Just about every 1980s pop culture hit has been or is about to be repackaged by Hollywood: CHiPS, Flatliners, Top Gun, Alien Nation, and many more. Why not Revenge of the Nerds? The surprise 1984 hit film starred Robert Carradine and Anthony Edwards as irredeemable geeks who had to endure nonstop bullying by the campus jocks who were members of the Alpha Beta fraternity. Anyone who survived high school without playing on the football team could relate to the original Nerds film. The movie spawned several sequels, none as good as the original.
Hollywood would have a hard time remaking the movie today. Yes, our culture still adores athletes. We buy their shoes, watch their TV commercials, and cheer them on at pro and college-level events. Nothing has changed there.
But the awkward geek who embraces weird hobbies is no longer suffering quietly in obscurity. They are all over the internet; indeed, many of the people who helped build those online spaces are themselves unabashed nerds. And they are far from harmless.
Take Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, whose appetite for power now extends far beyond social networking. He’s tried his hand at reforming public schools (which led to a very public and very expensive failure in New Jersey), and he’s called for measures such as a universal basic income and other policies, suggesting he might have future presidential aspirations. “Zuckerberg is in fact supremely confident, almost to the point of being aggressive,” Time magazine noted of his plans for Facebook world domination.
Even pop culture nerds get plenty of respect today—as long as they parrot the correct liberal politics. George Takei of Star Trek fame has remade himself into a social media geek icon, with 2.43 million followers on Twitter. He uses this power to go on Twitter rants such as the one where he called Rep. Steve Scalise “bigoted” and “homophobic” just days after the Republican was shot by a Bernie Sanders supporter in Virginia (and when Scalise was still in the hospital recovering from his injuries).
And then there’s Bill Nye the “Science Guy.” The TV host spreads the gospel of science on his program on Netflix. Yet he’s also keen on using his nerd clout to smite anyone with whom he disagrees. Nye routinely shouts “Science Denier!” at anyone who disagrees with the doom and gloom warnings he makes about climate change. He has gone so far as to suggest that anyone who challenges his extremist statements about climate science should be jailed.
At one point in the original Revenge of the Nerds, Carradine’s character says of the nerds, “There are more of us than you. No one is ever going to be free till nerd persecution ends.” His prediction was half right—there are definitely more proud nerds than ever before. But as the actions of some of our culture’s newly-empowered nerds like Zuckerberg, Takei, and Nye suggest, they are taking their revenge not on the jocks, but on common sense.