RISE OF THE NERDS AND GEEKS (MAYBE)
When I think of a nerd, I usually picture someone straight out of an 80’s high school rom-com, compete with the coke-bottle glasses taped down the center. Now, I know that is a pretty exaggerated image, but nerds do tend to get pegged into certain physical and intellectual molds. Nerds are pegged as awkward in some way, highly intelligent in some fashion, and enthusiastic about something not deemed cool (this last part is more geek, but not exclusively so). Really, since stereotypical coolness revolves a lot on not caring too deeply about much, just being outwardly fanatic about anything is enough to make anyone geeky to some degree.
But Hollywood has done something lately that I think is worth noting: they made a cool nerd/geek. Sort of. So many things are becoming main streamed that never used to be. Sci-Fi and fantasy have taken on new lives at the forefront of entertainment from box office breaking comic book movies to obsessed-over TV shows. Technological intelligence gets you far in the world, as the richest people in our country can attest. Geeky and Nerdy characters in shows and movies can save the day, be central protagonists, and have active sex lives.
At the end of the day, though, this is still a Hollywood crafted image. We may be embracing more nerdy and geeky things, but I do not think we are embracing nerds and geeks themselves. The Hollywood nerd/geek still looks like a really cool, attractive person, which gives them a pass almost on the eccentric parts of their persona. Also, there is a very limited list of things they are allowed to geek out about. If it is anything too obscure, something that would mask their physical attractiveness, or something not already vetted as normal/profitable yet, then you can be sure it will never be mentioned.
This is obviously not doing actual nerds and geeks much of a service. It’s so frustrating to only be allowed a casual interest in things that you truly love and want to just rant about and flail over. And that is something that hasn’t changed from the 80’s films to today. Even as certain nerdy things become mainstream, nerds and geeks themselves will never be cool, at least when those identities are invoked. And misusing the words nerd/ geek to refer to otherwise popular people is super misleading. The Hollywood nerd never faces violence or bullying beyond an eye roll or rebuking joke from a friend like a real nerd often would.
But it is such a great thing to truly live the life of a nerd or geek! It means being truly engaged and enthusiastic about something you care about. In my mind, that is a great way to feel truly alive. And while some other people still cannot put aside their initial weariness of seeing someone different than them, someone that stands out so brightly, we can. And we will keep holding onto that.
THE HOLLYWOOD NERD
When I was in school I had an upperclassman self identified ‘nerd’ define what the difference between being a nerd, a loser, and a geek was. I realized then that I was a loser because I wasn’t particularly nerdy (yet) and I thought the term ‘geek’ was outdated. But the rest of my friends had fandoms that I was not yet a part of (mainly Harry Potter and anime, manga, KPop). Once I started to get into all of these things, that in the late 2000s weren’t quiet mainstream yet, I was labeled and self identified as a ‘nerd.’ I fit in with the whole ‘nerdy’ Asian stereotype already because I was good in school and to add insult to injury I was in the lower track classes with the typical bullies who mocked me because I was in the wrong track for the first half of high school. But anyway, all of these non mainstream things that I found comfort in were the reasons I got mocked. Dressing up in cosplay to Harry Potter premiers wasn’t that nerdy but going to Anime conventions in wigs and costumes definitely was. Carrying around Manga at school was basically social suicide and yet my friends and I endured the bullying because those ‘weird ass things’ made us strong and united. Being self identified as nerds and taking those insults (though made us insecure and hate school) gave us power to be ourselves when we could have just tried our best to blend in.
However, looking back at those things that were once ‘weird,’ like getting so much into a fandom that all you did was read/write fan fic all day, it’s strange to think that maybe nowadays in school it wouldn’t be that weird anymore. Hollywood has now made ‘nerdy’ things cool but of course not everything. It’s fine to be into The Big Bang Theory and read comic books and know the source material to comic book super hero movies by heart. It’s cool to dress up in costume to show dedication to your favorite superhero or comic book character as long as it’s on Halloween and there you have it, that’s the problem. It’s not cool to be a ‘nerd’ unless it’s appropriate. Unless, it’s the ‘cool’ nerdy things like keeping up with the Marvel/DC Universe or the HP/LOTR/GOT Universe which is now so mainstream it makes it hard to enjoy anymore. Not to mention the mainstream media still makes fun of furies, Anime conventions and holds onto the stereotype that all video game/computer nerds are overweight white men who live in their parents’ basements.
Things that used to be sacred and keep me going through those horrible days of high school are now being glamorized by the media. Even on The Big Bang Theory, which basically star these supposed ‘nerds’ that aren’t really that nerdy, are put up on a pedestal because even though Leonard is a nerd he still ‘gets the girl.’ It’s all so upsetting to me because if Hollywood is going to embrace ‘nerd culture’ they should take all of it, no exceptions.
You can’t pick and choose because by doing that you exclude people even more and claim things that were once held very dearly to the same people you used to mock.
The Hollywood nerde
Super hero movies are really popular now. Marvel movies are the ones with largest box office nowadays. But what is interesting is that people who “like” these movies feel the need to show off on social media because now they are ‘cool’ nerds. Yes, cool nerds. Not nerds that people bully or pick on in school. Now to “follow” the comic books series you do not need to be a nerd and read the actual comics. All you need to do is go to the movies and watch the Marvel/DC Universe ones and then you’ll be the new kind of ‘cool’ nerd.
This whole thing is really interesting. My boss for example, he is around 35 years old and he is one of these Hollywood nerds. He asked me if I liked Star Wars and I said that I’ve never seen a single one of them. And he literally said, ‘WHAT? You need to watch it and be nerd; it is cool to be nerd.’ Then he lent me the three first episodes of Star Wars on BluRay so I could be a cool nerd like him.
A friend of mine (a real nerd) who actually read the comics and liked them made a chart showing the whole process and events that lead to the Civil War in The Avengers Comics. It was a complex and elaborate plot written in the comics to support the acting during the fighting part against Capitan America and Iron Man. In the same picture, he made a chart with the events that lead to the Civil War in the Marvel movie series. It was something really simple to sum it up and it didn’t really explain accurately the facts that lead to the Civil War in the films. This is how ‘dumbed down’ these new Hollywood nerds are. The movies don’t show much of plot from the comics. Hollywood just throws together these CGI fight scenes with lots of cool effects and doesn’t explore the psychological effects. Hollywood just wants to create something ‘cool’ enough so people can freely advertise Marvel on social media. And those who share and make the count down to the Civil War movies their header photo are ‘cool.’ The CGI fight scenes are enough for them to be the cool kind of nerds that there are today; and at the same time to be ‘manly’ because they are not watching ‘girly’ movies, they are watching movies with a lot of action and violence.
It’s not that the movies shouldn’t be ‘great’ in their own right away from the source material but Hollywood should make the movies as complex as there are in the comics in order to stimulate people’s minds rather than just giving pacifying images with obvious symbolism in order to reach a larger demographic and for people to freely advertise their product via social media.