I've always said (and remained true to the fact) that I love nerds. The weirder, the odder, the more entranced I become. I am the definition of the geek getting the girl. While I understand that I might be an anomaly, according to Hollywood there's actually scores of girls out there like me. Oh, and they're all hotter and more beautiful as well; because if there's one place that the nerds of the world triumph and score themselves knock-outs, it's in the movies.
If only all geeks were this handsome...
It started harmlessly enough. Early films starring Danny Kaye set the precedent for the sweet natured, bumbling fool winning the girl over. Every movie that he was in shares the same basic premise. Guy is a loser, girl thinks he's a loser, guy does something sweet/romantic/heroic and the girl just can't resist his charms, her eyes opened to the wonderful catch in front of her. What they forget to point out is that while Danny Kaye wasn't on the level of being the dashing romantic lead, he's still a very good looking fellow. Most early movie geeks were.
That was all set to change when the biggest nerd of them all figured out that it didn't take a wealth of good looks to end up in bed with the hot chick. It took a deft hand, both with a script and with a camera. When the 1970's rolled around, movie nerds changed for good when Woody Allen found the formula to geek success.
Writing witty and darkly humorous scripts and making the decision to direct provided Allen with the opportunity to cast himself as the unlikely lead as well as determine which babe he found worthy enough to lay with him in that cinema bed. While people in Hollywood stopped and scratched their heads (as well as clutched their pocketbooks) over the marketability of this movie, Allen went on to tap into a demographic that was largely ignored.
I attribute the majority of Allen's success (and the subsequent successes of most of the dorky, nerdy, geeky and usually Jewish directors of the world) to finding out where the disposable income came from. See, it makes sense to play to the nerds of the world considering that they're not spending double the price at the movie theater, footing the bill for a date. These guys don't have dates to begin with. And why would they fork over the cash to be depressed about the fact that the quarterback yet again scores access to the cheerleader's nether regions?
No, people go to the movies to see what they don't normally get to see in their everyday realities. It's why disaster movies are so popular. It's why Vin Diesel at one point was thought to have even a drop of acting talent.
People have unrealistic expectations that fail them at each turn in their painfully normal and unexciting lives. When they go to the movies they want to live vicariously through a character that does all the things that they can't do and looks good (figuratively) while doing it.
Score one for The Donger
So the geeks get the girls, save the day and are the unlikely heroes of the world. As opposed to just being the guys who sit around at their computers all day long, browsing through websites in an attempt to exert the only hint of power that they might actually possess. I can Digg how that would be appealing to them.
Probably one of the biggest advocates for nerdy triumph is the great John Hughes. One of the most popular writers and directors of the 1980's and the best at delivering an entertaining and somewhat realistic view of teenage life, Hughes managed to always sneak in a popular hint of geekdom.
Starting off with a movie that contains not one, not two, but three notable geeks in it, SIXTEEN CANDLES remains the benchmark in how to make the nerds look cooler than they actually are while still highlighting the fact that they're smarter and less socially adept than other kids their age. In this film, it's not only the skinny white kid who saves the day and wins the girl it's also the foreign exchange student with the thick Asian accent.
Gedde Wantanabe hasn't had a role in his entire career since establishing the most quotable movie geek in cinema history. Long Duck Dong, or more popularly known as "The Donger," makes a regular appearance in people's lives, even 23 years after he first appeared. I defy you to tell me that you haven't tried to replicate his delivery (or know someone who has) of "What's happening, hot stuff?"
But it didn't stop there. Anthony Michael Hall, the go-to geek for Hughes in many of his following films, plays the infamous Farmer Ted. He not only is able to convince Molly Ringwald to hand over her panties, he also ends up with the hot cheerleader. And at the insistence of her boyfriend!
Most people don't remember the third popular geek from the movie, but that's because his character wasn't a big deal. It's the fact that he later went on to be one of the most unsuspecting romantic leads and panty-moistening actors of the late '80's and early '90's. Check out Farmer Ted's even nerdier best friends and you'll spy John Cusack, angsty heartthrob for many a woman in America.
Yet having nerds as lead characters doesn't always have to be as blatant as a high school dramedy showcases. You'll find some of the biggest losers in famous
literature saving the day. And considering that there isn't a popular source of entertainment out there that Hollywood hasn't wrapped its greedy little claws around, you know that those stories make it to the big screen and are introduced to a larger market than just those of us lone souls who still like the stuff printed on dead wood.
Hey geeks! Don't forget to wear your uniform to the theater!
Probably the best example of this is THE LORD OF THE RINGS series. A group of midgets (or Little Hobbit-like people, if you prefer) set out to destroy a ring that is bringing about destruction and chaos on the world. Four little guys who never would have survived out in the big, bad scary world make it further than some of the most formidable warriors in the movie. They don't win a girl but they earn the appreciation and respect of many different life forms around them.
The movie not only racked up a huge pot of precious money, it garnered multiple Oscars, turned a beloved B-horror movie director into a beloved household name director and convinced the women of this world that Dominic Monaghan is sexy despite being a head shorter than them and having head that's long on ears and short on attractiveness. If that isn't a nerd's dream come true, well... I don't know what is.
There are the subtle nerd achievements, the classic nerd conquests and the blatant celebration of nerds. No more obvious example of the last one is the wildly popular NAPOLEON DYNAMITE, a movie that the general public and not just the geeks of this word heralded. Of course, this movie is often looked down on by the nerdier facet of society because Napoleon is so unrepentently geeky and doesn't show a great deal of concern about becoming the hero or even being a lovable kind of guy. So reaction to this movie is erratic, ranging from people claiming it's an instant classic to others condemning it for being nerdily inaccurate.
In the end, nerds will always hold the greatest level of sway within the bowels of Hollywood. They grow up on this stuff thinking that it will actually be true and when life deals them a crappy hand, they retreat into the ranks and start to make the fictional world their reality, becoming directors, producers, writers and special effects masters. It is the nerds of the world who keep the gyroscopes spinning, from watching the movies to making them.
That, and turning reports about upcoming blockbusters into noteworthy news. Because for a nerd, your best alternative to actually living life is to manipulate it in whatever manner you can.
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