When you’ve seen as many movies as I have — and I’d strongly caution against doing so — you’ll start to notice the patterns. Through sheer repetition of stock characters and plot threads, Hollywood perpetuates a lot of myths about modern living that are not exactly true. Many of them are downright ridiculous. We Were Promised Hoverboards is a weekly series in which I investigate these myths for sociological and comedic purposes.
When nerds in movies summon the courage to stand up to their bully, they’re always able to throw blows like Marvin Haggler in his prime. That bully gets what’s coming to him, and good! The mere fact of a nerd’s inherent righteousness is enough to temporarily, Magic: The Gatheringly, transform him (always a him) into Golden Gloves titlists. There are exceptions to this cinematic fallacy, of course. After extensive training under Master Miyagi, Daniel-san was able to crane-kick his bully’s ass into begrudging respect. Equally realistic is the dénouement of goofball Seth Rogen-scripted Drillbit Taylor, wherein three nerds combine their efforts and beat the crap out of their bully together. What’s ridiculous and dangerous is the suggestion that by simply desiring to kick a bully’s ass enough to give it a shot, an untrained weakling would automatically succeed.
In a perfect world, there wouldn’t be bullies and nerds — rather, the vast variety of sweaty-palmed homunculus’ (homonculi?) who populate high schools would all be equal. But we do not live in a perfect world. In our world, under-loved children who never found out Where the Sidewalk Ends become overgrown testosterone factories with no natural outlets for their rage. And since the next Facebook or Microsoft isn’t just going to invent itself, there will always be exceptional kids who serve as walking foils for that first group. Unfortunately, violence often ensues. While no nerd should ever have to cruelly endure the sporadic beatings that a bully might inflict on him, he should be aware of the potential pitfalls of standing up for himself.
How much practice has the bully had at this? How skillful is his technique? How infinite is his capacity for systematically delivering revenge? The nerdy kid is at a distinct disadvantage here in the physical realm. As much as we in the audience are meant to want this little guy to win, without some kind of plan that involves specialized training, weaponry, or subcontracting out to Lou Ferrigno, he is not going to win. If these things could be settled with a backgammon tournament or an html coding competition, then perhaps the nerd would have a chance. But sheer willingness to fight, in and of itself, is much more likely to exacerbate the problem than solve anything. For nerds everywhere, if you can’t find a wizened old Asian man to teach you to paint fences, it’s probably best to just endure the swirlies and pantsings and dream of your future hedge fund earnings.
Here are some movies that featured nerds knocking out their bullies, one of which was played by the best bully ever, William Zabka: Back to the Future, Just One of the Guys, Loser, Three O’clock High, My Bodyguard. Did I forget any examples? If so, leave them in the Comments.