FRIDAY APRIL 28, 2017
 
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NERDS RULE ... REALLY
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Do you ever get the feeling that the nerds are winning? That it’s no longer cool to be, well, cool? Just look around you. How many of your fellow coworkers, coffee shop patrons, even your own friends and family are rocking thick-rimmed glasses and a clever T-shirt you just have to be smart to understand?

The jury is out. Geek is chic. Dork is dope. Nerds lead the herd. OK, OK, you get the idea. Sci-fi movies, comic books, being obsessed with your computer, Joss Whedon’s lisp — these were all once totems of nerddom that are widely embraced in today's culture.

Matthew Kitchen of Esquire.com recently mused that it’s so acceptable to be dweebie these days, there may not be any non-nerds left among us. Geekdom, according to him, has taken over pop culture in two distinct ways. “What was once nerdy is now cool, and the cool kids have slowly made their obsessions nerdy,” says Kitchen.

He has evidence to back this up, too. An actual study — yeah, researchers are studying this stuff — confirms that people are proud of nerdy passions that a decade ago would’ve caused them embarrassment.

Admittedly, the glorification of nerds in film and television is nothing new. In the '80s, we watched Lewis and Gilbert get even with the popular kids in Revenge of the Nerds. And of course, there was Steve Urkel, the most famous and clumsy nerd of the ’90s who spawned a phrase that I need not even mention. Alex P. Keaton was a nerd for carrying a briefcase to school and admiring Reagan. We knew the straight-laced Richie Cunningham was a nerd because we had the bad boy Fonz as contrast, just like Velma’s geekiness was highlighted by Daphne’s style and sophistication on Scooby-Doo. Okay, her huge glasses and turtleneck might’ve also tipped us off.

Today, though, nerds on television and film enjoy greater numbers and higher social capital. Not only are we seeing more nerds in lead roles — as opposed to being the affable, fashion-impaired sidekick — their nerdiness is most often portrayed as an asset, not an obstacle. Just look at all the nerds solving crimes in shows like Criminal Minds, NCIS and Bones. Without these nerds and their computer hacking skills, photographic memories and talent for deduction, well, just think of all the serial killers and crazies who’d escape the long arm of the law.

And remember that old trope of ’80s and ’90s teen flicks — the one in which the nerd gets a makeover and then is suddenly the most popular kid in school? She’s All That, Never Been Kissed and Can’t Buy Me Love each involves that laughable scene in which the glasses come off and suddenly everything changes. This trope is no longer so compelling to viewers. Instead, it seems there’s a veritable arms race to see who on television can be the nerdiest of them all. If this year’s Emmy Awards are any indication, that title currently belongs to Sheldon of The Big Bang Theory. Jim Parsons, who plays Sheldon, took home the award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.

Sheldon exemplifies the loveably aloof nerd whose sense of superiority stems from his supreme intellect and cool-headed calculations. He might take things too literally sometimes and his knowledge of science and sci-fi culture isn’t always relevant to the conversation at hand, but he maintains a self-assuredness that you just can’t help admire. Sheldon and crew are a major force on network television, attracting viewers across every demographic. According to Vulture.com, the show is No. 1 with just about everyone between the ages of 8 and 80. Over 84 million viewers tuned in for this past season alone, illustrating that now, more than ever, nerdiness is a cash cow.

Speaking of The Big Bang Theory, if there’s one thing that signifies you’ve struck zeitgeist gold, it’s being parodied in porn. The name already lends itself to X-rated exploits, and indeed, the makers of The Big Bang Theory: A XXX Parody knew they didn’t have to think too hard about how to name their flick. Adameve.com describes the film as four sex-obsessed super-nerds coming up with an equation to get laid, demonstrating that the film plays to fans of the show, incorporating the show’s iconic nerdy humour.

It’s not just male nerds enjoying the limelight, either. The female nerd — real and fictional — is revered by men and women alike. Danica McKellar (aka Winnie Copper from The Wonder Years) is an accomplished mathematician; Mayim Bialik of The Big Bang Theory is a neuroscientist; and Tina Fey — enough said.

Geek power knows no gender, race or creed!

It’s highly unlikely, but if you’ve somehow missed the train to Geekville — population: just about everyone and their mom — here are a few ways to catch up … and then some.

1. Take a weekend to get obsessed with the Battlestar Galactica reboot. You’ll know you’re thoroughly obsessed when, as illustrated in Portlandia, nothing is more important than watching the next episode. For extra nerdy street cred, watch the original, campier series and wow your friends with references even they won’t understand.

2. Work nerdy catch phrases into your daily vocab. “Wizard!” from the movie Juno and “Bazinga!” from The Big Bang Theory are two fine examples of exclamatory phrases denoting a positive outcome. By the way, “bazinga” has become such a cultural touchstone, CBSNews.com reports a Brazilian scientist has named a new species of bee after it!

3. Wear a watch that doesn’t have numbers, or what CoolMaterial.com dubs “Watches That Require a PhD to Tell Time.” Really, just don any accessory that emphasizes your interest in science or math, acerbic wit or obscure historical references. This will serve you well in your quest to dweebify.

4. On that note, get on the Google Glass bandwagon now before it becomes mainstream. This is your real opportunity to get ahead of the nerd curve. Time will tell whether Google Glass is really the wave of the future or just a trumped-up techno fad destined to go the way of Microsoft Bob. However, the mark of a true nerd, of course, is the full, unabashed embrace of conspicuous technology that no one else has yet.

Now, go forth and nerd out! The rest of us sure have.

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