Today we’re entering the latest in the Nerd Role Models series, wherein we look at popular characters in geek culture and break down just what it is about them that makes them so special… and what you can learn from them. And in this case, we’re talking about the tricky subject of attractiveness.
It can feel so unfair when some people just glide through life, attracting women the way that cheese attracts mice while others have to struggle to build that desirability. Moreover, attraction can seem overwhelmingly complex at times – the questions of how much of attraction is physical rather than emotional attraction, how much good looks count versus personality and so forth. There are so many variables that it can be hard to keep it all straight in your head, especially when you’ve grown up holding onto the belief that only certain guys get the girls.
It’s interesting to note, however, that there are plenty of characters in pop culture whose appeal transcends their looks. In fact, their desirability is based about who they are as a whole person rather than just whether they have dreamy eyes or glamorous hair.
They may have weird faces or large noses, too many teeth or freaky ears… but they still inspire a level of passion that the Dirk Chestmeat casting of the CW can’t match.
We’re talking about someone who is romantic without being sappy, sexy without being sexualized. Someone who isn’t conventionally attractive yet has launched a thousand ‘ships1 inspired more cosplays than any other single character and set fangirl’s hearts a-flutter around the world…
I give you:
The Coming Storm. The Last of the Time Lords. The Madman in a Box. A savior and the greatest threat the universe has ever known. And over the last decade or so (depending on whether you want to count Paul McGann), he’s been one of the most popular figures in geek culture.
What makes things interesting is that his popularity began to take off as he was given more of a romantic and sexual edge. Hard core fans may have objected when the Eighth Doctor kissed Dr. Holloway, but those first signs of amorous feelings for a companion would be part of what made the relationship of the Doctor with his companions so compelling… and it made him more attractive, no matter which face he happened to be wearing. Part of what makes the Doctor an interesting character for the Nerd Role Model series is that his looks are practically secondary to the character, thanks to his having been played by so many different actors. David Tennant is undeniably conventionally good looking, but Christopher Eccleston and Matt Smith both have their passionate fans.
The face may change, but it’s the core of his personality – especially in the Davis/Moffat era2 – that remains the same. The modern Doctor’s appeal is rooted in his character rather than his cheekbones or floppy hair or flair for New Romantic dandyism that Adam Ant would’ve killed for.
While the details of his personality may differ with each regeneration – Eccleston’s Scouse “Have a go if yer ‘ard enough” edge versus Tennant’s wounded soul and Smith’s manic trickster-spirt ((almost a British Bugs Bunny, really)) there’s an emotional core to the Doctor that remains the same… and it’s the source of his appeal.
The Doctor may be many things, but “apathetic” isn’t one of them. He’s defined by his dynamism and it expresses itself in everything he does. The Doctor doesn’t do anything by half-measures; he throws himself into everything with great abandon. He loves what he loves whole-heartedly, without regard for whether something is “cool” or popular.
As far as he’s concerned, something (or someone, for that matter) is incredible just because it’s so uniquely itself. He cares for people deeply, even when it means that the pain at losing them will be so much the worse for it.
He doesn’t care whether he looks ridiculous or whether people think he’s strange or unusual for loving the things he loves. He doesn’t hold back for fear of being judged or mocked. He is authentically himself at all times, not hiding behind a mask. He may run from Daleks and quake in fear at the Cybermen, but he is absolutely fearless in his willingness to express himself. He lives for his passions.
How Can You Use This?
The great thing about being a geek is that you’re already halfway there. To quote Simon Pegg:
Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection. It means never having to play it cool about how much you like something. It’s basically a license to proudly emote on a somewhat childish level rather than behave like a supposed adult. Being a geek is extremely liberating.
This rather neatly sums up a great part of the Doctor’s appeal. He’s 900+ years old, yet he still has that child-like wonder and intensity. Geeks have a tendency to downplay their emotions, to pretend we don’t care about things as much as we really do when we’re worried that others are going to mock us. When you’re passionate about something, you’re more energetic, you’re more at ease, more full of life. Being willing to express yourself, to live life to the fullest is one of the most attractive behaviors there is.
The trick is not to hide that passion. Passion is attractive. The Doctor’s passion makes him so appealing because he’s so self-assured and certain of himself. That certainty is captivating; we’re drawn to it because we’re so used to doubt and restraint. The Doctor expresses himself fearlessly – he doesn’t worry about being judged or mocked.
What’s great about the Doctor though, is that the way he expresses that passion varies with each incarnation. Matt Smith’s Doctor is full of feverish energy, unable to sit still for longer than a few minutes while Tennant is full of wonder and awe for everything around him and Eccleston had a quiet intensity that could burst into laughter or joy at a moment’s notice. Not every moment has to be jumping-on-the-couch-laughing-with-glee levels of exhuberance. It’s just about letting yourself feel what you feel and being willing to express that feeling without fear of looking foolish.
Speaking of passion…
The Doctor is the realization of the fantasy that someone incredible would show up and whisk us away to fabulous adventures, where excitement and peril lurk around every corner and each new day brings wonders you never dreamed of before. Yes, there’s danger, but that danger pales in comparison with all of the amazing things that remain to be discovered. Even when facing certain death – wicked werewolves, demented dopplegangers, giant killer wasps, weeping angels, blood-summoned spectres – his reaction is almost always “OH MY GOD THAT’S SO COOL!”
Y’know. Once the running and screaming stops.
The Doctor loves to travel because, simply, there’s just so much out there to see. There’s always some new experience to be had, some new spectacle to be witnessed, new people to meet…. and he wants to share that incredible feeling with the people he cares about, because there’s nothing quite like showing someone something amazing for the first time.
And people respond to that.
How Do You Use This?
The obvious answer is “start travelling the world”. Which is a nice idea, but one that doesn’t necessarily work for everyone.
The key takeaway isn’t that the Doctor is constantly pulling up stakes to go see what’s around the next corner and over the next mountain, it’s that he’s always up for trying something new and helping other people find the joy in new things. He’s out exploring and looking for cool things to try.
It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day tedium of life, where each day is one trudging footstep after the other into a morass of mediocrity and monotony; each day the same as the next, each day one day closer to the grave. Too many of us live a life where we do the same thing over and over again without thinking about it… and then one day we wake up and realize how all the time we thought we had is gone and we no longer have the opportunity to try all the amazing things we wanted to do. That adventurous spirit that is so appealing in the Doctor can be applied in your day to day life by trying things that you’ve been curious about – even a little afraid of – or that are off the beaten track. It doesn’t have to be as extreme as backpacking across Europe or riding a motorcycle from New York to California. It could be breaking out of your work-home-sleep rut to go hiking in the greenbelt or taking an ATV tour. It could be finding a class on cooking Thai food, joining a knitting circle or learning a new language. It could be trying a new amateur sport, or auditing a college course just because you’ve always wanted to give it a shot. It could be about going out to Burning Man or just going go-karting on the weekend instead of sacking out on the couch in front of the TV.
In short, it’s about living, not just existing. It’s about having a life that’s more than just watching time tick away at work until you can go home and then waiting until you have to go to work again.
The Doctor is many things… but he’s not a negative person.
He may be angry. He may be arrogant. He may be hurt. He may be bone-weary and soul-crushingly lonely…
But he’s not negative.
In fact, he’s optimistic, almost to the point of delusion. Trapped on a hellworld,
surrounded by the most dangerously insane of his deadliest enemies and he’s still excited and upbeat. There’s no dark cloud that doesn’t have a silver lining. He practically radiates positive energy. Everything is great! Even if things suck right now, all will be well in the end, because it has to be. Things didn’t work out as planned? That’s OK. Everything is falling apart around him? Fine: he’ll fix it. Nothing gets him down for long. He carries the deepest pain imaginable, not only being the last of his kind but being responsible for the loss of trillions of lives… but he still can find joy and wonder, even in the darkest of times.
When faced with the worst that the universe can dish out, he believes in the best of everyone; there’s nobody so far gone that they don’t deserve a second chance or that they can’t be redeemed.
He simply believes that in the end, every little thing is gonna be alright.
How Do You Use This?
We’re all familiar with relentlessly negative people. They’re energy-vampires, capable of draining the life out of a room by their sheer presence. They’re the little black raincloud that brings down the party and takes the joy out of things simply because they’re so insistent that the world is a cold and meaningless place and we all die alone and unloved in the end anyway.
Positivity is the opposite of that.
Positive people invigorate others. They’re fun to be around. They’re inspiring.
Being positive isn’t just about being happy all the time, living life with a goofy grin; it’s about believing in yourself and others, in your ability to succeed, even when everything seems to be going wrong. The Doctor always has faith in the future. Things may not be going well now but he’s willing to fix things and make them better.
That attiude, that no matter how bad things are, you can improve it affects your outlook. It makes you more likely to see the good in the world, rather than dwelling on the negative. It makes it easier to break those self-limiting beliefs and to assume the best out of the people you meet. Even if they may let you down or dissapoint you, when you’re willing to assume that people are good, it affects the way you treat them. They find you more appealing, more energizing and – importantly – more attractive… especially because you see the potential in them.
Considering that every adventure with the Doctor inevitably involves hideous eldritch beings from beyond space and time that are planning on consuming the universe and ripping people’s nipples off (sometimes even in that order), you think that the Doctor’s companions would go on precisely one jaunt with him before saying “You know what? I like boring. Drop me off back at the Circle K and I’ll make my way home thanks.”
Except they don’t. In fact, most of them stay with the Doctor until the (frequently all too) bitter end.
Because even when he’s leading them headlong into danger, the Doctor is helping them have the time of their lives.
It’s the Reward Theory of Attraction: the Doctor’s companions feel appreciated and needed by him and so the rewards of hanging with the Doctor vastly outweigh the costs. In between the nipple-ripping multi-angled beings from the outer dark, the Doctor is taking them to exotic locals through time and space, visiting famous moments in history from across the universe. They’re collecting stories that nobody else will ever be able to beat; how great would it be to show up Tom at the office whenever he talks about his vacation to the Sychelles? “Really? That’s cool… just last week, I was at the diamond waterfalls of Proxima Centauri; did you know the throat singers there sound just like Maria Callas singing in four octaves at once?”
Travelling with the Doctor is akin to being in a Disney movie, singing “A Whole New World” as the universe spins by with a crazy blue box substituting for a magic carpet. It’s like every crazy dream you’ve ever had coming true all at once and in the best ways possible.
How Do You Use This?
If you’re not in possession of a TARDIS, it can seem like this is just another case of “Great, the key to a great dating life is to be fictional”. Except it isn’t.
It’s not the crazy worlds and unbelievable sights that you need to emulate – it’s the ability to help others have fun. Being fun is one of the most attractive features anyone can have. Being fun and bringing that fun to others makes them want to hang around you. And there are many different ways of doing that. It can be as extreme as going to the ruined temples of Ankor Wat to a date at a gun range to blow some holes in paper targets. It can be as offbeat and silly as taking part in a cardboard fort war in the middle of a public park or as restrained and mature as an incredible gallery show on First Friday’s art walks in your city. It’s about having stories to tell that make people laugh. It’s making people feel good in your presence and triggering that dopamine response in the brain, making them want to hang out with you more.
You may not be a raggedy man in a box, a floppy-haired mod or an intense survivor of the Time Wars, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn from the Doctor’s example… and maybe find a Rose or a Martha or an Amy or Rory of your own.