Save the Nerds! How Young Intellectuals can succeed in a Confusing World

August 24, 2013
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Many months ago, my friends little sister found a book at the library that shocked and infuriated me. That book was the movie guide to A Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which I seemed to me at the time safe for anyone who wanted to know the books until I read though it. The characters in the movie version seemed as if they were normal for a film about a kid surviving Middle School, but the illustrations for the characters that were his friends revolted me because they looked as if the illustrator had an opposing message about being yourself . Many of the so-called friend characters were portrayed as ugly, unattractive, annoying, dumb, and had the typical stereotypes many other forms of media for children use to portray children with a non-normal dispositions, intelligence, and activities such as being in a school band or drawing little doodles. So I said to her very brutally and honestly, “I do not like this book” and I explained to her why, “there stereotypes about smart kids”. “what do you mean” she asked. Then I thought of a good way to explain these issues using a Disney Chanel show she liked. I used the Indian kid from the show Jessie as the example of a stereotype and my allergist whom is also Indian as the example of the truth about the personality and values of Indian people such as enjoying life, reliving people of illness and suffering, and feeling good about doing good. “But I like that show!” she said laughing after I imitated my allergist telling me to use my nose-spray, and inhale, drink lots of water, and steam for an hour until all the mucus goes away. For a long time I have seen many stereotypes of mentally and cognitive impaired people along with intellect rear their ugly head towards not just kids but young adults in High School but not so much in Collage where bullying and name-calling is absolutely not tolerated. However, in many schools bullying, name-calling, and discrimination is on the rise due to not just the media but by adults who are unreasonable and selfless when it comes to these issues because they view children as objects of success and not as individuals with an array of various gifts and abilities. So where do we begin on the issue on why this still goes on? It begins when children at an early age that are told that if you’re not dressed up, look good, and smile at the camera that they do not deserve to be with people or be famous.

We have heard this story many times all around us; a young child starts to sing or dance for a huge crowd and a group of judges and he does it with all of his heart. When he is done he wins a recording contract or a spot on TV, he does it repeatedly thinking that he enjoys it and he loves it until…he comes to the realization that he is an individual and not a performing monkey. So then, he does what many normal people do when they discover their individuality he rebels by perusing other venues besides dance whether it be playing a bassoon for an avant-garde group, starting a rock-band, or making the next popular magazine article about his life work. Then all of a sudden, because of his self-discovery and rebellion he is flagged for it with words of shock, doom and harsh critique as if he plotted to take over the world. “What will he do next, corrupt our children? Will he gain or lose more weight? Is he a drug addict that hides marijuana?” What is this torturous way of life called and how did it all start? This way of life is called fame and it all started because a parent wanted their child to be an object of success and have all the money in the world, than to see their child grow and mature to become his own individual self. Sadly, this way of life still torments people like Brittany Spears, Lindsey Lohan, and even Millely Cirrus of Hanna Montana fame who when she left Disney she gave her hair a short cut, she later admitted it was freeing because the people at Disney would not allow her to die or cut her hair.

Such a dreadful way to start your life, but we are taught though media and school hierarchy that this way of life is good for us because then people will not bully you, they will appreciate you which is a very horrid lesson for children and a good excuse to cloister a person with remarkable abilities and talents. When parents, agents, or companies do this to child or teen star, they take away that child’s right to have individual power and to speak out their personal issues to someone they trust like a psychologist, a mentor, or a teacher. Recently I am reading a book called, very rebelliously, It’s Ok Not to Share and in one chapter I read, said that when children play Superhero, Harry vs. Voldimort, or scenes from Star Wars they learn appreciation for themselves, empathy, and many other lessons that help them in the real world which can be scary and unpredictable. Even if young children play a violent or battle scenario game, they learn lessons too and if their comfortable they can ask someone, they can trust. “I felt bad when I had to kill the aliens”, “I died in the game, what if that happens to me?”, “what do real guns do”, and “Why are the bad guys so angry?”

Therefore, they not only learn moral lessons but they learn about politics and problem solving which now a days is hard to teach due to the paranoia about violent video-games, weapon-play, violent actions in movies, and the fear of a film being too scary or too dark for children. Sure, there are guidelines, but you cannot stop children from learning because children learn things every day and the most terrible weapon to stop a child from learning and exploring is though fear and that is a very detrimental tool to use on a child. Even the most famous psychologist Dr.Seuss knew that fear and misunderstanding can cause tension and prevent a child from learning valuable lessons and solutions to common problems. It is a very common theme in his stories; in The Cat in the Hat, the fish is the one that wants the children to be afraid of the cat who just wants everyone to be deviant, but have fun in a responsible way. In The Butter Battle Book, the Zooks and the Yooks are afraid of each other, and hate one another because they have different opinions on how to butter their bread. finally, in Horton Hears a Who the other animals do not come to understand that even people that are smaller than them, like the Whos, need the same protection that all other living things need until the Whos voices are finally heard. The book was also an allegory for the detainment and discrimination of Japanese immigrants during World War 2.

For me this story resonates with my feelings about people with mental and cognitive impairments whom in the fifties were put in intuitions because they were considered not normal and were viewed as a determent to families, schools, and society. Then when people finally ratted out these intuitions for the mistreatment and abuse of the mentally and cognitive impaired inhabitants in these institutions, it was finally decided that all of them be closed and the people that lived in them were taught how to find a job and reintegrate into society. In fact, I am proud to live in Michigan because it was the first state to shut them down, recognize, provide awareness about mental impairments, and to give these people the education and services they needed. Yet even though many fights for equality and opportunities were made for special needs people, with or without high intellects or artistic abilities the mass media and society still portrays being incredibly smart, having artistic hobbies, or having a mental impairment as a stigma or a disease. Even though movies and television shows like Glee, and Big Bang Theory are expanding this topic to a mass audience. The fact is that not all intellects and the mentally challenged are not all like Rain Man, Mozart, or Sheldon; yet this is still the assumption that all media and society seem to cling on to so they try do not offend people with higher intellects and attempt to put them into a better light. However, media geared towards children or tweens is a different story.

In children’s media, these characters are put into very narrow confines such as; The Evil Genus, The Nerd, The Dork, The Goofy Geek, The Deformed Kid, and the most horrendous of these labels The Ugly Want-a-be that often pops up as a prankster or a villain in a large part of children’s media. Especially when it’s geared towards girls who are taught that beauty, popularity and compliance are the best way to win friends and be famous. This is especially a frequent theme in shows on Disney Chanel, which like to beat this message constantly on viewers, which for the most part are in the so-called tween demographic. One study shown that young girls who watch Hanna Montana or any other shows of this ilk are more likely to bully their peers continuously and more aggressively than girls who do not fall for such messages about conformity and popularity. Another message in such shows used to be a common pro-social moral in cartoons during the eighties. That if a person disagrees or has an issue with the main character or characters that they will not be accepted by the group or be ignored by the group .As summed up by the Buddy Bears in Garfield and Friends, “If you ever disagree it means that you are wrong”. In media for young children and tween girls, this moral discord pops up all the time whether it be High School Musical or in Good Luck Charlie, which uses this as a poor comedic devise that never works and turns out sounding incredibly disrespectful. I was appalled when in one episode Charlie paints a picture of a tree in the way most young toddlers do and the mom whom is also painting trees says, “Whats this little smear Charlie” “Tree!” replies Charlie. “That…does not look like a tree (pause) keep working on it,” the mom says as she leaves the room taking Charlie’s picture away from her and then the laugh track is cued. Instead of chivalry being dead, will compromise, kindness, acceptance, and tolerance be the next morals on the endangered species list for writers of children’s media?

Before, there were many cartoons and shows during the nineties that had characters with close bonds in situations of harsh disagreement. Tommy and Chucky from Rugrats, Ollie and Billy from Rolly-Poile-Ollie, and even The Powderpuff Girls got into girly fumes sometimes, but it all ended with an apology and a compromise, or a lesson in acceptance that leads into a very lasting bond of friendship. This is because in the ninnies a lot of research was done on how children react to harsh and very terrifying situations, and because the writers of the nineties did not want to repeat what was done in the eighties, changing the morals to make the censors and watchdogs happy so they could run the show on their network. This is why many writers chose networks like Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network, or had small runs on Saturday Morning cartoon shows, so that they can express there issues and ideas without being accosted by watchdogs or moral guardians who really are moral oppressors. Although many of these people think that cartoon or graphic is bad for children it’s not necessarily so, actually, its insults and teasing that are really the cuprites of making children more aggressive, mean, disrespectful, and less tolerant towards other children weather they are special needs, intellects, or even children with creative abilities. That is why in cartoons in the nineties we were terrified when Angelica would call Tommy and his friends stupid, or when Roger would terrorize Doug, and when that green rabbit from Cat-Dog would discriminate and belittle Cat or Dog, we wanted Elmer Thud to hunt him down instead of Bugs Bunny. Bullies and bulling was a central theme in many cartoons during this time but sometimes in some situations, the bully would feel sorry for his actions in the case of Binky from Arthur or we may feel sorry for the bullies themselves like Helga from Hey Arnold. In one episode, she tells a psychologist that she hates others for the fear of being ignored, which is what her parents did to her because they liked her smarter and talented older sister better. The reason why she loves Arnold is that he was the only kid she knew that was kind and understood what it is like to be ignored too. Therefore, these cartoons not only told us to stand up for our self’s, but to also be compassionate towards others who are week which in some cases bullies are week people who desire power from others because they have issues too.

We all learned many valuable lessons from these shows and no matter who you were, these messages resonated with us, but something changed when Disney Chanel came around and our favorite networks tried to fallow suite to Disney Chanel including Cartoon Network which tried very intensely to be like its competitor, and failed miserably. Why, because Disney Chanel’s so-called comedy and tween-girly shows were becoming all the rage and taught girls and even boys latter on. That the only way to make good friends is by jugging their appearance and interest, and teaching that to a child is giving them ammunition to bully other kids who don’t like the show, or because they are too smart for their own peers to be with them and need to change their ways to join the group. Sometimes, even in Disney Chanel Movies, this is portrayed as an Ugly Ducking story in the guise of repressing or turning a girl from a sympathetic intellect or nerd into a all-powerful pop princess who willfully agrees to a life of fame and lives happily with her new friends…therefore it’s teaches kids that if you suppress and bully a person long enough, they will be the next pop-star or cast member of High School Musical. In reality, this kind of hazing and bulling leads to depression and suicide, and is not at all like the Disney Chanel fantasy that children still see to this day. That is why I not only write for pleasure, I write because these children who are called nerds, geeks, and dorks they need role models too; one day I want to make shows that portray people in band as diverse, unique, and have flaws that are also their strengths; but most importantly, they never try to be someone else other than themselves. All these people can succeed and achieve their dreams and ambitions, but only if we change our hearts instead of our interest and identity and let others be free from a world of deluded messages and insults made by those who should not have power over us. This is the time to prove all of these pop-star makers and beauty pageant judgers wrong, that one day a heroic nerd will rise up to children and say to them, “It’s OK to be a Dork!” and say it with the enthusiasm of a Drum Major, and the courage of a warrior. It is finally the time for the intellect, musician, and misfit to become a hero and that time is now.

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This article has 12 comments. Post your own now!

MarykThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Mar. 31, 2015 at 8:38 am
How many viewers does it take to save a nerd...9-1-1!
MarykThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Oct. 24, 2014 at 10:28 am
Good News! Douglas Fir has been accepted by Teen Ink and you can finaly now read it!
MarykThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jan. 21, 2014 at 10:26 am
Thank You! I'am glad you liked the article, right now I am working two articals and a story called Doglas Fir's Home for Anoying Novelty Items. It's about an investgator for the Autisum Soceity of Michigan who starts an investgation on a house haunted by a group of wicked Tsukumogami (an object that gains a soul and logic when it turns 100 years old acording to Shinto Mythology). It's good that someone enjoys my work. Marry K
ElsaMThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 16, 2013 at 7:00 pm
I must say I agree with what you said about how "smart" or "want-to-bes" are viewed in the media and in society. I'm surprised some tv channels aimed toward kids are allowed to do this, what with all of today's focus on self-confidence. And people expect every kid to have tons of self-esteem when movies and books are pointing towards the peculiarities of so-called "weird" kids.    All people are beautiful. It's true that beauty is in the ey... (more »)
MarykThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. replied...
Nov. 17, 2013 at 9:42 am
Thank you for such a wonderful comment! It makes my day when someone says they are on my side. Please check out some of my other articles too, there is even one on Wee Sing and it's effect on children and educators.  Thank You-MaryK
ElsaMThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Nov. 19, 2013 at 8:49 pm
:) I will make sure to check them out.
MarykThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. replied...
Jan. 20, 2014 at 10:27 am
Have you read Wee Sing Nation yet and if so, what did you think about it? 
ElsaMThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jan. 20, 2014 at 6:20 pm
I think it's very nice. Has a lot of details, which is always important. I agree with you when you said that knowledge and compassion are key. Too often people comply with the standard, and are too afraid to do anything different. Instrumental music is very diverse, and although I do think that sometimes pop and rock music are overrated, variety can work wonders.I completely agree with you. Education should build off of a child's individuality.  I really liked all the points you p... (more »)
Kindle said...
Sept. 2, 2013 at 2:30 pm
The  exemplification in this piece is very effective, although I would like to point a few things out. For starters, the title is very misleading because it implies that I'm about to read about intellects who do amazing things, or, since it's under the "bullying" section, about the depicted "nerds" who have been bullied. Instead, it's an essay on stereotypes.    Secondly, in your opening paragraph you describe an event that happened to you about... (more »)
MarykThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. replied...
Sept. 8, 2013 at 10:06 am
Thank you for comenting, but also remember that not only children can be bullies that adults can be bullies too. the moral disonances in these shows are a form of market bulling, it's when a corperation or company bullies a consumer or child into beliving in these various steryotypes. one example is KGOY or Kids Getting Older Younger in which products or shows that seem adult in taste are hevely maketed to children to make them look adult-like or a teen. so remember, there is not just one fo... (more »)
Kindle replied...
Sept. 9, 2013 at 8:22 pm
That makes a lot of sense. Thanks for clearing that up! :)
MarykThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. replied...
Jun. 19, 2014 at 10:37 am
Have you read Cinderella Ate My Daughter, it's a realy good book if you want to understand more about KGOY and about image issues in media, especaly for girls. I also wrote an essay called Delema of Doll Hater about this issue too and about why Lalaloopies break the mold. Please tell me what you think-Maryk
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