News Article

The Geek was King

''Transformers,'' Michael Cera, and Comic-Con are only some of the reasons why nerds ruled this year

The year of the geek

Finally, their time has come. Some of their achievements were small, as when the guys on CBS' The Big Bang Theory made World of Warcraft jokes funny, or when the titular Chuck in NBC's spy dramedy broke free of his mundane big-box-store existence by downloading a supersecret computer server into his brain. Other victories were more hard-fought — e.g., Tina Fey's Emmy win for 30 Rock — while others, like Justin ''I'm a Mac'' Long stealing every scene from Bruce Willis in Live Free or Die Hard, simply kicked ass. Let there be no doubt: In 2007, from Shia LaBeouf in Transformers to the sellout crowds at San Diego Comic-Con, the geeks inherited the earth.

And Michael Cera was their king.

Cera, you'll recall, began his reign rather modestly, as the lovesick frozen-banana-stand clerk George Michael Bluth on the dearly departed Arrested Development. It was there that he honed his pitch-perfect, bashfully scattered comic timing, but it wasn't until the summer smash Superbad that the 19-year-old became a true leading man — and not by debuting a flawless six-pack, either. Instead, he was simply a recognizably awkward high school senior, the kind of kid you could believe would get accepted to the Ivy League — and one you could definitely believe would have trouble talking to the female of the species. Not that women have the same problem with him. Anyone who saw female fans repeatedly throwing themselves at Cera during last July's Comic-Con understands he's been well on his way to becoming a sex symbol for some time now.

Ah, Comic-Con — geek nation's biggest triumph. The annual convention has become an epicenter of mainstream pop culture, and this year, for the first time in its 37-year history, it actually sold out. Steven Spielberg even dragged Harrison Ford from shooting the next Indiana Jones so they could genuflect via satellite before the buzz-building Comic-Con throng. But that wasn't the story of the day. Instead, the billion-dollar director and rugged archaeologist were overshadowed by a second-tier comic-book hero and the writer of Swingers. When director Jon Favreau delivered the surprise debut of an Iron Man teaser, the huge convention hall went completely insane. You see, Favreau didn't just get the audience, he is the audience, so he knew that there's just something about a man in a jet-propelled robotic suit that lights up the geek region of the brain every time. That's what's so great about geeks; it doesn't matter what's popular, just what's genuine.

Of course, not everything this year fit the geek mold. Like, for instance, Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean — freaky, but not so geeky. Neither are the hunks in 300. And country star Brad Paisley had a huge hit with ''Online,'' a song and music video (costarring William Shatner!) that mocked sci-fi geeks, band geeks, computer geeks, and anyone with a MySpace profile: ''I'm a sci-fi fanatic/A mild asthmatic/Never been to second base but.../I'm so much cooler online.'' Touché Mr. Paisley. But allow us to present our geektastic trump card: the It Boy of 2007, High School Musical 2 and Hairspray heartthrob Zac Efron. Sure, he's got bronzed skin, amazing hair, and yes, a flawless six-pack. But, as he told EW this year, ''I started this business doing theater. I thought it was really fun — almost a hobby of mine that just grew out of control.'' If that isn't the definition of a theater geek, we don't know what is.

Originally posted Dec 21, 2007 Published in issue #971-972 Dec 28, 2007 Order article reprints
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