Follow TV Tropes


Nerds Love Tough Schoolwork

Go To

Willow: Goody! Study party!
Xander: Will, you need a life in the worst way.

Fiction thinks that tough schoolwork is the greatest thing ever to a nerd. They go beyond the mere Bookworm in that they live for pop quizzes, midterms, and final exams. Not that they are enthusiastic about subjects they are interested in, but tough work is awesome on its own. Basically, they are portrayed as the bizarro student. Having an extra day of school to these guys is like having a day off from school to everyone else. These nerds commonly suffer from Opinion Myopia, and will be baffled at why their fellow classmates aren't acting like they're meeting a rock star. "Why do you guys look so down? We're having a pop quiz on calculus! Isn't that great?!"

Heck, some nerds might even find these nerds too nerdy.

Is this Truth in Television? Somewhat. Again, people will be glad to learn about things that interest them (especially if they are going for higher college degrees) but there's a difference between being interested in learning calculus, and acting like a pop quiz on calculus is like meeting a rock star. Then too, a nerd might like to learn but absolutely loathe having to learn in a school setting with work and people. It can also be true with children who are especially gifted. Many schools are incredibly reluctant to let gifted students skip a grade, even when they really should. For those kids, this can be frustrating in a "has the keys to a Ferrari, but forced to ride a tricycle" way. When they get to something more their speed, it can be downright refreshing. There's also the ones who're enjoying it because they get to show off and make themselves look better than their less nerdy peers.

Compare Proud to Be a Geek. Contrast Brilliant, but Lazy. Many a Stereotypical Nerd have this trait. It might be caused by It's Easy, So It Sucks! just applied to school work. If other students assume this trope is true, they might end up trying to use the nerd as a Homework Slave.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Ami from Sailor Moon, although justified by the fact that she is someday planning to become a doctor.
  • In Soul Eater, Maka is asked by Blair if tests are fun in the Super Exam episode. Maka replies that yes, of course they are! You learn things while you're studying and you get to see your class ranking! Blair is not convinced because she saw Soul studying miserably across the hall.

    Comic Books 
  • Spider-Man: Peter Parker was a mild example of this in his high school days. In fact, Flash Thompson once used Peter's overachiever tendencies to explain why he picked on him in high school (keep in mind that this conversation took place at a time when Peter and Flash had been friends for years).
  • Robin: Sebastian Ives is mildly entertained by how much easier schoolwork is at public school in comparison to homeschooling but definitely doesn't consider it an improvement and thinks making things so easy is a disservice to his schoolmates even if they're having trouble with the current curriculum.
  • Archie Comics: Dilton Doiley enjoys his time at school, with one comic showing him treat the weekend like other students treat Monday. Another story took a darker turn with this, showing that the reason he likes school so much is that his parents work long hours and are never at home.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Foxtrot, Jason is portrayed as a super-nerd who loves doing math and science homework, often doing his older siblings' homework for fun (and money).
    Andy: How was the big math test?
    Jason: Outstanding. Shades of fall '99 with daring reminders of finals '01. Imagine the playfulness of a mid-term '00, coupled with the difficulty of a late '97 or '98.
    Andy: You know, there's a thin line between "connoisseur" and "nut case", Jason.
    Jason: I still have an old '98 upstairs. I really should take it again.
    • In one strip, Jason does his math final exam in literally the last minute. He does this because "what's a final exam without a bit of pressure?"
    • In another, he gleefully expresses his joy at the tough problems in math class... and in the next panel, he's being targeted by everyone in the class during dodgeball, reflecting there needs to be a switch in the order of his classes.
    • In yet another strip, Jason has a nightmare where his final exam for the year is a single sheet of paper covered in first-grade level arithmetic problems, the answers are printed on the back, and then his teacher decides to just give everyone an A on it before he can even start. "AAAAAAAAAAA!"
    • In still another strip, Jason tells Paige one morning about the nightmare he just had where his teacher tells the class on the first day of school that they are having a surprise math test nobody had studied for right out of the gate, and it would count for 100% of the class's grades:
      Paige: That sounds like one of my bad dreams, not yours.
      Jason: ...then my teacher said she was just kidding!
      Paige: (rolling eyes) Ah, there we go.
    • Like most nerds in fiction, Jason has little to no understanding of people, and assumes that the other students in his class share his love of tough schoolwork - and is always genuinely surprised to discover the opposite is true. In one strip, he sits at his desk on the first day of school with an ear-to-ear grin, freshly-sharpened pencil, and calculator as Ms. O'Malley discovers that he has written "Give really hard math test" on her agenda for the day; after being rescued from the resulting angry mob, he exclaims, "It's been three months! You'd think everyone would want one!"
    • In a more recent strip, Eileen asks Jason what they did in class while she was absent yesterday. Jason tells her they finished chapter 12, and Eileen remarks that it's a good thing she did that at home, just to be safe. Then Jason tells her that they also finished chapter 13, and Eileen gives the same answer again. This goes on until Jason gives up and remarks that it's no fun trying to prank her.
  • Cuthbert Cringeworthy of the Bash Street Kids in The Beano, and occasionally Walter and the Softies in the Dennis the Menace strips.

    Fan Works 
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: She loved academic challenges in her original world, and her second magic teacher in her new world was surprised to see how dedicated and clever she was when teaching her on how to work his style of magic:
    Ami, for her part, was enjoying herself. In fact, she was as close to scholastic bliss as she had ever been in this strange world. She was studying an interesting subject and had her own private tutor to explain the basics of a magic system to her.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • In Harry Potter, Hermione shows this to varying degrees. She was more afraid of being expelled than dying. She says "oh no" when she hears that all tests have been canceled as a school treat. A boggart also reveals her worst fear is being told she failed all her studies, and in one year used a time travel device all so she could take more classes. However, that ends up being too much even for her as that, coupled with Harry and Ron not speaking to her after a fight, causes her to get overwhelmed.
  • There are also definite signs of this in Artemis Fowl, where one quote says he hacked a school computer to make the tests harder. Then again, he knows more than the teachers there so that was probably a joke more than anything else.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Amy Santiago was this as a child and kept the attitude as an adult. Among other things she gets positively gleeful at the notion of filling out paperwork, considers wading through incomprehensible bureaucracy to get a permit to be a "kick-ass assignment", and being quizzed is one of her turn-ons.
    Amy: (to a Permit Office clerk) Another day in paradise?
    Rosa: She actually means that. Please don't be offended.
  • In an episode of Full House, DJ complains that the nerds brought homework back from Summer vacation.
  • In Friends, we learn Monica was like this, and is again when she goes to night school with Phoebe.
  • Family Matters: Steve Urkel was implied to be this, though so little of the show took place in the halls of their school.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Willow looks forward to homework as the summer draws to a close.
  • Averted in an episode of Saved by the Bell when the jocks decided to skip class and the nerds wonder why they should have to take the test if the jocks don't have to. When told "Because you care about your education." One of the nerds responds "Nerd Myth! Nerd Myth! Deep down Nerds like to party!" Then they all leave the classroom followed by pretty girls who say "Nerds are better than nothing."
  • On Young Sheldon, Sheldon Cooper was skipped ahead several grades due to his intellect, and he absolutely loves taking any and all forms of tests, and actively seeks out more challenging work, to the annoyance of pretty much everyone around him.
  • Alex of Modern Family would rather do homework than work on her Halloween costume or even attend her own Sweet Sixteen. Discussed in later series, as her mother in particular comes to realise that she's actually putting herself through an incredible amount of strain, which results in her having to see a therapist.
  • A throwaway line in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has Fitz forced to admit that Simmons is probably cleverer than him, "but only because she loves homework more than life itself".
  • Little Lunch: Debra Jo, hoo boy. In "The Election" one of her campaign promises is an extra hour's homework.

    Video Games 
  • Double Homework:
    • Subverted with Dennis. He doesn’t have a problem with doing schoolwork, and does Henry’s schoolwork for him, but he’s really more interested in tricking girls into sleeping with him.
    • Averted with Marco, who is in summer school because he neglected his schoolwork to play video games.
  • Hikami in Tokimeki Memorial Girl's Side 2 has some shades of this. He studies astrophysics in his spare time, is implied to research dates beforehand, and talks with great satisfaction about a difficult mathematics problem that he is looking forward to solving.
  • Machias Regnitz is the second best in Class VII in The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel. There's a bonding event in Cold Steel II in which he invites Rean for a few hours of studying, noting that there's been no chance since they all had to leave the academy and they need to make sure to keep up. This is his way of relaxing on his day off.


    Web Original 
  • Whateley Universe: the Whateley Academy devisers and gadgeteers even have specially advanced math and science classes that the ordinary kids (even the really smart "ordinary" kids who have eidetic memory and read at 900 words a minute) don't get to take.

    Western Animation 
  • Dexter's Laboratory: Dexter not only looks forward to hard tests, but is so proud of being in school and being a genius that he was a Teacher's Pet until Mandark comes along and gives him a rival. Mandark also enjoys the tests and challenging work.
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • Baljeet is introduced reading a big pile of school books...during summer vacation. He was furious when he found out that one of his summer classes didn't assign grades.
    • Inverted with Phineas and possibly Ferb: both are Gadgeteer Geniuses, but the whole plot of the show is them trying to do all the things they want to do before school starts up again.
  • Rocket Power has Sam "Squid" Dullard. He gets ecstatic when school starts back up.
  • Recess: For Gretchen, college level mathematics are like kickball.
    • This trope ends up saving the day in the Crossover episode with Lilo & Stitch: The Series. The Recess Gang (plus Miss Finster) win a trip to Hawaii and cross paths with Lilo, who's trying to hunt down the Experiment of the Week: Experiment 285, or Lax, a creature that fires a beam which instantly makes people so relaxed that they lose all concern about everything and focus exclusively on having fun. This causes trouble when Big Bad Dr. Hamsterviel is plotting to attack the islands with a giant laser cannon in space; the kids and Stitch work to stop him, but one by one fall prey to Lax and stop caring about the mission. Gretchen is all set to reprogram the cannon when she is finally hit with Lax's beam...and, after a brief sigh, immediately gets back to work. That's right—doing advanced-level calculus and trigonometry is her definition of relaxation!
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Twilight Sparkle so enjoyed reading and studying that when we meet her in the first episode of the series she prefers to do so at the exclusion of socializing. In "Lesson Zero", she states that doing homework is one of the things she did with her doll; PRETENDING to do homework even. In "Spike at Your Service", Twilight practically salivates at the prospect of her latest assignment: reading a dozen books in a single weekend.
  • Kick Buttowski: Kendall so loves school and learning that she got her dad to request a snow day not be called for Mellowbrook middle school.
  • Arthur: Every time Mr. Ratburn assigns a new big homework assignment, everybody groans...except Brain.
  • The Simpsons
    • Martin Prince has been shown to be like this from time to time, enjoying getting homework and pop quizzes. On more than one occasion he has reminded the teacher about the test or big homework assignment that she was going to give.
      Mrs. Krabappel: Guess what, class?
      Martin: Time for a surprise quiz?!
      Mrs. Krabappel: That's not what I was gonna say, but it's a good idea. HA!
    • Lisa Simpson also does this from time to time. In one episode the school has to shut down, and by the time Lisa gets home she is hysterical due to withdrawal. She immediately takes out an emergency kit she keeps under the couch, which contains a picture of Spingfield Elementary and a tape recording of a teacher yelling at students. However, despite her love of school, she doesn't really like tough schoolwork. One episode has her moved up a grade, where she realizes that she'd rather be the smartest kid in class and get perfect grades on work that's too easy for her than actually be challenged intellectually and get merely average or above-average grades.
    • From episode "Lisa the Skeptic":
      Principal Skinner: (over intercom) Attention. All honor roll students will be rewarded by a trip to an archaeological dig.[Martin Prince cheers] Also, all detention students will be punished with a trip to an archaeological dig. [the rest of the class groans]
  • Averted with Daria, who is extremely intelligent and nerdy (to levels suggesting a mental disorder of ambiguous nature), but is generally pretty lazy. There was, however, one episode where the class got to vote on a field trip to the mall and a "weekly surprise quiz," with her and her friend Jane voting for the latter. She probably would have called it the lesser of two evils, though.
  • One episode of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends was based on Bloo coming to Mac's school, seeing him working in class during recess, and concluding that he's a nerd. Mac was actually in detention.
  • Averted with The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius. He is highly intelligent and gets the highest grades in his class, but he's built some inventions to skip school like a patch that makes you sick as long as you keep it on and a machine to create snow days. Also, the prospect of being stuck in Summer School sound awful to him. Although, it's entirely possible that he dislikes school because elementary school is so unchallenging that it bores the heck out of him, and he is very enthusiastic about the opportunity to study at a prestigious college. Like most things in the show, it is very much Depending on the Writer.
    • During the college episode, he finds that he's only above average instead of being unique, several other students possessing jetpack backpacks to the point where a rack to hold them is installed in the classroom Jimmy arrives at. He still is able to answer questions with ease until one of his classmates starts sabotaging his work out of envy. After he manages to save the class from said classmate's destructive science project based off his work, the dean offers Jimmy a professorship, but he turns it down. As he explains, his school's lacking curriculum compared to his intelligence gives him inspiration for most of his inventions.
  • In Marvel's Spider-Man, Peter goes to a private STEM school run by Max Modell, where everybody is as nerdy as him. In one episode Max suggests the school have a celebration, and everybody begins suggesting science fairs and the like; they're actually annoyed when Max instead listens to Peter's (accidental) suggestion and decides on a school dance.
  • In Alvin and the Chipmunks, after Alvin goes through a Heroic BSoD after one really bad day, Dave, Simon and Theodore try to cheer him up. Simon's attempt involves giving him a copy of his favorite book, "Math Problems for Rainy Day Weekends", stating it helps him when he's feeling down.

    Real Life 
  • This is very much Truth in Television, though it's not necessarily limited to "nerds." The surest indication of how much a student enjoys a subject is how they react to the opportunity to do additional or more advanced work than the standard curriculum calls for. If they like the subject, they'll relish the challenge and the ability to learn more than usual. Otherwise, it's just more work. Also, plenty of high achieving students get bored with or feel patronized by work that isn't sufficiently intellectually stimulating, and will react with excitement if they finally get a chance to use their brain a little.
  • A few universities which have a reputation of being for high academic achievers and...not so much on the social life or athletic programs can informally market themselves to prospective students this way. For example, University of Chicago students tongue-in-cheek joke that if they wanted an A, they would have gone to Harvard.
  • A lot of Hard on Soft Science attitudes from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) majors comes from the perception of the humanities and social sciences as "easy" majors. Of course, this trope can also apply to those in the softer sciences if they have the chance to do extensive research.
  • There are many extracurricular activities in the academic fields. The participants tend to gladly join them.
  • Some camps and trips have the end goal to educate the participants in academic fields.