Every week comedian Will Hines shares the thoughts that are gnawing at his brain.
Every day I read another blog post or news article claiming that the nerds now rule the world. Hint: the nerds have ruled the world since at least the early 1990s. I say bring back the jocks.
News posts proclaiming that the nerds' day has "finally" come are usually just announcing the success of nerd culture in the mainstream media, like high ratings for The Big Bang Theory.
But nerd culture succeeding in mainstream media has not been news since 2004, when The Return of the King won the Academy Award for Best Picture. To remind you: The Return of the King was not just a movie that centered on hobbits and elves, but was based on a hugely long BOOK about hobbits and elves. The only way its success would have been more a victory for nerds would be if you replaced the Enya score with a Weird Al Yankovic polka. And this was almost ten years ago.
Or else the "nerds are finally ruling" news story will proclaim that a "nerdy" actor was declared attractive in a People Magazine poll. Usually a "nerdy" actor like Topher Grace or James Franco wearing glasses. They are no more the nerdy underdog than Tina Fey's character Liz Lemon, who is presented as a helpless loser despite being a super-hot, wealthy, high-powered television writer.
Even discounting faux nerds, ACTUAL nerds have long ruled society (mostly thanks to the rise of the Internet). The 1980s worshipped grey-haired, suit-wearing bullies like Donald Trump and Lee Ioacca. Now we build shrines to Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. Aforementioned "Weird Al" Yankovic places his songs in the top 10, and also had children which implies he's had sex. The most critically acclaimed band of the last 20 years is called Radiohead.
Certainly in our social circles, the nerds solidly rule. They're rich as shit and they have cool websites. Glasses are cool and everyone has them. MTV's ratings dip, but a "Shit Girls Say" youtube video gets someone a TV show. Attractive people learn HTML; the unemployed don't understand twitter. Engineers buy second homes; gym teachers get their hands caught in toasters.
I would point to the actual shift of power in 1996, which is when my father got an e-mail account. In his eyes I suddenly changed from someone suspected of losing the remote control to someone who could fix e-mail. The power felt good. And similar shifts in power were happening across the country.
The success of the "nerds are finally ruling!" framework comes from a two-fold desire: 1) to see the underdog win and 2) to see ourselves as that underdog. Despite the undeniable success of nerds, they still iconically stand for "underdog" and we all insist on being that underdog.
Ask anyone what they were like in high school and he or she will invariably say "Oh, I was such a nerd in high school." No one would say: "Oh, me? I was popular! Hated those nerds!"
I'm as guilty as anyone. First thing I remember about high school was that I got varsity letters for math team, chess team, and marching band. This is true: my school (Danbury High, from the mean streets of rural Connecticut) awarded varsity letters to any club that competed against other schools. I have an improbably puffy letter D emblazoned with a trumpet, knight, and alpha.
Makes for a good story and solidly establishes my nerd pedigree. Let the sympathetic views pour forth!
What I never tell anyone is that I was elected prom king. And that's because no one knows. At my prom, which I attended with an actual human girl as my date, my class advisor pulled me aside and excitedly told me, "You're gonna be prom king!"
And I begged her, BEGGED her, to make that not true. "I can't be prom king, it would be humiliating," I told her. My friends hated the popular people, and I knew it. There was no way that I wanted to be coronated forever as a, gulp, WINNER. After listening to me ramble about chronic stage fright and threats of a nervous breakdown, she relented. And someone else was announced as prom king.
The nerds, and the allure of being one, has ruled for a long time.
Frankly, I wish more people wanted to be known as jocks. We need them. Hemingway was a jock. Teddy Roosevelt. Amelia Fucking Earhart. Mickey Mantle. People who stood their ground, spoke their minds and made no apologies for being awesome. In an era when politicians parse every last syllable of their sound bytes with fear and camouflage, we need people who are fearless, task-oriented, and who know the power of a simple declarative sentence. Someone to call a play, hit the homerun, and make no apologies to anyone.
Comic-Con? We need a Jock-Con, where former homecoming heroes come from across the country and dress up like the cast of Hoosiers. I want Joss Whedon to re-make Rudy. And Barack Obama to stop quoting literature and humiliate Mitt Romney in an arm wrestle (he probably could, and it would be awesome).
Look for "Revenge of the Jocks," a ten-part movie franchise, to start this summer!
Unless Tina Fey divorces her husband and asks me out in Elvish, in which case I surrender my opinion immediately.
Stock photos via shutterstock.com