Nerds Are Sexy
"Did it turn you on? Watching her up there in front of all those brainiacs knowing she was the smartest one in the room?"Geeks and nerds often have it rough in the romance department, especially in popular culture. Typically, they are stereotyped as being so unattractive that only fellow nerds would find them desirable mates. However, it is interest and intellect that makes the nerd, not looks. And for some folks, intelligence is very, very attractive. This trope shows what happens when a character finds that a nerd is, indeed, sexy. The nerd's "objective" looks could fall anywhere within the wide spectrum of human attractiveness; all that matters is that a character finds something about the nerd that arouses his or her interest. If said character is in high school, he or she may grow up to be a Hot Scientist. See also Hot Librarian, Hot Scientist, Geeky Turn-On, Meganekko, Nerdcore, Adorkable, Lovable Nerd and Give Geeks a Chance. Sometimes overlaps with Matzo Fever. Can be caused by a case of Hollywood Nerd. Only add examples that are acknowledged in-universe.
— Lilah Morgan, Angel
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- Charlie, the Ambiguously Brown IT guy from the series of AT&T wireless network commercials, who finds a way to make cheesy pick-up lines his own.
Charlie: So...did it hurt? When you fell from heaven?Secretary: ::giggles and blushes:: A little.
- A 2009 Intel commercial featured a male Asian office worker freshening his cup of coffee. Semi-porn background music can be heard. All the women are staring hungrily at this guy, who sees it but acts too cool to respond to it, like this is normal for him. At the end, a voice over identifies this normal-looking nerd as the inventor of the USB port. (He was actually just an actor, but it gets the job done.)
Anime and Manga
- In Haruhi Suzumiya, Yuki seems to have a large "fanbase" within the story, exactly because Nerds Are Sexy. Kyon finds her appealing too, although not at the scale of Mikuru.
- Highschool of the Dead: While Saya is undeniably cute and has a stunning figure, Hirano doesn't become attracted to her until he finds out she wears glasses. She even caught him perving on her, in chapter 5, and booted him for it. While in the third panel, here, he's clearly shown being awestruck and turned on by just how smart she is.
- Even Dragon Ball runs into this, as a number of girls in Orange Star High (particularly Erasa) spend much of their screen time in the anime trying to undress Son Gohan with their eyes. Jerk Jock Sharpener isn't very pleased to learn that he's runner up to "Nerd-Boy".
- Taken to the extreme as the premise of The World God Only Knows. Keima Katsuragi is a proud nerd who spends all his time playing video games and prefers 2D girls over real girls. Yet his vast knowledge of Dating Sims has made him an expert at getting girls to fall in love with him (in order for him to exorcise the evil spirits possessing them... It Makes Sense in Context!), all the while remaining an unrepentant otaku. Not to mention he is pretty good looking and dresses pretty properly. It's hinted that a lot of the girls are impressed by his defiance of authority, even if the defiance comes through geeky activities that they don't really approve of.
- Professor Kiyama Harumi from A Certain Scientific Railgun, and she is thought of as this even before she started stripping in public... again.
- Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Felicia Greenhill had been carrying the torch for the socially awkward Yang Wenli ever since she first met him.
- This trope has been played with in Gundam Build Fighters:
- Subverted with Tatsuya Yuuki who's the typical popular guy in school. Howeve, his fangirls see his Gunpla obsession as his only major flaw... that is until he pulls off a Curb-Stomp Gunpla Battle against the protagonist's model kit.
- Invoked by Kirara, whose extensive knowledge of gunplas and the Gundam 'verse in general cause Sei to outright swoon over her. It later turns out that he just REALLY liked her as a fellow Gundam otaku.
- Played completely and utterly straight with Ricardo Fellini, who almost hooked a date with a Victory Gundam model kit.
- Ami Mizuno from Sailor Moon is somewhat popular among her peers for her looks and brains, she got a love letter in a side story although she didn't react very well to it. This is more present in the anime.
- In real life, Ami is the most popular character in Japan, maybe only after Sailor Moon herself.
- Although Umino is a more stereotypical nerd, in a manga chapter featuring a princess who looked just like him but turned to be really beautiful without her glasses, Usagi Rei and Ami wondered if Umino would look hot without them too, this was confirmed by Word of God.
- In Black Lagoon, Jane makes out with Benny immediately after Benny showed off his hacking skills.
- Amadeus Cho, the 7th smartest person on Earth (as verified by a soap company - oh, and Reed Richards), who managed to win the heart of a Perky Goth Amazon Gorgon girl.
- Peter Parker, a.k.a. The Amazing Spider-Man. A science geek and somewhat socially awkward, but none of this has stopped him from being a Chick Magnet. And he became positively handsome as the years went by.
- Ellie Dee from Cherry Comics, who manages to nail the science teacher all of the girls are lusting after.
- This is practically the mission statement behind Gold Digger, a comic about Gina Diggers a really hot, really ... "friendly" woman who's also a bespectacled supergenius, and her friends, many of whom are just as hot and almost as smart as she is (though they're generally less nerdy).
Films — Animated
- In Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Flint's attraction to Sam stems mostly from the times her Obfuscating Stupidity slips and she starts spouting fancy terms like "elastic bio-polymer adhesive".
- A Goofy Movie has Stacey, a student council girl with glasses and braces who acquires no fewer than two admirers (Bobby and one of the unnamed Star Trek nerds) through the course of the movie. The sequel has Sylvia Marpole, a librarian and Fangirl, whom Goofy falls head over heels for.
Films — Live-Action
- Mean Girls's Miss Norbury, Kevin, and Cady. Part of Cady's conflict is that she dumbs herself down to get a cute boy to tutor her.
- The Girl Next Door's diffident, gangly Klitz (Paul Dano) is a member of the protagonist's clique of nerds, but meets a porn star who finds him highly attractive and it is hinted that he becomes one himself.
- Not Another Teen Movie has Janie who is supposedly nerdy even though all she really does is paint, wear overalls, wear glasses, and has a ponytail.
- There is a scene in a used bookshop in The Big Sleep: Humphrey Bogart spends an afternoon in an antiquarian bookshop with the clerk (Dorothy Malone). An unexpected rainstorm, a bottle of rye, and the line "I'd rather get wet in here", transforms Malone from book-worm to babe, who closes the shop an hour early (and the film fades to black).
- In How to Marry a Millionaire, Marilyn Monroe's character avoids wearing much-needed glasses as long as she can to retain her beauty. When her love interest finally persuades her to put them on, he immediately says, "You're crazy."
- Tanguy is a nerdy intellectual but he manages to chat up attractive girls (mostly Asian ones) with ridiculous ease.
- Darla, the band nerd from My Best Friend is a Vampire - once she takes her glasses (and possibly a dorky hat) off, she's hot, though only the male lead sees it at first.
- In X-Men: First Class, Charles Xavier has mastered the art of transforming his knowledge of genetics into successful flirtation methods.
- And You Thought Your Parents Were Weird!: Beth is attracted to Josh specifically because he's a computer/robotics genius.
- Amy in Time After Time is attracted by the nerdy H. G. Wells character.
- Betty Childs can't help falling for Louis Skolnick in Revenge of the Nerds, once she discovers his sexual prowess.
- Despite being a tough gangster moll, Honey Swanson in A Song Is Born can't help falling for nerdy Hobart Frisbee.
- Fiore from Moony Witcher's La Bambina Della Sesta Luna ("The Girl of the Sixth Moon") is a typical know-all, with special interest in history and Latin (she really likes to show her knowledge of Latin phrases). At the same time, she's beautiful, romantic and sometimes demonstrates a sense of humor. Given that Fiore means "flower" in Italian, this seems to be a case of Meaningful Name.
- In The Hunt for Red October, it is stated that Jones, the sonar technician of the USS Dallas, because of his nerdy looks and knowledge, gets enough action on the beach to "wear down a squad of marines".
- Bennett keeps hitting on the somewhat nerdy, glasses-wearing socialist Tommy Judd in Another Country, whom he claims to be the only guy in college to be immune to his charms.
- The Dukes of Hazzard: Daisy Duke, in the 2005 TV remake/prequel The Beginning, where she wears thick glasses, large sweaters and baggy pants, and her hair in a bun. She is also very shy and mousy. Underneath it all as everyone sort of sensed was this blooming butterfly, to put it mildly. When she takes a job at the Boar's Nest, the nerdy Daisy emerged from her cocoon and what a babe she turned out to be. Needless to say, her social skills improved 1000 percent and she was soon asked out by every guy in Hazzard County. (Alas, this is non-canon for true Dukes fans, as the original series bible has Daisy always being popular ... in fact, getting crowned prom queen at Hazzard High School.)
- From the original Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers we have Billy Cranston, the original Blue Ranger, who got more romantic subplots than pretty much any Ranger in the history of the franchise (damn) but was played by David Yost, who is incredibly charming and built like a plow horse.
- This is pretty much the entire point to The Big Bang Theory. The boys on the show don't get laid in spite of their geekiness (except Sheldon, for whom sex is less exciting than video games), they get laid pretty much because of it.
- The Tag Line is "Smart is the new sexy".
- In one episode Leonard shows Penny what he does in his laser lab. It's been implied that Penny's never actually seen his work, either due to lack of interest or a fear that she just won't understand it. Once Leonard demonstrates it for her, Penny promptly tears his clothes off.
- The show didn't pick up on this right away though; their nerdiness was presented as an obstacle to their getting laid at first.
- In an early episode (thus long before Amy comes along), there is a girl who becomes kind of Sheldon's groupie, because she admires his scientific work and his intelligence. At one point she reveals to Penny that she is indeed also in a non-platonic way attracted to Sheldon, but deliberately restrains herself so that Sheldon's brilliant mind can be entirely devoted to his work, without any distractions.
- David Henrie◊, who plays Justin, in Wizards of Waverly Place. He's the nerdy boy that builds robots, collects action figures, and can't do more pull-ups than his younger sister. Surprisingly (or not), in the show he has a lot of girlfriends.
- Zeke is also a nice looking nerd. In an episode, dozens of supermodels want to play "Dungeons and Dragons" with him and Justin, rather than parade on the stage.
- Eureka is this in a nutshell, seeing as Eureka is a town full of super geniuses/nerds. Good examples are Zane and Henry. Claudia Donovan counts if you include both Warehouse 13/Eureka crossovers.
- Ben Wyatt in Parks and Recreation is into math, model trains, skinny ties, plaid shirts, and Game of Thrones, but that doesn't stop Leslie Knope, Shauna Malwae-Tweep, Marlene Griggs-Knope, and Joan Callamezzo from hitting on/chasing after him.
- Supernatural's Castiel, despite being labeled in-universe as "nerd angel", is also referred to as "sexy" and "pretty" by demon, angel, and human alike.
- Sam Winchester fits this trope almost too well.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Xander, Willow, and Wesley are all sexy nerds in their way, but It's Giles who's sexy because he's a nerd (or, as a love interest put it, "a sexy fuddy-duddy").
- Later lampshaded when even Tara and Willow, both lesbians, find Giles singing "Behind Blue Eyes" incredibly sexy.
- Played with later in the series when Xander comments that smart girls are hot, and Willow, who at that point is a lesbian, mournfully asks him why he couldn't have figured that out when they were in 10th grade (i.e. during the time Willow had the hots for Xander).
- Angel also had Fred (Winifred), the nerdy yet cute science girl who joined the cast late in the second season. During the third season, her sexy nerdiness had two of the male leads fighting over her for half the season. This was lampshaded in the famous scene where Lilah Morgan dresses up in Nerd Glasses and Girlish Pigtails to taunt Wesley over his attraction to Fred.
"Did it turn you on? Watching her up there in front of all those brainiacs knowing she was the smartest one in the room?"
- Played with briefly when David Nabbit gives Angel financial advice in "First Impressions."
David: "Oh. That's easy. You could look into seller financing, take over the owner's payments and skip the bank completely, or you could make a play for a preservation grant. Offer to restore the original décor and get the city and the feds to give you a tax break and a loan at a sweetheart rate. Or you could apply for an FHA and get a PMI in lieu of a down payment."*everyone stares*Cordelia: "Is anybody else getting warm? Do that 'tax breaks,' FHA and PMI part again."
- Played with briefly when David Nabbit gives Angel financial advice in "First Impressions."
- Stargate SG-1 presents an Alternate Reality Episode in which Samantha Carter is a frumpy, awkward nerd. Alternate O'Neill still thinks she's hot.
O'Neill: "Man, that kid's got a way with women."
- In the main Stargate Verse, Daniel Jackson is paired up (or at least implied to have paired up) more often than anyone else in the series. O'Neill even comments on this once.
- On NUMB3RS, Charlie asks Amita on their first date after she solves a particularly tricky mathematical analysis. Later they find out that math is really all they have to talk about, but this doesn't seem to be a problem since they're still together.
- And FBI agent Megan has a relationship with professor Larry.
- Ahem, "Luckily, I speak l33t," "That's so hot."
- Lampshaded in The IT Crowd when Roy and Moss make a Nerds Are Sexy calendar and it ends up being less "hot supermodel with glasses" and more "fat bloke with his shirt off".
- Degrassi: When Connor and Dave created a sorting algorithm deciding the hottest girl in Degrassi, Clare is ranked 3rd. Pretty good given she's supposed to be the plain jane girl next door type.
- Before that, Damian once referred to Liberty as a "sexy genius."
- In the NCIS episode "Singled Out", the team was looking for a killer who believed in this trope, and Ziva goes undercover as a nerd in an attempt to identify him.
- In Gilmore Girls, there's an episode where Rory is seen sitting in the college cafeteria wearing a t-shirt with the logo, "Reading is Sexy." Considering she wears it while thinking about Logan, the third guy in the series she's attracted to for his intellect, it is a reflection of what she honestly believes.
- Dr. Spencer Reid of Criminal Minds graduated from high school at 12, had two BAs by 16, has an IQ of 187, and an eidetic memory. In one episode, fellow profiler Hotch mentions that he "was propositioned by every prostitute we talked to."
- It becomes something of a running gag that sex workers hit on Reid.
- Doctor Who
- The Doctor, at least in the incarnations where he's allowed a love interest. Many characters seem attracted by just how intelligent the Doctor is, with such a wide range of knowledge that it vastly out-scopes anything we know. Of course, being good looking and having a time machine probably doesn't hurt, either.
- Several of his companions fit this trope, although they are usually overshadowed by the Doctor.
- As Scully of The X-Files says of the two scientists in "War of the Coprophages" who walk off into the sunrise together: "Smart is sexy".
- Ugly Betty gets a lot of it. The title character may be cute and even beautiful upon certain occasions, but her sexy turns on only in the last few episodes of the series. Most of her boyfriends are often the embodiment of the trope, with nerdy accountant Henry having some serious male model-like body going for him.
- Modern Family's Alex is both absolutely gorgeous in all her nerdiness and "has her fans", as she says, literally:
"You have your fans, I have mine. And one day, your fans are going to work for my fans."
- Arrow has Felicity Smoak, the Oracle to Oliver Queen's Batman. She is tech savvy and innovative enough to thoroughly impress the crew at Star Labs in the first of a few crossovers with The Flash (2014) and if it wasn't apparent already, the Little Black Dress she rocks on a double date with Barry, Iris and Eddie seals it- the woman is a FOX. Very telling is the fact that besides her brief flirtation with Barry Allen, she's had both Oliver(Arrow) and Ray Palmer (Atom,) two billionaire superheroes, in love with her almost from the word go.
- Sherlock gets some of this too. "Brainy is the new sexy" indeed...
- In Beauty and the Geek just about every season one or two of the Beauties would wind up hooking up with one or two of the Geeks.
- The Smallville episode "Crusade" is when we first met Lois Lane. After Martha says "Trust me, that can happen to the best of us" about falling for a "farm-boy type", Lois replies "Not me, give me a nerd with glasses any day of the week".
- All the time on Bones. Not only are they all Hollywood Nerds, but they all really appreciate one another's giant, sexy brains.
Mythology and Religion
- In Celtic Mythology, Cu Chulainn wasn't in love with Emer because she was the World's Most Beautiful Woman - he loved her because she was ridiculously smart and could throw as many convoluted riddles at him as he could at her.
- Super Robot Wars's Ryusei Date is the epitome of otakuness, having more interest in the features of whichever Fembot was currently in the hangar than real girls. Nevertheless, Latooni Subota and Mai Kobayashi fall for him, the former going as far as imitating his geeky speech out of affection. Ryusei himself doesn't seem to mind, though.
- Philia Felice from Tales of Destiny is a really nerdy priestess, complete with nerd glasses, who has a penchant of inventing self-made bombs. However, that turns out to be one of her charms (she also admits that she's plain looking without her glasses), including her nice personality as well as her voice.
- My Sims Agents, in an example of the sentiment, has a music-playing object that plays a little tune called "Nerdy Chicks Rule".
- Namco High: if you do the Tomari romance, Cousin starts out finding him "cute", then nearly melts from raw hotness when he gets his glasses back.
- Team Fortress 2: In the 15-minute short Expiration Date, Scout explains that this is the reason behind his long-standing crush on the team's secretary/assistant/cleaner Miss Pauling. He describes her as a classy lady who smells nice, reads, and always has her glasses on a little crooked...
- Girl Genius is basically Gold Digger set in a Steam Punk fantasy universe instead of a superheroic modern Earth, and the main character, Agatha Clay, is less ... "friendly" than Gina Diggers.
- Sollux Captor from Homestuck, a skilled hacker and programmer, is a notable ladies magnet, to the consternation of Eridan when he becomes moirails with Eridan's crush Feferi Peixes.
- After finding out about this, FoxTrot's Jason Fox once tried to make himself as un-nerdy as possible because Girls Have Cooties.
- Alice from Loserz thinks so. See this strip.
- And Adam from the same strip actually is a sexy nerd (although he usually hides it - being a gaming nerd, not being sexy). See here.
- Tales of MU takes this to the logical extreme — Amaranth is a physically perfect nymph, naked except for her glasses, who believes in science in a world of magic-based technology. Beyond the mere nudism, nymphs in MU follow the more open version in regards to sex and sexuality (the ultimate origin of the term nymphomania) — although Amaranth treats it as an enjoyable part time job / chore more than anything.
- It's later discovered this is because of a teenage geek messing with the process that created her, creating the ultimate geek fantasy girl — a confident, polite nudist who will put up with ANYTHING and literally can't get enough sex. Oh, and she's a geek, too. Unfortunately, he was too shy to talk to her afterward, which left her in the dark about the whole thing.
- Moira and Nanetta in Tales Of Gnosis College both seem to fit this trope.
- Times Like This: Cassie, the main character, is a brainiac with a mean sex drive. When she's not banging famous guys throughout history thanks to her self-made time machine, she's sneaking boyfriends into her workplace for some conference-table whoopee.
- You can also order "Sexy Nerd" merchandise from TLT's Cafe Press page.
- In Sandra and Woo Larisa's sudden attraction to Landon seems like just a joke, it's not.
- In Shiniez Ally and Alan are complete geeks over fighting games, and both are sexualised. Ally even attends conventions and cosplays. Moreover Lisa speculates that all practitioners of BDSM are in a way nerds, because (as the comic shows) the advanced stuff uses so much thought and attention to be done safely you naturally have to be an enthusiast type.
- Fuchsia of Sinfest certainly thinks so, if her portraits of Criminy are any indication.
- College Humor has the skit "I'm Such A Nerd,", in which a nerd happily discovers that the rather attractive girl he's dating is herself a giant nerd... who then promptly dumps him for not being nerdy enough.
Girl: I thought he was different, you know, but he wasn't. He...he couldn't even name all of the current Batman titles!
- Whateley Universe: brilliant inventor Spark is pursued by Reach throughout the story "The Big Idea". Genius inventor Bugs on the other hand, is regarded as one of the sexiest girls in Superhero School Whateley Academy.
- The dorky, socially awkward inhabitants of That Guy with the Glasses.
- Hephaestos in Thalia's Musings. Also all of the Muses, Thalia included, Athena, Apollo, and Aglaia are very smart and well educated. But being gods they also are exceedingly attractive.
- Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: Whereas the previous incarnations of Velma's character were Hollywood Pudgy, "Mystery Incorporated" slimmed down her figure and portrayed her as being sexually attractive. Shaggy even dated hernote and had to admit she was the one thing he'd choose over food. And for a Big Eater like Shaggy, that's literally saying a mouthful!
- Steve Smith from American Dad!. He manages to get dates with girls more popular than him because they find him cute. Something always happens to ruin it for him, however - usually Stan or Roger.
- In the episode of Batman: The Animated Series where the Riddler reforms (or rather, attempts to), he ends up with quite a few women fawning over him. Unless that's an example of All Girls Want Bad Boys, or Power Is Sexy and/or Gold Digger, due to his newfound fame and wealth from his inventions.
- In The Real Ghostbusters, Janine has a crush on nerdy Egon for his high intelligence. So do a handful of minor female characters.
- Janine's crush was a holdover from the movie where she is quite blatantly hitting on Egon, and Egon is either clueless or doing a good job pretending he's clueless.
- Used in an episode of Robot Chicken. After seeing hell freeze over we are treated to a nerd dance around in his underwear, gleefully singing about getting laid. The hot girl in bed states, in a rather matter of fact manner, that she thinks nerds are hot.
- Tecna from Winx Club, though her boyfriend is even more of a nerd than she is.
- Winston Dunsworth from The Fairly Oddparents had this appeal In-Universe in the episode "A Bad Case Of Diary-Uh!" with teenage girls who attended Vicky's high school.
- Family Guy nerd Neil dates Cicillia who thinks his psoriasis is sexy.