Follow TV Tropes


Cool Loser

Go To

"Peter Parker was just an attractive, intelligent, likable, athletic, well-dressed teenage loser."

Similar to Hollywood Homely and Hollywood Dateless, and a very frequent protagonist of High School shows, this is when a character who is smart, funny, fashionable and good looking is portrayed as being much less popular than they would be in real life. Done deliberately to limit the circle of friends/cast as much as possible, thereby erasing the hassle of writing multiple, varying characterizations, while at the same time making the main character likable to the viewer. If this character is female, she is frequently a target of the Alpha Bitch. If this character is male, he is often the target of the Big Jerk on Campus, the Jerk Jock and/or The Bully.

Unlike people who are Hollywood Homely, Cool Losers are not supposed to be considered unattractive, and unlike the nerd, the Cool Loser is not a geek or lacking in social skills. They just don't have many friends, don't get invited to the cool parties (in which case they can be at the heart of a Party Scheduling Gambit), and are generally treated like losers by most of their peers.

This often leads up to a big payoff, when the Cool Loser is briefly given a moment when they realize that more people do, in fact, like them more than they thought (usually when they are unexpectedly honoured at some manner of ceremony, such as a graduation). It's not explained why those honouring didn't demonstrate this in some way earlier, (the few times it is, it's often explained as the rest of the student body fearing the Alpha Bitch, Jerk Jock, or other Big Man on Campus so much, they didn't want to befriend the Cool Loser and become a target of their fury) but it often comes in the form of a sweet gesture.

A very common signal of the cool loser will often involve being a member of the school paper (Sabrina Spellman, Chloe Sullivan, etc). This is often seen as a gray area, doesn't carry the obvious negative "nerd" connotations of the Chess Club or the Mathletes, but also isn't seen as "cool" as sports teams or cheerleading.

Can also sadly be Truth in Television, since everyone is susceptible to bullying and ostracism, even kids and teens who are otherwise smart, athletic, good-looking, and/or outgoing. Most of the time, this can result from envy, nasty rumors being spread, or just plain Kids Are Cruel. Another likely possibility is that they underwent All the Other Reindeer as children for whatever reason and both internalized their worthlessness and had the people they grew up continue to consider them losers. Hopefully it doesn't follow them past high school, but the lack of self confidence certainly can.

Often overlaps with This Loser Is You. See also Loners Are Freaks. An Informed Loner is basically this, except they supposedly don't even want friends. See also Wasted Beauty, where it is acknowledged that the character could be popular (because they're hot), but they have an "uncool" side that prevents them from being so.

Not to be confused with the Graceful Loser and the Sore Loser, which are about a person's reactions to losing.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Great Teacher Onizuka: Eikichi Onizuka is pretty cool and a pretty big loser at the same time. He used to be in a gang, he rides a motorcycle, he breaks things... but he's never had a girlfriend, cosplays during class, and is so broke he doesn't even know who's on the 10,000 yen bill.
  • Iris Zero: Toru Mizushima is quite handsome, very smart and good-hearted, yet is constantly mistreated due to his Iris Zero status. You'd think that his ability to figure things out despite not having Iris would impress people, rather than make him a target for bullies. It may be justified by his “Minimal Exposure” policy, which means he tries to stand out as little as possible.
  • Maken-ki!: There's nothing wrong with Usui, other than the fact he's a pervert with a one-track mind. Otherwise, he's reasonably good-looking, fairly intelligent, and really not that bad a guy. So it's a wonder to him how Takeru, who's nearly the exact oppositenote , has better luck with girls than he does.
  • Medaka Box: Despite being the childhood friend of the very popular titular character, Zenkichi Hitoyoshi is generally acknowledged as just that, despite being friendly, sociable, and willing to help others. This is contrasted with Akune, the Prince of Judo.
  • Sailor Moon: Minako seems to be a victim of this; unlike the other girls she lacks any other obvious traits that would make her unpopular. It's likely The Artifact from working solo in her own manga to being retrofitted into the new storyline, as in that series her tomboyish act tended to scare away boys and gross out the other girls.
  • Soul Hunter: Taikoubou is an adorable, hilarious, good-hearted, young-looking immortal that's insanely smart, and manages to come up with genius tactics to save the day. Yet absolutely no halfway decent women have any romantic interest in him throughout the entire series... save for a hideous Gonk that disgusts everyone (including and especially him). Sure, he's a Celibate Hero that has no interest in romance... but it's not like he's always announcing it and letting everyone know, and there's no real reason why no one is interested in him.
  • In Tiger & Bunny, Kotetsu T. Kaburagi/Wild Tiger is pretty much HeroTV's designated Butt-Monkey despite being a handsome, selfless, funny, and deceptively competent superhero with impressive physical abilities both powered and unpowered. A lot of it has to do with the fact that he's a Boring, but Practical old-school hero who only cares about doing good in a world where superheroics have been turned into a reality TV show and mugging for the camera and looking cool for the audience is as important as actually fighting crime. Compare him to Sky High, who has about as much heroic drive as Kotetsu does but also knows how to maintain his self-image as a role model and thus is HeroTV's most popular "King of Heroes."
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! has Katsuya Jonouchi (Joey Wheeler) after his Heel–Face Turn. He's fairly attractive, friendly, and a pretty badass duelist, and yet is constantly the target of bullying and mean-spirited jokes from professional duelists and arc enemies, Kaiba, and even (until his Heel–Face Turn) Honda (Tristan Taylor).
    • This was more justified in the manga, where his father is an alcoholic deadbeat and he himself was well-known to have hung out with a legitimately criminal gang.
    • It's implied that some part of being the target of mean-spirited jokes is his reliance on luck as part of his dueling strategy, at least to those like Kaiba.

    Comic Books 
  • Spider-Man: Peter Parker is (to the reader) a handsome, highly intelligent, funny guy who used to be Happily Married to a stunning red-haired supermodel, and now is a relatively successful freelance photographer (he was retconned to have won a pulitzer for his picture taking skills). In real life, he'd be amazingly popular. In Marvel Universe Manhattan, though, he's all but completely ostracized from his peers because...well...he's Peter Parker. Though it's more true, to varying degrees, in adaptations like Ultimate Spider-Man and various animated series that focus on his highschool life; in the original comics, he was only really ostracized when he was a teenager, and during that time he was a very shy kid prone to glaring angrily at the In-Crowd while muttering how they'll all learn one day. Once he grew up and actually became handsome and funny, did he get friends. It's only after One More Day that he became this, when it removed his marriage, his career, and his social skills and had everyone treat him like crap for no apparent reason. Then it's changed by the new Big Time era, complete with his alter ego Spider-Man beginning to become a trusted and respected hero amongst New York.
  • In the X-Men: Evolution tie in comics, written by Devin Grayson, in that twice people refer to the Xavier kids as freaks or make a deal about how 'weird' they are...despite the fact that Jean is shown to be VERY popular in the actual TV series, and Scott and Kurt, while not shown as particularly popular, are shown to be very good at making girls dig them. While it's once mentioned that Jean is considered 'Ok', and someone makes reference to having a crush on Scott, it really comes off as weird that it's made into a minor plot point despite it never coming up in the series... until The Reveal, but the comics are based before that happening.
  • Momses from Minimonsters is considered the most handsome guy in Frank's gang, and is considered a loser only by Morty's gang... Who are much bigger losers than they.

    Fan Works 
  • Flash Sentry is a likable, handsome, wealthy guy that is a star player on the boys' tennis team, plays the guitar and has a ton of friends in Persona EG. But is otherwise treated as a social pariah. Justified because he's a victim of cyberbullying and is friends with other targets.
    • The Main Six are ones as well, despite all of them being beautiful, nice and in prestigious positions (Rainbow Dash is captain of the soccer team, Rarity runs her own business, etc), everyone talks behind their backs and spread terrible rumors about them.
  • The main characters in Ask The Main Four are not very popular in school due to the notorious schemes that they are often associated with.
  • A Great and Powerful Heart: Jasper is a very knowledgeable, resourceful, and brave colt who can make flames with his horn, and he's despised and bullied by his hometown. As it turns out, Promise is a community run by Earth Pony supremacists, who mistreat poor Jasper for being a unicorn. Thankfully, Trixie does see potential in Jasper,and having bonded over the course of the story, adopts the colt to take him out of his toxic environment .
  • Curse of the DualShock: Shelly is an inverted example; her Fourth Wall breaking habits can be found annoying (Especially by Rocky), but is respected due to her kindness.
  • History's Strongest Shinobi: Due to Naruto having a loud, blunt and "in your face" personality and Kenichi being a overly neurotic wreck, the two aren't held in high regard. Over time however, people in-universe note how, when you spend more than five minutes with them, they fall more in to this trope considering Kenichi is practically joined to the hip of one the hottest girls in school, Naruto has incredible people skills and both are loyal friends and don't abuse their fighting skills for profit (unlike every one else in their school).

    Film — Animated 
  • Arthur from Shrek the Third seems fairly normal, maybe a bit introverted, but he's picked on by everyone, including the stereotypical DnD nerds.
  • In spite of the fact that he's an outcast that was clearly Born in the Wrong Century, Burger-Beard from The Sponge Bob Movie Sponge Out Of Water owns an awesome-looking pirate ship, which is pimped-out with wheels and a ton of cannons on it.
  • Belle from Beauty and the Beast is considered the most beautiful girl in the village by the townspeople, is very friendly and outgoing to everyone she meets, and has the town hero Gaston interested in her, so she would definitely be well-liked by modern day standards. Despite that, she is pretty much outcasted by most of her village due to her love of books and has trouble making friends outside her eccentric father.
  • Ian Lightfoot from Onward is an Ink-Suit Actor of Tom Holland and an overall likable guy yet starts out with no friends at school, though this has less to do with being perceived as a “loser” and more because of shyness and embarrassment around his nerdy brother. When he does work up the courage to invite some classmates to his birthday party, they show interest.
  • In Minions: The Rise of Gru, Gru as a child didn't seem to be very popular at his school, despite being a charismatic kid who owned a lot of cool gadgets such as a flying motorcycle.
  • The Addams Family (2019) has Parker Needler. She's a bullied girl who is (forced to be) dressed preppy by her mother Margaux, a real estate developer, blogs, and performs a dance routine in front of town citizens.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Marty McFly from Back to the Future is unabashedly an overblown Totally Radical teenager who skateboards to school, plays lead guitar in a band, and has a caring and attractive girlfriend, but is also a put-upon social outcast with poor self-confidence who's picked on by authority figures and bullies. At the same time. And even then, he refuses to be victimized by bullies and is perfectly able to fight back.
  • The Honest Trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man put it best:
    "Peter Parker is an attractive, intelligent, likable, athletic, well-dressed teenage loser."
  • The Babysitter (2017) Zigzaggs it with Cole, who's a reasonably good, albeit nerdy looking, 12-year old kid. He also happens to be buddy-buddy with his hot teenaged babysitter, Bee. Sounds good, right? Except Cole is nearly everyone's victim - from the neighborhood bully (Jeremy) picking on him and egging his house, to the aforementioned babysitter turning out to be the leader of a Satanic cult (Bee's friends from highschool) which wants Cole dead. But by the end of the film, Cole has become an unlikely hero by defeating Bee's cult and he now has first girlfriend: his 12-year old neighbor, Melanie.
  • Mean Girls:
  • An adult example: Jim Carrey's character in Bruce Almighty is allegedly a loser... even though he works as a TV reporter and his girlfriend is played by Jennifer Aniston. Played With since one of the film's key themes is how unappreciative he is since he actually does have a good life (in his defense, he's more just pissed about a recent bout of misfortune in his career). He overcomes this when he takes on the role of God and gets a dose of humility.
  • In Rebel Without a Cause, our hero is an alienated High School outcast. He's played by the '50s rebel icon James Dean (or rather, that film made him a '50s rebel icon).
  • Booger from Revenge of the Nerds is a charismatic and rebellious Deadpan Snarker who doesn't really exhibit any traits that justify his status as a nerd. He is unhygenic and a bit of a Jerkass, but you'd think that those traits would get him grouped up with an entirely different kind of outcast.
  • Michael Cera and Jonah Hill's characters in Superbad. An attractive girl clearly has the hots for Cera's character, and they're both invited to the hip party at the end, yet they're under the impression that they need to bring a ton of booze for any of the girls to get with them. It's implied that many students do like Evan (Cera's character), but don't hang out with him because of Seth (Hill), who is considered by people to be an immature Jerkass.
  • Amit from Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na, attractive, lovely... makes no sense.
  • Pretty in Pink: Andie is a poverty-stricken outsider picked on by the cool kids for being poor. She's played by Molly Ringwald, the same actress who plays a rich popular girl in The Breakfast Club.
  • Kal Ho Naa Ho's Rohit Patil, who happens to be rich and good-looking (as well as funny and sensitive), is introduced as unsuccessfully flirting with three different woman.
  • Morris "Mud" Himmel in Camp Nowhere, though most of it was because of his lack of self-confidence.
  • Freddy in School of Rock seems to be openly despised by the rest of his class but it's likely justified in that he's a wannabe tough guy and the only "cool kid" in a classroom full of nerds.
  • Bianca from The Duff is intelligent and good-looking — and the movie doesn't try to kid the audience she's not — and isn't even necessarily unpopular. In an exploration of the trope, she is only considered to a loser by comparison to her more conventionally attractive popular friends, hence she is desginated (by the the student body, not her friends) the "duff" ("dumb, ugly, fat friend") of the group.
  • X-Men: Apocalypse: In a moment of self-deprecation, Quicksilver calls himself a "total loser," and the rest of the X-Men chuckle with him (and not at him). They barely know Peter, but they are already beginning to like him.
  • This trope crops up frequently in the roles of Hailee Steinfeld, with films such as The Edge of Seventeen and Bumblebee having her play a dorky young woman who has few to no friends.
  • Deconstructed from both ends in Heathers with Veronica Sawyer and Jason "JD" Dean. The cool, witty, attractive, and gloomy Veronica is the kind of character who would be the Cool Loser heroine in any number of teen comedies... except here, she's a member of the titular Girl Posse. Her personality, though, eventually fractures her relationship with the Heathers, leading to her friendship with the film's other example, JD. He's a handsome tough guy dressed in black who's named after James Dean (himself listed above), the kind of guy who would be the edgy male hero in a teen movie... and his Establishing Character Moment is him bringing a gun to school and firing blank rounds to scare off a pair of Jerk Jock bullies. Yeesh. No wonder he's an outcast.
  • Labyrinth: Sarah appears to have no friends, and goes on no dates, in spite of looking like Jennifer Connelly. However, the novelization notes she has at least one school chum, and her interest in fantasy worlds could well be blinding her to what she could be enjoying in the real one. Being depressed over her mother leaving the family has probably also contributed to her isolation.
  • The Internship: Stuart and Neha are smart and attractive 21-year-olds with the academic qualifications to land an internship at Google, but are nonetheless bunched with the outcasts in Team Lyle. In Stuart's case, it's at least somewhat justified given how anti-social he is and when everyone's asked to form teams, he's shown to be looking at his phone the whole time and doesn't even bother trying to find teammates, but Neha, in spite of her various perverted interests, would probably be popular due to her friendly and outgoing personality.

  • J. K. Rowling even makes a few stabs at this in the Harry Potter series.
    • Harry's famous, a pretty nice guy, and is regarded as a hero. However, various reasons pop up for his unpopularity:
      • In Chamber of Secrets he's ostracized because he can talk to snakes (an ability called Parseltongue). However, the ability is associated with Salazar Slytherin, who wasn't the nicest of people and the ability tends to be associated with deviants.
      • In Goblet of Fire he's ostracized for entering the Triwizard contest ("Harry is a cheating cheater!"). Though it's more of Malfoy and his cronies promoting this and once Harry completes the First Task, most of the issues die down.
      • In Order of the Phoenix, he defended himself and Dudley from Dementors and due to the events of the last book, he and Dumbledore have begun getting slandered by the Ministry of Magic and various others.
      • Inverted in the sixth book, he does become hugely popular, but finds it annoying and exhaustive to deal with.
    • Ron. By the age of 13, he's helped Harry defeat Voldemort (in one form or another) twice, and has been given an award for special services to the school. He's a Deadpan Snarker who's best friends with the Chosen One, his brothers are all ultra-cool (Except for Percy. Nothing can make him cool), and it's implied that he's at least moderately attractive. While he isn't a straight-A student, he's not described as stupid by any measure. And he fights a bunch of adult Death Eaters, and becomes a star player in a cup-winning House Quidditch team. He's still not treated as particularly cool though. Apart from Harry, Ron should be the most popular kid in school among everyone but the Slytherins.
      • Explained by Hermione in Goblet of Fire that Ron gets pushed off to one side in favour of Harry because of Harry's fame. Besides the other students in their year who have classes with them and some friends of Ginny's, no one spends enough time with Harry or Ron to realise that Ron is cool too - they're just in awe of Harry.
      • His family is another large reason for this. As mentioned above, most of his older brothers are quite cool and all have accomplished or are accomplishing many things in their own fields. This means that Ron can't (or at least feels like he can't) ever live up to them or find a particular skill that sets him apart. Even some of the things that make him "cool," like Quidditch, are things his brothers were already well-known for before him. Throw in that his other best friend is a verifiable genius and he's just generally Overshadowed by Awesome. Hinted at by his looking in the Mirror of Erised, which reveals his desire to surpass them all and explored by how the above two gives him some self-esteem issues (that the Horcrux in Book 7 exploits viciously.)
  • Perry Mason. His only admirer is his secretary, Della Street. This one especially boggles the mind, considering that he's an incredibly rich, handsome, powerful, world famous lawyer that is well known for being on the side of justice. He has hundreds of attractive, young female clients, who go through life and death situations with him, where he's always there to comfort and save them in their time of need. Yet none of them ever fall for him. If they flirt with him, it's always because they're just trying to manipulate or trick him. Apparently, no woman during those days wanted to chase and marry an insanely rich, prominent lawyer.
  • The Eerie, Indiana books attempt to justify this: the charming but unpopular town bum, liked only by the main characters, used to be the mayor before he irritated a witch.
  • In Maggie Furey's Shadowleague books, it's mentioned that Kazairl and Veldan were seen as this when they were young in Gendival.
  • The entire main cast of Stuck: Tre, Allie, Nora and Max being the largest examples.
  • Before I Fall:
    • Kent McFuller. He is one of the few people who isn't in awe of the popular girls and can see the titular character Sam for who she really is underneath. He seems a lot happier than the popular kids and is well-liked enough to throw his Wild Teen Party that becomes an important event in the book.
    • There are hints Sam's little sister Izzy will grow up to be like this - she refuses to go to speech therapy for her lisp, even though the other kids laugh at her and she dresses rather oddly.
  • Francis from The Traitor Game, possibly as a result of being friends with Michael.
  • The book Teen Idol puts this trope under a microscope, almost to the point of Deconstruction. Main character Jenny is nice, smart, well-liked and pretty in a Girl Next Door-type of way but is not a member of the popular, Beautiful Elite. The book is all about her realizing that just because she's not in the popular crowd or the Alpha Bitch doesn't mean she's not popular. In fact, she's so well-liked by everyone that she's actually the most popular girl in school and has way more power than the Jerk Jock or the Alpha Bitch
  • In The Twilight Saga, Bella Swan is an inversion. She's socially awkward, clumsy and generally uncool, but everyone warms up to her the minute she gets to town and soon enough she has her own little circle of friends.
  • Janiine Farehouse of Dinoverse is a fairly severe version of this. Bullies hate her - she's poor in a rich school, has her own fashion sense, and seems to be completely unaffected by anything they say or do. Actually, she intimidates them. And everyone else, including the people who like her. Between the intimidation factor and other kids not wanting to get on the bad side of the Alpha Bitch, she has no friends at all, but is admired by many, including the bullies. They sense that she has integrity.
  • Jessica Darling tends to consider herself the biggest loser alive, as well as being hideously ugly and a failure at everything. The observant reader may however notice that plenty of people seek out Jess' company and opinions, that even her bitchier friends claim that she's got a perfect body (well, with one major exception), that she's a top student and a star athlete, and that plenty of boys develop crushes on her. Eventually she gets called out on it by some actual losers, who counter her defense that she hated all her supposed high school "friends" by asking, basically, "yes, but did anyone actually hate you?"
  • Played with in the Ben Elton novel Past Mortem, in which the protagonist — much to his surprise — is revealed to have been an unwitting example. He always considered himself a dorky loser with few friends who bullies tended to pick on, but later in the story one of said bullies actually admits that the only reason he picked on the protagonist was because the protagonist, unlike the messed-up bully, was always secure and confident in himself and never felt the need to put on airs, and he was actually a lot more respected than he had actually thought.
  • In Dork Diaries, Nikki and her friends are some of the least popular kids in school despite being cute, bubbly, and charismatic girls. Although that's likely because the school Alpha Bitch hates their guts and deliberately made them unpopular.
  • Meno Male Che Ci Sei: Deconstructed with Allegra. She's considered one of the hottest girls in her school (being even compared to Jessica Alba in appearance), and has an attractive and outgoing boyfriend, but is an outcast with no friends. This is justified, as she's reclusive, insecure, plainly dressed, an underachiever with no interests or talents whatsoever, and is rumored to be crazy because of her bad home life. She has no problem attracting guys with her looks, she just doesn't fit in any group.
  • In Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Greg and his best friend Rowley were considered the cool losers. However, after Rowley gets his arm broken from the Big Wheel accident, he became popular.
  • Ghost Girl (2021): Zee is this In-Universe. Nellie flat-out states that, despite Zee having no friends besides Elijah and regularly being made fun of, people still like her, find her funny, and hang onto her every word.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 30 Rock: Deconstructed in the episode Reunion. Liz Lemon saw herself as a Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold in high school, a girl with few friends who coped with harassment from the Alpha Bitch by retreating into a sarcastic wit that became her trademark into adulthood. However, when she goes to her Class Reunion years later, she finds out why she had so few friends, and that was because her constant put-downs caused her classmates to see her as The Bully and hate her. Her so-called friends were acquaintances who only hung around her due to proximity, and the supposed Alpha Bitch was actually a Class Princess who tried to reach out and befriend her (surprise, surprise, her friendliness was actually why she was so popular in the first place). She even had to go therapy to cope with the abuse Liz inflicted on her. The episode ends with Liz realizing that she's the Schoolyard Bully All Grown Up.
  • 8 Simple Rules: Kerry is intelligent, artistic and attractive - a bit snarky perhaps, but for some, that's part of the charm. Still, she's generally portrayed as less desirable than her older sister Bridget. Justified in the first season because she's moody and condescending as well as being a little bitchy. She actually becomes more popular than her sister at the start of season 2.
  • Awkward.: The whole series could be summed up as Cool Loser Jenna Hamilton realizing how cool she actually is.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Buffy, although she was initially accepted by the in-crowd before her weird behavior, such as accidentally pulling a stake on Cordelia, led them to disowning her. In the end, she only really had two friends at school - Xander and Willow (and Cordelia and Oz by extension when they were dating Xander and Willow). In "The Prom", however, Buffy receives a special Class Protector award for saving the other students' lives on a regular basis. At her previous high school in L.A. she was a very popular cheerleader, May Queen and Lovable Alpha Bitch herself, before she was called as the Slayer. At Sunnydale High, the fact that she sometimes has to cut classes and is first on the scene whenever something strange or violent happens leads to her being seen as a delinquent. Despite this, she is still beautiful and athletic after all, so several boys do either ask her out or wish they were brave enough to.
    • Xander is attractive, friendly and funny, but has no friends except Willow and Buffy and everyone looks down on him because he lacks any shred of confidence in himself (he gets better). Only the science geeks are lower on the social ladder. Even when he starts dating head cheerleader Cordelia, it results in her losing social status rather than him gaining it.
  • Chuck:
    • Chuck Bartowski is a good-looking, smart, funny, and kind-hearted guy whom Casey even describes as a "social butterfly" in one episode, he's definitely one of the most socially-functional main characters. Yet he doesn't believe a woman like Sarah would genuinely be attracted to him. Of course it doesn't help that Chuck is frequently Overshadowed by Awesome—no really, that's what they actually call his sister's boyfriend Devon—and professional spies like Bryce, Cole and Shaw.
    • Morgan. After Chuck must devote more of his life to the spy game, it's Morgan who keeps the Buy More running smoothly, first as assistant manager then as manager. He has the very cute Anna Wu as a girlfriend for most of seasons 1 and 2, then even manages to bag Carina by the third season, to the point she's infatuated with him in season four. He also develops a solid romantic relationship with Casey's quite beautiful daughter Alex, has Bo Derek gunning for him in season 5 (though it's largely because he has the Intersect and is a respected member of Team Bartowski. You wouldn't think it because of the way his coworkers talk down to him or outright revolt against his authority as assistant manager/manager.
  • Dark Oracle: Lance Stone although this is at least partially deliberate on his own part. He's capable of being socially functional, but his interests in role-play and video gaming, combined with an antisocial streak and the fact that his girlfriend, Sage, is one of the most picked on girls in the school keep him pretty isolated.
  • Dawson's Creek: Almost all of the attractive major characters are depicted as being stereotypically uncool, particularly the beautiful and intelligent Joey.
  • Degrassi: Mia Jones is the would-be spicy cheerleader but being a teen mother stands in the way until she becomes a model.
  • Friends: Despite his neuroses and social awkwardness, Chandler is smart, witty, good-looking, has a good job, and is generally a Nice Guy. But he's still treated like a loser, is unsuccessful with women, and is considered lucky to get a woman like Monica who apparently "could do better than him" (according to Rachel and Phoebe, at least).
  • Glee:
    • Everyone in the Glee Club is automatically unpopular for being part of it, even though three of them are cheerleaders and several of them are on the football team.
    • As of season two the entire club is/has been on the cheerleading/football team or is dating somebody who is. Logically, these are the most popular people in school. It makes the whole "We're all misfits!!" thing hard to swallow.
    • In the episode "Original Song," the Glee club, minus Rachel, write a Cool Loser anthem for New Directions appropriately called "Loser Like Me."
    • In one episode, the entire football team temporarily joins the Glee club, only to have the hockey team throw slushies at them.
  • Hannah Montana: Miley's alter-ego and her best friend Lilly. Both are self-professed "losers", even though they have the social skills and good looks to be popular (and, in fact, in an "alternate timeline" episode where Miley never met her, Lilly has become the school's Alpha Bitch). One can only assume that Miley is purposefully pretending to be mediocre in an effort to better disguise her pop-star persona. When she is being Hannah Montana, she has a robust social life and frequently attends large parties. This still doesn't explain Lilly, though. (On the other hand, the third part of their trio, Oliver, is the epitome of social awkwardness... perhaps hanging out with him is enough of a social blight to bring Miley and Lilly to the bottom.)
  • Heroes: Claire's friend Zach. Justified in that the student body seemed to regard him as homosexual, and this was a bunch of high school students we're talking about.
  • iCarly: Freddie is good-looking and is best friends with the popular Carly, but is still treated as a loser by most of the cast.
  • The Inbetweeners: Zig-zagged with both Simon and Will. While Simon is attractive and Will is witty, both of them are extremely awkward around the opposite sex and constantly find themselves in various states of public humiliation, so it isn't that hard to see why they aren't considered popular. And even for all their unpopularity, both of them, particularly Simon, are able to attract the interest of girls pretty regularly.
  • Lizzie McGuire: The title character and her friends are considered losers. Roger Ebert makes a crack at this trope's expense, wonder how a girl whose smile "shines brighter than all the stars in the sky" could be unpopular.
  • The Nanny: Despite the fact that eldest daughter Maggie is, according to Fran, a gorgeous, thin, blonde, heiress with legs up to here, her crippling shyness and insecurity has left her a complete and total outcast. By the end of the series, with Fran's guidance, she's able to shed this and become quite popular.
  • Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide:
    • Ned is cute, clever, friendly, open towards everyone and gives great tips, but he isn't very popular.
    • Moze played with the trope. Even if she has the looks, the personality, great grades, and is the ace of several school teams, she is not part of the popular crowd. In early episodes she struggles to make female friends, and mainly hangs out with Ned, Cookie or other not-so-cool kids. However, she's much more popular than she realizes; in the episode "Popularity" she finds out that she is in the Top 10 of a popularity list on the school's website, but she eventually finds the other "cool" students annoying and prefers hanging out with her old friends.
    • Averted with their friend Cookie who is an Extraverted Nerd.
  • The O.C.
    • Seth Cohen is clearly an attractive, talented, funny and ridiculously rich young man, yet he couldn't get a date for most of his life, despite living in a town full of golddiggers, and was constantly being beaten up by jocks. Not only this, unlike the majority of examples on this list, he apparently had no friends at all prior the arrival of Ryan. It's implied that Seth would probably be popular if he lived anywhere besides Orange County. This is particularly obvious when he briefly moves to Portland, and apparently has no trouble making friends. It's just that he's surrounded by people who are pompous and shallow. There is also a suggestion that he can be slightly self-centered and petty himself sometimes.
    • Taylor Townsend, a stunning, whip smart, witty young lady who is so unpopular she is reduced to following around Seth (and Summer) for want of a friend.
  • Popular: Samantha. Despite being gorgeous and smart, she was unpopular. A snarky recapper on Television Without Pity actually pointed out that for all her supposed outsiderness Sam generally had more stylized hairstyles and make up than the actually popular Brooke, who looked like she just ran a comb through her hair every morning.
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Billy was initially depicted as a nerdy dork and target of bullies despite being vey good looking, in incredible physical shape, having multiple girls interested in him over the course of the series and having several close friends including the most popular girl in school.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch: Despite being an attractive do-gooder and a model student, Sabrina was treated with contempt by both Libby and Vice-Principal Kraft. Libby at least might have seen Sabrina as a threat to her own popularity, but Kraft... well some people are just jerks. That and he dated her aunt. Aside from just plain being evil, Libby hated Sabrina because she was jealous of her. She tried many times to steal Sabrina's boyfriend, Harvey, and practically leaped for joy every time there was a chance that Sabrina didn't get a perfect grade. In the episode "When Teens Collide" after Sabrina and Libby switch personalities, a couple of popular cheerleaders explain to Sabrina that while everyone likes Sabrina for being nice, smart and pretty, Libby is popular because everyone fears her.
  • Seinfeld: Completely parodied in an episode wherein Jerry dates a woman who seems to be perfect (smart, attractive, funny, friendly), but her own friends treat her like a total loser and act like Jerry is doing her a favour by going out with her. After George and Kramer meet her, they actually stage an intervention because they can clearly see something very wrong with the woman and think Jerry must be losing it to even consider giving her the time of day. Jerry is utterly baffled at what is so unappealing about her, and in his sheer desperation for somebody to approve of his relationship with this woman, he introduces her to his parents. They end up loving her... which causes Jerry to not like her anymore.
  • Smallville:
    • Clark Kent played by an underwear model, became a football hero, occasionally works at school newspaper, and is friends with the multi-billionaire Lex Luthor (who himself is popular), yet is still viewed as a loser. This also extends to Chloe Sullivan who, despite being a very attractive blonde, head of the school newspaper, and sporting enough popularity to become Prom Queen, is still looked down upon by the Alpha Bitches. This is probably due to the Wall of Weird and frequently exposing liked people. Except that Clark was never stated to be unpopular, he just prefers to keep a lower profile than many. In the first season Pete even mentions his popularity as a reason why he would be good as class president.
    • Chloe is a subversion and she gets a bit of what's due to her when Jonathan Taylor Thomas' character refers to her and Lana equally as "the two hottest, smartest girls in school". In the Prom episode, it's revealed that Chloe is actually a lot more popular than she realizes. It turns out that although Chloe is well-liked, the resident Alpha Bitch and her Girl Posse hate Chloe's guts because of the fact that Chloe holds their social structure in contempt and arguably because Chloe's reporting work at the newspaper (which they seem to really despise) resulted in several members of the popular clique being jailed or institutionalized ever since Season 1, and they refer to Chloe's paper as a "geek rag." Meanwhile, when Clark secretly nominates Chloe to be Prom Queen, it turns out the Silent Majority of Smallville High students had secretly been rooting for Chloe as sort of a hero to the outcasts of the school. Indeed, Clark actually says "Everyone's been trying to break out of the stereotypes that they've been forced into...and you're the rallying cry."
  • Sorority Forever: Julie. This may be justified by the fact that Bridget, the head of Phi Chi Kappa, takes a disliking to her for her rebellious and inquisitive tendancies..
  • Stranger Things: All the kids in the Party are this, being friendly, outgoing, and fairly good-looking, but are portrayed as unpopular teen outcasts, despite the fact that they have a tight-knit group of friends, support from their community, and most of them are in a relationship.
  • Teen Wolf: Scott and Stiles are both introduced as nerdy social outcasts who have no friends apart from each other and are picked on mercilessly by the school's Jerk Jock. Although they are rather dorky and awkward, it doesn't cancel out the fact they're both fairly good-looking and nice guys, Scott is one of the sweetest, kindest characters on the show and Stiles is very witty and intelligent. Somewhat justified as they may have had more acquaintances before the show started, but got distracted by the werewolf mess and only hung out with people who knew the truth. (Which was only the two of them to begin with). The pair also had difficult upbringings - with Scott's dad walking out and Stiles's mum passing away - which might have isolated them.
  • Terriers: Much is made of Hank and Britt being immature manchildren who barely make a living. Despite this, they end up solving a large amount of interesting cases, sharing witty banter as they go.
  • Time After Time: Jane says she's broken up with her last boyfriend, has mostly had bad luck with men and when she'd tried online dating was dismissed as being "mediocre". She instantly attracts the romantic attention of the handsome, charming H. G. This is not surprising, since she's a gorgeous, charming woman, making the above very difficult to swallow.
  • Veronica Mars:
    • The lead character is witty, attractive, fashionable and generally benevolent. Veronica's unpopularity is ostensibly due to her father's insistence that local hero Jake Kane was a murderer. It wasn't until later on, when she becomes more than a little infamous for her ability to figure things out, that she regained some respect — her 10-Minute Retirement at the beginning of the second season proves that. Once again, Buffy-style, at the end of the second season, she's given a minor ovation from her classmates as she accepts her diploma. In Veronica's case, it's arguably on purpose. She's pissed at them for essentially abandoning her when she needed her friends the most. The ones she eventually forgives are generally the ones who had their own issues regarding Lily's death (Logan and Duncan are pretty much the list). The theme song was well-chosen.
    • Wallace Fennel, Veronica's best friend is also an example of this. He's at best marginally popular, despite being the star on the basketball team, very nice, funny and dating the super hot daughter of a baseball legend. In Wallace's case, it's at least partly intentional. As he said, he'd rather hangout with the chick who cut him down when duct-taped to the flag pole than the people who just stood and laughed at him.
  • Wizards of Waverly Place: Played with in that Alex seems to deliberately seek out this status. In fact, it seems to be a staple of Disney Channel original movies, glaringly so in Alley Cats Strike, wherein the otherwise cool captain of the school bowling club is regarded as some sort of misfit outcast (that is, until the movie's main events kick into gear).
  • The X-Files: Fox Mulder. On the one hand, a Tall, Dark, and Snarky Oxford-educated FBI agent. On the other, a basement-dwelling conspiracy theorist with a porn habit. This manages to average out into Cool Loser.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • The title character in Dustin is referred to be rather good-looking, witty (or snarky) and is a college graduate. However, he also is a Hollywood Dateless Basement-Dweller who wears cargo shorts most of the time.
  • Zits: Jeremy and his gang are not particularly popular for no apparent reason.


    Video Games 
  • Travis Touchdown of No More Heroes is a ranked assassin with a Laser Blade, a really Cool Bike, and a bone to pick with ten of the most dangerous people in Santa Destroy/"California"/America. He's also an unemployed, foul-talking otaku who, even at the top of his killing game, commands the respect of roughly no one.
    • He fits the trope (jobless, only one friend), but the only opponent of his that outright disrespects him is Destroyman, for reasons not related to his social status. Most of the blatant disrespect that we see comes from Sylvia and Naomi, the former of which is more than just kind of a bitch to begin with (with tones of the Alpha Bitch) and the latter of which a bit of a grouch and Cool Loser in her own right.
    • Totally subverted in No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, in which he's very well respected by basically everybody, to the point of idolizing. He even gets a couple of fangirls. It helps that he also undergoes Character Development and becomes less of an ass. By the time of No More Heroes III, he's a proper anti-hero who's assembled his own squad of True Companions.
  • Squall Leonhart from Final Fantasy VIII is to quote himself "an unfriendly, introverted guy." He's called a troublemaker by the faculty. He admits that this is a front he's put up to keep people from getting close to him. Midway through the game he gets surprised by a promotion to Commander which he thinks is ridiculous but quotes from his comrades and the school bulletin board shows that the entire school likes and respects him a great deal.
  • Dante the main protagonist of the Devil May Cry franchise. He constantly struggles to make ends meet, is often the subject of mockery by his friends and has never been shown in a relationship. He's also an incredibly power half-demon and highly skilled in killing demons. And while he has never had a girlfriend in any of the games, it has been shown that this doesn't stop women from falling for him like Lucia in Devil May Cry 2 and it seems his lack of dating experience is by choice not because he is unappealing to women.
  • Despite all of them being conventionally attractive and having qualities that in other societies (especially Western ones) would make them among the most popular kids in school (Joker/Ryuji having rebel spirits, Ann being a model, Yusuke having an eye for art, Futaba being a Gamer Chick, Makoto being an honors student, Haru loving gardening), due to the way Japanese society works, the Phantom Thieves of Persona 5 are all ostracized in some way that makes having friends apart from each other difficult.
    • This is especially true for Joker, as despite being downright handsome and potentially being able to max out all his social stats, due to the black mark that is his assault record against a politician (which in Japan is akin to social suicide), everyone else just sees him as a thug.

    Visual Novels 
  • Deconstructed with Lauren in Double Homework. She talks, dresses, and acts like a popular girl, and plus, she’s very attractive. However, the heavy context clues indicate that she just pretends to be popular.

  • Jodie from Loserz. Sexy, a good artist, funny, but most people except the protagonists only want to have sex with her, or actively hate her. Of course, the girls mostly hate her because she sleeps with their boyfriends...
  • Mike Cosley from Bardsworth was one of these in high school. When he gets to college (magical college, at that), he's not as actively mocked as he was, but he isn't exactly Mr. Popularity.
  • Nedroid: Everyone, especially the main character Reginald.
  • Ja Wangnan from Tower of God. Pretty cocky, pisses others off with ease, constantly fails the trials and has racked up such a debt that he wagered his vital organs on passing the next test.

    Web Original 
  • All of Team Kimba (the protagonists) in the Whateley Universe, even though the group contains some of the hottest girls(-ish) on the entire campus. One of them is regarded as possibly the hottest girl on the planet (she's part Sidhe and has a Faerie glamour). They live in the dorm that's regarded as the campus loonybin (it's not). Before their mutant manifestations, many of them were 'losers' for one reason or another. Part of their isolation is that they seem to live up to the dorm's reputation, particularly Generator and Shroud. Tennyo has the stigma of being a Section 33 (fighting her is an automatic expulsion for anyone involved), so people are afraid of her. The group as a whole attacked the Alphas (who are supposed to be the best, most popular kids on campus)for no apparent reason early in their first term, and they're the only non-Hawthorne students who actually enjoy going over to Hawthorne to visit the students there.
  • Blitzo from Helluva Boss is a seasoned gun-toting assassin, at one point dated a famous pop star, and is one of the few demons able to readily enter the mortal world by virtue of being on (very) good terms with one of the most powerful beings in Hell. But he's also a complete weirdo who typically garners minimal respect from even his own employees or his adoptive daughter, let alone most other people he's seen interacting with - the only people who do seem to like him either don't know him all that well or are just as weird as he is.

    Western Animation 
  • Beast Wars: Depth Charge treats the Maximals, especially Optimus Primal, as if they were this before they got sucked into a time hole to kick off the series. This comes despite Primal outranking Depth Charge and having more known friends, and not just because Rampage killed all Depth Charge's friends. Jerkass may have a point though, as the mission that the Maximals were on was treated as a low level one anyway (to hide its true purpose of abandoning the immortal Rampage on a barren planet where he could do no harm.
  • In the never-picked-up Crash Nebula, the main protagonist is just as surprised as the viewer when he is informed of his immediate loser status.
  • Danny Phantom:
    • While Tucker and Sam fit the bill, Danny seems to be a bigger loser than both put together for no other reason than the sake of it. That, and for a lot of scenes with the Jerk Jock and/or The Bully. His parents' reputation as loony ghost hunters may have something to do with it.
    • Valerie becomes a complete outcast after losing her wealth, to the point of initially having no friends to hang out with and Eating Lunch Alone. This is despite still having her good looks, fashion sense, athletic skills, and social skills. She slowly veers into the Cool Loser archetype after developing a much nicer, more laid-back personality (at least as a high school girl and not putting her villainous side in consideration), but still remains unpopular and shunned, likely because her days as a nasty Alpha Bitch left everyone giving her the cold shoulder.
  • Daria:
    • Lawndale High in general seems to operate on an odd version of this trope (possibly even an Inversion): everybody has their proscribed social niche (Daria and Jane being loner outcasts) which are thought of as being rigid, but actually get ignored pretty easily. For example, popular kids like Brittany and Kevin associate with her all the time and are almost always nice (unless they insult them by accident), but would balk at actually calling them "friends."
    • Daria Morgendorffer doesn't have low self esteem, she just has low esteem for everyone else. As Brittany puts it: she's not popular, but she's not unpopular enough that she can't associate with popular people.
    • Daria's best friend Jane is very cool -in an alternative fashion- and it is clear in the show that she could be popular without much effort if she wanted, but she doesn't.
  • Detentionaire: Lee Ping seems to be set up for this, even though he's an intelligent, friendly guy who doesn't fit into any one clique at his high school. Strangely, being blamed for a huge prank on the first day of school made him popular with the other kids while getting him detention (and grounded) for a year. Lee's friends care more for his popularity than he does as he's determined to find out who framed him for the prank.
  • The Fairly OddParents!: Timmy Turner starts out as a loser but eventually manages to gain quite a status in the eyes of his peers as the series progressed, though unfortunately that turns him into an inflated Jerkass. Granted he does temporarily degrade back into a Cool Loser whenever the plot or humour calls for it.
  • Goof Troop:
    • Max Goof, who had friends and a girl who liked him but also the occasional bully.
    • Roxanne's friend Stacey from A Goofy Movie is an Inversion—she has large glasses and braces but is the most popular girl in school and the class president. The fact that Stacey is implied to be rich (enough to afford pay-per-view in The '90s at least) and throws awesome parties may have something to do with it.
  • Heathcliff & the Catillac Cats: You'd think a guy like Riff-Raff would have it made, given he's acknowledged as one of the toughest cats in Westfinster, has good looks, street savvy enough that he's the leader of his own gang, and has a hottie like Cleo as his girlfriend. Yet, despite all that he has going for him, he's still a down-and-out alley cat who lives in a junkyard and his plans fail half the time because his gang is dimwitted.
  • Joseph Gribble (post-puberty) from King of the Hill is actually a completely justified example. He's tall, athletic and quite attractive, but he's just so awkward that he tends to act like a complete creep when talking to pretty much anyone. This is in contrast to Bobby, who is short, fat, and relatively unattractive but manages to be pretty popular through sheer charisma.
  • My Life as a Teenage Robot:
    • Jenny, a sweet girl, and the local super hero, gets bullied by the popular kids just because she’s a robot. But it is hinted at that if the school wasn't under the reign of two Alpha Bitches, she wouldn’t be a outcast at all.
    • Brad is an easygoing guy and has decent fashion sense, but he’s not too high on the popularity pole either. Being the show's resident Casanova Wannabe means that nearly every girl besides Jenny treats him like he's absolutely disgusting.
  • Recess: Inverted. Most of the leads have reason to be losers: with Gus, Gretchen, Spinelli, Mikey and even T.J. having 'uncool' qualities but despite this, they are the most popular kids on the playground.
  • Rick and Morty: Although at first Morty Smith was bullied, later episodes show that Morty generally gets along well with classmates in spite of his nervous demeanour. This trope is at it's high point when he lets go of his "toxic" qualities in "Rest and Ricklaxation" he quickly becomes confident, socially adept, and supremely popular and well liked by everyone in his school. Even able to charm two very attractive older women. Albeit at the cost of his conscience and morality. Later episodes however establishes that he's also feared by his school because he tends to bring some horrifying catastrophe with him.
  • The Simpsons: Bart Simpson gets this on the occasional episode. There's no doubt he's the coolest character on the show, but his popularity in school (or even with the rest of the town) runs the gamut from adored by everyone for how awesome he is, to being a loner whose only friend is Milhouse.
  • Static Shock: Being an aversion of This Loser Is You, the writers indirectly but clearly illustrate that the only reason Virgil only had about two or so friends at a time was because he was content with the friends he has.
  • Transformers: Animated: Optimus Prime. While on Earth he's viewed as amazingly cool and a hero, on Cybertron he's a loser and a nobody - his only defining feature there being that he's in charge of other losers, dropouts and failures. This does nothing for his self-esteem. The only other Autobots who even seem to know what Optimus and co. have been up to either think it's best to keep the whole issue of Earth in the background (Ultra Magnus) or hate his guts (Sentinel Prime). Even if word did get out, who would believe that a nobody commander in charge of a maintenance crew went up against Megatron and not only lived, but won? TWICE? The end of the series does have the team return to Cybertron, and upon leaving their ship are hailed as heroes and cheered by a huge crowd, so apparently word has gotten out.
  • Teen Titans (2003): Beast Boy is a superhero who's helped save the city hundreds of times, but whenever we see him interacting with anyone who's not a Teen Titan, he gets treated like shit. Of course, people in the Teen Titans universe seem pretty blase about the whole superhero thing in general, since the Titans can go to a pizzeria in full costume and no one bats an eye.
  • Total Drama:
    • Perky Goth Gwen is the "loner" of the show, despite being very attractive and having a likeable personality. However, it seems to be voluntary on her part, as she doesn't care much for fitting in with the popular kids or following trends. She does start to grow out of it however.
    • Noah seems to be an inversion. He's a Teen Genius, Ambiguously Bi, and a Deadpan Snarker, all of which could theoretically make him treated like a loser, but his official bio and entry video show that he's class president and seems to be popular at his school, in part because he's smart enough to get on people's good side and use his snarky zingers effectively.
    • Owen is another inversion. His overweight appearance, poor hygiene, and gross habits would leave him pretty low on the teenage popularity chain in theory, but he's one of the most well-liked people on the show amongst his fellow contestants, which is likely attributable to his Nice Guy personality.
  • Played With in Milo Murphy's Law. Despite the main character being kind of dorky and plagued with bad luck, he's so unbelievably nice that everybody at school is actually really friendly with him. (Except for Bradley, but even he's not too rude to his face.) They just prefer to be friendly from a few feet away, which is why Melissa and Zack are his only really close friends.
  • Hercules: The Animated Series: Hercules is maybe a bit awkward socially, and he was bullied when he was younger. But now, he's a (mostly) sweet-natured hero in training and the son of Zeus. And yet, he is seen as a "loser" in school for no real reason, except that Adonis wants it to be that way, so that nobody can challenge his popularity. Then again, Hercules is clearly happy with being friends with other outcasts like Cassandra and Icarus. Which may be enough to make his own popularity suffer.

Alternative Title(s): Hollywood Outcast