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Nerd is the new jock, posted by Kurt

It’s no surprise to us, of course, but it seems the mainstream media are finally growing hip to the hipness of nerds and geeks.  CNN has an article up this morning about how nerd cred is now hip, embraced by Hollywood and pop culture.  From Revenge of the Nerds 25 years ago to TV sitcoms that celebrate physics professors, geeks have come a long way.

Why did this happen?  I think Rob Malda, founder of Slashdot, hit the nail on the head when he talked about how some nerds from the 1970s and 1980s got rich.  People like Bill Gates and Steve Wozniak, the nerds who puttered around with computer parts in garages, were suddenly multimillionaires, their products everywhere in business and education.  They became household names, and with such recognition and wealth comes power.  I will leave it to the fan boys to argue whether these two examples have used that power for good or evil, but its presence is undeniable.

So where does that leave us geeks?  Suddenly we’re cool… or not.  Despite the buzz about the new Star Trek film, despite huge crowds for mediocre movies like Xmen Origins: Wolverine, despite A-list stars like Vin Diesel professing love for Dungeons & Dragons, geeks are still looked at as strange by the majority of people.  The same cred that makes us the newest fad also marks us as outsiders: unusual, odd, foreign.  If there’s one thing history has shown Americans distrust, it’s them gol’dang fur’nerz.  Oh sure, this country has a reputation for sheltering immigrants, but it has an equal reputation for marginalizing them.  From Irish Catholics of the late nineteenth century to Hispanics today, those “different from us” are never mainstream.

In truth, I’m perfectly fine with that.  Geek cred works because most geeks don’t care what popular culture thinks.  We do what we do because we enjoy it, popularity be damned.  When pop culture grows bored with us, when the media have moved on to the Next Big Thing, we’ll still be here, throwing dice and wrestling video game controllers.  And maybe sitting up a little taller.

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