Created By: VanHohenheimOfXerxes on July 10, 2012 Last Edited By: Arivne on June 2, 2016

Jerkass Nerd

A nerd who is also a Jerkass.

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Trope
In many stories, especially High School-related ones, the nerds and geeks are the heroes. This makes sense, since these groups are often bullied and victimized by "popular" and "cool" people. The nerdy characters are the underdogs who fight against their oppressors.

But some nerds are just jerkasses. And this is what that trope is all about: jerkass nerds.

In less sympathetic cases, these nerds will be unpopular because they're jerks and no one likes them. Their outcast status is portrayed as their fault. In these cases, the Jerkass Nerd's nerdiness may be played to make the audience dislike them. The nerd may be obnoxious or repulsive, or a Sickly Neurotic Geek. When the obnoxiousness is combined with the jerkassery, the audience thinks, "See, that's why no one likes them. I don't like them either." The nerd's nerdiness doesn't make them into The Woobie, it makes them into The Scrappy.

In more sympathetic cases, a nerd's life as an outcast will lead them to become a jerk. The Jerkass Nerd may be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, but not always.

If nerds are heroes, then a Jerkass Nerd may serve as a good but jerky hero. Alternately, a Jerkass Nerd can serve as an enemy to the "good" nerds. This can create a war on two fronts: a war between the nerds and the "cool"/"popular" kids, and another war between the good nerds and the Jerkass Nerds. Even Nerds Have Standards may be invoked if even the nerdy heroes think the Jerkass Nerd's nerdiness is repulsive.

Sadly, individuals with autism or Asperger Syndrome are sometimes portrayed this way. People on the autism spectrum are known for their difficulties with social interaction and for having narrowly defined interests, which can make them seem "nerdy" or "geeky." And an autistic person's difficulty with expressing emotion or following social norms may be mistaken for rudeness or jerkassery. Sometimes autistic people, and especially people with Asperger Syndrome, are portrayed as not having a problem at all, but simply claiming they do so they can get away with being rude.

Often overlaps with Insufferable Genius. An online jerk, like a troll, griefer, or Internet Tough Guy, may also count. Compare Jerkass Woobie and Nerd in Evil's Helmet.


Examples

Film

Literature

Live-Action TV

Western Animation
  • The ghost Sidney Poindexter from Danny Phantom has a Freudian Excuse, as he was constantly bullied during his lifetime. He haunts the school, punishing anyone he considers to be a bully. Unfortunately, when he sees Danny (the unpopular hero) playing pranks to get back at Dash (a Jerk Jock), he punishes Danny because he thinks Danny is the bully and Dash is the victim.
Community Feedback Replies: 36
  • July 10, 2012
    NimmerStill
  • July 10, 2012
    RossN
  • July 10, 2012
    Cider
    Is there any reason not to put any examples under any of our existing Jerk tropes? What exactly would make them really stand out elsewhere.
  • July 10, 2012
    Psi001
    • Utilized in an episode of Filmore, which revolves around a bunch of bullied nerds getting terrible revenge on those who victimised them. One of their targets in particular is an AV nerd who constantly abuses his power over the school's electrical devices and is just rude and uptight other students in general. When he points out he is merely a computer geek, they retort he still used his power over others to bully them. Filmore himself retorts that they are doing the exact same, and by resorting to wrathful measures they are no better than the bullies who picked on them in the first place.
  • July 10, 2012
    AP
    @ Cider: Generally, we are made to root for the nerds or at least pity them as they are being bullied by other characters. Here, those conventions are turned on their heads and we lose sympathy or even enjoy seeing the nerd get his or her comupance.
  • July 10, 2012
    AP
    • In Community, the City College debate team are pretty nerdy but also complete jerasses to Annie and Jeff.
  • July 11, 2012
    DerWootsmeister
    This seems to overlap a little with Insufferable Genius, though I guess you don't need to be a Genius to be nerdy or geeky. Having said that, several members from Eureka would qualify.(Zane and Nathan Stark for the jerkass, and Fargo and Holly for the nerd, and Dr. Parrish for both) All of these are scientists, whether that makes them qualify automatically as nerds or not I leave up to you.

  • July 11, 2012
    DerWootsmeister
    I just thought of another. In Sabrina the Teen-aged Witch, she had a teacher or a principal or something who was always coming to their house and dated one of her Aunts. I'm drawing a blank on his name, but he was certainly a petty dictatorial jerk and a nerd. (You only need to see one of his dreams to pick up on his nerdy side.)
  • July 11, 2012
    peccantis
    The Snape example needs a bit elaborating, or it'll be the first to disappear without explations by HP fans when the time of launching comes... :P
  • July 11, 2012
    Cider
    Are they really? What about all the Book Dumb protagonists or sports story heroes or evil hackers?
  • July 11, 2012
    VanHohenheimOfXerxes
    @Cider: One frequent (but not ubiquitous) feature of this trope is that the Jerkass Nerd's nerdiness makes the audience dislike him. The Jerkass Nerd may be obnoxious or repulsive, or a Sickly Neurotic Geek. When the obnoxiousness is combined with the Jerkassery, the audience thinks, "See, that's why no one likes him. I don't like him either."

    In short, this is a subversion of the usual "heroic/sympathetic nerd" trope. The nerd's nerdiness doesn't make him into The Woobie, it makes him into The Scrappy.

    Evil hackers aren't often portrayed this way. And in stories about Book Dumb characters or sports heroes, nerds aren't often in prominent roles. If there are nerds, they're not usually the hero's enemies. But if there is a nerdy antagonist, his nerdiness will often be played to make him as repulsive as possible.
  • July 11, 2012
    DmM
    • Howard in The Big Bang Theory is also this, prior to his relationship with Bernadette taking off. In the episode with his stag night he admits that without her he'd be a creepy jerk.
      • Leonard also occasionally tips over in to this, notably in the finale of Season Three, where he gets drunk and tries to sleep with both Leslie and Penny. He also displays this trait in Season Four Episode 9 "The Ornithophobia Diffusion", where he and Penny go on a 'platonic date' and he is far more assertive than when they were actually dating, admitting that he agreed to lots of stuff he hated in order to guarantee sex.
  • July 12, 2012
    fulltimeD
    Real Life: Most internet trolls (especially the ones who diagnose themselves with Asperger's and never bother to visit a psychiatrist to get an actual medical opinion) and yet claim to support "sound science"
  • July 12, 2012
    fulltimeD
    ^sorry, posted that without actually reading the description all the way through ;)
  • July 12, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In classic Firestorm comics Ronnie Raymond is regularly harrassed and bullied by a nerd for being good at sports but not academics.
  • July 14, 2012
    Routerie
    This is not a subversion of anything. These are just nerds who are jerks.

    If a character is bullied but then turns out to be unsympathetic? That's a subversion. If a character's the underdog but then turns out to be unsympathetic? That's a subversion. But if he's just ugly, or uncool, or studious? There's no reason he shouldn't be a jerk. He's just an example of a jerk, and we have a page for that.
  • July 14, 2012
    Damr1990
    Related to InsufferableGenius (not sure if Sub,Super or Sister Trope)
  • July 14, 2012
    Psi001
    @Routerie: I admit the Jerkass Butt Monkey YKTTW may be a more verstatile example of this trope, rather than having a particular personality or scenario adapted onto them, they are just the underdog who kinda deserves it.
  • July 18, 2012
    VanHohenheimOfXerxes
    @Psi001: But Jerkass Nerds aren't always Butt Monkeys. For example, the nerdy Vector from Despicable Me acts like a jerk, but has good luck throughout most of the film even though he's a nerd.
  • July 18, 2012
    Bluecatcinema
    How about Renaldo, from Kick Buttowski Suburban Daredevil?
  • April 16, 2016
    Dechstreme
    How about the video game, Bully? A Ren't the Nerd Factions portrayed as jerks?
  • April 16, 2016
    Eggy0
    Western Animation
    • My Gym Partners A Monkey features a group of nerdy animals called The Spiffies, who serve as some of the show's jerkasses who try to be better than the others (even if it means resorting to underhanded acts like cheating).
  • April 16, 2016
    DAN004
    Lol @ the ZC Es

    More importantly, I think we already have Academic Alpha Bitch?
  • April 16, 2016
    Chabal2

  • April 17, 2016
    Arivne
    Almost all of the OP examples are Zero Context Examples and have been marked as such (ZCE). They need more specific information about how they fit the trope.
  • April 17, 2016
    ANTMuddle
    And in some cases, the nerd is a Hate Sink.

    Yes, we have Academic Alpha Bitch, but isn't that usually reserved for estrogen?
  • April 17, 2016
    ANTMuddle
    Western Animation: I did recall seeing one on Garfield and Friends. Obnoxious little dude who's got his father wrapped around his finger, and Garfield is the only one who sees him for what he really is. Jon, on the other hand, sees the twerp as a saint.
  • April 17, 2016
    Skylite
    • Dexters Laboratory: Dexter is generally heroic but has his moments. But the true jerk nerd of the series is Mandark.

    • War Games: There's a scene in which a nerd is scolded for acting without social skills, and an older nerd, with frayed patience and visible frustration says "remember when you asked us to remind you when you when you're acting thoughtlessly and without concern for others? You're doing it now." The jerk nerd looks shamefaced and stops but the scene gives the impression that this happens often. [Trivia: this jerk nerd is the same actor who played Mandark on Dexter's Labartory, and who often plays similar roles].
  • May 31, 2016
    ANTMuddle
  • May 31, 2016
    DAN004
    ^ with all of those problems, though?
  • June 1, 2016
    Chabal2
    Foxtrot: Jason is a ten-year-old Omnidisciplinary Scientist, but spends most of his free time thinking up get-rich-quick scams, mad science projects, or ways to annoy his sister Paige. He tries to do the same to Eileen, but often fails (in large part due to his belief that Girls Have Cooties).
  • June 1, 2016
    Alucard
    Related to Extraverted Nerd.
  • June 1, 2016
    Bisected8
    • The villain of Death Machine is very much this. In addition to having a morbid obsession with violence and being a Psychopathic Manchild in general, he's extremely creepy towards the protagonist (stalking her near the beginning and only getting worse from there). The only reason he's tolerated in the Mega Corp is because he's both a skilled engineer and the Corrupt Corporate Executives are terrified of him.
  • June 1, 2016
    Shishkahuben
    Film:
    • Mark Zuckerburg, creator of Facebook, is characterized this way in The Social Network. Much of the film follows how the very technically-inclined and academic Zuckerburg manipulates and subtly betrays several of his friends, co-workers, and rivals during his rise to success. Another character points this out in one of the film's more well-known monologues.
      Erica Albright: "You are probably going to be a very successful computer person. But you're going to go through life thinking that girls don't like you because you're a nerd. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won't be true. It'll be because you're an asshole."
  • June 2, 2016
    DAN004
    Somebody suggested that we should have Jerkass Butt Monkey as a trope. Maybe i'm gonna make it.
  • June 2, 2016
    BearyScary
    The nerds at school in The Amazing World Of Gumball are also elitist jerks.
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