The word “geek” gets tossed around casually these days, it’s meaning still evolving in our Internet-obsessed age, but when it comes to pop culture’s depiction of geeks in love, things are largely the same. The stereotype of the socially awkward loner would have us believe that male and female geeks are incapable of dating, maintaining healthy relationships, and making the sex. But fictional geeks have proven that they are fully capable of meeting that special someone. They even have some pretty great advice to share with us. Geekadelphia co-founder Eric Smith covers the same tips for real-life geeks in his soon-to-be published The Geek’s Guide to Dating from Quirk. In the spirit of geek love, we share advice from ten of pop culture’s greatest geeks to guide you on your romantic quest.
Mural geek, OCD admin, and paper dove maker Pam from The Office spent what felt like eons crushing on Dunder Mifflin sales rep Jim Halpert before their relationship developed. Eventually they got married and had two children, but it took ages for the duo to go on their first date. During the series finale, Pam admitted she wished she hadn’t waited so long to make a move.
Advice: “[B]e strong, trust yourself, love yourself, conquer your fears, just go after what you want. And act fast, because life just isn’t that long.”
When Pretty in Pink’s Duckie (Jon Cryer) isn’t being bullied by the “richies” at school, he’s showering best friend Andie with compliments and trying to work up the nerve to confess his love for her. His feelings are ultimately one-sided, despite his best attempts. Duckie eventually makes peace with their friendship, knowing he has to accept her relationship with Andrew McCarthy’s Blane if he wants to keep Andie in his life. But before he learns this lesson, Duckie repeatedly humiliates himself for Andie’s amusement and attention. He also has a mad-as-hell moment about the whole thing:
“I’m not particularly concerned with whether or not you like me, because I live to like you and… I can’t like you anymore. So when you’re feeling real low and dirty, and your heart is splattered all over hell, don’t look to me to pump you back up ’cause maybe for the first time in your life I won’t be there!”
Advice: Don’t be a doormat or a jerk, and know when to let go.
The sexual tension between skeptical FBI agent and science geek Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), and her extraterrestrial-obsessed peer Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) in The X-Files was unbearable, but around season six’s episode “The Rain King,” the writers started to gesture toward a more romantic relationship. In one scene, Scully makes a speech about friends and love, which is an obvious reference to her parter.
Advice: “Well, it seems to me that the best relationships — the ones that last — are frequently the ones that are rooted in friendship. You know, one day you look at the person and you see something more than you did the night before. Like a switch has been flicked somewhere. And the person who was just a friend is… suddenly the only person you can ever imagine yourself with.”
You can be sure that any show created by Joss Whedon will be overflowing with geekiness. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was no exception. We could point to any of the characters in the series and make a case for geek cred, but we’re choosing to go with the series’ mopey poet, Spike (James Marsters). Before he became a bleached vamp, he was a shunned Victorian-era poet who had serious mommy issues. And let’s be honest, even though Spike fit the “bad boy” trope, we suspect he played Magic and Dungeons & Dragons on the sly. Spike shared many words of wisdom about relationships and love during the series run, particularly while he was lusting after Buffy, that proved he was a man led by his heart. “I may be love’s bitch, but at least I’m man enough to admit it,” he said in season three’s “Lovers Walk.”
Advice: “Love isn’t brains, children, it’s blood. Blood screaming inside you to work its will.”
Neuroscientist Amy Farrah Fowler and physicist Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory have the right idea when it comes to their 31-page “relationship agreement,” even if it is on the obsessive side. Aren’t we all looking for someone to console us through the “booboos and ouchies” of life? However, we would like to hold hands with someone we’re dating, even when they’re not in danger of falling off a cliff or needing moral support during a flu shot.
Advice: Be open to accepting someone else’s needs, no matter how bizarre you think they are.
Outcast high school student Enid (Thora Birch) in Ghost World plays a practical joke on a lonely, middle-aged man (Steve Buscemi), but later befriends him. The relationship grows more complex as the two continue to figure out their own lives and eventually sleep together (while Seymour is dating another woman). Enid questions why he never asked her out on a date. Seymour admits he thought Enid was only interested in him as an “amusingly cranky eccentric curiosity.” Eventually things break down, but the two grow inspired to make changes in their lives.
Advice: Don’t be afraid to make a move, because there’s always the potential for personal growth in a relationship — even the ones that don’t work out.
One of pop culture’s wisest geeks, Harris Trinsky (Stephen Lea Sheppard) from Freaks and Geeks was the go-to source for sage words when life at William McKinley High School became intense and unpredictable. Harris was always willing to put down his Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual to share his knowledge.
Advice: “Love is like homework. You gotta study if you want to get an A,” and, “Laughter is the ultimate aphrodisiac. Get a woman laughing, you got a woman loving.”
Behind Cliff Huxtable’s ugly sweaters and Jell-O pudding obsession was a dad who knew a lot about everything. The goofy and eccentric doctor always gave it to his kids straight — like the time he hilariously used Monopoly money to make his point about the harshness of life. When his son Theo seeks advice about his rocky relationship with Justine, the great doctor tells him to do “some serious, get down underneath please, please” begging to take things to “the next level.”
Advice: always be willing to admit your mistakes
You can doodle ligers on your notebook to your heart’s content, but that won’t help you land a boyfriend or girlfriend. Napoleon Dynamite can’t find a date to the high school dance, even though he knows it takes skills to attract a lady — like “nunchaku skills, bow hunting skills, computer hacking skills.” A mustache, like his pal Pedro’s, also helps.
Advice: “Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills.”
In Annie Hall, neurotic New York comedian Alvy Singer teaches us that relationships are “totally irrational and crazy and absurd,” but they’re the stuff that keeps us going. His romance with the flighty Annie doesn’t work out for a number of reasons, and he offers one great tip about love during their breakup on an airplane.
Advice: “A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies.”