It’s an odd question, I agree. (Although you do realize who’s blog your reading, right?)
Like most random nonsensical inquiries that invade my grey matter, it just kind of popped in there as I was celebrating my 36th revolution around the sun star only a few days ago. In essence, I experienced a moment where it felt like my entire life flashed before my eyes, more accurately, a specific part of it I actually remembered. (The flashback lasted a mere 15 seconds if that tells you anything.)
Short story long, the year was 1989. It was a cool fall afternoon on the playground of Round Meadow Elementary School. Ghostbusters 2 has just hit theaters a few months back – this is when movies stayed in theaters for longer than two weeks – and I had just started my final year of grade school. I was now a 5th grader; I was king of the hill… not that you could tell by observing me anyway.
That’s because Ryan, my best friend at the time, and I were spending our recesses running around the huge grassy playground of our school chasing class 5 free-roaming vaporous apparitions. We were ambitious fellows… and apparently we were also losers. It probably wouldn’t have been so obvious if we had performed our investigations in a more discrete way, and while I can’t quite put my finger on it, it’s possible the massive homemade Styrofoam proton packs and cardboard ghost traps we created and lugged around the soccer field every day didn’t exactly help our cause.
Probably one of the more spectacular parts of it all, is my ability to remember it all in vivid detail like it was just yesterday, regardless of the fact I partook in the same activities yesterday afternoon as well. I guess some habits die hard, or in my case, decide to take permanent residence.
What’s the point behind my random senior citizen trip down memory lane you ask? Well, seeing as my actions as an 11-year-old caught the attention of many other 11-year-olds who were trying their best to act like 40-year-olds, a few members of said “we-are-older-than-we-look” group approached the young unassuming future-Outlaw and called him the N-word. Yes, you guessed right… (gasp)… nerd!
The term, which I knew a vague definition of, was not delivered as a compliment, and rightly so I didn’t take it as such. To a young pre-teen child in transition to becoming a teen, the words stung more than one might imagine. Seeing as I had no Google or Wiki-links to research the word’s exact implication, the only material I could reference was the historical film known as Revenge of the Nerds. It’s true the geeks of the film win in the end, alas, the stereotypical way in which the good guys are depicted isn’t what most would consider average behavior by society’s standards, be it in 1984 or today. Fortunately, I had thick skin, and I brushed off the oft reused insult with the articulate and incredibly effective comeback of, “So?”
Fast forward to 2014, and that same young boy has developed into a slightly older young boy trapped in a man’s body. What has changed however, are the times and attitudes. Case in point, I now dress up in what some – ok, everybody – might consider a substantially more ridiculous mix of nerdiness on parade, but this go around the feedback is quite the opposite. People still call me a geek and a nerd, but it’s done so with the utmost admiration and respect. True, my budget is slightly larger than when I was 11, but these days people are complimenting my creative display of geek love rather than telling me to grow up. Granted, I’m not running around pretending to capture imaginary ghosts in non-functional nuclear equipment – which would still get most people sent to their friendly neighborhood mental facility – but instead I’m running around in a nerdy getup pretending I’m a writer. I guess there are more similarities than not.
All of the above brings me back to the main question of this post; do nerds and geeks theoretically still exist; at least in the way we once knew them?
On the surface, the answer would appear to be yes. At least in the Dungeons & Dragons, superhero debating, Star Wars costuming, hard-to-find-a-date kind a way. The obvious counter argument to my question has to do with the fact that the few people associated with those types of characteristics in the past, are no longer the minority, in fact it’s quite the opposite. Either there really weren’t as many nerd types 20 years ago, or 98% of them were in witness protection. Regardless of the reasoning, one thing is for sure, we’ve come a long way.
One need look no further than the San Diego Comic-Con for proof of that. Using my above mentioned story’s date of 1989, the San Diego Comic-Con attracted a total of 11,000 visitors over the course of a 4-day stint; the first time it broke the 5 digit mark since the event debuted in 1970 to a whopping 300 patrons. Compare that to last year’s attendance of over 130,000 human bodies over the same 4-day time period, and you start to grasp what I’m trying to get at… hopefully. What’s more, the San Diego convention center will be probably be undergoing a $520 million expansion that will create over 700,000 sq. ft. of space to the facility all in the name of one convention; a convention that Forbes magazine called the largest of its kind in the world.
Facts and figures aside, the core crux of my question could probably be answered by taking a look at the convention goers themselves. When attending any convention, you would be hard pressed not to find someone dressed up as a character from some aspect of popular culture spanning the past 40 years. While an argument could be made that this part of nerd culture is dominated by geeky guys with lots of time (among other things) on their hands, the real surprise is that the costume element of the nerd revolution, is that of those participating, most seem to be women… really, really attractive women.
If you would have told me at the age of 14 – hell, even 24 – that there was some magical place I could go to see beautiful women my age dressed in scantily clad versions of my favorite superheroes, I would have laughed in your face until I turned blue. Then, once I regained consciousness, I would have laughed at you some more before begging you with my life to take me there. I thank my blessings every day that I found such a mecca while I’m still coherent and still have enough male hormones to appreciate the epic nature of it all, but I digress. My point to this rambling is directly related to my original question, which I will rephrase slightly. If everyone and their mom’s supermodel daughter are dressing up like aliens and breaking down their favorite TV shows like an exuberant pocket-protecting Tri-Lamb, then do true nerds and geeks still exist to this day?
I’m sure you’re wondering what my own personal thoughts are on the conundrum. (Although to be honest, I’ll be thrilled if you have even read down this far) In short my answer is yes, though not in the same way as those of my generation, and generations before mine, remember them. If you ask me, it’s the perception and definition of those two groups that have gone the way of the dodo.
It can be argued that in today’s somewhat politically correct world (somewhat being PC for excessively out-of-control) the terminology of geek and nerd is inherently applied to anyone who has a deep passion for something, anything really, be it comic books or chicken-farming. [Ex: Have you seen Dave’s new blog, he really loves to geek out about chicken farming.] When adhering to those somewhat generic and watered-down standards, it can be said that each and every human on the planet is a geek or nerd in some respect. Albeit some more than others.
Don’t get me wrong though fellow Outlaws, I’m one of those who is eternally grateful that being labeled a nerd or geek is now something to be embraced and celebrated… especially when that celebration includes attractive members of the opposite sex doing their best impression of Eartha Kitt’s Catwoman.