the jock and the geek



There’s been a lot of talk lately, including here, about the use and overuse of some plot devices in m/m romance. The one I want to talk about today is the ‘geek and jock’.


We’re all (very) familiar with this trope. Yanno, it’s where the geek gets either picked on or ignored by the jock during high school because he’s either too different and/or out about his sexuality, they meet up at some gay bar in the future, acknowledge the crushes they had on each other when they were teenagers, fuck like bunnies, and then live HEA. The end.

I realised the other day that not only do I have a fondness for this theme, but I’m actually willing to forgive a lot in terms of rehashed characters and plot-hole story lines.

I’m blaming my love of John Hughes movies together with my non-US fascination with the American high school caste system (which I’m certain is no different to ours or others, yet adding cheerleaders just seems to add a whole new level of bitchiness to the scenario).

Granted it does seem a bit weird, but probably not as strange as asking someone’s daughter to report back on her first day of high school complete with pictures of the various cliques so said person can study the strange phenomena of a North American high school kinda first hand.

Ummm…

Sooo…

How do you feel about the ‘jock and geek’ plot device? Do you read it with a sense of nostalgia like me or do you hate it with a passion? Do you have any fave or crap examples of books that feature these characters? Speak.

About Kris

Reads, rants, randoms & R+s. You've been warned. BTW, don't follow me if you're a GLBTQQphobic wanker. It won't end well. For you.
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22 Responses to the jock and the geek

  1. nichem says:

    I like the 'jock and geek' plot device too. Maybe that's cuz I was one of the geeks/ nerds in high school, heh.

    I'm drawing a blank on specific books right now, though, even though I know I've read several. The only one I can think of is a free read on Zathyn Priest's website. 'Twas good.

  2. K. Z. Snow says:

    Welll…being something of a geek myself (varsity debater and bookworm and all that), I've never been overly fond of jocks. And that's been especially true since Bret effing Favre started playing for the Minnesota effing Vikings.

    I don't expect a whole lot of people to understand this, but it's intensified my jock aversion.

  3. Tam says:

    OMG, you got such an eye roll when I said you wanted pictures. LOL We do not have cheer leading really in Canada. Even high school sports are not that big of a deal. My friend in Ohio said his daughter had to start marching band 3 weeks before school started because there was a football game the first week. Umm. How the hell can you have a team when all the teachers are on holiday? When school is out, school is out. There are no sports before school starts. Its just extracurricular, the English teacher might be the volleyball coach and the history teacher does soccer, if they have time after school. Its not a professional position. So I find the US system pretty unique. We do have the emos, Frenchies (immersion kids), band geeks, sporties, etc. of course. Okay, onto the subject at hand.

    I don't mind that theme, but I'm not a huge fan. One week though I somehow managed to buy 3 or 4 books with that theme it seemed. WTF? When you read one after the other its overdone. I had to swear off it for a while because I was burned out. The books weren't bad, I just needed more variety.

    Some of my faves I can think of are Reunion by Vic Winter. It had a humerous bent when they kept getting waylaid by the perennially perky former cheerleader. I liked Kinky Orgasm by Amanda Young as well. Hmmm. I know I've read more but maybe they were super shorts or in anthologies. Those are the only two that stand out for me.

  4. Tam says:

    I was one of those oddities in high school who flitted between groups. I was on the varsity volleyball team and partied with the jocks (a lot ahem) but I was also on the yearbook committee and in the marching band and partied with the geeks. πŸ™‚ I have to say my daughter is NOT a jock but is friendly with them. She kind of moves around in groups which I think is better than being pigeon holed.

  5. Jenre says:

    Ooh yes, I love this plot device too. It doesn't matter that I find the whole US school system completely bewildering, I just can't get enough of it.

    I blame it on over excessive watching of The Breakfast Club as a teenager.

    My favourite has to be Caught Running by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux.

    I even loved Cameron in Blue Ruin 2 – even though everyone else hated him for butting in on Derek & Blue's relationship, I wanted him and Blue to get together.

  6. nichem says:

    Oh, yes, Caught Running– I loved that too, Jen.

    Wow, I never realized the US school system was that different until y'all started mentioning it. Sports are a huge deal in US schools, though. The football team at my kids' school practices most of the summer, Tam. Even the teams for younger kids are pretty competitive. The little league baseball teams and junior football teams have practice EVERY day during the season around here. That's just way too much for 7, 8, and 9 yr olds. And of course, for the most part, the jocks and cheerleaders are the most popular kids at school and are always the homecoming kings and queens.

    I was the math team, science team, academic bowl nerd, so needless to say, I wasn't on the homecoming court. πŸ˜› Though the jocks and cheerleaders were always nice to me so that I'd help them with their homework, lol.

  7. wren says:

    My first thought was 'oh yeah, I like this device'. Then I couldn't think of many. Had to scour my brain (and that hurts!).

    It seems to me that most of the ones I could think of were set in the post-university world, except for Dar and Gregg – Jock Dorm 1 (Bobby Michaels). But here's what I came up with:

    One Way Street (Laney Cairo)
    Tigers and Devils (Sean Kennedy)
    Here and Now (Anah Crow)
    Secret Admirer (Ashley Ladd)

    If you think about it, though, that trope can extend beyond the jock/nerd pairing to the tough guy/sweet guy pairing, which I think were particularly well done in two books I just devoured: Warrior's Cross (Urban and Roux) and Cage Match (Dee). There are many, many more like that I could come up with!

    I was a theater/chorus nerd in high school. One of my fondest memories is the year we got the jocks to try out for (and be cast in) A Midsummer Night's Dream!

  8. Lily says:

    I like the jock/geek combo. Too tired to even remember titles but I've read some nice ones.

    I see Caught Running was mentioned, loved that book.

    I was a geek in high school but also part of the Pep Squad (otherwise known as wannabe Cheerleaders) so I hung around with both.

    @KZ
    I share your pain. Love Bret but damn, I wish he would just stay retired. Vikings??? 0_0

  9. Ingrid says:

    The US school system is bewildering for a dutchie but fun to read about.
    School and sports have nothing to do with each other here. You get 2 or 3 hrs of you would call it PE and that's it.
    Here school is about learning stuff, schools are divided by levels. So everyone going to the same school is somewhat weird too.

    You have Wes & Toren, one of your ? ya novels Kris Dumb Jock.
    Of course you dont have a lot of high school books because of the age of consent thing.

  10. Kris says:

    Richelle: I always think that for anyone who was different in high school it's fun to read about them getting the hot and popular person in the long run. πŸ™‚

    I haven't read ZP yet, but all that's about to change because of a GR challenge. I will let you know whether it's fun ot not. πŸ˜‰

    K Z: I definitely have no effing idea what you're talking about.

    Tam: Tell her I'm still expecting piccies, but now want it in an album form complete with snarky yet insightful captions. LOL.

    I don't recall reading that Vic Winter. It sounds like fun so I should try it.

    BTW, what the heck is an immersion kid???

  11. Kris says:

    Tam: I refused to conform and be part of groups and cliques, which, unfortunately for me, because I went to a private girls school made be persona non grata with the headmistress and some of the senior staff. Strangely, a lot of girls from different groups seemed to like me for it and I became friendly with a number of them – even if they did think it was strange that I spent most of the free time reading. πŸ™‚

    Jen: Ditto. I blame Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink too. LOL.

    Caught Running is my fave too. I love it muchly.

    Boo, hiss to Cameron. I think Derek should have kicked his arse.

    Richelle: The US system really is fasincating – bewildering, amusing, terrifying, the whole gamut – to an outsider. I think – my opinion anyway – it's because the lines between groups appear so clearly drawn and the dynamics between them so extreme.

    “Though the jocks and cheerleaders were always nice to me so that I'd help them with their homework, lol.”

    I bet. LOL.

  12. Kris says:

    Wren: “Had to scour my brain (and that hurts!).” *snort* Thinking does do that to some people, or so I've heard.

    They're all a variation of the opposites attract pairing when you come down to it… and don't we all love that trope. Sappy fools for love the lot of us. *g*

    Lily: See, another romantic. A good thing considering what we all read. LOL.

    BTW, thank goodness someone knew what K Z was on about. She'll be happy now. πŸ˜‰

    Ingrid: It was always interesting to hear my cousin, who is Italian, talking about school and the fact the the kids went to different schools depending on what they studied. Here, we do have some schools that are known to have excellent reputations for certain courses; however, you basically go to the public school nearest to where you live.

    Yeah, Wes & Toren is a good example of a geek/jock-bad boy pairing… which reminds me I must do something about working out who wons those YAs from the other day. Whoopsie.

  13. Ingrid says:

    ItΒ΄s generic till 12yr old and after you go to “highschool” till about 16-18 depending on what level you take. Higher level means more years in school.

    We did/ do have those types at school but not as strong as suggested by those books.

  14. Tam says:

    Immersion kids are those in French Immersion meaning a large portion of their classes are taught in French. In theory they come out bilingual, not sure it's really true. They are slightly looked down on by the non-immersion kids.

  15. Ingrid says:

    Since a few years they have bilingual schools here. they teach in dutch and english.

  16. No cheerleaders in Oz and Canada? How refreshing!

  17. Merwan says:

    I myself love this plot device as well. However, not where they never got along all through highschool and meet up again some time in the future, but where they're still in highschool and it's all happening there (sometimes the story takes you to their future but that's just a bonus). I love highschool fics! Sadly, they're very rare in published works, but there are some very nice ones available for free on the internet (on GayAuthors and Nifty for ex). My favorite published one would be Almost Like Being in Love by Steve Kluger. What a gem.

  18. K. Z. Snow says:

    “K Z: I definitely have no effing idea what you're talking about.”

    Now you know how I feel about Aussie football. And I still don't know what distinguishes it from football in the rest of the world, other than the U.S. (where Bret effing Favre continues to play in spite of his numerous retirements).

  19. Tracy says:

    I like the jock/geek plot device in m/m books more than I think I like it in m/f – although that still holds some fascination. Maybe because I had some crushed on jocks when I was in school that never came to fruition (yes, I was a geek).

  20. Kris says:

    Ingrid: “We did/ do have those types at school but not as strong as suggested by those books.” It's – or was – the same here.

    Tam: Ah. Thanks for the explanation.

    Val: Nup, no cheerleaders, pep squads, etc. Not that I was a particularly morbid teenager or anything, but I seriously think that all that cheer and perkiness would have driven me insane. πŸ™‚

    Merwan: I've a fondness for the pairing actually being used in a high school situation myself. I just checked out the SK book and it looks fabulous. I know what I'll be doing today. LOL. Thanks for the rec!

    K Z: “I still don't know what distinguishes it from football in the rest of the world…”

    That's because you forgot to make the 'f' uppercase. It's Football thus making it far and above those other codes.

    Tracy: I think I like it in both m/m and m/f. I'm a sucker for the underdog winning in the end. πŸ™‚

  21. orannia says:

    Yeah, I like the jock and the geek plot device too…mainly because I like the thought of the jock re-evaluating what he thinks about the geek…finding out who he really is πŸ™‚ And I was a geek at school…and picked on because…well, just because. The jocks weren't at the top of the pecking order in my class, the 'cool' kids were. The weird thing is, my brother was exceptionally cool, and was friends with the brother of one of the cool guys in my class, so said cool guy was actually quite nice to me πŸ™‚

    …with my non-US fascination with the American high school caste system.

    Yeah, I'm kind of fascinatied by it too *grin*

  22. Kris says:

    Orannia: Seems like we're all fascinated. I like the re-evaluation and self-reflection aspects of the pairing too.

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