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Socially Awkward Hero

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Kicking ass like a boss. Dating guys like an idiot.

Jake Fischer: You gotta make a move!
Billy Hodge: I can't. I get nervous.
Jake Fischer: You wanna jump outta helicopters, but you're afraid to go talk to a girl?
Billy Hodge: Uh, pretty much, yeah.

A Socially Awkward Hero is a heroic character who shows tremendous courage in the face of life-threatening danger... but becomes overwhelmed with knees-knocking fear in ordinary social situations. For such a character, confronting a legion of sociopaths and a chainsaw-wielding maniac is far preferable to meeting his girlfriend's family or making idle chitchat at a cocktail party. Extremely common in shows for the kid and teen audiences, since viewers of that age often feel socially awkward themselves.

This is to some extent Truth in Television; studies have shown that social situations can be stressful in the extreme, and that people can (literally) prefer death to public embarrassment; but even that being considered, some examples of this seem to be parodies of this concept, nonetheless.

Often a feature of the Defective Detective and Endearingly Dorky. Audiences may find this character Adorkable. Compare and contrast This Loser Is You and Wake Up, Go to School & Save the World. See also No Social Skills.

Contrast the Super Loser, whose personality remains consistently disappointing regardless of whatever badass power they might have.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Apocalypse Alice: Shinnosuke Arisu is so used to danger that his classmate believes him to be unafraid entirely, and his lack of social skills isn't obvious due to him being The Gadfly who gains control of the situation by teasing others. However, when that fails, he's horribly awkward. Case in point: karaoke is nerve-wracking enough for him to the point where he feels as if he were on a life-threatening mission.
  • Attack on Titan: Bertolt Hoover is awkward in social situations, but he's ranked 3rd in his class and an exceptional soldier. Surprisingly, he turns out to be a villainous example.
  • Ayakashi Triangle:
    • Matsuri never had much of a social life outside of Suzu, and though training to became an exorcist ninja gave him great skill, it came at the cost of worsening his relationship even with her. Though Suzu managed to push him to make other friends, he can still be very shy and easily flustered by interpersonal problems.
    • Soga is even more fearless in battle, but even worse at dealing with people's mundane affairs, especially girls. His Face of a Thug doesn't help things.
      It makes me so nervous to be sitting with a girl. It’s far easier to battle ayakashi!!
  • Baccano!: Jacuzzi Splot is prone to breaking down into tears at the mere attempt to introduce himself to new people. Crippling social anxiety, however, doesn't prevent him from single-handedly raiding eighteen mafia-run speakeasies in one night.
  • Black Clover: Yuno is a prodigious mage who defeats many powerful enemies of the kingdom as a Magic Knight. Even as a child, Yuno was very shy and timid. Although he intentionally became more aloof and composed to never cry again, he's still very reserved, unable to converse with anyone who isn't Asta until he becomes closer to his squadmates, and at times moping whenever he doesn't want to answer something.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Goku is an example as well due to being Raised by Wolves and Oblivious to Love (Chi Chi pretty much had to pound it into him or else he might had remained single his entire life). Note however that Goku in no way knows that he is socially awkward, is never in the slightest anxious about social situations, and is in fact very extroverted and friendly.
    • Gohan is also socially awkward, but in a completely different way from Goku. He's friendly and humble, but also extremely shy. During his first few days in high school, he has trouble fitting in, as he has no idea how teenagers his age act, nor did anyone else share his immense strength.
    • Yamcha starts off with a Downplayed example: when we first meet him, he is a cocky and ruthless desert bandit. Put a girl in his line of sight, however, and he seizes up and becomes meek and quiet. His entire reason for hunting for the Dragon Balls in the beginning was to wish away his fear of women.
  • In Endride, Emilio isn't the greatest with people thanks to a long Revenge Before Reason emo phase and his general gloomy aura. Shun and Alicia laugh over how embarrassed he seems when the Royal Guard hoist him on their shoulders and congratulate him after seeing him in battle for the first time.
  • Full Metal Panic!: Sousuke Sagara is one due to being raised by the KGB and Mujahidin guerillas at different points in his childhood. He isn't actually afraid of socializing, he's just terrible at it.
  • Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple:
    • Miu fits this trope prior to meeting Kenichi. She does well at school, has good skills in housework, and for the longest time is the best fighter in the series of her own age group, but due to her intense training and her social awkwardness (she instinctively throws Kenichi in their first meeting when the latter was approaching behind her while running towards school), she's never had any friends.
    • Kenichi himself fits this trope somewhat too, as his only real "friend" prior to the start of the series is a Manipulative Bastard who will suck up to whoever's the strongest at the time, whether it's one of the bullies, or later Kenichi himself.
  • Log Horizon: Shiroe is a master strategist who managed to take down the most elite of monsters and raid bosses, and commandeered an army to stop a goblin invasion. This same calculating person falls apart when not talking about important business, but things friends talk about.
    Shiroe: I'd rather fight a dozen raid bosses at once!
  • Lyrical Nanoha: Fate rarely loses her cool when risking her life in battle but is very easily flustered in social situations thanks to having been raised in a lonely and abusive household before being adopted by Lindy. She gets better with this in her adulthood, though she still has moments of awkwardness.
  • My Hero Academia:
    • Protagonist Izuku Midoriya has no problems with running up to serial murderers, Yakuza members, and supervillains to punch them in the face if it means saving a life. Place him into any kind of remotely romantic situation and he turns into a gibbering puddle.
    • Tamaki Amajiki can use his Quirk extremely well and fight villains like an actual Pro. But for being one of U.A. High's Big Three, he's also a blatant Shrinking Violet who spends most of his social interactions hiding in a Corner of Woe.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Shinji Ikari isn't just shy and awkward, but quite probably suffers from an undiagnosed case of Avoidant Personality Disorder. This doesn't stop him from becoming the best Eva pilot midway through the series.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • Yami Yugi is normally very confident and fearless in any game, duel or life-threatening situation but when going on a date with Tea, he is very awkward (especially in the anime where he is actually flustered and yells at Yugi for switching on him into a situation that is not a duel). When he is sent back to relive his time as a pharaoh, he panics at the sight of his subjects and barely manages an awkward "hello".
    • Yugi himself is even worse. Put him in a duel against an Eldritch Abomination, even without Yami to take control, and he'll pull a winning combo every time. Put a flirtatious girl in front of him, or put him on a stage before his fans, and he loses the ability to speak in complete sentences.

    Comic Books 
  • Samaritan from Astro City suffers from this when his super-heroic peers maneuver him into a dinner date with Winged Victory.
  • Batman, at least as written by Chuck Dixon, doesn't really have a clue how to behave like a wealthy socialite in his civilian identity and finds hosting a Wayne Foundation party more stressful than taking on the Joker. Grant Morrison's take on the character has elements of this as well.
  • Barry Allen from The Flash. Unlike his successor, Wally West, Barry would rather, when he is not protecting Central City as the Flash, be in his lab than interact with others. He has very few friends and is terrible at social relationships as a result.
  • Harry Vanderspeigle, alien protagonist of Resident Alien, can be rather socially awkward, especially after living with little outside contact for three years in order to protect his identity as an extraterrestrial. He's slowly overcoming it, though, as he interacts with the townspeople more.
  • Scott Pilgrim is this in spades, and beyond Scott, most of his friends also have their own problems:
    • Yes, Scott is the best fighter in the province, having fought against people with supernatural abilities, robots or whatever you may throw at him, all while being a somewhat confident, cheerful, and amicable person. Whenever Stephen Stills has a nervous breakdown or Kim begins acting surlier than usual, Scott is there to keep the band together as The Heart of the group. But put it on talking of his past, or about relationships, or even the future, and his awkwardness gets over the mark, with stutters, avoiding themes, and acting like a shy kid. He's maturing out of this, of course. He's a bit of an Unreliable Narrator, but it's not difficult to see when he is hiding details or such.
    • Kim Pine is somewhat misanthropic and grouchy toward her approach in life, becoming irritable, but she also hides insecurity on her appearance.
    • Steven Stills is a neurotic individual who tends to panic during band competitions and has an unhealthy habit of getting into a bad relationship with the same girl, Julie Powers.
    • Ramona Flowers has her insecurity regarding her situations.
  • Sin City:
    • Marv is a Socially Awkward Anti-Hero. Ignoring his violent tendencies, even in his more civilized moods, he is socially inept, particularly when it comes to women — and being ugly as sin didn't really help his case either. This is why he was a virgin until late in life.
    • John Hartigan is a lesser example. His scenes with Nancy Callhan are awkward since she is throwing herself at him but he tries to remain celibate since there is a huge age gap between them. Later, when his narration states "When it comes to consoling a nineteen-year-old girl, I'm as competent as a palsy victim performing brain surgery with a hammer."
  • When Spider-Man was created, this was a revolutionary concept; a superhero who's an awkward loser in high school. Ironically, he became so popular that this spilled over and became the norm.
  • Supergirl:
    • Supergirl (1972): Linda is one of the most powerful heroes, she has fought countless villains… but she can hardly keep a boyfriend.
    • Supergirl (1982): At this point in her career, Linda is a veteran crime-fighter and one of the mightiest heroes on the planet. However, attending college, making friends and having romantic relationships is as hard as ever.
  • Superman, while his Clark Kent persona is a dead-ringer, modern writers have explained this as just a humble mid-western farmboy trying to cope with life in the big city, creating some genuine dorky moments when interacting with women—specifically Lois Lane. Depending on the Writer this can even cross over into Captain America levels of Dork Knight.
  • In a Teen Titans issue, when Kory and Donna were discussing boyfriend woes, Donna asked Raven for her opinion. Keep in mind, Raven is a Human-Demon Hybrid basically raised in isolation, with her main (and almost only) interaction a really old woman. Raven lampshades this:
    Raven: I... do not know. I-I... am ill at ease with social protocols.
  • The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye: Ultra Magnus has spent a decent chunk of his career beating the tar out of war criminals who are also giant robots and dragging them back to face trial. He is regarded as the "Ultimate Lawman". He is also the most pedantic, humourless, emotionally unavailable man in the universe, so uptight that you could power a starship off his clenching alone, and deeply uncomfortable in a stoic way whenever anyone expects him to engage in more than the most trivial social encounter. The gears in his face used for smiling have gotten so little use that they've almost rusted together. He once tried to write a self-help book with the idea that its conclusions would be imposed on pain of death.
    Ultra Magnus: My deep-seated distrust of intimate conversation, and my unwillingness to reflect on—let alone disclose—my own feelings usually make it impossible for me to offer meaningful advice when those around me open up. (Beat) So I'm just going to sit over there.

    Fan Works 
  • Armani Dove of Broken Bow was raised almost solely by his uncle Apollo and a few tutors, meaning that, amongst other things, at first, he has no compunction about changing clothes in front of girls because he seldom if ever interacted with people his own age before.
  • Like his canon counterpart, Harry of Child of the Storm at first is very much this trope, but he grows out of it, though he does stay a dorky Humble Hero.
  • Deconstructed by Michael Afton in Frayed Edges. He's genuinely kind and rather sweet, but because of a deeply abusive childhood where he was kept isolated from those outside his immediate family and a series of further traumas, he not only has severe PTSD and anxiety but he's genuinely unable to comprehend positive affection and becomes a stuttering mess when anyone so much as compliments him because he's incapable of recognizing that he deserves even that.
  • The Stargate SG-1 fic "Inherited Emotions" forces Jack O'Neill to do one thing he really doesn't want to do; talk with Sam Carter about their old feelings for each other when he's learned that she's just started a relationship with Daniel Jackson (Jack concerned that Daniel thinks Sam is only dating him because she can't have Jack).
  • Arturia Pendragon is depicted as this oh so much in A Knight's Tale as Inquisitor, and with good reason: having spent much of her life trying to be the perfect king for her kingdom and its people also meant throwing away any notion of actually being human. With those obligations no longer bounding her, Arturia is doing her best to completely rise above this trope so she doesn't have to be alone this time around.
  • In Manehattan's Lone Guardian, Leviathan's combat prowess is never in doubt. She has a tendency to slip up when dealing with civilians, though, and social norms can escape her even at the best of times. In situations that involve non-violent physical contact, such as Drama Heart trying to hug her, she has to fight to keep from panicking.
  • Throw Away Your Mask: Minato may be SEES' Wildcard-wielding field leader, but he'll phone-call Akechi to ask if he wants to go to the movies because knocking on his door is "awkward", or feel the need to "fill the silence" with his kidnapper, or near-literally run away from Ryoji flirting with him.

    Films — Animation 
  • Hiro Hamada in Big Hero 6, given how he was bullied due to his intelligence and never really talked to anyone other than his brother and aunt.
  • While her mother, Ariel, had some difficulties due to being a Fish out of Water, it's her daughter, Melody, who gets hit with this full force in The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea. It's due to the fact that she inherited her mother's ability to talk to animals. Disobeying her parents or taking action to save Atlantica comes naturally. Interacting with the other kids her age who regard her as a freak? Not so much.
  • Mr. Peabody & Sherman: After spending his entire life being taught about history and being immersed into diverse cultures, Sherman finds himself interacting (or trying to interact) with the people at his school. But it's when he has to talk to other kids his age that things become an imminent disaster.
  • Tyler "Blu" Gunderson from Rio. He slowly gets over it at the end of the first film.
  • The title character of Mulan is both an awkward girl by the standards of her village, being too outspoken and making a mess of her Matchmaker interview, and an awkward "man" in her disguise. What she does have is perseverance and an ability to creatively solve problems, which leads to her eventually saving China from the Huns' invasion.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Lampshaded in Agent Cody Banks as the director of the CIA demands to know how they spent ten million dollars turning a teenager into a super spy capable of extreme feats of athleticism and combat and somehow they neglected to train him in how to talk to girls. Which is kind of important considering his entire mission is to get close to a scientist's extremely beautiful daughter.
  • Batman is portrayed as such in the Tim Burton Batman movies. In his Bruce Wayne persona, he is noticeably awkward, and unsure how to act in social situations, contrasting with the charismatic Millionaire Playboy from the comics, although this IS Depending on the Writer. During his date with Vicki in the first film, he effectively has to go get Alfred to help him chat her up.
  • Melvin of The Big Hit is this in spades. Shooting up a room full of armed men is easy. Entertaining your in-laws... that makes him chug Maalox.
  • Steve Rogers from Captain America: The First Avenger, even after receiving the Super-Soldier serum. Due to his pre-transformation small stature, Steve was very shy and intimidated by women and his apprehensiveness remains as Captain America, even as women throw themselves at his feet.
  • The page quote is from a coast-guard-themed movie called The Guardian (2006).
  • Hancock after years of manic depression, drunkenness, and generally being ostracized by the people he tries to help. Taking the advice given to him to heart, he says "good job" to every cop he sees and asks their permission to save them from a hail of bullets.
  • The Hunger Games shows the protagonist has very few friends and intense fear of public speaking, but is capable of combat and heroic sacrifice for loved ones or the greater good.
  • The Lord of the Rings: Samwise Gamgee may be willing to face down any sort of danger as long as it involves protecting Frodo, but is too shy to ask a girl of his dreams out and is forced into dancing with her by Frodo during Bilbo's birthday party. He overcomes his insecurity by the end.
  • Cassandra "Cassie" Webb in Madame Web (2024). It's not quite No Social Skills, as Cassie at least has decent relationships with Ben and her other co-workers. Outside of that, she's deeply uncomfortable in social situations, tries to fob off a child thanking her for saving his mother on Ben (she even complains about the drawing he made her) and generally acts like an ass towards the girls as they initially get to know each other. By the end of the film she's grown out of it, viewing the girls as family more than anything else.
    Julia: You saved my stepmother, then were really awkward about it afterwards.
    Cassie: That...does sound like me.
  • Superman in Man of Steel isn't as confident and outspoken as he normally is due to feeling isolated over his alien status.
  • In The Sea Hawk: "Him what's taken whole fleets of Spanish ships, can't say a word to a slip of a girl."
  • Transformers (2007): Ladies and Gentlemen...Sam Witwicky. He has a habit of putting his foot in his mouth, and the girls seem to dig that about him. The writers did state their inspiration for Sam's character was basically Marty McFly—on crack. Also helps that Sam is played by Shia LaBeouf.
    Ms. Witwicky: And remember, son: if you meet any girls, make sure to stammer and act as awkwardly as possible around them. Model-hot women inexplicably find that attractive in the movies—it worked for Lloyd Dobbler! Bye!

  • Tiffany Aching from the Discworld books may have bested the Queen of the Elves at age nine in The Wee Free Men, but in that same book she admits she doesn't always "get" people, and she's quite at sea at her first coven meeting in A Hat Full of Sky.
  • Doc Savage was raised from birth to be a hero and is both the greatest athlete and intellect on the planet, however, he has no idea how to deal with women. He does better with men, though.
  • The Dresden Files: Harry Dresden practically owns this trope. Despite having a crush on Murphy, it took him literal years to broach the subject. He has a major chivalrous streak that gets him in all kinds of trouble, though he's mostly set it aside. In his own words, he's essentially a magic nerd. There are also other key issues. As Harry is about 6'9" tall, he must move carefully or hurt someone. He can short out any technology from a radius of 100 feet on a bad day, and so spends a lot of time avoiding electronics. To avoid soulgazes, he never looks anybody directly in the eye. In a side story from Murphy's point of view, she mentions he gives the impression of being mildly autistic. It doesn't help that he hangs out with Thomas Raith. White Court Vampires are actually irresistible, so much that Thomas can't get a muggle job because he keeps getting his bones jumped.
  • Ayla from Earth's Children is a downplayed example. She's a total badass when it comes to hunting and healing, but when she's interacting with other people, she sometimes comes across as a bit odd or awkward, due to her mannerisms picked up from the Clan (who are very different from most people) and her lack of experience with social interaction, in particular her tendency to be completely honest, which can make her seem rather blunt. However, once people get to know her, they usually warm up to her due to her friendly and compassionate nature, and she feels more comfortable opening up and being herself.
  • Eliott in Finding Snowflakes is this to the extent he barely holds a conversation properly. It's a deconstruction of the trope since not only others and his lack of social skills are to blame, but it's also due to him not even trying to fix them. This is Played for Drama and is one of the central conflicts of the story.
  • Forbidden: Lochan has severe social anxiety when in school, spending breaks by himself on the stairs and hardly ever speaking in class or to other students. He even has a panic attack in class when asked a question that he thinks is specifically aimed at him. However, he is much more comfortable around his family. His sister, as well as his English teacher, make attempts to coach him through it, with some success.
  • Madison Russell in the Godzilla vs. Kong official novelization can summon up the courage to steal the ORCA single-handedly out from under the noses of murderous eco-terrorists, she can scream defiantly in Ghidorah's three faces whilst Ghidorah is lazer-focused on murdering her specifically, and she can get a high-schooler and a conspiracy theorist to help her break into Apex Cybernetics... but she can barely stand enduring the snickers, ostracism and ugly looks of kids in high school, not helped by the fact she was completely homeschooled for several years of her education before her father decided the best way to get her social skills refined was by throwing her in the deep end and making her stick to it.
  • Harry Potter has a moment of this in book 4: After facing a fierce and dangerous Hungarian Horntail in the first task, he finds himself thinking that "now that he was facing the prospect of asking a girl to the ball, he thought he'd rather have another round with the dragon." (He later manages to pick up two girls, spontaneously, at once. One to go with him and one with Ron, just so we're clear.) He also feels embarrassed or uncomfortable with excess attention from his peers due to his fame, and confides solely to his two best friends throughout most of the series.
  • John Carter believes in this trope, lamenting how often a man's skill in battle is inversely proportional to his skill with women. He includes himself in this category.
  • Less: Arthur Less is, at one point, described as being so constantly anxious that, "Because he is afraid of everything, nothing is harder than anything else. Taking a trip around the world is no more terrifying than buying a stick of gum. The daily dose of courage."
  • The Lost Fleet series gives us Captain (later Admiral) John Geary. Excellent tactician and leader of men, unimpeachable personal honour, Cannot Talk to Women if his life depends on it.
  • Murder for the Modern Girl: One of the protagonists, Guy Rosewood, is a kind guy with a sense of justice but due to his socially awkward nature, he often gets anxious easily, stutters quite a bit, worries about what he did wrong and tends to panic, preferring to avoid trouble.
  • In The Pale King, Lane Dean attempts to converse with his fellow IRS employees during his fifteen minute break and fails miserably.
  • Percy Jackson is a survivor of not one but two major supernatural wars, a savant with a sword, and has been speculated to be the most powerful demigod alive in modern-day. He also can barely speak to his crushes and is so socially obtuse that he regularly ignores other people's feelings simply because he can't fathom the effect he has on them. This can be blamed in part on his lonely childhood-he didn't cultivate social skills because he was too busy growing an iron spine so that bullying wouldn't bother him so much.
  • Kambili, from Purple Hibiscus can't hold a conversation with girls her own age, even though she desperately wants to.
  • David from The Reckoners Trilogy tends to fall into this. He was planning to buy a gun and shoot Steelheart at ten years old, but has trouble making simple conversation at a party. It's sort of justified, though, considering he lived in a weapons factory since he was eight and spent a lot of time studying for school and avenging his father.
  • Malcolm Reed in the Star Trek: Enterprise Relaunch novel Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures, even more so than in the TV series. He admits that he has a lot of trouble making new friends, and his promotion to captain puts him in charge of an entire crew that he doesn't know. Also, he has recently found out that he may never be able to have children due to the recently discovered negative effects of excessive transporter usage, which causes him to become a lot more reserved. Only by having the very gregarious Travis Mayweather as a first officer is he able to eventually connect with his new crew, and he is even surprisingly open about his reasons when he apologizes for distancing himself from them.
  • Star Wars: Kenobi: At the beginning of his Tatooine exile, Ben Kenobi has never not been a Jedi, and so has trouble with ordinary conversations over lunch with Annileen, especially when discussing her love life.
  • Taylor, the protagonist of Worm, starts out very shy and inept at most forms of social interaction, but over the course of the story, she gains confidence in herself and becomes and an adept manipulator. Even then, however, many of her neuroses linger, and she is almost pathologically incapable of trusting anyone else.
    • Armsmaster's general personality and fall from grace are informed by his almost pathological inability to relate to other people or avoid committing social faux-pas. Later on he has to be literally coached through a conversation in real time to avoid saying the wrong things to a grief-stricken local sheriff.
  • Hector of The Zombie Knight suffers from crippling social anxiety. At one point, he literally flees a conversation with his crush at a dead run. His nervousness and difficulty asserting himself verbally are actually the source of his reputation as a terrifying and creepy badass; he had no problem going up against armed thugs, but when it came time to actually speak to them the best he could do was a very polite, very slow whisper.
  • The Murderbot Diaries: Murderbot, even by the standards of SecUnits is clearly uncomfortable in social situations, Hates Being Touched (once it has a place with Preservation there is a specific contractual rider that it must not be hugged), and prefers to look at people through drones rather than making eye contact. Murderbot is also, even by the standards of SecUnits, an absolute wrecking ball that tends to put down other SecUnits fairly quickly.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Angel was even more socially awkward, especially once he outgrew the Mysterious Protector role and became the star of his own show. His ability to switch from "brooding, tortured anti-hero" to "complete dork" on a dime was a Running Gag.
      Angel: I've got two modes with people - bite and avoid.
  • Burn Notice has Michel Westen, a man who always knows what to say and do in any life-threatening situation, but doesn't know how to deal with friends or family.
  • Criminal Minds: Dr. Spencer Reid. He can rattle out an impromptu profile to a dangerous serial killer, but always finds himself stumbling words around a pretty girl.
  • Dexter: Dexter Morgan doesn't just have trouble relating to people, he DOESN'T relate to people. Though most acquaintances see him as normal enough, for Dexter, maintaining the image of a normal, everyday person with regular emotions and no hidden urge to kidnap, murder, and chop people to bloody bits can be an extremely stressful task.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Every incarnation of the Doctor fits this trope, to a greater or lesser degree. Sometimes, it's because they're not human. Other times, it's because they're just like that. Usually, they get by on the few social skills they have.
      • In "Midnight", the trope backfires on the Tenth Doctor in an unsettling way that nearly gets him killed.
      • The Eleventh Doctor is outgoing but still awkward. He occasionally comes across as a Chaste Hero — he's a Master of the Mixed Message and basically goes stock-still and squeaky when kissed. When he spends a few days renting a room from an ordinary human, he ruins his landlord's attempt to have a romantic evening with a nice girl, and he starts delivering a huge lecture about pacifism when encouraged to "annihilate" the other team in a football(/soccer) game, before embarrassingly realizing he was just being encouraged to defeat them.
      • The Twelfth Doctor is, in general, an abrasive Grumpy Old Man who absolutely does not care about human social customs. He also has some kind of face-blindness that means he can't tell people's relative ages.
      • The Thirteenth Doctor, like the Eleventh Doctor, is friendly and sociable but is very awkward. When meeting the family of one of her companions, she finds that she is not good at small talk since she ends up going off on long, rambly tangents, which makes her come across as weird.
        Thirteen: Maybe I'm nervous... or just socially awkward.
    • "Tooth and Claw": Captain Reynolds was a very successful soldier in the field, but when dining with Queen Victoria, he embarrasses himself by laughing at her comment about Rose and is quickly told off for it.
    • "Arachnids in the UK": Companion Ryan Sinclair is stunned when fellow companion Yaz Khan's younger sister Sonya insinuates she's interested in him.
  • Homicide: Life on the Street:
    • Detective Pembleton is finicky, anti-social, and takes great delight in verbally antagonizing people. All of this makes him very effective at his job, but not so much at socializing with his colleagues.
    • Brodie is a gentle, shy man who is very prone to stammering and is easily pushed around, which doesn't help his status as the unit's Butt-Monkey.
  • On Leverage Parker is this, able to jump off a building or do cartwheels through a laser security system, she is unable to make smalltalk when she is given jury duty and when she tries to seduce a mark she ends up stabbing him with a fork. She also is unable to admit her feelings for Hardison and ends up saying that she has feelings for pretzels.
  • The Mandalorian sometimes comes off as an Aloof Ally, despite being polite and friendly, because he's so introverted and quiet with other people. Stick him in an unfamiliar social situation with chatty strangers, and Mando will either blurt out something incredibly blunt or he'll avoid talking as much as possible.
  • Monk. He and his psychiatrist get kidnapped, tied to chairs, and thrown in a truck, and Monk's upset because the psychiatrist is on his left when he usually sits to his right.
  • Seinfeld:
    "According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy."
  • Sherlock as Best Man—during the reception, after John and Mary are wed—stumbles through an incidence of public speaking in which social grace is required. He doesn't inflict (or self-inflict) as much humiliation as expected: to all in attendance, a relief. But Holmes, one expects, is more relieved when it becomes a higher priority to determine which guest is a murderer, and who the intended target might be.
  • Lt. Colonel John Sheppard and Dr. Rodney McKay of Stargate Atlantis would rather pilot an exploding moon (no, really) or rewrite the city's base code from scratch than deal with interpersonal relationships. McKay is pretty upfront about this, but Sheppard's a bit of a surprise, given how charming he comes off to strangers. It makes it all the more impressive when either one makes the effort to let their team know how much their friendship means to them.
  • Star Trek
    • Reginald Barclay in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager saved the Enterprise at least twice and was significantly helpful to Voyager, yet had such social difficulty that his debut episode, "Hollow Pursuits", was dedicated to Geordi trying to arrest his withdrawal into a holographic fantasyland. (To be fair, it was his first appearance, before he was able to develop into the character that did all those other things).
    • Geordi La Forge himself admits that he can do almost anything with the technology on the Enterprise and work miracles with alien tech, but repeatedly falls apart when he's on a date.
    • Constable Odo from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is an expert at dealing with smugglers, killers, and any other criminals on the station. Put him in a room with the highly flirtatious Lwaxana Troi, on the other hand...
    • Malcolm Reed from Star Trek: Enterprise is an expert at combat from hand-to-hand to ship-to-ship, can face any sort of danger with a Stiff Upper Lip, and will sacrifice himself for his ship and crewmates if necessary. Off-duty, however, he can't make small talk with Captain Archer — or, for that matter, anybody except Trip — and all of his attempts at romance have failed because of his inability to open up to others.
    • Star Trek: Picard: Elnor may be a Master Swordsman, but his "absolute candor" and naïveté regarding the galaxy beyond Vashti put him into Fish out of Water situations, especially during an undercover op.
  • Titans (2018). Donna Troy (the former Wonder Girl) tries in vain to get Dick Grayson (the former Robin) to just relax at a party and enjoy himself.
    Donna: You...go ahead and mingle.
    Dick: Mingle?
    Donna: You know. Have an interaction that's not agenda-driven? Conversation instead of an interrogation?
    Dick: Why?
    Donna: You could use some work on your small talk.
    Dick: I know how to make small talk.
    Donna: Sometimes you're confrontational.
    Dick: No I'm not.
    Donna: Like right now.
    Dick: I am not.
    Donna: Wow, that was adult.

  • The protagonist of the Temptations song "Can't Get Next to You" has apparently won the Superpower Lottery but still can't, well, get next to the girl of his dreams. (Possibly not-quite-an-example as we don't know whether the guy ever uses his powers for heroism.)

  • Egg is, without a doubt, one of the most heroic people around on AJCO, but stutters and stammers her way through any and all forms of social interaction and has always done so. Worth noting that while she might not be the best at conversation, she's getting alarmingly good at persuasion and diplomacy...

    Tabletop Games 
  • Grant Howitt's Nice Marines, an Affectionate Parody of Warhammer 40,000, characterises its Marines as this: heroic and powerful, but totally unused to interacting with anyone who could be considered a civilian. Two of the rules are that you always succeed at combat-related actions...and that non-combat actions are, direct quote, "difficult and confusing". There is a specific section for the element of civilian society you just don't get, like humour or food.

  • Cyrano de Bergerac: Cyrano, in his own way. He can fight off a hundred men easily enough, but he doesn't have the courage to explain his feelings to the woman he loves.
  • Marius in Les Misérables. Leading rallies and planning (and carrying out revolutions)? Piece of cake. Finding the courage to approach the girl he loves in her house/garden? He spends much of "In My Life" and the beginning of "A Heart Full of Love" hemming and hawing over it.

    Video Games 
  • It is an informed aspect of Henry Townshend of Silent Hill 4. His neighbors think of him as a shut-in, which is why it takes a while for anyone to worry that he hasn't left his apartment in days. (It's up to the player whether Henry is a brave slayer of monsters or runs away from everything he sees, so this trope can be played straight or subverted.)
  • Kaede from the Sonohana series is her girlfriend Sara's princely protector, even to the point of having been an active Bully Hunter as a little girl. She also has crippling social anxiety that causes any public attention or praise to be nearly unbearable to her; only her love for Sara can get her to charge in and defend her. It took her until near the end of the second game to remember her childhood with Sara, implying that she acquired that anxiety after Sara's earlier departure.
  • Borderlands 3: Tannis turns out to be a Socially Awkward super-heroine as she becomes a non-playable Vault Hunter with eldritch superpowers, but devolves into further antisocial behavior. Her Action Skill implies that she managed to form an odd friendship with one of the most powerful beings in the Borderlands universe, Angel, quite possibly by connecting through a shared taste in objectophilia, as Angel decided that Tannis would take her Siren power after she died, but she's still the insane chair-dating insufferable genius you know and love.
  • Aveline Vallen in Dragon Age II turns into this during her Matchmaker Quest. She can handle bandits, blood mages and demons galore, but loses all verbal communication skills when it comes to Donnic. To be fair, she used to be married - the awkwardness comes in part from being violently widowed and burying herself into her new job for four years.
  • God of War (PS4): Kratos can kill giants, dragons, and gods, but actually talking to his son? That's harder than any boss fight.
  • Mass Effect:
    • The final Mass Effect 3 DLC, "Citadel", shows what the galaxy's most lethal (and dysfunctional) soldiers do in their downtime. Several of them have been in training since childhood and hardly any have what you'd call good social skills. Case in point: Miranda Lawson has escaped an abusive father, raised the dead and survived a Suicide Mission by this point, but admits she has no idea what to do on a "normal" night out with a friend.
    • Then there's Garrus, one of the biggest badasses the Turian Hierarchy ever produced, who thinks "Come here often? I imagine anyone who does is probably an alcoholic" is exactly the right thing to say when trying to pick a girl up at the bar.
    • Liara, and to a lesser extent Tali, had this characterization from the beginning of the franchise, with Tali's romance in Mass Effect 2 having a high enough dose of stuttering awkwardness to risk a drive core breach. Oddly enough, in the Citadel meetups those two are among the most functional, probably because they've known Shepard long enough to get over it.
    • Samantha Traynor is one of the biggest examples in the series. Ironically, she's also a very good communication specialist.
    • Mass Effect: Andromeda has Alec Ryder, who despite being an N7 like Shepard and a certified genius capable of scratch-building his own AI was apparently totally incapable of talking to that cute scientist he liked. The way Elen Ryder told it, she approached him when it became clear to her he was never going to make the first move. Exactly whether this was true or not is unclear, but seeing his daughter Sara trying to flirt with Suvi lends a lot of credence to it.
  • Miles "Tails" Prower and Blaze the Cat from Sonic the Hedgehog. Tails is a shy kid with a love of machines and an alienatingly advanced vocabulary, while Blaze is more naturally reclusive and serious and has pyrokinetic powers that can frighten bystanders. Both were teased as children for these qualities, and both kick ass regardless.
  • Rosangela Blackwell from the Blackwell series. Helping ghosts move on to the afterlife? Easy. Interacting with the living? Not so much.
  • Lammy, the protagonist of Um Jammer Lammy, is utterly unable to work up the confidence to talk to people without her nerves getting the better of her and causing her to stumble over everything she wants to say. However, she can perform such deeds as single-handedly putting out a fire or spontaneously figuring out how to fly a plane, as long as she imagines she's doing it with a guitar.
  • League of Legends has Rell, the Iron Maiden, a young knight who was raised in an Academy of Evil to make her into the personal weapon of an Ancient Conspiracy, and has since escaped and begun a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against her abusers. She takes her crusade very seriously, but her lack of social skills from her Friendless Background makes for some endearingly awkward moments, especially since she ends up being prone to crushing on several champions (teenage hormones, perhaps?):
    Rell: You're cute, Seraphine! (beat) Uh... well, bye.
  • Kiryu in Yakuza has proven to be this while he is very charismatic himself he unfortunately can't deal with more mundane social situations that happen in everyday life outside of the yakuza conflict.

    Visual Novels 
  • Shuichi Saihara in Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony serves as this this in the prologue of the game. Being a detective? Sure. Solving a murder and finding the culprit? Any day. But speaking with people? No thank you. Despite being usually calm, he is abnormally timid when it comes to speaking with others, as he tends to blush a lot and prefers not to meet with other people's eyes, even going as far as to wear a hat to hide his own. He also has a really low self esteem.
  • Sister Hedwig, the protagonist of Misericorde, has spent most of her life in a tiny cell where her social interactions were limited to one-on-one conversations with the occasional unseen, anonymous visitor. As such, she doesn't take it well when the Mother Superior forces her to come out of her cell, reintegrate into the abbey’s congregation, and investigate a fellow nun's murder. She's timid, anxious, prone to stuttering and self-flagellation, and she suffers the occasional mood swing as the stress of her situation gets to her. Despite all this, Hedwig is doing her utmost to solve the mystery of that murder and prevent a potentially innocent man from facing the executioner’s axe.

  • Gunnerkrigg Court: Antimony Carver has elements of this. She'll fearlessly rush off to help someone with a supernatural problem, but she tends to stand around in awkward silence during public social situations.
  • Elliot from El Goonish Shive is perfectly calm when kidnapped by a horrific monster, to the point where he was cracking jokes. He will willingly charge headfirst into danger, and is perfectly willing to take the bullet if necessary. However, he's frightened by the idea of being the center of attention, and is easily embarrassed.
  • In The Beast Legion: While joining Fyre to defeat the Shadow Minions, Xeus shows just how socially awkward he can get in Here and Here.
  • And then there's Kimiko Ross of Dresden Codak. She is perfectly willing to throw down with time colonists or government conspiracies, but as for social situations, well, just take a look at this.
  • This Werewolf: The Apocalypse fancomic. Given the choice between going into a building through the entrance and dealing with a janitor, or going through the Umbra and dealing with banes and Spirals, the pack chooses the latter. As the author comments "In my groups, this is why the Garou seem so heroic all the time. The truth is that the risk of being simultaneously skinned, raped and eaten from the inside out doesn't seem half as bad as having to talk to an actual person."
  • Curse Quest: Mogarth, the orc in the group has difficulty talking to Walrus upon meeting him. However when the owl-bear monsters attack the tavern Mogarth flips his switch and goes full on badass, taking on the three monsters single-handedly without a second thought.
  • In Alice and the Nightmare, both main characters have signed up to become people who have to work under constant threat of monster attacks, but have tremendous problems with social interaction.
    • Alice, living a sheltered life right until the story starts, often has no idea how to react to people; it's most visible when Girl Posse latches onto her.
    • Edith is downright terrified of interacting with anyone. Considering the Fantastic Racism she has to put up with on a daily basis, it's not surprising.
  • Val from Tumblr user Tredlocity's Val and Isaac, who will go toe-to-toe with anything for the sake of her crew, but has a dating life that swings between "awkward" to "catastrophic". When she does get a girlfriend she's so unused to physical contact that this happens.
  • Daughter of the Lilies: Thistle is an extremely powerful mage who won't hesitate to fling fireballs or encroaching ivy vines at her enemies. Outside of battle, she's a shy, stuttering, insecure mess, which is heavily implied to be due to past abuse and insecurity over being a member of a widely reviled race of elves.
  • Odette from City of Somnus has been taken by The Fair Folk as a little girl and the first adult she interacted with in her life is, thankfully, Paollo. After he brings her to the human world again, though, Odette, who never hesitates from shielding Paollo from monsters with her own body, struggles to breathe in crowdy places, tends to think she's a bother (and Apologises a Lot for that) and generally sticks to her rescuer and his tight-knit group of friends rather than embarrass herself by talking to other people.
    • Paollo himself, while he's no Warrior Prince, seems much more comfortable finding his way in enchanted forests and facing monsters than attending fancy parties and charming nobles.

    Web Original 
  • Alexis from A Grey World can keep a cool head in a fight, but don't ask her to buy a coffee without severe angst. Her social anxiety is from a Friendless Background and history of bullying.
  • Fen Quest: Fen has his fair share of social awkwardness, but Aira outdoes him. She transferred from a peaceful standing army to a highly dangerous warzone over this, on the grounds that socialization is not expected in the latter.
    Aira (BTE): In peaceful posts or in peaceful towns, people expect me to be sociable and loud. If I'm not, I get disrespected and shunned.
    This has been less true when we're in danger. I don't seek danger, but it's an easy price to pay to fit in.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Zuko has never had any opportunity to become normally socialized as part of a Big, Screwed-Up Family, but he does improve a bit once he has his Heel–Face Turn and joins the True Companions. Stoic silence serves him in good stead while he's Walking the Earth in season two.
    • The Legend of Korra: Mako grew up on the streets of Republic City, doing everything he could to protect himself and his little brother, Bolin. As a result, he's very brash and dismissive of people he doesn't know, and isn't the best at conversation. He's not exactly in-touch with his feelings, either, not even noticing his growing crush on Korra until Asami, his girlfriend at the time, calls him out on it. Like Zuko, he does get better, but it takes a few seasons.
  • Clarence: The main trio — Clarence, Jeff, and Sumo, want to be exactly like the other kids, but their dysfunctional relationship often makes it difficult.
  • Danny Phantom: Danny was already pretty awkward before getting his powers, but especially when he first gets them he has a hard time controlling them causing him to "randomly" trip or sink into objects, turn his eyes green, and other stuff that might further harm what little reputation he has.
  • Gravity Falls: Dipper Pines. Especially when it comes to trying to impress his crush, Wendy; in "Double Dipper" he came up with an extremely convoluted twenty point plan just to ask her to dance with him at a party, only to end up fighting and outwitting nearly a dozen clones of himself he created for the plan who tried to pull an Anti-Mutiny.
  • Hilda: Ever since she first moved to Trolberg, Hilda doesn't understand how to interact with kids her age. Luckily she gets better with time, which is why she became friends with David and Frida in episode 4.
  • Kim Possible: Taking down supervillains comes easy for Kim. Asking the boy she has a crush on to the school dance is another issue entirely, although she is a popular student and cheerleader. Her sidekick Ron, however, is neither, but still has the problem of social awkwardness.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Fluttershy is unafraid to walk right up to manticores or three-headed hell hounds, but she's overwhelmed at social gatherings or meeting new ponies. "Hurricane Fluttershy" in particular has Fluttershy afraid to take part in strengthening a tornado by flying along its edges, not because it's a tornado, but because she's worried other ponies will make fun of her if she doesn't fly fast enough.
    • Twilight Sparkle. Her social anxiety isn't as crippling as Fluttershy's, but it's somewhat telling that Princess Celestia had to order her to make some friends.
  • Over the Garden Wall: Wirt frequently manages to take heroic action in the Unknown, despite the fact that he is, in Beatrice's words, "a real loser back home." It turns out that he ended up in the Unknown in the first place while fleeing in embarrassment after his crush got her hands on the poetry recordings he'd made for her. In general, he fears imminent danger far less than the threat of, for instance, social humiliation at a party.
  • The Owl House: Raine Whispers is the head of the Bard coven, one of the most competent witches in their track, and spearheads the rebellion against Emperor Belos on the side. They also suffer from crippling stage fright, to the point that they end up sprinting off the stage in terror when they fumble their words during their initiation speech.
  • The titular Morty Smith of Rick and Morty may be Book Dumb, but he constantly travels the multiverse on adventures with his Mad Scientist grandfather, and has learned and experienced far more crazy shit than any other 14-year-old on the planet. Still, while he's not an unpopular kid and seems to get along fine with most of his fellow students, he also doesn't really have close friends his age, and becomes pretty flustered around girls he's attracted to, stuttering and tripping over his words much more than usual. Unlike many examples, though, he's still pretty successful with girls despite all this, as long as Rick's antics or his own screw-ups don't mess up his budding relationships.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: Marco Diaz is skilled in karate and can fight monsters, yet has a bad reputation at school as an awkward Neat Freak. He's also very bad at initiating anything romantic, and is friends with Those Two Guys.
  • Transformers: Cyberverse: The episode "Party Down" shows Optimus Prime and Cheetor to be notably introverted and uncomfortable at the party in the title. Optimus, it turns out, is very good at inspiring pre-battle speeches and leading troops to victory, but in giving a pre-party speech all he can manage is "Together, we will triumph over, I mean, enjoy this party," and the ever-sociable Grimlock has to come to his rescue. Eventually Optimus and Cheetor end up retreating to the hull of the ship just for some peace and quiet.
    Wheeljack: (handing Optimus one of his experimental Allspark energy badges) What do you think, Optimus?
    Optimus: I think it is quite...circular.
  • We Bare Bears: The eponymous ursines are always trying to make new friends and become popular, but between Grizzly, Panda, and Ice Bear their combined hang-ups make it difficult.

    Real Life 
  • Again, sometimes Truth in Television. People will be much more afraid of the way their peers will judge them for, say, taking a cab home after leaving a party drunk, than of the life-threatening danger of driving their own cars home in that state. Back in the Old Days, a man would rather risk life and limb in a duel with horribly random pistols when challenged, rather than face the public shame and the reputation for cowardice, weakness and unmanliness that would come from doing the sensible thing, i.e. telling the challenger to go screw themselves and simply refusing the challenge. Quite a few of those examples seem to fall at one particular end of the Sliding Scale of Testosterone versus Common Sense. In general though, strong adherence to various social mores is what makes human society work. Guilt and shame have very little purpose for loners, but instead serve to keep an individual working within the confines of a social structure. Also why people who do not experience them are often alarming and dangerous, or powerful and charismatic depending on what they do. Many studies have shown that the main thing that keeps people working efficiently in dangerous occupations is fear of being rejected by their True Companions. That is, a fireman may become a fireman to save lives. However when he rushes into a burning building it is most likely for his buddies, not for the people he is rescuing.
  • Apparently Johnny Depp is like this. He can talk to you for hours as one of his characters, but will shy away from anyone who wants to talk to him personally.
  • Peter Sellers claimed he could be anybody but himself.
  • Regina Spektor can perform in front of thousands, but off the stage she can barely muster the courage to speak to you. Her shyness and social awkwardness is very apparent in interviews.
  • Freddie Mercury, of all people. One of the most flamboyant entertainers ever to walk the Earth, he was a very shy and reclusive person offstage.
  • Caleb West, although not competitive in any way, liked to box, and would spar with anyone. Even if he knew he would get pounded into the ground. He had the same attitude about problems and obstacles in life, except when it came to women.
  • Dean Ambrose. Performs in front of 20,000 fans regularly without hesitation, but is very awkward and stilted in one on one interviews and, as seen on Total Divas, usually drinks when he has to socialise.
  • News anchor Anderson Cooper, who can deal Armor-Piercing Question after Armor-Piercing Question to the biggest names in government, is incredibly awkward in real life, describing himself as the kind of person who, assuming he even goes to a party, will spend most of said party hiding in the kitchen sipping a beer while talking to one or two people at most. Yes, the badass newsman who spends far too much time in a bulletproof vest is actually a shy, geek in real life.
  • Former Navy SEAL Sean Ryan, who has been on over 20 deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, has social anxiety.