4 Reasons 2013 Officially Marked the Death of the Nerd
We here at Cracked are protective of nerds because most of us on the staff grew up with that label. We didn't become who we are because of our nerdiness -- we became successful in spite of it. Being a nerd is a social handicap that "normal" people have begun holding up like a trophy, and you're goddamn right it makes us mad, because even though the term is meant in a very negative way, it was the only social class we truly fit into. And now it's as dead as Elvis' enormous colon.
(We're sorry fellow nerds, but velociraptors were tiny and feathered. Read our De-Textbook for more.)
We Turned It into a Tagline That Means "Enthusiast"
Here's a drinking game if your end goal is suicide by alcohol poisoning: Start randomly clicking Twitter bios and take a shot every time you see the word "nerd" or "geek" (or any variation thereof). My prediction is that, after four minutes, when you've finally had enough and start cutting yourself, you'll bleed clear liquid.
It's usually coupled with another interest, as in, "I'm a huge Doctor Who nerd" or "Game of Thrones geek." This sounds nit-picky, but it's extremely important in this context because the whole idea of being a nerd is that you belong to a very small group of social outcasts. We weren't nerds because we enjoyed Star Wars -- you know, the highest grossing sci-fi film in the history of movies -- we were nerds because we were a small, annoying group of people who obsessed about it and knew every ridiculous, obscure detail of shit that didn't even appear on screen. We obsessed to a fault ... so much so that we couldn't connect with "normal" fans because our enthusiasm ruined the subject for them.
Don't even get us started on Han shooting second.
In other words, we aren't nerds because of our fucking hobbies or taste in entertainment. Yes, we tend to like things like comic book characters and science fiction movies ... but then again, so does every other person on the damn planet. And that's how non-nerds define their interests: "I'm a huge video game geek!" No, we're nerds because of who we are as people. And because the very definition of "nerd" is "socially inept," we cannot be included in the group when it becomes mainstream, as it has now. It's almost a paradox. A big, stupid, annoying paradox devoid of friendship and love.
That's why we seem so angry and bring up the annoying "real nerd" defense. Our one and only defining term has been taken by popular culture, but we're still stuck in the same rejected circle. We're watching normal people claim the label, and therefore our struggles. And if we use the term "nerd" ourselves, we're claiming to be just like everyone else. And we're anything but that. It's not by choice. No offense, hipsters.
We Made It Prime Time Entertainment
There have been nerds in movies and TV shows for as long as that personality has been recognized, but until recently, they've always been comedy relief characters. Urkel from Family Matters, Eugene from Grease, the Frog brothers from The Lost Boys, Anthony Michael Hall's group in Sixteen Candles. Even movies that feature nerds in lead roles force them into the popular crowd to teach them some bullshit life lesson (Some Kind of Wonderful, Can't Buy Me Love). The message was basically, "You want to be laughed at? Fine, stay a nerd. You want to get laid? Here, put on this ridiculously thin tie and mousse your hair."
It's really only been in the past couple of years that we've pulled the nerdy characters into the frontlines of entertainment and made them the focal point. Well, as nerdy as can be expected by TV standards. It basically boils down to supermodels with slightly odd hair talking about science (Big Bang Theory) or supermodel girls who are kind of stupid and klutzy (New Girl). Both comedies. Both painting the characters as adorable and lovable. And just in case you gave me the "da hell?" look when I called the cast of Big Bang Theory "supermodels," here's what they look like out of character:
They're not exactly having to pay for dates. More on that in a bit.
The point is that as long as they speak, act, and look a certain way, we're fine with nerds -- in fact, we love them. But that's not how we operate in real life. We're off-putting. We're annoying. We're the people you make fun of when we leave the room ... or while we're still in the room, crying and trying to hide the rapidly growing urine spot on our crotches. We spend our days in virtual isolation, doing things for entertainment that would bore a normal person into fits of tear-filled insanity.
Using them as main characters isn't being accepting -- it's a costume party for pretty, likeable people. A caricature for a personality type that is already a caricature of itself.
That's not a nerd, dude. That's a goddamn serial killer.
We Turned It into Fashion
I am not a pop culture expert -- not even close. But if there's one thing I've picked up over the years, it's that the second a movement becomes fashion, it's dead. It happened with hippies when tie-dye T-shirts started appearing in department stores. With punk when clothes were sold pre-torn. With grunge when flannel shirts skyrocketed to $80 each and models were wearing them down runways.
I call it a "movement" because that's what this whole nerd explosion feels like to me. Like the end of both Airheads and Revenge of the Nerds, where everyone slowly and reluctantly admits that they're secretly nerdy:
The world seems to be acting out a real-life version of this, and though it seems to be loaded with the best of intentions, it still doesn't take away from the fact that they're wearing the term like an accessory. Tiny little dogs peeking from the purses of the Paris Hiltons of the world. Even the classic "jocks vs. geeks" struggle couldn't withstand the tidal pull of a buzzword. Or do you think that LeBron James and Russell Westbrook are just natural nerds?
"Can we make this quick? We have a tabletop RPG starting in 20 minutes."
We Commercialized It
The only thing that kills a group faster than fashion is commercialization. You can't take gangsta rap seriously if Dr. Dre starts trying to sell you Pop-Tarts. Make Trent Reznor the spokesman for Chuck E. Cheese's, and suddenly goths lose their dark edginess. Have a supermodel make out with a hideous dork, and nerds become fucking cartoon characters. Seriously, check out the disgusted look on her face at the end of that GoDaddy commercial:
That is the most horrifying thing I've ever seen. It makes him look like a Make-A-Wish charity case. When she pulls back and looks at the cam- wait. Oh, shit, I get it now. "If you're a nerd and you use our product, you'll get laid." OK, that makes much more sense. Here's Old Spice doing it:
And here's an extremely bad car dealership advertising company.
I will give them this much: At least they're acknowledging that if you're a nerd and a guy, you're most likely not banging any hot chicks. Again, this isn't just me putting my own definition onto the word. It is literally defined as an "unstylish, unattractive, or socially inept person." The commercials are saying, "Yep, we know you're socially fucked. But buy our shit, and we can help you get your dick wet."
But in pushing that image into the mainstream, they're falling into that paradox again, because "nerd" by definition is anti-mainstream. It's like throwing a turd onto my lasagna, calling it cheese, and being shocked when it tastes like shit.
"Well, maybe the next piece won't taste so bad. Only one way to find out."
Look, I'm not bashing on people who call themselves nerds. They're not bad people, and they don't mean any harm by it. But to those of us who grew up avoiding certain school hallways because we didn't want to go home with bruises, it's more than just a word. It tells us that we belong somewhere, even if that place is full of ugly annoying assholes with their underwear wedged firmly into their cracks. So when you get annoyed at someone who is starting a debate over whether a person is a "true nerd" or not, keep in mind, that's what nerds do. We annoy people who live outside of our group. We aren't an all-accepting club, and even if we were, it's not one that people would want to join. And after 2013, it's more like a morgue.