The Problem with Pathologically Dumb Female Protagonists

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I’m not gonna lie. I do enjoy stories where the protagonist can be thick in the head — but only when the trait makes her charming or it adds a comic spin. The instant it becomes annoying is the instant it becomes nothing but.

A little while ago, I watched this show where the female protagonist is a perfect prototype of the phrase “too dumb to live.” Now I’m an avid fan of stories where the protagonist is genius, intelligent, and remarkably talented, and in this show, the male lead belongs on that side of the spectrum.

It’s only because of that reason (OK, OK! Also because he’s good-looking) that I didn’t abandon the show, obsession-to-finish-what-I-started aside. I have never in my life wanted so much to throw something hard on TV while spewing hatred for the female lead.

Before you say flaws are good because they drive the story forward, let me get that out of the way and say, in the interest of clarity, that flawed and dumb are two very different things.

I’m sure you know what I mean as I’m certain you’ve seen quite a few characters who do infuriating things like choosing an exact dumb moment to do a dumb thing. It’s frustrating.

Still, it’s tolerable when it happens once or twice throughout the story. But when it happens over and over again for no discernible reason other than it appears to be the core trait of the character, it’s maddening. And when the protagonist is a woman, it’s doubly maddening.

It bothers me that a number of dumb female protagonists aren’t always dumb only. Some dumb female protagonists also do tend to be always poor and often uneducated. They are seldom intelligent, and if they happen to be something approaching smart, they are permanently damsels-in-distress just waiting for their princes to sweep them off their feet and make their lives better.

The majority of women today cannot relate to this trope.

In real life, women can succeed on their own even without a wealthy CEO to save them from a life of poverty.

In fiction, alpha female protagonists are an oddity, while strong male protagonists are about as rare as koalas are in Australia.

I long to see a world of fiction where female protagonists aren’t always unbelievably dumb. I want to read and watch stories where female leads can amply provide for themselves because they possess the same capabilities as their male counterparts. Because in real life, women can.

But for now, until the day comes that fiction catches up with real life, I suppose I can stop watching shows that make me wanna strangle the female lead, throw the remote on her face, and break my TV in complete and utter frustration.

That would be a day worth celebrating, yes? (All strong, beautiful, intelligent, and independent heroines of their own lives say “aye.”)




This introverted writer thinks the world’s greatest invention of all times is a blogging platform — and headphones. Let’s not forget headphones.

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Chell Tan

Chell Tan

This introverted writer thinks the world’s greatest invention of all times is a blogging platform — and headphones. Let’s not forget headphones.

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