It has been a hectic few weeks in the nerd culture. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has built up more than 10 years of story Avengers: end game. Game of Thrones closed after eight seasons at HBO. And the nerdcentric sitcom The big bang theory store closed on CBS after more than a decade in the air. What makes all these events so remarkable is that they are not the niche interests that they could be 20 years ago. Avengers: end game is going to earn around $ 3 billion worldwide. Game of Thrones was the largest appointment visit event on television. The big bang theory went a little quieter in his 12th season, but brought much of his run as the most popular sitcom on television. The Nerd culture is, as so many people have noted in the last decade, actually just popular culture at this point.
But what does that leave behind portraits of nerds in popular culture? With nerd material consumed by tens of millions of people, even defining "nerd" has become difficult. It is often about someone with an above-average level of interest or expertise in a number of subjects, from fandom of pop culture to the ins and outs of brewing beer to sports. But that sounds suspiciously like a description of a person with interests and / or free time. Yet the version has hung around on the screen of nerdery. The big bang theory used a fairly broad, traditional definition – lovers of both real and fictional sciences, sometimes socially awkward – who were somehow condescending and flattering at the same time. Many films have made it worse. (Think about pixels, in an effort to recreate Adam Sandler & # 39; s usual ordinary schlub persona as a nerdy underdog.) So, by the way, has real life, with toxic fandom that reveals a lot of anger and masculine right under that nerdy underdog appearance.
In this context, Olivia Wilde & # 39; s new comedy Smart book feels revealing, even when it closely resembles the last day of high school shenanigans from other films. Specifically, it is easy to describe the film as a female version of the masterful comedy of 2007 Super bad. Smart book even stars Beanie Feldstein, the sister of Jonah Hill, in the Jonah Hill role of the more polluted and quickly furious half of an inseparable teenage friendship. Kaitlyn Dever plays the role of Michael Cera: softer, more cautious, and silly. Like Super bad, Wilde & # 39; s film gets a lot of comic kilometers from the ability of protagonists to create a funny, credible relationship. Feldstein and Dever are both great at it.
But not like Super bad, making the academic performance of the characters secondary to their goal of being laid before the university, Smart book is very much about two female nerds. Molly (Feldstein) is relentlessly ambitious, the kind of person who sees student administration as a springboard to the world stage. Amy (Dever) is more a sensitive activist. They both have plans for the University of the Ivy League. Even their night of crazy party have more an academic tendency than what their Super bad have counterparts in mind. Molly and Amy spent the whole school according to the rules, worked hard and hung out with each other. Now they want to make up for lost time.
Molly pushes that story harder than Amy, because she has learned something that makes her furious. Although she always considers herself more serious and successful than her hard-working classmates, she finds out on the last day of school that there are also many cool, popular, and / or weaker students coming to the elite colleges in the fall. At least one will even be with her at Yale. The cognitive dissonance is sufficient to turn her into an identity crisis.
Intentionally or not, that crisis reflects the shifting definition of American nudity. Molly and Amy & # 39; s status as a multidisciplinary academic geeks (more oriented towards the humanities than mathematics or science, but regardless of the valedictor level) is a relatively traditional portrayal of nerds, though no one ever calls them, as characters from the 80s movie maybe. While Molly is hesitant about the ability of a male love interest to correctly name her Hogwarts home, the girls generally do not connect with pieces of arcana in pop culture. They are nerds because they are good at school.
And the eclectic mix of popular teenagers Molly initially despises includes many characters who may have been in the wrong throat or outcasts in older teen movies: theater kids, skateboarders, fun goofballs, and a mysterious weirdo played by Billie Lourd. Although Molly & # 39; s desire to catch up is a more theoretical and less urgent driver than the libidinous motivations of Super bad, it comes from the very contemporary realization that there are other ways to be smart, successful and even nerdy than just fighting for the straight Axis.
The anger and resilience that this knowledge initially extracts from Molly is not explicitly tied to old gamers or Star Wars fans embark on mainstreaming & # 39; their & # 39; culture. But she has a similar desire to define herself by possessing her humility. If she is not rejected because of her academic ability, it leaves open the possibility that she will be rejected for herself. Amy does not attach much importance to rejecting the norm, but she has the embarrassment of a stereotypical nerd in romance – in this case she creates a nasty gap between her out-and-proud homosexuality and her real life experience.
These parallels are more sensitive than toxic because of the film's rare focus on the experience of young women. So often female nerdness is defined by men: the traditional cinematic girl nerd was a wallflower that becomes a protagonist desirable when she removes her glasses and lowers her hair. More recently, girl nerds have become fan boys' dream girls who keep their glasses, but show their knowledge of Star Trek trivia or their skills in video games. Smart book, with a scenario attributed to four women, you skillfully avoid the girls by their appearance or their relationships. Neither aspect of teenage life is completely ignored – Molly is most injured when she hears a classmate talking about how cute she is, apart from her personality, and the film introduces some potential romantic interests – but none of the narrative elements distract from the central friendship of the film.
Once in a while, Smart book feels a little more artificial and cartoonish than the very best of his teenage comedy subgenre. But the girl-nerd POV never feels gimmick, to a large extent because he is separated from lazy cultural signifiers. (Well, apart from the use of rap music as an intended ironic counterpart to the girls' dullness.) The film finds no innate goodness in their status as nerds. Although it is likely to speak to a segment with too little audience of smart, socially awkward women, it avoids public flattery.
And as such, Wilde's film reprimands both the easy categorization and recalls old-school nerdiness. It is a Revenge of the Nerds evolution that recognizes the futility of revenge, and a feminist nerd story that recognizes the privilege of its characters. The film recognizes both the pain of intensively caring for something (doing well at school in this case), the ecstasy of finding someone else who shares the same intensity, and the further pains of separating that person through graduation. If & # 39; nerd culture & # 39; remains a clear and meaningful idea, it is important for films such as Smart book to remind people that nerddomme is more than getting mad at it Game of Thrones on the Web.
Smart book opens widely in American theaters on May 24, 2019.