|“||"Attendance is mandatory. 'Mandatory' means 'anyone who doesn't come has to buy me candy and watch me eat it'."||”|
— Vice Principal Nero, "The Austere Academy: Part One"
|“||There's no way uneducated people like yourself can understand a genius like me.||”|
— Nero claiming he is very smart to the Baudelaires
Nero hated the Baudelaires and the Quagmires and often mocked them by repeating what they said in a high-pitched nasty voice. He refused to make an exception for the Baudelaires to live in the dormitory, as Mr. Poe is technically not a Baudelaire guardian, and in order to live in the dorms, a student must have their guardian's permission slip.
He is also narcissistic and delusional about his ability to play the violin, and is either unable to see or simply doesn't care that his students don't like his recitals. Near the start of The Miserable Mill: Part Two, Lemony Snicket essentially reveals that Nero is hypnotized (possibly by Georgina Orwell) to think that he can play the violin despite that he never studied, and that his name "Nero" acts as the trigger.
He adores Carmelita Spats and plays favorites with her. In the TV series, he allows her to break the school dress code and wear her own outfit because he thinks she is adorable. When he discovers the Baudelaires never gave her any tips for delivering messages, he says they owe her ten pairs of earrings, despite that tips are optional.
In the TV series, he is portrayed as less cruel and more sympathetic, likely to give him more depth and help explain his actions. In this canon, Nero is a struggling musician unable to achieve his dreams, having written 4000 symphonies, and he's financially poor. He is also shown to be extremely out of the loop, wondering why Mozart does not reply to his letters, and thinks Voltaire is probably some French kid he expelled for smoking.
Given his personality, it is not far-fetched to assume that he is mentally unbalanced and demented. In the TV series, his personality is the result of his life's hardships and unfulfilled dreams, desperate for praise and acknowledgement, as well as a mind-controlled victim of hypnosis, possibly by Orwell.
Nero plays the violin terribly, and he forces the students to listen to his terrible playing through nightly six hour recitals.
He enforces strict and cruel punishments, like taking away eating utensils (if a student entered the administrative building without an appointment) and tying hands behind students' backs during meals (if they're late for class.) He made up a punishment that if anybody misses his nightly six hour long violin concerts, he would force them to buy a large bag of candy for him and watch him eat the entire bag.
In the TV series, it is revealed he did not graduate middle school for unknown reasons. In this canon, he is also the vice president of the Esmé Squalor Fan Club and it is revealed that he never graduated middle school.
The Austere Academy
When the Baudelaires move to Prufrock, Nero insults them. He also makes Isadora and Duncan Quagmire live in the Orphans Shack on separate occasions, although in the TV series, they are "upgraded" to live in a broom closet.
He hires Count Olaf, who is disguised as a gym teacher called Coach Genghis. It is unknown if this was unknowing or intentional, although it is possible Nero is in cahoots with Olaf. Either way, he threatens the Baudelaire children to have Coach Genghis homeschool them if they either fail their classes or fail the exams that their teachers will give them.
In the book, he expels the Baudelaire orphans after he caught them "cheating" on their exams even when Count Olaf is exposed. In the TV series, he allows the Baudelaire children to continue attending for the remaining school year. After Count Olaf was exposed and he got away, Vice Principal Nero is not seen expelling them.
The Penultimate Peril
He makes a return in The Penultimate Peril, along with Mr. Remora and Mrs. Bass in Hotel Denouement. He intends to play at a cocktail party and be recognized as a musical genius so that he can quit his job at the school. In the TV series, he is instead seen sunbathing on the roof with Esmé.
After Dewey Denouement is killed, Nero mocked what Mr. Remora said and claimed that Violet and Klaus flunked all sorts of tests and Sunny was the worst administrative assistant he has ever seen. During the trial of the Baudelaire children and Count Olaf, Vice-Principal Nero submitted the administrative records as evidence. When the Hotel Denouement Fire is started, Vice-Principal Nero was last seen on the seventh story as he worries about his violin case, and the TV series, he calls himself a genius as he tries to escape with Mr. Poe while blindfolded.
It is unknown if he is still alive after the fire.
Behind the scenes
- "Every night I give a violin recital for six hours, and attendance is mandatory. The word 'mandatory' means that if you don't show up, you have to buy me a large bag of candy and watch me eat it."
- "It's because... I don't like you very much." (shoving Olivia Caliban out his office)
- "Attendance is mandatory. 'Mandatory' means 'anyone who doesn't come has to buy me candy and watch me eat it'."
- "I know things seemed less peppy since our athletes, cheerleaders and beloved gym teacher vanished on the way home from that away game. But Prufrock Preparatory School has a motto. It's "memento mori," and it's an ancient Greek saying which means "Remember, you will die." And soon, indeed, the sun will set, the fiery orb of life, leaving me alone! Alone! Alone! Until, of course, you meet someone who truly understands and supports you with friendship, camaraderie, and cash bribes. Our gym teacher was irreplaceable, but I have found someone I know who can fill her shoes. And now, please welcome to the stage, a man with no resume, no letters of recommendation, no credit history, but with such a marvelous ear for music that I've hired him as the newest member of our faculty! Your new gym teacher, Coach Genghis!"
- "I hate to admit it, but Sunny is a fantastic administrative assistant. Look! She edited my resume, highlighting my musicianship without drawing attention to the fact I never graduated middle school!"
- "Then you'll be upgraded! to a broom closet."
- In the TV series, it's revealed on his resume that his surname is Feint. This implies a relation to Sir Barrymore Feint (founder of Prufrock who also played the violin), as well as Ellington Feint and Armstrong Feint from the All the Wrong Questions series.
- If Nero was indeed related to the founder of Prufrock, this would go a long way in explaining how he was able to secure such a high position for himself as "Vice Principal," despite being highly unqualified and generally disinterested in his job responsibilities.
- It is unknown if there is an official principal at Prufrock Preparatory School. It is known in the TV series that Ishmael used to be the principal, although it is unknown if someone else took over his role eventually.
- Within the TV series canon, it is likely that Prufrock became a very lacking educational institution after Ishmael went into self-imposed exile, after the V.F.D. schism, and the school fell solely under the control of Nero.
- Fans theorize he may be on the fire-starting side of V.F.D., although it is unknown if he is aware of or involved in the organization.
- Considering the Esmé Squalor Fan Club is actually a group of fire-starting V.F.D. agents, Nero being the vice-president of it heavily implies he is in cahoots with Count Olaf. This may have been Daniel Handler's way of confirming this theory as he helped write the TV series.
- Nero was partially inspired by the Roman Emperor Nero, who, when a great fire was spreading across the city, famously stayed in his palace and played the fiddle while Rome burnt. This is supported by the fact that at one point, Count Olaf incorrectly calls him “Caligula”, another Roman Emperor known to be equally terrible.
- The Baudelaire parents may have known him, or at least went to one of his recitals. Bertrand Baudelaire said, "Children, there is no worse sound in the world than somebody who cannot play the violin who insists on doing so anyway."
- His name might have its origins in the Finnish language, since he is referred to as a genius many times in the show and the word nero means genius in Finnish.
- His letter to the Spats parents reveals he reads The Daily Punctilio, but only the music section to see if there will be an article about the greatest violin player in the world (himself).