The ten most awkward teens in pop culture
Nerd. Geek. Dork. By whatever name, these poor, unfortunate souls with bad haircuts, unflattering clothes and few social graces are everywhere. Especially pop culture. Few films have captured the ideal of the awkward, disastrously uncool teen like Todd Solondz's Welcome to the Dollhouse, in the character of Dawn Wiener. The film -- showing tonight and tomorrow at 10 p.m. as part of the Watching Hour at the Sie FilmCenter -- offers one of the most simultaneously off-putting and endearing views of what it's like to fail to fit into the teen landscape of cool in the most disastrous way possible. In honor of the screening, we've collected some of pop culture's other most memorable misfits. Unfashionable, uncool and sometimes even unlikable, here are ten more teens who embrace the awkward like they have no other choice. Because they don't.
Brian Krakow from My So-Called Life
Poor Brian Krakow. His excellent academic achievement and high IQ was matched only by his terribly unfortunate hairdo and complete lack of social skills. Plus, like nearly every nerd everywhere since the beginning of time, he is hopelessly crushing on his female best friend, who just doesn't see him that way. Possibly because of how much time he spends telling her why what she is doing is wrong and/or stupid, and definitely because of that hair. Come on, dude, it was the '90s. You totally could have just shaved that mop and gotten away with the buzz cut.
Napoleon Dynamite from Napoleon Dynamite
Speaking of unfortunate hair... that's just the beginning of Napoleon's issues, though. As he himself notes, he doesn't have any "sweet skills" and girls only go for guys with skills. Of course, he thinks that means things like bow-hunting and computer hacking. In reality, they're looking for someone who has the skill to carry on a conversation without saying something completely off the wall and off-putting. Oh, and also the skill to realize it's time for a new haircut, and maybe some glasses that wouldn't look quite so at home on someone's grandma. In the '70s.
George McFly from Back to the Future
Even in the '50s, reading pulp science fiction and mumbling awkwardly through every conversation you tried to have was no way to impress girls. Or anyone else, for that matter. If it hadn't been for a misplaced Florence Nightingale effect, Marty McFly would never have been born. That, or him time-traveling and inventing rock and roll and ... anyway, the point is, George McFly? Big fucking nerd in a time when the word probably hadn't even been coined yet.
Harold Chasen in Harold and Maude
Bud Cort's Harold is played as a young man so alienated from other people that his favorite hobbies are faking his own death and attending funerals. It's not hard to see why in this clip, which alternates between his mother listing off elements of his social awkwardness ("Are you uncomfortable meeting new people? Well, I think that's a yes, don't you Harold?") and suggesting strongly that she may be the underlying cause of most or all of them. Regardless of the cause, it's hard to argue that this is one awkward young man, at least until Maude comes along and snaps him out of his stupor.
Doogie Howser in Doogie Howser, M.D.
The underlying cause of a lot of nerd alienation and awkwardness is being smarter than all your peers without having the social skills to know how to make that work for you. And nothing says "smarter than your peers" than being a sixteen-year-old doctor. Your age group doesn't know how to relate, because hey, you're a fucking sixteen-year-old doctor. Your doctor peers aren't sure how to relate because, hey, you're a fucking sixteen-year-old doctor. Also, your name is Doogie. That's a pretty much guaranteed road to social isolation and the awkward hall of fame.
Mitch Taylor in Real Genius
Speaking of child prodigies, Mitch Taylor is just fifteen years old, but he's already been admitted to the prestigious Pacific Tech physics program to work on lasers. (Look, it was the '80s. It sounded plausible at the time.) Problem is, even among the other nerds and misfits, Mitch finds it hard to fit in, possibly because he has a hard time relaxing and also because of that weird haircut. Seriously, it's amazing how much you could de-nerd most of these kids with a trip to the salon. Well, you could at least disguise the nerdiness, anyway. They'd still be unable to carry on a conversation that approximated normal human communication in most cases.
Bill Haverchuck in Freaks and Geeks
It takes a special kind of awkward to stand out as awkward among a group recognized as "freaks and geeks," and Bill Haverchuck has that awkward in record amounts. It's not just his appearance, which is so prototypically "geek" from the horrific glasses to the fashion victim ensembles that it shines as a beacon of how not to look to win friends and influence people. It's also his amazing talent for saying the exact thing to maximize everyone's discomfort, no matter the topic. That's some next level awkward.
Liz Lemon in 30 Rock
Being socially awkward and epically uncool is not solely a male phenomenon! Just look at the teenage Liz Lemon for evidence. Revealed in flashback at various points over the run of the series, teen Lemon displays a special level of awkward that includes being caught in a compromising position with a Tom Jones poster, spending her year abroad in high school visiting bird museums and being more comfortable with her telescope than with her peers.
Brian Johnson in The Breakfast Club
Anthony Michael Hall spent the '80s playing one awkward teen after another, in movies such as Sixteen Candles, Weird Science and, perhaps most famously, The Breakfast Club. That movie cast him as Brian Johnson, a straight-A student who is so distraught over a bad grade he contemplates ending it all, despite the fact his social life is filled with such glittering moments as the Latin club, the math club and the physics club.
George-Michael Bluth in Arrested Development
If anyone has picked up Anthony Michael Hall's mantle as "guy who's built a career out of playing the awkward geek," it's Michael Cera. His best-known, and most endearing, geek character is George-Michael Bluth from the cult favorite Arrested Development. How awkward is George-Michael? Well, he works in a banana stand, he's in love with his cousin and he's still the most normal member of his family. That's pretty awkward.
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