Movies That Ruined My Childhood: Revenge of the Nerds

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Movies That Ruined My Childhood: Revenge of the Nerds

The classic underdog comedy Revenge of the Nerds is a good movie, for what it is. Then, “How”, you may ask, “did it ruin your childhood?”. Read on.

Usually when we cover movies that get the “Ruined My Childhood” moniker, it is a film that has somehow damaged our nostalgic remembrances of an idyllic childhood. Sometimes it’s subversive. Almost always it’s bad. But what if a good movie existed that by its consumption ended that supposedly blissful period of naive youth? That premise brings me to Revenge of the Nerds: the movie that ruined my childhood by making me aware that my childhood was in fact over.

Revenge of the Nerds (1984)

Revenge of the Nerds
Our Heroes

Lewis and Gilbert (Robert Carradine and Anthony Edwards) are nerds embarking on a new phase of their lives: college. This new life begins resembling their old lives rather quickly. Alpha Beta, the big men on campus, commandeer Lewis and Gilbert’s dormitory after burning their own fraternity down. In their temporary exile they meet fellow geeks, dweebs, and social outcasts. They all band together to take on the powers that be: golden-boy bullies, snobby sorority girls, and an administration that grovels before the all-important football program.

State of the Union, Addressed

The 70’s fought the powers that be in America. The 90’s cynically tuned it out. The 80’s were a weird time where they simultaneously worshiped those that succeeded by playing the game, and those that gave the game the middle finger. From Caddyshack to The Secret of My Success, 80’s comedy reflected that tacit acceptance of white, corporate, male privilege while at the same time addressing most American’s desire to kick those people in the teeth.

Revenge of the Nerds
Pictured: The same face he made when told his character got to stick it to entitled honkies.

In those regards, Revenge of the Nerds is the quintessential 80’s comedy. Alpha Beta is an equal mixture of brawny, brain-dead bullies and entitled trust fund pricks. The heroes of the story are a wide swath of the oppressed: weak, gawky, ethnic (Asian, African American), gay. Women get a shorter shrift; but they get some lip service in the nerd’s sorority partners: Omega Mu. These plucky protagonists use intelligence and cunning to game the system in hilarious, outrageous ways. It both tweeks the nose of 1980’s society while reinforcing the American mantra that exceptionalism will eventually yield its just deserts.

The Sleeper Has Awoken

Revenge of the Nerds
Wholesome family entertainment!

The second aspect of Revenge of the Nerd’s comedy is the aspect that “ruined my childhood”. Revenge of the Nerds is raunchy: from panty raids to Lewis’ pursuit of the sorority queen Betty, these nerds are incorrigible perverts. It was the sugar that made the “good guys always win” medicine go down. It was also the first film of its ilk to find its way to my television screen.

Revenge of the Nerds
Revenge of the Nerds caused me to have this face as well. For different reasons.

Many people these days think that HBO’s domination of smutty cinema sprang fully formed out of Westeros. I am here to tell you the truth: HBO was always the bastion of R-rated titillation.  Most of the classic 80’s comedies came my way via the USA network, which sanitized all the T & A out. As such, even extremely thirsty flicks like Porky’s were good clean fun in my mind. The VHS recording of HBO’s broadcast of Revenge of the Nerds we owned was a revelation: physically, I was no longer a child; and mentally, I was VERY interested in female anatomy. I’m sorry Julia Montgomery, but I was probably more familiar with your body in 1991 than your doctor.

So we have our answer. A good movie can technically ruin your childhood. To be honest, I’m sure hormones had more to do with ending my childhood than Revenge of the Nerds did. But I’m going to go ahead and give it the nod.

Revenge of the Nerds
See you next time!

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