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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Trope-tastic Thursday: Dumb Blonde

This week's TTT is the first of a three-part series about one of the most basic descriptors writers use (and its implications).

Trope: Dumb Blonde

Description: Need a ditzy character? Making her a blonde is one way to solidify that characterization, thanks to some old stereotypes. "Dumb" can cover a lot here - she can be overly naive, a hopeless romantic, oblivious to all that's going on around her, or she really just might be unintelligent. This can lead to a number of roles in a romance setting - Did her lack of smarts land her in trouble, and now she's a damsel in distress who needs rescuing? Does her blind optimism make her appealing? (Note: Male Dumb Blonds pop up every now and then.)

Examples: Goldilocks, Buttercup from The Princess Bride, a large chunk of the movie roles played by Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, and Owen Wilson

Pros: This can be a quick 'n' dirty way to help establish a character, thanks to the aforementioned stereotype. There's nothing inherently bad about being "dumb", especially when dealing with sweeter, more innocent Dumb Blondes. Not everyone in the world is a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon, right?

Cons: There are plenty of intelligent blondes in the world to counteract this stereotype. As blonde hair is often considered to be attractive or even desirable, this trope seems to suggest that one can't be pretty AND smart. Though it's noted above that men are not exempt from this trope, it does tend to swing female, and I can't help but detect tinges of sexism.

Would/Did I Use It?: In all fairness, the golden-haired Liora in The Edge of the Sphere does start off as a bit innocent and trusting. (She wises up as the plot progresses, though.) That said, the cons outweigh the pros for me regarding this trope. I don't think I'll set out to intentionally use this one any time soon.


  1. Buttercup! Lol!
    I'm surprised I've never used this. I've had dumb characters, but they weren't blonde. My blonde characters tend to be evil. Lol! I have two blondes in my current story. Yeah...One is evil. Lol!

  2. I have plans for a "dumb blonde", but it's more of an intelligence versus wisdom thing, I think. And her sister, also blonde, will be not dumb. We'll see how it goes!