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Single Girl Seeks Most Popular Guy

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"It's your freshman year and you're gonna be here
For the next four years in this town
Hoping one of those senior boys will wink at you and say
'You know, I haven't seen you around before.'"
Taylor Swift, "Fifteen"

There's something about the Big Man on Campus that drives all the girls wild... even the ones that know he is sooo out of their league. If the dorky girl wants the most popular guy at school, it usually ends in one of two ways: either the two end up together, or she finds out that he's actually a Big Jerk on Campus. Sometimes all it takes is a makeover to get the guy to notice the girl. If he ends up returning her feelings, often his ex-girlfriend the Alpha Bitch will get jealous. Classmates will wonder what the quarterback is doing with the nerd. This version is common Wish-Fulfillment often seen in shows aimed at tweens and in chick flicks. If it doesn't work out between them, expect there to be An Aesop, usually something like "Don't change yourself for a jerk" or "Popularity isn't everything".


Related to "I Can't Believe a Guy Like You Would Notice Me" if the guy decides to Give Geeks a Chance. See also Girl Next Door Turned Superstar, which is when a guy longs for a girl he used to know who has become famous.

All Guys Want Cheerleaders is often the gender-flipped version of this trope.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Extremely common in Shōjo anime and manga. Some examples:
    • In Charisma Doll, Sara likes Hayase, who's the most popular guy. He's also a huge pop star, so that's why he's so popular. He actually likes Sara's alter ego popstar personality Sala.
    • Most of Tohru's homeroom think this is going on between her and the very popular Yuki. It isn't. Played with in the end, as he does hook up with the shy and usually-overlooked Machi, but he is the one who falls for her first.
    • In Himekei Doll, Ayumu is obsessed with Renji, who's not only popular but a fashion designer as well.
    • In I.O.N, Ion has a huge crush on the most popular guy and Student Council President, Koki.
    • Sadako likes Kazehaya in Kimi ni Todoke. This is actually played with in the series because her love is requited by him, but because she's a loner.
      • For an added bonus, he fell for her first and is genuinely a nice guy who wants her to be happy. When she stops being a loner, he's a little sad she's not just his anymore but overlooks his desires for her happiness. Cue "Aaaww."
    • In Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch, Lucia is involved with Kaito, a local surfing celebrity with hordes of fangirls.
    • In Shugo Chara!, heroine Amu has a crush on the school's resident Chick Magnet, Tadase, which he eventually reciprocates. She still ends up with bad boy Ikuto anyway.
    • Sugar Sugar Rune has Chocolat paired up with Pierre, the prettiest and most popular boy in school, although theirs is a weird case because a) she initially dislikes him and soon finds out that he's her enemy, and b) at first she's only pursuing him so that she can take his heart, which would kill him.
    • In Tokyo Mew Mew, Ichigo has a crush on Aoyama, the popular Kendo Team Captain (sort of the Japanese equivalent of the football quarterback) and they start dating partway through the series.
  • In Blue Flag, Kuze is attracted to Mita, a very friendly and popular baseball player. She asks Ichinose, the main character and childhood friend of Mita to help her get Mita's attention. Little do either Kuze or Ichinose know that Mita is actually gay and crushing on Ichinose.
  • Gender inverted twice in Kaguya-sama: Love Is War:
    • Ishigami ends up falling for Tsubame despite the two of them literally being on opposite ends of the Popularity Food Chain (she's one of the three School Idols and he's a pariah due to an incident in middle school). He never had any intention of pursuing her due to knowing that she was completely out of his league, but Kaguya makes it her mission to help him win her affections in the hopes that going through the effort would improve his self-confidence.
    • Apparently, this is also the case with Shirogane, a working-class citizen and one of the "impurities" among Shuchi'in students, pursuing Kaguya, a School Idol from a very powerful family. His constant efforts to defend his first place in examinations and earn distinction as the Student Council President are all done in hopes of being able to stand on an equal footing with Kaguya.
  • In a Shōnen example, Sakura of Naruto has an infatuation with Sasuke, which is one of her defining traits, particularly at the beginning. It is also totally unrequited, with Sasuke often calling Sakura out for being average. Of course, this is often Played for Laughs, as almost every girl in Naruto (except Hinata) is obsessed with Sasuke, particularly while they're still in the Academy. The competition over Sasuke has had such results as ending friendships, causing fights in classrooms, and trampling innocent bystanders.
    • Later is played for more tragedy, as Sakura's specific case is actually a deconstruction of All Girls Want Bad Boys. Ultimately she still marries him and has a daughter with him anyway.
  • In Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun, Nene has a crush on upperclassman Teru Minamoto that she later realizes is mostly due to his popularity and status as Student Council President.

  • Can't Hardly Wait: Preston has been in love with Amanda since the first day of high school but she's been dating the Jerk Jock all this time until he dumps her prior to graduation. He plans on revealing his feelings for her at a graduation party.
  • High School Musical: Gabriella towards Troy, though she's not actually interested in his popularity. She falls for him when they meet on vacation and doesn't discover he's the 'most popular guy' until later on. In fact, she's noticeably put off when he acts like a jerk to please his friends and tells him she prefers the real him instead of the Big Man on Campus everyone else sees. It also helps that Troy is smitten with her from the get-go, (even though she's a Shrinking Violet that doesn't undergo a makeover) and they single-handily demolish the school's social structure.
  • The Incredibles: Violet has a crush on Tony Rydinger, a popular student at their middle school. After the drama of Tony's memory wipe in the sequel, they finally get together at the end of the sequel.
  • Sleepover has this with Julie liking the most popular guy, even though he's "out of her league".
  • Played straight in A Cinderella Story. Supposedly dorky and unattractive Sam (Hilary Duff in a baseball cap) likes the Big Man on Campus and quarterback.
    • Except that Sam doesn't like Austin because everyone else does. At the beginning, she seems to think he's just another Jerk Jock, and she doesn't spare him any real thought until she finds out that he's Nomad.
  • In 13 Going on 30, Jenna Rink wants to be with the most popular guy. She gets put in the closet with him playing "Seven Minutes In Heaven", and it turns out to be a mean prank. When she magically becomes 30 years old, she finds out that he becomes a fat taxi driver.
  • In the movie Teen Witch, the nerdy girl Louise wants the most popular guy. She uses her magically gained popularity to try to fall in love with him. The obnoxiousness of this was pointed out many a time by The Nostalgia Chick.
  • Sixteen Candles, Sam has a crush on Jake Ryan the whole movie. He's curious about her and then comes to like her back.
  • In the Disney Channel movie Read It and Weep, the dorky protagonist likes Marco Vega, the most popular and hot guy in school.
  • In another Disney Channel movie, Susie Q, the girl tries to change herself so the popular guy likes her.
  • In Never Been Kissed, the sweet but dorky Josie likes the Big Man on Campus but gets humiliated by him.
  • Similar to 13 Going on 30, Romy of Romy and Michele's High School Reunion crushed hard on the popular guy in high school who spurned her affections at the prom. At the reunion, we find he's a loser unhappily married to the Alpha Bitch.
  • Hairspray, in all incarnations, features this, though Link Larkin is genuinely nice in the end and it doesn't take a makeover to get him to notice Tracy.
  • In the goofy film adaptation of The Brady Bunch, Marcia single-mindedly pursues the very cute but jerkish Doug specifically because "he's the Big Man on Campus." This has a different result than the similar situation in the original show (see below).
  • Carter, in Princess Protection Program, had a crush on Donny since third grade. Everyone who knows her, even her enemies, knows about it. At the dance, when She Cleans Up Nicely and he finally notices her, she turns him down flat. "Before I put on this dress, you couldn't even remember my name." (She's right; his inability to remember her name was actually a running gag throughout the movie.)
  • In The World's End Sam, as a teenager, had a one-night stand with resident School Idol Gary King (in the Disabled bathroom, no less). Twenty-odd years down the road her priorities are very different, especially since Gary, as she tells him he's "not boyfriend material".
  • In Spider-Man: Homecoming, dorky sophomore Peter Parker is hopelessly infatuated with Liz, a popular senior girl who leads the Academic Decathlon team.
  • In When Evil Calls, shy girl Samantha (who is also the headmaster's daughter) has a crush on bad boy Daniel who is considered the hunkiest boy in school. It is her desire for him that causes her to make the wish to be popular, which sets in train the chain of disastrous wishes that sweeps over the school.

  • In Bras and Broomsticks, Rachel likes the hottest guy. She uses her sister's new witch powers to try to get him to fall in love with her.
  • In The Princess Diaries, Mia has a huge crush on Josh, the most popular guy (who's a huge jerk). He only pretends to like her once she finds out she's a princess.
  • Deconstructed in Carrie, where it does not end well for anybody involved.
  • Amy liking Ian near the start of The 39 Clues series.
  • The House of Night:
    • Zoey catches the eye of Erik, who's repeatedly referred to as "the hottest guy in the school" and makes practically all girls swoon while thinking about how gorgeous he is. True to this trope's description, his ex-girlfriend is the Alpha Bitch Aphrodite who is not amused when she finds out about his relationship with Zoey. They eventually break up, though, mainly because of Zoey's utter inability to not throw herself at every hot guy who crosses her path.
    • Zoey's other boyfriends, incidentally, are the popular football star from her previous high school and the incredibly handsome poetry teacher that all the female students seem to have crushes on.
  • Genderbent-flipped for "John" and Sarah in I Am Number Four
  • In Beastly, the quiet, bookish Lindsy admits that she's had a long-standing crush on Kyle, the most popular guy in her school. When Adrian (who is Kyle under a curse, which Lindsy doesn't know) asks if she liked him because he was attractive, she was more interested in his confidence and charisma.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Lizzie of Lizzie McGuire likes Ethan Kraft for the entire series. Her love is unrequited.
  • In Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, level-headed Moze surprisingly does fall for Seth, the Dumb Jock who doesn't do much but spin a basketball on his hand. He does end up liking her, but she realises he's a waste of time.
  • Never Have I Ever: Paxton is a mega hottie (even John McEnroe has a moment of fawning over him during narration), and Devi is super into him. Turns out he reciprocates — sexually, at least. It's not until the end of Season 1 that he realizes his romantic feelings for her.
  • In Unfabulous, Addy has a crush on Jake, the coolest guy at school. It comes as a shock to everyone when he and she actually end up dating.
  • In The Brady Bunch, Marcia gets a crush on Doug Simpson, the Big Man on Campus. She actually manages to get a date with him but he ditches the date once he sees her bruised, broken nose.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch: Sabrina for Harvey, in the live-action show. He is a regular guy in the comics (and its more faithful adaptions.)
  • Glee does this, with Rachel's crush on Finn. He seems to like her but doesn't like that he gets ostracized by his friends for being with her.
  • From Robin Hood, half the outlaws have a crush on Kate, but she only has eyes for Robin Hood.
  • In the Mexican telenovela Sonadoras, nerdy Lucia falls for popular Gerardo. But Gerardo pines for beautiful dancer Emilia, who loves somebody else. Subverted in that Lucia does get Gerardo in the end- after a makeover involving creating Lucia into an alter ego cousin named Adriana goes wrong!
  • Played straight with both of Jenna's love interests on Awkward.
  • Faking It: Karma wants Liam...who only really starts to notice her after she's (falsely) outed as a lesbian.
  • The Worst Year of My Life, Again has a gender-flipped version. Alex has a crush on Nicola, the most popular girl in school.
  • At the start of Everything's Gonna Be Okay, awkward, autistic Matilda seeks to prove that she can function as well as anyone else by landing the attentions of Luke, the handsome black jock in her class. Despite her lack of social skills, she actually does manage to charm him. Unfortunately for her, he turns out to only like her as a friend.
  • Seriously Weird: In a gender-flipped version, the geeky and unpopular Harris is determined to date Claudia, the school's Alpha Bitch.

  • The speaker in "You Belong With Me", a Taylor Swift song.
    • Subverted in that the nerdy girl and the popular guy are actually close friends. The song actually gives the impression that it had been a case of Single Guy Seeks Most Popular Girl, with the newly not-single guy's friend being left behind.
    • Also applies to Teardrops On My Guitar. Also subverted in that the speaker and the object of her affections (Drew) are good friends but she wishes that he would break up with his girlfriend and start dating her instead.

    Visual Novels 
  • Played with in different ways in Double Homework regarding all of the protagonist's classmates, minus Johanna:
    • Deconstructed with Lauren. A big reason that Lauren goes to the lengths she does to date the protagonist is because he's so popular — and she wants the respect that comes with popularity.
    • Subverted with Morgan. She affectionately calls the protagonist "Goldenboy", but she doesn't care at all about his popularity — only his humanity.
    • Double subverted with Amy. She doesn't really care about the protagonist's skiing ability, but once he starts getting dating success, Amy starts to see him as a way to explore her own sexuality.
      Amy: I wouldn't be a gamer if I minded a player.
    • Zigzagged with Rachel. She doesn't care about the protagonist's skiing fame, but sees her ex as familiar, and finds his changes in outlook since the avalanche as refreshing. However, she's concerned for a time that he might have had a more active sex life than she has since their breakup.
  • Shirou in Fate/stay night has a small crush on Tohsaka at the start of the story, though he only knows her public persona. However, when he gets to know her better and sees both her good and bad sides, he only comes to appreciate her even more, though they may not end up together. Interestingly, she had a small crush of her own on him.

    Video Games 

    Web Video 
  • Dad: Daughter's boyfriend, Griffin, is noted to be one of the most popular boys in her school. She worried about other girls also being interested in him and went out of her way to appeal to him. They're both interested in trying to win Prom Champions.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Singer Katy Perry went back and performed at her old high school, and took the time to single out the football star she had a big crush on, who never noticed her. Shane Lopes is a football coach at his old high school now, and Katy kind of rubbed it in.

Alternative Title(s): Single Guy Seeks Most Popular Girl