penguins of Madagascar had a walrus named Rhonda, who started to live in Marlene the otter's habitat as her "roommate". Rhonda proves to be quite an annoyance to Marlene eventually, and she demands the penguins to get rid of her. However, when the penguins did get rid of Rhonda, it turns out that they were right about her being a spy for Dr. Blowhole.
    • Private's uncle Nigel used this as a cover to hide the fact he was really a super spy. At least until he was caught by The Red Squirrel, who refused to believe it.
  • According to Epileptic Trees about Kim Possible, Ron Stoppable is just acting as bumbling as he is, because if he didn't, Kim would be devastated that Ron is better at life than she is. Cue Evil Ron, who gets to be completely Badass.
    • In an early episode of Kim Possible, Kim rescues Nakasume, a Japanese toy manufacturer, from Drakken and Shego. Nakasume conveys his thanks to Kim by whispering into his secretary Yoshiko's ear, who then translates. Nakasume appears later in the Kim Possible movie So The Drama, in which it is learned that he is actually fluent in English, but enjoys whispering in Yoshiko's ear.
    • In the Season Four episode "Larry's Birthday", Professor Dementor's henchmen kidnap Kim's RPG-obsessed cousin Larry (wrongly thinking that he was Ron) as part of Dementor's plan to steal Kim's battle-suit. Larry acted like this was just an elaborate RPG scenario and went along with the kidnapping, seemingly siding with Dementor when he managed to kidnap Kim and Ron. At which point Ron (who has played against Larry before) smiles and asks, "Yo, Lar! We looking at a Scenario Nineteen here?" Larry answers, "Precisely," and reveals that he was wise to Dementor's plan and had been wearing Kim's battlesuit all along to keep Dementor from stealing it, and even uses the suit to take Dementor down.
  • In Justice League Unlimited, the Question's conspiracy nut persona is probably an act. At the very least, he isn't entirely imagining things, or having delusions of grandeur about his ability to gather info - this is highlighted by the fact that Batman asks him to ferret out a link between Cadmus and Luthor. When he attempts to assassinate Luthor to stop Superman from doing so, he notes that the Justice League's reputation will survive this otherwise unconscionable action because he is, in his words, "a well-known crackpot".
    • He then proceeds to spout conspiracy theories in response to every question he's asked under torture, in a more amusing equivalent to a soldier's 'Name, Rank, and Serial Number.'
  • This was Bugs Bunny's strategy in Barbary Coast Bunny. After Nasty Canasta stole his gold, Bugs the Karmic Trickster pretends to be a hopelessly naive hayseed during his visit to Canasta's casino. He promptly bankrupts it by effortlessly winning big at every game of chance.
  • In The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, a new kid named Bobby takes over Billy's position as the stupid kid because everyone was sick of Billy, as it turns out Bobby is only pretending to be stupid in order to replace him at his house hold.
  • It's not much of this case (considering he really is stupid), but when SpongeBob SquarePants' friend Patrick]] aimlessly walks straight into the lagoon while holding his rare trading card, Spongebob asks him why he did so. Here is Patrick's answer:
Cquote1.svg

Patrick: Spongebob, you can't always expect my usual brand of stupidity. I like to mix it up. Keep you on your toes.

Cquote2.svg
    • An earlier example is in I'm With Stupid, when Patrick wants to impress his parents, Spongebob fakes stupidity.
  • The Darker and Edgier G.I. Joe: Resolute premiere has Cobra Commander stating he was pulling this trope in earlier series, but it didn't work so he's dropping the disguise and getting serious.
    • It's notable that Cobra Commander kills a lot more people and is much less tolerant of his subordinates attempting to pull crap on him, but otherwise acts just as bonkers as his previous 1980's incarnation, which at least suggests the possibility that he's just saying that to save face.
      • He's certainly Genre Savvy enough to have backups for BOTH the super weapon and communication jammer, and a bomb shelter that can resist a blast from said super weapon. He is still surrounded by incompetents who when to the Storm Trooper Academy for Accuracy or mouthy psychotics like Zartan and Storm Shadow. They only failed because GI Joe were slightly more competent and accurate. It's quite a different kind of bonkers though; in the old cartoons he'd have some idiotic plot to rule the world by rigging a mayoral election or tricking some rich old man into marrying The Baroness using mind control perfume. In Resolute? He destroys Moscow without warning and hacks his own troops apart.
    • Although this is crossing into comic book territory, it should be noted that Cobra Commander's original comic-book persona...predating even the original cartoon...was ruthless and crazy since the beginning. From secretly brainwashing his own high command in case they turned on him, to managing a Cobra that actually manages to kill more than a couple of established GI Joes, to even killing his own son Billy in later comics...it's easy to see why the Sunbow cartoon had to tone him down into the bumbling fool we all knew and loved as kids. You don't mess around with Cobra Commander in the comics! As Resolute attempted to go back to his original persona more, the speech about pretending to be a bumbler could be considered something of a nod to this extreme difference.
  • Bobby's World played with this from time to time. While Bobby was, for the most part, genuinely naive, there were times when he would overplay it to cause problems for Derek or Kelly, while appearing innocent. One notable example was when he repeated everything Kelly had said about her ex-boyfriend (who she still liked), in front of said ex-boyfriend (who had come to apologize after their fight), while pretending to not know what it meant (needless to say, he ceased to be apologetic).
  • Steve's friend Barry from American Dad he is generally seen as a very unintelligent individual but in some episodes he is shown to be very good with mechanics when asked about this he replies that he doesn't know how he did it, another episode reveals that he isn't as stupid as he seems he is actually a very intelligent psychopath who takes pills to control this side of him.
  • One episode of Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century has Holmes pretend to be insane to solve the case of why Lestrange mysterious went nuts.
  • Total Drama World Tour: Sierra is smarter than she lets on. As part of her being a extremely devoted Loony Fan, she knows the show's rules back and forward, and is extremely Genre Savvy; the most stand-out form of this is that she pretends to become Heather's latest pawn while secretly planning to turn it on her.
  • An episode of Garfield and Friends has Garfield pretending to be an idiot in order to get back some money a cat stole from Odie and he uses play money to bribe him into giving the money back.
  • Looney Tunes: Slowpoke Rodriguez is barely mobile and doesn't think about much aside from his next meal. However, he's quickly proves to every bit as dangerous as Speedy thanks to being a crack shot and an expert at hypnotism.
  • Young Justice: Every member of the Flash family (with the possible exception of Jay). Yes, they're a bunch of happy-go-lucky jokesters, but they are also extremely intelligent when it comes to science. Which is to be expected, given that they got their powers from a science experiment. This is taken Up to Eleven with Impulse , who acts like a little kid in a candy store for his entire introductory episode only for The Stinger to reveal that it's all an act he uses to hide the fact that her comes from a Bad Future.