You are here: Home>Collections

Let the nerds have their word

OPINION

  • Is Zooey Deschanel really a nerd? Really?
Is Zooey Deschanel really a nerd? Really? (Reuters file photo )
April 10, 2013|By Ryan Smith, @ryansmithwriter | For RedEye

You know who is a total geek? That James Bond guy.

BuzzFeed recently published a list of "nerdy" celebrities, and the website named Daniel Craig because the swashbuckling British actor, who stars as superspy 007 in the movies, enjoys the video game "Halo." Also included on the list: Vin Diesel (for his love of Dungeons and Dragons), Mila Kunis (also a gamer) and Zooey Deschanel (her glasses, I guess?).

It's official. "Nerd" and "geek"—words once used to negatively describe a certain kind of intelligent person—have been overused and misused to the point of meaninglessness. As someone who once wore those labels as a hard-earned badge of honor (I have the scars from repeated wedgies to prove it), I think it's time we reclaim them.

It's difficult to imagine now, but the "N" and "G" words used to be uttered by the popular crowd as an epithet to demean socially awkward, brainy types who couldn't get a date. That's why the bespectacled college guys in the 1984 movie "Revenge of the Nerds" needed revenge—because they were an oppressed minority of sorts.

Three decades later, the nerds have inherited the Earth. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are insanely rich. Most of the entertainment appearing on our screens was ripped from the pages of comic books. The biggest star emerging from last year's presidential election arguably was brilliant statistician Nate Silver.

As a result, everyone identifies as a nerd or geek.

After hunky NFL punter Chris Kluwe was named sexiest man of the year by Salon Magazine, he said, "It's a little weird because I'm a nerd video-game player." And even though George Clooney and a handful of A-list celebs attended last year's White House Correspondents' Dinner, insiders still insist on calling it "nerd prom." At this point, the only famous people who aren't nerds are Madonna, Mike Ditka and the guy from the Dos Equis commercials.

It's not just celebrities allying themselves with nerd culture. I've met a seemingly infinite number of regular people who claim nerdhood just because they wear dark-framed glasses or regularly watch "Game of Thrones" or "The Walking Dead." That's not nerdy; it's watching quality TV programming—with corrective lenses.

If you're single, it's hard not to stumble upon an online dating profile that doesn't use the words "nerdy" or "geeky" because it's become the self-deprecating way of saying "I am smart" or "I have a hobby." It's amazing that you now can identify as a nerd about things that aren't in the least way socially unacceptable: beer, fashion and art. I can't wait for the day Kate Upton tells Sports Illustrated, "I'm a swimsuit modeling nerd!"

So where does that leave those of us who dress up as Wolverine at comic book conventions, belong to a "World of Warcraft" guild, play in multiple fantasy baseball leagues or earned Ph.D.s in robotics? There's got to be a word to describe those of us who would never be invited to party with Daniel Craig or Vin Diesel.

Or maybe I'm just overthinking this. God, I'm such a nerd.

Ryan Smith is a RedEye special contributor.

Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye's Facebook page

RedEye Chicago Articles
|
|
|