Our first angry episode. Today we eviscerate 80s classic Revenge of the Nerds.
Boy! That sure was a nice couple episodes we did where we got to tear apart things we genuinely love and didn’t have to have huge rude awakenings about things we hoped to defend. <Chug drink>
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, welcome to the couch. As always, I am Joe, and as you can see, I am broadcasting from the 80s, where greed was good, empathy was weakness, and green screen backgrounds were basically the same.
Tonight’s episode is entitled Inventing Persecution: Black people can be nerds, but nerds aren’t black people.
What do I mean by this? Oh! Strap the fuck in.
<Revenge of the Nerds Trailer>
In the study of communications, there is a first-step cornerstone of effective discourse known as surfacing assumptions.
Put far-too simply, it is the practice of reaching into the depths of your own brain to assess which unconscious assumptions you are bringing to the table when trying to effectively communicate.
I bring this up now, because firstly, because it is very easy to assume that the things we liked were just fine, and harmful to nobody, then work backwards from there.
I can’t play even-handed or level-headed here. This movie does what Episode 1’s PCU didn’t: It became a rallying cry for an entire subculture that has lasted well into the modern age.
It is still a cornerstone of nerd culture. And thus, it should be subject to greater scrutiny.
If Birth of a Nation weren’t rightly treated as nothing more than a historical artifact in most circles, it would be Revenge of the Nerds.
Before we get to that, though, Revenge of the Nerds doesn’t even understand what a nerd is. It gives us this! When nerds are really more like this.
More this! Less this.
A little of this. Not a lot of this.
Now, I grew up a nerd. I was bullied. I was picked on. BUT! Throw a rock, and you’ll hit somebody who was picked on. You’ll also be a bully. Because you threw a rock at a nerd. You fucking bully.
I don’t know literally anybody who wasn’t picked on at any point in their life. Nobody. For many, this forms the basis of their entire identity. “I am a victim,” they think. “I am bullied. I cannot be a bully because I am the victim of bullying.”
As a victim, they believe anything they do is justified. Because they’re retaliating against a world that has rejected them. They never surface this assumption. They never grow out of it.
They claim to be “nice guys,” and, for instance, complain about women who won’t sleep with them, then treat those women poorly when rejected, the way an actual nice person would never do.
They make internet call-out videos, screaming at individuals instead of viewpoints. People instead of ideas.
Somebody once told me that the majority of the internet is filled with Scut Farkuses and Grover Dills. The bully and his lackey from A Christmas Story. Both sides of every internet argument have this problem, he said.
I’d go even further and say that this is true everywhere, because the internet is becoming, more and more, functionally indistinguishable from leaving your house or apartment. The world is full of bullies and their lackeys, and the problem is, we’re all both.
I was forced to face a tough truth today. In my youth, I loved and identified with a film that showed me exactly what I wanted to see. And what I wanted to see was fucking horrifying.
In Revenge of the Nerds, nerds are geniuses who build robots. They’re talented beyond belief. They’re smart, and flawless in every meaningful way. At least that’s the position the film seems to take, and when I was young, again, I loved it.
Because I was a nerd, right? All the people who picked on me were jocks and bullies, but it was because I was smarter than them, right?
But if you’re under 25 and only know the film from this image macro, or if you’re over 25 and haven’t seen this piece of nerd propaganda since you were a kid? I suggest you re-watch it to know just how FUCKED UP the 80s were!
Revenge of the Nerds opens with two Hollywood stereotypes of dorks on their way to college, hoping against hope that they’d move beyond their high school identities. Nice, harmless dorks! Except, y’know, they’re functionally identical to the people they hate in the way they treat people. Women, especially. Remember this? <PCU Clip.>
Well, here. <RotN clip> (Ass-looking.)
Oh, and like most self-righteous bullies, they’re entirely oblivious to the harm they cause.
Immediately, their hopes of moving beyond nerd identity are dashed. If they weren’t, there’d be no movie. And at this point, I kind of wish that’s what happened.
<Ogre> “Oh, hey! New people! Hi, fellas!”
<Nerds> “Oh, hi Football team! Beers later?”
<Ogre>“Totally, bro! We’ll bring the beer!”
<Nerds>“Ok, see you later!” <Smash to credits! Total running time: 8 minutes, six seconds!> At least then, I wouldn’t have to look into the dark mirror of my own past and know that I liked… this.
Some football players, who all appear to be in the same Fraternity, the film is never super clear on this, burn down their own house. True to life, athletes are treated better than us normals, so the nerds get displaced from their dorm and shoved into a gymnasium.
Excellent. Victims. Goals. Enemies. Downtrodden protagonists. I’m with you so far, screenplay. You’re a little misogynistic and simplistic, but that’s fine. You’re a college movie from the 80s.
Somehow, everybody in the Freshman dorm is a nerd. All of them. Fine. Whatever. I have bigger boogers to pick.
Most “nerds”, are just stereotypes. They have no character traits other than Effeminate Gay Black Man, Horny genius wish-fulfillment kid,
or Asian Guy with oh-so-hilarious Asian accent.
Dude. At least straw people are invented to push a fucking agenda! This is just mocking difference while pretending to accept it lovingly.
Hey, guys! People from other places sound different! That’s as good as writing a joke, right?! I mean it gets a laugh, right? So that’s as good as actually crafting humor, right? I’m soooooo funny. Everybody in my office says so.
So in order to obtain actual housing, the nerds have to join a frat. The pretty girls of Pi house prank them by sending them to the jock frat of Alpha Beta. Our main nerd falls for our main pretty Pi gal, and even after learning of her deception, stays crazily into her. We’ll get back to this later.
The frat initiation is nothing more than a lazy beastiality joke. Ha, fuckin’, ha. Whatever. Moving on.
The nerds try to find off-campus-housing, where they encounter two funny jokes that come from the right place and one insistance that molestation is hilarious. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
So our heroes can’t find housing. Fine. Without in-university-sponsorship into an already-existing frat, the nerds have to find a house, and petition the greek council to start their own. They find and fix a house, but are of course denied frat establishment by the jocks, who run the greek council. So they petition a national fraternity for membership. Lambda Lambda Lambda.
The black fraternity. And before I explain why, fuck you, movie.
Now here’s why.
Right here, at this point, this movie starts comparing nerds to black people. It starts comparing actual oppression to being made fun of.
I’m sorry, fellow nerds, but being shoved into a locker is not the same as an entire country denying you actual personhood.
There is A WORLD of difference between actual oppression and nerd, huge air quotes, “Oppresion,” and fuck this movie for making it.
Hey, Black person! I know you got shot and killed by a yokel who took justice into their own hands instead of calling actual police officers for your crime of standing around in the wrong neighborhood, but somebody once made fun of me because I liked Dungeons and Dragons, so… we’re the same, right?
I am not imagining things when I say that this film compares the plight of nerds with the plight of people of color in America. I got my ass kicked, sure, but nobody drug me behind a fucking truck to death or denied my right to vote because I liked weird movies, pro wrestling, or comic books.
There is a huge fucking difference between being treated poorly and being actively marginalized, and if you don’t admit it, you’re an asshole.
The black fraternity of Lambda Lambda Lambda is forced into taking on the nerds of this movie. And their leader isn’t happy about it. I’d use this to set up a future blurb about how they convince him to let them in by being tolerant or something, but they don’t! He accepts them only when they become bullies like the jocks! No muddied messages there! Go fuck yourself.
Now I can hear the voices of internet vitriol already! Joe! White people don’t get to exclude black people from their organizations! Why should black people get to exclude whites just because they’re nerds?!
Firstly, white people DO get to exclude black people from their organizations, and we do. Constantly. Yes! Still!
Secondly, that whole argument assumes that we’re all treated equally in the eyes of society. We way aren’t.
If this is you? Nobody’s coming to take your party away, you fuck. You’re the one saying they don’t get to have their own party and you’re playing victim while you’re doing it. Fuck off. You’re not gonna’ like my show from now on. Just fuck off for the rest of this episode. I’ll try to have an actual conversation with you later, in future episodes. For now? Just fuck off.
So our nerd hero invites the Pi woman with whom he’s obsessed to a party where the Tri Lamd chapter leaders will be present so he can impress them. She denies him. Her boyfriend arranges a prank.
The sisters lie, and tell the Lambdas that they’ll be at their party. Instead? We get girl jokes, black jokes, nerd sex jokes, and finally, another farm animal prank. Ha ha fuckin’ ha.
The nerds hatch a plan to take over the greek council.
<Their action demands immediate retaliation.>
NO! NO! NO! That is not how this works! You do not get to play the same game as those you judge, AND have the moral high ground. Pick one, you fuck! You don’t get both!
So before retaliating against the people who ACTUALLY fucked up their party, what do the nerds do? They go after the women who acted interested, then rejected them. That’s right. We’re going full Internet Nice Guy here. Bring your Trilby hat and shitty attitude, we’re going NERD RAGE!
They sneak into the women’s dorm, steal their underwear, and PLANT FUCKING CAMERAS!
Our heroes have decided that a legitimate response to having their affections spurned is FUCKING FELONY CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR.
Worse than that, ask yourself, what is this crime called? It has a name. What is it? Can you think of it? Odds are good, not off the top of your head. The fact that this is the case, is fucked up in and of itself, but the crime these men would be charged with is not Criminal Voyeurism, which isn’t actually a crime. Or peeping. Also not the name of a crime. Or felony privacy violation.
What’s their crime? Under criminal law? Stalking. Why wouldn’t this be its own crime? Why would this be lumped in with following and threatening a woman?
When we can differentiate between three different degrees of murder, why does this crime not qualify for its own distinction? When you can charge somebody as a sex offender for a crime that’s not super well defined, when do we start asking why it isn’t super well defined?
This is the moment that the movie loses all sense of moral compass. Fuck the criminality of their offense. Forget about it for now. Morally, ethically, do these motherfuckers have a leg to stand on? Are they still victims? IS IT OKAY THAT THEY’RE SITTING AROUND WATCHING A LIVE FEED OF NON-CONSENTING NUDE WOMEN?!
BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT THIS MOVIE IS TELLING YOU!
The sexual assault victims throw the nerds out of their dorm, stolen underwear still in hand, and we are meant to think of this as good ol’ wholesome fun!
WHEN THE FUCK DID I BECOME THE OUTRAGED ADULT IN THE ROOM?!
I’ll tell you when. I’ll tell you the moment that it happened. The instant. It was the moment when I realized that my sense of fun was not more fucking important than THE AUTONOMY AND COMFORT OF OTHER FUCKING HUIMAN BEINGS!
So we’re already going a bit long, so let’s power through the rest of the movie.
The nerds retaliate against the jocks, the Tri Lambd president accepts them, they compete in some bullshit drunken triathalon for leadership of the greek council, and they win. The jocks then destroy the Tri Lambd frat house, a dork makes an I am Spartacus speech, and we’re all supposed to fall in line and love each other for being different.
Y’know, so long as being different means we still get to make jokes about your fucking accent.
Movie over. Lesson learned, 80s children. Be good to those oppressed nerds once they leverage their position to protect themselves with the big scary black people you’re afraid of in a totally not-at-all-racist way.
Do you still feel like you’re a bullied nerd? What are you doing about that? If the answer is to take that victimhood and use it to justify the worst fucking behavior possible? Congratulations. You’re worse than the people who bullied you.
If you think it’s unfair that I’m making that comparison with this movie? Let me end on the worst, most sickening note possible:
This movie’s chief protagonist is spurned by a woman he likes for no reason other than her looks. When she rejects him, he plants cameras in her house and takes naked videos of her without permission and watches them with his buddies.
Oh, and then he rapes her.
He rapes her.
He fucking rapes her.
And how does the movie treat this? What are the consequences of this?
Well, she falls in love with him and leaves her jock boyfriend because the nerd was so good at raping her.
For obvious reasons, I’m not ending on a positive note tonight. For Sofa Justice Warriors, I’m Joe. Thank you everybody, goodnight.