Every Sci-fi fan who came of age in or around the 1980’s knows that there is one movie that truly changed and shaped our lives in a way no other movie again could ever do.
It molded our ideas about the purpose of life, satisfied our natural curiosities, and instantly gave us a sense of community and identity that we could be proud of.
As most of you have already guessed, I am speaking of that instant cult-classic known as “Revenge of the Nerds.”
Who can deny that being identified as a sci-fi geek in the ‘70’s-‘80’s era took courage? I don’t mean just a Star Wars fan, but a true honest-to-God sci-fi junkie. It bore an automatic stigma, probably due to the profoundly brainy subject matter, that invited a quiet ostracization from most, the ridicule of the “cool” crowd, and regular threats of wedgies from the school bullies.
But that all changed with “Revenge of the Nerds.” Suddenly, there it was on the big screen (or an a badly pirated VHS tape from a buddy’s HBO recording that you watched discretely one night while your parents were out) – nerds could party too…and maybe even get lucky!
Lewis and Gilbert, with the ingenuity of all their nerd friends, (watch it, I’m sure you’ll relate to at least one of them) take on the status quo; and, while only attempting to create a place of fraternity and belonging, they launched the first wave of a true nerd revolution. Who didn’t experience that thrill of hope when Poindexter discovered the loophole that required U. N. Jackson to give them a chance with Lambda Lambda Lambda? Who didn’t tear up as Lamar took Wormser under his wing? Who didn’t cheer as Booger defeated the mighty Ogre at drinking and belching? And let’s face it. You needed a drool rag after the raid on the Pi Delta Psi house.
But there were at least two other moments that set the movie apart as a sort of anthem for all of Geekdom. First is the scene where Lewis seduces Stan’s girlfriend Betty. It was as if a light went on for many male nerds around the world (and for many women who wondered what we might be like). You can find love – even if it is just a cheap five minute physically intimate imitation of it that you had to steal while posing as someone cool and that could wind up getting you arrested. It was at least possible now.
The second seminal scene is at the end when Gilbert gives his impassioned speech about the treatment of people who are different. This was a turning point not just for the film, but for a nation…a world actually. Suddenly everyone everywhere knew the truth. We are all really nerds at heart*…except bullies. Bullies suck!
Thanks to the lasting impact* “Revenge of the Nerds” had on an entire generation, not only is it cool to be a nerd, and in some cases desired, a case could be made that it spurred both the anti-bullying movement and internet web-cams. Say it with me…NERDS! NERDS! NERDS! NERDS! NERDS!
* It is important to note that a lesser known film titled “The Breakfast Club” that was released a year later echoed a similar theme. Some have tried to make the case that it was responsible for the cultural shift towards acceptance, but it clearly stole it’s theme from “Revenge of the Nerds” and in my humble opinion did an inferior job on the subject.