Being a nerd used to be a bad thing. The stereotypical nerd versus jock was just a way of life. If you didn’t like sports and weren’t otherwise popular, you were a nerd. You played in the band, you loved video games, you read comic books and you knew where Middlearth was…you know the type. None of this was cool to the general populous. It was respected only within your circle of friends, aka, the other nerds. Then something happened.
Over the past decade, being a nerd became more or less cool. While I’m well beyond my years of being in a classroom (high school or otherwise), I’m thinking part of this transition was due to rise in power of nerds within the popular media. Movies, video games, television…all the things we dine on daily were being run by nerds. The kids that played Dungeons & Dragons and programmed their Apple II computers were now 30-something (like me) and brought that nerd love to their careers. Lord of the Rings, Iron Man, Star Trek, Batman…you know the list…all of these things are incredibly popular now but before they were seemingly only known to the cliques of nerds in the lunchroom. As Bob Dylan said, times they are a changin’.
So it’s now cool to be a nerd, right? There’s no such thing as being unpopular…nerds are cool, jocks are cool, everyone loves everyone, right? That might seem so if you were a pre-2000 nerd like myself but a new reality show about nerds has me feeling that “being a nerd” still means “being a nerd.”
King of the Nerds
King of the Nerds is a new reality show on TBS that challenges self-proclaimed (or possibly designated) nerds to compete in “Nerd Offs” where their knowledge of all things nerd is put the test. This might be a video game challenge, a RPG trivia contest or just a game of chess. The season of King of Nerds just started this month so time will only tell how crazy things get but regardless of what challenges face these folks, one thing is for sure, real nerds are alive and well and they’re on this show.
I guess I should give TBS props for finding true nerds are not some flavor of hipster nerd that would otherwise look “pretty” on television. Watching just a few episodes and seeing these nerds in action tells me that your stereotypical nerd is not a thing of the past and still faces the challenges that nerds of old were faced with. But the nice thing in watching a bunch of nerds play together is that they have all suffered the same for their love for Star Wars, chess, Middle-Earth and algebra, and they all know it. Rather than seven strangers with nothing in common being forced to live together, King of the Nerds found total strangers with all too much in common and that is an interesting dynamic to watch. However, as I learned from Muppets Take Manhattan, “peoples is peoples” and that means you still get a lot of arguments, drama and group dynamics…only now it’s with a bunch of nerds that probably hate personal drama and aren’t entirely confident in their own skin in the first place.
So while you have to take every reality show with a grain of salt these days, King of the Nerds appears to have actually found reality as it still exists for serious nerds. It should also remind everyone that even though they have their own primetime TV show, being a nerd is still pretty much uncool because nobody will watch this show and think, “I wish I was just like that kid,” and that’s really what being a nerd is all about. Nerds are not who you want to be. Yes, nerds will rule the planet one day (and largely already do) but that doesn’t mean you have to be popular or accepted by the general, narrow-minded public. Nerdom has become cool because of what nerds have and what they can do but nobody wants to be a nerd because that still comes with some classic problems that just can’t be avoided. That’s life. Nerd life.
…but the nerds will have the last laugh when they finally invent the hovercar and automatic shoelaces.