January 31, 2008 at 3:21 am #27305
note: this is a funny commentary that many may relate to…..it raises the question: with the death of the Jock, will a “Chi-Man” arise to take his place, with a bulging energy body and a glow that dims out the competitors?
They once balled, bullied and battled their way through pop culture, but right now the geeks are laughing in their faces. John Patterson wonders if jocks are in danger of extinction
Saturday January 26, 2008
I never thought it would come to this, but I’m starting to feel sorry for that suddenly most benighted of species, the high school jock. Everywhere one looks these days, the jock’s traditional enemies and victims are basically laughing in his face: nerds are on the march, geeks are in the money, wimps are flexing their teeny-weeny muscles, wonks are set to win the White House and weirdos dominate our pop-culture.
Once he walked proudly and unmolested through the school hallways and cafeteria, resplendent in his letterman varsity jacket, the toast of all the hotties, envied even by those who hated him most fiercely and fancied by even the specciest of chicks. Everyone else was invisible, a field-hand, a non-speaking extra, unless they bumped into him by accident and suddenly required a beating or a red-hot tittie-twister. He was the lord of all he surveyed, the monarch of his tiny and irrelevant high school realm. He was a God.
Not any more.
Jock-stock has been terribly devalued in the last few years. In the broader culture, Jockdom has so overreached itself that the very species is in danger of extinction – or at least constant ridicule.
High school may be the wimps’ collective nightmare, but the rest of life is pure unadulterated collective revenge. I bet even Steve Jobs on occasion drives his fully-loaded, pimped-out Cadillac Escalade past the used-car lot where his old high-school nemesis, the ex-quarterback, now toils for buttons. I’d like to think he whips out an iPhone or a skinny MacBook and yells, “I INVENTED this, dickhead! And you’re 38 years old and living in your mom’s basement! Sic transit gloria, motherfucker!”And, as he often did in his halcyon high school glory days, the quarterback will squint in bovine bafflement and burble, “Sic transit EH?”
Look around, everyone’s a geek these days, everyone’s a nerd and everyone’s proud of it. Jockdom has become a stigma, a mark of the beast, and being Big Man on Campus (like Jesse Metcalfe in 2006’s John Tucker Must Die) is now shorthand for villainy and venality to come. Show me a guy with a square hairdo and a glad-handing demeanor in any movie or TV show, and I guarantee you that’s the guy who will end up buried in excrement or tied naked to a bed with knickers on his head and a Miss Piggy glove-puppet on his genitals.
2007 was, in many ways, the Year Of The Nerds. Or better, the Year The Revenge Of The Nerds Came True. Al Gore won the Nobel Prize and an Oscar. Jobs unveiled the tech-toy of the decade, girlie-nerd Hillary Clinton is halfway to the Presidency, the Jock-in-Chief endured his third year as a national laughing stock and Superbad was somehow the emblematic entertainment of the year.
The nerds, losers, stoners and weirdos of the Judd Apatow universe – as embodied by Superbad and Knocked-Up – proved far better company than any one-dimensional jock with a ball or a bat in his hand. Superbad’s perspective – wimps up front, jocks in the deep background, completely out of focus – is the one now shared by almost all examinations of the high school or college eco-system.
The template was established decades ago, of course, in National Lampoon’s Animal House and in Revenge Of The Nerds – the latter may be the most influential political primer for nerds since Aesop’s The Tortoise And The Hare. Oh, how we thrilled to the meanness of crypto-fascist campus jocks Greg Marmalard and Doug Niedermeyer in Animal House, and how we rooted for speccy weirdoes like Stork. How could we not love toothy, hee-hawing Bobby Carradine and his ink-stained, book-drunk, pocket-protector mates in Revenge, as they deftly outsmarted the undifferentiated blowhards of the cool fraternity.
Whether it be Mean Girls or Superbad, Not Another Teen Movie or Freaks And Geeks, the saddo and the nerd are now always the focus of our attention. Perhaps it all links up with an inborn tendency to root for the underdog, or maybe it derives from America’s own foundation myths: a ragtag band of brave Colonial nerds threw off the shackles of red-coated British jockdom and built a bastion of freedom! Either way, no one any longer wishes to root for the squeaky-clean athlete. His day is done, at least in the realm of popular culture now largely dominated by clever ex-high school wimps intent on achieving a little belated payback.
Today, however, the template can sometimes seem a little worn out. This week sees the release of Sydney White And The Seven Dorks, a retelling of the Snow White myth set on a college campus. Amanda Bynes plays the wannabe princess who must assemble a team of dorks to win the class presidency from a gleaming, clean-cut jock idiot. No matter how satisfying it is to see the jocks routed and humiliated, it’s not satisfying the millionth time around.
Things are further complicated by the fact that these days, even the jocks are getting in on the sensitive, clever thing. Look at Friday Night Lights. It’s about a high-school football team in Texas, where football is bigger than God, Mammon, sex or USDA prime beef, and by dramatic necessity, nerds are pretty thin on the ground. As if to compensate, half the football players are these sensitive and self-conscious types, far removed from the caterwauling morons of Revenge of The Nerds. It’s hard to imagine any of them uttering the Code of the Jock with any discernible pride: “As a Jock, it is my duty – my DUTY – to beat the living crap out of nerds, morning, noon and night….” And the jocks-lite we encounter in shows like The OC or bands like Fall Out Boy are cut from much the same cloth. I think there may be a wider sociopolitical context in which this is all unfolding. Look at the recent holders of the office of President. Jimmy Carter: wore a sweater, expressed anguish, talked of “malaise,” thought too much. NERD! Reagan: not a thought in his pretty head, told everyone the keg would never be tapped out, the par-tay would never end, and that Morning In America would arrive entirely free of hangovers. JOCK! Clinton: a nerd forced to live in a jock’s world, to pay off the jock’s debts and pile up more money for him to piss away when he got back in office. WONK! And then there was the knockdown, drag-out 2000 Election, a mighty face-off between Bush, the Deke Rush Chairman of Yale 1968, so dedicated to jockdom’s bottom line that he branded his incoming pledges with a molten coathanger, versus bookish, plump Al Gore, debate champion, noted speller of difficult words, attentive to dangers up ahead. And boy did they clean his clock! Except of course, that all the heavy lifting was done by Bush’s own Kept-Nerd, Karl Rove.
But now we are coming to the end of one of the great cycles of American history. The Jock Era inaugurated by Reagan is coming to an end, because the dumbest jock of all was allowed to rampage all across campus for eight horrifying years. The jocks of our time are the billionaire assholes with gilt-edged retirement plans and a talent for looting their own companies, the rest of us, with our rotten health coverage, our unfixed teeth, our empty bank-accounts and our unwisely mortgaged futures, are by default, a nation of nerds, and we shall, in November or soon thereafter, have our revenge.
It won’t be pretty. Pity the poor jock. His day is done.
· Sydney White… is out now
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