Everything’s changed for the nerd. Where once the humble superfan could happily spend a life ensconced in their own bubble, with nothing but their addiction and a tightly chosen cabal of likeminded freaks for company, nowadays geekiness is an entirely public affair. T-shirts. Simon Pegg. Blogs. We’ve leaked into view.
And now here’s crooning songstress Lana Del Rey hoiking a song with a video games hook. Admittedly the reference has got little to do with her own love of Xbox – despite the title, it’s hard to imagine Del Rey tootling her sadcore mush in a Minecraft super-server – but the reference got me thinking. A decade ago you wouldn’t have caught any serious artist daubing themselves in geeky colours. Nowadays it’s a countercultural badge of honour. Maybe it’s a phase, as a run of nerdier types reach maturity and foist their pent up energies on the world. Maybe it’s not as big as it feels – the internet’s given voice to pretty much everything, and maybe we’re just hearing what we wanna hear. Or maybe there’s a generational turnover happening.
This is a digital age, and digital people are in demand.
But I don’t think it’s so much the geeks who have led the mainstreaming revolution, but their tech. As their quality has caught up with demand, gadgets, games and graphics have all carved out their place in our lives. From the iPhone to the ubiquity of CGI, we now exist in the world geeks have theoretically always dreamed of – where tech is everywhere. And what’s more, all those analogue status symbols – the clothes, the roots, the motorcycle – have become a little passé in the face of iPads, twitter followers, and clock speed. They’re not irrelevant. They’re just too slow at updating to soak up all the attention. And as the hardware becomes mainstream, there’s a cachet in having been there from the start. And those with talent to add to their history have begun to leverage their position into status, and their status into power.
And everyone loves a bit of that.
So, basically, namedropping a sci-fi flick or admitting you owned a Game Boy is no longer countercultural people. It’s an admission. An admission that as power is handed out in the new world order, you want a piece of it. And that’s the most mainstream thing there ever was.
(Hah! PS, unless you write a crappy blog that no one reads. That’s basically as cool as you can freakin get!)