Friday, February 19, 2016

COLUMN: Revenge of the Nerds

Every four years, I can't help but wish I lived a little further away from Iowa.

The campaign ads are officially starting to wear thin. Every time I turn on my TV, I'm reminded of what a horrible state our nation is in, and how only so-and-so is the right man or woman to fix it. More than one of the Republican candidates say that America needs to return to the values of yesteryear. One keeps bringing up Ronald Reagan. Well, I just transported myself back to the Reagan era for a couple hours, and if what I saw were the "values of yesteryear," I'll keep to the modern age, thanks.

Remember the other night when it was eleventy billion degrees below zero outside? I decided to spend that entire day in denial, holed up under a blanket watching an unhealthy amount of bad TV. At one point, I started browsing through HBO's on-demand movies and came across a flick I hadn't seen in its entirety since its 1984 heydey: "Revenge of the Nerds."

Warning: I am about to spoil the ever-loving heck out of a 32-year-old movie. If you're one of the four people out there who hasn't seen "Revenge of the Nerds" and still want the wonder of discovery as to whether or not the nerds actually get their revenge, stop reading now.

A description I found online describes the movie thusly:

"Two lovable nerds form their own fraternity, woo the ladies, and seek revenge against the jocks who bully them mercilessly."

Well, I just re-watched "Revenge of the Nerds" for the first time since 1984, and I'm now convinced that a far better capsule summary would read:

"A cautionary tragedy about a football team who fail in their efforts to protect their college from a vengeful group of sexual predators."

In the 90 minutes I spent re-watching this cinematic clunker (and it really IS a bad movie, even by 80s standards,) I quickly realized that "Revenge of the Nerds" might be the most morally deviant film of its time. Seriously, this thing makes "Porky's" seem like "Mary Poppins." Don't believe me? Let's run through the basics.

The movie begins as Lewis and Gilbert, our two nerd heroes, arrive at Adams College, a prestigious university ruled by the Greek system where no one ever goes to class ever. The boys are quickly ostracized by the resident jocks and cheerleaders. Betty is the head cheerleader and a ruthless bully, but Lewis falls in love with her regardless, because in THIS movie, women are little more than walking sex toys.

After striking out on their own, Lewis and Gilbert bond with other outcasts, rent a house, and form their own fraternity. At their first party, they're joined by a nerd sorority called Omega Mu (because the girls are all fat and unattractive. Mu. Moo. Get it? Oh, the hilarity!) The party is a failure (presumably because I'm not there to DJ) until one of the boys pulls out a hefty supply of marijuana. Next thing you know, the boring party descends into a hedonistic nerd orgy. Moral of the story? If you're failing with the ladies, try drugging them.

Unfortunately, the orgy is broken up when the jocks and cheerleaders unleash a herd of pigs into their house, because every college student has handy access to an adundance of farm animals. The nerds then retaliate by storming the sorority house, thieving undergarments, chasing after topless girls, and installing a complex array of surveillance cameras throughout the sorority house. They then spend their days glued to a closed-circuit TV watching naked sorority girls as they sleep, because that's not at all creepy and in no way illegal. Oh, and did I mention one of the nerds is 12 years old?

Eventually, the nerds realize that the key to success is to ascend to the head of the Greek Council, which can only be accomplished if their fraternity wins the homecoming Greek Games -- which they proceed to do via a delightful array of cheating, rule-breaking, and a few assorted felonies.

The first event is a tricycle race where contestants have to stop and chug a beer every lap, because all colleges like to encourage binge drinking at campus events. The nerds win by doping their guy with a chemical that nullifies the effects of alcohol, thus giving him the sober advantage to easily win the race. Moral of the story? If you need to win a sporting event, use performance enhancing drugs.

For the javelin throwing contest, the nerds use their expertise in aerodynamics to create a special javelin that easily sails past the competition. Moral of the story? If you're painted into a corner, tamper with the equipment. (Clearly, Tom Brady was paying attention.) At the charity fundraising competition, the nerds easily win with a booth selling pies -- because UNDERNEATH each pie is a topless photo of Betty that the nerds snapped with one of their many spy cams. Moral of the story? Slut shaming is awesome, especially if it's for charity.

You'd think Betty would be mad at such a gross invasion of her privacy, but she's got other things on her mind. Betty's boyfriend is the head jock, and he's dressed up like Darth Vader for his charity booth. Sensing his opportunity, Lewis absconds with the jock's cape and mask and follows Betty into the carnival funhouse. Assuming that he's her hunky boyfriend, Betty leads the masked Lewis to a bounce house, where the two immediately get freaky-deaky while she's none the wiser. In other words, the hero of this film finds the girl of his dreams... and rapes her.

Once the deed is done, Lewis rips off his mask, and Betty, who should probably be screaming and blowing the nearest rape whistle, instead falls immediately in love with the nerd, presumably owing to his unbelievable sexual prowess. Moral of the story? If you rape someone well enough, they just might fall in love with you.

WHAT KIND OF SICK, DEMENTED MOVIE IS THIS? Where was Gloria Steinem in the 80s? Clearly not at the cinema.      

From there, it ends as all good 80s movies must, with some mild cross-dressing and a wicked breakdance number. Gilbert changes his name to Dr. Mark Greene and gets a job as an ER doctor in Chicago, while Lewis & Betty live happily ever -- they even get married in one of the many sequels that followed. I'm sure it'll be a charming story in the future when their kids ask them how they met. "Well, your father pretended to be my boyfriend, and, well..."

Candidates are saying we need to restore our nation's morals. I'm hoping they don't mean to THIS. If "Revenge of the Nerds" is any indicator of the values of yesteryear, I'll stick with my own modern moral compass. But hey, maybe this movie is an exception to the rule. Maybe traditional values DID exist during the Reagan era, and I just need to find them. Oh, I know, maybe I should re-watch America's most wholesome 80s TV offering, "The Cosby Show." Now THERE'S a guy with high upstanding... what's that, you say? Seriously? He did WHAT? Never mind.  

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