“Love” on Netflix: Is Nerd the New Jerk?


It’s supposed to be cute and sweet. The nerd (Gus) loses his girlfriend because he’s “too nice”—in fact, he’s “fake nice.” Then, he finds a bad girl (Mickey) who he happens to like and get along with. His charmingly nerdy self quickly has her smitten, and they hook up. All seems to be going well, except their date ends badly and the nerd moves on to greener pastures (the very next day!) while the poor bad girl is left pining for him, confused as to why he’s lost interest so quickly.

Before nerd became the new cool, nerds were the ones left in the dust while the cool people moved on, leaving the nerds used and abused. Now? Now, nerds are the cool ones and the former cool crowd is struggling to catch back up.

This new coolness comes at a great price, though. Nerds used to be the ones you could count on, the ones who were sweet and kind and reliable.  Note that I use the past tense here. In Love, the nerd is anything but sweet and kind and reliable.  Not really.

Sure, Gus pays for Mickey’s coffee and cigarettes when she has lost her wallet. Sure, he helps her roommate move in. Sure, he helps her out in numerous ways…but is he really just a wolf in nerd’s clothing?

Jerk Example #1: Mickey invites Gus to a party. Gus, in his reliable, nerdy way, shows up precisely on time—long before any other guests. He’s awkward at first, but his nerdy awkwardness charms over several of the partygoers (including one rather attractive woman) and he temporarily forgets that it was Mickey who invited him in the first place, brushing her off to play music with the party host and flirt awkwardly with the above-mentioned hot chick. He redeems himself by the end of the party, saving Mickey after she belly-flops into the pool and gets the wind knocked out of her…or does he?

Jerk Example #2: Mickey finally admits that she has feelings for Gus, so they go out on a date. Pre-date, they hook up, then Gus proceeds to take Mickey on a date to a place she really doesn’t want to go. Mickey’s not a fan of stage magic, but Gus insists they go on a date to the Magic Castle, a members-only place where there is nothing but stage magic. The one thing Mickey enjoys in the Magic Castle—a woman whose enthusiasm for the magic tricks fascinates and delights Mickey—is quickly brushed aside by Gus, who drags Mickey around to the rest of the Magic Castle despite her protests.

Jerk Example #3: The very next day Gus invites another woman to a weekly hangout with his friends at his apartment. He forgot that he had invited Mickey as well, and during the party he largely ignores Mickey in favor of the new love interest (Heidi). Oh, and we can’t forget that after Mickey storms out, not only does he not go after her to apologize, he sleeps with Heidi. Remember, this is the very next day after his first real date with Mickey. Jerk.

Jerk Example #4: Mickey comes to visit Gus at his workplace, and all jerkiness breaks loose. Instead of feeling guilty for Jerk Example #3, Gus just goes further into jerk mode. After deleting her contact information, he blows her off, then gets into a screaming match with her, getting her thrown out of his workplace in front of many of his coworkers.

Jerk Example #5: And perhaps the jerkiest move of all, though I think it was intended to be a “romantic” moment, comes at the end of the season. Mickey finally works up the nerve to admit to Gus that she’s a sex-and-love addict and tells him that she wants to take a year off from dating to find herself before possibly meeting him for a coffee to start over. What does Gus do? Does he smile and give her some supporting, understanding pep talk? No. This jerk pulls her in close and kisses her. Yes, like I said, it’s probably intended to be a romantic moment, but just think about it: she has just admitted that she’s addicted to sex and romance and stated her desire to be “sober” for a year before she goes back into the dating life, and he drags her into a deep kiss. How is this supposed to be a good thing for an addict? It’s like telling an alcoholic who is trying to quit “Here’s a beer to celebrate your sobriety!”

Does Mickey backslide into yet another attempt at love with Gus, or does she stick to her resolve to stay out of a relationship for at least a year? We don’t find out because that moment is the end of the season.

Netflix’s new show starts out cute and endearing, but by the end, it left this nerdy girl cringing in embarrassment at the bad name Gus gives to nerds everywhere. Have we really become so mainstream that even nerds aren’t immune to being portrayed as thick-rimmed-glasses-wearing versions of the jocks of the 80s and 90s?

“Nerd” being the new “cool” may end up backfiring on us. Is this the beginning of the end of nerddom’s rise to power?

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