Azzara: Nerd Pride

By Katie Azzara

Something that you, hopefully, would not be able to tell by looking at me is the fact that I am… Something that you, hopefully, would not be able to tell by looking at me is the fact that I am a nerd. I’m not saying that I’m Screech from “Saved by the Bell,” but I definitely have my geeky tendencies.

First of all, there’s my need to succeed academically. To me, getting a B is underachieving, and there is some strange force inside of me that refuses to miss a class — or even a homework assignment, for that matter. I actually start to feel panicky at the thought of skipping a lecture or not doing a required reading, even when I know the consequences will be minimal. Last year, I came down with mononucleosis and managed to miss only two classes.

But I get even nerdier. I’ve harbored an obsession with “Harry Potter” since an extremely young age. I’ve waited in seemingly never-ending lines for both the books and movie tickets — the midnight showing on opening night, of course. I’ve even paid to see a band called “Harry and the Potters.” When I finished reading the seventh book, the last of the series, I went through a dark period that my mother termed “Post-Potter Depression.”

Still, the nerdiest thing about me would have to be my love of video games. Ever since my hands were big enough to hold a controller, I’ve been captivated by the magical world of virtual games. Some of my fondest childhood memories are playing “Street Fighter” and “Super Mario Bros.” on my family’s Super Nintendo. To this day, I still jump at the chance to play “Mario Kart 64.”

Clearly, I have some classically nerdy characteristics, but the idea of being a nerd does not quite mean the same thing today as it did when I was growing up.

In my childhood, I was bombarded with images of the stereotypical nerd: a character in TV and movies whose sole purpose was to be geeky. They’re the bespectacled, socially inept, questionably dressed kids who can’t get a date. It was from these characters that I learned about the nerdy traits of academic excellence, obsessing over books and loving video games.

But now it seems as if our generation’s archetypal nerd is no longer relevant to society. Just think about Steve Urkel’s skinny jeans, oversized colorful glasses and plaid shirts — all of which are totally fashionable today.

Consider the modern-day “nerds” that currently exist in popular culture. If we take it a step beyond physical appearance and think of a nerd as someone who is socially awkward, then basically every character ever played by Michael Cera would have to be considered a nerd. Think about George Michael Bluth (“Arrested Development”), Paulie Bleeker (“Juno”) and Evan (“Superbad”). These characters, though definitely displaying some nerdy features, always end up coming out on top, so they can’t really be considered nerds in the classic sense.

Other recent examples include characters like Seth Cohen, Ugly Betty and Dwight Schrute, who are all portrayed as much more than just nerds. In fact, these characters are actually pretty cool. It seems that they simply don’t make them like they used to. Where is 2009’s Stewart Minkus or Carlton Banks?

Modern popular culture has forgotten the art of nerd portrayal. Some might consider this to be a good thing, a way to put an end to unfair labels and stereotypes, but I see this deficiency as more of a detriment.

As you may have guessed, I fully embrace my nerdiness. While it might not be visible on the outside, my nerdy characteristics have helped to shape who I am today. Without the Screeches and Urkels who defined the concept for me when I was growing up, I never would have been able to identify these aspects of my personality as nerdy.

I’m tired of seeing the same beautiful, trendy, stereotypically cool people on TV, like the cast of “Gossip Girl” or “The Hills.” These shows don’t even pretend to have characters that represent the nerd population. Where is the fun in that?

When was the last time you saw an actual nerd, complete with braces, pocket protector and an endearing lisp? It’s time that we put intelligent, socially awkward, uniquely dressed nerds who are true individuals in every sense of the word, back into the public consciousness.

E-mail Katie at [email protected]