TSTL is an acronym often found in book and movie reviews. It stands for “Too Stupid To Live”. More often than not, it’s applied to female characters who take action against all common sense and thoughts of self-preservation. You know the dumb one who goes downstairs to check on the noise in the basement when a serial killer is on the loose? Or the moron who opens the door to the flower delivery guy when she’s in a safe house and has been told specifically not to let anybody in? Or the kind-hearted ingénue who wants to believe the best in everyone and sends her banking information to the nice man in Nigeria so he can access his grandfather’s estate?

Yeah, her.

I met a TSTL character in a book I just read. At the 10% mark, she was a little annoying. At the 25% mark, I was waiting for the author to reveal the “got ya!” to show she was smarter than she was acting. And, honest to God, at the 50% mark I was rooting for the men hunting her ex-boyfriend to find her and shoot her to put me out of my misery. (She did eventually get shot. Unfortunately, she lived.)  I even started hating the hero for falling in love with a woman who was dumber than a rock. Dude, you could do better with Barbie.

The author did offer some kind of explanation at about the 65% mark but it was too little, too late. While I might have bought the heroine’s weak rationale for her actions earlier in the story, by the time it was revealed I simply didn’t care anymore. The worst part was that supposedly this woman was smart enough to own her own business – with staff, so it wasn’t a one person operation! – but she was utterly useless in the rest of her life.  If she were trapped in a situation, fine. If she knew she was making a mistake but couldn’t see another way out, that’s okay. If she asked for help and got bad advice, I can live with that. But just plain stupid pisses me off.

Relatedly, I read an interview/review for a completely different book (whose title I can’t remember at the moment) where the author said that she purposely made her heroine TSTL to show her growth to just “mostly stupid” by the end of the book.  Can I tell you how very quickly I didn’t mark that book “to read”?

Some people may find this type of character cute. Personally, I have a low tolerance for stupid people. I avoid them whenever possible in real life; I hate wasting my reading time on them even more. I’m a firm believer in the Darwin theory. If you create a character who is too dumb to keep themselves alive on their own, then I’m going to be rooting for them to die. Painfully. It’s nothing personal. Intelligence is a survival trait; I expect the books I read to show some.

2 thoughts on “TSTL

  1. Holli

    You weren’t reading Twilight again, were you? 🙂 To me, Bella is the ultimate example of TSTL. The girl can’t negotiate her living room floor without tripping.

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