Is This the End of the Socially Awkward White Male Genius?


Allegiance, the ever so derivative Russian spy show on NBC, has been cancelled after 5 episodes. I’m always a little sad when a TV show gets cancelled because that puts people out of work, and Allegiance shot in New York and I know a few people who worked on it in one capacity or another. However, it was yet another show where a genius white guy solves mysteries that the regular cops or FBI or CIA can’t possibly figure out. But wait! He also doesn’t understand social cues, or humor, or sarcasm!

Sound familiar? A socially awkward white male genius (who almost always has a female partner) who solves crimes but can’t seem to connect with people emotionally? Well it should only sound familiar if you’ve seen House, The Mentalist, CSI, Scorpion, Elementary, Sherlock, Dr. Who, Criminal Minds, Monk, Backstrom, and/ or The Big Bang Theory.  In the TV world, the fact that these guys are good at their jobs excuses them from being decent human beings (well, some of them are half way decent, but they all lack connection to the real world). This kind of on screen behavior is primarily afforded to white men. While there a few exceptions, Dr. Temperance Brennan on Bones springs to mind, these characters are almost exclusively male. They are also overwhelmingly white which says two things: white men are smarter than the rest of us and because of their far superior intelligence, we mere mortals should excuse their rude, angry, insufferable, sexist, racist, insert-negative-word-here behavior.

I’m over this TV trope. First, being a genius apparently does not make you that special because every network has a few. Secondly, these characters are so lacking in originality that it’s often hard to tell one from another. Finally, if women and people of colored were offered these roles more often, I might not be as dismissive. Antisocial behavior from women and people of color is not excused and forgiven in our society. A cime-solving Latina genius who is also a socially awkward misanthrope might be fun and provocative, but for now it seems intelligence and jerky behavior are the white man’s terrain.

So, while it sucks that Allegiance was cancelled, I hope this will make way for a show that doesn’t wallow in these same tired racist and sexist tropes that have dominated TV for years now. Men shouldn’t simply be excused for their anti-social behavior and women and people of color can fill genius roles as well.

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