Over the past decades Nerds have gone from socially reviled, sci-fi loving, home work efficient bespectacled lurkers to media darlings, pop cultural icons, sex objects and the creme de la creme of ‘It’ Crowd popularity. As one of the former mentioned nerds and not the latter my initial reaction to this contemporary nerd acceptance compounded by such shows as The Big Bang Theory and the advent of hot women wearing thick rimmed spectacles was something along the lines of: ‘Fuck you fuckers! Why did I have to be born in the wrong fucking decade!’
Retrospectively, and once I’d had time to calm down I remembered I was born in the 80′s which was much more awesome (you kind of needed to be there) and decided that instead of becoming incredibly upset about this current culture, after my many years of social ostracism, it was something I should investigate in order to better understand instead.
Why is being a ‘Nerd’ so ‘In’ this season I wondered? So I did my research (albeit I may have done it sparingly and mostly on Wikipedia…and okay I may have made some of it up) and below, broken into 5 short segments is what I found:
5. New Technologies
With the commercialization of the internet in the 90′s ‘Average Joe’ became interested in computers. The Internet took telephone services, music, film, television, games, social networking and beyond and reshaped or redefined them for an entire generation of people. And with the growth of technology in gaming, the industry ballooned over night. From the arcade games of the 1970′s and 80′s to the consoles of the 90′s and super consoles of the 2000′s it became not only cool to play games, but addictive, and due to the variety of games catering to any number of genre fans, entirely socially acceptable.
Pre-90′s both of these areas were commonly the domain of nerds due to their overt technicality, and with the growth of technology to make computers not only more inclusive and accessible, but an active part of our everyday lives – this formerly taboo pass-time has evolved Joe and Jane normal into Joe and Jane Nerd. Nerds, categorized as spending inordinate amounts of time on unpopular, obscure, or non-mainstream activities, which are generally either highly technical or relating to topics of fiction or fantasy became mainstream due to the adoption of this technology by the mainstream in a decade long sweep. Nerd’s were caught in a cultural synchronicity wave and thus they became culture. By accident.
4. The Culture Merge
Due to new technologies we now have more access to free information than at any other time period in human history. We can view, immerse ourselves in and enjoy nearly every virtual aspect of any of the menagerie of global cultures and some that are entirely constructed through gaming or sci-fi. This has given birth to a cultural juxtaposition, where as formerly we only had one or two options to choose from due to our lack of access, we now have a virtual multitude. We can choose from music, art, literature, film, games and beyond from different times, cultures and creators all at the click of a button on our smart phones.
This has led to the accusation that we are bereft of our own culture in contemporary times. We are a pastiche of what has went before. The truth of this is open to debate, but one reality of the cultural merge is that nerdism is part of it, and all those formerly reviled qualities have been adopted into modern life as part of a cohesive cultural whole. A kitsch reminder of what went before for people who often never experienced it the first time round.
This is largely the reason for a bitter back-lash from original nerds (myself included), who not only suffered it out under extreme prejudice in the dark days before this modern enlightenment and hodge podge pop cultural renaissance, but still find ourselves at the fringes of an movement that we feel lacks investment, thus sincerity, hi-jacked by the beautiful mainstream.
3. Goodbye Mr ‘Y’?
With fashion trends currently in favor of more slender, boyish looking and thus effeminate men; for the longest time there was a rampant fear (mostly among alpha dogs) that the breakdown of the Y Chromosome, the strand of DNA that determines male sex, containing about 800 genes some 200 million years ago, was ushering in an end to men as we know it. Men it seemed, in the Cro Mag ass-kicking, hairy chested, punchy, fighty, drinky sense of the word were to put it bluntly: fucked!
Jennifer Hughes, a researcher with the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, in Cambridge, Massachusetts found however, that the number of genes on the chromosome has been stable for at least the past 25 million years:
“Although the Y chromosome did suffer quite a bit over the course of evolution, it seems like what remains of it is not going anywhere,” Hughes said in a telephone interview. “The genes that remain on it have critical biological functions, and that means they are going to survive.”
So why does this matter you ask? What’s it got to do with nerds? Simple: The fear was that men were going to become further effeminate, less masculine and altogether bigger (albeit prettier and more socially acceptable) dorks, which led to the fear that this had already happened/was happening; and thus Nerds, or the Biblically intended ‘Meek’ had inherited the earth.
This of course, as Ms Hughes has already countered is Bull-Shit. And the trend for effeminate men is just that; a trend, and absolutely nothing to do with our masculinity gene going down the tubes. The accidental associating of nerdism as a culture with the ‘nerd chic’ of current fashions has however helped establish nerds as sexy, in that slender, quaffed and retro sense that doesn’t actually represent old school nerds in the slightest.
It’s what neo nerds think old school nerds should look like though, and thus has become by default: ‘cool’ or in the worst case ‘Hipster’.Tags: booth babes, cosplay, gamers, nerd culture, nerdism