Opinion: Rise Of The Nerds
‘We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us’
– a bunch of nerds.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to poke the bear that is Anonymous. The fact of the matter is Anonymous’ title is perpendicular to its activities. There is nothing nonchalant about their behaviour. They frequently destroy websites linked to tyrannical causes, seek their own form of anarchic justice, are able to access the CIA’s database unnoticed and are in their own on-off war against Mexican drug cartels; a bunch of nerds facing off against gangs responsible for dozens of thousands of deaths in the last 20 years alone, all from behind the veil of the internet and its tools. If you told someone in the 1970s that this was going to happen in the future, they’d laugh in your face, before asking you ‘what the hell is an intern net?’.
But the evidence is undeniable – the nerds are growing. Maybe not in number, their vitamin D-deficient bodies languishing in obscurity for the worst part of 200,000 years, but in influence. Bill Clinton sent a total of 2 emails during his presidency of the United States. 16 years later, America’s current president has his own Twitter account and occasionally posts on the nerd über-sanctuary Reddit, causing it to crash. Total nerd. Ditto pretty much every space-bound project from the US or Europe. Even Voyager 1 sends hourly updates on its location in the galaxy via Twitter. Presumably, China’s space probes send stuff to the China Wide Web too.
Out of all the character stereotypes that populate the world, it is the nerd who has become closest to our hearts, because they are closest to our secrets and our realities. Let’s look at it another way. Who do you like more: John Rambo or Maurice Moss? Sure, John Rambo is cooler, but we’ll never be him. There’s a little bit of Moss in us all. The socially-challenged, muddling, excitable scallywag living a constant bad hair day is someone we can all relate to. That’s where the Baader-Meinhof complex sets in, and you start to notice the ever-increasing number of people wearing thick-rimmed glasses and check shirts. Maybe you’re not sure if they’re a nerd, or a hipster (or both), but their prominence and visibility is more obvious than ever.
But it doesn’t stop at the I.T. Crowd. The Big Bang Theory featured Wil Wheaton and made him look like a silverback. Two and a Half Men features Ashton Kutcher as an internet billionaire (i.e. nerd). Ross Gellar was one of the most blatant nerds on TV’s most popular show for years. Even if we steer away from comedy we can see evidence of it everywhere. Justin Long in Die Hard 4.0, Napoleon Dynamite, Ichabod Crane, Clark Kent, Egon from Ghostbusters, The Lone Gunmen, Dilbert, Professor Frink, the guys from Freaks and Geeks, Dr. Krieger from Archer, Abed from Community, Doc Brown. They’re everywhere, they almost always save the day and you’re rooting for them, regardless of whether they’re on the side of good or evil! The Trio from Buffy? Mr Glass from Unbreakable? Remember Alan Cumming’s turn as kooky Siberian programmer Boris Grishenko in Goldeneye? You couldn’t help loving him every second he was on screen, and when he died you were a little bit sad.
And like vampires that stride through the sunlight, they will eventually absorb all culture and kind before them. With the emergence of their popularity comes geek chic*. Ryan Gosling, Natalie Portman, Gok Wan, Robert Pattinson, Ellen Page, James Arthur from X-Factory are all notably nerd-attired at every given opportunity. However, being geek chic requires more than just wearing thick-rimmed glasses. Usually it has to be accompanied by an undersized or oversized shirt and an expression that just screams ‘I’m actually quite inward and shy, but now that I’m away from my parents I’m going to act like I’m a free spirit and I’m totally wild!’ Not Gosling though. Gosling’s just cool.
So what can the world do with this knowledge? How is humanity bracing itself for the inundation of computer-sweat and nervous tics that will inevitably encroach society? The answer is, it won’t. Like all things in the universe, the rise of the nerd will soon approach the crest of a wave, before soaring back down on the other side and dropping once again into the uncoolest of uncool troughs of human nature. The exodus out of the bedroom from making music and programming video games will stop, and life will return to the way we knew it around, say, 1995. Being a nerd will be unfashionable again, and we will await with bitten fingernails the arrival of the new age of the jock. They are Loud. They are Assholes. They don’t know how to forgive. They don’t remember anything. Expected circa 2019.
*There is common idea that geeks and nerd are not the same animal. While strictly speaking this may be true, the fact is they occupy too similar a space in the same Venn diagram to be ignored, and their union comprises a large selection of style, personality traits and attitude problems. Yes, this is the nerdiest part of the page.