So yesterday I was watching 16 Candles, but none of the quotes really worked for me. So instead, I went with another John Hughes classic, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, to title this blog. After all, Ferris was our god in the 80's. A geek who had immense popularity amongst his own classmates, dated the prettiest girl in school, and safely ditched a whole day of classes for baseball, fine dinning and singing in a parade.
Note to the reading public: this did not happen, Ferris is fiction.
With all due respect to John Hughes, whose films reflected and shaped our generation, most geeks were closer in kin to the ones in 16 Candles when I was in high school. We were geeks and freaks and slackers and hackers and dorks and sporks... well, ok, not sporks, but you try finding a rhyme for dorks, it's damn hard. I used RhymeZone, and it tossed up its collective HTML hands and gave a big shrug.
Being a video game playing, computer using, comic book reading, science fiction and fantasy loving boy (or girl... should I switch back to Who's again) in the 1980's was tantamount to social suicide. You were guaranteed a date down the end of lonely street at heartbreak hotel, you're feeling more alone then you ever have before, and you're stuck with your empire of dirt (yeah... the Elvis quote is easy, but did you get the rest). You were not much loved or respected, you were pushed aside, pushed down, pushed around.
Things have really changed. This year, not one but TWO science fiction movies were nominated in the Best Picture category for the Academy Awards. Neither of them won of course, the category was twice as big as in previous years thus make it more watered down then a John Collins at Disney World. Although frankly the more of them I've seen, the more I'm certain that District 9 was short changed, it's a brilliant film. Run and get the DVD if you haven't seen it yet, it's a riff on the whole Enemy Mine sort of interstellar species relationship story, but even more moving and intense then that classic. Although I do have to admit that Louis Gossett Jr. did a wonderful job of showing us what happened when the Sleestaks finally evolved.
Today everyone plays video games. There's just about no one I know who does not have an Xbox360 or Wii or PS3 (or PS2 or Gamecube, etc.). The concept of an arcade may have mostly faded into the background, but we no longer need them to socialize while enjoying a rousing and intellectually stimulating game of "Shoot People in the Face With a Huge Gun." We can socialize online now, using team chat to carry on our conversations. "Up your's, Mustafah!!!"
The geeks have become some of the heroes of the culture. The rise of Microsoft gave us the "Geek as Corporate Titan", and Microsoft went on to act like every other powerful company: they leveraged their huge size and market control to crush all competitors with inferior products. Movies like War Games, and television shows like Heroes and the X-Files, gave us the "Geek as Savior of The World", and made it some serious hotness complete with cheerleaders and samurai swords.
I seriously believe this change came because of this change in geek's reflection in popular culture. I'm still a geek and a freak, I still hold those old hard feelings I had about how I was treated as a kid because of my particular obsessions. It's just really nice to see that many of those perceptions have changed, and while things are probably not perfect, kids like me at least might get a bit more slack if they spend all day playing the latest video game for their system. Heck, the jocks are probably playing right along beside them, wishing they were half as good.
If we had played by the rules, we could be in gym right now instead.