“Nerd Culture”

I was doing some random web-surfing when I came across this:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/donnad/x-of-the-hottest-ladies-at-comic-con

As the title obviously implies, it’s a bunch of pictures of attractive women dressed up at Comic Con 2011, which finished just a couple days ago. They’re all scantily clad females, so for equality’s sake, here is Joseph Gordon-Levitt:

Wait... that's not attractive... is it?

Anyway, the point I wanted to make with the Comic Con photos is that “nerd culture” is getting cooler and cooler; there were some very good looking ladies in there. I don’t know how strict of a definition “nerdy” is, but what I mean is a quality that used to be considered lame because it was associated with a lack of athleticism and social skills.

Nerdy guys and girls have had a pretty bad rep of being skinny, pale, awkward and covered with zits, but somewhere in the last 20 years, the word “nerd” became a teasing, yet almost endearing label. I don’t know exactly what caused and has perpetuated it, but I want to examine a definite influence in the movement:

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Sethela Ezekiel “Seth” Cohen.

Let me just slip into something a bit more comfortable. These jammies will do nicely.

As far as I can tell, this guy was the ORIGINAL sexy nerd. He brought geek-chic to the mainstream. He was so uncharming, he was charming. He was so awkward, you couldn’t help but laugh and try to cuddle him. He always said the wrong things, except when it counted, and then it was just right. This guy spent 16 years being bullied, getting wedgies, reading comics, playing video games, and what did it get him?

BAM HOTTEST GIRL IN THE WORLD RACHEL BILSON

Along with enough female teenage fans to give a pedophile a heart attack

And he did it by just being himself. This wasn’t one of the corny 80s movies where the main character invented some magic machine that made him a jock until the stroke of midnight, so he could trick the girl into loving him. All Seth Cohen had to do was be charmingly befuddled and before long she was playing with his joystick (like, they actually played video games together, it’s in the show). The point is she was surrounded by Abercrombie and Fitch models, but she chose the geek.

“But Niiiccckk,” I hear you cry, “that’s just a TV show, obviously she likes him, she’s PAID to!”

TRUE, the relationship of Seth Cohen and Summer Roberts is fiction, but the ridiculous fan base was not. The OC was insanely popular for 3 seasons, and that doesn’t happen if people hate 1/4 of your main cast. You can ask any girl, and odds are they will tell you that they’d rather date Seth Cohen than Ryan Atwood (the brooding “cool” guy). Network TV is half marketing, and executives saw that the nerdy Seth Cohen was working the crowds; if he wasn’t they would have tried to change him. When it came down to it, he was just about everything you wanted in a guy, except maybe a six-pack.

But how does this affect the real world? Lets take a look at how fashion has changed among pop icons.

90s Usher vs 10s Bieber

Baggy clothes that made you look bigger got swapped in for tighter, “fiited” shirts and pants that made you look slimmer. Plaid button ups were all the rage and are still quite popular. And glasses, GLASSES are cool now. The bane of all nerds was being a “four-eyes” and now people purposely poke out the lenses to be able to wear glasses. The more you look at it, the more it makes Urkel seem like he was just ahead of his time.

You definitely have at least one friend who either has or still does dress like this un-ironically

Previously “nerd” literature is also taking the world by storm. Take a look at the 50 highest-grossing films of all time.

In case you’re lazy I’ll sum it up for you. 11 of the films are part of the Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings series, films based on fantasy books (in fact every film of each respective series is in the top 50). All three Spiderman movies are in there, along with The Dark Knight at number 8 and three of the six Star Wars movies. If you count Transformers as “nerdy” material, given their long history of comics, cartoons, and action figures, you have a little over 40% of the list being made up of “nerd” material.

And don’t get me started on Superhero movies specifically (although now I will). There was a time you didn’t get a movie unless you were Superman or Batman because no one cared about you. Now every single freaking comic hero has a movie, unless you’re the Green Arrow and your power is that you have a bow and arrow (Seriously). I feel like ever since Spiderman we’ve been bombarded by superhero movies (Iron Man, Captain America, Green Hornet, Green Lantern, The Spirit, Thor, All the X-Men movies, all the awful Hulk remakes etc.) Superman and Batman have 8 films a piece in each series, which is really only outclassed by the James Bonds series as every other franchise realized that 8 movies is too many god damn movies. Of course there’s even a Spiderman reboot, and now graphic novels are getting a piece of the action with 300 and Watchmen.

THESE MOVIES ARE ALL EXACTLY THE SAME EXCEPT ONE OF THEM HAS A FAT GUY

“Nerd” culture has even become part of pop culture in more subtle ways that people wouldn’t pick up on at first. For example, lolcatz took the world by storm, and for several months, your facebook mini-feed was just pictures of cats saying things. This of course started, like almost every other meme, on 4chan, the seedy underbelly of the internet that tries to stay hidden from the rest of it. Even Hot Topic started selling shirts based on the famous Rage Guy meme. Other macros that aren’t quite as famous but have hit mainstream are Socially Awkward Penguin, Y U NO Guy, and Forever Alone. Even though these things started in the corners of the internet, stereotypically inhabited by 40 year old bachelors in their moms’ basements, you’ll see average teens quoting these memes and posting them all over facebook. Like this charming young lady.

Convince one of your facebook girl-friends to make this their profile picture for some meta humour

I’m not saying that the “new thing” is being nerdy. There are lots of cool styles that represent a lot of different things, both in terms of lifestyle and fashion, and I wouldn’t call nerdiness the most prominent one. However, what’s certainly undeniable is how much more acceptable it is now to be kind of awkward, read comic books, be good with computers, surf the net excessively etc. Not even just acceptable, but even hip and eccentric, like Mac-using hipsters who are all over Twitter, Reddit, and Tumblr. There is still stigma associated with it in some circles, but both in real life and in the media, nerds are becoming cooler and cooler

-Nick

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