The Revenge of the Nerds

The transition between “Gosh, he is such a nerd”, laced with contempt, to “Oh my God! That girl is so nerdy!”, encapsulated by excitement has been an unexpected one. What was once a widely disputed way of living, only embraced by the ‘outsiders’ in a social setting, has now become the hot seat of popular culture and the most socially acceptable lifestyle. If you ever doubt this phenomenon, think about the reaction mass audiences would proffer to an individual who has not watched the legendary break-out success television show, Game of Thrones. Marvel fanatics that were once limited to the comic-book fans or ‘geeks’ have branched out and have become a commonplace interest for individuals in various cultures, social settings, demographics and more.

Charlotte Armstrong from Nerd Nite KW described a nerd as, “someone who is really passionate about something. It can be anything; you can be a history nerd, video game nerd – everything.” However, our modern sensibilities have somehow limited our perception of nerds as individuals who are interested in films, television shows, comic books and other activities which involve elements of advanced technology, sci-fi, superheroes, fictional languages and more ‘out of the ordinary’ interests. Being a nerd or a geek taken huge strides socially and has become more acceptable in mainstream culture. Once ridiculed as a counterculture, the nerd culture is the culture which can be at par with the jock culture about ten-twenty years ago.

Revitalizing the classic franchises has played an enormous role in the upsurge of the nerd culture and lifestyle. Reboots of films and franchises like Star Trek, Star Wars, Batman, Battlestar Galactica and many more have roped in newer and younger audiences while invigorating the original fans as well. Comic book adaptations into large-scale and large-budget films like Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Justice League, Suicide Squad and more have increased the appeal of the universe to individuals who prefer a visual medium over books and comics. The mediators of this lifestyle: comic-book authors, filmmakers and others, have resorted to catering their ideas and pooling their resources into pulling in the masses, which has worked fantastically for them so far. Gaming has also seen the adaptations of franchises which has sent gaming-nerds into sensory overdrives.

Mass adaptation is also causing massive concerns for the original fans. They are not always readily accepting of reboots of the franchises they have come to love and adore over decades. Desai stated, “These new franchises that are constantly coming out, in most cases, are never as great as the originals. But I do appreciate that they give younger people the opportunity to delve into this world. I just hope they go back and watch the originals as well.” Predominantly, OG fans are so married to the franchises they have grown up with that they are bound to feel apprehensive about any new venture that could possibly ruin the memory of a dear experience. Nonetheless, mass adaptation converts to higher budgets, which effectively means that the nerds will enjoy an endless supply of content which suits their tastes. This aspect is not so bad, after all, for these enthusiasts.

The advancement of technology has allowed for the content catered to the nerds to be more visually appealing and stimulating. The visual enhancements in films, television shows, gaming and even comic books have also brought in newer audiences who are thrilled and encapsulated by the anthropomorphising of characters and the enhanced sensory stimulations. Enhanced visuals, realistic sounds, attention to detail and many such improvements made possible by advancements in technology over the years.

Technology has also allowed the formation of a virtual community that lives, breathes and eats the nerd lifestyle. It connects individuals with similar interests all around the world and makes the culture more realistic. For newer fans, technology bridges the divide between them and the OG fans. The world is served on a silver platter in the wonderful land of the internet and information has never been easier to access. Newer nerd-admirers can catch up with all the history and dynamics of any franchise and can be up to date to delve into the content released in the future. Technology has certainly paved the way for the nerd culture becoming more mainstream as it swathes the nerds into one giant community.

Nerd culture, though evolved exceptionally, since carries stigmas and negative undertones in some areas of society. In India, nerd culture is often associated with being childish and immature. Real jobs like gaming developers, comic book reviewers, YouTube reviewers of nerdy films and products and more are all seen as hobbies by the narrow-minded society. As Indians, we all love Iron Man, but how many of us have friends and family that are okay with a job that involves creating and selling Iron Man merchandise? Not many. The nerd culture involves being utterly passionate about something. In that respect, we have not completely accepted the culture since passion is most often the driving force for people to build a career upon. The ones who aspire job satisfaction, at least.

The word ‘geek chic’ is now added into the Oxford Living Dictionaries and companies like Bewakoof in India are making good money out of marketing and selling ‘nerdy’, ‘geeky’ and ‘dorky’ products. Shows like The Big Bang Theory, House MD, Young Sheldon and more have garnered cult popularity. Superhero and sci-fi movies and merchandise are selling like hot cakes. Comic-Con is regularly hosted in India and attended by thousands every year, who passionately embrace geek cultures like cosplay. Nerds have taken the world by the storm, not just by the content they enjoy becoming more popular, but also their general attractiveness quotient has increased exponentially. Geeks are truly the new jocks. They’re popular and definitely, here to stay.

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