Nerds have been getting eviscerated on television ever since this sub-class of highly intelligent yet socially maladjusted individuals was singled out for ridicule in the late 1970s. But nerds are slowly being replaced on TV… by geeks! Now that nerd-dom is recognized as a genetically distinct strata of otherness, geeks are taking the place of nerds as the butt of all jokes in primetime. According to the Nielsens, geeks are insensitive, antisocial and/or holier-than-thou, and should be laughed at or pitied or both. What’s worse, this trend is not new, and if we don’t make a stand now, geeks will be pigeonholed for life. We can not – nay, we must not – tolerate another “Urkel.” Here’s a list of TV-based geeks who make geeks look weak.
10) Joey Gladstone, Full House
There are many ways to describe Joseph “Joey” Gladstone: Loving uncle. Horrible comedian. Incredibly annoying. And you might as well add “geek” to that list, since the man possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of cartoons, and his “stand-up comedy” “routine” seemed to revolve around his imitations of cartoon characters like Popeye and Bullwinkle, not to mention human cartoons like Bill Cosby and Pee-Wee Herman. Not only is that bad comedy, it’s incredibly annoying, and it’s probably why the general public TO THIS DAY looks down on adults who watch cartoons. Perhaps if Joey had focused less on mimicry and more on cosplay, things would have been different for all of us.
9) Morgan Grimes, Chuck
Sure, Chuck Bartowski is in many ways a stereotypical geek (cowardly, clumsy, loves Tron), but he’s Don Draper when compared to his geeky best bud Morgan Grimes. Morgan has Chuck’s passion for Star Wars, videogames and comic books, but none of Chuck’s height, good looks or morals, making him a far less appealing character type. Specifically, he’s a short, bearded videogame champion who lives with his mother and copies DVDs from his job at Buy More. Plus, when given money to rent an apartment for himself and his girlfriend, he instead buys a Delorean, and while we all DREAM of doing that, the suggestion that we actually would is offensive. Not all geeks are so completely lacking in self-control.
8) Douglas Fargo, Eureka
Saying that Fargo gives geeks a bad name is slightly misleading, because anyone who watches Eureka is probably a geek anyway, and therefore only geeks know who Fargo is. Still, Fargo is a particularly annoying individual, and his frequent scientific blunders only serve to demonize his fanboyish ways. “Oh, so he’s endangered the lives of the townsfolk on a dozen separate occasions AND he’s a Sarah Michelle Gellar fan? That explains it.” To be fair, maybe all of the volatile, incompetent scientists in Eureka enjoy Ms. Gellar’s body of work–we don’t know, because they’re usually fired after their first screw-up, while Fargo keeps getting caught in time paradoxes and promoted. Also, I’m pretty sure none of them ever dated a computerized Felicia Day (actual Eureka storyline).
7) David Hodges, CSI
In any standard crime show, only one character can be a sci-fi geek, and it’s usually the scientist or lab technician in the group. So what do you do when your entire cast is made up of lab technicians? How do you choose?!? Apparently, you make your geek the lab tech who’s more pompous and annoying than all of the other lab techs put together. Sure, let’s make the smug, superior guy the Star Trek–sorry, “Astro Quest” fan. Clearly, THIS is the guy who would go to conventions in costume, fantasize about his co-workers in Astro Quest-themed scenarios, refer to himself as a “padawan” and name his cat “Kobayashi Maru.” Not the hunky lab tech with the smoldering eyes–the dillweed. Stop giving Astro Quest fans a bad name, Hodges!
6) Comic Book Guy, The Simpsons
He started out as the distilled essence of a comic store owner, loftily touting the rarity and value of the items in his display case. But the delightfully dry delivery of Hank Azaria kept the character coming back, to take more of Bart’s money and to judge things as the “worst _____ ever,” his T-shirt-worthy catchphrase. But it wasn’t just his condescension that made him an unpleasant character, it was his frequently-remarked on loneliness and his played-for humor obesity. Whether returning a hopelessly small utility belt or getting wheeled out of a Krusty Burger in a wheelbarrow, the Comic Book Guy was meant to parody geeks and ended up misrepresenting them to the world for over 20 years.
5) Liz Lemon, 30 Rock
While everyone praises Liz Lemon for being geek chic, Tina Fey’s 30 Rock character has actually taken geekiness to the Dark Side. Sure, her glasses and love of science fiction have made her a sex symbol for geeks everywhere, but her greater comedic appeal largely stems from what a disaster both her personal and professional lives are. Not only is she awkward around guys, she eats nothing but junk food and she’s kind of a terrible person in general. Her poor management skills make her an appalling boss and a grating employee, and dressing up as Princess Leia to get out of jury duty is insulting to both Star Wars fans AND our nation’s judicial system. No, America, geeks do not scope out late-night donut shops to see when they throw out the previous day’s donuts. We buy our donuts fresh.
4) Barney Stinson, How I Met Your Mother
While most geeks would probably LOVE to be known as “that guy who has a high-paying job at a bank and a sweet apartment and has sex with a lot of women,” Barney Stinson is no role model. His reputation for treating women like objects is legen–wait for it–darily despicable, and the life-sized Star Wars stormtrooper in his penthouse apartment is only awesome if you ignore his all-too-frequent dicking over of those he calls his friends (mainly Ted Moseby). Also, the man really, REALLY likes magic. Not Magic: The Gathering — that would be perfectly acceptable as a geek hobby — but magic the art of illusion. Don’t lump us in with magicians, please, television.
3) Sheldon Cooper, Big Bang Theory
Clearly, Sheldon Cooper is… special. His near-genius intellect is paired with such a lack of personal skills that it can only represent some sort of Asperger-type syndrome. But since the show’s creators say that he does not have any condition that would justify such behavior, we can only conclude that Sheldon is an asshole. As much as geeks love him for being such a big geek, hanging out in comic book shops and talking to his action figures, he is presenting a portrait to the non-geek world of a geek who has no concept of human emotions, and cannot interact with real people in any sort of real way. In other words, the world thinks you’re Sheldon Cooper, and that all geeks have Asperger’s. Good luck with that.
2) Jerry Seinfeld, Seinfeld
Sure, in the beginning, Jerry was the likeable struggling comedian — the underdog, if you will — and his love of Superman conveyed a sense of innocence and whimsy. But when you spend as long a time with a character as we spent with Jerry, you get to know what he’s really like. Simply put, Jerry was a jerk. He was smug, petty, lazy, dishonest, picky, and he generally did not like people unless they were laughing at his jokes. Which is why the series ended with him in jail, and everyone was mostly okay with that. And while his love of Superman was endearing at first, with that little statue in his kitchen, by the time he got famous enough to do credit card commercials opposite an animated version of the character, his smug sense of superiority had actually made liking Superman (and comic books in general) even LESS cool than it actually was.
1) Kevin Smith, Comic Book Men
Kevin Smith is what we call a “triple threat.” No, he can’t sing, dance or act — he literally threatens all of geekdom with his three-pointed Aquaman trident of bad movies, mediocre comic books and derivative television shows. Comic Book Men is essentially “Pawn Stars for geeks,” making it a knock-off of an already terrible TV program. Taking place in Smith’s own personal New Jersey comic shop, Men focuses more on the employees than on Smith himself, but by adding another brick to Smith’s empire, it further cements the idea of Smith as a geek Godfather, leader and duly authorized spokesman for the unwashed masses. Fortunately, Smith’s stereotypical geek persona (heavyset, clad only in hockey jerseys, in love with the sound of his own voice) no more represents geekdom than his geek-pandering films Mallrats, Clerks and Chasing Amy do, but try telling that to the casual viewer who derives enjoyment from any show where people are forced to pawn their most prized possessions.