August 14, 2007

Who's the real "prototype for the sexy geek"?

Some Entertainment Weekly editors are saying it's Seth Green, who seems to think it might be Weird Al. But that's because EW is interviewing Seth Green, and Seth Green just got done interviewing Weird Al. Nevertheless, it's a great -- or good enough! -- question to justify trying to come up with a list and then narrow it down for a vote. You're not limited to actors and musicians, and remember the key word is prototype. Who originally unleashed the possibility that we could see the geek as sexy? I think that means going back a long, long way. But keep the time frame within reason -- at least within the era of photography. We don't need to hear about what Alcibiades said about Socrates in "The Symposium." And frankly, it would be geeky to bring that up. Not even geeky. Nerdy.

38 comments:

knoxwhirled said...

What a coincidence... I was just re-watching Weird Al's "White and Nerdy" video yesterday. He had me "ROTFLOL", so to speak. I hadd forgotten Seth Green has a lil cameo in it.

bill said...

Bill Gates

Paddy O. said...
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Snake With Blue Balls said...

Elvis Costello.

Paddy O. said...

In the era of portraiture it has to be Ben Franklin.

In the era of pictures I'd say Harold Lloyd has to be up there.

Ann Althouse said...

Paddy O: I was going to write some suggestions, and the first one I thought of was Buster Keaton and, second, Harold Lloyd, which I think is a better answer. He was in college a lot in his films, I think.

Snake: Elvis Costello came to mind for me too. But if you say Elvis Costello, you have to revert to his prototype: Buddy Holly. And for the 60s version: Freddie of Freddie and the Dreamers.

bill: Is Bill Gates sexy? Even with all those billions, I think not.

Joan said...

I'm sure Woody Allen would love it if we would all cite him, but he has never, ever been sexy. He used to be funny, but even that's gone.

The first sexy geek I can recall in modern cinema would be Jeff Goldblum, who first really got noticed as The Fly, but whose turn as the the chaos-theory loving mathematician in Jurassic Park set him up for a bunch of roles in a similar vein. But the '80s are probably too late to make him a true prototype.

Palladian said...

Alan Turing, sexy gay geek.

Paddy O. said...

At first I thought of Harold Lloyd picture in my mind, but Buster Keaton's name. Harold Lloyd seemed to be more purposeful in playing up the geek image.

A lot of silent film star comedians seem to fit into the geek model.

Jerry Lewis was sort of in that same model too later on.

Susan said...

Dobie Gillis?

Bender said...
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George said...

Either Madison or Monroe, I get them consufed.

Bender said...

Given the technical definition of "geek" -- a carnival performer who bites the heads off of animals -- it might just be Ozzy.

But wasn't the early Francis Albert rather geeky, in the more conventional sense?

Pogo said...

Bob Dylan.

froggyprager said...

Anthony Edwards - ER Doc and Gilbert from Revenge of the Nerds, Patrick Dempsey - Gray's Anatomy Doc and had some geeky roles in the past, John Stewart - cute and funny but also policy/ political wonk

Pogo said...

Don Knotts.

the jackal said...

Hugh Hefner. Check out the pic here.

DKWalser said...

How about Apple's Steve Jobs?

Wurly said...
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Christy said...

I've crushed on Seth Green since he played the werewolf, Oz, in "Buffy."

I've had impure thoughts about Dr. Who and Richard Feynmann.

Joan, I offer up Jeff Goldblum in Buckaroo Bonzai

the jackal said...

Oh, and by the way professor Althouse, Bill Gates is definitely up there on the list.

Pogo said...

Re: "Don Knotts?!!? Some people are sick."

My work is done here.

Ernst Blofeld said...

The Bill Gates story only refered to his precious bodily fluids, not the man himself.

What was the first portrayal of computer nerds specifically in movies? I remember Jim and Malvin from Wargames. " I can't believe it, Jim. That girl's standing over there listening and you're telling him about our back doors? " There must have been something before that, though.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNiiBrEHBWA

bill said...

Ann said: bill: Is Bill Gates sexy? Even with all those billions, I think not.

And I say if you can view the photos of him sensuously draped over those computers without getting a bit steamy, then I suggest you are not human.

knoxwhirled said...

I've crushed on Seth Green since he played the werewolf, Oz, in "Buffy."

yup

nick danger said...

I also thought of WarGames, where I think Matthew Broderic ought to qualify.

nick danger said...

And Ferris Bueller was pretty geeky, too.

Ernst Blofeld said...

But I don't think Broderick was really a geek, just a guy who broke into computers. The geekiness implies a certain lack of the social graces, and Lightman was doing some social engineering. The challenge is to combine both the lack of social grace with the sexy.

Jim and Malvin are geeks. I always liked Jim's burned-out geek, and I think Ally Sheedy was digging him when Lightman surprised him under the desk. Admit it, the smiley face shirt is a chick magnet.

SteveR said...

I have no expertise in this matter. To the extent I was, and still am a geek (and I was most assuredly a nerd), it never paid off for me.

Galvanized said...

Michael Cera! I adore that actor. Certainly the most loveable geek.
Mikey Cera in "Clark and Michael"


Mark Ruffalo is also often typecast as a geeky love interest in his movies.

And YouTube is the perfect niche for the geek demographic!

Revenant said...

Indiana Jones!

Don't even try telling me that archeology isn't geeky.

Roost on the Moon said...

David Byrne, clearly.

Jeff said...

From the other side of things, Michelle Meyrink from Real Genius as Jordan qualifies as a girl geek, I think. I certainly crushed on her for a while when I was younger.

Revenant said...

Oh yeah, Jordan was hot.

Michael said...

True story.

Back in the mid 80's, I had long curly black hair and a mustache. One night, as a friend of mine and I walked into T.A. Verns (a Milwaukee rock-oriented night club), a drunk woman (not uncommon at T.A. Verns) pointed at me and said to her friend, "Oh my God, it's Wierd Al!"

Not missing a beat, my friend stepped between me and the two women, and in a hushed tone told them, "No, no, no. You are mistaken. This is not Mr. Yankovic," as he shuffled the two women past the bouncer, who was a friend.

The DJ that night was also a friend, and we passed the story on to him. Being the twisted sort that he was, he played a very disproportionate number of Wierd Al tunes, which just drove those two girls crazy as they tried to convince other people not quite as drunk as them that I was, in fact, Wierd Al.

Ann Althouse said...

Michael, that's hilarious.

Paul Snively said...

The makers of "Pirates of Silicon Valley" apparently thought that Steve Jobs was a sexy geek. They promoted a popular, but essentially untrue, version of the story about Jobs and his entourage (including Steve Wozniak, who didn't participate in this particular excursion) going to Xerox PARC to see one of their Smalltalk-running workstations and, essentially, charming Dr. Adele Goldberg into giving away the farm. About the only part they got right is that Dr. Goldberg is indeed auburn-haired.

Oh well. Apart from that, it's a good film, including, IMHO, a brilliant performance by Joey Slotnick as Steve Wozniak—Mr. Slotnick expertly captures Woz's essential gentleness and humor. Noah Wyle and Anthony Michael Hall also give very good performances as Mr. Jobs and Mr. Gates, respectively.

Ernst Blofeld said...

I don't think Jobs qualifies as a computer geek.

The essential parts of geekiness are 1) a certain obliviousness to social graces--it's not that they set out to violate them in a bad-boy way, but that such things don't come up on their radar screen. 2) Intense interest in some complex and esoteric subject related to technology. It is similar to the absent-minded professor stereotype, but the AMP could be focused on the humanities, and he cleans up a bit better.

Jobs is keenly aware of the dynamics of social interactions, and in fact ruthlessly exploits his knowledge of this topic to get his way. He's frequently bullying, flattering, exploits other's need for his approval, and does all sorts of other social egineering that a real geek would not be conversant with. This is why Ferris Bueller is not a geek--he's too glib and able to talk his way out of a situation. Anyway, the "type" of Jobs is more like the Silicon Valley sharpster manager/CEO/Venture capitalist than a geek.