Ghostbusters: False Hope for Nerd Integration?
by Matthew Burnside on June 18, 2010
The concept of “cool” is rather indefinable. There are no clear guidelines, yet we all dreamed of them while sleeping in our Spaghetti-O stained Math Olympics T-shirts. Right? One quality prevails though: an ego (or swagga if you’re reading this, T.I.). Don’t be fooled, wrapping yourself in a blanket of confidence does not lead to popularity. My high school experience was a clear counterexample. At some point we ended up on the other end of the spectrum as nerds. I don’t mean this as defamation of course. This is Nerdist.com.
Typically, nerds in films are depicted as complete buffoons when it comes to social situations. Take “Revenge of the Nerds” as an example. They are nervous around women, snorting and stuttering profusely, are hideous dressers, and are even worse at athletics than I am. It should be noted here that I had a career high of three points in two years of middle school basketball. I could differentiate an equation at thirteen though.
I blame the 1984 classic “Ghostbusters” for setting me up to believe I could live my adolescence involved in math and science while belonging to the elite hallway dwellers of athletes and early developers. “Ghostbusters” is a brilliant comedy about three parapsychologists who go into business for themselves ridding New York City of its ectoplasmic entities. Heard of it? Good. Let’s move forward.
While arguably one of the funniest characters in the film, Louis Tully is not the nerd whom people would wish to be. He is a pawn in the chess game of social manipulation. “Ghostbusters” presented a new breed of nerd. This nerd is contained and smooth. He don’t give a damn. (I used improper grammar because I don’t give a damn. I smoke cigarettes. I know I’m cool.) It is Egon Spengler who, while clearly dorking it up, is envied by many growing boys. Egon has an extreme amount of confidence, an attribute no cool person can lack. However, he’s still a brain with a body attached to it. This character remodels the idea of “cool” into a new vision. Furthermore, this new vision could be attainable to those who are picked last for kickball but first for a group science project. Regrettably, at least in my years as a schoolboy, my confidence with fractions and the periodic table of elements got me zero dates or invites to play spin the bottle.
Dr. Peter Venkman is undoubtedly the coolest. Such a promising depiction of nerds can be misleading. Bill Murray’s portrayal of Dr. Venkman targets the largest list of traits any women would desire. He’s a bad boy. He breaks the rules without a hint of guilt (drinking whiskey in front of a Columbia University building, yanking tablecloths out from under expensive dinnerware, disregarding scientific research in the pursuit of sweet, college hanky panky, etc.). Client Dana Barrett is annoyed by his quick-witted remarks at first, but she can’t resist it. Who could? He brings an idealistic novelty to the persona of the nerd. I think any nerd would love to be a smooth talker when in the presence of the object of their affection, but we don’t all have the greatest control over our nervous system. We excite easily. Even more, Venkman talks circles around people. Walter Peck is made his bitch through articulation. This is a superpower to many. Lest we forget he has doctorates in both parapsychology AND psychology. He is a nerd, but I’m no Bill Murray. Five bucks says you aren’t either.
RL nerds may not always be the suave hero, but who cares? While I may never jump sharks on water-skis or date the head cheerleader (that would be illegal and creepy now anyway), I embrace the impact “Ghostbusters” has had on my life. It’s left me with an admiration for knowledge and curiosity. There is nothing wrong with being a nerd.
Hold your heads up high and be proud nerds. The Ghostbusters did.
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