1/30/2013

We're geeks, but we're not nerds. It's an important distinction. Geeks are intelligent, and into scifi and comic books, but nerds have an awkward appearance, poor social skills, and extreme social ostracism to go with it. The nerd has become a well-known stereotype in movies and TV, and portrayals range from the subtle to the outright cartoonish. On the cartoonish end of the spectrum, there are a few that stand out. It takes a special kind of nerd to roll all the nerd stereotypes into one character, and these are seven that have risen to the top.

7. George McFly (Back to the Future)
Marty McFly's father in BTTF proved that nerds existed throughout history, even in the '50s. George McFly is a pushover who's more interested in Ray Bradbury than girls in an age when science-fiction was a one-way ticket to ostracism. It even took Marty impersonating an alien to get him off his butt. Yet we all rooted for him to deliver his line, "Hey, you, get your d*mn hands off of her."

6. Billy Cranston (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)
Power Rangers wasn't known for its subtlety. This is a show where they cast an Asian to play the Yellow Power Ranger, and an African-American for the Black Power Ranger. When it came to putting a smart guy on the team, they didn't take any chances that he might be regarded as a normal person. They made Billy as nerdy as they possibly could. He wore glasses, occasionally even wore overalls, and his dialogue was so stereotypically nerdy that he never even said, "Yes." He always said "affirmative." I'm not sure at what point "nerd" meant "robot."

5. Murray "Boz" Bozinsky (Riptide)
This show was sort of a Magnum P.I. on water with two wise-cracking veterans who open a detective business from their boat. And of course, in any sea-based crimefighting operation, they needed a robot. That's where Boz came in, an awkward but super-intelligent nerd who had a robot, and maintained all the high-tech gear. When I was a kid watching this show, I wanted to be Boz.

4. Professor Frink (The Simpsons)
When there's science and technology to be done in Springfield, there's only one name to call: Professor Frink. He has glasses, buckteeth, a nasal voice, and always wears a lab coat with a pocket protector. In many ways, he's the nerd personified. However, much of his character (especially his voice) is based on #3.

3. Professor Julius Kelp (The Nutty Professor)
No, we're not talking about the morbidly obese Professor Klump. Jerry Lewis played Professor Julius Kelp, an untidy, buck-toothed, clumsy nerd who transforms himself into ladies' man Buddy Love. His actions and appearance, especially his buckteeth and nasal voice, set the standard for nerds for generations to come.

2. Steve Urkel (Family Matters)
With his thick eyeglasses, high pants held up with suspenders, multi-colored sweaters, and high-pitched voice, Urkel was a caricature of the nerd taken to extreme. Yet it was a sign of changing attitudes towards geeks that Urkel started out as a one-shot appearance and grew to become the star of the show. Urkel's popularity enhanced the profile of nerds by portraying him as smart, confident, and lovable.

1. Lewis Skolnick (Revenge of the Nerds)
Skolnick literally personified the nerd. When we think of nerds, we think of glasses, high pants, a whiny voice, and a pocket protector. Lewis Skolnick is all of these. But Revenge of the Nerds also introduced the idea of the nerd as a hero, someone who is rejected by society, but uses his intelligence to succeed. That went a long way towards the geek-friendly culture we live in today. That's what makes him the greatest nerdy nerd of all time.

Which is your favorite nerd? What other super-nerdy fictional nerds would you add to the list?

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7 comments:

David Black said...

Duane Dibbley and the Trio from Buffy.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Revenge of the Nerds was the largest gathering of nerds in one place. (Yes, I remember going to see it in the theater.) Too early to think of any others unless the two from Sixteen Candles count. (John Cusack's first film role I believe.)

jeremy [retro] said...

Where is Big Bang Theory? Wink! I think I would be Nerdy #30... and that rhymes so I win... Wesley Crusher would be #29.

Anthony G. Laplume said...

Maybe because they're too successful with women (besides Raj)?

Anthony G. Laplume said...

The Lone Gunmen?

Colin "Fitz" Biggs said...

I think Big Bang Theory delves more into autistic than being a nerd. Then again with the writers at CBS, I'm never sure.

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