No Time for "Normal" -- Geeks on Screen Are Finding Love (and Lust) in Each Other
|Sci-Fi speed daters on 'Geek Love'|
Abed Nadir: So you guys are going to Can't Buy Me Love me.
Britta Perry: We're going to what?
Abed Nadir: Like the movie Can't Buy Me Love. You're going to change me from zero to hero, geek to chic.
Troy Barnes: Oh, he means we're going to Love Don't Cost a Thing him.
--From NBC's Community
Film and television audiences have often been fascinated with the romantic lives of social outcasts, most often in the context of the awkward, fecklessly navigating what we think of as "normative" approaches to dating: dressing sharp, flirting, wine, dinner, and a progression of sexual acts using whichever sports metaphor to which you are so inclined. Through transformative makeover montages and popular kids learning to be less heinous, the message seems to be: "Hey, weirdo, assimilate to my ways a bit and I'll take this asshole routine down a notch. And this asshole may just end up being the love of your life."We've seen it time and time again: She's All That, Sixteen Candles, Some Kind of Wonderful, Angus, Can't Hardly Wait, reality "social experiment" Beauty and the Geek, Never Been Kissed. True love trumps difference with the help of some contact lenses, pants that fit, and/or a noble gesture of some sort that allows the love interest to see past social rank in a "blind" approach reminiscent of other romance tales involving an Other.
Some have managed to trouble that trope: Freaks and Geeks, Welcome to the Dollhouse, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Muriel's Wedding, even Clueless. And perhaps they've served as predecessors to a new focus on not molding outliers to find conventional love with conventional people, but simply exploring how they seek out companionship in their own way and milieus.
TLC dropped two reality specials on us this winter that have left this writer anxiously awaiting more episodes, though it's unclear whether they'll return as regular series. Virgin Diaries and Geek Love followed adult virgins (some by choice and some quite eager to shake the label) in various stages of relationships, and fan-boys and -girls at a Comic-Con speed-dating event, respectively.
From a pair of devoutly religious newlyweds who don't touch tongues until they're standing on the altar (you've probably seen this clip already) or a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles obsessed 20-something creating sparks with a fellow nerd [Him: "My favorite is Michelangelo." Her: "Me too!"], these specials allow us to gawk and smirk, but also to accept that relationships don't need to fit our conception of what is socially acceptable.
Why tell a Star Wars fanatic that he needs to buy spritz Axe body spray and pop his collar in order find love? Why not just help him find someone who appreciates a meticulously handmade Han Solo costume? The founders of the forthcoming sci-fi themed brothel in Nevada were likely already asking themselves that question.
In fact, telling sexual "normalcy" advocates to shove off has been quite prevalent in the media lately even outside of the explicitly nerdy realm. Just in the past few weeks, Jezebel and the BBC have featured articles on asexual adults who have complex identities and communities and don't need another person asking them whether they've been abused or have a hormone problem. The New York Times also featured a lengthy profile on dating with Asperger's Syndrome and how the traits of that particular condition don't jibe with widely accepted notions of romance and courtship. Even in the Community reference that opens this piece, it's been implied since the show's first episode that pop culture encyclopedia Abed has Asperger's, making his friends' attempts to Can't Buy Me Love him even more layered with meaning when they ultimately fail.
Is a black sheep sexual revolution on the horizon? Perhaps it's always been here, but it's refreshing to know that the rest of us are starting to accept when others let their geek flags fly.