The Once And Future Geek

In a post on game, Jim mentions that the geek-as-disgusting-to-women stereotype is relatively recent:

Before 1972, there was no stereotype of the sexually unsuccessful awkward high IQ nerd. I don’t believe the awkward high IQ nerd existed until recent times. Something has changed.

I was not around before 1972, but based on period literature and video, I think this is accurate. The early-to-mid-20th century scientist, engineer, or scholar is portrayed as being too wrapped up in his studies or experiments to bother with women. The ladies in his vicinity are not repelled by him; rather they are annoyed that he cannot lift his attention from his test tube or telescope.

It’s been a very long time since I watched Gilligan’s Island … but my recollection is that The Professor (the best looking man on the island) does not inspire disgust in Ginger and Maryann, but rather resignation that he is more interested in his bamboo chemistry set than in paying attention to a pretty girl.

The average software geek would almost certainly be happier, ladies-are-all-up-ons-wise, if he were teleported to the America of the 1950s. This would surprise most of my contemporaries. It might even repel them. “The 50s? A decade of conformity and repression? Where would we be without the liberation of the 60s?”

There was actually a movie released around the year 2000 (I forget the name as I did not see it personally) in which the passage between those two decades was symbolized by a transition from black and white to color.

Do you despise the 50s? You were not present in the 50s. You just have a bunch of vague impressions which haven’t been closely examined. Whites only? One of the most popular TV shows of the period starred a Cuban bandleader with a funny accent. Conformist? Another TV show had a character who was a beatnik and played bongos. (There are some counterculture elements like beatniks which the Left has not weaponized, so they are fun and cute.)

Repressed? If you’re actually dumb enough to believe that Americans six decades ago did not like sex, were afraid of sex, please go stand in front of a mirror and say that until you become suitably ashamed and smack yourself in the face.

We cannot teleport ourselves to 1955 even if we wanted to. But it is remarkable how the very mention of the word “1950s” triggers an involuntary adverse reaction in educated Americans. Just as “Joe McCarthy” triggers an involuntary adverse reaction. My guess is that 99% of people who had that reaction, if asked why, would say “well, he accused people of being Communists, just at random.” They have not read about McCarthy from a neutral viewpoint. (If they did, they would learn that McCarthy was almost certainly fed information under the table from the FBI, and that pretty much everyone he named was in fact a Communist.) They have delegated their opinions on McCarthy, and the 1950s, to a third party. They have delegated their opinions on McCarthy, and the 1950s, to a Maoist insurgency.

“The past is a foreign country.” And we are taught to despise the past. What does this say about progressives? How can one claim to love all men equally, if one cannot tolerate the past versions of one’s own self?

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