A Night of Too Many Nerds
“No person is too ugly to have sex with… The next time you see an ugly person, I want you to put your hand on their shoulder and say, ‘Dammit, let’s have sex.’”
- Eddie Murphy on Saturday Night Live
A smart lady once wrote, “Nerds are just cool people with bad PR.” Being a fellow nerd, I once agreed with that. But that was until I realized I wasn’t a real nerd - in the truest sense of the word.
Real Nerds have only one interest, and they are so focused on it that they cannot focus on anything else – to the detriment of their entire lives. Therefore they never find out who they are, sexually, emotionally, or otherwise, because few people would voluntarily spend their time with them. They’ll never find out if they’re into men, women, or children.
While I did have the luxury of learning that boys have penises and girls have vaginas, I also learned that my nerd passions are film, boxing, baseball, stand-up comedy, video games, and making people feel uncomfortable. All worthy interests, but nothing as determined as say, never leaving my computer chair, not even to go the bathroom, living in a cesspool of urine and feces and not even noticing my rolls of fat, copious sweat, or heinous smell. The furthest I’ve gone, within a bout of laziness, was to watch football – shirtless and unshowered – while eating Wise Cheez Doodles and letting the crumbs and cheese flakes spatter deep into my chest hair.
Gross? Nerdy? Maybe. Unfortunately, any activity that is likely to be aped by a frat boy in his post-date-rape-hangover is automatically disqualified as nerdy.
But the media portrayal of nerds, instead, takes on a sort of mocking impersonal tone; with phony reverence and snarky insults hidden by journalistic integrity. This was exemplified by an article a few weeks ago in The Other Paper, which previewed that weekend’s “24 Hour Ohio Sci-Fi Marathon” being held at the Drexel Theater. The piece was condescending and entirely without insight. I had the feeling that there would be no one from the paper actually covering the festival, just snickering from afar.
So I thought it would be best to experience it for myself. I’d been to horror conventions before, where thousands of people lined up just for the opportunity to pay $25 for an autograph from the lady who wasn’t Sigourney Weaver in Alien, or $15 from the guy who played Sex Machine in From Dusk Til’ Dawn.
For the most part, such conventions feature a lot of people watching, where you’re amazed at the lengths people will go to to dress up like their favorite characters. Fans wear full regalia and makeup, despite the fact that they are at least 200 pounds too heavy to carry it off, and go to booths to overpay for “rare” DVDs they could easily get on the Internet for half the price. You can tell that the most important thing for them is the experience; because if you think about what they are doing, it is just too sad.
You witness them gawking at aging former non-stars, while shoving past other geeks to get in to the main room just to hear directors and stars of the latest direct-to-DVD “classic” brag about their “controversial” creation that the studios are “afraid” of. A lot of the times these people are correct about the studio fears, because the studios don’t like to distribute films with skullfucking and 90 minutes of non-stop graphic gore, which would prevent them from getting any marketable rating. Meanwhile, the truth is that 99 percent of these films are absolute worthless garbage – even from a genre fan’s perspective.
But that’s the difference between a nerd and a real nerd, who thinks it is worth sludging through hundreds hours of amateurish crap just for one moment of unsung genius. A real nerd waits hours to see a man fighting against his dismembered hand in Evil Dead II or a brilliant slasher film deconstruction of Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon as the film treats these psychopathic figures as actual people, and their job just happens to be murdering people in creative ways.
At times, I’d count myself among the real nerds – those many faithful who sit through a lot of dreck at festivals – sometimes without even a single film amusing me out of 40 during an entire weekend.
So, during my analysis of the Drexel’s Sci-Fi marathon, it would be fair to call me both an insider and a hypocrite for writing the following:
- Real Nerds are smelly, fat, ungainly, socially inept, unpleasant, and generally limited in their know-it-all-ness. When they see a fairminded portrayal of themselves on screen, they [unsuccessfully] mock it, perhaps because it is too close to home for them to acknowledge. [One of the monsters in one of the films screened, the fantastic Big Man Japan, was a chubby, sweaty, lumpy creature with a magnanimous comb over. So it must have been like looking into a very uncomfortably accurate mirror].
- When there is anything remotely involving sexuality in front of them, they squirm and shuffle. In an attempt to distance themselves and appear cool, they make terrifically unfunny comments at the screen, MST3K style (Mystery Science Theater 3000, for those without pocket protectors and tape on their glasses).
- The Real Nerd comments constantly during movies, which is a foolish choice, considering the films are plenty unintentionally funny without them. These people bring their sense of irony and not their deodorant. It is unfortunate that it was rare that anyone wanted to admit they were actually enjoying the films at the festival, worrying instead about shouting out mindless trivia. No one should ever catch you enjoying the film legitimately!
- If Real Nerds did enjoy something, they would overstate its greatness/badness to justify and validate their existence. One quote that I overheard seemed to personify it: “That last movie shook my faith in mankind,” said with an awkward laugh and a needy stare. This sort of low self-esteem and suggestible behavior is especially disheartening, considering these Real Nerds had deliberately gone to the Drexel’s Sci-Fi marathon to meet like-minded people. All their effort brought out was one insecurity after another.
- When people did enjoy films, it was always a bit too much, in a rather enthusiastically creepy way.
Ø One fellow, dressed in what looked like a butcher’s uniform (I kept trying to order steaks from him, but he took no notice), carried around a large posterboard with a list of every single film that either appeared or was supposed to appear at the festival – all 25 years of it. He had one copy for himself and one he intended to give to the programmer. There was no special artwork or accompanying posters, just a list, written in marker. Perhaps a disturbing side effect of OCD?
Ø Another man – a giant with the thickest glasses I’ve ever seen – liked to complain at the strangest things. During Lady Terminator, an awesomely terrible Indonesian rip-off of The Terminator, complete with terrible dubbing, costumes, acting, and camerawork, where the only possible response was derisive laughter, he was annoyed that the people around him were loudly mocking the film (as was the entire theater of 500 or so, an unfortunate majority of which never got out of their seats during the entire 24 hour marathon, having probably brought colostomy bags and catheters). He got up and complained about the audience’s film mockery to one of the staff members outside the screening room. When he returned to the theater a bit later, he looked for the film programmer and, not finding him, began poking me in the chest with the stick. What I had initially thought was a walking cane, I realized was not. When I explained that I wasn’t sure where the programmer was, the Real Nerd stomped off.
- When eavesdropping or participating in conversations with the patrons, Real Nerds’ limits were ever so evident. They had no knowledge outside of their field of concentration. One guy would know exclusively about Star Trek. Another would wait his turn until Battlestar Galactica was brought up, so he could discuss the differences between the old and new versions. All of it was very literal-minded, as well. Analysis of anything but the surface of the material was alien, and I heard repeatedly that while sci-fi was their passion, they didn’t look at it as more than entertainment. I was even asked the deadly question – normally reserved for the layman who is confused by why someone would actually use his brain – “How do you enjoy any movies if all you do is analyze them?” I’ve come to expect this question from a typical Joe, but not from a Real Nerd.
While all this sounds depressing and negative, what it really made me realize was how similar to these guys (and a paltry number of females) the general public is. Ever meet someone who doesn’t watch the news or read? Ever meet someone who can only talk about Ohio State football or the weather? (An amazingly prevalent characteristic in Columbus). How about people who choose a president based solely on one issue – whether it be abortion, gun control, or gay rights? Ever notice that that’s pretty much all they know about?
Real Nerds are like the guy you work with who takes on the personality of an uninformed lobbyist who has no influence except when he seizes the opportunity to push his agenda at the watercooler.
So Real Nerds are not unusual; they’re just separated from everyone else. From one ostracized group to another – from the mouthbreathers to the cocksuckers – realize that Real Nerds, like gays, are people, too.