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Must the Female Nerd Deep Down Be a Pretty Actress?

Must the Female Nerd Be a Pretty Actress Deep Down?

Popular for her unpopularity, the female nerd has long been loved for her willingness to put it all out there. Maybe even show her dark side? These antiheroines are always socially maladjusted yet professionally successful. They annoy everyone around them while endearing an entire audience. And they are, without exception, played by pretty actresses.

The American Prospect notes it's almost like nerdy female characters have to flaunt their frumpiness just so they're believable. No one exemplifies this better than Tina Fey's Liz Lemon on 30 Rock. By all sane standards, Tina Fey is an attractive woman. Watching Liz Lemon makes me think it's not her nerdiness that's the problem, but the snobby egomaniacs who surround her. Which, if 30 Rock is a metacritique of how single women of a certain age are treated, makes sense.

Yet even when the soon-to-be canceled Ugly Betty's ratings dipped, the producers — who did a great job making America Ferrera look ugly with big glasses and bad wigs — tried to save the floundering show by making its star less ugly.


So it appears the only way to portray a nerdy woman is to make her a ticking bombshell; one that might whip off her glasses and throw down her hair at any second. Is it that regular women, who relate to their nerdiness, can hope that's true for them too? Or is putting a nonbeauty in a main role just a risk Hollywood can't take?

Join The Conversation
McRiguez McRiguez 7 years
i also agree it is about demeanor...
McRiguez McRiguez 7 years
I don't think these actresses are conventionally "pretty" by Hollywood standards. Now, if they'd put Jessica Simpson and Salma Hayek as Lemon or Suarez, I'd agree with you, but that's the whole point of putting Fey and Ferrera in those titular roles. They are regular. Any regular old gal can look like a Hollywood star with enough make-up. If you see them walking down the street, you don't cringe because they're ugly and you don't double take cuz they stop traffic. They are just plain pretty...that's all. And anyway, what constitutes "ugly"...
lilkimbo lilkimbo 7 years
I agree with snarky, the glasses thing bugs me. And, I know I'm going to be crucified for saying this, but I don't think Tina Fey is all that attractive. She's average, in my opinion.
postmodernsleaze postmodernsleaze 7 years
^ totally agree, snarkypants. LAME.
snarkypants snarkypants 7 years
the only thing i hate is when they just make the dorky character wear glasses, and that's it. once the glasses are off, suddenly they're attractive. so lame. especially in that idiotic taylor swift video.
catita85 catita85 7 years
In defense of Ugly Betty's writers, the original telenovela carried that storyline. It was a big part of its success. Other than that, it would be interesting to have un unattractive leading lady in television, just to defy the norm.
xgreenfairyx xgreenfairyx 7 years
Why do they keep categorizing this 'type' of female a 'nerd'? It's the wrong social label. They mean 'dork'. Please change this.
Girl-Jen Girl-Jen 7 years
HAHAHA!! A ticking bombshell! Alright, I kind of identify with that; there's always the hope that one day I'll wake up gorgeous instead of average.
skigurl skigurl 7 years
i meant *going to be ugly - most are hot
skigurl skigurl 7 years
actresses are just (very rarely) doing to be's hard to find someone fully unattractive in Hollywood, and it's also very easy for Hollywood makeup, trainers, hairstylists, lighting, photographers etc. to be able to transform a normal looking person to be smokin' hot but yes, also, putting a nonbeauty in a main role just a risk Hollywood isn't willing to take
bryseana bryseana 7 years
It's the latter. Like in the movie "She's All That", she was supposed to be nerdy, "unattractive" because she wore glasses and painted on overalls. But underneath it all she was all that. Tina Fey is a great example too - she's gorgeous. It seems there have always been different standards for male and female actors.
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