May 18, 2014
The band nerd stereotype
Some of the greatest contributions to society stem from musicians and their contributions in their own field. But our modern culture has given a new face to the young musician, a stereotype known to us as The Band Nerd. This stereotype consists of a collection attributes concerning their actions, position in society, and physical appearance, but amounts to much more. In fact, by analyzing pop culture artifacts we can show that the Band Nerd stereotype is not just the sum of the musician and the nerd stereotype, but also equally a trope of its own. We see that in the concerns of personal fashion, position in society, sexual anonymity, and career paths these two stereotypes, the nerd and the musician, that they align to form this hybrid stereotype. We can then go further to see the results of this hybrid forming its own characteristics, the result being a striking new stereotype.
A major defining characteristic of the nerd stereotype is fashion. From the opening scene of the movie, Revenge of the Nerds, we can see the two main protagonists Lewis and Gilbert dressed in defining attire. Both of these characters don high-waisted slacks, glasses, and pocket protectors. Not ten minutes into this film we see “The Ogre” immediately define these two characters as nerds by their appearance. Through out the movie we see a divide in characters as their fashion defines them. We see the jocks defined my football and workout attire and the nerds as fashion befitting their subgenre of nerdom. Fashion also represents a defining quality of the musician stereotype. In the film, School of Rock, the musicians who attend the Battle of the Bands festival all show their colors freely. Mainly, their clothing consists of rebellious leather jackets, but also stretches to chestless shirts and printed tees. Though this collection of musicians do not show the uniformity of clothing that the nerd stereotype expresses, this trait as a connected link is further visible when we view the films depiction of the opposing group, the grown ups. Parents, teachers, and school personal are displayed as wearing expensive suits and thick London Fogs. Just as in Revenge of the Nerds’ nerd fashion opposing jock fashion, here we see musician’s fashion as a rebellious characteristic against the clothing of “The Man”. These two stereotypes collide in the film, American Pie Presents Band Camp when we first see the bandies rehearsing for the end of the year performance. We see band kids dressed in typical nerd attire, such as Ernie, but we also see band kids dress in attire, which sets them apart from the rest, such as Chloe who dons punk attire and piercings. In this way the nerd stereotypical clothing and the musician’s rebellious fashion statement have combined.
Social standing often shows us more clearly what category a character fits into. With School of Rock we can see a group of musicians who occupy a segregated social standing. Jack Black’s character Dewy is portrayed as a freeloading middle-aged man who could not let go of his urge to rock. His best friend, his best friend’s girlfriend, and a collection of teachers who consistently express opposing values concerning social function surround him. Whether its his roommate urging him to pay him share of the rent or it’s the teachers of Horace Green standing over his shoulder as he attempts to secretly start a rock band, its made very clear that Dewy is of a different social standing because of his rock and roll life style. Later in the film we see other characters that share a similar place in society due to their careers as musicians. We see a similar a pattern form in Revenge of the Nerds when the coach of the football team, Coach Harris, uses his influence over the principle to have the freshman relinquish their dorm rooms to the jocks who just recently burnt down their own housing. The freshmen continue to be separated into fraternity, which deem them worthy enough to enter. Those who could not find a fraternity to accept them are forced to sleep in the gymnasium. This collection of students immediately become social outcasts, each judged for the same traits, which the fraternities rejected them. As the rest of the movie plays out we see a class war form between the jocks and the nerds. This class distinction, which defines these two stereotypes, can also be seen in American Pie. Here we have a group of students who identify as musicians and because of this are judged by the main antagonist. This antagonist, Matt Stifler has been taught by his peers to view the band students as socially unequal to him. To him they lack the definition that establishes him as a popular student. In the words of Jennifer B. Grant in her essay “Band Geek Grievances” quotes rather plainly “People don’t respect us”. She goes on to tell of her opinion of the band geek’s place in society and how she has had a first row seat to the way people treat the typical band nerd.
While in this instance dorky clothing and a spot on the football team separate the nerds from the jocks, in many cases a persons sexual orientation or lack their of can effect their social standing and thus their characters stereographical orientation. This can be seen in Revenge of the Nerds with the character Lamar Latrelle. Though his interests lie in fashion and exercise, he is considered a social outcast due to his openly gay nature. The two main protagonists, Lewis and Gilbert, are in part considered nerds because of the fact that neither of them has ever been with a woman. This stereotype can also be seen in School of rock’s portrayal of musicians, but in a different way. Spider, Dewy’s replacement in his former band No Vacancy, shows the side of the musician’s society that bends gender rules. Gender anonymity is an excellent example of how these stereotypes do not only define a temporary state in ones life, but also a set of life long characteristics.
One way these two stereotypes conflict is in society’s view of their longevity. In School of Rock we can see Dewy as a representative of the musician’s stereotype. He self identifies as a rocker. His quest to stick it to the man is a life long pursuit, a way of life. Our modern society views being a practicing musician, whether it’s classical or contemporary, as a career option. Often times a musician is a more socially acceptable stereotype because of this. The nerd stereotype however fit into this category. In its essence, the nerd stereotype doesn’t hold any career option. Many characters in Revenge of the nerds show career promise due to their individual interests, but the qualities that define them as nerds do not in anyway social progress them. Social insensitivity in this case leads to social inadequacy. When these two stereotypes combine to form the Bad nerd stereotype however we can see that society values them differently. Elsye, the main protagonist of American Pie Presents Band Camp, is offered a major scholarship for her effort as a musician although, at her high school, she is considered a band nerd. We see in this circumstance that the band nerd stereotype has developed a positive stigma because of its reputation for providing its residents with careers and positive attributes. In this circumstance social insensitivity can lead to social adequacy
By comparing the nerd stereotype and the musician stereotype we can find how they both contribute to the band nerd stereotype, but also see in many cases that it has developed stigmas of its own.
American Pie Presents Band Camp. Dir. Steve Rash and Brad Riddell.
Revenge of the Nerds. Dir. Robert Carradine, Anthony Edwards, Ted McGinley, and Jefferey Kanew.
School of Rock. Dir. Scott Rudin and Jack Black. Perf. Jack Black.
Grant, Jennifer B. “Band Geek Grievences.” Web log post. Teen Ink. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://www.teenink.com/opinion/all/article/10007/Band-Geek-Grievances/>.