high five

TV’s Secret Handshakes, Signifiers of Sweet Nerdinesss

Were secret handshakes ever cool? We don’t mean frat brothers’ secret handshakes — those were never cool — but increasingly complex variations on the high five? It’s hard to remember back that long, but twenty years ago, when DJ Jazzy Jeff first visited the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and couldn’t give a regular, dull, authoritarian handshake to Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv, and had a special greeting for the Fresh Prince, it was supposed to be cool (and funny, too). But that moment has long since passed. As the latest slew of television’s secret handshakes makes clear, specially designed digital greetings are now the province of nerds trying to communicate how much they are care about one another.

Consider: There are nerds who do handshakes in a hip way, such as the bromantics Troy and Abed on Community. There are people who become nerds when they do handshakes, like Ben and Leslie, crushing on each other hard on Parks and Recreation. On Parenthood, awkward white people try to make a connection through handshakes, while less self-conscious kids adore them (handshakes — not cool, but totally adorable). In last night’s second episode of Happy Endings, there was a highly convoluted, highly nerdy secret handshake (it contained an audio reference to a Western gunfight) performed between two friends who love each other so much they momentarily stop being jaded in order to enact their little ritual. If handshakes used to be cool, now they’re just something people do when they want to hug each other but feel like that would be a little much. Check it out.

Max and Brad, Happy Endings:

Abed and Troy, Community:

Ben and Leslie, Parks and Recreation:

Cousins Jabar and Sydney, Parenthood:

Siblings Max and Hattie, Parenthood:

Adam and his new boss, Parenthood:

TV’s Secret Handshakes, Signifiers of Sweet Nerdinesss