As a regular visitor to the Cracked website, I came across this piece on “5 things that modern kids don’t understand about being a ‘nerd.'” Having been one during my high school years (1981-’84)–and still am–I can relate to what the writer, John Cheese, talks about. However, let me make these comments/observations:
#5. Liking Superheroes Used to Mean You Were a Little Kid, or an Awkward Dork. True. I used to read comic books in middle school, stopped in 8th grade, started up again my freshman year of college, and stopped for good sometime in the mid-Nineties, when 1) X-Men titles multiplied like bunnies with Viagra, and 2) when every comic became a soap opera.
#4. Being a Sci-Fi Fan Used to be For Nerds. Ehhhh….yes and no. The “regular” and “cool” kids I knew went to see Star Wars, and E.T., and other mainstream stuff like that. Now, they certainly didn’t wear Star Wars t-shirts or read the novels (or if they did, they kept that at home), but it’s not like sci-fi was some cult thing. After all, somebody was buying all those tickets to break all those box-office records, and it wasn’t just “nerds.”
#3. PC Gaming was for Weird, Secluded Hobbyists. I don’t know about that. I didn’t have an PC until 1983 and though I think it could run games, I never got into it. As the article says, most people didn’t have the money for that, because PCs were expensive. But I do recall that the video game arcades at whatever mall you went to were always full: does the name “Pac Man” ring a bell? True, “Pac Man” and “Space Invaders” and other arcade games weren’t on PCs, but as soon as Atari came out with affordable versions you plugged into your TV, folks ran out and snapped them up.
#2. Collecting Things Meant You Were Obsessive and Crazy. Wait: you mean it doesn’t? I have several hundred Warhammer 40,000 figures, all of them painted, but I started collecting those in 1987, when high school (and the people who might have hassled me about it) was well in my rearview mirror. The article implies that it’s socially acceptable today to collect stuff, and to some extent, I think that’s true, so long as you’re talking stamps or baseball cards or coins or sports paraphernalia. But today, in 2012, when you tell people that you have a garage-full of these:
…it’s 50/50 on whether they’ll say, “That’s so cool!” or ask, “What the hell is wrong with you?”
#1. Fantasy Geeks Were the Lowest of the Low. Absolutely true back then, in the early ’80’s, and still true, to some extent, now. It’s socially ok to tell people you’re looking forward to seeing The Hobbit when it comes out this December; it’s still not ok to discuss all the D&D I played as a teenager. I didn’t get hassled in high school because 1) few people other than those I gamed with knew I was into it; and 2) my best friend at the time (also a gamer in our group) was built like a gorilla (literally: this kid shaved every day when he was 15 and had biceps bigger than my thighs). Speaking of getting hassled….
What’s with all the talk about beatings/bullying? Cheese makes it sound like if he had breathed a word about his nerdy tendencies he would have been curbstomped by the whole football team while the cheerleaders giggled and applauded. I mean, my high school had its cliques, too, but maybe I just lucked out, because no one was getting beaten up because they were a nerd. Perhaps it helped that my school was what we’d now call a magnet school, and about 40% of the kids were enrolled in the Science and Technology department. So, no, I didn’t live through what he describes. Yeah, I kept my geekery on the downlow, but it wasn’t because I feared for my life.
Why so vulgar? I’m not easily offended by potty mouths, sex humor, or any other scatological stream of consciousness: I mean, I do regularly visit Cracked, so I know what I’m getting. But even so, this article seems to go out of its way to be offensive, and I find it unnecessary and jarring.