Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Uber-Nerd

I've had a lot going on lately, so apologies for the inordinate length of time between posts. Here's my latest treatise.

‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ At The Esquire Theater In 2011 Is A Sad Thing
The Uber-Nerd: An Anthropological Survey Conducted in One Night on In-Group/Out-Group Social Behaviors

The problem is not that the participants are too goofy or strange, too kooky for our oh-so straight, sedate tastes, as the self-appointed emcee in the purple cloak tried to gently suggest as we walked past him and a pal smoking outside on a bench halfway through the show.

Nor, honestly, is it that they exude too much of the sexual desperation and simultaneous exultation of sex that is the geek’s mark of Cain, the black-light stain on the soul--and pants--of the uber-nerd. We really don’t mind that the theater is thick with the fug of a hundred musty basements from whence emerged this pent-up pack of fat, lonely Warcraft warriors, the crust of still-drying semen flaking off the pad of flesh between thumb and forefinger. That’s fine; let them, for one night anyway, pretend they too are sexually liberated libertines, wildly experimental creatures like Dr. Frank N. Furter.

The problem isn’t even their ‘performances,’ such as they are, although it must be honestly said that they are of the sad kind put on by dreary high school improv societies around the world. Here, it’s all the snorting laughter of the AV Club: every line is crammed full of this group’s inside jokes and self-references that no one but them is meant to get, and that no one but them will ever care about.

This is quite deliberate, of course; the big secret of the uber-nerd, of the Outsider Geek who glorifies his own outsider status, who pretends to be above those who shun him is that what he has always longed for more than anything is to be on the Inside. The uber-nerd wants nothing more than to be part of Something, but since he doesn’t have the imagination or balls to create his own thing, he latches onto Star Wars, or comic books, or video games, or more subterranean phenomena like Rocky Horror, and adopts them with the shaky but intense fervor of a recent Mormon convert or a 30-day chip-holder at AA.

Now, I am not against any of those pursuits--AA excepted. In fact, I am an avid participant to some degree of nerdism on each of the aforementioned.

And let’s be clear: I have been going to see Rocky Horror since I was sneaking out of the house at 13 or 14 to see it, preparing by smoking headache-inducing dirt-weed and hanging around liquor stores to get people to buy us pints of schnapps. I’ve seen it around 30 times. So this rant isn’t bred of some uninformed distaste for the institution itself.

No, the problem is not what one likes--rather, it is how one goes about liking it. In the case of the uber-nerd, it’s the sad, predictable attempt to raise the drawbridge after he crosses into this new realm of ‘his’ thing that he has ‘discovered,’ and thus keep others out. It is the clumsy attempts made by life-long Outsiders to remake themselves as the ultimate Insiders, the new arbiters of cool.


The uber-nerd has spent his entire lonely life masturbating in dark corners muttering venomous put-downs no one will ever hear while he enviously gazes upon the very same jocks and the cheerleaders he purports to scorn. After all, they seem so happy and social and easy and free--plus they have boobs and/or access to them.

But the second this spat-upon outsider becomes an insider, he wastes no time turning on those he perceives as beyond the pale--the unwashed outsiders to his newly crowned insider--scorning everyone who doesn’t seem to be part of his gang. It’s almost comical how quickly outsiders will become the same dreary, predictable insiders they hated all their lives, how quickly those who were shunned--and those who in turn shunned the elites for being elite--will form a new elite and exhibit the exact same behaviors they previously abhorred.

Sidebar: One can observe an interestingly similar behavior in the hipster who declares something 'over,' or a band as 'sold out;' or having gone 'mainstream.' The attitude is this: 'my thing can only be cool so long as it is MY thing. Anyone else purporting to be a fan is a poser, a dilettante, or worse: they are the proof that that thing is no longer cool.'

No, the problem is rather that this particular group of uber-nerds--and by this I mean the crew running the alleged show at the Esquire, not Rocky Horror enthusiasts in general--this group has become so enamored of the spotlight for themselves that they are no longer celebrating the show that brought them here in the first place. They are instead here to celebrate their own egos.

For an $8 ticket and a $5 small coke and a $5 bag of popcorn, I want to actually be able to see the film. I don’t want to be forced to watch half the screen getting eaten up by a poorly-operated follow-spot illuminating a dubious and decidedly dumpy Brad taking off his robe before an equally sorry-looking Janet. I have no interest in the meth-skinny, bearded Frank N. Furter sporting a pirate hat and attempting (badly) to lip-synch ALL the dialogue.

Dear 'Performers' at the Esquire: You do NOT look like this.

And there’s really no need for the pantsless girl to be spotlit during the opening song, attempting some sort of awkward striptease dance up and down the aisles in her underwear, artfully (nervously?) covered by a long man’s shirt, lip-synching along with the onscreen lips. What performance is she meant to be celebrating? Is this what she imagines Richard O’Brien was doing when he sang ‘Science Fiction/Double Feature?’ Is she meant to be the body to match the discorporate onscreen lips of Patricia Quinn?

Or is it more likely that she has no other socially acceptable outlet for such desperately attention-seeking behavior and figures that, as one of maybe ten girls in the crowd, there are worse and more risky ways to get attention than cock-teasing nerds--who are, after all, ill-equipped to follow through with her implied invitation in any but the most clumsy and awkwardly abortive way.

No, these dubious performers have committed the first and gravest sin of the actor: they have decided, each one individually, that the show is really all about them.

And who can blame them, really? These are IT guys and bookstore girls, the perma-wallflowers of every party, the shy and the lonely and the unlaid of life. They’ve never had nor is it likely they ever again will have the opportunity or self-assurance to get up in front of strangers and demand to be looked at, even if it is in a cheap, unoriginal and ultimately masturbatory manner, even if they are only taking another’s art and claiming it as their own work.

We have to ultimately feel pity for them: These nerds are the sad and lonely detritus of a poisoned society turned in on itself. They are the casualties of this new new age in which we are only comfortable expressing ourselves from behind the safety of the bullet-proof glass of our computer screens.

I think I saw this guy at the show last week. He was in his underwear. Eye-bleach, anyone?

But at least these few, for a moment anyway, do something that the vast majority cannot fathom: they take the extraordinary step of shutting down their WoW accounts for a few hours, lurching out into the sunlight blinking like newborn kittens, up from the shadows of that dank basement. And they’re not out here to skulk around on the edges of society as they usually do, but rather to step out in front of the crowd and perform.

It’s a sad, derivative kind of performance, to be sure. But for a moment, at least, they get to imagine themselves as stars. Who doesn’t want that?

No, the problem is not the fantasy, nor even the venue. The problem with this group is that in their insular little world they have allowed their imaginations to run away with them. They have allowed the fantasy to reach the level of delusion.

No one gives a shit about your 35-minute opening remarks, Mr. Purple Cloak. No one gives a shit about the ridiculously loud dance music you so arrogantly pipe in over certain scenes, drowning out the actual songs that other people so love, songs from the show they love, and which, incidentally, they paid money to see.

Saddest of all, the show you are ruining so ham-handedly is a show which you presumably once loved yourselves. This was before you decided that you are not only a part of the show--a sideshow, if you will, a cute and fun lark for some especially dedicated fans--you decided that you actually ARE the show.

You are not the show.

Richard O’Brien and Tim Curry and Susan Sarandon are the show. Little Nell is the show. Meatloaf is the show. Barry Bostwick is the show. Patricia Quinn is the show.

I repeat, you are not the show.

And it is a shame that you are destroying ‘Rocky Horror’ for potential new audiences and old fans alike by so clumsily remaking it around your own sad, withered egos and desperate neediness.

Thus you are destroying that which you love so dearly, a tragedy not unlike hugging an infant so tightly it smothers in the pendulous man-boobs that adorn your chest.

On second thought, maybe everyone should go see ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ at the Esquire. If only to tell the uber-nerds who have appropriated an otherwise fun and fine and campy good time to sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up.

At least until it’s time to do the ‘Time Warp.’


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