Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Geek is Chic - An essay by Tony Brown

We live in a great age for being a dork, geek, nerd, weirdo, or whatever you want to title someone who is less than cool.

It's definitely a great time to acknowledge and claim your dorkiness. Be loud. Be proud. It's ok to be different and not fit in. It's obvious, as you can see from this blog that I'm an advocate of this dorkdom. But, I must warn you that these things move in cycles. By the time that you are confident enough with yourself to not hide your dorkiness, it may no longer be the case that geek is chic.

Let's take a closer look at this phenomenon.

1980s – The 80's were a good time for being a geek. Seriously, there were loads of movies about the geeks and nerds overcoming the cool kids – Revenge of the Nerds, The Karate Kid, Meatballs, The Never Ending Story - or the weird kids doing awesome stuff – Goonies, Stand By Me, Back to the Future, Ghostbusters – or the dorky guy getting the girl – Can't Buy Me Love, Loverboy, Pretty in Pink.

You also have the freaks, dorky kids, and jocks coming together in The Breakfast Club and the awesomeness of Alex P. Keaton in Family Ties, Punky Brewster, the kids in Mr. Belvedere (wow), and c'mon the Cosby family is pretty dorky.

All these movies, shows, characters are embraced and some loved and looked up to.

The 80s, though, are far from devoid of coolness – just check out popular music at the time. And, would you rather be Johnny or Daniel, Emilio Estevez or Anthony Michael Hall, Ferris Bueller or Cameron Frye? Cool is still number one, but the weird kids are getting a lot more cred.

Fast forward to the 1990's

Wow, maybe it’s the fact that I grew up in the 90s, but being cool was everything.

I would like to attribute the downfall of the dork genre of the 1980s to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. How cool where they? Shit. They were animated, lived in the sewer, and some weird anthropomorphic turtles, but they were miles cooler than me. Weapons, partying, pizza, saving the world, movies, music- they had it all.

Other coolness of the late 80s/90s – things we aspired to be like:

Kids would adorn all their possessions with New Kids on the Block pins.

Top Gun

Quentin Tarentino movies

Die Hard – just a regular cab driver, sure.

Bill and Ted – they were idiots, but that didn't matter.

Tim Burton Batman movies

And even seemingly dorky characters like Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, Harry and Lloyd are cool.

The best examples from the changes of the 80s geek heyday would be the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Saved by the Bell. Here the dorky characters – Carleton and Screech – are superdorks, there to be laughed and shown what not to be. You want to be like Will, Slater, and Zach. They get the girls, get the laughs, and win the games. It's pretty simple.

And I think the high point of this Coolness is also its downfall, which will also be the downfall of 2000s geek culture as you will soon see. I'm talking about Clueless. It was just too cool for normal people. Do people really act like that?

One last thing about the 90s, even movies about dorks like She's All That, are more about the dork becoming cool than the dork being cool.

On to the 2000s – I think the marked difference here is unlike the 80s when dorks and geeks were embraced and underdogs became winners, I think in the 2000s, especially at the end, it is actually cool to be a dork. Geeks are cool. Much of this has to do with new technology and ways of sharing information. You have blogs where it's not just the magazine editors and journalists sharing what is cool, what is in. You have facebook and twitter where one person's opinion is just as important as the next.

The biggest examples of the embracing and celebration of geekdom would have to be Harry Potter, Lost, and Lord of the Rings. It not only allowed, but expected that you follow these things to a level beyond dedication. It's cool to know Harry Potter's home address and the House ghost of Hufflepuff and the name of Desmond's boat and Driveshaft's hit single, and the father of Gimli and the seven sons of Feanor. We have LOTRs trivial pursuit and Harry Potter Scene it.

Another great example of how geek is now chic is Judd Apatow. Freaks and Geeks was a bit too much for people in 2000, but in the second half of the decade, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and Superbad (and Michael Cera in general) are loved.

You got movies like Napoleon Dynamite and pretty much any Wes Anderson movie

Look at TV too – full of geeks. The Office, Chuck (more of the 80s brand of geekdom), Arrested Development, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, well at least her friends, quiz shows, heck Glee, a show about a high school glee club won the Golden Globe. The whole premise of The Big Bang Theory is being dorks and being weird.

Even in music it's ok to not be cool. American Idol and youtube has a lot to do with this. Normal people like Kelly Clarkson and straight up nerds like Clay Aiken are adored by all.

It's clear that geeks and dorks and weirdos are loved and embraced. It's ok to be yourself. It's cool to be smart. It’s alright to not fit in, in fact it's cool.

But, don't get too excited fellow people lacking coolness, they trend will soon be changing. The time for geekiness will soon be on its way out. And like Clueless was the apex for the coolness of the 90s, Juno is the apex and downfall for the dorkiness of the 2000s. Lots of people loved Juno. It brought this not fitting in, being different, being a nerd to a much wider number of people. I'm not really one for thinking that once underground stuff gets exposed it is not longer relevant and loses something. I'm more thinking that Juno was just too weird for its one good. It was cute, but really, who talks like that?

It went too far, beyond being cool to being forced and dumb. People like people they identify with, which is why shows like American Idol and reality tv are so popular, but how much will be too much? Soon there will be a reaction to this geeky coolness. Watch out.

Oh, and I'm writing this because I'm going to stick out the dorky wave as long as I can and have some real dorky brackets coming up in March, not as dorky as the LOTR/Star Wars bracket, but what can be that utterly dorky?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Not sure where to post this but I wanted to ask if anyone has heard of National Clicks?

Can someone help me find it?

Overheard some co-workers talking about it all week but didn't have time to ask so I thought I would post it here to see if someone could help me out.

Seems to be getting alot of buzz right now.