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Evolution Of The Nerd Stereotpe Essay, Research Paper

For the longest time, images in the media have depicted nerds the same way. They are portrayed as intelligent yet socially inept, unaware of popular trends, and devoid of any sort of personality. Repeatedly they are made out to be shy and lacking in confidence, which makes them into victims of the ?cool? people. These characters are rarely taken seriously in TV or movies, and are present mostly for comic relief or to provide some sort of sidekick for the hipper main character. Although it has historically been an undesirable label, I believe in recent times there has been a major shift in the perception and classifying of so-called ?nerds?. In many circles nowadays, to be called or call oneself a nerd has little derogatory meaning, but rather has become acceptable nomenclature used to identify a person with certain interests, attitudes and ideals.

In television, the classic examples of nerds are countless. ?Family Matters?, a show that ran for several years on ABC, featured Steve Urkel as the hapless teenage neighbor, complete with high pants, thick glasses, and notable fondness for cheese. Another popular Saturday morning TV show ?Saved by the Bell? was a situation comedy that took place in a typical suburban high school, its plotlines revolving around six teenagers. Among them was Screech, who sported numerous eccentricities, such as brightly colored, unfashionable clothing, and a high-pitched voice for which he got earned his nickname. Milhouse on the ever-popular show ?The Simpsons? is another nerdy sidekick, whose emotional immaturity is so highly pronounced that it is comical. These three are textbook examples of nerds, and typically experience the same plight. They are routinely made the butt of jokes made by anyone and everyone, including their friends. The considerable majority of the time they are shown to be one-dimensional characters, and only on the rarest occasions are they given basic human qualities and emotions seen in other characters.

In our culture, we put enormous value on being the ?winners?. We are all subliminally taught by these and other sitcoms that it is in our best interest to all strive to be the one who comes out on top, the likeable protagonist that breezes through life, always saying and doing the right things at just the right times, so that when the half-hour draws to a close and the credits start to roll, all is well with our world. They make it so appealing: who wouldn?t want to be the popular quarterback or the beautiful prom queen on his arm?

But alas, this is the real world, and the truth is we cannot all play this role of the perfect character. This truth is arrived at and dealt with at many different times and in different ways. Some hopelessly persist and waste their time attempting to meet these ridiculous self-inflicted expectations. But for others, this ideal simply does not hold any allure. These people do not wish to conform, and they will judge themselves by their own set of standards. They simply live how they are happy, and if whatever attributes in their life are considered ?uncool?, then cool is simply not what they want to be. People like this have embraced aspects of the ?nerd? stereotype, expanded on it, and transformed the image from an unfavorable stigma to a voluntary form of social expression; indeed a valid and emerging subculture in its own right. In other words, it?s hip to be square.

It is ever more frequent at the present time to come across those who willingly brand themselves a nerd. One common principle held by this group is the rejection of trends, whether done intentionally or subconsciously. Many snub current fashions and expensive clothing, electing instead to purchase their wardrobe at the local thrift store. Instead of football or basketball, these individuals may partake in mini-golf or video games to act on their competitive urges. And forget about MTV or any other entity that mindlessly dictates the latest pop-cultural dogma. They may find more rewarding entertainment on the Discovery Channel, or maybe pick up a good book.

More important than these surface characteristics are the deep-down values of the self-proclaimed nerd. For one thing, intelligence and knowledge of abstract subjects is nothing to be ashamed of, but rather quite the contrary. This and other forms of self-betterment are more socially acceptable than in years past. Guys need not worry about maintaining a ?macho? air, and can be much more comfortable in displaying emotion and sensitivity. This is most noticeably expressed artistically. A growing sub-genre of emotionally-driven melodic music known widely as ?nerd rock? is exploding, where bands like Ultimate Fakebook and Weezer perform songs about day to day life, and not being ?one of the cool guys?. There is an extremely strong connection made with the audience, largely in part to a complete lack of pretense that is found in other styles of music.

These ?new nerds? aren?t the socially mal-adjusted outcasts they once were considered to be. They did not actively set out to alter this stereotype, or even to call themselves nerds. It happened somewhat by default, where people gradually grew tired of trying to make sense of the shallow and unfulfilling dominion that is popular culture , so they just acted in a way most comfortable and natural to them. When this behavior was observed by others, the onlookers mocked it, thinking designation as ?uncool? might scare them back into conformity. But rather the general attitude was ?I?m going to be my own person, and if that makes me a nerd, so be it?. The word gradually lost most of its negative connotation. And so it has come to pass over the last few years, people no longer live in fear of the stereotype, but have come to revel in it.

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