Follow TV Tropes


Celibate Eccentric Genius

Go To
He just wants to show off his latest electrical wonder.

"Holmes is as inhuman as a Babbage's Calculating Machine, and just about as likely to fall in love."
Arthur Conan Doyle, in a letter to Joseph Bell

In Fiction Land, being very smart can damage your social prospects. This can hold particularly true in the area of sex and dating. However, this character doesn't care about driving off potential suitors with their intelligence or unusual interests. The Celibate Eccentric Genius knows that there are many more interesting and intellectually stimulating activities in this world than dating.

The Celibate Eccentric Genius is Exactly What It Says on the Tin — an intellectually brilliant, eccentric character who does not, in canon, engage in sexual or romantic entanglements. They may or may not be considered a potentially desirable partner by others, but to count as this trope, their celibacy must be, to some degree, voluntary — an eccentric genius who just can't get a date does not qualify.

Possibly due to the influence of Sherlock Holmes, these characters are usually introverts, often lack interest even in conventional social activities that don't involve the pursuit of romantic partners, and tend to suffer from Intelligence Equals Isolation.

These characters often lack a canonical sexual orientation but are often perceived as asexual or aromantic by the fandom, or, for the ones involved in close same-sex platonic friendships, Ambiguously Gay. On that note it's not uncommon for gay characters in homophobic settings to invoke this by either merely presenting this image to the public (see Andy Warhol for a famous example in Real Life), or repressing their attraction in genuine aspiration to this trope. However, a heterosexual Celibate Eccentric Genius is possible.

See also Celibate Hero, Science Hero, Confirmed Bachelor, and Intelligence Equals Isolation. Often overlaps with TV Genius, Nerds Are Virgins, Nerds Are Naïve, and Absent-Minded Professor.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Lloyd from Code Geass - an eccentric scientist known as the earl of pudding. He seems to show no interest in his fiancee and doesn't seem to mind when his engagement is broken off. In fact, he outright admits that the only reason he agreed to marry her was solely so he could inherit the old Ganymede-class Knightmare Frame her family owned.
  • L from Death Note appears to be this. He avoids thinking about anything other than detective work, which honestly seems to be the only thing he's interested in. He's partly based on Sherlock Holmes, which might explain this. Also played straight with his successor Near. Possibly Mello, too, who although he licks chocolate bars in a provocative manner and dresses in revealing leather, is never seen snuggling up with girls (like the other Mafia members do), and ignores Halle's attempts to seduce him.
    • While his Arch-Enemy Light has at least two relationships in the series, both are based entirely on manipulation and usefulness, so he may qualify as this as well. It's not clear how far either girl "gets" with him, but the second isn't with him very long before he murders her and as for the first, Misa, he only shows interest in her when he wants her to kill or otherwise do something for him; he also thinks about killing her on several occasions, and the only reason Misa lives is due to Xanatos Speed Chess necessitating Light keeping her alive. It's established early on that Light is quite popular with the ladies but rarely showed interest in them even before becoming a Serial Killer.
  • Steins;Gate's Okabe Rintarou claims to be one of these, though mostly it's an excuse for his social and romantic inexperience.
  • Sasuke from Naruto seems to be this, since though he plans to eventually revive his dead clan, he shows zero interest in all of the In-Universe fangirls who have been throwing themselves at his feet since he was at least 8. This all changes by the end of the series, however, as he marries Sakura Haruno and has a daughter with her named Sarada.
  • Chao from Negima! Magister Negi Magi is brilliant and one of the few girls who never engages in any kind of romantic behavior with anyone. Of course, given that the primary target of the story is her great-grandfather Negi, things would get... awkward pretty quickly.
  • Senku of Dr. STONE is a Teen Genius who can't be bothered to care even one millimeter about intimate relationships. Don't get us wrong, he respects and appreciates the assistance he gets from his female cohorts, but don't expect any romantic vibes between them. He'd much rather focus on rebuilding a scientific society in the stone world (though it's implied that he might become more open to such relationships once he's accomplished his goal of restoring humanity back to how it was before the petrification event).
  • Sherlock Holmes of Moriarty the Patriot, is just like his original: brilliant, very odd, and absolutely does not understand romance. He even asks John why he wants to get married at all.
  • Franken Fran is a female example— she is a brilliant mad scientist who can rebuild or redesign human bodies from scratch (as well as an experiment herself), but doesn't seem to care about sex or nudity at all, viewing it only as another biological function.

    Comic Books 
  • Adrian "Ozymandias" Veidt from Watchmen, maybe. In the original graphic novel, "the smartest man in the world" is shown totally devoid of any visible romantic or sexual interest (and doesn't appear to be repressing it a la Rorschach, either), despite being regarded as something of a celebrity sex god in-universe (reporter Doug Roth comments "[e]very girlfriend [he's] had in the last four years has wanted to lay this guy") and thus implicitly having his free pick of partners, if he wanted them. Rorschach believes he is "possibly homosexual", but this is never elaborated upon.
    • This is not the case, however, in Before Watchmen (which has a throwaway implication that he is bisexual and his later celibacy is a kind of permanent mourning for his dead girlfriend Miranda St. John) or the film version (which gave him what may or may not have been a collection of gay porn and — in tie-in materials — described him as having dated Madonna, Stevie Nicks, and Sheena Easton). In the 2019 mini-series on HBO, he straight up says he’s never been with a woman when he finds out Lady Trieu is his daughter and he’s right as her mother stole some of his DNA and artificially inseminated herself.
  • In the Grendel comics, Hunter Rose appears uninterested in sex or romance except for the memories he carries of his first and only love: Jocasta Rose (he was fourteen; she was thirty-six).

    Fan Works 
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic An Extended Performance, this is one of the reasons why The Great and Powerful Trixie is alone. At least if you ask her it is.
  • Sailor Moon: Legends of Lightstorm: Jason Shepard possesses extreme intelligence (enough to completely memorize the entire inner workings of 3 long-dead superheroes and himself), yet never gives any indication of wanting a relationship, physical or otherwise. When Luna first takes Sailor Moon to see him, he is living a quiet (read: lonely) life far from Tokyo, yet evidence in the stories indicate that he preferred the isolation because it gave him peace. Combined with the fact that he seems to dislike the idea of intimacy, Jason seems to be quite celibate and no worse off because of it.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Great Mouse Detective: Basil, who is based on Sherlock Holmes, is a brilliant Bunny-Ears Lawyer who has no interest in romance. He was also the only man at the bar who wasn't attracted to the sexy stripper Miss Kitty.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • Sherlock Holmes in the original novels by Arthur Conan Doyle, may very well be the Trope Codifier, despite what most later, non-Doylean, adaptations will have you believe. Sherlock's brother, Mycroft Holmes, is another example.
  • Nero Wolfe. The "celibacy" part is due to being rather unsociable and not fond of women. It's come out over the course of the books that Wolfe was married before immigrating to America, and that he discovered his wife was attempting to slowly poison him (her fate is officially unknown, although the author once said he assumed Wolfe murdered her and got away with it). Both Wolfe and Goodwin have made comments to the effect that Wolfe does have a continued interest in women but is determined to avoid showing it; he's certainly celibate from the first novel on but has at times tolerated a woman's presence - or even residence - to a degree that makes Goodwin uncomfortable.
  • Arguably, Granny Weatherwax in the Discworld novels is a variation of this trope. Celibacy: her known romantic history consists of an unconsummated youthful romance with Ridcully, and as an old woman she's still capable of attracting unicorns. Eccentricity: she's proud, intimidating, solitary, would have made an impressive Wicked Witch under different circumstances, and rides an alleged broomstick. Genius: she's a powerful witch and accomplished Guile Hero.
    • Interestingly, both Weatherwax and Sherlock Holmes are thin and wiry, have intense light-colored eyes, and are interested in apiculture.
  • This trope is discussed briefly in Stranger in a Strange Land. Jubal Harshaw explains that Great Men, particularly the great founders or reformers of religions, are either completely celibate, like Jesus, or the complete opposite of celibate, like The Prophet Muhammad and Joseph Smith.
  • The title character of the Mediochre Q Seth Series is one of these. The genius is natural, the eccentricity is implied to be a coping mechanism, and he forces the celibacy on himself because he's functionally immortal and trapped in the body of a fifteen-year-old, so things would be too confusing otherwise.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows reveals that Severus Snape remained celibate due to a failed relationship in his youth. Word of God confirms that Albus Dumbledore became this as well, also due to a failed relationship in his youth.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire gives us Lord Varys (as does the TV adaptation). Celibacy? Check (he's a eunuch, so that's kind of a given). Eccentricity? Check (due to his creepy, effeminate appearance and mannerisms). Genius? Check (he's The Spymaster, so all the tropes related to Magnificent Bastardry and Chessmastery would naturally apply).
  • Jasnah Kholin of The Stormlight Archive is portrayed as this. Despite being a gorgeous woman of high status, she has remained unmarried her entire life, which is seen as odd in the Alethi culture. She prefers to spend her time focused on her studies of Roshar's history and discovering how to prevent the coming Desolation. She is canonically asexual, and in a chapter focused on her viewpoint, she expresses that she finds "mental stimulation" far more interesting than physical. Even when she enters a romantic relationship with Wit, she seems more interested in his knowledge of the Shards and history of the Cosmere.
  • The Doctor Who New Adventures largely follows the series in this, at least as far as the Seventh Doctor goes. (At one point, when a woman is hitting on him so blatantly that even he can't ignore it, he outright tells her that he makes a point of missing or misunderstanding such things, because it's simpler.) The single Eighth Doctor NA, however, follows up his kiss with Grace by strongly implying he bonked Benny Summerfield.
  • Vanyel Ashkevron, the hero of the Last Herald-Mage Trilogy, is gay, but by the third book of the trilogy he's become extremely Famed in Story for his powers and dedication to his country. Most people think of him as asexual and a kind of marble icon of power and duty. It's Lonely at the Top and he's had no lovers for many years and cuts himself off from most other people - he has a few friends, but most of them including his nephew are really closer to friendly acquaintances, kept at arm's length. Said nephew becomes determined to pair him off with an openly gay young Bard thinking it will help them both.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Sherlock Holmes:
    • The title character of Sherlock considers himself married to his work, though that doesn't stop an intense - but brief - relationship from blossoming between him and Irene Adler in A Scandal in Belgravia, the exact romantic/sexual nature of which is not discussed; and then there's the Ho Yay between him and John Watson that certain fans claim to see all over the place (and which is occasionally referenced in-universe, to John's annoyance).
    • Subverted by the Sherlock in Elementary (the American show), who has lots of sex. (It's emotional attachments he tries to avoid, and he doesn't see why the two things should be related.) It's (Joan) Watson who isn't getting any (most of the time). A fact regarding which Sherlock is entirely too happy to troll her.
  • The Big Bang Theory:
    • Zig-Zagged by Dr. Sheldon Cooper and Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler:
      • Initially played straight in their first meeting and the first half of Season 4. Ironically, it's the very thing that brought them so close together - they understand each other's disdain for sex better than anyone else, but appreciate each others' intelligence enough to still be pseudo-boyfriend-girlfriend. Amy in particular uses Sheldon to convince her mother she has a dating life.
      • Later subverted by Amy — as Characterization Marches On, the more time Amy spends with Penny and Bernadette, she does begin presenting the desire for more intimacy in her relationship and it's implied some of her celibacy at least was from suppression rather than lack of desire.
      • This puts her in conflict with Sheldon, who continues to be either oblivious or averse to her attempts to get more physical for a long time (though does decide, reluctantly, to call her his girlfriend). Downplayed, however, when Penny and Leonard asked him if he would ever become intimate with Amy like that, he paused to think about it before mentioning it is a possibility, showing Character Development on his part. Sheldon and Amy do finally engage in coitus a few episodes after they get back together in Season 9, and would go on to marry and, according to Sheldon's narration in Young Sheldon, have children together.
    • In one telling of his backstory, Leonard's highly-intelligent parents only had sex in order to procreate. Once that was done, they were done. However, this seems to have been more because of Leonard's mother than his father, who would go on to cheat on her.
  • This was essentially Gil Grissom for the first few seasons of CSI; he did make a few remarks to Sara that ship fans now adore, but he really didn't seem interested in romance at all up until it was revealed he was with Sara in the season 6 finale. We don't know the exact time they became an item, but we know it wasn't the entire series. In fact, he gets divorced offscreen and then doesn't reconcile with Sara until the end of The Movie.
  • In Seinfeld, men become more intelligent when they stop having sex, because most of their brains are always obsessed with sex, and that part begins to function properly when sex is no longer a factor in their lives. Meanwhile, the reverse happens to women. Because men are obsessed with sex so much, women can get it so easily they barely ever have to think about it at all, so when sex is no longer a factor in their lives, they become stupider because now a part of their brain that would normally function properly has devoted itself to thinking about sex instead.
  • The Doctor in Doctor Who, depending on his regeneration. Five and Seven were extremely celibate, which became a plot point with some frequency in the Doctor Who Expanded Universe. From his Eighth regeneration onwards, the Doctor starts getting more and more intimate with his companions (though Tom Baker loves to imply that this started way back with Four, who, on the other hand, also gave us the line "You're a beautiful woman, probably"). And of course, the First Doctor had a granddaughter and even got engaged to a Girl of the Week.
    • Eleven certainly fit this trope for a while, though it went away somewhere between the Battle of Demons Run and when he got married.
    • For Five, Word of God was a strong influence. Producer John Nathan Turner was famous for saying that "There is no hanky panky aboard the TARDIS". To stress this, he also went as far as to forbid Peter Davison and his female co-stars from any physical contact.
    • While this is a male-tending trope, Thirteen shows more signs of it than any of the other post-2005 Doctors. She sparks intellectually with Nikola Tesla, who appears to be one of these himself, but ignores Lord Byron, who hits on her every two minutes. She also seems surprised when told that companion Yaz has feelings for her.
  • Atlantis has Pythagoras, who is explicitly more interested in his triangles than women. Subverted when it's revealed that's because he's interested in men.
  • Watchmen (2019): Adrian Veidt reveals himself to be one, saying he's never been with a woman as sex is a distraction from his work.
  • Winter Begonia: Given Chinese censorship laws, Shang Xirui with his zero interest in women has been adapted to pretty much be one of these.
  • The Outpost: Janzo is a brilliant scientist, while also being very socially awkward, to the point he'd never kissed a woman when the series starts, let alone ever had sex. Then, after he gets into a relationship with Naya, it's revealed she's his sister (luckily before they'd done anything more than kiss). However, he finally loses his virginity to Wren in Season 3. They're a couple after that and Janzo even gets her pregnant.

  • Played with and Deconstructed in Hawkwind's ''Quark, Strangeness, and Charm,''. The song pokes fun at certain acclaimed scientists throughout history, such as Einstein and Galileo, as being lovelorn through missing that one titular piece of discovery (and if you're wondering, no, Lemmy was not involved).

  • In My Fair Lady, the linguist Henry Higgins has two whole musical numbers about how much he hates women and loves being a confirmed bachelor.
  • In Chess, Freddie prefers to get his kicks "above the waistline". He's also the second-best chess player in the world. He's also freaking insane.
  • In the Mrs. Hawking play series, the deductive genius titular character Victoria Hawking is, according to Word of God, an aromantic asexual.

    Video Games 
  • Prof. Mordin from the Mass Effect series. Eccentric genius: double check. Celibate: because his entire species has very little sexual drive.
  • Jade Curtiss, the party's reformed Mad Scientist in Tales of the Abyss, has enough trouble grasping friendship as a concept that might apply to his own relationships with others, let alone romance. He seems for the most part to regard emotional closeness as something that happens to other people, although he does get a bit better about this as the game progresses.
  • Fumi Kanno in Devil Survivor 2. She isn't above jokingly flirting with the protagonist, but as a whole shows little interest in love or romance.
  • Prosecutor Miles Edgeworth is certainly a genius in his own field and appears to be at least above-average in general intelligence. He has no sort of romantic inclinations at any point in the series; in fact, he seems genuinely astonished that the ladies find him irresistible (or, in the case of people like Oldbag, flat-out horrified). Any advances from the opposite sex he generally ignores, choosing to expend his energy on his work instead.
    Edgeworth: D-do I really inspire this sort of frothing desire from the female masses?
  • In My Time at Portia, Merlin is like this, even though her friendship meter is heart-shaped like the other romanceable characters. As part of a quest, she asks you out on a date to try and understand the idea of romance. She quickly decides that does nothing for her and never gets romantically involved again.
  • Racter from Shadowrun Returns: Hong Kong is an Omnidisciplinary Scientist with a specialty in robotics. Speaking to him enough reveals that he has practically no interest in human sexuality, and was that way even before a workplace accident led to him being sawed in half and everything below the waist replaced with cybernetics.


    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Animated Series: For a value of "genius" that includes "villainous schemer", The Joker is too focused on his schemes to care that Harley Quinn is throwing herself at him. Disturbingly, this series includes probably one of the most brutal (halfway realistic) depictions of Domestic Abuse ever put to western animation.
  • The Real Ghostbusters: Much like the film entry, Egon is still in it For Science! and still oblivious to Janine's affections. It's eventually subverted when he finally notices and reciprocates; likely helped by the fact that, here, Janine is a Sexy Secretary. Whereas her film counterpart is just sassy.
  • William "Master Billy Quizboy" Whalen from The Venture Bros. is this, although he's Brilliant, but Lazy and does end up getting laid.
  • In Gravity Falls, The Author Stanford Pines turns out to be like this. He's a brilliant scientific and paranormal researcher and built an interdimensional portal, he's at least as eccentric as the rest of the generally quirky cast (among other things, he shaves with fire), and unlike almost every other major human character, he never gets a canonical love interest or crush. (The Author is also a fan of Nikola Tesla, a real-life example of this trope.)

    Real Life 
  • Nikola Tesla, real-life Mad Scientist and life-long bachelor. Modern historians theorize that he was most likely asexual.
  • Isaac Newton supposedly said on his deathbed that his proudest accomplishment was managing to die a virgin.
  • Henry Cavendish was an eccentric recluse who rarely communicated with anybody except a small circle of fellow scientists (communicating with his servants with notes) and had no known romantic or sexual attachments in his life.
  • Paul Erdos, the mathematician who famously loved only numbers.
  • GH Hardy was thought to be celibate throughout his life (Bertrand Russell described him as a "non-practicing homosexual"), though some have speculated that he and fellow mathematician Ramanujan were lovers.
  • Immanuel Kant was so devoted to philosophy that he had little time for socializing and no interest in sex or romance.
  • Baruch Spinoza was another philosopher who by most accounts had little or no interest in romantic or sexual relationships.
  • Mathematician, physicist, theologian, and philosopher Blaise Pascal was also something of a recluse and had no known romantic attachments during his life.
  • Erik Satie had one romantic relationship with a woman in his youth, but after that ended, he devoted the rest of his life to composing music with no evident interest in relationships or sexuality of any kind.
  • Maurice Ravel may fit this trope, though some have claimed that he was a closeted homosexual, others that he regularly sought out sex with women in brothels.
  • Henry David Thoreau: Poet, hermit, nonconformist, life-long virgin. This could be a case of Single-Target Sexuality, as he and his brother had a falling-out over a woman (whom neither ended up with).
  • Thoreau's contemporary Emily Dickinson was another Reclusive Artist and experimental poet who stayed single for life (although there is speculation, largely fueled by the many love poems she wrote, about secret romantic relationships).
  • Antoni Gaudi was so devoted to his career as an architect that he had no time or interest in relationships.
  • Lewis Carroll is often interpreted as this, given that he was an eccentric genius and a life-long bachelor. There's still debate as to whether he had certain...unsavory sexual interests, as he sometimes took naked pictures of little girls (granted, this wasn't uncommon in Victorian Britain), and he hung around with a lot of little girls (like ten-year-old Alice Liddell, the inspiration for that other Alice). But it's not certain that that behavior was due to any perversions, and even if he did have any shady urges, there's no evidence that he took his urges any further than that. What's more, Carroll appears to have had a number of love affairs with adult women, but his family swept those under the rug.
  • Salvador Dalí is an interesting case. He was married and would use eroticized images of his wife in paintings, but by his own admission he only had sex with her once (and had no other sexual experiences with women). He also admitted to trying homosexual intercourse and finding it similarly distasteful. Dali's sex life was otherwise entirely limited to voyeurism and masturbation.
  • Cambridge don, medievalist, and ghost-story author M. R. James was a lifelong bachelor — although some who knew him have said that he was probably what we would call a "non-practicing" homosexual.
  • T. H. White, author of The Once and Future King was apparently celibate throughout his life, though he may have been secretly gay.
  • Critic John Ruskin famously never consummated his first marriage to Effie Gray, and then remained celibate the rest of his life.
  • William James Sidis was a child prodigy who entered Harvard at age eleven and excelled in most fields throughout his life...and was also celibate.
  • Temple Grandin. At 72 years old, she still hasn't had romance or sex (and adamantly refused to let the makers of the film about her put romance in it) and wears cowgirl shirts even when not in Colorado where she lives and works in the cattle industry in spite of being born to an upper-class family in Massachusetts.
  • Lise Meitner was a physicist who was a driving force behind the discovery and articulation of nuclear fission and even seemed to be a platonic life partner to her married collaborator Otto Hahn, yet there is no evidence of romance in her life.
  • Algernon Charles Swinburne was one of Victorian England's most brilliant poets, and despite the transgressive and sexually-charged nature of a lot of his writing (which features explicit kink, crossdressing and queer eroticism) he never married. This has been attributed to his Single-Target Sexuality for a childhood love, who married someone else. He only had one brief fling as an adult, and it's debatable if they even slept together. Overall he's a strange mixture of Nerds Are Virgins and Nerds Are Pervs.
  • Author and artist Edward Gorey professed to be asexual and to find the whole question of sex "tiresome", and devoted his life to his work and his hobbies (like attending every performance of the New York City Ballet for about two decades straight) — not that this stopped him from producing works that treated sex in a satirical manner, most notably The Curious Sofa.
  • T. E. Lawrence of Lawrence of Arabia fame was a Badass Bookworm polymath adventurer and lifelong bachelor. The celibacy and the eccentricity are intertwined in this case, as Lawrence hated being touched (under most circumstances; he did enjoy being whipped) and appeared to find corporeal existence in general rather squicky. Despite his distaste for sexuality, though, he is speculated to have experienced romantic feelings for other men.
  • Renowned experimental jazz musician Sun Ra was a prolific and innovative composer, multi-instrumentalist, and bandleader, and a lifelong bachelor whose work eschewed sexual and romantic themes for science fiction and cosmic philosophy. He was also a self-proclaimed extraterrestrial from Saturn.
  • Truth in Television: Historically, all dons at Oxford and Cambridge universities were required to take a Vow of Celibacy. This had a fair bit to do with the expectation that they would also serve in the priesthood or holy orders, which was very much the case prior to the Reformation although the rule remained in place until the nineteenth century — although by that time, it was tacitly understood as a prohibition on marriage, not on love affairs.
  • Avant-garde artist Andy Warhol liked to cultivate this image due to the widespread homophobia in his lifetime, though he was in fact gay and sexually active.