Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Stereotypical Nerds

I had intended to embed this video on the blog, making it the first time for me, but sadly the ability to do it was "disabled by request." So if you can please go visit youtube I can get on with this post.

I actually remember this commercial, vaguely, from the time period – and it was pretty horrific. But it’s all that could be expected from marketing people who didn’t get it, who still don’t get it and who never will get it. It is in fact not what I want to talk about.

You may have to have a look at the video again, but if you’re quick you’ll have seen that the actor in the green shirt is in fact Alan Ruck, and that the girl in the cream shirt is Jami Gertz ... both actors associated directly with ‘nerd culture’ in the 1980s.

Gertz’s career picked up in 1981 and soon after she made waves playing Muffy on the show Square Pegs – where she played the non-nerd in the cast. Ruck had his career bounce forward in 1983, and of course he is known to nerds everywhere as ‘Cameron’ from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

That would date the commercial to sometime around or before 1981.

I think it’s hilarious that Ruck makes a D&D commercial and later fits the nerd image in FB ... and that image is? That nerds can’t get girls.

Things have changed those days when playing D&D meant a monastic existence ... though I can still remember a lot of the players I met being less than human. Wolowitz, by comparison, would have to be considered marvelously charismatic – of course, we can’t smell Wolowitz or any of the Big Bang gang through the television. Sheldon’s probably clean, given his obsessional habits, but he eats a lot of curry and that stuff does sweat through.

But most of the DMs writing blogs online all seem to be married or involved in long-term relationships. I don’t see a lot of posts written about the lack of girls – since there no longer seems to be a lack of girls – nor the social leprosy associated with the game. If the Internet had been available in tandem with RPGs, the blogs would be full of irate wordsmiths bashing out opinions on why girls ought to recognize that the games are worth playing and why we’re not such bad looking fellows.

I do still see the occasional youtube video that makes a joke out of D&D players and girls – the first and second parts of Fear of Girls were very funny, but they bore no resemblance whatsoever to D&D as I've ever played it. There are less clever examples out there, but they always seem to be designed and filmed by people who are themselves come off as part-time players, or as ignorant as the people who designed the commercial that led off this post.

I think a notable point must be that 'girls' and 'boys' who play have become women and men ... and being adult and knowing what they want has, with the years, changed the way the sexes relate tothe game. It is now possible to play with porn stars.

I won't say that women don't play differently - they have their idiosyncracies, and to some extent a male DM has to adjust his play. I'll write about those idiosyncracies if you like - just list off a few and I'll address them.

So commercialized nerds become notable actors and socialized lepers can freely admit in public that they play Dungeons and Dragons. I do, all the time, and I don't get weird looks. Every time.

Excuse me. I'm being asked to get off line and come to the bedroom.


Ryan said...

Despite the solidarity that we nerds are supposed to feel for one another, I find myself unable to escape the judgmental attitude I have toward "stereotypical" nerds; those who wish to roll with me, at the table and away from it, must be hygienic and able to carry on a non-nerd conversation (should one of those ever come up)

That being said, D&D has never hampered my luck with the opposite sex (in fact, I'm married.) I'm beginning to believe that it is not the game which was the root of the problem, but rather certain social deficiencies possessed by a sizable portion of those who tend to be attracted to this sort of hobby.

Perhaps this comes off as me saying that I'm cooler than the other nerds, but... well, I guess I am.

Strix said...

Love this post for too many reasons to list.

One if the things I learned from 80's movies was that nerds think only about sex and that any one with that Lind of discipline, mentally speaking, will study it, test it and deconstruct it until there is nothing but a desperate book smart geek waiting to explode their appreciation all over the face of ... Well... You get the point.

The bigger question is when did nerds let girls into the club and maybe, more importantly, when did the women liberation movement insist that they infiltrate the club?