My wife and I were having a discussion on dumb characters in fiction a few days ago, brought on by our mutual love for Brad Pitt’s lovable dope from Burn After Reading. I actually think it’s incredibly difficult to write a great dumb character. Most of the time this is done it’s an average-to-smart person just limiting their own intelligence, which produces an unconvincing result. The real key IMO is creating a character that is unaware of their limitations, who thinks that they’re average or even smart, someone to whom the idea of participating in a political intrigue wouldn’t seem utterly absurd. My other personal favorites in this respect are Beavis and Butt-head, which is such smart dumb comedy that it fooled a huge number of people into confusing the intelligence of its characters for the intelligence of the content.

What are the chances that we’re living in a Stranger Than Fiction-type world of a hack novelist (with an admitted feel for a certain kind of characterization) with respect to Donald Trump? I’m joking, obviously, but Trump is a near-Shakespearean achievement of a dumb character. Not only does he not know his own limitations but he assumes that everybody else is operating at the same level as him (“Who knew health care was so complicated?”), and that truism-level insights are mind-boggling (“Hey, ever hear the phrase ‘prime the pump?’ I just came up with it.). It’s a fine piece of work. And if this is, in fact, what’s occurring, could the writer in question please just give up already? You’ve proven your point, but you need to work on your plotting.

I think we all deserve this:

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