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Intelligence Equals Isolation

"Being the smartest kid in class is like being the only kid in class."
Dr. Spencer Reid, "Elephant's Memory", Criminal Minds

This trope is about characters or people, mostly but not necessarily in college, who are very smart and suffer for it, being unable to relate to the mundane worries and shallow personalities of their comrades, as well as being bored out of their skulls by the mandatory classes. Nothing is as depressing as having to correct the teacher, except not doing so for fear of the teacher getting mad. Sometimes they use Obfuscating Stupidity, but if their parents demand grades, and they get them, their classmates can get jealous, which can lead to bullying of various sorts. Too often Truth in Television.

Depending on which neuroscientific theory one subscribes to, the trope name is quite literal: Those with more intelligence have a higher rate of disorders of some kind that can factor heavily in inducing social isolation. This is especially true if they attend a school with separate programs for people with those disorders, such as students within the autism spectrum (regardless of what specific disorders they show), taking tests separately from other students along with extended time. While beneficial, that practically makes this an institutionally-enforced situation!

When this intelligence is combined with a talent for manipulation, and possibly some good looks, you get an explosive mixture: add some Applied Phlebotinum or an Artifact of Doom and you might get a Magnificent Bastard, with the potential to be a very interesting X-tagonist. If, in addition to that, they are benevolent and feel compelled by their intelligence to improve the world, you might get a very effective Well-Intentioned Extremist who thinks Utopia Justifies the Means, and who might become a Knight Templar. If, instead, they are a Nietzsche Wannabe, beware: high intelligence leads to questioning, and, in Morals, when you find out there aren't any readily made answers, you might settle for "there aren't any answers at all, so just do what you want"... With enough Motive Decay, can become an Omnicidal Maniac and a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds.

Note that this is not just about popularity with others, although that's certainly part of it. There are examples of smart people who are popular with others but still feel that their intelligence isolates them. It's pretty difficult to find common ground when explaining your thoughts bores others, after all. Of course, if the intelligent one is an Insufferable Genius then lack of intersocial skills or tendencies to assume superiority probably play a much bigger part in their isolation than merely being smart or mental issues, feigned or otherwise.

This may be portrayed as An Aesop, either showing that this isn't something you would want to strive to become, or that the person who is always on their own isn't quite the freak everyone thinks they are.

A form of Blessed with Suck. Compare Eating Lunch Alone and Broken Ace. A counter-part trope is Popular Is Dumb. May or may not include elements of Loners Are Freaks. Often used as a justification for why Dumb Is Good: dumb people may be made fun of, but they won't be hassled and harassed for it. Contrast with Gentleman and a Scholar, when a smart guy is well-liked and lacks none of the social graces.


Examples

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Oz in Pandora Hearts. He may act stupid, but he's incredibly intelligent...and he doesn't have many friends besides Gil, Alice, Sharon, and his Elliot and Leo.
    • Leo plays this trope very straight. He's able to see things no one else can and as a result is isolated from others. Even at the orphanage no one understood him until Elliot showed up.
    • Oswald and Lacie would count as well. Lacie is incredibly smart, but the fact that she's seen as some sort of Apocalypse Maiden doesn't help her status, any, either. Oswald is just shy and everyone assumes he's cold.
  • Homura Akemi in Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Seen as shy and super clumsy in earlier installments, people called her useless. Later on, Homura appears to be The Ace and is admired by everyone from afar thanks to the adquired experience from the time loops; Sayaka mistakenly thinks she's full of herself, when in reality she's trying to act rationally and be sane at the same time since she's keeping an eye on Madoka so she won't die or become a witch like in said former installments.
  • Ami Mizuno from Sailor Moon was the smartest girl in all of Japan, but until Usagi recruited her as Sailor Mercury, she didn't have any friends at school. All the kids thought she was an arrogant know-it-all, but she was just shy and reserved. See what her fellow students say about her in the R movie:
    "Ah, Mizuno-san got the first place again!"
    "She always shows off about her good grades, but she doesn't get that she's getting such a bad rep!"
  • L, Mello, and Near of Death Note. Light is the "well-liked and admired but feels very alone" variant. Maybe even the author - he certainly likes this trope.
    • Well, the writer certainly states that he "did well at school" and that he doesn't "leave [his] house very much" in How To Read 13.
  • Ren Hiyama of Lost+Brain. His sidekick Haruhide Shitara too.
  • Lelouch "Lamperouge" of Code Geass. Admittedly, it's also due to his issues with letting people get close to him stemming from his traumatic childhood experiences.
    • ...And the fact that he's undercover 95% percent of the time, not to mention his criminal Secret Identity once the plot starts. Actually, when it doesn't interfere too much with his plans or comes without too many strings attached, he does have a good time with his friends.
      • His disaffection with everyone and everything (including his pal Rivalz) in episode one is this mixed with philosophical disdain for the society he belongs to. Which causes him to go try to help out a wrecked truck that everyone else is just taking cameraphone pictures of. Which gets him mixed up with terrorists and an Apocalypse Maiden who gives him superpowers. Which starts everything.
  • Narutaru's Tomonori Komori and Naozumi Sudo.
    • Also, Hiroko Kaizuka. Then she became the victim of very cruel bullies...
  • Towards the end of Zettai Karen Children, it turns out that Minamoto was like that when he was a kid, due to being a Child Genius... he just wanted to go to a normal class and have normal friends, but his obvious superiority 'bothered' people, so he was put into a Special Education Program. This revelation puts a whole new significance to the lengths he went to to give The Children a chance to go to school like normal children.... basically, he gave them the childhood that was denied him.
  • Kiyomaro "Kiyo" Takamine in Zatch Bell! - he'd basically stopped going to school or caring about anything else because his fellow students were so hostile to his smarts. Except Suzu, the one student who was a girl at the absolute other end of the smarts scale, and he had not befriended her yet. It got to the point where it was going both ways, his fellow students treated him with hostility but he'd grown so used to it he was acting as stuck up as everyone thought he was. After meeting Gash he lightens up and once he starts being genuinely nice again his classmates do as well easily bonding with him through his intelligence with things like helping them study and providing advice.
  • Tamami in Mahoraba.
  • Sakurako Amamiya has been the textbook brainy loner ever since she's been drawn into the madness of Psyren, shutting herself from everyone so as not to let anyone else be damaged by it. We know she hasn't always been like this because, just as she is introduced, Ageha remembers a time when, as a child, she was much more joyful and open to the world.
  • Yukimitsu from Eyeshield 21. His parents forced him into Cram School and he became extremely sheltered, envying the sports teams from his room. Due to his years of being in school, he lacked physical strength, and could never play for more than half a game.
  • A recurring trope in Monster, where both the protagonist and the villain feel solitude and isolation despite the physical presence of others. In Johan, this is manifested in an extreme way in his "Landscape of the End" (though, admittedly, there are factors aside from intelligence that figure in here).
    • Nina/Anna and Johan are a little unusual: their natural intelligence and trauma-induced solitude don't seem to be related. Runge would fit this trope better, but even in his case it's not really intelligence but workaholism that isolates him, to the point that his family abandons him. Until the end, where he's in contact with his kid again.
  • Ishida Uryuu of Bleach, while also the indubitable Insufferable Genius, qualifies. Before getting involved with Ichigo & co., there is zero indication that he has any friends, nor that he EVER has. Part of this is a result of his acting like a jerk because it's "cool" / to keep people away, but he wasn't always like that. Add seeing ghosts to the brain, and it's no wonder he's a loner.
  • Satoshi Hiwatari from D.N.Angel is a 14-year-old college graduate who goes back to middle school so he can follow the main character. Although he's greatly admired by the girls in his school because of his cool, aloof attitude, most of the boys think he's a Creepy Child because of how adult he seems, and he rarely relates well with others. Of course, like many examples on this page, part of his problem is that his background has also made him desperate not to let anyone too close for fear of losing them, like he lost his mother.
  • Nemuro from Revolutionary Girl Utena was a Professor by the age of 18, and completely friendless. His fellow students planned to use his intelligence and throw him away once their project is complete. He was so withdrawn that he was described as a "computer-like man". The tropes is somewhat subverted with Miki, a Teen Genius who is pretty popular amomg his peers.
  • Averted by Miyabi "Professor" Oomichi of GA Geijutsuka Art Design Class . As her nickname means, she is much more knowledgeable in art theory than an arts-stream high school student and is also highly talented, but she has her share of friends.
    • She herself also defied this trope in in the chapter about typography accreditation. She is likely to get higher a higher level of typography qualification (Class C or even B, compared to her classmates' D), but decided to just get a Class D instead because she still wants to be with her friends.
  • Detective Conan
    • Hiroki Sawada from the Non-Serial Movie Phantom of Baker Street. Either his school system couldn't quite deal with the child who would be studying grad school in MIT at ten, or he was given a highly accelerated homeschooling. Either way, he is friendless against his will— which cumulated to his Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds status in the movies, because he just wanted to have friends.
    • Shinichi Kudo, before being shrunk, was a milder case. While he wasn't openly shunned by his peers, and in fact he briefly was a member of the soccer club in his junior high, it's mentioned sometimes that teachers and classmates found him arrogant and hard to approach — and sometimes were (and still are) amazed that Ran ever managed to befriend him. I.e., his former teacher Akiko Yonezawa remembers Shinichi as being unnaturally snarky and full of himself while in elementary school, Ran refers to him as "that mystery otaku" when she's very upset with him, and Sonoko openly wonders "What Does She See in Him?" in regards to Ran herself.
  • Mikael from Tenshi Ni Narumon is a textbook example of an intelligent loner - in the first season, he is mostly seen alone with his Book of Chaos and only occasionally talking to Noelle. In the second season, it's slightly subverted, but only because Raphael makes him go out more and actually interact with people (well, in this case, just Noelle's family]. Still, his favourite pastime seems to be... studying. His isolation doesn't do him much good, as evident later in the series
  • In Tokyo Mew Mew, Ryou Shirogane experienced this in his childhood. His Only Friend back then was Keiichiro Akasaka, who worked for Ryou's father, and who befriended him at his boss's suggestion. It doesn't help that Ryou is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold whose jerk side is more easily seen.
  • The anime short Kigeki is about a mysterious swordsman who lives alone in an isolated castle and reads books all day. It's explained that in the past certain knowledge was forbidden and many books were burned, so moving into the castle was the only way the swordsman could get to read in peace.
  • This is the one of the aspects of Yuki Nagato from Haruhi Suzumiya. When we're first introduced to her, she's sitting in a room by herself reading a book.
    • Kyon gets pissed at her creator, the Data Overmind in the Disappearance novel/film because of this trope. While another humanoid interface, Ryoko Asakura, was a perfectly normal, popular teenager who was good at class and sports before attempting to kill Kyon to try and get a reaction from Haruhi, he wondered why it created Nagato to be a reclusive bookworm who seemed to always be alone.
  • In Digimon Savers, Nanami invokes this in an attempt to convince Touma to join the other side.
  • It's not intelligence per se, but it works out the same way for the Bunny Ears Lawyers in Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo. Mashiro, Misaki and Ryuunosuke are all extremely talented and eccentric in some way, but that mostly brings them troubles since they have little to no friends, their peers either label them as freaks or resent their talent and their teachers consider them problem children.
  • Mikogami from Sekirei turns out to have suffered from this in the past, being a 15-year old college graduate and a Lonely Rich Kid. His Jerk Ass tendencies probably didn't help matters, as he claimed his peers were "stupid" and there was no way he could ever relate to them. It's hinted his massive collection of Sekirei serves as a substitute for human friends.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman is often shown with a dismissive attitude towards other heroes, as if they were children playing at adult matters. It is shown that Bats has crippling intimacy issues due to the whole "shaping my entire life around having watched my parents' murder as a child" thing, so it's not just intellect for him. After his parents died he grew up in a big hurry, and flashbacks of his childhood after it happened show him as having been too serious and somber to play with other children.
  • Lex Luthor in Birthright, he was a young Einstein who was so smart that he freaked everyone out. He soon slowly became unhinged and determine to unlock the secrets of Krypton.
  • Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four has sometimes been shown as so smart that he feels even his loved ones can't really understand him. Fortunately, he overcame it enough to romance his wife and love his son. This still happens, though.
    • Allysa Moy, an old friend of Reed's, tries to seduce him with this trope as the friends Reed surrounds himself with just aren't on her and Reed's level. Reed doesn't give a damn.
    • Reed Richards and Doctor Doom are archenemies and worthy opponents to each other partly because their intelligence is on par with each other. They don't need to talk down to each other to be understood, though Doom does it anyway out of arrogance.
    • In the Ultimate Universe this is played straight with Reed.
  • Both of DC's "Mr. Terrific" felt isolated enough due to their genius to attempt suicide at one point (only to turn into heroes instead).
  • Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias in Watchmen, who was so brilliant as a child that he was accused of cheating on his schoolwork and who later has a reputation as the "smartest man in the world". The version of the character in the graphic novel seems comfortable and resigned with this status, but in the movie there are a few indications that he is in fact very lonely because of it, and turned to his historical interests as a distraction:
    "I guess you could say I've always been alone. I mean, they say I'm the smartest man in the world, but the truth is I've often felt stupid at being unable to relate to anybody. Well... anyone living, that is."
  • Tom Thumb of the Squadron Supreme is clearly the smartest member of the team and the resident Gadgeteer Genius, but he's socially isolated from everyone else, often overlooked or belittled, and spends most of his free time in his lab instead.
  • It is often hinted that this was a factor in Loki's Freudian Excuse in The Mighty Thor, where he was a lot smarter than other Asgardian children but less physically able. He was more likely to be reading or practicing his magic than training in combat with his peers.

    Jokes 
  • A joke about Engineers, who tend to be brilliant and introverted:
Q: What's the difference between an introverted engineer and an extroverted engineer?
A: An introverted engineer looks at his shoes when he talks to you. An extroverted engineer looks at your shoes when he talks to you.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Real Genius
    Chris Knight: When I was three years old, I balanced my father's checkbook. They sent me to school and fired their accountant. My father was so intimidated, he stopped speaking to me. My teachers disliked me because I was smarter than they were. My classmates hated me because I broke the bell curve. Sound familiar? My mother dressed me in white shirts, hush puppies and a briefcase, guaranteeing that no girl would ever talk to me.
  • Max Cohen, the mathematical genius in π. Max's quest for the universal number that holds the key to the mathematical basis of nature has left him utterly disconnected from the rest of humanity, to the extent that he even fears leaving his apartment if he could run into someone.
  • Lisbeth Salander in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" (Movie version of "The Millennium Trilogy")

    Literature 
  • Harry Potter has Hermione Granger in the first book until she, Ron and Harry become friends. Her intelligence, and her slightly condescending attitude led to most people disliking her. Subverted in every book after that, where she's still kind of a know-it-all but is generally well-liked by her fellow Gryffindors.
    • Word of God states that Albus Dumbledore was like this for most of his life, to such a degree, in fact, that it drove him straight into the company of Gellert Grindelwald, the greatest Dark Wizard in history at the time.
  • Sherlock Holmes is a classic example of this. His genius often causes him considerable frustration when dealing with other people (including the official police force), and as a result he prefers to follow his own route to a solution. He chooses only those cases which truly interest him intellectually, and involves only those people who are useful for his current case. Aside from his brother Mycroft Holmes and his loyal friend Doctor John Watson, he spends most of his time alone, broadening his eclectic range of knowledge. When he feels he has nothing to work on his brilliant mind becomes a burden, sometimes driving him to seek a drug-induced stupor as an alternative to the mundane. Mycroft and Dr. Watson appear to be the only two people whose company Holmes actively seeks out, and who are able to tolerate his often acerbic or dark moods, while maintaining a genuine liking for him. Although Holmes does express admiration occasionally for individuals who present above average intelligence (in his opinion) he doesn't seem to have any close friends outside of Watson and Mycroft, and appears to prefer isolation.
    • Mycroft is even MORE of this, to the point of being a Flanderization. He prefers his own company to the extent that he started a club whose members are forbidden to speak to each other.
  • In the early '40s science fiction story "Judgment Day" by L. Sprague de Camp, a scientific genius has discovered a principle that will make weapons on the scale of A-bombs (which hadn't been fully invented yet) possible. Most of the story is a flashback to his unhappy life of being unpopular and bullied and lonely. He decides to publish his discovery, expecting it to lead to humanity destroying itself.
  • Raistlin in Dragonlance, whose exceptional intelligence sets him apart from other characters (although his loneliness is also because, well, Ambition Is Evil and Being Evil Sucks).
    • He also sets himself apart deliberately, because he resents that his extreme physical frailty makes him heavily reliant on others.
  • Matt in Peter Pays Tribute, although it doesn't help that he refuses to speak.
  • The Aesop of Flowers for Algernon.
  • Artemis Fowl's only friends are his bodyguard and a small group of subterrainina (technologically advanced faeries). Technically, there's also a one shot Mary Sue character who hasn't been mentioned since her first appearance. It's said that he's "bamboozled" every IQ test sent his way and driven several psychiatrists gibbering back into their own wards. However, it's shown that he does have the capabilities and charisma to actually charm people and hold down relationships, he simply doesn't bother because he doesn't respect most other people, a fact pointed out by one of the few Psychiatrists able to shut him up.
  • Ender Wiggin was a straight example from the very beginning, but then Battle School happened. He gets better.
  • This is something of a theme in the Tiffany Aching-arc of the Discworld novels. Witches are without exception isolated from the people they help, and must constantly work to keep from getting a God-complex, or simply going mad from loneliness, a condition known among them as "cackling". The primary cure is to keep associating with other witches who know what you're going through.
  • There's a bonafide Child Prodigy who becomes one of The Baby-Sitters Clubs charges. Naturally, she's paired with Claudia Kishi.
    • Implied for one girl in a camping "episode": She doesn't join the girls' activities and prefers to read by herself; likewise the other girls don't talk to her. She comes into her own when the girls get lost on a hike, saving everyone because the book she was reading was about the outdoors and she was the only one who knew how to read the trail markers. Sadly, the last we hear of her is her mother telling the counsellor that she definitely won't be back next summer.
  • Most of the people exiled from the society of Brave New World have high intelligence, due to their frustration with the shallow nature of their society.
  • The two protagonists of Muriel Barbery's The Elegance Of The Hedgehog.
  • In Christopher Stasheff's The Witch Doctor, from his "Wizard in Rhyme" series, the main character complained to an angel that he never had any friends as a kid because nobody else in the neighborhood was interested in reading. The angel's reply was that he should have pretended to be interested in the same things as the other kids and then he might've had friends. (Although the series did take place in a medieval universe with decidedly different values...)
  • In Song of the Lioness, Alanna's twin brother Thom is one of the most powerful sorcerers in Tortall. The only person he's close to at all is Alanna because he believes that his teachers are jealous and he has no interest in getting close to anyone else. He didn't even like their first teacher, Maude, and only listened to her as long as he thought she could still help him.
  • As mentioned above, Lisbeth Salander in "The Millennium Trilogy" She is brilliant- has photographic memory, extremely skilled at computer hacking, reads math books and solves mathematical equations for fun, and yet has close to no friends. Her Brilliance is recognized by a few of the characters who get to know her (Blomkvist, Mirium Wu, Armansky) but for the most part she is so asocial and unresponsive that she was declared incompetent by psychologists.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel: Wesley. It eventually came back to bite him in Season Three.
  • The eponymous Sherlock, who is an Insufferable Genius, subscribes very firmly to Good Is Not Nice, and has several characteristics of a Byronic Hero. John even suggests that Sherlock might have Asperger's Syndrome. It's outright stated that he has never had any friends prior to John:
    John: [About 'Richard Brooke'] Old school friend?
    Mycroft: [Sardonic smile] Of Sherlock's?
    • As per canon, Mycroft takes this Up to Eleven; when the Holmses were young boys, the two thought that Sherlock was a genuine idiot, not just less clever than Mycroft, but truly slow. Sherlock lives in a world Surrounded by Idiots, therefore Mycroft lives in a world surrounded by goldfish.
  • River Tam of Firefly was very much this during her younger years. She corrected the teachers often, and no one understood her, leading to her not being invited back to class. And then the Academy happened. Simon doesn't seem to have been much better at it, though his social skills improve noticeably over the course of the series.
  • Dr. Spencer Reid from Criminal Minds can attest to this trope - he graduated from high school at age twelve and on at least one occasion was tied naked to a football goalpost and mocked.
  • Malcolm from Malcolm in the Middle makes this the focus for the first few seasons, before getting past it.
    • In fact, this contributes to the Misaimed Fandom - him being able to get past it in the later seasons is shown to be Character Development. Early on, nobody seems to want to interact with him aside from his brothers and a few others...but in High school, he finds people he has stuff in common with, and doesn't push them away.
  • House. And not just the title character either. Up to Eleven with the Patient of the Week in Ignorance is Bliss.
    Sidas: It's lonely, isn't it?
    House: It's not that bad.
    Sidas: Then you're not that smart.
  • T.J. Henderson from the show Smart Guy was too young to fit in with his fellow high-schoolers and could only relate to kids his own age around basketball and other non-intellectual activities (which usually resulted in disaster of some sort). Other smart kids were out of the question too because they were nowhere near as sociable or well-adjusted as T.J., tending to be dipped fully in Intelligence Equals Isolation by virtue of being too stereotypically arrogant to care about reciprocal friendships.
  • Toby and President Bartlet on The West Wing.
    • C.J. tells Toby, "No one likes people who know everything," to which Toby responds "So I've discovered in my life."
    • President Bartlet asks Toby "You think the strike against me is nobody likes the smartest kid in the class?" in "Hartsfield's Landing." Subverted when Bartlet takes this and uses it to win the election despite the MS scandal.
  • Alex in Modern Family is asked by her sister, "Do you want to be smart or do you want to be popular?" Unfortunately, in that particular episode anyway, she caves. One episode even had her parents nagging her to study less.
  • Hannah from Todd and the Book of Pure Evil is largely isolated from her fellow students due to her intelligience. In Invasion of the Stupid Snatchers, a student who was turning the rest of the school into idiots with the book questions whether being smart has made her happy, and whether it wouldn't be better to be as dumb as him.
  • Subverted in Carrusel. Maria Joaquina and Jorge may be brilliant students who have trouble making friends... but the reason for their difficulty has nothing to do with intelligence- it is due to Maria Joaquina and Jorge being snobbish and condescending towards other students not as wealthy as they are. Maria Joaquina gets somewhat better after a while, as she's subjected to Break the Haughty and becomes the Lovable Alpha Bitch afterwards; Jorge keeps being haughty and snotty until almost the end instead.
    • Averted by Daniel, who is the top student in the class and comes from an upper middle class family- though nowhere near as wealthy as Maria Joaquina or Jorge- yet has many friends and is the leader of La Patrulla Salvadora.
  • Both Frasier and Niles Crane, who were bullied severely and persistently throughout their childhoods and, as their father notes, never made many friends, which is partly why they are so much more close-knit than most successful adult siblings.
  • Dr. Brennan on Bones, most definitely
  • Gil Grissom on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, often thought of as a bit of a recluse while he was team leader. He did become close to the others on the team; a family dynamic showed up as time went on, though it took six seasons for Sara to finally break down the walls he'd put up and form a romance with him.
  • Brick Heck on The Middle, who's always looking for opportunities to read. Having Asperger's Syndrome contributes to it.
  • On Leverage, Nate shows how difficult this really is. It is directly pointed out during the "Boys Night Out Job" that he really doesn't have any real friends apart from the team and his ex wife.
    • Nate and Sterling were good friends when they worked for the insurance company. However, this only serves to reinforce this trope, as Sterling is just as smart and calculating as Nate.

    New Media 
  • Over Educated Problems is a series of image macros that makes fun of people having trouble to relate to others because of the difficulty letting go of their "education" (most notably, "proper" grammar, syntax and pronounciation). It's more intellectual snobbery than intelligence, but it sort of fits.

    Radio 

    Theater 
  • In Sunday In The Park With George, there are two instances of this trope: Georges, a straight example of this, bordering on Loners Are Freaks - his genius is misunderstood, and he frequently drives people away with his eccentricity and stubbornness. Then, George-his-grandson appears to be social, amiable, and friendly enough, but...

    Video Games 
  • Iris in RosenkreuzStilette becomes a complete sociopath because of this.
  • Pokémon Diamond and Pearl gives us two separate descriptions of Cyrus as a child that tell us that he was both highly intelligent and that he shunned people and preferred machines.
  • Purge in Space Channel 5 Part 2 is a Teen Genius who's lived alone with his robots ever since he was 9. This has made him crazy.
  • In Tales of the Abyss, Jade Curtiss shows many of the symptoms. In the manga and anime flashback scenes, it's made even more evident - by the time he's an adult, he seems to have adjusted a little better, mostly by becoming a Deadpan Snarker. And even then, he doesn't have many friends before he gets adopted into the party.
    • Although in Jade's case it's a bit more complicated, since it's implied he was something of a violent sociopath when he was younger and only mellowed out because of the influence of his teacher.
  • Genius teen mage Rita Mordio in Tales of Vesperia practically spells it out at one point:
    "When you can do something better than anyone else, you wind up feeling like something’s missing. The other researchers would go on and on about something I’d discovered, like, two months before... and I’d start to feel like talking with them was pointless."
  • It's not really overt, but in Final Fantasy VII, the Crisis Core prequel, Sephiroth feels isolated because of a combination of his superior intelligence and power. The only ones he feels at all close to are Angeal, Genesis, and possibly Zack, who went through similar experiments, and are still nowhere near his level.
    • There are probably people just as smart as he is around, although most of them aren't very powerful and nobody can kick as much ass as he can, but neither of those are the root of the problem. The problem is that everyone else—including his few friends—had relatively normal, relatively happy childhoods. Genesis and Angeal grew up as best friends in the town of Banora, and finding out that they were created by Shinra genetic tinkering (and are dying of it) sets them tailspinning. Sephiroth grew up in a laboratory under the tender loving care of Professor Hojo. His socialization skills are understandably nearly nonexistent.
      • The idea of not being human still freaks him out. That he isn't, entirely, ultimately does not help things.
  • Inverted in Persona 3 and Persona 4: doing well on your exams improves your school Social Links accordingly.
  • Knoll from Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, though his case is more complicated. He's a very kind and gentle person as well as a decent Black Mage, but not only he's very quiet but what troubles him the most is... how good part of his bookish knowledge is deeply tied to Lyon's experiments that would lead him to become the Big Bad Friend through Demonic Possession/More Than Mind Control.

    Visual Novels 
  • Keiichi from Higurashi no Naku Koro ni is shown to experience this in flashbacks. He's promoted to the advanced class when his grades suddenly go up, but then the bullying begins...
  • Steins;Gate's Makise Kurisu is a grade-skipping Teen Genius who's managed to become a published neuroscientist at the age of eighteen - something that draws the resentment of her peers, much older researchers who aren't happy to be compared to or shown up by a teenage girl. Even her own theoretical physicist father refuses to speak with her, as he blames her for overshadowing him and causing his fall into obscurity.

    Web Original 
  • In Part 5 of the story Lovelace One Two, when Andi — who that morning suddenly developed Super Intelligence — is talking to her mates about her situation:
    Bell: I mean, on the big list of problems–-
    Andi: Yeah, you're right. Because if there's anyone in public school who really gets on well — really has a wonderful time for all the years she's there, it's the know-it-all. Well, know-it-all-except-for-why-it's-happening.

    Western Animation 
  • Lisa on The Simpsons, depending on the mood of the writer. In earlier seasons Lisa had a best friend called Janey and had quite a lot of friends, but they got pushed aside and forgotten. The latest episodes show some of those friends, Janey included, but they tend to push Lisa away whenever she shows her smarts.
    • One episode has Homer's I.Q raised to slightly above average levels, and suffers from this, although it allows him to bond with Lisa. He ends up choosing blissful ignorance over the social stigma he'd caused—but was smart enough to write a heartfelt letter to her beforehand, apologizing for taking the easy way out and admiring her strength and courage.
    • This trope is played straight to the point that Lisa flat-out made a graph stating the negative correlation between happiness and intelligence.
      • And broken by the fact that Homer never made an effort to put his high IQ to good use: he isolated everyone by virtue of spoiling movie endings, disillusioning people of hard-held beliefs and basically being a Jerk Ass with a high IQ.
    • The odd thing about this example, is that he really isn't particularly intelligent. He is treated as being very intelligent by everyone, including his coworkers, despite having a stated IQ of 105. This puts him at the upper end of average overall, and below average for highly technical jobs such as, for example, working in a nuclear power facility.
    • Played with in the first-season episode "Bart the Genius," where Bart switches his intelligence test with Martin Prince's to fake being a genius. He feels isolated in his new gifted school because he can't keep up with the other students intellectually, but when he goes back to visit his former friends in public school, they ostracize him, believing that he now considers himself above them. On the other hand, Homer's new feelings of pride in his "genius" son lead the two of them to bond. Of course, Bart finally confesses and everything goes back to normal by the end, although Martin apparently never gets into the gifted school that his test scores warrant.
  • Jimmy on Jimmy Neutron. He actually purposely made himself stupid in one episode to end his misery, but the machines accidently set his intelligence so low he became a complete moron.
    • Jimmy is a mixed bag. Sometimes intelligence isolates him, often he sets the (horrible) events of the plot in motion causing him to be isolated, sometimes the characters realize they need his intellect &/or like him more than they let on, and sometimes he's just an insufferable genius.
  • Daria. This was more prevalent in the first season, after that the show became much less about "Daria vs. the idiots around her". In fact, around season two, we see her getting called out on her antisocial behaviours as well as the isolation being partially her doing - and her Character Development is her not pushing everybody away.
    • Commented on in "Boxing Daria".
  • Brainy Smurf. (Brainy borders on a Know-Nothing Know-It-All, mind you, which doesn't help.)
    • Actually he is shunned not because of his intelligence but due to his overblown ego, contrasting with Papa Smurf, who is both intelligent and easy-going.
  • An episode of Danny Phantom had the intelligent Jazz telling her fellow classmates that she was struggling on whether she wanted to go to Harvard, Yale, or Stanford. They all walk away with disinterest. It's arguably averted for most of the series since Jazz doesn't care how others perceive her.
    • Bragging about all the prestigious universities you've gotten into to people who may not be as naturally gifted as you could also be seen as kind of a dick move
  • Twilight Sparkle was initially like this at the start of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic in preferring her studies over anything else. Her mentor sets her straight by sending on a mission specifically to make friends, setting up the plot of the show. The rest of the series then goes on to avert it, Twilight becoming liked and respected because of, not despite her intelligence and magic skills though she does still remain somewhat socially awkard.
  • Gates from Rollbots has no friends other than Aria. Justifiable, considering that he's not pleasant to be with.
  • In the "Mars University" episode of Futurama, Gunther, the intelligent monkey, felt pressure due to the high intellect his experimental hat gave him. In the end though, the hat was damaged to make him moderately intelligent.

    Real Life 
  • High School issues and bullying aside, studies do show that people with significantly different IQ scores do have trouble relating. 15 IQ points difference is a small impediment but 30 IQ points typically makes it difficult (which is the minimum difference between someone perfectly average and someone classified gifted in the public school system.) Though of course, personality plays a major factor. Bookish and intelligent kids tend to be more reserved and quiet, while the average child is more outgoing, and thus becomes popular.
    • Another study showed that more intelligent people often had a greater predilection towards clinical depression. While misery loves company, company certainly doesn't like misery.
    • Even in day to day work life a difference in intelligence can make what could be a great friendship or great friendships not easy to have.
  • The great mathematician Berhard Riemann was painfully shy, with few friends outside of his tightly knit family. This has given us the ironic situation that we know far less about the inner life of one of the greatest intuitive mathematicians of all time than about his contemporary the incredibly austere proto-formalist Weierstrass.
    • Same goes for Henry Cavendish.
  • Paul Dirac, the man who formulated the equation that predicted the existence of antimatter, was so introverted that one of his best friends spent years not knowing what Dirac's initials stood for. Dirac also only accepted the Nobel Prize when it was pointed out that he would be subject to more attention for refusing it than he would for accepting it.
  • Cults take advantage of this trope, employing 'love-bombing'— the tactic of showering a potential recruit with affection and attention in the hopes they'll stick around. Many people assume cult members are idiots who are easily taken in, but in fact cult members frequently have higher IQs. Then when they realize they're in a dangerous cult, they have difficulty leaving because of the love and attention they'd been showered with up to that point.
  • An example of an immature introvert would be one who plays this trope up and fancies themselves as the Only Sane Man in a world of airheaded extraverts. Such a person doesn't want friends, claiming to dislike most people. Not only does this display a flawed understanding of what introversion really is, it purports the unfortunate perception of introverts as a(nti)social.
  • Putting aside any of the various mental issues discussed, just picture the last time you talked to somebody and everything you said went completely over the other person's head. Now imagine a lifetime of that. GT programs, boarding schools, specialized high schools for gifted students, and prestigious colleges or advanced degree programs (physics, pure mathematics, engineering, etc.) can be godsends that really prove intelligence was the only barrier.


Ineffectual LonerIntroversion TropesLeave Me Alone
Informed LonerSolitary TropesIt's Up to You
Immortality ImmoralitySour Grapes TropesIn with the In Crowd
Insufferable GeniusIntelligence TropesIntelligent Gerbil
Insists on PayingCharacterization TropesIntelligent Gerbil
I'm a Doctor, Not a PlaceholderThis Index Is A JokeIntimidating Revenue Service
Instant ThunderImageSource/PhotographyInterspecies Adoption

alternative title(s): Intelligence Induces Isolation
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