When FOX announced Zooey Deschanel was getting a show and it was deemed “adorkable,” I wasn’t too happy. I thought (500) Days of Summer was overrated and I didn’t want that pretty girl being labeled a geek, but the promos for the show were funny enough and I watched. Before the first commercial, I was a fan. I realized geeks come in all shapes and sizes and Zooey’s character Jess was just the icing on the cake for a beautiful array of geeky ladies taking over TV. From the middle child Alex on Modern Family to semi-psychotic Annie of Community, strong female characters who showcase smarts along with the power to steal a scene are giving a new meaning to geek chic… for the most part.
Nerdy girls aren’t new to television though. Back in the ’80s before Sarah Jessica Parker was a fashionista, she was an awkward adolescence on Square Pegs. The ’90s brought a few more, including Mayim Bialik on Blossom who resurfaced recently on The Big Bang Theory (more on that later), out-there Phoebe on Friends, and Topanga on Boy Meets World. Today there seems to be a geeky gal on every hit show.
On ABC, the girls are younger, but that doesn’t mean they’re just background characters. Modern Family has a huge cast, but Alex stands her ground as the overachieving sibling who is quick with wit when it comes to putting down her older sister. The Middle has Sue… she’s so odd and tries so hard to be “hip,” and that’s why she’s endearing to audiences. Both showcase the idea of individuality, no matter how much it makes you “uncool” to your older brother or sister.
FOX lets their quirky women shine in their own shows. Jess on New Girl is so pretty, but after watching, you realize she might be cute but she’s a mess. You remember she trips while standing in place and talks like a 1920s paperboy as foreplay, and that makes you forget you’re jealous of her giant puppy dog eyes, perfect skin, and flawless wardrobe. After the success of one hit show about a strange grown female, FOX got The Mindy Project. Mindy Kaling plays the same pop culture obsessed girl she did on The Office, but this time around she’s a doctor who’s out in the world trying to have a “normal” adult life. When it comes to these two, they display the fact that no matter how old you get or how many guys you date, you can’t shake how bizarre you really are.
Lastly there’s Annie on Community and Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory. Annie is like the poor man’s Zooey. She dresses like an Olsen twin in 1995, is super smart, appears innocent (but isn’t) and handles her own against the sarcastic and sexy Joel McHale. Amy, now she’s a gem. TBBT was so male-centric when there was only Penny, but the addition of Amy and Bernadette balanced the cast out and made Mayim a breakout star. The character of Amy is almost identical to her boyfriend (without benefits), Sheldon Cooper, with one exception… she has a real sex drive that may never be relieved. What do we take home with this pair? Just because they hit the books more often than most, doesn’t mean they’re oblivious to personal desires.
After you get through the dozens of CSI and NCIS spinoffs, handfuls of vampire dramas, and shows about Animal Practices (really, NBC?), you can find comedies that showcase the talents of women taking charge as geek chic stars. They’re individuals, awkward adults, and show that hey, geeky doesn’t always mean celibate. Let’s just hope this doesn’t turn into one of those TV trends that we’re forced to hate when it becomes too much… like, say, singing competitions.