Trope Workshop:The Bully is a Nerd

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It seems that one of life's unwritten rules is that nerds are at the bottom of the social totem pole. Both in real life and across all kinds of fictional media, intellectuals tend to be stereotyped as scrawny, awkward little weaklings who are prime targets for bullying at the hands of macho meatheads who like to throw their weight around. Another common nerd stereotype is that they're put-upon good people whose awkward appearances and behavior repulse beautiful people, making them woefully unlucky in love. Essentially, nerds seem to be life's favorite punching bag.

But that's not how it always works.

Nerds, like all people, come in all kinds of different flavors: awkward-looking friendly geeks, charismatic tech gurus, beefy athletes with scholarly interests, and of course, downright nasty scumbags who love to pick on those they deem inferior. Sometimes, they're merely bullies in their own social castes who like to pick on other nerds for a number of reasons. Sometimes, they reach across the aisle and are the ones humiliating jocks with their superior intellect as opposed to the other way around. And other times still, they're outright dangerous criminals whose nerdy credentials can make them a serious threat such as skills in computer hacking, data collection, weapon design...

Examples of The Bully is a Nerd include:

Anime and Manga

  • Mello in Death Note lacks a lot of friends, apart from Matt. Mello is very strict about his academics, but he has harassed, even attacking a kid.
  • Fruits Basket has Makoto Takei, whose very strict, especially when it comes to clothes, even if approved by the school. Takei is quick to point out students' failures, like wearing a girl's uniform to piercings. Takei goes after Momiji Sohma for wearing a girl's uniform with shorts, before going after Hatsuharu Sohma for his hair, not believing it's natural. Hatsuharu doesn't take Takei's hairstyle lightly.

Comic Books

  • In the comic series of The Simpsons, the school had a hierarchy based on academics and attendance. The smarter students ruled the school with an iron fist. As a result, the majority of the bully population were nerds.
  • In the Spider-Man series, Otto Octavius, who is a genius, having much expertise in various science fields, used to live in an abusive household as a kid. This environment influenced him to become a monster, and he became one of Spider-Man's biggest enemies as an adult.
    • Doc Ock's field of expertise often involves nuclear energy experiments.
  • Batman's got a few of these in his rogue's gallery.
    • Edward Nygma/Nashton was once a brilliant kid that was horribly abused by his father, who beat him due thinking that he was a liar and a cheat who wasn't actually that smart. Thanks to this abuse he'd grow into the Riddler, a dangerous criminal mastermind who's undercut by his obsessive, Freudian desire to leave clues which always leads to Batman foiling his plans.
    • Scarecrow had a similarly rotten childhood: as a boy he was horribly abused by his terrifying great-grandmother, and that abuse would continue into his college days where his peers would antagonize him for his awkward, gawky appearance. After spending a lifetime of taking so much abuse, Scarecrow snapped and became a fear-obsessed madman who'd put his skills as a brilliant chemist to work by creating a special gas that would cause his victims to hallucinate that they're being terrorized by their worst fears. As one would expect, his tormentors were among his first victims.


  • In the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot (also known as Ghostbusters: Answer The Call), the villain was bullied throughout most of his life, so he used his knowledge of the occult and machines to get revenge back at those that made his life miserable. He did this by creating a ghost apocalypse and dooming the rest of the humanity.
  • The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has Maxwell Dillon, an electrical engineer, whom everyone around him regards as a "nobody" (except Spider-Man, who rescued him). Maxwell then has an accident where he becomes Electro. Unfortunately he also went insane, obsessing over the web-slinger and ultimately threatening New York near the end.


  • In both the Harry Potter books and movies, has Severus Snape, the potions master. Snape is a super strict teacher and a brilliant wizard in his own right, though he bullies Harry, Ron, and Hermoine. He also sees Harry in disdain despite being a "good guy" that aided the trio at times, because in his backstory, Severus was bullied by the Marauders: James Potter, Sirius Black, Peter Pettigrew, and Remus Lupin.

Live-Action TV

  • Eureka showed a nerd bullying a jock by hacking into his dad's account and would stop if he knew his place.
  • Kenan and Kel has Marc and Janet, who are both nerds. Yet, it's the latter who fits this trope considering how she treats Kenan, even going as far as calling out his fault in public. The same goes for Kel. Kenan often tries to mock her right back since he and Kel likely both have a no attacks on a woman clause, as seen with his sister, Kyra. Of course, the guys' plots to retaliate against Janet tends to backfire.

Oral Tradition, Folklore, Myths and Legends

Video Games

  • In Overwatch, Reinhardt related a story about Dr. Jamison Junkenstein, who was abused by the Adlersbrunn Lord and by extension the townsfolk that didn't take Junkenstein's automatons and scientific works seriously (The lord even treats the doctor's work as "useless trinkets" and as slaves). This abuse would drive the good doctor over the edge and inpire him to create a Frankenstein monster that eventually terrorized the town. This is the focal point of the Junkenstein's Revenge mode exclusive to the Halloween seasonal events, where the players put an end to his mad ambitions by fighting waves of Zomnics, his many allies, and Junkenstein himself.
  • In Jimmy Neutron Vs. Jimmy Negatron, Jimmy Negatron, Jimmy Neutron's Evil Twin from an another dimension, tries to conquer the main dimension. He starts this by kidnapping Neutron. Negatron then changies history and kidnaps Cindy Vortex.
  • Pokémon Diamond and Pearl: The leader of Team Galactic is Cyrus, a brilliant genius of a man who was known to be good with machines even as a kid. Emotional neglect and abuse at the hands of his parents would plant the seeds of a bitter nihilist later in life who'd come to the conclusion that emotions are the root of all suffering, and would seek to destroy the world so he can replace it with one without spirit or emotions. And to that end, he'd put his tech skills to work by performing cruel experiments on the Legendary Pokémon of Sinnoh's lakes in order to create the Red Chain, which he would use to control the legendary Pokémon of Time, Space, or in Platinum, both, to create his desired world.
  • Like in the comics, Otto Octavius from Spider-Man PS4 is a former science whiz driven to villainy, this time by Norman Osborn, his former lab partner who loves undermining him even in the present day. After driving himself insane with his Neural Interface that controls his tentacles, he'd stage a breakout of two different prisons, one being The Raft, and would arm several of Spider-Man's past enemies with high-tech equipment to make them stronger, while promising to use his scientific skills to help them with their own problems. Forming the Sinister Six with these villains, he unleashes the deadly bioweapon known as Devil's Breath on Manhattan out of hatred and spite for Norman, who's now the mayor of NYC.
    • Spider-Man: Miles Morales has its own incarnation of this in the form of The Tinkerer, A.K.A Phin Mason. A brilliant science geek, she's outfitted the formerly wimpy Underground with programable matter weapons that they can essentially create from thin air, making them among the most dangerous gangs in NYC. She doesn't intend to be as destructive as Otto, but her reckless war against Roxxon to stop them from pushing a dangerous power source onto the residents of Harlem gets a lot of innocent people nearly killed as they're caught in the crossfire.

Western Animation

  • In the second dimension of "Phineas and Ferb", Doctor Doofenshmirtz became a darker version of himself. He's not just a mad scientist in that realm, but an actual tyrant of the Tri-State Area. It's due to losing a toy train when he was a kid.
  • Dexter's Laboratory has Mandark, a nerd and a rival of the titular character. In his introduction episode, he managed to gain the favor of faculty with his superior intellect. Mandark also forces Dexter to shut down his lab or become his minion. Dexter then gives in due to not letting go of his pride but then gets back at Mandark when he notices the bully's crush on his sister, Dee Dee.
  • The Fairly OddParents: Cosmo was picked on by different social groups during his years in fairy high school, including the school's math club.

Other Media