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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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Culture Vulture

IFC Teams Up With Vulture.com to Develop New Pop Culture Series

The Vulture Show will tackle pop culture with a "slightly off" twist.

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Photo Credit: New York Magazine

The pop culture aficionados at Vulture.com are teaming up with IFC to develop a brand new unscripted series. The Vulture Show will deliver smart, irreverent and “slightly off” entertainment news covering TV, movies, music, art, books, theater and celebrities with the outlet’s signature sharp perspective.

The weekly dual-hosted talk show will feature some of Vulture’s most influential contributing voices and will be comprised of in studio features, field pieces and celebrity guest interviews.

“IFC has found the perfect pop culture accomplice with New York Magazine’s Vulture,” said Christine Lubrano, SVP, Original Programming, IFC. “We look forward to developing a show that provides our viewers with a sophisticated and humorous first-look at all things entertainment before it’s the news everyone is buzzing about.”

“It’s fitting that we bring Vulture to TV with IFC, whose offbeat sensibility matches our own,” said Adam Moss, Editor-in-Chief, New York Magazine. “We’ve had a tremendous response to our Vulture Festival events, and are excited for this next incarnation of Vulture.”

Be sure to check back for future details about The Vulture Show.

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Marc Maron – Maron – Season 4, Episode 5

Life Goals

10 Maron Quotes to Get You Through the Week

Get over the Wednesday hump with a brand new Maron tonight at 9P.

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Wednesdays are tough. You’re halfway through the week, but there’s still half of the week left. Luckily Wednesdays mean brand new Maron, with yet another chance to gain some much needed wisdom from Marc Maron. This week Marc continues to dig himself out of his own personal hell, making us all wiser in the process. Before you catch tonight’s Maron, check out some Marc quotes to get you over “Hump Day.”

1. Set realistic diet goals.

Whipped Cream Maron

Instead of looking up how many calories you have left for today’s nutritional intake, admit that you just want something of the whipped and creamy variety.


2. Assert yourself into the conversation.

Maron Shut Up

Instead of letting people walk all over you, be like Marc and demand to be heard…even if it’s just to tell someone to shut up.


3. Trust no one. Except Marc.

"Maron

Instead of trying to figure out which friend could keep a secret, admit that you yourself couldn’t keep a secret to save your life.


4. Minimize your shortcomings.

Maron Notes

Instead of blaming the world for your failures, admit when it’s your own damned fault…to a point.


5. Celebrate accomplishments. Even minor ones.

Maron Ahole

Instead of wishing for greater success, take pride in the ways that you have excelled without judgment.


6. Remember that every day is filled with potential.

Maron Possibilities

Just make sure you have enough coffee.


7. Demand proof from others.

Maron Believe

Instead of potentially being in someone’s shadow, throw doubt on anything they haven’t properly documented.


8. Take a moment to reflect.

Maron Right Thing

There’s a first time for everything.


9. Be honest about where you’re at right now.

Maron Smart

Instead of avoiding embarrassment, embrace it.


10. And finally, remember the important things in life.

Maron Love

Instead of bemoaning the inadequacies of your relationships, perhaps due in part to items 1 through 9, just focus on the physical.

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Marc Maron – Maron – Season 4, Episode 4

Behind the Anger

Marc Maron Gets Deep in an Interview with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross

Follow Marc's journey to recovery tonight at 9P on IFC.

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It ain’t no stage persona: Marc Maron is an anxious, angry, complicated fellow. In a recent interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air, the Maron star described how he’s beset by constant anxiety, self-hatred, and general unease, which he considers his “uncomfortable” comfort zone. “Being sort of anxious and uncomfortable has really been my home base, innately,” he said. “And I don’t know how to change that, and that’s really the challenge for me now.”

A former addict himself, Marc also discussed the difficulty of portraying his TV character’s drug relapse, downfall, and rehabilitation — a fear he’s glad “happened in fiction and not in real life.”

Click here to listen to Marc Maron’s deep and revealing interview with NPR’s Terry Gross on Fresh Air.

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