Friday, August 27, 2010

Explaining Marc Maron's Nerd Cock Theory

Comedian Marc Maron has talked on his podcast about a new cultural paradigm called Nerd Cock. He explains it as a shift in cultural influences to nerds as the new taste-making authority on--among other things--music, film and television. Maron talks about the gradual shift over time from the 50's and 60's when Jock Cock ruled the cultural landscape, and then by the 80's and 90's Rock Cock had taken over. Now the shift has sped up and in 2010, Nerd Cock have officially taken the reigns. The anecdote that sprang this idea was when Marc was at a Built to Spill concert and noticed the overwhelming and somewhat intimidating presence of Nerds. But these are a new generation of nerds...

You don't have to be a sociology expert to see that half the movies coming out on the big screen are comic book, fantasy, or sci-fi... And in the rom-coms, chubby or rail-thin losers are finally getting the girls; Michael Cera converts low self-esteem into hot sex; the kind that none of the maturing nerd elite ever got during high-school. Again: fantasy. And it is all designed to empower (and, more importantly, sell to) nerds that are budding consumers getting good jobs (read: computers).

But that's just the surface. The larger issue of Nerd Cock is that nerds are pushing their influence more than ever before. They've seen that they are the new prized demographic in arts and entertainment and they are forcing their favorites to the fore-front. But why now? Nerds are nothing new... There have always been a highschool underclass of people who were smart, imaginative, and, therefore--socially awkward. I saw "therefore" because--lets be honest... Having an I.Q. 45 points higher than your peers, a mind that is naturally curious about all things--and anaphylactic allergies to boot--are great once you're an adult... But during the years that you're leaning how to be a social creature, they can be crippling. Because social context needs to be learned from experience and no amount of book smarts can make up for immaturity. No.. nerds have been around for a while. They've excelled at school, remained socially stunted, and, in the job market (with the exception of scientists), their lack of evolved people skills had neutralized their otherwise huge edge over competitors. And alas, Nerds were never the ruling class. That is, until one special thing came around and set their world on fire. That's right, the internet.

In the anthropological evolution of nerd-dom, the Internet is truly their Level 99 Destiny Blade. Because originally, when nerds weren't invited to the parties or after-school hangouts, they would just go home and socialize with their math book. And if there's one thing that makes a person worse at socializing than never doing it during their teen years--it's spending that time honing a sense for formalized perfection the way only an unhealthy relationship with Math can do. That's why robots never really know what to say when you ask them if they think you're attractive.

But now, anyone who was in highschool during the late nineties and didn't get any real good free-range social development was able to go home to the internet and find the next best thing in the chat rooms, message boards, 4chan, star wars role-play, etc... If every highschool only had 4 or 5 omega nerds per senior class, that doesn't offer a whole lot of diverse conversation. But if you can log onto the webernets and find a whole different cross section of Americans, categorized by interest (not to mention armies of different omega-nerds from around the world), now you're getting 3-5 hours of 'other people' training per night. And that's in addition to the Magic card problem solving you've been practicing with your local omegas. The end result: conversationally apt, confident, skilled adults who are smarter than everybody. A super-race of folks who are still probably not capable of kicking ass (although a lot can metamorph by the end of college) but it doesn't even matter because there's no more school yard or locker room. Nerds are practically omnipotent in every way, and if that's not enough--the whole planet runs on computers now, so they also have all the cash.

Taking the paradigm one step deeper, there are a sub-category of Nerds that weren't quite smart enough or interested enough to outshine everybody in school, so they went on to be liberal arts majors (read: hipsters) (read: me and everyone I know). We'll never make enough money to properly dominate the jocks and fratboys that made life tough 15 years ago so we are going to show our superiority through elitism... Tearing down whatever sitcom is being enjoyed by the masses and pushing our favorite un-heard of rock acts all the way up to the front. But--not so far that we're willing to share it with our former enemies. Just far enough to say, "Did you like Band of Horses on Letterman? Do you think you might pick up their album? Well that means they suck now." The hipster is here to complain that the wrong things are popular until the right thing becomes popular, at which point we'll hold nostalgic carrots over the new fans' heads talking about how they used to be great but now they suck. This weird passive aggressive ritual is the only way to settle that chip on our shoulder--using our good taste as a revenge-fuck to keep the nerd elite isolated from the icky mainstream. The very first hipster in pop culture is Simpsons' Comic Store Guy, and Maron's Nerd Cock premise basically says that the trend-setters of pop-culture are battalions of Comic Store Guys loading up indie rock and Wes Anderson and The Wire like missiles to fire them AT the masses--making them either owe great cultural debts or making them targets of further ridicule when Coldplay becomes no longer cool. As decided by them. And by 'them', I mean 'us'.

You can probably sense my self-hating hipster sensibility. It's something I'm really working on. I don't mean not being a hipster. I have no problem with left-of-center group-think which channels music, cinema and literary education to establish the artistic relevance of pop culture. But what I'm working on is the derisive undertone which informs my decisions about what I'll be seeing at the movies. I'm working on the time in '06 when I over heard a Yankees-rooting co-worker say, "I can't wait to see 'I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry', and I thought to myself, "What a douche bag"--when the real douche bag was me for that having very attitude.

It's tough, Ringo, but I'm trying real hard to be the Shepperd.

5 comments:

Andreas said...

Hey, Marc Maron himself mentioned this post in a tweet! http://twitter.com/marcmaron/status/27666126884

Anonymous said...

This is a provocative and insightful article. Very enjoyable. By the way, I found the link from Maron's twitter so now I will have to check out your other work.

PunditFight said...

Maron has pointed out that these new class of nerds can be just as bullying and exclusionary as the jocks that may have shaped them. Exhibit A: The Nerd justice given to the hack comedian who stole Patton Oswalt's material

Mike said...

forgive me if i am wrong, but i always thought that john cusack's character from high fideltiy was the first hipster in pop-culture. i could be wrong, maybe comic book nerd was first.

Jill Marlene, Reno said...

ND ecuractiThis is the most fun I have had reading pop theory since the Cult of the Subgenius and Generation X. (yes I am that old).

SO.... the thread that is woven through this was brilliantly elucidated to me by my un -college- educated-but-highly-observant-boyfriend-Mike, who said,

"It's just the captains of industry, isn't it?"

... and I about melted all over my Marx textbooks. I hope Marc Maron goes there in his original work? I have not read the original text of Mr. Maron, but if he doesn't take that little socialist theoretical stroll, tell me so we can write it!

P.S.
(Does that make me a hipster? Riding on Maron's coattails like that? I don't quite understand 'hipster'... if I say, "I made out to David Bowie before you were born", is that different than saying "I liked Band of horses before they were on Letterman?"