Monday, 7 May 2012

In Defence of the Nerd

Copyright, Channel 4
by Melissa Smith

What comes to mind when you hear the word nerd? A socially inept, acne covered lanky kid with an affinity for all things Klingon? Well it’s time to look behind the thick-rimmed glasses at the person beneath the stereotype that society loves to hate.

In this information age, it’s not the politicians who have the power, but the guys with the computers. Take Bill Gates. At second on the Forbes Rich List with a net worth of 61 billion dollars to his name, he’s a force to be reckoned with. After founding Microsoft with Paul Allen in 1975, a company that would revolutionise computer technology, he was no longer the geeky kid with a knack for programming, but a man admired and idolised. Other members of the list, such as Larry Page and Sergey Brin (co-founders of Google), Jeff Bezos (founder of amazon.com) and the infamous Mark Zuckerburg, prove that it’s the people with their fingers on a keyboard that hold the power in today’s society.

For years, nerds and geeks have been the embodiment of social inadequacy in popular culture. Anyone familiar with the typical American adolescent movie will be well acquainted with the brutal hierarchy that governs the high school halls. First come the jocks and ‘plastics’ (if you’re a Mean Girls fan), then come the ‘normal people’, then right at the bottom amongst the Nintendo 64s of yesteryear, are the nerds.

It’s been instilled in us from an early age that it’s the football players and icons of masculinity that we should look up to. It’s not our fault; it’s the unfortunate product of years of social conditioning by the media. However, times are changing and the tables are turning.

With the up rise of shows like The Big Bang Theory and Doctor Who (yes I know it’s been around for a while), nerds are becoming increasingly popular, and not just as targets for ridicule. It’s characters like Sheldon Cooper (of The Big Bang Theory) that are changing our perceptions of what it is to be a geek. A self-professed genius, Sheldon is the face of all things nerdy. Despite his somewhat extensive list of faults, he is adored by many because he’s self-assured, determined and not afraid to display his model trains to the world. These are characteristics to look up to, not the definition of his muscles.

So if you can’t tell what side I’m on in the ongoing popular vs. nerd war, perhaps the cardboard cut out of Matt Smith in my room may give you a clue. And as a final note, remember as Charles J. Sykes wisely said : “Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.”

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