My university was one of the forerunners in the growth of the campus game known as Humans versus Zombies. Goucher College started the event, but UMass Amherst really took it to crazy places, not only in terms of the mechanics and size of the zombie-themed tag game, but also in its impact on college culture. Our game attracted a very specific kind of nerd: the closet nerd. Track team kids fought alongside squeaky little nerdlings from the halls of science, and some beefy jocks even found their inner nerdiness in the concept of a zombie apocalypse. The game revealed a whole new side of people who’d never known they had any nerd in them.
Of course, it also revealed the fear of one’s inner nerd. I recall a fake campus tour video on YouTube that featured a muscled gentleman greasing his way through factoids about different parts of campus. At one point, he had his buddies dress up as humans and zombies and disrupt his tour, to which he remarked, “Virgins.” What seemed to him a throwaway insult in fact highlighted a myth about nerd culture. In the actual Humans vs. Zombie game, many a friendship had been overturned by false-apocalyptic-fear-induced booty. In fact, many a nerd turned out to be as promiscuous as the next college dude or gal.
What is really alarming is the fact that this was the particular insult used. He could have said, “Jerks,” “Douchebags” or anything else, but he chose to chastise swift, smart folks because of a culturally supposed virginity. Is that really the best he could do?
In Revenge of the Nerds, Lewis has sex with the main cheerleader character and she is alarmed at how awesome the experience is. To her curiosity he states, “All jocks think about is sports. All nerds think about is sex.” And when the nerds finally fight for their equality, the cheerleader is surprised to find she’s “in love with a nerd.” The jocks in the film are afraid the nerds will usurp their manliness and power, a prophecy that is fulfilled by intelligence applied to different areas the jocks think they have dominance over. The Poindexter is mightier than John Goodman’s flailing fists.
Calling a nerd a virgin is the last insult available because it implies that not being able to bed a woman is the hallmark of puniness and minimal virility. It also may serve the dude calling out the aforementioned insult, elevating that particular jerk-bag over folks who are outwardly more intelligent. The fear here is losing the powers that muscles provide.
But what if nerd and jock unite? It’s already seriously happening, as the Internet, video games, tremendously large films like World War Z, etc. are bringing together the World of Warcraft shut-in and the beefy lacrosse guy. And campus culture sees more and more of these folks mating, creating people who are aesthetically cheerleaders but intrinsically Richard Feynman fan-boys and girls. This is a good thing. Instead of fearing Cthulu’s call, sporty types should crack open a fresh Settlers of Catan; and in place of a new patch for WoW, nerds must learn what a first down is. Imagine if you will a heavily muscled super genius.
What I’m saying is, that if we unite nerd and jock, we may very well have a real life Khan or two. And that’s awesome.