Created By: Ardiente on May 15, 2011 Last Edited By: FruityOatyBars on July 12, 2011

Recovering Insufferable Genius

A socially inept nerd starts acquiring social skills late in life.

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Some kids who are more intelligent than other kids the same age might grow up acting their intellectual age, forsaking interaction with other children their age which they deem to be boring and unfulfilling, if not outright painful or worse. This can be especially bad if they make a habit of pointing out to other kids what they think they are doing wrong, asking uncomfortable questions, or acting smug and superior. Instead, they prefer the company of books which can either efficiently and consistenty entertain them either by allowing them to escape the dreary world they think they live in or by actually answering their questions, or that of adults who can actually teach them stuff and provide an interesting feedback.

When those kids grow up they might end up being very disappointed by those adult figures they used to respect enough to discuss stuff with. If they have outgrown the Insufferable Genius phase they might go through a backlash face where they undertake Man Child activities as they rediscover (oftentimes with the aid of scientific material) how to interact with the vast majority of mankind as well as their peers[[hottip:*:these characters tend to be as different from each other as they are from the mainstream, connecting through each other through common interests, often of a geeky nature, or through work]]. Having no practice, no natural social skills, they can still become fascinated with societal behavior, and actively strive to learn a lot about them, in a quest to feel "together" with everyone else and to be loved and appreciated for who they are.

Cognitive Sciences are a very favoured way for them to understand how people behave in ways that don't seem to make any sense, and learn some humility on the way. Evolutionary Psychology helps them understand that there is a perfectly good reason these systematic errors were hardwired into the human brain. Pick Up Arts are they way they try to apply that knowledge to succeed in their romantic lives, or at least to understand exactly why they don't and others do. There's also other fields of psychology and sociology, political sciences, economics, graphology, neurolinguistic programming, body language..,

However, it's all book knowledge, and these characters are usually poor at application, at least until the get more practice done. And there are rather big holes in their knowledge.They might genuinely not realize how rude they can be. However, given that they tend to have few friends and that it often took them much effort to acquire said friends, you can expect them to be fiercely loyal and supportive to them,

Characters who achieve success in their journey might become A Gentleman/Lady And A Scholar.

Examples:
  • Amy Farrah Fowler from The Big Bang Theory is this trope incarnate, and is an interesting foil to Insufferable Genius Ambiguously Autistic Jerk Ass Sheldon Cooper who despises all of the rest of humanity and wants no part of it, yet always wants to assume roles of leadership and be obeyed and followed by all those unworthy people. Many other characters in the series struggle with this.
  • Promethean: The Created's Pilgrinage shares some themes with this trope, to the point one might wonder if it isn't a metaphor.
  • Genius: The Transgression's main, overarching theme can be said to be that this trope is doomed to a Foregone Conclusion of complete and utter failure sooner or later, and the bitterness that resutls from this.
  • The Less Wrong blog community seems to have this as part of its interests. It even provides an answer to "How To Be Happy", based on a number of scientific studies. Of course they aren't all recovering, insufferable, or geniuses.
  • Tangential, but with anticipation of recovery: Enrique Borgos, the obnoxious bio-geek from A Civil Campaign by Lois Mc Master Bujold. Martya Koudelka, who becomes his girlfriend, notes that nerds tend to mature well into quite suitable husbands.
  • Yukari from Rosario + Vampire
  • Orson Scott Card's Homecoming or Memory of Earth series involves a scientist character who fits this in many ways.
  • Gregory House from House, M.D. seems to apply. I stopped watching a while ago, but he was in the middle of a season long arc about trying to learn to be less insufferable when I stopped watching.
    • He's pretty insufferable again now.
    • So he's a lapsed Recovering Insufferable Genius? That might be too specific even for TV Tropes.
  • Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony Friendship is Magic while she was not really a Jerkass in the first place, was bossy, prideful, academic to the point you could literally call her an Ivory Tower Intellectual. Thanks to an ingenuous plot by Princess Celestia, she managed to acquire friends... this is a major plot point in her subsequently saving the world. The main theme of the series is about how she learns An Aesop after another thanks to her contact and interactions with them, of which she makes a written report to the princess after the closure of every incident. That's why the subtitle is "Friendship is magic". In fact, all of her pony friends have shades of this, each in their own specialty. Their friendship allows the group to be much more than the sum of its parts. Twilight still doesn't really stop being herself: once she had her friends to sleepover, and her main concern was ticking off the different bullet points a book said about what should be done during sleepovers, because she had had that manual for ages and finally got a chance to use it.
  • In Harry Potter, Hermione Granger is quite the Child Prodigy, or at least an extremely diligent student. She also starts out about as Lawful Good as can be, to unhealthy levels in a setting where ignoring adult's prejudices and breaking rules is a basic plot requirement for Saving the World. She's also fairly bossy, and tends to sermon people. This didn't make her popular with her pre-teen friends at the Boisterous Bruiser House Griffindor. Nevertheless, she became Fire-Forged Friends with Harry and Ron, and has progressed a lot since then, although she remains a massive hothead to the end.
  • In Code Geass, Nina Einsten fits the Dan Dere variant of this trope. Let's not get into the details of her social ineptitude, but she appears to grow out of it to an extent by the end of the series. Subverted by Shneizel El Britannia who, despite having a magnificent intellect and princely social grace, is completely disconnected from reality, as his outrageous plans for achieving world peace prove. As for Lelouch, the protagonist... he shares many traits with his brother Schneizel, but he's so completely over the place, mixing great emotional insight with terrible instances of social stupidity, and wavering between a willingness to integrate in normal society and a drive to go on with his cartoonish plans for revenge and world-changing that the jury is still out on his case. Then again, in the case of both individuals, their problems stem more from the fact that they are royalty than from any sort of pseudo-autism.
  • Sax from Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy becomes a Recovering Insufferable Genius as a result of having to cope with brain damage to his speech centers.
Community Feedback Replies: 14
  • May 15, 2011
    Bluelantern2814
    You might want to add Amadeus Cho, he is Incredible Hercules sidekick who at first was willing to cause chaos to Shield just because he was bored, but slowly becomes a hero.
  • May 16, 2011
    Ardiente
    • Tangential, but with anticipation of recovery: Enrique Borgos, the obnoxious bio-geek from A Civil Campaign by Lois Mc Master Bujold. Martya Koudelka, who becomes his girlfriend, notes that nerds tend to mature well into quite suitable husbands.
    • Yukari from Rosario To Vampire
    • Orson Scott Card's Homecoming or Memory of Earth series involves a scientist character who fits this in many ways.
    • Gregory House from House MD seems to apply. I stopped watching a while ago, but he was in the middle of a season long arc about trying to learn to be less insufferable when I stopped watching.
      • He's pretty insufferable again now.
      • So he's a lapsed Recovering Insufferable Genius? That might be too specific even for TV Tropes.

  • May 16, 2011
    Damr1990
    • Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony Friendship is Magic while she was not really a Jerkass in the first place, she seemed to only care about her studies and not making friends, however this changed as soon as she arrived to Pony Ville, however, she still having some little quirks due her inexperience on some social relations aspects... still cute though
  • May 16, 2011
    ginsengaddict
  • May 16, 2011
    Ardiente
    ... That's not precisely the same trope, though. This is about intelligence or other forms of overcompetence (a Jerk Jock who never did anything every day but train and will be Raised By Wolves as a result is a common example) getting in the way of them getting a social life, a pleasure which they discover too late and try very hard to compensate for the lost time with learned knowledge. Like non-native speakers of a language, they might end up much more exquisite, elegant, sophisticated and masterful at it, but there will always be gaps that will betray their ignorance at the worst times. On the other hand, someone with Aspergers is socially impaired regarless of whether he is competent at something else, and in fact might develop such competences because of the time and energy freed by that lack of socializing. No reason the two tropes can't overlap, though.
  • May 16, 2011
    Otakukun
    Kiyo of Gash No Bell fits this trope
  • May 17, 2011
    Ardiente
    Konjiki No Gash Bell and yeah I can't believe I forgot him!
  • May 17, 2011
    ginsengaddict
    ^^^ Aspergers ain't a trope, it's a mental condition which inhibits social development. That being said, it doesn't mean people with Aspergers are incapable of developing social skills, it's just something we have to work harder at.

    Your laconic says "starts acquiring social skills late in life" - that is most Aspies to a tee.
  • May 17, 2011
    Ardiente
    Didnt See That Coming, I really didn't have Aspergers in mind. I thought the title, insufferable genius, implied that the nerd was at least a genius at something. Aspergers don't need to be geniuses. There are also ways of being a genius that are very far from Aspergers' usual symptomes: an extremely graceful athlete that does nothing but train has the same problem. We can have Aspergers in the trope, but only if the cause of their social awkwardness is their hypercompetence at other stuff.
  • May 19, 2011
    Ardiente
    bump
  • June 23, 2011
    Ardiente
    bump
  • June 23, 2011
    jatay3
    What if they weren't an Insufferable Genius in their early stage so much as a Shy Genius? Or does insufferability include both those who are arrogant and those who are just clumsy?
  • June 23, 2011
    Ardiente
    Well, there's Innocently Insensitive, which is a way of being insufferable. But shyness tends to be easily confused with snottiness. Just look at Socially Awkward Penguin: from the outside, his behavior could easily be read as arrogant snobbing. He is deliberately ignoring people, not because he thinks they are beneath him but because he's deathly afraid of interacting with them.
  • July 12, 2011
    Speedball
    Mike from Something Positive is no genius, but he does fit the "learning social skills" criteria.
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