Nowadays, the term nerd is almost a compliment. It suggests someone, male or female, who has an intense interest in a specific sphere. The most common is a computer nerd but I also hear people bragging: "I'm a grammar nerd".

As a matter of fact, someone who might be described as a student nerd, suggests a young person who actually enjoys studying rather than someone who is bullied and made to feel like outcast.

The TV sitcom, The Big Bang Theory, is often credited for making nerds cool. But were they they the first American TV show to do so?

Here is a YouTube clip (2009) where John Hodgman defines President Obama as being the first nerd president of the modern era.

  • Which TV show, or movie, first depicted nerds (using that term) as being intelligent, and "cool" and not exclusively social outcasts, or embarrassing misfits?
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    Should Revenge of the Nerds be mentioned or is that too on the nose? ;) Didn't it and WarGames get the ball rolling in 1983-1984?
    – Walt
    Oct 28, 2016 at 9:39
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    This seems slightly primarily-opinion based to me, because it may be hard to objectively decide whether in a given movie nerds are being depicted as being (super) intelligent and fun to hang out with. Oct 28, 2016 at 9:45
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    @Mari-LouA Well, I simply don't know, since the term "nerd" has always been rather fuzzy to me. I also don't really have any interest in one way or the other, let alone in answering the question. I'm just trying to understand it better and cover all the possible arguments for being "primarily opinion-based" or "too broad". But I don't want to make you ask a question you don't want to ask. I'm just trying to incite a useful discussion that might lead to people understanding your question better.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Oct 28, 2016 at 10:23
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    @Mari-LouA - I'd say nerds are looked less down upon today because technology has become ubiquitous. Nowadays people who don't know how to operate a computer or a smart phone are considered "weird". - The characters on TBBT aren't depicted as "cool" though, they even have problems connecting with other nerds, scientist and celebrities nerds like (e.g. Stan Lee, Brent Spiner, Summer Glau, Mike Massimino, George Smoot, Neil deGrasse Tyson,...).
    – Oliver_C
    Oct 29, 2016 at 2:25
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    P.S.: I grew up watching MacGyver (1985-1992) and he is someone I would feel comfortable calling a "cool nerd".
    – Oliver_C
    Oct 29, 2016 at 2:29

3 Answers 3


I'd have to go with Square Pegs (1982-1983), which featured Sarah Jessica Parker, Jamie Gertz and Traci Nelson (daughter of Rick Nelson of Ozzie and Harriet fame). Several guest stars included Bill Murray, John Densmore (of The Doors), Mark and Robert Mothersbaugh (of Devo) and Martin Mull.

Sarah Jessica Parker was really the focus of the show, which was about a group of nerdy kids who wanted to be cool. But, since the focus was on them, you became sympathetic to the nerds and realized they were kinda cool.

  • Great answer. I was going to post Revenge of the Nerds b/c I'd forgotten this show and that it predates that movie by a couple of years.
    – DukeZhou
    Oct 28, 2016 at 17:37

I'd have to go with Real Genius (1985)

Mitch is one of the youngest students ever accepted to a university known for its programs for geniuses. He's partnered up with his roommate, science club legend Chris Knight, on a project to develop a high-powered laser. Together with their hyper-kinetic friends, they employ their intellects in the pursuit of bigger blasts, practical jokes, and a deeper understanding of what real genius is. When their final, functional laser is stolen by their teacher for a military weapon, they decide to get even.

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    Were Mitch and Chris Knight ever called "nerds" in the movie?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 28, 2016 at 9:34
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    I'd have to watch it again to be sure but I'm not sure the actual word is that important...more the archetype.
    – Paulie_D
    Oct 28, 2016 at 9:38
  • I'm sure you don't need to rewatch it, just find the script online and scan it for "nerd" or "nerdy". I'll accept references to "geek", nerds and geeks seem to be more interchangeable with one another.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 28, 2016 at 10:30

'Nerd' is still not a compliment, afaik. Some people may use it in a non-derogatory manner, but I've never seen someone actually complimenting someone else by saying 'Jeez, you're such a nerd!'. But, granted, that certainly depends on which circles we hang out.

Anyway, the movie 'Hackers', from 1995, comes to mind as the oldest movie I know where 'computer nerds' (or more specifically, hackers) are shown as an elite society, smarter than the average.


  • Check how The Plague describes average non-hacker people in the video
    – BlueMoon93
    Oct 28, 2016 at 9:22
  • OK, cattle, moo. Nowadays I hear "sheep" and "sheeple" being uttered more frequently. For an upvote, please edit and say when was the movie was released. Thanks
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 28, 2016 at 9:25
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    Actually, if I'm not mistaken, hackers were an elite group, it used to be a badge of honour, it meant you were really smart and knew your way around computers. Nowadays, more often than not, it suggests someone dishonest, who cracks secret codes. I'm not sure if this answer is pertinent. But +1 for stating 1995.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 28, 2016 at 9:30

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