Comic-Con is among us and in honor of the annual event, it’s time to recognize some of the best Black nerds in film and television over the years! Check out the list below:
- Troy, Community: Troy played by Donald Glover is the lovable jock on community. Although he was introduced as a football character, his relationship with Abed illustrated his nerdy side. From childish games to funny raps Troy and Abed’s relationship brought out a fun side in Black nerdom in Community.
- Steve Urkel, Family Matters: One of the first popular Black nerds in film and television history. Steve Urkel played by Jaleel White is known for his legendary phrase “Did I do that?” Outside of his catchphrase, the character is known for his love for Laura Winslow which is mostly unrequited. Though originally designed to be a temporary character, ratings revealed an audience in love with the well-meaning goofball that is Urkel.
- Eddie Murphy, Bowfinger: Though a bit of an old film, Eddie Murphy portrayed the “conspiracy theorist” nerd Kit Ramsey. Along with Steve Martin’s Bobby Bowfinger, he helped make a movie involving aliens. Though, at some point, he began to believe the aliens were real and battled constant fear and anxiety (comically of course).
- Chris from Everybody Hates Chris: Although he may not initially appear to be a nerd from look alone, Chris from Everybody Hates Chris is a household show that thousands of Black families are familiar with. Based on stand-up comedian and actor Chris Rock and portrayed by Tyler James Williams, the show follows a young Chris navigating life who encounters bullying, racism, and poverty. Though filled with intense themes, the show is designed to be a comedy and delivers well.
- Dwayne Wayne, A Different World: Dwayne portrayed by Kadeem Hardison is yet another nerdy Black boy in love with a Black woman. Dwayne was introduced as a smart guy-turned player, having a major in mathematics and pursuing several relationships throughout the entire series. He started by dating Lisa Bonet’s Denise Huxtable, eventually breaking up and marrying. His nerdiness reflects the potential of intelligence blinded by a lack of focus. Though not classically a nerd, he does visually represent one with the signature shade glasses he constantly flips up and down the duration of the series.
- The Rock, Central Intelligence: No one would expect it, but famous former WWE wrestler The Rock did play a nerd alongside Kevin Hart in Central Intelligence. Introduced as Bob Stone, he was bullied and even pranked harshly, bringing him in front of a high school student body stark naked. However, Heart’s character Calvin Joyner looked out for him and gave him his jacket to cover himself up. Years passed, and Bob Stone had one of the greatest comebacks in Black nerd movie history: he became a part of the CIA. Losing a bunch of weight, he found fulfillment in beating up bad guys and saving the world, with his high school friend.
- Malcolm, Dope: Played by Shameik Moore, Malcolm is a Black nerd growing up in South Los Angeles, trying to survive and eventually go to Harvard. The film reflects the harsh realities students go through when trying to escape the hood but in a more dramatic way. His adventures include: chasing a girl at a party he did not want to attend in the first place, getting caught up in a drug scandal, and forcing his friends to outthink the situation. Shameiks’ character breaks the stereotype of nerds being weak, by showing his audience what happens when you push an introverted nerd into a corner.
- Carlton Banks, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: Carlton portrayed by Alfonso Ribeiro, starred alongside Will Smith in the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, acting as Will’s upper-class cousin. Carlton was by no means poor, but he was a nerd because he lacked social tact, had a nerdy dance, and was overall quirky just like Steve Urkel. Development in the series showed the audience Carlton’s ability to break that awkwardness here and there, but he will ultimately be remembered for the Carlton dance.
- A.J. Fairy, Odd Parents: A.J. portrayed by Ibrahim Muhammad, was a well-off Black nerd who pretty much outsmarted any arising problem or situation. He was so smart in fact; he had a lab and clone at the ready. Though only a side character to Timmy Turner, it was nice to see a Black nerd portrayed as a genius rather than a socially awkward klutz.
- Shuri, Black Panther: Of course, we cannot leave women out of Black nerds, with Shuri who could even put A.J. to shame. Letitia Wright played the supporting role of sister to Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa in Marvel’s Black Panther. Presented as a genius, she represents the future of Wakanda. She not only provided tech and support to T’Challa, but she also played a pivotal role in Avengers: Infinity War helping remove one of the infinity gems from Vision’s head and fighting in the war on Wakanda.
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