It used to be easy to hunt nerds in the wild. Just put a juicy steak (and by “steak” I mean “Dungeons & Dragons campaign”) into a hair-triggered spring-snare trap outside the gifted & talented classroom and wait. Within a few minutes, you had fresh nerd ready to marinate and slap on the barbi or put in a freezer bag to fry up later. Nerds will keep fresh for up to a year.
But those days are over. Now your trap is just as likely to capture a teenage Internet billionaire or Mickey Mouse Club superstar. You thought you were going to spend a fun day stuffing nerds into lockers, snapping pictures and racking up hits on Flickr. Instead, your prey lawyered up and you landed in police custody where you sold your new Nikes for “protection” and spent an hour trying to convince your parents to use your college fund as bail money.
And it's not just nerds that are off limits these days. Freaks. Geeks. Dorks. Outcasts. They all have powerful lobbying groups, PACs and Japanese fan clubs ready to defend them at the first slight. You can't even hock a loogie into someone's hair without getting chewed out by school administrators!
It's getting so that dickheads and douchebags have to find real hobbies. How could this have happened?!
There's plenty of blame to go around. Below are five groups I hold personally responsible for turning nerds into heroes.
Mark Zuckerberg The ancients tell of a time you could walk from one riverbank to the other on the backs of spawning nerds. But then Google started offering free lattes and on-site laundry service and the rivers ran dry. People like Xeni Jardin (Boing Boing), Sergey Brin (Google) and Jack Dorsey (Twitter) made being smart sexy. Almost as importantly, they made it lucrative. In an earlier time, all those nights spent working on monitor tans and trolling the more disreputable corners of the Interweb typically resulted in wedgies, swirlies or kancho (seriously, don't even look it up – I WARNED YOU!). Today, those same, seemingly anti-social behaviors, are just as likely to result in a pre-market allocation on a hot IPO. Being a nerd can make you rich! Stupid nerds.
Picture it: you're young. You've got acne. You're a goody-two-shoes momma's boy with a bowl cut that looks like it was styled by your blind dog. And, oh-my-god-can-it-get-any-worse, you like to sing! And we're not talking about edgy Nirvana covers. No, you like to sing sugary diabetic-bait pop tunes! I mean, c'mon! This kid should be hanging by duct-tape on a flag pole somewhere! Instead, he parties with Selena Gomez and makes more waiting for a burger at the drive-thru than I have in all of the 21st Century! Are there no easy pickings anymore?!
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (better known as DSM-IV) classifies mental disorders and provides doctors, clinicians and pharmacists (plus people who are paranoid that their digestion-related pizza dreams are totally schizophrenia) with common criteria for diagnosing mental disorders. As our understanding of the human brain progresses, conditions that used to have no diagnosis, no treatment and no public awareness were easy to ignore or, worse, exploit. Go back a few years and you can see how a kid with Asperger syndrome or autism might find him or herself on the receiving end of ugly social rejection. But now, if you treat an autistic classmate with disrespect, it makes you the asshole! Slippery slope, people! Next it'll be wrong to mock paraplegics!
Sports used to be the exclusive domain of bullies and dickwads. Not all jocks were idiots nor all idiots jocks. But there was a time when you knew that the team locker room was a safe haven. You could belittle the eggheads and the brainiacs without interruptions for grammar correction. Then along comes sabermetrics and all hell breaks loose. This is the mathematical science of applying logic and reason to decisions that used to be governed by gut feelings and tabacco spit. RBI got replaced by something called VORP (Jesus, people, it even sounds like a ridge-headed Star Trek alien!). And Brad Pitt, that traitor, made a movie called Moneyball about how cool these geeks are. Brad Pitt! BRAD F@%#!ING PITT! Fight Club, THAT Brad Pitt! I don't even. . .I can't. . .I just. . .wow.
Ugh, these guys. Where do I start? YA writers have taken it upon themselves to delve into the fringes of teen society, tease out the parts of the human experience that are common to all of us and, in so doing, UPEND A VERY WELL-ORDERED HIERARCHY! Geeks get the girl! Freaks save the world! Nerds find happiness! Dorks discover they are worth something! Don't you see where this is all going?! It's gotta stop!
Mark my words, people. If this trend continues, eventually it will be impossible to figure out who the freaks are. You'll sit down at lunch, look around, and not be able to figure out who should be de-pantsed! Is that the world you want to live in?
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