Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Or is it?
According to the time-tested and quality-controlled Wikihow, one can be hot by having sex appeal (this is accomplished by accentuating curves and avoiding youthful charm in favor of a seductive one). Several ladies magazines attempt to define this specific variety of attractiveness, and the qualities that consistently show up are poise, confidence, flattering dress, and make-up. Glamour even recommended specific techniques, such as a trademark pleasing scent, and extensive eye make-up. Is this really necessary?
Nerdiness, like beauty, is something instantly recognizable, but indefinable. A similarly reputable source, Sparknotes, approaches a description of a nerd in contrast to its GPA competitors, geeks. Nerds, according to these Sparknote authorities, tend to wear conservative and practicable clothing (think: prescription glasses that they actually need and have needed since childhood), rather than to convey a deliberately eccentric image, as in the case of a geek (who prefers graphic T’s). Nerds have a keen interest in a variety of esoteric subjects, so long as they err on the unconventional and intellectually side, while geeks are (self-avowed) experts in one particular field. Career choice can also be a useful index. Geeks prefer creative, fun work such as graphic artists or writers, while nerds gravitate toward any profession which will benefit from their tireless research (like librarians, computer programmers, and scientists).
Finally, nerds are generally more reserved in social situations, as they are aware of their awkwardness, while geeks are socially merciless and overwhelming.
While TheRichest has already scratched the surface with this topic, it definitely deserves to be revisited – with more variety. Where 30 Rock‘s Liz Lemon is a television geek par excellence, she is squarely outside the scope of an introverted, understated, curious nerd. Who takes the place of her, as well as NCIS‘ Abby Sciuto who appeared on April’s list? There are plenty to fill the (converse) shoes.
15. Topanga – Boy Meets World
This mainstay of 90s television series Boy Meets World is the quintessential hot nerd, a polymath who resists moving with her parents during her senior year of high school. More of a nerd than a socialite, Topanga rejects Yale to attend college with her high school sweetheart, Cory (who frequently forgets how good he has it with his honour roll hottie). She ended up going to NYU Law, and Shawn, Cory, and Eric all move to New York as she lands her dream internship.
14. Jessie Spano – Saved by the Bell
Played by Elizabeth Berkley, she is class president and valedictorian (after Screech, who, incidentally, is a prime example of a geek, yielded the honor). Jessie joins the swim suit for the sole reason that it looks good when applying to colleges. She eventually attends Columbia University, where she continues to pursue knowledge for knowledge’s sake.
13. Sally (aka “The Vulture”) – White Collar
She made a guest appearance in the USA Network’s television series White Collar, as the unlikely (and literal) bedfellow of Mozzie. This Emmy-nominated actress from Game of Thrones is here a computer hacker whose genius reputation precedes her appearance, and whose skills are an equal match for (and perfectly compliment) those of the Mozzie and Neal duo.
12. Dana Scully – The X-Files
As a child, The X-Files‘ fictional character’s favorite book was Moby Dick, indicating that she has actually read the novel. Getting through this near-thousand page classic is something of success in the nerd camp, but Scully’s intellectual curiosities do not stop there. Her college major was physics, and she was recruited by the FBI while a medical student at Stanford. She is played by the British-American blonde Gillian Anderson, who would be hard pressed to play any unattractive character.
11. Amélie Poulain – Amélie
This protagonist, played by Audrey Tatou in the 2001 BAFTA-winning film of the same name, was instilled with her eccentric and intellectual interests when homeschooled in the French region of Montmarte. This fictional old soul inspires her father to travel by stealing his garden gnome and sending it around the world with a flight attendant, and discusses Renoir’s art with her older neighbour. She captures her love interest only with the encouragement from this same neighbour, and an elusive, surreptitious game of attraction.
10. Bernadette Rostenkowski – The Big Bang Theory
This blonde bombshell is decidedly the less central but equally attractive blonde of the program’s cast. She has a key role in the CBS program, Big Bang Theory, in which she plays a former co-worker of the show’s main character. Played by Melissa Rauch, she lands a more nerd-appropriate job as a scientist at Zangen after defending her doctoral thesis.
9. Dr. Eleanor Arroway – Contact
Better known as Jodie Foster, this character from the 1997 film Contact was inspired by Carl Sagan’s book of the same name. She has a unique aptitude for science, and is a SETI scientist with a certain diplomacy that earns her the credulity of the White House Chief of Staff, after traveling in machine that allows her to contact extraterrestrial human beings.
8. Cameron Howe – Halt and Catch Fire
Straddling the line between geek and nerd, this blonde bombshell earns a spot on our list for her strikingly personality-appropriate clothing. She is a computer programmer, recruited by a rogue PC company in the 2014 AMC series Halt and Catch Fire (which premiered in 2014), and follows the personal computer revolution between the Silicon Prairie of Texas and the Silicon Valley of California. Her unique combination of looks and talent was noticed by Vanity Fair, which featured a striking piece on her in October 2015.
7. Winnie Cooper – The Wonder Years
Gwydolyn “Winnie” Cooper of The Wonder Years fame, is the main love interest of protagonist Kevin Arnold. Her academic conscientiousness occasionally evokes teasing by the other characters. The series ends with Winnie (appropriately for a hot nerd like herself) studying art history in Paris. Actress Danika McKellar is apparently a bit of a nerd in real life, having published four non-fiction books including one titled Math Doesn’t Suck.
6. Felicity Smoak – Arrow
This DC Comics character was brought to the silver screen in 2012 via the CW series Arrow. In the DC Universe, she is an idealist who first aides the protagonist Oliver Queen in his ambition to protect the housing in a poorer section of the fictional Starling City. She supports his attempts to kill criminals in his fight against crime, and has the computer savvy to do it. She is her company’s head IT technician, and holds degrees in cyber security and computer. Though her expertise suggests geek, actress Emily Bett Rickards has all the charm of a nerd; she was originally intended to appear in just one episode, but her favourable reviews and rapport with the cast earned her a lasting spot.
5. Michaela Pratt – How To Get Away With Murder
This overachiever from the ABC hit series How to Get Away With Murder is played by Aja Naomi King. She is a near-perfect law student who idolizes the show’s central character, attorney Analise Keating. She becomes embroiled in the murder of Annalise’s husband, whose drama unfolds in a series of flashbacks. King herself holds an MFA in drama from Yale.
4. Dr. Joan Watson – Elementary
Lucy Liu‘s Watson is by far the best-looking Watson of all the Arthur Conan Doyle adaptations (all due respect to Martin Freeman of Sherlock). This fictional version of Watson appears in CBS’s Elementary. She was valedictorian of her medical school class, and meets Sherlock as a surgeon to assist him in maintaining sobriety. Eventually, she sufficiently ingratiates herself to become a consultant detective for the NYPD herself.
3. Charlotte Lewis – Lost
Rebecca Mader plays this doctor on the ABC series Lost, who joined the cast in the fourth season and last until the sixth and final season. In the context of the series, Dr. Lewis is a cultural anthropologist who in the course of her character development, first kidnapped by the survivors of the island, and eventually travels through time (which involves a nosebleed – an unfortunate symptom that nerds have to deal with more often than not).
2. Dr. Julia Ogden – Murdoch Mysteries
Another competent babe of detective fiction, Dr. Julia Ogden is a pathologist in the CBS period piece Murdoch Mysteries, set in 1890s Toronto. Played by Hélène Joy, she is a progressive and capable professional. Her character history includes an abortion, which inspires her work to educate women in contraception. Exhibiting an entrepreneurial spirit which is often successful for nerds like her, she starts her own practice in Toronto.
1. Willow Rosenberg – Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Playing Willow on this popular series was a big role for Alyssa Hannigan, who went on to give us How I Met Your Mother. Willow is intelligent, shy and quirky, and so an apt foil for the central superwoman, Buffy (played by the iconic Sarah Michelle Gellar). Her zeal as a student of witchcraft leads her to (spoiler alert!) explore the evil capabilities of her magical powers.
I, for the most part, am a nerd. Where you fall can largely be determined by self-identified affinities to each of these characters featured here. If you’ve made it to the end of this article without skimming or using social media, there is a high probability that you, too, are a nerd (and maybe even a hot one!)
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