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The Fool Triumphant

Banes at 12:00AM, July 30, 2020

Many stories feature some kind of underdog in the beginning. This is a standard approach to a Protagonist. They may be very capable and bright, but have a lower status or disadvantage of some kind. This helps make them relatable and helps people root for them to win. Most mainstream movies, at least, and many books will have this kind of underdog in the lead role.

But there's a particular brand of this kind of story that will feature a lead who's more than a standard underdog - he's a bumbling idiot, and very low status. A lot of movies featuring SNL cast members were this kind of story. Adam Sandler, Chris Farley, Will Ferrell, Mike Myers and so on started in movies like this (some, like Will Ferrell, are beating it into the ground. I guess it's working for him!).

This is the dunce, idiot comedy hero with a heart of gold, who is less capable than normal people. Naive and stupid.

But they have a purity of heart that makes them BETTER, in a way, than the normal people around them.

And since this is usually a comedy Protagonist, they usually win the day in the end and possibly even transform the other characters around them into kinder, gentler human beings.

Everything from Wayne's World to Tommy Boy, from the 40 year old Virgin to Forrest Gump, Peter Sellers' Being There, Big, This is Spinal Tap, Private Parts, Bowfinger and so on fit into this genre. It also includes the updated 90's versions of The Addams Family and The Brady Bunch. It's a very handy genre for comedy. Now that I think about it, it's a very 90's kind of genre. I would put the Muppets in this category as well. Those sweet little felt critters.

What do you think of the Fool Triumphant genre? Heart warming and fun, or moronic drivel?

Have a great one, you magnificent fools!




PaulEberhardt at 4:43AM, Aug. 2, 2020

I remember a protagonist who saves the world because he is too lazy to think anything through and knows it. Having recognised being crap at everything as his special talent, he uses it to come up with ideas so outrageously harebrained that they take the hyperintelligent aliens, who can normally anticipate their opponents' every step, by surprise. It's a pity that novel has never been translated into English, as far as I know.

PaulEberhardt at 4:20AM, Aug. 2, 2020

Nothing beats a classic screwball character, ever! It may be a somwehat overused trope and you ahould keep in mind that they'll always steal the show, no matter what else you do, but for some reason that doesn't make these stories any less enjoyable. I guess the hard part is to make them look somewhat plausible, even in comedy, or you'll end up having to lampoon the unlikelihood of the whole situation. Ideally, there should be some kind of special twist, too, so they don't look too cliché. But even if they do: so what? As long as they're not just there because, with no other direction for them to develop into if at all, it's a cheap way of having a character that grows in the course of the story, everything's cool.

Hapoppo at 8:04PM, July 31, 2020

usedbooks- I'd say Rincewind is actually pretty smart, but practical to a point that clashes with his world and the adventures he gets roped into, and a bit of a coward. I dunno, maybe in some backwards fashion that DOES make him the fool when he's the straight man in a world of fools?

usedbooks at 4:21PM, July 30, 2020

Rincewind is the best protagonist. Defeats the worst of evils while actively attempting to run away from them. (Not sure if he counts as a fool. Seems very wise. More the accidental hero.)

marcorossi at 3:44PM, July 30, 2020

I think that shakespearian fool is something differerent from the fool triumphant: in Shakespeare the fool is a secondary carachter that carries the author's point of view, whereas the fool triumphant genre has the fool as the lead carachter.

bravo1102 at 4:35AM, July 30, 2020

You're missing the long line of fools from Chaplin to Woody Allen that are all considered in the tradition of the Shakespeare fool. The wise one who can comment on the action but still is a bumbler but his heart is in the right place. See works on Silent Comedy, Bob Hope and comparisons to older archetypes.

marcorossi at 3:11AM, July 30, 2020

I think that the "fool triumphant" stereotype refers to some character who has the correct sentiments, while other people around him or her are cunning but have wrong (evil) sentiments. So the hero wins because of the faults of the others, it is a kind of story that speaks more of the other characters (who arch) than on the protagonist (who doesn't arch because he or she already have the heart in the right place). It is important to see that these stories are more about other characters and less about the lead, like One Punch Man. This is something completely different from Shakespeare's fool.

bravo1102 at 3:01AM, July 30, 2020

How many harem anime have a totally ignorant protagonist where his adoring ladies always have to rescue him? This role was a specialty of Jerry Lewis and before him Bob Hope the silent greats Keaton and Chaplin. All portrayed the bumbling hero who with a touch of luck and common sense (rather than mad skills and cunning) always wins in the end. Even Shakespeare had the wise fool, where the character who made the most sense was the court fool. See King Lear or Kurosawa's Ran for excellent examples. There's also the simple guy with common sense and a knack for survival in various war movies like Letters from Iwo Jima.

Kou the Mad at 2:16AM, July 30, 2020

It all depends on the quality of the writing and execution. If done well, it can be a fun story. If done poorly, it can be Quite infuriating. I will say one of the uses that drives me insane nowadays is in Anime and JRPGs where you often get Dumb protagonists in an attempt to copy Goku from DBZ......except those same writers forget that Goku is a Non-Human whose instincts differ them from Humans on quite a noticeable level, and also, and this is important, Goku suffered BRAIN DAMAGE as a kid. So we get these characters that copy him........who are humans who did NOT suffer any brain damage nor have any mental Disability, so they are just dumb because Goku was. I consider that a poor execution. I'm sure I brought this up before, but It still annoys me.

Gunwallace at 1:39AM, July 30, 2020

Once great Jedi Master who's completely forgotten he's meant to be training the galaxy's last hope, and is hanging around with sand people and frequenting dive bars, suddenly remembers all the stuff from his past (though with very large gaps) and tries to save the galaxy ... only to fail miserably. Or does he? Yes he does. But he does get to come back as a sarcastic ghost.

Corruption at 12:59AM, July 30, 2020

Done right it can be amusing, such as if people are trying to pull a scam, but the fool is too dumb to follow the leads other people get hooked by, or if someone is trying to hunt the fool, but the sheer stupidity enters Confusion Fu territory. I, Claudius is a good example of a different method where Claudius becomes the Empiror or Rome due to being ignored as too dumb to be a danger to the other potential claiments, and the Prectorian Guard kills the rest, placing him as their puppet on the throne. Done badly it seems very contrived and that they win purely through chance or some contrived method. Hmm, so he managed to get the rich guy to help finance a business his brother is trying to start? And they did this by befriending the rich guy's daughter who feels a bit of pity and wants him to have a chance? So the entire plot about him trying to make a crazy idea seem like a good business plan is made redundent!

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