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Now that we have your attention, let's talk about nerds.

And by nerds, we mean us. In the course of mocking us endlessly, the media seem to have developed an interesting set of stereotypes about the common geek. No, not the glasses or the acne or the pocket protectors or the phalli, I mean the things we actually get geeky about. For some reason, Hollywood seems entirely ready to accept the idea of a person developing an interest in something that is not as popular with the mainstream as it is with their own little group.

Unless, of course, that thing is not Star Trek.

There is a very specific set of interests that Hollywood ascribes to anybody who self-identifies as (or is identified by others as) a nerd, dork, geek, dweeb, spazzoid, what have you. Not only is that the Holy Canon of Geek Interests, but for some reason, every geek is obsessed with not one, or some, but all of them. The only time (mostly) any shows subvert that last part, it's to make a joke where one stereotype calls another stereotype a dork for liking one geeky thing instead of another geeky thing (* cough* * cough* ), which of course never happens in real life (* cough* ).

As noted, "exception to this trope" is nearly synonymous with "show written by geeks". If you notice a work where you think one applies but not the other, either check the credits again or ask your nerd friends if they really do speak Klingon (they do, seriously), because you're missing something. And there's actually a reason for that; if we weren't into things nobody else had ever heard of, we wouldn't be very good geeks, now would we? It's basic math: the more devoted fans of X are, the less of them there will be, and more importantly, the less normal people will even know what X is. It's like The Law of Conservation of Detail, but applied to popularity. And an actual law of nature, apparently, because it is very rarely broken. The only exception is, again, mockery; some things are the sole domain of such Eldritch cabals that they become famous solely because people like making jokes about them so much. Somebody has to be buying all those -trails off-...

Examples are probably too numerous to list. It's tempting to list just the most Egregious examples, but yeah, no. Let's keep this to archiving the One True Canon of the Geek Reference Pool and any aversions worth mentioning. Please keep these specific and try to mention specific references to things outside the mainstream canon. This section is also not a list of shows you think are written by geeks unless they actually avert the trope.

This is a Sub-Trope of Small Reference Pools and exists for the same reason that trope does. Namely, the show is targeting a general audience with only limited familiarity with geeky and nerdy interests.

The Canon:

Anime & Manga


  • Geekdom on Television and in movies also often has a high correlation with the collecting of large numbers of either comic books or action figures (both likely in mylar or in their original packaging) because apparently mainstream interest in either kind of collectible is non-existent and the successful movies based on comic books have made is just an illusion. Meanwhile, the exact same hording and protection provided to sports memorabilia is perfectly acceptable.


  • There are no X-Men other than Cyclops, Wolverine, Professor X, Nightcrawler, Storm, Jean Grey (A.K.A Ms.Marvel), and, if we're lucky, Gambit and Rogue. Because everyone remembers the animated series and some people saw the movies... more often than not, however, Wolverine Publicity wins out every time. There exist no X-Villains besides Magneto, Sabertooth and Mystique, and they are always affiliated with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. [1]
  • There are no DC Comics heroes that were not created in the Golden Age. Etrigan? John Constantine? A Green Lantern who is not a WASP? What vivid imagination you have, you NERD!


  • Star Wars, which is not the same thing as Star Trek (Star Wars is the one with an actual war, and on Star Trek, they're actually on a trek through the stars [2]). Tends to be more popular than the alternative, so expect its fans to be portrayed less negatively, mostly due to how stunningly obsessed most Trekkies are portrayed as being. Also expect:
    • A massive number of visual and dialogue references to scenes from the original trilogy, mostly because every living human being has seen them.
    • Speaking of Original Trilogy, any work made since the release of The Phantom Menace will be lousy with geeks bitching about the prequels. Okay, that part is true.
    • Common before 1999 but after 1997 (and common since then, but overshadowed by the above) is bitching about the Special Editions of the Original Trilogy, well-known mostly because they were actually released theatrically. Nobody knows who Greedo is, but he apparently shot somebody before they shot him, and it's "hilarious" to hear geeks complain about it.


  • Thanks to the movies, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and The Chronicles of Narnia exist. Fanboys can be heard occasionally complaining about someone named Tom Bombadil who was apparently cut from the movie. More often, they can be seen clutching some prized collectible and calling it their "precious", but that's Rule of Funny. The main thing known about Harry Potter is that dressing up as the title character consists of drawing a scar on your forehead, putting on round glasses, and constantly raving about being a wizard.

Live-Action TV

  • Star Trek has turned Gene Roddenberry into some kind of patron saint of male virginity. Every geek in fiction can speak Klingon, name every species in the Federation, draw a diagram of the original Enterprise freehand, and fight with a Bat'Leth if you know what that even is [3]. Expect:
    • Fights about whether Kirk or Picard is the one true captain. Nobody will ever argue for Sisko or Janeway. Nobody will argue for Archer either, but that's accidental accuracy.
    • References to notable moments from the Original Series and/or The Wrath of Khan, also known by television writers as "the ones I've seen" (or seen parodies of).
    • Costumes. Also dating back to the Sixties series. If a scene takes place at a sci-fi convention, there will be a Klingon. I dare you to name an aversion. A Vulcan is also likely. The Klingon is a metaphysical certitude. Although, ironically, it will not be an original series Klingon.
    • ...and when Wars and Trek geeks collide, expect battles on whether the Death Star/Imperial Cruiser or the Enterprise (or a Borg cube) is superior.
  • In more recent shows, Battlestar Galactica may replace Star Trek as the go-to reference for something geeks take too seriously.
  • If you are a furry, or know one, you may be aware of the infamous CSI episode "Fur and Loathing" (not to be confused with the trope of that name), which went nuts with the fetishy aspects of fandom.
  • For a period somewhere roughly between 1980-2005, giving a character an interest in Doctor Who and its trappings was to the United Kingdom what Star Trek is to America; the best way to create a character instantly identifiable as a hopeless, socially awkward geek. The popular success of the new series has largely returned the show to its pre-1980 mainstream status, but the image of the Doctor Who geek does linger on in several ways.




  • The song "White and Nerdy" by "Weird Al" Yankovic shows a fairly comprehensive list of the Geek Reference Pool. It's sufficiently over-the-top, that it pokes more fun at the stereotypes than the nerds though.

Tabletop Games

  • Dungeons and Dragons has become the shorthand for social failings and maladjusted virginity. Sure, it's one step better than the Satanic Panic days, but really. And apparently the hobby consists only of Dungeons and Dragons, and games like Warhammer and Vampire: the Masquerade do not exist (unless you're doing a true crime show on a "vampire killer").
    • Since the writers will have no idea how the game is actually played, depictions will vary wildly if characters actually play on screen instead of just refering to the game, but there are a few constants: expect players to wear costumes and use elaborate props (at the very least the Dungeon Master, if there is one, will wear a cape or pointy "wizard" hat), speak in Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe, and engage in ritualistic behavior like chanting "all hail the Dungeon Master!" at the start of each session (if a non-geek regular character has been dragged to the game -- which one probably has, or we wouldn't be seeing the scene -- the geeks will be confused or outraged that they don't know or want to take part in this behavior).
    • Its also common to depict the death of a player's character as having an unusual level of finality to it. There is no resurrection (very common in D&D or even rolling up a new character. Similar to the way when your character dies in Super Mario Bros. the cartridge permanently self destructs and you kill yourself out of grief. This is getting better with the widespread popularity of MMO's and Console RPG's helping more writers and audience members realize how ridiculous this is.
    • What the hell is GURPS?

Video Games



  • In Spider-Man, Peter has a Magic: The Gathering poster in his room.
  • Kevin Smith is a geek, and his movies show it.
  • What's the one major difference between those girls in Death Proof who get killed and those who get the killer? While the former seem not to be interested in anything apart from sex and gossips, the later are movie geeks (knowledge of the semi-obscure pictures that are mentioned in each part of the movie, seems to be some kind of kudos). Otherwise they make quite similar impression, so that the difference doesn't surface until Zoe Bell shows up. By the Geek God.
  • In ET the Extraterrestrial, Elliot's older brother and his friends have a remarkably realistic session of Dungeons and Dragons. No funny clothing or strange language, just arguments about pizza and whether the Dungeon Master is allowed to bend the rules. They even have all the right sorts of dice. D&D hadn't yet caught the eye of hysterical news pundits back in '82, so they had few negative stereotypes to work with.

Live-Action TV

  • Chuck is in the "by geeks" category. An odd example, though, in that the writers are older than the characters and it shows. At least half the geeky references are from the 80s, but considering that the title character was born in 1981, it strains credibility that he's personally a fan of all of it. Given that Chuck's dad was also geeky, and they were raised by him, it makes sense that Chuck would have access to, and an appreciation for, the older stuff.
  • Spaced is likewise "by geeks". The "Homage-o-meter" on the DVDs will point out references you missed the first time around. Yes, you. Adrian.
  • House MD: Kutner is depicted as a geek, referencing Harry Potter and comic books, collecting action figures and stuff. He also used to be quite a popular person and also a bully at school. Far from stereotype. It doesn't count as "made by geeks", does it? Considering how many Internet/meme references House makes on a regular basis (especially in the most recent seasons), the show could be classified as at least "written by geeks" a lot of the time.
  • The Big Bang Theory has many easy jokes from within the reference pool, some of which are a little outdated, however the references are usually exactly correct. It also includes a lot of science jokes and more obscure references. There have been moments in episodes referencing the then-ongoing Batman: Battle for the Cowl and Flash: Rebirth storylines. Definitely in the "made by geeks" category.
  • CSI had an episode about a murder at a Brand X Star Trek convention, which may seem bizarre at first; CBS and Paramount, which owns the Trek rights, are both Viacom subsidiaries (sort of. It's complicated). Turns out they needed to obscure the name for plot purposes. Also turns out they did their research into Trek In Jokes and culture, as well as cameoing Battlestar Galactica producer Ronald D. Moore and Ellen Tigh.
  • On Heroes, resident geek Hiro Nakamura usually stays within the Geek Reference Pool (which is a little odd, since he's Japanese and originally spoke no English, yet almost all his references are to American media). However, when he used his time-stopping ability to mess with Daphne, he taunts her by saying, "Muda muda muda", the catchphrase of Dio Brando, another time-stopping character from the very obscure (to Americans) manga series Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure.

 "Now I know how Trunks felt!"

    • Hiro makes another reference outside of the 'pool' when describing his love interest to his past self:

 "She's the Mary Jane to your Spider-Man! The Marle to your Crono!"

 Parker: I really like Elliot slash Sophie. Could you do Nate slash me? No! Nate slash you!

Hardeson: Please, please stop.

(in fairness, she was talking about Hardeson's combining the photo-IDs used in their covers for different members of the team when he had to adapt one he set up for Elliot to work for Sophie).
  • Freaks and Geeks: Written by, well, freaks and geeks. Including, among other things, period-accurate Dungeons and Dragons played accurately. Interestingly enough it doesn't really stereotype any particular group with everyone from jocks to hippies to somewhat naively well-meaning guidance counselors all getting enough depth and understanding to explain them as more than just a poorly understood straw man for their particular subculture.

Western Animation

  • Futurama: In the "by geeks with doctorates" category.
  • The Venture Brothers, written by two tried-and-true geeks, to the point where almost everyone in the cast makes references far geekier than anything that would be considered geeky in another show. This is even mentioned in the commentaries during the episode O.R.B. From Aleister Crowley, to Fantomas, to Oscar Wilde. It's a love-letter to late-19th / early 20th century culture; or, as they say, "things that Doc likes."


  1. Mystique was in a Brotherhood only once and it quickly turned into the government-sponsored Freedom Force. She mostly operated solo after the 1970s ended, Sabertooth never was in ANY iteration of the Brotherhood, with or without the name, but Chronic Backstabbing Disorder does not make good referential jokes, does it?
  2. except for Deep Space Nine, anyway
  3. It's a Klingon blade weapon
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