The ingénue [awn-zhuh-nyoo] is a stock character in literature, film, and a role type in the theater  generally a girl or a young woman who is endearingly innocent and wholesome. Ingenue may also refer to a new young actress or one typecast in such roles.

The term comes from the French adjective ‘ingénu’ meaning ‘ingenuous’ or innocent, virtuous, and candid. The term may also imply a lack of sophistication and cunning. 

Typically, the ingenue is beautiful, gentle, sweet, virginal, and often naïve, in mental or emotional danger, or even physical danger, usually a target of The Cad (a villian); whom she may have mistaken for The Hero. Due to lack of independence, the ingenue usually lives with her father or a father figure (although in some rare cases she lives with a mother figure). The vamp (femme fatale) is often a foil for the ingenue (or the damsel in distress).

The ingenue is often accompanied with a romantic side plot. This romance is usually considered pure and harmless to both participants. In many cases, but not all, the male participant is just as innocent as the ingenue is. The ingenue is also similar to the girl next door archetype. In opera and musical theatre, the ingenue is usually sung by a lyric soprano. The ingenue stereotypically has the fawn-eyed innocence of a child.


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