When Do Geeks Become Cool?

Revenge of the Nerds: The Atomic Wedgie CollectionI watched some of Revenge of the Nerds the other night. No, I’m not going to do a review of it. One and a half stars, if I’m feeling generous. I don’t recommend it. I only mention the film because it started me thinking on a topic. Nerds are portrayed as pure stereotypes in the movie–one dimensional four-eyed social outcasts who spend their time playing chess and building computers.

Back in the 80s, these were the people who were picked on. (Or did it just seem like that to me because that’s what all school kids do to geeks and nerds? More on that in a bit.)

I was a geek in high school. I admit this. First off, I was in all the AP classes. I somehow ended up valedictorian. I was in symphonic band, marching band, Dixie band, orchestra, county orchestra–and I didn’t play one of the ‘cool’ instruments. I mean, can you get much geekier than bassoon? True, I played bari sax on the side, but still–other band geeks could make fun of my instrument of choice. I literally got thrown down a hill and had hunks of sod chucked at my head–by other band geeks. (Granted, this was in middle school, but it illustrates my point.) And I wasn’t just a band geek. I was a drama geek, newspaper geek, fantasy book reading geek, Disney geek . . . the list goes on and on. Yes, you could get geekier than me–I didn’t wear horn rimmed glasses, and I didn’t honk when I laughed, and while I owned a pocket protector, I didn’t actually use it.

This is just to establish my geek credentials.

The thing is, I don’t think I’ve really changed that much in the intervening years. If anything, I’ve gotten geekier. I mean, I write YA fantasy now, and I don’t even publish it. I play video games, obsess about films and television shows, have built my own computer and can fix most other people’s tech problems. I’m a librarian. These are all things that would warrant me getting beat up in high school.

And yet for some reason, these things are no longer bad. People appreciate it when I help them with their tech problems. I get paid money to be a librarian. Many of the successful people in the world are really full-fledged geeks. Bill Gates? Steve Jobs? Computer geeks have really risen to power.

However, I wonder if that’s just because I no longer am forced to hang out with such a diverse range of people as I was forced to interact with in high school. There are so many different types of people in high school, with so many interests–all forced to be in the same place every day. Forced to play gym together, take classes together. If all adults were thrown back into the same situation, would the same social stratification happen that happened in high school? Would the jocks emerge as the head of the pecking order? Or would geeks use their wealth and smarts to turn those jocks into more of a serf class?

What do you think?

2 thoughts on “When Do Geeks Become Cool?”

  1. I agree. After high school it seems like the various groups go off and become part of their community of choice. The jocks and big shots are still there, you just don’t associate with them anymore. Thank goodness!

  2. Yeah–the more I think about it, the more I think that’s right. I just don’t run into jocks in normal life anymore, mainly because I only hang out with librarians, professors and Mormons. 🙂

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