Revenge of the Nerds is a light-hearted nerds-turned-heroes movie beloved by many underdogs of the 1980s. While it has many iconic and hilarious scenes, it has its issues: the cringe-worthy racial stereotypes present in so many movies of the decade, an unfair depiction of fraternity life, the fact that Anthony Edwards is supposed to be unattractive, and we all know that javelin would never be regulation. The biggest issue deals with the treatment of women as objects.
Note: possible trigger warnings
The actual revenge starts with the nerds staging a panty raid in the sorority house. They not only steal the women’s underwear while they run screaming and naked, but also install hidden cameras in which to later watch the women in various states of undress unknowingly for weeks to come.
Later, they sell naked images of the women in pie plates to win the fundraiser challenge…again, completely unbeknownst to the women.
Questionable? There is no way anyone can defend what happens next: head nerd Lewis disguises himself as Sorority Betty’s boyfriend, who was wearing a Darth Vader costume, and has sex with her…all while Betty thinks it’s her boyfriend.
But guess what? It’s okay BECAUSE SHE’S INTO IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That’s right, one of the most quoted lines from the movie is her asking “are all nerds as good as you?” post-rape.
To recap: Lewis steals her underwear, watches her via hidden camera, sells naked photographs of her without her knowledge, then disguises himself as her boyfriend and rapes her.
To be fair, she was mean to him. That rape is what she needed to turn around, realize the nerds are awesome, leave her boyfriend for Lewis, and join the nerds!!!!
Sure, many will take this moment to argue that it’s just a movie, just for fun, you’re taking this too seriously. This is a movie aimed towards impressionable teens; there should be no blurry line for a guy to be told this behavior was okay and for a girl to question whether or not she deserves sexual degradation and abuse.
I give men credit here: men don’t go out to rape & pillage because they saw Revenge of the Nerds. However, sexual abuse and degradation is as prominent in our society now as it was in the 80s, maybe even more so with the prominence of the internet. From date rape to posting nude photos online, this is a topic to be discussed. When a sexual assault accusation emerges, everyone from the public starts to rip people apart from phrases like “he/she deserved it”, “he/she wanted it”, “he/she liked it” to false accusations in order to ruin the accused’s reputation. “Betty Childs had sex willingly and liked it”.
Am I an angry feminist? Yep. Do I want to incite a riot? Nope. I want people to talk about sexual assault and all of its encompassing scenarios. Talk to your kids, your students, your classmates, your nieces and nephews.
Don’t know how to talk about it? My niece showed me this HILARIOUS video called “Tea and Consent”. which they played at her college. Did I state “hilarious”? Yes, it’s actually an excellent analogy which encourages discussion.