In many stories, especially High School
-related ones, the nerds
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
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
, or Internet Tough Guy
, may also count. Compare Jerkass Woobie
and Nerd in Evil's Helmet
- 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.