Ultimately, the question deconstructs into a very simple and singular one. For nothing really matters unless we can know. All life’s meanings, all its perturbing implications, hinge upon the resolution of such a simple question.
Can a male nerd also be Alpha?
I’ve given this great thought. Too much, perhaps. Can a nerd, through his layers of social bumbling and awkwardness and inauspicious malapropisms, ever rise to the level of “Alpha male?”
This is the puzzle. Frankly, I’m doubtful of the existence of such a specimen as the Alpha-nerd, for the paradoxical blend of such antithetical traits sharing a human container would eventually only disqualify and neutralize the other if they should ever be so unfortunate as to find themselves in such individual confinement.
In other words, the nerd is necessarily the negative sum of all the “lofty” and romantic traits Alpha males represents.
You cannot simultaneously be a nerd and an Alpha, for the span of qualities necessary to fulfill both labels requires, ultimately, that you make a binary choice, that you flick an on/off switch which places you firmly in one realm at the expense of the other.
The classic nerd traits reflect the absence, the void, of many of the innate parts, tools, that form the Alpha male’s mystique and power.
The nerd over-thinks. The nerd is riddled with self-doubt. The nerd exists on a plane of social interaction which strays from the norm, and in the process, launches him into interpersonal oblivion where he is misunderstood because his mode of expression befuddles those who are capable of no more than that. The nerd, outlying in the wasteland of nerd-thought and nerd-perception, is incapable of exerting control or influence over the collective mediocrity of the crowd which seeks leaders who represent the sum idiosyncrasies of the normal drives and interpretations of the male mind. The nerd’s problem is that he can never understand or mimic the collective male mind because, by definition, he has no comprehension of such.
Some nerds come surprisingly close to recognizing and mimicking the normative collective male psyche; they may approach that legendary state which would allow them to master over other men, but ultimately, the mimicry fizzles because the effort required of a nerd to disguise as normal is impossible to maintain for long without glimmers of nerd deviancy manifesting themselves. The most a nerd can aspire to is Alpha status among other male nerds, but nothing more. This is the renowned “big fish in the small pond” phenomenon.
In today’s pop culture, a notable example is Erlich Bachman from HBO’s “Silicon Valley.”
Within the confines of his start-up incubator (which now houses the fledgling Pied Piper as it seeks to turn its new compression algorithm into a profitable tour d’ force), Bachman reigns stoutly over the crew of code monkeys who are writing Pied Piper’s elusive money-maker. The nerds of Pied Piper are a motley bunch, and Bachman’s mission is not a difficult one. His Alpha cred shines within these squalid emasculated conditions. Ironically, in the “real” world, Bachman’s gamer-driven facial hair template, his inopportune beach bum curls, and his this-side-of-slovenly fashion sense, would prompt bemused smirks from the general population. Not to mention, his blatantly clueless bravado which scrapes the edges of overcompensating juvenile petulance conveys the image of a nerd who comes close to the Holy Grail of Alpha-nerd, but is consistently sabotaged by the unmistakable emergence of nerd mannerisms that extinguish all hope in him.
This is a clip from the second episode of season 2 as Bachman attempts to build momentum after a potential lawsuit threatens to bring down Pied Piper’s Valley reputation (and hopes).
Erlich Bachman does illustrate that rare intersection of nerd and Alpha, but only in an approximate, wholly lacking manner. Not quite an intersection as perhaps, a parallel parkway, one which promises with the enticing superficial display of unfamiliar offerings, but which also affirms our cynical expectations upon closer inspection. You’re either an Alpha or you’re a nerd. Alpha rulers of Silicon Valley incubators sadly, are not Alpha; real Alpha males lord over collective cross sections of masculinity, usually through unabashed display of force and lack of introspection. The standard nerd, however, typifies lack of force and unabashed displays of introspection.
I think the best a nerd can strive for, in today’s society, is recognition of one’s own nerdiness, and thus accepting this, embark on a shameless and aggressive campaign of unapologetic nerdiness. The nerd must flaunt his unique nature, own it, and steer such self-acceptance into the meat of a culture that is used to shaming weaker samples of himself.
I think Erlich Bachman approaches this; despite his apparent lack of self-awareness, he appears to be accelerating in the direction of nerdy defiance. If one is nerdy, one must commit to defiance!