The Ingenue

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The Ingenue, by Renoir (1877)
"What are you doing here in the middle of the night? It's almost 9 PM."
Mary Lane, Reefer Madness (2005)

The Ingenue is a young virginal woman with the purity of a child.

She is woefully naive, making her a prime target for a villain seeking to take advantage of her, often in an I Have You Now, My Pretty fashion. As a result, the ingenue is one of the most common Distressed Damsels. She is also immune to sexual innuendo. In a worst-case scenario, the character will be given no real personality beyond her purity and innocence.

The ingenue is a Stock Character found throughout all media, although the character type, almost always voiced by a lyric soprano, is popular in Opera. The Princess Classic is one of the most common examples of this. Nowadays, the ingenue is parodied or subverted more often than not, because in this day and age it isn't plausible for an unsheltered girl to be completely innocent. If this character is played straight and not in a traditionally romantic setting, she may be Wrong Genre Savvy, and will usually end up getting screwed over.

A young actress in a theatre troupe is often called an ingenue, as she is frequently cast in this role.

Silk Hiding Steel is what a Ingenues may grow up to be.

There is no direct male version Distaff Counterpart to The Ingenue which shares the same characeristics and possibitive connotations. The closest equivalent for male characters, Man Child, has rather negative connotations with immaturity and being weak, with the emphasis being more on the lack of adult characteristics in the manchild versus their childlike purity.

Compare Man Child, The Pollyanna, Princess Classic, The Cutie, Purity Sue, Parasol of Prettiness, Proper Lady. Contrast The Vamp, Femme Fatale, Innocent Bigot, Seemingly-Wholesome Fifties Girl, Stepford Smiler, Wide-Eyed Idealist, Covert Pervert, Coy Girlish Flirt Pose, Old-Fashioned Rowboat Date.

Examples of The Ingenue include:


Anime & Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Subverted by Lacus Clyne, of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED and Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny. When she's introduced, she comes off as being innocent to the point of being impossibly naive, even stupid. She's actually highly political savvy, heavily implied to be pretending to be dim to be overlooked, and ends up a major world-leader by the end of the series.
  • Tohru in Fruits Basket fits this completely.
  • Shizuka/Serenity from Yu-Gi-Oh!.
  • Himeko from Kannazuki no Miko matches this categorization incredibly well.
  • Eve Genoard from Baccano!, who is probably the only character in the entire series who isn't a crook, psycho, or dabbling in organized crime in some way - at least as far as she knows. She then goes on to subvert it in Drugs & the Dominoes: turns out that even the Moeblobs of the Baccano! universe are prepared to remorselessly blow your head off in revenge.
  • Arguably Usagi from Sailor Moon when her more obnoxious traits are toned down (which happens most noticeably when she takes the form of Princess Serenity).
  • Albert from Gankutsuou is a rare male example, though the show is partly about him growing out of it by the way of a particularly cruel Break the Cutie process.
  • Ah! My Goddess has Belldandy. Oh, is she ever one of these. Her pastimes include cleaning, talking about how much she loves cleaning, and coddling various inanimate objects because love makes machines work better. She'll give any and every stranger on the street a hug, but hasn't gotten past second base with the boyfriend she's lived with for years. There are occasions where she is shown as being aware of the situation, but these are typically the exceptions rather than the rule.
    • For example, her knowledge of sexual innuendo is woefully limited, allowing her to misunderstand comments such as how Keiichi must not get a lot of sleep when he's with her. And she also misses Keiichi's hints about moving their relationship forward sexually, such as when they were standing in front of the love motel during an Urd-created rainstorm. On the other hand, she is at least somewhat aware that Keiichi has sexual desires, but admits she is not ready to fulfill them.
    • Another example, is when they were at the hot Springs and Keiichi was trying to cover up his nakedness, Belldandy was totally unaware of Keiichi's embarrassment at being nude in front of a group of girls, and thought that Marller had in fact hurt him. Both Marller and Urd considered her complete obliviousness to be scary [1]
  • Nunnally Lamperouge from Code Geass seems to be one of these... until R2 rolls around, and we see that despite being blind and wheelchair-bound, she's still her father's daughter...
    • Euphemia is a much straighter example, the Euphinator incident notwithstanding.
    • Shirley may also count.
      • Well, yeah, both Euphemia and Shirley are much straighter examples (in the end) than Nunnally, who really just subverts the trope—or else learns to grow out of it in time to get in on the main plot action.
  • Sawako Kuronuma of Kimi ni Todoke fits this as a sort of modern-day reinterpretation. Academically, she's very bright, but has almost no social skills. She falls for a guy who became incredibly popular at school due to his penchant for being nice to people. And while she does get into "distress" from time to time, it's usually high school issues that pose the threat, and her friends encourage her to solve the problems herself.
  • In Lucky Star, Tsukasa and Yutaka lean toward this trope.
    • Tsukasa, not much so; she isn't really THAT naive. Yutaka, ooohhh yeah. She is so naive, cute, sweet, and innocent to the point that brought her curiosity of asking what yaoi means (probably quite oblivious to sexual themes)?
  • The title character of Kobato.. Nuff' said.
  • Yuno of Hidamari Sketch. She certainly has Character Development, but still is childish and naive compared to her co-tenants.
  • Nanako Yamamoto from Hanamaru Kindergarten qualifies.
    • Her obliviousness to romantic overtures appears to be genetic. She and her sister are both completely aware the other has men interested in them, but fails to notice when someone makes romantic overtures to them.
  • Chii from Chobits.
  • Light's little sister Sayu in Death Note.
  • Kanzaki Nao in Liar Game.
  • In Ichigo Mashimaro, Matsuri. She's way more easily fooled by Miu's antics than the others.
  • Kohaku from Wish. So, so much.
  • An extremely rare male version of this is Ryo from FAKE. He is not a Man Child and a very mature Straight Man to contrast his partner Lovable Sex Maniac Dee. However, he is extremely naive when it comes to intimate matters and often nearly taken advantage of as a result. Sexual innuendo tends to fly over his head, has little experience in relationships and is hardly able to keep his partner's (or boss') sexual advances at bay. So much so that in the English version, other characters call him 'Sandra Dee', an actress known for playing the Ingenue in many roles.


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Cross Gen Comics had a conscious, self-aware example: Persha of The First, a centuries-old goddess of secrets who deliberately affects the behavior of a nosy, naiive teenager, and even remarks aloud that she is keeping secrets from herself in order to remain innocent.


Film - Animated[edit | hide]

  • Snow White, to a T.
    • Aurora, to an even better T.
      • Heck, throw in Cinderella as well, who maintains her optimism and purity even while living a crapsack life.
      • Rapunzel has some elements of this as well.


Film - Live-Action[edit | hide]

  • To some extent Ben in the beginning of The Graduate, although he does smoke and drink (most every adult did in the sixties).
  • Parodied in A Very Brady Movie, with Marcia Brady being the most blatant.
  • Mary Lane from Reefer Madness. This is played for laughs in the musical, giving us the page quote.
  • Janet (SLUT!) in Rocky Horror Picture Show, although she's less naive than Brad (ASSHOLE!).
  • Sandy Olsson in Grease affects this until she realizes it doesn't work for her.
  • Sophie from Mamma Mia! (and to a more realistic extent Amanda Seyfried herself if her interviews are any indication).
  • Maria from Metropolis. Also, she wholeheartedly believes that a violent worker's uprising can be averted by a single person's intervention - even after the uprising takes place.
  • Giselle from Enchanted is a textbook example.
  • Silent film actresses Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish were famous for such roles.
  • Probably subverted (it's David Lynch, so who knows for sure) with Betty in Mulholland Drive.
  • In the Dragnet movie, the virgin Connie Swail could be the Trope Namer.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • Jane Bennet of Pride and Prejudice, which drives the Grumpy Bear heroine—who is also her sister—Elizabeth crazy.
    • Not "crazy", really. Elizabeth may be occasionally mildly frustrated by Jane, but she clearly cherishes Jane's good nature and would not sacrifice it for anything.
  • Almost every Dickens novel has one, including Lucie Manette (A Tale of Two Cities), Agnes Wickfield (David Copperfield), Rose Maylie (Oliver Twist), Amy Dorrit (Little Dorrit) and Ada Clare (Bleak House).
  • Cosette from Les Misérables.
  • In the Victor Hugo vein, Esmeralda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Though how she managed to remain completely pure and naive when hanging around with a bunch of thieves and prostitutes, and doing sexy dances in public is a little confusing. Most adaptations deal with this by making her a much more worldly woman.
  • Millicent Hattersley (née Hargrave) of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.
  • In New Grub Street Marian Yule is an ingenue who grows up by becoming less naïve, more independent and self-assured; but still dutiful and nice.
  • Sybil in Invisible Man is a deconstruction of this. Not just in the sense of being a Seemingly-Wholesome Fifties Girl (which she technically is), but in the sense of having herself more than a few issues relating to how she's been sexually stifled. She feels she will be liberated if she's raped by a black man, and when the main character gets her drunk enough to convince her he did the deed (without actually having done it), he remarks that she was "raped by Santa Claus," as he was to her just as much of a fantasy gift-giver.
  • Charlene from The Little Drummer Girl by John Le Carre plays these roles in her theatre troupe, but is anything but.
  • Iliana from the Night World novel Witchlight's behavior is explained this way by another character. "She's too pure to deal with this kind of stuff." Considering that her life has been that of a normal teenagers' in our world, but she is in fact in a world with vampires, witches, werewolves, and shapeshifters, and that she is well-liked enough that people really try to be good people around her, this is understandable. And she toughens up some later.
  • Sansa Stark from A Song of Ice and Fire... Until It Got Worse. She's a perfect Deconstruction of how this trope would actually play out in a World Half Empty and has definitely acquired some Jade-Colored Glasses since series' beginning.

Littlefinger: "Life is not a song, sweetling. You may learn that one day, to your sorrow."


Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Trance Gemini of Andromeda likes to give this impression, but it's not true.
  • Foyle's War. 'Sam' Stewart is always cheerful, loyal, kind, well behaved and seldom has a bad word to say about anyone. However she does engage in activities her vicar father would not approve of, such as helping with murder investigations.
    • However she also shows great strength of character, bravery, and generally sees through anyone who tries to fool her.
  • Pandora of Skins series 3 (and occasionally series 2) is sheltered and naive, self-confessed to be useless, and often is the unwitting source of innuendo. Part way through the third series she falls in love with Thomas, an African immigrant, and a true gentleman. But later in Thomas' absence, she is seduced by Cook, and quickly loses her blissful ignorant disposition as this complication comes to light.
  • Kenneth the pageboy from Thirty Rock is a male version of this trope- differing only in that his youthful appearance hides the fact that he's at least 40 or 800.
    • Parodied in one episode when Liz is growing cynical about New York. An innocent-looking young woman steps off a bus, and enthusiastically asks: "say, where does a young prostitute go to get a start in this city?"
  • Rachel Berry of Glee calls herself this in the very first episode.
    • Ironically, the character closest to The Ingenue would be Brittney. Despite not being a virgin, she is rather naive to extreme levels and yet is pure-hearted and idealistic enough to still believe in Santa Claus and magic combs.
      • Though that's only counting the students. Outside of the Glee club, Emma is something of a modern-day Deconstruction of The Ingenue.
  • Drusilla from Buffy the Vampire Slayer was originally this, before Angelus broke her. Her innocence, purity and innate goodness and belief in God are what drew Angelus to her.
  • Rose Nylund from The Golden Girls.
  • Played with and subverted in Carnivale. Even though she has been working as a prostitute and stripper since her early teens, Libby from fits surprisingly well into this trope. Her characterization relies heavily on her attempting to reconcile the realities of her life with her identity as a normal 1930s-style ingenue. She is extremely trusting and innocent (at least, with regards to human nature and life), has few social ties outside and information sources outside of 30s popular media and her immediate and extended Carnival family (who, despite farming her out at an early age out of necessity, obviously love and protect her). She dresses and behaves like the traditional ingenue, has unrealistic dreams and is genuinely very vulnerable and sweet. She also seems to be somewhat misinformed about sex (for example, telling Sophie that you can't get pregnant your first time). When she becomes romantically involved with Sophie and Jonesy, she is no more equipped or experienced than your average ingenue would be (despite knowing a lot more about sex): her shyness and vulnerability is presented as genuine.
    • Sophie, on the other hand, plays with and subverts this trope. Despite being in her early to mid twenties, she knows almost nothing about sex. Her mother Appollionia actively prevented her from interacting with the strippers and other performers, and her few social contacts (Appollionia, Jonesy, Samson and Libby) are very protective of her and actively discourage attempts to explore her sexuality . Although she dated Jonesy prior to the start of the series, their relationship was not sexual and she remains a virgin until the incident during the dirtstorm with a man she knew was probably married. It is subverted particularly brilliantly when Sophie seduces and sexually humiliates Libby for the sake of revenge . Consequently, her occasional nastiness, as well as her active attempts to explore and express her own sexuality might prevent her from being a completely straight example of this trope, but it certainly doesn't stop everybody around her seeing her as the classic Ingenue.
  • Annie in Community gives this impression; and, despite her efforts to subvert it (and her personal history), it's mostly true.
  • Captain Kirk and his many female conquests in Star Trek: The Original Series: "What is this, 'love?'" Andrea Android from "What Are Little Girls Made Of?", Shahna from "The Gamesters of Triskellion", and Kelinda from "By Any Other Name" comes to mind.


Religion[edit | hide]

  • The Bible has The Virgin Mary. Eve from Genesis may have also qualified as she was innocent of all evil before she ate the forbidden fruit.


Theater[edit | hide]

  • Rose Maybud in Ruddigore, although it turns out she's not so much "innocent" as obsessed with etiquette (and gold-digging).
  • Johanna in all versions of Sweeney Todd that include her, but especially the original penny-dreadful.
  • Anne from A Little Night Music is young, virginal and extremely shallow.
  • Peggy Sawyer from |42nd Street.
  • Subversion: Lois Lane, a character in Kiss Me Kate, plays the ingenue in the Show Within a Show, but is decidedly less virginal off that stage.
  • Lampshaded in the Flying Karamazov Brothers' adaptation of William Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors - a letter to one of the characters is changed to a telegram, addressed to "The Ingenue".
  • In spite of her manner of dress, Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors.
  • Nikki Harris in Curtains fits this trope to a T.
  • Cosette in Les Misérables, mainly because she does little other than wonder why she almost never leaves the house, and then fall in love with a boy who followed her home and hopped her fence in order to tell her that he loved her after saying less than 10 words to her.
  • The White Singer in Alegria—according to the All There in the Manual material, she represents the goodness that existed and endured in the otherwise corrupt old order. She also has a touch of mischievousness about her, as seen during the Act Two opening sequence in which she brings a man from the audience onstage to dance with her.
  • This is the image Blanche Dubois tries to project around others. It turns out not to be the case.
  • Maria in The Sound of Music.
  • Sarah in Tanz der Vampire subverts this trope. She's a pretty, sheltered, pure girl on the cusp of womanhood who longs for romance and excitement. She's also a shameless flirt who lies to get what she wants and spends hours at a time quite possibly pleasuring herself in the tub, vocalizing orgasmically about it.
    • Alfred is quite honestly a better fit for this trope, despite being, you know. Male.
  • Christine Daaé in every incarnation of The Phantom of the Opera except [Gaston Leroux's original novel where she may be a daydreamer (and Genre Savvy victim of Stockholm Syndrome) but also a Well, Excuse Me, Princess! whose pluck and stubbornness unnerve Raoul several times before he realizes how wrongly he's misjudged her just because she isn't a meek little ingenue-type.
    • The ingenue version of Christine is parodied in Maskerade, where she's so woefully oblivious to her complete lack of operatic talent that she completely misses the fact that a dowdier but sonically gifted woman is actually doing all the singing!! She's self-centred as a gyroscope and finishes every sentence with two exclamation marks!!
    • In Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, Christine is actually called "your precious little ingenue" (by her rival).
  • Miranda from The Tempest. Of course, this is mostly to do with the fact that she was raised on a desert island and was apparently unaware of the existence of humans other than her father until well into her teens. When Ferdinand turns up, she immediately falls in love with him.
  • Amelia Wildenhaim of Lovers' Vows.
  • Jemima from Cats is this in cat form.
  • Cyrano De Bergerac: Deconstructed by Roxane, who is highly intelligent and practical, but is completely convinced her (and Christian) lives are like the Romance Novels she had read. Notice that no one of his suitors tries to force her to accept reality until Christian wants her to choose between Cyrano and him at Act IV, and that her Hidden Depths and Character Development demonstrate that she could handle reality very well.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Kairi and Namine from the Kingdom Hearts series. Every single Disney Princess appearing in this series seems to be watered down to fit this trope quite nicely too (save for Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora, who always were Ingenues.)
    • Ventus is a very good male example, though the only reason that he is so pure and innocent is because Master Xehanort forcibly extracted all the darkness from his heart.
  • Dawn Star in Jade Empire seems like an example.
  • Merrill in Dragon Age 2 crosses this with Cloudcuckoolander. Bethany is this as well.
  • Yuna in Final Fantasy X. Not as much in the sequel.
    • Mostly because of the character development toward the end of Final Fantasy X, in which her innocence and faith in Yevon gets broken. And because she's shooting people in Stripperific skirts in X-2.
  • Colette from Tales of Symphonia fits this to a T. She's sweet-natured, caring, likes animals (particularly dogs and turtles), and self-sacrificing. Colette believes everyone has some good inside them (even assassins who have repeatedly stated their intention to kill her), and she worries about others more than herself (to the point of not telling the rest of the party things they really wouldn't mind knowing about because she doesn't want them to worry), and any sexual innuendo flies over her head.
  • Deirdre from Fire Emblem: Geneaology of the Holy War.
  • Amy Rose in the older games from Sonic the Hedgehog (The 16-bit games and both Adventures) until Cream came and took her place.
  • Amiti in Golden Sun: Dark Dawn is a rare male example. He is Spoiled Sweet, he has Black and White Morality (which is rare in his world), and considering that he genuinely believed that he was a virgin birth until his guardian revealed the truth, it's possible that he is clueless about sex, despite canonly being the fancy of "all the girls in Ayuthay". It is ironic because he is the oldest person in your party for a good half of the game and yet he seems to be the most naive.
    • He can't be that clueless about sex; he sure knew where Eoleo was going with that "real clothes" comment.
  • Aerie in Baldurs Gate 2.
  • Ashara Zavros from Star Wars: The Old Republic
  • Azusa Miura from The Idolmaster is a rather uncommon example of this. She's supposedly the oldest of the Idols, making her the local Cool Big Sis. The problem is she's The Ditz who has No Sense of Direction, as well has having an innocence to match even her younger co-workers.


Webcomics[edit | hide]

  • Oasis from Sluggy Freelance alternates between being The Ingenue and being an Ax Crazy assassin, sometimes within the span of a single sentence. What do you expect when you take a supernatural killing machine and brainwash her to be "as giddy as a schoolgirl"?
  • Tempest from Domain Tnemrot.


Web Original[edit | hide]


Western Animation[edit | hide]


Real Life[edit | hide]