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The Revenge of the Nerds: How the 80’s movie foretold the rise of Geek Culture

The Revenge of the Nerds: How the 80’s movie foretold the rise of Geek Culture (photo)

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“Revenge of the Nerds,” that significant 80s cultural artifact, was a genuinely prophetic film. At the time of its release in 1984 it was morning in America and a muscular foreign policy against the then-Soviet Union nudged popular culture to valorize brawn and social ease and raw good looks. Introspection and lusting in one’s heart was of the previous, melancholy Carter years. In “Revenge of the Nerds,” a lovable gallery of geeks challenged the primacy of the cool crowd to the rousing anthem “We are the Champions.”

Fast forward. Raw good looks and brawn, of course, will never go out of fashion entirely. There will always be sports stars; there will always be financiers; there will always be Vogue magazine and fashion week. But there is also now an information economy — one of the few remaining sectors of our economy still flourishing — and a new-found respect for people like Steve Jobs, who made it cool to be creative, and Bill Gates, who makes it cool to save the world. Even our President, a self-avowed Trekkie, has made it cool to be perpetually wonkish. And former band nerd and President Bill Clinton channels his inner Superman daily in dealing with global inequalities.

But it is Hollywood that is the ultimate proving ground for cool – on a global level. It is why even a global star like Jackie Chan wants to make it here. Hollywood’s A-List – the Depps, the Jolies, the Berrys – epitomize what it is that we all want to emulate. Hollywood exudes cool. Nowadays that cool, incredibly, seeks the approval of the geeks.

Look at who is Hollywood Royalty now. Steven Spielberg: geek; James Cameron: geek; JK Rowling: geek; Oprah Winfrey: geek; Anne Sweeney: geek. Further, the great myth-makers – George Lucas and Peter Jackson and John Lassetter – are so utterly geek that they are as interested in the technical side of film-making as they are in the storytelling.

Comic-Con’s triumph, perhaps more than any other single event, signals the rise of the nerds. Niche programming is the hallmark of this fragmented digital age, and geeks are a highly educated and valuable demographic. It not so long ago that at some imaginary Comic-Con like event geek icon William Shatner, in his infamous SNL parody, asked the citric question: “Have you ever kissed a girl?” Such a question, while perfect for 1986, would never be asked now because the lords of Hollywood are too busy trying to win the approval of those “avids” – the film-goers formerly known as nerds.

Chris Nolan, perhaps the most famous nerd made good, rescued the Batman franchise. Nolan made Batman cool and borderline psychotic again. Perhaps it takes an avid – an intensely interested fan – to understand the psychology of an obsessive personality like that of the Bruce Wayne/Batman character. George Clooney and Val Kilmer (both consummate Hollywood player Joel Schumacher’s choices), two of the most handsome men of the age, had run the damn thing into the ground. They made Batman look too freshly-fucked. It was the case of too much Bruce Wayne – the lie — and not enough Dark Knight.

Joel Schumacher’s solution was to focus more on the movie-star looks of the leads, sacrificing story for one-liners and tongue-in-cheek quips. It was like Schumacher thought of Batman through the outmoded lens of the swashbuckling swordsman of Hollywood yesteryear and not through the gritty prism of Frank Miller. I’m fairly sure neither Kilmer nor Clooney ever read a Detective comic previous to making the film, just as much as I’m fairly sure that Chris Nolan did. Thus the broody Christian Bale, another avid formerly known as a nerd, was the inspired choice to carry the franchise forward.

Comic book movies are Hollywood tent poles because they perfectly combine action and story. Their heroes fight against the odds and they are more at home when they are saving the world than in everyday social situations. Nerds, of course, have always known this. The Sam Raimi’s of the world were always wondering whether or not Mary Jane and Peter Parker would ever get together, whether Spider-man would ever balance the lives of both the spider and the man. And now they have the power to make it so.

Are you through being cool? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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Home Run

Hank Azaria Gets Thrown A Curve Ball

Brockmire Premieres April 5 at 10P

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Unless you’ve somehow missed every episode of the Simpsons since 1989, then surely you know that Hank Azaria is one of the most important character actors of our time. He’s so prolific and his voice is so dynamic that he’s responsible for more iconic personalities than most folks realize. Basically, he’s the great and powerful Oz — except that when you pull back the curtain the truth is actually more impressive. And now Hank is coming to IFC to bring yet another character to the TV pop culture hive mind in the new series Brockmire. Check out the trailer below.

Based on the following Funny or Die short and co-starring Amanda Peet, Brockmire follows the story of imploded major league sportscaster Jim Brockmire as he tries to resurrect his career by calling plays for a floundering minor league team in a podunk town.

The series is written by Joel Church-Cooper (Undateable) and produced by Funny or Die’s Mike Farah and Joe Farrell, meaning that there’s funny in front of the camera, funny behind the camera–funny all around. Sounds like a ball to us.

Brockmire premieres April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Car Notes

Portlandia On People Who Can’t Park

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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If flagrant bad parking takes nerve, then retaliatory note writing takes neuroses. Watch Fred and Carrie take passive aggression to next level in Car Notes, the new Portlandia web series presented by Subaru. The first episode is yours right here and now, and you can see every installment of Car Notes anytime online, on the IFC app and on demand.

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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Nick Kroll and John Mulaney To Host Spirit Awards

The Spirit Awards Air February 25 LIVE on IFC.

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The 2017 Spirit Awards have finally found their frontmen: Nick Kroll and John Mulaney. And it’s no wonder. Just marvel in their splendid chemistry back when they appeared on Comedy Bang! Bang!:

The pair are prolific within the performing arts community: television (Kroll in The League and The Kroll Show, Mulaney as a writer of IFC’s own Documentary Now!), theater (including Broadway’s current Oh Hello Show), and stand-up comedy. In fact, it’s entirely possible that emceeing an awards show is one of the few remaining line items on their professional bucket lists.

It’s important to caveat this announcement, however. Unlike the bigger and more ubiquitously known awards shows, the Spirit Awards are not, well…boring. (We’re talking to you, Oscar.)

They’re funny. They’re honest. They have quality to match the red-carpet fanfare. And that’s alarmingly special. Last year’s show included some legitimately historic moments, like when transgender actress Mya Taylor won best supporting female, or Kate McKinnon’s hilarious and timely parody of Carol. See more highlights here to get the flavor of the Spirit Awards and read all about Film Independent to dig deeper.

The 2017 Spirit Awards air live February 25 at 5P ET exclusively on IFC.

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