Tropes for Dummies

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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They really do have a book for everything, don't they?

The For Dummies series of books is a popular way of learning just about anything, from C++ programming to Divorce Law to African-American History, achieved by simple explanations.

As a result of their popularity, these books are often parodied, and fictional entries to the series are often conjured into existence. This is often done to show that a character knows next to nothing about a subject but is now trying to find out.

Works created before the "For Dummies" series was started will use titles like "How to Do Tropes in N Easy Steps" or "You, Too, Can Trope!" or "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Tropes But Were Afraid to Ask." Often, titles may also parody the "Complete Idiot's Guide to _______" series as well.

Compare Correspondence Course, its brother in self-education.

Examples of Tropes for Dummies include:

Fan Works[edit | hide | hide all]

  • In "The Trouble With Timelines", Suzumiya Haruhi goes searching for a missing jigsaw puzzle using techniques taken from a Dowsing for Dummies.

Film[edit | hide]

  • Evan Almighty: God presents Evan with Ark Building for Dummies.
  • The Waterboy used the rival learning series "Complete Idiot's Guide" with "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Football" being read by the incompetent football coach, who is then mocked when the rival competent coach is seen reading the exact same book and laughing.
  • Bride of Chucky has Tiffany resurrecting Chucky from the dead through knowledge from a "Voodoo for Dummies" book.
  • The Master of Disguise for dummies.
  • Looney Tunes: Back in Action has Bugs Bunny fighting Marvin the Martian with lightsabers while Bugs reads "The Force For Dummies".
  • Inspector Gadget 2 had "Quantum Physics for Dimwits."

Literature[edit | hide]

  • One full book-length parody of both series was called Compleet Idoit's Guide for Dumies - misspellings theirs, and presumably intentional.
  • In Wintersmith one village of anti-witchcraft fanatics get their information from the Maganevatio Obtusis, which a footnote helpfully translates as Witch-Hunting For Dumb People.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • In A Very Merry Muppet Christmas, Daniel is given the book Performing Miracles for Dummies.
  • Eric of Boy Meets World defeats the witches who want to sacrifice the Hunters with the help of Witchcraft for Dumb-dumbs.
  • In Cory in The House Cory procures a copy of "Horses for Numb-Nuts" (but with the stylized cover identical to the Dummies series).
  • JD in Scrubs reads "The Iraq War for Dummies"
  • In Charmed season 6 episode "The Courtship of Wyatt's Father" Elder Gideon presents a page in a book titled "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Portals But Were Afraid to Ask."
  • The Investigation Discovery channel has a commercial for their week of specials about Black Widows that has a woman at the register with normal Thanksgiving stuff, but the last thing the cashier scans is a book called "Killing Your Husband for Dummies".

Newspaper Comics[edit | hide]

  • Roger in FoxTrot tries to buy an actual For Dummies book, but can't bring himself to pronounce the name and admit himself a "dummy", instead asking for a book for "college-educated professionals who majored in the humanities before computers existed."
  • In Dilbert, when the company produces a product that doesn't work and its instruction manual is complete fiction. The Pointy-Headed Boss's reply: "Ship it and hope someone publishes a 'For Dummies' guide."

Tabletop RPG[edit | hide]

  • Dungeons & Dragons worlds bless dummies with the following literature:
    • Forgotten Realms has something close - canonically, Volo's Guides are an awful mix of brilliant investigations and silly hearsay. The most infamous was "Volo's Guide to All Things Magical",[1] the "second edition" of which claimed that v 1.0 contained a lot of recipes how to kill oneself in amusing ways - and so much of sensitive information that Volo hesitated to introduce himself in a hearing range of other wizards ever after, and Elminster had to personally hunt down and destroy every last copy.
    • Arcana SRD from Infinite Dreamers cover art [2] has a horned greenish lad reading "13 Easy Steps To Overthrow Your Demonic Master", with a readable annotation traditional for this sort of literature on its back cover.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • The somewhat free MMO Roblox once had a hat for sale with the title Quantum Thermodynamics for Dummies. It was, indeed, a "For Dummies"-style book that could be worn as a hat (just a mesh, though, so you couldn't read it or anything...).

Web Comics[edit | hide]

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • The Emperor's New Clones, the second Star Wars parody from Backyard Productions, features Vader reading "The Dark Side for Dummies", and Han Solo's father checking "The Star Wars Guide to Techno-Babble".
  • One of the naughty-scene-re-enactors in The Nostalgia Chick's review of Showgirls was reading Opera for Dummies throughout the whole thing.
  • Uncyclopedia touts Open-Heart Surgery for Dummies as holding the record for the most product liability lawsuits resulting from a single book. There are plenty of other examples with titles like "Automotive Crash Testing for Dummies" or « le franais correct pour les nuls ».
  • Fredrik K.T.Andersson, the author of Pawn, in his equally NSFW gallery on Elfwood presents Censoring for Dummies.
  • In Suburban Knights, Ma-Ti showed up with a book to help 8-Bit Mickey's problem. It's "Goatf*cking for Dummies".
  • In the third episode of the first volume of RWBY, Weiss hands Ruby a "Dust for Dummies" pamphlet.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

Bart: Call me Ishmael, Dummy!

    • Fridge Brilliance: For Dummies and Cliffs Notes have the same publisher.
    • One episode has Homer going to a book fair, with an entire library of Books for Dummies where he is quite at home.
  • Megas XLR with The Complete Moron's Guide To Picking Up Space Chicks.
  • Shrek the Halls with "Christmas For Village Idiots".
  • "Astrophysics for Morons" from the "Shelf Life" episode of The Fairly OddParents.


  1. on Wizards' site, free
  2. visible in full resolution if downloaded (it's free)