Originally published at The Atlantic

The classic battle between nerds and brutes is one of brains versus brawn. In the geek films of the 1980s that introduced and immortalized this conflict—Revenge of the Nerds, Weird Science, Ghostbusters, Sixteen Candles—the nerds are always outcasts and misfits. And these fables all end the same way. Through a combination of smarts and good fortune, the nerds demonstrate some unique prowess, by means of which they join the ranks of normals. The outcasts aren’t so different, after all. Everyone hugs, cue music, roll credits.

It always should have been obvious that life doesn’t work this way. Real outcasts and misfits don’t enter the mainstream through quirky self-effacement turned tender sympathy. Misfits often stay misfits, even when fortune, power, and influence comes their way. And when it does, an outcast never forgets that he (yes, of course, he) was once cast out. If able, he takes revenge—preferably by burning down the institution of popularity itself.

…continue reading at The Atlantic

published September 23, 2016