In 1984, cinema’s greatest nerds graced the silver screen in the iconic flick, Revenge of the Nerds. If any of this here readership recalls, the film is about a group of college nerds (and one lil’ middle school genius) facing substantial persecution from jocks and cheerleaders. Although not a new concept, Revenge memorably turned the tables on college culture and proved the collective might of lovable but socially inept eggheads. In a way, it was an eerie foreshadowing of Google’s and other technology companies’ hold over folks who often have no idea that the world is now controlled by the very people oppressed in the film.
But more on the rise of the nerd in the post-modern, technological epoch we live in today later. That is a broader concept, and not where the heart of nerdom lies. Sure, technology and the Internet have afforded nerds immense power, but this was not always the case. And this is only the case now for nerds savvy enough to tap into social graces, as well. Not all nerds are so lucky, even in today’s science fiction reality.
I remember my childhood. Being a nerd was the only viable option for a kid medically unable to play most sports until middle school. There was imagination with no physical outlet; nerding it up with similar young fellows was my social world. Then, being a nerd meant Dungeons and Dragons, Gameboys, and science experiments with mostly entertainment value (ooblek was awesome). As you can well imagine, engaging in these sorts of anti-social activities (but… wasn’t I always with a group?) got me picked on. I was one of the weird kids, doomed to a future filled with insults most of the kids picking on me were not even yet old enough to understand.
The truth, though, is I was lucky enough to have good friends, albeit very nerdy ones. And, oddly enough, a couple of girls peppered throughout middle and high school who thought I was cute or something. So, by the time college was over and done with I was just socially acceptable enough in my normal life and good enough at twisting my nerdom into coolish ventures that a life of persecution was forgotten.
But too many people, regarding those I knew in my childhood, and kids nowadays, are at the mercy of a world society that still looks down on nerd culture. Each society persecutes nerds in different but overall overlooked ways. Revenge of the Nerds may be lampooning a time 30 years in the past, but damned if there are still those who fear and lash out at a group of people who, when it really comes down to it, shouldn’t have to fit in. Nerds, like any group of people who have faced, well, real persecution historically, mustn’t be forced into everyone else’s world, but should be given the opportunity to add to a sustainable, accepting culture.
Of course, it is known now that some facets of being a nerd are sexy (Jenna Louise Coleman on Doctor Who). But does this disintegrate some of the glory nerds cultivate? Does it have to be sexy to be accepted (I bet Jenna Louise Coleman has never even seen a d20)? Surely Dungeons and Dragons will never be sexy, nor will the guests at Comic Con be looked upon as anything but weirdoes apart. Something is at work here, and it may take many an adventure into time and space to uncover the hidden traps behind these issues. So, you better roll initiative (or make a spot check), cause you’re in this with me now.