<editorsnote> Nerds, meet my buddy Datestable. Thats obvi not his real name, but what he chooses to go by in the on that there thing called the “internet.” He’s super chill, super smart, and super freaking nerdy. I only have one more thing left to say … HIT IT DATESTABLE!!! </editorsnote>
Have you noticed the recent (or maybe not so recent) trend of “cool” girls acting “nerdy”? What’s up with that? In the wonderful 80s (and most of the 90s), a very clear line was drawn between jock and nerd. Revenge of the Nerds, the seminal study of socio-academic cultural differences among our youth, instructed us to embrace the nerd within us and that some jocks were indeed closeted nerds (for more on Fred “Ogre” Palowakski consult your local Internet).
The nerdification of normals started slow, sometimes expressing itself in very subtle tones throughout the 90s. Steve Urkel became Stefan Urquelle. People were listening to Moby. Then, in the “aughts,” a cultural groundswell occurred. It was suddenly cool to look like a nerd. So while actual nerds were busy solving the world’s alternative energy issues and trying to cure AIDS, faux nerds were plotting their takeover. At the grassroots level, lobbyists for the upper strata of wannabe-cool nerds were busy drawing up master plans on K Street. Zooey Deschanel, the spiritual leader of the movement, bid her time, disguising herself as a cute but cynical (“cunical”?) mall employee in the modern masterpiece Elf.
Pop nerd Justin Timberlake pranced for us, bringing the sexy back. Cine-geek Johnny Depp bewildered us with his haunting/idiosyncratic characterizations. Now look at these nerds: Britney Spears and Anne Hathaway. Kim Kardashian, the socialite nerd and JWoww, the fake guidette, are clearly huge lovers of books, Dungeons & Dragons, and anagrams. Maybe there’s something very liberating about folks who are worshipped for their looks and glam factor being able to “nerd up,” or there is some contrarian impulse behind it all. Zooey’s sitcom New Girl has really brought the movement into focus, lifting the word “adorkable” to the height of its “annoyability.”
But regular chicks are getting in on the act, too. Just scan a dozen profiles on #OkCupid and you’re likely to find a few where a conventionally/blandly attractive girl is either rocking a pair of Buddy Holly glasses or professing /confessing her secret nerdliness. Now, you might say that this is all in good fun, a harmless trend that creates a positive, empowering environment for people to be themselves. But what about the real nerds? No, not the “before” versions of those really hot actresses in “makeover” teen flicks where they’re supposedly unattractive at the start of the film. I’m talking female chess champions Humpy Koneru, Marie Sebag, and Hoang Thahn Trang. I’m talking Tina Fey. I’m talking Dorothy Hodgkin. Women who devoted their lives to the pursuit of nerdly endeavors, not casual, fashionable, or fair-weather geeks. These ladies have an identity and it should be respected. Now cool/attractive/popular girls, not content with p0wning their geeky sistahs in social achievements K-12, are cannibalizing their very essence on the young adult dating scene.
Oh, yee cool, yee well-adjusted single ladies—heed the call of justice and let your Rubik’s Cube-solving, gene-splicing, competitive Janga-playing compatriots have their day in the sun!
Disclaimer: Despite the snarky tone of this post, Datestable does not impute the nerd credentials of your host, Jen Friel, an uber-nerd whose geekaliciousness is beyond reproach.