Movie Article

Making Mr. Right Angle

Anatomy of the psycho-nerd -- From geeky glasses to pocket protector, every aspect of Michael Douglas' look in ''Falling Down'' serves a purpose

If clothes make the movie character, what's with Michael Douglas in Falling Down? Could there be a connection between this guy's button-down nerd gestalt and his predilection for violence?

Actually, there's a defining purpose for every aspect of Douglas' startling look, from his coif to his case, as you can see from the following annotated historical analysis of The Five Basic Elements of the Psycho-Nerd.

LOW-MAINTENANCE HAIR: This quasi-military cut says rigidity and precision. Precursor: Dragnet's Jack Webb, whose just-the-facts 'do has also been favored by Ross Perot and Watergate henchman H.R. Haldeman.

GOONY GLASSES: Express scholarly shyness. Precursor: Wally Cox as TV's Mr. Peepers and Freddie Garrity of '60s British group Freddie and the Dreamers, who projected a silliness that spoofed rock's obsession with cool.

HANDY POCKET PROTECTOR: Denotes fetishistic tendencies. Do these guys really need all those pens? Precursor: Robert Carradine in Revenge of the Nerds, who turned nerdiness into a comic antidote to '80s yuppiedom.

DRIP-DRY PANTS: Impart a stretched-out polyester unsightliness. Precursor: Bill Murray's Todd De La Muca on SNL, who wore his pants so high that they revealed an ultra-appealing crotch bulge.

IMPORTANT-LOOKING BRIEFCASE: Denotes officiousness and delusions of grandeur. Precursor: The King of Comedy's Rupert Pupkin, whose briefcase contained his lunch.

Originally posted Feb 26, 1993 Published in issue #159 Feb 26, 1993 Order article reprints
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