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Intelligence Equals Isolation

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

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

Depending on which neuroscientific theory one subscribes to, the trope name is quite literal: Those with more intelligence have a higher rate of disorders of some kind that can factor heavily in inducing social isolation (such as autism). This is especially true if they attend a school with separate programs (regardless of what specific disorders they're diagnosed with), taking tests separately from other students along with extended time. While beneficial, that also institutionally enforces this trope.

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

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

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

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


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ishida Uryuu of Bleach, while also the indubitable Insufferable Genius, qualifies. Before getting involved with Ichigo & co., there is zero indication that he has any friends, nor that he ever has. Part of this is a result of his acting like a jerk because it's "cool" / to keep people away, but he wasn't always like that. Add seeing ghosts and the loss of most of his family to the brain, and it's no wonder he's a loner.
  • Case Closed:
    • Shinichi Kudo, before being shrunk, was a milder case. While he wasn't openly shunned by his peers, and in fact he briefly was a member of the soccer club in his junior high, it's mentioned sometimes that teachers and classmates found him arrogant and hard to approach — and sometimes were (and still are) amazed that Ran ever managed to befriend him. I.e., his former teacher Akiko Yonezawa remembers Shinichi as being unnaturally snarky and full of himself while in elementary school, Ran refers to him as "that mystery otaku" when she's very upset with him, and Sonoko openly wonders "What Does She See in Him?" in regards to Ran herself.
    • One of the reasons Ai Haibara Took a Level in Cheerfulness following being shrunk into a first grader is because she gains a much wider circle of friends and loved ones compared to her life as Shiho Miyano. As Shiho, she was raised by the Organization to become one of their top scientists by the age of thirteen, and her only close relationship was her elder sister, Akemi. Akemi's death is the catalyst that led to Shiho turning on the Organization and becoming Ai in the first place.
  • "Lelouch Lamperouge" of Code Geass. Admittedly, it's also due to his issues with letting people get close to him stemming from his traumatic childhood experiences.
    • ...There's also the fact that he's undercover 95% percent of the time, not to mention his criminal Secret Identity once the plot starts. Actually, when it doesn't interfere too much with his plans or comes without too many strings attached, he does have a good time with his friends.
      • His disaffection with everyone and everything (including his pal Rivalz) in episode one is this mixed with philosophical disdain for the society he belongs to. Which causes him to go try to help out a wrecked truck that everyone else is just taking cameraphone pictures of. Which gets him mixed up with terrorists and an Apocalypse Maiden who gives him superpowers. Which starts everything.
  • Death Note has no shortage of genius characters, but they are mostly lacking in social skills.
    • Light Yagami zigzags this trope, as he is fairly popular despite his intelligence, and he does have friends at school. At the same time, he's The Sociopath who exploits his charm and charisma to manipulate others, and has no genuine connection towards other people.
    • L is considered the greatest detective in the world, but is also an eccentric recluse who almost never shows his face before others, with a social skill of 1/10.
    • Near is the definition of this trope. Thanks to his genius-level intelligence and his (implied) Asperger's Syndrome, the white-haired boy is completely unable to associate with people on a daily basis. The only ones who have direct contact with him are his subordinates of the SPK. Hell, his social skills and life skills rating in How To Read are both a meager 1/10.
  • In Digimon Data Squad, Nanami invokes this in an attempt to convince Touma to join the other side.
  • Satoshi Hiwatari from D.N.Angel is a 14-year-old college graduate who goes back to middle school so he can follow the main character. Although he's greatly admired by the girls in his school because of his cool, aloof attitude, most of the boys think he's a Creepy Child because of how adult he seems, and he rarely relates well with others. Of course, like many examples on this page, part of his problem is that his background has also made him desperate not to let anyone too close for fear of losing them, like he lost his mother.
  • Yukimitsu from Eyeshield 21. His parents forced him into Cram School and he became extremely sheltered, envying the sports teams from his room. Due to his years of being in school, he lacks physical strength, and can never play for more than half a game.
  • Averted by Miyabi "Professor" Oomichi of GA: Geijutsuka Art Design Class . As her nickname impliews, she is much more knowledgeable in art theory than an arts-stream high school student and is also highly talented, but she has her share of friends. She herself also defies this trope in the chapter about typography accreditation. She is likely to get a higher level of typography qualification (Class C or even B, compared to her classmates' D), but decides to just get a Class D instead because she still wants to be with her friends.
  • Gals!: Zigzagged with Aya. She's one of the smartest students in Ran's first year class, and always seems distant and aloof. She eventually joins Ran's group of friends, but her grades start to decline as a result. She still performed well enough in her studies to be offered a place in the "Special track" for her second year, which she initially declined due to not wanting to be separated from her friends. However, Yuuya, and later Ran and Miyu all agree that she should go to the special class—telling her that not being classmates with the others doesn't mean that they'd stop being friends.
  • This is the one of the aspects of Yuki Nagato from Haruhi Suzumiya. When we're first introduced to her, she's sitting in a room by herself reading a book.
    • Kyon gets pissed at her creator, the Data Overmind in the Disappearance novel/film because of this trope. While another humanoid interface, Ryoko Asakura, was a perfectly normal, popular teenager who was good at class and sports before attempting to kill Kyon to try to get a reaction from Haruhi, he wondered why it created Nagato to be a reclusive bookworm who seemed to always be alone.
  • Mikael from I'm Gonna Be an Angel! is a textbook example of an intelligent loner - in the first season, he is mostly seen alone with his Book of Chaos and only occasionally talking to Noelle. In the second season, it's slightly subverted, but only because Raphael makes him go out more and actually interact with people (well, in this case, just Noelle's family]. Still, his favourite pastime seems to be... studying. His isolation doesn't do him much good, as evident later in the series.
  • Kaguya from Kaguya-sama: Love Is War is fully aware of this trope, which is why she never puts more than 60% effort in anything she does (except when it comes to academics).
  • The anime short Kigeki is about a mysterious swordsman who lives alone in an isolated castle and reads books all day. It's explained that in the past certain knowledge was forbidden and many books were burned, so moving into the castle was the only way the swordsman could get to read in peace.
  • A recurring trope in Monster (1994), where both the protagonist and the villain feel solitude and isolation despite the physical presence of others. In Johan, this is manifested in an extreme way in his "Landscape of the End" (though, admittedly, there are factors aside from intelligence that figure in here).
    • Nina/Anna and Johan are a little unusual: their natural intelligence and trauma-induced solitude don't seem to be related. Runge would fit this trope better, but even in his case it's not really intelligence but workaholism that isolates him, to the point that his family abandons him. Until the end, where he's in contact with his kid again.
  • Yukino Yukinoshita from My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, as I Expected, besides her beauty, is extremely smart and has many talents. The poor girl has been bullied and harassed because of this by envious kids, and now she's a cold and shielded loner, but still with a heart of gold.
  • Oz in PandoraHearts. He may act stupid, but he's incredibly intelligent...and he doesn't have many friends besides Gil, Alice, Sharon, and his Elliot and Leo.
    • Leo plays this trope very straight. He's able to see things no one else can and as a result is isolated from others. Even at the orphanage no one understood him until Elliot showed up.
    • Oswald and Lacie would count as well. Lacie is incredibly smart, but the fact that she's seen as some sort of Apocalypse Maiden doesn't help her status, any, either. Oswald is just shy and everyone assumes he's cold.
  • It's not intelligence per se, but it works out the same way for the Bunny Ears Lawyers in The Pet Girl of Sakurasou. Mashiro, Misaki and Ryuunosuke are all extremely talented and eccentric in some way, but that mostly brings them troubles since they have few to no friends, their peers either label them as freaks or resent their talent, and their teachers consider them problem children.
  • Towards the end of Psychic Squad, it turns out that Minamoto was like that when he was a kid, due to being a Child Genius... he just wanted to go to a normal class and have normal friends, but his obvious superiority 'bothered' people, so he was put into a Special Education Program. This revelation puts a whole new significance to the lengths he went to to give The Children a chance to go to school like normal children.... basically, he gave them the childhood that was denied him.
  • Sakurako Amamiya has been the textbook brainy loner ever since she's been drawn into the madness of Psyren, shutting herself from everyone so as not to let anyone else be damaged by it. We know she hasn't always been like this because, just as she is introduced, Ageha remembers a time when, as a child, she was much more joyful and open to the world.
  • Homura Akemi in Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Seen as shy and super clumsy in earlier installments, people called her useless. Later on, Homura appears to be The Ace and is admired by everyone from afar thanks to the acquired experience from the time loops; Sayaka mistakenly thinks she's full of herself, when in reality she's trying to act rationally and be sane at the same time since she's keeping an eye on Madoka so she won't die or become a witch like in said former installments.
  • Fuutarou Uesugi, the male lead from The Quintessential Quintuplets seems to be an intentional example. He's the top student in his school, so focused on his studies that he sees things as socializing with others or trying to seek romance as distractions. Then again, much of this is implied to be rooted on the fact that he wants to secure a good job for the future and help his family out of their poverty.
  • Nemuro from Revolutionary Girl Utena was a Professor by the age of 18, and completely friendless. His fellow students planned to use his intelligence and throw him away once their project is complete. He was so withdrawn that he was described as a "computer-like man". The tropes is somewhat subverted with Miki, a Teen Genius who is pretty popular amomg his peers.
  • Ami Mizuno from Sailor Moon was the smartest girl in all of Japan, but until Usagi recruited her as Sailor Mercury, she didn't have any friends at school. All the kids thought she was an arrogant know-it-all, but she was just shy and reserved. See what her fellow students say about her in the R movie:
    "Ah, Mizuno-san got the first place again!"
    "She always shows off about her good grades, but she doesn't get that she's getting such a bad rep!"
  • Mikogami from Sekirei turns out to have suffered from this in the past, being a 15-year old college graduate and a Lonely Rich Kid. His Jerkass tendencies probably didn't help matters, as he claimed his peers were "stupid" and there was no way he could ever relate to them. It's hinted his massive collection of Sekirei serves as a substitute for human friends.
  • Snow White with the Red Hair: People around the palace consider Ryuu creepy because of his high intelligence at a young age and his interest in poisonous plants and tend to avoid him. Later, in part thanks to his friendship with Shirayuki, he gets a few friends and becomes less isolated. As an introvert with No Social Skills Ryuu is not the most social of people to begin with.
  • In Tokyo Mew Mew, Ryou Shirogane experienced this in his childhood. His Only Friend back then was Keiichiro Akasaka, who worked for Ryou's father, and who befriended him at his boss's suggestion. It doesn't help that Ryou is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold whose jerk side is more easily seen.
  • Defied by Teen Genius "Robo" Shiori in Wasteful Days of High School Girls. She joined Sainotama, a Dustbin School, just to be together with her Childhood Friends Baka and Ota. When she was studying middle school, she had no friends since people can't even guess what she thinks.
  • Kiyomaro "Kiyo" Takamine in Zatch Bell! - he'd basically stopped going to school or caring about anything else because his fellow students were so hostile to his smarts. Except Suzu, the one student who was a girl at the absolute other end of the smarts scale, and he had not befriended her yet. It got to the point where it was going both ways, his fellow students treated him with hostility but he'd grown so used to it he was acting as stuck up as everyone thought he was. After meeting Gash he lightens up and once he starts being genuinely nice again his classmates do as well easily bonding with him through his intelligence with things like helping them study and providing advice.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman is often shown with a dismissive attitude towards other heroes, as if they were children playing at adult matters. It is shown that Bats has crippling intimacy issues due to the whole "shaping my entire life around having watched my parents' murder as a child" thing, so it's not just intellect for him. After his parents died, he grew up in a big hurry, and flashbacks of his childhood after it happened show him as having been too serious and somber to play with other children.
    • Furthermore, he is painfully aware of these attributes and while he often doesn't have the best relationship with his fellow heroes, he does care about them and there are some that he is quite close with such as Superman. He also carries this same relationship with the Justice League and other members composing the Bat-Family who aid Batman on his ventures.
    • This gets explored in Batman Beyond where decades into the future, Bruce has inadvertently driven most of the people close to him out of his life. He never married, Dick won't speak to him, Barbara still keeps tabs but isn't close, his relationship with Tim is... strained, and Alfred had passed away some time ago, leaving him alone until Terry had entered into his life.
  • Lex Luthor in Birthright, he was a young Einstein who was so smart that he freaked everyone out. He soon became unhinged and determine to unlock the secrets of Krypton.
  • Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four has sometimes been shown as so smart that he feels even his loved ones can't really understand him. Fortunately, he overcame it enough to romance his wife and love his son. This still happens, though. This intelligence and isolation also makes him quite ignorant to the point of disobedience of his fellow superhero allies and even placing his son, Franklin Richards, into a coma state.
    • Alyssa Moy, an old flame of Reed's, tries to seduce him with this trope as the friends Reed surrounds himself with just aren't on her and Reed's level. Reed doesn't give a damn.
    • Reed Richards and Doctor Doom are archenemies and worthy opponents to each other partly because their intelligence is on par with each other. They don't need to talk down to each other to be understood, though Doom does it anyway out of arrogance.
  • It is often hinted that this was a factor in Loki's Freudian Excuse in The Mighty Thor, where he was a lot smarter than other Asgardian children but less physically able. He was more likely to be reading or practicing his magic than training in combat with his peers.
  • Both of DC's Mr. Terrifics felt isolated enough due to their genius to attempt suicide at one point (only to turn into heroes instead).
  • Lunella Lafayette of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur is the smartest person in the Marvel Universe at 10 years old. However, this ends up estranging her from her classmates.
  • One of the many revelations in Original Sin is that Howard the Duck has the potential to be the most intelligent being in any universe but squandered it when he got discouraged by the social isolation from a young age. He's still smart enough to calculate on the spot a way to survive a fall from a great height unharmed.
  • Tom Thumb of the Squadron Supreme is clearly the smartest member of the team and the resident Gadgeteer Genius, but he's socially isolated from everyone else, often overlooked or belittled, and spends most of his free time in his lab instead.
  • Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias in Watchmen, who was so brilliant as a child that he was accused of cheating on his schoolwork and who later has a reputation as the "smartest man in the world". The version of the character in the graphic novel seems comfortable and resigned with this status, but in the movie there are a few indications that he is in fact very lonely because of it, and turned to his historical interests as a distraction:
    "I guess you could say I've always been alone. I mean, they say I'm the smartest man in the world, but the truth is I've often felt stupid at being unable to relate to anybody. Well... anyone living, that is."
  • Kitty Pryde from the X-Men is a genius who started taking college level classes at freaking 13 years old. Because of this, she was unable to relate to anyone her own age except through dancing. After joining the X-Men and acquiring even more knowledge (including things not meant for someone her age), this became a lot worse. It is sometimes implied that this is the reason why she always seeks relationships with guys much older than her.
    • This might affect her more than people think. After joining S.H.I.E.L.D. she found a fellow agent who was as young and as intelligent as her; she immediately proceeded to develop feelings for him and not much later decided to cheat on her current boyfriend Pete Wisdom with this agent. Nothing actually happened between them but the idea of her being fine with cheating because this guy was her age and at her intellectual level was enough for Wisdom to break up with her.

    Fan Works 
  • The Loki of the Paradise domain in Loki: Agent of Doomgard because they're incredibly medium aware (can read the matrix for example) and lonely thanks to it (just try to make someone understand that you know the secret workings of the universe).
  • The Moon Cries in Reverse (Naruto): The presumption of this is Played for Drama after Anko is put in charge of Team Ten, which consists of Shikamaru, Sakura and Naruto here. Shikamaru's intelligence reminds her too much of her old mentor Orochimaru; Ibiki also notes that Sakura is intelligent in her own right, but was badly bullied at the Academy. In hopes of preventing their potential defection, Anko subjects them to Training from Hell and introduces them to T&I, where the trio are forced to torture people, while the toll this naturally takes upon their psyches is treated as "evidence" that they were already veering down a dark path. Once Shikaku learns what's been happening, he laments how he got sucked into their paranoia and was actually starting to believe that his son might have been secretly evil all along rather than realizing how badly they were being hurt.
  • In Street Sharks Redux, this is implied to be the case with Gabrielle. She is shown to be a lonely girl who is only vaguely recognized as someone who gets knocked over several times and is incredibly grateful when Dr. Paradigm shows appreciation for her academic achievements.
  • You Were My Best Friend: The reason why Mitzi first stops being Bloom's friend and then starts bullying her, bringing the whole school with her (teachers included). Bloom is maliciously nicknamed "little nerd" because she skipped two school grades.

    Film — Animation 
  • Hiroki Sawada from Detective Conan Film 06: The Phantom of Baker Street. Either his school system couldn't quite deal with the child who would be studying grad school in MIT at ten, or he was given a highly accelerated homeschooling. Either way, he is friendless against his will — which accumulated to his Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds status in the movies, because he just wanted to have friends.
  • Hiccup from How to Train Your Dragon fits this trope. Being a scrawny kid in a Viking Village, others ostracize him, and even his father is not very proud of him (though he does love him). Him being intelligent Gadgeteer Genius makes all this worse due to having ideas others have problem to grasp, not being helped that they quite frequently backfire. The situation improves for him once he and Toothless end war with dragons.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Bad Genius implies this for Bank and Lynn. They're the two smartest in their grade, but Grace is the only friend of Lynn's we see, while Pat alludes that Bank's not much better in that department.
  • In Election, highly intelligent and ambitious Tracy Flick suspects that she suffers from this reality. During the ending she confirms this while in College, which shows her studying, unlike the other students who are all getting high and partying. She concludes that her being isolated from others is the price for wanting to achieve greatness.
  • Ellie in The Half of It is introverted, has perfect grades, plays the guitar and keyboard, and is the only Asian American girl in her small town high school. She only really interacts with her classmates to make money via her essay-writing cheating scheme.
  • Deconstructed in Little (2019). Jordan was an outcast in middle school because of her love of science. Since the kids didn't like her for being nerdy, Jordan suffered from low self-esteem and developed an inferiority complex.
  • Max Cohen, the mathematical genius in π. Max's quest for the universal number that holds the key to the mathematical basis of nature has left him utterly disconnected from the rest of humanity, to the extent that he even fears leaving his apartment if he could run into someone.
  • Real Genius
    Chris Knight: When I was three years old, I balanced my father's checkbook. They sent me to school and fired their accountant. My father was so intimidated, he stopped speaking to me. My teachers disliked me because I was smarter than they were. My classmates hated me because I broke the bell curve. Sound familiar? My mother dressed me in white shirts, hush puppies and a briefcase, guaranteeing that no girl would ever talk to me.
  • "White" from The Sunset Limited is a brilliant college professor who shares a mutual loathing with his colleagues and is generally a misanthrope. He has no friends, except for one man he has lunch with sometimes.

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

  • Artemis Fowl's only friends are his bodyguard and a small group of subterrainina (technologically advanced faeries). It's said that he's "bamboozled" every IQ test sent his way and driven several psychiatrists gibbering back into their own wards. However, it's shown that he does have the capabilities and charisma to actually charm people and hold down relationships: he simply doesn't bother because he doesn't respect most other people, a fact pointed out by one of the few psychiatrists able to shut him up.
  • The Baby-Sitters Club: Very common in this series.
    • Claudia's sister Janine is a Teen Genius with an IQ of 196 who frequently confuses the others with her Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness. She does not have much of a social life and spends most of her time on her computer. She's secretly jealous of her less intelligent sister Claudia because she has a lot of friends.
    • Charlotte Johanssen. In the third book it's revealed that she's ostracized and bullied by her classmates for being so smart. They make fun of Charlotte and call her a Teacher's Pet. She gets to skip a grade, which resolves the issue.
    • Rosie Wilder is a Child Prodigy not just at academics (she's as smart as Janine), but extremely talented at everything. However she's also a Broken Ace hated by all her classmates. It helps that, unlike the two examples above, Rosie is kind of an obnoxious Jerkass and as a result no one gets along with her, not even fellow genius Janine. Until she forms an Odd Friendship with Claudia.
    • Implied for one girl in a camping "episode": she doesn't join the girls' activities and prefers to read by herself; likewise the other girls don't talk to her. She comes into her own when the girls get lost on a hike, saving everyone because the book she was reading was about the outdoors and she was the only one who knew how to read the trail markers. Sadly, the last we hear of her is her mother telling the counsellor that she definitely won't be back next summer.
  • Teen Genius Garrett from Boot Camp has always felt like an older person in a kid's body, and has never been able to connect with kids his own age. As a result, his first girlfriend is his 23-year-old math teacher. His parents are so embarrassed by the relationship that they send him to Lake Harmony, an abusive boot camp.
  • Most of the people exiled from the society of Brave New World have high intelligence, due to their frustration with the shallow nature of their society. Others are invited to join the government, but it's Lonely at the Top, as we see with Mustapha Mond.
  • Isaac Asimov's "Breeds There a Man...?": Dr Ralston finds himself so much smarter than everyone around him that he has trouble tolerating their inability to grasp "simple" concepts. His psychiatrist describes this isolation to the project manager as analogous to a force field.
    "Whatever difference there is between his mind and that of others, it has built a wall between him and society as strong as the force field you are trying to design. For similar reasons, he has been unable to enjoy a normal sex life. He has never married; he has had no sweethearts."
  • Several examples in Discworld:
    • This is something of a theme in the Tiffany Aching-arc. Witches are without exception isolated from the people they help, and must constantly work to keep from getting a God-complex, or simply going mad from loneliness, a condition known among them as "cackling". The primary cure is to keep associating with other witches who know what you're going through.
  • Raistlin in Dragonlance, whose exceptional intelligence sets him apart from other characters (although his loneliness is also because, well, Ambition Is Evil and Being Evil Sucks). In fact he also sets himself apart deliberately, because he resents that his extreme physical frailty makes him heavily reliant on others.
  • The Aesop of Flowers for Algernon.
  • Frankenstein: Victor serves as a warning to Walton, who is in danger of becoming as obsessed with his exploration as Victor was with the science that led to the creation of his monster.
  • Harry Potter has Hermione Granger in the first book until she, Ron and Harry become friends. Her intelligence and condescending attitude led to most people disliking her. Their teasing led to her crying in the bathroom. Subverted in every book after that, where she's still kind of a know-it-all but is generally well-liked by her fellow Gryffindors. Word of God also states that Albus Dumbledore was like this for most of his life, to such a degree, in fact, that it drove him straight into the company of Gellert Grindelwald, the greatest Dark Wizard in history at the time.
  • This was the life of Otto before the start of the H.I.V.E. Series.
    Otto: Before I came here, I didn't have anybody.
  • Kirsty in the Johnny Maxwell Trilogy, who has a habit of explaining to people how stupid they are until they leave (she views this as a character flaw in everyone else). Johnny is her friend because he already thinks he's pretty stupid.
  • In the 1955 science fiction story "Judgment Day" by L. Sprague de Camp, a scientific genius has discovered an atomic principle that could potentially destroy the planet. Most of the story is a flashback to his unhappy life of being unpopular and bullied and lonely. He decides to publish his discovery, expecting it to lead to humanity destroying itself. His description, as narrator, of his detachment from people and deeply buried violent rage is kind of unsettling.
  • Lisbeth Salander in the Millennium Series. She is brilliant — has a photographic memory, extremely skilled at computer hacking, reads math books and solves mathematical equations for fun, and yet has close to no friends. Her brilliance is recognized by a few of the characters who get to know her (Blomkvist, Mirium Wu, Armansky) but for the most part she is so asocial and unresponsive that she was declared incompetent by psychologists.
  • Sherlock Holmes is a classic example of this. His genius often causes him considerable frustration when dealing with other people (including the official police force), and as a result he prefers to follow his own route to a solution. He chooses only those cases which truly interest him intellectually, and involves only those people who are useful for his current case. Aside from his brother Mycroft Holmes and his loyal friend Doctor John Watson, he spends most of his time alone, broadening his eclectic range of knowledge. When he feels he has nothing to work on his brilliant mind becomes a burden, sometimes driving him to seek a drug-induced stupor as an alternative to the mundane. Mycroft and Dr. Watson appear to be the only two people whose company Holmes actively seeks out, and who are able to tolerate his often acerbic or dark moods, while maintaining a genuine liking for him. Although Holmes does express admiration occasionally for individuals who present above average intelligence (in his opinion) he doesn't seem to have any close friends outside of Watson and Mycroft, and appears to prefer isolation. Mycroft on the other hand is even MORE of this, to the point of being a Flanderization. He prefers his own company to the extent that he started a club whose members are forbidden to speak to each other.
  • In Small Persons with Wings, one of the things Mellie is bullied for by her old classmates is being good in school and knowing too many big words. Her only friends are in the Girl Scouts, where nerds are celebrated.
  • In Song of the Lioness, Alanna's twin brother Thom is one of the most powerful sorcerers in Tortall. The only person he's close to at all is Alanna because he believes that his teachers are jealous and he has no interest in getting close to anyone else. He didn't even like their first teacher, Maude, and only listened to her as long as he thought she could still help him.
  • Minor example in the novel Hush Money. Spenser is interviewing his client, a college professor, about his romantic history in an effort to clear him of having had a relationship with a student that resulted in suicide. The professor, a black man, says that most of his relationships have been with white women; not because of their race, but because he is "badly over-educated", and only relates well to women who are also well-educated, and most of those women are white.
  • Seemingly subverted, but actually played straight with John Rumford, the protagonist in Victoria. Rumford, a brilliant strategist, military theorist, polymath and polyglot, is a charismatic leader who inspires his subordinates... but privately, he is quite Lonely at the Top, with a bare handful of close friends, even Dying Alone eventually.
  • When Women Were Dragons: Alex is incredibly intelligent and specializes in math. She also has no friends except Sonja and her adopted sister Beatrice. Part of this is the responsibility of being Promoted to Parent keeping her away from social events, but the other part is people not relating to her intense studiousness.
  • In Christopher Stasheff's The Witch Doctor, from his "A Wizard in Rhyme" series, the main character complained to an angel that he never had any friends as a kid because nobody else in the neighborhood was interested in reading. The angel's reply was that he should have pretended to be interested in the same things as the other kids and then he might've had friends (although the series did take place in a medieval universe with decidedly different values...).

    Live-Action TV 
  • All the guys in The Big Bang Theory were isolated and picked on at school. Well, except Raj, whose family wealth shielded him but left him so traumatized he is unable to even speak aloud in a woman's presence. The writers of the show decided to explore this trope some more by giving Sheldon his own spin-off set in the 80s where he was 9 years old and struggling to make any friends since his high IQ and intelligence made him obsessed with correcting everybody around him.
  • Subverted in Carrusel. Maria Joaquina and Jorge may be brilliant students who have trouble making friends... but the reason for their difficulty has nothing to do with intelligence- it is due to Maria Joaquina and Jorge being snobbish and condescending towards other students not as wealthy as they are. Maria Joaquina gets somewhat better after a while, as she's subjected to Break the Haughty and becomes the Lovable Alpha Bitch afterwards; Jorge keeps being haughty and snotty until almost the end instead. Averted by Daniel, who is the top student in the class and comes from an upper middle class family- though nowhere near as wealthy as Maria Joaquina or Jorge- yet has many friends and is the leader of La Patrulla Salvadora.
  • Dr. Spencer Reid from Criminal Minds can attest to this trope - he graduated from high school at age twelve and on at least one occasion was tied naked to a football goalpost and mocked.
  • Gil Grissom on CSI, often thought of as a bit of a recluse while he was team leader. He did become close to the others on the team; a family dynamic showed up as time went on, though it took six seasons for Sara to finally break down the walls he'd put up and form a romance with him.
  • Doctor Who: In "The Sontaran Stratagem"/"The Poison Sky", Teen Genius Luke Rattigan invokes this, claiming that the fact that he and his fellow geniuses were excluded and laughed at by others is why they deserve to live more than "those cattle", and is why he helps the Sontarans' plan to poison the Earth. Unfortunately for him, he's the only one of them who feels that way; the others are much more well-adjusted and want to find their families when the poison gas crisis hits. Rattigan is reduced to impotently ranting that this "proves" he's cleverer than them.
  • The Family Ties episode "A, My Name Is Alex" heavily implies that Alex experienced this kind of treatment in his childhood years. In addition to putting mountains of pressure on him over it, his teacher would also frequently make it clear how smart he was in front of his class to the point that the other kids refused to associate with him; but lucky for him he managed to make a friend in Greg who's death is being currently grieved over at the moment.
  • River Tam of Firefly was very much this during her younger years. She corrected the teachers often, and no one understood her, leading to her not being invited back to class. And then the Academy happened. Simon doesn't seem to have been much better at it, though his social skills improve noticeably over the course of the series.
  • Both Frasier and Niles Crane, who were bullied severely and persistently throughout their childhoods and, as their father notes, never made many friends, which is partly why they are so much more close-knit than most successful adult siblings, although they still bicker quite frequently. It often comes across that while Frasier is an example of the trope compared to "normal people", Niles is an example compared to Frasier.
  • House. And not just the title character either. There's the Patient of the Week in "Ignorance is Bliss".
    Sidas: It's lonely, isn't it?
    House: It's not that bad.
    Sidas: Then you're not that smart.
  • On Leverage, Nate shows how difficult this really is. It is directly pointed out during the "Boys Night Out Job" that he really doesn't have any real friends apart from the team and his ex wife. He was good friends with Sterling when they worked for the insurance company. However, this only serves to reinforce this trope, as Sterling is just as smart and calculating as Nate.
  • Malcolm from Malcolm in the Middle makes this the focus for the first few seasons, before getting past it.
    • In fact, this contributes to the Misaimed Fandom - him being able to get past it in the later seasons is shown to be Character Development. Early on, nobody seems to want to interact with him aside from his brothers and a few others...but in High school, he finds people he has stuff in common with, and doesn't push them away.
  • Brick Heck on The Middle, who's always looking for opportunities to read. Having Asperger's Syndrome contributes to it.
  • Alex in Modern Family is asked by her sister, "Do you want to be smart or do you want to be popular?" Unfortunately, in that particular episode anyway, she caves. One episode even had her parents nagging her to study less.
  • Thanks to them all having No Social Skills, the four geniuses of Scorpion. The complete list of outsiders they are comfortable interacting with outside their little group are: Their boss, the waitress they hired to be their interface with normal people, her Child Prodigy son who is having the same problem that they do, and Walter's sister (until her death).
  • The eponymous Sherlock, who is an Insufferable Genius, subscribes very firmly to Good Is Not Nice, and has several characteristics of a Byronic Hero. John even suggests that Sherlock might have Asperger's Syndrome. It's outright stated that he has never had any friends prior to John:
    John: [About 'Richard Brooke'] Old school friend?
    Mycroft: [Sardonic smile] Of Sherlock's?
    • As per canon, Mycroft; when the Holmses were young boys, the two thought that Sherlock was a genuine idiot, not just less clever than Mycroft, but truly slow. Sherlock lives in a world Surrounded by Idiots, therefore Mycroft lives in a world surrounded by goldfish.
  • T.J. Henderson from the show Smart Guy was too young to fit in with his fellow high-schoolers and could only relate to kids his own age around basketball and other non-intellectual activities (which usually resulted in disaster of some sort). Other smart kids were out of the question too because they were nowhere near as sociable or well-adjusted as T.J., tending to be dipped fully in Intelligence Equals Isolation by virtue of being too stereotypically arrogant to care about reciprocal friendships.
  • Hannah from Todd and the Book of Pure Evil is largely isolated from her fellow students due to her intelligence. In Invasion of the Stupid Snatchers, a student who was turning the rest of the school into idiots with the book questions whether being smart has made her happy, and whether it wouldn't be better to be as dumb as him.
  • Gamu Takayama from Ultraman Gaia is this. Being one of the Teen Genius of Alchemy Stars, he is always ostracized as a boy due to his classmates envying him. However, that doesn't mean he has No Social Skills, as he tends to be portrayed as an All-Loving Hero.
  • Toby and President Bartlet on The West Wing.
    • C.J. tells Toby "No one likes people who know everything," to which Toby responds "So I've discovered in my life."
    • President Bartlet asks Toby "You think the strike against me is nobody likes the smartest kid in the class?" in "Hartsfield's Landing". Subverted when Bartlet takes this and uses it to win the election despite the MS scandal.

    New Media 
  • Over Educated Problems is a series of image macros that makes fun of people having trouble to relate to others because of the difficulty letting go of their "education" (most notably, grammar, syntax and pronounciation).


  • Cesare - Il Creatore che ha distruttoCesare Borgia is one of the most popular students in the University of Pisa, and while his intelligence does make it difficult for him to connect with most others, he does make them feel comfortable and win them over. On top of that, he does have a few friends — notably, Miguel and Angelo — who are as smart as he is (though the musical ends at the part in the story where he's just coming to realize that about Angelo). The musical, however, shows through the number of solo songs he has, and the way they're framed, that he's still most comfortable inside his own head. Rather than share his deeper thoughts with even Miguel, he will go into a church or to the top of the hill, and think and feel things in relative isolation.
  • In Sunday in the Park with George, there are two instances of this trope: Georges, a straight example of this, bordering on Loners Are Freaks - his genius is misunderstood, and he frequently drives people away with his eccentricity and stubbornness. Then, George-his-grandson appears to be social, amiable, and friendly enough, but...

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Subverted in Final Fantasy VII. Cloud tells Tifa that he didn't have friends as a child, because he thought the other children were all stupid compared to him, but immediately admits that feeling that way proved that he was in reality the stupid one. It's suggested his tendency to look down on others' intelligence, a complex which lasted well into his adulthood, started as a way of justifying his own childhood loneliness.
    • It's not really overt, but in Final Fantasy VII, the Crisis Core prequel, Sephiroth feels isolated because of a combination of his superior intelligence and power. The only ones who he was friends with are Angeal, Genesis, and Zack, who went through similar experiments, as perhaps the only people who can rival him, and even then he is still superior and thus cannot fully relate to them. This is also suggested during the original game, where (Cloud recalls) Sephiroth telling him that all his life, he knew he was special, and better than others - mirroring Cloud's ego problems above.
    • Played with in Final Fantasy VIII. Squall is a disaffected loner and extremely intelligent, and one of the smartest people in his prestigious school, to the point where the staff will single him out for special responsibilities and consult him with decisions. However, his intelligence is the main reason he's liked at all, since he's also an antisocial, sulky Emo Teen who thinks Jerkass behaviour is a sign of maturity. The similarly brilliant Quistis is even able to make fun of his attitude as her Establishing Character Moment because she can talk to him like an equal otherwise, but keeps pursuing him until he forcefully hurts her feelings.
  • Knoll from Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, though his case is more complicated. He's a very kind and gentle person as well as a decent Black Mage, but not only he's very quiet but what troubles him the most is... how good part of his bookish knowledge is deeply tied to Lyon's experiments that would lead him to become the Big Bad Friend through Demonic Possession/More than Mind Control.
  • Inverted in Persona 3 and Persona 4: doing well on your exams improves your school Social Links accordingly.
  • Pokémon Diamond and Pearl gives us two separate descriptions of Cyrus as a child that tell us that he was both highly intelligent and that he shunned people and preferred machines.
  • Iris in RosenkreuzStilette becomes a complete sociopath because of this.
  • Purge in Space Channel 5 Part 2 is a Teen Genius who's lived alone with his robots ever since he was 9. This has made him crazy.
  • In Tales of the Abyss, Jade Curtiss shows many of the symptoms. In the manga and anime flashback scenes, it's made even more evident - by the time he's an adult, he seems to have adjusted a little better, mostly by becoming a Deadpan Snarker. And even then, he doesn't have many friends before he gets adopted into the party.
    • Although in Jade's case it's a bit more complicated, since it's implied he was something of a violent sociopath when he was younger and only mellowed out because of the influence of his teacher.
  • Genius teen mage Rita Mordio in Tales of Vesperia practically spells it out at one point:
    "When you can do something better than anyone else, you wind up feeling like something’s missing. The other researchers would go on and on about something I’d discovered, like, two months before... and I’d start to feel like talking with them was pointless."
  • Yakuza's main character, Kazuma Kiryu, is perhaps one of the most tragic examples of this. He is perhaps the strongest warrior and the best problem-solver in the good side, but while he is very much a talented individual from the start, in order to reach such an extraordinary level of ability, he had to underwent many highly difficult experiences and his victories are nearly always bittersweet. It may have looked like he had won the struggle, but that victory constantly costs him the lives of his loved ones or puts them in some serious danger. Whenever he gets friends, it's clear his one-of-a-class ability and experience keeps a distance between them, as he regularly goes on his own and is acknowledged to be able to solve almost anything for them, but whenever he gets depressed, they struggle just to get him back in shape. Notably, the only time where a single friend of his reaches him, it's Taiga Saejima AKA the guy who's been imprisoned for 25 years, has lost his fair share of comrades and experienced many tragedy, and is also the only fighter who's ever stalemated him. Even more tragically, as he is the father of an entire orphanage, being the best effectively means he can spend only little peace time with them before he has to leave as the call will always find and force him to act. All this quite literately means his issues are never fully resolved and he increasingly gets more trauma and repeats the circle of having to suppress his emotions for the greater good until his saga finally ends with him resigning himself to spending the rest of his life simply doing what he is best in and not allowing anyone who isn't prepared to be there for him.

    Visual Novels 
  • A few examples in Double Homework:
    • Dennis is both very anti-social and very smart.
    • Tamara qualifies as well. She does well in school without having to work particularly hard, but she’s also standoffish towards almost anyone else.
    • Dr. Mosley is shrouded in mystery. She also flubs all her jokes about pop culture.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry
    • Keiichi is shown to experience this in flashbacks. He's promoted to the advanced class when his grades suddenly go up, but then the bullying begins...
    • Defied by Miyo Takano in Matsuribayashi. After becoming determined to continue her adoptive grandfather's research on brain parasites influencing human behavior, she specifically makes sure to learn how to socialize so she'll be able to form connections and earn funding for her research.
      "I have a goal which I can only reach by studying hard. Also, I know how powerless an isolated genius is. That's why I needed to learn to socialize."
  • In Melody, the very intelligent Becca is almost entirely socially isolated.
  • Steins;Gate's Makise Kurisu is a grade-skipping Teen Genius who's managed to become a published neuroscientist at the age of eighteen - something that draws the resentment of her peers, much older researchers who aren't happy to be compared to or shown up by a teenage girl. Even her own theoretical physicist father refuses to speak with her, as he blames her for overshadowing him and causing his fall into obscurity.
  • In Nameless Lance is this although it's largely self inflicted — the more naive Yeonho and Red take their popularity at face value but Lance is well aware he's being treated as Eye Candy and resents it enough to keep his fans at arm's length.

  • Stanley in Evil Plan believes in this trope so much that he ensures it. During college he intentionally blocks himself away from anyone including his own roommate, believing that personality has viral tendencies and that stupid was infectious if he listened to too many people talking about trite pop-culture related garbage. After enduring this for a semester his roommate promptly gives him a verbal beat down with a side dose of perspective.
  • Sergio in the Narbonic Spin-Off Babies strip Li'l Mell is a six year old Child Prodigy, who reads Shakespeare, Virgil and Dante, but worries that the other kids must be developmentally ahead of him, because they're "forming peer bonds which will advance their psychosocial development from now until puberty", and he doesn't know how to do that. Until he meets Mell.

    Web Original 
  • In Part 5 of the story Lovelace ½, when Andi — who that morning suddenly developed Super-Intelligence — is talking to her mates about her situation:
    Bell: I mean, on the big list of problems–-
    Andi: Yeah, you're right. Because if there's anyone in public school who really gets on well — really has a wonderful time for all the years she's there, it's the know-it-all. Well, know-it-all-except-for-why-it's-happening.
  • Serina: Some species on the planet during the Ultimocene are near-sapient, meaning that they have intelligence comparable to a young child but never advance beyond that and often have a rudimentary language and culture but are still mostly instinct driven and only focused on day-to-day survival. This leads to problems with some members of these species:
    • The seastrikers are near-sapient marine predators similar to orcas but on occasion there are individuals born with a genetic fluke that grants them full sapience. They are known as seers due to their ability to think beyond the immediate here-and-now. The seers are not shunned by the normal seastrikers as their intelligence is greatly beneficial to them (to the point where they frequently become leaders at a young age), but they live very isolated lives since they are unable to relate to their more simple-minded kin and their children don't inherent their intellects due to it being a recessive trait. This loneliness is so great that when two seers from different clans meet, they are compelled to interact and become a mated pair despite their clans hating one another. This pairing eventually births the completely sapient daydreamers.
    • Another near-sapient creature is the bluetailed chatteraven, a highly intelligent but also aggressive and unempathetic species. One individual named Brighteyes is born with a mutation that grants him the higher intelligence and compassion of their fully sapient ancestors, this leads him to become something of an outcast among his clan and he's eventually forced to flee his home all together after killing another bluetail that was going to kill his albino younger brother.
    • One species where this is averted would be the mammoth-like woolly wumpo. They would be considered fully sapient thanks to their high intelligence and abstract thinking, but suffer from a species wide case of Creative Sterility that makes them naturally conversative and slow to innovate. Rare members of this species are born with a form of neurodivergence called wideminds that make them less fearful and more innovative. Wideminds don't feel isolated from their own kind like the seers or Brighteye thanks to their species naturally high emotional intelligence, in fact wideminds are celebrated among the wumpos due to their innovation greatly improving the lives of their herds and the species as a whole.

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius: Jimmy. He actually purposely made himself stupid in the episode, "Normal Boy" to end his misery, but the machines accidently set his intelligence so low he became a complete moron. That said, he's more of a mixed bag. Sometimes intelligence isolates him, often he sets the (horrible) events of the plot in motion causing him to be isolated, sometimes the characters realize they need his intellect and/or like him more than they let on, and sometimes he's just an Insufferable Genius.
  • Arcane: Singed claims that loneliness is often a byproduct of a gifted mind to fellow loner Viktor. Though in truth its more like "constantly performing unethical experiments" makes you isolated. Viktor and Jayce are only able to revolutionize Hextech by working closely together. Jayce becomes massively popular with the population, known as the Golden Boy with his face pasted everywhere and he eagerly offers to share the spotlight with Viktor who rejects it. Viktor's isolation is more a result of his disability as a child and his singular focus on his research as an adult hoping it'd save his life.
  • An episode of Danny Phantom had the intelligent Jazz telling her fellow classmates that she was struggling on whether she wanted to go to Harvard, Yale, or Stanford. They all walk away with disinterest.
  • Daria: This is more prevalent in the first season; after that, the show becomes much less about "Daria vs. the idiots around her". In fact, around season two, we see her getting called out on her antisocial behaviours as well as the isolation being partially her doing - and her Character Development is her not pushing everybody away.
  • Family Guy: In the episode "Our Idiot Brian", after Brian becomes an idiot due to a brain tumour, Stewie tricks him into getting it removed. After the operation, Brian passive-aggressively calls him out on it because his lack of intelligence enabled him to make more friends and sleep around.
    Brian: I mean, I was having fun, making friends, getting laid all the time, sleeping like a rock, but you made the call. You unilaterally decided I was better off a bitter, alcoholic failure who can only hang out with a baby.
    Stewie: [offended] Hey! We have fun!
  • In the Futurama episode "Mars University", Gunther, the intelligent monkey, feels pressure due to the high intellect his experimental hat gives him. In the end, though, the hat is damaged to make him moderately intelligent.
  • In Inside Job (2021), Reagan suffered this as a child, which is part of why she's so messed up in the present day. It gets worse when it is revealed in the season 1 finale that she did have a friend, but her father erased her memories of him to remove any possible distractions from her studies.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Twilight Sparkle was like this at the start of the series, preferring her studies over anything else. Her mentor sets her straight by sending her on a mission specifically to make friends, setting up the plot of the show. The rest of the series then goes on to avert it, Twilight becoming liked and respected because of, not despite her intelligence and magic skills though she does still remain somewhat socially awkward.
    • Sunset Shimmer, Princess Celestia's previous personal student, was also like this, but ambitious and arrogant where Twilight is neurotic and uncertain — and she never got an order to go find friends, either. Sunset ended up parting ways with the Princess, moving to another world, and figuring as the Big Bad of the first spinoff movie (and socially isolated once again, although now one of the good guys, in the second).
    • Twilight's human counterpart was even worse than the previous two put together. While she is genuinely a socially awkward Nice Girl, she was bullied by her previous peers because they were jelaous of her intelligence. Ironically, unlike Princess Twilight and Sunset Shimmer, she is very eager to connect with people on a personal level right from the start.
  • One of the main themes in Rick and Morty. Rick is so intelligent that he has invented a way to cross between universes, giving him the knowledge that there are infinitely many versions of him, and none of them truly matter. Knowing this has turned him into an emotionally isolated alcoholic that treats everyone like they're disposable, because to him they are.
  • Gates from RollBots has no friends other than Aria. Justifiable, considering that he's not pleasant to be with.
  • Lisa on The Simpsons, depending on the mood of the writer. In earlier seasons Lisa had a best friend called Janey and had quite a lot of friends, but they got pushed aside and forgotten. The latest episodes show some of those friends, Janey included, but they tend to push Lisa away whenever she shows her smarts.
    • One episode has Homer's I.Q raised to slightly above average levels, and suffers from this, although it allows him to bond with Lisa. He ends up choosing blissful ignorance over the social stigma he'd caused—but was smart enough to write a heartfelt letter to her beforehand, apologizing for taking the easy way out and admiring her strength and courage.
    • This trope is played straight to the point that Lisa flat-out made a graph stating the negative correlation between happiness and intelligence.
    • Played with in the first-season episode "Bart the Genius," where Bart switches his intelligence test with Martin Prince's to fake being a genius. He feels isolated in his new gifted school because he can't keep up with the other students intellectually, but when he goes back to visit his former friends in public school, they ostracize him, believing that he now considers himself above them. On the other hand, Homer's new feelings of pride in his "genius" son lead the two of them to bond. Of course, Bart finally confesses and everything goes back to normal by the end, although Martin apparently never gets into the gifted school that his test scores warrant.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Patrick SmartPants", the title character becomes highly intelligent after a jellyfishing accident, but quickly finds himself Blessed with Suck as he is no longer able to relate to any of the people in his life. It's this trope that leads Patrick to find a way to be stupid again, because he reasons he'd rather be dumb with friends than smart and lonely.