For the past year or so now we’ve heard about this “change” thing floating about. But I propose that we’ve borne witness to a change even more drastic and far-reaching than anything else before: the integration of the nerd culture into the mainstream.
But when did this happen? And how could such a revolutionary change go unnoticed? There are many factors, but I tend to believe that it all started in 1997.
It was in this year that Square released “Final Fantasy VII.” Already a successful videogame series, the release heralded the idea of crafting a more adult-themed story. Coupled with both advances in graphics and in game play, the game drew in not only traditional gamers, but also those who had previously viewed videogames with enigmatic wonder.
Probably the most important in the expansion of nerd culture would be the release of Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy of movies. These movies brought to the forefront one of the most treasured literary works of nerdom to the masses in such grand form and opened up many new and exciting possibilities of what else nerds were hiding. Since then, more movies are garnering critical acclaim that is straight out of a fanboy’s wildest dreams. Indeed, 2008 alone saw how successful superhero movies could be, with “Iron Man” and “The Dark Knight” leading the way.
Movies and videogames weren’t the only areas to feel the presence of previously nerd-only media, however; the eruption of anime onto the television screen was another one. This phenomenon was two-fold: The success of the Pokémon videogame franchise naturally led to the popularity of its animated counter-part.
Arguably the most important show would have to be “Dragonball Z.” Its over-the-top fight scenes, coupled with resilient spiked hair, had many clamoring for anything from the land of the rising sun. While this led to the importation of a lot of crappy shows (sorry “s-CRY-ed”) it also brought the likes of “Fullmetal Alchemist,” the legendary “Cowboy Bebop” (the greatest anime ever, by the way), and “FLCL” (what is Fooly Cooly?).
What is the one area you would think would be impenetrable by the likes of those who wield lightsabers and speak Klingon? The fashion world of course! But like so many others before it, even the fashion realm has fallen victim to the influence of the nerd.
Say what you will about Hot Topic, but when it started releasing lines of video game and Star Wars t-shirts, they spread like wildfire. You couldn’t walk down the street without seeing shirts decorated with Nintendo controllers with the words “old school,” or people wearing jackets regally emblazoned with the mark of the Triforce.
And you know all those black-rimmed glasses that hipsters love to parade around in? Yet another product of nerd culture, most recognizable from the face of Weezer front man Rivers Cuomo. He’s been rocking the frames since the release of “The Blue Album” in 1994. Did you know part of the conditions the band had for signing with Geffen Records was that officials from Geffen had to watch all three original Star Wars movies with the band in succession? That’s straight up gangster right there.
While the cultural tidal wave from the nerd world may have already passed its peak, that doesn’t mean its presence still isn’t felt. Quickly ask yourself how many of your friends have been sucked into the digital crack that is World of Warcraft (I’ve been clean myself for eight months), yet another gem from the early days of PC gaming that has launched itself into becoming the most popular MMORPG (massive multiplayer online role playing game, for the acronym-deficient) in history.
TV networks like G4 are at the frontlines of bringing nerd culture to the mainstream (or at least giving us Olivia Munn). Shows like Sci Fi’s “Battlestar Galactica” prove that a show can be both a good drama as well as science fiction-enough to please hardliners, but not so much to segregate the masses (or at least giving us Grace Park).
Although many fail to realize it, the time of the nerd is at hand. From movies, to television, to fashion, those that once lived on the fringes of society have now moved adjacent to the center. It hasn’t been an easy transition; I myself found that my unnatural obsession with all things Star Wars and Mega Man made me a natural target for torment and ridicule. And while most Saturday nights I don’t have any girls lining up for dates, I’m still hard-pressed to find someone to match my Ken’s cross-up technique in “Street Fighter II Turbo,” and I’m pretty okay with that.
I decided a while ago that I’m not going to stop liking things because they may be seen as nerdy, and for the most part a lot of my interests aren’t really considered nerdy anymore. It wouldn’t matter if they were, because for every one person who laughs at my collection of “Magic: The Gathering” cards, there are at least three others ready to sit down for a game.
Be ready world, because we nerds are out there, and never forget: all your base are belong to us.